24 HOURS IN PARIS

After our wonderful and epic vacation to Iceland and Switzerland, the HUBS and I decided to do a 24 hour layover in Paris.  I had never been, always wanted to go and anything less than 24 hours would be too little.  I must say, as the layover neared, I kept wondering if one day would really be enough time to get a flavor of the city.  Turns out when you have so little time you really REALLY make it count.  


PARIS TRAVEL GUIDE


GOAL 1:  EIFFEL TOWER

The first thing we did after landing was go to the Eiffel tower.  We wanted to get there before it got too packed.  Turns out we were too late for that, but we still did really enjoy ourselves.  Plus it was even better since we got to see some family there too!  

Eiffel Tower Paris Travel Guide Charisma Shah
selfie under the Eiffel Tower

selfie under the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower Paris Travel Guide Charisma Shah
Acting like tourists :)

Acting like tourists :)

Eiffel Tower Paris Travel Guide Charisma Shah
Trocadero

Trocadero

The HUBS and I were pretty hungry since we had skipped breakfast for the Eiffel Tower, so we actively searched for food.  And since we hadn't eaten Indian since Iceland, we were pretty stoked to eat something familiar and veggie-friendly.  We tried out this place called Sangeetha in Paris "Little India" district.  We were pretty disappointed.  Let's just say stick to the South Indian food at this restaurant - that was decent.  

GOAL 2:  GET REAL FRENCH MACARONS

After lunch we decided to walk around for a while and work off our meal.  We walked until we got to our Macarons destination - Pierre Herme.  This was actually a recommendation from our Parisian Airbnb host so we figured we'd get it in lieu of Laduree.  

Macarons are not cheap!  We purchase 6 macarons for $20+ dollars, but they were DELICIOUS.  The flavors were so unique and the shop wasn't full of tourists which was nice because we had more time to select which of the flavors we wanted to try.  Definitely a locals spot.  And yes, all macarons are made fresh daily - we asked.  

Pierre Herme Macarons

Pierre Herme Macarons

PS.  the jasmine tea macaron was incredible!!

SIDE TRACK - GET ICE CREAM

Right outside of the Pierre Herme macaron store we spotted this really quaint ice cream boutique - Une Glace à Paris.  On a whim we decided to try it.  OMG.  Phenomenal.  The Lemon Olive Ice cream was the best ice cream I have ever tasted - super refreshing and not tart, and more importantly tastes like those lemon creme filled biscuits that you eat with chai.  Ah-mazing.

GOAL 3:  GO TO A REAL CREPERIE

So, after ice cream we continued on our food, LBH sweets, tour of Paris and decided to walk 2 miles to get crepes at Creperie Framboise.  Since we were walking we got extra :)

The HUBS and I were pretty apprehensive that crepes in Paris could be so much better than our favorite spot.  Truthfully, I was expecting more novel unique flavors than your typical nutella, strawberry, etc.  Most of the crepes we tried were solid but not amazing.  Although the flavors weren't that unique, the HUBS got easily the most delicious sweet crepe we have ever had.  It was caramel apple praline with ice cream - basically lots of yummy goodness.  

Caramel Apple Praline Crepe with Ice Cream

Caramel Apple Praline Crepe with Ice Cream

Oh also, apparently Parisians don't eat crepes for breakfast because none of the creperies are even open before noon...

GOAL 4:  FLAGSHIP LOUBOUTIN 

I mean do I really need to explain this one?  Basically, go and gawk, its like a boutique/shoe shrine/museum.  Oh and drop off your brother/husband/bf/dad at the dude side right next to it.

GOAL 5: SEE THE EIFFEL TOWER AT NIGHT

I actually must say this was one our favorite thing we did in Paris.  Apparently ever hour on the hour for five minutes the tower lights up in glittery spectacular glory.  I had seen it on Instagram and wanted to see it first hand so, we took a bottle of wine (a real french Bordeaux) and uber'd it to the tower.  We sat and reflected in the moments leading up to midnight.  Sure enough at midnight it started.  It was midnight in paris, and it was this perfect romantic moment.  

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

And that was basically our day layover in Paris.  Whats your favorite thing to do in Paris?  I am sure we will be going again so we'd love recommendations for our next trip!  Let us know in the comments below!  

Happy Travels!

