Planning for the unexpected...

I consider myself a pretty healthy person. I’m always trying to eat an organic, limited sugar, primarily vegetarian diet and I think it’s really been beneficial! But sometimes life simply happens and things you never expected turn a normal day into something dreaded. 

This year, I had an unexpected health issue pop up that could have been devastating financially  and emotionally (I may go in to this more in a future post). This was one of those times where we were so incredibly thankful that we had our health insurance covered. What made the experience even more seamless was that our coverage was through Oscar Health. They took all the confusing jargon away from the insurance process. We were able to go through this life experience with a clear mind, knowing that Oscar had our back and that if we had any questions their staff would help out. I was approached with the opportunity to partner with Oscar Health, and happily accepted the opportunity being that I am coincidentally a member!

Having health insurance really helped during this hard time. It was one less thing to worry about in a ball of craziness which I am so thankful for. This year I have a lot to be thankful for. I have recently started to make a list every week of what I am grateful for. It honestly makes me cry every time I read the list out-loud. There are so many thing to be thankful for in life, both big and small. I am so thankful for walks, coffee talks with my grandmother, and most of all my heath. 

I want all of you to have a stress free year as well next year. We need to constantly be doing whatever we can to safeguard ourselves against any problem that could potentially arise (even if you’re healthy!). The government has a very specific schedule for signing up for healthcare on the marketplace for next year, so you have to act FAST. You now have through December 15th (or January 31st for NY and California) to purchase your coverage. Remember that getting covered is an investment into your future, your financial stability, and your physical health. 

So act now and get covered before the deadline passes! You’ll be so glad you did. 

Movies and Memories.

When the word family comes to mind, one thing I think of is: watching movies. My family (and friends who have become like family!)  seem to have always bonded over moments on the couch, munching popcorn and laughing at a favorite movie. It sure seems fitting I ended up marrying a filmmaker (Am I right? Hahaha!)!

My best friend recently visited. We did some NYC exploring and ate at cool restaurants, but some of our best moments were spent at home sitting on the couch eating Indian take-out,  talking, and watching special movies.  

After she left, my buddy told me this was one of her favorite NYC trips because we just chilled in front of the TV and talked. 

For Thanksgiving I went home to our Illinois farm.  During the day we explored the country roads and hillsides.  During the cold nights, however, we settled in front of a blazing fireplace, ate a lot of popcorn, and watched our favorite movies. Oh how I love home! 

My little sister and I watched throwback movie favorites like "Passport to Paris" and "To Grandmother's House We Go"  (Wonderful Mary-Kate and Ashley movies pre The Row days). We watched a favorite family movie every night without fail. 

I also loved sharing some new movies with my parents. My favorite thing was to watch their faces during a suspenseful scene, a tender scene or a funny scene (hoping they actually laugh). 

There's something special about movies. Aaron and I have even given movie adventures as Christmas gifts! One year, we took all our nephews and nieces to see Stars Wars. I loved seeing their little faces light up as the bright lightening-fast action bounced off the screen.  

Closeness and sharing are key elements to watching movies. Sitting side-by-side in a cozy room is super. Sharing movies which spark discussion brings families together. Good movies evoke memories, emotional reactions, thoughtful talk and, in the end, forever family ties.

I'm popping corn and getting ready for Christmas bonding with some special movies!   

What are your favorite family movies? Let me know!

This Post is created in conjunction with the ladies of The Refined Collective. Be sure and read the other articles today by: Yvette JainCorie Clark and The Refined Woman.  Also, join us over on instagram today under #therefinedcollective to see what everyone else has to say on this topic.

Imperfect me.

My head is full of imperfections. My mind says I will screw everything up, so why try? It says you will never be as successful as her, or as beautiful. It screams "YOU SUCK BRYNN!!!”…you just aren’t enough.  But you know what? I say NO to that inner voice inside my head CAUSE IT’S LYING. 

