Traveling With The Lo & Sons Catalina Deluxe

July 14, 2016

The Lo & Sons weekender bag I've been using for three years - The Catalina - just got an amazing upgrade...it now comes in a "Deluxe" version. Available in both large and small, the Catalina Deluxe has all the same features as the original Catalina and includes some really amazing additional details that take it to the next level in terms of awesomeness and functionality. For anyone unfamiliar with the canvas duffle and what makes it so different from other options out there, I'm excited to tell you all about it! I packed my new forest green bag (it's a Large) for the week I was gone over the 4th of July and through last weekend and everything fit perfectly. My favorite thing about the Catalina bag is that it holds a ton but doesn't look huge. You never want to be the person that shows up for a weekend and looks like you packed for a month. I was only slightly surprised that I was able to fit everything I needed for a week inside my Catalina Deluxe Large - even though it's called a "weekender" bag it can really get you so much further than two days if you need it to!

 

The first thing you’ll notice about the Catalina (in each of the three variations) it’s the bottom pocket/section that has its own zipper. This area is connected to the top part (it doesn’t completely zip away) and is amazing for holding shoes, toiletries, or other items you want to keep separate. This bottom part of the Catalina Deluxe is different from the original in that it comes with a removable padded insert (!).  In the past I had gotten questions from readers worried about packing delicate shoes, make-up, hair appliances in the bottom for fear that they would get damaged. I have never, ever had that problem with my original (and I put everything from my laptop to fancy stilettos down there) but the padded insert is a great addition for those concerns and it gives the bag extra structure that helps with packing and keeps the canvas from getting lumpy and bumpy. Here’s what I packed in mine:

I like to load up the bottom pocket first then zip it and move on to the top part. Unlike other duffels I’ve used in the past, this one really opens up wide and placing items neatly inside is really easy (and ideal for a type-A, organized packer like me). There’s a small zippered pocket on one size of the interior and two divided pockets on the other – great for holding smaller items like my laptop charger, perfume, and lip stuffs. Here’s what I fit:

Two of the features of the Catalina Deluxe that the original Catalina doesn’t have: a back panel pass-through sleeve and a removable messenger strap. The back panel is similar to those on Lo & Sons infamous O.G.O.M.G. and laptop tote bags – it allows you to slide the Catalina Deluxe over suitcase handles for seamless travel. There are double sided zippers on the top and bottom of the panel that make it adjust to fit different handle widths. I often use the panel as an additional pocket when I’m not using it with a suitcase. The messenger strap easily clips onto both sides of the top of the bag, near the zipper, and it has a removable padded piece that makes it extra comfortable to carry.

My large Deluxe Catalina came with me to Ft. Worth for some pool time, then to Dallas, then on to Kansas City (note: I did bring a small separate bag to hold the few things I needed to wear for my aunt’s wedding last weekend and my camera has its own separate situation) then back to Houston. And while living out of a bag for a week isn’t necessarily my favorite thing, it’s really (really, really) not a chore to do it with this bag. Having all my beauty needs in the bottom of the bag and my clothes in the top really helps me feel organized and the lightweight canvas means that even when it’s full of stuff and I’m swinging it from one place to another, I don’t feel like I’m lugging it around.

You can check out this handy guide to see the differences between the Catalina Deluxe Small ($128), the Catalina Deluxe Large ($148), and the Catalina ($120). If you don’t have a weekender bag you’re in love with or feel like it’s the bag missing in your life, I cannot recommend a Catalina (any version of it!) enough. The price makes it a serious bang for your buck and you’ll never use another duffle type bag again – I seriously haven’t in over three years. Shop them here!

Oh, did I mention it’s machine washable and totally collapses for easy storage? Mic drop.

Fun stuff: the Catalina now comes in a really adorable color-blocked style (three different color options on the bottom with a natural canvas on top), and the seven fully-colored options are currently on sale ($120 → $84)!

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Austin City Limits 2015

October 13, 2015

Austin City Limits - fondly known as ACL - is a three day music festival in (you guessed it) Austin. Back when I first attended four short years ago it was just one weekend...but with the event drawing people from across the country (and globe?) I'm assuming people started asking for more and the ACL powers that be decided to extend the program to two weekends of fun. The first weekend was October 2-4 and the second weekend was (you guessed it) last weekend, October 9-11. After getting some very amazing VIP tickets offered to me a few weeks ago for weekend two I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the 2015 lineup of performers. So I enlisted my friend and fellow Biscuit babe Avery as my partner in crime and we did our best to treat the three days as a marathon, not a sprint...