 

 

6 DAY GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND

Such a beautiful country, lets just say it was difficult to spend just 6 days there. After doing tremendous amounts of research, the HUBS and I finally decided where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see.  We were pretty adamant about not doing too many extremely touristy things, so we set out to find the most beautiful and remote spots.  Each one was gorgeous.  Keep reading to find out where all we went! 


6 DAY GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND


Our itinerary for 6 days.

Our itinerary for 6 days.

 

DAY ONE  LUGANO

view of Lugano from Monté Bre

view of Lugano from Monté Bre

Before this trip, neither of us knew about this beautiful city.  It sits right on Lake Lugano on the southern border between Switzerland and Italy, and surrounded by mountains.  Its proximity to Italy lends to a very prominent Italian culture: food, wine, and architecture.  Even as we were hopping trains from Zurich to Lugano, the announcements progressively changed from German to Italian.  In fact, its one of the few cities in the country that speaks Italian. 

MONTÉ BRÉ

This is the highest peak in Lugano on the Swiss side.  Its a 3 hour hike (or 20 minute ride up the funicular) that has absolutely stunning views of the city.  You can also take bus 12 to the top and hike about another 20 minutes to the summit.  At the summit there are some restaurants and gift shops.  We just enjoyed the views.  

  1. RATING:  *****
  2. PROS:  great views, funicular available if you don't want to hike, bus available in case funicular isn't available
  3. CONS:  funicular costs 25 Euros and is not included in Swiss Rail Pass

ARTÉ AL LAGO

Located in the Arté Lago Hotel, this is the only Michelin star restaurant in the entire city.  

  1. RATING:  *****
  2. PROS:  great food, beautiful views, excellent service, sommelier, vegetarian friendly, amenable to allergies and dietary restrictions, tasting menu and a la carte
  3. CONS:  waterfront but inside (no outdoor seating).  
  4. NOTES:  guys must wear slacks (no shorts allowed).

 

DAY TWO INTERLAKEN

This was probably the most touristy destination of our trip.  Initially I was apprehensive about visiting, but it was just as beautiful as the rest of our destinations, and there was tons to do.

  1. RATING:  *****
  2. PROS:  variety of food options, lots of adventure sports, beautiful, boating/water activities
  3. CONS:  touristy, lots of people, expensive

 

THE AARBURG

This adorable quaint hotel is right along one of the canals that run throughout the city.

  1. RATING:  *****
  2. PROS:  our room had a balcony with a beautiful view of the city and Alps, breakfast is included, ensuite bathroom, and the staff (Chris) are so incredibly nice and helpful.  Out of everywhere we stayed throughout our trip in Iceland and Switzerland, this was our favorite place and favorite host.   
  3. CONS:  rooms are small so not the best for large suitcases

LITTLE THAI

We figured we would take advantage of Interlaken's variety of cuisines and try some Thai food since we had been surviving on swiss cheese and granola for too many days.  Surprisingly did not disappoint.

  1. RATING:  ****
  2. PROS: quick, better than expected, good variety of dishes, tofu friendly.
  3. CONS:  outside of the city center, not better than Thai food in the States.

SWISS PARAGLIDING

Paragliding in Interlaken

Paragliding in Interlaken

This was an amazing experience.  Neither of us had been paragliding before, and Interlaken provided the perfect scenery.  While flying you can see the three main peaks in the region: Jungfrau, Eiger and Schilthornbahn, and both lakes Thun and Brien.

  1. RATING:  ****
  2. PROS:  great coaches, super relaxing and beautiful & perfect scenery for paragliding
  3. CONS:  super expensive $150/person plus more if you purchase the pictures.  

LADERACH CHOCOLATERIE SUISSE

Delicious.

  1. RATING:  *****
  2. PROS:  officially my new favorite chocolate (previously the title belonged to Venchi Italian Chocolates), try the orange scented dark chocolate almond bark - Ah-mazing!  Better than Lindt, and you can ask to try flavors.  Can't be purchased in the States.
  3. CONS:  $$$$ (the HUBS was astounded that chocolate could cost so much).

 

DAY THREE  KANDERSTEG & LAKE OESCHINESEE

Lake Oeschinesee #nofilter 

Lake Oeschinesee #nofilter 

It took several weeks of researching the best, most beautiful sites to see in Switzerland and constantly adding & removing destinations to decide our final itinerary.  I think we had about 10 versions before we finalized everything.  I happened upon this spot on Instagram and immediately knew I had to go.  Unfortunately, adding it meant removing something else (Mount Titlis), but I just could not get over the bright blue glacial waters.  The HUBS was really reluctant to add another destination to our already crammed schedule, but in the end he was the first one to say that it was his favorite destination by far.  If you go to Switzerland we both think its a MUST SEE. 

