Life in : July

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Life in : July

While away on vacation, I decided to start up a new monthly series. One that is a  lot more personal than the usual travel, beauty and food post that grace these pages. I want a post/space to share updates on my (obviously very fascinating) life…

July was my mini-vacation month and it could not have come at a better time, I was seriously burnt out and was barely hanging on. I got to spend some time in New York and it was fab. I have several New York posts coming up, but until then my instagram feed has some pictures (check out #simiinnyc or #SIdoesNY)

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I got back into exercising this month, nothing major, just getting in 3 to 4 miles walking every other day. It was spared by my time in New York. Fitness wise, I have been trying to cut out diet sodas and it has been a struggle. One of my goals for my trip to New York was to wean myself off of soda. I am happy to report, that is going great.  I had soda just twice during my 12 days away - a massive improvement from my two a day habit.

I picked up this white dress from Buffalo Exchange in NYC, for a friend’s Nigerian traditional wedding (the bride requested her friends wear white). No one is trying to outshine the bride. 

I finished reading my first book of the year on vacation (yay). I had a goal to read 8 books this year and I am only through book number 1 (help me lord). My thoughts on the book coming soon. This leads me to another potential series - a bookclub (I know, shut the front door). I have been trying to get back into leisure reading for quite some time and I think a bookclub is an excellent way to be accountable. Any ideas on how to pull it off will be appreciated. I just got through Mindy Kaling’s Is everyone hanging out without me. For August, I will be reading #GirlBoss (book suggestions are welcome).

Kitchen time was very limited this month, but the few times I was able to create and test a recipe, it turned out amazing. I perfected my puff-puff (Nigerian fried dough) recipe - That was huge for me. You can check out my other recipes here. Earlier this month, I had lunch with some co-workers at whiskey cake. I tried the TX Shrimp bowl - Ah.mazing (but then again, I expected nothing less from Whiskey Cake)

Ahead of my NYC getaway, I loaded up on some apps. Several of which are fab, but camera + app is by far my favorite app in a long time. It does amazing things with pictures and it just makes your pictures generally fab and better.

Finally, I have been getting back into TV. For months, my TV screen was covered in a layer of dust, that was until Suits and Graceland returned for a new season and I have really been getting into the shows - especially Graceland which I was so-so about in its first season.. Now I cannot get enough of the show.  On Netflix, I have been watching Death in paradise a show about a British detective working on a Caribbean Island - it is well written and acted. Plus it is comedy and drama  - I really enjoy the show.

How did your July turn out ?

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The Louvre Museum - Paris. What You Need To Know Before Planning a Visit

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The Louvre Museum - Paris. What You Need To Know Before Planning a Visit

If you google visiting Paris - one of the top places to visit will be the Louvre museum. The Louvre is one of the most notable museums in the world and it is home to some of the most sort after and known art in the world today. Because of that, I it was on my list of places to visit during my time in Paris. Here are a few things that made my visit seamless and a few other things I wish I knew before my visit.  

1. Palace de Royale. This is your train stop if you are headed to the Lourve. I spent about half an hour in rush hour traffic trying to figure this out. I am thankful for the information desk personnel that came to my rescue.

2. Tuesdays. The museum is closed on Tuesdays, so if you are planning a visit , pick abnother day of the week. If you go on Tuesdays - the best you will get is the courtyard and the Louvre pyramids - which are good, but not memorable.

3. Museum Pass is a must have. I am grateful I listened to friends that suggested getting the museum pass, it came in handy on the very busy Monday morning I visited. I was able to skip the lines and get to exploring the Museum.

4. Have a plan. The museum is overwhelming and there is a lot of permanent and temporary exhibit to visit. If you try to see and do it all - you will be here all day. As great as the Louvre is , there are tons of others things you wanna see while in Paris. So get a plan in place. I made a list of this things I absolutely wanted to see - The Mona Lisa ; Venus de Milo ; Napoleon Apartment.

5. The best time to visit. Taking the advice of Brooke (World of Wanderlust) - I suggest Wednesday or Friday after 5 p.m. as the musuem is open till 9:45 p.m on those days and most of the tourist will likely be making plans for dinner versus visiting the Louvre.

