Amsterdam, Holland Day #2

13083329_736865783016546_7035495925911301784_n

Woohoo! Amsterdam day two! Thankful that we had gone to bed early, the next morning Ben and I were able to wake up a bit after the sunrise to a beautiful – and cold – day. The heat in the Airbnb was not working and although I had slept in layers of the warmest clothes I had brought (which were not many because weather.com lied to me about the temperatures!) I was still shivering as I went down to the kitchen to make a quick breakfast.

Note: All Airbnbs are different and some are definitely better than others. Ours looked great online and the reviews were pretty standard, but overall I was unimpressed with where we were staying. The house was colder than it was outside and it wasn’t particularly clean and though the reason I had booked it was access to the kitchen, upon my arrival the owner of the house greeted us by saying that the kitchen had limited use and that we couldn’t use most of the appliances etc. Not very friendly and not too welcoming… but we had a nice balcony at least! I digress…

13055376_736890683014056_7932781902269570537_n

After breakfast, Ben and I got on the tram from Dieman into the main city of Amsterdam, making a quick stop at a coffee shop on our way to Vondel Park. The park was incredibly gorgeous and it was the first time I could actually see signs of spring!

13082707_736890733014051_7917774852300653437_n

The flowers in London had not yet bloomed so Vondel Park’s brilliant display of purple and yellow blossoms was a welcome reminder that my favorite (warm!!) seasons were on their way. We spent a few hours in the park exploring and bird watching… still in awe and wondering if the birds we saw were really exotic birds or just seemed like it to our untrained birder eyes.

13100711_736865853016539_6285063281099765271_n

13063119_736866356349822_6318259144053939096_o

I had still not recovered from the traumatizing cold night and as we wandered towards the museum quarter I decided that I wanted to buy another layer to wear under my sweater, long sleeve shirt, tank top and winter coat… I ended up buying a white leather jacket that I’m in love with and have worn a ton ever since this trip. Things happen for a reason guys! (They finally fixed the heat during the day.)

13092033_736866686349789_7347978549353194158_n

13062334_736866793016445_6861981685216696923_n

Right by the mall was of course, the Rijksmuseum, our next stop. It has impressive stained glass windows, an incredibly vast collection of Dutch art – think Rembrandt – and also the largest public art history library in the Netherlands.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the canals until sunset, stopping for lunch in the “French Quarter” which reminded me a lot of NOLA. There were tons of cute little restaurants to choose from and we were craving Italian food so we chose the closest one. It was delicious! After lunch we tried to keep walking off the pasta and beer until deciding to take the tram back to our Airbnb to rest up for the long night ahead of us – tackling the Red Light District.

We napped and changed and then made dinner with the ingredients we had bought at HEMA the day before (under the watchful eye of the strange Airbnb owner who was paranoid that we were going to steal her food).

Overall, the Red Light District is just as wild as it is hyped up to be. (We were both so shell shocked neither of us took any pictures!) I quickly learned that it was called the “Red Light” district because of the red lights that were on the doors of prostitutes. Down the alleyways there are doors lined up on both sides of the street with their edges illuminated in red, and the middle a clear glass door. There was one prostitute standing scantily clothed in each door and over 100 in total per street. As you can imagine, the roads were full of leering men trying to negotiate prices and tourists wondering if this was possibly real life.

I had so many different feelings from seeing this on multiple streets and thought up a million questions of things that I wanted to clear up with these women about why they got into this line of work and what the day to day was like. It was just entirely mind blowing that a place like this would exist where this is something that is regularly accepted.

We kept walking through the Red Light District passing shops and shows for everything imaginable. There were lines out the door for “Live Sex Shows” and people on the street asking us if we “wanted cocaine, si si?” We walked back down the canal and settled into a regular pub to collect our thoughts before figuring out our next move.

13043562_736866949683096_4747635839951629949_n

Our next move turned out to be two more pubs and then the admittedly cheesily named “Club Smokey” which was your general nightclub with two floors of dance areas, your typical European DJ who plays American ‘90’s music like it’s still popular and also a connected outdoor area where all kinds of smoking was allowed. Not the worst way to wrap up our second day!

