When I was younger, my parents made decisions for me. They signed me up for ballet classes, choir, basketball camp; anything to keep me busy. As I became older I started to filter down my activities outside of school just to year round swimming. I was committed. I went to swim practice for the better part of every evening after school, I participated in at least fifty swim meets and even had dreams of becoming an Olympic swimmer. I was absolutely basking in the light of the passion that I had for this time consuming, expensive sport. But one day about four years ago, the switch just turned off. I started dreading every practice, every meet and every encounter that I had with swimming. And one day, I just didn't go to practice. That was the end of my swimming adventure.

That fiery passion that I felt for swimming was extinguished. I felt almost lifeless. There was no true drive to keep me going. My parents presented me with several opportunities to find this passion again through different sports and even a different swim team. I didn't latch on to any of their ideas, and I eventually found myself lost. I felt like there was a desert, but no matter which way I turned there was no means for escape. 

After about three months of living in this deep, black hole. I was reintroduced into life through a Crossfit-like fitness program via my parents. They thought I would absolutely hate it. And I did for the first few months. But then, I started seeing results that I loved. So in completely threw myself into fitness and every opportunity I found to talk about fitness. I discovered accounts on Instagram related to healthy foods, exercise tips, facts and statistics, success stories and even ab challenges. I searched into the wee hours of the morning for different recipes, workout moves and skin care. I found my new passion: healthy living. 

I developed this real passion by myself, except for the tiny boost in the beginning from my parents. Because of this true self effort, my whole outlook on life became very positive. Instead of having a "When is this day going to be over?" approach to my life, I now wake up each and every single day wondering what adventures are going to be in store for me today. 

It was me who brought myself out of my deep hole. It was me who discovered new ways to live live. It was me who reshaped my style and my lifestyle. I had help along the way, but every single thing that has happened since those days has been a choice made by me. Sure, there have been some rough patches along the way and somebody was there to grab my hand. No longer do I feel as if though I should allow them to rescue me. 

I learned a lot in this journey. No one can make your decisions and no one can change the decisions that you have already made. You need to find what makes you happy and let it be your light, your fire, your zest for your life. You must carve out and walk your own path. 

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GRACEY WALLACE from Stripes & Peonies

What prompted you to start "Stripes & Peonies"?
Stripes & Peonies started last year as a way to deal with my boredom. I have always had an interest in fashion and photography, so a blog was a natural fit for me. I was an on and off blogger for a while, until I created a regular posting schedule and I noticed that my page view count was going up. 

What would kind of advice would you give to new bloggers?
Stay consistent! Once you create a blog, you need to maintain a consistent posting schedule, not a post here and a post there. I also recommend that you take advantage of the elaborate social media network of bloggers and brands. I actually recently wrote a post about social media for bloggers which is helpful for both novice and experienced bloggers.

I edit my photos on my Instagram using …
VSCO cam and Snapseed! I use the F2 filter 99% of the time from the VSCO cam and I raise the exposure, tweak the contrast, and give it a cooler temperature using a combination of VSCO cam and Snapseed. 

her Instagram is awesome!!
What does your typical summer day look like?
Right now, it's not so exciting. I'm about to embark on my travels for the summer, so my days right now are full of running errands, lunch dates with friends, and blogging. 

If you could leave today and travel anywhere in the world where would you go?
That's a tough one. I love traveling the world, but I'm really looking forward to my trip to Venice soon. I've never been and I'm excited to be in a city full of so much art and history and a city that could even disappear in a hundred or so years. If I could snap my fingers and be a in a gondola right now, I would. 

I cannot leave the house without …
My phone. Yes, I'm one of those teenagers who is attached to their phone. It's with me 24/7 and it's the first thing I check when I get up in the morning.

What is the best part about blogging?
Connecting with others! I'm so fortunate to have connected with other bloggers, PR people, brands, etc. through Stripes & Peonies. I am actually friends with four other bloggers and even though we live on opposite sides of the country, we still text and chat like real friends!

