The past year has been quite a whirlwind. Auggie was born late in 2015 and the first six months of his life were wrought with challenges I never expected which left us at home non-stop for the majority of the first half of the year. The idea of a legitimate family vacation felt like a far off dream back then. But as we have settled into parenthood and I finally got back to work, traveling with a baby seemed manageable, even exciting, do-able. So when Hilton Garden Inn reached out asking if I wanted to partner with them and head to Kauai, Hawaii for a week this winter it didn’t take long for me to say yes.
I have dreamed of going to Kauai for as far back as I can remember – a friend of mine from college whose dad lived there, and whom spent every college break getting an amazing tan, always talked about Kauai like it was this magical exotic far off wonderland. We’ve also lived in the PNW for nearly a decade and it seemed absolutely absurd that we still hadn’t taken a Hawaiian vacation since there are direct flights to Lihue right from our backyard. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Kauai had to happen and with a baby in tow no-less!
We arrived in Hawaii and were immediately giddy. The palm trees, the vastness of the ocean and the sunset…oh the sunsets. I forgot just how beautiful the setting sun could be and how it could do things to the sky not even the most skilled painter could recreate. We got settled into our cute cottage accommodations pretty quickly, covering the windows with trash bags and painters tape (if you’re a parent and haven’t used this trick yet to blackout a room while traveling it’s the easiest and breeziest! and if you’re not a parent, TRUST ME…100% worth the effort) and laying out Auggie’s adorable swimsuits that by some miracle still fit from early July when we bought them (thank you lycra!).
We went down to the beach as quickly as we could (which was just a short two minute walk from our room across the lawn and right on Wailua Bay!) and soaked in the first of many gorgeous cotton candy sunsets and sunrises. It felt so overwhelmingly beautiful and comforting to watch the warmth of the sun fall on my boys’ sweet faces as it escaped under the horizon, and to hear the bellowing sounds of the waves hitting the shore. Auggie had never been to a real oceanside beach before, so seeing his little toes bury themselves in the sand was pure joy for this mama.
After an AH-MAZING nights sleep in the comfy king sized bed we headed up to The Garden Grille on site for our first breakfast as a family. We immediately ordered pancakes smothered in the most amazing fresh coconut syrup, an omelette filled with every vegetable imaginable and consumed as much fresh papaya and pineapple as we could stomach. Auggie’s sleep schedule means his actual meals happen when we usually don’t have time to eat with him or are at hours we aren’t as hungry, so it was the most fun to sit at the restaurant as a family and actually eat a meal together. The simplest of pleasures, but such a treat! He was so proud of himself to be sitting at the table right alongside mama and papa. When we were done with breakfast we decided to take a walk around the property, swooning over the pretty pool and the ocean views as we went.
After breakfast and our wander, Adam stayed back and put Auggie down for a nap and I hopped in the car to explore the island. We had brought our favorite babysitter Susanna along on the trip to help with Auggie so Adam and I could actually enjoy some of the excursions we had planned and we could both work as needed. Susuanna wasn’t occupied that morning so I brought her along on my day trip adventure which was SO fun.
Just a thirty minute gorgeously scenic drive from the Hilton Garden Inn was the Kilauea Lighthouse. The views were absolutely impeccable and I was in total shock just how turquoise the water was against the rocks. Oh my gosh and the humidity…the closer we were to the beach and the more it sprinkled drops of rain, the more untamed my hair always got! By the end of our trip I finally just gave in and let it go as wild as it wanted.
Before leaving the Kilauea area, we stopped to shop at Hunter Gatherer (an absolute must if you are ever on Kauai!) and nabbed a fresh juice from Kauai Juice Co. They have a location in downtown Kapaa as well and it was definitely a consistent staple of our trip.
I continued our afternoon drive north settling into the beach town of Hanalei. Wanting to get to a secluded place on the water, I pulled off the road at Waikoko Beach and had not a clue how to actually get down from the road to the water as there was a steep drop and appeared no walking route. Luckily a surfer with a cute little scraggly dog wearing a puka shell necklace (seriously, only in Hawaii!) was kind enough to give me and Susanna advice on how to make the trek down : “oh just take off your shoes and climb down the tree roots, they are super strong!” I looked at him in complete bewilderment and laughed a bit thinking he must be kidding? He wasn’t. So in an effort not to look like a seriously old lady in front of Susanna who is 10 years my junior, and with a determination to have an authentic Hawaiian experience, I clung to the tree roots and climbed my way down, feeling like a kid for the first time in years. Once we were down to the sand it was absolutely breathtaking. It was one of those postcard moments you wished you could live in forever.