  1. RATING:  *****
  2. PROS: remote, bright blue glacial water, peaceful, wonderful hike, really great strawberry vanilla soft serve, can rent boats to go out on the lake, GORGEOUS.
  3. CONS:  none.
  4. RECS:  take hiking boots, snacks (food can be $$$).
just rowing away on Lake Oeschinesee

just rowing away on Lake Oeschinesee

Lake Oeschinesee Kandersteg Switzerland Travel Guide Charisma Shah
the HUBS and his trademark jumping pics! :)

the HUBS and his trademark jumping pics! :)

Lake Oeschinesee Kandersteg Switzerland Travel Guide Charisma Shah

 

DAYS FOUR - SIX GIMMELWALD + MÜRREN

Gimmelwald from above.

Gimmelwald from above.

After exploring Interlaken for two days, we moved on to Gimmelwald - this adorable mountain village at an altitude of 4000+ ft.  In fact, its one of the few towns (village really) in Switzerland that can not be reached via car - there is no road access.  Just a hiking path or gondola ride (free with the Swiss Travel Pass).  The route to Gimmelwald from Interlaken is very picturesque - passing several waterfalls and Lauterbrunnen (another cute town).  Unfortunately it rained most of the time we were there, so we don't have too many pictures from this part of our trip, but Gimmelwald was the perfect destination for someone who wants to hike and be outdoors.  

  1. RATING:  ****
  2. PROS:  beautiful village, very remote, not too touristy, lots of wonderful trails and gondolas to summits (Schilthorn & Allmendhubel), the North Face Trail, Lauterbrunnen, and Mürren are very accessible.
  3. CONS:  somewhat hard to get to (not directly on the train paths), not too many food options within Gimmelwald but many more in Mürren.
  4. RECS:  bring hiking boots, do not bring too much large luggage, you could definitely do everything in just one or two days here max.  We stayed a little too long in our opinion.

MOUNTAIN HOSTEL

  1. RATING:  ***
  2. PROS:  lots of backpackers, young professionals and college kids.
  3. CONS:  its a hostel - so you have to remove your own sheets at the end of your stay, pay 1 swiss franc for the shower, breakfast is pretty bare bones, and all guests are required to wash their own dishes.  I know this is pretty typical of hostels, but it still cost $100/night for us to stay there which seems expensive when we are doing so much ourselves and sharing a room with like 20 other strangers.  Also they have a MAJOR fly problem - like 100 flies per floor.
Gimmelwald Switzerland Travel Guide
Gimmelwald Switzerland Travel Guide Charisma Shah

THE NORTH FACE TRAIL

  1. RATING:  *****
  2. PROS:  absolutely beautiful ~ 5 mile hike (mostly downhill) from Allmendhubel to Murren/Gimmelwald.  Very picturesque, free grazing cows, so peaceful.  We went in the rain and it was still amazing.  
  3. CONS:  since there are cows there is also cow dung, not too many food options or bathrooms along the way so prepare accordingly.
  4. RECS:  Absolutely wear hiking boots. 
view from the first part of the North Face Trail.

view from the first part of the North Face Trail.

North Face Trail Gimmelwald Murren Switzerland Travel Guide Charisma Shah

In spite of the rain, the HUBS still managed to take some beautiful drone footage of our excursions and travels throughout the country.  

If you have also been to Switzerland, what was your favorite destination?  There are so many beautiful cities we just might have to go again!  Leave us a comment below and let us know where we should travel to next!

 

 

 

 

3 DAY ICELAND TRAVEL GUIDE

So when the HUBS and I first met, he told me about all of his travel dreams.  He even asked me to create some artful pieces for his then new home of: where he's been, where he would like to go and where he's lived.  As he was talking about his future passport stamps, I realized that I had never created a list of places I wanted to go.  I just assumed the highlights like Italy, Greece, and Hawaii would happen eventually.  But now I wanted a list.  

Well, flash forward a couple years and some friends of ours went to Iceland.  It was pretty much the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen, and since I am OBSESSED with photos, I just had to go.  So long, Hawaii and Santorini, you just got bumped for Iceland!

Needless to say, when the HUBS said he was going for our friend's bachelor party, I couldn't resist.  I mean how many times do you go to Iceland in your life?  Plus the weather was amazing, and I don't fare well in the cold.  

