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Blogging Behind the Scenes: Why Blogs Have Assistants and Interns

Wardrobe Oxygen - blogging behind the scenes why blogs have interns and assistantsOh gosh, why does a fashion blog need an intern? All the blogger does is stand around and look cute in gifted clothes while her boyfriend takes her picture. It’s not like blogging is hard, it’s just to try to look important, right?

Wrong.

In 2016, blogging is a true business and is far more complex and time consuming than you can imagine. Even part-time bloggers are bringing in full-time salaries and it’s not just for taking pictures of their daily outfits. I hired an assistant last fall and when she got the full-time internship of her dreams where she had to live at the location, I wished her well and brought on a summer intern. Many days I consider hiring an additional person because there is so much to do. Below I’ll share some of the things that blog assistants and interns do to help a blog run and look so effortless.

Manage and Filter Email

I am not a “big” blogger, yet I receive over 100 emails a day related to the blog. Some take a quick scan and delete, but most require a response. There’s readers asking questions, brands interested in collaborating, partners with edits and updates for upcoming posts and social media shares, emails from affiliate programs, and much more. While I don’t have anyone filter my email for me, I can see how helpful it would be to have someone take a first crack and send polite, “thanks but you’re not a good fit” emails to brands not right for partnership, send a quick, “thanks for your email reader, I’ll get back to you soon!” email to readers, and delete all the spam so I can focus on the time-sensitive content and save all that time to answer reader emails.

Format Posts

I’m a quick writer (which can be seen by my occasional typos, grammatical errors, and run-on sentences). I get an idea in my head and race to a computer where I type it out super-fast, then re-read to try to make it cohesive. For me, that’s the easy part. The time-consuming part is all the rest that makes a post a post. The graphics, the headers and subheaders, the links, the widgets to help you shop the contents. I can whip up the text in less than an hour but then spend up to three more hours formatting a post to make it ready to go live. To have someone help, be it editing photos, creating collages, or just entering hyperlinks would open up time to have more quality content.

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Snapchat, Vine, Periscope, oh my! How to keep up when also keeping up a quality blog? This is where an assistant can be quite helpful. While it’s important to keep your voice clear on social media, there’s ways where an intern or assistant can help.

My old assistant took over my Pinterest account; while I still pinned from time to time she rearranged and organized my boards, created new ones, and pinned additional relevant content. In just a short time, her work increased my followers on that platform by thousands and increased traffic to my blog by 15%. Pinterest is a time suck for me, I go on there and three hours later I’m dreaming of no-bake cookies, reupholstering my couch, and DIY-ing some old tee shirts and I still haven’t finished my blog post. It made sense for her to take the reins there not only to improve my blog but keep me on task.

While I treasure the community I have built on Facebook and make sure that it’s ME who is the voice on that platform, my assistant did schedule some “evergreen” content posts to go live at less-active times. If you’re a fan over there and saw a 3am post that said, “From the Archives…” that was done by my assistant. It didn’t affect the community, but it did increase traffic to my blog and attracted an audience outside of my usual 8am – 7pm ET discussion group. I also do this sort of posting on Twitter via HootSuite and while an assistant doesn’t do it right now, that doesn’t mean I won’t possibly assign it to one in the future. It gives me time to write quality real-time content while still driving traffic to my blog and reaching a new and larger audience.

A social media-savvy assistant or intern can help a blogger be better on platforms, too. Introducing new platforms to explore, scheduling content at better times, encouraging more engaging content, and in situations like YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr, can help source, create, and edit the content all without the blogger losing her voice.

Updating Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is content that wasn’t written recently, but is still relevant. I have posts from 2009 that are still regularly pinned and receive comments. For me, it’s usually capsule wardrobes, clothing cleaning tips, and advice about underpinnings or fashion rules. It makes sense to dust those posts off every so often and keep them looking and acting current.

I personally don’t change the actual text of evergreen content unless I come across spelling or grammatical errors or anything that really dates a piece like a then-current event or pop culture reference. However, I will go in and improve graphics to make them more Pinterest- and mobile-friendly and update broken links. This is something great to assign to an intern or assistant so the blogger can spend that time creating new content.

Attending Events

Socializing and networking is key to blogging success. No matter how good your content, opportunities often come with who you know and who you chat up at a cocktail hour or conference. It’s also good business to make an appearance at events, to support your community, promote it on your blog and social media, and to also get your name out there. For me, this is the toughest part of blogging. With a full time job and a family, I rarely am able to attend events. Having an intern or assistant who can attend on my behalf is awesome.

Last year, my assistant attended a Birchbox pop-up shop at Rent the Runway. I love both companies but there was no way I could attend an event in the middle of a work day. She went, had a blast, represented Wardrobe Oxygen, and was able to write a recap post for the blog. I plan to have my summer intern attend a few local events as well, it’s a good way for an intern to learn how to network, make contacts, and also get some writing experience.

Write Content

I learned from last year’s reader survey that the majority of the Wardrobe Oxygen audience does not want regular guest columnists, but the occasional guest post is welcome. An intern or assistant will have a different outlook from the blogger, may be a different age, different personal style, skin or hair type, different lifestyle. That difference is a good thing, and can add a fresh perspective to the occasional post. Last December, my college-aged assistant created a gift guide for college students and many of you found it helpful. I’ve seen other blogs give their assistants or interns a weekly column where they share their knowledge on a topic different from the primary blogger – maybe a weekly recipe for a fashion blog or new music suggestions for a décor blog. Not only does this benefit the reader with variety and the blogger with more content, it benefits the intern or assistant, building her writing portfolio.

Photography and/or Videography

I am lucky to be married to a skilled photographer, but for those who do not have access to such, an assistant or intern can come in handy. I often wish I had another on staff who could help with product photography as it’s not really me or Karl’s forte. As for videography, I’ve dabbled in it, but it’s not my strong suit and it can take a whole weekend stuck at my desk or on the couch to do a crappy job editing one four-minute video. While Karl takes my photos, I am the one who edits them and that takes a lot of time. Having someone on staff who is skilled in Photoshop and/or Adobe Premier could take a blog to the next level or at least free up a blogger’s time to focus on producing more content.

Editor/Second Set of Eyes/Second Opinion

Being a blogger is a very solitary existence. While I am part of a few Facebook groups for bloggers and entrepreneurs and have friends who are bloggers or in similar industries and feel comfortable asking them for advice or a sanity check, it can help to have someone vested in your blog’s success. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked Karl or my sister, or even Emerson’s opinion on an outfit, the wording of a paragraph, or whether I should accept a certain opportunity. To have someone who also knows the ins and outs of blogging and knows that the more you succeed the more she succeeds is so helpful. Just having a sounding board and the ability to bounce off ideas to improve them will only help improve the quality of the blog.

Tech Support

When my blog was still on Blogger I rarely had a tech issue. I could fix or change most anything in HTML and life was pretty simple. But with the growth of Wardrobe Oxygen and the desire for a more professional site and one that I could truly manage and control, I switched to WordPress. While I don’t regret it, I am not completely out of my element. When things break, I don’t immediately know how to fix them. Google is my best friend, but I also rely on external tech and graphics support. If I had an assistant who was familiar with WordPress and CSS, it would save me a lot of time and a lot of money and could help make some of my blog dreams into a reality.

Newsletter Support

Hey remember my monthly Style File? I decided last year to start a monthly newsletter with content completely different from the blog. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work and as the blog grew and work demands increased I couldn’t maintain it. I hope to resume it in the near future, but really I’d love to change it to a shorter weekly newsletter, still having the not on the blog content, adding a bit of what I share on Facebook, and keeping it fun and light and a bonus to everything else I share. This could become a reality with an assistant. Like blog posts, the most time for newsletters comes down to formatting. Even if you have a template, it still takes time to set everything up, add links and graphics. To be able to email the content and have someone else make it pretty would be a dream come true.

Administrative Tasks

Visit the post office to check the PO box and ship out that giveaway prize. Pick up some flowers for that photo shoot. Pack up and mail the samples received for an outfit post. Scan and email back contracts. Search online for ethical brands that offer larger than a size 12 and reach out to them to see if they would offer samples or gift product for thorough reviews. Help organize and file away receipts and other legal and tax documents for the business. Help set up product and outfit shoots. Snapchat or Periscope when a blogger does public appearances, speaking engagements, and the such. Gather analytics and blog metrics. Regularly update media kits, promotional materials, about pages. Find a royalty-free image I can purchase of a non-skinny woman who isn’t squeezing her belly and looking sad (seriously, you don’t want to know how long I looked for the photo in my chub rub post).  Research equipment, applications, and other tools to improve the blog’s photos, delivery, etc. Point is, there’s a lot of random tasks that take up a lot of time for a blogger and it helps to have a second set of hands!

This is from the perspective of a part-time blogger who isn’t “big time;” I can’t imagine the additional work and responsibilities of a blogger who has chosen to make this her full-time profession. When you think that blogging is easy and just getting gussied up for a few photos, know there’s a lot more behind the scenes and it makes sense for many bloggers to have assistants and/or interns!

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#GivingTuesday and Support the Girls

#GivingTuesday

We had a day for giving thanks. We had two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. Today, Tuesday, December 1, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s simple: find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Join and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity. Share on social media how you gave and use the hashtag #Giving Tuesday.

My office building is on a busy corner in DC, with a CVS on the main floor. Homeless men are often standing in front of the CVS, asking for change or food, and you get to know their faces and quite often, their stories. One day, a woman was there; I was heading into CVS and made eye contact with her, and she asked if I had any change. I admitted I didn’t but I’d be happy to buy her something from CVS.

“Could you buy me some tampons? I haven’t had any for a couple months.”

I hate to admit it, but I never thought about the inability to secure feminine sanitary products when homeless or below the poverty line. She told me she was staying at a shelter at night, but even the shelter didn’t have any tampons or pads. Needless to say, I bought as many boxes of products that she could comfortably carry in her cart.

Dana Marlowe - Support the GirlsSupport the Girls is a DC-based organization that started when founder Dana Marlowe dropped a considerable amount of weight. She suddenly ended up with a bunch of perfectly good bras that were no longer the correct size. When getting herself fitted for new bras at a lingerie boutique, she asked the sales clerk what to do with her old bras. The sales clerk informed her that homeless women in DC (and everywhere) are in desperate need of bras, as people often donate clothes and shoes but not underpinnings. Marlowe then read this piece on DCist about the homeless need for feminine hygiene products as well as bras and knew she had to help. With that, Support the Girls was born.

“One shouldn’t have to weigh the value of a sandwich over a maxi pad.”

Support the Girls accepts donations of new or used bras and new sealed packages of tampons and maxi pads (or sealed individual products in a taped-up box) to donate to homeless women. Any bra of any size and need is accepted as long as it is in working order. Any type of feminine sanitary products are accepted, though the greatest need is for overnight pads with wings. All donations are given to Thrive DC.

Founded in 1979 to serve dinner to homeless women, Thrive DC has grown to be a comprehensive, professionally staffed, bilingual organization serving more than 2,000 men, women, and children each year. Thrive DC is a safety net for people experiencing homelessness, unemployment, housing instability, and food insecurity. With their help, Thrive DC clients take the first steps toward independence and self-sufficiency.

If you live in the DC area, click here to learn how to donate bras and feminine sanitary products to Support the Girls.

I am currently accepting donations for Support the Girls at my office and was floored by how many people have brought in new and used bras, and bought so many boxes of sanitary products. This charity gave me such a good excuse to do a thorough analysis of my lingerie drawer and donate that which I don’t really need or what doesn’t really fit. I had coworkers bring in bags full of bras that they had in their attic just in case they would lose weight but admitted would do more good if donated. Lots of us had sanitary products hiding in the corners of our linen closets that we didn’t use but could benefit another, and such items are always on sale at drugstores and big box retailers.

For those who do not live in the DC area, similar programs are all across the country.  Some help homeless women, others support survivors of sex trafficking, others send donations to developing countries.  If there isn’t such a charity in your area, consider donating to a nearby shelter to help your fellow woman be clean, comfortable, and have a sense of dignity.

Some other organizations in the US, Canada, and other parts of the globe who collect donations of bras and feminine sanitary products:

If you know of any other organizations, do share in the comments!

The Girl on the Train, Blogging, and the Whole Story

the girl on the train paula hawkins

I heard about The Girl on the Train on NPR; I caught the last bit of an interview with the author Paula Hawkins and was interested. I had finished the second book in the Outlander series and was looking for a change of pace before I delved into the third. I listened to The Girl on the Train via Audible on my commute to and from work and ended up not just with a change of pace from Dragonfly in Amber, but a new perspective on blogging, social media, and its audience.

The Girl on the Train is a thriller, very reminiscent of Gone Girl, but it’s also a great example of how looks can be deceiving and what happens when people become invested in the lives of strangers. Rachel Watson is a lonely, lost woman; she’s recently divorced and her life is a mess. She takes the train every day, and every day she passes the same row of houses next to the tracks. One is her old house, still inhabited by her ex and now accompanied by his new wife and baby; but the one that interests Rachel is a few doors down. A couple lives there, a couple that she sees as perfect. She doesn’t know them, but she imagines their lives between glimpses of them sipping wine or coffee on their patio or rooftop terrace. In her head she imagines their relationship, their professions, their hobbies; she even creates names for them – Jason and Jess. When tragedy strikes, Rachel ends up being involved in the life of this couple and realizes they aren’t the people in her morning commute fantasies.

Unlike bloggers and social media celebs, Jason and Jess don’t realize they have an audience. But like bloggers, what Rachel the audience sees is only a snippet of their life and she is making the decision to fill in the blanks.

While listening to this book, I couldn’t help but think about how bloggers and Internet personalities are analyzed, criticized, and sometimes idolized. I see on Twitter, on message boards, and on fan/hate blogs how people like Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train make the decision to fill in the blanks. That somehow, if one looked hard enough at the photos chosen by a blogger for their blog or how a paragraph is phrased they can determine if someone is having an affair, miserable at their job, upset that she can’t conceive, a terrible friend, a neglectful parent. Or the opposite, that by examining one’s Instagram account enough one can determine if someone’s husband really loves her, she’s such a nice and giving person, or she’s a really good mother.

The thing is you don’t know why someone chooses to share what they do. Maybe all the pictures turned out terrible except the one where she’s looking down at the ground. Maybe she always wears sunglasses because even after all these years she’s still awkward in front of the camera and the oversized shades hide her deer in the headlights gaze. Maybe she doesn’t share her husband on Instagram because he’s uncomfortable being photographed.  Maybe the post was written in a rush before the baby woke from his nap and she hit publish before proofing.  And maybe she knows how to play the game and sees from her analytics that she makes more sales when she has that smug smile than when she shows her teeth, or that when she writes something controversial she gets more pageviews, more hate followers, more fame, and more money.

The Girl on the Train is a good reminder that with those we follow on the Internet, and even those we know in real life, we make assumptions and fill in the blanks. And often, our assumptions are dead wrong.

I’m not saying getting invested in a blogger, vlogger, or even reality show star is a bad idea. I love blogs, and I have many favorite bloggers and personalities on social media, some who have become friends in real life and some who feel like a friend though I have never met them and likely never will. This isn’t bad, the Internet is a way to not feel so alone or unusual, to connect and relate to others across the globe. To find kindred spirits and gain inspiration. But it’s important to remember you don’t really know them, you only know what they choose for you to know and through the filter they have picked. It’s entertainment, it’s art, but it’s never the whole story.

