Lauren Ward

It’s Time for a Life Checkup.

First off, yes I am alive and well-ish. Had a minor hip surgery last week so I’m on the mend. Other than that, life is great and I can’t complain. ūüôā

Last night as I lay in bed, I tossed and turned for a solid two hours before I finally fell asleep. Most nights I have no trouble falling asleep, but last night my mind would not turn off. Most of my thoughts swirled around this blog and what I have/haven’t done with it since I started it earlier this year. I reflected on how excited I was when I came up with the name, the concept, the layout and all the blog ideas that I couldn’t wait to write about. But as I got deeper into it, I started to realize that blogging in today’s world was HARD and time consuming. Most of my posts were taking me 3-4 hours to perfect before I would be ok with hitting the publish button. I realize 3-4 hours may not seem like alot, but on top of a full time job working 45-5o hours a week, trying to get to the gym every day, cooking, cleaning, etc., the blog started to feel like a chore on top of my already long list of things I need to do. Especially when I started to compare myself to other bloggers (mistake 1) and see how they were posting once a day, sometimes more. Doing the math in my head I realized this would add on another 25-30 hours of work a week for me to even try and get on that level. The thought of it was exhausting and discouraging; and brought me more stress than joy. What was it all for really? A¬†question I don’t know the answer to.

When I was in college, I took an Intro to Creative Writing Class my sophomore year (because I heard the teacher was good looking and the class was easy). Little did I know, that class would open my eyes to my passion for writing and ultimately lead me to the decision to add on a minor in Creative Writing. And yes, that teacher was super cool and good looking. ūüôā I still keep in touch with him on Facebook and follow along as he continues to publish books and short stories. What a cool life right? Getting paid to put your thoughts on paper and share them with the world. When I graduated college and abandoned my original plan of going to law school (sorry mom and dad), I contemplated going to grad school to get my Masters in Creative Writing. Looking back this was probably just to delay jumping in to the real world because I’m not really sure what I would have done with that Masters other than become a creative writing professor. No thanks. Back to the point of this paragraph…when I started writing in college, it was fun. I enjoyed the entire process of coming up with a story, characters, or basing my stories about my own life and experiences. I wrote for the Virginia Tech¬†newspaper, I got published in some online literary magazines, and I had a blog called “My Piece of Mind” that I wrote in pretty regularly from 2009-2010. I wasn’t really thinking about what topic I should write about next, or how many likes my posts were going to get. I wrote because I had a passion for it. It made me feel good. And sure, if someone left me a comment or acknowledged that they liked what I wrote, that was nice too, but not expected. In¬†the end, if I was happy with what I wrote that day, then nothing else really mattered. A majority of my blogs were about me; my life and the adventures or obstacles that I had faced that day/week. It was personal, REAL, and from the heart.

Which brings me to today and the present. The reality is– EVERYONE has a blog. Everyone is an “expert” on foods, fashion trends, fitness, healthy living, make up, cocktail making, and every other topic in between. I honestly can’t get on social media anymore with out seeing someone’s blog pop up in a post about how I have to read this if I want to know what I’m doing wrong with my eye liner, or how to have the best Sunday Funday ever, and why I can’t lose those last stubborn pounds. So what do we (I) do? We click the link because, well, we NEED to know. Otherwise how can we even Sunday Funday at all? In all seriousness, I’m not trying to hate on what today’s blogs have become. I wrote a post a few months ago about the best places to brunch, wearing a shirt that says Sunday on it for goodness sake. Basic, I know. I guess my point is– I don’t know what I want to write about anymore. Hence, why I haven’t written in months. Writing about the best place to get tacos, while fun and delicious, just seems so surface level to me. I just keep thinking, there has GOT to be something better I can write about. ¬†I’m not an expert in anything really…other than how to completely waste 8 hours of your life watching Netflix and how to not wash your hair for 5 days thanks to a really good dry shampoo. And I’m perfectly OK with that. But I’m not OK with writing any future content on this blog that doesn’t come from my heart.

