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

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.