The Girl on the Train was a well-written psychological thriller. I don’t want to share much more because it’s definitely the type of novel that is more enjoyable when you have no idea what happens before you start reading. And it’s clear I enjoyed how stereotypical characters were proven to be far more complex than originally thought; something that holds true for everyone you meet in real life, and on the Internet.

Hive on the Hill: The Shoe Hive’s DC Pop-up Shop

Like fashion, I believe in quality instead of quantity for my social life.  My evenings and weekends are primarily dedicated to my family, and only a few choice blog events.  Last night I attended a fabulous and quality event; Hive on the Hill from The Shoe Hive.

While The Shoe Hive has the most adorable and welcoming boutique in Old Town Alexandria, they are taking the next few days (through Sunday the 16th) to have a pop-up shop at The Tabula Rasa on Capitol Hill. While yes, you can find fabulous shoes (Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Hunter boots, and many more popular brands), they also have a wonderful selection of accessories and gifts. From candy-colored crocheted berets to drool-worthy Alexis Bittar jewelry, there have something for everyone, and every budget.

Last night was Opening Night for The Shoe Hive’s pop up, cleverly titled Hive on the Hill. The Shoe Hive asked me and Alison from DC Celine to co-host the event and curate a wish list to be on display. A mix of popular music with holiday tunes, plenty of white and red wine and three adorable men pouring Allagash White beer in Hive on the Hill pint glasses (which were adorable favors for us to take home), sweet treats and some of the most stylish women in DC… it was a wonderful event. While it was fun to see friends and chat over drinks, it was also fun to shop and meet new people. The Tabula Rasa was the perfect venue – crisp, white, modern, and beautiful. The Shoe Hive decorated with white birch branches and ribbons and the whole affair was tasteful yet so much fun. I was thrilled to finally meet social media/blogging friends Amy, KC, and Rosanna in real life and again see loveies like E, Lexa, Christen, and Vyque (and spend QT with my sister!).


A big thanks to Elizabeth from The Shoe Hive and her amazing team for a fun and successful event; rarely have I attended a shopping event that made me laugh to the point of tears, met so many new and wonderful people, while being surrounded by some of the most gorgeous shoes and accessories. If you’re in the area, stop by Tabula Rasa for Hive on the Hill or visit The Shoe Hive’s warm and welcoming shop in Old Town!

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Stacy London’s The Truth About Style Book and Tour

Thursday night I had the pleasure of seeing Stacy London speak at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC. Her book, The Truth About Style came out this past Tuesday and after seeing the book trailer I knew I had to be at the speaking engagement.


I met Stacy London a few months ago when she was at a local mall promoting the partnership between her company Style for Hire and Westfield Malls. The experience made me a London fan for life – she’s so real, and she truly cares about helping women feel beautiful and comfortable in clothing. Thursday night, I realized that she cares even more so about women feeling beautiful and comfortable in their own skin.

I don’t want to give much away about what she discussed or what the book is about because I truly think this is a style book that you should read. Borrow it from the library, loan it from a friend, sneak into a nook of Barnes and Noble or splurge on a copy – you won’t regret it. I can just say that Thursday night gave me such motivation regarding this blog.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t terribly happy about my body. I had a lot of opinions about fashion and style, a lot of rules, and a lot of snark. Through blogging, I got to know so many readers – you weren’t pageviews but people. I saw that I wasn’t alone in not liking the body I was in, and I saw that my snark wasn’t benefiting anyone. What’s the point of a fashion blog (or book for that matter) that dismisses those who don’t “get” fashion, that pigeonholes all women into one lump who needs a white shirt, tan trench, and a strand of real pearls?

Through blogging and through changes in my life (hello new awesome job and new awesome child) I began loving this body.  It’s not perfect… but then no one has a “perfect” body. I came to terms with it, and decided to work with it. And I also changed my voice on this blog – women don’t need another person telling them what they’re doing wrong, we need voices to give us food for thought and tips on how to feel comfortable, feel ourselves, and recognize our beauty.

 

I still have strong opinions on fashion and style, but now when I write I don’t just think about me and my little patch of Earth, but I try to make it more universal, more accepting. And Thursday night I learned that through her ten years on What Not to Wear, Stacy London has had the same experience. Dealing with real women has made her more sympathetic, sensitive, and understanding to others and also to herself. And her book The Truth About Style is about just that. This book won’t give you a list of ten must-have items in your closet, or tell you how to hide your hips or tummy. It won’t tell you what color to wear if you’re a brunette or redhead, and it won’t inform you of what items should be purged from your closet. But it will help you realize how fellow women have learned to find personal style… and may help you find yours along the way.

 

At the event with friends and fellow bloggers Nancye, Heidi, Alison, Chelsea, and Dana

And if Stacy London’s book tour is coming to a city near you, I encourage you to get a ticket to attend. She is funny, she is raw, she is honest, and she is inspiring. And she may just renew your faith in fashion, style, and yourself.

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What I Wore: The Bee’s Knees

Wardrobe Oxygen featuring a Vince Camuto shift dress and Dagne Dover tote Wardrobe Oxygen featuring the Dagne Dover Tote Wardrobe Oxygen wearing a Vince Camuto shift dress and Dagne Dover tote Wardrobe Oxygen outfit post featuring Vince Camuto dress and Dagne Dover toteDress: Vince Camuto (same print in blouse, plus size option) | Shoes: Nine West | Bracelet: Gorjana | Bag: c/o Dagne Dover | Lipstick: ‘Justice’ via The Elixery

I wore this dress last Thursday to work and my mom came into DC to have lunch with me.  We sat outside at a cafe enjoying the gorgeous weather… and the bees were surely enjoying this dress!  It’s like every insect in the Nation’s Capital was drawn to my marigold-hued frock.  Even with such buzzing attention, I’m still a big fan of this dress.  It has great drape, an exposed gold zipper in back, and the fabric resists wrinkles; I was crease-free after a while day plunked down at my desk!  I think this dress will transition nicely into the colder months, looking great with black tights or worn under a blazer or cardigan.

I loved pairing it with this bright blue tote from Dagne Dover; I’ve been using the heck out of this brilliantly-designed bag.  This is the perfect work bag; it’s big enough to hold your laptop and anything else you could use for your work day.  I can tuck in there my reusable water bottle, a pair of commuting shoes, my lunch and still have space for my purse essentials.  No matter what is in it, the bag never tips over and there’s a place for everything (including a cord for my keys!).  The straps are the perfect length to feel good in the hand, in the crook of the elbow, or over your shoulder.  I carried this bag at the BlogHer conference and people stopped to ask me where I got it; the other week I had a few coworkers in my office oohing and aahing over it.  I’ve become a big fan of this company, impressed with the quality and intelligence behind the bags as well as the great people of Dagne Dover and their amazing customer service.

I want to know more about you, and what you like/dislike about Wardrobe Oxygen. I’m trying to plan out 2016 and what I should focus on at the blog.  If you’d take a moment to fill out my anonymous feedback form I’d be eternally grateful! Click here.

Shop My Picks for Vince Camuto Printed Dresses:

Tunes for The Weekend

I usually write about music in my monthly newsletter, but life has been really hectic, the newsletter is overdue, and well, music is just too much fun right now to wait. I always love this time of year for new music – the weather is warming, people are getting into the mindset of outdoor concerts and music festivals, toes are tapping for tunes other than Christmas carols and all sorts of albums are released.

I saw Santigold once at Virgin Mobile FreeFest and knew if she came back to town I’d have to catch her show. I have loved Santigold’s two previous albums and her latest, 99¢ is just as unique, catchy, and fun. Her interactive video for the single, “Can’t Get Enough of Myself” is awesome, as is her performance this week on Jimmy Fallon. I can’t wait to see her at the Fillmore Silver Spring this May!

Speaking of upcoming shows, come May I will also be going to see The Kills when they come to the 9:30 Club. Can’t deny I have a major girlcrush on Alison Mosshart (you may recognize her voice as she’s also in The Dead Weather with Jack White) and if you want to see a band with badass style, Jamie and Alison are it. I saw them at the 9:30 a couple years ago and after that swore if they were ever in town I wouldn’t miss it.

This month, Karl and I are going to see The Bright Light Social Hour and Galactic at the 9:30 Club. While we like Galactic and have seen them before, we’re primarily going for TBLSH. I featured them in a previous Style File newsletter and Karl caught them at the Rock & Roll Hotel a few months prior and said I had to see them live.

If you’re like me, you’ve got quite a mix of music interests. I believe one can like many, even all music genres but sometimes it’s tough to prove your love of a rock band when you’re also a fan of Top 40 pop. How can one justify their love of both Nick Lachey and The Foo Fighters? Now you don’t have to!

Karl and I had tickets to catch Ginger Baker’s Airforce3 (yes, that Ginger Baker of Cream and this documentary) at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis but sadly Baker cancelled his tour due to heart problems.  I hope he gets better, and in the meantime here’s a performance of his from 2014 showing at 76 he’s still rocking the drums!

Any music that you’re into right now? I’d love to know what you’ve been listening to!

Mick Rock & Fitz and the Tantrums – W Hotel DC

Last night I had the opportunity to attend an exhibit for Mick Rock at the W Hotel in DC. Mick Rock is a music photographer, known as “The Man Who Shot the Seventies.” He has photographed music greats over the past few decades, and some of his pictures of folks like Iggy Pop, Queen, Blondie, David Bowie, and even Lady Gaga are iconic. To celebrate the exhibit, the W Hotel had a performance by Fitz and the Tantrums and had Thievery Corporation DJing.

I really like Fitz and the Tantrums’ soul sound, Money Grabberwill get stuck in your head and never leave. I had heard they were great live and was looking forward to seeing them this past summer at the Silopanna Festival, but the fest was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene. I was happy to have been invited to this event to see them… and I was not disappointed.

The W Hotel had Mick Rock’s work blown up to wall size glossy prints, placed on the walls of the hallway and two rooms. Incredible lighting, amazing music, and complimentary Absolut cocktails. We walked around and saw musical greats in such vibrant, engaging larger-than-life images. We headed into the less-crowded room and saw it was set up with a stage – we were able to get right up front where we found a cocktail table to park our purses and drinks. My husband brought his camera and was able to get some amazing shots of the performance:

Mick Rock himself, capturing the show

Fitz and the Tantrums were amazing, so full of energy and they sounded amazing.  It was awesome to experience them in such an intimate setting.  I was so glad we got a spot up close to really experience the performance, I hardly captured a photo myself because I was so busy dancing!


The set ended and Thievery Corporation took over spinning tunes. We decided to go up to the W rooftop bar and on the way I saw Michael Fitzpatrick near a bar. I just had to go up to him, and thank him for a great performance. I mentioned how I wished I had seen them this past summer and asked for a picture. He is so nice and charming in person, so happy to have gotten the chance to meet him!


The rooftop bar is amazing, with views of the White House and the Washington Monument. Even though I was born in DC and have lived in the area all my life, such a view made me a giddy tourist and we took a lot of pictures of ourselves in front of the White House.


We headed back downstairs where I saw Mick Rock mixing with the crowd, but never got a chance to meet him. However I was pretty close to him while he was shooting the Fitz and the Tantrums set; it was cool to see such a famous photographer at work!

Thank you BrandLinkDC and The W Hotel for a stellar evening of music and photography!

Photography by Karl Gary

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Guest Post – Committed to Consciousness – The Case for Ethical Fashion

One of the topics requested in the reader survey is tips for purchasing ethical fashion.  I’m still learning, so I reached out to my friend KC Sledd, a DC fashionista with a conscience to write a post on the subject.  I look forward to your comments on this post; also share if you have any specific questions or topics regarding ethical fashion you would like addressed in a future post.

committed to consciousness: the case for ethical fashion by KC Sledd for the blog Wardrobe OxygenIt’s not easy to be an informed consumer. In fact, it can be downright disheartening, particularly when it comes to something you love.

For example: Fashion. I lovingly sketched clothing designs in the margins in my notebooks as a child, I cried when I first touched Chanel, and my mother bought be a Marc Jacobs handbag for my 18th birthday because she knew it would complete me (it did).

I typically subscribed to the cost-per-wear principle, and frequently eschewed Forever 21 for after-Christmas sales at Saks; however, I still indulged in inexpensive impulse buys pulling at my wallet from J. Crew, H&M, Ann Taylor, and more. How could I turn down the siren call of $5 t-shirts or handfuls of wear-once sundresses for that weekend trip? Behind the giddy high of scoring a bargain, a tiny voice scratched at me, wondering how these clothes could be so cheap.

In April 2013, I found out.

Bangladesh has approximately 5,000 garment factories that employ more than 4.5 million people—80 percent of them are women. Many of these women come from rural villages and have little education, and earn around $37 a month.

On April 24, 2013, an eight-story garment factory called Rana Plaza collapsed on the outskirts of Dhaka, killing at least 400 people and injuring many more. It is the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry. Workers at this factory produced clothes for brands such as Primark, a British retailer, and Joe Fresh from Canada. Authorities warned that the building was unsafe, and factory owners responded by threatening to fire people who did not carry on working as usual. Almost 3,000 people, most of them female garment workers, are believed to have been in the complex when it suddenly came down.

I am a feminist and a shopper, social change in stilettos. My personal convictions, I realized, were at odds with the clothes on my back. As an advocate for women, I couldn’t support an industry that threatened them. And I certainly couldn’t feel good knowing that what I was wearing, stylish as it may be, came out of hurting someone else.

From then on, I committed to doing my best to support brands I could feel confident and positive about wearing. It’s not always easy, and I haven’t always succeeded, but that’s why I believe in conscious consumerism. If we can add a layer of knowledge, of understanding, of empathy, to our shopping we can be more confident feeling good and looking good in our clothes. And that truly is something to love.

Where can you turn when you’re looking to invest in your own ethically styled look? Here are a few of my favorite spots:

  • Zady: The leader in conscious consumerism, Zady exclusively retails “slow fashion” for men, women, and the home. Zady also recently launched its own in-house label of American-made, ethically sourced closet essentials.
  • Everlane: Best source for classic trousers and tops perfect for work AND made transparently in factories around the world. I live in their Ryan tees and button down shirts, and both my husband and mother have gotten Everlane cashmere sweaters for Christmas.
  • The Reformation: L.A.-based retailer known for super sexy dresses. They use deadstock, or vintage, fabric for beautiful gowns or grab-and-go weekend minis.
  • H&M: Including H&M might be controversial, but I believe in their commitment to the environment and ethical production as a company. The Conscious Collection reuses fabric and renewable materials. Bonus tip: Recycle any fabric (read: old clothes, socks, and dirty dishtowels) at your local H&M and they’ll give you a discount for your next purchase.
  • Verdalina: A Richmond, Virginia boutique with an expertly curated collection of eco-fashion goods.

KC Sledd - Guest post on Wardrobe Oxygen Committed to Consciousness - the Case for Ethical FashionKC Sledd is a mostly healthy blend of Peggy Olson, Olivia Pope, and Pepper Ann. She thinks about communications for a living and believes that every pair of black ankle boots is a special snowflake. She and her husband live in Washington, DC with their two cats. You can follow her on Twitter at @kcesledd.

Concert Review: Rocco DeLuca/The Feeling/Mat Kearney

Last night my husband and I attended the VH1 You Oughta Know tour at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore. I bought the tickets because my husband and I are big fans of Rocco DeLuca; not until after I purchased the tickets in January did I ever hear a song by Mat Kearney or The Feeling. What I heard from both (one or two songs) seemed pretty good; kinda boppy but nice.

