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Highlight Travel Guide: San Francisco

9 Nov

Last month I had a last minute work trip to the Bay Area. Anthony and I were able to make a weekend out of it. Neither of us had been to San Francisco before.

Painted Ladies Close Up San Francisco CaliforniaI bought a new lens with our upcoming trip to Morocco in mind and was happy to have a reason to take it for a test drive. Continue reading

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Dining Room: An Update

19 Oct

When you decorate slowly, like I do, you don’t exactly feel like changes are “blog -worthy.” But, after a series of small changes you might think the transformation is similar to me seeing my nephews for the first time in months and thinking, “those can’t be the same kids.” Or, maybe it still isn’t that dramatic.

Here it goes: the pictures, noted changes, a list of what I would still like to accomplish here, and sources.

Dining Room Copper Mirror Black Abstract Art Alphabet Dresser Anthropologie Crane Server Jadeite Mugs Astier Villate Adelaide Bowl Zebra Cowhide RugAlphabet Dresser Black and White Abstract Art French Style Mirror Copper Mirror Rose Gold Mirror Nespresso Anthropologie Crane Server Jadeite Mugs

The crane above is the newest addition to my collection. My produce has finally found a home other than “anywhere on the counter.” With the bananas on top, it reminds me of the Chiquita banana lady with the fruit on her head.Dining Room and Entry Way

So what have I done exactly since last featuring the dining room?

  • I’ve changed the artwork
  • I painted the green stripes black
  • I’ve restyled the curio, swapping my most of my green pieces for neutral ones

What would I still like to do?

  • Get a new dining table (I’ve purchased one that is currently being rehabbed and I cannot wait for you to see it!)
  • Purchase new dining chairs
  • Add a black ribbon trim border to the curtains
  • Get a new chandelier (I’ve got my eyes on this one, but I’m not sure it would be enough light)
  • Replace the pillows on the dining chairs

I feel like the vision is finally all starting to come together.

Sources: Alphabet Chest (no longer available) | Curio | Dining Set | Rug | Mirror | Frames | Artwork | Ceiling Medallion | Duck Foot Serving Platter and Bowl | Black Marble Cake Stand (no longer available) | Gold glasses | Malachite Box | Crown Teapot  (I purchased mine in London in 2007)| Monogrammed Carafes | Crane Tiered Server | Large Bowl | Mug/Bottle Rack | Nespresso  (I purchased mine at the William Sonoma Outlet)

 

Highlight Travel Guide: Sydney, Australia

21 Aug

Sydney, like any major city, has no shortage of unique experiences and unmatched options. I want to highlight a short list of best things I experienced during my time down under that I think you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

I am sure it is a given, but I would be remiss not to mention it. Go for a show, go for a tour, go simply to admire the architecture, or to check it off of your bucket list. I don’t care why you go to the Sydney Opera House, but go.

Sydney Opera House Sails Up Close Australia

Sydney Opera House AustraliaUntil I was right beneath it, I didn’t realize that the sails are tiled.

Sydney Opera House Sails Up Close Sydney AustraliaSydney Opera House Sails Sydney Australia.jpgAnthony and I bought tickets in advance, packed our Sunday best and went all in. Before heading into the concert hall, we snagged a few seats at the Bennelong bar and grabbed a drink and a few delicious small bites. Continue reading

Guest Room Refresh In Progress

25 May

You see, the thing about décor for me is that, while I love it, it isn’t typically a financial priority.  I’d rather pay down my mortgage than redo my kitchen, and I really really would love a new kitchen. I would rather take an annual trip or two than have my house decorated to the nines, and I sincerely enjoy having a nice home to come back to. Everyone has to make choices and these are mine.

That, my friends, is why my guestroom, while always ready to welcome out-of-town guests with fresh sheets and towels and a comfortable mattress, has been furnished with hand me down furniture for the past four years. I don’t think most people mean four years when they say good design takes time.  I have no excuses for it remaining beige for so long, on the other hand.

I finally decided it was time to sink a few dollars and a few hours into the guestroom. Here is how it looks today:

Calm and Colorful Bedroom Continue reading

A Guide to Buying, Displaying, and Storing European Blown Glass Christmas Ornaments

25 Nov

One of my favorite Christmas traditions from my childhood was getting a new Christmas ornament from my stocking each year. For years now, I have been collecting European blown glass ornaments, and my mom continues the tradition of adding an ornament to my collection each year. I’ll be honest, I can’t help myself and I add to my collection too.

If you don’t know where to look, finding high quality, European glass ornaments outside of Europe can be a wild goose chase, but I’m here to share my secrets! These tips come from years of collecting, a little bit of research, luck, and even some travel.

