lifestyle

Wow, ya’ll.

I don’t know where you are in the world, but I don’t think it matters anymore– we are all affected by the coronavirus. COVID-19 has changed 2020, and our lives at the moment. Most everyone I know is self-quarantining by working from home and staying away from people.

Most of the stores, restaurants and bars are closed, and other places are encouraging drive-thru service only. Some parks are closed, too. All of this social distancing has me thinking: What if this was what life was like, all the time?

To be honest, my mental state hasn’t really been affected so far. I am a homebody (luckily) so cabin fever hasn’t set in. I also don’t do a lot of “social” things during the week– I go to work, to the gym, and home. But I know a lot of people are already seriously affected by the change in surroundings and the lack of human interaction.

At the beach before quarantine/ social distancing started

I wanted to share some of what I am doing to stay as close to a “normal” routine as possible, and how I am beating cabin fever. Please use this post to leave your tips here, share how you’re feeling, or anything else you need to talk about. We’re all in this weird space together!

Staying active: My gym’s closed, and chances are yours is too. Working out is really important to me though and I can totally feel a difference when I don’t get some active time in. To beat the sluggish feeling, I downloaded a 3-month membership of Beachbody on Demand. No, I don’t get money if you join and I’m not a”coach” or anything, but this program is great. You get 2 weeks free when you sign up and there are dozens of programs you get access to when you join. It’s basically a bunch of videos and worksheets for different fitness programs. I started the 21 Day Fix videos, and I am already obsessed. I know they’re working because of how sore I am, and it’s only day 3!

FaceTime/Skype dates: I have heard a bunch of people doing “virtual happy hours” where they pour a drink and talk with a friend on FaceTime or another video app. I had a FaceTime lunch date with a friend today, and it totally brightened my day to see her and talk like we were having a normal lunch during the week. It’s amazing what that does to your psyche.

Go outside: Fresh air is underrated. Thankfully the weather is beautiful in Birmingham, so getting outside is a great way to beat cabin fever. Take a walk around the block with your partner, with the dogs, or by yourself to clear your head. I know that’s on everyone’s list, but its so true.

Count your blessings: We have to remember how lucky we are, even in the midst of this crisis. If you’re reading this, you have internet and a device to use the internet. I have a house, food, and Netflix. I am healthy, my family’s healthy, and that’s all that matters. Not everyone is so lucky.

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Well, we went to the Super Bowl! Our team didn’t win, but we played a hell of a game…. and Mitri and I had a blast in Miami before hand.

I had never been to Miami before and I had SO many things I wanted to see and do. With it being Super Bowl weekend too, that just multiplied the things in our schedule.

If you’re visiting Miami for just a short time, this is the travel diary for you! I packed so many things into our weekend, and I would have even been able to put more in if we weren’t there for the game. Anyways, these are my must-go dos if you are in Miami for a weekend! 

Similar shirt | Similar earrings

Friday:

We got to the Fort Lauderdale airport around lunch and made our way to the hotel. Then, we headed straight to lunch at Monty’s Raw Bar.

Monty's Raw bar in Miami

Y’all. If you go to Miami, Monty’s is a must. Don’t let the name fool you— there are a gazillion things that aren’t raw. I got nachos, and Mit got tacos. Everything was incredible, and their drink menu was just as delicious looking as the food menu. The atmosphere was also so fun. It’s on a dock, with dozens of yachts surrounding the pier. I am not sure what they do when it’s bad weather, because it’s pretty much all outside, but I guess it’s comfortable year round because of the temps. 

Also there are the cutest pelicans that hang out too!

Pelican outside Monty's Raw Bar (Photo credit Ivana Hrynkiw)

After Monty’s, we went to Little Havana to take a look around and get ice cream at Azucar. That was a place on every touristy list, but it’s so worth it. It was SO GOOD. Thankfully we had it again on Sunday at the stadium because I would have not wanted to leave without going back.

We also just walked around Little Havana and explored the little shops and restaurants. We didn’t spend more than probably an hour here, so it was pretty easy to fit in.

Next, we headed to the Super Bowl LIVE experience downtown. That obviously isn’t an all-the-time thing, but it was so cool. We got to see some players and explore this area that was specially set up for the 49ers and Chiefs. They even had separate bars for each team’s fans.

We had reservations at Esotico (also downtown), so we rode scooters from the LIV experience to Esotico. That was an experience I will spare you from, yet super fun and I definitely recommend. I had to take a blurry phone photo to document that we survived it.