When I have these thoughts of second guessing myself, I feel like everyone is judging me, laughing at me, being mean to me while toasting to my screw-ups over their champagne. But that’s just not the case. People are just as insecure as you, even if they seem like they have it all together. People are thinking “oh, gosh, I hope I don’t have a huge piece of spinach in my teeth”. Guaranteed. 

One thing I can assure you is that every day I feel insecure in one way or another. Will I mess up this project? Am I styling this gal right? Do I have a piece of toilet paper stuck on my shoe?! Doubts seem to clog up my mind so much sometimes I have to make myself rest. It’s just too much for my brain to handle. 

This has been going on for years now. When I was in high school I struggled with horrible acne. It was so painful and made me so fearful and insecure. I was wearing a lot of makeup to cover it up and was on so many topical and internal medicines from my dermatologist. I’m sure you can imagine having massive red spots on your face really didn’t help my teen years. I struggled through these years with a fair load of stress. I also had really bad cystic acne on my back which was so embarrassing when wearing a bathing suit. 

Lately though I have learned to be more kind to myself. I have said so many negative things to myself in my head throughout the years, so I decided to start telling myself “hey lady, you are AWESOME, you can do this thing, you are going to rock the heck out of this.” I was amazed how just giving myself a pat on the back or thinking happy thoughts about myself really made all the difference. I feel more joy—lighter in a way, perhaps. It is a pretty rad feeling to have. 

We could all use just a tad more positivity in our lives. 

This Post is created in conjunction with the ladies of The Refined Collective. Be sure and read the other articles today by:  Jackie Viramontez, Julien Garman, Sarah Shreves, Tutti del Monte, Lauren Scruggs and The Refined Woman.  Also, join us over on instagram today under #therefinedcollective to see what everyone else has to say on this topic.

the most yummy veggie burger.

It’s tough to find food that is fast to prepare and healthy. In fact, this is one of the first times I’ve seen the words fast and healthy in the same sentence! That’s why I was so amazed when I came across Hilary’s Eat Well

Hilary’s Eat Well has literally been a lifesaver. Not only is are the dishes easy to prepare and delicious, but they are certified gluten-free, organic, kosher, non-GMO verified, and vegan! This has been super important to me recently because I’ve gone almost completely vegan. I simply just like the way I feel more when I eat vegetables rather than meat. But, gosh, I miss a good burger! I’m basically constantly on the hunt for a great vegan burger. This is why I gave Hilary’s “World’s Best Veggie Burger” a try. I’m SO glad I did. 

I put together a quick recipe below, but you can have fun and mix up the ingredients in any way to make it your own style. Take my word though, this recipe below satisfied my cravings in a huge way!   

(makes 2)

INGREDIENTS: 

1 box of Hilary’s Eat Well “World’s Best Veggie Burger”

2 organic hamburger buns

1 organic onion 

a handful of organic pickles 

a handful of organic grape tomatoes 

a handful of organic spinach 

4 strips organic vegan bacon

a handful of organic vegan mozzarella cheese 

1 tbs. butter

1 tsp. olive oil 

Your favorite dressing/sauce. I used Hilary's Ranch Chia Dressing.

 

 

DIRECTIONS:

1.  On a stovetop frying pan, cook the burger in the olive oil for 3 minutes on each side.

2.  Once the burger is finished cooking, turn off the heat and add the vegan cheese. Let it settle and melt on the burger before moving to bun.   

3.  In a separate pan, butter the face of each bun and lightly grill until lightly browned. 

4.  Move buns to a separate plate and add the burger patties to the bun. 

5.  Add all of your favorite toppings! Mine are listed above, but you can do whatever you like. Be creative!

6.  Eat the deliciously healthy veggie burger from Hilary’s Eat Well

7.  ENJOY!

Kasbah Bab Ourika

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As the weather here in New York City starts to get a little more chilly, I’m finding myself daydreaming more and more about going back to the heat of Morocco. We were primarily staying around the city of Marrakech, but decided to venture out of the city to get away from the hustle and bustle to relax in the shadows of the Atlas Mountains. This is how we found our way to the Kasbah Bab Ourika.

