Paris: An Incomplete Guide to an Amazing City

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
– Ernest Hemingway

Paris feeds the soul. It’s as simple as that, Belles. So while I’ll do my best to give you my top 5 places in the city, you can bet that there will be more blog posts about my trip to explore the amazing experience that is Paris. Before I start though, I have to say, I loved my hotel. Le Glam Hotel was a steal! At $79 a night, I got an amazing, clean, modern, and stylish hotel room with amazing hotel staff. It was a truly wonderful experience.

My amazing steal of a hotel ❤

Here’s a list of hidden gems and totally touristy things I enjoyed the most while in Paris:

Boulangerie Dominique Saibron

I cannot stress how much I loved the macarons and choquettes here. And the eclairs, and the baguettes, and oh my God, the TARTS!–yeah, this could go on for a while. Everything is baked to perfection. I’ve had a lot of macarons, Laduree (made in France) included, but nothing has compared to these macarons. Light, flavorful puffs of perfection, never too heavy-handed with the citrus or floral tones! And the espresso flavor was to die for. Pure bliss.

Just rows and rows of goodies!

House of Dior

I’ve been obsessed with Dior for as long as I can remember. I even did a project highlighting the historical significance of the A-line dress, made by Christian Dior in the 1950s. When I found out that I’d be going to Paris in the Spring, I knew I had to see the place where it all began–the original Dior storefront. What I wasn’t expecting was an entire neighborhood of Dior!

Original Dior Store

Where it all began–Christian Dior’s first storefront

You know I had to buy something there, right? A memorable token of the trip. 😉

Versailles

Versailles is a whole day affair, and it is so so worth it. I’ve been to quite a few palaces at this point, in Turkey, in Italy, and England, but this was another level of opulence. Jaw-droppingly stunning. But more than anything, it was intentionally built like that. Every room you enter in the palace has layers and layers of meaning and intentionality behind it. Power play after power play. Just, wow. If you have never taken an Architecture tour, I recommend the ones in Chicago, but once you’ve taken one, you start to understand why buildings are built the way they are and it opens a whole world of expression you probably never considered.

A tip: If you can, go early, see the gardens first and then enter the palace. And one more thing: gifts are sold sporadically throughout the palace and in the gift shop. Make sure to buy things when you see them! I made the mistake of thinking I would find lots of similar things outside the palace gates and I was so wrong! I still regret missing out on the opportunity to purchase a beautiful horse and carriage piece I saw there.

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L’Orangerie

While the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay are wonderful museums and should definitely be visited if you have time, they’re both enormous and take a lot of energy to navigate. If you’re a fan of the more manageable, “bite-sized” museum experience, where you get a little bit of all the greats, then the Orangerie is for you. Plus, it’s got 3 rooms of wall-to-wall installations of Claude Monet’s Water Lillies. And it is gorgeous.

Monet’s Water Lilies

Alongside this wonderful series, I also encountered my first Jackson Pollock piece and discovered a few more artists that I have grown fond of. I didn’t come out of the museum exhausted and weary like I did with the other 2–I felt like I could actually appreciate the art. It was well organized and palatable.

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Running through the streets of Paris from the Eiffel Tower to the River Seine ❤

This one is really more or less about giving yourself the freedom to be silly. Traveling can be tough and it takes its toll on your mood. I’ve found myself tensing up in unknown environments and being super cautious. After a long day of museums, walking, and not enough bathroom breaks (why is it so hard to find a clean bathroom in Paris???), we took a moment to re-energize with some gelato near the Eiffel Tower. We were on our way to the docks for a lovely sunset cruise of the Seine, but the waiter at the restaurant took forever with the check and we had to hurry to catch it. We started with a tense speed walk. Which transformed into a speedy shuffle. And after glancing at our watches, we all burst out into a flat run. The glee on our faces, the laughing and hooting as we dodged bumpy cobblestones, poles, and people, was the thrill we’d been seeking all day. The feeling of being completely and totally silly. We missed the boat by thiiiis much but it didn’t matter. We were feeling adventurous again. Bold. So we talked and laughed loudly, openly, completely immersed in the thrill of a newly revitalized city, watching the sun set on the Seine. Watching as the sky around the Eiffel Tower transformed from pretty blues and whites against the structure’s steel railings to a deep purple, clashing brilliantly with the golden yellow of the Tower as it’s lights turned on. I attempted to flirt with a cute crepe maker in French as we waited for the next boat and got whip cream on my nose as I delve into the brilliant waffle I’d purchased.

