True Grandeur with Atlanta Beauty Blogger Kristen W

By , August 24, 2012 9:30 am

Funsherpa jets out to Atlanta to learn more about the local scene and world of beauty products with their very own beauty blogger, Kristen. Kristen is the high achieving blogger behind Atlantan Beauty and shares some secret beauty products, her inspirations, and bucket list filled with awesome travel destinations.

Who are your beauty inspirations? How do you think the definition of beauty is changing?
My primary beauty inspirations are my mother and grandmother. Not only in the cosmetic sense, but also for inner beauty. My mother went to modeling school, so I grew up knowing a lot of the tricks and loved the beauty world almost since I was born. But my mother and grandmother are two of the kindest, generous, and intelligent people I know. They have taught me to be confident, determined, to be my own person and be kind to everyone I meet. I certainly would not be who I am today without them. I also consider myself to be my own inspiration. My look is heavily based on my mood and how creative I want to be that day. I do look at magazines to see the new trends, but I do not necessarily follow them.
I think modern beauty is finally beginning to realize that we do not all come in one shape, size or skin color. A lot of focus is also being placed on being more unique, but also natural. I think, or at least hope, we are beginning to move away from stick skinny being the only definition of attractive and embracing everyone’s beauty, both physical and inner. There are still a number of people turning to plastic surgery or even getting veneers for their teeth, but I see just as many that are comfortable with themselves without all of that crap. I think that more people are starting to fall into the latter category, which I desperately hope continues to happen. I can’t stand the unnatural look of a botoxed face or fake teeth. Another change I have noticed is that beauty bloggers seem to be getting a little more respect from everyone else. Before, I think we were viewed as a bunch of bored people and we are all the same. But when you look a little deeper, we are probably the most accepting and supportive group of people. And we are very intelligent, despite what anyone else may think. And we have a lot to say. Beauty bloggers come from all walks of life. Some are lawyers, scientists, doctors, full time mothers, medical students and then there are bloggers like me who would love to be able to break into the beauty world and make a career out of it. There is nothing generic about us, and that is starting to be recognized. In fact, I think we are part of the driving force of the improving definition of beauty.

What are your favorite things to do in Atlanta? Where are your favorite places to dine?
Of course I enjoy shopping. Atlantic Station is one of my favorite places to go for that. It has a great mix of stores, restaurants and attractions, such as The Bodies Exhibit. Atlantic Station also has free concerts and movie screenings from time to time. It is also fun to see shows at the Fox Theatre. It is like Atlanta’s version of Broadway. Finding new things to do is almost an activity, too. Atlanta is become increasingly popular, which drives in more businesses. As for dining, I love Italian food, so two of my favorite places to eat are Italian places. The first is Figo, which is a quiet but hip place to enjoy some fresh pasta, great service and even amazing deserts. It is also beside an eclectic area, what Atlantans call Little 5 Points and Candler Park. There is a lot of art and little shops to check out. Between the location, food and service, you really cannot go wrong. My second favorite is an Italian deli in a suburb of Atlanta, Peachtree City. It is called Borgo Italia. It is owned by a family from Italy, so you know the food is the real deal. Between the food, the quaint cafe feel and hearing snippets of Italian, you almost forget you are in the middle of Georgia.

What are your favorite beauty products? Anything that works really well for you?

My go to cleanser is Noxzema. It is inexpensive, effective and does not irritate my skin. I still have occasional breakouts, but it does not irritate my skin. A good eye primer is essential for me, or really any beauty lover out there. My favorite one is Lorac’s Behind The Scenes Eye Primer. For eyeshadow, I love the new Lorac Pro Palette and eyeshadows from The Body Shop. Both are nicely pigmented and long lasting. The Body Shop is also cruelty free and good for your skin. The latest addition to my favorites list is Maybelline’s Mega Plush Mascara. No clumps or crunch. For my lips, Bliztex’s Revive and Restore is my absolute favorite balm. It is wonderful for anyone with dry, sensitive lips. It also soothes them when I have an eczema flare up. For naturally flushed cheeks, I love using Korres Cheek Butter in Eros Coral. It looks natural and is good for your skin.

