Joshua Tree, December 8, 2018

Palm Springs, December 9, 2018


Instead of another diary and recap of the trip, I decided to put together a travel guide after my most recent trip to Los Angeles. I’ve been to this city more times than I can count and have explored every inch of it from Malibu to Studio City to Redondo Beach. L.A. has become my second home since graduating college; I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Last year when I was freelancing full-time I would escape to L.A. about every other month and sometimes every month. I’m a big fan of traveling solo. And because I quickly became so familiar with this place, I felt really safe jetting off on my own every chance I got. Plus, I do have a few friends on the West Coast. (Not all of them are bloggers, so I try my hardest not to put them in the spotlight.)

L.A. is a lot different than New York City. I explain it simply by saying, I love New York because it’s where I’m from and I love L.A. because it’s not not where I’m from. That is the best way for me to compare the two cities.

That being said, there was a bit of a learning curve when I first began visiting Los Angeles. The best example took place during my first-ever visit on a spring break trip my junior year of college…

I had always heard that L.A. isn’t a walking city like New York is, but as a stubborn 21-year-old, I refused to believe it until I learned the hard way. Twenty-five-year-old me looks back and laughs—and gives my younger self a *major* pat on the back for trekking from Marina Del Rey all the way to Venice Beach (and back!) in platform sandals!

In New York I spend almost an hour of my day walking (or running, depending on how late I am), so I really have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I can’t do the same in L.A. While I don’t have a car on the West Coast, I am thankful that Ubers are much cheaper and much (much!!) more reliable.

After a couple trips I found that it is best to plan your days so that you’re visiting spots that *are* walking distance from one another. (This may seem totally logical, but it does take a bit of configuring and strategic planning.)

For example, I always visit Downtown L.A. and Little Tokyo on the same day because it’s easy to walk back and forth between the two. The same can be said for Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Melrose Ave is a walkable journey in and of itself, and I can definitely spend the better half of a day there (especially on Sundays when Melrose Trading Post is open). The city buses are also inexpensive and reliable from my experiences with them. When I took a bus from Santa Monica to Pacific Palisades in 2015, it only cost $1!

In L.A. I always wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go! I hardly ever set an alarm when I’m there and I’m almost always up by 8 or 8:30 a.m., so I accomplish a lot in a day. Which brings me to my next point…

If it’s your first or even your second time in L.A., you’ll definitely want to spend at least a week there—there is simply too much to do, especially if it’s lay-on-the-beach-all-day weather! But if you are a regular like me, you know that you can hit all your old favorite spots *and* a couple new ones in five days or less. There’s even time to squeeze in a mini getaway to the desert (a must-do)!


L.A.’s Asian cuisine is unreal. Visiting for the first time I thought the Mexican food would be best, but Thai and Korean instantly stole my heart (and stomach). If you’ve never tried Thai iced tea, you can find it at any authentic Thai restaurant in L.A. You’ll notice it’s distinct pale orange hue on almost every tabletop. It’s life-changing.

Night + Market Song: The best Thai food you’ve ever had in your life is worth the usually lengthy wait. And while you wait, Night + Market Song is located on a trendy street in Silver Lake, so feel free to do a little window shopping.

Dan Sung Sa: For the best Korean food and karaoke, you’ll of course want to dive into the heart of Koreatown. My favorite spot to eat is located a short walking distance from a karaoke lounge where you can unleash your inner k-pop star. I’ll warn you though, the environment inside Dan Sung Sa is dark and grungy, so be prepared to drink water out of what appears to be a pet bowl—that’s what makes it so unique!

Pho Cafe Los Angeles (Silver Lake): Vietnamese-style dishes like vegetable rolls, bún chả and (of course) pho are impossibly fresh at Silver Lake’s Pho Cafe. Much like Night + Market Song, this restaurant is within walking distance to other cool spots in the area.

Cafe Solar: This Hollywood gem is my go-to breakfast, brunch and lunch spot. They have classics like French toast and lox bagels, as well as new favorites like avocado toast—plus there’s kombucha on tap! Cafe Solar is a great place to go solo or with a friend.