20180415_210730.jpg

My point is, see the touristy things, cross places off your bucket list, but don’t forget to explore yourself. Explore the you that you are when nothing and no one is inhibiting you. Be free and be you. That’s half the fun.


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Rome in a Day

Cruising Europe was a dream come true, and it all started with 5 days in Italy. Me and my family intended to spend 2 days in Rome, taking in the city with all its decaying grandeur, and then spend the remaining time visiting the gilded halls of Florence’s top family–the Medici–and the time capsule that is Pompeii, a city sealed in all its volcanic ash and forgotten by time and men for thousands of years. From there, we would make our way to Venice to catch our cruise ship to the Adriatic Sea and Jerusalem. The trains tickets were purchased, the journey carefully mapped. It was going to be riveting. At least that was the plan until a tornado ripped through Atlanta.

The tornado delayed every flight in and out of Atlanta International Airport, including ours (we had a stopover in ATL). The logistics were a mess, and we ended up airport hopping for 3 days in our attempt to get there. We finally made it to Rome in the evening of what would have been Day 3. Our chances to see Pompeii and Florence were shot. So we decided to make the best of what we had. Believe it, Belles. We saw Rome in a day.

Fresh off the plane and exhausted, I somehow convinced my parents to grab some halal gyro pizza from a street vendor (there’s TONS of Bangladeshis in Italy! Who knew?) and come out for a quick walk. Little did they know I had a surprise in store. I led them through the cobblestone streets full of music and laughter, turned a corner, and bellisimo! We were at the Fountain of Trevi. It was magical; the perfect way to lift our spirits. We made our wishes and tossed our coins. Did I take the moment to sing the first few lines of “Call Me, Maybe”? You bet. On blast. 😀

In the morning, our first stop was the Vatican. This city/museum is so vast, you need to get a tour guide. Ours was wonderfully interactive and could answer all the questions I had planned to save for our trip to Florence about the Medici and their influence on art, politics, and religion. Two birds, meet my one stone. 😀 I had never been in a museum where the artwork was close enough to touch–not encased in glass. We walked through centuries of sculptures and art as we moved towards the Sistine Chapel with its most famous of ceilings–The Creation of Adam. No photos were allowed inside the chapel but Michelangelo’s fresco was awesome. The details, the history, the underpants (yes, I said underpants). All the controversy between artistic vision and religious propriety was right before our eyes. And it was MASSIVE.

After a quick lunch and a refreshing gelato to give us a boost, we left the Vatican and began our race to see Rome. It felt like the tornado had followed us all the way from Atlanta–we found ourselves running from place to place, trying to see as many of our must-see sights as we could. Here were our top picks:

The Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verita): First made famous in Roman Holiday, we had to try our hand (get it? pun very much intended) at surviving its jaws. On our way out, we happened upon a lovely operatic performance taking place in the adjacent church, Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

Daring to tell a lie at the Mouth of Truth

The Colosseum (Le Colosseo): To the movie-classic question, “Are you not entertained?!”, we gleefully reply, “Yes!” We were literally running to the gates of the Colosseum before the guards could call ‘last entry’ and couldn’t have been happier with what we saw. I still get goosebumps when I see the cells where the beasts prowled, impatient for that cocktail of clean air and blood. We soaked it all in–the scale, the sensation. Thanks to my handy Fodor travel guidebook, we all took turns giving the structure our own melancholy salutation like the hundreds of gladiators who had come before us. Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant. Hail, Emperor, those who are about to die salute you.