Another super nice thing about Amsterdam is that the tram runs 24/7 and you can buy 24 or 48 hour passes so that you don’t need to stress about communicating with a conductor in Dutch to purchase a ticket each time you need to hop on the tram to get somewhere. This definitely came in handy getting back to our Airbnb at an ungodly hour of the night!

Stay Classy! xx

 

Cinnamon Sugar Crackle Cookies

13083325_736499233053201_9003787120859049347_n

It seems to be a proven fact that whenever I get stressed I quickly gravitate to the kitchen. Making something cute and delicious out of just a few ingredients is a sort of catharsis for me and it gets me out of reality for a while. Not to mention, munching on the delicious yield is something that I totally look forward to! I am currently in the process of cleaning out the last of my kitchen ingredients as my time in London comes to a close and I head off to Italy next week. Cue these cookies as well as rice pudding and crepes that I’ve scheduled time to make these next few days😉

These cookies are the perfect snackable treat. They’re small yet delicious and full of powerfully yummy cinnamon sugar. Again, my flat has come equipped with barely any kitchen appliances (so I creamed and mixed all of this by hand!) but by all means, if you have access to the wonderful invention that is a mixer, I urge you to take advantage of it!

13087605_736499266386531_2183051996824389408_n

Let’s Get Started:

1 cup sugar
½ cup butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
cinnamon sugar

Let’s Get Cookin’:

In a medium sized bowl, cream together sugar and butter; beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture. Blend well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm enough to roll into little balls (took the full 2 hours for me!). Shape dough into small balls, about ¾ inch in diameter. Roll in cinnamon sugar. Place cookies 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheets or parchment paper. Bake at 350* for 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on pans and then remove. Enjoy!

Let’s Get Creative:

Yum! These cookies are simply perfect on their own, but there are definitely ways to spice them up a bit more. One idea is to add some crushed nuts to the dough. You could also add some raisons, thinly sliced, to make a cinnamon raison cookie dough mix. Raid your kitchen cabinets and see what ingredients you have lying around, these cookies are the perfect base with which to get creative!

Enjoy & Stay Classy! xx

Cafe Koosje – A Restaurant Review

Café Koosje – Plantage Middenlaan 37, 1018 DB Amsterdam, Netherlands 4-17 Pounds

13087404_736190873084037_5967434011849889009_n

Café Koosje is just a few stops on the tram from the town of Dieman, halfway into the main city of Amsterdam. Located in a quaint residential area full of coffee shops, places to brunch and niche boutiques and shops, Café Koosje has proven to attract a diverse array of customers from all throughout the neighbouring areas.

Featuring a lovely terrace, Café Koosje has become the place for people to see and be seen in this stylish neighbourhood. It prides itself in celebrity customers from TV shows popular in the area and the regular customer base is well dressed and comes with an appetite.

The café’s interior features a standard oak bar, which matches the wood of the walls and doorways. From here the café expands further back with traditional Netherlands artwork and flyers for events in the arts in the area. It is without a doubt the place to be for the artistic and creative soul.

Starting out as spontaneous culinary venture in 2001, it did not take long for Café Koosje to earn her place as a neighbourhood favourite among both the chic young and old crowds. With vast menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a fully stocked bar, there is not much that Café Koosje leaves its customers wanting for. It provides simple menu options but transforms them into masterpieces that will make your mouth water for weeks after in its traditional Dutch kitchen.

As I mentioned, the menu did not feature any particularly fancy dishes. There for brunch, I was drawn to the Warm Goat Cheese Sandwich with Spinach, Walnut Pesto and Honey as well as the Traditional Dutch Pancake. It was only a natural reaction for me to order both.

Following the old motto, my first bite of food was the dessert pancake topped with homemade crème fraiche. Oh boy. Simple menu options mean nothing when the ingredients they are made from are locally sourced and made to perfection. This “Traditional Dutch Pancake” was so much more than a thinned out pancake or the “XXL” crepe I was expecting to appear in front of me. The cinnamon sweetness of the dough simply leapt off the plate into my mouth forkful after forkful. Compared to the regular sweet crepe dough I had tried in Paris and made in my own kitchen, this dough had a kick that put it on another level entirely. And, of course, you can never go wrong with a few dollops of fresh whipped cream.

