MARBLED PUMPKINS TUTORIAL FOR A BEAUTIFUL DIY THANKSGIVING TABLE SETTING

The holidays can be expensive, especially when you are the host.  Food is pricey on its own but decor can sometimes be quite frankly unaffordable.  This year the HUBS and I spent most of our funds buying (slash somewhat DIY'ing) our new dining table.  We desperately needed an 8-seater, especially since we were hosting thanksgiving for our family!  Turns out even DIY'ing a dining table isn't cheap! 

So I had to make some pretty drastic modifications to my thanksgiving decor budget aka DIY the entire thing.  I LOVE decorating, especially for the holidays.  It really brings warmth & personality to the home but more than that I love when my creations inspire others to create!  So I set out to create a marvelous Thanksgiving table setting without buying readymade decorations.  

First, I waited until Halloween was over, and scoured the city for some pumpkin varieties.  My friend and I went on a mini scavenger hunt to four different grocery stores before we found the jackpot at Tom Thumb!  They had tons of mini gourds of all shapes and sizes at a fraction of the cost since Halloween was over.  Score!

We purchased about 25 pumpkins, getting a good assortment of sizes and shapes (color didnt really matter since we were going to spray paint them).  We came home and immediately removed any labels before adding two coats (in some cases three) of white spray paint with primer.  We thoroughly let these dry (between layers) in the sun before marbling.  

To marble the pumpkins we used this tutorial.  We were able to apply the same principles and selected three different shades of blue, one light gray, and one pastel teal nail polish.  The more refined your color selection the more elegant the overall result.  Choose colors that compliment or can be found in your place setting - in my case my plates were white and blue and my accent color for thanksgiving was raspberry.

In love with the way these pumpkins & gourds turned out 😱

In love with the way these pumpkins & gourds turned out 😱

marbled pumpkin chinoiserie table setting thanksgiving DIY table decor tutorial (charisma shah)
marbled pumpkin chinoiserie table setting thanksgiving DIY table decor tutorial (charisma shah)
marbled pumpkin chinoiserie table setting thanksgiving DIY table decor tutorial (charisma shah)

It took about a full 24 hours for all of the pumpkins to dry (the smaller pumpkins dried MUCH faster than the big one).  After these were done, I arranged them on our dining table (I did put small paper towel coasters under each pumpkin just in case the paint wasn't completely dry). 

I was originally planning on buying table/placemats but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for.  Instead, I ended up printing cheap paper mats with a fun original watercolor print in my selected colors.  I figured white placemats were bound to get dirty so why spend the time or money to make fabric ones when I would likely have to throw them.  Boy am I glad I went this route, because half the mats post dinner had severe stains.  

I designed this print in Photoshop and had it printed on 24 X 36 inch cheap paper at Office Depot.

thanksgiving table setting tablescape decor DIY tutorial (charisma shah)
IMG_0680w.jpg
marbled pumpkin chinoiserie table setting thanksgiving DIY table decor tutorial (charisma shah)

👇🏽 CLICK HERE FOR 👇🏽  

FLATWARE  |  ORGANIC SHAPED SALAD & DINNER PLATES  |  WATERCOLOR BOWL 

MINI BOWLS 


I also decided to design hand-lettered menus and name cards that were also printed at Office Depot.  I wanted our table setting to be inspired without being too much going on.  The key in making this happen is dialing back and restraining from uncensored color use.  Everything involved the same three main colors: blue, white and my accent raspberry.  Initially I was really nervous about how everything would come together but it really turned out beautifully!

I purchased some blue, white and teal floral napkins on clearance from Anthropologie last summer.  Unfortunately, at the time they only had 4 left and were completely sold out online.  I had some leftover fabric from making my sister-in-law a floral watercolor lehenga, so I used the rest of it to make 4 more napkins to complement my Anthro ones.  Both sets of napkins went perfectly with each other and the rest of the table.  

Lastly: the actual flatware and dinnerware.  When the HUBS and I got married we purchased these really nice organic shaped ceramic table setting from West Elm (plates shown above).  Then a couple weeks ago, we spotted this watercolor bowl at Ikea.  When the HUBS saw it, he knew that I would be buying them.  He didn't even contest at all!  We are obsessed with this flatware (the HUBS calls them the "fancy spoons" 😂) which can be found here.


SHOP THIS POST

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and informative.  Happy Thanksgiving!! 

 

 

 

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner 8-Course Menu With Recipes

Being a first generation American, Thanksgiving is not the most traditional but definitely the most easily adoptable Western/American holiday.  Due to the likely overlap by lunar calendars, Thanksgiving was usually masked by the tremendous amount of celebration surrounding Navratri & Diwali, but on occasion - our family would celebrate Thanksgiving.  Its pretty easy as an Immigrant family to be thankful for the opportunities and happiness each year brings.

That being said, this year was the first family Thanksgiving that the HUBS and I hosted.  Since traditional menus are not that filling for vegetarians, or that flavorful compared to ethnic cuisines, we decided to deconstruct and create dishes that capture the essence of Thanksgiving without being trite.  

We also wanted to be fancy 😂 and serve each dish as a separate course in a plated fashion.  I just have always wanted to recreate the experience of dining out at farm-to-table restaurants in my own home and what better occasion than a holiday?

Keep reading to find out more about how we prepared for the HUBS' entire family to come visit, decorated our thanksgiving table, and created new classic dishes that were a tremendous hit!  

PLANNING THE MENU

As you can see above, the HUBS and I hosted and served our Thanksgiving meal by plating each dish rather than having a buffet.  I was really determined to make sure our vegetarian thanksgiving dinner would be just as good if not better than its turkey counterpart, so creating a captivating and exciting menu was a challenge.  I was on a mission to make sure my non-vegetarian guests wouldn't even miss the turkey, and apparently they didn't!  Yay!  🤗

After we found out we were officially hosting Thanksgiving, I started planning the menu.  I knew I wanted to serve this Macaroni & Cheese (one of my favorites!) but that was basically it.  I also knew that I wanted to really hone in on the colorful veggies that make thanksgiving so festive, so I set out to imagine some dishes.  Eventually, I ended up with the menu above: homemade root chips with charred fennel dip, cranberry canapés, herbed mashed potatoes, delicate squash salad, calabrian chile & date mac & cheese, and truffled portabellas served with leek quinoa dressing and herbed béchamel.  Each dish was such a big hit that there was very little rinsing of the plates needed before dishwashing 😂.  #goals #cleanplateclub

THE DISHES

creamy roasted fennel dip served here with a baked baguette.

creamy roasted fennel dip served here with a baked baguette.

In the past I have tried to make vegetable chips myself without really any success.  The chips were always to thick to bake all the way through - and there is nothing more annoying than soggy chips.  That being said, I really wanted to recreate a dish I had tried at this great little restaurant in Nashville called 5th & Taylor (if you haven't been you should go!).  They make some seriously good eats including a creamy fennel appetizer dip that is incredible addictive.  Instead of serving the dip with store bought root chips, I tried my hand one last time at making baked chips at home.  The HUBS, his mom, his dad, and I used this slicer to cut carrots, parsnips, apples and sweet potatoes into 1.5mm thick pieces - the thinner the piece, the better it will bake.  The slices were then tossed in olive oil with a pinch of salt and sugar.  You can find the full recipe for this dip here: http://www.charismashah.com/cache1/2017/11/20/creamy-roasted-fennel-dip.

baked sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, and apple chips served with creamy roasted fennel dip.

baked sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, and apple chips served with creamy roasted fennel dip.

For the second course the HUBS and I wanted to serve a Thanksgiving spin on one of our favorite recipes.  We bought some wonderful mini french baguettes from our local market, and topped them with goat cheese, fresh arugula and cranberry compote.  We used this exact recipe, however substituted the cherries with 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, halved.  

The third course, our herbed mashed potatoes, is actually a recipe from one of my friend's.  After college, I attended my first traditional thanksgiving meal with an actual turkey.  I was such a fan of his herbed mashed potatoes that they have become a mainstay in our household with some slight variations.  You can find our adapted recipe here: http://www.charismashah.com/cache1/2017/11/20/herbed-mashed-potatoes  

homemade garlic & herb mashed potatoes garnished with chives.

homemade garlic & herb mashed potatoes garnished with chives.