The Spanish Steps and Piazza Di Spagna: Believe it or not, this was one of my favorite places. We got here right around sunset, after a long day of walking. We’d seen the Pantheon, the Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, the Roman Forum, and the wonderfully busy Piazza Venezia. We’d seen street performers seemingly floating in thin air and busts of old emperors by the Arch of Titus, with its towering trees of peculiar, almost Truffula-like form. We were ready for a rest. As we walked down the Piazza di Spagna, lined with designer stores, we met the most charming Italian violinist who, noticing our interest, serenaded us with his beautiful rendition of Por una Cabeza, which happens to come from my mother’s favorite movie, Scent of a Woman.

We grabbed some gelato from nearby and plopped down on the steps in true Audrey Hepburn-style. We were soon being shooed off (apparently food is no longer allowed on the steps–too many tourists making a mess!) but we had a grand old time with it. About ready to call it a night, we started making our way off the plaza when a barrage of heart-shaped balloons came bobbing down our way. A surprise proposal! We were thrilled. We joined in the festivities, observing and even singing along to the couples’ friends’ rendition of the Bruno Mars song, Marry You. Yes, my Belles, Rome was magical.

Proposal on the Spanish Steps <3

So, Gelato? Check. Pizza? Check. The perfect Roman Holiday reenactment on the Spanish Steps? Check!

Sure, we didn’t see the Borghese Gardens, the Duomo in Florence, the Barberini Palace with its exquisite interiors seen in Roman Holiday, or the many museums in the area but that’s what a second round is for. After all, this is what dreams are made of, right? 😉

Pope Francis Graffiti


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Wearing Winter Well

Attention Belles,
The world’s temperature gauge seems to be on the fritz–snow in Houston? Australia has the hottest day on Earth?
Dallas has been moodier than usual, with 30-degree temperature drops in just under 8 hours. How’s a girl to dress for such volatility without feeling like a woman in menopause? With several years experience in the dry, cold state of Wisconsin–where winter stays for 7 months out of the year–I’ve got the Holy Grail you’re looking for, so keep reading!

1. Hydrate

I bet you didn’t expect this to be the first thing on our list but it is THE MOST IMPORTANT. Beauty stems from the inside out and the best way to look amazing is if your body feels amazing. In case you didn’t know, winter is dry, ladies! Up the amount of water you drink in the day by at least half to compensate for it. A happy, hydrated body shows its gratefulness in your hair by giving you plump, strong roots, and in your skin by keeping it bright and wrinkle-free. My recommendation: Opt for water when you go out for lunch or dinner, and make a transparent water bottle a permanent fixture on your desk at the office. That way, you always know how much water you’ve drunk throughout the day. Check out this sleek bottle from Urban Outfitters or this floral one from JCPenney.

2. Moisturize

Ever look down at your hands and think they look like your grandmother’s? Get yourself some lotion, missy, because your hands are dry! Dry skin doesn’t have the suppleness and elasticity of well-hydrated skin and, left unattended too long, can have painful consequences. Dry skin tends to wrinkle and crack much more easily, leaving scars. The only thing that has proven to effectively prevent signs of aging is moisturizing, so whether it’s your face, hands, back or feet, keep them youthful by applying lotion any time you feel them drying up. I keep a bottle in my car and several in my office so I’m never caught without! An added bonus of this: your makeup will glide on more smoothly and stay on longer without creasing. God-send, am I right? My favorites are the Chloe Love Story, this Stress Relief lotion from Bath & Body Works, and this delightful Lavender and Honey lotion.