That night after a relaxing drive back to our hotel along the coast, including a stop at Duane’s Ono-Char Burger for some grub (the teriyaki and pinapple burger was HEAVEN!), Adam and I left Augs with Susanna and set off for a luau and hula dancing performance at Smith’s. We were so entranced by their beautiful property and the botanic gardens. I also couldn’t get over how effortlessly those hula dancers make their hips shake! I don’t think I could shake my body like that even with years of practice!
Two of the things I enjoyed most during our time on Kauai was a helicopter ride we took with Safari Helicopters and our Na Pali sunset dinner cruise with Capt Andy’s. Neither Adam nor I had ever been in a helicopter before so it was such a thrilling adventure for us both (in all honesty, I was terrified before the flight especially now that we have a child who depends on us but it was something I will never regret doing). The views were SO beautiful and it was fun to see the coastline from so high up. And after living in Seattle for almost 10 years with not a single whale sighting, catching multiple views of humpbacks during our boat ride was an absolute thrill that made me cry. There is just something so stunningly beautiful about seeing animals in their wild habitat unrestricted right?
Every morning we made an effort to get to the beach before sunrise allowing us lots of time to adventure around town with Auggie. I’ve traveled many times before, but experiencing a new place through the eyes of your child takes the cake. Everything is new to them (the fresh pineapple and mango at the farmer’s market, the rusty stairs of the lifeguards post, people watching during brunch at Java Kai in Old Town) and everything is so much more fun because of it. I get so much satisfaction from solo travel, but having my little buddy along on this Hawaii trip was the cherry on top of such a great experience.
The morning before we flew back to Seattle, we took one last drive to see Wailua Falls, Opaekaa Falls and the Wailua River. I’m obsessed with waterfalls and my one regret of the trip was not having more time to go on a hike and wade in the calm waters under the falls (oh and not taking home any of the coconut syrup…dang it!). We got to Wailua Falls right after the sunrise and were the only ones taking in its misty glow…it was absolutely breathtaking. I also got to capture a few photos of my boys being extra cute which was an added bonus. This trip to Kauai will be one I will never forget and I’m so glad we got the opportunity to travel as a family to such an awe-inspiring place.
A few other worthwhile stops if you are ever on the island of Kauai:
1. Shipwrecked Kauai (really cute boutique with adorable baby clothes, cards, swimwear etc.)
2. Tiki Tacos (had some of the best tacos I’ve ever had here! HUGE quantity and perfect spiciness)
3. The Fresh Shave (we unfortunately ran out of time to stop here, but it was recommended to me more times than I can count)
4. Bike riding along the Kapaa Bike Path (the Hilton Garden Inn where we stayed let you check out bikes for 2 hours at a time free of charge!)
5. Snorkling on the north coast (we didn’t get a chance to do this this time around, but our babysitter said she saw the most amazing fish)
6. Koloa Rum Company (go to this spot for a rum tasting, OH and one of their rum bundt cakes…holy yum!).
This post is sponsored content created in partnership with Hilton Garden Inn. All thoughts, opinions and photography in this post are my own.
It has been quite some time since I checked in on this here blog of mine. I decided back in October after a very busy couple of months of work to take the early winter weeks off to travel and spend some good quality time with friends and family. This included time off from blogging, email answering and really anything that could be classified as “work”. As an entrepreneur you get in the practice of never really taking time off…EVER. Even on those days when an outsider looking into your life might say, “hey that chick ain’t working!” I would still beg to argue. And the argument would actually be a new one for me.