Doors opened at 5pm, but the first act wasn’t to perform until 6. We got int here and the place was not packed; doubt if it sold out. We decided to go to the tavern on the 2nd floor of the place and have a quick bite to eat. Rams Head is known for good food yet horribly slow service; we were happy to see only three other tables occupied in the joint. We sat down, a waiter came by and quickly got our drink orders.

We didn’t see him for ten more minutes. My beer was either flat or had been sitting at the bar a couple minutes waiting to be picked up; lucky I am a weirdo that likes semi-flat beer and I don’t care too much as long as it’s cold. It was still semi-cold so I drank it. We placed our orders – vegetarian burrito and a side of stir-fry veggies for the spouse, a small baked potato and a side of spinach with kalmatta olives and feta cheese for moi. We placed the order around 5:20.

We received our food at 5:58; bit into my first piece of potato and heard Rocco DeLuca come on stage. And he started with “gift.” Are you kidding me??? We flagged down our waiter and asked for our bill ASAP. We gobbled down our food, realizing it was not up to Rams Head snuff; my potato was not completely cooked and hard in the center, my spinach and my husband’s veggies were almost soup from the amount of liquid. And not surprisingly, all of our food was lukewarm. I got the bill, didn’t even look at it, left EXACTLY 15% and we dashed out to find a place to see the show.

We missed the first song and a half, but found a great spot on a ramp right to the left of the light/sound booth. Since it was angled, I could see over the crowd and I find it fascinating the watch the lighting techs at work. There was a railing so we shoved our jackets between it and the wall and could prop our beers on it.

Rocco was awesome. He sounds even better live than on his CD. He holds his steel guitar really low and at one point when he was playing it, it almost looked as though he was jerking off. Strange, but sort of exciting to see how he personalized his style and had such passion. Also when he sings and plays his face gets so contorted, this music comes from the pit of his belly… this is not cheesy VH1 pop music. He filled the whole three-story concrete general-admission place with passion, intense sound and utter talent. After his set (which was only 6 songs. Waaah!) he went to a table to the side of the stage and we got in line to meet him. My husband had a Rocco tee shirt that was signed on the shoulder, I only had my ticket but he signed it. Not too personable, but not cheesy. He thanked us for coming, we told him we’d see him at Bonnaroo.. it was nice to have the chance to meet him.

Then next band that performed was The Feeling. I only knew one song of theirs – the one on VH1 where rope is wrapping around the band as they sing very calmly. I didn’t love it or hate it; my husband though the video was cool and Tool-esque and was looking forward to seeing the band. Boy was he disappointed. We personally felt that this band sucked. They were skinny cocky little children from the UK in Western shirts and tight lowrise black jeans jumping all over the stage trying to be every band that had success before them, but not being themselves. They did a bunch of harmonizing and “bah bah bah” singing that made me think later Beach Boys or even the Beatles. Too bad they weren’t as talented or innovative. Their songs all sounded the same, lots of harmonies, bee-bopping in place of real lyrics, and cheery simplistic riffs while they made the appearance of rocking out (jumping off amps and falling to their knees). It was if Motley Crue dressed up like Oasis and sang Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hears Club Band. It was stupid. My husband asked if I was ready to leave, but we decided to stay to hear Mat Kearney.

Mat was the headliner of the show, and therefore had 14 songs to sing (I saw the song list in the light booth). When he came out, I suddenly saw how young the front of the crowd was. Dozens of girls with big black Xs on their hands (under 21) were screaming and flailing around when he hit the stage. He reminded me of John Corbett (best known for playing Aidan on Sex in the City); he was tall, plain-faced yet attractive, in a black fitted button-down and black jeans. His hair seemed to be thinning in the back and he had a slow stoner smile that made the girls go ga-ga. He came out, started playing and did a bit of chatting between sets, all in a slow way with a slight smile. He sounded good, the songs sounded good, but the location was totally wrong for him. Mat’s set had more fancy lighting than the other bands, which seemed inappropriate for his quiet sweet songs. It also was too… loud. His music is to be heard somewhere like Rams Head Annapolis where everyone is seated, drinking wine and enjoying the tunes, not in a stale-beer and smoke-filled concrete box where his voice and lyrics were drowned out by his band. He doesn’t scream when he sings, so all his singing just sounded like noise with the acoustics. It got boring after about three songs and then he sang “Renaissance” and forgot the lyrics. At first I thought he was being cute trying to get the audience to participate, and then we all realized that he honestly forgot the words to the song and a good third of the song was purely instrumental as he said “I can’t believe it, this has never happened to me before.”

This is when my husband and I decided to make it a night. We hadn’t heard the songs we knew best, but we figured we would just listen to them on the stereo on the car ride home.

All in all, worth the $18 ticket just to see Rocco DeLuca. It wasn’t crowded, but there were enough people to get energy off them. We met some cool cats in line to meet Rocco, and though our dinner wasn’t the absolute best, we had good conversation while we waited for it and all in all a nice Date Night.

Guest Post: Birchbox x Rent the Runway Georgetown Launch Event Recap

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Birchbox’s new location, located on the bottom floor of Rent the Runway

Last Friday, Nov. 6, I had the opportunity of representing Wardrobe Oxygen at the grand opening of Birchbox in the Rent the Runway store in Georgetown. The event started at 9 a.m., so naturally, I got there way too early (8 a.m. in fact…), but fortunately, M Street has a great selection of stores, so I window shopped (and plotted my post-event trip to Georgetown Cupcake) to pass the time.

The event took place on the bottom floor of the Rent the Runway shop, and when I arrived, I was instantly greeted by every member of the Birchbox staff (they were so welcoming!). The main part of the event was the featured “Build Your Own Box” table, which allowed each guest to create a Birchbox of their own. I was amped – free stuff and food all before 10am?! Every college student’s dream.

Birchbox has a mission to help its subscribers find products that they love. Each month, subscribers receive deliveries of beauty or grooming samples, which are tailored based on your personal preferences. With this new store, customers are now able to physically select their options and subscribe to a Birchbox in person! This was definitely a change of pace from my past experiences with Birchbox. Growing up, my sister received a Birchbox subscription as a Christmas present, and I was always envious when she got her monthly box in the mail. Before long, I began commandeering the items she didn’t want, and eventually, my mom loved the idea of Birchbox so much that she got a subscription of her own! Looks like I’m the last Balimtas girl to jump on the bandwagon…

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Left to right: Stila Huge Extreme Lash Mascara, Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, Madamia Weightless Moisture Leave-in Conditioner, I am Juicy Couture Perfume, and Esfoliante La Da Corpo Tocca Body Scrub!

At this kickoff event, each guest was able to pick an item from five different sections: hair, skin, makeup, fragrance, and body. My selections included samples of the Macadamia Professional™ Weightless Moisture Leave-In Conditioning Mist, the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, the Stila Huge Extreme Lash Mascara, the Juicy Couture I Am Juicy Couture Eau de Parfum, and the TOCCA Esfoliante da Corpo Nourishing Body Scrub – Bianca. Not being that hip to a lot of these items, I was a little nervous at first. I’m the kind of gal who typically buys her cosmetics from the local Target or CVS, so having all of these brands in front of me was a little overwhelming. But, with the helpful hints from some of the Birchbox employees, I carefully made my selections, and so far, I’ve used each of the samples I picked out. And I adore all of them!

Now, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never really cared much for body scrub or skincare treatments besides the standard acne treatment and drug store body wash I use on a regular basis (can you tell I’m a little new to this game?). But after using the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, I’ve discovered a whole new meaning to skincare. After just one use, my skin felt fresher, more exfoliated and rejuvenated. Immediately after, I yelled to my sorority sisters, “you guys, come try this stuff it’s life changing!” Needless to say, the sample size I received only a week ago is now gone.

The TOCCA Esfoliante da Corpo Nourishing Body Scrub – Bianca was also perfect for getting all of the dirt and grime off after a long day. Which is nice, especially after a rough week of classes. After a couple uses, I felt a noticeable difference between using this and the soap I use when I shower. And although I’ve mainly stuck to body sprays in the past, the Juicy Couture perfume was clean, feminine and lasted hours on end, which came in handy after running around in DC all morning! I may never go back to the standard body sprays I’ve been using for years and years. Looks like Birchbox may have changed me for good.

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Me with my very first Birchbox! It really was the best day ever!

While I’m not a huge fan of body scrubs and lotions, I do take pride in my makeup and hair. The Stila Huge Extreme Lash Mascara was a nice change of pace for me, as I have generally stuck to other mascaras in the past. I was gifted with naturally long eyelashes (shout-out to my mom for that one), and this mascara really accentuates that quality! And while it gave me tremendous length on my lashes, it didn’t clump up, which allowed for a more natural finish.

And as someone who has very fine hair, I was elated to stumble upon the Weightless Moisture Leave-In Conditioning Mist. It made my hair feel softer and thicker, which is something that I’ve found hard to achieve with other hair care products. Also, it was an easy fix to regenerate my hair without showering. As someone who basically has every minute of her day scheduled, this was nice to spray quickly and then be out the door.

After browsing the Birchbox event for awhile, I had a few moments to ask some of the employees some questions, including the store manager, Anna Fraser. She mentioned that Birchbox and Rent the Runway originally partnered together because both began as e-commerce, but aspired to enter the retail world in stores. Birchbox currently has a year partnership with Rent the Runway and has since opened up stores in New York and Georgetown.

I loved having the opportunity to represent Wardrobe Oxygen at this event and give some insight on some of the products I received! This will definitely be a store I’ll be returning to, especially since it’s right by some other great shops on M Street. To learn even more about Birchbox or their new location in Georgetown, be sure to visit their website here.

Leyla Balimtas for Wardrobe Oxygen: Birchbox x Rent the Runway Georgetown Recap
Leyla Balimtas is a Junior Communications – Public Relations major at the University of Maryland College Park. She is the Vice President of Public Relations for the Gamma Theta chapter of Alpha Chi Omega, a tour guide with Maryland Images, and a member of the Science and Global Change Scholars program. Leyla is the Blog Assistant for Wardrobe Oxygen.

#WO2crosscountry: Four Corners to Winslow, Arizona

Wardrobe Oxygen Family Road Trip - Four Corners Monument Canyons of the Ancients and Winslow ArizonaRead about our experiences in Columbus and St. Louis in this post, and our experiences in Dodge City and Durango in this post!

We left Durango on the 20th but didn’t immediately leave Colorado. We had some stops to make to follow Karl’s dad’s road trip a decade prior. Right outside Durango and not too far out of the beaten track is Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument contains the highest known density of archaeological sites in the United States covering 176,000 acres.

Canyons of the Ancients

canyons of the ancients national monumentWe first visited the Anasazi Heritage Center, a museum of the Ancestral Pueblo and other Native cultures in the Four Corners region as well as the visitor center for the Canyons of the Ancients. Like other National Parks, the price for adults is nominal, children are free, and if you’re visiting a few in a year it’s worth it to buy a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80).

Anasazi Heritage Center Museum - Wardrobe Oxygen Anasazi Heritage Center Interactive Museum - Wardrobe OxygenWe went in for a map and ended up spending over an hour in the museum. While Karl and I liked it, Emerson was enthralled. There’s microscopes so you can look at artifacts more carefully, drawers to open to see and touch artifacts and local plants and rocks, and hands-on projects like being able to use a loom, grind corn, or weave a basket. They had a replica pit-house which Emerson found fascinating, and a staff that was happy to answer all questions and offer more information.

escalante pueblo kiva escalante puebloAfter, we decided to only visit Escalante Pueblo, the site in Canyons of the Ancients closest to the Heritage Center. An easy half mile walk (and wheelchair accessible) up the hill, there’s signs along the way pointing out plants and animals and how they were important to the Pueblo community. At the top of the hill are the remains of a small village and the most spectacular view of the Colorado River.

Wardrobe Oxygen at Canyons of the Ancient Emerson at Escalante Pueblo - Wardrobe Oxygen escalante pueblo colorado riverArchaeologists believe the Escalante Pueblo was occupied three different times, based on tree-ring dating of the wood used in its construction. Ancestral Pueblo people built the main complex in 1129. Around 1150 after a short time being abandoned, the pueblo was briefly reoccupied by people from the local Northern San Juan branch of the Anasazi tradition. A final occupation, also by the Northern San Juan people, was very short and occurred sometime around AD 1200.The Spanish explorers Escalante and Dominguez made note of this site in 1776 during their trek across the Southwest. Some archaeologists believe villages like the Escalante Pueblo were part of an interdependent system spread across the Four Corners area. They also think Escalante Pueblo may have been a gathering place for religious or social activities of people in the smaller surrounding villages. I could see why, it was utterly gorgeous and had all the natural resources one could need to thrive.

Four Corners Monument

four corners monument sign four corners monument - wardrobe oxygenWe then drove to Four Corners Monument, one of the two spots that determined the rest of the trip. Like Karl’s dad, we thought it would be cool to stand in four states (Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado) all at the same time. Four Corners is managed by the Navajo Nation and there’s a nominal fee (cash only) to enter. There’s four walls around the monument, which are stalls where Native American artisans sell jewelry, pottery, crafts, and more. In the center is the monument, which is a concrete base with markings showing the separation of the four states and the name of each state.

The Garys at Four Corners Monument gary family selfie at four corners monument wardrobe oxygen at four corners monumentThere’s viewing areas, but there is a line you stand in to get your chance to stand in the center. There’s a rule that you can only take three photos; while people do exceed this I was very impressed by how nice and polite everyone was in line. We chatted about where we came from, where we were going next, we took photos for one another, held each other’s bottles of waters while we posed. I stood in line for the family while they checked out the vendors, this was a common practice by those of us in line.

Kia at Four Corners - Wardrobe OxygenKarl then guided me to one vendor where he saw a bracelet he thought was perfect for me. Knowing how passionate I am about my personal style, he hesitated to buy it without showing it to me first. But he knows me well, and the bracelet was utterly gorgeous and my style so he got it. Emerson got a silver necklace with a heart decorated with turquoise chips, and a tiny lamb made of clay and wrapped in soft wool. We then headed back to Kia and headed to Winslow, Arizona.

Wardrobe Oxygen in ArizonaThe desert in the Four Corners region is utterly gorgeous, the colors so intense it looks psychedelic. It was a clear day with a brilliant blue sky and I was constantly trying to capture the beauty with my phone and cameras while Karl drove.

Driving through Arizona - Wardrobe OxygenIt was so tempting so many parts of our trip to stop and take beautiful photos, but we were deep enough in this trip to know that time is of the essence to enjoy the time away from the car. So we kept driving and I got quite skilled in taking still photos while in motion!

Road in Arizona - Wardrobe OxygenWe drove through a few reservations, some extremely desolate parts, and areas where there was no cell service and our GPS wasn’t recognizing the road we were on. Again, don’t rely on technology when taking a road trip; those paper road atlases came in handy as did having a printed out old-school “Mapquest” itinerary.

Storm in Arizona - Wardrobe OxygenWe could see a pretty major storm in the distance and figured it was about an hour away. We hoped it would end before we got there, or hoped suddenly the road would swerve to the left and we’d miss it. No such luck, for the second time this trip we were caught in a torrential downpour. We were so glad for our road atlases because the GPS was trying to get us to go down these road that were dirt but now were rivers. It was so intense we had to stop for a bit because we couldn’t see well and worried the road ahead may have been washed out. Finally it ended, and it did a better job than the previous storm in removing some of the grasshoppers from our grill!

