Friday, September 16, 2016

Makeover!

I want to preface this post by saying: this is not sponsored! I paid for these services and this is my honest opinion. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Thursday, May 19, 2016

My apologies...

You guys. I haven't written a post in a month. A MONTH! But instead of listing a bunch of excuses as to why, I'm just going to pretend like it hasn't been that long. Because, life.

Friday, April 8, 2016

What to expect (NOT when you're expecting!)

Happy Friday, Friends!

In an effort to keep up with the goals that I set a couple of weeks ago [already slacking on #1], I am sharing what you will see in future posts!

Before I even started this little blog, my main goal was just to write. Whatever made my heart happy, those were the words that I would share. And there are very few things that make my heart happier than love, travels, food, and a good sweat session.

 I've been planning a few different trips that I'm going to be taking over the next couple of months, and when I search for information about these cities, I struggle to find real, honest opinions. Sure, it was nice to read reviews on Yelp and TravelAdvisor, but what if I didn't know what I was looking for? I came up pretty empty.


As a traveler, these are the things I want to know:

LODGING
How do I know if the area is safe? Is it close to places I would want to visit as an out-of-towner? Is it reasonably priced? Is it clean? Will I have a good view from my hotel room? I don't want to know that your neighbors were noisy. News flash: although that's frustrating, that tells me absolutely nothing about the quality of the hotel/AirBnB/bed and breakfast.

FOOD
I don't want to visit the touristy places that serve mediocre food, and up-charge their dishes because they know people will pay it. I want to know where you would take your husband for your anniversary, or you child for their birthday. I want to know where the best dang pastry shop is for breakfast. Or where I can find the richest piece of chocolate cake for dessert. And drinks. Tell me where the best bars are, and the cocktails I should order! #SoYum

QUALITY TIME
Although I want to stay in a great hotel and eat the finest foods, I really want to explore the city! I have a goal of visiting all 50 states [no specific timeline] and don't know if I'll make it back to a city more than once. So I want to get the most bang for my buck the first time. Tell me the about the places that aren't popular, but you should absolutely not think twice about checking out. Or the places that are popular, but you cannot miss. Tell me the best time to see them. When are they least crowded? I want to know where I should go if I'm bringing my family. Or where we should go if it's just me and my cute man-friend [any SATC fans out there?]. I want the real, raw version of your city. Because I know full and well that there are tons of go-to places in Jacksonville, but equally as many places you should steer clear of.

MISCELLANEOUS
Should I bike through the city? Use public transportation? Rent a car? Can I walk everywhere? Best time to visit? Best time to book a flight? If I have a connection, what are the best airports? Best place to go for a run? Must-try gym? Tell me things that only the locals know.


I want to help people plan the best vacation they can, within their budget and time constraints. I'm an ordinary girl with an ordinary budget. So my hope is to share the best and worst [read: avoid at all costs!] travel plans with you! Some posts may be full of the best deals I find, while others may be something I think is splurge-worthy. If there is something you're interested in, but I haven't mentioned it, please let me know! I want to do the research for you. Because I understand that there just aren't enough hours in the day to plan the perfect getaway.

Want to follow along on my adventures? Instagram and Snapchat: @el_michelle86
See you back here on Monday!

XO

*I have personally visited all locations discussed on the blog and all opinions are my own.




Monday, March 21, 2016

#Goals

Happy Monday!

Last week was such a whirlwind for me. Whenever I think I have school under control, and a decent schedule set up for myself, something throws me for a loop and I'm scrambling to make everything happen. I need more than 24 hours in a day. Can I get an Amen?

I did, however, get to spend the last 6 days with this guy and just as the picture shows... It was pure bliss :)


I guess because I've had so much on my mind lately, the last few nights my sleep has been pretty broken. I wake up and think about something I have to do/want to do, and then struggle to fall back to sleep. So to help with my sanity, and hopefully get my Virgo-self even more organized, I decided to write some goals down. They're mostly blog related, but there are others mixed in there. Oh, and I put a note pad on my nightstand, so when I wake up in the middle of the night and think of something, I can just jot it down. Genius, I know.

