Scenes from Freeport, Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay and the Everglades

I can’t believe it was already a month ago that I set sail on the Norwegian Sky for a four day cruise to the Bahamas! (This cruise was actually purchased on Groupon for $400 round trip. Crazy cheap, and I was a little nervous at first about how a Groupon travel deal would work, but everything went perfectly. Now I’ll be scoping Groupon, too, when I’m planning vacations!)  Below are some of my favorite pictures from the trip. The Bahamas were beautiful, but I’m spoiled rotten to have been to many gorgeous Caribbean locations, so it was hard to top the majestic mountains and beach of St. Lucia, for example. Matt and I mostly enjoyed relaxing on the beach for four days, sipping beers and dacquiris while listening to reggae music float out from beachside bars. We did a sting-ray excursion on the island of Great Stirrup Cay, and that was awesome. I’ll try to blog later this week about our experiences with the rays, or as I call them, the cats of the sea. We finished our trip with an airboat ride in the Everglades, where we saw lots of cranes, egrets, and tiny baby alligators.

Have a tremendous Tuesday!

What’s up, Wednesday: Three things

Howdy doo! I wanted to share a few things on my mind this week 🙂

1) I’ve been reading a ton lately, and the book I’ve enjoyed most recently is The Rosie Project. This book details a brilliant, Autistic genetics professor who embarks on a personal project to find himself a wife. He gets an unexpected turn when he ends up helping a student try to identify the father she never knew. I won’t tell you any more of the story, but I loved reading from the perspective of somebody who sees the world so bluntly in black and white, and the professor’s quirky habits were always worth a giggle. This is a great light read for a beach day, a Sunday hanging around the house, or on the train or bus as you commute to work.


2) I stumbled upon this quote on Pinterest and I adored it instantly. I decided I had to make a quote graphic out of it, so here it is!


3) I’m turning 30 next month, and I’m going to New York City! WOOHOO! I have only been once for a quick 36 hours, so I’m looking forward to exploring more at my leisure. I definitely want to see the statue of Liberty, Book of Mormon, walk the Brooklyn Bridge, Natural History Museum… what else should I be sure to catch? Definitely let me know.. and if you have any suggestions for places to eat, tell me that, too! We’re staying in Park Slope, Brooklyn, as we found it much more affordable than the city.

That’s all I got for now: I want to share some pix from my trip to the Bahamas later this week. As an FYI, the Rosie Project link is an affiliate link, so if you happened to buy the book I might make 4c. 🙂 Have an awesome day!


The Hemingway House: a Cat Lover’s Paradise

Matt and I recently took a vacation to Key West and the Bahamas, by way of a totally snazzy Groupon deal I got ($400 for two for a four night cruise to the Bahamas! Deal alert!). Before our cruise, we drove down to Key West so we could check out this quaint island town and the home of writer Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway saw this abandoned house in 1929 and fell in love with its unique stylings, having been built by a ship architect and captain in 1851. With Victorian touches and a plantation style wrap-around porch and shutters, this house is perfect to imagine sitting with a cool glass of lemonade, flipping the pages of a favorite book, and scratching a few wandering kittens.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 8.56.28 PMWhile the house itself is gorgeous, I was most taken with Hemingway’s cats — all said to be descendants of his first cat, Snowball, that he got from the docks of Keywest. There are currently 50 cats that live on the property and receive medical attention and care through the Hemingway Foundation. There are truly cats everywhere — and in this picture, you can see our tour guide doling out some treats, which brought them all running. See Joe DiMaggio’s paw? (Yep, that’s his real name) He’s a polydactyl, which means he has five toes instead of four. Many of the cats at Hemingway house have five toes. (I at first wrote pterodactyl and then was like… wait, that’s not right.)

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 8.57.08 PM

Because the cats are such an important part of the house, they even have their own graveyard. Hemingway liked to name his cats after famous people. Can you imagine if he was alive today? There would be Lady GaGa’s, Obamas, and Angelina Jolies.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 9.00.38 PM

The house still has much of Hemingways’ original furniture, like this gorgeous bed in the master bedroom.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 8.56.54 PM

To commemorate our visit, of course we had to get something for the cats… so lucky for them, the Hemingway Home Bookshop sells reproductions of 1940’s style Hemingway-esque cat bowls. Lucia and Ollie are loving slurping their water from this very fine literary vessel.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 9.25.50 PMIf you’re planning a trip to Key West, definitely stop by the Hemingway House. Even if you don’t love cats, you’ll love seeing where this tremendous writer set up shop and wrote many of his masterpieces.