Kasbah Bab Ourika is probably the furthest away from a tourist area within the Marrakech vicinity that you can get. To get there you are led onto a dirt road and through winding village streets. We had the Kasbah set up a car service to navigate us throughout the streets. It was nice to have someone drive us that knew the area by heart. It was a beautiful experience though—getting to see Morocco in its natural state without people pandering to tourists.

Once you are finished meandering up the path to the Kasbah, you are led up to the hill and at the top of the hill is the Kasbah. What a beautiful sight it is! The scene surrounding the Kasbah is entirely different than Marrakech. It is complete tranquility. You are led on to the grounds and immediately feel at home.

While all the rooms are amazing there, we opted for a room with its own private pool. Best. Decision. Ever. Aaron and I loved to just relax here all day in the Moroccan sun. They have a pool in their gardens for guests to use, but there was something extra special about being able to soak up the rays at any moment just by stepping outside of our living room door.

Without a doubt, though, one of the best experiences Aaron and I had in Morocco was riding camels through the towns that surround the Kasbah. We truly felt like we were one with our surroundings. The Kasbah arranged the camels/guide for us and our guide was wonderful. All of the people in the neighborhoods knew him. One thing that was kind of fun was that he let Aaron try on his local “Berber” outfit. It was so unique and definitely a first! There’s also a tradition of eating a snack down by the riverbed, so we all feasted on a watermelon and watched as all the kids in the community played together. Everyone was simply so joyful. They also loved Aaron’s long hair and thought it was very funny-haha.

Another activity we enjoyed was exploring the local markets. I literally had my arms full of wicker baskets by the time we left the Kasbah. Our local guide took us around the markets which were full of everything you could imagine. They even had a section for guys to get their beards trimmed! There were spices galore and so many hand made pottery items. We actually bought a mug from a vendor for around 15 cents. The prices were ridiculously inexpensive since we were away from the tourist area! While in downtown Marrakech, I got the sense much of the market was designed for tourists to buy gifts, but out near the Kasbah, it was completely about the community supplying goods for the rest of the community.

Another memory we made on our day trek was that we visited a Saffron farm. It was incredible to see how the delicate and rare plant is produced. At the farm, they also had a very fun barefoot trail. Basically, every step you take is a new element—sand, rocks, wood, grass, water, etc. You spend about 15 minutes going from element to element barefoot so that you can feel connected to the earth. I, personally, loved the rose petal soak for my feet. Never experienced anything like it!

Side note—the donkey’s on the farm were soooooo cute!

After a long day of camel trekking or shopping at one of the markets, we would go back to the hotel. Aaron would relax in the pool while I would get a massage. The massage at the Kasbah was so relaxing! They used local Moroccan Argan Oil and it smelled like a total dream. I actually ended up falling alseep-haha. I love taking the time to get a massage when I can and this one was so worth it! 

If you want a great view of the sunset, Kasbah Bab Ourika has you covered. Aaron and I would make our way to the edge of the property and sit on chairs overlooking the countryside. It was picture perfect. We loved looking into the distance at other rooftops. On them would be local families gathered around watching the sunset as well. It was such a great feeling of unity with the community. It was just beautiful to see everyone connecting by watching the same sunset.

And what would an article about Morocco be without talking about the food? The food at the Kasbah Bab Ourika was without a doubt 100% Moroccan Cuisine! Almost all of the main dishes were served in tagines and had unbelievable flavors. The setting of every meal we ate at the Kasbah was outside on their patio. As with almost all locations at the Kasbah, it looked out onto the Atlas Mountains and was a sight to behold. Watching the sunrise and set while eating breakfast and dinner was something I’ll never forget. 

