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Out and About

Out and About: Safari at Pilanesberg National Park

May 21, 2018

My first-ever safari was so many things: breathtaking, awe-inspiring, grounding, affirming, magical and even some feelings that I can’t explain with words.

On day two of my trip to South Africa in April, our group woke up bright and early and left the hotel at 6 a.m. for the Pilanesberg National Park for the safari. When we arrived, we were able to purchase authentic African wares from local artisans — wooden carved animal sculptures and masks, dashikis, textiles, jewelry and more. Our group divided onto two trucks, and off we went into the 141,440-acre park. I had high expectations of seeing the “Big Five”: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, African elephant and African buffalo. Click through the slideshow to see some of majestic species we encountered.

It was a spiritual moment to be experiencing God’s creation in their pure habitat. I never thought I’d be within an arm’s reach of these majestic creatures. It was an excellent day of sightings on the game drives. We saw water buck, antelope, a warthog, Egyptian ducks, Gnu wildebeest, Kudu antelope, a shy elephant, impalas, a pair of male white rhinos, a pride of lions, giraffe, Madibu storks, heron, a small family of hippopotamuses and many more. We got three out of the “Big Five,” so that’s exciting!

The first of my two favorite encounters from the day was when we happened upon a pride of lions — two males and three females — about 10 meters from the truck. They were resting under the shade and cleaning each other, when one of the males felt he wanted personal space and left the group to seek his own secluded shelter. The second life-changing moment was when we saw two young male rhinos off in the distance. They kept walking our way and eventually crossed the road right in front of our truck. That was amazing because the guide had just finished telling us about the poaching epidemic and how rhinos face extinction. It’s wild because it’s almost like a cartel with park employees working in cahoots with poachers to let them kill these beautiful beings. Unfortunately, the other group happened upon a dead rhino, a casualty of a poacher’s snare two days prior.

That day I felt like I was a “National Geographic” photographer and know that these images will be a tangible reminder of the Motherland for the rest of my life. I checked this off my bucket list with pride and must say that I’m beyond blessed!

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: Private Tasting at Brown Estate

April 9, 2018

“Fun” doesn’t even begin to describe my time at Brown Estate winery in Napa Valley. It’s the subject of my last Photo of the Week, by the way. Click through the slideshow to see the sights from the day. This visit was part of a girls trip with a few of my faves from the Bay Area. It doesn’t take much for me to have a blast with these gals, but the fact that we had the whole place to ourselves was an added bonus. We got to learn about the owners, Dr. and Mrs. Brown, the history of the black-owned winery and the grapes used to create their wines. And we even got to go into the wine cellar and see the barrels on barrels on barrels of the wine varieties. Sky, the family’s trusty poodle, also added to the charm of being on the pristine grounds. The Brown Estate staff went above and beyond with the pairings. They were smackin! I fell in love with the Betelgeuse White and the Westside Zinfandel. This amazing day was all made possible by Veronica (so grateful for the invite!), who is a member of the winery. And a big thank you to David, the winegrower, and Sean, the tasting room associate, for making our visit extra special and super memorable. I can’t wait to return!

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: Spring at the Silos

March 22, 2018

If you’ve seen my most recent Photo of the Week, then you’ve gotten a sneak peak at some of the sights from my visit to Spring at the Silos. Last week, I was in Austin, Texas, for SXSW and my mom was able to join me for a few days. Being the “Fixer Upper” fan that she is, she wanted to visit where Chip and Joanna call home. And I was down for the adventure. So we rented a car, drove an hour and a half to Waco (with me singing “Life Is A Highway” no less than 275 times or so — bless my mom’s heart for putting up with my antics), and dove head first into the magic at Magnolia Market.

When we arrived, we were amazed at the huge crowds of people who showed up. There were people — and lines — everywhere. But, thankfully, they moved quickly. I was drinking it all in — the rust-covered silos, the flowerbeds, the design elements inside of the shop, the typography, the big blue sky. After working up an appetite, my mom and I decided to take a break from barbecue (we had so much smoked meat while in Austin that it legit was coming from our pores) and feasted instead on a burrito, but still were tickled by the sign from the Guess Family Barbecue truck.

Overall, it really was a quaint and pleasant experience. I look forward to returning with my mom one day. Also, not pictured are the tasty confectionary delights from Silos Baking Co. I’d make a trip back to Waco for “The Prize Pig” biscuit (hint: there’s bacon involved) and the Silo Cookie (with chocolate and peanut butter chips with a sprinkling of walnuts) alone. Run, don’t walk, if you find yourself in the neighborhood, and thank me later! And by “thank me,” I mean save me some of that goodness.

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: Museum of Ice Cream

January 25, 2018

I scream. You scream … We all scream for ice cream, amirite?! That’s why the Museum of Ice Cream is so popular. My guy and I went on a date night there last month, and it was so much fun! Click through the slideshow for a glimpse inside.

