Family Trip to Columbus, Georgia

Happy Hump Day!

Hope your week has been productive so far. Mine has involved a lot of working out, shoveling kale into my mouth and wondering why I’m still 157 pounds despite my effort to lose weight so that I don’t have to buy new clothes. Same old, same old!

Over the weekend, Halston and I visited my sister and her husband  for their daughter’s first birthday. The drive wasn’t terrible and thankfully, Scout slept the whole way. Because we assumed their house in Fort Benning would be swarming with people, coming in and out all weekend, we decided to stay at an Airbnb.

Now, I’ve only ever had one terrible Airbnb experience in Los Angeles, so I’m very trusting when I️ book accommodations. The one I️ chose was pet-friendly and looked eclectic from the pictures. The host waived the pet fee for the weekend and it was also minutes from uptown Columbus, which my sister said was a cute area so there was no question about it. I️ booked it.

When we arrived at 1:30 a.m., we were greeted by a run-down duplex which would be our home for the weekend. We swung open squeaky the chain link gate and unlocked the door…

O.M.G.

The room we walked in to happened to be the owner’s bedroom, which is where we were going to sleep, however, it wasn’t the normal clean, neutral Airbnb bedroom. The owner’s clothes and shoes were hung up on the wall on his makeshift closet and every shelf was coated in a thick layer of dust. His personal belongings, including pills, bills and a glass cup holding various pairs of sex dice, were all over the home, which made it seem as if he currently lived at the duplex and had stepped out for us to stay there over the weekend.

Don’t worry. I thoroughly washed my hands after taking this picture.

The shower wasn’t the cleanest, the tub was too close to the toilet and I’m pretty sure our bed sheets hadn’t been washed, but at that point we were too tired to care.

If you were lucky enough to watch my Snapchat story about the Airbnb, you’re welcome. If you weren’t, I’m sorry but I️ forgot to save the videos. You’ll just have to imagine the state of disarray that this house was in. I have to give our host props though, for angling the pictures on Airbnb well enough that his mess was hidden from view. Very slick.

The next morning we ventured out with Scout and wandered around uptown Columbus.

 

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FALLLLLLLLLLLLLL COLORS!
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Check out this majestic picture Halston took of Scout!

We walked around the Chattahoochee RiverWalk, a 22-mile walking and biking trail.

For those who love the outdoors, there’s a white water rafting tour company right off of the river, as well as zip-lines over the riverWe eventually veered off the trail and ended up at Market Days on Broadway, a weekly crafts, home goods and produce market, and a massive crowd anxiously waiting a parade to go by. We stopped at Iron Bank Coffee Companya coffee shop located in the historic Iron Bank Building, for a quick pick-me-up before heading back to the Airbnb.

We quickly changed and headed out to Fort Benning for my niece’s birthday and had a great time hanging out with family!

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The funniest picture I took all weekend.
Second funniest picture I took all weekend.

After the party, we hung out at my sister’s house watching movies and the last episode of Stranger Things 2 because my brother-in-law is a slacker (this will be the third time I’ve watched Stranger Things 2…).

On Sunday, we went on another walk around the RiverWalk and enjoyed breakfast at My Boulange, a cute French bakery and cafe in uptown Columbus. If you ever find yourself in the area, make this cafe a stop on your trip. It was delicious! They might’ve won me over before I even ate because they were playing Christmas music by the outside tables. It was magical.

We checked out of our sketchy Airbnb and grabbed lunch with everyone at Ruth Anne’s Restaurant, a diner known for it’s incredibly unhealthy all-day breakfast options like Cap’n Crunch French Toast and breakfast burgers. I opted for a BLT.

We bid adieu to the fam and headed back to Orlando.

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Scout, the back seat driver.

Can’t wait for all of us to be reunited in Savannah for my brother’s wedding!

Have a great rest of the week! 

xx

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Fri(yay) Lovin’ #17

Happy weekend! Can you believe it is already November and we are 52 days from CHRISTMAS? Time is flying by!