When I compare my college writing self to me today, the difference is clear. I’ve strayed away from writing real, honest stuff and replaced it with writing stuff that I think people will like or that might get me noticed by someone on Instagram or Facebook. At one point I genuinely thought that some company would see my Wardlando blog and say, “Hey, you’re a great writer and I want to pay you to write your blog full time.”Realistic, I know. It’s that whole idea in today’s world that if we post the¬†perfect picture, with the right filter, the right caption, the right hashtags, etc., that our lives must be just as perfect as the picture is and we must have our shit together. But the truth is, sometimes those perfect pictures are just a front to cover up the messy, sometimes sad, hard times that we go through in life. I mean really, aren’t we all just looking for someone we can relate to?¬†Someone who says hey, this is me and I don’t have it all together or know what I’m doing with my life and that’s okay. So then we can sigh and think, wow, I thought I was the only one who felt that way. What a relief to know that there is someone else out there who isn’t perfect either!

To be honest, I don’t know when I’ll write again in this blog. At least not until I fully flesh out what I want it to be going forward. Writing this post is a start in the right direction I think. I know what I no longer care to write about. I know that if I choose to write again, it will be¬†because I feel compelled to put words on a page to share a story. And maybe that story will touch someone, help someone, even if I never know about it.

Tasty Tuesday- Brunch Basics

Last Tuesday I dished on one of my favorite things…tacos! This week, it’s time to discuss another¬†favorite of mine…BRUNCH! After being in Orlando for 14 months now, I feel confident that I’ve done enough research on the best brunch spots, and now it’s time to share them. One of my criteria for a great brunch spot is that they must have a bottomless mimosa option or really cheap, single mimosas. Because let’s be honest, if you’re a restaurant and the only option is a premixed $15 mimosa (Yes, I did experience this in real life), you will never make it in the brunch business. In addition to offering ¬†a great mimosa, the place also needs to have a unique menu…more than just your typical brunch options.



Rocking¬†my official Brunch Shirt down by Lake Eola. Thank you Target! ūüôā

I’d like to start with some “Honorable Mentions” before I get to my top 3 picks. All of these places are great, but to me, they just didn’t have that “wow” factor that I’m looking for during my brunch experience.

Shout out to the following places for ALMOST making the top 3:

Dexter’s in Thorton Park- Get there early, make reservations if you can. Outdoor seating is great for people watching. Order the double mimosa since you will be there for a while. ūüôā

KASA in Downtown Orlando- This place gets a 10 out of 10 for location. It’s right in the heart of downtown Orlando, making it a perfect spot to start your Sunday Funday and frolic around town on a nice, sunny afternoon. Get the bottomless buffet which includes mimosas. Sometimes they have fun themed brunches where they change up the food and drink items.

Swine and Sons in Winter Park- I don’t even know if this place fits in the brunch category, but they open at 9am and I considered my visit there to be a brunch type meal. Everything they serve is GREAT and you can even buy stuff to take home with you…think mason jars¬†of pimento¬†cheese and other delicious things.



My Brunch Bestie since 2005! <3

And now…drum roll please….for Wardlando’s Top 3 Brunch Picks!¬†

  1. Santiago’s Bodega

Let me just start my saying that this place serves prime rib, crab legs, bottomless mimosas and sangria on their bottomless buffet. It is a tad on the pricey side, but you will NOT regret the experience. In fact, my husband didn’t eat dinner the night before we went just to make extra room for it. HA! If you go, you will need reservations…like months in advance. You also have a time limit on how long you can be there so don’t waste a moment debating on whether you want a mimosa or sangria- just get both.


2. Txokos

This place is everything you could ask for in a perfect brunch spot- live music, great food, $2 mimosas, and it has the added bonus of being connected to East End Market¬†(which deserves a separate blog post on how awesome it is). When my husband and I first discovered Txokos, we had only been living in Orlando a few months. According to my GPS, it was only 1.2 miles from where we lived, so we decided to walk it and burn off some of the calories that we were going to consume. While the walk wasn’t terrible, I stick to biking to/from now on. ūüôā I’m pretty sure you won’t get a better mimosa for $2 and everything on their menu is unique and delicious. You should probably go ahead and go there this weekend if you don’t have plans yet.