1. Beginning in April, post at least 3 blogs a week. Sounds like no hard task, but I assure you that the time put in is much more than you'd think. I'm a perfectionist. ::Insert eye roll emoji here::

2. Get more professional pictures on the blog. I bought a super nice camera for a reason. I need to plan out a day or two for pictures, and a day or two for writing.

3. Make use of my planner. I am horrible at this! I'm more of a make-a-list-on-a-post-it kind of gal. But I pulled out my favorite Lilly Pulitzer agenda (sold out, but you can add your name to their email list so you're the first to know when they arrive!) and started to fill it in. 



4. Add more weights in the gym. I'm that girl who is SO intimated by everyone around me. I usually grab a medicine ball and keep it near my treadmill. I'll do intervals of sprints, squats, walking hills, lunges, etc. But then I go home and do push-ups, curls, burpees, planks, etc. because I'm too scared to do them in the gym. WHY?! I honestly don't know. It's absurd, really. I pay to use the space in the gym for a reason. So my goal is to do just that! This should also help with #29 on my 30 before 30 list.

5. Spend a day doing something for myself that isn't work or school related. My idea? Walk around St. Augustine or spend the day at the beach. It just sounds so therapeutic.

Look at that. I already feel better just writing those down. Here's to making it happen!

XO

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

International Women's Day



The shirt I'm wearing in the picture above is in support of The Kind CampaignMolly Thompson and Lauren Paul are the Founders behind this movement to stop girl-against-girl bullying. They rock my socks! If you've never heard of this campaign, I highly recommend heading over to their Instagram page and following along!
_________________________________________________

So I contemplated this post for a while.
 But with it being International Women's Day and all, I decided to be brave and go forth with it.
Because I have a voice, and I'm going to use it! :)



I was bullied growing up. It wasn't a daily thing, and I wasn't physically hurt, but it was certainly never fun. I came home crying more times than I can count. And one time is one too many. Because even at almost 30-years-old, if I see someone staring at me, I automatically assume it's for the worst reasons possible. I've become the most self-confident, insecure person you'll ever meet. What you see on the outside doesn't always mimic what is happening on the inside. 

Last night, I was watching The Bachelor: Women Tell All [I know, I know. It's my unhealthy addiction!] and I couldn't help but cry for Olivia. She certainly was not my favorite throughout the season, but as she was talking about being bullied growing up, I got it. I felt her pain. Bullying is real, and it's so hurtful. Some of the very same girls [and possibly boys] who bullied me in school are probably reading this right now. [Thank you, social media!] And some of these very people that I'm talking about have children of their own now [or will soon]. My hope for them is that their children don't become bullies themselves, or victims of bullies. Let's not pass the torch on. Instead, let's be the change. 

Do I hate these people? Of course not.
 Am I bitter? Not anymore.
 I forgave them even though I never received an apology. 
Instead, I'm being the person that I needed when I was younger and helping spread awareness. 
Because even adults need to hear this: Mean people suck. 

So do our beautiful world a favor and be kind. 
It's definitely one trait that you'll never regret having.

____________________________________________

Happy International Women's Day to all the fabulous ladies I know! 
Always remember: you're smart, you're beautiful, and you're definitely badass! :)


[Thanks, Timehop!]

I hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday!

XO




Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Gratitude

You guys. 
The outpouring of love I received yesterday after sharing my blog on social media was overwhelming [in the best way possible]! I had SO many people reach out to me [publicly and privately] that I felt like I didn't put my phone down for hours. People I haven't spoken to in years, people I never speak to, and my best friends & family. It just showed me that I really am surrounded by some of the greatest people on the planet, and that my support system is out of this world. I seriously cannot thank you enough for stopping by and reading. 

In the midst of all that goodness, this quote came to mind:



Granted, there are a few gentleman (hi, guys!) out there that are showing their love for my blog, you ladies really now how to make a girl smile. Cheerleaders I didn't even know I had, that want me to succeed, and are so proud of me for following my heart. You ladies rock my socks off. For realz. I'm so, so thankful that you're all in my circle. My hope with this little space on the interwebs is to create more people like you. Because kind people are my kinda people. Men and women who want to see each other follow their dreams and excel in anything they put their mind to? That's my jam.

So, thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting me on this new venture. 
From the very bottom of my heart. 