Dave’s Hot Chicken: The first time I dined here (I used the term “dined” very loosely), it was on a folding table in a parking lot. A group of guys on small grills drew crowds to this unconventional eating spot with their—you guessed it—hot chicken. It had a 40-minute wait time even on weeknights!

The mouth-watering Southern-style recipe (complete with toast and collard greens) has since gained enough popularity for Dave’s Hot Chicken to open an actual restaurant. But I always say, the sketchier the restaurant, the better the food.

Pink Taco: My favorite Mexican restaurant in L.A. is Pink Taco, a somewhat casual spot on Sunset Boulevard with photo-worthy decorations around every corner. But it’s not only the aesthetic that draws me in–Pink Taco has tons of yummy options, including modern takes on traditional Mexican cuisine. Equipped with any tequila you could ever want, this restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, as well as vegan/vegetarian choices. I absolutely love the Ape Tacos, which are filled with fried sweet potato and cactus salsa.

Salt and Straw: A West Coast exclusive, Salt and Straw is the best ice cream around! Unique flavors like Avocado with Oaxacan Fudge and Honey Lavender win me over every time. Salt and Straw also has amazing seasonal flavors, such as Gingerbread Cookie Dough, to help get you in the holiday spirit.

Food trucks are also plentiful in L.A., especially in the beach cities. They are the perfect place to pick up a taco (maybe two!), fruit with tajín (an L.A. staple) or a churro. Of course you can’t visit the Southwest without stopping for a burger and fries at In-N-Out, either.

Drink (21+)

You’ve probably heard the stereotype that L.A. is super-chill, and I’m here to tell you that is entirely true. In fact, it’s a little too chill if you’re a hard-partier. Thankfully, I am not, so L.A.’s relaxed nightlife scene is more my speed. The best part? Most places don’t charge cover. (Although I would appreciate it if bars stayed open later than 2 a.m.—that’s a lot of pressure to get glammed-up quickly.)

Keep in mind recreational marijuana use is legal (for adults 21 and older) throughout California, so you won’t find too many reliable places to go crazy drinking. Instead, the best spots to drink in L.A. have a laidback lounge environment.

Good Times At Davey Wayne’s: My first pick for a night out in L.A. is a 1970s-themed spot known as Davey Wayne’s. After showing your ID outside, you’ll be let into a garage, and when you open the refrigerator door, you’re in what appears to be a typical 70s home. It’s an amazing atmosphere, even on the most crowded nights. And yes, there is a backyard compete with heat lamps.

The Bungalow: This upscale Santa Monica spot has the same concept as Davey Wayne’s—except instead of a 1970s middle class home, you’re in a posh beach bungalow (hence the name), the likes of which are probably owned by rockstars, fashion designers and wealthy heirs and heiresses. With seemingly endless places to explore both inside and out, Bungalow is a must-do if you’re staying in one of L.A.’s beach cities. (I highly recommend the sangria! If you’re a heavy drinker, it’s awesome with a shot of Maker’s Mark.)

Jumbo’s Clown Room (NSFW): Google it. And bring $1 bills.


Weather in SoCal is almost always favorable and I make the most of it during every visit. Even if it’s too chilly to take a bikini-clad beach or poolside nap, with leggings and a tie-it-around-your-waist sweatshirt, Los Angeles is the perfect place to go hiking all year long.

Redondo Beach: For a laidback beach day you’ll want to hit my favorite Redondo Beach. It has a relaxed boardwalk with casual seafood options and plenty of places to grab ice cream. The beach itself doesn’t get as crowded as Santa Monica does, and most people are families with young kids or couples on a quiet date.

Venice Beach: Legendary Venice Beach and its world-famous boardwalk are the complete opposite of Redondo, but I love them both equally! Full of excitement, Venice offers plenty of inexpensive food and drink options if you get hungry, and it is within walking distance to another world-famous spot, the Santa Monica Pier. Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice also has amazing shopping and cafes for when you need a break from the beach.