6. Free Sunday is a BAD idea. A lot of tour guide are quick to point out that the first sunday of the month offers free admission to the Louvre and other Paris museum. Just realize you are not the only reading those guide and everyone want a free pass - so the lines are not pleasant on those day.

7. What you should see. There is so much on offer here that its hard to narrow down the list, but if you are at the Louvre than you must see Venus de milo, the Mona Lisa (be warned the lines to see this display can get long) and Napoleon's apartment. 


Quote of the week

"If it will not matter at the end of your life, it should not matter today."

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The Navy Pier - Chicago , IL

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The Navy Pier - Chicago , IL

Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the world and because it is the most accessible to me, I have made a few trips and with every trip I discover something else that makes me love the city more. One of my favorite spots to visit in Chicago is the Navy Pier - It's got everything.

For food, you wanna check out the Harry Carey Tavern; there is also the Bubba Gum Shrimp and Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville).Entertainment (museums; plays);  landshark beer garden (even for those us who are not beer drinking people - worth checking out); IMAX and the shakespeare theater.

No visit to the pier is complete without a ride on the ferris wheel which offers a spectacular view of the city. The pier used to house the Smith's stained glass museum before it closed in 2014 (that was one of my favorite things to see at the pier). This is a must see if you are ever in Chicago.

Here are some additional snapshots taken at the Navy Pier over the years.

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Jalapeno Goat Cheese Cauliflower Mash

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Jalapeno Goat Cheese Cauliflower Mash

Hi. My name is Simi and I LOVE Carbs which won't be a problem if I had a consistent workout going, but I don't so I have got to be watch what I eat, make better choices and more portion control. One dish that falls in line with better choices and limits the need to portion control is this jalapeno goat cheese cauliflower mash (recipe here). Cauliflower has become a great substitute for mash potatos and initially I was VERY skeptical but since making this for friendsgiving 2014 - it has made regular appearances on the weekly meal plan and is a favorite around these parts. This is a perfect side dish for summer. It can be served with salmon, beef, baked chicken. Last night we served it with beef bourguignon - oh.ma.gawd !!!

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

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Monthly Beauty Roundup : My favorite foundation primers

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Monthly Beauty Roundup : My favorite foundation primers

Primers - LOVE Them. As an oily combo skinned gal - primers are the saving grace of my make up routine. Personally, there is no point wearing makeup without primer because it just melts away within a few short hours. Primers are an essential part of the makeup routine not just to have a base for my foundation to stick on , but there are great ones on the market that deal with sensitive skin,  color correction and a whole plateral of skin concerns. Over the years, I have used countless primers from different brands and at varying price points. When it comes to primers - I want a product that will give me a full day (8 to 12 hour) wear from my makeup with minimal touchups. With that in mind, here is a roundup of the primers that stood out to me the most and I will consider repurchasing again.

Rimmel Stay Matte Primer ($6.99). 

Pros. Last all day, very affordable. To be honest with you, I am not sure why I bother trying other primers. This one gets the job done and it does exactly what it says on the tin - it stays matte until you are ready to take off your makeup.

Cons.  It feels heavy on the skin sometimes depending on the foundation you are wearing and the downside of last all day type beauty products is that you cannot slack off on taking off your makeup, if not, you invite breakouts. 

Revlon Photo Ready Primer ($13.99) 

Pro. This is the primer I am currently using. I don't have major skin discoloration issues, so I cannot speak to how well it works for that, but as an everyday primer, it is fab. It is lightweight, and it keeps product in place for hours. Now, I am an oily combo gal, so I always expect some shine through, which started after about 4.5 hours wear in the nose area (which is where I tend to get shiny), a little dab off with blot cloth and all was back to normal.  I have been told that it works best with the Revlon photoready foundation. I am yet to give that a try. I will report back when I have experimented.

Cons. For a drugstore product, it is on the higher end of the pricing. Besides that, I don't see much of a downside to this product, it does exactly what is says on the tin.  

Neutrogena Shine Control ($13.99)

Pro. It does what it says on tin - controls shine all day. I start to notice shine through in the nose region about five hours in, but a little dab with blotting paper and everything is back to normal. I typically get 10 to 12 hours wear from my makeup when I use this primer and It did not break me out (like some long lasting products tend to do).

