Iceland is Green

While poking around on the internet today, I learned that the Kardashians are in Iceland. Though I’m not the biggest fan of theirs, I must say I am of their latest travel destination.

Iceland was hands down one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to on the planet. It sort of makes you feel like you’re in a scene from Game of Thrones, while also reminding you of how incredibly beautiful the world is in its natural state. Though I didn’t see the northern lights because I went in the summer, there were still plenty of things to do and experience there! 

Here are my top five recommendations in case you plan on heading up North anytime soon!

  1. Reykjavik: Iceland’s capital city does not disappoint! The best way I can describe it is like a colorful old world Scandinavian fishing town…if that makes sense. The people are great, the food is amazing and the sites are incredible! Make sure to check out Hallgrímskirkja – the local Lutheran church. It’s absolutely gorgeous and you can go to the top and take in the city’s views! Some other activities the town offers are whale watching/ puffin tours and plenty of Viking museums!

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2. Strokkur Geysir: Seeing a Geysir erupt is a really cool experience! Basically hot water (100ºC) shoots up out of the ground every 8-10 minutes, due to their location on top of a geothermal field! I can’t say I understand all of the science, but it was really cool to see!

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3. Hot Springs: The Hot Springs in Iceland are amazing! Basically Hot Springs are naturally occurring pools of hot water due to Iceland’s geothermal activity. Many are open for the public to swim in…some are even attached to spas/ wellness centers. I had the most relaxing time swimming even though it was haling outside!  Getting to soak in a hot spring is an Icelandic must – relaxation at it’s finest that you’ll need after dealing with Icelandair (haha).

P.S. The steam was so intense it was hard to get a good photo without my phone giving up!

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4. Waterfalls: Not the most specific recommendation (I know), but I’m sure if you take a guided tour they’ll be sure to include some stops along a few of Iceland’s AMAZING waterfalls! When I was taking a “Golden Circle” tour, we stopped at about three different waterfalls each more breathtaking than the last! The views were incredible and really had a way of getting me back in touch with Mother Earth!

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5. Thingvellir National Park: This park offers some amazing views as well! Get ready  to feel small, insignificant and perhaps as though you’re in Middle Earth, while marveling at what a beautiful place the world truly is! This park is also special because it offers views of the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (the only place you can see it above water)…geology lovers rejoice!

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In Full Bloom

How to make floral failure function:

So last night I was given roses by a friend, but to my dismay when I went to trim the stems I cut one of them entirely too short. Instead of allowing the flower go to waste, I decided to alter my floral vision in order accommodate my scissor mishap.

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I went to my pantry and dug out a short square glass canister that I usually use for coffee grounds. I rinsed it out, and put the shortest rose in the jar, only to find that it was still a bit too short! So to correct my flower failure…

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Flower hack: To add height to the flowers, I filled the base of the jar with the leaflets of the rose and it worked out beautifully! With a little imagination I was able to save the bouquet and still make it look great! Just something I wanted to share in case anyone gets scissor happy like I did while attempting to make a floral arrangement!

 

London Calling

Recently, I was in London with school and got the chance to completely fall in love all over again with the rainy city 007 calls home. Because my dad is from England, growing up I visited the UK often enough to see family (mainly in Manchester). Though I’d been to London before, on my most recent trip the city felt different. Maybe this was due to the fact that I hadn’t been in 4 years, or maybe after experiencing some college I was able to better appreciate the city’s history and culture. Whatever the case may was, I left this trip completely in love with London and thought I’d share my top 5 favorite landmarks!

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Big Ben: Is there anything more English than the world’s most iconic clock tower? Seeing Big Ben is a total must, that will truly make you feel like you’re in London. Seeing the attached Houses of Parliament is equally as fascinating if you’re into politics or English history. Plus being along the Thames is always beautiful and the surrounding area of Westminster is great for shopping and pubs.

Westminster Abbey: I’m a big art & architecture lover so for me churches in general always take my breath away. Plus I’m a kind of obsessed with the royal family, so getting to be in the place where all of the coronations took place and where Will and Kate got married is so much fun! The abbey is incredibly majestic and the amount of details carved in to the walls and ceiling is enough to keep you staring for days! 

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St. Paul’s Cathedral: Like I said architecture and churches are kind of my thing. This church is so beautiful because of its roman style architecture and the grand dome at its center. When looking up at the dome from inside, the intricacy of the mosaic scenes left me staring in awe until my neck started to ache. Plus you can actually go to the top of the dome…how cool?!

