Monthly Archives: July 2013

As an avid traveler, one of my intentions when I started this blog was to have a lot of it centered around some of the cool places I am fortunate enough/spend all my money to go to. Because so much of this year has been about Miss USA, I haven’t gone on as many trips as usual, but that’s all about to change! This past weekend I went to Chicago for the BlogHer Conference with my roommate/bestie/travel partner in crime, Taryn of Women Can Talk Sports.

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Listening to one of my FAVORITE bloggers, The Pioneer Woman speak on the success of her blog.

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#wanderlust #takingnotes

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I love a good queen!

We had a great time at the conference, learned a lot, were equal parts impressed and annoyed by Sheryl Sandberg’s live q&a session, yada yada yada… but let’s get real, WE WANTED TO HAVE SOME FUN IN THE WINDY CITY! Turns out, fun would be an understatement.

When I write my travel blogs, the focus will be on cool places where you the reader might want to go, but let me take a second to say that you the reader probably won’t get to stay in my friend Lauren’s penthouse… BUT that isn’t going to stop me from bragging about staying there/posting photos of it!!!!!! So jealous that she gets to live there!
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In addition to staying in a penthouse fit for a queen, I also woke up to this breakfast on Sunday morning. Southern hospitality in Chicago! Thanks LL, you’re the best!

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Clearly we couldn’t get enough of the view from her patio! #cornerunitwhatwhat

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One thing you should know up front is that when I desire to travel somewhere, a big part of that desire is based on whether or not I want to eat the indigenous cuisine… and because no one loves Guiliana and Bill more than Taryn and I, our first order of business was getting a reservation at their newly opened restaurant in Chicago, RPM Italian. Since G and I are basically besties from when I got to meet her for 30 seconds at Miss USA, this happened: (yeah yeah it was on twitter, I must’ve lost her phone number… 😉 sorry/not sorry about all of this bragging!)
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As if that wasn’t a great enough start to our night, guess who happened to be at the restaurant? None other than Bill Rancic himself, who by the way was so incredibly nice and gracious, even though he was being stopped for photos nearly every 10 seconds. (I hardly even noticed how handsome he is.)

Yes that IS a crop top turtleneck. So what alright?

Yes that IS a crop top turtleneck. So what alright? Also, despite what this photo suggests, Bill and I are not giants, we were just standing on a step together. *Swoon

Oh… so you wanted to know more about the restaurant and less about my celebrity encounters? Ok, well it was just as fantastic as meeting them. So firstly, if you want to go to RPM, make a reservation ASAP because we made ours weeks in advance and weren’t able to get in until 10:30 PM. (It was Saturday night…) When we got there, it was PACKED and it was still PACKED when we left. (For good reason I might add, cool ambiance, great food, potential Rancic sightings, etc.)

Can you find anything on there that sounds appetizing? I thought so.

Can you find anything on there that sounds appetizing? I thought so.

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I know I’m going to enjoy a dinner when my compadres are down to share lots of dishes – and that’s exactly what we did! Take notes Matty Ride and Lauren Wedertz! haha

Obbbbbviously, we ordered everything that Giuliana told us to, plus a few extras. We ate it all. YUM.

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Truffle garlic bread and meatballs. So. Good. Although, you could put truffle oil on a piece of cardboard and I would probably declare it delightful. Meatballs aren’t something I would usually order, but Giuliana said so! Also, they were more than edible. I scarfed mine down and finished Taryn’s too…

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Shaved brussel sprout salad – for those who haven’t had one, it sounds kind or weird but it’s basically brussel sprouts, parmesan, avocado… what’s not to love?

Mama DiPandi's pasta and, you guessed it, truffled gnocchi. We had no trouble polishing these off.

Mama DiPandi’s pasta and, you guessed it, truffle gnocchi. We had no trouble polishing these off.

Dessert... okay, two desserts. A ball of chocolate/hazelnut ice cream heaven and some pot de creme salted caramel thing that was just ok.

Dessert… okay, two desserts. A ball of chocolate/hazelnut ice cream heaven and some pot de creme salted caramel thing that was just ok – but I don’t really like pudding-ey desserts… so if that’s your thing, you would probably love it.

Reaaaaal ladylike Miss Tennessee...