Well, after months and months of planning and researching, we finally isolated what we HAD to do while we were there.  Iceland is a stunning country, regardless of the season and there is just too much to do in 72 hours, so we had to prioritize.  Not by choice but by necessity.  

Since we had such an incredible experience traveling to Iceland we figured we'd share what we did and saw.  To see all of our tips for traveling to Iceland click here.  Enjoy!

THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

A series of stops along the southwestern portion of the country.  Includes these main attractions: the Strokkur geyser, Gullfoss waterfall, Kerið volcanic crater, and Þingvellir National Park.  

  1. RATING:  ***
  2. LOCATION:  Click here to see tours on Trip Advisor
  3. PROS:  lots of guided tours available.  Gullfoss waterfall is incredible, large and beautiful. Diving between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Þingvellir National Park was incredible according to the HUBS.
  4. CONS: super touristy, Strokkur geyser was pretty much like any other geyser, Kerið volcanic crater was not that interesting or that beautiful either.  
  5. RECS:  super touristy, many more beautiful spots in Iceland than these.  Only one really worthwhile was the tectonic plates.  
Kerið volcanic crater from above

Kerið volcanic crater from above

DAY ONE

SOLHEIMASANDUR PLANE CRASH

Supposedly in the 1970's a US Navy DC plane crashed on the Solheimasandur beach because it was out of fuel.  All the crew members survived but the plane crash remnants still remain on the beach pretty close to the sea.  This crash site is about 2.5 hours from Reykjavik and 20 minutes from Vik.  

  1. RATING:  ****
  2. LOCATION: Click here to view on Google Maps
  3. PROS:  really neat unique experience, made for a great photo opportunity, close to Vik and black sand beach
  4. CONS:  long walk (5 miles roundtrip), very touristy now, hard to get on top of plane, lots of people
  5. RECOMMENDATIONS:  go as early as possible to avoid large crowds. Great guide on how to get there.
plane crash Solheimasandur Iceland Travel Guide charisma shah
Solheimasandur plane crash Iceland travel guide charisma shah
Solheimasandur plane crash Iceland travel guide charisma shah
Solheimasandur plane crash Iceland travel guide charisma shah
Solheimasandur plane crash Iceland travel guide charisma shah

SKÓGAFOSS

This grand waterfall sits on the edge of what used to be Iceland's former southern cliff coastline.  

  1. RATING:  ****
  2. LOCATION: Click here to view on Google Maps
  3. PROS: very large, beautiful landscape surrounded by roaming sheep and horses, can climb to view from top, very picturesque
  4. CONS: lots of people
  5. RECS:  earlier the better to avoid crowds
Skógafoss waterfall in the distance

Skógafoss waterfall in the distance

Skógafoss waterfall 

Skógafoss waterfall 

PURPLE NOOTKA FIELDS

Along our drive back from the plane crash site, we kept passing these beautiful fields of purple "nootka" or Alaskan Nupine flowers.  We literally frolicked in these fields of Nootka bollywood style.  Duh.

Nootka Flower Fields Iceland Travel Guide charisma shah
Nootka Fields Iceland Travel Guide charisma shah
Nootka Fields Iceland Travel Guide Charisma Shah

SEJALANDSFOSS

This pretty waterfall is along Road 1 on the southwestern portion of the island.  Its most well known for its walking path that leads behind the waterfall.

  1. RATING:  ***
  2. LOCATION:  Click here to view on Google Maps
  3. PROS: Close to the main road, bathrooms, pretty
  4. CONS: Touristy, Niagra falls offers a more unique walk behind the waterfall than this (if you've done Niagra before than this waterfall is skippable).  
  5. RECS: the earlier you go the better - less people.  Definitely slippery - wear appropriate shoes
Sejalandsfoss Waterfall Iceland

Sejalandsfoss Waterfall Iceland

DAY TWO

LANDMANNALAUGUR

Located in the Highlands this beautiful mountain range was created by a volcanic eruption back in the 1400's.  Its so gorgeous, has tons of wonderful hikes, a campsite and is totally worth the trek.  

