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Six Months in Florida

October 6, 2017

Clearwater Beach, Florida

This year has has been one of the most interesting and challenging years of my life with our move from California to Florida back in February. This month marks the seven month time period of us living on the East Coast, but with evacuating for a few days, travel, and work trips here and there we’ve really been in Tampa Bay for six. So many have asked for a Tampa Bay travel guide plus thoughts on moving from coast to coast. I know most of you come to this blog for beauty-related reviews and insights so it makes me happy to find a lot of you are interested in other parts of my life as well.

We moved from San Diego to Tampa Bay in February of this year. Both Andrew and I had lived in San Diego most of our lives and were ready for a change. We didn’t know exactly where we wanted to live, but we knew it would be somewhere sunny. The timing happened to coincide with the fact that Andrew’s parents found their dream house in Apollo Beach, Florida and decided to buy it for retirement in a year or two. They asked us if we’d consider moving and renting from them so they wouldn’t have to find strangers to rent it and we agreed. We packed up everything we owned from the modern loft we rented into a 16-foot Penske moving truck with our three fur kids and drove across country to Florida in 5 days.

Our plan was to rent their home for a year while we explored Florida to decide where to settle down. We explored things all over the place fell in love with pretty much everything. Each area has it’s own unique charm! Unfortunately things don’t always go according to plan. Long story very short, Andrew’s parents told us they were going to move/retire earlier than they expected. They changed their move date twice and by mid-July we learned they would be in Apollo Beach by August. We had to find a new place in a matter of a couple weeks. To say I had a freak out about the thought of not having a place to live would be an understatement. With pets finding a place to rent or buy isn’t an easy process and for sure isn’t something you can do quickly. Andrew, being the glass half full kind of person that he is, calmed me down and said we should look on the bright side, take advantage of not being tied down, travel month-to-month in a few vacation rentals and do some real exploring to get a sense of the different areas in Florida.

In less than 5 days we packed, found a storage unit, moved most of our belongings there and found a vacation rental that would take 3 pets. We signed up with a parcel delivery service for our mail and packages. We each packed a suitcase and a few bankers moving boxes to bring essentials with us. Finding a monthly vacation rental was easy, but finding one that would take 3 pets with a fenced yard was a bit of a challenge. We looked at Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO and it took hours of searching. As this post is being published, we are now on Month 3 of living the nomadic life in three different areas of Tampa Bay and it’s been quite an adventure. Stressful for sure, but still we’ve managed to have a lot of fun, explore like tourists and also live like locals. We’ve learned a lot.

Fort De Soto Park

Now that I’ve shared my story, here are some thoughts on each place we’ve lived, a list of my top places to see and where to eat in Tampa Bay. We still have a long list of places we want to visit! Florida is such a huge place we’ve barely scratched the surface.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge Tampa Bay

Where we’ve lived:

When people ask me what it’s like to live in Florida, my answer is that it really depends on where you are. Florida is a really big state, we’ve only really explored Tampa Bay which is enormous. The only thing consistent across Tampa Bay is that the weather is warm, it can be hot and humid and it rains frequently. We loved that the weather is so warm you can swim in the ocean without freezing! In the three cities we’ve lived we’ve found so much wildlife – each area has different kinds of animals that gravitate towards those areas. Some that scare me to death like snakes, geckos and lizards and some that are cute like pelicans, cranes, squirrels and dolphins.

Apollo Beach is a city south and east of Tampa. Much of the area was developed to be a waterfront community so there are a lot of man-made canals which is unlike anything I had ever seen before. My in-law’s house is located in one of the gated communities along the water where every house has a boat dock in their backyard. Manatees, dolphins, fish, birds and all kinds of wildlife surface which is really amazing. Andrew and I loved everything about our neighborhood and the house had a lot of charm: two stories, four bedrooms, huge backyard and a pool. The only downside was it was far from everything we were interested in seeing, doing or eating – most places are at least 35 minutes away to an hour drive.

Apollo Beach Florida

St. Pete Beach is one of the best beach towns I’ve visited. If you’re looking for a great vacation spot this is such a cute area with lots of fun coffee shops, restaurants, cute hotels, beaches with cabana rentals and more. We rented a cute beach house in August, also with a pool and fenced back yard. It was the first time we had used VRBO and we had a great experience. It’s easy to navigate, search, filter (a key for us pet owners) and book. We were a bit worried it would also be too far from Tampa and it is, however there is so much to explore in the area. Treasure Island is a lot fun (they have an amazing salt water taffy store there and I don’t even like taffy, but the ones there are amazing!), Pass-A-Grille has beautiful beaches to relax, and St. Petersburg is only 30 minutes away.

St Pete Beach Florida

Saint Petersburg was our third Florida destination to live. This area was my favorite for food. In the month we lived in St. Pete Beach we found ourselves constantly driving the 20-30 minutes to Saint Petersburg for coffee, lunch and dinner so we decided to live there for a month. This was our second experience VRBO where we rented a charming cottage.

Beach Cottage Vacation Florida

Places to visit:

We’re still exploring Florida and I’ll most likely create a separate page that I’ll update as we see more. In Florida I think the most frequently suggested place to visit is Orlando because of Disney World and all the other theme parks. I had been to Disneyland in California many times growing up and actually liked that one better. Our favorite places that we visited:

  • Clearwater Beach has the best soft white sand out of all the beaches I’ve visited. It’s a great place to stop by for a day visit. Sunsets are just so beautiful! Where we stayed in Clearwater in this post here.
  • St. Pete Beach is one of the most fun areas to live and explore. We stayed at the Kimpton Hotel Zamora in December which we would definitely go to again. After we moved the first time we spent a day renting beach chairs and umbrellas at The DonCesar Hotel and had an amazing time. It’s on our list to stay at for stay-cations, the property is beautiful!
  • Fort de Soto Park is a unique park and beach area that’s quite spread out so it’s not as dense with people as some other beaches. There is a lot to explore, you can bike, walk, or swim. There is a historic fort there as well.
  • Pass-A-Grille is part of St. Pete Beach past The Don Cesar hotel – it’s lined with beaches all the way to the Gulf. It’s really beautiful here. We took several day trips here when we lived at the beach to just sit and relax. You definitely need to bring some beach chairs and umbrellas with you.