Don’t have time for a daily full-body moisturizing session? Try this in-shower moisturizer that I’ve been loving!
Curel Hydra Therapy Wet Skin Moisturizer

3. Tie up your hair

Summer isn’t the only time to wear braids and cute updos. Winter can really suck the life out of our locks, leaving them limp and staticky, so keep them safe from all the static, knots, and split-ends by tying them up. Get creative! Add sparkle and fun with winter-themed hairpins and Elsa-inspired hairdos. Or let subtle metals enhance the elegance of an all-black outfit you’re rocking.
Need ideas? Check out this Youtube channel:
Kayley Melissa

4. Leave-in Conditioner/Hair Masks

Cold winter winds can be harsh and drying on your strands, so do yourself a favor and increase the frequency of your deep-moisturizing hair treatments. You’ll see your hair can look full and fabulous all winter long if you give it the care and love it needs.
The Macademia Nourishing Moisture Masque and the It’s a Ten Miracle Leave-In product leave my hair silky, full, and shiny every time.

5. Think Layers!

Staying warm and cozy is key in the winter, right? But how do we dress in layers without looking like a bulky marshmallow? One word: Cashmere. I highly recommend investing in a few cashmere sweaters of varying length to be worn over tanks, shirts, or even other sweaters! Stylish warmth isn’t an oxymoron when you’ve got these great pieces in your closet to mix and match.
Try this, this, or this beautiful design.

6. The Right Jacket for the Temperature

Frozen may be a great movie, but it’s not a cute look. What most people don’t realize is that jackets come with a temperature range. You wouldn’t wear a puffer jacket in the sweltering summer heat, would you? You shouldn’t wear a peacoat on windy, 30-degree days either.
– Temperatures in the 50s call for shorts! Psych! But I’ve seen that happen in Wisconsin, so don’t laugh too hard. But most light jackets like this faux fur leopard print coat or this chic, army green moto jacket work well in this weather.


– If you’re dealing with temps in the 40s or even upper 30s, a quality, wool peacoat like this one, a scarf and some gloves will get you through, nice and toasty–just remember to layer inside too! Check out this Burberry duffle coat, this Alpaca number, or this beautiful woolen parka.

– Temperatures in the 30s or lower call for some kind of feather down material. That doesn’t mean it needs to be puffy. Check out this sleek, quilted coat from Eddie Bauer! They’ve got many more, but this was my favorite.

Quilted Parka.PNG

 

Stay Warm, Belles.

Dieting? Eat Turkey. Gobble Gobble!

Blog post written by: OhDaisyBi

It can be hard to keep fit and stick to your healthy lifestyle during the holiday season. You start a diet or exercise plan and tell yourself that you will only take one day off and then go back to being healthy. The only problem is that you don’t go back.

We’ve all been there.

The Holiday Season kick starts with Halloween, followed shortly by Thanksgiving, then Hanukkah and Christmas, and finally the New Year. The festivities never seem to end! And we aren’t considering delicious seasonal favorites like the pumpkin spice latte! The calories can add up fast.

Although the holidays fill us with lots of joy, they can be tight on our jeans’ waistbands. Here are a few “tricks” that will allow you to enjoy the festive meals and stick to your healthy lifestyle.

1. Wear a Corset.

One downside to our perception of the holiday feast is to eat to our fill, and then some. To stop yourself from overeating, wear a corset. The idea of a corset may seem archaic, something that came out of the Victorian days, but it has its uses.

The corset restricts the amount the stomach stretches and limits overeating. You can also wear it all year round. Other benefits include:

  • Eating slowly,
  • Eating frequently throughout the day,
  • Eating small quantities of all your favorite foods,
  • AND you don’t feel hungry!

What can be better than that?

I bought my first corset after my second pregnancy (I used a postpartum waist wrap after my first pregnancy). When selecting a corset, remember to be conservative with the sizes. I purchased two sizes, a large and a medium. The large helped me slim down to sizes 10 to 12, and the medium helped me get to size 6 to 8. I’m currently a size 6. If you want to know more about how I lost weight after my pregnancies (or losing weight in general), leave me a note in the comments below!

I personally recommend the Yianna Women’s Corset. This corset is a steal at $20.88 on Amazon. It is comfortable and hid well under my clothes. I’m also intrigued to try the Spanx Waist Cincher. This corset is sold at Target for $28.00.