So at this point we had already incorporated sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and cranberries.  Our next dish focused on squash.  As much as I love squash soups, it just has not been cold enough here to warrant a warm soup.  Instead we opted for a baked squash salad with arugula, pickled onions, parmesan, dill creme fraiche, toasted pepitas, and pomegranate.  The recipe for this dish can be found here:  http://www.charismashah.com/cache1/2017/11/20/baked-delicata-squash-salad-recipe

Since the portions of each course were becoming larger and larger, we started to slow down a little - taking and giving longer breaks between each course.  For our next dish we decided to serve our absolute FAVORITE macaroni and cheese recipe ever.  Really this mac n cheese can not be topped.  I'll spare you from my excessive & obsessive love for this dish.  Since mac n cheese is a Thanksgiving staple, we just HAD to make this rendition.  To see the full recipe click here:  http://www.charismashah.com/cache1/2017/3/16/flatiron-mac-cheese.

When making this dish we suggest using radiatore or toscani pasta to really sop up the sauce.  

When making this dish we suggest using radiatore or toscani pasta to really sop up the sauce.  

At this point most of our family was pretty stuffed.  Actually I was completely stuffed (that macaroni is very filling and rich)!  I was so full I didnt even get to try this last dish.  In lieu of turkey, I needed something really filling.  The last thing my menu was missing was dressing, so I decided to make a vegetarian truffled quinoa dressing served on marinated portobello mushrooms with an herbed béchamel sauce.  This was the dish I was most worried about since A) I hadn't even tried it and B) was completely made up haha.  It ended up being a huge hit!  So much that the little nephew loved it too 😀.  To view this recipe click here:  http://www.charismashah.com/cache1/2017/11/20/vegetarian-thanksgiving-entree-alternative.

Finally the best part, dessert!!!  I am not the biggest fan of pie, so I opted to make a Churro Pumpkin Funnel Cake topped with Vanilla Bean ice cream and toasted oats.  Yummmm.  I could've eaten this all day 😋.  To see this recipe click here:  http://www.charismashah.com/cache1/2017/11/20/churro-pumpkin-funnel-cake

dipped in cinnamon sugary goodness.  

dipped in cinnamon sugary goodness.  

The last course was simply mulled wine.  The HUBS and I took two bottles of Rioja, added some chopped granny smith and red delicious apples, oranges, 6 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, pinch of nutmeg and let this slow cook on the stove over low heat for 4 hours.  Immediately before serving, we topped off each glass of mulled wine with a splash of sugar-free orange soda.  Delicious and not too sweet! 

We had such a wonderful time celebrating our first official Thanksgiving with our family.  We are so thankful that it worked out for everyone to come together from all over the country for this holiday.  It could not have been more perfect!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM OUR FAMILY TO YOURS

 

P.S.  I will be posting a tutorial tomorrow on how to we created our tablescape! 

CHURRO PUMPKIN FUNNEL CAKE


CHURRO PUMPKIN FUNNEL CAKE RECIPE

KITCHEN CHARISMA SHAH


Churro Pumpkin Pie Funnel Cake Recipe Charisma Shah

INGREDIENTS (SERVES 12-14 PERSONAL FUNNEL CAKES)

  1. 1 pint olive oil (for frying)
  2. 1.5 c all-purpose flour
  3. 1/4 tsp baking powder
  4. 1 tsp baking soda
  5. 2 tsp cinnamon (ground)
  6. 1/4 tsp salt
  7. 1 egg
  8. 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  9. 3/4 c canned pumpkin pie filling
  10. 1 c milk
  11. 1/3 c granulated white sugar
  12. 1/3 c granola
  13. 1 tbs vanilla extract
  14. vanilla bean ice cream 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat the oil for frying.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, and salt.  
  3. Beat the egg, brown sugar, pumpkin pie filling, and milk together until well blended.  
  4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients until all has been well mixed.  
  5. In a shallow wide plate, mix the remaining 1 tsp of cinnamon with the granulated white sugar for dipping. 
  6. Pour the batter into a plastic funnel.  Cut open a 1/2 inch hole at the tip of the funnel.  Squeeze into the frying oil.  
  7. Fry until golden brown on both sides (flip).
  8. Dip into the cinnamon sugar.  Top with vanilla bean and toasted oats.

 

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Entree Alternative


Marinated Portobella Mushrooms, Truffled Leek Quinoa Dressing, & Herbed Béchamel Sauce Recipe

KITCHEN CHARISMA SHAH


INGREDIENTS (SERVES 8)

MARINATED PORTOBELLAS

  1. 8 portobella mushrooms (stems removed)
  2. 10 springs of thyme
  3. 2 tsp minced garlic
  4. 1/3 block of boursin cheese
  5. 2 tbs butter
  6. 1 tbs olive oil
  7. 1.5 tsp fresh parsley (finely chopped)
  8. 1/2 tsp salt
  9. 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  10. 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper

HERBED BECHAMEL

  1. 1 pint cream
  2. 1 cup whole milk
  3. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 3 tsp minced garlic
  5. 1.5 tsp freshly (finely) chopped parsley
  6. 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  7. 2 tsp salt
  8. 1 cup grated parmesan
  9. 2 tbs butter

TRUFFLED LEEK QUINOA DRESSING

  1. 2 cups of quinoa (cook as per instructions on package)
  2. 3 tsp freshly chopped parsley
  3. 2 tsp minced garlic
  4. 2 tbs butter
  5. 3 tbs truffle oil
  6. salt to taste
  7. freshly ground black pepper
  8. 1/2 leek (washed & finely chopped)

INSTRUCTIONS

MARINATED PORTOBELLAS  

  1. THE NIGHT BEFORE:
    1. Thoroughly wash the mushrooms (remove the stems) in warm/hot water.  Pat dry and place in ziplock bag.
    2. In a small saucepan, heat the oil & melt butter (medium low).  Add the minced garlic and saute until golden.  
    3. Add the crushed red pepper and saute until aromatic (about 1 minute).
    4. Add the thyme & boursin cheese.  Mix well until cheese in completely dissolved.  Cook on low for 5-7 minutes.  
    5. Remove the thyme and add the parsley.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.  
    6. Add to the ziplock bags with the mushrooms.  Marinate overnight.
  2. The next day bake in oven at 300F for 15 - 20 minutes or until tender.  

TRUFFLE LEEK QUINOA DRESSING

  1. Cook the quinoa as per the instructions on the packet.
  2. Heat the oils and melt the butter in a large wok or skillet.  
  3. Add the minced garlic and saute until golden brown.  
  4. Add the finely chopped leeks.  Saute until translucent.
  5. Add in the quinoa once cooked and mix thoroughly.  
  6. Add the salt, pepper, and parsley.  

HERBED BECHAMEL

  1. Melt the butter.
  2. Add the minced garlic and saute until golden brown.
  3. Add the cream and bring to a light simmer.
  4. In a bowl thoroughly mix the whole milk with the flour.  Add to the cream.  Stir well.
  5. Add the parsley and cook for 2 minutes. 
  6. Add the parmesan slowly while constantly stirring.  Allow each batch to melt completely before adding more.  

BAKED DELICATA SQUASH SALAD RECIPE


BAKED DELICATA SQUASH SALAD RECIPE

KITCHEN  CHARISMA SHAH


Baked Delicata Squash Salad Recipe Charisma Shah

INGREDIENTS (SERVES 8-10)

  1. 2 delicata squash (halved lengthwise, seeds removed, cut into 1/2 inch rounds)
  2. arugula
  3. pickled red onions (recipe here
  4. pumpkin seeds (toasted)
  5. 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
  6. 3 tbs dill (finely chopped)
  7. 1 cup sour cream
  8. 1 tbs dijon mustard
  9. 2 tbs olive oil
  10. 1 tsp white vinegar
  11. 1/4 tsp salt
  12. 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  13. 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper/red mirchi
  14. pinch of cinnamon
  15. 1 pomegranate

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or a silicone mat.
  3. Lightly spray with oven cooking spray.  Set aside.
  4. Cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds.  
  5. Cut the squash into 1/2 inch rounds.  Place all rounds in ziplock bag.
  6. Toss in 1 tbs olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp sugar, cayenne pepper/red mirchi, cinnamon in the ziplock bag.
  7. Place on baking sheet in 1 layer (do not overlap).
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender.  Remove and allow to cool.
  9. In a squirt bottle, mix dill, ground black pepper, salt, white vinegar, olive oil and dijon mustard.  Add water until desired salad dressing consistency is reached.  
  10. Create salad by placing a couple squash on a plate with arugula, toasted pumpkin seeds, pickled onions, parmesan, dill creme fraiche, and pomegranate seeds.  

