Making Memories + Camping at Best Day Ever Ranch

True confessions: I’ve never been camping. I’m from Houston, I am a true-blue city girl and I hate bugs. Camping has never been one of the activities I feel like I missed out on and I haven’t had the opportunity in my adulthood.

Thankfully, I roll with an adventurous group called Dallas Fitness Ambassadors, and when they let me know they were planning a glamping trip, I jumped right on it. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of glamping, it’s glamour + camping. Think fireside wine glasses, luxurious rugs and all plaid everything.

In the true sense of Texas being a state of many landscapes, I didn’t have to go far to get the camping experience. I drove 45 minutes north of Dallas to Whitewright, turned off the freeway and a left and a right later, I’d made it to Best Day Ever Ranch. The Ranch includes event space in the form of a barn – perfect for the bride and groom who want a southern touch – and cabins for rent. Our less structured living space was down by Dream Lake.

View of our lakeside cabins (courtesy of Best Day Ever Ranch website)
View of our lakeside cabins (credit: The Best Day Ever Ranch website)

Though we were only there for a day and a half, I feel like we had all of the adventures. I’m so happy I went with semi-professional campers, who knew that we needed all of the food. Seriously, we had a spread that rivaled the craft services table at a Hollywood movie set, all courtesy of Sprouts Farmer’s Market. 

Our spread, perfect fuel for hiking and walking.
Our spread, perfect fuel for hiking and walking. (photo credit: Ashley of Fit Girl in Flight)

The first night, we indulged in fireside chili made by the lovely Chandler of The H is For and, of course, wine.

Tip for first time campers: It gets COLD, not chilly but actually cold, once the sun goes down. I was not adequately prepared for spending time outdoors after dusk. Bring your thermals, a hat, boots and extra blankets/comforters or an insulated sleeping bag.

The next day arrived bright and lovely, with steam coming off the lake. We did have some nighttime visitors, which brings me to my next tip: make sure you clean up your camp site well before turning in for the night. I was not brave enough to open our tent to see what kind of nocturnal creatures visited us. I’m fairly sure they were disappointed because we did not leave food or drink out for them to scavenge.

After the breakfast of champions – tacos and mimosas – we decided to go explore the Ranch grounds.

20161008_080155 img_20161008_083118













Out here getting browned while walking at @the_best_day_ever_ranch. We #glamp and we exercise out here.

A video posted by Leisa (@veleisapburrell) on

I like goats and other animals from afar, so I stayed outside the pen and watched the other ladies play petting zoo.

From there, we went to see the event barn, which was being set up for a later wedding, and the garden with a gazeebo that is the DIY dream of many a person. We sent good vibes to the couple getting married later that day and set back toward our camping grounds.

We ended our full day with sangria, fajitas and more wine and tucked in for the night.


Early the next morning, we packed up our various vehicles and bid goodbye to Best Day Ever Ranch. It’s good to know that if I ever need a quick getaway with the girls, I don’t have to go far to find paradise. Between the quiet nights under a star-filled sky and the lack of cell phone reception, which makes you slow down and have deeper conversations with those around you, I really enjoyed my first camping experience.

Thank you to The Best Day Ever Ranch and Sprouts for their sponsorship of our adventures.

All photos below are courtesy of Ashley of Fit Girl in Flight, who worked with the best artistic directors, Chandler and Stephanie Suire.dsc_7537-1

dsc_7493 dsc_7570

dsc_7468 dsc_7525 dsc_7505

Festival Review: 5K & Yoga at Wanderlust 108 in Houston

I mentioned earlier this year that one of my 2016 goals will be attending a yoga retreat, so when my mom said we should attend Wanderlust 108 in Houston, I was all over it. Wanderlust was on my radar but I thought they only went to the standard festival locations: Colorado, NY, beautiful islands with amazing views. Imagine my surprise and delight that they came to my hometown of Houston, Texas.

Wanderlust - me and mom

The experience was fantastic, and Wanderlust is now high up on the list of events I would attend again. Here a few of the fun-learned lessons from the event:

  • Plan to fail and have a sense of humor about it – My mom and I got all the way (30 minute drive) to event location and then realized we’d left our yoga mats at the apartment. At that point, all we could do was laugh at ourselves. Thankfully, Pravacana Mats was one of the vendors and we ended up with both a mat for the day and for the memories.
  • Accept what you can control and embrace what you can’t – Wanderlust billed the event as a “mindful triathlon,” starting with a 5K, followed by an hour and a half of yoga and ending with meditation. The forecast stated heavy rain all morning, but the event was going on rain or shine. Rather than drop out of the event, my mom and I went full force into the 5K. It started out cool and dry and halfway through the rain was coming in sideways. What can you do at that point but enjoy the natural cool down of the rain? Thankfully, it all cleared up for a lovely 90 minutes of yoga with Faith Hunter (a hilarious teacher who kept the energy high) and Brook Cheatem (who I need to go find, since she teaches in Dallas).
  • Recovery is as important as preparation – confession time: I am not a runner. In fact, I low-key dislike running long distances. Give me sprints and I’m a happy camper. So five kilometers of running had my hip flexors, glutes and thighs upset with me. The post-run rolling with TriggerPoint helped me focus on those trouble spots in a new way, and I plan to incorporate the lessons into my regular stretching routine.
  • Enjoy the moment – though I may be of the “look at me” generation, I have never understood the compulsive need to document every moment of my life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Though it wasn’t very “yogi” of me, I wanted to smack the camera out of everyone’s hand during asana and tell them to focus not how cute they think they look but instead center in on the energy of 200+ people who want to enjoy the moment.
  • Say yes to new experiences – one of the sponsors, #ActuallySheCan, set up a trampoline and a photographer, which means of course I couldn’t say no. You can’t avoid new experiences for being afraid of how you’ll look to others!



I Used Airbnb and Lived to Tell My Story


So I’ve been out of touch, and for that I’m sorry. Then I’m not sorry, because I became an aunt for the first time and I had to take some time to visit with the newest addition to my family. Keeping it short, she’s gorgeous and ready to be spoiled for life by her favorite Tia Leisa.

Since the visit was a multi-day affair with me and my mom flying from Dallas and Atlanta, respectively, to London, I introduced my mom to Airbnb for our housing needs. As a traveler in “the know,” I’d of course heard about Airbnb – the good and the bad – and figured the savings from being able to cook our own meals and not take the Tube everywhere would offset any kind of weirdness that I would feel from staying in someone else’s house. So here are the pros and cons of my Airbnb experience:


  • Locate yourself where you need to be – Blessedly we found a flat that was only a 10-minute walk from my sister and brother-in-law. As anyone who has been around a newborn can attest, they keep their own hours that have no relation to any plans you want to make. Being able to come and go, or have them visit us, at hours that didn’t depend on finding a cab or taking the train eliminated a potential travel headache. Takeaway: Use the search feature to find a place conveniently located to what you want to do in town, whether it’s popular dining, family-friendly attractions or outdoor activities.
  • Local flavor – To stave off cabin fever waiting for mom and baby to make their way over, I found myself taking meandering walks around the neighborhood. The benefit of being away from the tourist areas is finding a cafe other than Starbucks, a grocery store other than Marks & Spencers and clothing stores other than TopShop. From my walks I discovered that Crouch End may have more coffee shops per square meter than anywhere else I’ve ever been. They also have excellent brunch spots that are very kid-friendly. Takeaway: Get away from all the other tourists and discover the city outside of the guidebooks.
  • Save, save, save – The entire time I was there, I never took public transportation. Anything I needed to do was nearby, including a hike to Alexandra Palace for some great views of the city. Seriously, it was five miles, uphill. I also had the benefit of avoiding expensive takeout and restaurants by making meals in the rented flat. Takeaway: Take the budget you would use to splurge on touristy dining and enjoy a show or other attractions.
Alexandra Palace on a perfect sunny day. Also, look at that incline!
Alexandra Palace on a perfect sunny day. Also, look at that incline!


  • No “comforts” of home – Clearly not everyone will have the same idea of “comfortable” that you do. Suffice it to say, my back wanted to go home far before my mind did. Takeaway: Pack your own pillow if you can.
  • The mess you make, it doesn’t go away – One of the benefits of staying at a hotel is that when you disappear during the day, the hardworking housekeeping team works their magic on your room. Your towels are replaced, the counters are free of goop and they even turn down your bed. With Airbnb, it’s all on you. Takeaway: Work into your mind that you will have to at least spot clean to keep your sanity, especially on longer trips and especially if you’re traveling with kids.

Would I do it again? I actually would, especially if I was traveling alone to a city known for high hotel rates: Paris, Rome, pretty much all of Europe. I now know to bring items like multiple pairs of socks, a personal pillow and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Do you have an Airbnb or other housing rental experience you want to share? Leave me a comment with your best story.