So, put the corset on in the morning and wear it all day long while you munch away! You’ll stay within your calorie count, and you get to eat everything too. This is one time where you can have your cake and eat it too!

2. Eat Healthy

Keep in mind that the corset will not do all the work. You have to be mindful of what you eat too. So, stick to healthy carbohydrates:

  • Eat whole grain bread. Consider trying to cut down the amount of bread you eat altogether.
  • Eat more vegetables.
  • Eat turkey with light gravy.
  • Drink more water.
  • Include a larger quantity of fruit on your dessert plate with a small slice of pie on the side (Yum!)

Let the feast begin!

About the Author

OhDaisyBi is the newest edition to the Belles & Books blog. Lawyer by day, Mother of two by night, she will be posting about all things kid. She’s also passionate about answering the internet’s burning questions on the “Women Can Do It All” lifestyle– time management, budgeting and finance, and boss-woman things. In her “free” time she’s usually attempting Pinterest cooking ideas and working out. Join her on here every month for a new post!

Giving Thanks Under an Open Sky

Ah yes, Thanksgiving! It’s my husband’s favorite time of the year, and why not?  Football and an unlimited supply of food while lounging with the guys yelling at the TV, and looking forward to a mountain of leftover sandwiches for days to come! It’s any man’s dream! Of course, if your family is anything like mine, it can get a little cramped in the house. So this year, take thanksgiving…OUTDOORS! If you live in the south or have warmer weather during the holidays like I do, try to enjoy it out amongst the beauties of nature! It’s a fresh new outlook and offers a comfortable amount of space for large parties.

For all of you who love a little something new, below are a few of ideas on what you can do to make this into a reality!

TREES, TREES, EVERYWHERE!

What could be better than the natural canopies provided by trees? If you’ve been blessed with many trees in your backyard, it’s a perfect fixture to set and decorate your table. Hanging lanterns and fairy lights off the trees can add a little sparkle to your table décor and also help provide that soft glow if the natural light fades.

BOUQUETS FOR DAYS

Centerpieces and table décor doesn’t have to be a huge expense! The best thing about fall is the changing of the leaves, and what better to adorn your tables than a bouquet of beautiful red, yellow, maroon and green leaves set with red and purple berries tied with twine string! This is a great way to get the kids involved in making some creative bouquets for the table settings!

CANDLES, GOURDS AND PLACE CARDS, OH MY!

Get creative with your left over Halloween décor! Chances are you still have a few of those tea candles and decorative pumpkins left over from last month! Recycle your décor brilliantly by experimenting with candles and small pumpkins as part of the table centerpieces. Candles of different sizes add dimension and a little fun to the whole theme of the table, and using simple place cards with a personalized message can be a beautiful way to show how much your family means to you.

DON’T FORGET TO ADD A LITTLE HEAT

Even with the warmest of weather, the evenings can get a bit chilly. Space heaters to the rescue! Help warm up the nights with a little heat so you can enjoy the outdoors a little longer without compromising that comfort.

Of course, there is no end to the creativity! These are just a few ways you can change up the holiday to add more space and sparkle and a little bit of your own custom touch to a meaningful get together!

 

MyFairLady is the latest addition to the Belles & Books writing team, so of course she’s an avid reader  ^_^ .  She’s a surgeon with a quirky side.  An ‘artsy’ mommy-to-be, she’ll be writing about design, decor, and DIY.  In her free time she indulges in new food finds around the Dallas/Fort Worth area. 
All images used in this post are from Google images.

Is Your House a “Trick” or *Treat*?

 

Post by: MyFairLady

OH, yes! Halloween! It’s that time of the year again, when you wake up to crisp cold mornings, oversized sweaters, pumpkin spiced lattes and well… outdoor decorations. There are essentially two types of Halloween decorations you see on the streets these days: the aspiring haunted house and the autumnal beauty, quite literally “Trick or Treat”.

Here are a few tips and ideas on how you can dress up your residence for the season.