Clearwater Beach, Pass-a-Grille, St Pete Beach, Fort de Soto | The Beauty Look Book

  • Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is a little over an hour north. It has two main parts, one is Buccaneer Bay which has a mini theme park feel with water slides, mermaid show, restaurants (it closes starting October, check site for when they reopen) and the other part is the kayaking along the Weeki Wachee River which is open 365 days a year (they will shut down if there are thunder/lightening storms). It took us 4 hours to kayak 5 miles and it was the best thing we’ve done in Florida.
  • Anna Maria is south close to Sarasota, visiting these beaches on a clear day makes you feel like you’ve found paradise. The water is clear and the brightest blue I’ve ever seen. Something definitely worth seeing.
  • Hyde Park Village in Tampa is a cute shopping and restaurant area. They have Sprinkles, Sur la Table, Bartaco, Anthropologie and a cute Blue Mercury store!
  • Bayshore Boulevard is a long continuous sidewalk along Tampa Bay, it was unique and interesting for us because the view of the water and houses in the area is just amazing! The entire sidewalk is 4.5 miles long. We watched the fourth of July fireworks from here.

Weeki Wachee Kayaking, Anna Maria, Bayshore Boulevard, Hyde Park Village Florida

Top places to eat:

Through a process of trial and error we’ve found some really amazing food in Tampa.

  • Bodega – best most unique Cuban sandwiches I’ve tried, since eating here I’ve put at least a dozen other places to the test and NOTHING compares.
  • Bartaco – love this place for the ambiance, food, service, they have several locations in a few states like Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia – definitely check it out!
  • Edison Food Lab – wins for most unique menu, their menu changes every once in a while which makes it interesting.
  • Casita Taqueria – in Florida there really isn’t quite anything as good as the Mexican food I’ve grown accustomed to in San Diego, this place is pretty darn good though. I live for their queso!
  • Ted Peter’s Famous Smokehouse – they have amazing fresh fish and I’m not really a fish eating person (the only sushi I do is California Roll and I know that’s not real sushi), it’s definitely a unique spot with a very relaxed atmosphere, note that they take cash only.
  • Fresh Kitchen – this is a Tampa/Southern version of Chipotle, they have bowls you can mix and match to create your own combination. One of the healthier food options in town.
  • Better Byrd – if you like chicken sandwiches or donuts (I love both), this is a way better version of Chick-Fil-A.
  • Datz – another place filled with amazing food options, warning though if you are a healthy eater and don’t eat here, everything on the menu is pretty hefty, but it’s unique and I think worth trying at least once.
  • 4Rivers Smokehouse – amazing BBQ!

Best coffee and desserts:

  • The Hyppo is probably the best dessert place I’ve tried. They have gourmet ice pops that come in the most unique flavors, aren’t overly sweet, and have amazing fruit blends. I think I could live off these alone. They have several locations – this place is a must visit.
  • Sweet Brewnette is a cute coffee shop in St Pete Beach (Madiera Beach to be exact) they have really good coffee.
  • Kahwa Coffee has multiple locations in Tampa and Saint Petersburg, in my top 5 coffee places of all time.
  • La Casa del Pane is a cute Italian Bakery with good patries, foccacia, bread, coffee and desserts.
  • Oxford Exchange is a cute restaurant, coffee bar, tea bar and gift shop kind of place. It stocks Aesop and Cire Trudon as well!

Favorite Eats Tampa

I’ve mapped out everything here in case you want to use it as a reference!

Tampa Bay Favorites

I hope you enjoyed this roundup! If you’ve moved cross country before I’d love to hear about it. It’s taken some time for me to adjust but we love the water, beaches, warm weather, food, people. It’s been a wonderful place to explore and my first time living in the South. The only stressful thing has been the constant moving and right now we aren’t sure how much longer we will be doing this. Part of us is ready to pick a place and settle down, other parts of us really love the exploring! We had hoped to be in New York or Miami the month of October but the pet situation has made things a bit tricky. If you travel frequently any tips or tricks on how to get used to it? We’ve moved four times this year and we get better and more efficient each time. I tried to keep this as high level as possible – there’s so much I could write about our experiences! If you have any questions about anything on VRBOs/Airbnb, traveling with pets or want to see more or anything else let me know in the comments!

Florida

Life Updates

September 11, 2017

Kitty Evacuating

I wanted to give an update on my life right now. Thank you to each of you who have messaged me and asked how we are doing. We are all ok: husband, 3 pets, myself and my in-laws. All of us packed up our cars and pets and drove north away from the predicted paths of the hurricane. I skipped my NY plans and stayed in Florida so I could be with my family as there was too much uncertainty about the hurricane and I could not leave them behind with so much unknown.

We evacuated Tampa Bay on Thursday afternoon after the news reported that Hurricane Irma would be a Category 4 Hurricane headed directly towards St. Petersburg – the area where we are currently living. Earlier that week we had been actively tracking the news and alerts by county. We took note of the evacuation notices by zone so we prepared.  My husband and I live on the west side of Tampa Bay in Pinellas County and since we were in a no flood zone we almost decided to stay. Our neighbors had checked in on us multiple times over the week and told us we could stay with them at their warehouse which was concrete and in a no-flood zone. They even gave us the code to their house for us to go inside in the event we had any trouble if we decided to stay.