Cons. For a drug store product - a $14 price point is sometimes hard to swallow.

Smashbox Photo Finish $36 (full size)

Pro. This primer is great stuff. It is very lightweight. It does not result in breakout and it keeps everything in place for hours. The only shine through I noticed was in the nose area which is where I typically ooze shine and that was after five hours wear. Once I dabbed off with a blothing paper, my face was as good as new. My favorite part about this primer - it is oil free (I know, all oily gals - cheer)

Con. At $36 for a full size (1 oz) version , I consider it pricey. 

Mally Liquid Face Defender $40

Pro. This is seriously great stuff. I wore this to a July 4th bbq with Texas temp tipping close to 100 degrees and being in the elements all day, my make was still on point. I had to blot the t-zone area after about seven hours, but even with that my makeup was still set and there was no need to retouch. Like I said , seriously great stuff and good one to have for very long days with no time to touch up the face.

Con. A 1.0 fl tube has a $40 price tag (I know, yikes !!!). Thank goodness for Hautelook. If you get lucky and are able to grab one when it makes an appearance on Hautelook at deeply discounted price - you should grab one to try out.

Have you tried any of these ? Do you have any primer favorites, share below.

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Pan Seared Fish with Corn and Black bean Salad

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Pan Seared Fish with Corn and Black bean Salad

Continuing on with the summer food series. Healthy and quick recipes that require minimal time in the kitchen. That's how I like my summer dinners.

This pan seared fish with corn and black bean salad is the easiest summer recipe you will find. It takes little ime to prep and cook. Then you got the salad - which is probably my favorite part of this recipe. When it comes to salads, I get bored with the regular ole stuff. I am always in search of new salad recipes. The idea came to me as I was prepping a burrito bar; we gave it a try and it was a hit with everyone. Then we added the seared fish and this has become one of the most requested dishes at the casa.

For the greens - you can use whatever make you happy - kale, spinach, lettuce, arugula. The oroginal recipe shared on our sister site had lettuce, but we have made thsi with a variety of greens and it always comes out great.

Looking for dinner inspiration - you will love this one, give it a try and thank me later. You can find the recipe here.

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

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Checking Into The Palmer House Hotel - Chicago

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Checking Into The Palmer House Hotel - Chicago

The Palmer house hotel is one of my favorites.

If I were ranking, it will make top 10 of my favorite hotels. The service is fantastic and the amenities are endless and noteworthy. However, it is the decor of this historic hotel that draws me. Walking through the lobby and the hallways feels like walking through a museum. When you walk in - the first thing you notice is the two-story gilder lobby that features a formal staircase. 

While in the lobby, make sure to look up so you don't miss the ceiling mural depicting greek mythology. It reminds me of a subdued version of the ceiling at the Palace at Versailles.

Go up the stairs to the landing floor and you cannot miss the gold peacock door of the Elevator that just speaks opulence - I think it should be listed as part of Chicago attraction - it is so beautiful.  The peacock theme is tastefully replicated around the hotel.

Once you get to the guest floors - the hallways are decorated with hanging photos of famous patrons of the Palmer house - Including Jerry Lewis and Nat King Cole.  Just walking the hallways of the guess floors - it was like strolling through a photograph museum. 

The hotel is located on Monroe street across from the Bank of America theatre ; You are in walking distance of Millenuim park and the bean, the Art Institute of Chicago and State street shopping. It is also a short 10 minute cab ride to check out the second city comedy group which is a must see if you are in Chicago. There are over 1600 rooms on 25 floors and the hallways of guest floors. Room rates range from $250 to $400 based on the season, room size.

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Style Edit : Strips and Polka Dot with a pop of color

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Style Edit : Strips and Polka Dot with a pop of color

I took a brief haitus from the style edits and closet reorganization for a few months. I am geting back into the swing of things. As I declutter, I am also taking conscious steps to plan maximizing my closet. I have been drawing inspiration from some of my favorite fashion bloggers. A combination I am loving lately is strips and polka dots (with a pop of color). Remember this purple skirt featured in my three ways to wear a tan jacket cookbook? Well it is making a comeback with strips and polka dots. As good as it looks on the style board, it looks even better in person. This style board was inspired by this post by Tosin of Mystylepad.

What do you think ? 

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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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