I too used to think on those days when I was home and not answering emails that I was in fact “taking a day off”, but what I quickly realized as a stylist is that even on those days when I feel like I’m prioritizing self-care and downtime, I’m still seeking out inspiration in mundane places, still fussing with our house and practicing my styling, still fretting over business practices and the future, still flipping through magazines and blogs and book to hone my creative eye, still taking photos of life while being overly cautious of composition and lighting and scale etc. So I decided that (minus my treasured instagram feed) I would attempt to refrain from REALLY working. I’d turn down jobs, put on an out of office on my email and for the first time in four years, really REALLY just rest, travel and enjoy the sweet joys of life. I was going to try to have a period of winter calm. So far, I’ve done…OK. There are days when I feel horribly guilty for not responding to emails straight away, or turning down jobs that could otherwise help us with our much-needed and anticipated home renovation, but I’m a work in progress and know soon enough, I’ll be back to the hard focused grind in the early new year.
For now, I wanted to pop in and share a couple of images my dear friend Dorothee captured of me during our time together in The Netherlands. We stumbled upon this beautiful little cafe/boutique in Amsterdam (I had forgotten how many of the spots double as a cafe and clothing shop) and the light was just so so stunning that afternooon. It was bitter cold outside, so we decided to lay low and sip coffee and tea while thumbing through the magazines they had on hand. I’ve visited so many amazing cities in the last few months that I’m dying to share with you – lots of shopping and where to eat tips and of course images too! My plan is to work them into a new feature of city guides that I’ll be working on over the next few weeks (see how that “work” word seems to always creep in there?!).
Until then, I’m off to Raleigh, London and Albuquerque over the next two weeks. I hope, like me, you are finding yourself enjoying this lovely holiday season (we got snow in Seattle while I was home for a few days last week…yahooo!) as well as some time of your own to relish in the simple beauties of life.
You can follow my current travel adventures here : @jelliottblake
photography : Dorothee Brand of Belathee
location : COTTONCAKE , 1e van der Helststraat 76-hs 1072NZ Amsterdam
Over the past few years I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel more times than I could ever have imagined I would in my entire life. When I was a kid, we rarely traveled unless for a summer road trip that only happened every few years. So whenever I get a chance to pack up for a flight somewhere fun for work or play, I’m always eager to find a way to make it happen. And as I’ve become more and more accustomed to traveling, often traveling even very last-minute, the whole packing thing has become sort of a no-stress affair. I’ve come to realize that no matter what you pack, you’ll always end up wishing you’d brought something (that perfect red dress for a dinner at THAT restaurant) or wish you’d left something at home (those shoes that gave you walking blistering just 2o minutes into the trip). So now, I just kind of throw things in a bag and hope for the best really. For this particular trip to France this week, I’m currently coveting a few items that are essential to a comfortable and enjoyable adventure abroad.
pretty colorful flats from madewell (so you can look stylish while running to catch the metro) | dry shampoo by oscar blandi (perfect for those travel days when you’re on the go – I use it even on freshly washed hair to increase volume) | new passport (mine was finally expired & needed a name change) | comfy sweater from steven alan (one of those throw on and go options for chilly nights) | scarf from we are owls (can double as a pillow or eye cover on those long flights) | across the shoulder messenger from zara (make sure it has a zipper to ward off pickpockets) | digital camera from fuji film (i’ve been pining for a new not too bulky digital camera for easy travel) | lightweight jacket from jcrew (one that matches everything and will ward off unexpected afternoon weather changes) | packable hat from moorea seal (for those days you just don’t wanna fuss with your hair) | rose perfume from fragonard (i don’t wear perfume daily but I can never buy enough of this stuff to bring home while I’m in Paris)
Although the trip has been planned or anticipated for longer than I can remember, I have yet to mention yet on the blog (or even to practically anyone in my life) that I’ll be heading back to Paris next week. I think all the mayhem with the house over the past few months made me fear this trip abroad might have to be shelved; pushed so far off the back burner that my Paris devoted heart would not only break but shatter into a million little pieces. I was afraid to potentially admit that this decision to purchase a home might just have done the one thing I didn’t want it to do – prevent us from having the ability to travel.
I’ve mentioned it many times before but Paris is that one place in the world that I ache for. It creates a sense of nostalgia unmatched by any other place I’ve been. Ever since I was little I have always had an extremely visceral reaction to even the idea of the city of lights. It wasn’t until our honeymoon that I had my first experience with the city, but immediately upon stepping foot into my first French cafe, it has been the place that makes me feel free, alive, confident. I can barely even speak a full sentence in French without stumbling over my words and second guessing myself, but even if I went and stayed in the city and engaged in complete silence for weeks, I would still feel most at home in Paris.