If you could create the perfect beauty product, what would it be?
I would create a line of skincare catered to people that have eczema and issues with acne. I have both, and it seems like every acne cleanser, no matter how mild, eventually causes an eczema flare up. I hate having to choose to between having blackheads or eczema. But why stop there. Maybe an entire cosmetic line, too. If I had the money and resources, that is something I would look into.

Favorite points of classical history?
I really love all of it, especially ancient Greece and their literature. Their ideas and experiences shaped so much of what we know today. Modern politics, philosophy, fashion, science, art, literature and language are heavily influenced by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The beginning of the city of Rome is intriguing, too. Mostly because there are a lot of unknowns in regards to exactly how the city of Rome came to be, besides the tale of Romulus and Remus. And of course there is mythology and their belief system. The fear of displeasing the gods and goddesses drove nearly every decision, thus shaping their history and influence. Another interesting point is the succession of emperors and the controversies surrounding them.

What’s in your bucket list? Which do you plan to accomplish soon?
Rome! I want to see Rome so badly I can barely stand it. I would love to be dropped in the middle of Rome and just left to explore the entire city.
I would love to meet Jimmy Kimmel, Darren Hayes and Nathan Fillion.
I want to learn how to surf. Or at least be able to stay on the board a decent amount of time.
Have something I write published for a magazine, newspaper, or maybe even write a book. Or just have my own magazine.
See New York City at Christmas.
Have my own cosmetic line/company.
Be a beauty editor, or some influential role in the beauty world.
See all of the major European cities, and even some of the remote areas.
My more recent items would be to graduate from college, my blog to be very successful, go to the Georgia Aquarium and try food from a local food truck.

Great Travel Experiences and Great Cupcakes with April Thompson

By , August 22, 2012 10:00 am

Summer’s almost done? That was awesome, hope the fall offers us some exciting surprises. Funsherpa catches up with April Thompson, travel blogger and cupcake connoisseur, to discover amazing places to travel to, tricks to fund the lifestyle and some cupcake secrets. Go April! Good luck on getting your open water certification – should be a great way to discover a less chartered part of the world.

Can you talk to us a bit more on how the Philippines influenced your passion for travel? What was it like growing up there?
My dad served in the United States Air Force and got orders to the Philippines when I was about 2. We lived at Clark Air Force just outside of Angeles City. While I don’t remember much from the experience, I do credit it for being the catalyst behind my wanderlust. While living there I was apparently able to communicate quite well in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, and got along well with the local as well as military children. Growing up in military towns weather stateside or abroad was a great way to get exposed to people who were from or had been exposed to various cultures. In my immediate circle, I had friends who had Filipino, Korean and German parentage and had traveled all over the globe.

Favorite city you’ve traveled to so far? What makes it amazing?
There are so many places I have let to experience and I’m sure this answer will change the more I’m able to visit new places, but to date, I credit Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa as my favorite city to date. It’s been way too long since my visit, but I spent two weeks in Durban (out of 6 in South Africa) exploring the city as a graduate student on an independent research project. I was there to investigate educational programs in place to prepare students to pursue engineering degree, but gained so much more. In between meetings with students, faculty and staff, I explored every inch of the city I could. I fell in love with the unique blend of Indian and African culture, exploring the mosques and markets and stuff my face with everything imaginable. Durban is on the coast and stayed in apartments across from the beach — it was heaven. Being in South Africa felt like home and I’m very anxious to return for another extended trip.

You are a cupcake connoisseur – what’s an amazing recipe you can share with our readers?
Yes, I Looooovvvvvveeee cupcakes. Eating them more so than making them. I’d have to say my favorite is a good red velvet with cream cheese icing. It HAS to be done right, and not everyone does it justice. Though red velvet is my fave, I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to cupcakes. They have to be moist and have just the right amount of icing. I’ve tasted a few fruit infused flavors (kiwi starawberry) and savory (think bacon topped) that were great as well. I also try to seek out great cupcake spots when I’m on the road. My favorite abroad so far has been Tease Bakery in Lisbon, Portugal and in the US, Cami Cakes.

Can you share some tips on how to fund an amazing travel focused lifestyle? You seem to be able to manage it quite well.