And yes, I’ve already begun listening to “A Very She & Him Christmas.” 

And speaking of time flying by…

This weekend is a special one, as we are heading to Georgia to celebrate my niece’s first birthday! I can’t wait to see my sister and her little family. We last saw them in May, during my birthday dinner, when they had moved back from Hawaii. It is so nice to have them stateside and now that they’re settled in to their new home, we can see each other more often!

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AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!
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Noisy gift inside!

Okay, before I continue rambling on about my family, let’s get through another installment of Fri(yay) Lovin’, a weekly (but really, whenever I feel like it) list of the things that I’m loving this week!

Sleep With Me – The Podcast That Puts You To Sleep: After binge watching the second season of Stranger Things last Friday night through early Saturday morning, I found myself with my heart racing, a million questions (what happened to the demodog in Joyce’s freezer?!) and unable to fall asleep. As I laid in bed staring up at the fan and occasionally at the door (keeping an eye out for Demogorgons), I remembered a sleeping podcast my husband had mentioned once, so I typed “sleep” unto the podcast app and “Sleep With Me” popped up. The thrice-weekly podcast is hosted by soft-spoken, rambling host Drew Ackerman, who spends about twenty minutes introducing the podcast’s sponsors before diving in to the story.  The last thing I remember was Ackerman mentioning ZipRecruiter before dozing off and waking up hours later. It worked perfectly, however, it did not stop me from having terrifying dreams of walking through the halls of Hawkins Lab, flickering lights and all.

Malala’s Magic Pencil: As you may or may not be aware, I enjoy buying children’s books for any future son or daughter that I may have. I do not have a desire to have a child any time soon, but it is never too early to begin building a library! I enjoy reading and hope to one day pass along my love for books. A few months back, Malala Yousafzai, the 20-year-old Pakistani activist who made headlines in 2012 when a Taliban gunman attempted to murder her,  tweeted out a link to pre-order her new children’s book. I devoured her book “I Am Malala,” back when it came out in 2013, so of course I pre-ordered “Malala’s Magic Pencil.” In the story, Malala wishes for a magic pencil which she could use to make her life more pleasant, but then she begins to think about the needs of the people around her and how she could improve their lives through magic. For parents interested in purchasing the book for their kids, she does touch on her attempted murder in a gentle way by simply saying, “My voice became so powerful that the dangerous men tried to silence me. But they failed.” The illustrations are beautiful and the story full of compassion. I highly recommend the book to parents looking to introduce their children to inspirational figures.

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Beyond Stranger Things: Ha-ha! You really thought you were going to make it through this post without me casually mentioning Stranger Things at least one more time? Modeled after AMC’s Talking Dead, Beyond Stranger Things is a Stranger Things after-show that dissects the popular Netflix series over seven episodes and is filled with behind-the-scenes information. The show is hosted by Jim Rash (yes! Dean Craig Pelton from Community) and features Stranger Things cast members. If you haven’t gotten enough of the sci-fi series (…and I know you haven’t), make sure to add this to your Netflix queue because it is a loooooooooooooooooooong wait for season three!

Any books and/or shows that I should check out to fill the void Stranger Things left in my heart? 

xx

Second Anniversary Weekend

Happy Monday, friends! Hope you had a restful weekend! Our was busy, but relaxing – the perfect combination for a memorable anniversary weekend (click here for a recap of our first anniversary)!

Friday:

Our Friday night was an early one, as we were trying to catch up on sleep following Halloween Horror Nights on Wednesday and a 9:30 p.m. showing of The Florida Project on Thursday night.

Saturday:

We were up and at ’em on Saturday morning, with Halston doing breakfast with his family and myself driving to Rifle Paper Co.‘s sidewalk sale before the crowds descended upon the shop. My haul consisted of eight miscellaneous cards, an art print for my office, a 2018 planner and candles from their new collection. Each candle is usually priced around $28, but they were $12 each at the sale! I got all but the Jardins De Paris candle – I wasn’t a huge fan of the scent.