What is your favorite meal to eat? What is your favorite food to order at this time?
I'm what you call a "foodie". I love all types of food, but my current favorite has to be an Ahi Tuna salad at a favorite restaurant of mine, Houston's. It's made with assorted greens, mangoes, slightly seared Ahi Tuna, jicama, and a slightly sweet vinaigrette. 

My go to outfit is …
White blouse with the sleeves rolled up, chino shorts, my J.Crew gladiator sandals, and a cross body bag.

Favorite inspirational quote?
"Own your own dreams. There is no better way to make them happen." -Seth Godin

Follow Gracey on Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Tumblr

I love Gracey's blog. One of the aspects of her blog that really sticks out to me is the awesome quality of her pictures. They are super eye catching! I mean doesn't that breakfast picture make you want to leap out of your bed to get croissants and coffee (aka breakfast of champions)?

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Hey, hi, hello summer! With the official start of summer comes super amazing journeys on the horizon. Let me tell you, I could not be more excited. So Saturday, my mama and I decided to welcome the official start of summer by taking a trip to a local farm to pick peaches. You know it is summer when peaches are finally sweet and plump. I just cannot get enough of peaches!

With just a family of three, we realized that our 20 pound load of peaches would be just a little excessive for just us. Fresh peaches make awesome gifts when they are paired with adorable bags. I created some super peachy gifts that pleased all of my neighbors. Peaches remind me of a rustic barn and the true meaning of living in a southern place. What better compliments this rustic farmhouse feel better than red and white checkered cloth and adorable sayings? Trust me, if you need a peach pun I have you covered.

To top off this peachy summer start, the peaches we picked Saturday were beautifully ripened on Sunday. This was just in time for a spoonful of organic vanilla ice cream sprinkled with peaches: peaches and cream.
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{ My totally adorable, super lovable puppy. }

{ A super late lunch with my mama and daddy at an adorable local restaurant. }

{ A fabulous Grouplove concert opened by Sleeper Agent. }

{ Peonies. Need I say more? }

This past week had been nothing short of relaxing. And by now, I am in the full swing of summer. I am just totally adoring everything that life has to offer, not to mention sleeping … a lot. My plans are still pretty loose this weekend, as well as next week. My calendar has been cleared and it feels great. 

Happy Weekend!

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I don't know about you, but I am loving all of this free time that comes with summer break! In fact the other day I found myself to be -- get ready -- bored. After seeing my Instaram feed fill up with a bunch of awesome pictures of summer endeavors, I decided it was time for me to be more productive. Something that I long to improve on is my photography skills, and I am in search of a class right now. Or better yet I should just have a photographer follow me everywhere (as well as a hair and makeup team) and document my life. Yea, that would be very nice.

What better way to fill summer days with baking? Making a scrumptious dessert is a great way to occupy your hands. It can be made for a birthday or a just because present to share with your family. Baking is also fun with your best friends after a summer swim or your mama's dinner party or even for you while still dressed in your pajamas (#guilty). Cakes are beautiful, and just like macaroons, I am kind of obsessed. They are just so pretty and delicate. However, being a model, I can't go around and shove my face with cake. If I could, I would shove my face with cake like it's my job. Maybe just gazing (read: staring at with my mouth hanging open) at these pictures will satisfy my craving?

Which one would you make?

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We all have role models in everything that we do. And when I first started blogging, there were a few people that have helped me start my journey. Carly Heitlinger has certainly the first person that made me want to start my own blog. Busy as she is living her amazing live, I'm so thankful that she had some time to chat.


CARLY HEITLINGER from The College Prepster 

What first prompted you to first start "The College Prepster"?

I started blogging when I was a freshman at Georgetown. I was struggling in my classes and desperately needed a creative outlet. A friend suggested that I start a blog and the rest is history!