After some of the sketchiest truck stops, sketchiest weather, and most desolate parts of the country we had ever experienced we got onto Interstate 40 and started seeing signs for Winslow. We ended up reaching Winslow, Arizona around 4pm.

Winslow, Arizona

Winslow was a bustling city during the peak of railroad travel and was a convenient distance to natural wonders such as the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. After World War II, cars took over as the preferred form of travel and Winslow reinvented itself by being a stop along Route 66. In 1972 Winslow gained fame with “Take it Easy,” the first single from a then-new band called The Eagles which mentioned the city. When Interstate 40 opened, Route 66 and Winslow saw greatly reduced traffic. In 1999, the city took advantage of their fame from that Eagles song and built Standin’ on the Corner Park. When Karl’s dad took his solo road trip, he woke us at 6am on a Saturday calling from Standin’ on the Corner Park and sang us that part from “Take it Easy.” As a music and Eagles fan, it was a highlight from his trip and the first stop we confirmed for our road trip. Even with Standin’ on the Corner Park, Winslow is no longer a bustling city. In fact, when driving through the city on a Friday to get to our hotel, we didn’t see a single person or other car on the street.

La Posada Hotel, Winslow

La Posada Hotel WinslowWhen researching Winslow, La Posada looked interesting so I booked us a single night in a room with a king bed and paid $10 additional for a rollaway cot for Emerson. It’s not hard to find La Posada Hotel, it’s right next to the railroad tracks but it’s also the only place for blocks that had activity. Pulling into the place felt like pulling into a resort; the grounds are surrounded by a low fence, there’s gated gardens, plenty of art and sculptures, and a terrace to go through to reach the path to the lobby of the sprawling building.

Have you seen the movie The Harvey Girls featuring Judy Garland, Angela Lansbury, and Ray Bolger? This movie was based upon truth and La Posada Hotel was one of the hotels from the Harvey House chain of 47 restaurants, 15 hotels, and 30 dining cars on the Santa Fe Railway that employed Harvey Girls.

La Posada Hotel Winslow 1930The Harvey Company would hire young women to be waitresses (known as Harvey Girls) via newspaper ads. The women had to be, “white, young women, 18-30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent.” If they were hired, they’d get a six-month contract, being paid $17.50 a month plus free room, board, and uniforms. This was an amazing opportunity for many young women who didn’t have many opportunities for employment, travel, or adventure. Fred Harvey not only provided opportunities for these young women, but also Mary Colter, one of the few female architects in her day. Born in 1869, Colter designed many hotels for the Harvey Corporation but La Posada Hotel is the only hotel where she designed everything from the buildings to the gardens to even the furniture.

La Posada Hotel Winslow SignLa Posada opened in 1930 as the Great Depression began and the era of cross-country train travel was ending.  It remained open for only 27 years. In the early 1960s, much of the building was gutted and turned into offices for the Santa Fe Railway. When the railroad no longer needed it, they abandoned it and let it fall into disrepair. In 1997 entrepreneur Allan Affeldt purchased La Posada to save it from demolition and put in an estimated $12 million to restore it to its original majesty.

La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona - Wardrobe Oxygen La Posada Hotel Winslow ExteriorThe hotel was built with two entrances, one for those arriving by train, and those arriving by automobile. Entering the hotel from the parking lot, you walk into a gift shop that is also the front desk. This is not your typical gift shop; while it has plenty of books and videos about the hotel and nearby attractions, it also has an amazing assortment of vintage silver jewelry (found by artist and Affeldt’s wife Tina Mion on her travels), prints of Mion’s work (which decorate much of the hotel), as well as beautiful pieces of art, décor, and crafts. I was drooling over a Mexican tin and Talavera tile full-length mirror and Karl purchased a sterling cuff with a turquoise frog on it. Emerson’s nickname is Toadie and we both love wearing pieces with frogs or toads on them to represent her.

La Posada Hotel - Winslow Arizona La Posada Hotel lobby La Posada Hotel in Winslow ArizonaWhen you check in, you receive a booklet that provides history on the hotel as well as a self-guided walking tour. The hotel holds the Tina Mion Museum and her paintings are in common areas. I loved her work but signs said to not photograph it so sadly I can’t share much with you.  This hotel is so massive and unique with so much history, it is easily a destination in itself and we wished we were staying more than one night to experience more of it.

La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Room 200 Carole Lombard La Posada Hotel Room 200 Carole Lombard Rollaway Cot Winslow ArizonaEach room in La Posada Hotel is named after a famous person who visited the hotel in its heyday. We stayed in the Carole Lombard room, which was at the top of the circular staircase and had a view of the railroad tracks. It’s important to note if you have disabilities or trouble with stairs when booking your room; the hotel will do everything in its power to accommodate you but there was no elevator to the second-floor rooms. Our room was comfortable and well-appointed with all the necessary (and quite beautiful handmade) furniture and even a large bookcase full of books! The bed was extremely comfortable; sorry I didn’t get a picture of it before we tore it apart! The bathroom wasn’t large but very clean and came with full-size toiletries and a notice that the hotel participates in the Global Soap Project, a program I never before heard of but now wonder why more hotels do not do.

The Turquoise Room WinslowAfter seeing how empty Winslow was, we decided to not waste time exploring the city for a place to eat and went downstairs to the Turquoise Room for dinner. We all decided to dress up for the meal, as dressed up as we could be after almost a week living out of carry-on bags and not doing a proper load of laundry. I wore the black dress from this post with my gold sandals from this post and silver jewelry, Emerson wore a sundress, and Karl wore a white dress shirt with jeans and his driving mocs. I’m glad we made the effort because The Turquoise Room is a magical experience.

Alison and Emerson at the Turquoise RoomEntering the restaurant you feel transported in time to when La Posada opened. The lights were low, the atmosphere elegant, romantic, and unique. I didn’t even have to tell Emerson to whisper, she too was in awe. Considered by many to be the finest restaurant in the Four Corners region and receiving rave reviews on Yelp, Google Reviews, and TripAdvisor, the Turquoise Room opened in 2000 under the direction of James Beard award-winner Chef John Sharpe, who oversees every detail of the preparation and service. They cook everything from scratch and incorporate locally grown produce. We were led to a corner booth and our waitress Alexandra quickly arrived to greet us. Reminiscent of the original Harvey Girls, the waitresses in The Turquoise Room are in all white blouses, full skirts and aprons.

Wild Wild Platter The Turquoise RoomWe proceeded to have the very best meal not only during our trip, but for the past few months. While Karl and I had stopped eating all meat except fish, this trip made it difficult to adhere to our diet. While The Turquoise Room had seafood and vegetarian options, by this time we were both sick of salmon and made a decision that we would eat meat, on this trip, if it was special. I went super special with the Wild-Wild Platter: crispy fried quail with orange Oaxaca sauce, Colorado farm-raised elk medallions with black currant sauce, a green chili and cheese tamale topped with bison, white tail deer, and wild boar chili, finished with a fresh vegetable medley. This is not a dish I would ever be able to find back home, and it was utterly phenomenal. I also wouldn’t be able to find so amazing a meal and ambiance for such a reasonable price in the DC area. Even Emerson thought her kid’s menu meal was the best ever, and was thrilled with the ice cream cone she received for dessert (all glammed up on a plate with chocolate drizzle yet only $1).

Sunset at La Posada HotelAfter dinner, we went outside where we saw the sunset over the railroad tracks. The sky was all orange, magenta, and violet. There was a large well-tended lawn with a fountain, and a pergola with rocking chairs angled for the best view. We sat on the low wall that separated the hotel property from the tracks and counted our blessings. Once the sun set, we came inside and explored some of the hotel; a gentleman was playing guitar in the main room and guests were quietly mingling and chatting in the many rooms of the common area, in the sunken garden, and the covered terraces. We felt as though we had chosen a truly magical place as our home for that evening.

We had ordered a bottle of wine to go (since the Turquoise Room is within the hotel, you can have beverages from The Turquoise Room consumed anywhere on the property), Alexandra provided us with two fresh wine glasses, and we retreated to our room. Emerson took a shower and again fell asleep before I finished a chapter in The Secret Garden. Our room was at the end of a very quiet hall and next to it was a door to a small balcony/fire escape. We put one of Karl’s sneakers to prop our door open and one to prop open the balcony door and went outside to enjoy a glass and the silence (that was until a slow-moving train went by, which was lovely in its own way).

The Turquoise Room Winslow ArizonaThe next morning, Karl woke up before me and Emerson and did yoga in one of the lawns off the railroad side of the hotel and explored with his camera. When Emerson and I got up, we three went back to the Turquoise Room for breakfast. The breakfast menu was just as interesting and delicious and in the daylight, the restaurant was still beautiful but far more airy and open-feeling than the romantic experience from hours prior. I had The Corn Maiden’s Delight, which was a bowl of warm yellow corn polenta topped with fire roasted tomatoes, fresh spinach, two poached eggs, Jalapeno jack cheese and a fresh roasted corn salsa. So yummy.

back gate of La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Railroad back gate to La Posada Hotel WinslowThe night prior while Karl was taking our wine up to our room, Emerson saw a gated garden which she decided was THE Secret Garden.  The sun was setting, we went through the squeaky gate on the La Posada property and went down a path into the hotel’s sunken garden.  No one else was there and there were nooks where one could sit, fountains, sculptures, and against the hotel wall a larger fountain and some patio furniture.  Emerson found the whole thing super magical and made a wish on a penny and put it into the large fountain.  In the morning she had to share HER secret garden with Karl.  While it didn’t feel as magical in the daylight, it was still special, still empty, and she still talks about that beautiful spot.

winslow arizonaBut yet again, it was time to pack up and get back on the road. By this time we had our methods down pat and could go from pajamas to fully-packed car in less than 30 minutes. It pays to be strategic with your car packing; we kept our toiletries at the top of the trunk and our carry-on bags and pillows in the cargo box on the roof.  This is the view of Winslow from the parking lot of La Posada.

Standin’ on the Corner Park, Winslow

Standin’ on the Corner Park was only a few blocks from La Posada Hotel.  Not hard to find, and on our drive to it that Saturday morning the only thing with a sign of life.  We came around the corner and even with the car windows closed we could hear a song from The Eagles.

standin on the corner route 66 diner winslowStandin’ on the Corner Park is not really a park, but a wall painted to look as though it has windows, and in the reflection a red flatbed Ford with a blonde woman driving it.  On the curb right across from this reflection is an actual flatbed Ford, sans driver.  There’s the bronze statue and sign you see in the photos, a big Route 66 sign on the street.  The building in the photo above is a cafe and diagonally across the street from it is a gift shop.  It was before 9am and there was a good dozen people milling about this corner with The Eagles blaring from speakers, completely surreal considering how quiet and empty the rest of Winslow was.

chiefWhen Karl’s dad “Chief” passed away, he was cremated.  A portion of his ashes are at his family plot, but Karl took a portion.  And yep, they’re in a Johnny Walker Blue bottle.  Karl’s dad would approve.  We had the idea to sprinkle some ashes each place we went but it’s very disrespectful to do that on Native American land so we decided to not do it anywhere and just have Chief go on the trip with us.

Karl Photographing Chief at Standin on a Corner Park - Wardrobe Oxygen karl with chiefWhen we got to the park, we brought Chief out and got some pictures with him and pictures of him alone as he was on his original road trip.  Karl also took pictures of the bottle in front of the gift shop, which we knew he was standing in front of when he called us to sing to us that early morning.  We saw a few others who took pictures of non-human items at the Standin’ on a Corner statue; it’s clear the song and/or the location means a lot to many.  Everyone was very sweet, respectful, and helpful – locals and tourists alike.

standin on the cornerConsidering we already had breakfast and had no interest in Eagles-themed memorabilia, after about 15 minutes there was no need to stick around so we hopped back in the car.  Next stop, Albuquerque!

What We Learned on This Part of the Trip:

  • Ask if hotels have rollaway cots.  I didn’t even think of this when planning this trip until La Posada offered it on their site.  $10 is far cheaper than choosing a bigger room for kids.  Also if I had thought about it before booking, I would have packed our inflatable bed.
  • Let your child lead from time to time.  After dinner in Winslow, I let Emerson lead me around the La Posada grounds.  We sat in basket chairs that hung from chains, we ran through sprinklers, we walked along the wall near the railroad track, we found her secret garden, talked to animal-shaped sculptures, made friends with a cat.  Emerson’s eyes caught things I wouldn’t have, and after hours being cooped up in a car, it was healthy for her to have some control and make a few decisions.
  • Pack a nice outfit.  Even if you’re not eating anywhere fancier than The Golden Corral, it’s nice after days dirty and dusty to get glammed up and make a meal or situation more of an event.  Emerson and I drank with our pinkies up at The Turquoise Room and called each other dahlink and it turned a meal into a memory.
  • Don’t be a beauty products minimalist (if you aren’t usually).  I don’t know why I did this, but I did.  I took a face wash, SPF moisturizer, shampoo, and conditioner I don’t love but knew it was versatile for the whole family.  I left home my body moisturizer and got by with samples from hotels, brought a surf spray and small dryer diffuser but no other products and no hot tools of my own.  I figured I’d be beachy hair and simple face and while the simple face was great, the hair and my skin was horrible.  Having fewer products made me more high-maintenance because I was struggling so much to make myself look pulled together.  Each city had different water and some places I was ringlets, some places dry frizz, some places greasy strings and the “versatile” shampoo and conditioner stripped my hair… and its color.  Seriously, if I brought those items they would have taken up less than a square foot of space and would have made me a happier camper (and better road trip companion).  Learn from my mistake, take the products that make you feel good.
  • Don’t live by the alarm clock and pre-made itinerary.  We purposely stayed in Durango because of how much was between it and Winslow.  Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, more Pueblo areas, petroglyphs, meteor craters, oh my!  We hardly saw any of them because it just seemed stressful.  We’d been on the road for almost a week, usually only one night in each place and were feeling a bit frayed at the ends.  Saying no to things kept us sane, helped us all feel in control, and likely prevented some heated arguments in parking lots. On the way to Winslow we decided this trip was more of a “wine tasting” where we sampled places to decide where to return to experience more.  The family unit is more important than ticking monuments off a list!

My next recap post will be tomorrow (Saturday) because it’s just one city and one night.  Stay tuned!
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How to Style Pantone’s Pink Quartz for Winter and into Spring and Summer

Pantone recently declared that Rose Quartz and Serenity are the two colors of the year for 2016. Describing Rose Quartz Pantone wrote, “The soothing, calming nature of colors in the Spring collections are led by Rose Quartz, a persuasive yet gentle tone that conveys compassion and a sense of composure. Like a serene sunset, flushed cheek or budding flower, Rose Quartz reminds us to reflect on our surroundings during the busy but lighthearted spring and summer months.” Rose Quartz isn’t a big surprise to me; for the past couple of years rose gold jewelry and accessories have become quite popular and this past year we saw blush pink on many runways and featured by many retailers. Even I, one who isn’t a big wearer of pink, purchased a pale blush blazer.

Pink is considered a tough color by many; too much and you feel like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, too bright and you feel like Barbie, and many feel it is a “soft” color and not the best choice when in the workplace. But a soft blush pink like Pink Quartz can be extremely flattering to many skintones and surprisingly versatile. Below are some Pink Quartz separates I’ve found online, and how I would style them to break all pink stereotypes.

how to wear rose quartz pantone color of the year

How to Style Pink Quartz Sweaters, Knits, and Blouses

A rose quartz top is an easy piece to incorporate into your wardrobe. The first row of the collage is of casual knits you can add to your wardrobe now.