Retail therapy was followed by a visit to the dog park with Scout, as we had to tire her out before leaving her at home because we were doing a…

SPA DAY! 

The Renaissance Hotel on Sea Harbor Drive has a $95 TravelZoo deal for the Neu Lotus Spa which included a 50-minute massage or facial, a pedicure and resort pool access.

Because our anniversary landed on a week day, Halston and I decided to wait until Saturday to use the TravelZoo deal and pamper our very tired bodies.

It is recommended guests arrive 30 minutes before their appointment, to fill out paperwork and chill out in the relaxation room. However, Halston and I rolled in about 15 minutes before our first appointment (thanks to Scout who decided to sit in every muddy puddle at the dog park and required to be rinsed off), so we hurried into the separate male and female changing areas. We were each given keys to a locker, where we found our robes, a toothbrush, razor, shower cap and comb.

Front desk.


My Padawan robe.

We then met our respective masseuses and were led to separate rooms. Once I was under the blankets, laying face down on the massage table, my massage therapist walked inside the room and began working her magic on my sore body – first my back, arms, legs, feet, abdominal area (a towel covered my chest at this point) and lastly, my neck. I began the 21 Day Fix this week and have been sore all week, so when she began massaging my calves I almost burst into tears of gratitude. Once the 50-minutes were up, she left the room, waited for me to get dressed and led me back to the relaxation room. Halston got a deep-tissue massage (additional $20) because of his tense back (must be all that studying). Once he was done, we were led to the salon area where we got our pedicures.

Big Feet McGee.


The salon carries Opi and Shellac nail polish – Shellac was an additional $20, so I opted for Opi. This was Halston’s first and last pedicure. He said he enjoyed it, but doesn’t see the point of spending money on them as he doesn’t get his toenails done like I do every month. Fair enough. I didn’t like that the salon had the pedicure chairs sitting about six feet from each other, so it felt weird to yell across the room to talk to Halston. Instead I busied myself with magazines and Halston probably scrolled through Reddit. He also took the below creeper shot of me.


Following the massage and pedicure, we headed down to the pool, where we relaxed in the water and ate a delicious lunch at Palms, the poolside restaurant and bar.

While we do not see ourselves frequenting hotel spas in the near future, it was nice to get away from it all, if only for an afternoon. Also, the experience was a lot more relaxing at a resort rather than going for a massage at a strip mall (not that we get massages often. I haven’t been since the week of our wedding and our honeymoon).

Apologies for the poor quality, hazy image. My screen shattered and I can’t take selfies.


Sunday: 

Sunday morning brought us back to Winter Park for the Winter Park Autumn Art Festival, but before that, we needed to fuel up for the day at New General, a contemporary general store, coffee shop and restaurant.

I had recently seen a picture of a white bean toast on their Instagram account and was jonesing for one, however, the restaurant switches up their menu often and it was no longer available. Luckily they had delicious options like the sweet potato toast with sautéed spinach that Halston enjoyed and the grape and walnut one I devoured. We will definitely be back!


We then headed to the art festival and wandered around for a bit, looking at things we couldn’t afford. I did find a local artist who’s work I am determined to have in our future daughter’s room (no, this is not a pregnancy announcement. I’m just positive my first child, a thousand years from now, will be a girl).

Sunday wound down with Mexican food and Halston working on his latest project – a shiplap wall in my office. I’ll make sure to keep you updated on that!


Have a great week! Make good choices! Keep on working out! 

That last sentence was mostly for me.

xx

Puerto Rico: Where To Donate Following Hurricane Maria

Am I right in saying that this week has felt like a lifetime and a half?

It has been a tough week for Puerto Rico, as the island was struck by hurricane Maria and the entire island is without electricity. Officials have been saying that parts of the island could be left without electricity for months — which should make my trips down there in October and December very interesting.

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My sister took this picture of my brother-in-law surveying the damage in my dad’s neighborhood, where they rode out the storm.

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Wesleyan Academy, the school where I met some of my forever friends (pictures courtesy of Gabriel Oaks and Nancy Mayol).