It's been awhile since the very first outfit post on TCP, how has your style changed since then?
In a lot of ways, my style has stayed the same... it's just more grown up. For starters, I actually have disposable income to spend on nicer, higher quality clothes. (But I still incorporate a lot of my old wardrobe into what I wear!)

 Three things I cannot leave the apartment with are …
A book, earrings/rings (I feel naked without them), and my iPhone!

In a perfect world, what would your ideal evening be like?
Dinner outside at a favorite restaurant, followed by Netflix and ice cream!

My top three favorite favorite NYC brunch spots are …
Maison Kayser, Lafayette, and The Smith!

Teddy has an Instagram!!
What are some great aspects that little Teddy has brought into your life?
Not taking things as seriously. He makes me realize that there are more important things to life than just working all the time. Walking him is my favorite thing of the day!

My go to outfit is …

Favorite inspirational quote?
"Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is your best."

Thank you so much Carly for taking the time to chat. Stay tuned, dear readers, for more Q&A segments from my favorite bloggers.

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I believe that New York City is the most charming at two points in the day: mid-morning before the tourists can be found and late evening, right after dinner. On day two of my extra ordinary adventure, I started the day off by wandering throughout the city in search of a simple brunch. Mission : coffee and croissants. Corso Coffee is an adorable restaurant that is in the heart of the city. I love Italy, and the fact that Corso was established as an Italian coffee spot made my two favorite things meet. yum

Another thing that was quite nice about visiting the city before true tourist season arrives is that many of the main attractions are not as crowded as usual. The M&M store on Times Square was the perfect stop for an après le petit-déjeuner snack. So naturally, I had to do the self serve M&M bar. My favorites would have to be the peanut butter M&Ms, and oh the raspberry ones are super yummy as well. 

So after a morning of wanderings, lets get real, it was time to do some major shopping along Fifth Avenue. I had such an amazing time going up and down Fifth Avenue looking at all of the awesome stores. My favorite store was the Ted Baker. Everything was so cute and British. 

Running to get food! Because I didn't eat anything on my entire trip in the city (kidding!!), I was so excited to go to my favorite restaurant in all of NYC, Tao. A historical moment in my life ask occurred today: I wore a crop top. I mean sure, I've worn crop tops for modeling gigs before like no big deal. But this day, I wore a crop top in public for the very first time. I felt a little exposed, but overall I got over my fears of midriff!

Stay tuned for more of my adventures in my favorite city on Earth! 

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For some reason this past week I have just been in this little bubble of happiness. I love it and I never want to leave. Before school was over, especially during exam week, I found myself becoming a very negative person. I think the lack of sleep, the piles of work and everything in-between left me completely drained. Everything has changed. I'm going to a new school next year, I've started to make new friends and I'm becoming happier and happier. I think this fresh start was really needed.

Now that my eyes are open and I am finally able to think clearly, and not just about myself, but others as well. I spent a good three hours this week sailing to different parts of the internet collecting thoughts, words and actions of some amazing people. All of these four amazing women have something in common: a passion and a strong mind to make this passion a reality.

1. Candace Nelson, founder of the world's first cupcake bakery - Sprinkles, explains the amazing technology behind the first ever cupcake ATM. Watch this amazing video on exactly what happens before the cupcake passes your lips. Her simple dream became a huge reality.

2. Carin Olsson left everything behind in Stockholm, Sweden, in order to create a life to fall in love with every single day. Carin moved to Paris, France and her blog, Paris in Four Months, was created to document her four month trip that caused her to become head over heels with Paris. She even shares her insight to others wanting to take a leap of faith and move to Paris as well.

3. Angelina Jolie has always been one of my favorite actresses. I cannot even begin to explain how to explain what a strong impact she has made on this planet. I happened to stumble across this article about her humble, selfless missions across the world.

4. You may have heard of her before, you may have not. Liz Murray was homeless. Her parents were diseased drug addicts. She had no future until one day her life changed. Her mother died. Liz decided to take the leap of faith and not join her father in a shelter. She and her sister went to school. Liz graduated high school in just two years and received a scholarship to attend Harvard. After some roller coasters that went both up and down, Liz graduated: from homeless to Harvard

Have the most amazing weekend. Who inspires you?