After devouring the pancake, I still had more than enough of an appetite to try the Warm Goat Cheese Sandwich. The bread was incredibly thick whole grain with seeds and dried berries and made the sandwich seem quite large. After one bite it was clear that the Dutch understood my insatiable appetite for delicious healthy food. The warm goat cheese danced with the walnut pesto on a bed of spinach in my mouth. The flavour that made this dish more than just a sandwich was the mixture of the warm goat cheese and the walnut. It added just the right amount of sweet to the savoury, and boy do I wish I could go back every week.

Enjoy & Stay Classy! xx

Amsterdam, Holland Day #1

13010700_736190813084043_5482338356350958977_n

Something I’ve learned these past few months in Europe is that the cheapest way to travel is never going to be the easiest. At this point I have done just about every form of transportation – plane, bus, train, ferry – and when you include 2+ hours getting to a station or airport with the actual journey time, the cheapest travel might not necessarily be the best option in the end. This weekend I pushed my luck by booking a super cheap round trip ticket from London to Amsterdam and back, an 11 hour ride there and a 13 hour ride back. My reasoning behind this was that this would be $200+ cheaper than taking a train, ferry or flying. I thought that because it was overnight I would be able to sleep through most of it (not true). I was also sick of flying Ryanair.

In the end, I slept about 3 hours on the ride over. As the sunrise began outside (9 hours into the trip) I realized that we had reached Holland and became fascinated with the different language that was appearing on the buildings and signs that we were passing by. I caught a few glimpses of canals and realized that there was no way my body was going to let me sleep until we reached the city.

The bus pulled into Duivendrecht at 5:30 a.m. Ben and I spent a good half hour freezing outside waiting in line to buy train tickets only to find out that the machine was only accepting coins and the tickets were not working to get into the station. We eventually were able to get service on our phones and found out that the Airbnb we were staying at was just a 9 minute car ride away. Switching gears we found a cab, got to the house and took a much needed nap.

13087404_736190873084037_5967434011849889009_n

We started our day a few hours later, hungry, and took the tram to Café Koosje (Restaurant Review Coming Up Next!). I had an amazing sandwich with melted goat cheese, walnuts and spinach that made me immediately fall in love with Dutch cooking and Amsterdam. (The quickest way to the heart is through the stomach, right?) Ben and I shared a “Dutch pancake” which is the code phrase for… crepe! It was huge and delicious with Nutella and strawberries. The dough was what made it so great – infused with cinnamon – which was a pleasant change to the standard sweet crepe. (Will definitely try this when I make crepes this week!)

13083177_736190579750733_4521753565390704234_n

Next we were eager to just get into the main city, despite the freezing temperature outside (what happened to the weather report that said it would be low 50’s??). Three things about Amsterdam became immediately clear after walking around the main area for an afternoon. 1. This city is made for people who love to bike. 2. The magic of the city lies in the canals. 3. The overall vibe of the city can be explained by the number of coffee shops that appear on each street.

13083196_736190756417382_5031227967609090718_n

The museum area of the city (with the iconic I AMsterdam logo sign in the main square) was blocks of the most popular art museums. Our first stop was the Van Gogh Museum which featured so many of his works that I had no idea he had created. I personally fell in love with his masterpieces that he made during the time he spent in Paris. Some of them had Matisse-esq elements, which may have something to do with my bias!

13051586_736190679750723_7569509290235378644_n

Next stop was a nearby coffee shop and lunch at “Pancake House.” The coffee shops were incredibly zen and encouraged the same intellectual exchange that traditional American coffee shops meant to inspire (like the traditional hipster spots in the Village, not Starbucks and Dunkin…) even though the goods they were selling were a bit stronger than the traditional caffeine.

13055609_736190723084052_2606567466636074008_n

Our second (and third) pancakes of the day were just as delicious as usual. We shared a “Pizza Pancake” and an “Apple Cinnamon Pancake” (both of which were disguised as crepes) and filled us up for the rest of the afternoon. We took the tram back to the Airbnb – the tram system is amazing and super easy and clean! I really want to check it out in San Francisco now – but first stopped at a HEMA, local grocery store, (fun fact: the Dutch word for “store” is “winkle”) to get some groceries for the next few days.

13083124_736190616417396_3785143091853847281_n

And then, in the city with arguably the craziest nightlife in the world, we finally succumbed to the exhaustion that we had accumulated from the bus ride, watched the first few episodes of the new season of House of Cards and went to bed.