HERBED MASHED POTATOES


HERBED MASHED POTATOES RECIPE

ADAPTED FROM  VIVEK SURTI


INGREDIENTS (SERVES 8-10)

  1. 6 - 8 Yukon Gold small/medium potatoes
  2. 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
  3. chives
  4. 3 tsp minced garlic
  5. 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
  6. 4 tbs butter
  7. water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the oil.  Add the garlic and saute until golden.
  2. Add the cream and the thyme.  Bring to a light simmer and then remove from heat.  Set aside. 
  3. Place the potatoes in a large pot.  Add water until all potatoes are covered.
  4. Bring to a light simmer.  Cook until tender/steamed (approximately 15 - 30 minutes)
  5. Once potatoes are completely cooked (if you can't tell, stick a knife in them.  The knife should easily go in and out of the potato without friction) allow to cool.  Remove the skins.
  6. Using a masher, ricer, or fork - mash the potatoes until smooth and whipped.  
  7. Remove the thyme from the cream mixture.  Add the cream into the potatoes.  Whip/stir until well blended.  
  8. Garnish with chives before serving.  

What I Am Stocking Up On At Sephora's Beauty Insider Sale

Its the most wonderful time of the year.  The Sephora Beauty Insider sale!!  😂  Seriously though, the holidays are usually the best time to buy goodies for others but also treat ourselves.  I wanted to share some of my personal favorites that I will be repurchasing to renew my stash, but also the products I am most excited about trying.  Keep reading to see my favorites, must buys, and must trys!  Also keep reading to find out how to score 15% off your total purchase from today, November 10-15!  


MY FAVORITES


HOLY GRAIL LIPPIES aka stay put, nondrying formula, vibrant color, matte lipsticks that can outlast an Indian wedding or night out with limited if no reapplication necessary.  Umm, Yes Please.  🙌🏽


CLASSIC RED LIP THING THAT YOU LIKE

There really is just something about a good red lipstick...or in this case stain.  When I went for my makeup trial for my wedding, I talked to my makeup artist about using a classic red.  He suggested several different looks that we tried.  I wasn't really impressed with any, so I suggest I just wear what I already owned and had in my makeup bag.  I have been in love with this stain for so long, but the fact that it outlasted my wedding ceremony, dinner and a night of dancing afterwards without a single reapplication makes it EXCEPTIONAL.  I can't say enough good things about it.  Oh, and its pretty affordable.  🙌🏽  CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS LIPSTAIN.

 


FEELING FUSCHIA

There is just something about this shade.  I am constantly drawn to it and it seems to go really well with basically my entire closet.  I happened upon this shade one day at Sephora and purchased it then and there without knowing too much about the line or lasting power.  Turns out its pretty amazing.  It stays put after being set with translucent powder for hours (one of my favorite tricks for making lipsticks matte or keeping them in place!).  CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS LIPSTICK.

 

 


Classic Berry Lip Stain Sephora Beauty Insider Sale Picks

BERRY KISS

Anyone else a fan of The Holiday.  I love that movie so much, especially the two girls Sophie & Olivia.  Theres this one part of the movie where Sophie wants to know what lipstick Cameron Diaz is wearing.  Ever since then, I have been searching for a great berry colored stain.  Y'all.  This one is amazing.  Non-drying, very pigmented, beautiful color, stays put.  CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS LIPSTAIN.


BARELY THERE NUDE

Ok so this was probably the hardest color to find for me.  It seems for Indian women, nude lipsticks need to have a slight purple undertone to match our natural lip color.  Why doesn't anyone tell you this?!  I always wanted a great nude lipstick/stain but could never find one, until I pickup up my birthday gift at Sephora a couple years ago.  This lip pencil was the perfect nude for my lips.  It goes on like a smooth balm, the color has a hint of sheer, and has a slight shine all of which make it look really natural.  Its also my go to shade if I want to blend lipsticks to create more multi-dimensional colors.  FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS LIP PENCIL HERE.


PERFUMES

Many of you know I am extremely picky about scents.  I have the nose of a blood hound and get really bad headaches from strong scents.  My go to's tend to be florals and citrus based scents that are light and airy.  I absolutely hate vanilla (aka migraine maker) and anything "spiced" (aka pumpkin spice, pie, apple spice, cinnamon, etc).  Get them away from me.  That being the case I have just one signature scent that I absolutely love, and its the Chloe perfume.  My parents gave it to me as a birthday gift several years ago.  The only problem is that I can't travel with it, so this year I am stocking up on some Chloe rollerballs (one for my toiletries & one for my purse).  These also make excellent stocking stuffers along with this really affordable Chloe gift set.

If you are looking for a more affordable but similar scent, I would suggest Coach Poppy as a great alternative (not a dupe, but still fresh light and floral).  


POST WORKOUT HAIR GOALS

and by post workout hair, I mean day 3 just ran a couple miles and I really should wash my hair but my ClassPass cycle is almost up and I got to use those classes so how about I just go another day of not washing?  Sound familiar?  Yea thats me all the time now.  So I rely pretty heavily on this stuff to get me through the week so I don't need to wash my hair as often and I still looks good!  I have tried A LOT of dry shampoos (Batiste, Living Proof, you name it).  This is the only one that actually lifts my hair at the root, absorbs the oil, and smells good without being overpowering.  Seriously, go grab some of this (and while your at it get the travel size too!).  You'll thank me.  

Also sometimes can be found in a two pack here for cheaper!


SUBTLE DEWY GLOW

My mom bought me this primer before we got married, and I love it.  It adds this really natural light dewiness to any foundation, and TBH can be worn alone as a highlighter as well.  It just has such an amazing subtle sheen.  Its been a mainstay in my makeup bag for about 3 years now.  Definitely worth considering if you are shopping around for a primer or highlighter.  


SKINCARE FAVORITES

Lets start off by saying I have been purchasing these two products for several years now and have bought too many bottles to count.  Each lasts about 6 months, are my skin saviors, and are absolute must haves in my books - especially in winter.  Oh, the HUBS can't stop using them too.  Click the pictures below to find out more information!


MUST TRYS


These are the handful of items that I have been dying to purchase (I have already tried them out in the store) but have just been waiting for the perfect opportunity aka 15% off using the code "INSIDER15".  🤗  

Click the pictures for more information about each product.

Hope everyone is having a fantastic week!  Happy shopping!

 

 

The Skincare Products I Keep Buying Again & Again.

As mentioned in my previous post, I am skincare obsessed, so much so that I have even gotten the HUBS to care about his grooming routine.  And after extensive research that stemmed back to my anti-wrinkle crusade back in my twenties, these are the products that I use. 

Every.  Single.  Day.  Year.  After.  Year.


MORNING ROUTINE


This product was a life saver in college.  I had terrible cheek, t-zone, face, back & neck acne.  I would hide from the camera because my face would look swollen from all the zits back then.  I tried everything (except Acutane) back then multiple types of antibiotics, salicylic acid products, creams after creams.  I was already a hairy Indian girl with glasses - acne just made it SO MUCH WORSE.  I couldn't hide because the acne created this radioactive glow about my face.  JK but seriously it was bad.  I had pretty much accepted defeat when my junior year my mom found this at COSTCO.  Deal breaker.  I have been using it ever since everyday.  So that makes about 10 years of using this cleanser.  Yep.  10 years.  

After about a year of using this cleanser my skin stabilized.  I wasn't breaking out at all with the occasional exception (maybe like 6X/year).  The best part is now you can readily find it at most grocery stores, target, walmart, and amazon!


Occasionally I will get a random pimple here and there (ladies, you can relate).  If I am able to catch it early, I just treat it with some of this spot treatment and it goes away within 24 hours.  One of my roommates in college introduced me to this stuff so again I have been using this product for about 10 years now.  I keep a tube in my travel toiletries bag, on my counter, and even in my parents house (just in case!).  

Again this product is readily available in most drugstores, grocery stores, Target, Walmart & Amazon.  


If you haven't read about Hyaluronic acid you should.  This amazing skincare saver has been around since the 80's, helps skin absorb up to 1000X more water (aka more hydrated skin) and has been one of the most effective injectables for a LONG time (hello Juvaderm & Restylane).  

Although HA can often be found in many moisturizers, I have found it to be more effective when used prior to and independent from moisturizing.  Initially, I tried a couple different less expensive products before finally pulling the plunge on this one.   

So why do I consistently buy this more expensive HA?  First, its the only product on the market that is 75% HA in solution - meaning 75% of the serum is PURE 100% HA.  All of the other HA formulas I had previously found were super deceptive by saying they were 100% HA, but in the fine print the percent of HA in solution of the serum was 5% or less.  🤦🏽‍♀️

I have been using this product for 5 years now.  One bottle lasts about 4 - 6 months.  I apply it in the morning right after washing my face and before applying moisturizer.  Sometimes I just apply this alone.  It leaves my skin feeling SO supple and hydrated.  I usually buy it from here, but you can also find it here at Sephora.


