The Classic Brunette: January 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Orleans: Hotel Maison De Ville Review

You might already be aware of this, but New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. I absolutely love the history, the architecture, the people, and of course, the food. For my senior thesis, I'm writing about one of the things that makes NOLA famous, Voodoo. At Chapman, writing our paper involves us doing some form of primary research. So of course when I was given the chance to go back to do some of this research, I couldn't wait to start planning my trip!

The last time I was in New Orleans, I stayed at a place that was pretty, but also a bit terrifying at the same time. I wanted to choose a place this time around that had a history, but wasn't plagued with stories of hauntings. (Which I firmly decided weren't for me after a bed shaking incident in the previous hotel...) As I was doing my research, I knew I wanted to stay within the central area of the French Quarter, as that's where most of my research was going to be, and also the best activities and restaurants. 

The History
I came across the Hotel Maison De Ville due to the fact that it has one of the oldest existing buildings in the French Quarter, which for a history nerd like me was a huge bonus. The main house was constructed in 1783, and the hotel definitely reflects the old flair of New Orleans with a modern twist. The hotel has a rich history, being home to many essential New Orleans characters including Antoine Amede Peychaud, the creator of New Orlean's first signature cocktail the Sazerac, as well as serving as a working apothecary and the favorite writing place of playwright Tennessee Williams. It's also a favorite of many celebrities who visit the area including Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Redford, and Julia Roberts.(!!)Let me first start this by saying I was absolutely blown away with how much I loved my stay at the Maison De Ville. Working with Celina on my visit was easy and she was so delightful, making sure everything was planned accordingly. You could tell that she, and everyone else at the hotel cares immensely about the guest and giving them the best possible experience. 

Room Details
When you walk up to the hotel, it looks like a private residence, especially since you can't just walk in the door like any other hotel. To check in you have to ring the doorbell, and then they'll give you a key that works on your room as well as the front door. Like I said earlier, I wanted a hotel that was in the middle of all the action. Hotel Maison De Ville is literally steps from Bourbon street, so you can't get much better than that! But I really liked the fact that we got some extra security with the hotel key, because there are definitely a few crazies on Bourbon, haha! 
Even though we were so close to the rowdiness of the crowds on Bourbon, it's like the hotel was a little soundproof oasis. We could barely hear noise from the street, even during the crazy hours of the night, even if we were standing out on the balcony outside our room. I think there's some kind of magic going on there.
Speaking of the balcony, I think that was my favorite part of the hotel. Each morning was great because we were greeted with live jazz music from the restaurant next door. If you follow me on Instagram or snapchat(@samimast) you saw and heard a little sneak peak of this! I'm not typically a jazz person, but in New Orleans I definitely am. Maybe it's that you get caught up in the personalities of the performers, the fact that the music matches the area so well, or maybe it's just some more NOLA magic. (There's a lot of that here, btw) Whatever it is, I don't think I want to wake up any other way. 
The one thing I am truly upset about is myself, because my camera was malfunctioning almost any time we tried to take photos inside. No matter what we tried, the photos would be blurry or dark, so I'll have to figure out what's going on with it. I got a few photos that I'll show, but these definitely don't do the room justice!! So if you notice that most of these photos are of the outside, then you know why! When my sister and I first walked in the room we got a personalized message from the hotel with some information, and had a cute little Voodoo doll waiting on the bed (how perfect considering my reason for visiting!) They also had super comfy robes waiting for us in the room as well! And because I'm a snoop and am always into the hotel toiletries, that was what I went to check out next. Y'all. They had L'Occitane toiletries. WHAT. You bet your bottom dollar I took some of those when I left. (Don't worry, I only took the hand cream and some face wipes because #necessary) If you aren't aware, L'Occitane is an amazing brand, with high quality products that smell amazing. The majority of the products in the hotel were verveine scented, which fun fact, is what's historically supposed to ward off vampires! So definitely a dual use product. 😉
The room my sister and I stayed in was a Superior room, which gave us a queen bed and a balcony. We also had a standing shower, an AC unit (which surprisingly was very much necessary for us) and an adorable vintage desk. We ended up spending a good amount of time in the room, because our days were pretty full in the mornings and evenings, but afternoons were empty. We chose to take that time to rest in the hotel, since we are really efficient (probably too efficient) at seeing everything we wanted to see in the morning and at night. This worked out pretty well for us as I got to work on some blog stuff and used the WiFi to look up where to eat next and make plans for the next day. 

