Monday with Mac – Chicago Weekend

Guys I’m back with a breakdown of my girls’ weekend in Chicago! Chi-town is another cool city that I think everyone should take a trip to at some point! It was the perfect city for a three day weekend. My friends and I took an early flight on Friday morning out of Boston, and were in Chicago in 2h40m. It’s a super quick trip!


There is a lot to do in Chicago that you could definitely spend a whole week there. But for 4 girls looking to have a fun spring weekend, we did a lot of walking around, enjoying outdoor activities, cute brunch spots and rooftop bars! Here’s what we were able to fit into 3 days.

Activities we did:

  • SkyDeck Chicago in the Willis Tower (this can get pretty crowded, but it’s a must walking out on the glass deck 103 floors above the city!
  • Grant Park
  • Millenium Park (beautiful outdoor theater – close to the Art Institute of Chicago which is a great art museum!)
  • The Bean
  • The Riverwalk
  • Navy Pier (a fun carnival atmosphere with a ferris wheel, swings, and lots of fun shops and restaurants!)


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Places we Drank:

  • Cerise Rooftop Bar (on top of the Virgin Hotel- great views and vibes all around)
  • Raise Rooftop (on top of the Marriott Renaissance – great view of the river!)
  • City Winery (on the chicago riverwalk- great place to grab a glass of Rose on a sunny evening and watch the boats pass by!)
  • Joy District (very fun nightclub vibe with a great dance floor and adorable rooftop!)


Places we Ate:



I would recommend anyone who is curious, to take a trip to Chicago! It is well worth the visit! Thanks for reading 🙂

Planning A Trip: Research

Welcome to Day 2 of Planning A Trip!

The very first thing I do when it comes down to planning is booking the flights, which may seem sort of obvious to some, since they tend to vary more in price than anything else.  They’re also much harder to cancel than a hotel reservation, so booking the flights means we’re really going on a trip!

I always do quite a bit of Googling when I’m looking to go somewhere.  Some frequent searches are “Best Time To Visit Puerto Rico” or “Monthly Weather Charleston”.  I always like to cross reference the search results of these with the Google Flights fare schedule, and it usually yields some pretty good information.  The average temperatures and number of rainy days sometimes scarcely vary between the busiest travel times and the shoulder season, which allows you to save some money and travel during a slower season that’s only a few degrees cooler.

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I always at least try to fly loyally.  Even when I know I’m going to fly JetBlue, I still use Google Flights while doing my research.  I love how visually everything is laid out, and you can really see how the price varies between dates.  I just make sure to use their awesome filters so I’m only seeing nonstop flights from JetBlue.

I’m also at a place in my life where I’m traveling domestically pretty heavily (trying to take advantage of that TSA Precheck!) and not as much internationally, which is an entirely different animal.

To be quite honest, the early steps of planning (re: hotels and rental cars) are hands down my least favorite aspects of traveling.  I really don’t care about hotels much for 95% of my travels.  Since I don’t do much beach or resort travel, there’s no reason to spend thousands of dollars per night on somewhere that essentially just needs to have a bed and a shower.

Since I’m looking to explore the location I’m in and not the hotel, I tend to also travel pretty loyally to Marriott, so I always check their website directly first to check to see what kind of rates they’re offering (for more about why I travel loyally, check out my How I Afford To Travel post!)

Depending on the location I’m traveling to, and whether or not I have a car, I’ll generally consider staying outside the city center to get $100 off the room price and free parking.  In places like Austin this has worked greatly to my advantage, especially since we were only actually spending one day in Downtown Austin.  In Nashville, however, Mac and I were mostly exploring the Gulch and Broadway, so we opted to stay right downtown within walking distance of almost everything, taking a few Ubers when necessary, since it was so much cheaper than renting a car and staying farther away from everything we wanted to do.

The last step of hotel research that I do is all about bed bugs.  It’s important to preface this by saying my germaphobia in general is what my mom calls “neurotic” and what I call “thorough”.  I wipe down every surface in the entire hotel room with an antibacterial wipe as soon as I get there, and I absolutely never walk around on a hotel floor with bare feet.  This sort of paranoia extends into bed bugs as well.  The internet is super helpful in finding out if the place you’re going has any sort of record with bed bugs.  In places like Manhattan and San Francisco, which see so many travelers from all corners of the globe, it can be really hard to find an affordable hotel that has zero reports, so something within a three or four year grace period I’ll usually let slide.  This is just another reason I prefer to stay at a Marriott over an Airbnb when possible, because big hotels tend to have facility management and protocols in place if a traveler brings along some unwanted friends; plus, their reputation is on the line.  It’s always advised to do your own bed bug investigation once you check in.

For rental cars, I don’t shop loyally as much.  I’ve found Hertz to generally have some of the best prices, especially if you have AAA.  While I was under 25 they waived the young driver fee which was huge (plus, you can add on a second driver for free if they are also a AAA member).  B tends to also get some pretty great rates with his “perks at work” program, so those can be worth looking into as well.

I also think it’s pretty important and responsible to start making a travel budget.  Once I have an idea on the most affordable options, what kind of attractions we’re doing, and such, I’ll start to break down the budget.  For San Francisco, it looked like this.