Well, I’m not like most travel bloggers. I didn’t sell all of my possessions and quit my job to backpack around the world. I did sell quite a few things and rented out my condo, but I still have a job and a ton less expenses so that means more money for travel. I’m also a freelance writer and provide marketing services at times to clients. And last, I’m a points and miles junkie. I’ve been able to rack up on frequently flier miles and hotel loyalty points that have resulted in free flights and stays around the world. I have the flexibility to splurge at times on nicer hotels, vacation rentals, nice meals and other events that may not be an option if I were just doing freelance work. I’m currently writing an e-book that goes into more detail about how I’ve been able to do all of this. Please sign up here for notification when it become available.

What countries would you like to visit next? Why?
The better question would probably be where DON’T I want to go next! LOL I’ve been to a handful of places, but so many more are on my “list”. I’m excited to explore more of Africa, especially Ethiopia. It’s the birthplace of civilization and has some amazing colorful festivals. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I look like I’m Ethiopian. I recently completed the National Geographic Genographic project and would love to explore other regions that could possibly be the home of my ancestors.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Jamaica, but really want to explore more of the other Caribbean islands especially Dominica, Trinidad, Barbados and Martinique.
I also have a huge fascination with India and want to do a language immersion in a Spanish speaking country, maybe Cuba?

What’s in your bucket list?
I tried making a travel bucket list, my 30 by 30 travel challenge, but that was stopped once I realized I really enjoyed slower travel and really exploring a destination. There are tons of designation I am excited to visit, especially though out S. and Central America, Africa and Asia. that list is seems to be never ending! In addition to visiting new places, I want to finally complete the PADI certification, become fluent in Spanish through in country language immersion and live for 1-6 months in a new country every year. Other than that, I just want to live my best life and stay open to all of the opportunities and possibilities out there and encouraging others along the way!

Look good, feel great, and travel well with Deidre McMillan

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By , August 8, 2012 8:41 am

Fab N Flirty

Funsherpa explores the Frugal Flirty and Fab blog, with its author Deidre McMillan. Back to school season is sneaking up around the corner, and we were interested in finding out affordable ways to look good, and live life to its fullest. Read on to discover Deidre’s secrets to finding great deals, saving, and enjoying everything life has to offer – from designer clothing to unique travel experiences.

How did you end up starting your Frugal Flirty N Fab blog? Have you always been looking for the best bang for your buck since you were young?
I started the Frugal Flirty N Fab wih a little help from my coworkers after seeing many fashion blogs online but none really targeting the inexpensive side of shopping. I felt like I had a gift when it came to shopping and staying on a budget and looking great while doing so and wanted to share my gift with others. I would often come to work wearing new clothes and looking great which caused my coworkers to wonder how I was able to afford these items. Let me just say they were in shock when I revealed just how inexpensive the items were that I was wearing and my method to being a Frugal yet Fab shopper!

It’s that time of the year for fresh college grads wondering how they’re going to look good in their new jobs now that they’re in the real world. What are some important frugal and fab tips that you can share with them?
Looking for a new job is all about being confident and looking great when you show up for an interview. Most college grads are short on funds so I would definitely recommend visiting your local Ross, Burlington, TJ Maxx and Marshall for great suits or separates. One can never go wrong with a nice white shirt, black slacks and a blazer. Once you get their attention with the way you presented yourself their ears are definitely open for what you have to say.

What key trends in black fashion are happening in 2012? How is this different from mainstream fashion?
As I become more comfortable with blogging and meeting fellow bloggers the one thing that I learn is that fashion is fashion in any race and there is actually no separation when it comes to urban fashion and mainstream fashion. One of the goals of Frugal Flirty and Fab is to show more options for people of different nationalities. It has been proven that women are more likely to purchase when they see a model of the same size wearing something they like so I think its now more important than ever to show more than just the size 2 models in ads. Some of the key trends that are happening right now are Midi dresses, print denim, tribal looks, high waist pants, shorts and sets, and maxi dresses are still huge!