This is my happy place. ūüôā

3. Osprey Tavern

I honestly don’t want to know how much of my monthly income has gone to this place since they opened in March of 2015. I remember when we first moved into our apartment we saw this place under construction and got so excited that it was less than a 2 minute walk from our front door. And¬†even ¬†when it was nothing more than dust and boxes inside, it looked like it was going to be an awesome place when it finally opened. And it certainly is. When they initially opened we were disappointed that they weren’t serving brunch right away, but fast forward to fall 2015 and our wish was granted! Fast forward again to present day and they do Saturday AND¬†Sunday brunch. (Insert praise hands emoji here). All you really need to know about their brunch is: bottomless mimosas, oysters, and a pastry cart that comes around with every delicious bakery item you could ever imagine. Do yourself a favor and order 1 of each so you don’t have FOMO if you pick the wrong one.


The pastry cart at Osprey Tavern!


The most beautiful (delicious) salmon and toast from Osprey Tavern.

While these are my 3 favorite brunch picks in Orlando so far…I’ve got my eye on some places that I still need to try because I have heard GREAT things! Next up on my list of need to try brunch spots are:

The Pharmacy

Boca in Winter Park

Maxine’s on Shine


Tasty Tuesday- Taco Edition

If you know me at all, you know I love Mexican food and everything that comes with it. I appreciate it all, from the chips and guac, fajitas, quesadillas, the “healthy” taco salad in the delicious hard shell, and of course, tacos. I love them so much so that my husband and I got each other these¬†for Valentine’s Day. Because nothing says I love you like pizza and taco themed shoes right?


While I’d like to think our love for each other is stronger than anything, our love for delicious food is pretty close behind. So on this Tuesday evening, I dedicate this post to the top 3 places in Orlando that we¬†go to for tacos…and then some. You’re welcome. ūüôā

1. Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa

This place is dangerously close to our apartment…however the upside is that we can bike there to off set some of the calories that we consume. At first glance it’s easy to think that this place is just a barbecue joint, but I promise you it’s so much more. In fact, in the half dozen times that I’ve eaten there, I’ve ONLY gotten the tacos…because they are that good.

Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa - Orlando, FL, United States

Photo cred courtesy of a Yelper because I was always too hungry to wait and take a picture. ūüôā

Wardlando’s Pick: The Chicken Al Pastor Taco and the Shrimp and Sausage Taco. Don’t forget to add a side of Yuca fries and local craft beer! Click here to drool.

2. Black Rooster Taqueria

This place is ALSO dangerously close to our apartment and directly across the street from Pig Floyd’s. So yes, that means you can go to both places and have a taste test competition. ūüôā¬†The Black Rooster Taqueria¬†caught my eye on Instagram as they tracked the progress of their construction prior to opening. Needless to say as soon as I saw they were open a few months ago, we made a visit. The place itself is pretty small, but the ambiance and vibe is really laid back and mellow, with some cool personal touches added in. Similar to Pig Floyd’s you order your food at the counter and then find a seat (if they aren’t all taken) to wait for your food.


The view from the counter where you order your food.


Yes, this post is about the tacos but this guac was my favorite part of the meal. ūüôā

Wardlando’s Pick: Get the fresh guac, habanero salsa¬†and any one of the 5 tacos on their menu.

3. Cocina 214

My husband and I stumbled upon Cocina 214 after an afternoon of wandering down Park Ave. in Winter Park. This place is ¬†hidden back a little bit on a side street so you might miss it if you don’t know it’s there.They have a great outdoor patio space that is perfect to dine in pretty much year round. Again, I know this post is about tacos, and while the tacos are good…this place serves the BEST margarita I have ever had, in my life. (And I’ve had quite a few). I don’t know how they make this margarita, but it’s has the perfect balance of tart/sour, smooth frozen texture, and they are strong enough that you’ll feel fantastic after just one.

It doesn’t get much better than sitting on this patio drinking a 214 Margarita.

Wardlando’s pick: The bowl of queso, the brisket tacos, and the 214 margarita.

