Meet the Blogger: Bree at Last

February 7, 2020

I’ve had a blog for over 10 years. From my first mommy blog, Fried Pink Tomato, to a lifestyle blog for Southwest Florida called Sunshine State Skinny, to my lifestyle and travel blog for the Holy City where you’re reading this now, I’ve been amazed at the community I’ve been able to build through blogging, especially in the Charleston blogger scene.

I love sharing all my tips and tricks for the Holy City with locals and tourists alike, and I’ve been blessed to meet some pretty cool people along the way. The experience of being a Charleston blogger wouldn’t be the same without a community of like-minded creators, so I want to highlight some of my favorites for you, including Bree of Bree At Last.

I love Bree for all of her travel posts. We’ve gotten to share some dinner events together, and I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know here! She always posts really cool travel ideas and beautiful photos. We both love dogs and have had similar loss of our cherished pets, so we were able to relate through that loss. Overall, Bree is just so sweet and genuine and you can tell how much she cares about people whenever you interact with her.

What was your career before blogging?

I’ve always hesitated to share this in case I ever wanted to return to it, but at this point I think it’s safe to say it no longer fits with the trajectory of the future my hubby and I have planned, so here goes! I used to be a Special Agent for the National Background Investigations Bureau, which means I did the fieldwork involved in background investigations for federal government employees, federal contractors, contract linguists, and military personnel who needed Top Secret, Secret, or Public Trust Clearances, and then provided written reports on my findings.I loved meeting and talking to new people every day, but it’s such a cynical career, as you’re literally looking for the bad in everyone and seeking out lies and inconsistencies. In hindsight, it definitely had a negative impact on my overall happiness, perception of people, and mental health.

Why did you start a blog?

As a result of work demands (lots of mandatory overtime and travel), I had been putting off bilateral foot surgery that I really needed, but I finally had it done just so I could get a much-needed break. While I was recovering, Michael, my husband couldn’t believe the difference in my mood and stress level. For the first time in basically seven years, I felt like I could finally breathe and truly relax, despite my feet being in terrible pain.

I’ve always loved sharing any helpful tips I happened to have with friends and family members. Whether it was a travel tip, info on a great sale, my latest anti-aging hack, advice on how to solve a home decor dilemma, or a DIY tip, I loved giving unsolicited advice. Michael helped me set up a blog during the month I was recovering, but I knew it wasn’t going to be possible to keep it up when I returned to work. Long story short, I gave my 30 days notice when I returned to work and haven’t looked back!

What does Bree At Last mean?

It probably sounds overly dramatic, but starting my blog was truly like a breath of fresh air and almost like being reborn. At last, I could be myself again without the constraints of my career and security clearance looming over every aspect of my life. After tossing around some other names that didn’t quite fit, everything just sort of clicked in the middle of the night one night: I’m finally me, at last. More specifically, I’m Bree, at last.

What kind of camera do you use and who is your photographer?

Michael takes all of my pictures, which was frankly a nightmare at first because neither of us knew what the heck we were doing, and we’re still learning! But now we’ve at least figured out how to actually have fun with it. We almost exclusively shoot with a Nikon D7100 and a 50MM 1:1.8 portrait lens, but last year I also started using a Sony A5100 mirrorless camera with the 50MM Sony lens for some of my travel shots. The Sony is so small, so it’s much more convenient to carry around during long days of sightseeing vs. the clunky DSLR. Typically the only iPhone shots you’ll see on my Instagram or blog are random travel snapshots.

What do you use to edit your iPhone photos and schedule your Instagram posts?

I use Lightroom on my desktop to edit all of my images, and for the last year or so I’ve been using Emily Vartanian’s Lightroom presets to achieve a more cohesive theme on my Instagram. Her presets work well with the backgrounds in most of my images. I tend to have a lot of green in my pics because I very rarely shoot downtown and we don’t have much of an urban scene elsewhere.

If someone wants to become a blogger, what is one piece of advice you can share?

