Monday, January 26, 2015

Valentine's Gift Guide // For Her

Valentine's Day isn't far, and the February is just the time to pack up a bag and head elsewhere for a late winter respite.

Why not sweeten the deal with one of these good-for-the-planet picks? Whether you're aiming to curl up mid-flight and binge listen to Serial podcasts with your other half, hit the trails with S'well's new collection of hydration vessels, or simply add some indulgence to her daily beauty regiment, the Green Globetrotter Valentine's Guide // For Her has got ya covered.

Time's a-tickin!

S'well "Cabana" bottle ($35) | Pelcor Ivy Envelope Clutch (105 Euros) | MOMA Branch Earphone Splitter ($10) | Horchow's Crafted Gems iPhone 5/5s case ($150) | Korres Pomegranate Balancing Cream-Gel Moisturizer ($34) | Jin Soon's 5-Free Nail Polishes in Muse and Bijou ($18 each)

Friday, January 23, 2015

It's Always Sunny in Santorini

Overlooking Oia's coast after our hike from Fira; so supremely picturesque

Get ready for some. serious. photo. overload.

All my life, I've dreamt of the blue and white bluffs that jut out of the water, crafting the caldera of the Greek isles. This past November - in a beautiful twist of fate - I ended up not only in Santorini, but on an escape that wove me throughout several "new to me" parts of Europe. The perfect excuse was the brainchild of my sometimes-overly-motivated boyfriend, who had signed up to run the original marathon in Athens, Greece. (If that's not motivation, I don't know what is.)

We flew out of Detroit on Halloween evening, not even minding that we were missing the tromping around of outfitted neighborhood kids, and indulged in a celebratory shot before we hopped aboard a plane to Paris. I'll cover our Parisian escapades separately, so let me fast forward to Greece itself. Because we had time to spare before the marathon, we flew into Athens and hopped a puddle jumper to Santorini. In our grand plans, we had set aside three full days and nights on the island.

After researching approximately one zillion lodging options on every travel review site known to man, I landed on Asteras Villas, a boutique property offering five caldera-view villas. Not only was the property entirely affordable, it included daily breakfast served on your patio, a patio hot tub and what appeared to be clean, quaint and even trendy guestrooms. Most importantly, it was centrally located in Fira, the island's largest city.

I booked the only suite that was available for the length of our stay, the Phoebe Suite, which was also the least expensive option, And the farthest descent down the cliff... via stairs, of course. We paid roughly $130 US dollars per night in the off season of November, making our stay in Santorini not only my favorite of the trip, but the cheapest. To add to our luck, the Phoebe suite was actually requested for an additional night by the family staying before us, so we were offered a complimentary upgrade to the Galatea Suite for our first two nights. (Looking back, I would absolutely pay the few extra dollars to upgrade. Just one level higher on the caldera made such a dramatic difference in views.)

For three and a half days, we spent our time wandering the island in that leisurely pace that suits a contented traveler so well. We indulged in our first glass of champagne at breakfast - totally acceptable when on vacay, right? - and ate an insane amount of Greek food.

To counterbalance our consumption, we spent one day hiking to Oia, a smaller village on the tip of the island, about 2.5 miles from Fira. Up and down the hilly and sometimes rocky terrain we wound, passing remote hill-top churches and stopping occasionally to sip from a bottle of wine and tear off a piece of bread. We reached Oia in time for sunset, which we watched as we dined at one of the village's many restaurant patios. It was a hike that delivered exceptional views... so rather than return after dark (which would be nearly impossible), we cabbed it back to our hotel.

Other ventures on Santorini included visits to the Black Beach and Red Beach (bring sneakers for this one as it requires a 15-minute hike), a tour of one of the island's several wineries, a self-guided car tour with one day's rental and the most amazing evening couple's massage - the best surprise a girl could ask for - at the nearby Aressana Spa Hotel.

All that said, my measly explanation can hardly do this cliffside haven justice. Below, I'm sharing some snaps from our trip that hopefully convey the isle's personality better than I can.

The patio of the Pheobe Suite with a darling door leading out to an island walkway
Our bed in Asteras Villa's Galatea Suite; a perfect room with amazing views
The <> staircase down to our suites at Asteras Villas
The shared - but split - balcony for both Phoebe and Galatea Suites

Cats, everywhere. Here, perched below the patio wall of a restaurant, prying for prawns
Us! This is us!
The beau taking a break outside of one Santorini's many churches along our hike
So many felines in Fira! This one just outside of our suite
The one day during our off-season stay that a cruise ship came in. Oh. The madness.
Capping off our hike to Oia with a sunset dinner
Red Beach, located on the opposite side of the isle as Oia
Just outside our Villa entry, a lovely bar run by a lovely man named Baz
Sardines. They're what's for dinner 
We literally jumped when we looked up and saw... this
Dining al fresco. So much cheese in Greece; but also good beer

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January Check In: Where Did 2014 Go?

