All Aboard: NOL > CHI.

Favim.com photo: Will I find love on the train?

Favim.com photo: Will I find love on the train?

Greetings! I am publishing this post while aboard the Amtrak #58, traveling from New Orleans, LA, all the way to Chicago, IL. With more than 900 miles between destinations — I shouldn’t have to tell you that it’s been an interesting ride on the “Spacious Superliner.”

Really, this is my first time traveling via train. I like planes. I like driving, too, but I also like to sleep, drink, and sometimes, read. A train, I figured offers the best of all worlds, while offering an affordable ride, with a view to write about (that’s what I do).

I rode the train as a child, from Indianapolis to Chicago, and remember feeling ill — which is why I packed Dramamine. Other than that, I’ve never been aboard a train. And I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have “Love Train” stuck in my head for the entire trip (see my Twitter account for proof of this).

To make my ride as comfortable (and as fun) as possible, I purchased some travel essentials specifically for the train:

Of course, I packed a few snacks, drinks, and loaded up my iPad with tons of books (of the romance variety). For the sake of blogging and Tweeting along the route, I brought my own WiFi, via my T-Mobile HotSpot.

While I had reserved a seat on the upper-level of the train car, the seat was first-come-first-serve. I was thankful to get a window seat. Honestly, I expected the train to be like a bus… but I was in shock at how nice it is. It’s clean, and roomy (stretching my legs out all the way, I still can’t touch the seat in front of me).

I did a little bit of work on the train, but was really excited to get started on a book. So, aside from chatting with my fellow passengers, I read most of the 19-hour journey.

Sunset in Greenwood, Miss.

Sunset in Greenwood, Miss.

As we approached Greenwood, Mississippi, I was able to catch the sunset, and many of my readers may remember, that I am a sucker for sunsets and sunrises — I think they are the most beautiful things to see. I was all smiles to see that sunset.

Around 8pm, we stopped the train for a “cigarette break” and I checked out the observation car (which was very cool), and purchased a sandwich for dinner, along with some wine.

I fell asleep around midnight, and awoke as we were traveling over a bridge, and could see two boats on the water.

About a month ago, I went on a date with someone whom I told my upcoming trip about. Having traveled a similar route, he told me to pay the extra money for the sleeper car, to avoid meeting people. He also said there was “nothing to see” on the way.

Call me a sap, but miles of fields, a sunset, water, neighborhoods… that’s amazing to see. And of course, I set my alarm to wake up in time for the sunrise.

It wasn’t until I woke around 5:30 am that I realized I’d gotten a passenger in the seat next to me (the train stops nearly every hour) — she was already asleep. At a reasonable hour, I asked her what time she got on the train and where she was headed (4:30, Milwaukee…if you’re curious).

So, what am I doing in Chicago? While my train ride wasn’t necessarily full of love (although everyone was kind), my trip is. I’m in Chicago for a wedding — quite possibly an epic wedding — and of course, to see my friends.

Traveling, and especially traveling alone, always leaves time to reflect. And often, when I’m traveling home, to the Midwest, I wonder what exactly I was hoping to find when I left. I really wanted to land a Southern gentleman… but I’m still waiting for that to happen.

Sometimes I wonder if what I was hoping for isn’t still waiting for me right here, at the end of the train tracks.

What’s in my Makeup Bag?

It really did spill like that.

It really did spill like that.

I have always loved seeing these types of posts in magazines and on beauty blogs, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’m not someone who keeps the same thing in my makeup bag every week, as I like to change things up with the seasons, or with my mood. And let’s face it, sometimes I just see something on a shelf (and on sale) that I just cannot wait to try!