What suggestions do you have for people looking for an affordable date, without fear of being called ‘cheap’?
The one thing you can learn from my site is that shopping for bargains by no means, means looking cheap! What I look to do is stay connected with whats current in todays fashion which in return lets me know if the deal I find is really a deal. I think its time to do away with the notion that someone is cheap or less of a fashionista simply because she or he doesn’t wear strictly name brand fashions or designer wear. If one is looking for an affordable date I would definitely say take advantage of sites like Living Social and Groupon. Show up looking the part with one of their adventures in hand and I’m sure you’ll be on for a second date!

Lately, there seems to be a trend for all these ‘daily deal’ sites, What are your thoughts about it? Any favorite sites?
I absolutely luv that people are thinking about the best way to spend their money without breaking the bank. I think we have sites like Living Social and Groupon which are 2 of my favorites to thank for this. With these 2 alone you can find deals on eveything from staying healthy to Joe’s Jeans.

Can you suggest some frugal and flirty friendly destinations to travel to?
Although I am just now reaching the point where I can travel a little more freely. Some of the frugal destinations I have visited are Las Vegas simply because there’s so much to do and you can always find a fantastic deal on a Hotel or flight. Miami Beach, Fla because beach weekends can be fairly inexpensive with a majority of your funds being spent primarily on nightlife and food which can always be found on the low, and the Bahamas, because if you’re looking to get your drink on, a little adventure, great music, and beautiful scenery, you definitely want to check out the daily deals here.

On what things are you or do you suggest not being frugal or cheap on?
I don’t think there is anything that you want that can’t be found for a better price than whats being offered. This goes from designer wear to vintage items. You always have the option of finding what you want at a greater price if you just take the time to search for it. This can sometimes mean waiting for the item to go on sale to looking for individual owners looking for a quick sale. Please remember you always have an option. Remember purchasing Frugal Finds has nothing to do with Looking Cheap. When it comes to the Frugal Flirty and Fab I luv looking great but when it comes down to Louboutins and people starving, I’d much rather feed the village if you know what I mean.

The Impact of the Internet and Social Media on Travel [INFOGRAPHIC]

By , July 20, 2012 6:07 pm

On vacation and still updating your facebook status? Don’t worry, you are in the majority! Check out our infographic, which looks at the influence of social media on travelers, how travelers use the internet, and how social media has become a major part of the vacation.

Infographic by- Experience Gift Company
The Internet Travel and Social Media

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Exploring America’s Past Time with Robbie Knopf

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By , July 20, 2012 9:59 am

With the baseball season well underway, Funsherpa chats with ultimate fan, scout, New Jersey resident, and baseball statistician, Robbie Knopf. Discover what drives fans like Robbie and some crazy baseball stats below!

When did your passion for baseball begin?
My family has been baseball-crazy for a long time. My great-grandfather named my grandfather after a player on the New York Giants baseball team! My dad and now me have really grown up around the game, lucky enough to go to games several times per season. I’ve been wearing various baseball paraphernalia since I was baby. My first real experience that I remember was attending a Yankees-Angels game when I was 6 years old (I guess my dad wasn’t a “bring your baby to the game” type) and while I saw other kids around me really dreading the whole stadium atmosphere, I was hooked from the start. I’ve been passionate about baseball basically ever since and that was only amplified when I began doing some baseball writing.

What are some of the great baseball joints in NYC? Any recommendations for places to go for anyone who is not a Yankees or Mets fan?
I’ve honestly never been a sports bar kind of guy, preferring more to watch games at the stadium or at home, especially with friends. I will say that I’ve always liked the area around Yankee Stadium with the shops and bars and everything, and as long as you’re not wearing a Red Sox cap (or in some cases a Mets cap), you should be fine. There’s no real Rays-Yankees rivalry right now (maybe if the Rays can turn their season around this year, it will start brewing), and when they see you in the Tri-State area, they’re surprised that you even exist- the Rays aren’t exactly known for their fans. In general, the fans around Yankee Stadium and Citi Field are pretty civil to most opposing teams, and as long as you don’t do anything stupid, you should be fine.