Different people will, of course, have a different idea of their budget based on varying priorities (some might think budgeting almost $40 for coffee is ludicrous, but exploring coffee culture is important to us, especially in somewhere as significant in the coffee world as San Francisco!)  I also way overestimated for transportation, quite frankly because I wasn’t interested in spending time researching those costs and we walked a lot.  But it’s always better to overestimate and allow yourself some wiggle room!

Next up, the more fun part of planning, is deciding what to do!  When going someplace totally new, it can be overwhelming trying to understand giant lists of neighborhoods, attractions and restaurants.  Google Drive is invaluable in these early stages.  It gives you an opportunity to put all of the information you’ve found down in one place and go back to it no matter where you are.  Plus, when you’re traveling with someone else you can both work on the planning doc together!  In these early stages, I’ll write down everything I find, highlighting the neighborhood next to it.  Then later on down the road, I don’t have to go back and find this information when I try to find a place to eat after the attraction.  Then, once I’ve found pretty much everything there is to find in the destination, I can start eliminating things until the list gets down to a more manageable size.  After that, cross-referencing the attractions and restaurants can help me prioritize everything and get an idea for what is manageable, and what is actually 2 hours outside of the city!

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I use blogs and Instagram accounts quite frequently in my research process, especially in looking at finding restaurants.  Where locals go to spend their hard earned cash on a Wednesday night is exactly where I want to be eating on vacation.  Eater is also one of my favorite resources, to find out what’s popping right now, or where the quintessential cuisine of your destination can be found.

I can be somewhat of an obsessive planner (or a control freak, depending on who you ask).  I spend so much time researching a destination before I arrive to make sure I eliminate things I don’t care to see, aka things that are frequently the top results on Google.  I’ve tried to develop a balancing act of having a plan, while not overbooking myself to the point of every sight just becoming an item on a checklist.

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My sister and I travel best when we have at least some sort of a schedule.  I love finding the local food scene, but Michaela has celiac’s disease; so this could lead to some stressful and hangry moments were it not for proper planning beforehand.  When we went to Nashville, we did a broad overview of what each day would look like, so I could spend some time finding gluten free places in the area that worked with Mac’s dietary restrictions, while also letting me explore Nashville’s culinary identity.  In the end, it looked something like this.


Looking at this schedule, it almost looks like we were jam packed for the entire trip.  But realistically, we still had so much time to fit in other activities around this schedule (we even went to two more museums than we planned!)  We’ve been practicing getting in each other’s faces for 23 years, so needless to say we can be pretty good at it when the hanger starts getting in.  We knew after many trips to NYC together that having an idea of what we were doing each day – and having a place with good celiac reviews nearby – was going to make our trip the best and smoothest it could possibly be.  When visiting familiar destinations like NYC, we’ll usually just pick somewhat of a starting point for the day and work our way to the end point on a very loose schedule.

A look at how I planned to go to San Francisco with B is a lot different, but the core Google Drive is still there!

Once we decided to go to San Francisco, we quickly realized that this city is just as expensive as everyone says.  All of my normal planning avenues were failing me.  We didn’t want to stay outside of the city when we wouldn’t have a car, and even the lower tiered Marriott’s were more costly than I would have liked.  I was ready to book a room at the chic Hotel Zoe, when B found an amazing price for an Airbnb in Nob Hill.  Since it was more centrally located and in more of a local neighborhood, we decided it would be a better option for us than staying near Fisherman’s Wharf.

I desperately wanted to go to Yosemite, but we quickly realized it wasn’t really feasible this trip.  Instead, we opted for some more time spent outside of the city in Napa, Muir Woods, and Sausalito; and decided to save Half Dome for its own special trip.  A fair share of logistic hurdles arose while planning (making sure we were around to hang out with Bryan’s sister and brother in law on the weekend, not leaving our suitcases in the car EVER to avoid break-ins, etc), but with some time spent arranging attractions like puzzle pieces, we found a way to fit in everywhere we wanted to see without feeling rushed.

With B, food isn’t as much of an issue as it can be with my sister (through no fault of her own).  Knowing we could both eat anywhere, we decided to plan our dinners ahead of time, so we could find the best meals at the best prices and enjoy some date nights during the trip; figuring we would be able to grab a burrito or something quick for lunch along the way.

Sketching out a loose itinerary was particularly helpful for this trip, since we had to book some things in advance.  Once I compiled a list into (you guessed it) Google Docs of all the activities available to us, we were able to funnel everything into priority attractions, secondary attractions, and the things we really didn’t need to see.  We tried to plan only 2-3 things (including meals) each day, giving us additional time to explore as we went, but making sure we didn’t miss anything we really wanted to see.  Then, depending on how each day unfolded, we could pick items from the secondary list to hit up, should we find the time.


A great tip I’ve found for trying to plan out your travel days is to always look at tours.  Even if you don’t plan on taking one, tours can give you a good idea of what you can fit into one day (for example, Muir Woods and Sausalito is a popular tour bus combination, so I knew we could do them both in one day).

Make sure you stop by next Wednesday for the third installment of Planning A Trip!

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(The photos in this post were all taken in Paris!)

xo, C

My Go To Airport Outfit

I’m going to be pretty blunt with you all.  I have been raging war against airport fashion since I was ten and saw my fellow children getting on the airplane in pajamas (didn’t they know what my mom said about pajamas not being acceptable in public?!)

That being said, airports are the only place I don’t overdress for.  Au contraire, I am probably judging you pretty hard if you wear stilettos to the airport.