Stay Classy! xx

Root For Your Favorite NCAA Team With Jamberry!

Jamberry BBall

The 2016 NCAA Championships are coming to a close! Last night UNC beat Syracuse and Villanova crushed Oklahoma. Out of my bracket, I’ve only got UNC still standing – but hey, they could be the winners of the whole tournament which would be awesome for me!😉

The March Madness tournament flew by for me this year as I am in London and there is virtually no way to watch the games. The British are super into football (aka soccer) and rugby and that’s about it when it comes to sports. I was able to watch the Superbowl back in February, but for some reason basketball has just not caught on here!

The bracket that I made predicted a Duke and UNC championship, and I’m just glad that I got half of that right! I’ll be rooting for UNC in the final March Madness game and even have the nail wraps to show my team spirit!

JamberJamberry came out with a huge (and adorable) new collection of university nail wraps this winter. Even though my actual university (Fordham) is not on the list (yet!!) I’m excited to wear these cute UNC nail wraps in the next few weeks. I love the zig zag and polka dot blue and white patterns and that Jamberry is getting creative with them beyond just a traditional school logo! The nail wraps will be on sale long after the championship game, so you can totally keep supporting your team (or school) all throughout the summer.

Stay Classy! xx (& Go UNC!)

 

 

Paris, France Day #4

12376857_727584440611347_3872032535554509548_n

February 14th seems ages ago now… but that just goes to show that I have been having so much fun that I’ve become about a month behind on my travel posts… *yikes*. Tis the season for final papers and coursework that’s worth 60% of my grade to be completed in a span of two weeks, before my family comes to visit (YAY) and I start traveling a bit more before my wonderful European adventures comes to its end.

12321330_727582283944896_2147927550871698791_n

My fourth and last day in Paris was truly a whirlwind of everything wonderful in life wrapped up in sweet crepe dough and presented on a platter full of everything that makes my soul happy.

12670347_727582183944906_8469691857139570109_nBen and I started off the morning with crepes from our favorite stand a few blocks from the Notre Dame and then made our way to the Arc de Triomphe. Understandably, the Arc had an uncanny resemblance to the arch in Washington Square Park, one of my favorite spots in the NYC.

12524410_727582147278243_2101510507670292937_n

12809720_727582120611579_8199818320445003857_n

Regrettably we opted to not climb (the 300+ steps) to the top of the Arc because we were exhausted and as the rain had finally cleared up that morning and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to go for a walk sans umbrellas.

12920491_727582013944923_2636993310792368636_n

Across what appeared to be a strange intersection with no crosswalk – we eventually realized the crosswalk was underground, go figure – was the Champs-Élysée which I was excited to walk down. High-end boutique after boutique the street stretched on and reminded me of 5th Ave.

12919718_727582087278249_3509509961904440956_n

We stopped in Longchamp where I purchased some gifts and in the original Ladurée shop, which made me nostalgic for Gossip Girl (it featured the first product placement for Ladurée and that’s what it made it so popular! Of course Blair would have these delightful macaroons flown out to her from Paris!) and Ben bought me a box of the world’s best macaroons! Happy Valentine’s Day to me! Note: They were consumed so quickly that I did not even have a chance to take some pictures. One of my favorites though was the bright blue “Marie Antoinette.”

1934698_727584340611357_3924578709901725683_n

Next we went to the Rodin Museum, something that I had been recommended to visit by multiple people, most adamantly my mother. I had already been to the museum in Philly but to see his work in Paris was a whole different story. The museum was half outside in the gardens, which was overlooked by the Tour Eiffel and Les Invalides, the building in which Napoleon is buried and half inside the museum gallery.

12472436_727584493944675_2104919693089728224_n

I can only imagine how beautiful this must be in the spring and summer when the flowers and trees have blossomed and bloomed but unfortunately visiting in the middle of February on a grey and rainy day did not provide for the most ideal experience.

995330_727584453944679_6570740736176989279_n

Of course, Ben and I could not have passed up the opportunity to visit the Love Locks Bridge on the Seine during this trip, and we saved it for our last day, which also happened to be Valentine’s Day. There was something so satisfying and final about clamping the lock down on the bridge and then throwing the key into the River! It is such a cool symbolic experience (and tourist trap) but it also adds another physical portrayal of how romantic the city’s essence truly is. These locks are not just on this specific bridge, but also on the bridges, benches, railings and fences all throughout the city. There is something so special about all of the friends and lovers taking part in this tradition that it adds another element to the Parisian energy.