Esotico Miami

Esotico was phenomenal. It’s a tiki bar/restaurant so every single drink was to die for, and were served in the cutest cups. The food was just as yummy— we got the coconut fried rice (it’s served in a pineapple!) and chicken curry. It doesn’t hurt that the place was adorable. The owner is amazing, and his son is the best and sweetest server, so ask for him and make sure you ask to meet the owner too. (PS if you call, it goes to the owner’s cell. I used Open Table for reservations, but it turned out I didn’t really need them)

Saturday:

Saturday morning we spent on South Beach: We had breakfast at Havana 1957, which is another super-recommended place on all the travel lists but is again totally worth it. Breakfast was delicious, affordable, and we got to sit on the sidewalk on Ocean Drive. We walked around South Beach for a while and then headed to the Super Bowl Experience at the Convention Center.

Outside the Versace Mansion on Ocean Drive, being touristy
Ocean Drive Miami

I won’t go on about that because I bet you won’t be in Miami for the Super Bowl, but if you ever go to a Bowl you definitely should pay to do the Super Bowl Experience. It’s 100% worth it, you get to see all the trophies, rings, etc. 

That took most of the day, but afterward we headed to Lincoln Road Mall. Following that, we went back to the hotel and did dinner at the Dadeland Mall.

Sunday:

All game day stuff! Which you probably won’t be doing , unless you’re there for a Dolphins game. In that case, the stadium is great and pretty close to lots of food, hotels, etc.

San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl LIV (photo credit Ivana Hrynkiw)

I hope this guide helps if you are headed on a Miami vacay! Send me your favorite spots in the city. I can’t wait to go back.

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It’s the holidays already, which is crazy… but that’s another conversation.

Today I want to talk about how I save money and shop smart during the Christmas season! There are so many ways you can save when buying all those gifts on your list, and keep track of what you’re spending and what you have purchased/ still need to buy. I figured everyone knew about these shopping hacks but after multiple conversations with friends and family, ya’ll need the money-saving tips! 

Here are my favorite hacks for shopping this season.

Me, thinking about all the money I'm about to save this holiday season
Me thinking about all the money I’m about to save

Ebates, now called Rakuten: Ya’ll listen. This is not a scam, even though it sounds like it is. You just go to the Rakuten website and then click on whatever website you want to go to through the Rakuten site. That’s it, that’s the whole process. Each site has a different cash back deal and it’s different every week. For example, say Ulta is doing 10 percent cash back. You go to Ulta’s site through Rakuten, shop, and check out. Then in a day or two you will get 10 percent of that purchase credited to your Rakuten account. You get a check every few months, or you can request it whenever you want. You can also use the mobile app or install the Chrome browser extension so you don’t ever miss a site that has cash back going on (that’s what I do!)

If you want to download, go here and you’ll get $10 to kickstart your account. 

https://www.rakuten.com/r/IVANAS122?eeid=28187

Retail Me Not: This is a website and app for your phone that gives you all the coupons and lets you know what sales are happening. Just type in the store you’re at, and then the site/app gives you all the coupons, sales, and deals at the store both in-store and online. Sometimes the older coupons towards the bottom don’t work (they’re expired and the page hasn’t been updated) but it’s still worth checking. You can also get the app to monitor your location and alert you when you’re near a store with deals or coupons. That way you don’t forget!

Santa’s Bag app: Ya’ll I love this app. If you’re Christmas/holiday obsessed like me, and buy a lot of gifts, you need it. You can set a budget and then log how much each gift you buy is, and the calculator will keep you on track and let you know anytime how much you’ve spent on gifts and how much you have left from the budget you set. You also can log each gift and its specific person, so you don’t ever lost track of what’s under the tree! I love this app so much.

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It’s funny, I had planned to write a Meghan Markle post for the past few months and just never got around to it… but with the latest news that the couple is suing over some downright awful media coverage, I thought this was the perfect time to share.

I have loved Meghan for years, especially beginning when my friend who loved Suits got me into her. At the time I got into her and found her blog The Tig, it was rumored she was dating Prince Harry. Thank god that was true, and look at her now! 

But that’s not my point. I loved her and her blog for so many reasons, and I still do. On The Tig, she talked about sustainability, beauty, fashion, prayer/meditation, food, wine, and basically all things lifestyle. One thing we learned through The Tig is that Meghan is just a generally cool, ordinary yet inspirational person. She shops at H&M and Madewell, she loved Eat, Pray, Love just like the rest of us, and she is fine with being a home body.