I anticipate this might just be my last trip to this wonderful city for a really long time. I know some people never even get a single opportunity to visit this beautiful place, so I know I am immensely blessed to be returning for the seventh time. I’ll be meeting up with one of my dearest friends Grant, a person whose kindness and ability to view the world with boy wonderment makes me feel like anything is possible. I’ll also be reconnecting with wonderful Anne who is so graciously and kindly providing me with a place to rest my head at night. I can’t wait to see these two again! I’ll also be making new creative connections, including Jill whom I’ve looked forward to connecting with for longer than I can remember. Jill, Grant and I are already cooking up some fun collaborative projects while I’m in town and I can’t wait to share them with all of you when I return.
For now, as I gear up for the packing phase of my upcoming trip, I’m sharing some cherished images from my dearest friend Michael. He captured these shots during our time together in Paris in the fall of 2012, and every time I look at them I’m immediately transported back to all the fun we had and how much personal growth I experienced during this adventure with close friends.
I’ll definitely be sharing images of next week’s Parisian adventures on my instagram feed and will be coming back home to share here too. Any favorite Paris spots I must check out?? I always gravitate towards those that are tried and true, but I would love some tips for some new places!
images captured by mr. michael newsted.
If 2014 has already hand delivered a lesson in anything it’s that life can put in your path the most unexpected & headache provoking barriers which you’ve gotta find a way to hurdle right over. As I alluded to in the last couple of posts, Adam and I have had one rough start to the new year. A major house debacle and some recent bouts of bad luck (including a lost cell phone while traveling last weekend which was chock full of un-backed up memories – dang it!) leaving this recent trip to Palm Springs as that much-needed recharging and rejuvenating cure – I mean look at that house?! How could you not be uplifted here?!
Overall the trip to Palm Springs for Meet Make Do was a dream. After feeling incredibly disconnected & uninspired recently in large part to our crazy personal life, I was in desperate need for a pick me up and a pick me up was what I got. Four days in the sun (okay so it rained a whole bit too) with some of the most wonderful women I have ever had the good fortune of getting to know better was everything I could have hoped for and loads more. I was greeted by warm smiling faces and a GORGEOUS mid-century pad filled to the brim with craft/styling supplies and surrounded by breathtaking views – a stylist’s dream location, really. I’m pretty sure I actually whimpered at the sight of the place.
Brittni, Kelly & Chelsea along with the good folks at Bing worked to bring this curated, creative & collaborative event to life over the past year (so much dedicated planning!) and I’m so so thankful they did! It’s not too often as a freelancer and blogger you get the chance to spend devoted time with those whom you adore and aspire to work alongside, but rather you sit behind the keys of a keyboard day after day wishing with all your might you could instantaneously shrink the distance between you and those whom are scattered so far across the country. The life of a freelancer can often be pretty lonely, and thankfully these four days reminded me I’m not alone on this path. The event was meant to provide inspiration and the tools to create without limitation or hesitation in the company of great friends and new pals, and boy oh boy did it deliver! From our first evening to the very last goodbye I was consistently encouraged by the generosity of spirit of each of the attendees. Each gal, curious and creative in her own right, made the opportunity to create in the same space that much more exciting and full of potential.
Alongside the generosity of Bing, there were so so many amazing people & companies who made this lovely adventure come to life for us. I’ll be sharing a peek into our beautiful swag bags next week, but I couldn’t refrain from sending an enthusiastic (I’m fist pumping over here!) shout out to those who kept our taste buds dancing the entire week. Edoughble (egg-free!) cookie dough styled to perfection with Shop Sweet Lulu supplies was one of the best tantalizing afternoon treats. I know right – so stinkin’ cute! I promise you they were as tasty as they look! I also adored the yummy jams and sweet spreads from M. Greenwood perfect for morning, noon or night snacking. Seriously ANY of their jams paired with cheese and slathered on a cracker?! YES, PLEASE! I will be no doubt purchasing some for home just as soon as our pantry is finally up and running.