  1. Zebra cosmetic bag: I got this bag as a gift from my friend and sorority sister, Jenna, when I was in her wedding a few years ago. I love anything animal print, so I love cramming all of my favorite things into this bag.
  2. E.L.F. Blush in Pink Passion: This is one of those items I recently found on the shelf at T.J. Maxx and could not resist. I love the bright pink for summer, and it goes on really light. Before, I was using a liquid blush, which I liked, but often didn’t last throughout the day.
  3. Covergirl Trublend Liquid Makeup #2/420: I have never been disappointed by a Covergirl product, and this one provides great coverage for under-eye issues and blemishes. I put this on after my moisturizer, give it a minute to dry and then apply powder.
  4. Physician’s Formula Healthy Wear Bronzer in Fair: Although this is called “Bronzer,” it’s really not dark enough to be considered as one (they sell it in different shades, I use “Fair”). What I love about this powder is that it offers a 50 SPF, so sometimes I wear it with sunscreen as an extra layer of protection.
  5. Benefit Hoola Bronzing Powder: I don’t use this everyday, but if the rest of my body is tan, and my usual makeup is covering that up, then I dust on a little over my forehead and cheekbones. While I’m not against a shimmering bronzer, this has no glitter, no shimmer, and is totally matte.
  6. Tweezerman tweezers, in pink: I’ve had these for years, and they’re worth the high price. They stay sharp forever, and when they get dull, you can send them back to be sharpened.
  7. L.A. Colors 3 Color Eyeshadow Palette in Sunflower: I’m not really a fan of the red tone in this palette, but I love using the yellow right under my brow, and the taupe-brown on my lid. I am a huge fan of shimmering shadow, as I think it looks natural, especially in the summer.
  8. Maybelline Line Stiletto Ultimate Precision Liquid Eyeliner in black: I have always loved liquid eyeliner and this has been my go-to brand for years. It’s inexpensive, and it lasts forever, while providing a straight line — and yes, it can be done without pulling your eyelid!
  9. Covergirl eyeshadow blending brush: This came with my Covergirl palette listed below, and I absolutely love it for under the brow and blending. It’s not good if you want concentrated color, but that’s what the sponge applicator is for!
  10. MAC eyeshadow palette: I’ve had this palette for years, and as you can see I’ve used most of the shadows. Unfortunately, most of their names have rubbed off the back, but they were neutral tones, a few mattes and a few shimmers. I keep this around for the black and the brown that remain. I use the brown to fill in my brows, and if I’m going for a smoky-eye look, I use the black to line my lower lashes.
  11. Total Moisture Facial Cream by Benefit: I’m not picky when it comes to moisturizers, but this one is light, and oddly, I really like the way it smells.
  12. Victoria’s Secret eye defining brush: I use this for my brows and for powder liner, when needed. It’s a fantastic brush that I’ve had for years, so I’d be pretty lost without it.
  13. Smashbox Full Exposure mascara in Jet Black: Mascara is my favorite, favorite, favorite item of makeup. If I only had to choose one thing, I’d choose mascara — but I don’t really have a favorite. This one is great, but there are other great ones, too. I really just love to layer, layer, layer. I love thick, long lashes for days. And I usually brush on a little for the lower babies, too.
  14. Covergirl Exact Eyelights Eye Brightening Shadow Palette in Vivid Greens: Covergirl, and I think Almay, have really gotten off on creating these “looks” to compliment your eye color… well, this palette is supposedly for green eyes and I’ve got blue. The palette for blue eyes included blue and teal shadows, and I’m not into it. So, eat it! I love to use the light purple just under the brow, the shimmer pink in the crease, and the remaining shades on my lid. It’s a perfect, one-stop shop for eyes.

Pic of the Week.

We're so summery...

We’re so summery…

Saturday night, my friend Liz was celebrating 10 years living in Louisiana! She invited me to join in her celebration — and it felt special, because not only have I been in Louisiana for ten years, too, but I’ve known Liz for most of those years!

I asked my friend and gym-influencer, Derek, to join me, and we made a day of it, traveling to New Orleans to go shopping (where I found a great sparkle skirt for $10), have lunch (oyster club & a house-made summer ale), and then we went to the party.

It really was a fabulous day, and night, so worthy of my pic of the week. I got to see some friends I haven’t seen in awhile (some in years) and I met plenty of new ones, and had some great conversation — pay no mind that it was laced with champagne bubbles.