MOISTURIZER + SUNSCREEN

As many of you have read at this point, I am not a fan of conventional sunscreens.  I hate the oily feel, and white ghostly residue they leave behind on darker skin tones.  I didn't wear sunscreen until my mid-twenties because I could never find a product that worked for me.  I did some research of products on google.  Basically I was looking for a moisturizer that had hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, and at least an SPF of 30.  That may seem like a lot of demands, but there are so many skincare brands these days, I thought well surely this exists, right 🤷🏽‍♀️?).  Turns out this moisturizer meets every last demand, and more

This moisturizer is the consistency of a gel-like lotion, 1 tube used daily lasts about 4-6 months, and it doesn't leave behind that annoying white film.  If it could get any greater, its ingredients include an impressive amount of great skin savers including Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamins A, C, E, and SPF45.  Boom.

I have been using this for 3 years now.  It is the only face sunscreen I use ( the HUBS uses it too!). I always buy it here, but you can also purchase it here or directly from PCA.  

WINTER DEEP MOISTURIZER

my daily skincare regimen charisma shah

Occasionally I find myself needed a deeper moisturizer than the one above.  This primarily happens during the winter months, or in extreme climates (like PHX for instance) or chill wind like NYC/BOSTON/CHICAGO during winter.  I got it as a free sample from Sephora right before I moved to NYC.  I tried it out one morning post shower.  The next day post workout, my skin was still hydrated!  From one application!  Oh and it smells like cucumbers 🤗.  When I was living in NYC, this moisturizer was my saving grace during the winter months.  People warned me to be prepared for cold weather by stocking up on leggings, thermal underwear, lots and lots of tights.  But no one told me that you NEED a thick moisturizer for the wind tunnels that will literally cut your cheeks in the cold.  To this day this is my go to winter moisturizer.  

DAILY NON-SUNSCREEN MOISTURIZER

If I am planning on staying in and do not need sunscreen, I tend to use this moisturizer.  Its cost effective (hello drugstore steal), has ceramides & hyaluronic acid (yes please!), and comes in an easy pump bottle (necessary for the HUBS).  I've been using this product for about 3 years now, since my mom introduced it to me.

This moisturizer can be purchased at most drugstores, Target, Walmart, and Amazon.  

**I am NOT a fan of the sunscreen version of this product - I find it to be sticky.


DIY+Facial+Oil+Tutorial+Charisma+Shah.jpeg

I am absolutely in love with Facial Oil.  I really find it to be a game changer in the brightness, dewiness of my skin.  Every morning I take one drop of this facial oil and mix it in with my moisturizer before applying to my face.  Similarly, 1 night a week I apply this facial oil to my face before I sleep.  When I wake up, my skin has a "glow" according to the HUBS.  


NIGHTLY ROUTINE


After all my exhaustive research about skincare, the one thing I missed was that nights are the perfect time to let your skin catch up & renew.  For most of my 20's I wasn't utilizing nights, but a about 2 years ago I really started regimenting my nightly routine.  Though its not nearly as thorough as my morning routine, these are the products I find myself continuously buying and using.  

VITAMIN C

I try to use Vitamin C once week at night.  I find it to really brighten & refresh my skin while noticeably reducing the fine lines I have on my forehead.  I love to really seal this in with my facial oil and seal that in with the cream below haha.  It seems excessive, but my skin is SO radiant in the morning.  When it comes to Vitamin C there are some products that are more pure and effective.  I really loved the Body Shop vitamin C pods (which have been discontinued).  These are the only brand that I have found similar (with similar ingredients) to the body shop ones that I love.  


OMG.  A couple years ago I read this article about how Sephora had a hard time keeping this item stocked.  Naturally I was curious.  I went to Sephora to try the product out for myself.  It felt so good, I immediately purchased the jar.  Let's just say I have a hard time sharing this product with the HUBS.  It smells like roses.  Its a gel cream with small capsules of ceramides in it.  One application made my skin so bright that I have been using it for 2 years now.  I use it about 2X/week.  I probably should be using more, but I am still working on consistency at night.  


 

I have had so many friends ask what I've been using I figured I'd share.  The best part is that several of these (ceramide cream, deep moisturizer, and the hyaluronic acid) are on sale starting tomorrow at Sephora by using the code INSIDER15!  🤗

As always, be mindful of allergies by testing a product first on a test spot like your forearm.  I have normal to oily skin - these recommendations are based on my skin type.  Hope this helps and is informative!

What are some of your favorite skin care products?  I'd love to hear your recommendations below👇🏽! 

This Must Have For Healthy Youthful Skin

I am a self-proclaimed skincare nut.  It started when I was in my mid-twenties.  I distinctly remember a co-worker saying that, "One day you just wake up and Bam! Wrinkles."  She was so right.  When I turned 25, I started noticing all these lines that wouldn't disappear.  Blah.  So I decided to start taking care of my skin.  

First, I visited a dermatologist.  Based on her recommendations, I tried the most popular items (including RoC, prescription strength retinol, sheer fluid sunscreen, etc).  The RoC and prescription strength retinol made my skin feel itchy, dry and splotchy.  So I stopped that.  I tried an assortment of everyday sunscreens none of which were meant for darker skin tones, so I'd look like a ghost with that whitish filmy residue on my face, or in the case of Neutrogena's fluid sheer sunscreen made my skin feel oily and was only really appropriate for sports.  

THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL FOR HEALTHY SKIN

I was basically back at square one, so I decided to ask my mom.  We were at that stage in life (still are TBH) where people keep asking her how she can have a daughter my age.  She eats it up.  But in all fairness, she has some pretty amazing skin, so besides just genetics, I asked her what she was doing.  Turns out growing up in a extremely polluted city in India, and never wearing sunscreen a day in her life was working for her.  As she got older she did admit to using moisturizer at least (good job mom! 👏🏽).  

With very little to go on, I was feeling pretty clueless.  And then I discovered the most important part of my skincare routine - PubMed.  Seriously.  Knowledge of the products being used, their ingredients and tested results have really helped guide my skincare regimen.

Anytime you walk into a makeup or skincare aisle, all these terms are thrown at you, each seemingly a must-have, but in reality most are unreliable.   So I started PubMed'ing skincare buzzwords like Collagen, Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides, CoQE10, etc.  There are so many of these terms that sound dazzingly scientific it can be overwhelming (and 💰💰), but I use my trusted tool to teach me where to start and what the best products were to invest in.  Below is what I have read & learned so far with links to the original article.

Anyone else have too many products to count.  Well much like fashion, I believe its better to have a few power players in skincare, than a completely covered vanity of vague products.  

Anyone else have too many products to count.  Well much like fashion, I believe its better to have a few power players in skincare, than a completely covered vanity of vague products.  

YOUR SKINCARE CHEAT SHEET

CERAMIDES:  fatty acids that make up the outer most layer of skin.  when they get depleted --> wrinkles start to form (more info here, here, here, here, and here).

COLLAGEN:  oral intake of collagen can increase skin moisture which in turn diminishes signs of aging including dryness.  See here!

GLYCOLIC ACID:  topical use of glycolic acid can increase Hyaluronic Acid and Collagen gene expression.  Check out this article for more info!

HYALURONIC ACID:  when topically applied or oral ingested, hyaluronic acid can help skin absorb water/moisture significantly better which in turn promotes collagen production and thereby can decrease the appearance of wrinkles.

VITAMIN A:  in the form of retinoids and beta carotene can make your skin brighter but also diminish hyper pigmentation (which is more common in darker skin tones) and diminish fine wrinkles.  caution though it can be drying!  Check out this great article about VitA! And this one!

VITAMIN C:  Big freaking deal.  Helps promote collage production which in turn helps fill wrinkles.  It can also make your skin look brighter (here).

VITAMIN E:  comes in lots of different forms both natural (α-Tocopherol) and synthetic (dl-tocopherol).  It provides photoprotection and reacts with free radicals to protect the skin.  it also is anti-inflammatory.  Check out this article for more information!

SO NOW WHAT...TO BUY?

There are countless skincare products that claim to reverse aging and improve skin quality.  I don't really believe that you can reverse the aging process but I have tried & actively use several products that help keep my skin bright, tight, youthful, and supple - basically keep it stuck at 25 (🙌🏽).  Stay tuned for my next post where I talk about each of favorite result-driven products & exactly how long I have been using them, some of which might even be on sale later this week at Sephora!