  1. RATING:  *****
  2. LOCATION:  Click here to view in Google Maps
  3. PROS:  lots of guided tours available, great hikes, gorgeous views, lakes and ponds intermittently, bathroom, picturesque, not crowded, self exploring
  4. CONS:  requires 4WD, 3 hours from Reykjavik, pay-to-use bathrooms
  5. RECS:  bring hiking boots and just wander.  lots of great places to take pictures, very calming + relaxing
landmannalaugur mountains iceland travel guide charisma shah
landmannalaugur mountains iceland travel guide charisma shah
a little blurry but a golden memory

a little blurry but a golden memory

landmannalaugur mountains iceland travel guide charisma shah

SIGOLDÜFOSS

Gorgeous waterfall sitting on the northern outskirts of Landmannalaugur with bright blue glacial water.  

  1. RATING:  *****
  2. LOCATION:  Click here to view on Google Maps
  3. PROS:  lesser known, not crowded, bright blue water, lots of different view points
  4. CONS:  lots and lots of flies
  5. RECS:  bring face net so the flies don't bother you, right outside northern entrance to Landmannalaugur next to the power station
Sigoldüfoss waterfall

Sigoldüfoss waterfall

sigoldüfoss waterfall Iceland travel guide charisma shah

BRUARFOSS

Both the HUBS and I agree this was our favorite waterfall.  Its tucked away, remote and somewhat hard to find with all the bushes and trees, but its a stunner.  Pictures do not do it justice.  We basically followed a beaten mud footpath for about a mile climbed through some bushes and voila - Bruarfoss.  Stunner.

  1. RATING:  *****
  2. LOCATION: Click here to view on Google Maps
  3. PROS:  remote, isolated, blue glacial water, short hike
  4. CONS:  hike through mud and bushes to get to it
  5. RECS:  wear shoes that can get dirty, follow GPS to basic location then follow other people or sound of water to find footpath.  
Bruarfoss waterfall Iceland Travel Guide charisma shah

DAY THREE

ÖXARÁRFOSS

This really unique hike might seem familiar - its featured in Game of Thrones and follows the Mid-Atlantic ridge to a waterfall.  Its actually man-made, dating back to the 9th century with the intent to provide water to locals.

  1. RATING:  ****
  2. LOCATION:  Click here to view in Google Maps.
  3. PROS:  really unique looking, small quaint waterfall at end of hike, well paved in parts
  4. CONS:  lots of people
  5. RECS:  use hiking boots, pretty rocky at the beginning
Öxarárfoss waterfall 

Öxarárfoss waterfall 

Oxararfoss waterfall 

Oxararfoss waterfall 

BLUE LAGOON

Probably the most popular of our excursions, was the Blue Lagoon.  I personally was really looking forward to this experience.  First, yes its that pretty in real life, but what no one picture shows is how touristy it is.  Lots of people.  Since its quite large, this didnt really affect us too much except in the locker rooms as we tried to shower and change after.  It really is so nice to take a dip in a thermal pool when its chilly!

  1. RATING: ****
  2. LOCATION: Click here to view on Google Maps.
  3. PROS: very beautiful, relaxing, warm, fun to go with groups, chill
  4. CONS:  lots of people, packed locker rooms, expensive even for the basic package, only one toilet in locker room.
  5. RECS:  bring toiletries, towel, flip-flops, clothes to change into, don't leave the face masks on for too long - can be drying.
Blue Lagoon Iceland Travel Guide Charisma Shah
Blue Lagoon Iceland Travel Guide
Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

We had such an amazing experience in Iceland!  We could not excessively share enough haha.  The HUBS took some amazing drone footage which you can watch below (best viewed in 4K!).  We hope you enjoy!  And please go visit Iceland - its a must see!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY WATERCOLOR ACCENT ARMCHAIR

Oh gosh.  Where to even begin with this project.  

When the HUBS and I moved into our new home, I had this *wonderful* idea of designing watercolor accent armchairs that would serve as one focal piece in our living room.  I had all this gumption, knew exactly what I was going to do, read HOURS worth of reupholstering posts online.  Even had two amazing antique Louis armchairs that my dad bought without my mom's approval and consequently mom was "donating" to our furnishing project.  Little did I know this was going to be a behemoth of a project.  

First of all the antique Louis armchairs were a no go because we would have to figure out how to ship them to our new place, and all the small details of the chairs would make an already long project even longer.  So we decided to scour the inter webs for used armchairs that we could give some love.  

After months of searching and nothing quite in our price range or desired shape, we turned to simply buying two new semi-affordable armchairs.  We had saved on all our other furnishings, so we had a little more to designate towards this project.  After lots of searching, we came across these armchairs that had excellent reviews and were known to be cushiony and comfortable.  Nothing is worse than buying furniture online, only to find out its stiff as a board.   