Well, folks. It's 2015. I just realized that I never even followed up on my last post... I was in Greece - Santorini, specifically - if you didn't guess. And now, as you might see in the pic above, I'm holed up in a California hotel squeezing in some work. 

There has been so much that's happened over the past 12 months that's kept me distracted, but I'm looking forward to filling you in on last year's travel, as well as what's coming in 2015. (Spoiler - there's a lot!)

As evidenced by the fruit bowl in the top photo, I'm really, seriously, truly (do you feel my emphasis here?) trying to step it up a notch in the health department this year. That also means that I'm hoping to drop it down a notch in the weight department, too ;)

I'm looking forward to what the next 11 months have in store. I hope that they're shaping up to be as fun for you as they are for me.

- Jess

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Where Am I Now? Here's a Hint...

Here's what. If you've been here before... you know exactly where I'm at. I'll give you a hint... it's in Greece. And my hiking attire definitely has something to do with this specific spot.

But let me just say, it was deliciously dreamy. And I can't wait to additional photos... coming up shortly!

<<UPDATE: See all the photos and details of our Santorini trip here!>>

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hiding Out in Hollywood's Iconic Chateau Marmont

A glimpse from the suite balcony

Made up of equal parts kitsch and old-Hollywood glamour, the hotel Chateau Marmont is perched atop Sunset Boulevard, holding court over its lowly neighbors like any iconic landmark would. To an unknowing eye, it’s French chalet-inspired exterior may look a bit out of place against the glitz and glam. But thankfully, any devoted Us Weekly reader – such as myself – is keen to the quiet, but buzzing, celebrity haunt that the Chateau is.

As if I really needed an excuse to lounge at the ultra private property, I and a few gals jumped at the opportunity to deem it a bachelorette weekend destination. To celebrate not one, but two(!) upcoming weddings, we packed our bags and flew cross country to soak up a few days of life “inside the walls” of West Hollywood.

We booked a two-bedroom suite and a standard guestroom to accommodate our group, and then proceeded to hit up every Midwesterner’s ideal Cali hot spot – including Rodeo Drive, Drybar and Bravo star Lisa Vanderpump’sSUR restaurant (food was great; ambiance was exactly as you’d expect). It was everything. I mean, really, it was. And we even dove so deliciously low as to venture aboard a TMZ Tour, where Molly Shannon made a drive-by appearance from the rolled-down window of her SUV, kids shouting from the backseat.

From the overpriced cocktails at the Chateau’s garden terrace, to the room-service breakfast spread, it was a little bit like stepping into someone else’s life, but a few years – or decades – ago. And it turned out that a weekend throwback was exactly what we were looking for.

Oh, and the best part! I nearly forgot. Who’d we spy during our stay? Keifer Sutherland, Nate Berkus, Aaron Paul and a few other not-so-obvious celebs, all chilling at The Restaurant's garden terrace. Naturally, there's no photos since, well, photos aren't allowed in the hotel's public areas. The discretion keeps the celebs comin' back.

As for green, I've got to admit, there's not much to tout other than the devotion to the property's historic roots. But here's what - even the greenest of us should make an excuse to stay at the Chateau.

Life's a bowl of cherries; a sweet greeting from the hotel

Retro - authentic - fixtures in the suite's single shower

The standard guestroom sitting area

Standard guestroom queen bed

A look upward at the Chinese Theater

 A relevant read in a coffee table glossy at Chateau Marmont

 Snag-worthy souvenirs

The mini bar is stocked; and the candle is a prime gift to grab for $50

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Power on the Go: Jackery iPhone Charger Review

For those of you who've stumbled upon this post today, I can assuredly assume that while I don't know you and you don't know me, we share a very similar problem: smartphones batteries that drain too damn fast. Am I right? Yep; I thought so.

On my last trip, in a last-ditch effort to outsmart Siri, I packed backup. A cordless portable charger for my iPhone that acts like an outer sleeve, charging the phone on the go, without a messy wire to be seen. The charger, made by Jackery, comes with a shiny white case that features a divit in the back, essentially a locking mechanism that allows the phone to connect to the outer case, which charges the phone on demand.

It didn't take long before my phone grew weary... worn out from all the excessive Instagram tag notifications I was receiving (did I mention that I was on a gal pal's bachelorette getaway with five of my best girls?). Nearing shutdown, I dug into my bag for the pre-charged outer case, slipped it into place and heard it "click" into position. With one touch to a slender button on the back of the outer sleeve, my phone buzzed to charging mode. Sweet relief! And all the while being able to monitor the snap-happy among me in real-time. Thank God.