Many thanks to those who reached out asking about my family’s well-being. I began to hear back from friends and family members in Puerto Rico throughout the day on Wednesday and although they suffered some damages to their homes, no one was hurt. I’ve yet to hear back from one of my friends in Aguas Buenas, but I’m keeping positive, as I’ve read that the hurricane disabled radar, weather stations and cell towers across the island (update: heard from my friend!).

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(source)

A few of you have asked me how to be of help to the people of Puerto Rico so I’ve rounded up a few links for your perusal:

And make sure to keep an eye out for local donation drives. One Church Markham Woods (we attend One Church Park District, a satellite campus) will be collecting items for Puerto Rico on Sunday. They are looking to collect the following items:

  • MREs
  • Canned or boxed milk
  • Canned food
  • Baby food
  • Dry formula
  • Bottles
  • Blankets
  • Towels
  • Flashlights
  • Candles
  • Batteries
  • First aid items
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Baby wipes
  • Diapers
  • Underwear
  • Cleaning items

The Orlando Sentinel published a list with additional donation drop-off locations in Central Florida: Where to drop off donations for Puerto Rico in Central Florida. So did the Orlando Weekly.



Puerto Ricans are resilient in the face of adversity. Let’s hope that their courage shines through in these literal dark days ahead as they begin to rebuild their communities.

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And for those looking to make a contribution to our friends in Mexico City, after a devastating earthquake claimed over 200 lives, click here

xx

Breath of Fresh Air

Good morning!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Can you believe it is practically September? Where has the time gone this year?

I am sure you’ve noticed, but I’ve been blogging less and less these days. I begrudgingly renewed my WordPress URL last night in the efforts to keep this thing alive and provide myself with an outlet other than angry tweeting at Donald Trump. Oh, and my former boss reads my blog for fun (ah, the life of a retiree), so I figured I’d let him know I’m alive (hi, Larry!). But we’ll get to my depressive state in a minute.

Over the weekend Halston and I visited Downtown Windermere, a small town in Central Florida that I lived in for seven years before buying my house. Other than it being relatively close to Walt Disney World, there’s not much to the town. Since moving, I only visit Downtown Windermere to take a picture in front of the Christmas mural each year.

The reason for our visit was to check out Paloma Coffee Company, a cute, family-owned, Puerto Rican (¡mi gente!) business right in the heart of downtown.


Marcelino and Arianna, the father-daughter team, welcomed us with warm smiles and shared a little bit about Paloma after I excitedly began pointing out Puerto Rican landmarks and locations on pictures they had around the shop.

These pictures were all taken in Old San Juan.
Marcelino (Nino for short), shared that the shop got its name by paying homage to a picture of his mother in which she is surrounded by white doves (palomas). Nino and his brothers initially thought that the picture was taken at Parque De Las Palomas in San Juan, Puerto Rico, until a customer from Spain noticed the building in the background being from Parque De Las Palomas in Sevilla, Spain.


Paloma sources it’s coffee from Panther Coffee in Tampa and it’s bread from Olde Hearth Bread at East End Market.

Halston and I inhaled delicious pastries and quesitos. He enjoyed a cortado and I, a killer chai latte.


We really hope Paloma breathes new life into Windermere and wish them success!

And speaking of breathing new life into things… The old Verónica can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, cause she’s dead (kidding. Sorry, I am still not done laughing at how childish that new Taylor Swift single is).

Anyway, like I mentioned earlier, I’ve not felt like writing much in the past few weeks. Whether it be current events or answering the phone to bad news, I’ve just not been up for it. Coincidentally, as I was writing this blog post, I received a call from a family member in regards to someone’s declining health. On top of all of that, for the past few months I’ve been grappling with trying to understand why family members care so much more about how they portray themselves to strangers than to their actual family and beating my head trying to figure why others, with their proven track record of terrible decision-making expect me to offer them my support when they’ve made yet another decision without thinking of the outcome. While amusing at first, I’ve grown tired of people and am strongly considering going off the grid and buying a cabin in the woods where I can retire at the ripe age of 26.