The National Gallery of Art: Holy Moly! Not only is the museum’s grand architecture absolutely stunning, but its collection of art doesn’t miss a step! From Caravaggio to Van Eyck to pick-your-impressionist…it’s all there! Not to mention the museum is only a short walk for the National Portrait Gallery (also worth a stop!)

Buckingham Palace: So maybe I spoke to soon about Big Ben being the ultimate symbol of British culture. Buckingham Palace is everything one thinks of when dreaming of royalty. The tall iron gates with gold detailing won’t infringe your view of the massive palace…every time I go the palace’s massive size still shocks me! Getting to witness the changing of the guards is also a pretty unforgettable experience!

Creating a Canvas Collage

If you’re looking for a personal and creative way to brighten up a space, look no further! A collage wall created of small individual canvases is an easy, fun and cheap way to to add color and personality to any room in your home. Recently while watching an old episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills – forgive me…it’s a guilty pleasure – I was inspired by one of the walls in Yolanda’s kitchen. Around 50 large square canvases all painted with different images covered a wall in her kitchen, adding color and a sense of individuality to the space. Because I don’t have a wall quite as massive as the one in the episode, I decided to recreate the look using small 5 in. x 5 in. canvases.
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When creating your own, the process is better just as rewarding as the product! You can paint with friends, family, your kids, or even solo. I painted all of mine myself and decided to make each one represent and idea, interest or goal.

  • The dove: a reminder of peace
  • The waves: I love swimming and being near the ocean
  • The flag: I’m half English, so the flag reminds me of my dad
  • The heart: a reminder that love is all around us
  • The eye: a reminder to have vision and to see things with clarity
  • The city: I’m from New York, so the city reminds me of home when I’m at school
  • Namaste: a reminder to strive for balance and inner peace 
  • The boat: reminds me of a favorite quote “a ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for”
  • Vogue: I’ve been completely obsessed with the magazine since I was little!

Not only do these mini paintings brighten up my living space, but they are also daily reminders of my intentions & dreams. To make your own you’ll need…

Materials:

  • Square canvases – as many as you want, whatever size you want, I have 15 canvases each 5x5in.
  • Paint – I used acrylic paints available at any local art supply/ craft store
  • Wall adhesive – I use Command’s velcro Picture Hanging Strips, but thumbtacks or sticky tack work too, depending on the size & weight of the canvases.
  • Imagination – the canvas is yours to create!

Bowling for Berries

There’s no denying that Açai Bowls have become insanely popular in recent years. For me, living in a city means frozen yogurt shops and juice bars are on every corner making these frozen treats easy to come by. However, if you live in an area that’s more rural you can still make your own açai bowl at home!

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But first, what exactly are the health benefits? Well…

Linked to skin health, heart health and increased energy these Brazilian berries have endless health benefits. Açai berries are known to be rich in antioxidants, vitamins & minerals and when combined with additional fruit & granola, make a nutritious and filling breakfast. Açai bowls are usually made of açai purée blended with your choice of fruits/ liquids and topped with granola andother superfoods. Think fruit smoothie in a bowl, but better!

Beware when buying…

When shopping for/ making an açai bowl, it’s important to be mindful of what goes into/on top of it. Unhealthy açai bowls seem to be just as common as healthy ones. I’ve seen açai bowl topped with chocolate chips and peanut butter! Even some that seem healthy can contain up to 600 calories and outrageous amounts of sugar depending on the type of granola and processed powder that’s used. Pay attention to what is going in, in order to reap all of the possible benefits!

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So, to make your own…

You’ll need to buy açai purée. Some of the most popular purées are produced by Amafruits or Sambazon.

  • Depending on the brand of purée you use, recipes usually call for a pack of purée
  • Blend with one banana and 1/4 of almond milk (or milk/liquid of your choice)
  • Top with…
  • Sliced Banana
  • 1/2 cup of Blueberries
  • 1/4 cup of Granola

Finally dig in and experience the deliciousness that not only keeps you full, but gives you energy for the day ahead!

Tossing the Tweezers: Defining beauty on my own terms

Growing up, I always followed the conventional practices of beauty without question. It wasn’t until I tossed my tweezers in an effort to test a new trend that I started recognizing how many cosmetic practices I was following blindly and without reason. After revisiting all of the things women do to obtain beauty, not only was I left asking where does it end, but further who says?

