29 October 2015

October has always been my favorite month of the year. I love the change of seasons, the flavors of Autumn, and Halloween just happens to be my favorite holiday! This year, October in Texas has been unusually warm, meaning I haven't had a chance to break out any of my scarves just yet. While I'm sad to see October go, I'm excited for it to finally cool down! Here are some things I've been loving this past month.

+ CANDLES | Have I mentioned candles before? I probably have, but I am loving ALL THE CANDLES! Some personal October favorites include Bath & Body Works' Pumpkin Pecan Waffles and Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin! 

+ AMERICAN HORROR STORY: HOTEL | Ohhhhh. Myyyyy. Goshhhhh. Where do I even begin? American Horror Story is without a doubt my favorite show on television (although the Walking Dead is a close second). So far this season has not disappointed. I'm completely freaked out to the point where I can't stop thinking about each episode! And Lady Gaga? The cherry on top this twisted show. 

+ NARS SHEER GLOW | I spend a ridiculous amount of money on make up. I love trying new lipsticks and blushes, or changing my makeup look to fit the season. However, I rarely venture out and try new foundations. If I find something I like, I stick to it. I was standing in Sephora looking at the Nars section when I decided, what the hell, I'll try Sheer Glow. I am in LOVE with this foundation. I have a feeling I won't be buying anything else for awhile. 

+ AVOCADO TOAST | I'm the kind of person who will eat the same thing for breakfast for weeks and weeks. Usually I'm in a rush so I'll make myself oatmeal, but since my visit to Nashville I've been feeling inspired. After having an amazing piece of avocado toast at Crema Coffee I have been recreating the easy breakfast meal. Toast, avocado, feta cheese, and a little red pepper. The absolute perfect combination.

+ JIM KAY'S ILLUSTRATED HARRY POTTER | I've read each Harry Potter book at least 6 or 7 times, however it has been a few years since I last picked up any of them. When I saw Jim Kay's Illustrated version of the Sorcerer's Stone I just had to buy it. The illustrations are beautifully drawn, reflecting that magical feeling the books give.

+ During my surprise trip to Bristol, Jon and I met up with Elle for a stroll on Brandon Hill.
+ If you need a little Autumn inspiration, look no further than here!
+ Are you following me on Snapchat yet??? Follow sararosedavis for some behind the scenes content and a sneak peek into my daily life outside of blogging.
+ I celebrated Texas Wine Month in the beautiful Texas Wine Country. Never heard of it? It's actually the fastest growing wine producing regions in the country! Check out my trip to one of these vineyards here.

Happy Thursday!

Travel Tips & Advice | Casey from Land of Marvels

26 October 2015

A few months back I introduced you to the lovely Casey from Land of Marvels. Land of Marvels, or True Colours back in the day, was one of the first travel blogs I began reading before I even considered writing my own! Casey and her blog have provided me with numerous tips on travel over the last few years. Her advice is enlightening, yet always sincere. From Amsterdam to Hawaii, it is obvious Casey knows the ins and outs of travel. I recently asked her a few questions to get a better insight on what goes into traveling Land Of Marvels style. 

1 | What motivates you to keep travel as a priority in your life?
Travel has always been a huge part of my life ever since I grew up as an expat kid in the Middle East.  But as an adult, it’s definitely a balancing act to keep regular travel a priority, both time-wise and financially.  It’s just something that my husband and I really enjoy, so we’ve figured out ways to make that our priority.  While some of our friends are buying big houses or going out every weekend, we’re putting that money away and dreaming of where to jet off to next.

2 | How do you research a destination?
Usually we start thinking of our trips about 6+ months in advance just to work it into our work schedules.  And generally we have an idea of where we want to head to next.  But we sit down and look at photos we’ve saved or go over options.  Once we have our destination decided on, then I do a ton of research!  I start by looking at blogs, at Wikipedia, at Pinterest.  Once I have a pretty thorough overview of the place, then I head to booking flights first.  Even then though, I watch airfares for a few weeks at least, and look at flying in and out of different airports to get the best deals.  Then I move on to hotels, then activities last.