BETTING ON A TRICK

Keeping It Simple

When on a small budget, the best thing to do is stick to one kind of scare feature! Sometimes subtlety is what makes the scare POP! Just pick what you think to be the scariest feature (skeletons, spiders, ghosts, ghouls, or even creepy pumpkins) and place it all over and around your residence. The effect is quite incredible.

 

Jump Scares

Sometimes the best scare is the one that comes at you unexpectedly and ends up giving you a mini heart attack! The genius behind this idea is making sure the scare is optimally hidden just long enough to allow for a jump scare. You can use human sized props and dress them to look like someone is standing by the door, or you can darken the front step and project screams and yells out of the front windows, or you can simply flicker the front porch lights when trick-o-treaters come by the house. Use the dark to your advantage.

Halloween Overload

This last idea is for those of us who like a bit of everything.  These are the homes where you will see a carnival of scares! Usually you don’t need a particular idea for this. All it involves is…well…EVERYTHING! From spider webs, to witches, flickering lights to skeletons, scarecrows and black cats, it basically looks like a Halloween ghoul party in your front lawn!

BETTING ON A TREAT

Warm colors

Beauty is the theme here, choosing fall flowers and colors to accent and highlight the season all over your front lawn can make the home feel rustic, and beautiful. Warm colors like maroons, oranges, yellows, reds, and dark greens all mix well to present a beautiful autumnal scene on your front lawn. You can even incorporate a cute scarecrow or corn stalks and pumpkins to add a little personality to the decoration.

 

MyFairLady is the latest addition to the Belles & Books writing team, so of course she’s an avid reader  ^_^ .  She’s a surgeon with a quirky side.  An ‘artsy fartsy’ mommy-to-be, she’ll be writing about design, decor, and DIY.  In her free time she indulges in new food finds around the Dallas/Fort Worth area. 

Halloween: Last Minute Costumes for Babies

Blog post written by: OhDaisyBi

Halloween is around the corner and it’s time to find a costume.  For those of us with babies or toddlers, it can be hard to find the time to buy a costume. Making a costume at home can be a memorable experience, and it can save you a pretty penny too.  Babies are hardest to dress up because they are fidgety and don’t keep their costume on. Here are 6 homemade costumes ideas for your child:

1. The French Man

french man

What you need:

  • striped shirt (color of your choice),
  • black pants
  • a beret,
  • eyeliner,
  • handkerchief,
  • baguette

Tie the handkerchief around his neck and draw a small mustache with the eyeliner.  Voila! Baby Monsieur is ready to trick or treat!

2. A Fairy Princess

Fairy Princess

What you need:

  • A cute dress or tutu,
  • a shirt if you opt for the tutu,
  • glitter,
  • flower headband,
  • straw,
  • construction paper,
  • glue or glue gun,
  • cardboard box,
  • elastic band

To make a wand, first cut two stars out of construction paper and decorate it with glitter.  Then glue the stars onto the straw.  If you don’t have a flower headband already, take some flowers and glue them onto an old headband you already have.  Let the wand and headband dry.

To make the wings, take the cardboard box and cut out the wings.  Glue the construction paper onto the cardboard box and decorate it with glitter.  Take two pieces of elastic band and glue it to your wings.  Let them sit and dry.  If you don’t want to make the wings, you can also buy them.

Just like magic your fairy princess is ready!

3. Kitten or Puppy

Face Paint

What you need:

  • a headband
  • construction paper or felt, and
  • black eye liner,
  • black shirt,
  • black pants or tights

To make your cute little puppy or kitten, glue some construction paper (for upright ears) or felt (for floppy ears) onto a headband.   Use extra construction paper to make spots or distinctive strips on the clothes.  You can put white clothes and black spots for an adorable dalmatian, or all black clothes for a curious kitty cat.  Make the whiskers, freckles, and button nose with black eyeliner.

4. Bunch of Grapes (Toddler Only)

Bunch of Grapes

What you need:

  • green pants or tights,
  • purple shirt (or onesie for a baby),
  • 5 inch purple balloons,
  • string.