12472638_727584650611326_1123504702276725198_n

Our last Parisian dinner was incredibly French and delicious. We had a reservation at the Vagenende Brasserie, a traditional French brasserie with an entirely stunning interior. The restaurant was filled with mirrors, chandeliers, gold leaf paint, dainty artwork, teal tiling and mosaics and an old world luxurious atmosphere.

12920255_727582250611566_33340143216144208_n

The menu was rich with options and while deciding we ordered a meat and cheese platter and champagne. Mmmm.

12938126_727584573944667_2234587787804563844_n

The dinner was wonderful and we were surrounded by happy French couples and very French and comedic waiters. We shared a dessert made of a light fluffy crème and some sort of amazing caramel sauce and another glass of champagne before making our way to a nearby rooftop.

12512756_727584410611350_1720136743091441011_n

We had known all along that we had access to this roof, yet for some reason did not take advantage of it until our last night. Our last bottle of French wine in hand we went up the elevator to find that we had the entire rooftop to ourselves.

12524410_727582300611561_9135812760170770443_n

Granted, it was a chilly night, but the view was absolutely astonishing. We were able to see the Notre Dame, Eiffel Tour, Sacre Coeur, Ferris Wheel next to the Tulleries, Les Invalides… it was so wonderful. We figured out how to turn on the heat lamps at the table we were at and reflected on our trip while enjoying the view and the wine.

12472647_727582327278225_7952561319154947123_n

It was from the roof that I was able to see the last Eiffel Tour hourly nighttime light show and I experienced the purest joy that I had felt in a long time.

Stay Classy! xx

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Nest Cookies

1935389_724677077568750_6150380173149560961_n

Nothing gets me in the mood to bake more than a combination of stress (baking is definitely one of my biggest stress relievers!) and an upcoming holiday. I grew up in a house where we bake for every holiday and the fact that I will be in London for Easter this year doesn’t change anything! I am blessed to have my family coming to visit for the week and decided to surprise them by making Oatmeal Crème Pies with Homemade Whipped Crème. As my flat was not equipped with any baking utensils, no mixer, whisk, blender, etc. I had to do everything by hand… including whipping the cream for 45 minutes with a fork!!! Definitely a test to my patience, but of course it was worth it in the end.

Yet after a glass of wine and quick trip to Tesco Express, I realized that Oatmeal Crème Pies weren’t going to cut it with my creativity. So I melted some chocolate, broke out the coconut and Cadbury Crème Eggs and turned my would-have-been oatmeal crème pies into some adorable little Easter nests. They were a hit with my boyfriend and flat mates and I know my family will love them as well! Of course, I saved a few cookies to make the oatmeal crème pies that I had originally intended to create, so this recipe includes the decorating ideas for those as well! xx


12494858_724677017568756_9045190221002375947_n

Let’s Get Started:

For the cookies:

1 cup butter (about 16 Tablespoons), softened
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (or 3 teaspoons baking powder)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups oats

For the whipped crème:
1 cup whipping crème
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

For decorating:
Baking Chocolate
Desiccated Coconut
Sprinkles
Cadbury Crème Eggs

Let’s Get Cookin’:

Preheat the oven to 350*F (177*C). Line cookie sheets with non-stick parchment paper. Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing until combined. Add in oats and mix until incorporated in the batter. Bake larger cookies in oven for 13-15 minutes and smaller cookies for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown (my oven tends to get quite hot so 7 minutes was plenty of time).

For the homemade whipped crème, pour whipping crème into a medium size bowl with granulated sugar. Whip until fluffy and peaks begin to form. (Hopefully you have a mixer or whisk on hand!)

Let’s Get Creative:

To decorate the Chocolate Coconut Easter Nest Cookies I melted pieces of baking chocolate and drizzled it on top of the cookies. Then I used desiccated coconut to create the base for the nests. On some cookies I placed a dollop of whipped crème atop the coconut and set the eggs in that for a fluffier and sweeter creation. Then I sprinkled small pink sugar crystals. You can totally play with the coconut strands and use food coloring to dye them fun colors as well!

