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L.A. Things

I have officially been in California for two weeks, and let me tell you I am already so L.A.... Nah, just kidding. But, I was lucky enough last weekend to spend the day with my cousin who lives in L.A (this is the same cousin who I went to Amsterdam with). She offered to show me around for the day. And when she asked what I wanted to see or do, I said, "you know, L.A. things." She laughed and went with it.

She knows me well so she took me to a lot of amazing photo spots, typical tourist spots, and, of course, shopping. We started our day at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), which has a lot of great contemporary art and some fun installations outside, like the famous light poles. From there we headed to the Grove for a coffee and Nordstrom break. Did I mention she is a stylist? She knows all of the good shopping.

After a little retail therapy, we headed to Melrose for more shopping and photos ops, and for a stop at the adorable, and oh-so-pink, Alfred Tea Room (Alfred Coffee is equally adorable). At that point my cousin got a call for work, which sent the day in an amazing direction. She had to stop by the NBC/Universal costume warehouse to pull looks for a commercial and asked if I wanted to tag along. A real studio lot? An industry costume warehouse? A behind the scenes look at Hollywood magic? I could not say yes quick enough.

We had planned on going by the famed Grauman's Chinese theatre and Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. Obviously, I wanted a behind the scenes peak more, so we did a quick drive by and I hopped out of the car to snap a few shots lol (zero shame). From there we headed into the Hollywood Hills, where I had my first Hollywood Sign sighting, before arriving at the back entrance to the Universal lot.

You guys, the costume warehouse was a dream come true! I got to wonder around (the 70s lougewear and kaftan section is where it is at btw), ask a million questions about how it all worked, and I even saw Mindy Kaling! My cousin told me I had to play it cool since she was working, and let me tell you it took every ounce of self discipline not to lose my $hit when I saw Mindy.

After my cousin pulled what she needed, we decided to sneak onto the back lot so she could show me the amazing New York set. Inadvertently in the process, we stumbled on the set of Kristen Bell's new show, The Good Place... Cutest. Set. Ever (see the last photo).

At the time, however, neither of us had seen the show. So we walked around the set marveling at its cuteness and wondering what it was. Then my cousin noticed all of the yogurt shops, which reminded her of the show's preview. Once we figured it out we were so excited. When I finally got around to watching the show, I realized they also shoot at The Huntington! I am basically best friends with Kristen Bell.

I have to say exploring the NBC/Universal backlot and costume warehouse was a total Hollywood pinch me moment. Definitely, the ultimate tourist experience and a day I won't forget.

Any other sights I should not miss in L.A.? Next on my list is the hike to the Hollywood sign.

Ashley B
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Carneros Inn + Farm, Napa

dress (last seen here) // hat // sunnies // c/o Dagne Dover tote // mules

The Carneros Inn was probably my favorite estate that we visited while in Napa. It is an incredible blend of rustic charm and luxury chic. The estate features contemporary but quaint little cottages surrounded by gorgeous vineyards on a vast property with all the amenities -- outdoor communal games, spa, pool, and, my favorite part, spectacular restaurants.

The entire estate is beyond charming. Emily and I were particularly enamored with the porch swings at the Boon Fly Cafe. We are both suckers for a good photo op, so this swing on the porch of a vibrant-red, barn-esque building was a dream come true. We must have taken a hundred photos on that swing!

After photographing our hearts out, Emily and I headed over to another restaurant on the property, Farm, for Sunday brunch. This was arguably one of the best meals of my life! Now, Farm is very trendy and quite famous, so I was weary that it would not live up to all the hype.

But, I was dead wrong. Farm is famous for good reason. The menu was sort of tapas style, offering unique creations made from locally grown fruits and veggies. For a set price (which I thought was not overpriced might I add) you select four dishes from the menu. Despite our concerns (and growling stomachs), splitting 4 small dishes proved to be more than enough food between the two of us. We tried the lobster roll, beet and berry salad, blueberry crostata, and the flatbread with figs, caramelized onions, and cheese. Each dish was delicious and we could not pick a favorite. Like I said, best meal of my life!

Sadly this was our last day in Napa and after stuffing our faces we had to drive back to San Fransisco to fly out.

What is your favorite Napa estate? I think next time I visit the region I want to explore Sonoma.

