Washington D.C. Travel Diary -  [The Monuments]

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Washington D.C. Travel Diary - [The Monuments]

Grey skies, Monuments and Cupcakes.  That sums up my first trip to Washington, D.C and I loved every moment of it.

I had been going to D.C for business for several years, but never thought to explore the city. I would fly in , check into my hotel, attend to business matters, check out and fly back home. On most trips, I never even left my hotel (tsk tsk).  On one of my last trips, I decided to explore the city. It turned out to be one of my favorite travel experiences - so much history and culture.

I had only 48 hours to explore and with all there is to see and do in D.C. - I had to choose one area to explore. As a faux hisory buff, I decided to explore the monument, save the food exploration, dupont circle and Georgetown for another trip.

Day 1. I flew in late saturday night and I had every intention of getting up early to attend sunday service at National Community Church - but I did not set an alarm and I ended up sleeping in till about noon on Sunday (yikes !)  

Shortly after 1 p.m, I took a cab from my hotel to the national mall. I was dropped off close to the walkway leading up to the Washington monument. During my visit, the monument was closed for renovations, so I  decided to walk towards the United states capitol.

A section of the National mall is lined on both sides with historical sites and museums - including the Smithsonian Institute Building. I am a sucker for architecture and the red brick building of the Smithsonian Institute drew me in (and the garden is a beaut).

There is also the National museum of American History, National gallery of arts sculpture garden, National museum of natural history (great stop if you are traveling with kids); Joseph Henry Statue in front of the Smithsonian. There is a lot more to see, those are just a few of the ones I got around to on my walk to the Capitol.

The walk to the capitol building took about 5 hours because I stopped into most of the museums along the path to the capitol steps. At some point, I grabbed a gyro sandwich from one of the food trucks, perched myself on a bench and just people watched folks playing flag football, picnicing, laying out in the sun - it was nice to be doing nothing.

tip: (wear very comfortable shoes if you are planning a visit.)

Day II was all about the grey skies and monuments. 

I planned an early start with a visit to Paul for breakfast before starting off my day, but I missed the alarm again and did not get out of bed until about 11 a.m. With the late start, I decided to skip breakfast and head back to the National mall - there was still a mile of exploration to go.

I started off  at the washington monument , again. This time walking towards the reflecting pool and the lincoln memorial with stops at the White House, Korean War Veteran's memorial, World War II memorial. Then off from that area to the Martin Luther King memorial, Thomas Jefferson memorial and FDR memorial.

My first detour on the path to the Lincoln memorial was to check out the White House. It was ridiculously crowded around the North side and with the barricades, I only got within about 500 feet of it (now that I have a few visits to D.C. under my belt, I have to say, the south side offers a much better view).  Because of the crowd and the slight drizzles, I did not linger here - I took a few snapshots of the white house and got back to the path toward the Lincoln memorial.

It was mid afternoon at this point so I grabbed lunch from one of the food vendors on the street and headed to the World War II memorial. The plan was to perch myself on one of stairs at the WW II memorial, people watch, observe the fountain and have a quick lunch, but the rain started to come down just as I arrived. I took cover under one of the few covered spots to wait out the rain and that's when I found Texas.

The WW II memorial has a pillar/reef dedicated to each state and as I took cover from the rain - I found myself closer to the pillar dedicated to my adopted home state of Texas.  There were not a lot of areas with covering at the WW II memorial so most of the visitors were cramped in a tiny space. After twenty minutes waiting out the rain , I took some snapshot with and of Texas before making my way to the reflecting pool and then the Lincoln memorial.

The size of the Lincoln memorial is impressive and the view of the Washington monument and the reflecting pool from the Lincoln memorial is a must see. Off the path from the Lincoln memorial is the Korean war memorial - it is very different than the other monuments in the city - there is no largess or forte around it, but I think it is the simplicity of it that I loved most.

The Martin Luther king and FDR memorial are off the path of the two mile stretch from the capitol to the Lincoln memorial - but still in walking distance. The MLK monument is the newest one to be added and it is an absolute must see/visit and it offers a great view of the Jefferson memorial across the water.

At this point - my feet were howling, but the FDR memorial was just round the corner (and I promised myself a visit to Georgetown cupcakes if I made it through my list of monuments to visit. FDR (and his dog) were the only thing between me and a (two) cupcake.  I ignored the pain and headed over to check out FDR (and his dog). I got through my last monument about 4 p.m. I circled back to the MLK monument, hailed a cab to Georgetown cupcakes and stuffed my face with a peanut butter fudge cupcake - it was delish. 