Beauty in a Box: Julep Maven Review

I love mail, so when subscription boxes started getting popular, it seemed like the perfect fit for me. Today in the mail I got the grocery store circulars, an American Express bill, and an ad for a car wash. BORING! To beat the boring mail blues, I’m a member of two beauty subscription boxes: Julep Maven and Ipsy. I’ve been a subscriber of Julep for a long time, because I have a nail polish obsession that I blame on my friends Jenny and KJ Pugs. Julep used to be mostly just nail polish, but now they have hair, makeup, skin care, and body care items as well.

I’m a fan of Julep because now for $20 a month, I can completely customize my box, mixing and matching what products I get. The products are also full-sized, unless Ipsy which is mostly samples. (But Ipsy is only $10 a month.) For example, last month I made a box full of just beauty products, because I’ve reached my nail polish quota (until I see another color I hafta have 😉 ). (Also – their nail polish is top notch. It’s in my top three favorite brands, up there with Essie and China Glaze.) I got:

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 7.29.03 PM“Light on your lips” lipstick in Chit Chat – Fourth from Right. This is a perfect natural mauve with a creamy feel to it. I love their packaging – they  magnetized the lid so that it won’t fall off in your bag. No more sandy lipsticks!

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 7.32.07 PMJulep Invisible Lip Liner – A clear lip liner? What’s the point? That was my initial reaction, until I realized it’s genius and if your lipstick wears away, you’re not left with a clownish outline.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 7.34.07 PMJulep Sea Salt Texture Spray — I had been nervous to use this because my hair has enough “texture” as is, but I ended up loving the smell and how it gave my curls some gentle tousling. I’ve been using this a lot, even on a ponytail to help rough up my hair to hold a headband.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 7.37.32 PM

All three of these products came out to $20 and were delivered in a cute box packed in crinkle paper, and helped me achieve this easy look. Julep, you’re a keeper. (And even the months I’m not into their offerings, like April, you can easily skip the box and wait until next month when you find something better. Holla!)

Do you use any subscription services? I was in no way compensated or asked to write this review, but if you subscribe or purchase through my links, I will earn a referral credit (and you’ll get your first box free!).


My Transition to Crazy Cat Lady

Today, my awesome friend Shelley texted me that she wanted to lodge a complaint against LaLaLyssa. I immediately assumed she was going to say that I am not blogging enough, which is kinda true, and I’d admit it, but mostly because lately if I don’t have anything to say, I don’t say it. BUT! To my surprise, she instead told me that she clicked on the “Cats” section of the site and that there was nothing there! This is a tragedy of course, because I do dearly love cats. But it wasn’t always the case.

Me and Rosie and Daisy

Me and Rosie and Daisy

I was born into a house with two black labs named Rosie and Daisy. Daisy vanished into the cornfields one night while my family was on vacation, never to be found again. Rosie survived our move to Florida and the addition of our cute but bitchy dachshund beagle mix, Peaches. Peaches knew how to play a room, and often sat on her hind legs in what I called her circus act. However, if you got too close to her when she was in a mood, she’d quickly snarl at you and snap her shiny white teeth. She had ‘tude.

Peaches, Rest in Peace.

Peaches, Rest in Peace.

When we moved to California, it was decided that Rosie’s old age and frail state couldn’t make the cross country move, so she was lovingly put down. Once we were in California, we picked out our new dog to be Peaches’ companion: a fat, wriggling Black Lab German Shepherd mix puppy whom we named Bailey. Bailey was fiercely loyal, and I do mean fiercely loyal: she nipped the thighs and buttocks of many of our childhood friends. My parents warned me and my siblings that if Bailey bit someone again she would be surrendered to the pound… so we just never told them, as Bailey continued biting her way through the fleshy thighs of our friends. (It was never serious… just a small little bite on the ass here or there. Yes, I realize how horrible that sounds. Haha! Sorry, friends. My parents have also since found out and are in disbelief how many people Bailey sampled. LOVE, it makes ya do crazy things.) Bailey never once opened her jaws at us, and instead allowed our constant pestering and devotion.