Hotel Details
Besides the actual room, we also spent some time in other areas of the hotel. Each morning there was complimentary breakfast (woohoo!!) that consisted of a variety of items. Most were some type of carb: muffins, bagels, cornbread, croissants, but they also had some yogurt that you could help yourself to in the fridge. For beverages they had your regular assortment of breakfast drinks including coffee, juice, and tea. However, they also provide beverages 24/7 in the breakfast area, which was great for our downtime! There was a mini fridge in our room as well, so if we wanted to bring drinks up or stash leftovers we could have done that as well. 

When we didn't take our breakfast to go, we made our way out to the beautiful 2000 sq ft courtyard and listened to the jazz from the restaurant next door. We were actually the only guests at the hotel for the first night, so it was almost like we were actually living in this place! The staff was also incredibly friendly, and greeted us every time we entered or left the building. They were also great for suggestions if we needed guidance on where to go or what to eat. I'm a little biased, but I think Trina was my favorite staff member.

As you can see from my photo, Trina is a snuggly cat! She was SO sweet, and would spend breakfast with us as well. We were calling her a little "ciabatta cat" because she was pudgy and looked like a loaf of bread when she sat down. Honestly the most adorable thing ever! I'm such a cat lady, so even though I was already in love with the hotel from the start, Trina made the experience so much better, and made me feel like I was actually staying in a home rather than a hotel.

Nearby Activities
This hotel is close to everything! As I said, it's only steps from Bourbon street, but in reality it's close to everything in the French Quarter. The Maison De Ville is a less than ten minute walk to Jackson Square, Cafe Du Monde, Canal Street, and other activities in the area! And if you want to walk down to the business district, you can easily do that from the hotel as well. There's also an incredible amount of restaurants near the hotel, but I think my favorite has to be The Gumbo Shop that's a few streets over! Honestly, this place is the best location for a hotel in the French Quarter, hands down.

Overall Experience
I think the best part about staying at the Hotel Maison De Ville was that I didn't feel like I was staying a hotel at all. I felt very at home during the four nights I was there, and didn't want to leave! I highly recommend this be your go-to spot if you're traveling to the Big Easy and want to stay in style and comfort. I have to agree with their own advertisements, "Guests are treated to true Southern hospitality with that special New Orleans flair." 

If you'd like to connect with the hotel further you can check out their social channels here: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

A huge thank you to the Maison De Ville for having me on a complimentary stay!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Valentine's Day Outfit Ideas

It's never too early to shop for the perfect outfit for a special event, in this case, Valentine's Day! Although I've traditionally been one to stay home or go out with the girls on V-day, I still like to get dressed up and have some fun! Plus, pink is one of my favorite colors, so why would I give up the chance to wear an outfit that can center around the color? I've put a few different options together just to give you some inspiration, let me know which one is your favorite in the comments!

I wanted to do two different dresses for this look, since there's no right way to wear a red dress. I always think it's fun to mix edgier pieces with feminine ones, so the combination of this moto jacket and the lace screams "cool girl." I also like the idea of mixing chokers with flowy dresses like the one above to give the same feeling. What are your thoughts on mixing fashion styles? 

I'm dying to get one of these lace up sweaters. I think they are so cute, and I'm just waiting until I have enough money in the bank and then one is going into my cart! I think this would make such a sweet outfit for Valentines Day if you're keeping things on the more casual side. I have the non-distressed version of these white jeans, and they are the most comfortable jeans I own! Plus, they aren't see through or expensive, both things I absolutely need to have in my white denim. I think my favorite element of this outfit though has to be the bag, since it's nearly an exact dupe for a Chloé bag!

Do you know what you're doing for Valentine's Day yet? 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Favorite Blog Posts of 2016

I promise that this is the last 2016-centered post! I thought it would be fun to look back on my favorite blog posts of the year, and maybe share some ones that y'all didn't get the chance to read. I'll be going over a few of the most popular posts from this year, as well as few of my personal choices.