Even this gigantic floating beach ball provided the most thoughtful reminder that the process of creating and thinking outside the box is endlessly rewarding. Each detail of the event was so thoughtfully planned, down to our evening dinners – my favorite of which was at Workshop Kitchen + Bar. During a trip to Palm Springs last summer I was saddened I didn’t get a chance to try the place, so when I saw it on the agenda for the week I jumped up and down (I’m easily excitable if you can’t tell!). The dinner was AMAZING and every bit of the menu was as just as beautiful and skillfully styled as it tasted. If you ever get a chance to explore Palm Springs, PLEASE stop here. You won’t regret it! Definitely a new travel favorite of mine.
Besides engaging in great conversation over amazing meals, we spent our time creating & experimenting using a plethora of gorgeous supplies & stunning florals from Flower Muse. I’m pretty sure I spent 50% of my time just drooling over our supply cabinet, as every last item tugged at my imagination. I’ll be sharing a fun tabletop spread I dreamed up alongside Ashley of Sugar & Cloth later on down the road – such a thrill to spontaneously create with a new friend!
I was so impressed by all the amazing projects that were born during our days in Palm Springs – one of my favorites was these spring inspired gift wrapping ideas from Brittany over at The House that Lars Built. I mean come on!?! That flower garden gift topper blows my mind and would surely bring tears of joy to the receiver! Spring has been in full bloom here in Seattle this week and Brittany’s toppers make the change of season all the more sweet.
As with every positive life experience, there is always a not so shiny counterpart. Although as a whole our time in Palm Springs was a delightful treat, we also had an unexpected turn of events two days into the trip that left us moving to a new location at the colorful Saguaro. After an amazing meal at the Ace Hotel sponsored by Minted on Thursday night, we arrived back to our lovely rental house to find that the cabana’s out back had been ransacked. With as much as I travel, I’ve always expected I’d get robbed or pick-pocketed at some point or another, but for it to happen in a place as lovely as this, I was in complete shock. I’m still a bit shook up after the experience (feelings of violation are the worst!), but luckily despite myself and another fellow blogger having our items stolen, the week was hardly ruined in large part to the wonderful women I was in the company of. Quick thinking and a hop to action by Brittni, Kelly & Chelsea prevented any of our time together from spoiling. Thank gosh.
I’m so so so immensely grateful for this trip and for the new friendships that were forged during our time in the desert. My time in Palm Springs, felt like the most perfect summer camp, where life long friendships are forged and you are inspired to be better and dream bigger. Thank you Melanie, Dani, Chelsea, Brittni, Kelly, Ashley, Erin, Chelsey, Brittany, Lexy and Mary for sharing your kind hearts, blogging struggles/triumphs/lessons and reach-for-the-stars aspirations with me. Our late into the night chats will be something I will carry with me for a long while to come.
Be sure to swing by each ladies blog for additional recaps of Meet Make Do (plus new places to add to your blog roll!) and/or instagram for loads of visual inspiration at #meetmakebing.
images generously provided by : mary costa photography
Sunny days are pretty sparse here in Seattle this time of year. February often holds only the promise of rain, rain and you guessed it : more rain. Winter tends to feel like it’s dragging on every year at about this time and you start to feel like you’ll be stuck in a dreary dramatic grey haze forever. When the sun peeks its head out you run towards it. You sprint actually.
So when some of my favorite blog and creative gal pals along with the kind folks at Bing reached out to me a couple of months back about spending a few days in Palm Springs this week for a creative brainstorming powwow, there was ZERO hesitation in my step – a definite no brainer for this Vitamin D starved Seattleite. Sunshine, poolside cocktails, & great conversation with inspiring women for four days in the dead of winter? Uh, yes please!
Some items I’m currently coveting this week as a hop on a jet plane to the land of palm trees and sun-kissed cheeks today.
silk headscarf | sunblock | poolside reading material | sandals | strappy bralette | sunglasses | lip balm | denim overalls (just nabbed these ones from Madewell that I LOVE and will likely wear daily for the next year)
Happy New Year friends. I spent the morning listening to the rain fall outside our Seattle living room window while working on client proposals, mood-boards for upcoming projects and finishing up on the last of those unanswered emails that trickled in while I was away for the holidays.