If a visit to the nation's capitol is not on your radar - it's time to make it a priority. So much culture and history packed in the 2 mile stretch from the Capitol to the Lincoln memorial.

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Broccoli Cranberry Walnut Salad

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Broccoli Cranberry Walnut Salad

Summer is here and with that a new summer food series.

Last summer, I did a weekly smoothie series - which I loved. This year I am switching things up with the summer menu. A collection of summer meals that are refreshing and guarantee minimal time in the kitchen. This will run twice a month through the end of summer. Hope you enjoy it.

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My summer menu philosophy is this - its got to be light, quick, easy and delicious. With summer temps tipping over 100 degree in Texas - ain't nobody got time to be in the kitchen for an extended period. That is why I loooooove this recipe.

Its broccoli, cranberry, walnut and crisp bacon finely chopped. oh !  how can I forget the chai seed, for garnish. The combination of all these makes for a very delicious, healthy meal that takes about 20 minutes to whip up and will be a hit with anyone sharing your dinner table

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I am sharing this recipe over on our sister site - Table with the food blog. You can get the recipe right here. Bring on summer !!!

For more summer and every season recipes - check out  our sister site - Table with the food blog.

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Summer Beauty Staples

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Summer Beauty Staples

Now that the rain is behind us and the temps in Texas have tipped beyond 95 degrees, it is time to switch up my beauty items to more summer friendly products. A year spent trying just about every product on the market and another year blogging about my beauty journey has helped me narrow down my summer staples. I picked up a few items to add to the summer stash this year. Here is a round up of what I have been using and will be using during the summer month.

Base. Keeping things light on the base front. In summer, I avoid heavy products. I try to keep things light and fresh to let my skin breathe. this tinted moisturizer; the Becca cosmetics luminous skin colour, the Covergirl - ready, set, gorgeous and BH Cosmetics liquid foundation are base products I will be reaching for all summer. Primers are a must for me - I am currently using Revlon photo ready primer.

Base. Keeping things light on the base front. In summer, I avoid heavy products. I try to keep things light and fresh to let my skin breathe. this tinted moisturizer; the Becca cosmetics luminous skin colour, the Covergirl - ready, set, gorgeous and BH Cosmetics liquid foundation are base products I will be reaching for all summer. Primers are a must for me - I am currently using Revlon photo ready primer.

New Thing. This new addition to the foundation collection - the Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation is the lightest, full coverage base you will ever find. I use the ELF powder brush to apply it. 

New Thing. This new addition to the foundation collection - the Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation is the lightest, full coverage base you will ever find. I use the ELF powder brush to apply it. 

Holy Grail. I use these items all year round. This Essennce mascara give volume and length. the Balm setting powder is the only one I reach for. The Milani baked bronzer in the shade Golden has been repurchased so many times. This ELF bronzer and blush duo in Turks and Caicos is a beaut and perfect for travel. Oily eyelids require the ELF eye shadow primer (in sheer). This Maybelline brow product is worth every penny and this LA Girl Pro concealer covers all.  The silk luminous eye liner (not pictured) is perfect for waking up the eyes and it does not budge. I have it in just about every color. I use the real technique powder brush everyday.

Holy Grail. I use these items all year round. This Essennce mascara give volume and length. the Balm setting powder is the only one I reach for. The Milani baked bronzer in the shade Golden has been repurchased so many times. This ELF bronzer and blush duo in Turks and Caicos is a beaut and perfect for travel. Oily eyelids require the ELF eye shadow primer (in sheer). This Maybelline brow product is worth every penny and this LA Girl Pro concealer covers all.  The silk luminous eye liner (not pictured) is perfect for waking up the eyes and it does not budge. I have it in just about every color. I use the real technique powder brush everyday.

Lips. This is where I get in trouble. There is so many to choose from. Lately I have been sticking brights with the reds, purples and pink. - specifically, ruby woo, nars schiap and this one. For everyday - I reach for something in nude family including some I talk about here.

Lips. This is where I get in trouble. There is so many to choose from. Lately I have been sticking brights with the reds, purples and pink. - specifically, ruby woo, nars schiap and this one. For everyday - I reach for something in nude family including some I talk about here.