We understand you are quite obsessed with baseball statistics. What are some of your favorite random stats? Which ones are the key factors for you in rating a player?
The first big question for baseball fans is whether to accept the advanced statistics. Then the second question is how far you want to go. My general rule is to only use statistics that I understand and could calculate myself when possible. That being said, I’ve been known for using some crazy stats. One time I talked about a defensive stat called “held rate” when talking about Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford and I got made fun of quite a bit by the Red Sox blogosphere (although the entire article was a joke). Another crazy stat I have used is extra base taken percentage, a baserunning statistic (and one that I’m about to use again right after I send this in). But the one that I quote the most often that is pretty crazy is BAbip by batted ball type, basically how often groundballs, flyballs, and line drives turn into hits but then I start talking about how often there were extra-base hits and singles and take the data into all sorts of bizarre directions.
When I’m evaluating players, there’s three big things I take into account: results, luck, and potential. I look at the statistics for players and then I have to see how luck affected their statistics, whether in a positive or negative way, to see how sustainable their performance is. But then another thing that has to be taken into account is the players’ potential, or on the opposite edge of the spectrum, likelihood to decline, and attempt to figure out how that will affect their future statistics. An example of a “peripheral statistic” that I’ll look at to try to determine how lucky or unlucky a player was is the BAbip by batted ball type.
Quite often I look at the stats but then completely throw them out the window, at least temporarily, and watch the players and read scouting reports from others to get a better feel for just how good they are now, what they have the ability to improve on, and just how good they have the ability to be someday. I love statistics, both baseball-related and otherwise, but I have finally drilled into my head that not everything is statistics and you have to evaluate players and situations in multiple ways. But sometimes scouting and statistics can collide, as statistics can highlight a flaw or underlying advantage in a player’s game that seeing that player can confirm. Another example is my favorite statistic of all, Pitch F/X data, which measures the velocity and movement (horizontal and vertical movement from the time the ball leaves the pitchers hand until it reaches home plate) and gives you a quantifiable idea of how a pitcher’s pitches move.

Is there anything that you’d like to see change in the way the game is played or run?
There are times in baseball where what happens drives you insane, whether it be a blown call by the umpire or the manager brings in a relief pitcher one pitch too late. But it’s all part of the game. There’s a human element to the game, as many people talk about, and you can’t get rid of that. I’m not a big fan of extending instant replay or anything like that (except for when a big call goes against the Rays).
One thing I would like to see is the game moving a little faster, with less time in between pitches and players who don’t undo and redo their batting gloves after every pitch. There’s nothing better in my mind than fast baseball. It’s nice for the anticipation to build up, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy watching baseball when the games get longer, but keeping it as short as possible keeps the players and fans more into the game and makes everyone happy.

We understand that the owners of the Rays are concerned about the viability of the Rays in Florida. What are your thoughts on this?
The problem with the Rays right now isn’t that they are in Florida, but more exactly where their stadium is. It is in St. Petersburg, 35 minutes to an hour outside of Tampa. Tropicana Field is out of the way, and making matters worse is that it’s an ugly stadium and people don’t particularly like going there. The Rays have good TV ratings and the fanbase isn’t really the major problem. The Rays hope to move to a better location with a nice new stadium closer to Tampa and that may very well solve most of their problems. But St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster has been resistant to letting the Rays leave St. Petersburg, especially considering the first Rays owners leased Tropicana Field until 2027. Right now, it stings me to watch a Rays game and see so few people in the seats, and I hope that the situation will be resolved before too long.

Outside of baseball, what keeps you busy? Any favorite spots for you in the NY area?
Baseball takes up quite a bit of my time, but I somehow take out time to play sports, sing in a couple of choirs, do some improv, and of course hang out with friends. Despite being a Rays fan living in the Tri-State area, I somehow ended up being a New York Giants football fan and I remain passionate about them (although not to nearly the same extent as for the Rays) and go to their games as well when I can. Metlife Field is great and up there with the baseball stadiums for me. I also like heading to the beaches, especially Jones Beach in Long Island, Madison Square Garden (probably saw that one coming), and I enjoy seeing shows on Broadway, and meeting up with family that is scattered across the area.

Adam Groffman, a Nomadic Hipster in Berlin

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By , July 13, 2012 9:51 am

Some people fantasize about leaving their jobs and traveling the world. Other people take a vacation…Adam Groffman left his job in Boston, traveled the world, and now inspires others to do the same via his blog, Travels of Adam. Funsherpa shares Adam’s story, unique perspective on travel and thoughts on living in a foreign city below.