From the moment we arrived, we were greeted with sweet treats and merriment. The entire museum is one big photo opp, as I’m sure you’ve discovered via Instagram posts and Snapchat Stories. Each room featured a different installation that was full of whimsy and surprise. My favorite room was the one with the ginormous gummy bears. There were jams playing, lighting that changed by the minute, disco balls hanging from the ceiling and, most importantly, a vat full of gummy bears that you could nibble on while there. Heck, I’d rent that space out for a birthday party if I could. But I also was a fan of the swings by the banana room, the huge popsicles melting down the walls and the enormous ice cream sandwich that doubled as a swing. I did not, however, dive into the pool full of sprinkles. The museum boasts designing close to 100 million of those tiny, plastic suckers. I know they’re fake and antimicrobial, but the thought of people’s toe jam and whatnot being interspersed among the sprinkles made my stomach turn. Also, those sprinkles get in allllll of the crevices. I went to the restroom and there were hella sprinkles on the floor. Yikes!

The museum also gets two thumbs up from the caliber of desserts we got to enjoy during our visit. We sampled Godiva chocolate, ice cream sammiches, mint chocolate chip mochi, soft-serve strawberry ice cream on a cone and more. Unfortunately, the Downtown Los Angeles location has closed until further notice as it relocates. However, the San Francisco and Miami museums are thriving. One of the clerks at the LA gift shop said there were different limited-edition pins for each location, so I’m tempted to visit the other sites. Have you been to any of the Museums of Ice Cream? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below.

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Travel Log: Montréal, Canada 

January 11, 2018

This Travel Log also doubles as a Throwback Thursday, as this epic girls trip to Montréal, Canada, took trip place last August. Click through the slideshow for a glimpse at some of the highlights.

Me and my boos — Yvette, Sierra and Andrea — wanted to get some travel in together. But where to? Savannah? Santa Fe? Boulder? Suddenly, Canada looked pretty good since we could go international without going too far for our weekender. As a kid, I took a day trip from Detroit to Toronto with my brother Robert and my aunt Betty, but I had been wanting to give Canada a real go. I’m so glad we settled on Montréal. And thus began a new tradition for our crew.

Sierra and I arrived within an hour or so of each other on Friday, Aug. 25, so we met up at the airport and Ubered to our Airbnb, which was located in Old Montréal and not too far from downtown. Yvette was next to arrive, and the three of us wandered to find a brunch spot. Immediately, I was charmed by the architecture and foliage everywhere. It felt like we were in France. Oui oui! We soon met up with Andrea, who arrived a few hours later, and set out to have a proper lunch. I was pleasantly surprised by how accommodating the locals were by offering double-sided menus in French and English because I tried Duolingo and my French accent is especially atrocious. We wandered a few blocks away from the square where we brunched and were enchanted by a quaint restaurant that had corks on display. I had a delicious steak and fries and the girls feasted on clams, and all enjoyed a bottle of red wine over lunch. I could get used to this cosmopolitan-ladies-who-lunch life. The rest of the evening consisted of a fancy dinner at L’Original. The smothered pork chop and spaghetti was everything. On the way to find a bar for a night cap, we encountered a movie playing on the side of one of the buildings. It turns out it was part of an art installation for Montréal’s 375th anniversary celebration. We ended the night at Saint Pierre, a newly opened bar run by a black woman (aaoooww!) and playing dope music. I had a refreshing drink called “Respect Your Elders,” which included elderberries. Who would have thunk?

The next day, we got an early start and went on a dining walking tour that left from the steps of the Notre-Dame Basilica, which we would find out was Celine Dion’s church. It was there where she got married and had the funeral for her husband. The tour guide pointed out important landmarks and gave us tons of historical anecdotes (Did you know that Montréal was named after its proximity to Mount Royal?), plus we got to try some great traditional bites along the way. Delicious custard-filled tarts, duck and pork patés, macarons and a smoked meat sandwich made the tour well worth it. The awkward mix of outlandish characters on the tour was memorable, and also a point of contention as we wanted to slap one of the ladies for making a borderline racist comment about an interracial couple. Folks be wildin’. Of course, we ate again shortly after the tour, but this time we felt better equipped to pick a place and had a good lay of the land. I tried my first poutine (Fun fact: It’s really pronounced “poo-ten” — far less fun to say than “poo-teen” in an aggressive Southern accent, which is how I still choose to pronounce it) and a tasty flight of local beers. We went back to the Airbnb to rest from all the walking we had done. That evening, we took a short Uber drive to a fun restaurant, where we ordered a number of dishes to share and proceeded to do shots like college girls on spring break. Hahaha. We still got it!