3 | Once you have chosen a destination, what steps do you follow before leaving?
Once we have our destination set and I’ve got flights and hotels booked, then I work on a day by day itinerary over the next several months.  I’ll keep doing research or mark anything that comes up that I see.  We personally like to have a plan when we travel (different for everyone) as it allows us to see a lot more if we’re organized.

4 | What are some of your favorite sites and apps that help you plan any trip?
I love Tablet Hotels for hotel research!  I’m a big fan of boutique hotels with great design (I am an Interior Designer afterall!) so Tablet filters out the big chains and just gives you options for boutique hotels.  I almost always book my hotels through though because their loyalty program is so great.  I also love Orbitz and have had really great customer service from them over the years!  FlightTrack is one of my go to Apps while traveling to keep track of flights and gate numbers - it’s always up to date before the airlines!  And using airline apps and Passbook/Wallet to access mobile boarding passes is a must!

5 | When you are visiting a new destination do you find yourself in touristy spots or places off the beaten track?
Honestly, it ends up being a healthy mix of both.  While we generally do prefer to get off the beaten path more, we do end up spending time as well in the tourist areas, because after all, they are famous spots for a reason!  But a balance of the two is the key to a great and unique trip!

6 | You travel quite frequently for work. How do you allot yourself time for both work and pleasure when on a working trip?
I travel a lot for work.  Whether it’s jaunts across the Atlantic to South Korea or to Honolulu, I end up doing about 6-7 work trips per year.  One of my favorite ways to see more of a place while you’re traveling for work is to get up early and go for a walk around the city before everyone is up.  When I travel to Seoul, I wake up to see the sunrise every day and head out to wander a new section of the city.  It’s easier to get around when it’s quiet and empty and you’ll get to see a lot more.  Then grab a coffee on your way back to the hotel and then head out for your workday.  Another great way to see more is to have dinners in different areas so that you get to see more.  I also love letting my work colleagues take me around when I’m traveling for work as you’ll get the true local scene through them!

Land of Marvels is always my go to blog when trying to plan a holiday, so make sure to check Casey out!

Blog | Bloglovin | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest 
Snapchat | cmart1015

An Ode to the Third Culture Kids
Let's Talk Blogging: How to Introduce Yourself
Secrets of Booking Travel: Airfare

What are some travel tips you would add?

William Chris Vineyards | Texas Wine Month

22 October 2015

William Chris Vineyard

October is my favorite month for many reasons. Fall is in full swing, scarves become a part of my daily wardrobe, and pumpkin spice is practically sprinkled in the air. However, if you know me at all, you know I LOVE wine. And October happens to be Texas Wine Month. 

To celebrate, my mom and I headed to one of Fredericksburg's many wineries, William Chris Vineyards. Driving along 290, there are dozens of vineyards to chose from, however we made our selection through friend recommendations. Founded in 2008, William Chris Vineyards is located on a sprawling estate in the beautiful wine country. Reservations are required, but at $15 a person, you are getting a hell of a deal.

Upon checking in you are escorted to a tasting room where you are presented with a selection of five different wines. The friendly staff is more than happy to answer questions as they explain each wine and the history behind the bottle. After you've had your fair share of tasting, you can order wine by the glass or the bottle, along with a cheese or hummus plate (all at addition costs).

William Chris Vineyards is situated on an early 20th century farm. We spent the remainder of the afternoon outside on the deck, drinking, eating, and enjoying the view of the distant vines. To top it all off, there was even a live band!

Fredericksburg has a WIDE variety of vineyards to enjoy, however, if you're in the area I highly suggest visiting William Chris! The exceptional wine and friendly staff is above and beyond. Just remember to make a reservation!

Happy Thursday!

Reading Update | 4

19 October 2015

Can you believe it's already October? How did that even happen! I have to admit my reading has slowed down these last few months as I have been CRAZY busy at work. However, I have finally reached 40 books this year and I thought it was about time to update y'all with what I've been reading lately. If you missed the first three Reading Updates, make sue to check them out HERE.

LOVE AND TREASURE | Ayelet Waldman
Goodreads | Amazon 
I'm not going to lie, I had started the book back in 2014 then put it down due to a lack of interest. Set in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, a cast of characters is bound together by what we now refer to as the "Hungarian Gold Train". Although the plot itself is fascinating, I found it hard to connect with any of the characters due to the amount of detail in each one of their lives. When I finally picked it up again, I found myself comparing the story to All The Light We Cannot See and being disappointed as a result.

