A Staycation in Style at Hotel Alessandra Houston

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some STYLE.”

Maya Angelou

My first experience at Hotel Alessandra was last year in June 2018, when I visited for my very first staycation. Needless to say, this experience left a lasting impression and I knew I had to return one day. So, I booked a one-night stay and I was so excited to experience Hotel Alessandra all over again!

Top: Thrifted | Skirt: Zara | Shoes: Steve Madden

As I pulled up to the hotel, the valet and concierge greeted me with smiles and grabbed my bags quickly. I was offered a cold bottle of Fiji water and escorted to the second floor to check-in. The staff was friendly, welcoming, and excited for my arrival.

Accommodations

The rooms are cozy, yet sophisticated and offer amazing downtown views encased by floor-to-ceiling windows. The bathrooms are marble with a free-standing tub, which opens up by sliding doors to the rest of the room.

The interior design of the room is stylish and sleek. I spent most of my time snuggling in bed or lounging on the beautiful emerald couch that was nestled right under a reading lamp. This was the perfect place for relaxation, which was the ultimate goal of my entire stay.

Amenities

There’s a second floor restaurant and bar inside the hotel, so guests don’t have to leave the premises at all for good food or a good time. Lucienne restaurant specializes in modern Mediterranean cuisine and offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. I definitely plan to return soon to try their food as I’ve heard so many good reviews!

Lucienne Restaurant

Across from the restaurant is Bar Bardot, which specializes in serving delicious, hand crafted cocktails and small bites. I had their truffle fries and they were so delicious!

Bar Bardot
Top: Thrifted | Skirt: ZARA | Shoes: Missguided

I spent some time on the 5th floor rooftop pool area enjoying the amazing views of downtown Houston. The pool area is small, but really nice. I actually prefer the intimacy of small pool areas, especially for rest and relaxation. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t permit me to take a dip in the pool. But, I plan to return during the summer to have some fun in the sun!

Top: Nastygal | Pants: ZARA | Headwrap: Thrifted
Rooftop Pool

There is also a spa on the 5th floor, which plan to visit during my return. I love getting massages and facials as part of my self care. I found a deal here that offers EITHER a 60-minute Alessandra all-inclusive massage OR a classic Custom European facial for only $99! (Please note, this offer is only valid Monday-Friday). Needless to say, I’ll be scheduling a massage pretty soon!

Dress: Shop NR Closet
Use Code: LIVINGSPREE for 20% off at checkout

Convenience

Hotel Alessandra is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Houston. The hotel is minutes away from the Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park, George R Brown Convention Center, and Discovery Green Park—some of Houston’s main attractions. If you’re looking for entertainment and nightlife, the Houston House of Blues and Lucky Strikes Bowling Alley are next door along with other eateries and bars you can visit.  Also, Main Street is 2 blocks away and offers more restaurants, lounges, bars, and beautiful downtown scenery perfect for photo ops.  Two of my favorite places, Forever 21 and Starbucks, are next door to the hotel as well.

Jogger Set: My Living Spree

Top of the line from start to finish

Hotel Alessandra prides itself on providing a luxurious, yet familiar experience for all from start to finish. I can truly say I received 5 star service. They even offer complimentary car service for guests who need to be picked up or dropped off at local destinations within radius of the hotel. Not only does the hotel offer free rides, but they offer free rides in a fancy car! Yes, the black Maserati is the complimentary car for all guests to ride in style.

Lasting Impression

If you’re looking for a perfect place in Houston for a staycation, Hotel Alessandra is a standout hotel. The accommodations are top of the line and the staff are super friendly and helpful. The entire experience will make you feel like you’re on vacation at a luxurious European resort, yet you’re right at home!

Be sure to check it out one day! Rates are pretty good on the weekends, which is perfect timing for an inexpensive getaway. If you have any questions or need more recommendations let me know. 🙂 Until next time, let’s go on a living spree!

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EmpowerHER: 7 Ways to Support and Lift Women Higher

“People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.”

Michelle Obama

March was Women’s History Month—a time to honor women in history, inform the present and inspire future generations. While March marked the national celebration of women, I believe it is our job as women to empower, uplift, encourage, motivate and support women higher every day. We must commit to serving each other in order to fulfill our purpose and make this world a better place. Your sister needs you and below are 7 ways you can support and lift your sister higher:


Pictured with Houston style blogger: @aroundthewaygyrl
Photographer: @sweenshots

1. Show up for her, physically and emotionally

Your sister needs to know that you are there for her and that you care for her. Sometimes the only person that can relate to you is your sister because she has been through what you are going through and/or understands you. She needs your support and to know that you have her back no matter what. Ask her if you can help her with something or be of service to her in any way. Whether it’s stopping by her house to check on her, or showing up at her event, let her know that you care! If she is going through a rough patch, lend a shoulder for her to lean, pray for her or send her words of encouragement. Lastly, celebrate her accomplishments and victories along with her! She may need the reinforcement and reassurance to keep going.

2. Collaborate, don’t compete

This one is simple. We are a movement by ourselves, but we are a force when we’re together! There’s power in numbers and we can work wonders if we collaborate and build together. The goal should be to build each other up instead of tearing each other down or competing against one another. Let go of the selfish “mine, mine, mine” mentality. There is enough out here for all of us to eat. We can build so much more together than we ever will apart.

3. Create a safe space for women to use their voice

Let’s open up! We need to create more safe spaces for women to come together and openly share their experiences, struggles and triumphs. Likely your sister is going through the same thing you are and she needs your support too. And if she hasn’t, it is highly likely that your story will inspire you in some way or shed some wisdom on you or give hope. It’s our stories that give us access and connection to each other.It’s uplifting and encouraging when you know you are not alone in your journey and the only way we know that is by sharing our stories with one another. Let’s continue having conferences, brunches, dinners, talks, girl’s night, interviews and other spaces for women to thrive.

4. Speak to who she is at her core

Society tells us to focus more on external beauty rather than who we are on the inside. We continue that narrative with projection of physical beauty and validation toward each other. No, I am not saying not to compliment women for being beautiful. Please continue to keep that energy going! However, let her know that you value other attributes about her as well! What about her generosity, kindness, humility and integrity? What about the way she gives back to her local community? Speak to who she is at her core. Remember: The most attractive thing about you should have less to do with your face and body and more to do with your heart and how you treat people.

5. Support her new pursuits or life transitions

If she is starting a new business, support it by telling others about her business or purchasing her new product or service! If she has a new baby, visit her and take her food! And if she’s moving into a new apartment or home, ask if you can help her move! Sometimes we need that extra push and encouragement to know that our sister has our back through life’s transitions. It gives a sense of security knowing that someone is supporting us along the way.

6. Create authentic relationships and friendships with each other

This one is huge! How often do you go to events, meetups or conferences and other women size you up before you even open your mouth? They either don’t want to speak to you because you don’t “appear” to be important or they run to you because they feel that you can take them to the next level. Listen, we need to forge genuine relationships with everyone! Let’s give everyone the same energy, time and attention. Trust me, you never know who you will need one day and you could miss out on a great relationship or network by putting up a wall.

7. Open doors for the women coming behind you

Lastly, let’s continue to create opportunities for the women that are coming behind us. Hire women, inspire women, uplift women, give back to women, mentor women and teach women things that you have learned. Be the person that you had or wished you had when you were in that same position. Sew the seeds that others have sewn into your life.

Let’s continue celebrating each other beyond Women’s History Month, beyond #WomanCrushWednesday, and beyond the exterior. We are all powerful in our own right and it is time to unleash that power within us and within each other! What is one way you can commit to uplifting women in the coming days, weeks or months? I want to hear from you!