Pacific Palisades: An L.A. suburb, Pacific Palisades is what made me first fall in love with the West Coast. Hiking trails offer a stunning panoramic view of both Downtown L.A. and the Pacific ocean (whereas most other hiking hotspots have views of one or the other). Because it’s the suburbs, these trails are far less crowded than the better-known hikes in L.A.

Runyon Canyon: If you’re looking for an intense workout, come to Runyon Canyon. It’s equal parts tourists-taking-in-the-view and locals-getting-their-daily-workout-in.

Griffith Observatory: This is definitely a major tourist destination, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it truly is a great spot. Griffith is easy to access from the Hollywood area and has a ton of different trails to choose from and because it is so populated, you’ll feel really safe going alone. It’s my first choice for a solo hike!

The Broad: LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) gets all the hype (I’m sure you’ve seen photos of the street lamp installation all over social media), but I really love The Broad, a museum in downtown L.A.

This spot has huge pieces of work from Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and Pennsylvania-native Jeff Koons, as well as smaller works by *the* Andy Warhol.

There’s a fee to see temporary installations, free general admission is a major perk.

The Last Bookstore: A hidden gem in downtown L.A., The Last Bookstore isn’t as much of a shopping experience as it is a immersive art experience. The downstairs is comically huge and has a wide variety of genres, authors and titles. The upstairs, however, turns literature into a visual art with interesting sculptures and arrangements.


Are You Am I: Blogger-turned-fashion designer Rumi Neely’s namesake label is a must-see IRL, if not only for the photo op. You’ll want to design your entire home after this dreamy L.A. loft where you’ll enjoy a private, no-pressure shopping experience. (See my photos above for a sneak peek into AYAI!)

Wasteland: The best vintage and secondhand styles can be found at one of Wasteland’s three L.A.-area locations. Melrose Ave, Studio City and Santa Monica are all home to Wasteland stores, which is where I scored a vintage Missoni sweater and an amazing pair of Givenchy trousers for under $200 each!

During my last trip to L.A., I was also able to stock-up on pullovers and button-down shirts that I love wearing to the office, as well as unique edgier pieces for dressing up, all at extremely reasonable prices.

Melrose Trading Post: Open only on Sundays, Melrose Trade Post is a vintage and handmade mecca. It was here I found a killer pair of pre-loved Levi’s that fit like a glove—something extremely hard to do if your waist is a size 26 or smaller, especially for under $100. The good news is, I only paid $50 for my dream pair in a size 25 (and the stand was stocked with dozens)!

Another amazing Melrose Trading Post find is my Harley Davidson bodysuit, which was actually a vintage t-shirt someone (who is much more creative than I am) transformed into a bodysuit.

My advice for shopping at Melrose Trading Post? Get there early and bring cash.

Reformation Vintage: Why can’t there be more of these? Across the street from the nauseatingly famous L.A. pink wall is a Reformation-curated vintage shop. Ref did the hard part for you, so you won’t spend hours sorting through the shelves only to leave empty-handed. And if you are a fan of the regular Reformation store, it’s only a short walk from Ref Vintage.

Joyrich: A favorite of YouTube megastars Ethan and Grayson Dolan, Joyrich is an indie store best known for its collabs with Playboy. With mostly unisex styles, you will always find something fun and modern at Joyrich.

Glossier: We have one of these in New York, but I love visiting my L.A. Glossier fam when I’m in town. And with a great location on Melrose, it’s easy to do. One thing the NYC location doesn’t have? A replica of Antelope Canyon, complete with a selfie mirror and true-to-life sounds on loop.

Make Asobi: A beauty-lovers trip to L.A. isn’t complete without stopping at Make Asobi in Little Tokyo. Although this Asian skincare and makeup shop has another location on Sawtelle Boulevard, I prefer Little Tokyo’s, which is larger and has a much better variety of products. Plus, it’s a great excuse to get mochi or matcha ice cream afterwards.

At Make Asobi I stock-up on authentic Asian sheet masks, Bioderma micellar water and more. Everything is priced low, so I always go a little crazy.


In paid partnership with Basic Invite

My new friends at Basic Invite were kind enough to send me a set of beautiful greeting cards this holiday season! I had so much customizing them myself on their easy-to-use website.