Yesterday, for the first time since the new year, it felt like my first really productive and assertive work day. The holiday excitement has officially worn off and the desire to set goals, make progress and try new things has valiantly taken hold. Adam and I have some pretty amazing/nerve-racking/exciting/scary things happening in the near future (will be sharing that news soon), so I’m trying to just deep breath and remember that no matter what happens everything will be okay. We have each other and that’s enough. Everything that I need to get done, will get done, and everything that’s supposed to happen will. Things happen for a reason and I should trust that those things are for the right reasons.
I’ve always known that I’m a person that allows fear to run many parts of my mind, and my life for that matter. When anything new presents itself, when change comes knocking on the door, I’m the type that always turns and runs to that place of fear. Sure, I eventually find it within myself to brave the unknown and plunge forward, but it’s not without first stewing for hours if not days within the yuck. Finding myself in the theory : “the worst that could happen WILL happen” and believing it to be true instead of turning over the coin to the other side and saying “what’s the BEST that could happen?”. As my dearest friend Emma reminded me this morning : BOTH are equally possible. Yes, bad things could happen as a result of any decision, BUT great things are just as likely to result too. I’m taking her ‘wise well beyond her years’ advice and trusting my gut and moving forward with a smile and assurance that life will be great - yes, inevitably challenging – but beautiful and wonderful too. That’s the thing about true good friends : they can see things about yourself that you can’t and can hold your hand while you (however slowly) open your blinders.
I had some fun pictures I was going to share with you today from a recent event I designed in November, but I realized I needed a day to just write and get some quiet clarity. To meditate for a few minutes and find calm & peace within myself and this blog while the world swirls around me. I always find peace in my travels so I’m ending today’s post with some black & whites of my 2013 adventures as a way to remind myself that life is grand & great & beautiful and to encourage myself to push back against todays fears and just ride the wave of life today, one hopeful step and raindrop at a time.
*Today’s post is dedicated to my Emma – a friend who always somehow knows exactly how to tap into my strengths when I feel uncertain.
Stockholm was the last city I visited this summer on my nearly month long adventure in Europe and I couldn’t imagine ending on a more perfect note. Like Copenhagen, I’d always wanted to visit this Scandinavian city and there were so many attributes of the city that reminded me of my favorite places.
Although the weather wasn’t always cooperative (rain, oh rain!) there were so many highlights to my stay here, and I left wanting to return as soon a possible. Markets, boutiques and a plethora of hidden corners kept me intrigued and inspired over my five day stay. Some must stops if you ever get a chance to visit this majestic place :
Grandpa (fantastic curated shop – wanted one of everything) Södermannagatan 21, 116 40 Stockholm, Sweden.
Herr Judit (vintage heaven) Hornsgatan 65, 118 49 Stockholm, Sweden.
Papercut (one of the best magazine shops I’ve ever visited) Krukmakargatan 24, 118 51 Stockholm Sweden.
Steam (never been a big fan of dumplings, but this place changed my mind) Krukmakargatan 19, 118 51 Stockholm, Sweden.
B.A.R. (fantastic fish and chips and in a great spot near the water) Blasieholmsgatan 4A, 111 48 Stockholm, Sweden.
Ostermalms Food Hall (your eyes and tastebuds WONT be disappointed) Ostermalmstorg 114 39 Stockholm, Sweden.
Centralbadet (1904 bath house in gorgeous art nouveau building in the middle of the hustle and bustle of city life) Drottninggatan 88, 111 36 Stockholm, Sweden.
photography : jenn elliott blake.
I woke up this morning with this overwhelming ache in my gut. For the past few days I can’t get Paris off my mind. I’ve mentioned it many times before on this blog, but Paris has quite a grip on my heart. When I’m there wandering its mysterious streets, I feel just so so alive – my senses so keenly in tune with my surroundings. I’ve been trying to figure out a time when I can make it back there before the end of the year, but for today I’m taming my nostalgic feelings for that gorgeous place with this photo my friend Michael captured of me during our shared time in the city of lights last fall.
Hope you’re enjoying this blustering Autumn weekend! I’ve been watching the leaves flutter across our street from my window all morning.