 

150 people are moving to Austin each day. If you’ve ever visited the city you probably understand how this is possible…the music scene, eclectic aesthetic, beautiful landscape, shiny skyline, healthy and active lifestyle mentality, and yum culinary offerings are just a few reasons that make Austin a hot bed for tech start-ups and University of Texas fans alike. The 350 acres of Zilker Park sections off part of its space to ACL each October and I think it does a perfect job of showcasing all that’s great about the city. The two largest stages (out of the eight situated in the field) sit on opposite ends – east and west – with the east backing up to the city skyline and the west looking out over lush trees and getting the sunset glory each night. Because great music goes well with good food and drinks, tons of amazing sponsors and local restaurants come in with delicious offerings.

Avery and I did our best to balance our intake of cocktails with lots of Vita Coco Coconut Water and H2O. It might be October but Austin is still hot and trekking from stage to stage and standing among other fans is as invigorating as it is draining. We totally lucked out having the tickets we did because the VIP Grove area offered shade, seating, food + drinks, cool booths (loved the South Congress Hotel pop-up with cool boutique Sunroom), and wicked installation of hanging streamers by The Color Condition (created by my talented friends in Dallas!). We could have just looked at those colorful swags and mobiles of color all day…but we did make it out of the Grove for the main purpose of the festival: the music lineup. And there were several bands and artist that were clear favorites. Below is our list of most loved performances and a few song recommendations:

Far and away, the best performance we experienced was by Florence and the Machine. I’m already a major fan of hers so I was pumped out of my mind that I got to see her close the festival on Sunday night…now I can honestly say that I’m obsessed. Her energy is INSANE – she was literally sprinting across the stage (barefoot) and dancing her face off for a full hour and a half. At one point she ran off stage into the crowd and ended up about five feet from us. I almost passed out/got crushed by other screaming fans. Not sure I’ve ever seen anyone perform and felt such authenticity and soulfulness.

Avery and I left Austin yesterday tired but happy, with a full list of songs to download. So glad we got to experience such an amazing weekend and already hoping I get to return to the fest again next year!

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Napa is Nice

July 15, 2015

There are many times when we first tell people the name of the blog we get asked, "Ohhh, so it's a food blog?" We assure them that no, as much as we love food the blog features an array of lifestyle posts. But if you look at our Instagram account on any given day you might be fooled with all the pics of food and wine...we can't help it. Especially when we are together and being extra gluttonous - like Molly mentioned yesterday, we aren't together as often now that there are so many states and miles separating us, so any time we have feels like it needs to be celebrated. And celebrate we do...with sweet treats, reservations at yum places, delicious wine, and meals so good we'd be fine if they were our last.

Last weekend we drove from San Francisco to Napa Valley with a trio of favorite people and spent Saturday and Sunday exploring, drinking, eating, and drinking. It was the perfect warm escape from SF (not that it needs to be escaped, but summer isn't very summery in the city) and both of us left feeling sleepy after two days of stuffing ourselves with goodness. We thought we had taken a ton of great photos of the beautiful scenery but what you'll see in this post are a few vineyard pics and then lots of food spots along with a list of where we went and what we did. Whoops? Like our mom says, there's always a reason to go back!

 

Yontville: a small town in Napa Valley that’s adorable and notable for it’s food (four Michelin starred restaurants included). It’s where we first started our weekend trip and where we spent a good amount of time eating.

Redd Wood: this was our first stop. Before you start tasting a bunch of wine, it’s not a bad idea to make sure you have a full tummy first. This spot is by Chef Richard Reddington and it has delicious pizza (we suggest the Sausage and Prosciutto Crudo) and other Italian-based options. It was the perfect lunch.

Ma(i)sonry: wine tasting is the main activity of Napa and places like Ma(i)sonry are ideal for doing it. The pretty stone building (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) has a sun-washed patio and garden situation that features a collection of contemporary sculpture pieces…doubling as a tasting spot and art gallery. We had a great guide walk us through the wine flight offerings available before making suggestions on what we might like to try. As girls who enjoy wine but don’t know much about it, it’s always nice to have someone who can explain the grape varieties and wine varietals. Our favorite of the tasting was the Arriviste Rosé from Blackbird Vineyards – one of the vintner and winemakers currently being showcased by the tasting house.

Peju Vineyard: “It’s so good, once it hits your lips, it’s so good.” Old School jokes aside, once our group had finished our wine flights we thought it would be fun to drive past some of the beautiful vineyards on St. Helena Highway. We ended up stopping at Peju because we had heard great things about their wine and figured it would be a good idea to split a bottle of wine while enjoying the surrounding rows of vines (basically, we wanted to keep our wine momentum going – hence the movie quote). We’ll be honest, the estate is beautiful but the atmosphere is very corporate and there were tons of people either doing the tastings, bustling around the area where you can buy wines, or crowding the grasses surrounding the manor with wine and plastic cups in hand. After getting a bottle of rosé we snuck into a secluded picnic spot by the vineyard rows and got to quietly enjoy the setting. We all fell in love with the massive sunflowers and had a great time exploring for a bit.