In your blog, you talk about how hitting Iceland changed your life. Can you tell our readers a bit more about that?
Well, in 2009 I visited Reykjavik with a friend but just for a 3-day weekend trip from America. We were both working full-time jobs in the US and because we didn’t have much vacation time, but we had a strong desire to travel to Europe, the only place we could feasibly visit on such a short trip was Iceland. That trip changed my life in a few different ways, but the biggest was my realization how sad it was that I could only afford such little time for travel. On my plane ride home I vowed to find a way to travel more. And eight months later I was gone on the longest travel of my life! You can read even more here.

How do hipsters around the world differ from each other? What do you notice as being the same across hipsters around the world?
One thing that I think remains the same with hipsters around the world is a desire to do something. Not always little vain things like changing hair color or getting tattoos, but a desire to make a difference or have their voice heard. It’s universal across so many people, but many hipsters I’ve found tend to try harder to make a difference and do something about it.

Can you tell us some of your more surprising discoveries while traveling the world?

The biggest discoveries came from within me and about my life, but the most important thing I discovered while traveling around the world was how important and interesting people can be. There are so many amazing people and often they’re hidden right under our noses. I learned so much about life (and even myself) just from a million different happenstance meetings with strangers.

“Ich bin ein Berliner!” Can you tell us what living in Berlin is like? How does it compare to Boston?

Haha! Berlin is incredible! The city has such an amazing atmosphere and an incredible amount of passion and energy. It shows in just about everything happening in this city whether it’s a photography exhibit or just an afternoon of grilling barbecue in a public park. People here are so full of life and so eager to do so much!

Any advice for people who want to follow your footsteps, quit their jobs and explore?
This was the best possible decision I ever made in my life, but everyone’s situation is different. My advice is that people should take the time to follow their dreams and their passions. And to occasionally take risk and step outside your boundaries. Freeing yourself of a sense of “normalcy” can be exciting and scary.

Can you share with us 5 travel tips that you wish you knew when you started this journey?
1. Be flexible! I tried to keep to a rigid travel schedule at first, but quickly learned it’s impossible to do and it’s often way more fun to just be flexible.
2. Talk to strangers. They’re often not very scary.
3. Bring an iPhone. I avoided using a smartphone for a long-time, but once I got one, I quickly became addicted! They’re so useful!
4. Bring more t-shirts than underwear. Underwear washes easier and quicker. And you can sometimes go without it, whereas shirts get smellier faster and it’s a lot more noticeable when they’re dirty.
5. Don’t bring everything! Anything you think you need to bring, you probably don’t. You can buy it while traveling (often cheaper, even!)

What’s in your bucket list and which ones are you going to cross off soon?
Soon I’m going to visit Brussels and as a fan of beer, I’m pretty excited! (Yes, I know I live in the country of beer here in Germany, but there’s nothing quite like a Belgian beer!) There are several cities in Europe I’ve yet to visit that I hope to get to soon: Lisbon, Amsterdam, Athens and Istanbul.

Living Green and Eating Well with NestMeg

By , July 6, 2012 9:24 am
For anyone heading out to NYC, a definite stop needs to be made in Brooklyn. With all the amazing food, booze, and activities in the closest borough to amazing Manhattan, its almost like visiting an entirely different city.  Funsherpa catches up with food blogger, future carpenter and aspiring cookbook author Meghan Prichard to discover her delightful recipes and amazing tips for living well in NYC.
Can you talk about some strategies to live green on a small budget? What are your best money saving tips?

I think the most important aspect of living green on a small budget is prioritizing. For example, my preference is definitely to buy organic and/or local produce, but that’s definitely not feasible for everything from a cost perspective! I refer to this list when buying produce — these items should always be organic. Fortunately, a lot of local produce (but not necessarily organic) is just as cheap or cheaper than produce from the grocery store. It’s also really important to me that I support local farmers, so I build relationships with them, and they in turn try to provide people with the best prices. I do a lot of price comparison and always break down the price per ounce/gram of staple goods to find the cheapest product. (Unless I’m buying flour, because I am hopelessly devoted to King Arthur.) Speaking of which, I’m all about buying those dry goods in bulk. The problem, of course, is finding storage space in my not-so-large apartment. Bodegas are also a great source of products for good prices. My roommate and I were pretty sunburnt a few weeks back and we scored two huge aloe leaves at a bodega for a fraction of the price of aloe gel. (And it’s completely pure! Love that.)