My sweet but bitey Bai.

My sweet but bitey Bai.

Peaches succumbed to a seizure, and years later, my parents adopted Bella, a beautiful but clingy, massive golden retriever that lived in the backyard of the guest unit I rented. They now live with Bella and Maggie, a golden retriever my mom picked up the day after I got married (she always likes a project).

My parent's dogs, Bella and Maggie

My parent’s dogs, Bella and Maggie

Growing up I never really liked or disliked cats, I just had never been around them. The first time I met Matt’s mom, I was delighted that their very shy, very choosy Abyssinian cat, Abby, climbed right up into my lap and settled into a tight little bun. His mom remarked upon how unusual it was for Abby to take to a stranger, and thus I decided maybe me and cats could be friends. I began to get used to the slinking around of Matt’s cats, and when Matt and I moved in together, we decided to get our first pet (I’m not counting the horrible brief time period of owning miniature red eared sliders). I stalked Craigslist for days, waiting for a gray, female tabby kitten with stripes to come onto the market., because I loved their polka dotted bellies and elaborate patterns. And she did… in the form of ‘Bianca’, a four week old kitten who had been rescued from a 7-11 dumpster. It was love at first sight, and as you can see in this picture, my eyes were alight with the possibility of our blissful future. We renamed her Lucia after the beautiful green sea of St. Lucia (which we had recently visited). Lucia quickly captivated my heart, with her dedicated cuddling and attempts to steal my sandwiches.

Lucia and Lyssa, love at first sight

Lucia and Lyssa, love at first sight

We decided that Lucia needed a friend and in came Leo, a majestic, shy orange Maine Coon kitten who had been overlooked for the four months of his life at a local kitten rescue. Lucia hated Leo with a passion, and our plan for their friendship was quickly foiled, but we never gave up. Leo was Matt’s shadow and Lucia was mine, and that was good enough. Leo had a constant hunger for the outdoors, always sneaking off through the door when we came in. Sadly his lust for the outdoors ended his life as he zigged when he should have zagged one night on our busy street. Now our cats are indoor only 🙁

Leo, rest in peace.

Leo, rest in peace.

Next up was our little ball of fur, Oliver. We initially were interested in Oliver’s brother, a fuzzy gray and brown kitten named Note. Right when we were going to say we wanted Note, his adoption was finalized. We went home empty handed and I decided to write on the organization’s Facebook page asking them to let me know if they had any male kittens. Sure enough, Note had a brother, ‘Cymbal’, who was out for neutering and would be available the next day. We visited ‘Cymbal’ and were smitten by his somersaults and leaps through his cage. And how could you resist such a little fuzzbucket? True to his show that day at the rescue center, he’s a curious, playful, mischievous cat, constantly chewing up telephone lines or figuring out ways to get up on top of doors, closets, furniture, and yes, even the ceiling. (I didn’t know it was possible until he did it. The wonders never cease…)

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 9.20.59 PM

Oliver as a kitten.

It’s been two years with Ollie and Lucia is finally beginning to maybe, kind of, just a little bit, like him. They sleep within two feet of each other sometimes without killing each other, and I count that a win. I never thought I’d be a cat lady, but now I can proudly admit that I love cats. I love about them the many ways in which they are different than dogs: They are definitely moody, they’re very independent, they’re incredibly intelligent yet sometimes very dumb, and they can be very, very devoted. I love how they can find a loose bead on the floor and be amused for hours, yet the food they’ve been loving for months they suddenly have no interest in. I love that they’ll stalk a gnat all day but ignore a giant spider that lives in the corner at eye level (can’t blame them). I also love that they have a whole kitty language, ranging from the most annoying meows to the most angelic mews to the most rattling warbles to the most strange sounding chirps. I love that they truly do sleep 22 hours out of the day, will use anything as a pillow (even lemons) and are the laziest animals I’ve ever seen. Cats! There’s just so much to love.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 9.24.36 PM
I definitely want a dog one day (a yellow lab named Butter, please), but until we live in a place that allows them, we’ll continue to be a two-cat family. Now what about you — cats, dogs, or both? (And proof that diehard dog fans can change: my parents recently adopted Marlie, shown below. I like to think my cat-lady ways had something to do with it!)