Until next time, adios amigos!


Monday, you’re like really pretty.


Driving home from work tonight I witnessed this GORGEOUS sunset when I was stopped at a red light. In that moment I stopped myself from having a personal pity party about how tired I am, how long this week is going to be, and I just gave thanks that I could witness such a beautiful sight.

Seeing a sunset always makes me think of my mom, because I know how much she loves the sun and being outside. I immediately texted the picture to her because I knew that she, over anyone else, would truly appreciate that moment that I captured. She texted me back to tell me how beautiful she thought it was, just like I knew she would.

And as I sit and type these words, this is where it all comes together. I was meant to see that sunset, meant to text it to my mom, and it was meant for her to text me back and¬†call me out of my lack of blogging since February 12th. (Thanks mom!) ūüôā

I will admit that keeping up with this blog has been harder than I thought. When I came up with the idea, I had so many things I wanted to write about, but now I find myself thinking that no one really cares if I write them or not, do they? But then I think, ¬†I should want to do it for myself, regardless of if anyone reads these words but me, and my loving mom. And so I’ll press on, and try to write more often.

I’ll start this Monday¬†off ¬†with a few things that I’m EXCITED about this week! Recently, I’ve found that if I focus on all of the good things I have to look forward to, time seems to go by faster, leaving less time for negative thoughts and more time for positive ones.

1. IT’S MY BIRTHDAY WEEK!! I’ll be the big 2-9 on Wednesday and I plan to make my last year in my twenties the BEST year of my twenties.

2. My mom and dad will be here in Orlando this weekend! How blessed am I that my parents fly down all the time to see me even though I’m 14 hours away?

3. While my mom is here for her work conference all next week, I get to stay with her here!

I’ll end this post with another gorgeous sunset picture that I took in my neighborhood a few months ago. One of my favorite things about Florida has got to be the sunsets. Doesn’t get much better than this. <3



Wardlando Weekends!

One of my favorite things about living in Florida is that there are ENDLESS possibilities for what to do on the¬†weekend! When I lived in Virginia Beach, the only option was go to the beach…unless it was cold, then you stayed inside and watched Netflix and prayed for a snow day home from work. Since moving to Orlando last January, my husband and I have done pretty well at exploring the sunshine state. After a full year of exploring under my belt, here¬†are my top 3 places to visit in Florida that are driving distance from Orlando.


At just over a 2 hour drive from Orlando, Sarasota is the perfect gulf-side getaway. I’ve been twice in the past year and both times were so much fun. ¬†The place that I stayed at is¬†called¬†Long Boat Key Club. This resort has all of the things that I look for in a perfect vacation spot: beautiful beach, pool, frozen drinks, outdoor activities, and lots of shopping and restaurants near by! Oh, and did I mention the sunset view from the resort? Enough said.



My most recent trip to Sarasota was just last week with my mom, aunt and grandma. They decided they were tired of the cold up north and we set off to Sarasota for a few days. Although the weather was only in the 50-60s, we still had a great time! Here are a few pictures from the trip. ūüôā



3 generations of family exploring Siesta Key Beach!


Stapling our dollar to the wall at the local favorite spot in Siesta Key, Siesta Key Oyster Bar.


This is my happy place! ūüôā


Pretty much a straight shot west of Orlando will take you to Tampa. At just over an hour and some change, it’s alocation that¬†can be a one day or overnight trip and I have done both. My husband and I have been to Tampa 3 times in the past year and each trip was extremely different! Tampa has a wide variety of activities and I’d like to think that we have experienced some of the best ones.


Opening game for the 2015 Buccaneers football season.¬†The Bucs aren’t very good but the game was fun!


My loving husband humoring me at Cigar City Brewery. My favorite Florida beers are from here.


Our most recent trip, celebrating my husband’s birthday and Gasparilla weekend with donuts from¬†SOHO Donut Company.

