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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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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EmpowerHER: The PowHER of Your Unapologetic Self

“Phenomenal Woman, That’s Me” –Maya Angelou 

Image above captured by Urban Love Tree Photography

From Cubicles to Cocktails

Recently, I attended an amazing event entitled “The PowHER of Your Unapologetic Self,” hosted by one of my fellow Houston bloggers—Christa Clarke! This event was part of her signature series Cubicles to Cocktails, a quarterly soiree for success-minded women of color to unite after work and exchange thought-provoking conversation over cocktails. Sounds fun, right?! IT WAS!

Christa’s blog www.freeingshe.com and Instagram page @freeingshe are both dedicated to empowering career-driven women of color to truly flourish in ALL aspects of life! She is the go-to person for inspiration on ways to invest in your career, create your ideal lifestyle, and for tools/resources to live life unapologetically free. She produces amazing content, so do yourself a favor and go check out her webpage and social media when you get a chance!

Sip and Shop

It was such a pleasure seeing so many success-minded women of color networking, fellowshipping, and investing in one another. The event hosted local vendors and attendees were able to sip and shop with minority-owned businesses prior to the start of the workshop. Here are some of the local vendors in attendance that evening:

 Kisa Kisa Fashion | www.kisakisafashion.com/
Sterling Silver Vision | Instagram @sterling_silver_vision
I Am So Kate Boutique | www.iamsokate.net/
OurFroPicks Natural Hair and Body Care Products | OurFroPicks.com/
Spectrum Bartending | www.SpectrumMobileBartending.com

After the first hour of the soiree, the setting transitioned into a workshop. Tracy Carmen-Jones, President and Founder of The WaterLight Group, led us in a thought-provoking discussion on the importance of being your authentic self in the workplace.

Unzip the layers

She used her hobby of skiing to drive home the message that in order to be your authentic self in the workplace, you have to be vulnerable and relatable! For example, when we go skiing we have to layer up. We put on a tank, a shirt, a thermal, a jacket, and a coat. But, if you want your life to change at work, you are going to have to unzip the layers! You want your fellow colleagues to get to know you as a person, so when opportunities arise they will consider you.

What are you a resource for?

People want to know who you are—what makes you relatable? Can they consider you a resource? Performance capital alone is not enough. You want to establish performance capital AND relationship capital. For me, I want my colleagues to know that excellence is the standard and that I am the go-to person to get the job done as far as performance! As for relationship, I want my colleagues to know that I am fun, outgoing and creative! I am currently “on a living spree” and I am not shy about sharing my travel experiences, my creative pursuits and fashion inspiration. I am not ashamed of who I am and I want to own that same confidence in the workplace as well as outside of the workplace.

Create Your Own Personal Narrative

As Ms. Jones stressed, you are the creator of your personal narrative—what do you want to say? You get to decide what people know about you and how they interact with you. Decide what you want them to know and LIVE IT! Start talking about the things you care about and things you like to do. Start creating your own personal narrative in the workplace!

Bring YOUrself to Work!

I encourage you to consider topics you can bring up next time you have a conversation in the workplace. I challenge you to figure out what exactly you want your colleagues to know about you professionally and personally and begin developing that narrative in your conversations and interactions the next couple of days. What can you do as early as tomorrow to have more open dialogue about yourself in the workplace? Could you possibly attend a happy hour after work with coworkers that you don’t normally engage with? Take a coffee break or attend lunch with someone mid-day? Remember, you create your own narrative. Bring yourself to work, not your representative!

Don’t forget to check out Christa’s website www.freeingshe.com and subscribe to her blog for updates on the next Cubicles to Cocktails event. Trust me, you do not want to miss it! Invest in yourself, invest in your business, and invest in your life!

 

 

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Living Single: 5 Ways To Start Living and Enjoy the Wait!

“Forget yesterday. It has already forgotten you. Don’t sweat tomorrow. You haven’t even met. Instead, open your eyes, and your heart to a truly precious gift; today.” 

As Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. Single Awareness Day lol) is around the corner, I’ve started considering my own journey through singleness and wanted to share with you some things I’ve learned along the way. However, I do have a couple of disclaimers. This is not an I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T I don’t need a man post. It is not a guide on what to do while you’re waiting on marriage, as I realize that  may not be the desire for everyone. Nor is it a post stating that we should all be alone because I do believe that God put us here to enjoy life and make memories with a significant other. This post is about you, your life, and being whole. I want you to consider viewing singleness not only as a gift, but also a time in your life for personal development. I believe that our purpose on this Earth is greater than getting married or “getting chose” as some say. Many people want to be in a relationship one day and don’t want to be alone, but what if this season is purposed for you to develop personally, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even physically? A time to become everything God intended for you to be. I want to share with you five ways I chose to maximize my singleness and make the most out of every day of my life. How I chose to stop wishing, hoping, waiting and obsessing over “tomorrow” and started living for today.

1. Take a solo trip for the soul

As we all know, I have absolutely no problem booking a flight and traveling to places I’ve never been before. I’ve traveled with friends, family, groups of people I’ve met for the first time when I arrived at the destination and I’ve even taken a solo trip! Yes, I have traveled alone before and I highly encourage everyone to do so if you can. To be honest, solo trips can work for anyone whether you’re in a relationship, single, married, introverted, extroverted or otherwise. You learn a lot about yourself traveling solo and you get the chance to step outside of your comfort zone to meet new people, discover a new place, move at the beat of your own drum, as well as time to reflect. Personal growth often happens in solitude and it can be refreshing, inspiring, and invigorating. When is the last time you had to follow your instincts and listen to your inner voice? When is the last time you were able to enjoy solitude during your vacation and not have to worry about the actions or needs of travel companions? When is the last time you did something for the first time? I promise you will not regret taking a solo trip and you will be so happy that you did when you return. Take that leap of faith if you haven’t already and embrace the adventure of solo travel!

2. Focus on being whole

Sometimes living your best life is not always an outer expression, but focusing on your inner self. As mentioned in my previous post, I made the conscious decision to find out exactly who I am and focus on becoming whole. Life doesn’t begin when you get in a relationship and neither does your purpose or identity. Have you ever asked yourself, what do I like to do? How do I like to spend my time? What brings me joy and happiness? What are my non-negotiables, morals, and standards? Along the lines of traveling solo, I’ve even taken myself out for dinner and a glass of wine and had a “Netflix and chill” session right at home a couple of times. Some of you may think this is crazy and even embarrassing (lol), but I think it is an act of confidence! There is something liberating about not having the pressure of ALWAYS feeling like you have to have someone to do things or go places. If you want to go somewhere, go! Sometimes, you can learn more about yourself alone than you would in the company of others. There is nothing more attractive and alluring about a person that is sure of himself/herself and knows exactly what he/she wants! In the end, you want to be complete and lacking nothing when you do form a relationship with someone else.

3. Secure the bag

Once I realized the importance of self-sufficiency, I became financially stable. I learned how to save money and get out of debt, boost my credit score and even purchased a brand new house. I did all of these things to provide security for me and my future family. Some people tie their financial security to their significant other or even wait to get their finances together when they get in a relationship. Make sure that, at the end of the day, your pockets are filled and you’re not waiting and depending on a handout from anyone. Make sure that you can take care of you. Not only does financial security give you confidence, but also it sets the stage for your future and generations to come. These days, the focus should be on generating wealth, not simply becoming rich. Why not start laying a great financial foundation for your family now instead of waiting until later? And imagine if your future significant other has the same mindset and doing the same thing as you during this time! Both of you will be well-equipped and ready to build an empire together. Meanwhile, secure the bag sis!

4. View singleness as a gift, not a curse

Next, I began to embrace my single season for the gift that it is! I realized that singleness is a season where I have the freedom to get up and go and not have to answer to anyone but myself. I could decide on the company I kept or decide not to engage at all. I have the power to choose what my day looks like and my emotions are not dependent on the actions or lack thereof of someone else. With that being said, get out of the house, meet people, be social, go on dates and learn how to engage with diverse groups of people. Tis the season to make moves!