First, I’ll break down brands to look for: searching for specific makers helps tremendously! Then I’ll go over some of my favorite places to hunt, both in store and online. After that, I’ll cover some tips on displaying and storing the fragile ornaments to keep them safe and secure on the tree at the holidays and stowed away the rest of the year.

Brands:

  • Christopher Radko – Christopher Radko is really the brand that popularized intricate blown glass ornaments in America and can be found at department stores and boutiques alike. These ornaments are made in Poland. They tend to retain or gain value for years to come and are quite popular on secondary markets, like Ebay.

    Weihnachtszierde – Weihnachtszierde, literally translated means “White Night Ornament” or Christmas Ornament. This Polish brand makes some unique, numbered, limited edition glass ornaments painted to look like tin toys.

    Tin Toy Monkey Ornament

    Weihnachtszierde Tin Toy Glass Monkey

     

  • De Carlini- These free blown style ornaments are made in Italy. De Carlini most often makes figures or animals of glass with mixed media props.
  • Wiktoria Morawski –W. Wiktoria-Morawski, another free blown maker, isn’t likely a name you’ve heard, and chances are you wouldn’t come across the name easily either. I owned many Wiktoria-Morawski ornaments before I knew the name from purchases at various stores, where the ornaments came unmarked. It wasn’t until I bought my favorite souvenirs in generic white boxes with a tiny stickers at a shop in Munich that I learned of the company. These Polish gems are some of my absolute favorites for a couple of reasons including shapes blown into clear glass domes and a clip-on selection better than any other maker.

    Penguin Snowscape Ornament

    Morawski Penguin Glass Dome

  • Eric Cortina- Eric Cortina makes some of my favorite quirky and whimsical ornaments such as my French bulldog wearing a top hat, bowtie and a spectacle, and my clip-on of Santa’s boots sticking out of the Chimney. He also makes my crown tree topper.
  • John Huras – This guy’s story is really neat. Accustomed to the gorgeous and traditional trees of Poland, he originally started making ornaments for orphanages whose trees he wished could bring more cheer to the children.John Huras Russian Santa Ornament
  • Jay Strongwater – Jay Strongwater ornaments are on my wishlist, not my tree. The designer’s glass ornaments are pricier than most, with a very distinct enameled look.
  • Patricia Breen – I don’t own a Patricia Breen ornament (yet), and while the more traditional themes aren’t typically my style, the detail on each ornament is magnificent.
  • Landmark Creations – Landmark Creations is best known for their ornaments of, well, landmarks. Artist Michael Storings has a line made by Landmark Creations of lovely hand paints bulbs, typically of different holiday scenes in New York City.

    I Love BG Taxi Ornament

    Landmark Creations Michael Storings Bergdorf Taxi Ornament

  • Krebs Lauscha and IMPULS are German and Polish companies, respectively, that make some of the widest variety of more readily accessible European glass Christmas ornaments.
  • Inge Glas – Inge Glas is one of the oldest German-based glass blowers. These little treasures are usually more reasonably priced than other brands.

Continue reading

Highlights of Savannah, Georgia

12 Apr

You can say Savannah had me at hello. I feel like every experience I had during my day trip from Charleston last summer was a touch of magic. Savannah filled me with wonder.

Our first stop was SCAD Museum of Art and I was sold. The words that come to mind are multisensory. Rashaad Newsome’s exhibit was auditory while visual while Ling Hongbo’s was visual and tactile. SCAD Museum of Art Colorful Rainbow Paper Guns and Bullets Exhibit

Looking to support some SCAD students? Shop SCAD is a cute boutique with student-filled works.

I am not exaggerating when I say that Chocolate by Adam Turoni is one of my favorite shops in the world.  Each shop is like a room in a fantastical house, the first I visited was a library, a chocolate library. Imagine: glass enclosed bookcases full of chocolate. The staff hands you trays reminiscent of old card catalog drawers. Each truffle or bar variety is labeled, in typewritten font, on library cards.  After visiting the first shop, I knew I had to also visit their second location.The second shop I visited was a dining room, that made you feel as if you had been personally invited to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The chocolates themselves are no less whimsical. From a George Milies Trip To The Moon chocolate to a made to order creme brulee truffle, each piece is a handmade delight.

Adam Turoni Dining Room

Continue reading

Highlight Travel Guide: Charleston, South Carolina

21 Jan

Charleston didn’t take hold of me quite the way I expected. Maybe it was the pouring rain and the late bus from the airport to the city, or dragging my suitcase down narrow, crowded, cobblestone sidewalks. Maybe it was the miserable humidity. Maybe it was because I had heard so many tales of people swooning over the city and my expectations were high. Maybe it had something to do with its ties to ugly parts of American history.

