Friday, January 30, 2015

Two Ways to Wear a Durango Leather Jacket in the Winter

Durango Leather Jacket

The best thing about cold weather in the winter? Sledding, hot cocoa, and the adorable jackets that come out of the woodwork! I was impossibly excited to team up with Durango Leather Company this winter, and just in time for the snow to hit Boston. I chose to brave the snowflakes in this absolutely gorgeous Demi Monde Jacket!

Below I've outlined two ways I wear this versatile leather piece. The first outfit is a more formal, dressy look that I would wear out on a date or a special occasion.

Durango Leather Jacket

What initially drew me to this jacket were it's details. This is the first leather jacket I've come across that really translates to winter trends - its white color and studs are reminiscent of twinkling snowflakes and glistening icicles! 

I paired it with a sleek, festive, red winter dress and some fabulous camel boots from Target. The leather itself is incredibly soft & supple. As soon as I put it on, I instantly felt so trendy, fancy and ready to hit the town! To me, that's the test of a good piece of clothing: It should inspire and energize you, and this jacket definitely does that!

Durango Leather Jacket
Jacket: Durango Leather Company || Dress: Forever21 || Necklace: H&M

My second look is more of an edgy, casual-chic outfit. I would wear this one out to brunch with friends, a trivia night, a concert, or even running some errands on the weekend.

Durango Leather Jacket

For this look, I paired the jacket with my new favorite Game of Thrones tshirt (you may remember I'm currently reading the series, whooo!), my plaid Gap scarf, dark skinny jeans, and the same camel heels from Target. 

Durango Leather Jacket

I also appreciate the edgy, unique design of Durango leather jackets. The off-center zipper and side buckles on this one are details that make all the difference and really make it stand out from other jackets.

Jacket: Durango Leather Company || Top: DSF Clothing Company || Scarf: Gap || Heels: Target || Jeans & Necklace: H&M 

I seriously love how versatile this jacket is- isn't it crazy how easily it transitions from a dressy look to a casual one? I felt equally comfortable in both looks, which says a lot considering how different they are!

Comment Challenge: Which look is your fave? How would you choose to style this jacket?
*Note: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Brunching with the Girls at Elite Cafe San Francisco

Elite Cafe San Francisco
Bay Area Beignets

Before diving into this delicious post, I'd like to congratulate Jessica from The Pyreflies for winning my Click n Curl Giveaway!

Now that Boston is just getting over the big Juno blizzard, I'm getting homesick for the warmth & sunshine of San Francisco back home! When I went back to visit for the holidays, brunch was a must. After all, meeting up with the girls for brunch is always a good idea! We met up at Elite Cafe in San Francisco's Lower Pac Heights, a neighborhood filled with adorable boutiques and cafes that seems like it was created for brunching. 

Elite Cafe specializes in cajun & creole cuisine, so everything is packed with flavor and super hearty! We started off with a couple Bay Area Beignets (above), both of which came out impossibly warm, soft, and scrumptious. 

Elite Cafe San Francisco

Three of the four of us ordered the drool-worthy plate you see above: The Meetinghouse Benedict. This dish came complete with biscuits, ham hock, poached eggs, and a great hollandaise sauce. I wished the eggs were a tad more runny on the inside, but all together it was an hugely flavorful and hearty meal.


Elite Cafe San Francisco

Above is the equally hearty Alabama Scramble, with scrambled eggs, bacon, mashed pot Alabama Scramble potatoes, biscuits & gravy. It's hard to beat a brunch like this!

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking off our brunch and perusing the adorable shops nearby. Wouldn't it be nice if every day could be a Sunday like this!


Comment Challenge: What is your favorite restaurant or meal to eat when you're back home?
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Monday, January 26, 2015

Boston Bruins Hockey Game

Boston Bruins Hockey Game

Happy Monday readers! I hope my fellow Boston bloggers stay warm and safe tonight through storm Juno.

As most of you know, I've been living in Boston over a year now, but would you believe I had yet to go to any major sporting event until recently! Boston is definitely known for its unending sports pride- local fans root and cheer for the New England Patriots, the Celtics, the Boston Red Sox, and the Boston Bruins Hockey Team.

The hockey games can be pretty pricey, but I was lucky enough to win tickets to a game courtesy of Work Jam! I also happened to team up with Chevrolet that week to take their Equinox out for a spin, so I was able to get us to the game in style! 

Boston Bruins Hockey Game

Boston Bruins Hockey Game

Talk about perfect timing. With such serendipitous luck and an amazing night planned, I thought I should document the experience for you all! 