For the Oatmeal Crème Pies, I selected cookies around the same size and filled them with homemade whipped crème. I then put the remaining crème into a plastic bag, cutting a small hole out of one corner and scalloped the crème around the edges of the crème pies. I then sprinkled the pink sugar crystals around this crème and voila!

Enjoy & Happy Easter!

Stay Classy! xx

 

Let Body Positivity Shine This Spring

Spring is in the air here in London! The spring solstice officially took place this past weekend and the weather has definitely been celebrating the changing of the seasons.

Warm and sunny 50 degree temperatures have been a most welcome change to the gloomy past few months. As the weather continues to get warmer and more beautiful, people are beginning to switch out their bulky winter wardrobes for bright and light items more appropriate for the new season.

It is now that we see articles begin to pop up online and in magazines, giving us advice on how to “Get Fit Quick” and “Get The Perfect Bikini Body.” Lacking any sort of scientific or proven basis, these articles seem to do more harm than good and they leave out the most important piece of advice anyone can receive. Love your body and yourself.

Warm weather, short shorts and beachwear reveal many parts of our body that have been hidden by sweaters and leggings for the last few months and automatically bring many people to body shame during the spring and the summer. This negativity has an awful impact on the way people view their bodies and themselves, impacting their self-12208316_723499947686463_5965880352187481038_nconfidence as well.

Psychologists use the term “body image” to describe our internalized sense of what we look like. We judge our physical appearance with our own unique mental representations or map of what we believe our body looks like. This is all based on what we see when we look in the mirror however, or how much we are regretting the delicious pint of Ben & Jerry’s we had for dessert the night prior. Our own perception of our bodies includes a lot more than the size of our clothes.

“To some extent our body image is idealized based on how we would like to look. It is also based on a mirror image of our actual appearance. Other people see animated or moving images, whereas we view our own image mainly through photographs or mirrors where our expression is still,” explains Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a Manhattan neuropsychologist.

This idealization of body image is something that is extremely harmful to our ability to respect and love our unique bodies, especially when the media encourages us to compare ourselves to celebrities and photo shopped images in advertisements and magazines. In order to love our bodies the way they are we must realize that we have been blessed with the bodies we have through genetics and though it may sound harsh, we must realize that celebrities are not “average” people.

Celebrities have teams of people guiding them through workouts and diets, taking care of their skin, hair and beauty regimens. The pressure that society puts on them is so harsh that many even speak out that they have suffered from eating disorders, emotional disorders and drug addiction due to the “perfect” pedestal on which they have been placed.

They also train and diet using the help of professionals all throughout the year to maintain their unique physiques. It is for this reason that regular people should by no means compare themselves to the actors, actresses and singers that they see on television and in the media.

Imagine the pain and judgment that could have been avoided if people realized that body positivity and confidence is where true beauty lies. 1465105_723499994353125_5254011910664686403_nA confident and happy man or woman is instantly more attractive, whether they have a muffin top or not. An online editor for Cosmopolitan, Loni Venti, recently admitted to “struggling with crippling insecurity” despite trying just about everything (hypnotism, therapy, personal trainers, self-help books) to no avail. Instead, she confesses that she has just become good at faking her self-confidence.

Her struggle with self-confidence is one that many men and women face. However instead of succumbing to this struggle with loving ourselves, we must instead find the way that works for us to be at peace with our bodies and ourselves. It is only then that we will be able to find true happiness in our lives.

We spend the most time with ourselves, share the most thoughts with ourselves and should have the most respect for ourselves as well. We are our own inevitable lifelong companions, and once we begin to appreciate the uniqueness of ourselves is when we will find the strength to live confidently. Simply acquiescing to negative self-esteem or turning to the Internet to find a crash course diet is just not going to cut it in the long run.

The Internet has turned into a home for body shaming trolls and incessant pressure to give in to our society’s current “standards” of beauty, standards unreachable to the average non-celebrity human. This is saddening, because there is so much more to beauty than what meets the eye. There is no need to read articles such as “14 Ways to Get Bikini-Ready in 24 Hours” because there is no way to get fit in just one day. Fitness is something to aspire to and can be done most efficiently over a period of time.