My travel outfit is pretty much what I can be most comfortable in without sacrificing personal appearance.  For example, sneakers I can get on board with, leggings I cannot.

Long Blazer.  The long blazer is crucial to looking polished, but keeping yourself warm during your flight.  This is an old blazer-coat hybrid from Old Navy, but I love this one and this one.

Uniqlo Leggings Pants.  These were a recent addition to my travel wardrobe and I would recommend them to everyone going on a long haul flight.  I normally just wear jeans to the airport, but these are so comfortable for those cross-country flights, while looking like jeans!  Plus, they’re only $30.  You’re welcome.

Nikes.  I used to exclusively travel in white lifestyle sneakers (think Chuck Taylors or Stan Smiths), but I’ve been loving the comfort and walkability of Nikes.  I have TSA Precheck, so I don’t have to take my shoes off at the airport, but the sock form makes it super easy to slide in and out of if you do!

Cape Scarf or Travel Wrap.  I know I’m not the only one out there who gets cold on planes… This travel wrap from Target is absolutely perfect – you can wear it as a scarf or as a cape, and even use it as a blanket!

Layers.  Most obviously, I always wear layers I can take on or off, particularly based on the arrival destination.  If I’m going somewhere down south, a t-shirt will be perfect for the warm sunshine waiting!

What’s your travel uniform?  Let me know in the comments!

xo, C

How I Afford To Travel

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When my friends and I find ourselves discussing traveling, it’s inevitable that at some point the conversation will turn into a sort of interrogation- with everyone trying to see if someone else has some Golden Secret of how to afford traveling, in terms of both vacation days and actual cash.

The short answer I have is this: If something is a priority to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

For example.  If you buy lunch every day you’re at work, that $10 a day can turn into a $200 monthly expense in no time, takeout adds up fast, and don’t even get me started about going to bars.  Most people fortunate to live above poverty could afford to travel, but maybe you don’t like cooking meals at home, or you can’t live without the newest technology or thousand dollar handbags.  It’s all about the choices we make every day, and so the first step in being able to travel more is to take a look at your daily or weekly spending habits.

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It’s also been said that more frequent, short trips have the ability to make us much happier than one big long trip; and I completely agree with that.  I’ve tried to adopt this by traveling locally as much as I can.  Going to places like Maine, Vermont, and New York City over long weekends is pretty affordable (no airfare cost and very reasonably priced hotels), plus it’s super easy to do from Massachusetts and requires few to no vacation days.  Last year, B and I spent a rainy Memorial Day Weekend in Portland, Maine and it rejuvenated my spirits like nothing else.

Another way I embraced the shorter trip mentality was 2016 into 2017.  My best friend and I went to Austin for five days, which was just enough time to get a feel for the city.  Then, six months later, Mac and I went to Nashville for another five days.  Having to use only six vacation days total, I got to spend *almost one week* in two different cities, that didn’t need much more time than that.  Plus, spreading the trips out gives you a bit of a chance to catch up and earn some extra cash!

Another way I afford to travel is by tagging along.  I’m very lucky in that my parents offer me to tag along whenever they’re traveling for business (or even for pleasure).  My sister and I will always tag along with my dad when he is going to Manhattan for a business trip, since the hotel is already being paid for.  I also joined my mom on a trip to Ottawa when she was meeting up with her friends for a weekend.  She got company in the car and I got to see a new city.  (I do immensely regret not buying a plane ticket to join my dad in New Orleans when he was going to a conference, so I’m trying to learn my lesson).

The next obvious cost friendly way of traveling is to visit your friends and family!  I usually end up more excited to see people than to save on the hotel room, but it’s a nice bonus perk.  My mom’s family lives in New York City, and we love to visit them whenever we are welcome, with the added bonus of being in a pretty fantastic location.  B and I are spending the weekend with his family in California, and I haven’t spent much time with them since we started dating, so it’s nice to get the chance to do so and see their turf.

Traveling during shoulder seasons is an amazing way to maximize your dollar without sacrificing good weather.  A quick Google search will usually yield some pretty helpful results in terms of peak tourist season and average weather forecast.  Then you have the chance to capitalize on lower airfare and hotel rates, plus quieter attractions!

“Just do it” is frequently my motto for traveling.  B and I were watching the prices for our San Francisco tickets, and the price dropped significantly and suddenly.  In fear of not seeing such a low price for San Francisco again, we just took the plunge and bought the tickets.  As a result, we were forced to save the extra cash we needed for lodging, food, plenty of activities, and even wine/Ubers in Napa on a two month notice.  The truth is, we probably would have ended up spending much of that money restaurant hopping on the weekends or getting takeout on a lazy weeknight.  But booking the trip forced us to save the money based on the decision to just go ahead and book it.

Traveling loyally is something I’ve heavily embraced as well.  Even though these days it seems like airfare is the most affordable part of traveling, I think every piece adds up.  My primary airline loyalty is to JetBlue.  This is for a plethora of reasons including, but not limited to: FlyFi (free Wi-Fi in every seat, on every flight), most legroom in coach, the most flights out of Boston, best free snacks, and the best inflight entertainment (including a full Amazon experience).  For hotel loyalty, I always try to stay with Marriott when possible. I don’t travel as much as my parents do, but ever since I saw their membership points pay for two hotel rooms for two full weeks in Hawaii, I’m doing my best to catch up.  Brands like Fairfield Inn and SpringHill Inn and Suites are generally my go-to’s for the low price, that includes wi-fi, breakfast, and usually parking.