Derek and I even learned a new game: Get Buckets. It involves tossing baby satsumas onto a roof and cheering it on to… “Get buckets!”

I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, and it’s weird… When I left Indiana to live here, I never thought I’d reach the ten year mark. But I have.

I don’t know if I’ll stay in Louisiana forever — there are definitely other places I’ve dreamt of living. But no matter where I go, I can say with certainty that this place has had a great effect on my heart.

I guess I feel that I was following my instincts, and at the same time being guided by the best. I became totally intrigued with Louisiana — the people, the food. It is a part of my life. Everything that has happened for me since moving here has just been icing on the cake. 

—Emeril Lagasse 

The Longest Ride.

My latest summer read...

My latest summer read…

The second book I finished this summer, “The Longest Ride” by Nicholas Sparks, sure was a goodie!

Unlike most Sparks books however, I didn’t immediately fall in love with this one — it took some time. “The Longest Ride” brings two love stories together in a unique way.

One story is that of Ira and Ruth, the other is that of Luke and Sophia. Ira and Ruth were married for many years, and when readers meet Ira, he is a widower, trying to survive a bad car accident in freezing temperatures.

Luke and Sophia are college-age, lovers who meet at a rodeo, where Luke is competing. They both come from hardships of their own sort — her from heartache, and him from loss.

The chapters switch between the stories of Luke, Sophia, and Ira, which is a style I always appreciate, as it gives a fresh perspective every couple of pages.

I enjoyed reading about Sophia and Luke (admittedly) much more than that of Ira, and I think that’s simply because of the age gap.

However, I knew the stories were going to cross paths at some point, and as the book continued on, I felt myself wondering just how these two couples would intertwine. The way they did was pretty unexpected (no spoilers here).

I will say, that since it took me a little while to really get into this book, I carried it with me everywhere, so that I could read it at any moment, even if it was just a few pages.

Once, I was reading it while standing in line to buy movie tickets, and an older woman tapped me on the shoulder.

“Is that ‘The Longest Ride?’” she asked.

I nodded.

“That’s the only book of his I couldn’t get into,” she said.

So, be warned. However, it’s not slow the entire read. It’s a different formula than most of his books (there’s actually a happy ending), but it’s still a great book, and definitely one I would recommend.

If you don’t get to read it this summer, at least check it out before the movie version hits theaters April 2015.

Celeb Crush: Channing Tatum.

Oh, hello.

Oh, hello.

I hate admitting this, but I almost (almost) forgot how hot Channing Tatum is.

Until I watched The Vow and Dear John back-to-back, and promptly went to the theatre to see 22 Jump Street.

Mr. Tatum is a southern boy, native to Alabama (we’ll forgive you), known for his work in Step Up and Step Up 2, This is The End, Magic Mike, The Dilemma, and the G.I. Joe series, among many others. It will come as no surprise that he’s spent time modeling for popular clothing companies, including Abercrombie & Fitch.

He won Best Actor for his work in Dear John, Best Actor for Foxcatcher, and was named one of Glamour Magazine’s 50 hottest men in 2013.

Sadly, he is married, and has a child. But he also owns an awesome bar in New Orleans, called Saints & Sinners, and it’s pretty rad, if you haven’t been there yet, you should definitely check it out.

But, if you’re anything like me, you still can’t get that “Pony” scene out of your head from Magic Mike. So, I’ll leave you with it (just click the pic).

Ride it...

Ride it…

I got crazy lucky. Like, sometimes I think I won the lottery or something. At times it feels like the bottom’s gonna fall out. Just ’cause I don’t really know how I got here. But I just keep moving forward, and it just keeps getting better and better.

—Channing Tatum

Pic of the Week.

Nerd alert: I got a library card!

Nerd alert: I got a library card!

If you could only see the happy dance I’m doing right now! I am WAY too excited over my brand new library card!

This all started many years ago, when I registered to vote in East Baton Rouge Parish. My voting spot is just down the road from my apartment, at a library. The only thing is, the voting area wasn’t around any books — or other evidence that it was in fact, a library.