  3. MIAMI

For me, Miami was a place that I knew I had to go to just so I could play Will Smith’s “Welcome to Miami” as we pulled on to Collins Ave. in South Beach. And it was just as I imagined it would be. Beautiful people, gigantic houses, expensive restaurants, and TONS of people. We even convinced our Uber driver to take us into the¬†gated neighborhood where Lil Wayne has a house! My husband and I visited Miami¬†twice, the first time¬†for our one year wedding anniversary back in September and then again as a day trip to see the Hokies play the University of Miami in October. Overall,¬†our anniversary trip was great. We ate delicious food at fancy restaurants, sat on the beach and people watched, and picked out our future yacht. I don’t think I’ll be staying on South Beach again any time soon just because it was SO expensive and crowded, but I’m glad that I got to experience it.


Miami vs. Bills game at the Dolphins Stadium. The Bills won!


Checking out Wakefield Brewing in theWynwood Arts District. Highly recommend stopping here!


The lobby bar in our hotel Circa 39 Boutique Hotel. Really cool, modern vibe and great drinks.

That about wraps it up for my favorite places in Florida! I’m already making a list of places I want to go visit this year. First on the list is Key West, followed by St. Augustine. Wanderlust is real y’all…

The Battle of Meal Delivery Services!

Those who know me well tend to describe me as the person who is “typically late” on the newest trends and happenings. So this year I’ve decided it’s time to catch up on everything that I’m supposedly “missing out” on. Case and point: Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. In short, these two companies offer weekly meal delivery service complete with step by step cooking instructions. For me, it was more about trying new recipes and being too lazy to go to the grocery store that prompted me to try it. Now originally I meant to try these two delivery services one at a time, but I had a blonde moment and accidentally had them both delivered on the same day! (Learn from my mistakes people). However, the good thing about having both boxes delivered at the same time was¬†that I could test both of them and see which one, if either I would re-order again.


Hello Fresh Boxes on top and Blue Apron Box on the bottom.


The good: One of the best things about Hello Fresh that I found was the packaging! Since there are 3 recipes, they pack 3 individual boxes inside the bigger box so you know exactly what goes with what. Easy= a huge plus for me when I’m cooking. On top of that, when you are done cooking, clean up is super simple because you throw all of your trash back ¬†in the little box that you had all of your ingredients in. Genius!! All the meals were super easy and tasted delicious, so I was a happy camper.


Here’s an idea of what the Hello Fresh Box looks like with instructions.


My favorite part- the easy clean up!



One of the Hello Fresh dinners I made. Salmon with couscous and vegetables.


The bad: As much as I wanted to brag on Hello Fresh, I do have to be honest and say that they left out a key ingredient in one of my boxes. I was disappointed to have to go (read: send my husband) to the grocery store in order for me to complete the meal that I was already in the process of making. Another downside for me is price. The first box comes at an inexpensive $29 for 3 meals…so basically $10 a meal. However, after that it jumps to $70 for 3 meals. Oh, and be careful to “turn off” delivery after the first week if you don’t want it anymore or it will keep charging you.



The good: My first order from Blue Apron was FREE. Yes, as in ZERO dollars spent for 3 meals and all of the ingredients. Another plus about it was that it came with little things like butter that were already portioned out. I don’t typically keep butter in my fridge so it was nice to have that included. The biggest pro that I see for Blue Apron is the price. At only $59 for 3 meals, it is one of the most inexpensive delivery services I have seen.

One of the few times we’ve actually eaten at the dinner table instead of the couch!



The bad: Blue Apron’s packaging was an OCD person’s NIGHTMARE compared to Hello Fresh. Luckily, my husband did the opening of the Blue Apron box while I was at work, but to make a long story short, the box just has all of the ingredients for all 3 meals thrown in together in no orderly fashion. This for me is enough to induce a semi-panic attack. So if you do decide to go with Blue Apron, prepare to spend some extra time sorting through the ingredients before you start cooking.

Blue Apron ingredients and recipe…much less organized than Hello Fresh.