Boston Bruins Hockey Game

The Bruins games are held at TD Garden, which also holds Celtics games during basketball season. The stadium is super modern and sleek, which adds to the excitement and overall experience of the game.

Boston Bruins Hockey Game

And the Equinox? It felt like I was driving in a cloud - so smooth and safe! The seats were plush and luxurious, and the rear-view camera really helped with parking.

I went to the game with two other California natives who, like me, had never been to a hockey game before (it's not exactly the biggest sport on the West Coast)!

Boston Bruins Hockey Game

Hearing the roar of the fans, the clinks of the puck, and the buzz of each goal, it was easy to get sucked into the game. Basically there are 5 team members from each team, plus the goalies, on field at a time. If a player is put into the penalty box, then the other team has a huge advantage because they have an extra person on the field. It was such a nail-biter when the players got near to their goals! 

Boston Bruins Hockey Game

It was fun being at a Bruins game, because the Bruins are also the mascot of UCLA (my alma mater). Fun fact: a bruin is like a teenage bear - not a baby, but not an adult bear. Save that one for trivia night!

Boston Bruins Hockey Game

We avoided paying for expensive stadium food by going to a local pizza joint across the street before the game, and we weren't the only ones with this idea. The shop was filled with die-hard fans in hockey jerseys, watching the pre-game on the flat screens while noshing on pizza slices, sodas and beer. 

Photo from USMagazine
It seems hockey is almost a cultural experience. Especially popular in New England and Canada for all their snow, even Miss Canada dressed in hockey gear on Miss Universe last night!

Boston Bruins Hockey Game

It was super amazing to experience such a cultural phenomenon, and get a real Boston experience at the same time. It's great to see a city come together in a common goal and excitement - and reminds me of how San Francisco is with their love for the SF Giants and the 49ers! 

Comment Challenge: Have you ever watched a hockey game? What did you think of it?

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Mike & Patty's Boston Breakfast Sandwiches

Mike & Patty's Boston

Always on the lookout for the best brunch in Boston, we obviously had to try Mike & Patty's. They were voted by Boston Magazine as having the best breakfast sandwiches in Boston in 2014, as well as being the best reason to wake up in 2012. I don't know about you, but if a restaurant is named the best reason to get out of bed in the morning, I'm checking that place out! 

Mike & Patty's Boston

As we strolled to their shop from the T station, we found ourselves walking along these adorable, quaint Boston streets- complete with cobblestones, brick walls and sidewalks, and even a sprinkling of snow. Christmas wreaths were still hanging along the street lamps. It doesn't get much cuter than this!

Mike & Patty's Boston

The shop turned out to be SUPER tiny. We were squished in like sardines, which gave me flashbacks to my morning commute every day. Pushing back the PTSD from daily trips on the green line, we ordered quickly and somehow managed to score two barstools in the corner. 

Whew! Now we could enjoy the chocolate milk that everyone was raving to us about, as we waited for our sandos. This locally-sourced sweetness turned out to be really amazing. It was sweet but not overpowering, and absolutely full of flavor. If the sandwiches were as good as this milk, we were in for a treat.

Mike & Patty's Boston

And of course, they were! Above you see the scrumptious delight that is the Breakfast Torta, which consisted of fried egg, pepper jack cheese, pickled jalepenos, potato, refritos, salsa, and avocado on a torta roll. It was as jam-packed with flavor as you could imagine, and incredibly hearty! Even the bun itself is something to write home about.

Mike & Patty's Boston

I ordered The Fancy, which comes with fried egg, bacon, cheddar, avocado, red onion, and house mayo served on toasted multigrain. I have to tell you, we both agreed that this innocent-looking sando was the best breakfast sandwich either of us has ever had. We also unanimously agreed on the reason, and that is the house mayo. It was just bursting with flavor, with a subtle kick to it as well. I don't know what magic ingredients they add to it, but it's working! 

If I could have one thing to eat for breakfast every single day, I would choose The Fancy from Mike & Patty's. It's impossibly delicious, and has everything you need to start your day- protein, avocado, and that special sauce. My new life goal is to find out how they make their house mayo. Wish me luck! 

Comment Challenge: What would you put on your dream breakfast sandwich?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Giveaway: Click n Curl Hair Rollers!

Click n Curl Review

I've always loved the idea of hair rollers, but I could never get them to work right. They always left my hair looking pretty much the same, and they never stayed in place. That's why I jumped at the chance to review Click n Curl, and I'm super happy that I did! 

Giveaway: Scroll to the end of the post to win your very own set of rollers! 