Hair. After a brief haitus from braids, my hair is back in braids. Its just more manageable in summer. To keep things clean and mositurized - this macadamia healing oil spray (a new product and brand discovery) has become a holy grail item for me.

Hair. After a brief haitus from braids, my hair is back in braids. Its just more manageable in summer. To keep things clean and mositurized - this macadamia healing oil spray (a new product and brand discovery) has become a holy grail item for me.

Fragrance. A complete overhaul of my fragrance collection in the last six months. Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black ; Balenciaga Rosabotanical; Zara Black and Diptyque Eau Rose ; L'Eau de L'Eau and Philosykos in the summer rotation.

Fragrance. A complete overhaul of my fragrance collection in the last six months. Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black ; Balenciaga Rosabotanical; Zara Black and Diptyque Eau Rose ; L'Eau de L'Eau and Philosykos in the summer rotation.

Skincare and New Brands Discovery.  Along with this favorite and this favorite oil. I have added some Skyn Iceland and F.A.B products to the skincare lineup. The FAB facial radiance pads and the Skyn Iceland hydro cool firming gel have received great reviews. Also loving the Skyn Iceland Nordic Skin Peel ; the red clay cleanser and the red clay mask.

Skincare and New Brands Discovery.  Along with this favorite and this favorite oil. I have added some Skyn Iceland and F.A.B products to the skincare lineup. The FAB facial radiance pads and the Skyn Iceland hydro cool firming gel have received great reviews. Also loving the Skyn Iceland Nordic Skin Peel ; the red clay cleanser and the red clay mask.

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Dining at Chicago pizza and oven grinder co - Chicago, IL

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Dining at Chicago pizza and oven grinder co - Chicago, IL

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. - Home of the Pizza Pot Pie. 

On my first visit to Chicago - we were in search for a restaurant that is authentically Chicago - the concierge recommended Chicago pizza and oven grinder co as a must visit and he was right.

Since that first trip, I have made it a point to return to the restaurant anytime I am in the city.

It is known for its pizza pot pie which is incredibily delicious I end up scuffing it down before thoughts of sharing pictures with y'all even creeps into my mind. Luckily, while getting spring cleaning and decluttering underway - I found some pictures from my last trip so I thought I would share with you. First thing to note - this is a cash only restaurant - so have your cash on hand before heading there. I go here for two menu items - the pizza pot pie and the mediterranean bread as a starter.

So what is a pizza pot pie ? Think chicken pot pie, but infinitely better and upside down. It is made with the best dough, which is sort of bread like and stuffed with the very best tomato sauce, all kinds of cheese, mushroom and golf ball sized sausage. There is also a vegeterian version available on special order.

These come in half-pounder portions which I try to share, in an attempt to limit any guilt of consuming all that cheese and bread dough. The restaurant has a great history and the staff is incredibly nice and will talk to you about the history of the restaurant and pot pie. It is  uniquely located so you can walk off the cheese and dough while taking in some unique Chicago spots.

Maybe cheese, tomato sauce, bread doughy goodness is not your thing, they have other things on the menu that I am sure are great - but I have never ventured away from my regular - mediterranean bread and half pounder pizza pot pie to share.


Quote of the week

"I get way too much happiness from good food"

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Cruising to the Bahamas and tips on how to enjoy your first cruise

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Cruising to the Bahamas and tips on how to enjoy your first cruise

I went on my first (and only) cruise about 4 years ago. It was a three day cruise to the Bahamas. We took off from Miami on Friday afternoon ; docked at Coco Cay for a day; Bahamas for a day and arrived back in Miami at 6 a.m. on Monday morning. After the trip, I swore I was never going on another cruise because I had a miserable time because I was not well informed about cruises and the experience before hand. Now this is not a post to discourage you from cruising , its more tips to make your first cruise much bearable than mine was.

1. Plan for motion and sea sickness. I did not think I had that problem, but four hours into the trip I was nauseated and wanted to get back to land asap. My suggestion to you, pack some motion sickness tablets and patches, just in case. Motion sickness put a major dent in my weekend, I only enjoyed the time off the ship.

2. Plan to switch off. While on board, you are essentially disconnected from the world. You can make calls from your cabin and log onto the internet, but it will cost you. If you are searching for a vacation where you can truly switch off - then a cruise is for you. If you do splurge on wifi, make sure you log off the wifi, confirm it twice if you must.