Transitional Maxi Dresses for Fall

As the months get cooler but before it starts becoming full on fur-insulated boots & arctic jackets weather 😫 (can you tell I'm not a fan of winter?) transitional pieces take over my wardrobe.  My absolute favorite time of year is Spring, but the Diwali - Holiday season are a very close second.  That being said, I love dresses too much to stop wearing them, SO I just start transitioning to earthy tones with berry accents.  Its just so comfortable and easy to gravitate to these colors during the fall season.  

case & point - olive + berry

case & point - olive + berry

When I saw this dress, I absolutely fell in love.  I usually do not gravitate to smaller prints, but the colors, embroidery and silhouette just make this maxi SO easy to wear.  As many of you know, I am not for the trendy but rather classy staples.  This is definitely a staple.  

The way I see it, invest in classic pieces that can remain in your closet for many years to come, like this one (bonus perk: since this piece is Indian inspired, I can definitely wear it for Indo-Western events too!  yay!).


STYLE WITH

windswept 

windswept 

FESTIVE EARRINGS

A CROPPED JACKET

A STATEMENT CLUTCH


SUPER EASY DIY MINION DOORS FOR HALLOWEEN

Halloween is almost here!  Although, thanksgiving is more my decorating game, halloween is still tons of fun especially for those with kiddos and a sweet tooth (like me!).  Last year for Halloween the HUBS and I roped our friend to have a Minion party - and guess what.  We all dressed up like minions, duh.  But the most fun part was having 15 some odd adults dressed up as minions making their own minion for the wall, eating minion cupcakes on a table with minion pumpkins, in a house with great BIG minion doors.  It was a yellow & black explosion, but soooo fun.  It was like an adult craft party with sweet treats (yay!).  

Now, I apologize in advance, I do not have high quality images of these, but seriously, these doors are the easiest way to decorate in a BIG way.  

haha don't you just love the 7 hairs on mr.minion on the left.  Maybe we should've left him a comb in his pocket 

haha don't you just love the 7 hairs on mr.minion on the left.  Maybe we should've left him a comb in his pocket 

NEED:

  1. roll of yellow kraft paper (measure your doors to make sure 1 roll is enough)
  2. blue poster board
  3. black & white poster board
  4. scissors
  5. glue (stick or gun)
  6. packing tape or painters tape 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Its pretty self-explanatory, but roll the yellow paper over the door (completely covering the front of the door).
    1. tape the yellow paper to the door on the inside or back of door
  2. tape the blue poster board where you want the minions "pants" to be
  3. make an eye + goggle piece using the white & black poster board.  Adhere this to the door.
  4. Add personality to your minions by adding hair, mouthes, etc.

SIDE NOTE:  We used our remaining craft supplies from this project to let everyone make their own wall minion (see picture below).  I thought that the guys would skip out on this but turns out it was a fun activity for everyone!  

can you guess which wall minion is mine (bet its not the one you think)?  Also how funny are those pumpkins??  

can you guess which wall minion is mine (bet its not the one you think)?  Also how funny are those pumpkins??  

Standing in front of our #DIY minion doors.  The HUBS wanted to be a "lumberjack" Minion 😂. Leave a comment 👇🏽 if you want me to post a tutorial for how to create the HUBS goggles and my minion tshirt.  We DIY'd basically everything at this party haha.

Standing in front of our #DIY minion doors.  The HUBS wanted to be a "lumberjack" Minion 😂. Leave a comment 👇🏽 if you want me to post a tutorial for how to create the HUBS goggles and my minion tshirt.  We DIY'd basically everything at this party haha.

We ♥️ our friends.  

We ♥️ our friends.  

BLACK DAL (DAL MAKHANI) RECIPE

Ok.  So this is my absolute favorite Punjabi dal.  Its got a long history with our family.  Growing up, my brothers and I LOVED eating black dal.  I used to always think it was too involved for my cooking capabilities and patience.  But I finally caved and asked my mom and Devi to teach me how to make this, turns out its pretty easy!  OMG.  Y'all.  I feel like its #adulting to make it myself.  

**I still maintain that being fed Black dal is better than making it yourself - mom cooked food is ALWAYS better (right?).  BUT this is a really really close second.**


BLACK DAL (DAL MAKHANI) RECIPE

ADAPTED FROM DEVI SHARMA & MOM


INGREDIENTS (SERVES 10)

  1. 1 c whole urad dal (soaked overnight)

  2. 1/4 c rajma (soaked overnight)

  3. 3 3/4 c water (for pressure cooking)

  4. 2 tbs olive oil

  5. 1 whole bay leaf

  6. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera

  7. 1/8 tsp hing

  8. 2 tsp kasoori methi

  9. 1 small white onion (finely chopped)

  10. 1 stick of butter (unsalted)

  11. 1 large sandwich tomato (blended)

  12. 3 tsp garlic (minced)

  13. 1 1/2 tsp adu marcha

  14. 1/2 tsp haldi

  15. 1 1/2 tsp mirchi

  16. 1 tsp dhana jeeru

  17. salt to taste

  18. freshly chopped cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Soak the dal & rajma overnight in hot water.

  2. Pressure cook the dal & rajma with 3 3/4 c of water for 45 minutes (use manual mode, high pressure & venting when using this cooker).  If using a traditional pressure cooker please adjust your cook time accordingly - dal should be soft & mashable with a spoon when done.

  3. Heat oil on medium.

  4. Add the bay leaves, sauté for 1 minute.

  5. Add the cumin seeds, sauté for 1 minute.

  6. Add hing, sauté for 1 minute.

  7. Add methi, sauté for 1 minute.

  8. Add garlic, ginger, adu marcha and sauté til golden.

  9. Add 2/3 stick of butter.  Melt.

  10. Add onion and sauté until translucent.

  11. Add mirchi & haldi.  

  12. Add tomato and salt.  Bring to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 8 minutes.

  13. Add the pressure cooked dal and bring to a boil.  Cook for 10 minutes.

  14. Add the remainder of butter on top.

  15. Using an emersion blender, blend half of the dal in the pot and add water until desired consistency is reached.

  16. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve with my personal favorite - aloo parathas!  

Black dal (dal makhani) garnished with yogurt, freshly chopped cilantro, lassan chutney.

Black dal (dal makhani) garnished with yogurt, freshly chopped cilantro, lassan chutney.

Vegetarian Indian Black Dal (Dal Makhani) Recipe Charisma Shah
please note that this is an estimate

please note that this is an estimate

BANFF NATIONAL PARK (CANADA)

About a year ago, I came across a picture of what I assumed was of some exotic lake in Switzerland.   Turns out it was Lake Louise in Banff National Park just outside of Calgary, Canada. I have been pushing the HUBS to go ever since.  The mountains looked perfect, the water was the unimaginable shade of blue and the proximity was undeniable.  

Fast foward to this past Labor day weekend - we were scrambling because we booked a trip to Costa Rica that was cancelled because of the devastation to Houston by Hurricane Harvey.  We were about to cancel our plans entirely, but desperately trying to find another great getaway.   The first option we considered was Puerto Rico but then we turned on the news and it appeared that Hurricane Irma was headed straight there.  We then considered the sunny beaches of Mexico but Hurricane Lidia was en route.  We just about gave up, when I realized that Banff was an option, especially since Canadian parks have free entrance this year in honor of the national parks' 150th anniversary (about a $20 saving per day per entrance to the parks).  Granted the HUBS had already been (when he was 10), but it was pretty safe from all the tropical storms and a great use of our vacation time.  We literally booked our tickets 32 hours before our flight!

Banff definitely did not disappoint - even with forest fires (146 to be precise) and heavy smog it was still super pretty and a wonderful time!  Keep reading to see all the places we visited during our 6 day stay in Banff and maybe even a little drone video at the end.

Happy Wanderlust Wednesday y'all :)


BANFF NATIONAL PARK

6 DAY ITINERARY


DAY ONE  CALGARY

Before visiting, we got some great recommendations from our friend who lived in Calgary.  Calgary is about an 1 - 1.5 hour drive to Banff.  Since we landed somewhat late, we decided to stay the night in Calgary and explore the town. 