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There is something so enchanting about flying into New York City. It may be luck of the plane seat, but I was so transfixed by the skyline of the Big Apple as I flew into LaGuardia Airport. I took twenty or so pictures just on the plane attempting to get the perfect angle. I saw Freedom Tower, the Statue of Liberty and even the Empire State Building. It was absolutely magical. 

When traveling the hotel is just as important as any landmark in the land that you are exploring. NYC is a very chic and high fashion place. What better place to stay then the barely one year old Refinery Hotel. This boutique style hotel screamed chic. It was very trendy with the 12 foot high ceilings and white walls with beautiful modern art adorned through out. 

After checking into the hotel a walk around the city is an absolute must. First stop : Times Square. Everything about Times Square is surreal. You think you have gotten the feel just from watching the Ball drop on New Years Eve. Wrong. The hustle and bustle of people and the bright lights cannot even be depicted on your 62' TV screen. 

One reason I am obsessed with New York is the fact that you can get automatic exercise by walking everywhere. So naturally, a cupcake break at Magnolia Bakery is the way to go. When I go for a cupcake I typically love the dense, extra sugary icing. But this mini red velvet cake was very cake-y and had a light whipped cream cheese frosting. It was delish. 

A trip to New York City in my family is not complete without dinner at Patsy's Italian Restaurant. I am not one for a whole bowl of pasta but at Patsy's their pasta is classic Italian with a little American twist. 

One of my dear friends, Sterling, happened to be in New York City at the same time. So of course we had to rendezvous outside of St. Patricks Cathedral and pose for Atlas. I mean its all in the saying: "Pics or it didn't happen."

After about twenty or so blocks of walking, my heavy Italian dinner was all worked off. A big day was already planned for Sunday so I turned in around 9:30. Funny story: I watched Titanic to calm for about 45 minutes until my eyes became heavy with sleep. At the same time the ship was sinking and the alarms were going off, the hotel fire alarm went off. My parents and I were thinking "Is this even real life??". We were so tired and so confused. We packed our bags just in case the building was burning down. Luckily it was just a false alarm and we (read: I) could continue starting at beautiful Leo DiCaprio. 

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{ Q&A with } Kelly Larkin

What an exciting post I have for you lovelies today! After seeing Gracey do numerous questionnaires, and reading them so many times each, I thought it would be super fun to introduce you to some of my favorite bloggers and allow you to get to know them through fun tidbits about their lives and style. 


KELLY LARKIN from Kelly in the City

Three words to describe your style: colorful, preppy and real

What prompted your decision to start "Kelly in the City"?
 Last year, I fell in love with a J.Crew coat on final sale, but didn't know what size to order. I started surfing the web in the hopes of finding reviews, and stumbled upon the blog "Bows and Sequins." I'd never heard of a fashion blog before, but I quickly fell in love with the concept. I followed Jessica's blog for a month or two before my husband, Mitch, suggested that I start my own. (It incorporated everything I loved: writing, photography and fashion!)

My perfect Sunday morning would include 
sleeping in, taking a long walk around the city with a cup of coffee, and grabbing brunch with my husband.

I edit my Instagram pictures using 
VSCOcam, Picfx and Snapseed.

What purse or handbag are you using currently?
 Right now, I'm using a Longchamp tote. I can't get through my workday without it. I'm a teacher, so I nearly always have a huge stack of grading to take home!

If I could pack my bags right now I would travel to 
 South Africa.

My top three NYC tourist destinations are...
the West Village, Lower East Side/SoHo and Tribeca.

Favorite inspirational quote? 
"The best portion of a good man's life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love." -William Wordsworth

Stay tuned every Wednesday to discover more amazing people and their blogs. 

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© Kira Tabor | All rights reserved.