Dr. Hafeez advises her clients to “forget the diet hype. Eating right and regular exercise and sleeping enough are your weight control keys to success!” This is why workout guides such as Kayla Isines’ “Bikini Body Guide” have become such a success because they show real results. This guide in particular features a 24 week program with HIIT, LISS and Stretching, as well as a comprehensive healthy eating plan.

This is the guide that I have been working out with for the last 6 weeks and I have noticed so many changes in my body, confidence and energy levels. I feel both physically and mentally stronger. The BBG Community on social media is incredibly supportive of my BBG journey and this is something that I would definitely recommend.

As always, a balanced healthy lifestyle is important. If you work hard you should also spoil yourself. Coming into touch with one’s mind and body is what will help increase your confidence this spring and make your inner beauty shine outwards. As long as the person looking back at you in the mirror is smiling, you know you are doing something right.

Stay Classy! xx

Paris, France Day #3

12794544_717695164933608_5876351890597708786_n

Waking up a bit later than usual, Ben and I were both still fighting off some sort of bug, (I guess that’s the price you pay to travel through airports so frequently) Ben and I kicked off our third day in Paris with, you guessed it, crêpes. We went back to our favorite little stand at the end of our block and then continued on our way to (finally!) enter the stunning Cathedral Notre Dame.

1916572_717694694933655_1928482086638704404_n (1)

The meticulous detail that was put into architecture centuries ago is one of my favorite parts about visiting Europe. The gothic set up of Notre Dame, which is entirely surrounded by Biblical figures, wall jambs and flying buttresses, is contrasted by the classic beauty of the stained glass windows inside the church. These are much less overwhelming yet equally as beautiful to look at as one’s eye is trained to move all the way up the oval high ceilings taking in the immensity of the entire structure. The overall affect was incredible and a different style from the cathedrals I had seen on my trips to Italy.

521784_717694801600311_5022252214884211234_n

After making our rounds through Notre Dame we trekked back out into the rain to the crypts beneath the Cathedral. The exhibit was a bit underwhelming – it was a lot smaller than I was expecting and featured just a few stones from ancient times, no artifacts or skeletons etc. It did however include maps that depicted what this area of France, 1st Arrondissement, used to look like before industrialization, which was interesting to think just how much has changed throughout the centuries.

Our next stop was Sacre Coeur, but first we decided to fill our bellies with *delicious* baguettes and chocolate éclairs – sounds like a balanced lunch to me! The baguette was deliciously fresh and made me wonder why we hadn’t been snacking on them since the moment we arrived in Paris. The Pâtisserie we went to actually won the “Best Baguette Contest” in Paris last year.

10400303_717694818266976_4511928110207858023_n

12821542_717694858266972_8735283914858404926_n

Sacre Coeur could be seen from the rooftops of our area, the 1st Arrondissement and very center of the city, as a large cathedral nestled in the mountains. We took the Metro for about 45 minutes and then began an uphill walk to a set of incredibly steep stairs. (More stairs than it takes to get up to my flat I’m afraid!) At least by this point it had stopped raining and by the time we reached the top the clouds had started to clear.

12799433_717694941600297_5543624208680130412_n

Overwhelmed by the in-your-face beauty of Sacre Coeur, as well as the stunning view overlooking the city we decided to take advantage of the clearing sky and take a peek at the landmarks we could see from high up. (Of course, the entire time there were people selling selfie sticks yelling “2 Euro selfie! In various accents.” Europe has definitely changed a bit since I was last here…) The view was gorgeous though and reminded me a bit of Florence.

12800225_717695241600267_3733310398043747922_n

We then entered the Cathedral, which was dizzying with its high vaulted ceilings and brilliant stained glass windows. The Cathedral was huge! I paused to look in the gift shop and bought a beautiful bracelet with navy and light blue crystal beads and a gold cross pendant. (Unfortunately said bracelet has since lost the cross pendant which makes me pretty sad – BUT it’s just another reason to go back to Paris ASAP, am I right?)

12795449_717695348266923_2284672873701830576_n

12813899_717695424933582_8253398933244948394_n

12794544_717695271600264_7142815786274858249_n

This would usually be the time where Ben and I would spoil ourselves with an afternoon nap or break from exploring, but because we woke up a bit later this day we decided to power through and head to the Musée de l’Orangerie to see some of Monet’s lovely water lilies.