Armchair Charisma Shah

During the shipment process one of the two chairs was damaged, so we got another replacement chair immediately (great customer service BTW!).  This ended up providing to be quite useful since we could strip the damaged chair for practice.  While I was taking apart the broken chair, I realized that there was really no way that I would be able to put the pieces back together regardless of how many notes or pictures I took.  So I decided instead to create a fitted slipcover for both chairs.

With a little bit of crude photoshop, I designed a handful of fabrics + designs so I could imagine the chairs as a finished product with the patterns I had developed before selecting the final fabric. 

I immediately fell in love the one on the farthest right.  The small pops of orange seemed so fun.  Plus I really loved the idea of two mirrored asymmetrical chairs.  So I started designing the fabric for printing.  Many of you know that I really love using Spoonflower for my design needs.  I can create custom prints with the versatility of several fabric options.  I have used them previously to create these placemats.  In this case, I used Spoonflower to create this lovely watercolor canvas print.  

watercolor DIY accent armchair charisma shah

If you do choose to go this path, make sure that your fabric pattern is true to size.  This means you will need to take into account the chair dimensions and where you want the pattern to be placed before creating your fabric for Spoonflower.  This will ensure that your pattern lies as you envision it.  That being said, I took the measurements of the chair, approximated how large I wanted the watercolor motif to be, and then created the fabric print to size in Photoshop before uploading it on Spoonflower.  

After designing my fabric, I took apart the fabric of the broken chair and segregated the pieces into the front and the back.  I made notes on how the pieces were attached together and then started tracing and cutting the pieces out on my fabric based on how I wanted the pattern to lay.  I labeled each piece on the back of its position on the chair.  I then sewed the inner arm pieces to the inner back piece.  I repeated this step with the outer arm and back piece as well.  I then attached these two together (the front piece to the back piece).  This didn't work too well so I had to sew on these pieces by hand to the chair which took forever.  I was just about to give up, but then my HUB's mom offered some much needed encouragement.  

So like 3 days later....Voila!

DIY watercolor accent armchair tutorial charisma shah
DIY watercolor accent armchair tutorial charisma shah

If anyone else is thinking about reupholstering please consider these before committing:

  • Local reupholsterers can be quite affordable.  This might be worth the money since it will free up your time.  Some quotes that I received were for $200-300/chair with a two week lead time.
  • This project was an abbreviated reupholstery and still took several days (if not a week) to complete.  If you completely reupholster, please be aware there are several tools, like 1000+ staples involved, and much much much more time.
  • The benefit to DIY with this project is being able to place the printed fabric the way you want it.  Thats how I was able to get this asymmetrical unique motif for my chairs.
  • Yes these chairs are beautiful and I love them, but I am still not sure if it was worth the frustration, exasperation and time.  Just be prepared to be incredibly patient.

For those that would rather purchase a beautiful and unique chair this is a much more time effective AND cost effective route.  I would consider some of these:

As you can see, Spoonflower & Roostery work with artists and designers like myself to create truly unique pieces.  These are some that I have designed including one that is the exact same print as my chair but on a more versatile style chair.  I hope you guys enjoy!

 

 

 

 

PHOTOGRAPHY

About a year ago I started adding recipes & diy's to what was once my fashion design portfolio.  Suddenly this little blog started, right as I was learning what it meant to be a spouse (still learning this!) and a cook and a designer and well many other things.  I quickly learned that humble iPhone photos could only take me so far, so I started playing around with my Dad's old DSLR (circa 2008).  To this day, I swear by it.

DSLR vs iPHONE

Phones keep getting progressively better camera technology but when I started this site I was still using the iPhone 4S.  Ancient I know!  My instagram was a mess of overly contrasted, grainy photos with unnecessary filters that were distracting rather than enhancing.  Oh, and I really loved those black frames and the Nashville filter (for obvious reasons)!  Although, quite great at the time, the 4S' rear camera was only a mere 8 megapixels to the Canon Rebel T1i's 15 MPs!  On a tiny phone screen or even in the Instagram app, both look pretty great.  However, on a laptop/desktop/computer the doubled resolution is pretty spectacular!  I never knew that you could see each and every facial hair in my brother's scraggly beard!  And so I became addicted to pictures on the DSLR.  

Above:  Left photo taken with iPhone 6, Right photo taken with Canon Rebel T1i.