#GIRLBOSS | Sophia Amoruso 
Goodreads | Amazon
I really don't have much to say about this book. After the incredible amount of hype that had been surrounding this book since it was first published I had extremely high expectations. Every girl wants to be the boss and I loved the idea of a textbook/Bible for that message. I was not only disappointed, but I finished the book feeling I didn't really gain anything from it whatsoever. While the overall message of girl empowerment was inspiring, the book itself lacked depth.

DARK PLACES | Gillian Flynn 
Goodreads | Amazon
Dare I say, this book was dark. I had read reviews to not have high expectations despite the fact the Gillian Fylnn's Gone Girl was absolutely brilliant. So I began reading not really knowing what to expect. Dark Places follows a family who's past continues to haunt the family members who have survived it. The book is a page turner, but other than entertainment value I found Dark Places lacked the intellectual complexity of Gone Girl. Great to read if you are lacking something to do for a few evenings, not so great if you dislike gruesome and f-uped story lines.

Goodreads | Amazon
I hate to admit this, but I wasn't obsessed with Wuthering Heights as everyone claims I should be. The story line was interesting, and the characters extremely complex and developed.Unfortunately, I had a hard time keeping up. It was just all over the place, and I didn't really get it. I may give this book another chance, but for some reason it just didn't click with me the way other classics have.

INTO THE WILD | Jon Krakauer
Goodreads | Amazon
Possibly because the events studied in Into the Wild occurred when I was an infant, I really knew nothing of Chris McCandless and his story. Jon Krakauer's investigation into Chris' life and death was not only fascinating but well told. Although non-fiction, Krakauer has a way of flowing stories, interviews, and science into one detailed compilation. I found Chris' ideas on life moving and sad, yet extremely brave. Some may call him foolish, but to me it seemed Chris lived his life the way he wanted.  I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves travel, meeting new people, and connecting with nature.

Goodreads | Amazon
Quite a few bloggers out there have recently published books. While I had been meaning to pick up and read some bloggers' latest published works, I hadn't really gotten around to it. While browsing the iTunes audiobook section for some work commute entertainment I noticed Kate Jordan's How To Quit Your Job and Travel the World. Naturally, I immediately downloaded it. I have been reading Kate's blog for years and I was not disappointed by her book. Easy to understand and well organized, How To Quit Your Job outlines a variety of ways to make money while traveling. I found Kate's tips entertaining yet still useful!

THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA | Matthew Reilly 
Goodreads | Amazon
It is tradition to buy at least one book while at an airport. I simply cannot pass up a newsstand without browsing the latest published works. On one particular visit to the airport, I happened across The Great Zoo of China. I was intrigued by the idea; The Chinese government industrializes the existence of dragons. What more do you need? However, I found the plot to be too action packed. There was barely any room for character development as every paragraph was one near death experience after another. My overall thoughts? This will make a great movie.

RICHARD III | William Shakespeare 
Goodreads | Amazon
The reign of Richard III played a crucial role in my Masters studies. As a historian, I purposely stayed away from Shakespeare's Wars of the Roses plays. By doing so, I was able to write my dissertation in the most historically accurate and non biased way possible. However, I have always been fascinated by propaganda of the time, and as my studies were over I finally decided to pick up Richard III. Knowing the historical inaccuracies of the piece, I felt I was able to enjoy the story more. I enjoyed Shakespeare's dramatization of widely spread rumors of the time. The propaganda of this piece is so powerful it still taints the reputation of the last Plantagenet king to this day.

Goodreads | Amazon
Before reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I always thought of Mindy as "that girl from the office". I really didn't know any of her work or background, yet this book has always been on the top charts of everything for as long as I can remember. So, I decided to give it a go and I'm glad I did! Mindy's hilarious and awkward life stories made for a light, fun read. This is a total beach read, however, I'm not sure when it'll be beach weather again!