XO


Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day

Hi, friends! Happy Monday!

When I started this blog last month, my intention was to share it with the world on Valentine's Day. After all, it's something that I love dearly and felt that it was only fitting. But then I procrastinated and wasn't totally prepared. So here I am, sharing my leap of faith on leap day!

My first and second post will tell you a lot about me and this little blog, as will my about me section. But if you know me even a little bit, then you know that I love to write. As I close out my 20s and enter into a new decade this year, I'm bringing my "I wish I had" and "what-if" statements into fruition. So guys, here's to 2016, and it being the best year yet!


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Oh, social media.

**Ladies [and gents?], I promise I didn't forget about this little blog of mine. Instead, my week started with a nice dose of reality. I said hello to a cold [for the 5th time this season. Ugh!] and the last week of classes [until March 2nd]. But I'm finally using less tissues and have managed to get AHEAD on school work. So, I'm back! :) And with a confession...

I spent a solid ten minutes this morning looking through a girl's Instagram that...
 I. BARELY. KNOW. 
And why did I do that? Because her life looked so perfect and I was so jealous. But the key word there? LOOKED. I'm not saying that to make myself feel better or to downplay her life. Because my life is good and so is hers. It's just that I know how social media works. I guarantee someone has looked at my pictures and thought the same thing. The truth is, we only post the good stuff. But I couldn't help myself: Married, beautiful children, dream job, gorgeous house, vacations. People make their lives look so effortless and amazing. And for half of a millisecond, I wished I had her life. And then I snapped back into reality and was so thankful that I am where I am. So instead of focusing on the negative, I decided to name 5 things that I'm thankful for.

1. My family. I know that's kind of cliche, but in a time where I see friends losing their parents, I can't help but be thankful for them. If you don't live near your parents, call them to say hello and tell them you love them. Trust me, that's one thing you'll never regret.

  
2. My health. Somehow I'm sick for the 5th time this flu season, but I can handle a few runny noses and sore throats. I'm just thankful that I'm healthy enough to use my legs to run and my arms to lift weights. It's much too often that I degrade my body, so instead I'm going to praise it today.

3. My friends. Seriously, I don't know where I'd be without them. I don't tell them nearly enough either. Their friendships mean the world to me.



4. My education. I complain and cry way too much when it comes to my classes. I can't help it- they stress me out. But there are too many people that don't have this opportunity for one reason or another. So I'm thankful that I have the motivation and a great support system to get me through.

5. My past. You guys, my life is really good right now. And there are so many days where I'm afraid something horrible is going to happen because that's just what I'm used to. I have to constantly remind myself that the bad is gone. Of course, crappy things will still happen, but it won't be a constant like it had been. You have to get through the rain to see the rainbow, right? 

So there we go. I needed to write that. And I encourage you to do the same. Like I said in my first post, it's taken me a long time to get where I am. So just know that whatever you're going through, it's just a phase & it won't last forever. It's ok if you can't find one positive thing right now, or are going through a breakup, or are fighting with someone you love, or are struggling to get pregnant, or haven't figured out what you want to do with your life. This too shall pass! And trust me, there's a reason for it all. :)

XO

Friday, February 12, 2016

Take me there! Part 1.

*FYI: In a battle of me vs. Photoshop, I lose. Every time. 
So instead of a cute collage, this post is coming to you straight up the old-fashioned way. ;)

I struggled making this list, because honestly, how can you narrow it down to just 5 places that you want to visit? Hence, why this is only part 1.

Seattle
Ever since I can remember, this has been the number one place I've wanted to visit. And here's the kicker... It's because of the movie Sleepless in Seattle. Does that make me lame? I don't really care. Maybe I'll be fully disappointed once I'm there, but something tells me that I won't be. 


Paris, France
 Does this one really need an explanation? Amour.


Queensland, Australia
Just look at that picture. Between the city and the beach, I feel like you can't go wrong. Plus, The Great Barrier Reef. Enough said.


Montana
I have friends who visited last summer and had nothing but positive things to say. I mean, how could they not? And not to mention that their pictures were to-die-for! Yellowstone and Glacier National Park are a must see.


Fiji
Does this one need an explanation either? A hut over the water? 
Um. Yes, please! How cool would that be?