12814118_717695498266908_495916998640363060_n

It was particularly astonishing to see the way the museum was curated. Specifically Monet’s Nymphéas was stunning to see displayed in the two oval rooms curved along the walls. I had seen some of his water lilies paintings (he made over 250 paintings of water lilies modeled after those his garden) at museums in the U.S. but these rooms were particularly special because the paintings were so cohesive and full of light and movement.

12832328_717695464933578_7895849432181468393_nIt was a bit past (second) lunch time by the time we were done viewing Monet’s masterpieces at l’Orangerie and we decided it would be best to relax and snack a bit before going out to dinner later. We picked up a baguette, brie and wine on our way back from the museum and dug into it ravenously. Once our initial hunger began to subside we realized just how stinky the cheese we had purchased actually was… not really my thing, I discovered, after waking up from my nap from the brie smell that was still wafting around the room. However – the wine and baguette were amazing – is it even possible to go wrong with freshly baked bread and a bottle of French wine?

Fortunately, dinner was much more filling and full of delicious Italian pasta. (Second time we ate Italian food in France… but so worth it and so desperately needed! If anyone knows of good Italian restaurants to go to in London let me know because I’m struggling without it!) The waitresses and waiters spoke solely in fast French, which made me so excited that I was able to keep up with them and then translate what they were saying to Ben! Our main waitress spoke in beautifully fluent Italian to other customers as well, so when speaking back to her I was able to get my point across using my two favorite romance languages. She asked me if I was from Italy (Yay! My accent is improving!) and was surprised to see that we were both from New York and just attending school abroad (win!).

gazioaperitifdesuet

Happy and full, we started for our last stop of the night, a hipster bar recommended by my Europe guidebook catered to university students. The bar “L’Art Brut” (Ugly Art) on 78 rue Quincampoix, was super tiny and crowded. Not one seat or table was empty so we made ourselves squeeze through the crowd to a small spot at the edge of the bar. Ben remarked that he could see how the first sparks of ideas for the French Revolution could have started up in a small niche spot like this one – and I one hundred percent agreed.

The crowd that the bar drew was not your typical belligerent Saturday night crew. It was entirely clear that the room was full of intellectuals based on the language and candor that was put on tipsy display at the tables surrounding us. Just about everyone there knew each other. The walls were full of you guessed it, ugly art. Yet they did something unique to the atmosphere combined with the totally narrow space and folky tunes. We stayed for a few drinks (their organic wine was poured into a small yet potent glass, and I swore I could taste the grapes) and then headed back, ready for a good night’s sleep. But, of course, not without sharing a late night nutella e banane crêpe.

Stay Classy! xx

Pineapple Chicken & Rice

wp-1457379298508.jpg

It’s so crazy to me that not only do I now like pineapples (after actually despising them for 19 years of my life) but I’m currently obsessed with them. I’ve come a long way from ordering smoothies with ALL of the available fruits, “but no pineapple, please.” My obsession definitely started up again after visiting Barcelona a few weeks ago and enjoying an incredible acai bowl served in a pineapple… mmmm.

wp-1457379302842.jpg

I’ve actually been sick all day today – haven’t even left my flat – so creating this recipe was the most productive part of my day. Besides my nap… all of the naps. I picked up this medium sized pineapple the other day thinking I would use it in my oatmeal but I just couldn’t wait until tomorrow’s breakfast! This recipe is super easy to make (it takes around 12-15 minutes total) and it’s seriously delicious.

12799137_716963568340101_1923855171152691161_n

Let’s Get Started:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup chopped onions
3 pieces chicken breast, chopped
2 cups chopped pineapple
4 cups cooked brown rice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Let’s Get Cookin’:

Heat up a frying pan or wok on medium high heat. Add olive oil, minced garlic and chopped onions, sauté until fragrant (1 minute).  Add chopped chicken and pineapple, sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the rice (2 minutes). Add soy sauce and stir fry until everything is heated through (3 minutes). Adjust seasoning to taste and serve while hot.

Let’s Get Creative:

First, serve it in the pineapple! You scooped out the fruit and letting the finished meal sit in there and absorb the rest of the pineapple juice makes it taste (and look) so much better. You can also add as many veggies to the recipe as you want! I’m thinking I might add a bit of coconut milk to the next recipe too.

Stay Classy & Enjoy! xx