On our last full day in town, we had a lovely brunch after being lured in to a swanky hotel restaurant with the promise of a free mimosa. I mean, why not? We went to see the rainbow balloons lining the LGBT neighborhood and stocked up on last-minute souvenirs. Those Coffee Crisps — imagine a coffee-flavored Kit Kat candy bar — that we discovered at the grocery store were smackin’, and I left with several to bring home. We finished the night at a cute little tiki bar called Le Mal Nécessaire, which translates to The Necessary Evil, where we drank some potent punches and lamented the early morning flights we had back home.

Montréal, you beautiful beast. Thanks for your hospitality and the adventures I had with my girls. I could definitely see myself living here if I had to live in a foreign city. Either way, I will be back.

To see previous places I’ve jetted off to via my Travel Log, click here.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: California African American Museum

December 11, 2017

I’ve lived in Los Angeles County for 11 years and I finally made my way down to the California African American Museum a little while ago. I know. I’ve gotta do better. But I was glad that I went when I did. I heard that the “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992” exhibit — focusing on the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots that came on the heels of the Rodney King verdict — was closing, so that seemed as good a time as any to visit. When my guy and I arrived, we weren’t prepared for the emotions that took hold of us as soon as we stepped into the exhibit. Heavy doesn’t even begin to explain it. There was a police vehicle from the era right in the middle of the floor (it’s unclear if that was the exact car involved in the King incident), and images of the King beating and news footage of the subsequent riots played on TVs across the room. There were also artifacts from some of the people, even a 13-year-old girl gunned down by a store owner, who were unfortunate casualties of the unrest. Our eyes filled with tears reading about the loss of innocent lives, and the complete disregard for black lives that’s still prevalent to this day. Maybe that’s why it was so gripping. In short, the exhibit was powerful and one I won’t forget. There was also an intriguing exhibit about black women in silent films that provided a rare glimpse of our people’s first appearances in motion pictures. The images above don’t capture those exhibits — my pictures wouldn’t do them justice. But on the lighter side of the museum were these marvelous works by African-American artists. They each evoke a sense of pride and wonderment in their own unique ways. Click through the slideshow to see a few of my favorites from that day. If you’re in LA and you haven’t been to the California African American Museum, run, don’t walk, over there. It will fill your soul and make you think.

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: Coachella 2017, Weekend One

May 2, 2017

I headed out to Indio with every intention on making my first Coachella a memorable one, and it’s safe to say that I succeeded. Not only did I get to spend time with some of my favorite people, I also got to make new friends, experience music with fresh ears and have the time of my life in the middle of the desert.

Determined to get my $500’s worth, I drank in every act I saw and relished the opportunity to get acquainted with some new favorites. These included GoldLink, Majid Jordan, Kaytranada and Thundercat, who brought out the legendary Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers. He did “What a Fool Believes” and my bestie, Yvette, and me just about collapsed from the sheer iconery (yes, that is now a legitimate word — you heard it here first) of it all. Then, of course, there were the big names that I’ve wanted to see for a while but hadn’t yet gotten the chance. Future was phenomenal and “Mask Off” was definitely the song of the weekend. Kendrick Lamar’s whole production was everything and more. Empire of the Sun sounded incredible live and the lights really brought their set home. If only I wasn’t so vertically challenged, I could have observed their full vision. The crowd eclipsed my view, and I had to jump up to catch a quick glimpse at what was happening on stage. The running joke was, “Wait, there’s background dancers?”, as we short folks didn’t even know they were joined on stage by dancers in elaborate costumes until our friend commented about them. But I digress … We also saw DJ Khaled, Gucci Mane, Schoolboy Q and Travis Scott — a very hip-hop friendly Coachella indeed.

I wish I could have seen a few others, such as Capital Cities, Lorde and Grouplove, but there weren’t enough hours in the day. Plus, the Antartica installation was a missed opportunity. It was extra dope, according to my coworker’s snaps from inside the air conditioned dome.

The music was a big part of that weekend, but the tons of tiny, precious moments that don’t fit neatly into categories were amazing, too. Something magical happens when you’re intent on living your best life and facing the day with nothing but positivity at top of mind. Reflecting back on those such times from that weekend, I’m reminded that the strength of my bond with friends comes to light in the sacrifices — big and small — we make for each other. Going with the flow when plans change or walking what feels like a country mile to get water bottles to hydrate the entire squad. That all matters. We created tons of new memories over those four days. I cherish them all. What a whirlwind Coachella was. Until next year … possibly!

Some photos courtesy of Sisterfrands & Co.

ashley ♥ adores

Travel Log: Orlando and Bahamas, 2/17 – 2/20

February 28, 2017

It’s the dead of winter, so a trip to a tropical atmosphere was in order, starting first in Orlando, Florida, then taking us to Nassau and CocoCay, Bahamas. I mean, I can’t really complain living in Southern California, but my good friend Zita is going through it with snowstorms in Boston. So we got out of dodge and spent four glorious days and three lively nights on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, we cruised it up! Click the slideshow to see some fun visuals, and read all about it below.