RESIDENCE INN NORTHEAST CALGARY

  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. PROS:  close to the airport, free breakfast, good gym, quick drive to downtown, really good music playlist, good customer service (random I know but seriously true lol!), spacious suites, awapuhi shampoo (one of my faves!)
  3. CONS:  meh decor, generic, breakfast is pretty standard

10 FOOT HENRY (RESTAURANT)

  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  delicious food, amazing cocktails, great ambiance, very kind staff, extremely vegetarian friendly
  3. RECS:  cocktails - asno cavalo (port + gingerbeer + lime) ah-mazing.  My favorite dishes were the yam tortilla, grilled asparagus and the gigli.  Pass on the gai lan if you don't like acidic asian flavors

DAY TWO  BANFF NATIONAL PARK

The next morning we had a late start.  It was a little cooler in Banff than we had anticipated (specifically the nights) so we woke up and shopped for some layers and then drove to Banff (~100km/60mi).  En route to Banff we stopped at Cascade Ponds and Johnson Lake (an extension of Lake Minnewanka).

Aerial (drone) photo of Cascade Ponds.

Aerial (drone) photo of Cascade Ponds.

CASCADE PONDS

  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. PROS:  really pretty, very clear almost stained glass like water with green hues.  Not too touristy (even at mid-day), canoes/kayaks welcome, no hiking necessary for views
  3. CONS:  hard to see the real colors when the sun isn't directly overhead
  4. RECS:  go during morning or early afternoon for best views.
Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake

JOHNSON LAKE

  1. RATING: 3/5
  2. PROS: no hiking necessary for view, not too touristy, en route to Banff, serene and quiet, picnic tables 
  3. CONS: view is ok
Banff International Hostel Itinerary Tour Guide Canada Charisma Shah

BANFF INTERNATIONAL HOSTEL

  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. PROS:  cost effective option for staying in Banff town center, clean rooms/bathrooms, 8 bunks/room, co-ed/family/single sex rooms available with en suite bathroom, free breakfast, young professionals, safe, great location
  3. CONS:  can be noisy, front desk is open 24/7 so people can arrive in the middle of the night

CARLITO'S PIZZARIA

  1. RATING:  3.5/5
  2. PROS:  really good veggie poutine with cheese curds, friendly staff, no reservation needed
  3. CONS:  pizza hut style pizza, too cheesy, not enough sauce (I love neapolitan style pizza, so take this with a grain of salt)

 

DAY THREE  EMERALD & PEYTO LAKE 

On Wednesday morning, we woke up early so we could head out to Emerald Lake first thing (about a 1 hour drive from Banff).  Technically Emerald Lake is not in Banff, its in Yoho National Park.  This lake came highly recommended by several other sites, the views looks beautiful, and it definitely did not disappoint.  From there we drove up through the Icefields parkway to Peyto Lake.  

Emerald Lake (Yoho National Park, Canada)

Emerald Lake (Yoho National Park, Canada)

Emerald Lake Yoho Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah
Emerald Lake Yoho Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah

EMERALD LAKE

  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  no hiking necessary for view, incredibly serene, very well maintained, beautiful, minty seafoam green water, canoes available ($95/hour), wonderful 5 mile trail that goes all the way around the lake, good cliff jumping spot, great reflections.
  3. CONS:  canoes are quite expensive, gets busy starting at 10 AM.
  4. RECS:  definitely take the trail that goes around the lake - very worth it for beautiful views and evolving scenery.
Drone footage of Peyto Lake (Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada) from the Bow Summit.

Drone footage of Peyto Lake (Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada) from the Bow Summit.

These two goofballs, almost scared me to death with this shot (thats a cliff right there!!)

These two goofballs, almost scared me to death with this shot (thats a cliff right there!!)

Peyto Lake Banff National Park Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah

PEYTO LAKE (elevation 6100+ ft)

  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  beautiful views, short walk to lookout or and long hike to summit
  3. CONS:  lots of people at the lookout (during mid-day), not as well marked as we would have liked
  4. RECS:  The longer hike (4 miles roundtrip) to the summit is definitely worth the incredible views.  Summit is at ~7000ft elevation.  Hiking shoes aren't necessary but highly recommended since rocky.

EARL'S KITCHEN + BAR 

  1. RATING:  3.5/5
  2. PROS: nice staff & service, comfy chairs, lots of veggie options, eclectic bar/pub food
  3. CONS:  taste was good not great.  the p'zookie was a little dry and crumbly.  quinoa beet bowl was good.  not memorable to visit again.

DAY FOUR  LAKE MORRAINE + LOUISE

During the 24 hours between booking and actually taking our flight we were definitely scrambling to figure out exactly what all we wanted to see.  The plight of the constant wanderluster is going somewhere and missing something epic or beautiful.  SO each one of us researched to find the best spots and most beautiful locations.  Lake Morraine seemed to pop up on every site's list as the most beautiful lake in Banff.  Obviously we had to see it for ourself.  

Lake Morraine at Sunrise Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah

LAKE MORRAINE

  1. RATING:  4.5/5
  2. PROS:  beautiful, perfectly flanked by mountains on all sides, bright blue water
  3. CONS:  super touristy now (much like Louise), lots of people (even at 5:30 AM for the sunrise), canoes are really expensive to rent ($95/hour), the hike for the best views is literally a pile of strewn about lumber and massive rocks (a little daunting)
  4. RECS:  if you go during high season (april - september) expect lots of people no matter the time of day, sunlight doesn't hit the mountains in september til late morning/early afternoon so sunrises are not really worth it.  Lake is absolutely beautiful though, bring hiking boots
Lake Louise Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah
Lake Louise Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah

LAKE LOUISE

  1. RATING: 4/5
  2. PROS:  really nice paved path around half of the lake, pretty, flanked by mountains, restaurants and nice bathrooms
  3. CONS:  way too many people (even early in the morning), hike can be pretty rocky 
  4. RECS:  bring hiking boots, lots of water, cash if you go to the teahouse
Waterfall along the Plain of 6 Glaciers Hike

Waterfall along the Plain of 6 Glaciers Hike

Plain of 6 Glaciers Hike Lake Louise Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah

PLAIN OF 6 GLACIERS HIKE (AT LAKE LOUISE)

  1. RATING:  3/5
  2. PROS:  cute teahouse (with veggie options) at the top, 10 miles (round trip) with elevation gain of ~2400ft, alongside beautiful waterfalls,
  3. CONS:  extremely rocky, horse poop, lots of people (you can feel rushed sometimes which is dangerous on this hike at points), view is ok.  
  4. RECS:  hiking boots, water, snacks for the top, cash to pay at teahouse, do the beehive hike instead for better views (there is another teahouse here as well).

AUTHENTIC INDIAN MASALA HOUSE

  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. COST:  $$
  3. PROS:  outstanding lick-your-fingers good food, great service, really friendly staff, walk-ins welcome
  4. CONS:  sometimes they get large tour groups so reservations might be beneficial
  5. RECS:  seriously if you like Indian food then this is a must visit - it is undoubtedly one of the best Indian restaurants I have been to outside of India.  Get the Tava Paneer and chili naan (delish!!!).  Oh the Tadka/Yellow daal was amazing too!  

DAY FIVE  JOHNSTON CANYON & INK POTS

The guys were considerate of my lack of hiking stamina, so we decided to only do one major hike per day.  Each of these hikes were about 10 miles long round trip so multiple in one day was not really an option for me.  Johnston canyon is a hike that runs along a creek to two waterfall (Lower and Upper).  The Lower falls is about a 1.5 mile hike while Upper is about a 3.5 mile hike with a pretty gradual increase in elevation.  Just beyond the Upper falls, is a hike to the Ink Pots, a series of brilliant blue green ponds that appear to be straight out of an asian garden and can only be reached by hiking (no road access).  In total the hike is about 5 miles (oneway) to the Ink Pots.

Waterfall between the Upper and Lower falls at Johnston Canyon

Waterfall between the Upper and Lower falls at Johnston Canyon

Waterfall between the Upper and Lower falls at Johnston Canyon

Waterfall between the Upper and Lower falls at Johnston Canyon

JOHNSTON CANYON (LOWER & UPPER FALLS HIKE)

  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  well shaded by the trees, paved trail with rails, great views of the waterfalls, beginner level for hikes to both falls, great clean bathrooms.
  3. CONS:  lots of people, can't get in the water.
  4. RECS:  go early in the morning to avoid crowds (we started the hike at 8:30 AM)
Aerial (drone) photo of the Ink Pots (Banff National Park).

Aerial (drone) photo of the Ink Pots (Banff National Park).

INK POTS

  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  well shaded hike, along water, definitive trail with signage
  3. CONS:  long hike to see ink pots, several people even in early morning
  4. RECS:  bring water and snacks, the earlier the better, hiking boots not necessary.