Row Houses Charleston.jpg

Or maybe, possibly, it was because I had to submit to the (s)Low Country pace of the city before I could really enjoy it. Sure, I live in Texas, but Charleston was my first visit to the deep South. It has a flavor all its own, and I had to get to know it, before I could love it.

Charleston City Market

Our time in Charleston consisted of lots of long strolls, a fair amount of history, and more than enough food.

Starting with food recommendations, I’ll spare you my criticisms of our first several meals, and instead reaffirm the idea that Charleston is a city full of great food. I think we were eating breakfast at Hominy Grill when Anthony and I had the realization that we had much better luck with Low Country cuisine in Charleston than when we tried to be fancy. You can’t get too much better than the Charleston Nasty Biscuit.

 

Husk started off with a bang. I fell in love with pimento cheese in Charleston, and Husk served simply the best. The rest of our lunch there kind of fizzled out, but I would go again and again for that wonderful cheddar pimento slathered on grilled bread.

I seized another opportunity to eat pimento at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit and again at Artisan Meat Share. Both places served wonderful, casual meals

wp-1453393028479.jpgOn the advice of a friend (who’s recommendations never fail us), Anthony and I went to Edmond’s Oast for happy hour. We ordered lamb sliders, and I fully expected to be served a ground lamb patty on a bun. To my sheer delight, they brought out house-cured lamb. They continued to impress with Japanese style street corn. I also had a cocktail called, “What time does Sean Connery show up to Wimbledon?” Though we only snacked, dining there was a true experience.

Edmond's Oast Charleston

We only ate lightly at Edmond’s Oast due to our late-night dinner reservations at FIGWe probably should have booked a table prior to arriving in South Carolina, but when we called, they squeezed us into a late night spot the next evening.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream graces Austin with its truck for SXSW, so I could not pass up my first opportunity to visit a scoop shop and have a sundae with a conversation cookie and sprinkles. The ice cream is top notch and their caramel sauce makes a wonderful souvenir. The stunning copper store front isn’t so bad either.

 

I stand firmly in the camp of room service is a (usually overpriced and tasteless) treat and breakfast in bed is the best. Charleston is exactly the type of city you can order in in without feeling like you’re missing out. You could even one-up room service by ordering  Caviar & Bananas for delivery. If you do head out, Caviar & Bananas was the perfect stop for an iced coffee, a welcome reprieve from the hellish humidity. It is a darling delicatessen stocked with locally sourced artisianal groceries.

I donut eat many doughnuts at home, but rarely pass up an opportunity to try a fancy local doughnut shop while travelling. Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts was not exempt. I preferred their savory pastries to their sweet ones, regardless, it was a tasty, inexpensive morning meal.

 

Anthony and I do not usually splurge on hotel, but opt to spend our money on other experiences. Had we splurged, I would have opted to stay at the newly opened Spectator Hotel. I still wanted to eye the stunning design in person, so we swung by for drinks one evening. A kind Texan on staff there recommended we go to Poogan’s Porch for brunch. We never made it, so go for me if you’re there!

Spectator Hotel Charleston Lobby

We stayed at the charming and art-filled hotel, The Vendue. I tend to refuse room service on vacation, but how could I when nightly turn down service included chocolate on my pillow? Free coffee in the morning, appetizers and wine in the evening, and cookies at night did not hurt either.

The Vendue Charleston Boutique Art HotelThe Vendue Charleston Hotel Art ViewMaster LOOK

The Vendue is less than a block from Waterfront Park. Somehow we woke up early enough one morning to swing on the dock during the last few minutes of sunrise.

Waterfront Park Charleston

Waterfront Park Dock CharlestonWhile it’d be nearly impossible to miss, you can’t go to Charleston without a stroll down King Street. When we didn’t feel like long walks in the hot hot heat, the free, air-conditioned Trolley saved our feet.

I felt like it was really important to see Fort Sumpter while we were in Charleston, where the first shots of the American Civil War rang out. If you’re looking for more American history, you’ll find plenty in Charleston. I would recommend a visit to the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.

I also felt compelled to visit one of the many plantation houses while we were there. We opted to visit Magnolia, though if I had a do-over, I may have chosen Middleton Place. After our tour, we took a lengthy stroll through the gardens and I learned I prefer tailored French gardens over their  English counterparts.

Magnolia Plantation House Charleston copy.jpg

On the way back from our day trip to Savannah (post in progress), we stopped to see the Angel Oak Tree, estimated to be over 400 years old with a circumference greater than twenty-five feet!

Angel Oak Tree Charleston Oldest Tree.jpg

As a traveller I am a go-go-goer. I love to see the world! Charleston taught me, that sometimes seeing the world and experiencing a city, means just sitting still in it for a moment.