  • I love incorporating a print or design on a pastel like Rose Quartz; alone it can feel a bit too bubblegum and the design breaks it up. The ‘Darling’ sweater from ELOQUII and the Paris print sweater from Halogen are both sweet and feminine without being twee; pair with a darker color of denim or a black skirt or skinny trousers to balance the soft shade. Don’t be too matchy-matchy with this pink; choose shoes that either match your bottoms or else bring in a pattern (like these flats) or a non-pink metallic (like these sneakers). To keep the look from being too precious, steer clear of super sparkly statement necklaces, hair bows, or anything else that reminds one of Blair Waldorf.
  • Blush pink and Rose Quartz are the ivory from last fall; wear in the same manner when it comes to knits like this Lands’ End cable turtleneck or this boucle cardigan from PJ Salvage. To dress up, style with soft gray or ivory; to make casual pair with dark denim.
  • A sleeveless top is an easy way to incorporate Pink Quarts into your wardrobe now and have the piece easily transition into spring and summer.  This drapey shell with a grey print from Modcloth can be worn under a blazer or cardigan for the office or paired with skinny jeans for the weekend.  You can even wear with a grey sequined skirt for a night out!  This v-neck sleeveless blouse from Vince Camuto is a wardrobe workhorse; pair with trousers and skirts in black, navy, grey, ivory, cream, wine, or olive for the office.  Slip under your suit, or style with a pencil skirt and heels for Date Night.  A pale blush color like this is a great base for prints like snakeskin, leopard, and polka-dots.  The subtle shade keeps the print from looking too extreme for the office.
  • A long-sleeve blouse or shirt is equally as versatile; this wrap-front blouse from BCBG Max Azria looks quite at home at the office; pair with pencil skirts, trousers of all cuts, and slip under blazers.  However, this is a top that can transition to after hours and weekends with ease by pairing with some “girlfriend” jeans and D’Orsay pointy toe flats or a pair of heelsThis relaxed boyfriend-style shirt from ASOS can accomplish the same things; tuck into trousers or a skirt for the office, but on the weekend wear untucked with faux leather leggings or half-tucked with girlfriend jeans.

How to Style Pink Quartz Jackets, Blazers, and Coats

As someone who doesn’t wear pink regularly, I couldn’t believe how versatile I found a blazer in such a color.  Pink Quartz is a shade that works well with a wardrobe of neutrals and will highlight black, white, and navy in a sophisticated manner different from jewel tones or primaries.

  • Pink Quartz is a great alternative to neutrals and this trenchcoat from London Fog (has a detachable liner – perfect for travel!) proves it.  Just as versatile as beige but more fun, a classic shape and styling makes this a piece you can wear during Pantone’s year of Pink Quartz but also stylishly don it for years to come.
  • As I mentioned, I have found a pale pink blazer extremely versatile.  This open front blazer from Halogen has a modern cut and would look fantastic paired with your office trousers or slipped over a sheath dress, but could also look smart with jeans and a band tee or simple tank.  This Italian flannel blazer from Talbots has more classic of styling; wear to the office with a cashmere shell and trousers, or on the weekend with a Breton tee and dark denim.
  • I love mixing tough with tender, and this faux leather moto jacket from GUESS does it well.  This would be fantastic over a black, grey, olive, or cream dress for the office, or slip over an oversized shirt or blouse and pair with skinny jeans and booties for the weekend.  Pale pink works well with other subtle shades; mix with nude, ivory, tan, dove grey, cadet blue, peach, and candle for an elegant and modern feel.

How to Style Pink Quartz Pants and Skirts

A bottom in Pink Quartz is a great way to wear this popular color now but have it transition nicely into the spring.  Pale colors like this may seem appropriate just for the warmer months but can be winterized quite easily.

  • I adore this pink sequined pencil skirt from ELOQUII!  Pair with a black turtleneck, black tights and boots or booties; tuck in a crisp white shirt and add metallic pumps; wear with a band tee and booties; rock it with a classic striped tee and ankle boots.  A sequined pencil skirt, especially in a soft shade like Pink Quartz, can really go with much more than you would imagine.
  • A pair of twill ankle pants in soft pink are equally as versatile.  These from Brooks Brothers are a classic fit and right now on sale for a very nice price.  Style now with a grey cashmere sweater and suede flats; when it warms some switch out the sweater for a denim shirt or a cotton pullover.
  • A Pink Quartz skirt can be a great addition, even if it’s not sequined!  This softly pleated one from ASOS is an easy addition.  Wear with boatneck, crewneck, or turtleneck sweaters (it would look darling peeking out of a chunky cableknit, or sleek with a fitted merino) and tights, pair with a cardigan and striped knit, style with a leather moto jacket or a crisp blazer for schoolgirl chic.
  • I don’t love colored denim… unless it’s a skinny jeans like the NYDJ ‘Nichelle’ ankle jean (though I also like these distressed skinnies from J Brand and these pull-on skinny jeans also from NYDJ).  Wear with a Breton top and flats, a chambray or denim shirt in any color wash with tan or grey suede ankle boots, with a black blazer and white v-neck and black flats, with a white silk blouse and metallic heels and statement necklace, with a cashmere turtleneck in a neutral and tall boots, with a band tee, grey or black boyfriend cardigan and Chucks.  The possibilities are endless!

how to style pantone color of the year rose quartz

#WO2crosscountry: Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis Tenessee family road trip recap - Wardrobe OxygenThe drive from Amarillo to Memphis is over 10 hours and a drive that wasn’t terribly fascinating. On top of that it was cloudy and rained from time to time. We would have loved to stop in some of the cities on the way, but that kind of drive day meant we even rushed bathroom breaks.

Memphis, Tennessee

I reached out to the city of Memphis regarding our trip. They were excited and said they’d get back to me and did the day before we were set to start our road trip. In a brief email they just stated we were being hosted by The River Inn. I was trying to wrap everything up at work and doing last-minute suitcase stuffing so I didn’t have time to research this hotel and was just grateful that they agreed to partner with me and we had a place to rest our heads.

We arrived at the hotel around 6pm completely bedraggled and road weary. I was in my Gap tee shirt dress (which was laundered in Albuquerque but worn since so not terribly fresh) and Birkenstocks, Karl was in a polo shirt and Adidas track pants with Minnetonka driving mocs, and Emerson was in a pair of shorts too small and a tee shirt we bought at The Big Texan that was too snug and kept riding up. We parked our bug-splattered 2011 Kia Soul in front of the hotel and staggered in. Why am I telling you this?

The River Inn of Harbor Town

The River Inn of Harbor Town in Memphis Tennessee - Wardrobe OxygenThe River Inn of Harbor Town has won the prestigious awards such as #1 best hotel in Memphis by US News & World Report, Top 100 Hotel in the whole world by Travel and Leisure, and Top 25 Hotel in the United States by Condé Nast. Walking into the lobby we could immediately tell it deserved it by the décor, the vibe… and the service.

River Inn Memphis Lobby EntranceWalking in, we were treated like royalty without even stating our reason for entering their doors. When I let her know my name, the concierge’s eyes lit up and she said they were excited for our stay and were honored to host us in their Penthouse Suite. Like any other guest at The River Inn of Harbor Town, the staff is there to make your experience exceptional. Need a car to visit the sites of Memphis or wish to book a tour? Forgot to pack something? Wish to have flowers delivered to a room or an in-room massage? The River Inn staff is there to assist. They also welcomed us with glasses of champagne!

Mud Island, a peninsula that jetties into the Mississippi River, is home to the River Inn of Harbor Town. Just a stone’s throw from downtown Memphis (or a $6 Uber ride), The River Inn has a gorgeous view of the bridge, the Mississippi River, but still feels remote, romantic, and a retreat. Harbor Town has everything for a luxurious and relaxing stay – restaurants of all types, a market, even a day spa and nail bar. Inside The River Inn is the famous Paulette’s Restaurant, a Memphis institution for over 40 years and is regularly rated as the most romantic restaurant in Memphis. Paulette’s is also home to Little Bar, which is exactly that – cozy and utterly charming. On the top floor is Terrace, a rooftop bar with delectable little plates and a panoramic view of the Mississippi and Downtown Memphis.  Across the street from the hotel is Tug’s, a more casual bar and grill restaurant that is part of the River Inn.

Every floor of the hotel has a library with sitting area, and in the morning there will be a table in the library with hot coffee available. Entering our room, there was a spacious living area with sofa bed, armchair, table and two chairs, an electric fireplace, armoire with TV, a wetbar, and yet still plenty of space. The bathroom was larger than our dining room at home with a large shower and a deep whirlpool tub and high-end toiletries. The bedroom had a four-poster king sized bed, desk, armoire with TV, and a large closet with two terry robes. Looking out the windows of the suite, we had a spectacular view of the Mississippi River and the setting sun.

Emerson at the window of Little River Inn MemphisWe unpacked and all bathed; Emerson was so excited to take a bath in that huge tub!

Paulettes Memphis Tennessee - Wardrobe OxygenKnowing nothing about Paulette’s we headed there for dinner. I wore my green Boden off the shoulder top with white jeans, gold sandals, my yellow bag with the strap off to make it a clutch, and gold jewelry. The patrons wore everything from jeans and nice tops to cocktail dresses, it was a resort vibe.

I’m still torn over which meal was better, the one we had at The Turquoise Room in Winslow, or our dinner at Paulette’s. I had a wedge salad (a guilty pleasure of mine) and the lamb chops, which were like butter. It was a very romantic setting, but we were treated with respect even though we came with a child (who was very respectful herself). We drank wine, we savored every bite, we laughed, and we slowly relaxed. While we felt relaxed in Durango, the drives, the tire, the everything was wearing on all of us and we were in need of some TLC. Emerson had dessert, we had coffee, the sun set, and it was an utterly perfect moment.

The River Inn Memphis Penhouse BedThe bed at The River Inn is insane. I’ve slept in those other hotel’s famous beds, and we have a pretty wonderful mattress at home but it was nothing compared to our bed at The River Inn. This was the first hotel where we didn’t use our own pillows, the ones they offered were so perfect we wanted to order some to take home! The Democratic National Convention was taking place and we tried to stay up for it, but silky high-count cotton sheets, a million fluffy pillows, and the truffles and port they left bedside for us had us drift off and experience the best sleep we had since starting this journey.

Penthouse River Inn Memphis Pull Out Sofa BedEmerson even said her bed was the most comfy of the journey and she was on a pull-out sofa!

Paulettes Memphis Breakfast PancakesThe next morning, we all bathed again just to enjoy the fabulous shower water pressure and the decadent tub, and went back to Paulette’s for breakfast. Breakfast is complimentary with your stay at the River Inn, and this is no traditional continental spread. You have your choice of entrees, beverages, and sides. We had fruit, I had Eggs Benedict, Emerson had blueberry pancakes. It was so delicious, we lingered over the meal, not stressing about the day.  We had hoped to visit the National Civil Rights Museum but it was Tuesday and the museum is closed on Tuesdays.  So we went back up to the room and caught up on the previous night’s speeches via YouTube and then decided to explore a bit of Harbor Town.

Greenbelt Park Mud Island MemphisAcross the street from the hotel is the Mississippi River and a park called… Greenbelt Park! We drive across the country but we still can’t get away from our hometown!  Of course we had to take a picture and share it with our neighbors on Facebook!  We walked around the shops and restaurants and saw there was most anything you need for a lovely stay in Harbor Town – a variety of restaurants, an adorable market, day spa, gym, and even a nail bar.

Sun Studio

wardrobe oxygen at sun studio memphisWe then headed to downtown Memphis for the day.  The River Inn is happy to call you a taxi, and an Uber ride to the Beale Street area is only about $5.  We headed to Sun Studio, a must on our list.

Sum Studio Memphis DoorSun Studio is a recording studio opened by Sam Phillips in 1950.  It’s considered the birthplace of rock & roll, and famous blues and rock & roll artists like Howlin’ Wolf, BB King, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded there.

Dewey Phillips Studio Sun Records MemphisHowever the studio is best known for introducing the world to Elvis Presley.  Sun Studio then (and now) would let anyone come in and record.  Fresh out of high school, Elvis stopped by. Sam Phillips wasn’t there that day but Marion Keisker was and she pressed Phillips to listen to Presley, even though he was a “ballad singer” and Phillips was more into rock.

Emerson at Sun StudioPhillips brought Elvis Presley back in, they did a recording, it was given to DJ Dewey Phillips and the rest is history.  They rebuilt Dewey Phillips’ DJ booth inside Sun; this is Emerson in front of it.

Johnny Cash I Walk the Line Record Sun Records MemphisSun Studio has guided tours, $12 for adults, kids under 11 free (FYI kids under 5 are not allowed).  If you visit Yelp you may see negative reviews for these tours, saying it’s a ripoff as there’s really only two rooms on the tour.  I think those grumpy heads aren’t music fans.  All three of us were highly impressed by the tour.  Our guide was phenomenal; she knew the history, had funny stories to add, and engaged our entire group.

Emerson with Elvis Microphone Sun Studio MemphisWithout the tour, it really would have been two rooms but with it, the tour of Sun Studios was a highlight of our trip.  Karl and I both got tee shirts and we got a pint glass with the Sun Studio logo on it; the tour guide gave Emerson a Sun Studio sticker.  Emerson was psyched to hold the microphone that Elvis used!

Beale Street

Beale Street Memphis - Wardrobe OxygenSun Studio offers a free shuttle to Beale Street so we took advantage of it.  It’s a clean, comfortable and very air conditioned mini bus with a TV in front playing Elvis movies on a loop.  A really nice feature, and proves even more that the tour price is worth it.

BB King Company Store Memphis Beale Street - Wardrobe OxygenWe walked around Beale Street because we knew it was a must while visiting Memphis, but it wasn’t anything thrilling.  Restaurants, bars, gift shops, and plenty of folks out on the street trying to woo you into their establishment.  It was hot and humid and gross outside so when we saw what looked like a quiet air conditioned art gallery we popped in.

Withers Collection Museum and Gallery

Ernest C Withers Building MemphisThe Withers Collection Museum and Gallery is dedicated to the works of photojournalist Ernest C. Withers.  Withers began his career as a military photographer and when he returned home after World War II, he chose to be a photographer by profession.  Withers was the only photographer who covered the entire Emmett Till trial; he self-published a photo pamphlet about Till’s murder which helped spur the movement for equal rights. Withers’s pictures of key civil rights events from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the strike of Memphis sanitation workers are historic; he was often the only photographer to record these events as the mainstream press wasn’t interested at that time.  Withers traveled with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and captured many iconic images of him, including the ones of him in room 306 of the Lorraine Hotel the night before his murder.  Withers captured many historical photos of baseball, especially the last years of the Negro League, and jazz and blues musicians in Memphis (many early photos of Elvis Presley, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, and Arethra Franklin).

Emerson at Withers CollectionWe were able to see a documentary about Withers, view many of his over 5 million photographs, and they even had a room where you could dress up and take a picture for social media.  Withers’ goddaughter was at the gallery and gave us a tour and provided a lot of interesting tidbits and moving stories to go with the powerful photographs.  With the Civil Rights Museum closed, we were glad to be able to share some of the history of the civil rights movement with Emerson while we were in Memphis; I’d recommend visiting the Withers Collection.