DAY SIX  RADIUM HOT SPRINGS

After three days of hiking 10 miles each, we just felt like relaxing the remainder of our trip so we decided to venture a little bit south of Banff to the little town of Invermere.  

CRYSTAL SPRINGS MOTEL

  1. RATING:  3/5
  2. COST: $$
  3. PROS:  great free breakfast with lemon blueberry ricotta pancakes, nice staff, in-room keurigs
  4. CONS:  typical drab decor, not too many young professionals

RADIUM HOT SPRINGS

  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. COST:  $5.95/person
  3. PROS:  inexpensive, natural hot spring with minerals, locker rooms, towel rental (and swim suit but that seems weird to me haha), spa on site for facials/massages/etc, really beautiful during the winter, biggest natural hot springs in Canada
  4. CONS:  lots of people, typically do renovations from september - november so regular spring is not open during that time, no drinks or food available for purchase, spa is very expensive, hard to compete with the Blue Lagoon (Iceland)

HORSETHEIF CREEK PUB

  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. COST:  $$
  3. PROS:  board games available to play at table, really nice staff, clean bathrooms, good food, large tvs
  4. RECS:  try the green chile mac n cheese!

LOU'S BURRITOS

  1. RATING: 3/5
  2. COST: $
  3. PROS:  nice friendly staff, fresh food
  4. CONS:  food was under salted and bland.  Too much paprika and just not very good.  Not a good example of Mexican/TexMex

BIRCHWOOD RESTAURANT

  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. COST: $$$
  3. PROS:  eclectic menus with lots of vegetarian options, pakoras were actually amazing (this Indian approves!), every dish was well made and tasted great, charming atmosphere
  4. RECS:  make a reservation

EDGEWATER GOLF COURSE

  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. PROS:  great pies, really nice family establishment, staff was warm and welcoming, seems to be a locals spot, great pies (with ice cream!), golf clubs & carts available for rent, can drink on course (when purchase at course's restaurant)
  3. CONS:  no driving range
  4. RECS:  get the blueberry rhubarb or apple pies with ice cream on top!

Unfortunately, due to forest fires in the surrounding area, most of the hikes in Invermere were closed.  We had an absolutely amazing time in Banff even with the smog.  The hikes were incredible and empowering for me haha because I have literally never hiked so much in my life.  The views are amazing but if I could go again I would avoid this forest fire season and try to go when there is still snow on the mountain tops!  The smoke and smog definitely affected our ability to take photos and drone footage, but it could hamper Banff's beauty!  Below is our drone video from this trip.  Enjoy!!

Our 6 day tour of Banff (and Yoho) National Park, Canada.

Our 6 day tour of Banff (and Yoho) National Park, Canada.

  1. Calgary
  2. Johnson Lake
  3. Cascade Ponds
  4. Banff (Town Center)
  5. Johnston Canyon
  6. Ink Pots
  7. Lake Louise
  8. Lake Morraine
  9. Emerald Lake
  10. Peyto Lake

 

 

PISTACHIO CREAM SAUCE

A couple years ago, I was eating at this quaint little Spanish restaurant in downtown Decatur (Atlanta) called the Iberian Pig.  I was hosting my favorite college friends for a reunion and we were eating there for dinner.  Although not seemingly vegetarian friendly, the staff modified several of dishes so that I could share alongside my friends, including one amazing ravioli dish smothered in a pistachio cream sauce.  The sauce left such a lasting impression on me that I went on to try recreating it for the HUBS.  Its now one of our favorite (super easy) recipes!


PISTACHIO CREAM SAUCE RECIPE

KITCHEN CHARISMA SHAH


INGREDIENTS (SERVES 4 - 6)

  1. 1 tbs butter
  2. 1/2 tsp olive oil
  3. 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  4. pinch of crushed red pepper
  5. 30 - 40 pistachios (unsalted)
  6. 1 c heavy whipping cream
  7. 1 c whole milk
  8. 1/2 c grated parmesan
  9. handful of fresh spinach (for color/optional)
  10. freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  11. salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a nonstick saucepan, melt the butter over medium - low heat
  2. Add the olive oil and minced garlic.  Sauté until golden.
  3. Add the crushed red pepper and sauté until aromatic. 
  4. Remove shells from pistachios, then add pistachios to saucepan.  Cook for 5 - 7 minutes or until aromatic.  
  5. Add cream & milk.  Bring to a light simmer.  Stir frequently to prevent the milk from burning.
  6. Remove from heat and allow sauce to cool.  Blend (with spinach) until smooth and then return to pan.
  7. Add the parmesan and stir until smooth.  
  8. Serve with al dente spaghetti and veggies of choice (we love eating this sauce with sauted asparagus, mushrooms, onions, garlic and spinach)!
Spaghetti smothered in homemade pistachio cream sauce served with mushrooms, onions, and spinach.

Spaghetti smothered in homemade pistachio cream sauce served with mushrooms, onions, and spinach.

TRUFFLE MUSHROOM FETTUCCINI


TRUFFLE MUSHROOM FETTUCCINI RECIPE

KITCHEN  CHARISMA SHAH


INGREDIENTS (SERVES 4)

  1. 1/2 box of fettuccine
  2. 2 tsp minced garlic
  3. 2 tbs butter
  4. 2 tsp truffle oil
  5. 1/8 tsp dried parsley
  6. pinch of crushed red pepper
  7. freshly ground black pepper to taste
  8. 1 tbs minced shallot
  9. 7-10 dried mushrooms (blended into a powder)
  10. 1 tsp minced fresh parsley
  11. 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
  12. 1/2 cup whole milk
  13. 1/3 cup of starchy water from boiled pasta
  14. 2/3 c grated parmesan

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cook pasta according to instructions on the box.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat
  3. Add the truffle oil.
  4. Add the minced garlic and sauté until golden.  
  5. Add the minced shallots and sauté until translucent.
  6. Add the pinch of crushed red pepper, dried parsley and sauté for about a minute.
  7. Add the cream and milk, bring to a light simmer.
  8. Add the powdered dried mushrooms.  Cook for 3 minutes.
  9. Add the parmesan and stir slowly until completely melts.  
  10. Drain most of the starchy water from the boiled pasta, keep 1/3 cup and add to the sauce along with the boiled pasta.
  11. Garnish with fresh parsley and stir.
Truffled Mushroom Fettuccine Recipe Charisma Shah
Truffled Mushroom Fettuccine Recipe Charisma Shah

CRUNCHY TOFFEE & CHAI BELGIAN WAFFLES

When we were in Paris we had these amazing praline apple crepes with ice cream.  After one bite, I decided to build upon those flavors.  I have been meaning (and unsuccessfully attempting) to make chai waffles for a while now.  The flavors just weren't peeking through the waffle as much as I would have liked until now.  The HUBS and I made these for the little brother and gf last weekend.  Lets just say it might have replaced our standard lemon poppy seed waffles that we absolutely love.  You must just try them for yourself.  Happy Eating!

crunchy toffee & chai belgian waffles topped with vanilla bean ice cream, bourbon soaked caramelized apples.

crunchy toffee & chai belgian waffles topped with vanilla bean ice cream, bourbon soaked caramelized apples.


CRUNCHY TOFFEE + CHAI BELGIAN

WAFFLES RECIPE

ADAPTED FROM REBECCA FIRTH


INGREDIENTS (MAKES 15 4" SQUARE WAFFLES)

  1. 1 c all purpose flour
  2. 1/4 c vital wheat flour (can substitute with all purpose flour)
  3. 1/2 c brown rice flour (can substitute with all purpose flour)
  4. 1 tsp baking powder
  5. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  6. 1/2 tsp kosher/sea salt
  7. 1 1/3 c buttermilk (room temperature)
  8. 3 eggs (whites only) at room temperature
  9. 3 tbs of sugar
  10. 1/2 c whole milk 
  11. 2 tsp of your favorite chai blend tea (we LOVE this one)
  12. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  13. 1/2 cup of crushed heath bar (1/4 for batter, 1/4 for garnish)
  14. vanilla bean ice cream

FOR THE BOURBON SOAKED CARAMELIZED APPLES

  1. 2 diced red delicious, washington, or gala apples
  2. 1 tbs butter
  3. 1 1/2 tbs brown sugar
  4. pinch of cinnamon
  5. pinch of nutmeg
  6. 1/4 c scotch/whiskey/bourbon of choice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat waffle iron.  We have been using this interchangeable sandwich/waffle maker for about 4 years now and love it (especially since the plates can be removed and washed in the dishwasher.  #win). 
  2. Make sure all refrigerated products are at room temperature.
  3. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the diced apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and scotch/bourbon/whiskey.  Stir frequently or until caramelized.  Set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan over low heat, bring the whole milk to a light simmer.  Add the tea leaves and allow to steep until fragrant or according to specific tea type.  Stir frequently.  Strain out the leaves and set aside the chai.
  5. Sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
  6. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Add the sugar and whisk again until stiff peaks form.
  7. Mix the first half of the dry ingredients into the eggs slowly.  Add the buttermilk and chai, then mix in the remainder of dry ingredients.
  8. Add the vanilla extract and toffee and mix until well blended and no longer lumpy.  
  9. Grease waffle iron well and cook.  Garnish with some ice cream, caramelized apples, and crushed heath before serving.  Yummm.
crunchy toffee & chai belgian waffles topped with vanilla bean ice cream, bourbon soaked caramelized apples.

crunchy toffee & chai belgian waffles topped with vanilla bean ice cream, bourbon soaked caramelized apples.

crunchy toffee & chai belgian waffles topped with vanilla bean ice cream, bourbon soaked caramelized apples.

crunchy toffee & chai belgian waffles topped with vanilla bean ice cream, bourbon soaked caramelized apples.