Today I still use my Dad's DSLR (Canon Rebel T1i).  Well, I think after kidnapping it a couple years ago, its pretty safe to say its mine...right?  Its actually the oldest piece of technology that the HUBS and I own, but it takes wonderful pictures and is very easy to use.  I am obsessed.  If you ever see me with my camera, I am probably knee deep in tall grass taking "ant pictures" like this one below.

unedited, DSLR photo #nofilter

unedited, DSLR photo #nofilter

unedited DSLR photo #nofilter

unedited DSLR photo #nofilter

 

NEVER GOING BACK

With time, literally thousands of pictures, and lots of experimenting, I have actually started to realize that DSLR photography is SO MUCH MORE than just pointing and shooting.  Seriously y'all these things can do wonders.  

Up until about a year ago all my DSLR pictures were just taken in the the Auto or Landscape setting (including the two pictures above).  But as I was looking at some of my favorite bloggers photos on Instagram, I realized the reason I loved these feeds so much was because their impeccable pictures.  Each was bright, light and airy.  So I figured they were just living in insanely sunny places like LA or Phoenix.  These bloggers knew how to use their DSLR effectively to create these ephemeral vignettes.  

I researched a little bit on photography only to learn that all those settings on the dial of your DSLR are actually SUPER useful.  Manual photography manipulates the natural light present to create gorgeous pictures, something that for the most part can't really be done on a camera phone.  Learning about ISO, shutter speed, and aperture is necessary, but your photographs will be even more stunning.  Look out for another post about how to manipulate these for better photos coming soon!

FLIRTY FROCKS

Its been quite some time since I have posted about fashion, but with every spring I feel more inspired by the warm rays, summer rains, and simple breezes.  I LOVE SPRING.  Its my absolute favorite time of the year.  I love the cherry blossoms that line wilson park, I love the "snow" from the bradford pears that fall so gently, and I love warm sunshine.  I also hate winter clothes.  Too much stuff, too much constriction and too suffocating.  Just thinking of turtlenecks makes me itch.  Blah.  

Like I said, I am just happy that the days are warmer and longer.  AND I can resume wearing dresses.  Like this flirty frock.  

spring favorites yumi kim cult gaia kate spade ann taylor charisma shah

ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR

I just love this outfit for date night, or Easter brunch or even luncheons with mom.  Its also totally perfect for that much needed vacation we all have been postponing.

BELIZE

YOU BETTER BELIEZE IT

san pedro belize charisma shah

The HUBS and I have been traveling a lot lately.  Between moving and visiting family, our weekends have been packed, so naturally when we saw a great deal on a flight to Belize via Southwest we hopped on it.  Literally.  

We've travelled to several beach destinations (hello Maldives!) and always had a wonderful time.  Belize didn't disappoint.  The country is relatively small, with about 300k population total.  But y'all these are some of the most generous, hospitable, friendly folk ever.  Everyone was so nice and helpful.  Our tour guide Lloyd even fed us home-cooked rice & beans during our explorations of the area.  And almost everyone speaks english.  In fact, the native language is "Kriol" which sounds something like really fast broken English.  

Belize has several beautiful locations, but we decided to spend our time in Belize city and San Pedro Island.  Belize city was this quaint bustling city with a village feel.  Everyone seems to know each other.  And much to our surprise there is a large Indian population because several of the natives are of East Indian/Caribbean Indian descent.  We were walking down the street and passed a car playing Bollywood music.  We went to a local Indian grocery store.  In fact, our first meal was traditional Punjabi food at a local Indian restaurant called Sumathi!

I see trees of green, skies of blue...what a wonderful world

I see trees of green, skies of blue...what a wonderful world

The next day we took a ferry to San Pedro island.  It was beautiful, serene, and perfectly charming.  We stayed at Air B N' B's the entire time, which was the best decision we could have made.  We were able to really absorb much of the local culture.  We had our bellies fill of  fried plantains, fresh guavas, custard apple and like most vacations, too much other food to keep track of.  

Its hard to choose the most memorable part of our stay, but it is definitely a toss up between swimming with sharks or feeding wild howl monkeys.  

HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE

Hol Chan is a local marine park that is home to a beautiful coral reef and its corresponding eco system.  It is always so fun to snorkel and see this magnificent world that exists beneath the ocean.  The little kid in me felt like I was in Finding Nemo exploring the "drop off"!  We saw eagle rays, eels, rainbow fish, swordfish and a ton of other species I couldn't even identify.  Definitely worth the figurative trek out there.  