On your next journey to Marrakech, try thinking outside the box just a little bit. Venture to the outskirts and get another perspective for the Moroccan way of life. We loved our time at Kasbah Bab Ourika and know a trek there would be well worth it! 

Bits and Pieces.

It has been such a joy-filled week! Just yesterday I got the opportunity to walk a runway show for Anthropologie with some gorgeous inspiring women. Also, I didn't fall on my face. Always a plus, right? Anyway, I wanted to share with you guys some of my favirite new things I have been loving lately. I cover everything from rugs to face masks in this post. So without further ado, let's get going! 

This shirt and these jeans from Madewell... and my new pet, Cuddles, my bulldog pillow. 

I love how Madewell makes clothes you can just throw on a be comfy in without even thinking about it. I love this shirt because it is so vintage inspired plus the color is such a stunning shade of pink. These jeans I am wearing are also very awesome. They have several different types of denim sewn on them so they have a very unique and hip vibe to them. 

Now you might have seen my bulldog friend Cuddles in my bedroom makeover post, but I love him so. I found him in a little shop in Amagansett, New York. But you can actually buy him here. P.S-he gives great cuddles! 

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Sunday Riley's Luna Sleeping Night OilSaturn Sulfur Acne Mask and C.E.O. Moisturizer

I love Sunday Riley so much. I trust their products over almost all other for ingredient quality and results. These three products have proven to be my skin heros over the last couple of months. When I got some unsightly acne I used the Saturn Sulfur Acne Mask and I swear it clears my problem spots within days. Not to mention, right after I use it I feel like it gives me a bit of glow! 

The Luna Sleeping Night Oil I keep right by the bedside table for night application. Don't let the blue color scare you! That colors fades away when it is absorbed into your skin. When I wake up after having applied this oil to my face my skin feels so soft and plump. It's just nothing sort of awesome. Try it out!

Lastly one of my favorites ever has been the C.E.O. Moisturizer! The smell is delightful first off. The perfect blend of intoxicating citrus and freshness. I love to massage this into my skin right after cleansing in the mornings. Not only does the scent energize me, but my skin is so moist and glowy using this every time. Love it! 

This rug, basket, and pillow are from The Citizenry.

If you guys haven't heard of The Citizenry I am happy to introduce you now! The Citizenry is an amazing company that collaborates with local artisans in countries around the world to sell their gorgeous handcrafted items to us. One of the main things I love is that they pay the artisans fair wages, happy working environments, and sustaining grants, so they are able to take their crafts and their businesses to new places. Love this!

The Sierra Rug proved to be the perfect addition for this cosy corner of my dining room. Not only is this rug so visually beautiful to look at (and the perfect combo of my favorite colors ever!) but it was handwoven in Mexico by the women of Oaxaca. I like to think that every time I look at this rug I imagine all the hard work that went into creating such a beautiful add-on to my space. 

I love a good catch-all basket. It is one of my huge organizational secrets, actually. Just throw all your stuff into cute baskets, done! This Mercado Storage Basket fits the bill perfectly. It is so serviceable and wonderful (it's actually made out of Mexican palm leaves). I also think a plant would look really cute in here... a project for another day perhaps. 

A lady can never have enough pillows! The La Brista Pillow is the perfect pillow to throw on a couch, chair or bed. The colors in this pillow go with everything and add an interesting accent to whatever you pair it with. This pillow was handmade in Peru and you can definitly see all the stunning detail that was put in the stitching. A great go-to piece for decorating almost any space! 

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Anything Yellow + More jeans from Madewell I love.

Cue the Coldplay song guys-haha! I have been loving all things yellow, perhaps its because the sun seems to be making its exit officially now, but I digress...

These glasses are my go-to accessory now. I'm trying to use them as much as I can before winter hits. I love how when I put them on they make the world seem like a much more sunny place (hey, it makes me happy!). They add a fun color pop to any outfit and are just plan cool which I'm generally into.