Mini Viennetta Ice Cream Cake Recipe

Does anyone else remember those delicious Viennetta ice cream cakes from the 90s?  

yummmm

yummmm

When the HUBS and I were in Switzerland we saw them on the menu of a cafe that we were at so we ordered one.  The HUBS had never had one before.  Even after 15+ years, its still SO good.  The flaky chocolate, impeccably light whipped ice cream and all the ripples.  Yum-my!  

And then a couple weeks ago I randomly came across this video on how the cakes are made:

I felt inspired to try creating mini personal sized versions of these with some minor modifications.  I wanted to add a more substantial base layer.  Now let me go ahead and say mine looks nothing like the real thing.  I attempted using decorator's cones to create the ripples, but it was a fail, so instead I made them Jackson Pollick inspired haha.  Gotta roll with the punches right?


MINI VIENNETTA CAKES RECIPE


INGREDIENTS (MAKES 6 MINI CAKES - 3 Heath & 3 Mint Oreo)

  1. 2/3 C vanilla ice cream
  2. 2/3 C cool whip
  3. 1/2 c melting chocolate
  4. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  5. mint oreo truffles
  6. 4 honey graham crackers, blended to a powder
  7. 2 tbs butter
  8. 1/2 heath bar, crushed

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt the butter.
  2. Add 1/2 of the crushed health bar.  Melt completely on LOW heat.  Always use low heat when melting chocolate (otherwise it'll burn).
  3. Add the graham cracker and mix until it creates the base of the cakes.  Divide evenly amongst the 3 molds.
  4. Blend the mint oreo truffles and divide evenly amongst the remaining 3 molds.
  5. Freeze for 30 minutes.
  6. While the bases are freezing, fold the ice cream and cool whip together.  Set aside in the freezer.
  7. Melt the chocolate and add the vanilla extract.  
  8. Remove bases in the mold from the freezer.  Add a layer of ice cream/cool whip and then drizzle some chocolate.  Repeat for one more layer.  Garnish with crushed heath bar.  Freeze until serving.
Mini Viennetta Cake Recipe Charisma Shah
Mini Viennetta Cake Recipe Charisma Shah
Mini Viennetta Cake Recipe Charisma Shah

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUPER EASY DIY FACIAL OIL FOR RADIANT SKIN

It seems like everywhere I look, "influencers" are promoting some product.  #AD.  To be honest, I love that super bloggers like Julia Engel and Arshia Moorjani are wonderful ambassadors to brands like Clarins, Biossance, Laura Mercier, etc and also guinea pigs that let us know what works and what doesn't.  You name it and they have tried it.  And I love trying some of their #swearby products.  But in truth unless they explicitly state so, I find that these #sponsored products are rarely part of their regular routine or "keepers".  When they are, bloggers can't help but brag about them as often as possible.  Take Julia for instance, she absolutely loves these lippies.  Swears by them, and has been sharing about them for quite sometime now.  Clearly she is not promoting them because she's getting paid too, but rather really loves the product.  And when I buy beauty products, thats what I am looking for.  

Not everyone can afford every new beauty product so when it comes to buying them, we want something with major lasting power.  Take facial oils for instance.  They are very sexy and salient right now in skincare but so $$$$.  

DIY Facial Oil Tutorial Charisma Shah

Putting oil on a face that still remembers its jarring-pocked-and-pimple-covered-adolescent-days is not intuitive or enticing.  But as I get older (and as my skin becomes more stable), I have been more open to trying new things.  Plus that day you wake up with a wrinkle is *gasp* scarring and well a blatant reminder that you should be taking care of it.  And yes that means sunscreen EVERYDAY (even when you don't go outside or its raining - I'm talking to you HUBS).  

I guess, my first exposure to facial oils was during my bachelorette.  I was noticing how freakin amazing my friend's skin was looking.  I mean all of us at the time were just shy of 30, and damn - her skin looked supple, buoyant, bright and not at all tired.  I couldn't help but wonder what she was using.  So she told me that she had moved away from cleansers, moisturizers, etc and instead adopted a more simple routine - facial oil.  She made a recommendation and I was literally about to buy it because her skin could have been a billboard for this product, seriously.  But it was like $70 for the tiniest bottle.  And when I looked at the ingredients it was a natural blend (no artificial anything) of like 20 some odd oils - like avocado oil.  Things I could totally buy for a fraction of the cost.  Some were even already in my house.  It just boggles my mind that for that kind of money I could make 30X as much product.  And I could customize it to my skincare needs!

DIY Facial Oil Tutorial Charisma Shah

So I did some research, found some tutorials that basically threw things together and studied the benefits of different types of oil, potency and concentration needed.  I jotted down some notes and well landed on what I like to call my "proprietary blend" just to be fancy :)

The first time I tried it, I showered and put a couple drops on immediately after.  The next morning, the HUBS (blind to my little experiment) said my skin was really glowing.  I thought surely he was messing with me, but my skin was brighter, supple, tighter and rested.  It felt like I had just gotten back from a spa day with cucumber facials and looked like I had eaten a lot of carrots (which also works btw).  

I have been using this blend of oils, actually WE have been using them, for about a year now.  The HUBS was so impressed with my results that he started stealing them, especially during the winter, when our skin is drier and exposed to harsh conditions.  Its become a mainstay in our skincare arsenal.  Not only that, I have gotten the HUBS' mom hooked too!  

my 24K magic blend (recipe below).

my 24K magic blend (recipe below).


DIY FACIAL OIL RECIPE


  1. 3 drops of Tea Tree Oil
  2. 1 ml of Sweet Almond Oil
  3. 1.5 ml of Squalane
  4. .75 ml of Rose Hip Oil
  5. 10 drops of Frankincense 
  6. 4 drops of Seabuckthorn Oil
  7. 1 ml of Avocado Oil
  8. 1.5 ml Argan Oil
  9. 2 drops of Cypress Oil
  10. 0.75 ml of Jojoba Oil
  11. 2 drops of Grapeseed Oil
  12. 4 drops of Ginger Oil
  13. 15-20 drops of Lemongrass Oil (or until goes into solution)

Check your local TJMaxx or Marshalls for these oils.  I found many of them between those two stores at really great prices.  I also purchased several from Amazon.

Cheers to glowing skin!

 

 

 


DISCLAIMER

I have pretty normal skin (not oily, not overly dry, not super sensitive and no known allergies).  If you do try making this, I recommend trying it on a small portion of your arm to test for allergic reactions.  I did this too, and its simply good practice.  Lastly, my best friend who is also a doctor made a valid point, your body produces its own oil naturally and constant exposure to oil might hinder that process.  With this in mind, I only use this product once a week and always at night before I sleep.

 

SUPER EASY DIY ENVELOPE LINERS


DIY ENVELOPE LINERS TUTORIAL


NEED

  1. scissors
  2. glue stick
  3. patterned paper/printed cardstock (you can also just print some designs of your own at home like I did)
  4. envelopes

HOW TO

  1. simply trace the outline of your envelope flap and then double it so it makes a diamond shape
  2. cut this shape out in your patterned paper
  3. glue on the back of the patterned paper along the edge and stick in your envelope!

this is SUPER easy and just makes a little mailer more fun and festive don't you think?  The little crafter in me is very pleased :)

SUPER EASY DIY ENVELOPE LINER TUTORIAL CHARISMA SHAH
SUPER EASY DIY ENVELOPE LINER TUTORIAL CHARISMA SHAH