DAY ONE: Friday, Feb. 17
I landed at MCO (Orlando International Airport) bright and early at 6:30 a.m. and waited for my pal, Zita, to arrive. I posted up for a few hours and got caught up on some episodes of “Z” on Amazon Prime. Thank God for WiFi and headphones. When, she touched down, we fueled up on some light snacks then boarded a shuttle for the port at Cape Canaveral. Off in the distance, we could see our ship, Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas, which would be our home for the next four days. We breezed through security at the port and checked in on the gangway, where we were greeted by Jock Jams blaring through the speakers. “Y’all ready for this?!” Why, yes. Yes, we were. Our first stop: the pool bar.

With unlimited drinks available (Hot tip: You’re gonna want to buy the drink package in advance!) at the swipe of our Set Sail card, we ordered our first libation of the trip — an ice cold piña colada. Zita immediately began mapping out the day’s plans as outlined in the Compass. Should we dance under the stars or hit up bingo? The world was our oyster! At about 3 p.m., we were able to go into our stateroom, located on the third deck. We would later find that this was actually one of the better decks on the ship. You felt the swaying most on the upper decks, and Lord knows ain’t no body got time for sea sickness. As our ship departed Orlando, I observed from the room’s porthole a flock of pelicans flying in a perfect V formation. It was truly magical. Something I didn’t catch on camera because I was immersed in the moment.

After a bit of a fiasco with the dining room assignment for our 8:30 p.m. dinner time, we were seated at a table among a crowded sea of people. We were surprised that we were expected to eat dinner with complete strangers, but thankfully, our table mates, Sarah and Lacey, were good company. We kinda felt bad for Kelly, another table mate who was ditched by her 17-year-old daughter, who was busy meeting boys in the teens-only section of the ship. Shame! After dinner, we found our way to the seventh deck, where we were promised free champagne and the possibility of winning raffle prizes (the magic words). We both made off with a free print and were encouraged to return the following afternoon for an art auction with even more raffle prizes. Exhausted, we called it a night early.

Find out how the rest of my cruise went after the jump!

Continue Reading…

Out and About: Art From Tate Britain

November 1, 2016

Remember when I was Out and About in London last month? Well, this post is a continuation of that romp, detailing my visit to the Tate Britain. It is a lovely museum with tons of classical works — a must-see if you’re ever in Londontown, and not to be confused with the Tate Modern. Many of the popular pieces, which range from the 1500s to present day, inside looked familiar, although I had to dig through the interwebs to remember the paintings’ names and their artists. Click through the slideshow to see some of my favorite works on display. There was the one with the stately peacock (“A Peacock and Other Birds in a Landscape,” 1700), the one with the gruesome British battle scene (“The Death of Major Peirson,” 1781) and the one with the iconic pug and his human (“The Painter and His Pug,” 1745). Skewing toward the contemporary side, a piece that I saw toward the end of my visit was the wordscape by British artist Fiona Banner. “Break Point,” created circa 1998, merely describes a car chase scene from the Keanu Reeves blockbuster “Point Break” with red text of various sizes to the point where some of the words are illegible. All in all, it was a fantastic cultural experience!

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: 826LA’s “Let’s Do the Time Warp (Again!)” Dance-a-thon

October 25, 2016

I don’t need much of an excuse to put on a costume and get into character, but I had a pretty good reason a couple weeks ago. 826LA, the nonprofit writing and tutoring center I had the privilege of working at for a year in my service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, was having its second dance-a-thon fundraiser, and I recruited my pal Kate to join my team to raise money. You may recall me and my homegirl Zita dazzling the masses as we dressed as the dancing girls emoji for the first dance-a-thon in 2014. Dubbed the “Doo-Wop Divas,” Kate and I harkened back to the ’50s and ’60s to sashay and sway for the students across Los Angeles who benefit from 826LA’s support. We donned floor-length, sequined mermaid-style gowns, beehive wigs, long gloves, winged eyeliner, fake eyelashes and – the pièce de résistance – old-timey microphones on wheels, thanks to the ingenuity of Cord, Kate’s hubby. Needless to say, we were the belles of the ball! As soon as we hit the door, we were greeted with oohs and ahs, chuckles and high-fives. We nailed it! And the custom Snapchat geofilter (it’s on a couple of the photos in the slideshow) designed by my guy Dash was a major key! For our efforts, Kate and I were crowned Best Dressed and won trophies, posters and a year subscription to Headspace.

Oh, I almost forgot the most important part! Kate and I shook down our family and friends raised a combined $1,308.83 to support 826LA’s programs, which help students across LA find their voice and write with confidence and creativity.

To see previous events I’ve gallivanted through, click here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores