I am so excited to introduce all of you to my dear friend Aisha Zaza who is the lifestyle and travel extraordinaire behind the blog, The Middle of Here. Read on to learn about how she’s living a stylized life on the shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe and how Aisha is on a quest to be one heck of a boss-babe.
Before diving into learning more about Aisha, I have to share with you how the two of us met! My family has been going to Lake Tahoe every summer for the past 12+ years. Right across from where we have our condo is the Riva Grill, a great restaurant that serves up delicious Wet Woody cocktails. Time travel back 5 years ago and we are sitting on the patio at Riva on our first night of vacation. Our waitress introduces herself to us as Aisha and asks for our order. It was simple, a round of original Wet Woody’s and fried zucchini sticks. Keep them coming. Each time she to came to check on us, my brother, Ryan, would tell her to just pick the next type of Woody, we trust you. Within the 4 hours of sipping on our cocktails we had learned tidbits about Aisha’s life and wanted to know more. We told her to come hang with us after her shift ends and she did!
Looking back on that, it’s a testament to the type of character Aisha possess in that she was willing to sit down and kick back with a family that she had just met. We connected over chit-chat about running a blog and having a passion for travel. We saw her once or twice again over that week and the friendship was sealed for life. Each summer we have returned to Lake Tahoe and connected with Aisha over what the last year held for both us. She was no longer our server, but a dear friend. Year after year we became closer and closer and I am so excited that my brother and I will be traveling to Santorini, Greece this fall to help celebrate Aisha’s marriage to Shannon! We jokingly refer to her as an adopted member of our family and I’m so grateful for that summer day 5 years ago that brought us all together.
Enjoy learning more about Aisha’s stylized life and you’ll be seeing a lot more of her on Modish & Main as she plans on being a guest contributor in the near future!
Tell us the story behind your blog, The Middle of Here, and what fuels your passion for creating original content for it.
When I started my blog in 2011, I had a couple of trips abroad planned and I wanted a way for my friends and family to stay connected with what I was doing besides just uploading photos into a Facebook album. Additionally, I’m a very nostalgic person and have always had a passion for writing. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved documenting anything in my life that gave me a special feeling. This included photos (in high school I used to have a picture wall that was covered from floor to ceiling of my friends and me), movie ticket stubs, letters my friends and I used to pass to each other in the halls of junior high to playbills of Broadway shows. I’ve always cherished being able to look back on memories in my life so I knew I wanted a creative outlet to start documenting my travels. I remember thinking for so long about what I wanted to call my blog and after going back and forth with Zaza Zest and The Middle of Here, I went with the latter (obviously). I wanted the word Here to be a revolving door of places, experiences and phases in my life that could grow with me, which is exactly what it has done. Over the years I started to share and write about other muses in my life that made up so much of Here when I wasn’t traveling. Through a couple of business ventures, influential people in my life and books I have read, I’ve come to find that it’s all about serving others, so I feel passionate about creating content that helps or inspires people in some way big or small.
Not only do you have a successful lifestyle blog, but you are a solopreneur in other industries as well. Can you share with us a little more about what you do?
My background is in PR and marketing and while I felt very fancy and professional with my job working at the Capitol for Governor Swhwarzenegger, being confined by a cubicle, clocking in and out and needing to ask permission to leave early for an emergency or take my two out of 50 weeks off per year didn’t exactly lend to the vision I had for my life. A move to Tahoe, 13 countries and three years later, I was presented with an opportunity to start a business with a 35 year old health and wellness company within the network marking industry. At first I scoffed at the idea but after I put my pride on time out I realized the potential I had to build my dream future, which consisted of complete time and financial freedom. It’s not that I grew up dreaming about selling nutrition and skincare and mentoring others to run successful businesses, but I identified it as the vehicle that would allow me to fulfill the many other things I wanted to do with my life. The best and unexpected benefit of being an entrepreneur is the level of self development I have dove into. I really feel that I’ve adopted new habits and perspectives that apply to so many different areas of my life that make me a better version of myself than I was before. I also do vacation property management on the side, which I do remotely so it keeps me flexible and offers another stream of income as I build my other businesses.
As a bad-ass boss babe, what is your daily schedule like throughout the week?
Pretty packed but somehow feels balanced and doable. I grew up juggling a lot between sports, school, piano, extracurricular activities and social life so I think that has prepped me to manage a heavy workload somewhat gracefully (most of the time!). I practice a few habits in the morning I believe contribute to getting my day started on the right foot, including making my bed, drinking a tall glass of water and putting away any dishes that were left over from the night before or from breakfast. This helps me feel organized and productive from my first hour of the day. Depending on my schedule for property management, I’ll tend to those emails, return any phone calls that came in over night and make sure to clear off all my action items. Usually by 9:00 or 10:00 I start to edit photos and draft content for the blog. I’m big on food prep so I often make food for lunch with enough that can be eaten as left overs for the next couple days. By around 2:00 I take a break and go on a hike, take my dog for the walk or hit the gym. I typically go grocery shopping on the way home if needed then come back home and do some more work before dinner. I’m also planning our wedding in Santorini this September so between that and my businesses, it does tend to feel like I always have something to tend to on my computer.
How do you stay organized?