As women, we’re subliminally instructed to do a lot of things in order to be beautiful: wax your eyebrows, paint your nails, dye your hair, pierce your ears…the list goes on (I’m sure you know!). However, what I’m calling into question is not so much the fact that the list exists, but rather that I had never before stopped to question it.

For me, this revelation stemmed from the moment I decided to stop plucking my eyebrows a few years back. Like many girls out there no doubt, this choice was inspired by supermodel Cara Delevingne, who’s strong, iconic beauty left onlookers wanting bolder brows. So, as any trend aspiring teenage girl would do, I stopped plucking my eyebrows. Doing this almost felt too good to be true…not only was I “on trend”, but I was also saving money and sparing myself the pain of waxing! 

As my brows began to grow in, I couldn’t help but revel in how much I loved them! Rather than feeling unkept, I actually felt like an exotic runway model, combing my brows into place each morning. As I started to reflect on all of the years I had waxed, plucked and shaped my brows into thin arched lines I couldn’t help but feel ridiculous. Suddenly, the idea of waxing one’s eyebrows seemed so foreign! Why, I asked myself, were thinner eyebrows more attractive than thick ones? Who made that call? And why do we all seem to agree? Where do the rules of beauty end? 

In retrospect, these thoughts had nothing to do with what my brows actually looked like, but rather that I was finally embracing something natural about myself and questioning the norms I had always adhered to. This opened a gateway for me to confront all of the things I felt pressured to do in order to be attractive and to explore if I, as an individual, actually agreed with them.

My reactions to some conventions in question:

– Tan your skin: NO. I don’t mind being on the paler side! I’m half english and therefore naturally of a lighter complexion, and that’s okay with me. Who said being bronzed was better? 

– Dye your hair: NO. Granted, I’m 20 and don’t yet have gray roots…but I actually like my natural hair color (go figure)! I like being a brunette, and I don’t know where I got the idea when I was younger that lighter hair is more attractive. Who says? 

– Shave your armpits: YES. This one I don’t mind following. For whatever reason I feel better and more feminine when I have shaved armpits (and legs for that matter)…and that’s okay too. 

– Shave your arms: NO. The hair on my arms doesn’t bother me the least bit! 

– Paint your nails: YES. I love having color on my nails. I feel like it adds to my outfits, and is a further expression of my mood!

– Wear Makeup: YES/NO. Contouring my face? Hell-to-the-no. Personally, I have no desire to make the structure of my face look different. However, on the daily I do enjoy putting on some makeup: a sunscreen/bb cream combo, mascara and some gloss. For occasions, going a bit further is always fun! Overall though, the most important thing is making the choices that make you feel best, rather than following the herd. 

Confronting these conventions was something that took getting really honest with myself…even more so because I consider myself a “feminine” girl (I like makeup, fashion, getting my hair done, etc.). But what I discovered through all of this is that there is no such thing as one type of beauty, or one way to achieve it: Conventions only exist because we continue to follow them, but we don’t have to. So for me, nowadays I make beauty decisions based on what inspires me and what makes me feel my best, rather than what I think I should be doing. There’s something so liberating about embracing your natural beauty and original choices, and it’s something I wish every woman gets the chance to discover and experience for herself!

O.M.Gigi!

O.M.Gigi! Recently when I was in London, I managed to snag a copy of Parisian Vogue from a train station convenience store, with none other than my favorite model-of-the-millennials Gigi Hadid gracing the cover! For anyone who’s managed to miss her superhuman rise to fame in the modeling industry, here’s a recap of the article that reminds us all this Voguette is more than just a pretty face.

To start – for those who don’t know – Gigi’s modeling fame can be compared to recipe with ingredients far and few between that the baker rarely ever experiences the final product. Mix her exotic beauty, privileged upbringing and celebrity friends with a hard work ethic, a positive attitude and a focus on being kind. At approximately 20 years of age the mixture should yield a young model with superstar success, 10 million Instagram followers and a public voice she’s not afraid to use. 

Beyond what it took to gain such a level of success, the Vogue article chooses to talk about what she’s doing with her celebrity that’s making such an impact on the modeling world: Gigi undeniably represents the changing perceptions of body image in the fashion industry today.