Most Popular Posts of 2016

The Ultimate College Packing List

This post was a huge hit! I had parents and students asking questions and making comments about the list and how much it covered, and am so excited it was so helpful. I wish I had found a huge comprehensive list before I went to college that didn't over-include. On all the lists I looked at when I went to school there were so many items that I ended up not using at all. I made this list so that it was everything I absolutely used, and parents and students could truly count on when doing their school shopping. This list is great for incoming freshman, but really it's a great thing to double check for every year!

Tips And Hacks To Get The Best Price For College Textbooks

Another favorite from this year, both in numbers and personally. I have spent WAY more money on textbooks than I care to admit, but that's because I was a very naive freshman who thought you could only buy textbooks at the textbook store...After a few years, I've found ways to basically get my textbooks either really cheap or free! This post has ALL my tips that have saved me tons of money since my mistakes in freshman year.

The Ultimate Summer Bucket List For 2016

Everyone loves a good bucket list! In fact, my bucket list posts are consistently some of my most viewed, probably because they've gone viral on Pinterest. It's winter now, but definitely keep this post in mind once summer rolls around!

How To Use Instagram Like A Pro

Y'all, my Instagram exploded this year. I don't mean it in a bragging way, but I want to say that hard work seriously pays off! I made Instagram the social media channel I wanted to focus on this year and I'm so proud of myself for how far I've come. This post outlined the actual strategies I used to grow my account. I also wrote a follow up post to this one later in the year that shared how to get more engaged followers on Instagram.

Personal Favorites

Traveling To Ireland And Scotland

This is one of my favorites because the trip I took to Ireland and Scotland was one of my absolute favorites. Dublin is now one of my favorite cities, and I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful place than the Scottish Highlands. There aren't too many photos from the trip on there, but it's one of my most loved posts just because it reminds me of the great memories from the trip.

Behind The Scenes: What Goes Into Making A Blog Post

It feels like forever since I wrote this! I think my number one pet peeve is when someone thinks that blogging is either 1. stupid or 2. ridiculously easy. I could go on entire rant, which, I'll admit this post has a little bit of one. But if you read the post, hopefully those of you who don't blog will learn a little bit more about how the process works!

Blogging Tips From Gossip Girl

Alright, so I've seen Gossip Girl all the way through 5 times. It's one of my favorite shows, and for the longest time I was oblivious to the fact that Gossip Girl was basically a blogger. (I know, I honestly don't understand how I missed it.) So this post is all about my favorite tips that I've learned from watching Gossip Girl that have made me a better blogger.

Top Ten International Travel Destinations You Have To Visit

I've been lucky enough to travel to many places in recent years, with most trips being some sort of study abroad class. These are all my favorite places that I've been to, in addition to a few locations I've visited in my past or recommendations from friends.

Hope you have fun going through these posts! Let me know which types of posts you want to see more of this year in the comments!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Puffer Vest And Tory Burch Riding Boots + A Giveaway

Turtleneck: Similar (under $15!) | Quilted Puffer Vest: J.Crew, Same Style | Riding Boots: Tory Burch | Leggings: Lou & Grey | Monogram Necklace: Brook & York (size large), Similar | Bracelets: Kendra Scott, Kinsley Armelle (use code SAMIMAST15 for discount) | Bag: Gatta Camera Bag, Similar | Lip Color: Winky Lux in Bunny

I keep forgetting it's January, this first week is already going by so quickly! Since I don't start school again until February, I've still got plenty of time to rejoice in the fact that I'm home and have very limited responsibilities. Some of you may be questioning how I got so lucky to have a month and a half off of school, but it's because I'm not doing my school's January term. Apparently this optional term thing is very uncommon, but that's how Chapman is! I've opted-in the last three years of college, but decided I was going to give myself a break during my senior year. Although, were my other January terms really all that bad if I got to go to New Orleans and London?

Although my break isn't all fun and games! I've got an upcoming trip planned that I'm so excited for, and I'll definitely be sharing more on that soon (hint: check my social media next week!) and I've been attempting to content plan for these next few weeks. 

This post was a fun one to shoot with my sister, who I don't say too much about on here, but she's a great sport for putting up with me and my photo shoots! She was only home for a few days for Christmas and I dragged her out to shoot a few outfits, including this one. 