My in-laws however lived in a mandatory evacuation zone on the other side of the bay so Andrew and I drove to their house and spent two days helping them prepare the house. We boarded the doors and windows. The previous owners of the house were so organized – they had all the boards already prepped, labeled and stored in the garage. They even had an evacuation folder they left for my husband’s parents with detailed diagrams labeled boards.

Tampa Hurricane Storm Boarding

Tampa Hurricane Storm Boarding

Here is a look at where my in-laws live in one of the canal areas as of Thursday. A lot of the neighborhoods around Tampa Bay look similar to this if they are on the coast or waterfront. This entire area is in Evacuation Zone A. At this time we don’t know what it currently looks like. A couple notes as some of you asked why it was a challenging decision to evacuate and also reasons why so many people stayed behind. Florida has set Evacuation Zones by county. You can see how it’s split on their website. Up until Thursday, unless you were in a mandatory Evacuation Zone (such as this one below) in your county you had little or no direction as to whether an evacuation would be necessary. Zones are primarily set to prepare for hurricane storm surge flooding – it doesn’t take into account possible damage from wind. There are a lot of areas in Florida that are not designated Zone A. Andrew and I were based in Zone D – but it didn’t mean our area could survive hurricane winds.

Tampa Bay Canal area

We left Tampa around 4:30 PM on Thursday worried about a number of things including the possibility that the news was over-reacting and that we would be evacuating for no reason, the fact that almost all the gas stations in town were out of gas, the possibility of we might get stuck on the road since news reporters were reporting gridlock traffic with people abandoning their cars on the highways and also worried if we left we might get stuck on the road with high winds. We looked for alternate routes out of the state and downloaded gas station locator apps. While my husband was researching exit routes I packed up two suitcases with essentials, prepped our 3 pets and loaded everything I could into our car. Our in-laws followed too. We all left with our pets packed with us and anything we could fit into our vehicles.

We drove along the 41 north and found there was no traffic and no gridlock like the news had reported. Most people evacuating must have been driving along the 75 instead. Gas was still something we were worried about. We must have passed at least 40 gas stations all of which were closed and out of gas, all with their pumps wrapped with clear plastic wrap. We found 2 that had gas, both of which had at least a quarter mile long wait line of cars and both were completely surrounded with police cars to ensure everything stayed orderly. Luckily we found open gas stations closer to the Florida Georgia border and we had plenty of gas to get us there. Andrew’s brother was texting from San Francisco helping us with directions to ensure we didn’t hit traffic and also gave us addresses of places to check for gas along the way.

Our kitty and Jake below, our other dog Lucy is hiding behind my car seat.

Kitty and Jake

We drove to Georgia, stayed the night in Columbus and the entire hotel was filled with Florida evacuees. The next day we drove further north through Tennessee (where I had the best BBQ of my life in Nashville) and ended up in Kentucky to stay with Andrew’s sister’s family. At rest stops it was completely heartbreaking – I heard women on their phones in the bathroom stalls crying saying they were worried that they wouldn’t have a home to go back to.  This morning as I’m typing this I’ve been trying to find news about Tampa Bay updates while sitting in an airport in Louisville waiting to get on a plane for conference in Santa Barbara.

Driving through Georgia:

Georgia Sunrise

At this point we have so many mixed feelings about the entire situation. We felt extreme sadness and guilt leaving Tampa behind worried about everyone who stayed. By now we’ve found the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm. We are relieved that most of Florida seems to be ok right now however at the same time both Andrew and I are completely frustrated and angry at the media and news outlets for not providing accurate information, for fixating on small portions of information and blowing them out of proportion. I believe they caused unnecessary mass panic about so many things which led to things such as drinking water shortages at grocery stores, gas shortages everywhere and even traffic jams. At the same time I understand it’s better to be safe than sorry and also know the threat was indeed to be taken seriously. Finding accurate and reliable information all week long has been a challenge. Certain areas were for sure more prone to damage from storms, flooding and winds. I am still glad we evacuated and relieved that impact of everything isn’t as catastrophic as the news had predicted. It’s been an extremely emotional week and even now there is still a lot of uncertainty about what will happen in the upcoming week. My heart goes out to each and every person in Florida.

Thanks to each of you who have messaged me with your concern. I’m touched by all of your comments and kind messages. I’ll be in California most of this week and at the moment am unsure of when I’ll be able to return to Tampa. My husband and pets are safe and sound though and I’ll keep you posted. Beauty posts I had prepared earlier to resume as soon as I can!

Florida Roundup Sales Travel

Weekend Links, Loves and Sales

May 28, 2017

Weekend Loves | The Beauty Look Book

Happy long-weekend! I hope my US readers are enjoying the extended 3-day weekend. I had a bit of an extra long weekend as my in-laws were in town last week so we took time off to spend time with them. We drove to Orlando to spend two days at Disney World at Magic Kingdom and Epcot where the humidity levels were unreal! (My hair and makeup did not last at all.) The four of us had a great time even though we were hit with some showers and small thunder storms. The remainder of the week we took them around to a few of our favorite spots around Tampa Bay and then drove south to Anna Maria to spend the day at the beach. A quick note on a couple of the items I wore over the week.

On the left I found a cute beach cover-up from Madewell a few months ago and it’s now on sale for under $35. I went with an XXS as sometimes their dresses and tops run a bit loose, but with this one I think I could have gone with an XS (I’m 5’3″). It’s gone through a few washes and didn’t shrink too much but it’s a bit on the short side.

With the warm Florida weather I’ve been all about lighter clothes and tanks. I had been eyeing this lace trim camisole from Rebecca Taylor but I found something similar at Abercrombie for under $40 (and it’s now on sale marked down even more). I’m wearing it on the right along with some of the cutest cut-off shorts from Current/Elliott (also here).