3. Plan for a longer cruise. Cruises are increasingly popular because you get several stops on the way. The three day cruise does not offer that. We stopped at coco cay which is not really a location, its just a stop along the way for the cruise ships. Then you get a day at your destination which for us was the Bahamas - the Boat docked early in the a.m. but you had to be back on board by 4 p.m. so there was not a lot of time to see the Bahamas.

4. Plan An Itinerary. There is so much on offer on the ship that its easy to get overwhelmed, so look up the offering and plan your itinerary ahead of time. Also plan the itinerary for your stops along the way so that you get the most out of the trip.

5. Consider the cost versus benefit. In hindsight, this was not the smartest vacation, but it was a family trip so I cannot complain. Considering the cost to fly to Miami, plus the cost of hotel the night before the cruise and the cost of the cruise - a three day cruise was not worth it for me - I would have much rather checked into a nice hotel for a staycation or flown directly to the Bahamas. 

Four years after my first cruise, I am considering another cruise due to a friend's bachelorette party - these tips will hopefully make my second go at cruises much better.

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Zara Black - The $10 Scent that is better than all the rest

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Zara Black - The $10 Scent that is better than all the rest

Step aside Diptyque, Joe Malone and Elizabeth and James, there is a new scent in town.

Since the addition of the Zara black scent to my scents rotation, its the only scent I am using. I first heard of the Zara scent from Tamira Jarrel when she raved about the Zara white scent, I immediately went to the store to pick up a bottle. 

 I  had every intention of getting the Zara white then I tried the "black" and all bets were off. The white is more floral and the black is a bit more musky masculine. I have never been a huge fan of the florals, so as soon as I tried the "black" it was a done deal. Its not floral and its not too musky, it just the right balance of both ends of the scents spectrum. It is light and fresh and the scent lingers all day. It is the perfect scent for everyday.  

Scents are one of the hardest things for me to describe - so I am not doing this justice - Just take my word for it and give it a try. If you love the Elizabeth and James Nirvana  Black you will love this as it has similar scent components.

The best part is the price tag of $10. That's it.

Give it a try, you will love it. If floral is more your thing, then you should pick up the Zara white.

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Travel Diary : Spending Time in Georgetown, Washington D.C.

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Travel Diary : Spending Time in Georgetown, Washington D.C.

On my recent trip to D.C. one of the areas I really wanted to explore - Georgetown. 

I arrived in D.C about noon on Sunday and after checking into my Hotel - I headed to the Newseum and the monuments. I finally made it to Georgetown early evening. First stop was to Good stuff eatery for early dinner of burger and shakes. Then , I made my way to Olivia but it had just closed when I arrived there - so I took a stroll down M Street towards downtown.

Georgetown has got to be one the prettiest areas I have visited and it has a lot to offer with rowhouses with brightly colored doors ,restaurants, pubs and shopping. After about 1/2 hour strolling, it was time to head back, so I began walking back towards the Good stuff bakery, hoping to grab a cab.  Luckily, there was not one to be found and I found my way to baked and wired just before it closed - I got a pistachio cupcake and a chai latte. After indulging in that, I walked the few feet to the harbor for some spectacular views before hopping a cab back to my hotel.

Day II. I was in D.C for work related training - so after the sessions on Monday, I made my way back to Georgetown - this time my first stop was Georgetown cupcakes. As I got out of the cab, it began to pour (guess I brought the rain from Texas - oops). Picked up a peanut butter banana fudge and salted caramel cupcake to go and waited out the rain. Once it let up, I headed for Olivia to try the Macaroons which was worth getting lightly drenched - I got the red velvet and pistachio (sense a theme ?) macaroon. The rain let up a bit, so I took advantage of that to explore the area before my 7:30 dinner reservation at Filomena.

Dinner at Filomena was ah.mazing.

One thing I love about Georgetown is all the great eats on offer , some of my favorites that I did not get to on this trip - Dolcezza for gelato; Sweetgreen for frozen yogurt and delicious healthy food; Stop by Dean and Deluca for gourmet food. If hearty Italian is your pick Ristorante Piccolo is another option. J-Paul's takes the prize for brunch.

By the time I got out of dinner, the rain was really coming down, so I grabbed a cab and headed back to the hotel. There were a few things I wanted to see in Georgetown (like the Durbarton Estate and Tudor place), but the rain put a damper on those plans - so now I have an excuse to plan a return trip. 