And you can see more of our adventures in Napa here!


Ashley B
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Domain Carneros & Beringer Winery

dress // bag (similar) // sunnies // shoes (similar)

Juxtaposing our day of hopping from one small boutique winery to another was our day spent at two of the largest and grandest wineries in Napa -- the Domaine Carneros and the Beringer Estate.

Both estates are stunning and well worth a visit (although their tastings and pours are not as generous... just saying). The Domaine Carneros looks like something straight out of the Loire Valley. The stunning and perfectly manicure estate draws a lot of tourists, so be sure to book ahead. Both Emily and I opted for the sparkling wine tasting flight. Because you know my motto, bring on the bubbly! This was probably my favorite tasting of our time in Napa. I love champagne (and rosè), which is exactly what this flight was, but of course they cannot call it that because the Domaine Carneros is not in Champagne, France.

After enjoying some delicious bubbly (and accompanying cheese plate), Emily and I headed north to the historic Beringer estate (you will also want to book ahead). After a guided tour of the estate and history of their wine production, we enjoyed a four-glass tasting paired with four different amuse-bouches to enhance different aspects of each wine. This was by far our most formal and informative tasting. While I was not head-over-heals for any of the wines I tasted, overall it was a very educational experience.

It's the architecture and surrounding grounds of these two wineries that really make them worth seeing. Overall, I enjoyed the wine on our smaller winery tour more (although the bubbles at the Carneros were delish, I just wanted more). Being able to see both sides of the Napa wine industry was great and I am glad we did.

After another long day of sipping wine (life is hard sometimes), we opted for a quick stop at Market (in Saint Helena) for dinner. There we indulged in some good old fashioned comfort food -- mac and cheese and jalapeno corn bread drizzled in honey -- before driving back to our hotel in Napa.

I wore this gorgeous and light weight pink Rebecca Minkoff dress with leopard accents for the day. While the temps were warm, it was a very dry heat, which, for this Florida girl, feels like winter lol. I am obsessed with these leopard flats. Sadly, they are already sold out, but I have linked a similar pair. Pink and leopard has always been one of my favorite combinations.

What is your favorite winery in the Napa Valley? I'd love to hear so I can plan for my next trip!


Ashley B
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Exploring Yountville

In addition to fabulous wine, Napa also boasts a lot of picturesque little towns. Take Yountville for example. It is a charming little town surrounded by vines, full of quaint architecture, and brimming with amazing food. In fact, Yountville is considered the culinary capital of The Napa Valley.

While I was expecting great wine in Napa, I wasn't aware that the region was equally famous for food. Yountville is home to several of the country's top-rated restaurants, like the famed The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, and Bottega Napa Valley. Since these are incredibly hard to get into, Emily and I opted for dinner at Solbar, which specializes in fresh, seasonal plates (and it was delish!). If you do want to try to get into these top spots, book early and research the best ways to do so. We were informed that The French Laundry accepts reservations exactly 60 days out and books within 15 minutes of opening reservations! Our wine guide recommended going through your Amex concierge if you have one... which I do not lol.

But before dinner, we spent the day exploring the town. Naturally, our day began with a trip to the famed Bouchon Bakery. There is always a line, but it moves quickly and is worth the wait. There isn't much "to-do" per say in Yountville. It is basically a place you stroll, shop, and eat, which are three things Emily and I just happen to be great at.

I wore this amazing Yumi Kim bell sleeve top, which is fittingly called the wanderlust top. It is so flowy and gorgeous, and comes in several great fall floral patterns. In fact, I loved this top so much, I purchased it in a second pattern (#sorrynotsorry). I paired it with my new favorite skirt for fall, this perfect little A-line corduroy skirt from J.Crew. The final touches were my bright-white accessories, because clearly I don't buy into no white after labor day.

If you are planning a trip to Napa, be sure to add Yountville to your itinerary and definitely indulge in a great dinner while you are there. Also, another tip and something I love about Napa, everyone seemed to always be dressed up. Unless you're planning on hiking, I would skip the spandex and bring your style-a-game to Napa.


