Inhale. Exhale.

by Jennifer Thai in , , ,

The blogger life isn't always pretty. In the midst of the perfectly selected outfits, beautiful latte art, stylized brunch plates, and posed "candids," lies unneeded stress, insecurity and plenty of (gasp) flaws. They're the reasons why so many bloggers take those months-at-a-time hiatuses, to step away from it all and rediscover why they were so passionate about their personal brand and what it's grown into.

I can't speak for every blogger out there, but if there's anything that I've personally learned from blogging, it's to periodically allow myself to let my hair down, take my make-up off and be candid - indulge in the occasional "real talk," if you will.

Lately, I've been really focusing on self-care, like, reallllly focusing on it. Anxiety is definitely a thing in my life, and although it's a force of habit sometimes to allow it to control my mood and my level of motivation, I've been actively working to re-wire my brain and practice healthier, more positive habits:

  • Real rest and relaxation: And by real, I mean that no one really has to know that you treated yourself to a mani/pedi, facial and 50-minute Swedish massage on Sunday. Because you know who it should really matter to most? You, and only you. Treat yo'self without feeling the need to prove it to the rest of the world - your body and mind will thank you, and that's all the praise and "you-deserve-its" you need.
  • Constructive envy: Sure, bloggers often get matched to the same sponsorships and ad campaigns, and we're always looking for ways to set ourselves apart from the rest. But that doesn't mean it has to be a dog-eat-dog world (cue the "community over competition" phrase heard reverberating through the rooms of every blogger event). We all started at the same place, and we're all walking down similar paths to the same goal - don't ever be afraid to ask for tips and don't you dare ever act like you're too good to give advice.
  • Owning your hot mess-ness: It's okay to take your make-up free, unfiltered self to wherever the hell you want to, for the sole purpose of being lazy and uncommitted to living the blogger life 24/7. I can see it in the local version of US Weekly now - "Bloggers, they're just like us!" "They wear hats to cover their three-day-old hair!" "They forgot to put on a bra!" 

The unneeded stress and feelings of insecurity are just that - unneeded. Sure, easier said than the beginning. But once you start to feel comfortable and confident in who you are as a blogger and what you do as a blogger, I guarantee you'll feel free from those chains. There is no status quo - only the one that you set for yourself.

Loving Lately: August 2017

by Jennifer Thai in , ,

Happy August, friends! It's so crazy to think that in just a few blinks of an eye, we're getting closer and closer to fall weather. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining at all - I've been over this too-hot, rainy and humid Florida weather for about two months, since summer officially started.

I've decided to create a new series to showcase some of the things I've been loving lately, basically an Instagram round-up of favorites that didn't make it to the blog - until now!

Start Today - TPA Snapback

This black TPA snapback from Start Today pretty much gives me every reason to slum it on the weekends sans make-up and still pull it off like I've got my life together.

Handcrafted Gems Raw Dioptase Ring

I recently discovered Olivia's shop, Handcrafted Gems, while scrolling through Instagram one day, and became smitten with her handmade raw stone jewelry. The moment I laid eyes on this beautiful raw dioptase rose gold ring on her shop, I knew I had to treat myself. The meaning of dioptase really hits home for me: it provides a emotionally-healing energy and releases negative emotions and stress.

Kelp Sushi's Spicy Tuna Bowl

First, I discovered Kelp Sushi after realizing my first string sushi spot was closed for the Fourth of July holiday. Then, I discovered the option for delivery sushi. Then, I discovered the Spicy Tuna Bowl. Oh, is it yummy goodness. A hearty bowl is filled with your choice of white/brown rice or spring mix, then topped with spicy tuna, spicy pickled cucumber and lotus root, seaweed, shredded carrots and daikon, and avocado.

Petit Piquant's Kouign-Amann

Okay, so I did write about this on the blog. But, I'm still obsessed with Petit Piquant's kouign-amann pastry. The buttery, flaky layers and dense, chewy texture just keep calling me back - not to mention the delicious, savory flavors: chorizo and goat cheese, short rib and lox.....yum, yum, YUM!