Don’t forget to like, comment, and share this post for everyone to read on your social media platforms! Until next time, let’s go on a living spree!

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Becoming: Reflections from My First Year of Blogging

“The brand you are building will impact the world. So will your success story of how it all began.”

How it all started

When I started My Living Spree a year ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, what the blog would become, who would support it, or how I would manage it. All I knew was that God placed a calling on my life that would help me realize my God-given purpose. As mentioned in my first blog post, I felt an intense urge to move beyond my comfort zone and to express my creativity in a new way. I decided to go on a living spree that entailed doing anything and everything that came to me naturally. I wanted to work on improving every area of my life—mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Simply put, I wanted to live my best life from the inside out.

One year later

Here we are one year later, and I am immensely grateful for growth, fulfillment, and everything that manifested in my life as a result of my decision to abandon my comfort zone. I’m proud to say that My Living Spree has excelled exceedingly, abundantly above all that I could ever ask for or think about and it’s all because I said “YES!” to my purpose and allowed God to move freely in my life. Today, My Living Spree is not only a blog, but it is also a brand and a lifestyle. It is one of my greatest accomplishments to date.

The key to growth

I could give you the “Social Media” politically correct answer to growth (and I probably will in a later post just for your reference lol). But honestly, the key to real growth is believing in yourself, and not following an ever-changing algorithm. If you focus on external or superficial measures of growth, you will always have to change who you are, and you will never find your true voice. Instead, I learned to focus on creating content that I loved and having confidence in myself and my platform. No matter the odds stacked against me, including low or stagnant follower count, imposter syndrome, and self-doubt (to name a few), I believed relentlessly that I would defy and overcome all barriers to realizing my purpose. And I did. I knocked the analytics out of the park and grew in every tangible way you can imagine. I am extremely grateful for the growing community of people who genuinely love, support, and believe in me and my brand.

With your support and my faith, I landed numerous brand collaborations, magazine features, and partnerships. I sold hundreds of dollars in apparel and created a lifestyle brand—all with no prior experience. I attended New York Fashion Week for the first time as an influencer and blogger for an incredible fashion show. I say all of this to show you that it can be done! The key is to tap into the greatness inside of you and to hold onto it fearlessly, even in the face of doubt and insecurity.

Purpose over popularity

Although I am grateful for growth, the intangible results matter the most. All the external markers of a successful blog community pale in comparison to the countless messages I received from people who believe my daily devotional posts enhanced their prayer life; people who have explained how my fitness journey motivated them to level up and become their best self; or the people who have been inspired to experiment with fashion trends they never would have considered before. I’ve encouraged, motivated, and inspired people near and far just by sharing my story with transparency and being true to Ashley. Sometimes God uses your purpose to propel others into their destiny. Operating in your purpose is crucial because it can help others become who God destined them to be.

The growth that I am MOST proud of is the growth that I’ve witnessed from within. My life suddenly changed. I realized that God empowered me to deliver something that ultimately delivered me. Above all else, My Living Spree is a form of therapy for me. Through its transformative power, I am healing and allowing God to deliver me from everything that has ever held me back! I am rewriting the narratives of “no” and “you’re not good enough” that plagued my life. If you recall from this blog post, I was in a very dark place in 2016. The self-hate and insecurity I felt had seeped into every aspect of my life to a point where I didn’t even recognize myself. Today, as I reflect on a year of My Living Spree, I declare victory over every lie I was taught to believe about myself. I now know that confident, fierce, and fabulous Ashley was right here all along.

Transparency is key

I used to go back and forth about how much of my story I wanted to share with the world until I realized that this is bigger than me. My Living Spree is not your everyday lifestyle blog. Rather, it’s a “Life” and “Style” blog teaching you how to “live on purpose, in style.” Here, you will see the shine and the struggle. The glow-ups and the let-downs. As I motivate and empower you to level up, trust me I am doing the same. I realized that I have a responsibility that is beyond me. If I am to fulfill my purpose, I must be as transparent as possible about my journey to becoming everything God wants me to be. My prayer is that by sharing my story I encourage at least one person not to give up.