New York is a dynamic and amazing city. What neighborhoods do you love – what makes them special?

As a Williamsburg resident, I’m pretty partial to my neighborhood, and to Brooklyn as a whole. My neighborhood is always getting knocked as a hipster enclave, but where I live is absolutely brimming with cultural diversity (in addition to a thriving arts scene). In one direction, I can walk over to a homemade pasta store. In the other, I can eat at an authentic Mexican taqueria. Not to mention that I recently found the best Chinese takeout I have ever consumed. There’s also the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg on the weekends. Honestly, I never went into Manhattan my first few weekends living here. I was too infatuated with Brooklyn. In Manhattan, I really like exploring Chelsea and West Village because they feel less oppressive than the rest of the city. There are many small shops and restaurants that beckon every time I walk by. But, really, it’s not fair to pick favorite neighborhoods yet. I still feel like I just arrived here! All of NYC is a dream for someone who craves culture as much as I do.

Ah, NYC can be a foodies paradise. Which restaurants are tops for you and what are your favorite foodie destinations in the city?

Like I mentioned above, Smorgasburg is a great place to go on the weekend. It’s solely a food market, and the vendors are all clearly passionate about what they create; you can taste it. Another delicious market is Chelsea Market. There are so many bakeries in there that I’ve really only scratched the surface. As for restaurants, my absolute favorites are all in Brooklyn. Rye makes a meatloaf sandwich that actually made a meatloaf convert of me; Traif just porkifies everything; Roberta’s does pizza that feels classy, but still not fussy. It’s kind of an art form. My favorite Manhattan restaurant is probably Cafe Habana because their grilled corn (plus Cuban sandwiches) cause me to salivate every time I think of them. Seriously, I’m drooling all over my keyboard right now. However, my all-time favorite food item in this city are pork buns from Mei Li Wah. I try to go there with $3 or less in cash so I’ll only buy two pork buns instead of the two dozen that I really want.

Your blog has some awesome recipes. Can you tell us a bit more about your favorite recipes and why you love them?

Well thank you! My favorite recipes tend to be the more simple ones, with a few exceptions for hearty winter meals, like this divine chili and cornbread combo. I’m very proud of my ABC Sandwich because that combination of flavors is very nearly impossible to beat. I’m also really proud of my buttermilk-related recipes, with fried chicken and chicken pot pie with biscuits at the top of the heap, so to speak. I think chocolate pudding is one of the most fun and simple chocolate desserts one can make, and it’s SO much better than the boxed variety. Everyone should know how to roast a chicken. This recipe is my favorite. Also, roasting a chicken means leftovers with which to make chicken noodle soup!

Having lived in a ton of cities? Which ones do you recommend to newbie travelers? What was your best travel experience?

I’ve loved every place I’ve lived, so I would recommend all of them! DC is great for all of the free museums and the fascinating history of the American government; London, of course, is also brimming in history and appeals to anyone even remotely interested in royalty; Munich is my absolute favorite city for all of its charm. Munich residents refer to it as “a large village,” and the city certainly feels that way. The heart of the city is quite small, but it has an amazing market and biergarten in the very center. I often spent all day there just eating and people watching. Plus, it’s really safe! Definitely good for a newbie travel. All of my travel experiences have been valuable in their own ways, even the ones where I had brushes with danger, but my favorite has to be the road/train trip I took around France, touring beautiful old churches and eating at some of the most famous restaurants in the world. It was an incredible adventure

What’s in your bucket list? Which ones have you completed?
This question makes me realize how I really lack any kind of bucket list. Like most people, I want to travel as often as possible, but I tend to pick locations based on whether I know people there. Being connected to the local culture is an amazing advantage! I would also love to learn carpentry and reupholstery, so that in the event that I ever have an apartment larger than a walk-in closet, I can create my own furniture. I suppose the only real bucket-list-worth item I can note is that I want to write a book. Maybe a memoir, maybe a cookbook, maybe both. I’m glad you’ve inspired me to get out there and make a better list!