Marlie and Maggie demonstrate interspecies love

Marlie and Maggie demonstrate interspecies love


Getting my bloggy on: Lifestyle Bloggers National Conference 2015

Remember last year when I got to be all fancy and speak on a panel about social media? Well, I was invited to attend the Lifestyle Blogger’s National Conference again this year, and I’m so glad I went! I didn’t have any speaking duties this time, so I was able to fully absorb everything as an eager attendee. The conference is held at Maker’s City in downtown LA — a super cool building that houses furniture designers, coworking spaces, and textile and clothing boutiques. Many of these are not open to the public, so it’s fun to get a sneak peek of what life might be like for a designer.


One of my favorite workshops was the Lifestyle Styling workshop. At conferences, it’s easy to get a little bit glazy-eyed as you sit at a table for hours, so I really loved the idea of small, hands-on, interactive workshops. This workshop was lead by Katie Allison, a lifestyle and product stylist for J. Crew, Nordstroms, Two’s Company, and many more. She handed us a great worksheet filled with tips and tricks for blog photography. For example, if you’re photographing something that’s mostly monochromatic, make sure your pops of color are only 10 to 20% of the photo for best visual impact. She also recommended mixing up textures and backgrounds, and getting super creative when it comes to setting up your shot. She let us loose in the studio with hundreds of fun props, from butterfly wings to old suitcases to rocks. We spent a solid half an hour arranging shots, and here’s what I came up with. This was definitely one of the best conference sessions I have EVER been to — and I’ve been to a lot of conferences!



One of the other things I really like about LBNC is they call it a boutique conference, and work hard to keep the attendees fairly limited so it’s an intimate feeling. It was really fun to meet several ladies and then see them several times throughout the weekend, as opposed to some of the bigger cons I’ve been to where you see someone once and then that’s it. We also feasted on delicious food from Fresh Brothers (YUM!) and even an LA Dirt Dog, which is a grilled hot dog wrapped in bacon, piled with peppers and onions, and served on a chewy bun with mayo, mustard, and ketchup. It’s so good! There’s definitely plenty of yummy stuff to eat at this conference.

And lastly, despite the informative sessions, good food and kick ass swag bag (We got OPI polish from the new Hawaiian line — anybody that hooks up high end polish is good in my book!), it’s packed with awesome women. Here I am with old and new friends alike! From top left: Kia of Bodhi Bear, Monica of My Life is a Journey, Leah of Mamavation, Ana Lydia of Cabeza de Coco (and the founder of LBNC!), Jen of Skinned Knees, Me, Kia and Leah again, and me and Aubrye of Club Momme. I also got to meet an awesome photographer and fellow valley girl, Kristina Bant Jenkins.


If you’re thinking about taking your blog to the next level, definitely check out LBNC. We were also encouraged to tweet and ‘gram and post like crazy in exchange for tons of prizes… and I scored an awesome prize pack of a hot/cold neck wrap and some fancy Nerium face products. Can’t wait to try them out. Next year it will be held starting on Feb. 25. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for promotions and coupons so you can get your lifestyle bloggy on, too! See ya there!


Love has no…

You guys! This is so cool. My co-worker Michelle has two awesome daughters, Maddie and Sophie, and they were filmed in Santa Monica on Valentine’s Day for this video. Watch the video below (which has over 7.5 million likes)  and bask in the warm fuzzies that come from knowing it’s 100% true.

Succulents don’t suck.

One of my favorite things to do on weekends is dig in the dirt. Even when I still lived at home as a teenager, I bought tons of house plants, and started cultivating mini gardens in my bedroom. Some of my favorite plants still live in my parents’ house, but I brought a few with me when I moved to Southern California. Once I got to LA, I learned about the awesomeness of succulents. Most of them are simple to grow, require infrequent watering, and thrive just sitting in a bright window. Last weekend, I spent some time potting new plants (I love using old containers I buy at garage sales). Aren’t succulents awesome?


My favorite part about succulents is that they’re self-propagating, which means you can pull baby succulents off of big ones and make new plants. All of the succulents in the pictures below are babies from my other plants. Hooray for bargain gardening!