A few people in my office later started telling me about the wonders of the library; the digital collection, DVDs, and of course, endless piles of books! I officially put it on my to-do list to get a library card.

Although it took me awhile to get around to it, I picked a rainy day after work when my muscles were too sore to get to the gym. I had my ID in tow, along with a list of books I was looking for.

It took all of two minutes to obtain said library card, and I was free to roam the stacks. There were so many books on my list that I saw on the shelves, but checkout time is three weeks, so I didn’t want to go overboard.

I ended up with two books that I’m really excited to read:

the-uncoupling-hi-res_custom-f61effc60970bdf97a735b6adf6fa9e8479a59d8-s6-c30The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer: “The latest from Wolitzer (The Ten Year Nap) is a plodding story with a killer hook: will the women of Stellar Plains, N.J., ever have sex again? After new high school drama teacher Fran Heller begins rehearsals for Lysistrata (in which the women of Greece refuse to have sex until the men end the Peloponnesian War), every girl and woman in the community is overcome by a “spell” that causes them to lose all desire for sex. No one is immune, not Dory Lang and her husband, Robby, the most popular English teachers at Eleanor Roosevelt High School; not Leanne Bannerjee, the beautiful school psychologist; or the overweight college counselor Bev Cutler, shackled to a callous hedge-fund manager husband.

The Langs’ teenaged daughter, Willa, who eventually lands the lead in the play, is also afflicted, wreaking havoc on her relationship with Fran’s son, Eli. Despite the great premise and Wolitzer’s confident prose, the story never really picks up any momentum, and the questions posed—about parenthood, sacrifice, expectations, and the viability of long-term relationships in the age of Twitter—are intriguing but lack wallop.”

9923372Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan: “For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. Their beachfront property, won on a barroom bet after the war, sits on three acres of sand and pine nestled between stretches of rocky coast, with one tree bearing the initials “A.H.” At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface.

As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other”

As usual, I’ll keep you posted on how they are. As far as other summer reads, I’ve also loaded up my iPad with Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska by John Green, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. What are you reading this summer?

Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

This has probably happened to me...

This has probably happened to me…

The first guy I fell in love with cheated on me. We were best friends before we started dating, but our relationship was long distance, and there were 15 hours between us.

We had a rocky breakup, and he coincidentally had a new girlfriend right afterward. They are married now, so good for them. A few years later, I dated a guy who was fresh out of a relationship.

Or so I thought.

He was actually dating someone else, too, and told me one evening over plates of spaghetti.

“What do you think of that?” he asked me.

“Of what?” I said.

“That I have a girlfriend,” he continued.

Sure, there were still pictures of them in his house, and a few of her things were in his bathroom. But I didn’t think they were still together — I thought it was just residual.

He broke up with her shortly afterward, and I really liked him (like, crazy liked him), but it was one of those moments when I realized… if he would dump her for me, then who would he dump me for?

He eventually dumped me, and got back with her, and then married someone entirely different.

I later dated someone who cheated on me for years; so you can see why I get so bitter sometimes. But once a cheater, always a cheater? I’m not so sure.

I hate to write people off; especially if it was years and years ago. However, I do think people that have cheated are wired to cheat. It’s either in your blood or it’s not.

But I don’t think a person who has cheated will cheat with every single person they are with. Will they cheat more than once with the same person? Probably.

In my experiences with cheating (nearly every serious relationship I’ve had involves a guy cheating on me), it’s an ego thing for the cheater — he/she needs an ego boost, as one person all over them just isn’t enough.

It’s sick, I know.

Cheating, for me, is relative, too. To me, it’s one thing if a person sleeps with someone one time. But… then there’s the other side of me that thinks, well, if I let him get away with it this time, then he’ll do it again.

But one thing is for sure, you can never stop someone from cheating. They’re going to do it, because that’s what they want to do — it doesn’t matter how pretty you are, how great in bed you are, or how much you cook dinner.

If he’s cheating, there’s no stopping him. It’s just a matter of you deciding if you’re going to put up with it or not.