The Peabody Hotel

After the gallery, we headed to the Peabody Hotel to see the ducks.  Back in the 1930’s the General Manager of the Peabody and his friend returned from a hunting trip and thought it would be funny to put their live duck decoys into the hotel’s fountain. Hotels guests loved the ducks.  Peabody bellman Edward Pembroke,. who used to be an animal trainer with the circus, taught these ducks the now-famous Peabody Duck March.  Pembroke became the Duckmaster, a role he held for 50 years until his 1991 retirement. The Peabody ducks march to the fountain every morning at 11am and leave at exactly 5pm, directed by the current Duckmaster.  It wasn’t even 4pm but we had enough of Beale Street and figured we could at least sit in the lobby, have a cold drink, and relax before the Duck March.

Walking into the hotel, there’s a few stores.  One had this fantastic paisley tux jacket on a mannequin and I said, “Karl I could totally see you in this.”  He agreed and we decided to walk in, not realizing at that moment what store it was.  It was Lansky Bros.  In the late ’40s, Samuel Lansky bought a store for his two sons, Bernard and Guy.  They sold clothing for those who wanted to look dapper and were part of the Beale Street music scene and outfitted famous musicians like Count Basie and Duke Ellington.  In 1952 Bernard Lansky saw a young man looking in the store window.  The man said when he had enough money he would buy the store.  Supposedly Lansky replied, “Don’t buy me, buy from me!” That young man was Elvis Presley.  Once Elvis was famous, he got much of his clothing from Lansky Bros. including his wedding suit and what he wore for his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Lansky Bros. has two locations – one in the Peabody Hotel and one on Beale Street.  They also have a “Clothier to the King” line which offers reproductions of clothing that Elvis actually wore as well as 1950s-inspired clothing.  Musicians and celebrities love Lansky Bros., they have a gallery of all their celeb customers on their site.

We walked in all bedraggled from a day out on Beale Street and were treated like celebrities.  Edith assisted us, and she was able to take a quick glance at Karl and immediately know what size he wore.  Karl tried on some pretty fierce jackets including a black version of the jacket Elvis wore for his wedding, but really fell for a grey blazer with blue flowers on it (it helped that it was on sale!).  He also got a cool printed shirt which some of you saw on Instagram.  When heading to the fitting room we saw The Speedway Jacket.  When I met Karl, he had a cerulean blue jacket from some surf brand.  It was a lightweight jacket that he wore all the time, and the color was amazing, made his eyes pop.  This jacket was the same blue color, and had a similar utilitarian but stylish vibe.  Karl tried on the jacket and we knew he had to have it.  Karl NEVER buys clothes, so to buy three items was huge for him.  But everything fit so well and had such a unique vibe and personality, they were great purchases.  If he had the money I think Karl’s entire wardrobe would come from Lansky Bros.!

Peabody Ducks - Wardrobe OxygenWe left Lansky and went to the lobby.  There were a lot of people already there, but it wasn’t too crowded.  Emerson was positively absolutely in love with the ducks and was “talking” to them.  There was a set of twins from Canada her age and they instantly became BFFs so Karl and I each got a Mint Julep and sat down in two chairs to relax.  Five minutes later came the deluge.  Suddenly the whole lobby was packed with people. Folks were scrambling to grab a seat and were hovering around the ropes around the main part of the lobby.  Security asked everyone without a seat to leave the main lobby area (kids were permitted to hang out and enjoy the ducks).  We had no idea, we arrived at the perfect time!  We clinked glasses and sat back to enjoy the spectacle that started 15 minutes later.

Peabody Hotel Lobby MemphisAnd spectacle it is. Hundreds of people were there to see the Peabody Duck March.  The Duckmaster, in a red coat with a gold baton, shares the history of the Peabody Ducks.  Stairs are rolled out, the music swells, the Duckmaster marches around the fountain, and then one by one the ducks climb out of the fountain, walk down the steps, and march in a single file line to the elevators.

Peabody Hotel Memphis DuckmasterEmerson was right on the path and saw the whole thing while we had an obstructed (but comfortable) view.  This is a free and fun activity if visiting Memphis; if you do it I recommend getting there earlier than you’d think.  Grab a drink, sit down and relax, let the kids bond with other children from around the country and world and cool off.  We’re so glad we did it, and next time we visit Memphis we plan to see the 11am march.  I heard if you get there early they sometimes let you go upstairs and see the ducks’ home too!

terrace at River Inn - Wardrobe OxygenAfter the Duck March, we were hungry.  We checked out Yelp and TripAdvisor looking for a place to eat nearby, but we were hot and sweaty and dressed like tourists and had bags of purchases so we decided to snag an Uber and head back to the hotel.  We came back to our beds turned down and a treat of truffles and a little bottle of port.  We all showered and changed and decided we didn’t want to go back into downtown Memphis and decided to check out Terrace, the rooftop bar and restaurant at The River Inn.

View from The Terrace at River Inn MemphisTerrace is small but stylish.  With panoramic views of the Mississippi River and the bridge, Terrace has a bar but also several tables.  Emerson picked a high-top table for us and we all sat so we could look out the windows and watch the spectacular sunset.

Terrace at the River Inn Small Plates MenuTerrace offers small plates; Emerson had chicken satay, Karl got the Mojo shrimp and we both ordered the seared tuna, and we shared an order of French fries.  It was a perfect ending to a really fun day in Memphis.

Wardrobe Oxygen at the River Inn of Harbor Town MemphisThe next morning, I went right outside our room and got me and Karl cups of coffee, we put on the bathrobes and got back in bed and watched the news.  So decadent!  When Emerson woke, we returned to Paulette’s for another amazing breakfast.

We had originally planned to next visit Nashville, but we learned by this point there was no point to visiting a city with only one night.  We didn’t have a hotel booked, so we decided to change our plans and head to Virginia.  It was an almost 13 hour drive so we knew we’d have to crash one night en route.  Still with a lot of travel on the schedule, after breakfast we packed up, said our sad goodbyes to The River Inn and Memphis, and got back on the road.

Wardrobe Oxygen at the Little River Inn Harbor Town MemphisI seriously can’t recommend The River Inn enough.  If it’s an anniversary, a special birthday, or a night when you want to be romantic or pampered, The River Inn is the perfect place to stay.  It was like a mini vacation within our vacation, it recharged us, relaxed us, and was much needed after some stressful driving and long days on the road.

Emersons Toys at Little River Inn MemphisI worried staying at such a posh place with a child, but they were wonderful with her and Emerson LOVED it.  In fact, just this past weekend Emerson randomly said, “I miss the River Inn, it’s my favorite place on earth after home.”  Thank you to the city of Memphis and The River Inn for our fantastic stay, we WILL be back!

Next and last post… Jamestowne and Williamsburg, Virginia!

 

Friday Favorite: Samsung NX 3000 Camera – Perfect for Camera-Unsavvy Folks!

Wardrobe Oxygen - Review of the Samsung NX3000 camera perfect for bloggers and those not comfortable with a DSLRAs you know, my husband is a professional photographer and has a couple fancy Canon DSLRs and lots of fancy looking lenses and stuff. I’m scared to touch any of it – it’s expensive, it’s heavy, and I have no photography skills. Some people have a black thumb for gardening, I have a black shutter finger.  But I can’t carry Karl in my back pocket everywhere I go, and it’s not a good use of his time to get on the floor and take an arty shot of my new ankle booties or blush. And with me wanting to get into video, I needed to figure out a way to get quality photos without the pro photographer.

Samsung NX 3000 – for Camera-unsavvy People

I was chatting with my friend Sarah about getting into creating video for the blog.  I could do it with Karl and his fancy camera, but it would be nice to have something to do more casual, on the fly videos.  Karl is happy to help, but it’s hard to schedule time when we’re both available. And honestly, I feel more relaxed when I’m not on someone else’s clock. Sarah said she had been eyeing the Samsung NX3000 and that very day, this camera was on a special price (usually $450 or so and on sale for $275) and while I was still on Skype with Sarah, I ordered that baby.

The Samsung NX3000 is a mirrorless digital camera, which for us photog-clueless means it’s smaller and way lighter weight than a DSLR. It has a cute retro look to it, and has a 20-50mm compact zoom which is perfect for blogging and videos (though wouldn’t be your best friend if you’re trying to photograph something far away). While there is a manual option, I have never used it and stick to autofocus.

There’s plenty of cameras like this on the market and they vary greatly in price. However, this one really appealed to me for some features that are perfect for bloggers and vloggers:

samsung nx3000 reviewFlip Up Display – Take a selfie or video with ease. The video display on the back of the camera flips up so you can see it when in front of the camera. I used this when doing my Clairol video, and for those post-hair photos in the same post.

Your Phone is a Remote – There’s an app available that will connect your camera and phone and let you press your phone to take photos and also to start and stop video. This photo on Instagram? I captured that by putting my camera on a coffee cup for the right height and using my phone to take the picture. For my Clairol video, I had the phone sitting on the sink counter and I could easily press it to start and stop.

Built-in WiFi and NTC – Honestly I don’t fully know what this means but I do know that I have the ability to take pictures with the camera and have them instantly appear on my phone, or easily retrieve photos from the camera to my phone and vice versa. This is fantastic if you want to upgrade the quality of your Instagram photos; no need for a computer and card reader, you can have high quality images to use on social media in seconds!  This is what I have been doing this week to capture selfies of my outfits each morning.

Speed and Quality – Super high resolution, crisp and colorful images, and a fast shutter speed so I can take a dozen photos and pick which one I like best.

Cute, Small, and Lightweight – You won’t mind having this over your shoulder or neck because it’s so unobtrusive. It also has the retro look that very closely resembles my husband’s far more expensive Fuji or a super fancy expensive Leica. I have the black, but it also comes in brown and white on Amazon and I even saw it online in pink.

Upgradable – Once you’re comfortable with the camera, there’s plenty of flashes, lenses, and gadgets you can buy for your Samsung NX to take it to the next level. You can get lenses that zoom more, provide a wide angle shot, fish eye, and more. You can get a nicer flash – knowing from Karl a bounce and swivel flash like this is great for adding light without being obvious or causing glare. You can get filters to improve the color of your photos. And I purchased, but have yet to use this ring light which will help with future videos.

My fancy low price meant I didn’t receive some basics for the camera.  The camera uses a microSD card; I didn’t get one with this deal so I bought a 64GB one and I have yet to fill it up, even with a ton of retakes of my Clairol post. Karl had a card reader that reads every size of memory card and connects to my computer via USB; I can’t get the camera to let me retrieve photos just with the cords that came with it, so you may want to get one (they’re less than $10). You need a micro USB cord to connect to your laptop or charge; Karl has one of these cords for his Fuji but I also bought a wall AC charger (less than $10); I can charge up the battery in about an hour and it stays charged for an entire week of photos

The camera doesn’t come with a bag or protective cover. I put off buying one for a while, figuring I can use some camera bag in my home. But last week I finally bought this case for less than $30. It gets mixed reviews, but I really like it and haven’t felt it needs a breaking-in period to work well.  I chose brown, and it looks like real leather but is a bit too smooth and shiny for my taste so I look forward to it getting beat up and weathered with time.  Some complain they can’t open the cover and take a picture with it still attached; I find it works fine, I use a pinky from one hand holding the camera to hold the front of the case below the lens and it’s just dandy.  I do have to remove the entire case if I wish to use a tripod or have the camera sit flat on a surface.  I didn’t add the enclosed strap and kept the one that came with the camera.  It’s easy  to snap off the front of the case and still leave the brown leather wrap around the camera body.

I’ve had this camera for about two months, and the only issue I have with it is that the autofocus is very… active.  You can be all set and ready to go and it goes blurry.  This happens most when you’re shooting a moving object or outdoors where there’s shadows and movement.  You kind of have to get used to it; this is not your iPhone and just need to get used to its behavior. The app is a bit archaic; while it accomplishes some super cool actions, the setup and options of it is pretty minimal and slow.  But yeah, that’s it.  I’m a very happy customer.

No, this camera isn’t cheap, but it’s better than my old-school Canon Powershot and way better than anything I can do with my iPhone.  Also, if you are a monetized blogger, camera equipment is a legit business expense and tax deductible. Amazon often has great prices on older models of cameras and other equipment and that’s usually the route I go.  You don’t need the latest and greatest, you need to get the job done.

True Fashionista: Zoe

I was a pretty creative teen when it came to fashion and style. I wore sweaters as skirts, sewed some of my own clothes, embellished and drew on my denim, even pulled down one of my bedroom curtains to fashion it into a cummerbund for a school dance. I’m eternally grateful that my parents gave me the freedom to express myself sartorially; while it made for some awkward social moments at the mall (strangers can be so cruel) it helped me be strong, believe in myself, and take risks.

I’m always thrilled to come across a blog of a younger woman or teen who has a bold and clearly defined personal style. I know it’s not easy at that age to buck the norm, and I understand the passion and creativity and drive that goes behind such outfits. Some young bloggers you can see are still feeling things out and finding their way, and others you can clearly understand their message and can be in awe by their voice and maturity. When I came across Zoe Schlacter’s blog, Girl With The Flower, she stopped me in my tracks with her incredibly creative, unique, and inspiring personal style. I subscribed, I became a huge fan, and asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

Zoe has always been a fan of fashion, in fact her second post on her blog, Girl With the Flower is from December 2009 when she met Tim Gunn. It’s fun to scroll through her archives and see her personal style progression. Doing so you see that Zoe has always been a step ahead of the rest – her outfits in 2009 and 2010 look very much like what many personal style bloggers are wearing today, and I can bet that her current ensembles will be imitated in a couple years.

“In middle school, I went through an awkward insecure phase, like most middle-schoolers do. I wasn’t quite as daring then; it’s been a gradual progression up until now. I’m becoming more courageous with what I wear, and I’m more confident in myself.” (source)

 

Zoe doesn’t just put together creative outfits, but she is also an artist. She shares many of her photography concepts (like those googly eye images in her header), film projects, textiles she has designed, and handcrafted headpieces on her blog, and even has an Etsy store where she sells her unique headbands and other wearable art. She has been featured in Teen Vogue, Nashville Scene, the front page of Chictopia, and Metromix and I can bet that’s just the beginning of this fashionista’s deserved press.

I look forward to Zoe’s continued pushing of sartorial boundaries, and her inspiring mix of art and fashion. I was honored to have Zoe be a part of my True Fashionista series and asked her the same five questions I ask of each participant; her answers:

How would you describe your personal style? 
I cant really classify my style into one genre, but I like things that are colorful and patterned and shiny. I really love everything floral; I’m a big fan of flowers.

Where did you get your passion for fashion? 
I’ve always been really interested in visual art. My parents are creative people, and they’ve always been really supportive of my creative endeavors. I started getting into fashion when I was about ten or so, and I’ve gradually become more and more courageous in my fashion choices over the years. I got into fashion for the wrong reasons; when I first became conscious of my appearance, it was to fit in… to be like everyone else… to be beautiful to others. My passion for fashion has evolved into something more meaningful. Now, I dress for myself, and I wear things that make me happy. Additionally, my interests in visual art and fashion have coincided in recent years, and treat fashion like another form of art.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration? 
Recently, I’ve been interested in Japanese street style… everything “kawaii.” And I’ve been inspired by Frida Kahlo for a long time now. I admire her art, and I admire her ability to stand up for her unusual viewpoints.

What is the difference between fashion and style? 
Fashion is on runways; style is what’s in your closet.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style? 
Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid to go with your gut instinct when making clothing decisions. If you want to develop a personal style truly your own, you need to stop caring what others think of you. You have to do it for yourself- not for other people.