I think that is the PERFECT person to be a royal and set the standard for how people should act. 

The fact is that she’s a cool person, and 100000% gorgeous. She’s mixed, American, not from insane wealth… literally everything the royal family needs. Maybe that’s exactly the reason why the British press won’t leave her alone… because she is different. She’s setting a new standard, one that’s different than the traditional one. And, some people don’t like change.

While The Tig was shut down shortly before her engagement, you can still find some of her posts online (because, as we know, the internet never forgets). One of my favorite posts is still bookmarked on my laptop, because every so often I need a reminder. I think it is so inspirational and can give a few tips to all of us on how to act like a decent human being.

Here’s the link to that piece, and I think everyone should take 5 minutes to read it.

It’s called “How to be Both” and I think it– weirdly enough, as this was written years ago— proves she can be herself and still be the Duchess. The two things are not mutually exclusive.

You CAN be different than the norm, no matter what situation you’re in. Personally, I hope I can have a daughter I teach to look up to people like her for these exact reasons.

Basically everyone needs to just leave Meghan alone. The end.

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Not long ago I heard one of my favorite bloggers (Shelby at Glitter & Gingham) talk about what fills her up and how she’s really tried to live lately around those things.

That phrase got me. How trite, I know, but I couldn’t help but use that moment to think, “what fills ME up?” and “Am I doing enough of that?”

I know some things that totally fill me up; others not so much. And my goal for the rest of the year is to really identify those things and concentrate on only those things that fill me with joy and fuel, and give me purpose. Of course, that means also doing less of the things that DON’T fill me up.

What I mean are the things that remind me why I wake up every day and work by butt off to enjoy. I thought it would be helpful to make a list that reminds me of what fills me up:

  • Dogs, in any form or fashion
  • Family time
  • My husband
  • Writing
  • Lunch with a friend & dinner with the girls
  • Being kind to a stranger
  • Good cup of coffee
  • A WWII novel
  • Reality television

OK, OK I know some of these are silly (but not untrue) and I swear I have a more extensive list, but you get the jist.

I know this is probably some life message I am way late to the game on, but I thought I should share anyway. Because there’s got to me at least one other goon like me who hasn’t thought of things this way.

A good night with the hubs always fills me up
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Last week we talked about graduation gifts, now it’s time to talk graduation invitations. Some of ya’ll know I made my own wedding invites and I definitely do not regret it. They turned out exactly how I wanted! But, I think since graduation invites are not as elaborate or detailed, and you don’t need as many (ie expensive) as wedding paper suites, you can pretty much buy them exactly how you like and spend less than you would making them and have less of a headache.

Enter Basic Invite. Basic Invite is an online company that offers thousands of paper products, including business cards, stickers, and stationary. They specialize in invitations though, and they have some of the cutest grad invites I have ever seen.

Picture of Basic Invite graduation invitation

One really cool thing about Basic Invite that makes them different from some of the other paper companies out there is that they have nearly more than 180 color options for every element on your card, meaning you can completely personalize *everything* and make your invite look like YOU, and not just one picked off the shelf at Hobby Lobby. That’s the biggest thing for me— I want my invites to be as unique as I am, and Basic Invite lets you do that.

They also offer custom samples, so you can hold an actual printed sample of your invite before you put in your order. That way, you don’t order 100 and realize you don’t actually like the picture you chose.

Basic Invite also offers more than 40 colors of envelopes, and the envelopes are peel and seal (praise the LORD, you do not know how helpful this is unless you’ve licked 300 wedding invitations!). They also have an address service that works with a link you post on social media, so friends and family can directly input their address info and its saved to your account. The best part of this service is Basic Invite offers recipient address printing at NO COST on all card orders. What! 

Picture of Basic Invite graduation invitation

For my extra gals, like myself, they also have foil cards too in gold, silver, and rose gold.

If you want to try out Basic Invite for their medical assistant graduation invitations,save the date graduation invitations, invitations for college graduation, or anything else they offer, you can get 15% off with coupon code: 15FF51

If you get overwhelmed, some are my favorites are called The Tassel, Script Frame, and Gold Confetti Corners.

Thank me later! 

This post was sponsored; all opinions are my own.