Westin Verasa: having made our plans to go to Napa in the 11th hour (re: Friday afternoon) we were so happy to have found rooms at the Westin Verasa for a Saturday night stay. Though a bit further from the Yontville area, the hotel is so nice and proved to be the perfect spot for our group. Since we had some time to kill before dinner we got to spend time by the hotel’s pool and in the hot tub…it was the best way to relax after a day of wine sipping. We should also note that the rooms are great and we all slept like babies.

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch: we were all starving for dinner and Farmstead did not disappoint. The restaurant is a full-circle experience of what Long Meadow Ranch has to offer: Estate grown wines, organic produce, grass-fed beef and lamb, extra virgin olive oil, honey and more. The farm-to-table menu offered delicious and thoughtful options and even though we were all stuffed from our entrees (and cheddar biscuits, and mac and cheese) none of us said “no” to splitting chocolate pie and beignets with caramel sauce for dessert. We basically rolled ourselves out of the restaurant at the end of the night.

 

Ad Hoc: because our bodies woke up hungry (doesn’t that always happen after you eat a big meal the night before?) we felt extra lucky that we had reservations for Sunday brunch at Ad Hoc. If you haven’t heard of Thomas Keller, be prepared to hear his name a lot when you are in Napa – he is a Michelin starred chef responsible for some of the best food Napa has to offer. Ad Hoc is just one of four Keller spots in Yontville and our group was very (very, very) excited to taste the family-style comfort food it’s known for. Each day the restaurant changes and sets the menu…our brunch had three glorious courses. It started with a fresh salad, led to chicken-fried steak with a side of chocolate chip pancakes, and ended with mini stone fruit pies. We can’t even really describe how incredible this food was. Our mouths are still watering and we may or many not have Ad Hoc at Home cookbooks in our future.

Bouchon Bakery: another Thomas Keller institution, Bouchon Bakery was opened after its bistro counterpart in the style of classic French boulangeries. It’s a very tiny retail spot but the assortment of breads and pretty sweet treats is worth seeing. And everything that the bakery makes is most definitely worth eating. We left with three of their large macaroons: vanilla, pistachio, and salted carmel. Melt in yo’ mouth good. If you’ve read about our obsession with the gluten-free flour substitute Cup 4 Cup, you’ll be interested to know that it was conceived and produced by Keller and one of his chefs at the French Laundry, Lena Kwak. Would love to try it with some of the recipes in the Bouchon Bakery cookbook!

The French Laundry: before you get excited, we should note early on that we did not eat here…we only walked by it and may or may not have peeked in some of the kitchen windows. The French Laundry is Thomas Keller’s most notable and awarded restaurant – it has received the highest rating of three stars for the sixth year in a row from the Michelin Guide San Francisco and makes Thomas Keller the only American-born chef to have two three-starred Michelin restaurants. Even if you’re not a foodie, you’ve got to bow your head in respect to that kind of culinary accomplishment. Someday we hope to taste the legendary French cuisine of Thomas Keller…till then, we are happy just to stroll by and take in the charming facade of The French Laundry.

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Sunset Crusin’ with Motorboatin’ 30a

June 29, 2015

Friday was our last night in 30A. Usually we spend our final evening at the beach pouting and packing, sometimes strategizing ways to stay longer. But this last night we spent it with Matt and Michaelanne of Motorboatin' 30a - taking in the most amazing sunset on the pontoon boat. We used to think, "If you've seen one sunset, you've seen them all," but now we are completely eating our words. In our defense we will say that sometimes it is hard to realize and appreciate the full beauty of something that occurs everyday...but no sunset is every exactly the same, and the ones along the beach (especially on 30A) are something to marvel at.

Michaelanne and Matt knew from the beginning stages of creating their business that they wanted to offer a sunset cruise trip. Both of them love happy hour (people after our own hearts!) and once they got started the evening trips captained by Matt around Lake Powell were easily the most popular trips on their pontoon. After experiencing it for ourselves it's not hard to understand what makes the golden hours on the boat so special.

 

 

The two of us came prepared – we stopped by Cowgirl Kitchen’s Feed & Supply store in Rosemary Beach to grab local Grayton Beer, wine, and some of our favorite sweet and savory treats (the spinach artichoke dip and cheese salsa are unreal). Matt had a cooler of ice ready for us on the boat so once we met up with him and Michaelanne there was nothing left to do but sit back and relax while enjoying our provisions.

Experiencing Lake Powell in the evening versus when we were first on it for our morning pontoon paddle board trip is totally different. It’s still very quite and secluded but everything is so bright and golden the hour before the sun starts to go down. Matt took us along the surrounding golf courses that hug the lake while we tried to spot alligators (no success) before taking us right up to the sand dunes that separate the lake from the gulf water. Being the best captain that he is, he jumped out of the boat to pull the pontoon the last leg up to the sand (the water gets too shallow for the motor to run).