Reaaaaal ladylike Miss Tennessee…

We also went for a cocktail with some friends at a cool little spot called Epic. We went up 3 levels of restaurant to one of the best rooftop patios of all time. Great cocktails, friendly staff, and gorgeous outdoor decor of sheer curtains and vines crawling up exposed brick – all in the center of the gorgeous Chicago skyline.

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We even got to meet the owner who was kind enough to buy us a drink aka insurance that I will definitely be back next time I’m in Chicago! 🙂

Kyle, Taryn, me, Lauren, and Jeff

Kyle, Taryn, me, Lauren, and Jeff

What would a trip to Chicago be without some shopping on Michigan Avenue and deep dish pizza? Tips: The Nordstrom Rack on the Magnificant Mile has great designer inventory (get there early or it gets picked over). I had heard that Giordano’s was the best deep dish, but our local friends told us to try Lou Malnati’s. (That’s another thing you should know: when traveling, I like to see the major landmarks, but what I really enjoy is going where the locals actually go.)
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“The Lou”

We also went to Millennium Park, took the obligatory picture (or 450 obligatory pictures) with “The Bean” and then walked along the waterfront.
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What a fabulous trip with excellent company! Thanks again to Lauren for showing us around and for showing us the best Southern hospitality in the Midwest! I already can’t wait to go back to Chicago!

One bizarre habit I have is repeating. If I love something, I love it sooo much – this especially applies to music (imagine me listening to the same song on repeat for several days…) and food. I have eaten so much kale salad in the past year, I’m surprised I haven’t turned green yet. And.. I’m still not sick of it.

However, I got inspired to change it up this week whilst perusing the 12th South Farmer’s Market in Nashville. There are many great farmer’s markets in Nashville, but this one is my favorite. It usually has live music, a fresh lemonade stand, food trucks, an array of artisianal vendors selling everything from homemade pasta to gourmet coffees to pie, in addition to tons of fresh local produce from different farms in the area. I came home with a bundle of goodies and threw together this simple salad, which took all of 10 minutes and tastes incredible!

You could get creative with your own fresh veggies, but this combo was top notch. All you need is:

  • cucumber
  • heirloom tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • fresh corn
  • avocado
  • sea salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • the juice of one lime
  • a drizzle of olive oil

Dice the veggies and basil, cut the corn straight of the cob, toss it all in olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper, and enjoy! This salad tastes like summer, especially when you can get your veggies fresh! Hope this gets you out of your salad rut/this is my new salad rut!

Since becoming passionate about health and nutrition in the past couple of years, there are two things that I am certain have helped me maintain my weight, feel more energized, and be healthier overall more than anything else: probiotics and digestive enzymes! (You have seen me talk a little bit about this in my article: 5 Tips For Looking Beautiful From The Inside Out!) The more I learn about the health of the human body, the more I realize that so much of our total health picture is based on what is happening in our colon (an important place – where all nutrients are absorbed… or not, depending on what you’re eating, the order you’re eating your food, and the condition of your colon!) You can be consuming tons of good nutrients, but not absorbing them.

This video from one of my favorite people on the planet, Shan Stratton, who also happens to be the nutritionist for the New York Yankees (ever heard of them? 😉 ) and almost every Major League Baseball team who describes in layman’s terms why and how this concept works (seriously, this is worth watching!):

Probiotics and digestive enzymes break down and utilize the nutrients being consumed. You can buy these products separately, or get them all in one convenient package that is portable and easy to use. I am obsessed with the Core Health Pack which has the highest quality probiotics and all of the enzymes needed to break down starch, protein, and fat. In addition, you will also be getting an antioxidant blend, a fruit and vegetable blend, and an herb blend. If you know me at all, you know that I carry these in every purse and bust them out in any situation where I eat any food that is cooked or processed. Here is a video demonstrating exactly how they work. It actually shows them breaking down real food! Check it out:
I love the Core Health Pack so much that I gifted some to every contestant at the Miss USA pageant along with a discount code for 10% that I’ll share with you! (shhh!) The one time coupon code is: missusa
Some of the benefits you may experience from taking the Core Health Pack are:

  • Maintain a Healthy Digestive System
  • Promote Strong Immune Function
  • Support a Healthy Cardiovascular System
  • Increased Fat Metabolism
  • Maximize Energy Levels
  • Enhance Digestion of Fats & Sugars
  • Promote Stronger Bones
  • Support Healthy Hair, Skin & Nails
  • Optimize Overall Health & Vitality
  • Highest Quality, Natural Ingredients
  • Superior, Balanced, Natural Formula
  • Ultimate Convenience & Value
Last video… I promise! I used to feel so confused about what supplements I needed to be taking and why? This video helps clear up confusion on that subject and explains all of the health benefits you’ll receive from taking the Core Health Pack:

As a self described half-hipster, what would I be without my mason jars?! I use them for a multitude of purposes from storing green smoothies to drinking iced tea and now also for cooking! One of my best friends from LA came to Nashville this past weekend and I decided to show her some classic southern hospitality using my beloved jars.

After giving it some serious thought, I determined that nothing could be more southern than front porch sittin’ with some moonshine! So Claire (best friend since elementary school, Miss Wyoming USA 2010, current associate producer for Dancing With the Stars, and all around impressive lady!) Jessica, (best friend since losing Miss Tennessee USA together in 2009, Miss Tennessee USA 2011, face of Oil of Olay, and all around impressive lady), and I whipped up some of this apple pie “moonshine,” bottled it up in our mason jars – complete with fabric covers, and headed to a friend’s house for a night of outdoor card games and hilarity!

Making apple pie  "moonshine"

Making apple pie “moonshine” in our country girl moonshine best! haha #PBRhatwhaaat?


Obviously our moonshine needed to look cute, so in a moment of fabric-less desperation, we decided to cut up the dress I wore when I played Auntie Em in the junior high version of “The Wizard of Oz.” (I still had that dress why…?) #totescutemoonshine

I can promise you that card games become even more fun after a few sips of this! *Nerd alert – I am not being sarcastic here, I really love a good card game, or any game for that matter!!

The next night we had a slumber party planned for our best friend quartet which started in elementary school! We stayed the night at the same mom’s house who always hosted our slumber parties in junior high! (Pinky had/has the best snack cupboard!) Our job was bringing a dessert – why not whip out the mason jars again?!

Have you ever had a skillet cookie? You know the ones – cooked on the outside, but warm, gooey, and half baked on the inside? This is an easy way to bake little individual versions of that! Make your favorite cookie dough, fill your mason jar 2/3rds full, bake for 15-18 minutes at 375 degrees  and wahhhhhlaah!


Never hurts to put some ice cream on top… hot fudge wouldn’t have tasted bad either! YUM!

Here are some fun photos of friendship/sleepovers then and now: IMG_9906 IMG_9907 IMG_9908We haven’t changed much, as you can see! These girls are so much more than friends to me, they are truly my other sisters and some of the greatest gifts I’ve been given in my lifetime! Cheers to one of the greatest weekends of this summer!

Love music? Love documentaries? 20 Feet From Stardom is a MUST SEE. I had been dying to see it for several weeks and when I finally did, it definitely lived up to the hype it has been getting. 20 Feet From Stardom does a great job of putting you in the shoes of some of the crème de la crème vocalists behind some of the most recognized recordings of our time (whose names you probably don’t even know!). The excitement of being a part of some of the greatest songs and performances in current music history mixed with the heartbreak of not having desired success in a solo career makes this piece a real insight into this sometimes accidental career path.

Another thing I loved about this documentary was seeing huge stars like Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, Bette Middler, and Sting talk about how much their background singers add to recordings and performances, how much their background singers inspire(d) them, and just how important they are overall to the music.

Sound as cool to you as it did to me? Check out the trailer here:

This snippet from a review on IMDB by jadepietro goes into more detail about some of the featured talent: “Their individual journeys are fascinating and varied. We learn that some of these session singers leave the music industry to start other careers while others still languish in the music business waiting for their next gig. One singer ends up posing for Playboy while another finds a religious calling. One even wins a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Artist for her debut album, only to find that her fame evaporate until her next recording. Probably the best known of these talents is Darlene Love who tells her tragic tale of the Svengali-like Phil Spector and his malicious control over her career. (Love poignantly admits that watching other performers lip-syncing to her voice and losing her musical identity in the process became too much for her to handle. We then actually see the footage of that act in question.)”
Already seen it? What did you think?