Friday, January 29, 2016

pure barre kennesaw grand opening weekend

last month, my sister amy opened her pure barre studio in kennesaw, georgia! you may have read the initial interview I posted about amy - why she felt inspired by pure barre to leave her job in order to open her own studio, the importance of community in business endeavors, and more.

the grand opening weekend featured free pure barre classes, opening membership specials, local vendors including a grilled cheese shop, wine shop, and more. not to mention, the barre boutique at pure barre kennesaw is awesome - I helped to merchandise and set it up and coudn't take my eyes off some of the adorable and well priced pieces. to read more about pure barre kennesaw, check out the pure barre blog and the class schedule. for any of you out there in the north atlanta area looking to act on your new year's resolutions, pure barre kennesaw is a great way to do so!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

brunch at parish

sometimes in life, you meet special people that are awesome and slightly older than you. older enough to offer valuable life and career advice, but similar in age enough to be your friend. I am so lucky to have found a relationship like this many years back! it's actually an interesting story. I interned with an awesome atlanta-based consumer brand during my junior year of college, working on a large team in the marketing department - this was 2007. many years later, I was in business school back in atlanta and had accepted a graduate research position. I was told about my supervisor who hadn't started yet... when they told me her name, I just knew it was the same moronke I had worked with years before in my internship. it's a small world, people.

ok, back to brunch. so fast forward at least three years, moronke now lives far away and luckily, we were able to meet for brunch over the holidays. she suggested parish in inman park and I eagerly confirmed since I'd never been but always wanted to go.  that morning, I got extremely lucky and found an amazing parking spot, which of course, made me automatically like this joint. then I walked inside parish and fell in love.

Monday, January 25, 2016

10 tips to survive your first international business trip

with an international business trip coming up quickly, I've been reflecting down memory lane on a few of my very first international business trips. I have traveled a fair amount across many different cultures - from malaysia to dubai, brazil to sydney. between work travel and undergrad/graduate study abroad trips, I have visited five of the seven continents (antarctica and africa, I am coming for you!). to say I have learned a lot would be an understatement. one of the best parts of international travel is the ability to experience different cultures. you may assume that all people are mostly alike as a species, in terms of our motivators, goals, definition of happiness, etc - of course, this can be true but this can also be very untrue.

they say sometimes you have to learn things on your own through experience, but I believe some advice from someone who's done it before can be very helpful. so here's what I've learned over the years about international business travel, in no particular order. I think this is one of the best posts I have ever written (if I do say so myself) - it's long, but worth the read. when I first started traveling, there wasn't a printed guide or tips sheet - I took advice from my parents and a few colleagues. hopefully these tips, all in one place, will help you feel comfortable and ready to hit the ground abroad running!

Friday, January 22, 2016

celebrating 30 years of marriage at vino venue

my parent's 30th wedding anniversary is in january and my sisters and I wanted to do something special to celebrate as a family and surprise them. I had heard amazing things about vino venue in dunwoody and after checking out their website, we decided to surprise my parents with a private cooking class. 

to sum up the vino venue experience, it was phenomenal. you can see from our photos - we had the best time and the staff at vino venue did everything they could to make sure it was a perfect day. from ensuring the menu was tailored to our preferences to constantly refilling our wine glasses, vino venue was on point and I would highly recommend checking them out!

Monday, January 18, 2016

meatless monday: cheesy shells and broccoli

do you ever wake up on a saturday feeling totally energized and wanting to be productive? this is usually how we wake up... sometimes more stephen than me, he's been known to fire up the vacuum while I'm trying to enjoy a cup of coffee. last weekend, I woke up intent on preparing for soup swap and making a nice lunch for stephen since he planned to spend all day studying. as I was making broccoli cheese soup for the soup swap and these yummy cheesy shells, I ended up chopping something like nine heads of broccoli first thing on saturday morning. there's nothing like chopping tons of broccoli to really get you motivated for the day! not. after coming down with a slight hand cramp and successfully avoiding any sliced fingers, I made a cup of coffee and sat down to watch a lifetime movie. there's nothing wrong with pacing yourself in the kitchen, people.

we love cheese, pasta, and any combination of the two. we also really like broccoli, so this dish was a no brainer. if it weren't for me, stephen would totally binge on boxed macaroni and cheese especially given how busy he has been with work and CPA studying. luckily, this elevated version cooks in a flash and feels healthier since I know exactly where all the ingredients are coming from and I can swap in soy milk. I knew these cheesy shells would be a hit, stephen even asked me when we could have this dish again. HA. these cheesy shells and broccoli would be the best meal to come home to after a long, cold winter day. think of it as the ultimate comfort food with a healthy addition of broccoli to balance the taste.