Something I've really always wanted to do, though? Travel to all 50 states. We have so much beauty that is right here in our backyard! I need to get on that. ASAP.

XO

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Super Bowl

On Monday morning, when this post was originally supposed to go up, I realized that I should have actually posted it last week. Oops. I never promised to be efficient. Anyway...

I Snap Chatted (you can follow along: el_michelle86) my two Super Bowl dishes on Sunday, and a few friends/family members asked for the recipes. So, I decided to share them on here.


My take on the recipe:

2 - 10oz cans chicken breast
1- 8oz package of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup - Ranch dressing
1/2 cup - Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1/2 cup (or your desired amount) - Shredded Mexican cheese blend

Combine all of the ingredients together, bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. You can add a little extra shredded cheese to the top and bake for one more minute, if desired. I serve the dip with tortilla chips. But the past few times I have made it, I've dipped cucumbers and carrots in it for less carbs. It's actually just as delicious because you're still getting the crunch! ;)

Cookies and Cream Football Dip

For the dip:
1 - 8oz package of softened cream cheese
1 & 1/2 cups - Powdered sugar
1 stick - softened, room temperature butter
16 crushed Oreos (I added 18 this time)

Mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and butter together. Set aside a few tablespoons for the laces later (I actually cheated and bought cream cheese frosting for the laces, though). Mix in the crushed Oreos. Put the mix onto desired serving dish or wax paper, shape into a football.

For the topping:
4 Oreos (open and scrape the filling out)
2 teaspoons - Cocoa powder

Finely crush the Oreos and mix with cocoa powder. Spread the topping all over the football mix to completely cover it. Use the remaining cream cheese frosting to create your laces on top. 

We used Nilla Wafers, Oreos, and pretzels to dip, but I'm sure any kind of cookie or graham cracker would taste delicious.


Can we talk about how proud I am of this dip? Also, how adorable is that serving dish!?

I think I'm going to make it again for Easter. I want to use the dip as dirt, and put bunnies and carrot shapes around it. We'll see how that turns out- I'll be sure to share!

I hope everyone had a fun Super Bowl Sunday! That day is up there with Thanksgiving and Christmas for me. Next year, though, I'm taking Monday off! :)

XO





Thursday, February 4, 2016

Real Life


I started this blog with the hope that I could reach out to people that are going through both good and bad times in their life. I know that I won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I pride myself on being a pretty relatable person.

I live an ordinary life. I'm the youngest of three girls. I have a loud Italian family. I've fought with my siblings. I was teased growing up. I've hated my body. I've loved my body. I've traveled some, but not enough. I've had best friend drama. I went to college. I moved away from home. I got married. I got divorced [that was hard for me to type "out loud"]. I moved back home. I started grad school. I figured out who I am [let's be real, though. Do we ever really know who we are?] And all of that before the age of 30. 

In the spaces between all of those moments, though, I have lived my life. So while I know I'll talk about all of the things that I wrote above, I also want to talk about the in-between. The moments that are so overwhelmingly wonderful, and gut-wrenchingly hard. The days where you're sure nothing will ever go right. Or the days that are going so right, you're scared out of your mind. I can list so many of those days off of the top of my head. Those are the stories that I want to share. I want to be real and honest. Because on all of those good and bad days, I would've killed for honesty. To know that I wasn't alone in those feelings. THAT is exactly what I needed. THAT is why I started this blog. And THAT is what I hope to be for all of you.


XO,

Lauren




Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Zip Lining

Last March, I traveled to St. Lucia with my work family. While there, I got to cross a few things off of my 30 before 30 list. One of them being zip lining...


I only got a few pictures, because I was afraid to carry my cell phone and drop it. Ya know, because I was holding on so dang tight to the rope.


 It was such a neat experience, though! We went through the rainforest, and it was absolutely gorgeous! I think it was the perfect first experience for me since we were high up, but not too high. ;) 


Side note: These pictures just don't quite do it justice. But at least I have it captured in my memory! :)

I've heard that the zip lining in Costa Rica is amazing (and a bit more adventurous). I think I'll add that to my bucket list!