WYSK: The Pioneer Woman.

The Pioneer Woman!

The Pioneer Woman!

I have always loved watching The Food Network, and I really love catching episodes of The Pioneer Woman lately. Her name is Ree Drummond, but she is really known as Pioneer Woman, which started from her wildly popular blog.

Ree is a mother, and she lives on a working ranch “In the middle of nowhere.” Her cooking reflects her tastes, as well as those of her children, and her husband — a true cowboy.

What I love about her show, and the blog, is that its accessible. None of the ingredients are anything fancy, it’s simple, but it’s homemade, and often hearty.

I also love that the show is really filmed in her Oklahoma Ranch home — which is beautiful — but the kitchen is huge, and it’s cool to think she actually lives there and isn’t just cooking on a set.

Her blog gets more than 20 million viewers each month, and it was named Blog of the Year in 2009, 2010, and 2011. These numbers overflowed into book sales, as her cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl is a #1 Bestseller.

She has another book (a memoir), Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, which debuted at #2 on The New York Times Best Sellers list for nonfiction hardcover. She also has a popular children’s book series, based on the adventures of her dog, Charlie.

According to her website, she went to college in California, and worked in the corporate world for years. During a visit to her hometown, she fell in love with a cowboy, and now spends her days as the pioneer woman!

If you haven’t seen her show, definitely check it out — new episodes are on every Saturday morning at 10/9 central, on The Food Network.

The Column: Searching for Summer Love.

Summer love, at its finest...

Summer love, at its finest…

We met on a porch swing after a baseball game. He was tall and tan, and his name was Zach.

When I got up from the swing, and walked out of earshot, he told my friends he liked what he saw in my white jeans.

He looked pretty good in his baseball pants, too.

We were only 18, living in Indiana. It was my last summer before I moved to Baton Rouge, to go to LSU.

Without much hesitation, we spent the summer together, knowing we’d part ways in August.
Many nights were spent driving through cornfields to get to his parents’ house, where he built a “Tiki hut” — a shed with windows and strings of flamingo lights — and we’d sip malt liquor until sunrise.

I even started to like country music that summer, hearing it constantly while riding in Zach’s truck. To this day, “These Days,” by Rascal Flatts takes me down memory lane. Read more…

Pic of the Week.

Angela & I in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Angela & I in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This week’s picture is a little different — it’s a throwback… to probably 2001-ish? The photo is of me and one of my best friends, Angela, on the roof of One Lytle Place (or as Angela calls it, One Little Palace) in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I picked this for this week’s photo, because today is Angela’s birthday.

I met Angela when I was in 6th grade, through another friend. It didn’t take long for us to become best friends once we met, having sleepovers, and bonding over two things: our love of Hanson, and our uncanny ability to eat loads of candy without gaining a single pound.

Over the years — the near 17 years that we’ve been friends — we’ve been through a lot together. We’ve taken many-a-vacation together, visiting Pensacola, Florida several times, seeing Mall of America, visiting the white sands of St. Thomas, and taking road trips to Tennessee.

When I visited her in San Diego, we took our first wine tour of the Temecula Valley, a trip I will never forget. She came with me to Baton Rouge, to stay in my dorm room during my first week at college. And I stayed in her dorm room in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

She’s come to Mardi Gras, and I’ve helped her cook the last six Thanksgiving dinners — one of my all-time favorite traditions (which is followed by opening Christmas gifts and watching Christmas movies).

But our friendship has seen more than just good times. Angela was there for me when I had my first (second, and third) car accident, when my parents got divorced, for every breakup I’ve been through, for the funerals we’ve had to attend. And a few times, we’ve gotten in fights… but thankfully, they never lasted too long, and with forgiving hearts, our friendship endured.

I’ve always believed that physical distance won’t break a true bond, and my friendship with Angela is proof of that. But Angela is more than my friend — she has become my family.

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And so, Angela, I want to wish you a very happy birthday — it won’t be the last! I hope your day is as fabulous, and as bright as you are! Cheers to our years of friendship, and many, many more. 

Happy Birthday! 

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