Lighting Up the Austin Scene with Jillian Burke

By , June 29, 2012 10:25 am

Funsherpa talks to Jillian Burke, music blogger, ultimate fan, and future sound engineer. Thanks to Jillian, we’ve learned a whole lot about Austin, cool bands, and more than we ever need to know about the local music scene.  Read on to discover amazing bands, musical tastes, and cool festivals.

Can you tell us a bit more on how you started becoming quite passionate about music?
I listened to my parents’ music (jazz, r&b, country and oldies) at a young age and enjoyed it. I was exposed to a lot of genres and liked music that was more relaxing at that time. I didn’t develop my own tastes until the end of middle school. The first band to strike an emotional chord with me were the Deftones. I heard the song “Change (in the House of Flies)” coming back from a school field trip. It was the first time I’d heard something that gave me chills. I’ve loved the band and basically everything they’ve put out ever since. My favorite music changed to being stuff I could escape with, so I liked anything that was very emotionally charged because I could relate to it.

I have also played piano, violin and guitar at various points in my life. I was more or less forced into playing piano, but have since come to appreciate it. In addition to that, I’ve also always been interested in the production side of music, and have since been studying to pursue sound engineering as a career.

How have your musical tastes evolved over time?
My high school years are when my tastes expanded quite a bit to where I am now. A few bands that really made me step it up were The Mars Volta, Incubus and Deftones. I mostly listen to rock, electronic and pop, but I’m a firm believer that you can find good music in any genre if you search hard enough. My tastes are still somewhat scattered, but I have a better idea of what I like and don’t like now.

Why does Austin rock for music?
I mean, we don’t call it the “live music capital of the world” for nothing. You can go downtown every night and find some good bands playing in bars. There are also so many different music festivals to attend at different times of the year such as ACL/ACL Live, SXSW, Fun Fun Fun Fest and Blues on the Green. There are so many unexpected places you can find music like at Whole Foods and Central Market- even at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport!

Who are your favorite local bands in Austin?
Ringo Deathstarr is a great shoegaze band. I’ve seen Ghostland Observatory, and they were a huge dance party. Explosions in the Sky make great relaxing music. Gary Clark Jr. is an incredible guitarist with a great band.

Outside of music, can you tell us some of the more fun and interesting things to do in Austin?
Any lake activities like water skiing and wake boarding, going to festivals aside from music (Pecan Street, Austin Film Festival), visiting Zilker Park (Barton Springs), going rock climbing and visiting the state capitol. South Congress (aka SoCo District) has tons of cool shopping, restaurants and food trucks to visit.

You have a lot of great music videos on your site. Can you tell us which ones are your favorite?
I definitely love the “Cheerleader” video by St. Vincent that I posted a while back because of all of the symbolism. I also love the “Henry Don’t Got Love” by Le Butcherettes because Teri Gender Bender is fucking awesome. M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” video is also badass.

If you could assemble a perfect music festival, what would you do and who would you have performing?
Wow, what a fun question! Let’s see, I think fall is a great time of year for concerts, since the weather is usually nice. Not too hot, not too cold. I’d love to hold a festival at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. It would take place over 5 days, starting on Wednesday. As far as musical acts, I would have mostly rock, electronic and pop acts. Headlining would be Deftones, Muse, Florence + The Machine, Kanye West, Incubus (everything before ACLOTM) and My Bloody Valentine. Other acts would be Silversun Pickups, Crystal Castles, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bad Brains, Le Butcherettes, Deerhunter, Queens of the Stone Age, At The Drive-In, Death From Above 1979, Ladyhawke, 2NE1, Big Bang, Built To Spill, Hum, Team Sleep, A Perfect Circle, School of Seven Bells, Sleigh Bells, Shiny Toy Guns, Kid Cudi (songs from his first album), M83, Gorillaz, The Weeknd (songs from his first mixtape), Santigold, Graffiti6, The Naked and Famous, Röyksopp, The Black Keys, Lykke Li, Lupe Fiasco (songs from his first two albums) and Brand New.

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