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When we booked our honeymoon at Sandals, I had no idea what to expect. I had seen the commercials like everyone else, but I was pretty up in the air on what it was really like. And, the online reviews are only so much help.

After we booked and I would talk about the trip with various people, everyone who had visited a Sandals resort raved about it. They would tell me the most amazing, complimentary things to the point where it sounded like an advertisement. But, that made me feel more at ease.

We visited the Sandals Montego Bay resort in Jamaica in December. There are several Sandals in Jamaica, so you definitely need to do your research about which you want to stay at or what part of the island you wanted to be on. That being said, keep in mind this review is based off of that resort! 

Sandals Jamaica, review and was it worth the money

The arrival

Once we landed and made it through customs, we were pointed to the Sandals lounge where they had a drink machine, coffee, snacks, etc. Someone there took our bags and tagged them, so we didn’t have to lug them through the lounge. Within a minute of sitting down and sending Mit to get me a drink, our driver was coming to get me. I mean, we were in the lounge a total of 4 minutes, maybe. Keep in mind we had a private transport as part of our package.

The porter carried our bags to a luxury, clean BMW and the driver took us on the less than 10 minute drive to the resort. He was super friendly and knowledgable, and it was the perfect first impression. Once we got on resort property, it took about 15 minutes to get checked in and in our rooms and then a few more minutes for our bags to arrive. Within half an hour of arriving, I was in my bathing suit and on the beach! 

Sandals Jamaica, review and was it worth the money

The rooms

We had a beachfront walk out room with the tranquility soaking tub. We loved our room’s location— literally you could step on the sand off the porch area. The porch area could also be closed off with a curtain if you wanted privacy, especially because the tub was on the porch (which def seemed odd at first but was exactly super relaxing). It was also great to be able to walk into your room from the beach and not have to walk around all the buildings to get to your “front door.” 

The actual room wasn’t 5-star hotel ish, but it was still nice. The beds weren’t the most comfortable to me, but I was so exhausted at night it didn’t matter. There was also a safe, which we kept rings/phones/ passports while we were in the ocean. I would definitely recommend using it if you have a walkout room because (while I don’t think it would happen) it would be easy for someone to walk in and grab your diamond ring or anything valuable.

If you’re a privacy freak, one of those rooms probably isn’t for you.

The food/drinks

I heard the most mixed reviews on the food, but we had a great experience at all the restaurants we visited (except the Stewfish place, but that was just not an appealing menu in my opinion). While you needed reservations at a few places, you could call that morning to get in for dinner so I didn’t feel super inconvenienced. Also if you have a butler, they will handle that. 

I really liked that the servers didn’t judge you or look at you weird if you ordered two plates or four desserts or whatever. They literally encouraged you to order as much as you wanted! Me and my husband love food, so we definitely liked that.

Of course, the drinks were awesome. I didn’t have one bad drink and neither did my husband. Everything was awesome and they have actual known brands— not some $5 thing they picked up at a corner market. They will also bring full bottles to your room if you ask! 

In full disclosure, I drank liquor and he drank liquor/beer. Neither of us tried the wines.

The butler

In full disclosure, we loved having the butler. If you have extra cash to spend, go for it. But, I’m not positive it’s worth splurging on if you are trying to be as economical as possible. 

The best thing about the butler was by far having them reserve our chairs on the beach (they’ll also do this for the pool too, but we never even got in the pools!). Each night we told them what area we wanted to be in the next day, and they reserved us a great set of chairs with an umbrella. If you don’t get up early and go save your chairs by putting a towel or something else on them, it could be easy to not have a spot. That being said though, it’s not a huge deal to run out there early and throw a beach bag on the chairs you want to save.

Also, the butlers will make your dinner reservations/excursion plans. We had them make our reservations because, why not… but we definitely could have handled that ourselves.

The bottom line is service is so amazing at the resort, you don’t really need the butler to have an amazing experience! We never waited long for drinks or food when we were without our butler.

The excursions

We did one excursion at Montego Bay- the snorkeling trip that also stops by the Jamaican Margaritaville. It was a BLAST. If you like the whole “booze cruise” crazy vibe with music and dancing, its totally for you. Even if you don’t though, it’s still a blast. We did the snorkeling and the famous water slide at Margaritaville, and then relaxed on the boat ride back without getting into the dance party that was happening on the lower deck. 

That trip was $90 a person, and I think it was worth it, primarily for the snorkeling experience.