Homemade Zuppa Toscana

Without fail, whether it's because of a rainy day, icky tummy or general craving, I keep coming back to this Zuppa Toscana recipe - it's so simple to prepare, and I even think it's better than Olive Garden's!

What's been striking your fancy lately? I love making new discoveries - leave me a recommendation in the comments below!

Local Bites: O Cocina

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Nestled away in a not-often-visited part of South Tampa, O Cocina shines bright, with its cozy, gorgeous interior, savory modern Mexican fare and delicious libations. I'd heard from friends about O Cocina's beautiful faux succulent wall, but not a whole lot about its food offerings - I decided to check it out for myself during a last-minute get-together with some of my family.

O Cocina does not disappoint when it comes to first impressions - dreamy globe-encapsulated Edison lightbulbs float from the ceiling, while its much-lauded faux succulent wall frames the spotlighted bar.

Our server greeted us and dropped off some corn tortilla chips and salsa while we decided what we wanted to order. We weren't extremely hungry, so opted for some lighter bites off the menu. I can't go anywhere that offers tableside guacamole without at least trying it - the guacamole was good, but, disappointingly, not actually made table-side.

My sister's fiance ordered The Abigail to drink - a gin cocktail a beautiful shade of lavender, featuring Plymouth gin, Rothman & Winters Crème de Violette, lemon, blueberries, rosemary and egg white. It's a light and refreshing drink - I personally enjoyed it, while the men of the table jokingly referred to it as "spa water."

Tableside Guacamole

The Abigail: Plymouth Gin, Rothman & Winters Crème de Violette, lemon, blueberries, rosemary, egg white

My sisters and I have been on a major scallop kick lately. I was never a huge fan of scallops, but lately, I've been realizing that if they're prepared the way they should be, they're absolutely delicious. O Cocina didn't disappoint - we tried both the appetizer and main course versions of its diver scallops: while the appetizer pan-seared diver scallops were lighter, paired with a sweet corn emulsion and drizzled with a chorizo oil, the entree version of the pan-seared diver scallops was more hearty, paired with a bacon and lump crab risotto, sweet green peas and a chile de arbol oil. 

Appetizer Pan Seared Diver Scallops: Sweet corn emulsion, wilted pea tendrils, chorizo oil

Entree Pan-Seared Diver Scallops: Sweet green pea, bacon and lump crab risotto, chile de arbol oil (Note: Picture is of a half-portion; the server split the entree for us prior to serving)

Pork belly is another dish I'm weird about - I'm super sensitive to the texture and taste of fat. Most people enjoy it, but again, if it's not prepared a certain way, I'm not fond of it - at all. O Cocina does a fantastic job with its Guajillo Pork Belly appetizer - the pork belly is melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness, and the fatty texture is masked by the savoriness of the dish. 

I also ordered the Chef's Soup of the Day, which happened to be chicken tortilla, and Off-the-Cob Mexican Street Corn. While pH really enjoyed the soup, it unfortunately did not suit my palate, and tasted more like a warm salsa with shredded chicken compared to what I was expecting/hoping for. The corn was yummy, but there's just something about eating corn right off the cob that is all the more appealing to me. I have child-like eating tendencies, I know.

Guajillo Pork Belly: Crispy Duroc pork, habaĂąero crema, pickled red onion

Sopa del Dia: Chicken Tortilla Soup | Off-the-Cob Mexican Street Corn

Despite some minor disappointments, I was overall very taken with my experience at O Cocina - I love the cozy vibe and the gorgeous interior doesn't hurt. The service was excellent and the food and company even more so - I will definitely be back to explore the menu further!