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Known for her athletic body, the ex-volleyball player and horseback rider has always been open about putting her health over her jeans size. Regrading that philosophy, the Vogue article highlights Gigi’s open letter that she posted to social media (I’m sure we all know the one), after enduring harsh criticism at the Versace show during last year’s Paris Fashion Week. In the letter she not only defends her body, but claims the fashion world is changing, a concept that the article defends 100%.

To my surprise, changes made in France supporting and ensuring the employment of healthy models are cited in the article too. Did you know that an employer can be fined and put in prison for up to six months for hiring an underweight models? According to the cover story, before landing a job all models have to show a medical certificate confirming they’re of a healthy BMI…how cool is that?!

The piece goes on to talk about Gigi’s fitness philosophy.: exercise (usually boxing at Gotham Gym) and healthy eating are important, but a burger now and then is a must!

This cover story just made me admire Gigi even more for the way she stands by her body, rather than trying to fit into someone else’s ideal of perfection. Plus, I love how the fashion industry is changing to support athletic, healthy bodies rather than glorifying underweight models. Putting health over societal standards is a goal we can all work toward, and something that Gigi Hadid and French Vogue reminded me of, yet again.

Article Cited: Sabas, Carole. “Gigi Hadid, Superstar De L’ère Digitale.” Vogue Paris Mar. 2016: 300-07. Print.

Coconut Oil is a Girl’s Best Friend

 

So I know we’ve probably all heard the health benefits when it comes to coconuts. These days, coconut water seems to surround us (which I still don’t understand…blahh), and coconut oil is said to be nutritionally superior when compared with other cooking oils (not that this applies to me because I burn everything I touch). Much to my amazement however, the super-fruit has come to occupy a major role in my beauty routine. As of late, I’ve become sort of obsessed with natural alternatives regarding beauty & cosmetics, and it turns out coconut oil is the new be-all end-all product in my my vanity. Plus…beyond saving my skin from absorbing harsh chemicals, it’s also saving me so much money because it can be used in so many different ways (can you say win-win?)! Here’s all the ways in which I use coconut oil in my daily beauty regime:

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Makeup remover: We all know how bad it is for your skin to sleep with your makeup on, but did you know that your makeup removers can be doing just as much harm as good? Often times makeup removers contain chemicals such as 1,4-dioxane, coal tar dyes, formaldehyde, parabens, and polyethylene glycols (PEGs) Yuck, right?! Well good thing there’s a solution: Organic Coconut oil is a great natural alternative that effectively removes makeup and leaves your skin feeling oh so soft afterwards.

Conditioner: Conditioner too contains may toxic chemicals, that not only strip your hair of its natural moisture, but that can also be absorbed into your scalp. If fragrance (an umbrella term translating to Chemical City), triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and polyethylene glycol (PEGs) aren’t your thing, it’s coconut oil to the rescue once again! Simply put it in the ends of your hair at night, put it in a bun while you sleep, then wash it out in the morning when you shower. It’ll leave your hair feeling smooth, sleek, and smelling great!

Moisturizer: At this point your probably can catch my drift…many moisturizers contain chemicals that are absorbed by the skin and coconut oil does not. After showering, just take a small pinch and rub it on your legs, arms, and belly to maintain super smooth skin. Remember, a little goes a long way so think less is more to avoid feeling greasy.

Shaving Cream: In the shower I put it coconut oil on my legs when shaving in place of shaving cream. Goodbye chemical packed creams and aerosol cans!

Lip hydration: My whole life I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my lips. Though they’re full in size, they tend to get so dry in the winter. The only thing that ever worked for me is putting globs of petroleum jelly my lips…which I’ve come to learn is awful for your health! So now, coconut oil is the perfect organic smoothing solution that my chapped winter lips were needing.

It’s all about Me Time

Whether you’re going through Finals Season, Tax Season or just hectic life as usual…getting in some quality Me Time is essential for maintaining a happy spirit during life’s fullest days. Personally, if I don’t get any Me Time in I tend to feel rushed, robbed, resentful and out of balance with my day. However, when I commit to taking 30 minutes (at least) during the day to do something I love, the benefits manifest themselves in my mood, the knot in my stomach disappears, and I feel more in tune with life. Usually I try to get some self care in during the morning before I start my day to set myself off on the right path, but because I know every day is different I do my best to carve out the time where and when I can. Below are my five favorite ways to relax, recenter and remain calm in times when my calendar is booked to the brim: 

1. Meditation: For me, meditation has radically improved my life. Just by taking 10 minutes in the morning to be still, connect with my breath and set an intention for the day I set myself for success and calm. Some meditation sessions are better than others…sometimes I’m so focussed I feel I should be a buddhist monk and sometimes I sit in thought for the entire 600 seconds. Either way, I always leave my cushion feeling grounded and more importantly proud of myself for trying. 