***

The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!

True Fashionista: Denisio

Sometimes in the blogosphere, it just seems like more of the same. Every woman has a slightly different personal style, but with so many fashion blogs out there, you can grow tired of the same trends, same poses, same sameness. So when you come across a blog like The Ravenous Creator, it is like a breath of fresh air.

The Ravenous Creator is a peek into the mind of Denisio Truitt, DC-based blogger, business owner, creative spirit. Denisio sees fashion as a form of art, by reworking vintage (and selling it at 8 Vintage, a business run by she and fellow fashion blogger Krystin Hargrove), sketching designs, sewing garments, photographing provocative portrait (and self-portrait) series, and pushing every possible sartorial boundary.

I couldn’t carry off 90% of the things Denisio wears on her blog, but that is one reason why I like her personal style so much. Her combinations are what I would never consider, she plays with proportions, colors, and textures. She embraces her curves, her freckles, and rocks the short hair (which often changes colors). She inspires me to think outside the box, give a new life to a garment collecting dust in my closet or even consider wearing lingerie as part of a streetwear ensemble.

Denisio is proof that Washington DC is a city full of creative, fashionable, and fabulous women. I am honored that she was willing to be a part of my True Fashionista series. Here are her answers to the same five questions I ask of each True Fashionista:

How would you describe your personal style?
Eclectic, feminine and sexy. I love embracing my curves and wearing things that showcase them. In short I like looking and feeling like woman.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
My mother and grandmother. They’ve had me looking sharp since birth.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Two words: Karla Deras. Her style is more simple and clean than my aesthetic but her love of vintage, unique accessories, and attention to the feminine form is a constant source of inspiration.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion are the items, the ingredients. Style is the execution, the way in which you cook and put said ingredients together.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Know what works for your body, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone while still remaining true to your aesthetic, and have fun!

#WO2crosscountry: Amarillo, Texas

amarillo texas family road trip recap - wardrobe oxygenWhen we planned this family road trip, we knew a couple cities we had to stop in and others were planned based off location and whether Karl and I had always wanted to visit. While Karl’s dad didn’t go to Amarillo on his road trip, he did follow Route 66 and visited The Midpoint Café not too far away in Adrian so we added this city to the itinerary. I reached out to the Amarillo tourism department and they not only provided us two nights’ stay in their city, but a long list of amazing things to do and places to eat. The city of Amarillo was so kind and generous and worked with me to figure out a great schedule for our time there and a couple places to stop by before we got to their city.

Midpoint Cafe on Route 66

The drive from Albuquerque to Amarillo is only around four hours (though it seems like five due to the time change), and again we had gorgeous blue skies for the duration of our trip. We left early which meant we arrived at the Midpoint Café just in time for lunch.

midpoint cafe adrian texas - wardrobe oxygenThe Midpoint Café has gone through many names, styles, and sizes. The café was built in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s as a one-room café. Zella Crim, a life-long waitress always dreamed of operating her own café and moved to Adrian, Texas from Oklahoma specifically to make that dream come true. She leased the building, called it Zella’s and specialized in barbeque, having the firewood for the pit on the east side the building brought in all the way from Oklahoma.

the midpoint cafe in adrian texasZella passed away in the late ‘50s and since went through a few different owners, a couple fires, and many names and purposes. In 2012, Dennis and Donna Purschwitz bought the café and turned it into the landmark it is today. Super clean, retro and charming, The Midpoint is a must-visit when in the area. Only open from April 1 to October 31, The Midpoint Café has a simple yet traditional café menu and is known for its famous “Ugly” pies, at least eight flavors available daily. It is considered the exact midpoint of Route 66.

route 66 root beer midpoint cafeWhen paying the bill, Karl got into a conversation with the co-owner Dennis. Come to find out Dennis grew up just a couple miles away from us and we shared stories about old haunts and how the area looks now. I bought a Midpoint Café coffee mug to remember this quaint place.

car outside midpoint cafe adrian texasAfter we were feeling nostalgic and decided to take Route 66 instead of I-40, like Karl’s dad did. They run right along one another and both would take us to Amarillo. However, Route 66 isn’t well maintained and we were having gravel constantly shooting up at our windshield. By 1985 Route 66 was no longer a major thoroughfare thanks to the bigger highways and the road is broken up and just local roads, not always well maintained. When a rock popped up that was so loud we feared we got another windshield chip, we merged back to I-40.

Cadillac Ranch

cadillac ranch texasHowever we didn’t stay on for long as we had another stop before we hit Amarillo – Cadillac Ranch! Created in 1974 by a trio of San Francisco artists who called themselves The Ant Farm along with eccentric Texas millionaire Stanley Marsh 3, Cadillac Ranch is ten Cadillac automobiles from 1949 to 1963, representing the evolutions in the car line. The car bodies are half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

emerson spraying at cadillac ranch Cadillac Ranch is off the main road, in the middle of a cornfield. You know you reached it when you see the line of cars. There’s no visitor center, no gift shop, just a metal gate, a dirt path, and the clearing with the ten cars. Bring a can of spray paint with you, though if you forgot some, we found a gentleman, a Navy vet and father who was selling jewelry and magnets he made from Cadillac Ranch paint chips also had cans available. Karl was wearing his USS John F. Kennedy cap and the two of them bonded over stories from their overlapping years in the Navy. We borrowed two cans of paint from him and headed into the cornfield.

emerson cadillac ranch emerson at cadillac ranchIt was a hot and windy day and there must have been two dozen other people at Cadillac Ranch with us. We heard all sorts of accents and languages from around the country and around the world. Some people climbed up on the vintage Cadillacs, others stayed on ground. We wrote our name, Emerson got familiar with the (pink of course) spray can by drawing a heart. She then saw “TRUMP 2016” written in gold spray paint and decided she wanted to write her name over his. I rarely discuss politics on this blog because I what makes America so awesome is how we have the right to believe what and vote how we wish, but I am extremely concerned about the presidential election this November and I was damn proud of my daughter at that moment.

alison and emerson at cadillac ranch emerson and alison at cadillac ranchWe gave back the cans to the man at the truck and he gave Emerson one of his necklaces as a gift; he and Karl grasped hands and we wished him much success. With that, we were on to Amarillo!

Amarillo, Texas

amarillo fisk building courtyard marriott hotel courtyard by marriott downtown amarillo texas reviewThe city of Amarillo was kind enough to set us up at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Amarillo for our two nights’ stay. The Fisk Building, originally built in 1927 as the Fisk Medical Arts Building, went through a $12 million renovation in 2011 to become this hotel. The hotel’s design team worked with the Texas Historical Commission and the National Park Service to ensure the exterior façade was restored to its original lustrous terra cotta design. They also retained its original historic Gothic Revival exterior elements such as cast stone gargoyles and inlaid detail surrounding the Main Street entrances.

fisk building history amarillo texasThe interior incorporates some of the historic elements in the interior such as the original Cutler mail chute and letter box at the north side of the elevator lobby and on each floor. My old office in DC had one of these and it was a fun detail to see and recognize. In the lobby and near the elevators you can read about the history of the building in Amarillo and see displays of historical pieces from the original building.

lobby at courtyard by marriott amarillo the hotel lobby at courtyard by marriott amarillo The hotel lobby is gorgeous – modern, stylish, and airy. As a previous business traveler, this lobby is a dream. There’s a business center, computers to print boarding passes, books, plenty of little nooks where you can read, work, and relax. The Bistro offers Starbucks coffee and snacks as well as a full menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that can be taken to your room or served at one of their tables. The staff is very friendly and extremely accommodating. We were provided a double queen room for our stay. This was no traditional hotel double queen; it was extremely spacious with a wardrobe as well as large closet, and a living area with a sofa bed. Like the lobby it was clean, modern, and inviting.

santa fe building amarillo texas downtown amarillo texasDowntown Amarillo is full of history and charm while constantly growing and improving. The city is doing a fantastic job of bringing in modern housing, restaurants, and other businesses while maintaining the history and style of the city. Like the Fisk Building which was respected while being renovated into a hotel, other historic buildings were maintained while being updated.

The Big Texan

emerson at the big texanAfter showering and unpacking we were ready for dinner. No trip to Amarillo is complete without a trip to The Big Texan, and that’s exactly what we planned for the evening. Opened in 1960 on Route 66, The Big Texan became famous thanks to their 72 ounce steak challenge. One day in 1962 a cowboy came in to The Big Texan proclaiming he was so hungry that he said he could “eat a whole cow.” RJ “Bob” Lee, Big Texan owner, decided to see if that was true. The cowboy quit after 72 ounces of meat, but Bob was so impressed he announced that anyone who could match it would get their meal for free.

Since then, The Big Texan moved to a spot along I-40 (see a theme here?) and has become a bona fide tourist attraction. The building is not just a restaurant that seats 500 patrons, but has a huge gift shop, bar, ice cream stand, games and more. The Big Texan also has its own brewery, hotel, and RV park. The restaurant also offers free rides to and from the restaurant in their Longhorn Limos. We took advantage of this feature; Emerson found it too cool to be in a limo and the driver gave us some history of The Big Texan and Amarillo.

karl at the big texanOn a Saturday evening The Big Texan was wall to wall people though we only had a 40-minute wait for our table. The dining room of The Big Texan is decorated to look like an old saloon, has some booths along the perimeter, seats on a second floor that overlook the family-style long tables in the center. There’s a stage where those competing in the 72 ounce steak challenge sit; every table in the place can get a view and the restaurant encourages patrons to cheer them on, come up and watch or photograph. We chose to remain in our booth.

the big texan longhorn limoWhen in Texas… Karl and I each ordered a steak, the first ones we had consumed since January while Emerson stuck to ole reliable – chicken fingers and mac and cheese. Emerson’s meal came served in a kid’s size cowboy hat. As expected the steaks were good and the servings for all of us were quite plentiful. I got a margarita which was extremely sweet though Karl liked the Big Texan brewery’s beer. However, you go to the Big Texan for the experience, not the food. And that experience is pretty intense and for folks like us who are road weary, it was sensory overload. We finished our meal and dragged ourselves into a Longhorn Limo and headed back to the hotel.

The next morning I woke before the family and checked out the hotel gym, which was on the same floor as our room. It was big, well-equipped, extremely clean. Like many hotels, the Courtyard’s machines had built-in TVs and I ended up catching a portion of The White Cliffs of Dover and was so engrossed next thing I knew I had been on the elliptical for over an hour. Went back to the room and my family was still asleep so I showered, dressed, and headed down to the lobby with my laptop to get some blogging done.

The lobby was packed with families and what looked to be many people who attended the same conference or event. There was a long line at the Bistro but the staff was efficient and kept everyone happy. I grabbed a Starbucks latte and powered up the laptop and got about an hour of email answering and admin stuff completed before I got a text from Karl letting me know they were awake.

ye olde pancake station amarilloWe were all hungry and thanks to some of your suggestions, we headed to Ye Olde Pancake Station. Since 1981, Ye Olde Pancake Station has been offering breakfast and lunch in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. It was around 10am on a Sunday and we waited about 20 minutes for a table. It was totally worth the wait. The service? The best we experienced on our trip – friendly, quick, attentive, personal. The food? Big portions and delicious. Emerson had a pancake and agreed it was the world’s best. The management? Brilliant – this place is a well-oiled machine; well-staffed, very clean, no one seemed stressed and it seemed everyone working there cared about the restaurant, the customers, and one another. Thank you all for this suggestion, it was a great one!

Palo Duro Canyon

palo duro canyon in texas karl at palo duro canyonBellies full, we headed to Palo Duro Canyon for the afternoon, a short 30 minute drive from Amarillo. After the Grand Canyon, this is the second largest canyon in the United States. Palo Duro Canyon was formed by water erosion from the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. Early Spanish Explorers are believed to have discovered the area and dubbed the canyon “Palo Duro” which is Spanish for “hard wood” in reference to the abundant mesquite and juniper trees.

emerson at palo duro canyonIt was far too hot to hike the canyon, but we still got to enjoy the beauty of Palo Duro by car, stopping occasionally to enjoy the view or take advantage of a gift shop/bathroom. Palo Duro Canyon is set up to accommodate all types of camping and also has cabins for rent; we’d love to return sometime and enjoy the canyon overnight (and during cooler temps!).

emerson at palo duro canyon visitors centerOn our way out, we stopped at the visitor’s center which had a museum and gift shop where Karl bought a vintage sterling and turquoise ring (the center sells “picked” jewelry made in the area with the profits supporting the park).

family at palo duro canyonAlong with the Amarillo tourism department we planned to go ziplining at Palo Duro Canyon but after being out in the heat we were tired… and also quite hungry. So we headed back to Amarillo and grabbed lunch at Abuelo’s. The food was fantastic, the service amazing, the margaritas delicious, and tablet-free Emerson was psyched to find they have one at each table to play with. We made a wish in their fountain and headed back to the hotel where all three of us took a nap.

courtyard by marriott amarillo bistro lobby national margarita dayOn Sundays, Amarillo (like many cities in the west and south) is very quiet and few establishments were open. We’d had our fill of steak and Tex Mex by this point which left few options where to dine in the downtown part of the city. We decided to eat at the hotel’s Bistro. Like Downtown Amarillo, the hotel was very quiet and we were the only ones in the lobby. Karl and I each got Asian Chicken Salads and shared an order of potstickers; Emerson had a pepperoni pizza. It was National Margarita Day and the woman at the Bistro made us two delicious mango margaritas to celebrate. I was impressed to have such a delicious meal at a hotel bistro and such stellar service too; the Courtyard by Marriott exceeded all our expectations!

Palace Coffee Co Amarillo TexasThe next morning before getting on the road, we stopped by the famous and much-loved Palace Coffee which is catty-corner from the Courtyard by Marriott. I see why Palace Coffee is a must to visit when in Amarillo. Palace Coffee’s motto is, “Be Kind: Serve Great Coffee” and they did just that. Karl and I each got an iced coffee that was so perfect it was delicious black. We all snagged a pastry for a to-go breakfast, mine was a roll stuffed with jalapenos and sausage that was warm, flaky, and delicious. The atmosphere was inviting but we had a 10-hour drive ahead of us so we got our orders to go.

Thank you Amarillo, for the warm welcome and the wonderful visit! There’s so much to see and do in Amarillo, we could have easily filled a week with activities!

What We Learned on This Part of the Trip

  • Don’t Mess with Texas… on Sunday.  I mentioned this in the St. Louis post, but many cities roll up the sidewalks on Sunday and Amarillo was one of them.  This is something I wish I considered when planning the itinerary.
  • Not everyone serves ginger ale.  We first encountered this in Dodge City when Karl asked for ginger ale at a bar and they said they didn’t serve it.  In Durango they also didn’t have ginger ale on tap but they made Karl some with bitters and other ingredients.  Everywhere in Amarillo and at the Midpoint Cafe they looked at us as though we had two heads when asking for it, and would offer Sprite as an alternative. We didn’t find ginger ale until Tennessee!
  • Use the gym even if you’re not a gym person.  I mentioned this in my capsule wardrobe, but starting the day with even a gentle workout can help with stiff limbs from riding in the car, dehydration from the heat, time changes, and overall frustration of being in a metal box for several hours at a time with your family.  The elliptical was my BFF on this trip.
  • Stay hydrated.  When the temperature is very different from home, you may not realize how dehydrated you’re getting until you’re cranky, achy, and have a headache.  By this point, we three were carrying water bottles everywhere.  And speaking of water, most hotels have a filtered water machine in their gyms which is far more tasty (and requires less of a need for ginger ale) than water from the tap.