When I come home for winter break, I'm constantly having to pull on my Tory Burch riding boots because of the cold weather. Of course we don't have snow or anything where I am in the Bay Area, but it still gets into the low 50's during the day and down into the 40's when I'm out at night. These are my warmest shoes that I own, well, besides my Uggs which don't see the light of day much anymore! I'm also getting a lot of use out of my favorite navy quilted puffer vest, which I'm constantly throwing on over a long sleeve, or a sweater like this turtleneck one here. 

Also, a few of you were asking where I got my bag since I posted a preview of this look on Instagram last week, and it's actually my camera bag! I got it over the summer and I've been using it so much lately. I had an old camera bag that I was using before, but let's just say, it was NOT cute. So I would normally just forego the bag and take my camera without having any sort of protective case for it which wasn't exactly ideal. But I've been loving this one, and sometimes I'll use it on a day where I'm not even using my camera, but just have a lot of stuff to carry around!

This outfit has essentially been my uniform, since I've been home, and I don't think I'll be changing it up much in the time I have left here! When do y'all go back to work or school, and how did you spend your break?

Before you leave this post though, I have a fun giveaway for all of you! My friend Susana of Susana Cresce Planners and I are giving away 5 of her 2016-2017 planners that are ideal for students who are ready to take on the spring semester. This is the exact planner I use, so I'm so excited to be able to offer a few of you one of your own. Just enter below and I'll be picking the winners on Monday 1/9!

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Blogging Goals

What a year it has been! This year was when I decided to take my blog more seriously and treat it more like a business rather than just a hobby, which completely switched my life around. The Classic Brunette has grown so much over the past year, and I have you all to thank for it! So thank you again for sticking around on my little corner of the internet and being a part of this great journey of mine. I am forever grateful, and I hope I can continue this blog for as long as possible, and maybe turn it into a full time career some day.

I was going to expand this post into a reflection of the year, but most of the months would have been boring to go through! I had my huge travels in January to Ireland, Scotland, and London and a few little trips and adventures here and there, but for the most part the year wasn't as exciting. Not that some great things didn't happen, but they were mostly un-noteworthy here on the blog. So I thought I would just spare you all and write about my goals for the year instead, haha! 

Write More OOTD Posts
I've gotten so much better at setting up outfits to shoot, but there's still tons of room for improvement. I'm hoping to eventually increase my posts to 3x a week with one of those being an outfit post, however that probably won't become a reality for a while! But I'm hoping to increase the overall amount of outfit posts I share here with you all!

Increase Social Media And Blog Stats
I've soared with my social media stats over the past year, especially Instagram, and I hope to keep that up in 2017! Here are my goals for each of my platforms:
Instagram: 30K
Twitter: 2K
As for my blog, it's been fluctuating all over the place, but I would like to get it at a steady 20K/month for this year! 

Invest In At Least One Blog Course
I love reading about ways to grow and better my blog, but think it's time I buckled down and got a course that people swear by. I bought a course for Instagram and it changed my whole thought process and turned everything around, so I'm hoping that will happen when I buy one for the blog as well! If you have any courses that you love (preferably about increasing pageviews, monetizing, or growing engagement) please please please let me know in the comments!

Write an E-Book or E-Course
I've been toying with this idea for a while now, but haven't settled on a topic just yet. I believe I'll be writing something along the lines of how to start a blog or how to increase engaged social media followers. Let me know if you have a particular interest in a topic! 

Get Business Cards
My best friend is actually buying me these for my birthday, so this one will be easy to cross off! That is if I get my designs to her soon, haha!

Attend A Blog Conference
This was something I really wanted to do this year, but didn't get the chance! I'm hoping to go to one maybe in the summer or next year after I'm out of school since I'll still be living in the Orange County area. But we shall see what happens.

Set A Content Calendar/Plan Ahead More
I always have a running list of ideas in my head for blog posts, but for some reason forget to write them down. There have been way too many times this year where I'm asking myself what to write about the night before a post will go live, which is beyond stressful! I'd like to start a content planner or calendar and start planning at least 3 posts into the future. It would definitely be less stress on myself, and would make everything easier. I'd also like to do this for my social media posts as well.

What are your goals for this new year? Also, don't forget to comment on your favorite blog e-courses/books you recommend and what you would like to see in a future e-course/book from me!
09 10