To say that we nerded out over the sunset is an understatement. Both of us alternated between staring, snapping pictures on the camera and iPhones, whispering “this is so beautiful,” and thanking Matt and Michaelanne for introducing us to the unreal view. This was not our first 30A sunset, but it was the first 30A sunset we really (really, really) took the time to take in. The combination of: watching the orange sun sink into our favorite white sand, jumping out to put our feet in the dunes and wave goodbye to the beach, followed by riding back to the dock with a pink/orange/blue sky with streaks of clouds made for the most perfect way to end our already amazing trip.

Both of us feel like we started a new tradition…we already know that once we set the dates for our next visit to 30A that we’ll be ringing up our friends at Motorboatin’ 30a to book the sunset cruise for the last night of the trip. Of course, we don’t think our experiences on the Coastal Dune Lakes would have been much to speak of had Michaelanne and Matt not been involved. They are truly the most loving and fun couple – the kind of magnetic people that you just want to be around – and we feel so lucky that we can now call them friends.

We are slightly sad that it’s Monday and that we had to leave the bliss of the beach, but we felt like we needed to end this post with Matt’s dad’s toast (the one on the back of all the Motorboatin’ 30a koozies): To good ships and wood ships and ships that sail the sea. But the best ships are relationships forever may they be. Thank you again for the making our trip so memorable, M + M!!!!

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Pontoon Paddle Boarding with Motorboatin’ 30a

June 26, 2015

SUP. We're not just saying "hi," SUP actually stands for Stand Up Paddle Boards/Boarding. Who knew? Just add the acronym to the list of things we learned on our Wednesday pontoon and paddle boarding adventure with Motorboatin' 30a. If you didn't see the post where we introduced the company you can take a look at it here. If we could have spent the whole day with Michaelanne and Matt we would have - they are just that laid back, fun, and easy - but we settled for a few hours with them on the boat and some pontoon paddle boarding around Lake Powell.

 

So, the two of us are not the most athletic birds around. Sally had tried paddle boarding once but it was in the ocean and as soon as she saw a stingray under her board she sat down and rode the waves in, which was fine because she couldn’t balance well anyway. Molly had never tried paddle boarding, mostly because she’s terrified of the ocean and most open bodies of water and the idea of wobbling on a board while trying to “row” sounded less than fun. The aforementioned sister woes are our way of telling you that we were pretty new to this water activity and while we were very excited, we were slightly hesitant, too.

As Matt mentioned during the Q+A in our earlier Motorboatin’ 30a post, pontoon paddle boarding is much different than SUP in the ocean. Unlike the ocean, the water on Lake Powell has calm water that’s shallow – balancing is still a factor but it is much (much) easier to achieve on the lake. The boards Motorboatin’ 30a uses are by YOLO and called YAK boards. Being the nerds we are, we looked up the different kind of stand up paddle boards to get an idea of what made the ones we use different than what we had seen while down on the beach. We learned that the YAK boards are designed to be super sturdy, with stability in shallow water, and able to handle more weight. Matt told us that people often attach coolers to the board or even have smaller kids (in life vests) or dog sit on the front or back of the board. Like other paddle boards, once you are in a kneeling or standing position on the board you use a paddle to propel yourself forward.

We both started out kneeling on our boards before feeling ready to stand. Matt instructed us how to hold the paddles and advised us to do 3-4 full strokes on one side of the board before switching to the next. We learned that it’s better to keep the paddle as close to the board as possible and that you want almost the entire head of the paddle to be in the water when you’re moving it front to back to get the correct speed. Once we got the hang of paddling, Matt gave us more tips on how to hold the paddle and position/move our bodies so that the motions engaged our cores and became more of a work out.

The best activity to compare pontoon paddle boarding to would be riding a bike. They are completely different (obviously) but both activities involve using your body and additional objects to propel yourself in motion, you can make the activity more challenging depending on speed and resistance, and you’re doing something active while being able to fully take in your surroundings. And the surroundings on Lake Powell are beautiful…we paddled right up to the edge of the lake, to where the sand dunes separate it from the gulf water. It was the first time we had ever experienced the are unique area in person and it really is so amazing.

And there you have it – Motorboatin’ 30a took two non-athletic girls and turned them into pontoon paddle boarding pros! We haven’t planned our next trip to 30A but we’ve already told all our family and friends that come to the area to book their boat and paddle boarding trips with Matt and Michaelanne. The morning pontoon SUP adventure was the perfect morning activity and we still spent hours at the beach afterward!

P.S. thank you to Molly and Shawn for being with us for the day and making things even more fun (:

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