5. Live for today, not for tomorrow

What a time to be alive! Time that you will never get back or see again. One of the main reasons why I’ve made the conscious decision to thrive in this season is because of my fear of regret. I do not want to look back and wish I could have, should have, or would have done something differently. I also realized that it was unhealthy to consciously live day-to-day thinking about tomorrow and not living for today. Constantly asking myself when is this going to end? Is this man the one? So on and so forth. Instead, I check-in with myself daily and ask myself—Was today worth it? Did you give your very best? Did you do exactly what you needed to and wanted to do? Are you pleased with your life? I hope that you begin to live every single day as if it was your last and look at tomorrow as a gift. Thrive in this season of singleness (today) and when it is time for you to be with someone or get married then that would be the icing on the cake (the gift)!

Nothing lasts forever and I promise your time will come. Continue to focus on being the best you that you can be and keep your mentality worry-free. Comment below if you’ve ever shared similar sentiments or could relate in some way. I want to hear from you!

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Let’s Go On A Living Spree!

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” -Oprah Winfrey

Welcome to My Living Spree!

The blog has been a long time coming ya’ll. It was on my heart to write this blog for at least 3 years, but of course I never acted on it. Have you ever heard of imposter syndrome? Well, I had a terrible case of it! Basically, its when a person is unable to internalize their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” Why would anyone listen to what I have to say? I’m no real blogger, I hate writing and grammar and I have no experience in this field. And if you really know me, you know that I am the most technologically unsavvy (I made that word up lol) person you will meet. The thought of having to deal with technology updates and the like literally gives me anxiety!

I’ve played by the rule book all of my life. My constant mantra was, “go to school and get an education so you can get a good job.” Therefore, I excelled at the top of my class at an International Baccalaureate High School (a.k.a. junior college 0_O) and graduated from Top 20 Vanderbilt University, not once but twice, with a Bachelor’s of Arts and a Master’s in Nursing before the age of 25. Then, I landed a certification in not one but two specialities (just in case I couldn’t get a job as a Midwife, I could always work as an Family NP). I played it really safe. Don’t get me wrong, women’s and/or children’s health was always in my heart and still is now. But, choosing a safe career over creativity was the easier and faster route to get me where I wanted to be. And a “for sure” way to become what I thought was “successful.” I was wrong.

The catalyst

You may be wondering where I am going with this. Basically, I became tired of living day to day without that spark, that flame that I knew I had inside of me. Let’s be clear, I love my job and my career (not leaving anytime soon either!), but I knew there was a part of me deep down inside that wanted to explore the more creative Ashley. In 2015 things changed. At the time, I had not traveled for at least 3 years and I said to myself, I have to come out of this hiatus! Traveling is one of my passions. I literally come alive when I travel and I felt like that would be the beginning of rekindling the flame inside of me. This became the catalyst to my living spree!

What is my living spree?

I first heard the term living spree in Kanye’ West’s song “Good Life.” In the verse he says, “let’s go on a living spree, they say the best things in life are free.” When I heard it, I immediately wanted to define the term for myself (I’m always Googling something). The definition of living, “the pursuit of a lifestyle of the specified type or being alive.” Then, the definition of spree, “an unrestrained indulgence in or outburst of an activity.” My living spree is a chance to inspire others to live their best lives— indulging in any and everything that makes them feel alive, or even the lifestyle they’ve always dreamed of. My own personal living spree is not limited to travel, but self-discovery through fashion, self-love, and empowering women to become who they were destined to be and much more. We all serve a purpose on this Earth and so many of us have no idea of what that is. I can say I’ve discovered mine and it’s so much more than the degrees, career, accolades, trips, blog, Instagram pics, and the like (pun intended lol). It’s bigger than me.

What is your living spree?

I challenge you to discover your own living spree. It may be going back to school for your master’s degree, starting that business you’ve always wanted, taking acting classes, taking the MCAT, starting your own school or taking on a leadership role within your professional career. Whatever it is, I challenge you to stop and consider yourself, what you want, and what you know to be true. Do more of what energizes you and give yourself a chance for once. As you embark on this journey with me, I hope it inspires you to begin your own living spree. My prayer is that by the time we leave this Earth, we all would have lived our best life—A life of purpose, fulfillment, and true happiness from within. No stone left unturned. One of my good friends said something to me a couple of days ago that I will never forget. She said, “You can’t find yourself if you’re not looking.” So, let’s go on a living spree!

 

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