Basic Invite has seemingly endless options for every occasion–all of which are customizable in terms of color, text and finish. From modern to classic, there is a wide range of templates that provide tons of inspiration. Even those who aren’t super creative can craft something really unique.

This year I chose two unique Christmas cards, but Basic Invite also has plenty of holiday cocktail party invites and work Christmas party invites.

My first choice was the Sweater Weather card with white, red and green print on a matte gray background. I am in love with this festive pattern–it’s almost too cute to send, but I know my friends and extended family will love it, too!

For something more formal, I picked the foiled burgundy and gold Fun Snowflakes card. This one is so fabulous and has so many beautiful little details.

I can’t say enough good things about Basic Invite! The attention to detail is amazing, yet they still allow you–the customer–a ton of creative freedom. All of my cards arrived quickly and with their own envelopes! Now, I’ll be mailing them out to loved ones to enjoy.

A huge thank you to Basic Invite for getting me ready for the holidays and the season of celebrations!


How fun is Instagram’s new “Ask me a question” feature?! After receiving a few fitness-related questions, some of my followers insisted I put together an updated health and fitness routine for the blog–and how could I resist?! I really haven’t discussed anything like this in over a year, so it is about time I catch all my readers up.

Although I love staying in shape, I am slightly nervous to post anything health-related because I definitely am not a health or fitness professional. I do not feel that the information I have will work for everyone; I can only share what works for me. Of course, I encourage all my readers to consult a physician before upgrading their diets and/or fitness routines.

So, what’s changed?

My lifestyle did a major 180-flip when I decided to give up a full-time freelancing gig. Instead of a work-from-home job that allowed me to travel (both for work and for pleasure) as much as I pleased, I now work Monday through Friday in New York City.

Of course I was a little nervous starting out. For the most part I used to prepare food, eat and work out whenever I felt like it. I thought the lifestyle change would cause a decrease in how much and how hard I work out (and that the potential stress would cause me to binge eat more often). But I was totally wrong! I almost always make it to the gym five days a week (though which five days changes from week to week).

Being healthy and in good shape is really important to me, so I do my best to always make time for either a gym or an at-home workout. But when I am feeling run down, I listen to my body and skip it if necessary. It’s not a big deal and it doesn’t happen often when I am taking care of myself.

Not to mention, I have always been a take-the-stairs kind of gal, so I get a ton of extra exercise I wouldn’t normally be getting. In fact, my walks to and from the train station add up to 30 minutes total per day. I definitely break a sweat on most days, and I’ve learned to love it! It’s really rewarding and WORTH IT because it is part of an exciting career.

In addition to my take-the-stairs habit, I have been a pack-my-own lunch gal since, well, my mom stopped packing my lunch in high school. I bring healthy snacks to work with me every day (nuts, popcorn with sea salt and raw veggies are my favs), and I hardly ever eat out.

If given the choice between sleeping in or going to bed early, I would have a hard time choosing because I LOVE sleep. And having an extra-busy life has made me appreciate sleep so much more. It is so important to your health and your overall wellbeing. I never go to bed past midnight on a night before work. This keeps me energized and focused throughout the day. Plus, lack of sleep causes sugar cravings, and I can vouch for that firsthand; when I don’t sleep enough, I crave candy and carbs like crazy the next day. 

I’ve never been a heavy drinker; three drinks are more than enough to get me buzzed. So, I’ve never had a hard time limiting my alcohol consumption because I’ve never needed to. Since leaving college, I no longer have an excuse to drink on weeknights (and I miss Thirsty Thursday’s terribly), but that doesn’t mean I go crazy every weekend. When the occasion calls for it, I will enjoy a couple cocktails or a glass of wine on the weekends, but that’s only once or twice a month. And hello—drinks in the real world cost upwards of $10, whereas a gin and tonic cost me anywhere from 50 cents to $4 in college.

Surprisingly, a lot is still the same.

My eating habits haven’t changed a bit, with the exception of the times of day that I eat. Now, I have a bowl of oatmeal around 7:30 a.m., as opposed to my usual 9 a.m. when I was freelancing. I’ll eat my snacks throughout the day at work to avoid that too-full, sluggish feeling I get after eating a lot at once, and dinner when I get home from the gym around 9 p.m. This works perfectly for me, and I am never starving or left with crazy cravings at any point.