Traveling based on your vacation days tends to totally contradict everything I just mentioned.  My family almost always traveled the week between Christmas and New Years when we were all off, and B and I love taking a long weekend getaway whenever a Monday holiday rolls around.  Annoyingly, airfare in particular tends to skyrocket on around these times; but there are still plenty of ways to finagle your schedule to maximize your time.  While I love taking an early flight, sometimes (particularly when traveling to the west coast) I find it best to take an evening flight.  This allows the opportunity for a full day of work instead of losing a full day for traveling.  It also tends to work out great for jet lag, just having one really long day, and waking up nearly adjusted by the next morning.

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What are your favorite tips on making travel affordable??  Let me know in the comments!  Hope you all have a great weekend!

xo, C

(The pictures in this post are all from NYC!)

Planning A Trip: Inspiration

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Traveling is one of my favorite parts of life.  I love exploring new places, whether it’s a two hour drive or an eleven hour flight away, and so this makes deciding where to go on vacation the most exciting part of planning a trip!  It’s also only natural that it’s the first part in my “Planning A Trip” series!

In the front of my travel notebook (yes, I have one, and it goes everywhere with me-but we’ll get to that later) is a quote that I like to remind myself of regularly, especially when I’m ready to go on a vacation.

What kind of destination leaves your heart happy, or makes your mind wander with ideas?  What kind of destinations feed your imagination?

Go There.

For me, this place is somewhere filled to the brim with personality and culture.  Somewhere with a great food scene, and a place where the “things to do” aren’t just museums and monuments, but places with soul and vantage points that make you feel so small, or a street that takes you to another place in time.  It took some time to admit that places that excite other people (all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean that you never leave, for example) are just not for me.  And that’s okay.  You should never spend your vacation time and money doing something you don’t actively want to do, just because everyone else likes it.  And if waking up at 6am to catch a sunrise isn’t your jam, that’s okay too!  I recognize that my energy level is overwhelming and does not exactly match everyone else’s (even my own sister, sometimes).

If you don’t already have a very specific idea of the type of traveler you are, there are a few types of questions you can ask yourself.  Are you looking to explore or relax?  Does weather matter?  Are you looking for a cultural immersion or a list of attractions to see?  How important are meals, the outdoors, and the amount of required walking to you?  Once you answer these questions, a clear idea of your ideal vacation will present itself pretty clearly.

Even though I know exactly what type of vacation I love, I have such a long list of places I want to see, it usually still requires some narrowing down with follow up questions.  Once I’ve decided it’s time for a new adventure, I usually follow this general formula.

  • Who am I going with?  Whether it’s my sister, best friend, mom, or boyfriend; who I’m traveling plays a big part of where I’m going on vacation.  For example, my sister and I do best together in cities where there’s a lot of activities (think NYC, Nashville, Chicago), while B is my best bet for a place that I just want to wander and take in the culture or scenery someplace (Vermont, Coastal Maine).
  • How many days can I go for?  The next time I only have four or five days to travel, I’m hoping to go to Charleston or New Orleans.  Both flights are under 4 hours, nonstop from Boston, meaning we could be there and exploring by lunchtime.
  • What’s on sale?  This one kind of makes me laugh, but it’s true.  Jenn and I knew we wanted to go on vacation to celebrate our Friendiversary, so we looked at the sale Southwest was having.  The flights to Austin were the best nonstop, so we booked them.  It was one of the rawest, coolest places I’ve been, and I’m so glad the sale brought us there.

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If we’re being honest, Pinterest and Instagram play heavily into inspiring me to visit certain places.  There’s an endless stream of drool-worthy locations being paraded in front of us, and every time I see one that stops me in my tracks, I make sure to file it away mentally for a future trip.

My travel notebook is where I keep track of my highlight reel locations.  It ranges from my ultimate dream trips (Marrakesh) to the top of my general travel bucket list (the Pacific Northwest) and very attainable trips (Charleston).  Every time I’m on Instagram, or talking to a friend, or reading a magazine in a waiting room and see a restaurant, sight, or attraction at one of these places, I always try to remember to jot it down in my notebook under the corresponding section.  This seems really excessive to the average person, but again: traveling is one of my passions, so planning trips I’m not even taking is right up my alley.

What are some ways you gather inspiration for your trips?  Let me know in the comments, and make sure you stop by next Wednesday for the next installment of Planning A Trip!

xo, C

(The first picture in this post is from Hawaii, the last is in Bermuda).

Monday with Mac: Spring Weekend in D.C.

It is my opinion that everybody needs to go to Washington, DC at some point in their lifetime.  Besides being our Nation’s capital, it holds an immense amount of historical information and knowledge.  Beyond that, it is one of the most beautiful cities on the East Coast.

Now, being someone that grew up 30 miles outside of Boston and who was constantly visiting family in NYC this takes a lot for me to say, but it’s true: DC is an awesome city.

Even though I’m just a 7 hour car ride away, my gal pal and I decided to fly. The flights were cheap on Southwest and we wanted to maximize our time. Ronald Reagan Airport is very easy and it’s a short drive (or metro ride) away from the “downtown” area if you will.