Summer Outfits | The Beauty Look Book

A closer look at the outfit items along with a few items I’ve been loving lately:

Loving Right Now | The Beauty Look Book

Shown above with some thoughts:

  • Outfit details same as what’s worn in the second photo, beach cover-up from Madewell, lace camisole from Abercrombie, shorts from Current/Elliott.
  • I think I could live in flip flops, the Joie A La Plage Nice (left tan and black) are on sale here, the Tory Burch Millers are still among my favorites and I have multiple colors – you can wear them for a super casual look or dress them up a little.
  • I recently featured some Delfonics pouches in this post here, a lot of you asked whether I like them more or less than the Truffle Pouches. They’re just completely different in material so I don’t know that I can really compare them. The Truffle pouches are made of a stiffer and more sturdy material and have lining inside the privacy ones. The Delfonics pouches are made of a PVC material that have a textured material to kinda make them feel like leather but they aren’t. The material is thinner making it more flexible. If you need something sturdy that will act more like a solid clutch go with the Truffle pouches. If you don’t mind a thinner material and need something super basic go with the Delfonics.
  • The Ouai Morning After Kit finally launched online at Sephora! It has minis of the Rose Hair Body Oil, Dry Foam Shampoo and Finishing Creme for $22 which I think is a pretty good deal.
  • Coral polishes are always in for me, but for many of you it’s probably more of a summer thing. Dior Coral Crush and Chanel Coralium are almost identical. Review on both summer collections to follow soon. If you want to know my take right now on which one to get, both formulas are really good but Dior has the better brush.
  • Still in love with the Tom Ford Sole di Positano fragrance. Other spring to summer loves here.
  • For those who can’t wait for my sunscreen post and keep asking questions (which I don’t mind), the Supergoop! SuperPower Sunscreen Mousse is indeed a good one. It has SPF 50 and is more of a long-wear sunscreen with moisturizing ingredients. It contains Blue sea kale which provides antioxidant protection and protects the skin from heat damage. It is water resistant and has a super fun mousse texture. The Everyday Sunscreen with SPF50 is a lighter weight one in feel (it’s what my husband prefers out of the Supergoop! line although his favorite is this SPF 50 one from Kiehl’s). Both of these have been good for me in preventing burn and minimizing the tan for me although being in the sun sometimes there’s really nothing you can do to prevent tanning 100%.
  • If you buy one lip moisturizer this season, make it one of the new Clarins Instant Light Lip Oils (reviewed and swatched here in case you missed the post).
  • Sunglasses in the Irving Style from J.Crew.

Weekend Summer Beauty Loves | The Beauty Look Book

Summer bliss at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach, Florida

Weekend Sales and Deals

Weekend sales rounded up, first are the beauty sales:

  • Benefit Cosmetics – 20% off friends and family sale with code FRIENDS
  • Caudalie – skincare trio minis with Vinoperfect Overnight Renewal Cream, Vinoperfect Serum and Micellar Cleansing Water with orders $90 or more, use code RADIANCE, valid until 6/14
  • Clarins – 15% off orders with code MEMDAY15, valid through 5/29, receive a 7-piece glowing gift with any $100 order
  • Foreo – 17% off top sellers including Luna 2, Luna Mini 2, Iris with code FOREO17off, valid 5/29 to 6/13
  • Glamglow – 40% off any super sexy size product with code GGMEM17, valid until 5/29
  • Kat Von D Beauty – free full size Studded Kiss lipstick of choice with orders $75+, use code STUDDEDKISS, valid until 5/29
  • Kate Somerville – receive 3 summer ski treats with any $65+ order, use code SUMMERTREAT, valid until 5/29/2017
  • L’Occitane – free 3-piece hand cream set + tin with any $55 purchase, use code SUN, valid until 5/30/2017
  • Lancome – 20% off friends and family with code FRIENDS at checkout, valid until 5/30/2017
  • Molton Brown – 3-piece travel set with orders $70+ using code 70coastal, 6-piece travel set with orders $110+ with code 110coastal
  • Omorovicza – 30% off orders $200 or more with code SHINE30 at checkout
  • Origins – 9 piece getaway bag with any $65 purchase, use code GETAWAY, valid until 5/30/2017
  • Shu Uemura Art of Hair – spend $30 and receive free shipping, spend $75 and receive 4 samples + free shipping, spend $100 receive 1 travel-size + free shipping, spend $120 receive 2 travel-sizes and free shipping, use code MEM17, expires 5/31 at 7:30 AM EST
  • Smashbox – spend more, save more tiered savings, valid through 5/30, no code needed
  • Space NK – double N.Dulgence member points on purchases through 5/30
  • Tarte – 15% off the long weekend (enter e-mail at site to unlock code)
  • Tatcha – travel size Water Cream or Water Gel with purchase of $100 or more, use code WATERCREAM17 or WATERGEL17 at checkout
  • Violet Grey – $15 off orders $100+, $50 off orders $250+, $100 off orders $500+, $250 off orders over $1,000, valid until 5/29/2017
  • YSL Beauty – 20% off orders $50 or more 5/26 to 6/1 with code SUMMEREVENT17 at checkout

A few other ones that are on my radar:

  • Anthropologie – extra 40% off fresh cuts
  • Coach – summer sale up to 50% off selected styles
  • J.Crew – 30% off full price items with code SWEET, valid until 5/29
  • Joie – extra 20% off sale items, up to 60% off with code MD2017
  • Neiman Marcus – Designer Sale, save up to 40% off
  • Nordstrom – Half Yearly Sale, save up to 40% off now through June 4th
  • Rag and Bone – up to 50% off select items
  • Splendid – 30% off everything (including sale), use code SUMMER30, valid through 5/29
  • Shopbop – tons of items added to their spring sales section and so many good shoes!
  • Stuart Weitzman – 40% off sale spring styles

Any other good sales on your radar?

Weekend Fun Anna Maria Beaches, Florida

Press samples featured include the Supergoop! Sunscreen Mousse, Clarins Lip Oil, Tom Ford Sole di Positano.