To make your yummy grapes, blow up all the balloons and tie them to a string.  Place the balloons 2-3 inches apart.  Wrap the string around your child’s tummy and shoulders. Pop the balloons around the bum so they can sit, and avoid wrapping around the neck.  Your scrumptious bunch of grapes are ready!

5. Clark Kent

clark kent

What you need:

  • A white button down shirts,
  • pants,
  • superman t-shirt,
  • fake glasses.

This one is easy! Put the white shirt on top of the superman shirt, and unbutton the top few buttons to reveal the “S.”  Its a bird, its a plane, its SUPER BABY!

6. Little Bo Peep. 

Little Bo Peep

What you need:

  • Full sleeve black shirt,
  • black pants or tights,
  • glue gun,
  • lots of cotton balls,
  • black eye liner.

Glue the cotton balls all over the shirt.  Draw the button nose and whiskers with black eyeliner.  Put it all together and you have your Little Bo Peep!

Photo sources: Pinterest

About the Author

OhDaisyBi is the newest edition to the Belles & Books blog. Lawyer by day, Mother of two by night, she will be posting about all things kid. She’s also passionate about answering the internet’s burning questions on the “Women Can Do It All” lifestyle– time management, budgeting and finance, and boss-woman things. In her “free” time she’s usually attempting Pinterest cooking ideas and working out. Join her on here every month for a new post!

Halloween Movie Review: IT

Every since American Horror Story started up, for me, Halloween has stopped being about trick or treating and taken on a new shape–one of true horror. This year’s remake release of Stephen King’s IT is exactly the kind of movie to put you in the Halloween mood.

Confront your worst nightmares this month with IT, as a young group of 7 often-bullied high school teens make it their mission to find out why so many kids are disappearing in their small town of Derry. There’s blood, there’s jump scares, and best of all, there is a ton of screaming, Stranger Things edition–Finn Wolfhard from the cast of Stranger Things does another fantastic job in an 80’s throwback movie, screaming for his life. (Speaking of, who’s ready for today’s premiere of Stranger Things 2?! This girl, right here.)

A terrifying clown haunts our screen and the back of our eyelids as it takes on the shape of each person’s worst fears, be they rational or irrational. And because IT transformed from one person’s to another’s so frighteningly accurately, I couldn’t help wondering what mine would be.

I especially enjoyed the dialogue in this movie. It was witty, sarcastic, and on point. Each character was distinct but when the group of outcasts banded together, they didn’t seem awkward with each other. In fact, there were many LOL moments in the movie alongside the jump scares and the more terrifying shots of a dark thing approaching at great speed. A perfect blend, I’d say.

All in all, if you’re looking for a great movie to get you down to Halloweentown, I’d recommend this movie–alongside the more classic throwback Disney hit Halloweentown.

 

Houston: Letting Life In

Ah, Houston. The city where zoning is a myth and flash flooding is a regular occurrence. I think that adds to the charm of the city, though. The greatest thing about Houston is you never know what fabulous hole-in-the-wall restaurant you might find just around the corner. Being 45 minutes from the Gulf and always booked with great concerts, it’s a fantastic place to spend Spring Break too! But most importantly, Houston doesn’t shy away from nature– it welcomes it into the city. 

1. Cockrell Butterfly Center

Houston is hot in the summer, but nothing beats the heat and humidity of a rainforest in the middle of the city! Get up close and personal with hundreds of bright, beautiful butterflies at the Butterfly Conservatory. Stay really still and you may get lucky and have one land on you. This is one magical experience you don’t want to miss. Snapchat filters have nothing on the real deal.

Cockrell Butterfly Center-- Houston TX

Butterflies flutter around every plant inside the Houston center, tickling passersby with their feathery wings

2. Phoenicia

A mouth-watering bite of gyro sets me off to high places and no place makes it better than Phoenicia. Dare I say it: Better than Halal Guys 🙊

Everything is made right in front of you and it comes to you hot, fresh and juicy.  So if you’re taking in the sights downtown and feel a little rumble in the stomach, get yourself some. You’re welcome.