I highly recommend everyone go in the springtime and if you can, catch the beautiful cherry blossom festival.  It was an absolute dream come true to see this amazing plethora of cherry blossoms!  Spring is the perfect time to go for a long weekend, even though you could spend a month in DC and probably still not do everything.  Here’s what we could manage in about 4 days:

Smithsonian National Zoo:

The zoo is located in Woodley Park which happened to be right up the street from our hotel.  If you are staying downtown, there is a Metro Stop right down the street from the Zoo, so it is very easy to get to!

The main attraction here has to be the pandas, but they have other highlighted animals like elephants, zebras, cheetahs, gorillas and tigers; plus a lot of cool indoor exhibits for reptiles, small mammals, and Amazonia.  This is definitely a great place for kids, but also for adults too.  Who doesn’t love animals?



American History Museum:

For me, this one was a no-brainer.  To be in the nation’s capital where there is so much history, it was so exciting to go see more highlights from America’s past.  Here, we were able to see an amazing exhibit on food- including Julia Child’s kitchen- as well as a transportation exhibit and an exhibit on the First Ladies which was a personal favorite! (All of the beautiful inauguration gowns were there *heart eyes*)

National Air & Space Museum:

This museum is so cool.  It takes you through the history of flight, with different exhibits at different times of the amazing evolution of air travel.  Amelia Earhart, the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen, along with some other amazing pilots.  They also had some very cool exhibits on space travel, the planets, and time and navigation.  This museum was very educational, and very fun.  Who doesn’t love giant planes and rocket ships hanging from the ceiling??


U.S. Botanic Garden:

Absolutely stunning.  This was such a cool stop and I am so glad we decided to go in, as it wasn’t on our original list.  Walking in, I was mainly just happy that the building was warm, as it was a little windy out.  But they had the most beautiful gardens to walk through.  There were different rooms for different climates.  Watch out!  Some of the rooms mist the plants every few minutes so you may get a little wet!


Tidal Basin and the CHERRY BLOSSOMS:

The tidal basin is already a beautiful location to walk around, and see the Jefferson Monument and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.  I highly suggest it.  BUT WITH THE CHERRY BLOSSOMS ITS EVEN MORE AMAZING!!

The cherry blossoms are one of the most incredible sights on the East Coast.  The amount of cherry trees alone is purely jaw-dropping.  So if you have the flexibility and can plan your trip around the forecast for the year, you definitely should because this is not to be missed!  (The peak bloom is usually only a few days, but the festival goes on for a few weeks and the cherry trees are still beautiful!)




All of the monuments and memorials in Washington DC are amazing.  Unfortunately, we were not able to see all of them, but here are the ones we saw that I highly recommend:

  • Washington
  • Lincoln
  • (Reflecting pool)
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Jefferson
  • World War II

And of course, you must see the Capitol Building!  We didn’t go inside, but we hung out on the lawn for a bit and took some pictures- it is stunning!


Cool Neighborhoods:

  • Woodley Park
  • DuPont Circle
  • Georgetown

The Metro:

This is going to sound so silly, but the metro was one of my favorite parts of this trip.  We stayed in Woodley Park, which meant that we needed to take the Metro a lot, but it was SO easy!  The stations were beautiful and clean, and the trains were as well!  It’s very easy to navigate and definitely cheaper than ubering everywhere.  You also do enough walking in DC as it is, so sometimes it’s nice to just grab the metro back.  I highly recommend it!


BONUS! As some of you may know, I have celiac disease, so I eat completely gluten free. Below are a few gems I found with gluten free options in DC! 

  • District of Pi Pizzeria – Gluten Free Pizza!
  • Wicked Waffle – Gluten Free Beligan style Waffles!
  • Rise Bakery – Everything is gluten free- bagels, croissants, cookies, etc! Some things are dairy/egg free as well depending!
  • Plan B Burger Bar – Gluten free burger buns!
  • Rosa Mexicano – Gluten free chips/ taco shells and other options! (the guac is amazing!)

Thanks for reading!  Caitlin and our dad went to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival also a few years ago!  You can read her posts about it here and here!

Introduction to Travel Month on The Sol Compass!


Hello everyone – welcome back!  Today kicks off “Travel Month” on The Sol Compass.  I’ve been working hard over the past two months with Mac, Bryan, and my parents to hone in on what it is that makes traveling so enjoyable for me (yes, even the actual ‘traveling’ part).  Over the month of May I’m going to share comprehensive guides and tips about traveling, since they are my favorite things to research and read about!


I have always loved traveling.  Ever since I was a little girl, my parents always made traveling to new places and experiencing different things a priority.  My mom would teach us all about the animals we saw at the zoo, and my dad would quiz us after leaving a museum to make sure we were reading and learning while we were there.  Our family vacations are the best memories of my first 18 years, and they inspired me to prioritize traveling as an adult as well.


It is so easy to get stuck in what you “must do” when planning a trip that you can find yourself forgetting about your own personal interests and preferences.  I think one of the most freeing moments I’ve had was when I realized I didn’t *have* to do anything, anywhere.  Taking the path less reviewed on the Internet has led me to the most amazing places, and this journey is what I want to share with all of you, including how I found what it is about traveling that fills me with life.


Through hours of extremely thorough research and some trial and error, I have developed somewhat of a routine to use for every aspect of going on vacation.  Everything from what I pack in my carry on to how I decide where to travel will be covered, and I can’t wait to finally start writing about this passion of mine!

So what can you expect to see on the blog this month?  How I plan a trip, broken down into three sections; some guides to the places Mac and I are traveling to this spring; how I organize myself while packing; and tips on traveling solo, with an allergy, and for work!


Make sure to check back in on Monday to see Mac’s first installment (if you have no idea who I’m talking about, meet my sister Mac here!)  In the meantime, you can see all of my past travel posts here.

(The pictures in this post are from my summer trip to Germany, Frankfurt and Rudesheim am Rhein five years ago!  It was before I started blogging, and I’ve never shared them on here – but I do get a kick out of seeing how pixelated my pictures were back then!)

Thanks for stopping by – see you all next week!

xo, C (and M!)

Boston Concert Guide

To say that I love concerts is a bit of an understatement.  Ever since I turned 18, I’ve gone to (on average) one concert a month.  It’s sort of weird now, since I tend to be one of the oldest people at the concert (save for a few parental chaperones), but I truly believe that live music can heal in a way most things can’t.

Something that I get asked a lot by my friends is where they should eat before a concert.  While food is my top priority, proximity is a close second.  I always try to keep the food bill (before beverages, taxes, and tip) under $20, so the recommendations you’ll see here are all in that ballpark (though, rarely, slightly over).  Every single restaurant here is someplace I would willingly go to again, and not just mentioned out of sheer convenience.  Music may rival my love for food, but it certainly won’t encourage me to eat whatever garbage chicken fingers are being served inside.

After visiting every venue on this list, I have pretty strong opinions as to which is the best/worst.

Venue: House of Blues.
Restaurant: Sweet Cheeks BBQ.
The House of Blues is far and away my favorite venue in Boston.  The acoustics are great, the bars and aisles around the sides are distinct enough to allow a constant flow, and they keep prices for their tickets consistently affordable (I generally expect to spend less than $40).  It also has the added bonus of being widely accessible from anywhere, whether you are looking for affordable parking (good luck finding a $10 parking spot near the Garden the night of your concert) or just take the green line into the Kenmore Station.

To sweeten the deal, a quick walk away from the House of Blues is my favorite barbecue spot in New England, Sweet Cheeks!  B and I will usually split a tray (one meat choice, one hot side and one cold side) and then get a big bucket of the biscuits – they are absolutely to die for!

Venue: The Sinclair
Restaurant: Cambridge, 1
The Sinclair sneaks in barely behind House of Blues for my favorite venue.  I’ve seen some amazing shows here, but while the intimacy of The Sinclair is hard to match, I think truly great artists can shine a bit more at the House of Blues.  Harvard Square may be evolving away from its former quirky glory that I remember it most fondly by, but The Sinclair is thriving as always.  An obvious choice is to eat at the kitchen at The Sinclair, but it can get pretty busy during the pre-show rush, so I prefer to walk down Church Street to Cambridge, 1. They have a great wooden interior, clean but sultry vibes when the sun goes down, and really great, innovative pizza pies.

Venue: The Red Room at Cafe 939
Restaurant: Trident Booksellers & Cafe

Cafe 939 is a totally unique venue in that it’s actually run by students at Berklee College of Music.  The business students are tasked with booking artists for the venue, and seniors have their performance recitals here as well.  I saw Rachel Platten and A Great Big World here back in 2011 before either of them had made it big, and it was such a great experience.  It’s a small and cozy venue, with great acoustics and a friendly, engaging atmosphere.  Pop over to Newbury Street before hand to grab a bite to eat at Trident, which is totally different than my old go-to for Cafe 939, the since closed Cactus Club.  Trident is a favorite shop of mine, thanks to their friendly and helpful environment, plus being one of the only independent bookstores left.  If you can find your way out of the shelves, they serve breakfast and sandwiches all day long.

Venue: Agganis Arena
Restaurant: Otto

Agganis is my favorite arena sized concert venue.  It’s more intimate than the Garden, and with better acoustics.  I saw Macklemore and Halsey within two months of each other there, and they were my two favorite concerts of that summer.  Comm Ave is full of places you could eat at, but I’d recommend going to Otto for their thin crust pizza.  Right across the street and on the same block as Agganis, the location can’t be beat.  The interior of this one is my favorite of all their locations – bright white walls, wooden tables and bar, an outdoor patio, and a wall of basil right as you walk in.  They do pizza by the slice or whole pies, and they also have gluten free crust available!  It’s also important to note that they have an extensive craft beer and wine selection available, in case you want to get the party started a little early.

Venue: Great Scott
Restaurant: Roxy’s Grilled Cheese

My sister and I saw Matt Hires (one of my all-time favorite musicians) and Alex Dezen play the coolest joint set here, and they mingled around the audience before and after the show. Since Great Scott has a very laid back vibe, I like to kick off the night with some equally low key (but delicious) grilled cheese over at Roxy’s brick and mortar destination (the food truck can frequently be found at the Greenway, Downtown, or Harvard Square!)

Venue: Brighton Music Hall
Restaurant: Lone Star Taco Bar

Brighton Music Hall to me is a better version of Paradise Rock Club.  It’s less than a mile down the street, has no poles blocking your view (see below) and has a set up that makes it very easy to get to the bathroom, bar, or merch table.  Lone Star Taco Bar is the perfect place to get your Mexican fix beforehand, with $4 tacos every day of the week, not just on Taco Tuesday!  Their servers are amazing, and all the ingredients are fresh.  For the price you just cannot beat it, but it is very small and pretty popular, so try to get here as early as you can.

Venue: TD Garden
Restaurant: Finch
As far as concerts go, the Garden is a 0 on the -5 to 5 scale.  That energy I felt when Paul Pierce returned for his last game and played under Larry Bird’s number, the eery feeling of history being made in front of your eyes just doesn’t translate to concert performances.  The acoustics aren’t great, and the upper deck can be hard to dance around without feeling like you’re going to fall off.  That being said, bigger acts aren’t going to stop at the smaller venues, and some concerts I’ve seen here have been truly great in spite of the circumstances.
Around the corner from the Garden, inside of the Boxer Hotel, is Finch, where American fares on the lighter side are paired with specialty cocktails.  The interior falls somewhere between vintage and farmhouse, which strikes a much more elegant balance than one might expect.  Finding a meal at a nice restaurant in the West or North End can seem budget breaking, but Finch really slides in at a palatable price point.

Venue: Gillette Stadium
Restaurant: Tavolino
I don’t personally love going to concerts at Gillette, if only because the traffic on Route One after an event is my own personal kind of hell.  I would absolutely make an exception to go back if The Boss decided to do another stadium tour (…please?!)  At any rate, the other 66,000 people attending are also trying to get food in Patriot Place before the concert, which can make it frustrating, if not impossible, to fuel up.  Tavolino has done a great job capitalizing on the lack of restaurant seats available, and set up a “To Go” station on the sidewalk outside for pizza.  You’ll still have a wait, but it will be tremendously shorter than waiting for a table and sit down service, guaranteed.  (Celiac friends: since they didn’t have any gluten free pizzas ready outside, they walked my sister inside and let her order a GF pizza at the bar to go!)

Venue: Paradise Rock Club
Restaurant: Mei Mei
I decidedly do not love going to shows at Paradise, which garners a lot of scorn from my fellow concert lovers (and boyfriend, for that matter).  The low ceilings can induce a bit of claustrophobia, and the unsightly poles block the line of sight for the entire back half of the theater. They also hosted U2 one time back before I was born and they will never let anyone forget it.  B loves the intimacy of the small venue and its location, being right off the T and near plenty of food and bar options.  It’s also a sort of institution in Boston, the kind of place that you grow up going to.  Some artists I love, including but not limited to Wrabel and Cigarettes After Sex, have made stops on tour to Paradise though, so I will continue going back for worthwhile performances.  Luckily, Mei Mei– my food spot of choice- is also a very enticing reason to head to Paradise. Another food truck that amassed a huge following, Mei Mei’s small, but open restaurant serves up the most drool-worthy dumplings, amongst other Asian Fusion choices.

Venue: Fenway Park
Restaurant: Tiger Mama
There, I said it.  Fenway Park is the worst concert venue in Boston.  It’s great for baseball games, but absolutely terrible for concerts (which is good, since it was actually built for baseball games…)  I’d really only go for people I desperately wanted to see (i.e. Lady Gaga, who had been on my list for years).  It’s also a great reason to go to Tiger Mama.  Right down the street from its sister restaurant Sweet Cheeks, Tiffany Faison’s Southeast Asian outpost never disappoints.  They did an amazing job on the interior, and it feels as authentic and transporting as you could ever dream.  I love going family style here, and sharing a bunch of items because they are all way too good to pass up.

Bonus: some concert venues around New England!

Venue: Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel
Restaurant: Red Fez
Now named the Strand Ballroom, I guess I’m a little old fashioned because I love all the history that the name Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel holds.  They’ve held court for my beloved Colony House, among many others.  My friend Erick never steers me wrong for recommendations in Providence, so hats off to him for introducing me to the nearby Red Fez.  If you aren’t in the mood for something too heavy, its perfect for bar snacks or tacos before the show.

Venue: Maine State Pier
Restaurant: Flatbread Company
B and I really love Portland, so I frequently check in on their concert lineups just in case there’s a great show that we could take a night away to go see.  The Maine State Pier is home to many waterfront shows during the summer months, and is about everything you might expect from an outdoor venue.  Just steps away is a location of Flatbread, which I will gladly go to any time, any place, for their (wait for it…) flatbread pizzas.

Venue: Port City Music Hall
Restaurant: Duck Fat
A small venue with great sound quality is pretty much a one way ticket to my heart, as far as concert halls go.  Port City strikes an amazing balance between retro vibes, and actually looking clean, somehow.  It has the nice added bonus of being within walking distance from Duck Fat, which is possibly my greatest weakness as far as greasy food goes.

Venue: Mohegan Sun
Restaurant: Frank Pepe’s

I’ve never had a bad show experience at the Mohegan Arena (if you don’t count the brutal hour that I had to listen to Colbie Caillatt open for Christina Perri three years ago…)  It’s nice to have free parking at a venue, and the casino offers endless amounts of entertainment before or after your show.  There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but I personally am a sucker for grabbing a slice of Pepe’s red tomato pie (clearly, pizza is a very prominent part of this guide).  That, and a couple Krispy Kreme donuts after the show…

xo, C

February 2018 Recap

Hi everyone, welcome back!  Sorry for the radio silence around here.  When life gets really busy, unfortunately the blog is the first thing that has to be taken off the burner.

That being said, it was the perfect time to do some reflecting on the direction I want to take The Sol Compass in over the next year.

It became clear to me throughout January that I wanted to broaden the focus of the blog.  I try to curb my spending in the early months of the year (since it’s a time of year that I really don’t need many new things, and also the time of year that can be actually painful to take outfit photos in when you live in New England).  For three years, I’ve shared nearly three outfit posts every single week.  That is a lot of new outfits every month!  I love personal style, and it will always be a cornerstone of my own personal identity and the identity of this site.  At this point, though, an increasing number of my life goals are centered around other things, and most of those things don’t involve creating new, fresh, and inspiring outfits at a somewhat alarming rate.

I have always needed a creative outlet, and this blog has been nothing short of perfect for me. As I take a step back from fashion, it means I can focus on other things that you and I both care about.  My main idea in this shift of direction is that this place will be fewer photos of me in my outfits, and more about us.  Nearly 40% of you are women between 25 and 34 – we are all going through the same things together, and care about many of the same topics (our jobs, our homes, our skin, our vacations).  I love researching these topics, learning about them, and sharing my findings with you all through writing.  So I hope you stick around as I take an editorial approach to the things you want to see more of!

(In case you missed my intro to my monthly recaps, see January’s here).

B and I had quite a few nights out this month, which was a really nice way to break up the winter blues.  We went to Providence with my family to see Sebastian Maniscalco, and ate at a little Italian place in Federal Hill called Massimo.  I’ve mentioned before that my mom and both of my siblings have celiac disease, so finding an Italian restaurant that has so many gluten free options is a big win with them (even though my dad and I were pulling to go to Los Andes… all parties left the meal full and happy).

For Valentine’s Day, we have a tradition of staying home far away from every overpriced prix fixe menu.  This year we decided to have a little cheese night and make a small board for ourselves.  We’ve spent a lot of time learning about cheese and cheese boards over the last year, so it’s really fun for us to put something together.  I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a post about it, so if that’s something you would be interested in seeing leave me a comment!

We moved Bryan’s side hustle (Think Wood Thoughts) into a physical space, which was super exciting!  He now has a small collection of his pieces available in Sterling, Mass!  If you’re nearby, you can check his booth out here.

As a gift, Bryan also made me a gorgeous side table to serve as a coffee station!  I have lots of coffee beans and makers, but really had nowhere to store them all.  I also think coffee cart is going to be the next bar cart, and wanted an area everything could shine.  This gift really will keep on giving throughout the years, and I can’t wait to show you all how I style it in the next couple weeks!

The last exciting thing that happened this month, is we saw Black Panther, which is a two fold excitement.  First off, the movie is great and if you haven’t seen it yet you should change that ASAP.  The next piece, is we got to start our full re-watch of the MCU in preparation for Infinity War.  This article is the perfect order to watch, in my opinion.  Needless to say, we have our work cut out for us with this marathon!

Thank you so much for reading.  I love you all tremendously, and the fact that you are reading these words right now means nothing short of the world to me.

xo, C

Apple Watch Review

One of the questions my friends in real life and on the internet have in common, is “How do you like your Apple Watch?!”  The truth is, long before Apple even announced a watch, I was searching for a watch with standalone GPS function.  I never found one that seemed worth the purchase though, so I postponed the purchase.  When Apple launched the Series Two, B got himself one, and I waited with baited breath to hear his full review.  As the technology world tends to do, the whispers around the Series 3 kept me waiting around for that launch, and in September I decided the new Apple Watch finally had everything I was looking for.  My family actually bought me one for my birthday, and I have gleefully worn it every day since then.  Every week or so, someone has asked me for my review and recommendation.

My number one interest in the Apple Watch was its health features.  As mentioned, I have long searched for wearable technology that allows me to track my runs (and walks) without carrying my phone around.  Some of my other favorite features include the activity rings, the “stand” alerts, and the workout app, which allows you to track cycling, elliptical, and stair master workouts, amongst others.  It’s also really nice to not need my phone strapped onto my arm at the gym, I just use my watch and Bose Earphones.

The unsung hero of the Apple Watch, in my option, is its integration with Maps.  No more forgetting to take a turn, the watch will gently, but repeatedly, tap you when you have a turn coming up.

My friend Brad told me I would never notice how many notifications I got in a day until I got an Apple Watch, and he was 100% right.  I had to turn off everything except calls and texts after just one day!  I do love that I can check my texts even when I don’t have my phone nearby, and the Siri is very useful in its own right.

A slightly annoying, but fixable, side effect was that after a couple months of wearing the Watch all day long (besides sleeping), I began to notice some small red bumps on my wrist.  I assumed it was because of my dry winter skin, and I had never worn a watch all day, through workouts and all, before.  So I asked my mom (an avid watch wearer), and she said some hydrocortisone would fix it!  (She was right, as always).

My only real complaint about the Apple Watch is the lack of Spotify integration.  It works great with Apple Music, but I’m very loyal to Spotify for a plethora of reasons, which can make leaving behind your phone very frustrating.  I’m not sure the future the Watch and Spotify have together, but in my book it’s the only real area for improvement.

Do any of you have the Apple Watch?  What are your thoughts on it?

xo, C