XO,

Lauren




Friday, January 29, 2016

30 Before 30

You guys. I turn 30 in less than 8 months. THIRTY!!! [Insert wide-eyed emoji face here] I'll be honest, though. For a while I was dreading this birthday, but as of lately, I've been kind of embracing it. I made a ton of mistakes in my 20s and also learned a good deal of lessons. I took a job I thought I'd never do, had friendships and a relationship end, moved multiple times, made new friends, went back to school, and completely found myself. That's what your 20s are for, though, right? I can definitely say one thing: I don't regret even an ounce of my past. It has only prepared me for a really great future. I just know it! I'm so excited to see what my 30s bring.

In preparation for this big birthday, about a year ago I decided to make a list of 30 things that I wanted to do before I turned 30. And, um, I've only crossed off about 4 items. So I opened it up the other night and made a few edits. I needed to make it more achievable. Because, let's face it, there's no way I'm going to take a cross-country road trip, fly out to Seattle, and visit somewhere outside of the U.S. within the next 8 months. Unless I win the Power Ball. Then check back with me. ;)

So, without further ado, my 30 before 30:

1. Get my Master’s degree
2. Learn how to use my camera properly
3. Run a 10K
4. Do a cartwheel
5. Visit Seattle
6. Teach myself a new hobby
7. Start (and continue) my blog
8. Take piano lessons
9. Go to a concert outside of Jacksonville
10. Read a classic novel
11. Shoot a gun
12. Go skinny dipping in the ocean [Uh. Sorry mom & dad]
13. Zip line
14. Travel somewhere alone
15. Make new friends
16. Go snorkeling
17. Camp somewhere with a great view
18. Invest in a timeless handbag
19. Say no, without explaining myself
20. Volunteer
21. Take a helicopter ride
22. Do 10 proper-form pushups in a row
23. Adopt a new pet
24. See a waterfall
25. Take a spontaneous road trip
26. Climb a mountain
27. Throw a dinner party for friends/family
28. Watch the sun rise
29. Do something that scares me
30. Send 5 handwritten letters (that aren't thank you notes)

So, there we go. It's written for all of the world to see. I can't let myself [or you] down!

Anyone else make a list like this? I'd love to hear your ideas!

XO,

Lauren

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Who is Lauren?


If you read my first post, then you know how this blog came about. So I thought it was only fitting to learn more about the blog itself, and the writer behind it.

Peaches and Palm Trees has always been like my child. I think about it all of the time. And now I'm so excited to finally put all of my thoughts into action! I hope that as I grow, it grows [& vice versa]. It's a lifestyle blog, travel blog and everything in between. I hope to make you laugh, cry, and feel a little bit of something every day. I hope that when you exit out of your browser, I've left you with something, anything that makes you think.

I've finally, FINALLY learned to live in the moment. But for some reason, [I blame it on the Virgo in me] I'll also constantly think about the future. I really try to enjoy every single day, but will always continue to think "What if..." Maybe it's not just a Virgo thing... Maybe it's a girl thing? Any men out there with me? I'm willing to bet that I'm not alone in this. Haha! But let's face it, life is all about planning for the unexpected. YOU think that's an oxymoron. I know better.

Do you remember on the first day of school when you went around the room and everyone in the class had to say their name and list a few things about themselves? Yes? I hated those days, too. I was such an introvert. This just proves that people can, and do, change.

So let's have a little fun, shall we? Here's my top 10 11. I'd love to hear yours, too!

1. I'm an aunt to 3 handsome little boys. Seriously, they make my heart skip a beat. Isn't it funny how children can do that to you? The joy they bring me is indescribable. 


2. I was full-time nanny for a high profile family in Atlanta. I loved every second of my job. Ok, maybe not EVERY second. But those sweet boys put the fun in my funny. They made me smile on my hardest days and they didn't even know it. My five years with their family helped me grow in ways that I could never fully put into words. Hands-down, my greatest (& hardest, most challenging, yet rewarding) experience in life so far.


3. I finally consider myself an athlete. I grew up dancing and that will always be my first love, but over a year ago, I decided to take my health and fitness to a new level. I cut out most processed foods and started working out smarter. My workouts consist of low intensity days, high intensity days, weights, and a few classes (Zumba, Barre, etc.) for fun. When I moved back to Florida in July, I lost my routine a little. Which caused me to lose muscle definition and gain 10lbs. :( Don't you hate when that happens? Luckily, I'm finally back in the swing of things and will happily share my journey on here.