SHARK RAY ALLEY

This was arguably the best part of our trip.  The local tour groups take you on a boat to where the fisherman bait the indigenous sharks.  You basically jump in to a school of barracudas and nurse sharks bigger than the HUBS.  It was terrifying, exhilarating and incredulous at the same time.  Definitely recommend this one.  Its a once in a lifetime experience swimming in the barracuda, nurse shark and sting ray pit.  Check out this video from our experience!  

 

BABOON SANCTUARY

This one is somewhat of a misnomer.  In the outskirts of the jungle go Belize city, there is a local monkey sanctuary.  Rather than traditional zoos or sanctuary's in the US, this is a local Belizean's home.  He spent 7 years befriending the wild howl monkeys (which the locals call "baboons") that live in the surrounding forrest of his home.  Today, you can visit his home and feed these friendly creatures in their natural habitat.  They are so friendly and apparently hungry for bananas!  We had such a wonderful time feeding them and watching them as they swung through the trees.  Another definitely see.  

she held on to the HUBS' hand with her tiny fingers

she held on to the HUBS' hand with her tiny fingers

sit still look pretty

sit still look pretty

We definitely recommend staying with the AIR BnB hosts we stayed with.  They were both amazing, offering to give us rides, feeding us - they redefined hospitality.  While in Belize City, we stayed with Karim in his quaint home.  He was such a wonderful host, feeding us breakfast, arranging rides for us, even giving us some of the best food recommendations!  In San Pedro we stayed in Laura's adorable charming 1 BR/BA villa.  It was so comfortable and was a great location right on the beach and walking distance to the main pier, the grocery store and several great restaurants.  Oh, and it had a hammock which is perfection on beach trips!

of course we had to take at least one dip picture!

of course we had to take at least one dip picture!

HANDMADE DIWALI CARDS

Call me old-fashioned but I'm not much of a fan of e-cards.  To me its just not personal enough for family.  Not to mention, why pass up an opportunity to craft something?  A couple years ago, while the HUBS and I were still dating, I had just moved away from my hometown and was really missing family so I handmade some Diwali cards.  They turned out so well that these are essentially round two!  

yes that is a football lotus diwali card for my brothers :)

yes that is a football lotus diwali card for my brothers :)


HANDMADE DIY DIWALI CARD TUTORIAL


SUPPLIES NEEDED

  1. different colored tissue paper
  2. scissors/xacto knife
  3. cardstock/paper
  4. sharpie
  5. mod podge or glue

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Once you have determined the desired size of your card (when unfolded), cut your card stock.  My cards are 2.5" x 4" folded (so 5" x 8" unfolded).
  2. Designate an inside and outside of the card.  On the inside, draw the fold line (at the half way point).
  3. On the lower inside half, draw your Diwali design (Ganesha, Lotus, Candle, Diya, etc.)
  4. Cut out that design with your scissors or xacto knife.
  5. Now for the fun part, using whatever colors inspire you, tear/cut some tissue paper and start paper mache'ing it to the inside of the card.  You can use glue or mod podge to do this.  
  6. Finally, glue the top of the card to the inside.  Let dry.
  7. Once dry you can write Happy Diwali on the outside or back along with a note if you like!

These are the initial cards I made:

SUPPLIES

  1. cardstock (color of choice)
  2. printer
  3. xacto knife
  4. computer
  5. fabric swatches, scraps, or fabric fat quarters
  6. hole puncher
  7. ribbon

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Find some simple icons like elephants, divas, and/or candles online that would be easy to cut out.
  2. In powerpoint, create two rows of 5 boxes each.  All the boxes should be the same size and aligned with the box below it (see example below).
  3. Within the bottom row of boxes, place the icon or icons of choice.  Leave the top row empty: this will become the back of your tent cards.
  4. Write your greeting underneath.
  5. Print these cards on cardstock.
  6. Using the xacto knife, cut out your icon shapes.
  7. Cut a swatch of fabric to the same size as your card and put it in-between your tent card.  
  8. Punch a hole in the top center and tie some ribbon through.  
example of what the pdf should look like in PowerPoint

example of what the pdf should look like in PowerPoint

Since Diwali is such a colorful vibrant celebration, I liked using festive bright color combos like teal + orange  I also think this tutorial would be great for kids.  You could have kids color/finger paint on the inside of the card!