Click n Curl Review

Who doesn't love a good before & after comparison? Above-left is a pic of me & my hair from my recent Shop Jami post. I usually blow-dry it straight as in this pic, and I've recently cut my hair so the other pictures of my hair in this post will be notably shorter. 

That said, you can still clearly see the difference. On the left is a sleek, straight look. Click n Curl does a really great job of keeping the sleek and adding bounce and volume, as you can see on the right and below:

Click n Curl Review

How Click n Curl Works

Click n Curl Review

A full Click n Curl set comes with 6 rollers (3 shown above). There are 3 sizes of rollers: small, medium and large. The smallest size of rollers is meant to create tiny, tight curls. I was sent the medium rollers, which are meant to create volume and bounce. 

You can see the amazing bright purple color, which I love. To me, presentation is half the game. I think you're more likely to be motivated by something and use it more often if it catches your eye.

Click n Curl Review

The set also comes with a single handle, shown above. You only need one, because you roll up the rollers one by one.

Steps:

1. Shampoo & condition hair as normal
2. Blow dry hair until it's about 80% dry
3. Snap in the handle to a roller

Click n Curl Review

4. Take a section of your hair and roll the hair downward into a roller, towards the nape of your neck (rather than up towards the ceiling)
5. When you've rolled the roller all the way up, blow dry that roller with the hair still on it. 
6. Wiggle the roller from right to left to keep it in place. Push the button on the handle to easily unsnap it from the roller

Click n Curl Review

7. Repeat with the other rollers until you've used them all (6 rollers is enough for half of my hair)
8. When hair is completely dry, pull out the rollers and enjoy the bounce and volume!

Click n Curl Review

Click n Curl Review

Cons: I wish the rollers would stay put a little better. They feel a bit loose, and get looser if you walk around or move your head too much. Pretty sure this will get better with practice though.

Pros: Everything else. Right off the bat, the presentation and gorgeous color of the rollers get you excited to try them. Secondly, they really work. Click n Curl rollers have given me a new hairstyle I can count on in the new year - one with tons of bounce and volume, which is so fun! They're easy to use and work quickly. My hair would probably have had even more bounce and volume if I left them in longer than 1 minute.  

Click n Curl Giveaway

Click n Curl was generous enough to offer a giveaway to one of you lucky winners!! They can only ship to the continental US for this giveaway, but if you live in the UK they have a partner shop who also sells their products (Hair & Whiskers). For all you US readers, I definitely recommend entering this one because Click n Curl is so fun. After all, who doesn't love a new hairstyle every now and then? Good luck everyone!



*This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Boston Seafood: The Daily Catch

The Daily Catch Boston

Three words: Boston knows seafood. I've seen this demonstrated in seafood restaurants throughout Bean Town, but after dining at the Daily Catch it must be said again! 

The Daily Catch Boston

Here you see the Aglio Olio, which is a fresh, homemade black linguine made with squid ink, ground calamari, olive oil, garlic, and anchovy. 

The Daily Catch Boston

I love when restaurants bring out your dish on something other than a plate, like this skillet! It gives such a rustic feel to the meal and really sets it apart from your usual dining experiences.

The Daily Catch Boston

I ordered the scrumptious Mussels Marinara, which also came out in a skillet and had gorgeous presentation. The P.E.I. mussels topped a serving of pasta and were drenched in a red marinara sauce and garnish. 

The Daily Catch Boston

This dish was seriously yummy, but sometimes the mussels had little hard rocks in them which was a little jolting. One of them looked like a pearl, but I'm pretty sure only oysters make those.

The Daily Catch Boston

I loved this jellyfish painting in the restaurant. The ambiance overall really made you feel like you were in a little fishing village, chowing down on the catch of the day.

Comment Challege: For all you seafood lovers, what's your favorite oceanic dish?
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Timber Ridge Restaurant in the Reno Tahoe Airport

Timber Ridge Restaurant in the Reno Tahoe Airport

As I sat reading Storm of Swords, the third installment from the Game of Thrones series, an announcement came on the PA system that my flight from Reno to San Francisco was delayed. It was just enough time to visit Timber Ridge, a great new restaurant in the Reno/Tahoe International Airport!

I ordered the Chopped Salad, which came with smoked turkey, avocado, garbanzo beans, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds over romaine with golden Italian dressing. I absolutely loved this super fresh salad, which had the perfect mixture of crunchy leaves, earthy turkey, and smooth avocado. It was a great energizing start to my trip to SF!