Florida Roundup Travel

Instagram Roundup / Life Lately

May 21, 2017

Poolside-Clarins-Supergoop-Havainas | The Beauty Look Book

It’s been almost three months since we’ve moved to the East Coast and Florida is finally starting to feel like home. The time has flown by and we’re loving it here (fur babies included!). The weather has been incredibly warm and we just went through out first couple of thunder and rain storms. I’m doing an Instagram roundup with some snapshots from our time in Florida so far over the past few months. Some of you have asked for more info on items I’ve done a sneak preview on Instagram and also about some shoes I’ve featured.

I am still testing sunscreen. I know it’s taking me a long time but I’m working my way through over a dozen formulas. Recently I’ve been testing the Clarins Sunscreen Oil Spray with SPF30 which is a nice lightweight multi-purpose oil. It’s good for skin, hair and face and absorbs quickly into the skin leaving it soft, hydrated and non-sticky. I’ve also been testing the new Supergoop! Sunscreen Mousse with SPF50 and love it. It’s a unique long-wearing formula that offers moisturizing ingredients, has anti-oxidants and is water resistant. It has a very nice lightweight refreshing scent but it’s not overpowering. It does not contain synthetic fragrance or oxybenzone. Also shown above shorts from STS Blue, sandals by Havaianas, Clarins Lip Oils reviewed here, iPhone case Gray Malin, sunglasses Marc Jacobs.

I’ve found that Tampa has quite a few good beauty shops. It’s still not like San Diego or Los Angeles, but there are a couple of great Sephora stores, a Nordstrom, a Neiman Marcus and a Blue Mercury store as well. The Nordstrom beauty selection is great and I’m in love with the setup inside (peek at NARS below). We went to Orlando for a day a few months ago and stopped by Disney Springs. Inside they had the prettiest L’Occitane store with an amazing sink in the middle. This was my first time inside a Blue Mercury store and it’s just AMAZING. I was only able to go inside for a few moments to pick up sunscreen (yes more, lol). They have Darphin, La Mer, Molton Brown … basically more than a handful of my favorite brands.

Nordstrom NARS Tampa and L'Occitane Disney Springs Orlando

The food here has been quite an experience. We’ve found some really amazing places thanks to Yelp but the reviews of course can be hit or miss. Much to our dismay we tried a couple Asian places that had high ratings but really were not good. People here are really friendly – extremely friendly! When people find out I’m from San Diego they always say the one thing I won’t find here is good Asian food like in California. There are other places to make up for it though and we love exploring. One of our favorite spots is Bartaco in Hyde Park Village. We’ve been back multiple times and love that the menu is set up a la carte so you can try a bunch of things. They have a secret menu item going on for the month so if you have a location near you definitely ask them!

Bartaco Tampa Hyde Park Village | The Beauty Look Book

Top left a closer look at Bartaco. Some other places we love include The Oxford Exchange especially for coffee and brunch (top right). They also carry Cire Trudon and Aesop in their gift shops which is a plus. The interior decor is to die for gorgeous! Bodega in Saint Petersburg has the most amazing juice bar (bottom left) and also incredible Cuban sandwiches. They’re so good my brother cried when he took his first bite when he came to visit us, lol. Life would not be complete without Sprinkles. We found one in Orlando and I was really excited to find one in Tampa as well. Their new Cookie Cupcake is the best one I’ve tried.

Two more places worth mentioning are Fresh Kitchen which is like a healthy non-Mexican version of Chipotle where you can create your own bowls. I love their juices even though they’re really pricey. Their tables inside are just the cutest! We also discovered this placed that has fresh gourmet popsicles called The Hyppo and I am obsessed. In three months even with all these food places I’ve somehow managed to lose weight. When I had my wisdom teeth removed in February I couldn’t eat anything solid for about a month. I lost around 10 pounds in a week and dropped two pant sizes. Since moving here I gained a little but lost it and then some. I’ve pretty much have maintained the same weight. We don’t eat fast food anymore and with the exception of cupcakes or ice pops, I attribute it to us cutting out a lot of sugar from our diet and the fact that we’ve started running again.

Tampa Fresh Kitchen and Hyppo Pops Hyde Park

The beaches here are amazing! We took a drive to Anna Maria Florida which is about an hour south of Tampa and the water is just beautiful. We went swimming one day when my brother came to visit but we all got stung by jellyfish! Luckily it wasn’t too bad and although we did get a reaction it disappeared within 30 minutes or so. Becca Sunlit Bronzer on the right in Capri Coast. We still have Miami on our list but if you have any other beaches you recommend please let me know in the comments! We’ll put it on our weekend exploring list 🙂

Anna Maria Florida Beaches, Becca Sunlit Bronzer | The Beauty Look Book

My favorite beach is Clearwater Beach which has the softest white sand I’ve ever seen. It’s a bit of a drive from where we are and gets busy on the weekends but I love it.

Clearwater Beach, FL

I did an Instagram post in partnership with Kopari to try their Coconut Body Glow and Coconut Melt – both are really good. Their coconut melt really does melt into the skin and adds the perfect amount of rich hydration. With the swimming, sun and different water in Tampa my body skin has felt more on the dry side and the coconut oil has been a lifesaver. If you’re unsure about what to try from the line they have a cute Coconut Multitasking Kit which has four minis of their Body Glow, Melt, Sheer Oil and Balm for $38 which you might want to check out. On the toes below was Chanel Le Vernis in Gitane.