2. Nature time: Nothing relaxes me more than getting outside, sitting on a bench and simply being (weather permitting, I’ll admit!). Being outside is such a mood booster for me: Fresh air, sounds of birds, trees, flowers, sunshine, the open sky…what else could a girl need? 

3. Yoga: The best way to destress the mind while simultaneously moving the body. You don’t have to be an expert to do yoga, nor do you have to sign up for expensive classes or even have any equipment/gear for that matter. All you need is internet access, a bit of open space, and an open mind. When I need to invite some more calm into my life, I pull up a yoga video on Youtube. My favorite? Yoga with Adriene’s “Day 10, 10 minute Sun Salutation Practice”. It’s quick, easy and always leaves me inspired and feeling quite zen. 

4. Face Mask: A classic spa day treatment that you so don’t need a spa for! Face masks are my favorite Me Time activity. Not only do they make me feel pampered and rested, they give the skin the extra nutrients it craves during times of stress. My favorite is Acure Organic’s Cell Stimulating Face Mask!

5. Journaling: This may just be a personal habit, but I love writing and reflecting during any Me Time session. For me, if I have a lot on my mind I always feel better getting it out onto a notepad or journal. And the content doesn’t have to be profound: it could be anything from a complete venting rant to listing everything I’m grateful for – it doesn’t matter. Simply putting pen to paper is a great way to reconnect and center before or after a long day. 

Yes you Cannes

Summer can’t get here fast enough? I know exactly how you feel, but better…I know exactly where you should go for your Summer 2016 getaway: Cannes, France. Here’s 5 reasons why it’s one of my favorite destinations to date:

1. The Location: Staying on the Côte d’Azur means one thing: options! Being on the cost gives you easy access to other major towns along the French Riviera. During my stay, I travelled to Nice, Èze, and the neighboring country of Monaco. The trains/ tour companies in Cannes make it easy to reach other towns such as Saint Tropez, Marseille, and even Italy. The takeaway: This is a one plane ticket, multiple destination trip!

2. The Beach: First off, who doesn’t love the ocean? Now add clear aquamarine water and smooth golden sands that’ll make you think you’re in St. Barths. Finally throw in the image of the occasional yacht floating peacefully in the distance as you swim in Mediterranean Sea . How could anyone resist that…am I right?? When you’re there you have two options, either public beaches or private beaches. The public beaches seemed fine- they weren’t overly crowded and the best part is they don’t cost a penny! The private beaches on the other hand range in price from 20-40 euros per day. However, in my opinion the money is so worth it! Usually you’ll be seated on a boardwalk that stretches into the sea and have a beach chair, umbrella, wait staff, bar and bathroom at your fingertips. Personally, I used the InterContinental Carlton’s beach, and loved it! The takeaway: You’ll swim in the same sea, but pay for the experience.

3. The Shopping: Holy Labels! If you love fashion, you’ll think you’ve died and went to designer heaven. Even if you’re not buying anything who doesn’t want to enjoy a latté on the patio of the Armani Café? Shops including Balenciaga, Burberry, Céline, Chanel, Dior, and Louis Vuitton line the Croisette, their window displays alone being enough to give a girl butterflies. And don’t fear if these stores are out of your price range, a block or two north of the beach there’s a slew of more affordable shops like Zara and Mango. The takeaway: Come with an empty suitcase!

4. The Sights: Cannes is probably best known for the annual film festival it hosts. While you’re vacationing, a visit to the Palais des Festivals is in order. There you can walk the red carpet, where so many stars have done so before and get some quality photos in. You can also see the Allée des Étoiles (Cannes’ equivalent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame) where celebrities such as Spike Lee and Julie Andrews have immortalized their hand prints. The takeaway: You get to walk on a red carpet (need I say more?).

5. The Atmosphere: There’s something about the town that makes you feel as though you’re in another world. As someone who grew up going on vacation to the Caribbean a lot, Cannes felt like a blend of tropical island life, with a sophisticated European edge. The food was amazing, the views were otherworldly and the people were friendly, helpful, and easygoing (not a snob in sight!). The takeaway: Book your flight now!