Timber Ridge Restaurant in the Reno Tahoe Airport

Timber Ridge has such amazing views of the Sierra Nevada, it was distracting me from my book!
Timber Ridge Restaurant in the Reno Tahoe Airport

Reno has so many fun things to do, from amazing restaurants to flashy casinos. But it also has amazing views of nature - from the Sierra mountain range, to the nearby Lake Tahoe, and the vast sprawling deserts that house Burning Man festivities. It's an amazing city since it has the best of both worlds!

Comment Challenge: How do you spend your time when a flight gets delayed?

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

How To Grow Your Blog On Instagram


How To Grow Your Blog On Instagram

Some of you have been asking me how I promote and grow my blog. To best answer these questions, and since my past blogger tips posts were so popular, I've decided to start a series on promotion and marketing across the social media platforms I use most: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. This post will be centered on my top social media addiction: Instagram!

I was always the one taking pictures. Before the blog, before facebook, and even before myspace, I always wanted to document everything from big events to tiny moments. This is probably why Instagram was my first social media obsession - It's all about the pictures! While Pinterest is also focused on images, I find Insta to be much more intuitive and easier to engage with others. Pinterest is a link-heavy platform, but on Instagram it's literally focused on just the images themselves, rather than an image just for the sake of a link to click through.

That said, you can very well grow your blog and readership through Instagram! Below, I outline my top tips on doing so.

How To Grow Your Blog On Instagram

1. Engagement: Shout Outs, Linkups & Giveaways

(Edit: After learning more about Instagram, these shout outs and giveaways aren't great for your engagement in the long run. They're good for gaining hundreds to 1,000 followers quickly, but after the giveaway is over many will unfollow. Those that do stay may not be interested or engaging in what you're posting, which is no good! It's better to gain followers organically. Read the advanced tips below on how to do so.)

There are a ton of different ways to connect with other bloggers and Instagrammers that are mutually beneficial for everyone involved. One way is with a shout out, where someone tags you in their post and recommends for their readers to follow you. Of course, you do the same for them in return. 

Similarly, you can team up with others to host a big giveaway, where readers must follow all of you in the hopes of winning a gift card or something equally drool-worthy. 


Giveaway closed! ๐ŸŽ‰Our winner is @thepalettemuse! Please send me your contact information ASAP๐ŸŽ‰ Thank you to all who participated! What would you do with your very own Gold iPad Mini? To celebrate the long weekend, I’ve teamed up with some amazing ladies to bring you this #giveaway for a chance to win a Gold iPad Mini! To enter, simply follow the steps below: 1⃣ Follow me @chowdownusa all other hosts of the giveaway. All entries will be verified! 2⃣ Like this photo (so we know you’ve entered). 3⃣ Tap the photo to see where to go next. Once you get back here, you’ve completed the loop! 4⃣ Optional: Tag 2 friends who would love to win this for an extra entry! This giveaway will run until 5/26/15 at 3pm EST. A winner will be announced on this post by 5/28. Good luck to all entrants! RULES: All entrants must make their account public for the duration of the giveaway in order for us to verify entries. The winner will be decided at random and will have 24 hours to claim their prize after being tagged in this post. DISCLAIMER: This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with Instagram, Inc., or Apple. By entering, entrants confirm that they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of all responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use.
A photo posted by Food & Fashion Blogger ๐Ÿ‘ ๐Ÿฐ (@chowdownusa) on

Finally, linkups are where you agree to post on a similar topic (i.e., winter dresses), and you all link to each other. All of these tactics allow you to gain exposure to each other's follower base, which is a great way to gain new followers and promote your blog. 

2. Engagement: Hashtags

Hashtags for days! I have no hashtag shame. Tags allow others to find your picture. If they're looking for #cats, and you have this tag in your picture, they will see it as long as not too much time has passed since you added the tag. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 tags in each image, so I say why not use them all. Some people frown on this, but if it works I say why not! 

There are plenty of blogger tags like #lbloggers, #fbloggers, #bbloggers, and even location-specific tags such as #NYCbloggers. These location tags can allow you to find bloggers in your area and make friends! 

Do some research to find out what hashtags best fit your blog. Type in #coffee, for instance, and click through some of the images that come up. See what other hashtags are being used in pictures that use #coffee - probably things like #mondays, #caffeine & #starbucks. This is how one hashtag can lead you to many more.

3. Engagement: Likes & Follows

It's really important to utilize Instagram's advantage of super simple engagement features. Search for hashtags that you regularly use, in order to find others with similar content as you. If you like their gallery, let them know! "Like" a few of their pictures, comment on one, and follow them if you feel inspired. This will most likely bring them to check out your gallery and return the favor if they like what they see!