Have you spent time in Georgetown ? What are some of your favorite places?


Quote of the week

"To travel is to take a journey into yourself"

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Snapshots from Dubai, UAE - Part I

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Snapshots from Dubai, UAE - Part I

Dubai - Quickly making its way to the top of my list of my favorite places to visit. Before we proceed, I have to apologize and say these picture do not do this city justice (I don't think pictures can truly capture it, but we'll try in this series - check back in July and August) for parts II and III.

Before my first visit, I spent a lot of time researching the city and drawing up a plan of how to get the most out of the time we had in Dubai. The city was very different than I expected and very welcoming to foreigners. Brooke of world of wanderlust wrote this post last year about things to keep in mind when heading to Dubia. It is a nice summary of the 20 + articles I read.

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At the time of my first visit, Emirates had not started direct routes to Dubai, so I flew to London first and then hopped on another flight from London to Dubai. Now, you can catch daily flight from DFW to Dubai and that is good news to me.

During that first visit, we opted for a private tour guide through the Dubai tour company and I was very impressed with then. They picked us up from our hotel in the area locals refer to as old town and we drove to some of the top sites to visit - including the financial district, the gold horses lining the drive way to Madinath Jumeirah Resort; the Burj Al Arab (7 star hotel); the indoor ski lodge at the Mall of the Emirates and the gold and spice markets.

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On one of the evening we were in the city we ventured out to the desert safari (which included sand dunes, camel farms and Arabian themed dinner and entertainment) which is absolutely worth it if you are in these parts.

The rates for the tour and desert safari are quite reasonable. If it is your first time in Dubai - I will suggest getting a tour guide either using the private tours or one of the bus tour companies.  The private tours wins out over the bus tours (slightly) because you get to see sites that the other tours don't provide and with the pick up and drop off at your hotel - you don't have to worry about transportation. As an added bonus, if you are traveling solo, your tour guide can be your defacto photographer.

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A Stroll Down Rodeo Drive - Beverly Hills, CA

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A Stroll Down Rodeo Drive - Beverly Hills, CA

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Rodeo drive is one of those quintessential L.A tourist spots. Tourist fill the streets to check out the street so beautifully portrayed in movies (and it is a beautiful street).  We had just about a day in L.A. before driving to Vegas and my girlfriends and I were coming off really long spring work schedules so a leisure stroll was just what the doctor ordered. The weather was perfect and it was not as crowded as we were expecting it (which was surprising since it was a holiday weekend).

The drive is flanked on both sides by the top designer stores - so we stopped in to our favorites - including L.V store and Jimmy Choo store. If you are into fashion - you will love this street. If not, it is still worth a visit thanks to the lovely architecture of the stores that line the street. Other than the shops, there are a few places to grab a bite and some hotels. 

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We veered off Rodeo drive and found Sprinkles. We stopped in for cupcakes , of course. We also stumbled on the most colorful car before circling back to Rodeo and a stop in to the Burberry store on Wilshere.

It was a nice stroll and the few hours of leisure stroll was just what we needed to get into vacation mode. This is one of those places you should get to if you are in L.A, but don't plan on spending a lot of time here (especially if you don't intend on purchasing anything).

If you don't have a lot of time in the area -  then I will consider other landmarks like hollywood sign or the chinese theater and walk of fame. Better than that, drive to Santa Monica and spend time on the pier or head to Venice beach for the broadwalk  and canal walkways before circling back to Rodeo drive.

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The Day I became a Painter

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The Day I became a Painter

Ha - got your attention with that title - didn't I ? 

A few weekends ago, I met up with a group of amazing ladies to celebrate a friend's bachelorette party. We began the festivities with a painting class at painting with a twist. The idea behind painting with a twist is that even a creatively challenged person (like myself) can create something worth hanging up (with a some paint, brushes and guidelines from a pro).  I have heard so many great things about this place, so I was glad to be able to attend. Painting with a twist is located across the country , with the option for a private class or general class at $35 per person. We were booked for a private party and the guest of honor had pre-selected the inspiration painting.  Easel, paint and brushes were laid out for everyone and with directions from our instructors we got to work creating our masterpiece (maybe not a masterpeice as you would imagine , but for a creative noob as myself - a masterpiece). 

If you are in search of a fun way to spend an evening or something out of the box - You should check this out. I know I will be making plans to create my next masterpiece in the near future. 

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