Part of what helps me feel organized is when things are in their place. I’ve found that if my home is any more than 10-15 minutes away from being guest ready it will oftentimes lead into a downward spiral cleaning binge. I’d like to say that I use a bunch of handy apps that contribute to my organization but to be fair I give them a half hearted effort, as I’m a little old fashioned and like to make to do lists and physically write things down in my planner. It’s an ongoing effort to streamline my workflow organization.
Any technology must-haves?
Besides the all encompassing iPhone, we were recently gifted an Amazon Echo (aka Alexa) that’s pretty sweet. She is a hands free voice control operated speaker that answers questions, reads audiobooks and news, plays music directly from our Spotify account and is always so polite when she doesn’t understand what you’re asking. That and my Bose QC 25 noise canceling headphones. Don’t know what I did without them.
What does your typical breakfast, lunch & dinner consist of?
I love mornings, partially because it’s the part of my day that’s most routine and consists of rituals I love like opening the blinds (how silly is that?), making coffee, checking emails, daily blog reads and enjoying breakfast. I do love hosting brunch and going all out but my typical breakfasts are really simple. Most mornings I make an egg scramble with veggies and bacon or I’ll have greek yogurt with shaved almonds, cinnamon and berries. You can read more about my 3 protein packed breakfast staples here.
Being healthy seems to be an important part of your life, share with us how you incorporate fitness into your daily routine.
I’ve played sports and been pretty active my whole life. As an adult I’ve explored all different types of exercise from running, yoga, spin, CrossFit, barre method, you name it. I stopped doing CrossFit about a year ago but for the others I go through phases of each as my main exercise. Since moving to Tahoe I’ve really adopted the opt outside movement considering this is an adult playground. During summer I like to stand up paddle, hike and go on trail runs. At the very least I’ll go on a power walk up the Old Meyer’s Grade, a 1.6 mile uphill hike that I’ll usually incorporate short sprints, squats, pushups and lunges. It’s a major butt burner.
As someone who works from home, what are your go-to beauty products and typical everyday attire?
Part of what I do like about the good ole office job is getting dressed up and being in a professional environment. I find that when I feel I look put together and feel the part, I have a slight edge in my productivity. That said, I make a point to shower and get dressed in the mornings before I start working, albeit sometimes in yoga pants but at least changing out of my pajamas. Usually I’ll change into some shorts or cropped skinny jeans with a top. I’ll do my quick morning makeup routine that consists of tinted moisturizer (which has been discontinued, insert crying emoji), mascara, brows, bronzer and tinted lip balm.
You love to travel, where did you gain the passion for it and what have been some of your favorite places to visit?
When I was 18 I won a trip to Japan and it was my first big international trip. As a young adult, Japan was definitely not on my list of must-see countries but the experience was truly life changing and expanded my vision of seeing the world. A few years later one of my best friends presented an opportunity to study abroad in Spain. I had just moved to Sacramento to finish college and wasn’t exactly living on a champagne budget so financially the thought was a little daunting but like most decisions I made up until that point, I knew that there were two kinds of opportunities in life: the ones you cease and the ones you miss. We went to Sevilla, Spain that summer and it was all over for me. I fell in love with the Spanish culture and lifestyle; I felt like I could have stayed forever. We stayed with a host family that didn’t speak English, explored the city by foot, traveled to other parts of the country on weekends and probably tried every tapas available in Sevilla. I left a piece of my heart in Spain and to date it’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever traveled to. A few of my other cities and countries that are up there in my favorites are Bali, Jerusalem, Rio de Janeiro, New York, and Munich.
What are you “must-haves” when traveling?
I always carry a small notebook and pen with me to jot down miscellaneous notes. I’m never shy to befriend or start conversations with locals whether it’s the waiter, bellhop or someone I meet at a bar, I love taking recommendations for places to see, eat and things to do. Depending on the level of relationship that is established, I love taking down full names and connecting with these people on social media. I’m still friends with a group of gals I met in Spain that are from Iceland, an Australian couple I met while I was in Brazil recently stayed with us during a part of their travels to the States and I frequently connect with a friend I met in Mexico that lives in New York. The list goes on. I think it’s so cool to keep relationships with people you meet along the way, it starts to make the world feel a bit smaller and helps you feel connected to places you may have never been.
Besides traveling the world, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
I love second hand and thrift shopping. I’d say 80 percent of my closet is recycled clothing. I also enjoy cooking and entertaining. Food is something that brings people together and I think it’s one of the nicest gestures you can offer to someone. And as I get older I’m finding that it’s one of the most rewarding feelings when someone enjoys your cooking or baking.
Do you splurge on anything in particular?
I probably splurge most on good kitchenware. As I replace or add things in my kitchen I find myself going for high quality pieces, especially when it comes to pots/pans and knives. When it comes to other purchases I really just evaluate how much I’m drawn to the particular item, but I never splurge without searching for the best deal for like a million hours.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
The age old question! I see both my health and wellness business and my blog being my full time career. I’d die happy getting paid to travel. I see my soon-to-be husband and myself living by the beach in an older house that we can redo and make into our dream home. Probably a little one running around if I can get over not liking kids very much. Ha. You always adore your own, right?
Keep Living a Stylized Life.