4. Content: Inspiration

Be sure to follow some of the hugely popular Instagram accounts in your area for inspiration. A simple google search for "top fashion/food/beauty/etc. accounts on Instagram" should do the trick. This is the bar to reach for when you put your gallery together. You don't need to copy their images but seeing that level of quality is what you're going for. You can also use these accounts to find like-minded users in the comment section of their images. 

5. Content: Quality Over Quantity 

You should only be posting top-quality content; don't upload a mediocre picture just because you want to put something out there. Your followers would rather wait a little longer for an amazing picture. 

Also, potential followers come to your page and quickly scroll through your recent pictures. You want to have a consistent gallery of quality images, rather than some good ones among some not-so-good ones. My instagram gallery as of today is below. You can see how scrolling through those you get a sense of my photography style: I like to use bright lighting and bold colors. Other bloggers prefer a black and white theme. Discover a theme you enjoy most, and stick with that- just make sure all your images have a consistent level of quality.


how to grow your blog on instagram


That said, I would shoot to publish a post around 1-2 times per day if your schedule permits. You want to be giving out quality content to you readers on a consistent basis, but not so often that it feels spammy. Play around with posting at different times of day to see what gets you the most interaction.

6. Content: Captions

A witty caption can make a difference between a good post and an amazing post. Try to mix it up with a quote or song lyrics every now and then! You can also engage your followers with a related question, such as "which of these breakfast sandos would you have ordered??" to get the discussion started.

7. Content: Types

Not all posts have to be the same. Every now and then you can shake things up with a motivational quote, food, beauty, pets, or any other type of post you think your followers will enjoy. Many bloggers will have a set schedule such as quotes on Mondays, food on Fridays, and so on to keep it consistent.

I see so many pictures on Instagram that are laid out well and have interesting content, but are placed in dim, low-quality lighting. Lighting will make or break a picture! You want bright, natural light for the best results.

9. Images: Editing

There are some amazing editing apps out there (I like to use VSCOCAM & Snapseed), which will brighten, sharpen and bring out the best in your images. I'll be putting out a post on photography and editing apps soon, so stay tuned!

10. Promotion: Social Media & Blog

Promote your Instagram account on your other social media platforms and your blog to gain more exposure. Twitter chats are great for this at the end of the hour - just be sure not to promote in the middle of the chat. You can even publish blog posts highlighting your week on Instagram to bring focus to your account, as well as hosting your very own giveaway to those who follow your account.

And there you have my top 10 tips for growing your blog on Insta! Of course, be sure that you describe your blog in your profile and add your URL. This way, followers can easily translate into blog readers!

Don't forget to check out my food & fashion Instagram account!

Advanced Instagram Tips:
For more tips on engaging users and gaining followers quickly (without buying any!!) be sure to check out the Instagram Revealed Guides (affiliate link). These helped me get unstuck when I was stagnant at around 3,000 followers, just a couple months later I was at 8,000, and a year later I'm at 25,300! I honestly learned so much from these guides, they've uncovered the underlying algorithms to Instagram which gives you a great strategy to include in your routine!






Comment Challenge: What are your top Instagram tips & tricks?

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Awesomesauce at Boston's Saus

Saus Boston

One thing I love about Boston is their great restaurant selection. The other day I went to lunch with some friends at a completely unique venue named Saus. 

Saus specializes in - you guessed it - sauces! They have over 15 unique flavors to choose from, including:
  • Curry Ketchup
  • The Vampire Slayer (roasted garlic, roasted garlic oil, mayo)
  • The Panda Saus (peanut butter, soy sauce, sate saus, chili paste)
  • Samurai (chili paste, mayo)
  • Saturday Night Chive (fresh chives, sour cream)
  • Green Monster (jalapenos, habaneros, fresh cilantro, garlic)


Saus Boston

I ordered the Frik, not knowing what it was. Turns out it's a hot-dog style item made from hand rolled beef and pork sausage. For my "saus" I chose the Curry Ketchup which was so scrumptious! This probably sounds super gross but when I would go to McDonalds as a child, I would love to mix my ketchup with their sweet & sour sauce to dip my fries in. Strangely enough, that's what the curry ketchup tastes like! I loved it.

Saus Boston

Though the shop is small, they utilize the space pretty well. Much of the walls in Saus are actually chalkboards, where they write their menus and sometimes even have funny comics like the one above (Bon Me is referencing a great food truck in Boston).

I just love how unique this shop is and I want to go back to try all of the sauces!

Comment Challenge: I'm a ketchup girl. What's your favorite sauce or condiment?

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