The End Is Near

It’s been a long time, shouldn’t have left you without a…well, you know the rest if you’re a hip-hop fan. I’ve had fifty-eleven post ideas run through my head. Really, how couldn’t I be inspired by the cultural appropriation of Miley Cyrus at the MTV VMA Awards, the news about Netflix for Emmy Awards, usually the accolade reserved for television-based entertainment, my recent cable upgrade that gives me access to new movie channels (winning!) and various other topics of interest. So I do apologize to my (few) readers and to myself for the slackery.

Today, the topic is the end. The end of a life-defining journey. The end…of graduate school. This is my last semester, and it has me feeling some kind of way. I’ve formed such good relationships with my classmates, and in the course of our two years of knowing each other we have seen folks get married, have kids and supported each other through tragic events. Already we’ve had some graduations, and though we keep in touch in our Facebook group, it’s not the same as giving knowing looks at each other across FA 414 as we wait for the clock to tick down to 8:49:59 and we can calmly start gathering our books, notes and run toward the door. Okay, it’s not that bad but after nearly three hours, you’re ready to stop listening to words.

I will admit, a part of me is not ready for the idea of not having the kinds of discussions that are the staple of graduate school. It’s the entire reason I have devoted at least one night a week to talking theory, subjectivity and objectivity, 20-page research reports and current trends. When I began college, I thought I was going to be a math major…but then I really looked at the work expected of me and took a left turn. I knew I didn’t want to do English, mostly because I had no desire to read the “classics” and parse them for years to come. Though I came out of school right before the economic crash, I was wise enough to know that an English degree wasn’t going to put a lot of food on the table, whether it was feast or famine season in the economy. My initial reaction to the Intro to Communication class was “Oh, wow, so this is how the sausage is made?” My studies and career in communication has made me more selective of my media and more analytical of what I read and believe in the newspaper.

My final class is a bit of a hodgepodge but it combines all of the topics I love: language, culture and communication. In one class, we talked about accent tag videos (seriously, I can’t stop watching them), neologisms and the power it takes to create a new word, language versus speech, individual versus social functions of language and all the topics that make me go back and read and reread sentences. Although we’re focusing on the language of the States, I’d love to study the patois of the Caribbean Islands, especially considering there is such a diversity of language based on the various countries that colonized the region and the influence of indigenous mother tongue.

This week we get into language and gender, and my reading is from Judith Butler, whose name I remember from undergraduate studies. I’ll let that reading, and the other 80-odd pages be my inspiration for writing. Then, before I know it, it’ll be over.

My battle with travel preparedness

I crouched down on the sidewalk, rifling through my suitcase at a rabid pace, considering dumping all my worldly goods in my search. I looked up at the receding bumper driven by my host, then toward the elevator that I should be on, taking me down to the subway and eventually to the airport. I say should because I cannot find my passport and my breathing is coming at a rapid pace as I try to remember where last I had it. I’m the last of the study abroad students that stayed at the flat to leave back to the States, and I have no one to call if I can’t find my documents. By the grace of God, my host mother, as they like to consider themselves, happened to look at the rear view mirror and see my distress. Two days, a flight change and an early morning visit to the mailing company to open a suitcase that was supposed to be shipped back home to rescue my inadvertently packed passport and I was on my way.

You can ask anyone close to me, I can be absentminded to a fault when it comes to travel. In my early 20s, I was the “show up half an hour before departure” kind of traveler, overpacking my suitcase and yet forgetting toothpaste and a scarf to wrap my hair. After the travel abroad incident, along with a forgotten laptop that almost made my sister push me onto the Tube tracks, I knew I had to wizen up or risk some miserable trips. Working in the travel industry put me in contact with people who could pack a carry on in their sleep and make sure the baby had their favorite blanket, toy and food. Since I am not traveling with kids, I had no excuse not to learn quickly from their examples.

It began with figuring out how to pack one bag for several days. This decision was hastened by the increasing cost of checking luggage (seriously though, $25 per bag, highway robbery). The way that airlines are charging nickel and dime fees, soon I’m sure we will be paying for carry on bags too. The CEO of Ryanair thinks so too.

Soon after mastering single bag packing, I conquered the “all liquids in a quart size bag,” “getting to the gate with an hour to spare so you can actually breathe or have a drink,” and finally “ALWAYS take a piece of fruit and mixed nuts with you” because sis, these airlines are not here to provide you with sustenance. In preparing for an upcoming trip too see my sister, I reached a new level of preparedness: outfit planning. Like, proper “On Wednesdays we wear pink” kind of planning. Day outfit, night outfit for each day plus an extra just to be safe. And I managed to get it in my carry on size suitcase. Needless to say, I’m quite proud of myself, much like how those Candy Crush players get when someone gives them new levels.

Oh, and on this trip, my passport is safely in my bag…the one next to me.