All in all, my experiences with Hello Fresh and Blue Apron were positive. Both came with recipes that I wouldn’t normally try on my own, and the steps were easy to follow. My husband liked Blue Apron more because it was cheaper and he doesn’t care about the unorganized packaging, while I think that Hello Fresh is the best because of the convenient packaging and easy clean up. So I guess it’s a tie?¬†I have a promo code for Hello Fresh but unfortunately I can’t find any for Blue Apron. I got my free Blue Apron meal from a friend who was a regular subscriber. Thanks Mal! ūüôā

Hello Fresh Code for $40 off your first box: 73UFYB

Blue Apron Code: Find a friend who uses Blue Apron and ask them to give you free meals! ūüôā

Coffee, chocolate, and pizza, oh my!

As my first official entry for my¬†blog it seems only right that I talk about a place that houses pretty much all of my favorite things in the same building. Plant Street Market is a hidden gem that serves as home to over 12 small businesses inside, offering everything from coffee to pressed juice, farm to table meals and even a brewery. It’s about 25 minutes north of downtown Orlando. It’s been on my “to do list” for over a year now, but since I’m spoiled with¬†so many fun things that are less than 5 miles away from my neighborhood, I always found a reason to talk myself out of the drive. But I can honestly tell you that the 25 minutes each way was well worth it when I discovered all that the market had to offer.
IMG_0275[1]                                                                  How cute is the outside, right?

IMG_0257[1]          What a fun concept for an indoor market! Everything you need under one roof.

Upon entering, I decided to start with coffee, because well, coffee. I pretty much start every day with coffee and I’ve alwasy been open to try everything from light roast to dark and bold. The place inside Plant Street Market is called¬†Axum Coffee¬†and they give away 100% off their profits to worthy causes. How could you not feel great about supporting a local business like that? I’m pretty boring when it comes to coffee because I usually just drink it black (All the caffeine plus 0 calories). I settled on the cold brew and it was delicious. Truth be told, when coffee is done right…as in fresh and full of flavor, there is no need for sugar or cream. If you’re thinking to yourself that what I just said is impossible, then you haven’t had the right coffee. ūüôā

These 2 coffees were sitting on the counter when I was ordering so I had to take a picture.

IMG_0260[1]                Happy as can be with my cold brew ice coffee!

Next I¬†moved on to to sample another one of my favorite things, chocolate. (Sidenote: washing a piece of dark bacon chocolate down with a cold brew is amazing.) The place is called¬†David Ramirez Chocolates¬†and they have everything from macaroons to salted caramel and every kind of chocolate you could imagine. Because I’m terrible at making decisions related to food, I settled on 3 pieces and split then with my husband. Is there anything better than chocolate for breakfast? Not in my world.

IMG_0266[1]     From left to right: chocolate with beer and bacon, salted caramel, and chocolate with bacon and peanut butter. Thankfully these were really small bites.

After wandering from one end of the building to the other, we arrived at¬†Crooked Can Brewery. I love trying new, local breweries and this one was a pleasant surprise. I liked every beer that I tasted and would definitely go back again. Refer back a paragraph regarding my indecisiveness for food and know that it applies to adult beverages as well. Which is what makes getting a flight so perfect, you can try a little bit of everything. I stuck with a flight of their lighter beers, while my husband got the darker. After trying them all I have to say that my favorite was the Highstepper IPA, but the most surprising one was the Pineapple Cider. I’m not a huge cider fan, but their pineapple cider had just enough sweetness balanced with a crisp finish that made it a nice refreshing drink.

IMG_0267[1]¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†I’m pretty sure there’s not a bad choice on this beer list.

IMG_0274[1] By far the coolest flight holders I have seen at a brewery! Bonus points for the creativity.

Whoever came up with the concept of the Plant Street Market must have known the inner desires of my heart when they put a wood fire pizza place right next to Crooked Can. Naturally we finished the afternoon with some oven roasted wings and a cheese, basil and olive oil pizza. The place was called Michaels Ali ¬†and they know their stuff. We enjoyed our lunch of pizza and wings while watching the Panthers run up a 14 point lead within just a few minutes of the game starting. I’ll leave you with a few pictures of our delicious food. Typing this just made me realize there are leftover slices in the fridge so I’m off to heat those up for dinner. Happy Sunday and thanks for reading! Check back soon for more posts.

IMG_0277[1]       IMG_0278[1]