3. Downtown Aquarium

Talk about bringing nature to your doorstep! This aquarium is amazing. That’s all I’m going to say. You have to see it to believe it. )

The restaurant next door. Make sure to get the Fish n Chips 😜

3. Rice Village

Looking for something a pittle more high street while on your vacay? Take a stroll down the streets of Rice village. With tons of great shopping to be done and the cutest cupcake place youve ever seen, there’s plenty you can do, including an impromptu picnic on Rice University’s campus lawns. But if you’re not in the mood to get your knees dirty,  there are several other delicious restaurants within walking distance, including my favorite Turkish place, Pastas.

A delicious yogurt and eggplant dish at Pasha’s in Rice Village

4. Kemah Boardwall

Lastly, what’s better than a never ending carnival? Take in the cool boardwalk breeze and catch an amusement park ride or two with your sweetheart. You csn see this place off the highway and its always open. Enjoy the lights, the skyline, and Texas’s specialty– deep-fried ANYTHING.

Cleveland: Full of History, Full of Hope

I’ve visited Cleveland several times over the years, but I never really saw Cleveland until my last visit. Cleveland has often been viewed as a pock-marked with “bad spots”, especially after the recession of 2008. But the city seems to be coming out of a metaphoric chrysalis as of late. You can really feel the city coming alive around you. To truly capture the essence of Cleveland, you’ve got to visit these places.

1. Algebra Tea House

This is a place where people come to interact and discuss religion and politics and art and poetry and love. Bookshelves line the wall amidst pops of color and hand crafted mugs. This little tea shop was the first non-italian owned shop in Cleveland’s Little Italy district and it has given and received warmth to the community with its tea and friendship.

algebra coffe shop

Everything has a touch of the owner’s hand– chairs, tables, and even the front door is crafted by him and his paintings hang on the walls in bright bursts of color.

2. Superman wasn’t born in Kansas or Iowa… He’s from Cleveland

That’s right! The original superhero, Superman, was conceptualized in a house near Case Western University by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. Like any iconic superhero, Superman is like a beacon of hope for mankind, shining bright and believing the best in us. It is fitting that a Man of Steel was born from the Cleveland community as Cleveland is finding its way again.

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The first volume of the Superman series is displayed in comic strip form on the fence surrounding Jerry Siegel’s house

3. Lucky’s Cafe

Craving a little Farm-to-Table action? Lucky’s is the place to be. Tradition and diversity lead the way in their most interesting of flavors. You can have fun with some of their more experimental dishes like the Canoewreck, or you can go with their Forever-Delicious Baked Mac-N-Cheese. Whatever you choose, I guarantee you’ll love it.

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Enjoy their outdoor seating in the warmer months!

4. Any one of the many Polish Catholic churches in the area

Poles came to Cleveland long ago and they brought their unique art form and food with them. Besides their delicious pierogis, some of the most stunning art is depicted in their churches–if you can find someone who works there to tell you the stories behind the different stained glass panels and gold leafed statues, it can be better than a trip to the museum. I personally went to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Parma, OH where the minister walked me through his favorite panels and displays.

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A polish catholic church

5. Rockefeller Park aka Cleveland Cultural Gardens

Last but certainly not least, there’s Cleveland’s little slice of paradise. Cozied up against Lake Erie, I found this little gem on my way to the airport, right at the end of the trip. A string of 26 nationality gardens, the site is unique to Cleveland, with each garden sharing the flavor of its nation in the architecture and landscaping. It holds busts and full statues of notable individuals like Gandhi, Tesla, Curie, Schiller, and Shakespeare.

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Gandhi Statue at Cleveland Cultural Gardens

The theme of the Gardens “Peace through mutual understanding”, and the cultural diversity seen in the gardens stands at the very foundation of Cleveland and is a real joy to explore.


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