Kopari x The Beauty Look Book

Sunsets in Clearwater Beach:

Clearwater Beach Florida

For some Instagram roundup snippets:

  • Top left: we stopped by Elevage at the Epicurean Hotel for brunch one weekend. The decor inside is so pretty! Shoes are Tory Burch Millers in a color from an older season, current white leather version here
  • Top right: The La Mer Glowing Body Oil is just amazing, if you find it buy it immediately. By the time I decided to get it the oil has sold out everywhere. It popped up online at Nordstrom and since then it keeps coming back in stock every now and then so keep checking. I hope it restocks everywhere because it has the prettiest soft shimmer and smells like a lightweight soft floral. Shoes are the rose gold Havainas, on the toes is Chanel Le Vernis in Coralium from their cruise collection.
  • Bottom right: I found some new sandals from Joie A La Place Nice in Black and am obsessed. The reviews say they run small but I found they were more true to size (I’m usually a 6 and 1/2). Still I bought these in a 7 just for a little more room in the front and they fit perfectly. Toes is the same color as the photo above Chanel Le Vernis in Coralium, Rouge Coco Gloss is Douceur (swatched here), body oil is from NARS.
  • Bottom left: Rag and Bone launched new perfumes, I just started testing Bergamot which is a light fresh kind of scent, Ouai launched their new Rose Hair and Body Oil, the mini is from a kit called The Morning After Kit which I found instore at Sephora (haven’t seen it online yet!). Lipstick is the Tatcha Cherry Blossom swatched here. Mirror is from Anthropologie.

Instagram Roundup @beautylookbook

Last but not least a look at one of this weekend’s OOTDs. With the warm weather I’ve finally felt that I can wear off the shoulder tops. I’ve been loving this one from Paige. You can dress it up or down. I’ve been loving the STS Blue Shorts I found at Nordstrom. My YSL Wallet on Chain has lasted for over two years now and even with regular use hasn’t shown any signs of wear. A number of perfumes have been in rotation and the Byredo Bal D’Afrique is still one of my favorites because it’s so unique. And because I loved the Joie A La Place Sandals so much I ordered a few other colors (found these on sale here!).

OOTD | Beauty Look Book

That wraps up my Instagram/Life Lately roundup! If you have any Tampa recommendations for food, shopping, where to find fresh flowers I’m all ears! Hope you have a wonderful rest of your weekend 🙂

Press samples featured from Clarins, Supergoop, Becca, Kopari, Rag and Bone and Tatcha.

Florida Travel

Update / Hello from Florida!

February 28, 2017

Tom Ford Soleil Sneak Peek | The Beauty Look Book

Hello from sunny Florida! Just wanted to give you a quick update as I’ve been MIA and haven’t posted in a while. We drove over 2,000 miles from the west coast to the east coast in a moving truck and a trailer to tow our car. Since we have 3 furry pets to transport we decided to move everything ourselves, as we’d have to drive anyways. Our pets aren’t the type that would do well in an airplane. We made the trip in 5 days and only had one incident. On the highway in Las Cruces New Mexico one of the wheel bearings on the trailer broke. Luckily we didn’t get into any accidents and were able to get it replaced at a nearby repair shop. This put us back about 4 hours but our pets were so well behaved the entire trip it was a smooth move. We did come across high winds and some rough roads along the way which was pretty scary – driving across country in a moving truck isn’t something either of us plan to do again. Main places we stopped for the nights included Tucson, Arizona, El Paso, Texas, Houston, Texas, Pensacola, Florida and finally arrived in Tampa on Day 5.

I have a quick sneak peek at Tom Ford Soleil above. I was able to attend a preview event at Violet Grey the morning before I moved and everything is just beyond gorgeous. The pieces just launched online at Sephora and Tom Ford and should arrive at counters in the next week or so. Shown above is a new Sheer Highlighting Duo in Reflect Gilt, a new Sheer Cheek Duo in Paradise Lust, and Clutch-Sized Lip Balms.

In addition there is a new bronzer formula that is for the Large Size bronzers only. It has an embossed texture and soft luminous glow. Small bronzer formulas are the same. I just ordered two of the new Cream and Powder Eye Colors in Sun Worship and Young Adonis and am waiting for those to arrive in the mail so I can photograph everything together before I start swatching. Review to follow soon!

Also a quick note that I’ve been experiencing some issues with my host/server so you may have had trouble accessing my site over the past week. I’m working with a developer to move everything to a new host which will take a few days so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see new posts over the next week.

Just wanted to let you know all is well here! We arrived in Florida safe and sound. We’re unpacking and settling in. Fur kids are adjusting quickly and love the sunshine. Thanks to everyone who sent warm wishes via Tweets and Instagram Messages via @beautylookbook. I can’t wait to get back to blogging, I have some exciting launches I can’t wait to share with you. Also I finally splurged on my dream scent Creed Virgin Island Water and with this 80+ degree weather I’m experiencing in Tampa it’s just perfect. In the meantime follow me on Instagram – I’ll be posting things as time allows 🙂

Currently catching up on e-mails and messages!

Florida Travel

A Week in Florida

December 27, 2016

Clearwater Beach Florida Trip December

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday! I took a few days off for Christmas to recover from a cold but I’m back with a travel roundup today! Earlier this month my husband Andrew and I packed our suitcases for a mini getaway to Florida. We spent a week exploring Tampa, Clearwater Beach, St. Petersburg, Naples, the Everglades, and Key West and had a great time. For those who read my packing post, you know Miami was originally on the list but the week we arrived in Florida the weather was rainy, cloudy and unpredictable so made a few last minute changes and went to Key West to chase the sunshine.

For this trip I left all the planning to my husband since this was his pick for a vacation spot. This was my first time to Florida so for me everything was new. If you’ve read a few of my previous travel posts, you might remember that my husband literally plans things on the go. We stayed in a different city each night and booked hotels sometimes only an hour before we checked in. Since we were traveling before the busy season, everything worked out and we were able to find rooms easily at good rates. For those curious my husband used Hotels.com to book almost all of the hotels we stayed at and also checks TripAdvisor for reviews and ideas of things to do or see. It was definitely more of an adventurous kind of trip (versus relaxing) since we were on the move exploring and driving a lot each day, but we had a lot of fun. Even with last minute spontaneous changes we enjoyed our week playing tourist and were able to see quite a bit of Florida in a short period of time. I’ve added links for all the places we visited, stayed and ate in case you want to see more about each location.