4. I love to travel. Like really, really love it. I love the craziness of walking into the airport, going through security and waiting at the gate with a Starbucks in hand. I love visiting new places and returning to areas where I feel like a local. I hope to travel the world one day, both solo and with the love of my life. [This is where you're probably saying, "Everyone loves to travel!" Normally I would agree, but believe it or not, I know quite a few people who prefer to stay put in our nice little city than go out and explore. - I call these people some my friends and family. I also call them crazy!]

5.  I can count my best friends on one hand and wouldn't have it any other way. And yes, two of them are my mom and sister. What is that old saying? I'd rather have four quarters than 100 pennies. 



6. I buy an ornament every time I visit somewhere new. I love looking back on them at Christmas. I also didn't realize this until recently, but I like to collect cute mugs/water bottles and stationary (thank you cards, note cards, pretty napkins). If it comes with an elephant on it, I'm guaranteed to buy it.

7. I hate confrontation. I hate when someone is [or I think someone is] upset with me. I overthink every little detail of every single momentous [in my eyes] situation. My old boss said it best: I'm a people pleaser. I always have been and always will be. My New Year's resolution in 2015 was to start saying no more often. I failed. And I'm ok with that.

8. I'm scared of the dark. I have night lights every where and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

9. I am in a Special Education master's program with a concentration in Autism. I can't wait to work with children and their families and see where it all takes me.

10. I love love. I love the butterflies, the excitement in your heart, the sheer joy to be with another person. I love the feeling of wanting to better yourself for that person. I love wanting nothing but good things for that person. I love hurting for that person. I love all of the feelings that it puts in your mind, heart and whole body. How lucky are we to feel something like that?

11. And lastly, a few of my favorite things: hand-written letters, music (the deep, feel-the-lyrics-in-your-bones kind and the shake-your-tail-feather kind haha), naps, the salty feeling on your skin after a long day at the beach, elephants, greeting cards, the smell of books (old ones are the best!), kisses & cuddles, cold beer, red wine, and spending the day with my momma. 

So there you have it. A small little glimpse into who I am. I'm sure as time goes on, you'll learn a lot more.

Thank you so much for reading. Seriously, I'm virtually kissing each and every one of you!

XO,
Lauren

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Peaches & Palm Trees

When I decided to start this blog a couple of years ago, my mind went into a million different directions. I was worried about the design and layout, who would read it, if I would sound like an idiot. Would my idea of blogging about life, love, and travels really be of interest? Would people click on my blog in their google search? I questioned myself all. the. time.
But then guess what happened? Life. My world was turned upside down, and for a little while, I thought I'd never get back up. This little blog of mine got pushed to the side. I didn't think about it for months. And then one day, I did. 

All of life's moments (both good and bad), I've wanted to document. And in those moments, that's when it happened: I remembered why I loved writing so much. It was therapeutic. And I reminded myself to never stop doing what I love. Because when there is a passion behind your writing, it doesn't matter about the design or whether you'll become popular. I'm just happy to have an outlet, and am willing to bet that many of you can relate, too. I wanted to create a place where I enjoy going, just as much as my readers do. One thing that I've definitely learned over the past couple of years is that we live in a pretty awesome, but often cruel world. [That's a blog post in its own] We need to learn to build each other up. Sometimes your own personal pep talks just don't cut it. Trust me, I get it. It took me a long time to love myself enough to get to this point. And I hope that the love I put into this blog shines through and my readers love it just the same.

And that is how Peaches and Palm Trees came about.

The title of the blog was pretty simple: I was born in New Jersey, but moved to Florida when I was 9 and lived here through college. Florida means family to me. It's home. But then I moved to Atlanta. And although it was a huge change for me, and at times I hated life there, it became my home. And it had filled my heart with so much joy. 

In the 29 years of my life, there are two places where I truly discovered myself: Tampa, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. And although I don't have the heart to talk about the exact signficance at this very moment, just know that in those places you can find two of my favorite things: peaches and palm trees.

xo,