During all of this, I’ve also not felt like attending church alone (Halston has been studying evenings and weekends for this final CPA exam). But yesterday morning I put on my big girl pants (or skirt) and went.

Service began and Pastor Justin asked us if we’ve ever had a season in life in which we felt stuck and alone. I wanted to stand up and yell, “preach!”

We read Psalm 142:1-7, David’s prayer when he found himself isolated, in a dark cave.

(1) I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. (2) I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. (3) When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. (4) Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. (5) I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (6) Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. (7) Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

Justin continued in saying that loneliness is God’s cry for intimacy. On the above passage, David brought his complaints and burdens to God rather than keeping them bottled up. He also mentioned that God puts us in a dark, hard and lonely place, similar to David’s cave, so that our hearts soften.

All I’m saying is that my heart better be freakin’ Jell-O after this season.

This was the breath fresh air that I needed. I needed to, once again, hear to pour my complaints and burden out and put my wholly trust in him

I know this blog post is completely unlike me, so I’ll make sure to turn up the sarcasm and angst in the following few posts so that we’re not all awkwardly staring at our beers without saying a word to each other next time I see you. Until then, I leave you with this massive slice of Lazy Moon Pizza from yesterday’s lunch to remind you that I am pizza-consuming, meme-loving, podcast-listening millennial, incapable of deep thoughts longer than 140 characters.

xx 

Fri(yay) Lovin’ #14

Who has two thumbs (covered in bite marks because of her psychotic puppy) and is excited that it’s Friday? This gal!

I was extremely excited that this was going to be a short week because we had Memorial Day off and then I remembered that today is my SUMMER FRIDAY!

My current job allows us to take one Friday off during the months of June, July and August. So the weather doesn’t lend itself for an ideal Summer Friday… but I still get to kick off the weekend by relaxing at home, tidying up the house and hanging out with my dad, stepmom and nephews, one of them who graduated kindergarten last night, reminding me that I’m turning into an old hag!

So let’s kick this Friday off with the things I’m loving!

Top Paw Life Jacket: My mother-in-law recently bought Scout a Top Paw Life Jacket from PetSmart because her fur gets quite heavy while swimming. I will preface this by saying that if you’ve seen the (hilarious) videos I posted on social media, Scout absolutely hated the life jacket (there go my dreams of putting her in costumes…). BUT it is a necessity, as we have a pool and we want her to get used to swimming! The life jacket was affordable, light, it has a handle for pulling her out of the water and it is perfect for her to splash around the pool. She did great the first time she swam with it, but the second time, not so much. We think she was stressed out because her puppy cousins, two Vizsla pups, were swimming circles around her!

Had Scout written this blog, she would have not included the life jacket.
Puppy and human cousins.
Ocean Sun Brewing: On our poorly-planned Ale Trail Memorial Day adventure (we didn’t have a game plan and most of the breweries were closed) with our friends, we discovered Ocean Sun Brewing, which opened last spring. Located on a strip mall in Curry Ford, there really isn’t much to the outside of it, but inside the 5,200 square foot space features 120 seats and a five-barrel brewing system with 50 barrels of fermentation space. It also has space in the back for corn hole, darts and let me not forget the most important detail, it is DOG FRIENDLY, so I was basically in dog heaven (as you could probably tell from my Snapchat story). Halston and I ordered flights and my favorite was the Bumby Belgian Blonde Ale (I have a thing for blondes). The only thing that would make this place even cooler than it already is, is if it were actually by the beach. But it’s okay, I’ll live. We’ll be back, with Scout in tow.

Dat depth, tho.

Cubicle to Cuba: Desk Job to Dream Job: If you’re looking for an easy read, this is it. In this book Heidi Siefkas highlights her journey of quitting her cozy cubicle job and pursuing her passion of traveling to places like Kauai, Italy, Peru, New Zealand, Australia and Cuba as a tour guide. She shares her perspective gained from years of travel on the once-forbidden island, which is great, as I one day hope to visit the island that my father is from, but I will say that the book lacked introspection and depth. Either way, it was a fun read, I did laugh quite a bit with the stories she shared about her tour groups and it made me excited to start planning my future trip to Cuba!