Tampa:

Our trip was mainly focused on exploring the beach areas but we did drive around some pretty areas in Tampa.

What we saw: We made a stop at the Florida Aquarium in Downton Tampa which was on the small side but still a lot of fun. We spent quite a lot of time driving around the bay side of Tampa along Bayshore Boulevard. If you’re visiting the area I highly recommend you do so, you’ll see some of the prettiest views and neighborhoods in that area! My in-laws were with us for two days of the trip so we made a stop at one of the malls International Plaza and Bay Street to check out a few of the stores. I didn’t buy anything for myself but picked up the Kiehl’s Scented Hand Cream Trio (restocked online at Neimans) and Ultimate Strength Hand Salve for my mother and father-in-law as they asked for a recommendation on a good hand cream for cold dry climates. I’ll have to ask them to see if the creams worked for them!

Tampa Aquarium and Saint Petersburg Kiteboarding

Where we ate: When it comes to travel I love exploring new restaurants. We made a breakfast stop at The Oxford Exchange which is one of the most charming restaurants I’ve ever seen complete with a book store, gift shop and coffee shop. The interiors are to die for gorgeous and beautifully stocked with Cire Trudon candles, an Aesop store and lots of little gifts. Later in the day we picked a gastropub called Datz for our dinner spot. We’ve been trying to eat healthier for quite some time but the reviews we saw of this place made us change our minds for a splurge. I had the Carolina On My Mind sandwich and my husband had the Waffles N’Tweet. If you’re on a weight watchers plan or want something healthy this is not the place for you, but if you don’t mind indulging, I highly recommend it. There’s a Donut store next door called Dough, since we were already on a roll breaking our healthy habits we picked up a few and they were well worth the extra calories.

Oxford Exchange Tampa Restaurant and Aesop Store

 

Clearwater Beach and St. Petersburg:

We stayed in Clearwater Beach at the beginning of our trip and I fell head over heels with the gorgeous white sand beaches they have there. The beaches are pristine with the softest sand I’ve ever felt between my toes, making California sand almost seem like sharp rocks in comparison. We returned to this beach area on the last day or our trip to sun bathe and relax and would definitely go back.

Where we stayed: We booked a suite at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort. The rooms were clean and spacious and we picked a room with a partial gulf view. I found the rooms to be slightly dated, but everything was nice clean so I had no complaints and we had a lovely stay.

What we saw: In Saint Petersburg we drove around the beach areas, visited St. Pete Beach, and along one of the beach areas we saw kiteboarding and windsurfing near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on one of the windy days. In Saint Petersburg we ate at a cute European-style restaurant called the Cassis American Brassiere.

Clearwater Beach Florida Hyatt

Clearwater Beach Florida Hyatt

Clearwater Beach Florida

Naples:

After exploring St. Petersburg we drove 2 hours south to Naples which was absolutely charming!

What we saw and where we shopped: We stopped by the beach areas near the pier and walked around main street on Fifth Avenue South. Before we left for our trip we saw temperatures in the mid 80s so we packed tees and shorts for the entire week. When we arrived weather was more in the 60s so we had to make a few stops to pick up a few pieces of warmer clothing. We stopped by the Waterside Shops and the Saks Fifth Avenue there was one of the prettiest Saks stores I’ve ever seen! The staff was really friendly and the rep in men’s department recommended we stop by either Bar Tulia or Osteria Tulia for dinner and it was a cute restaurant spot. There is a more casual bar side and then a more traditional dinner side. They both looked similar and we went with the one that had tables available immediately which was the Osteria. The ambiance and food was phenomenal. It’s a cute rustic Italian restaurant with fresh quality ingredients – we both highly recommend it.

Where we stayed: My husband booked our hotel during dinner at the Inn on Fifth right in the heart of downtown Naples. By the time we booked it, there were only two rooms left so we booked one of the Club Level Suites which comes with concierge level amenities in a separate building. The service was excellent and concierge welcoming and friendly. This was one of the cutest boutique hotels I’ve ever stayed at and I did not want to leave.

Naples Florida

Naples Florida

Naples Florida

Key West:

The last couple of days on our trip we had a few options of what to see: Orlando, Miami or Key West. Based on the weather forecast we went for Florida Keys to avoid the rain and were glad we did. It took us around 7 hours to drive from the mainland through the Everglades and the Florida Keys to get to Key West and we can’t wait to go back. This was my first time to Florida so I had never seen the Everglades before. On the freeway there are areas and swamp banks where alligators hang out and of course crowds of people pull over to see them. My husband being one of them. I refused to get out for obvious reasons but there is a fenced off area called the Oasis Visitors Center where there are solid chain fences in between the parking lot and the water where the alligators are so I felt ok looking at them there. We saw a lot of people fishing alongside the roads which to me did not seem safe but as a non-local I can’t really say for sure.

Key West Bridges Water

The drive along all the keys takes quite a bit of time but the views are unlike anything else and the color of the water is almost unreal! By the time we arrived the sun had just started to set, we checked into the Hyatt Centric Key West Resort and Spa. The hotel is in a great location and has a nice laid back kind of vibe. There are turtles in a few of the areas which I thought was cute. Our stay was pleasant but I don’t know that I’d go back – our room had a very humid, slightly damp and dusty kind of feel to it. The humidity level was pretty and as one who always gets bitten by mosquitoes or (as they call them there no-see-ums) I was really worried I would be covered in bites. Luckily I did not get any bites although we did buy some bug spray at the CVS there to be safe.

What we saw: We spent a full day exploring Key West. Most of the areas we wanted to go to were within walking distance from our hotel. We took one of the hop on and hop off Old Town Trolley Tours to see all of Key West in a short period of time. Two places of note included the Ernest Hemingway Home and because my husband likes to watch documentaries we stopped by the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.