Next stop, Memphis!

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Couple’s Weekend Getaway in Columbus, Ohio [Sponsored]

Karl and I took a little couples’ getaway last month to Columbus and it was just what the doctor ordered. Only a six-hour drive or 1-hour flight from DC, Columbus is a thriving city with plenty to do and see. Their culinary scene is amazing, with so many unique restaurants, food trucks, and talented chefs.  It was the perfect city for a quick getaway where we could relax, recharge, and celebrate as a couple.

le meredien columbus the joseph reviewWe stayed at Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph, a gorgeous boutique hotel conveniently located on High Street in The Short North. Staying here was a real treat; because I am a Starwood Preferred Guest member (seriously join those free loyalty programs they’re worth it), we were upgraded to a Deluxe King room. The room was spacious and gorgeous, with a beautiful view of the city and the staff had macarons from Pistacia Vera and a bottle of Chardonnay on ice waiting for us.  I don’t think I’ve ever before taken so many showers in one weekend; I was obsessed with the shower’s perfect rainshower head, strong pressure, and plenty of hot water.  We took advantage of the room service one evening and the food, prepared by the adjoining Guild House restaurant, was astounding.  Even the lobby was great; cool furniture and decor but comfortable enough to chill and read the paper, drink a cocktail, and do a bit of people watching.  The Joseph staff was warm, friendly, and extremely helpful.  I would stay at this hotel again in a heartbeat and recommend it completely if you’re coming to visit Columbus.

A review of The Pearl Restaurant in Columbus #lifeincbusthe pearl columbus oyster roomEvery time Karl and I visit a city, we get oysters.  The Pearl is located directly across the street from The Joseph, and was recommended by many as the place to go in Columbus for oysters.  The place was busy, but in just a couple minutes we were able to get seats at the oyster bar.  The place was well staffed, and everyone was very friendly.

the pearl restaurant oyster review columbus ohioWe started with a mixed dozen of oysters and then got a second dozen of the ones we liked best.  Karl got the restaurant’s exclusive Pearl Oyster Stout from North High Brewing and I chose a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  We were both pleased with our selections.

DSCF0981The bill arrives in a hardback book; I loved the randomness of the one we received!

forno kitchen bar columbusWe also got a chance to check out forno kitchen + bar, an elegant and modern space that is still inviting.  We stopped by between meal times for a cocktail and appetizer.  We sat at the bar and found that our bartender Jimmy was a true mixologist who is passionate about food and drink and quite knowledgeable about the Columbus culinary scene.  While Karl got a Woodford Reserve neat, Jimmy recommended forno’s Kiwi Mule, which was delicious, crisp and refreshing on a warm summer day.  We shared the Ahi Tuna Tacos which were phenomenal, and made us wish to return and try more from their menu.

the pint house columbusforno recommended we check out Short North Pint House & Beer Garden.  Run by the same folks as forno, but a completely different experience.  The Pint House is ginormous – a front room with a ton of light, tall tables, and the funkiest fountain made from beer taps.  A bar goes along the wall of this area into the main part of the place,  and juts out to hold at least 30 stools and continues down the wall to the back.  Over 70 different beers on tap and dozens more available in bottles and cans, the place is a beer lover’s dream.  I don’t drink beer any more, but I had a Moscow Mule.  I know these drinks are popular nationally but I had never seen so many people drink them before I visited Columbus.  It seemed everywhere I looked someone was sipping out of a copper mug.  I had never had one before, and now I see the appeal.  Karl tried a few different local brews, and the folks at the Pint House were kind enough to treat us to their Short Rib Nachos, which were tasty and plentiful.  This place was hopping even in the middle of the day, and the staff was super energetic and friendly.

DSCF1038The first night in Columbus, we met a couple who recommended we check out Stack City Burger Bar, a new restaurant part of the Hyde Park Restaurant Group, which also owns a half dozen other restaurants in Columbus.  Thinking this would be your run of the mill bar and burger joint with a bunch of TVs showing sports, we were pleasantly surprised.  The location is warm and modern but somehow made big screens part of the decor.  Plenty of outdoor seating, but we decided to sit inside, though they opened up all the walls so there was a gorgeous breeze.  We each got a Bloody Mary which was really delicious and made with coconut vodka and just the right amount of spice and heat.  Karl got a bison burger with goat cheese, caramelized onions, and a side of onion rings; I chose the Red White and Blue burger (lettuce, tomato, onion, bread and butter pickles, cheddar) with fries.  They cook their burgers medium well, but they are not dry.  Incredibly flavorful and juicy, a bit reminiscent in flavor to Shake Shack, though the buns are slightly toasted and have the perfect amount of firmness.  We each could only eat half of our burgers and just a bit of the sides; the burgers were so good the leftovers tasted great a few hours later after sitting in our hotel minifridge!

katalinas cafe columbus ohioWe were informed that one of the best breakfast destinations in Columbus is Katalina’s. Located in the Victorian Village (less than a mile and an easy and pretty walk from the hotel), Katalina’s prides itself on using local and fresh ingredients.  Katalina’s is a casual and cheery place; you order at the counter and they bring it to your table either inside the small cafe or on the outdoor patio.  We got there around 9am and the place was pretty full but we didn’t have to wait in line very long and snagged a table indoors.  If you want to eat outside, I recommend getting there as close to open as possible.  We were psyched about our seat; there was a sign there from a regular customer who was in Italy for the summer; he provided his SnapChat and Instagram handles and wanted to hear from those who enjoyed the restaurant from his favorite table.  How adorable is that?  We took a selfie and I mentioned him on Instagram and he wrote back the same day!  Such an example of the fun and friendly people of Columbus.

katalinas columbus breakfast reviewI got the breakfast tacos with chorizo, which were amazing.  Everything was so fresh, and it came with a side of the most amazing corn on the cob I have ever enjoyed; steamed so it was juicy and plump and coated in spices that had a hint of heat and tons of flavor.  Karl got Hens in a Basket and couldn’t stop raving about the Brussels sprouts slaw side.

DSCF1064The other place we knew we had to try for breakfast was Northstar Cafe.  With three locations in Columbus, we visited the one in the Short North, which was just a few blocks down from our hotel.  Northstar also has indoor and outdoor seating, a casual atmosphere, and a focus on organic ingredients.

northstar cafe columbusI got The Standard Egg Sandwich with sausage, Karl chose the Sweet Potato and Turkey Hash.  The sun was strong and while we got there early enough for outdoor seating, we chose to sit in the airy and inviting dining room.

zencha tea salon columbusThere’s plenty of fabulous independent coffee, tea, and juice shops in Columbus.  I didn’t see a single Starbucks and it was AWESOME.  Our hotel provided illy coffee pods and a little machine in our room that made phenomenal espresso and coffee so we didn’t visit any coffee shops.  However, we stopped by Native Cold Pressed Saturday morning and got some delicious green juice to counteract our Friday night cocktails.  On Sunday Karl got delicious Jasmine Pearl iced tea from ZenCha Tea Salon.  ZenCha was so relaxing and the art in there to show awareness for human trafficking was powerful.

north market columbusA must-visit when in Columbus is the North Market.  Established in 1876, the market has over 30 vendors offering local and fresh food.  The main floor is like other markets I have attended; stalls for fishmongers, butchers, bakers, coffee roasters, pastry chefs and yes even the famous Columbus Jeni’s  Ice Cream.  Upstairs has plenty of seating (and a great view of the booths below) and Hot Chicken Takover, one of the most buzzed-about restaurants in Columbus.  I could have spent all day at North Market, and could have spent my entire paycheck.

north market columbus ohioAnd you know you always wanted to know what I looked like as a goat! We saw this upstairs in North Market and I couldn’t resist!

columbus collageThe weather in Columbus was perfect – in the 80s, sunny, with a light breeze.  Being from DC, we loved having a break from the humidity and all the mosquitoes!  We walked a LOT, often with no place in mind, just checking out the city.  It’s an easy city to walk; we never drove our car and had CoGo Bike Share available for longer treks.  To be honest, we forgot to take pictures on most of our adventures, we just enjoyed a new city full of some of the nicest people.  Columbus is creative, colorful and modern.  The culinary scene rivals larger metro areas like DC but is not at all pretentious.  While all the current trends can be found in dining, art, and fashion, it’s shared in such a friendly manner. (That last picture Karl said I had to share of me in Magnolia Thunderpussy.  He says that’s my “face” when I’m plotting a scheme or justifying a purchase!)

DSCF1077We had a great time Columbus; thank you so much for having us!  We look forward to returning and enjoying more of your wonderful city!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LifeInCbus. The opinions and text are all mine.

Forecastle 2012 Recap

While I have attended Bonnaroo several times, I had yet to attend a city-based music festival like Forecastle. Unlike Bonnaroo where you camp on the same grounds as the music festival, you have to stay offsite with Forecastle. We chose to stay at The Galt House, which was less than a half mile from the grounds and also had a great price for festival attendees.

The Galt House was HUGE! Two giant towers, restaurants, spa, gym, shops, pool and more! We reserved a room with a king bed but it wasn’t ready at check-in time. They apologized, gave us a room with two queen beds and a river view and even comped our parking as an apology. Even better, our new room ended up right across the hall from my sister!

The room itself was lovely – pretty basic but a huge bay window overlooking the Ohio River.  We bought a bottle of bourbon (when in Louisville…) and had cocktails enjoying the view.  My husband said it was looking at a live train set with the bridges, barges and boats, trains and more.

Friday:
The music started just after 5pm; we arrived around 5:30 to get a lay of the land. The festival site is predominately under a major highway which was actually pretty awesome because it shielded attendees from the sun and possible rain (it was set to rain all weekend). While the stages are far enough apart to prevent too much audio bleed, the grounds are small enough that you can easily dash from one stage to another to see every set you desire. The two biggest stages are right on the water, so through the stages you saw the Ohio, the bridges, and the most spectacular sunsets.

We bought a packet from the My Morning Jacket fan club which gave us access to the MMJ sound check, pit access for their performance, and access to the VIP entrance the whole festival. Friday when we went into the festival for the first time, we handed them our ticket and got a black bracelet. Then a woman saw our Roll Call cards and said we were missing a bracelet and gave each of us an orange VIP one. We were confused but soon realized that either they messed up or the package was far better than we expected because suddenly we had VIP access all weekend! We were able to get into VIP which had tons of seating, an air-conditioned lounge tent, air-conditioned bathroom trailers and their own beer and food vendors. I swear, this festival kept getting better and better!

We did a lot of bouncing around from stage to stage Friday night and caught a bit of Rebelution, The Head and the Heart, Atlas Sound, Atmosphere, Sleeper Agent, and Bassnectar. The only show I saw in its entirety was Sleigh Bells, and I got a great spot about a dozen people from the pit, a little right of center. I loved every artist I saw except Atlas Sound and Atmosphere. While both are extremely talented and put on a good show, Atlas Sound was bibbing about the “digital” coming from Atmosphere’s stage, and when we left and went to Atmosphere, we found that he was being a of a Gloomy Gus too, with negative snarky lyrics and conversation between songs. Such things wouldn’t usually bother me, but it just felt like a bad way to start the first night of a festival so I moved on.

After jumping up and down for a full hour at Sleigh Bells, I ended up catching most of Bassnectar from VIP – not a good view, but good sound and it was fun to watch the crowd (and also take advantage of VIP!).

I was already impressed with Forecastle by the end of Friday. Most of the grounds are gravel or concrete which means no mud and little dust. The views of the Ohio were amazing and we were treated to spectacular sunsets each evening. Enough water, more than enough porta-potties, plenty of food and trinket vendors. However the best part was the people – real music fans, few pretentious hipsters, no age-ists who looked down at us parents rocking out – a real mix of happy music lovers.

Saturday:
As previously mentioned we splurged on a special pass for members of the My Morning Jacket fan club to attend their sound check and get pit access for their actual show. The sound check was at 11am, before the festival grounds opened to other attendees. We got there… and it began to storm. They couldn’t let us out to the stage with lightening so they had us wait under the overpass until it blew through. Soon it was clear that the storm wasn’t going anywhere, but instead of cancelling and disappointing their biggest fans, My Morning Jacket gave us a special treat – they came to us! Jim James and team walked over to our group under the overpass and did an intimate acoustic set for us! It was amazing – they sounded phenomenal and did some of my favorite songs – they started with Tonight I Want to Celebrate With You (me and my husband’s song), even did Old September Blues, and everyone joined in to sing Wonderful (The Way I Feel) (do check out the links, they are YouTube videos of the actual sound check!).

After that amazing experience and being in blazing sun and then rain, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the evening. And what an evening it was! We did a bit of wandering, catching a bit of Justin Townes Earle, The Ravenna Colt, Galactic, Dr. Dog, Andrew Bird, and Real Estate. However, we were all feeling a bit distracted thinking about later that evening. As previously mentioned, we had a package to go into the pit for My Morning Jacket – they had one side of the pit for those who waited in line, and one side for us. This made for a very comfortable pit – not too packed, and only holding those who truly love the band.

The show was epic. I have seen My Morning Jacket in concert four times prior, and each time the show is different. I think that since they did most of their lower-key songs for us in the morning they amped it up for the evening show. The craziest part of the set was their cover of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” where they started changing the “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah” part to “Ba-na-na-na-na” and started throwing bananas at us!  Here’s a link to the entire performance.

While many of our friends went to see Preservation Hall Band and MMJ play on a paddle boat, we didn’t splurge on that and instead headed back to the hotel to rest up for the next day.

Sunday:
Like Saturday, the day started rainy, but cleared up in time for music. We had no major plans in the morning so we headed into town for brunch and ended up at Dish on Market. I had the most utterly sinful corned beef hash and one too many Bloody Marys; thank goodness the food was amazing because the place was understaffed and service was at a snail’s pace. Later, my husband and I went for a walk around Louisville and stopped at two different bars – one for a cocktail, and one for a lunch of oysters, tuna tartare, and another cocktail. Why? Because we COULD! Seriously, it feels so utterly decadent to be eating oysters one moment and rocking out in the pit of a festival the next.  As I said in my previous post, we really felt like we were festing like a boss!

We headed back to the festival in the afternoon, and again wandered around from stage to stage. Ones that stood out were Fruit Bats, Gramatik, Beats Antique, and Clutch. As a DC-native, I love me some Clutch. Since they were playing at the same time as Wilco, I was able to get right up in front in the pit, and have plenty of room to rock out. I often felt that Neil Fallon was singing right to me – at one point I jumped off the yellow jackets (the plastic things that cover wires and a great riser for short folks at concerts) to get out of the way of moshers, and Neil looked out into the crowd a bit confused. I jumped back on the yellow jacket and started cheering again and he went back to singing – I doubt he missed me but it was fun to think so!

After Clutch I watched Wilco from VIP. They sounded great – so great that this gal who is pretty “meh” about Wilco now wants to see them live again. However I was wiped from the weekend and my VIP futon was too comfortable to leave and venture into the crowd. Oh well, next time!

A big thanks to Cate, Allison, and Krista for connecting with me and offering suggestions on where to visit and eat while in Louisville. Much love to Hollie, Sarah, and the other Inforoosters I bumped into at sound check and didn’t get enough time to hang with while there – next festival for sure! And finally, a big thank you to Louisville, AC Entertainment, and My Morning Jacket for putting on a well-run, fun, and friendly festival. We had a blast and will be back!

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