The only downfall? It may have been my settings, or the fact that I was running a zillion apps at once, but the phone, in its charging case, grew really, really hot. Like, I was literally packing heat. I could feel the rising temperatures from inside my purse when I slung it on my shoulder. I should mention, however, that in using it since, it's never grown as warm as it did that night.

On the bright side, the charger was effective, not at all geeky, and has a pleasant shape and glossy feel in your hand. It's a bit heavy with its charging case, but hey, that's the price of convenience folks. 

And speaking of price, it comes in at $50. In a pinch, I'd call that a good deal. You can pick one up on Amazon, here.

iPhone 5s with Jackery iPod case / cover

iPhone 5s with Jackery charging case attachment

Monday, September 15, 2014

Letting Go of Summer at Lake Michigan's Inn at Bay Harbor

On the edge of the property, a pool and sandy beach look out over Lake Michigan

Hey, summer! Um... what happened? Was it something I said? Because yesterday, I turned around and you were gone. Splitsville. Sayonara. All I had left of you was the little bit of tan garnered on Lake Michigan and these photos from The Inn at Bay Harbor...

Don't get me wrong. There are worst places to close out the season.

At the inn, at least, served as a hospitable retreat during the last of our sweet summer days. Snuggled up against Lake Michigan in Petoskey, Mich., the Marriott resort is a traditional escape in a quaint, small-town setting. If the view and the amenities aren't enough to keep you satisfied, there's an in-house spa, several surrounding (and highly acclaimed) golf courses, and shoot, local chocolatier Kilwin's is just down the street with at least twenty flavors of ice cream.

I was hardly holed up in guestroom 226, which was a partial lakeview suite with separate king bedroom, kitchen, living and dining areas. Of course, the most desirable square footage of my room was located outside, between two sliding doors, overlooking the edge of the property and the expansive Great Lake beyond it. (Out-of-towners: Booking a stay on the west side of the state ensures stellar sunset views over the water.)

These white-painted porches might be the stuff of yesterday, but there's enormous value in that. On them, you'll find simple white rocking chairs as well as a million reasons to do nothing more than soak in the scenery. It's the type of tranquil activity that breeds the deepest thought, sparks creativity, inspires new ideas - and connects with a lifetime long, long ago.

And, whether you're staying for a weekend or 10 days, there's plenty to do in this slice of Northern Michigan... once you ply your ass from the rocking chair.

An hour away is Traverse City, the area's largest city (and airport), complete with mall, movie theater and plenty of great eats (consider Tratorria Stella restaurant, housed in a former psychiatric ward; or The Boathouse for fine dining).

Nearby Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas are located on the 45th parallel and you can't go too far before discovering one of several wineries - and tasting rooms. (Having toured both, I'm a fan of: Two Lads Winery, Brys Estate Winery and Forty-Five North Winery.)

Harbor Springs is an idyllic sister community with a long pier for strolling and a bevy of gorgeous yachts to drool over.

Or, if you'd rather be on wheels than in the water, you can tour the scenic Tunnel of Trees, a historic roadway that winds along the water and ends near one of the state's most authentic polish restaurants, the Legs Inn. (If you have the option, try this route on a motorcycle.)

For full details and rates, visit  

Al fresco diners overlook a life-sized chess game on the property's lawn
Partial view of Lake Michigan (Copyright:
Partial lakeviews aren't half bad, huh? 
Dining at the Inn at Bay Harbor (Copyright:
Drinks on the patio of one of the hotel's restaurants
Partial lakeview suite (Copyright:
The kitchen, dining and living area of the partial lakeview suite 
Master Bath Inn at Bay Harbor (Copyright:
Double sinks in a spacious master bathroom

Master Bedroom (Copyright:
The king bedroom also included doors to the lakeview balcony

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Where Am I Now? Here's a Hint...

Inn at Bay Harbor, Michigan (Marriott Renaissance) (c)

Chess, anyone? With my sliding suite door left open I night, I'm falling asleep to the sound of waves... but these waves are neither Atlantic or Pacific, and yet I'm still in America.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Long Night at the Loews, Atlanta (LEED)

Let's talk about this adorable mini bar, shall we? 

Just like the waft of an ex-boyfriend’s cologne, there are some cities that elicit a sinking feeling purely upon descent into the airport. For the past couple of years, Atlanta has triggered that unsettling response in my stomach. Neither the curvy trails of Piedmont Park or the luxury mecca that’s Lenox Mall have squelched my weighty distaste for the southern hot spot. You see, a few years back, before a bitter breakup, I explored the city – all of its nooks and crannies – with my then-boyfriend, who moved there for work. When the relationship went bust, apparently, my love for his town did too. 

Rational? Not even a tiny bit. A perverse way to displace my resentment? Indeed.

So, imagine my shock when I grudgingly travel to Atlanta for work, and find myself unexpectedly put up in the lovely hotel directly across from former flame’s skyrise condo. To say that I was surprised would be the understatement of the year. Go ahead and ask me if I will ever, ever, in a million years, allow a colleague to blindly book a hotel room for me again. Anyway. I have some good news.