Yes, I am going to keep serving, slaying and educating on the latest in fashion, fitness, travel, and more! But, beyond that, I have committed to digging deeper and sharing more of my life and my journey to the woman I am today. The beauty of it is, I am not done. I am constantly evolving and becoming. Let me just say, it’s about to get real y’all. I promise it will be worth it, so tap in, fully commit and buckle up for this ride! In 2019, I am living life unapologetically! And I invite you to do the same. Let’s go on a Living Spree!

Photographer: @jp.hanney_visuals

Styled by Me

Beret: Nasty Gal

Lace Bodysuit: Mod Chic Couture

Leather Pleated Skirt: H&M

Red Suede “Wagner” Booties: Steve Madden

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How I Conquered New York Fashion Week in 2 Days

“I’m living my best life…”

Indulging Life

My latest living spree was my very first New York Fashion Week experience. I was only in NYC for a weekend getaway so naturally, I crammed a ton of things into 2 days! But, that’s what a living spree is all about—indulging life no matter what. For over 6 years, participating in NYFW was a bucket list dream of mine.  However, I always came up with an excuse not to attend—I’m not qualified to be there; I have to work; I am not prepared, etc. This year, I refused to get in my own way again and I finally took that leap of faith! This blog will cover some specifics of the fashion, but I would like to focus more on the experience I had in hopes of inspiring you to take a leap and do something you’ve always wanted to do as well. You never know the outcome unless you try!

Top: SHIFT StyleHouse | Skirt: Marshall’s (old $7) | Booties: Steve Madden “Wagner” | Handbag: Kisa Kisa

Fueling My Creativity

NYC is pure magic and is always a source of inspiration and entertainment for me. Although I’m from the South, I’ve always loved the hustle and bustle of the city. Maybe it’s the tall skyscrapers and city scape that make me feel fearless or maybe it’s the creativity that I see simply by people watching. Whatever it is, it’s like a breath of fresh air. I wanted to enjoy the city and some of the entertainment and sights on the first day in order to maximize my time and also my experience. I dedicated day 1 of my living spree to exploring the city.

Rose Mansion was the first stop on the agenda for Saturday. Rose Mansion is a traveling museum dedicated to the history and making of rosé. It’s also every blogger’s dream because it’s filled with tons of boomerang and photo ops—a “content” castle if you will! While walking through the rooms of the museum, we sampled 10 different rosé from all over the world while learning the history of this classic beverage. Although Rose Mansion had nothing to do with fashion week, it was an awesome way to get my “creative juices flowing” (pun intended lol)!

(Enjoying Rose Mansion with Friends Shyla and Danielle!)

(Final sample of the day: Sway Rose’ from Texas)

Next stop was Dumbo Brooklyn to experience the infamous Washington Street—everyone’s favorite street for a photo op. This location is popular because of its corridor-like view of the Manhattan Bridge. As you walk closer to the bridge to the end of the street, there is a spectacular view of the East River. I’m always searching for a breathtaking view when I travel and this spot definitely lived up to the hype!

Top: Thrifted | Pants: ModChic Couture | Metallic Pumps: Zara | Tassle Earrings: Ch0ked

Essence Street Style

After exploring the city on Saturday and catching up with friends, I finally got to the nitty gritty of my NY fashion weekend experience on Sunday. First stop—Essence Street Style. “Street Style” began as a section of Essence magazine and has since evolved into a block party and staple of NYFW.  Hundreds gather in fabulous “street style” fashion to celebrate black culture, community and style. When you look around, everyone was dressed to the nines and photoshoot ready. I was beaming from ear to ear and taking notes at the same time ☺

Top: Thrifted shirt tied into bandeau | Pants: House of Chic L.A. | Wedges: LolaShoetique