This one was a pain in the butt just because it was tedious to get the plants arranged in the jar. I used a chopstick to carefully push the tiny roots into the soil. But the end result was worth it, because this is adorable and sits on my desk for me to stare at when my eyes need a break from social media.


If you’re new to gardening and would like to learn more about it, I’d recommend the book You Grow Girl. It’s cheeky, helpful, and realistic when learning to practice with your growing green thumb. Here’s a gratuitous photo of my grumpy gray cat, Lucia.


Do you have any succulents? Which ones? This is one of my favorites. It’s called a Lithop, but you’ll see them marketed as living stones. Pretty cool, right?


Four Favorites on Friday

Howdy, y’all! Happy Friday from sunny Los Angeles. And when I say sunny, boy do I mean sunny. It’s almost cruel to talk about when parts of the country are so cold they’re experiencing Frost Quakes. I’ve been soaking up the sun by eating my lunch outside, and I even found a great deal on a used wrought iron chaise lounge for my backyard. And yes, I will wear sunscreen because I’m whiter than Olaf. Here are a few of my favorite things from this week, for your reading pleasure.


1) Love him or hate him, you gotta admit that Obama has some slick social media moves. Today, he announced on social media that fourth graders and their families will get free admission to National Parks, in the Every Kid in a Park act. That’s frickin’ cool! If you don’t already follow the White House on Instagram, do it. It’s a fun (and I’m sure carefully cultivated) look at life behind the scenes in the Oval Office and beyond.

2) Lately I’ve been all about yogurt for breakfast because it fills me up and some brands taste like ice cream (I’m talkin’ about you, Chobani Key Lime and Coconut). This week I tried two new stand-outs in the yogurt world, imo: Stonyfield Organic Petite Creme in Vanilla Bean, and Elli Quark in Blueberry. The funny thing is both of these aren’t even yogurt: Stonyfield is ‘spoonable cheese’ and quark is also a type of cheese that is less tart than Greek yogurt. The Stonyfield was super rich and decadent, and the vanilla bean had nice specks of vanilla in every bite. The quark is slightly less rich but more light feeling, perfect for accompanying some fresh fruit. It’s also less calories (80) and more protein than Greek yogurt, with way less sugar. I’m looking forward to trying Quark in some of their fun flavors like Bananas Foster. Right now, Whole Foods has a coupon in their store circular for Stonyfield, and you can find Elli Quark at Gelson’s in SoCal. It was  a little bit of a wild goose chase to find the Elli and I only found two flavors, but I’m hoping to find more soon!

3) I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday in NYC this year, and I’m pretttttty sure catching Pitch Perfect 2 on opening night will be in order. Rebel Wilson? In her words? Crushed it.

4) The Sims 4 for Mac has finally come out and it’s only $39.99 right now. Well, there goes my free time. I’ve been waiting for this for years. Fun fact: when Sims City first came out, I was addicted to it and built a bustling metropolis that I named Elma after the city in the movie the Big Green. My dad had to reformat our computer, and Elma’s existence was wiped clean. The world’s smallest violin is playing for Elma. Maybe now in Sims 4, I can rebuild! (PS: Love that the Sims now have tattoos and different body types and wrinkles! Yay!)

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.29.56 PM

That’s all I got — hope you’re having a fabulous Friday.


Beautiful Food: Romanesco and Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

I’ve been playing with food photography lately and wanted to share these shots. Have a wonderful Friday!

Romanesco is a green cauliflower with a slightly nutty taste. It came in my Farm Fresh to You box (a weekly box of organic goodies delivered to my doorstep). I can’t wait to roast it up this weekend with some olive oil and parmesan. (Interested in Farm Fresh to You? Use ALYS6615 for $10 off your first box.)


I wanted to make Valentine’s Day treats for the guys at my husband’s office, so I whipped up a batch of semi-homemade lemon blueberry cupcakes. (Semi-homemade as in use a box mix for Lemon Cake, then add blueberries, more lemon juice, and top with homemade Cream Cheese lemon frosting. Yum!) The icing is with the Wilton 2D rose tip, with yellow food coloring streaked inside the bag to create an ombre effect. They came out so pretty!