O Cocina is located at 4110 Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday for brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can view the menu here. To stay updated on the latest happenings at O Cocina, follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Reviewed: Face Halo

by Jennifer Thai in

After hearing word of a magical, environmentally-friendly and chemical-free make-up removing product from the likes of WWD, InStyle and Refinery 29, I knew I had to try out Face Halo for myself. And make-up fiends - this thing is a freakin' unicorn

Face Halo's microfiber technology, dubbed 'HaloTech Fiber,' allows for make-up removing sans chemicals, alcohol and other skin irritants. Used with the simple power of water, the ultra-fine fibers grab and trap make-up without re-depositing it onto your skin, and provides a gentle exfoliation. And, it replaces the need for disposable wipes - each Face Halo pad is reusable for up to 200 wash cycles! Simply toss the pad in with your load of laundry, but mind the use of fabric softener, which will leave a filmy residue on the Face Halo pads.

Don't believe me? Just watch:

I'm so excited to have found a permanent solution for my make-up removing woes - spending nearly $20 a month for make-up removing products is a big fat "no" for me now. Instead, I'll throw my $22 for three Face Halo pads that will last for 600 wash cycles in total, easy.

Local Bites: Kouign-Amann at Petit Piquant

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Last weekend, I was invited to stop by Petit Piquant to try the latest, greatest and flakiest thing to happen to Tampa's food scene since the doughnut cone - kouign-amann. 

These delightful French pastries hail from the coastal region of Brittany, and are a deliciously-textured cross between a croissant and brioche. Now available at Petit Piquant in West Tampa, as well as at the Tampa International Airport (in Illy Coffee and in Bay Coffee & Tea Company), these kouign-amann come in sweet varieties, including Lemon, Guava, Strawberry, Cinnamon Sugar, Passion Fruit, Raspberry, and savory flavors like Roasted Tomato & Goat Cheese, Braised Short Rib, Lox, and Chorizo & Goat Cheese.

If you're a savory fiend like I am, you must order the Lox and Chorizo & Goat Cheese - they are both amazingly flavorful, and the texture is everything. 

While my little sister and I enjoyed our kouign-amann flight and iced caramel lattes (did you know that Petit Piquant makes their caramel in-house?), pH opted for a Chorizo & Goat Cheese Omelet, which was a better fit for the keto diet he's on.

Chorizo & Goat Cheese Omelet: Cantimpalo chorizo, goat cheese, organic cilantro, carmelized shallots

It's no wonder that the same shop that brought the infamous cronut (croissant doughnut) to Tampa is coming through with another delicious baked good, yet again. We all thoroughly enjoyed our plates, and with this new discovery, you can bet that you'll find pH and I at this darling West Tampa shop every other weekend!

Petit Piquant is located at 1704 North Howard Avenue in Tampa. The restaurant is open Sunday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can view the menu here. To stay updated on the latest happenings at Petit Piquant follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

*Disclosure: The meal featured in this post was provided by Petit Piquant for editorial consideration. This post was written on my own accord, and opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Petit Piquant.

Local Do: Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park

by Jennifer Thai in

This weekend, pH and I took Sadie to the grand opening of the Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park in the Channel District. Featuring two separate play areas for large and small pups to roam and plenty of shade from the Selmon Expressway overpass, this new park is a welcome addition to the Tampa Bay area's growing dog-friendly community.

Large Dog Play Area

Large Dog Play Area

Small Dog Play Area

This new dog park honors the legacy of Hillsborough County Deputy John Robert Kotfila, Jr., who lost his life to a wrong-way driver on the Selmon Expressway in March 2016, and pays tribute to the strong bond he had with his German shepherd, Dexter.

Sadie had way too much fun playing with the other pups, and pH and I got a chance to meet with a few of the vendors at the grand opening, including the fine folks of Craving Donuts and Adam Goldberg of AGoldPhoto Pet Photography

Water Fountains

Caramel Bacon Donut from Craving Donuts

Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park is located at 705 Raymond Street in Tampa and is Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority's first Selmon Greenway Pocket Park. The park is open from sunrise to sunset.