Friday, January 15, 2016

soup swap lineup

one of the best parts of soup swap was being exposed to completely new and different types of soup. I've already made my standby soups this winter: baked potatobroccoli cheesechicken noodle, and a new one - moroccan chickpea soup. so when I had the chance to try cauliflower soup, chipotle sweet potato soup, orzo tomato soup, and more - I was pleasantly impressed and inspired to bookmark these new recipes!

if you're looking to spruce up your soup menu this winter - here are all the different soup offerings we had at our first annual soup swap:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

hosting a soup swap

if you read regularly, you know that I've posted a lot of soup recipes lately: baked potato, broccoli cheese, chicken noodle, moroccan chickpea soup. soup is the greatest, especially in the winter, it lasts a long time in the fridge or freezer and one pot makes many servings. so here I was just making soup in my own world when I stumbled upon a soup swap post on instagram. you mean I can turn soup making and soup eating into a party?! I'm in.

so this is how I decided to host a soup swap! everyone was tasked with making a soup of their choice and bringing nine individually packaged single servings for all guests, including one serving for us to heat up and taste at the swap. we had so much fun tasting all these different kinds of soups and of course, the icing on the cake was that we all went home with tons of soup!

Monday, January 11, 2016

small space living solutions

for those of you who created your new year's resolutions and/or published them - good for you! I haven't mustered up the energy yet, we'll see if I get around to it this year. I have, however, completed one resolution-type accomplishment in 2016 and that is to increase the organizational efficiency of my small living space. my place is pretty big for a one bedroom apartment but it could always be bigger, right?! it's funny that sometimes in order to organize and reduce clutter - you have to buy items (ie bring more stuff in your home) to help you do so.

I woke up on january 3rd with a strong desire to go to the container store. my closet is definitely a source of stress for me since it's jam packed with necessities. I don't have superfluous items anymore [so many trips to goodwill] but am still overflowing the closet. I found the most amazing valet rack to hang over the closet door at the container store, now I can pick out my clothes for the day or pull a few things out to pack for a trip and store them all on this genius rack. I asked stephen if he wanted one, he said no. anddd guess who has already started to encroach on my valet rack? mmm hmmm.

Friday, January 8, 2016

announcing: the laurensparkle etsy shop!

I am so excited to announce that I have opened an etsy shop named, you guessed it, laurensparkle. the shop will launch with three gift boxes, affectionately named omg!boxes: you're engaged, it's a boy, and it's a girl.

omg!boxes were born out of my own personal desire to celebrate my friends who were getting engaged and having babies. most of these friends didn't live close to me anymore - I wanted to ship these ladies something special and unique [but not outrageously expensive and time consuming] to celebrate! as you may know, the only way to accomplish this sort of gift is to compile gifts from multiple places - this takes time and causes stress.

whether your friend is newly engaged or just welcomed a new bundle of joy into the world - I've curated gifting favorites by occasion and taken the work out of it for you! the next time one of your friends gets engaged or has a baby, I'd love it if you checked out my little etsy shop.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

beach house tour: bathrooms

a few months ago, I revealed my parents' beach house living room with the intent to share more of their beautiful home in the future. stephen and I haven't made it back to the beach in a while, but the builder requested to take some photos of his work and sent them over to my family. which means I have lots to share! think of it as an early glimpse of springtime to come, right smack dap in the middle of winter.

over the next few weeks, I'll share different parts of their home including the master bedroom and the kitchen and also accents such as sliding barn doors throughout the house. I thought I'd start this ongoing home tour with bathrooms. we can look at beach bathrooms in january and not be too depressed, right? it's not like I started with views of the ocean, I know it's probably 20 degrees wherever you are... so we're starting with bathrooms. or if you're in atlanta, it's probably 70 degrees. this season's weather has sure been wonky.

between the cool curtain fabrics and the modern tile colors and patterns, these beachy bathrooms steal the show all throughout the house. first, the master bathroom...

Monday, January 4, 2016

meatless monday: moroccan chickpea soup

back in october, I accompanied my dad to a family wedding in chicago. it was a super quick trip, just enough time for us to stuff our faces with lou malnati's pizza and celebrate the happy couple's wedding. at the wedding, I was talking with my aunt and somehow her moroccan chickpea soup came up. she was telling me all about it and how often she makes it, so of course I asked for the recipe. when she sent it to me a few weeks later, I knew I had to make it. my aunt throws shredded chicken in her version, I omitted the meat - chickpeas are known for their health benefits including protein and fiber content and this broth is really tasty given the mix of sweet (cinnamon) and spicy (ground red pepper). 

stephen's been CPA studying a lot and I've been trying to eat really light dinners, like 100% juice from arden's garden to reset after the holidays. I decided to make this soup for lunch and as I finished it up, I was worried that stephen wasn't going to like it. even though I'm all about the veggies lately, I just thought this soup was a bit out of stephen's comfort zone. luckily, I was wrong! if you're looking for a light dish that's easy to put together and is broth based (lower cal than cream based) - this soup is for you. oh and by the way, you may notice better picture quality in this post... this is my first post using my brand new fancy schmancy christmas present camera from stephen. what a difference!

Friday, January 1, 2016

top 10 things to do in key west

I've been fortunate to travel to key west three times in the past fifteen months or so, including two trips with stephen's family and one girls' trip. key west is such a manageable destination, you can walk almost anywhere and on the off chance that you need to cab somewhere, there are pink cabs everywhere. if you're atlanta based, it's a quick plane hop away and the airport is about 5 miles from anywhere you could stay on the island.

since I just got back from my most recent trip, I feel compelled to share my list of top things to do in key west. I've done most of these things myself but I also leaned on stephen a bit since he's had other experiences such as parasailing. from duval street to casa coladas, and sunset views to butterfly watching - this list is in no particular order, enjoy!