Like I said, though, my diet in terms of what and how much I eat is still pretty much the same as it has always been. I don’t have any restrictions; I just limit processed and packaged foods, as well as refined sugar. Carbs (including sugar) from fruit, quinoa and anything else natural and nutritious are perfectly fine with me! I eat meat or seafood most days a week, and dairy occasionally and in small portions. And yes, I give into cravings once or twice a week, too (I love fried foods, chicken wings and sour candy).

How do I workout?

It’s cliché, but I just don’t feel like myself if I’m not working out enough! To stay challenged, I have a three-day cycle. On Day 1 I do an hour of varied cardio, 10 minutes of stretching and 10 to 15 minutes of ab exercises. Lately I have been loving Alexis Ren’s video on YouTube, but sit-ups on a stability ball work perfectly fine, too.

I have the flattest feet, so running really hurts my knees and hips. That’s why I love the stationary bike! Over the years I have taken so many cycling classes, which means I really know how to get a good workout when I’m on the bike by myself. To make my workouts as effective as possible, I cycle in positions 1, 2 and 3 (if you’ve ever gone to a spin class, you know what I mean) and increase the resistance throughout.

On Day 2 I do half an hour of cardio (almost always on the bike) plus stretching and a number of exercises from Katrina Brodsky’s pilates-based Curve Builder workout program. Because this program requires purchase, I can’t share any information beyond that; Katrina developed Keller Rose Fitness alongside her personal trainer. It lengthens and strengthens the muscles while toning and enhancing your curves! I love that Curve Builder is easy to do at home or on the go (equipment is minimal).

Day 3 includes weight training. I warm-up with 20 or 30 minutes of cardio, stretch, then head into the weight room. To tone my bod without building bulky muscle, I do light weights (nothing over 120 pounds) and high reps (two to four sets of 15 to 20 reps). If I notice I’m not breaking a sweat or feeling a burn, I increase the weight and/or reps. Mainly, I keep the focus on my back and legs, but I like to work my arms, too.


In addition to quite a few of the new launches in the beauty world this month, I got my hands on several other products that I’ve been wanting to try–and I am so happy I did! I fell in love with so many great skincare and makeup items this past month, all of which I definitely see myself using throughout the summer.

New York City is currently in the midst of the first major heat wave of the season, making light, easy beauty a necessity. Many of my picks for the month of June quickly became staples in my “no makeup” makeup routine.

Haute Mess readers got a sneak peek of this month’s favs in a recent makeup look I shared, and now I am ready to dish all the details!

Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint (Sand): If you’ve been following me for a while, you know how much I love my Bali Body BB Cream, but recently, this lightweight, hydrating formula has stopped sticking to my skin. Instead of sinking in, it has started pilling up no matter what I do–so frustrating! I tried a couple different primers (as well as no primer at all), and nothing seems to make a difference. So, I decided to try something new!

Much like Bali Body’s BB Cream, Milk Makeup’s Sunshine Skin Tint is loaded with good-for-you, nourishing ingredients and gives the skin fresh, glowing, semi-sheer coverage. It blends evenly, and looks incredibly natural, which is why I prefer skin tints and bb creams over traditional foundations. Plus, Milk’s formula has twice the SPF as Bali Body’s.

BECCA Be A Light Face Palette (Light To Medium): BECCA’s powder bronzer and highlighter formulas are perhaps the best on the market, so I just *had* to try this new face palette with four shades: brighten, blur, blush and bronze.

I use the brightening shade to set concealer under my eyes, the blur powder to set the rest of my face and reduce the appearance of pores, the blush to give my cheeks some color and the bronze to add definition and warmth.

Because BECCA products unbeatable-ly high quality, all four powders in the Be A Light Face Palette have a silky smooth luminous finish that never look patchy or flaky!