Where we ate: The evening we arrived we decided to stop by Blue Heaven based on Yelp reviews. The food was excellent and the restaurant had a really fun and carefree vibe. One of the most interesting things to me was to see wild chickens and cats that roam the streets and outdoor areas. Even in restaurants we saw wild chickens and roosters walk by our table. We were tempted to go back again the next morning for brunch but decided to try something different and stopped by a cute cozy breakfast spot called Le Bistro on Duvall Street. Our last stop in the afternoon before we headed back to the mainland was Garbo’s Grill which made THE best tacos I’ve ever had. I would go back to Key West just for those tacos.

Key West

Key West Croissants de France Le Bistro

Key West Chickens

Blue Heaven during the day and at night:

Blue Heaven Key West

Hemingway House and Museum:

Key West Hemingway House Museum

 

Key West

What we missed: We would have loved to stay a couple more days to enjoy the water. We had hoped to rent some jet skis but missed the last cut off – note if you’re visiting they recommend you book and check in at least 30 minutes before their listed take off time.

Roundup of our eats:

Florida Eats

The last night we were in Florida we drove back to St. Pete Beach to stay at the Kimpton Hotel Zamora so we would be relatively close to the airport. We considered staying in Key West another night but since the drive back to Tampa would be 7+ hours we decided it would be cutting the time too close. The hotel was very modern and seemed freshly remodeled as they had to repair a lot from hurricane damage. We had a really lovely stay here and our room had a view of the beach although it’s not one of the beach front hotels. We would definitely stay again although next time we want to try one of the ones right along the water.

There were a lot of other things we wanted to see but we were really happy with how much ground we covered in a week’s time. My husband and I were a bit worried with all the driving we might get bored or possibly drive each other nuts being in such close proximity for 7 days straight but I’m happy to report that we had plenty to keep us entertained (even in the long car drives) and had a really great trip. The highlights of the trip for me included visiting Clearwater Beach and Key West.

I had a packing post planned for this trip and I’ve photographed everything we traveled with. I’m not sure that I will post it because we packed all the wrong things hoping for heat and sunshine but arrived to clouds, partial clouds and rain. Let me know if you still want to see it! To those who followed me on Instagram, thanks for following along on my trip and on Insta-stories! I’m recovering from my cold but beauty posts will resume in the new year starting with Chanel spring and later this week I’ll have the best of 2016 posts go live.

Have you been to Florida, in particular any of the spots we visited? What did you see or do? Any recommendations for what we should see next time? We have so much on our list that we didn’t get to but were beyond thrilled to have covered the ground we did this trip 🙂

Florida Travel

Packing For a Mini Getaway

December 7, 2016

Away Luggage Carry Ons Packing Travel

I’m packed up and on my way to Florida for a mini getaway! I’ll still be posting beauty reviews while I’m away. This will be my first time visiting Florida and we’ll be in Tampa and Miami. If you have any recommendations let me know in the comments. My husband and I are traveling carry-on style again. This one will be a short trip so packing hasn’t been too hard. I have to admit though I don’t know how I survived an entire month in Europe last year with just a carry on back pack and a tote.

If you’re interested in a travel packing and beauty post I can definitely do another one. Many of you liked my previous packing posts and I always enjoy reading about what others bring with them on their travels. I am bringing my Drybar Baby Buttercup Hair Dryer. It folded up nicely to fit inside my suitcase without taking up too much room. For other beauty items I’ve packed the Les Minis de Chanel Brush Set, Bioderma Minis in the Hydrabio and Sensibio, and as many skincare minis I’ve been able to squeeze in my quart sized bag. As I type this post I’m still trying to narrow down my picks for makeup.

I’m bringing three pairs of shoes: two pairs of sandals and a comfy pair of running shoes. I bought the Nike Free RN shoes last month and even though they’re supposed to be for running I’ve found them really comfortable for walking too.

The iPhone cases shown in the top photo are from Gray Malin. He has a number of options available which I’m completely obsessed with. I think I’ve accumulated around 5 different designs by now. They always brighten my day as his photographs are so inspirational and always have me dreaming of a getaway.

Away Luggage Carry On in Sand

For this trip we’re bringing our Away Carry-Ons again (previously reviewed here, you can use this referral code to save $20 off your first suitcase order). My husband’s is the black one and he’s checked it a couple of times. It’s held up pretty well but there are some scratches on his (as expected with the way bags are handled). Above you can see a real life photo with the Gift Set I mentioned a few days ago. I did not know what to expect for size – the mini case is absolutely adorable! The Gift Set is basically a gift card packaged in a cute case with socks and Aesop minis. You can order a gift card for any size suitcase as a gift. It’s a great way to gift someone something unique but still allow them to pick out their own color. It’s limited-edition and available this season only (ships to US addresses only as well). I’ve been such a huge fan of their line for their simple no-fuss yet well made luggage. When I first discovered them they had 1 suit case size and have since expanded their product range.

I’m excited to be able to host a giveaway of 2 Away Gift Sets for the Carry On size via Instagram (US only)! The giveaway will go live later today so be sure to follow me @beautylookbook for all the details on how to enter.

Away Carry On Luggage Packing for Florida

For those curious about the black pouches shown, the one in the top is a Truffle Clarity Clutch Mini and the larger zip case is the Anya Hindmarch Inflight Case. I’ve traveled with both numerous times and highly recommend them! I’m excited for a much needed vacation but the hardest part about traveling is leaving our fur kids behind – but we’ve placed them in good hands. The place we’re boarding our kitty has a webcam so I’ll be able to check on him at any part of the day. Since I’ll be traveling comments might take a while for me to moderate but I’ll be checking in every now and then. Any recs for Tampa or Miami would be greatly appreciated 🙂

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