Said hotel, the Loews in Midtown, is actually a chic respite in the midst of the city’s most bustling area. Its lobby bar pumps evening music that attracts the locals and guests alike, even on weeknights. And most importantly, walkability to nearby bars and restaurants is prime, so it’s the perfect first-drink stop before venturing out into town.

Once I settled into a king suite, however, the bass had faded away. In the guestroom, a spacious layout gave way to a sleeping area, as well as a lounge and office space separated by an opaque glass wall. A glass-encased shower and separate tub took up residence in a marbled bathroom, and a micro-fiber lined bathrobe temptingly hung within reach. The only shortcoming? No BRAVO on the cable lineup (c’mon, Loews, have you not heard of The Real Housewives of Atlanta?).

While the hotel was fantastic, and the “Fitness Breakfast” that I devoured in bed was both delicious and more importantly, caffeinated, the most interesting part of my trip took place while I was sleeping.

My dreams, always vivid, were especially complex that night. And after a freaky-Friday sort of pleasant nightmare, I woke up with a sense of lightness that the city has not offered up to me in quite some time. (Trust me. You should feel glad that I'm sparing you the details.)

My night at the Loews, in essence, has seemed to cure my aversion to Atlanta (and perhaps, something far bigger than that). So how’s that for a satisfactory stay?

If only a hotel could resolve the rest of my issues.

Now, a few places to scope out during your visit, all within walking distance from the hotel:

Piedmont Park
This is Atlanta’s greatest, greenest city park with walking trails, grassy knolls and scenic park benches to chill on. Oftentimes, you’ll find festivals and concerts taking place on the south side of the park.

The Federal Reserve
Just across the street, this beautiful government building is where big money decisions are made; you can tour the Monetary Museum and get a peek inside the cash-processing operation, where millions of bucks are counted, sorted or shredded (it pains me, it really does) every day.

Margaret Mitchell House
Who's Gone-with-the-Wind fabulous?! I just had to sneak that in. (Props to Kenya Moore.) Here, just a short walk down the block, you can tour the digs where Margaret penned her national treasure, Gone with the Wind.

High Museum of Art
Taste test the arts without ever leaving Midtown. You can dip into the High Museum to scope out permanent collections of African, European, folk and modern art, as well as some of the higher profile visiting exhibits. 

Last, but far from least, are the hotel's green initiatives. Loews, a chain property, commits to its own Green Policy, which includes some admirable local tactics (food donations in partnership with America's Second Harvest) as well as all the expected checked boxes (guestroom recycling, eco-friendly cleaning products and green training for staff).

A not-too-shabby surprise? The hotel occupies a LEED Silver building. (See a list of all U.S. LEED properties here.)

It was late. Mood lighting unintended... in the king suite guestroom.

The sitting area boasted a spacious area with second flat-screen TV.

A double-sided desk rounds out the room's common area.

Separate soaking tub and shower. 

A well-lit and roomy bath; perfectly proportioned.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Birchbox: Efficient Sampling or Wasteful?

Nearly a year ago, a good friend gifted me an annual subscription to Birchbox, a monthly beauty sampling service that delivers a mini-collection of girlish goods to my doorstep. (I've got fabulous friends, I know.)

In case you haven't noticed, the subscription-box craze has taken over. Clever companies lure in consumers with first-one-free deals and after a quickie survey, they'll sort through their gift closet and send shoppers a customized sampling each month.

Typically, my boxes include sample-sizes of body goops (lotions and sunscreens), facial cleansers (scrubs and soaps), fragrances (perfect for me to tote while traveling) and the occasional nail polish or lip color. Sometimes they hit the mark, other times it feels like a major let down. In the top photo, you can see what treats were delivered for August. A gritty, green face scrub that I liked at first use, perfume, hand moisturizer, BB cream and a fat little lip lube in a magenta-ish hue that I was sure I’d never, ever wear.

And, well, here’s the interesting part. Before bed, I smoothed on the Laqa & Co. lip lube and to my surprise, loved it. The next day, I wore it into work and who knows, maybe I’ll pick up a full-size stick if I continue to dig the pop of purple. That’s the beauty of a beauty box – it slowly and slyly opens you up to new products that you may have never come across on your own.

Now, I don’t know that Birchbox is worth it's $110 annual pricetag, but… Tell me, have you tried – and do you love – subscription services like Birchbox or their eco-friendly counterparts like Graze (healthy snacks; I’ve tried this one too), Conscious Box (green goods), or Umba Box (handcrafted gifts; which I’ve also been gifted in the past)?

And, more importantly, do you find them to be a slippery slope into gimmicky consumerism - or an efficient way to sample products custom chosen for you, rather than leave or not use a full-sized product that you may not love?
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