Glossier Cloud Paint in Dawn & Storm: After a few months of hoping for new Cloud Paint shades, Glossier delivered! I was thrilled when these arrived at my doorstep. Initially, I thought Storm, the deep rose shade, was going to be my new go-to. And while it is gorgeous, I can’t seem to get enough of Dawn, a refreshing tangerine.

I am obsessed with bright orange hues for the summer (did you catch my orange lipstick post?), and Dawn helps satisfy my craving day in and day out. For a sunny, fresh-from-the-Italian-Riviera wash of color, I tap Dawn on the tops of my cheeks and across the bridge of my nose.

Benefit Cosmetics Gold Rush blush: Ever since I tried Rockateur in 2013, I have been loving Benefit’s boxed blushes. The newest addition to the range is Gold Rush, a warm, glowy, gilded peach. It works as a pretty everyday blush for a little pop of color, as well as a far-from-overbearing finishing touch that pairs well with bold eyeshadow or lip colors.

Fenty Beauty Killawatt Foil in Sand Castle/Mint’d Mojito: I am a huge fan of Fenty Beauty (and Rihanna herself), and when she dropped her summer collection, the Killawatt Foil highlighter duo in Sand Castle/Mint’d Mojito instantly called my name!

Sand Castle is a hyper-metallic, high-intensity version of the pale bronze highlighters to which I am normally drawn, while Mint’d Mojito is an insanely reflective icy blue; both have that wet look that I love! I use my ring finger to apply these shades directly to my face for a casual daytime look, and a setting brush when I want to go full glam. Either way, Killawatt Foils feel creamy and melt into the skin without much effort–just blend around the edges for a seamless application.

ColourPop Fortune eyeshadow palette: It is safe to say that I am hopelessly addicted to ColourPop’s Pressed Powder Shadows; I simply don’t see a reason to try anything else at this point. They are pigmented, creamy and blend beautifully. Oh, and did I mention single pans are only $4 each? Unreal.

Although I love mixing and matching to create my own custom palettes, sometimes ColourPop really wows me with the palettes they launch. And that was definitely the case with Fortune.

I am without a doubt more drawn to warm eyeshadows than I am to cool shadow shades, so I feel like Fortune was made for me! Every time I create an eye look with this palette, even if it is something really simple, it blows me away.

The matte berry hues look bright, clean and crisp, while the golden metallic shades take the palette from day to night. Plus, I love how the rustic reds, oranges and pinks make my blue eyes pop!

Fortune has everything I need. It is full of must-have crease colors, deeper shades for accenting the eyes and both matte and metallic options for the lids. Additionally, there are ultra-natural shades (perfect for setting down eyeshadow primer!) and inner corner/brow bone highlights.

ColourPop Lux Lipstick in Third Eye: So, I am slightly disappointed I waited a bit to try ColourPop’s new-ish Lux Lipsticks, because Third Eye is my new everyday lip color! This matte pink-beige gives me that nude “Em Rata” lip that I am always after, and the formula is easy to sheer-out so I can create a fuss-free blotted/melted lip.

FUR Oil: The review I wrote on FUR Oil wasn’t enough to express my love for this super soothing product! If you use a razor to remove body hair, this is an essential product to have on your shelf.

For years I was fed-up with shaving; I hated the irritation, the bumps, the fact that I could never get close enough. I thought there was nothing I could do about it, but FUR really made the whole process so much more enjoyable. This oil calms irritation, reduces itching and redness, minimizes bumps and ingrown hairs–all while softening the skin and the hair itself, allowing for a closer shave with continued use.

(p.s. Use my code maduhlyn15 for a discount on all your FUR goodies!)

Alexis Ren’s 10-minute ab workout: Like many others, I have a major girl crush on Alexis Ren. If you do too, you’ve likely wished she would release her workout routine (or at least part of it). I followed her on YouTube a few weeks ago and was happy to discover she has a 10-minute abdominal workout!

I really feel the burn with this one–even if I only do half of it! It requires no equipment, so it is totally doable at home or while traveling. Alexis Ren’s tricks for a toned stomach activate more muscles than traditional crunches or sit-ups alone, which has been a really effective change of pace for me. Can’t wait until she shares more of her secrets. 🙂