Don’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing because you’ll burn yourself out fast trying to do what you end up perceiving as “the right way” to blog. There is no right way to blog, so you do you, boo! People can sense when you’re approaching it in a way that doesn’t feel natural or authentic to you. In the beginning of this journey I flooded myself with every blogging resource possible, which took the fun and passion out of it for me for a hot minute, but I’m approaching things differently this year and plan to basically “do what I want” and ignore what everyone else is doing.

Best travel or packing hack?

Great question! Especially for someone who has yet to master the art of packing. For overseas travel I always preach the importance of shutting off the in-flight entertainment and SLEEPING so you’re ready to roll when you arrive the next day at your destination. So I suppose my travel hack is to bring ALL the things to help you rest decently in an uncomfortable coach seat. I never fly abroad without a really good neck pillow, ear plugs, eye mask, and a thick sweater of some sort because it always ends up getting cold, and those thin airplane blankets just don’t cut it.

Also, don’t mess with electrical adapters/converters for your hair tools when traveling to Europe. Instead, invest in cheap EU compatible tools so you don’t fry your everyday tools. The Amazon EU website is usually a great place to purchase!

Favorite place you’ve ever been?

Gosh, I love so many places for very different reasons, so this is another tough one! We’ve come to realize that we tend to enjoy places somewhat less frequented by Westerners, so we’ve had some really great experiences in Eastern Europe. That being said, we would love to live in France someday, or possibly Greece. If I had to pick a favorite country we’ve visited, I’d probably choose Croatia, but getting permanent residency there as an American is quite trickty, otherwise we’d want to live there too!

Local Love

Best day trip from Charleston? For a few years I worked mainly in the Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, and surrounding areas, so I really grew to love this part of the state. Downtown Beaufort and Bluffton have the same antebellum Southern charm vibe we all love about Charleston, but it’s on a much smaller and less touristy scale, which I really enjoy.

Favorite dog-friendly restaurant in Charleston? We’re lucky to have a lot of dog-friendly places here, but Shelter near Shem Creek is really great for welcoming our four-legged friends. Honestly though, my Frenchies are such lunatics I can’t take them anywhere!

Best happy hour in Charleston? Last year we discovered an amazing happy hour deal at Pier 41 Seafood and Raw Bar in Mount Pleasant. It’s definitely deep in the burbs, but we love raw oysters and they have super fresh $1 oysters and $1 bubbles from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, plus other great specials on draft beer, liquor drinks, wine, and food. Their happy hour tacos are sooooo good! Actually, their whole menu is quite delightful.

Best fried chicken in Charleston? Don’t underestimate our local grocery stores! Whenever we’re heading out in the boat, someone usually brings along a bucket of fried chicken from Harris Teeter, and it never disappoints.

Best brunch in Charleston? How on earth do I narrow this down? There are so many incredible options in the Charleston area. I love the whole sort of retro-diner-vibe at Millers All Day, plus they’re open early for breakfast, so you don’t have to wait until brunch to get started on buttermilk biscuits and mimosas.

Best place to get a cute outfit in Charleston? I’m such an online shopper nowadays, but if I’m going to browse brick and mortar, my favorite way to do this is to cruise King Street downtown. Tons of wonderful local boutiques tucked between the more familiar favorites like H&M, J. Crew, Madewell, etc. And you can’t beat the scenery and lively little bustle from locals, tourists, and students in this part of downtown.

Where do you get your hair done? Laura Frazier at Charleston Lash + Beauty Bar keeps me looking fresh! She’s a national Redken instructor and truly a genius and all-around great human. She takes especially great care of her blonde clients, and their dogs!

If someone is coming to Charleston for one day, what is the one thing they MUST do? I’m a Pisces and absolutely love being on the water, so I would have to say get yourself on a bot if at all possible. Whether you have local friends who can take you out, you partake in a commercial sunset cruise, or go on a fishing charter, I feel like the magic of Charleston is best appreciated from beyond its shorelines.

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