Have a safe and enjoyable weekend! 

xx

Fri(yay) Lovin’ #13

Hey, it’s Veronica. Veronica Figueroa. That’s right. Don’t adjust your contact lenses, glasses or whatever vision correction device you’re reading this with. It’s me, live and on WordPress.

Unlike Hannah Baker on 13 Reasons Why, I’ve come for my return engagement and

If you’ve been searching through my Instagram account, trying to figure out what became of me during the past month and a half, I have no excuse for you other than I’ve been busy eating all the Mexican food in Central Florida (Please go visit Hunger Street Tacos, Black Rooster Taqueria, The Ocoee Taco Company and Fruta Mix Ocoee – I’m so serious. Just stop reading this awful blog post and go!), settling in to my new job and acting as a human chew toy for my new puppy.

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Meet Scout, a 10-week old Golden Doodle. My fur child.
Basically, I’ve had my hands quite full and I’ve settled into a very comfortable but predictable pattern in life where I do not find myself interesting enough to entertain you on a weekly basis. I mean, the fact that my birthday is coming up on Monday and I have no plans other than getting a pedicure with my stepsister (who is officially moving back from Hawaii this weekend and I finally get to meet my niece!) is very indicative of where I am right now. I just want to take it easy, blog once a quarter and count the days until I am officially retired (only forty more years to go, you guys!)

Anyway, crack open a cold one because it’s Friday and in true Friday fashion, I’ll be sharing a Fri(yay) Lovin’ list with all of the things I’ve been loving this week (it’s not just tacos and puppies!).

Las Chicas Del Cable: After riding an emotional rollercoaster with 13 Reasons Why and laughing my ass off with Chewing Gum (and concerned that the show is borderline blasphemous and I may go straight to hell), I decided to give Las Chicas Del Cable (Cable Girls) a chance. The period drama, filmed and set in Spain, follows the lives of four women with very different backgrounds working as switchboard operators at a telephone company in Madrid – Alba, the young woman trying to erase her past and keep her secrets from being found out, Marga, the shy, small-town girl who is finally making it on her own, Carlota, whose upper-class, controlling father won’t allow her to work and Angeles, a working mother with huge aspirations and a selfish husband who’d rather keep her at home. The show dives into women’s rights, feminism, sexuality, coming of age and so much more. If you were a fan of the badass female cast of Call the Midwife and are (im)patiently waiting for Netflix to release its latest season, check out Cable Girls. It’s in Spanish but it has subtitles (for the Spanish-impaired).

PhotoScan by Google Photos: My husband is constantly raving about everything Google does (honestly, he’s their biggest fan) so it didn’t come as a surprise to me that he wouldn’t shut up about PhotoScan, the app they released back in November. At the time, I worked inside an office and conveniently sat next to a scanner. Since then, I’ve left that job and lost access to the fancy scanner. I skeptically downloaded the app this week when I had to scan in some documents to my health insurance provider and was pleasantly surprised. The app, available for both iOS and Android, is extremely easy to use. I just took a picture of my document and the app recognized the four corners of the page. It then asked me to scan my phone over the four corners and it stitched together the five overlapped images. So as I search through old boxes and photo albums, prepare yourself for epic #ThrowbackThursday gems like this one:


And this one: 


Millennial Podcast: When I’m not binge-watching Netflix, I’m binge-listening (is that a thing?) podcasts. I recently stumbled upon the Millennial podcast and at first, I expected the worst. A podcast about “coming of age” and named after an age group that is constantly being ridiculed by older generations. I basically expected a podcast hosted by an entitled millennial with no depth to her words. Instead, I found myself traveling adulthood with Megan, its 20-something-year-old producer. She tackles current events, politics, even her parents’ separation and opens the doors to her personal life in a refreshing and lighthearted way. It almost feels like you’re talking to a friend (Megan, if you’re reading this, let’s be real friends).

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

xx