The final opinion

We’ve already booked our next Sandals trip for this summer! I had the most amazing time, and was both relaxed and energized with all the stuff we did. I don’t think you can beat the Sandals Montego Bay resort, and we’re excited to explore more Sandals locations. Don’t hesitate to join the rewards club while you’re there— its free and you get points for all your Sandals vacations. Just our honeymoon stay got us over $100 off our next trip in points.

Sandals Jamaica, review and was it worth the money

I hope this review was helpful, and let me know if you visit Sandals Montego Bay! 

This post is not sponsored; all opinions are my own.

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The holidays are over and it’s a new year! I’m back at it here on SSD after a little holiday time off. We took our honeymoon to Montego Bay (pics coming soon, I swear) and then spent some quality time at home with friends and family. After two weeks of r&r, I went back to the real world this week.

Which is honestly, kind of nice. I thrive on a routine and it definitely threw me off having so little to do. I def missed the gym too!

I am not a really dedicated new year’s resolutions type of gal, but I do have some general things  I’d like to accomplish and incorporate into my life this year.

Home wise

Organizing is one of my favorite things (I know, I’ve completely lost it) but something I want to do this year is make it a priority to stay organized. Instead of having to totally redo my organizing system every three months, I want to continuously sort my stuff and make sure everything always goes back to its home.

Clothing wise

Lately I’ve really been trying to make sure pieces I purchase are things I will wear time and time again, and can pair with plenty of other things in my closet. I want to stop having to go through my clothes and donate things every few months so I can fit in more stuff and stop being stressed when it’s time to pick out an outfit— I want to only keep pieces I love and am excited to wear. It’s the “if it doesn’t bring you joy” method for sure, but it works for me. 

Life wise

It’s hard to make time, but it’s possible. While I definitely want to take time to center myself and regroup, I also want to make it a priority to use my time more wisely. My husband works full-time and is in law school, and that means he’s tied up a lot right now. When he’s holed up studying, I want to spend less time napping and being lazy and more time cleaning (see above!) and being productive. That means I will have more time this year to devote to my blog, too!

Blog wise

Obviously I want to grow my blog, but I really want to make sure my readers are happy and seeing content they really are interested in. If there’s something you want to know about, like what my favorite brand of makeup is or what in my closet is on repeat, please let me know! I would love to talk with any of ya’ll and write posts that you want to see on this blog. After all, that’s what its for!

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Can ya’ll believe we’re just 12 days away from the most wonderful day of the year?! If you’re like me and you haven’t totally finished your shopping list yet, it’s okay. I don’t panic until we start getting in the single digits.

I’ve had so many people ask me what my top gift ideas for men are– whether its your boyfriend, husband, brother, or best friend, I think I’ve got some ideas that he will love.

Next to each item I’ve linked several options- one more affordable choice and a splurge item. I hope this list helps you shop till you drop and finish that Christmas list this weekend!

-Slippers: SplurgeThese UGG ones from Amazon SaveFleece Deer Stags

-Robe: Splurge Plush Ralph Lauren robe Save Target lightweight version

-Travel mug: Splurge Insulated stainless steel version Save- Colored version under $10

-Sports poster: Splurge- Personalized jersey print Save- Unframed Lebron poster

-Grill accessories: Splurge- William Sonoma tools set Save- Amazon version of tools

-Espresso machine: Splurge- This Breville is my husband’s dream Save- Nanopresso bundle

Golf shoes: Splurge- The Golf Warehouse version Save- More affordable Nike version 

-Gloves: Splurge- UGG shearling glove Save- Fleece North Face set

-Kindle: Splurge- New Oasis version Save- Original paperwhite

-Headphones: Splurge- Beats solo 3 Save- JBL in-ear headphones

-Tennis shoes: Splurge- UA Curry 5s  Save- A range of styles from New Balance

-Gaming keyboard: Splurge- ROCCAT Vulcan 120 Save- Backlit USB keyboardFollow

Happy Thursday!

Ya’ll know I love fall, and even though we’re still sweating in Alabama, I am already dreaming of red leaves and cooler temps. Fall is the best season to get outdoors and enjoy the cooler temps with good company and a good hot cup of coffee!

Here are some of the things I know I want to do this season… ending with the best one, getting married!! The countdown is on! I have a feeling this fall will be my best yet.

Fall, Southern Style Diaries

What are you most looking forward to this season? Let me know!

XOXO

Ivana

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