There were numerous black-owned vendors at the block party, so I did what I do best—shop!  My first purchase of the day was a stunning gold choker. I had been looking for a statement a piece just like it, so you can imagine how excited I was to finally find it! I also had a chance to see the new Lebron James limited edition women’s sneaker, which is the result of a collaboration spearheaded by incredible black women designers and a partnership between Nike and Harlem’s Fashion Row (“HFR”), a movement founded to increase diversity in fashion. It was great to see the shoes in person and also to learn about their ground-breaking significance, especially given that the shoes sold out in little over 5 minutes after they launched earlier that week.

(Ran into Houston Beauty Guru and Founder of Lamik Cosmetics, Kim Roxie)

(Lebron James Women’s Sneaker)

My First Fashion Show

After spending less than 30 minutes at Essence Street Style Festival, I hopped in a Lyft and rode from Brooklyn back to Manhattan to attend my first fashion show. I was beyond excited! Not only was this the first real fashion show I had ever attended, but it was definitely my first time attending as press and receiving a media pass! Back in May, I attended an event in Houston titled “A Girl’s Guide to NYFW” in collaboration with handbag designer Elizabeth (“Beth”) Purpich. At the end of the event, Beth announced that she would be showcasing her designs at NYFW and passed out invitations to all attendees at the event! I was so excited and at that moment, I made the decision that I would attend my very first fashion show since the opportunity presented itself. I kept in contact with Beth via email and she offered me a VIP/Press pass and an opportunity to interview her prior to the show. I was honored and elated!

(Pictured with designers Elizabeth Purpich and Veronica Purpich)

During the Cesar x Beth Fashion Show, Beth showcased her handbags in collaboration with the clothing designs of Cesar Galindo. I was so honored to attend and support designers who are both from Houston. The show boasted a colorful mix of zebra prints, sequins, and florals all with an “Afro punk” vibe. I LOVED almost everything the designers sent down the runway and would definitely wear some of the outfits personally. I think most of us millennials are looking toward Africa for fashion inspiration and creativity, so the designs felt timely and on point.

The Interview with designer, Elizabeth Purpich

The highlight of the night was my interview with Beth and her sister-in-law Veronica. This was so special to me not only because it was my first interview experience, but also because I learned that Beth is on a living spree herself! During the interview, Beth noted that she is a self-taught designer, whose vision for creating handbags came to her in a dream. She brought that vision to life in the form of the now popular “Longhorn” handbag. This was the catalyst to her starting a one-of-a-kind designer handbag line. Prior to releasing her first line, she had no prior experience in fashion or design.  She simply followed her dream and the rest is history. Five years later, the Elizabeth Purpich collection is not only a successful handbag collection in Texas, but all over the country. Beth’s living spree is pursuing her dream through embracing her creativity and embarking on a journey that has unlocked her true potential! Watch a clip from the interview below:

(Beth was excited to receive her “My Living Spree” tee!)

(Pictured above with designer Cesar Galindo)

The Magic of Time Square

After the fashion show, I literally stumbled into Times Square! My face lit up like a kid in a candy store. Walking up and down the blocks on Broadway, seeing all of the lights and billboard signs was literally a dream come true. I had forgotten the magic of Times Square. It was in that moment that I stopped for a photo op (as always lol) and made the promise to myself that I would be back. I promised myself to never diminish my potential and to always believe in myself. I vowed to operate as if I belong in any and every situation and to always seize every opportunity that comes my way.

Two Day Takeaway

I definitely wish I could have stayed longer than 2 days because there was so much more to see and do. Experiencing NYFW in two days was nearly impossible, but it worked for me in my own way. I was grateful for the experience I had, the inspiration I gained from being in the city, and the connections I made at the shows. I learned that it’s all about setting intentions and putting yourself out there. Never allow fear to keep you from doing something because you never know what good things can come out of it.  Next year, I plan to do NYFW again, but bigger and better than ever!

 

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Moodie Foodie: Healthy Food For Any Mood!

Lately, I’ve been in search of ways to eat healthier, while simultaneously making it fun and cost-friendly! For people like me, healthy eating can be a chore and meal prepping can be mundane. Do you feel like you don’t know where to begin when it comes to making healthy choices or rather you’ve been eating healthy but need new ideas and recipes? If the answer is yes to both, then this blog post is for you! I’ve teamed up with a fellow Vanderbilt alumna and food blogger, Garrah Carter-Mason, to bring you tips and ideas to eat healthier foods! Garrah has a wonderful food blog filled with inspiration for delicious meals to cook and restaurants to visit! Below, Garrah shares a little about her healthy eating journey, her secret to saving money when grocery shopping, and her favorite go-to meals for everyday life!

Making a lifestyle change

Healthy eating has become “something like a phenomenon” and I’m loving it! I started my healthy eating journey in undergrad when I decided to cut red meat out of my diet. I ate fish and chicken for years and eventually cut those out as well. Now, I am a vegetarian and my body loves me for it! I advocate for healthy eating because I want to see people live longer, stronger, and healthier lives. My body changed in a major way since I changed my lifestyle.  

Dispelling the myth

I know you’re probably thinking—Why would I even try to eat healthy when it’s so time-consuming and expensive? Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a myth! I eat healthy every day (with a cheat meal or gluten-free donut every now and then lol). I don’t spend a ton of money and my meals don’t take a lot of time to prepare!

What’s my secret? Well, let’s start with grocery shopping! I go to the grocery stores (Kroger and/or Trader Joes) once a week and spend about $30 dollars (crazy, right?). My shopping cart is usually filled with alkaline water, nut milk, beans, veggies, fruits, protein supplements, more veggies and more fruit! These items aren’t really that expensive especially when you purchase a variety of fresh produce.

A day in the life

I’ll go through a day in the life (with a breakfast, snack, and dinner recipe) to show how easy eating healthy really is!

Breakfast

Breakfast: 5-minute avocado toast | Ingredients: 2 slices of sourdough toast, 1 avocado, crushed red pepper, sea salt, black pepper, fresh squeezed lime juice, and cilantro. Toast the bread, mash slices of avocado on it, and add toppings. See, easy peasy!

Midday snack

Now, let’s do a midday snack—a smoothie bowl! In a blender, combine frozen fruit, protein powder, coconut water, and 1 avocado. Blend together until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Top with coconut flakes, chia seeds, granola (plenty of it), and fresh fruit of your choice. Again, that took all of what, 5 minutes?

Dinner

Now, I know most of you reading this are probably in school or working a full-time job and don’t have time for long, drawn-out recipes. So, here’s a quick and easy one. It’s called a Buddha bowl, and you can make it any way you want. All it encompasses is a protein, a starch, and veggies of your choice! I roast chickpeas in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Add them to your bowl. Also add fresh corn, kale, brown rice, and scallions. Top with salsa. That’s it! I promise it’s as easy and good as it sounds.

Your body will thank you

Now you see that healthy eating doesn’t have to consume your life; it can actually be fun once you get the hang of it and start seeing results! I am a testament! Since I’ve changed my eating habits I have been able to maintain a healthy weight, my skin is better, my digestive system is better, I have more energy, and I am all around a happier person! All you have to do is just start by experimenting with the recipes above and add foods that you like! Mix things up a bit and always find ways to look for new inspiration when you start to get tired eating the same things. No matter what you do, continue eating healthy and make it a habit and it will eventually become part of your lifestyle!

For more recipes: check out my blog @birdfoodie on Instagram and BirdFoodie on Facebook! If you have any questions or would like to get in touch, please email me at birdfoodietn@gmail.com. Stay tuned for the plant-based recipe book that I will be releasing soon!

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