Ashley B
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Platypus Wine Tour in Napa Valley

hat (also here) // dress // c/o Dagne Dover bag // mules // sunnies

Obviously, wine tasting in Napa Valley is a must, and the real reason everyone visits. But the valley is literally dotted with fantastic wineries. Figuring out where to start and which wineries should top your list can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, Emily had the brilliant idea of going on a wine tour our first full day in Napa. Wine tours are a great option because they are run by locals who know the region, take you to wineries that you may not have heard of (or are off the beaten path), and, the best part, you don't have to worry about drinking and driving.

We took our tour with Platypus Wine Tours. They were spectacular -- organized, well-run, and, most importantly, fun! We shared our mini-tour bus with four fabulous couples, who, thanks to lots of wine, quickly became our good friends. We visited a total of four wineries, all of which were quite generous with their tastings, and the ones at the end of the day were real generous... that's when things get a bit hazy lol.

Our timing in Napa was perfect without even realizing it. I should have know it was harvest time, since I participated in the harvest in Tuscany last September, but both Emily and I forgot until we arrive and found ourselves in the middle of the harvest.

We started our day of winery hopping at the Ruthorford Ranch winery. The best part about this winery is that they offer a wine and chocolate tasting! Oh, it was so yummy. Four wines paired with four amazing types of chocolate. Our next stop was the hipster Casa Nuestra winery, where we tasted tasty organic wines, had a picnic lunch, and played with their adorable goats. Casa Nuestra had a very cool, earthy vibe about it and they specialize in cultivating older grape varieties that are disappearing from the region.

Our third winery was the charming and laid-back Tudal winery. The Tudal estate is full of quaint little seating areas and communal games like giant Jenga and cornhole. After some fun and games, we headed to our last and most generous stop, Hopper Creek. This is where things got weird lol. Everyone was suddenly best friends and we ended up frolicking through the vineyards and taking a thousand photos. We really couldn't help ourselves, the wine at Hopper Creek was everyone's favorite. And we tried them all!

My only complaint about Napa is that the majority of the wineries grow French grapes and make French-style wines. Where are the Italian wines? I learned this past summer, through much trial and error, that I don't love French wines as much as I do Italian wines. Of course, this did not stop me from trying all of the wines in Napa.

In addition to touring smaller wineries, Emily and I also visited a couple larger, more famous estates (more on that next week). I think to really appreciate Napa and its wine, you need to experience both, and a wine tour like this one is the perfect way visit small and truly unique estates.

I highly recommend Platypus Tours if you are visiting Napa Valley (they offer Sonoma tours too)!

And you can read my tips for looking like you know what you are doing when tasting wine here.

Ashley B
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Dissertating Sucks!

Ok, real talk. Full-time dissertating sucks.

Sure, I have been working on my dissertation for years now, but it was in small chunks -- a conference paper here, a blog post there, and lots of research and secondary reading to keep me busy.

Now, after years of preparation and build up, I have one job -- write a book. It is an incredibly overwhelming feeling. Years of research, work, and expectations staring back at you on that blank computer screen. I was not prepared for just how difficult it would be to spend all day, every day writing.

When your only job is to write, it is completely maddening when you can't. I was surprised that the words weren't coming to me. How did I have nothing to say? I have thought of nothing else for years! And no matter what I did, I felt guilty. Guilty for staring at a blank screen and guilty if I did other things.

Day after day I pushed on and forced myself to write something, anything. Each day got a little easier and before I knew it I had 40 pages. I am not saying these 40 pages were great, but it was a start.

Unfortunately, full-time dissertating is a sad and lonely experience. Making any real progress means devoting large chunks of time and focusing on nothing else. Since returning home from Italy, there were many days (some in a row) when I didn't get dressed or leave the house. I did make time to exercise and that has been a life saver.

Fortunately, after four weeks of dissertating alone in my apartment I left for California. It was just the change of scenery I needed. I have a residency at The Huntington Library and it is amazing here. It is like a dream come true for dissertators like me. A ridiculously stocked library, gorgeous grounds, and comfortable work spaces have already made me even more productive. I wish I could write my entire dissertation here!

It is still a long road ahead and I don't foresee it sucking any less. Everyone I commiserate with says it does not get any better you just have to keep pushing!

Not the most uplifting the post today, but it is the truth. What ever you're struggling with, just keep pushing!

Finally, if you have a friend or loved one dissertating, remember this is what not to ask them!

Ashley B
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