THE MARTIAN | Andy Weir 
Goodreads | Amazon
I'm one of those people who has to read a book before the movie comes out. If I see a movie I know I'll want to see, I immediately head to the store and buy the book. Mark Watney ends up stranded on Mars after a mission goes wrong. Interesting, no? I thought so too. I LOVED the idea of this book. I really wanted to like it. But the science and mathematics of the main character's every day life on Mars really distracted me from the overall picture. I did in fact enjoy the movie and was extremely impressed with the adaptation.  

Oktoberfest | Fredericksburg, Texas

15 October 2015

Oktoberfest conjures images of beer, music, and lots of fun. I've always wanted to go to Oktoberfest in Germany, so when I heard there was going to be an Oktoberfest celebration in sleepy Fredericksburg, Texas I was eager to check it out. We arrived at the Oktoberfest grounds just after 10AM. Although early, we started our visit off with - you guessed it - beer! We were on vacation, and hell, it was Oktoberfest. The early morning sun was already hot, but that didn't stop us from exploring the rest of the festival. 

It was easy to see Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg was more of a family affair. Children ran around wearing flower crowns, bands played Jimmy Buffett, and there was even a chicken dance. To be honest, I wasn't really sure what we had gotten ourselves into. Fredericksburg has a long history of German culture. The city itself was founded my German emigrants  in the 19th century, and the German-Texas culture embodies every inch of town. However, I realized quickly that Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg was a reflection of Fredericksburg itself. Texan on the outside - German at heart.

We carried our beers from tent to tent, listening to German remixes of Texas country, watching people learn how to dance, and even trying a few greasy festival foods. Fredericksburg has a lot to offer, and the city's Oktoberfest was like no other. Do I still want to experience Oktoberfest in Germany? YES. But seeing an American version of this popular celebration was interesting and tame, yet still fun. 

Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg wasn't exactly what I had imagined, but I'm still glad I went!

Happy Thursday!

Charming Fredericksburg, Texas

12 October 2015

Picture this :: A sleepy Texas town where people smile and wave hi to you as they sit on their porch in their handmade rocking chairs. You can find plenty of these towns across Texas, however Fredericksburg posses a unique charm. Recently I had the pleasure of spending the weekend in this amazingly beautiful city for a relaxing mother daughter weekend. 

We surprisingly picked the perfect weekend to visit Fredericksburg without realizing. Not only was it the beginning of Texas Wine Month, it was also Fredericksburg's Oktoberfest! More on that later, but we had so many things to do, it was hard to keep up!

Fredericksburg was founded in 1846 during the emigration of Germans to Texas. Texas, having previously been its own country for ten years, had just been annexed into the United States. There was plenty of land and opportunity which was appealing to the Germans who were now looking for a place to settle. 

Considered to be "deep in the heart of Texas", Fredericksburg is now famous for being home to Texas Wine Country. Vineyard after vineyard line the highways, and tasting rooms can be found plentiful on Main Street. Fredericksburg is an extremely popular destination not only in Texas, but nationwide as well.  

More on Fredericksburg later but for now, pour yourself a glass of wine. It is Texas Wine Month after all!

Happy Monday!

An Afternoon in Wells | England

08 October 2015

Almost immediately after surprising Jon for his birthday in England he suggested we take a little day trip to Wells. Wells, one of the most beautiful and quaint cities in Southwest England is a short 45 minute bus ride away from Bristol. Seeing as it was a rather rainy September, EVERYONE was jumping on the chance to enjoy the sun on this particular Saturday afternoon. Our quick 45 minute bus ride turned into an hour and a half but we eventually reached our destination.

Wells has had city status status for almost a thousand years despite the fact its population is barely 10,000. Wells is considered the smallest "city" in all of England, outside the actual City of London. The city itself is easy to walk and is filled with medieval attractions such as Wells Cathedral and Bishops Palace. Easy enough to get to, Wells is a popular destination in Somerset. You may recognize it without realizing, Wells was the setting of the popular movie Hot Fuzz!

Since both Jon and I had visited Wells multiple time previously (although not together), we opted to roam the cathedral before sitting down on the green for an afternoon of reading. I even found myself dozing off underneath the English sun.

Sometimes the best trips are the ones where you don't plan anything at all. An afternoon of walking and reading was the perfect way to spend our Saturday!

Happy Thursday!