This top by Madewell has also been on repeat lately. It is the ideal light weight top you don't have to think about. Just throw it on and go! Unfortunately, it's sold out now or else I would tell you guys all to run out and buy it asap. 

Next up these jeans!!!! I love them. They are straight out of the movie Dazed and Confused (one my favorite films, btw). They give just the right amount of stretch but are sure flattering on pretty much any body type because they are high-waisted. Plus they are on sale! 

the layers we live in.

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Have you ever had a time when someone asks, "How's your day going"? You say, "It's going great,"  but in reality, your day is a long way from great. That, my friend,  is called creating a layer. We New Yorkers, in particular, seem to apply a lot of layers to our lives. For example: Layers of being busy, layers of having it all together, layers of self-importance or "can-do-it-all" performance can create unrealistic images. Maybe it's time to peel back some layers. Of course, every waiter or retail worker doesn't want to hear our tale of inadequacy, but good friends or family might benefit from a glimpse at our vulnerability.

I try to be real with you. I sure don't have it all together. Quite truthfully, sometimes I need help...advice...insight...or even a good shaking! Sometimes taking away the layers of "I'm fine" and "it's all good" can be just what we need. Being vulnerable, letting the layers of exoskeleton fall off, can be quite freeing.  As a matter of fact, this has become the foundation of some of my dearest friendships. After all, people who share embarrassing info with each other typically have each other's back. Plus - what can beat laughing together about those stupid things we've done? Laughter can be the best medicine out there, right?!

As I'm writing this, I realize I accidentally missed a whole section of rogue hair on my leg while I was shaving. Haha - real life confessions of Brynn! So - go ahead and laugh at me. That's OK - I'm laughing at myself! Let's let the layers fall away and relax. We can talk about unwashed hair or stinky socks. Then, sometimes, we can share the more serious stuff, like hurts and pains and heartbreak.

I'd love for you to share with me. We could drop a few layers and maybe lose a bit of the weight we carry on our shoulders. I feel ya. I've been there too. So let's try this out together. Next time we're talking to a friend, family member or buddy, let's open up. We may be surprised to find out they're struggling with something they've wanted to talk about, also.

If you want to talk to me... just drop me a line.

This Post is created in conjunction with the ladies of The Refined Collective. Be sure and read the other articles today by: Yvette JainJackie Viramontez, Julien Garman and The Refined Woman.  Also, join us over on instagram today under #therefinedcollective to see what everyone else has to say on this topic.

//  Top: Madewell Jeans: Madewell Jacket: Madewell

27.

I'm 27 years old today. This seems crazy. This year has flown by. My twenties have been fun, but also full of some not so fun insecurities. As I head into my 27th year, I want to throw all my baggage of insecurities and all my "do I look fat in this dress?" nonsense out the window.

I want this year to be full of unplanned adventures, bad karaoke ballads and maybe, just maybe, an occasional super size fries from McDonald's (OK, I admit it...they are GOOD).

I want this to be a year of gratefulness. I have so much to be thankful for. Also, I want this to be a year of giving. All the negativity, hate and devastating disaster in the world makes my heart cry out. I want this 27th year of my life to be about helping others. Whether it be donating more to amazing causes or giving my time and energy to make the world a little better. Hey, if we all did this, I think the change would be palpable.

I also want this to be the year of doing crazy things, a year of firsts. I want to face my fears and achieve goals I've been on the fence about. This may be the year I jump out of a plane,  do a zip line, or face my fear of gorillas (I have dreams of one chasing me).

Sometimes we put things off until it's too late. It seems I'm always pushing the to do list to the next day, next week, or next month. This year, I want to break that habit. I know this is easier said than done. By just putting one foot in front of the other... I think I can do it!

27: I'm very thankful to be here. I'd like to thank God, my family, my husband, my friends, (and all the french fries, donuts and pizza in the world) for supporting me in my journey through life.

I'm ready to get started! Let's do this crazy year!