One of the things I love about winter style is all the tartan plaid. I’m a sucker for a good print, especially an embellished one. This beaded top featuring winter plaid is on sale right now at J.Crew for 80% off and is now under $18. Plus there are several sizes left.
Rather than focus on New Year’s resolutions, I’m establishing some key rules to live by. I was deeply moved by the simple and profound messages I picked up from Unfu*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop. These powerful tools teach you how to clear the clutter in your mind, which often seeps in when you just can’t deal with life anymore. I hope you learn something here that helps guide you to leading a better life than the one you’re willing to put up with.
Embrace the Uncertainties
Great success comes with great risk. What prevents you from taking those risks is a fear of not meeting your expectations, and of what others may think if you fail. To be our best selves, we have to quit caring about what society thinks. So start embracing your uncertainties by doing the things that you normally avoid because of fear. The more you do this, the more you’ll grow.
You’re Defined By Your Actions
How does one stop procrastinating? It’s a vicious cycle that starts with inaction. Inaction manifests doubt and fear. But action drives away your negative thoughts and motivates you to work harder. You don’t have control over the thoughts going through your head, but you do have control over your actions.
Stop thinking so much because you are not defined by your thoughts, but by your actions. The only way to break the cycle of procrastination is to act. Act in your best interest instead of by how you think and feel, as those thoughts may lead to uncertainty. Remember, action may not lead to happiness, but there is no happiness without action.
Relentlessness is focused determined action. Only relentlessness can keep you going if you’re lost or feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. Don’t stop. Just keep going and going. You may not see a change right away, but every step is progress. And then one day you’ll notice how far you’ve come.
Let Go of Your Expectations
It’s not problems that derail you, but a distortion of reality created by your expectations. Expectations hamper your ability to act effectively.
Let go of those expectations now and choose to accept everything as it comes. You may not be cool with all of it; but when you choose acceptance, you won’t waste time being disappointed. Now you are free to solve any issues as they arise and live more happily in the moment.
All of these tools sound so simple. But after years of thinking in a certain way, it may be tough to put them into regular action. Don’t be hard on yourself. Remember to be relentless. One thing I like to do when I feel stuck is to focus on that exact moment and nothing else. It immediately clears every doubt or fear from my head. Then I choose one small step to implement and then another. Before I know it, I’m in a stream of productive action.
If you have any tools to live more mindfully, I’d love to hear them. And I hope you have a productive and happy 2018.
No trip to India is complete without a stay at one of its opulent resorts. A royal retreat is the perfect way to detox from the hustle and bustle of city life. During my final weekend in India, I decided to escape from the city of Udaipur and head for the Aravali Hills. A pristine hideaway awaited me at Raas Devigarh, a Mr and Mrs Smith member.
A Peaceful Hideaway
After a winding and quiet drive up to the property and through the gates, a gleaming white palace emerged. A lovingly tended garden of fragrant purple flowers complemented the sprawling outer courtyard. The concierge guided us up the steps to the palace. Suddenly, fresh rose petals rained upon us from the balcony above. More eager than ever, we stepped through the enormous front door guarding the entrance to see a little piece of heaven ahead.
Our visit began with a refreshing house lemonade in the open air restaurant. We enjoyed the amazing panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and village of Delwara. I had not felt this peaceful in ages. There was something about the minimalist design of the fortress and the quiet little village beyond that arrested the senses in an almost zen like state.
After lunch, we checked into our suite and then explored the property. Around every corner was something new and awe inspiring. A giant swing in the courtyard made the perfect reading spot for the morning. While a natural stone sofa in the next courtyard was shaded by the most brilliant palm tree.
Hints of marigold were hidden around the palace, creating brilliant pops of color amongst all of the gleaming white marble.
Ornately decorated nooks to dine in and grand archways made each corner its own work of art.
As it was Diwali weekend, there were a handful of guests. The property was especially quiet with only the sounds of birds chirping above to disrupt our reverie. We watched the sun change from yellow to orange and pink until it set beneath the hills. At night we dined under the stars and enjoyed a selection of fine international cuisine. As it was a bit chilly, the staff offered us shawls for warmth. We took in the evening air and the lights from the village below.
Waking Up with Pajamasutra
The next morning I awoke with a wish to never leave. The peace I felt was like nothing else — as if all my cares were distant memories. The only things that occupied my thoughts were the beauty and simplicity of the life lived within these walls.
We took some time to enjoy breakfast in the serenity of our Palace Suite. Fit for a queen, it included an entrance room with dining area, an inner lounge and dressing area, a massive bedroom with a separate seating area and views of the Aravali Hills, and a his/hers bathroom.
We also took in the views one last time in the Durbar lounge, a gorgeous place for evening drinks and snacks. The night before a private party filled its halls. As Udaipur is only 45 minutes away, it seemed like the perfect place for a pre-wedding get together for out of town guests.
One night at Raas Devigarh was not enough. It’s certainly somewhere I’d love to spend a few days, particularly to enjoy its spa treatments and explore the nearby village and temples. Udaipur is known for its palaces, but the surrounding forts are equally as rich and rejuvenating. I’d also love to stay at Bujera Fort, which is outside Udaipur as well.
Have you stayed at any of the palaces around Udaipur? I’d love to hear about your experience.
One of the things I look forward to most in the winter is all the cute and cozy style. Winter coats in bright shades and adorable prints, fuzzy sweaters, scarves for an extra dash of color, luxe boots, and of course over the top hats. No one but snowmen look forward to the cold weather. But if you can layer in style, it kind of makes it all worthwhile. Lately I’ve been opting for more color with the dreariness of the season. A cheery yellow winter coat and a rainbow scarf are my go-to items before I leave the house. So no matter what the weather’s like, I always bring a little sunshine with me wherever I go.
***Tip: Taking pictures in the cold without gloves only works works when you’ve got a hot beverage in your hand. Otherwise, you may as well wrap your hands with a bow and gift them to frostbite.
I think there’s magic in the color yellow. It always puts an extra pep in my step when I wear it, which helps on dreary days. Actually, I’ve got a bad case of the blues during the winter time. I’m thinking about purchasing one of these light therapy lamps to get me through the winter. Have you tried one? What do you think and which one would you recommend?
Another way I like to brighten my day is to pick up some fresh flowers. In a small space, they really liven up a room. During the holidays, some people like to buy an entire tree and put it in their home. Crazy, right?! 🙂 In all seriousness, I don’t celebrate Christmas. Although I do love the experience of going to the tree lot, browsing the lush green firs, enjoying some cider, and watching excited friends choose their tree. Oh, and finding the perfect photo ops for my Holiday card. What do you think of the one below?
Aside from peeking out between Christmas trees, I’ll be spending the holidays watching cheesy Christmas romance movies on Netflix (agreed with Twitter: A Christmas Prince is so awful it’s good), eating lots of cookies and pies, and scouring the online sales this season. That’s pretty much the trifecta of joy for me before the new year.
What are you doing to brighten up the dull days of winter?
Girls’ Night Out (GNO) is a time honored tradition. We women look forward to letting loose with our gal pals for unadulterated fun. But sometimes an ordinary GNO is not enough. That’s why my friends Elena, Julia, Mattea and I booked a staycation courtesy of The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta in St. Louis. Situated in the heart of the Central West End, they have everything you need for an amazing night out.
Hanging outside the entrance to the Chase Park Plaza
The Central West End
Before checking in, we spent some time hanging out in the Central West End (CWE). It’s a bustling area full of trendy shops, award winning restaurants, and exciting nightlife. During the holidays, its especially charming with the festive decor and larger than life Christmas tree.
The Suite Life
Upon entering our suite, we were pleasantly surprised with a big treat to help us kick off GNO. The concierge had set up all the trimmings for a mini happy hour including drinks, macaroons, a hearty cheeseboard, and assorted snacks. Needless to say, we demolished that cheeseboard in a flash.
For GNO, we booked an adjoining suite for the four of us. Between the en suite bathrooms, lounge, and dining area, there was plenty of space to relax, get glam, and rock out.
Mattea and I going crazy over the awesome suite and delicious cheeseboard
Since we checked in around 4pm, there was more than enough time to catch up, gossip, and munch away. But before we knew it, the afternoon had flown by and it was time to get ready for the evening’s festivities.
Mattea’s gorgeous brocade booties
Left: Julia’s colorful charms; Elena reaches for classic pieces from Kendra Scott
We headed downstairs for drinks by the outdoor fireplace. It was a cozy and intimate spot where we could relax and enjoy each other’s company before dinner. As you can see, when we’re together we can’t stop cracking each other up.
Dinner at the Chase Club
I used to hang out at the Chase Club in college when it was known as Cafe Eau. It’s long been a popular nightlife staple in St. Louis for those seeking an elevated, yet casual setting with light bites and live entertainment. The Chase Club was recently renovated with brand new decor and a fresh menu full of flavorful gastropub fare. The restaurant has the feel of the classic American hotel bar with a twist.
Since we brought our appetites, we decided to try almost everything on the menu. I especially recommend the shrimp appetizer, bulgogi wrap, and gooey butter cake, a St. Louis favorite.
After the Party, It’s the Hotel Lobby
The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta also happens to be one of the most sought after places for weddings and galas due to its location, history, and grandeur. The lobby was alive with guests spilling out from the hotel’s various events. So we took advantage of the buzzing atmosphere and hopped around the cozy corners of the hotel lobby.
Since the holiday season was in full swing, we reveled in the Christmas decor including an array of sparkling trees, looming nutcracker dolls, a gingerbread replica of St. Louis, and Santa himself. There’s something about ornaments on a tree that puts me in Christmas spirit overdrive.
Once we captured our last glamour shot, it was time for PJs, no makeup, and a late night gabfest back at our suite. It had been too long since I’d enjoyed a good old fashioned sleepover with friends. That’s the beauty of renting a suite for GNO — the night doesn’t have to end.
This is actually the third time I’ve enjoyed a staycation at the Chase. Each time I’m reminded by how grand the hotel is, luxurious the rooms are, and exciting the lobby scene is. If you’re looking for a fun change to your typical girls’ night out in St. Louis, consider booking a suite at The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta. You deserve a night away!
All images (except the first three) are by Meredith Marquardt of L Photographie. Meredith is a joy to work with and is currently available for blog photography in St. Louis.
Udaipur may be my favorite city in the world. It also happens to be where my parents grew up. When I was young, we spent most of our time there meeting relatives and family friends. That usually meant eating a lot of food and then eating some more. Once in a while we would go sightseeing. I’d also enjoy stocking up on cheap Archie comics or reading a stack of my cousins’ Harlequin romance novels. (Udaipur was a small town in the 80s and 90s and there wasn’t a lot to do.) But as an adult, I gained a new appreciation for this city. I realized that it was a gem full of some of the most beautiful places on earth. Every time I return, I fall in love with it all over again. Here are some of the most beautiful places to visit in Udaipur that I can’t get enough of.
Entrance gates of the City Palace, Udaipur
The City Palace, Udaipur
I arrived in Udaipur on Diwali after my illustrious visit to Jaipur. The streets surrounding the City Palace were closed. Surprisingly the walk there was quite nice. There were decorations everywhere, including garlands that created a tent-like shade from the sun. Walking up to the gates of the City Palace brought back memories from the last time I visited with my Dad. Each time I go, I hire a guide to hear the infamous stories of the Maharanas (Kings) of Mehwar, how they fortified the region with these majestic forts and palaces, and left behind a legacy that is revered to this day.
Above is the jharoka (balcony) where the king would listen to matters of the court and his subjects’ requests. Adjacent to it are windows with intricately cut holes from which the women of the palace could look out, but others could not look in. Women of the harem were hidden away from public view.
The blue room on the left is a preserved picture of what mid 20th century residential palace life was like. The palace also holds an exhibit of a wheelchair of one of the last kings to live there as well as his commode and elevator. On the right is one of the colorful gates within the palace.
On your visit, look for the window displayed above on the right. From here you can see a clear view of the Lake Palace Hotel, possibly the most famous of places to visit in Udaipur.
Above and below show the zenana, the women’s quarters in the palace. These structures surround a beautiful courtyard used for entertaining. Today, it’s a popular spot to hold some of the most lavish weddings in India.
Below, is the exterior view of the City Palace on the shores of Lake Pichola. At night, when it’s lit up, the building takes on a golden hue giving it an arresting aura.
The City Palace, Udaipur, on the shores of Lake Pichola
Taj Lake Palace Hotel
This is known as one of the most romantic places to visit in Udaipur, maybe even on earth. The king used it as a retreat from the City Palace in the summer. During the Sepoy mutiny, the king gave several British families refuge there. He also destroyed the town’s boats so rebels could not reach the palace to attack.
Known today as the Taj Lake Palace Hotel, it is a popular tourist destination often sought out by the elite for honeymoons and wedding celebrations. Although the Maharajah still owns it, he licenses out the palace (amongst other properties) to the Taj group and makes a pretty penny every year from the royalties.
The Taj Lake Palace Hotel floating on Lake Pichola
Locals love to sit on the shores of Lake Pichola with family and lovers to enjoy the view. The sunsets here are spectacular. Imagine a view of a clear blue lake with palaces on every side of the shore as well as on the water. A gondola goes by and as you look out across the Aravalli mountains, you can see the sun start to tuck away between the slopes of the hills. Slowly the yellow turns to orange, then pink into lavender, and eventually the night sky emerges. The lights of the city brighten and you can see the City Palace and Lake Palace twinkle golden and gleaming white in the distance.
I highly recommend getting dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants for an unforgettable meal. First watch the sunset at Ambrai Ghat, where you can get a full view of all the palaces. Then eat at one of the restaurants overlooking the water including Ambrai, Upre, or Sheesh Mahal. It’s truly a luxurious experience and a necessity when making a list of things to do and places to visit in Udaipur. Where else in the world can you eat amazing food, feel like a royal, and get such a breathtaking view?
The sunset over Lake Pichola
The Monsoon Palace, Sajjangarh
This hilltop palace provides a panoramic view of the city’s palaces, lakes, and countryside. The palace was built to watch the monsoon clouds. It’s now a popular place for locals to hang out with friends and enjoy the view.
The Monsoon Palace is locally known as Sajjangarh. Its modern claim to fame is that it was the home to the Bond villain in the 1983 film Octopussy.
Sajjangarh used to be overrun by monkeys. My cousin even told me to keep my belongings, especially food, close as they are known to fearlessly snatch them away. However, on this visit, there was not a monkey in site. Perhaps, this was due to the newly opened outdoor cafe.
The view from the cafe is beautiful and serene. I could sit there all day with a book and a Limca (an Indian soda similar to Sprite) and enjoy the quiet breeze. No monkeys here to bother you either.
When traveling up to Sajjangarh, make sure you’re with a trusted driver. The roads are steep, narrow, and winding. But the road is much safer today than it was years ago. Let’s just say when I was a kid, I think I saw my life flash before my eyes on that drive up. Scary stories aside, it’s definitely worth the trip up, especially for the stunning views.
I only had a few days the city and these sights were at the top of my list. There are plenty of other exciting places to visit in Udaipur and in the outlying areas. On my next visit, I hope to experience Kumbhalgarh, Chittaurgarh, and Jaisalmer. Stay tuned for a look at my stay at Raas Devigarh, a stunning resort right outside of Udaipur.
As I get older, my skin becomes less cooperative. My hormones are out of whack, causing adult acne to kick in. The lines around my eyes become deeper. And no matter how much lotion I apply, my flaky skin makes it difficult to smoothly apply makeup. Therefore I am constantly on the lookout for products that help me achieve flawless skin. Currently I’m testing out Instytutum’s skincare line of flawless age-defying products. Here’s what I recommend. Plus read on for an exclusive promotion.
With a laboratory based in Switzerland, Instytutum products combine the latest science, technology, and high-performance ingredients for flawless skin. These are some of the skincare concerns I hope to address, which Instytutum effectively targets:
WHAT IT DOES: Reduces pore size, fine lines, and wrinkles and improves skin tone, texture and luminosity. Be sure to wear SPF when using it.
WHAT I LEARNED & LOVE: The formula really gets in there to remove dirt and grime, making my face feel super clean. It also does a good job of cleaning out my pores without drying my skin out. And my skin does appear brighter. I’m looking forward to seeing how much the texture of my skin changes after a full month’s use.
WHAT IT DOES: Improves the appearance of dark spots, wrinkles, and pores. Brightens the complexion. And provides an intense burst of hydration.
WHAT I LEARNED & LOVE: My face definitely felt instantly hydrated after use. This is a great moisturizing base before applying makeup on dry flaky skin. I’m optimistic about noticing a reduction in the appearance of dark spots, pore size, or wrinkles, but I need to test it for longer.
WHAT IT DOES: Improves and restores moisture, firms and increases skin elasticity. Also smoothens skin texture while visibly minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
WHAT I LEARNED & LOVE: It’s super lightweight, but still manages to heavily hydrate my skin. My skin feels a bit more plump and voluminous. Even though the cream is rich, it is still great for daily use.
WHAT IT DOES: Makes your skin look flawless after one application. To do this, it moisturizes, refines visible pores, restores elasticity, and tightens the skin.
WHAT I LEARNED & LOVE: My skin felt like it went through a total spa experience. The texture of the mask is luxuriously rich with moisture and active ingredients. This is definitely a great mask before a big event to give your skin a soft and dewy appearance.
Instytutum has a vast line of beauty products (not tested on animals) for all of your skincare needs. I’m also dying to try the Alive Water for an instant spray of hydration on the go as well as the Oyster Renewal Serum. Who doesn’t love the idea pearls on your skin?!
PROMOTION: If you’d like to try Instytutum’s incredibly hydrating line for flawless skin, use code BNB20 for 20% off your purchase.
This is a paid post sponsored by Instytutum. All opinions are my own.