See more places we went or wanted to go on my Charleston map! Have you been to Charleston? Share your memories in the comments below!

 

Day Trip From Austin: The Antlers Hotel

22 Jul

I am very much a city girl. That being said, sometimes a weekend with very little phone reception, no laptop, and quiet surroundings is exactly what I need for a weekend.

For our second wedding anniversary, we opted to do the exact opposite of what we did last year. No big trip, no fancy meals, just a quiet weekend away from everything doing absolutely nothing. It was perfect.

We drove about an hour outside of Austin and stayed overnight in a train car at the Antlers Hotel in Kingsland, Texas. I devoured The Boxcar Children books growing up, though I think they were a bit more resourceful than us. Our green caboose had indoor plumbing and air conditioning.

Green Train Car Cabin Antlers Hotel Texas

It seems Anthony and I have a thing for strange sleeping accomodations. Now we have stayed in both a caboose and a tepee.

Yellow Train Car Antlers Hotel Kingsland Texas

Red Train Car Antlers Hotel Kingsland Texas

While we opted to eat at the Grand Central Cafe on property, which is the house used on the set of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (romantic, right?), there are grills outside the train cars, kitchenettes inside, and a grocery store just down the road (all of which I would recommend over the restaurant). Marble Falls isn’t far if you want a few more restaurant options.

Antlers Train Car Hotel Dock

Antlers Hotel Train Car Hotel Kingsland Texas Rowboat

The hotel had two private docks as well as a rowboat and a canoe for guests to use. We went for a leisurely morning row.

antlers hotel signantlers hotel patio

antlers hotel marker

We also spent some time at Sweet Berry Farms picking strawberries. And stopped at Apiary for brunch on the way back into town.

Before we left for the weekend, a for sale sign was put up on the property. I hope the property remains a hotel. It is a perfect weekend getaway from city livin’.

Las Vegas Mini Guide, or, So Much More Than I Expected

4 May

After landing in Las Vegas, I remarked to the husband that I was surprised at how beautiful it is. While he had been before, our trip in February was my first time in Sin City. I quickly realized that Vegas would surprise me many times over the next five days.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

I kept hearing that three days was the maximum amount of time many visitors would stay, but I could have easily lingered a day or two longer than we did. While many people go for debauchery a la Hangover, I found that Vegas has infinitely more to offer than free casino drinks and wedding chapels.

Floating Street Artist Entertainer Performer The Strip Las Vegas

For us, having family to visit made the trip exceedingly more enjoyable, but I’d recommend a visit to everyone. Fun sites, new experiences, and amazing food: below I’ll list the things I’d hate for you to miss if you found yourself in Vegas.

Bellagio Las Vegass Chihuly Glass Ceiling

Chihuly Glass Bellagio Ceiling Las Vegas

The infamous Strip, lined with enormous casinos, really proved false the maxim, “everything’s bigger in Texas.” Just a couple of casinos could take you days to explore. I soaked up all things over-the-top, elaborate, and exuberant, like a good Vegas traveller would. A favorite of mine was the Bellagio, with the Chihuly glass ceiling, pictured above, and the world’s largest chocolate fountain, pictured below.

World's Largest Chocolate Fountain Bellagio Las Vegas

At the Cosmopolitan I grabbed a fortune from the giant Lucky Cat and a drink in the stunning Chandelier Bar, a three story lounge, draped lavishly in seemingly endless strands of crystals. The Monkey’s Uncle was a sweet concoction of Monkey Shoulder Whiskey, Creme de Banana, Cream, Nutella, House Made Cinnamon-Vanilla Syrup.

Monkeys Uncle Cocktail Chandelier Bar Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

At Caesar’s Palace we enjoyed truffles that freely dispense from the large clock at Payard every fifteen minutes. While we were there, I picked up a Raspberry Pistachio Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich. At Monte Carlo, bundled up in parkas, surrounded by ice sculptures and sitting on benches made of ice and laden with furs and hides, we sipped cocktails out of glasses made of ice at Minus5 Bar. Vegas has plenty of experiences for the books. While, I opted not to take a gondola ride in the Venetian, I loved hearing the gondoliers singing in Italian as we strolled to brunch at Bouchon where we devoured warm beignets. I loved the antique brass card holder, below, so much, that I came home and scoured Etsy for an identical one.

Bouchon Bistro Business Card Holder Las Vegas

While we were there, the casinos were adorned in Chinese New Year decor. The Venetian and Mandalay Bay were most bedecked for the Year of the Goat.

Chinese New Year Year of the Goat Floral Arrangement Firecrackers

Since we rented a car to day trip to the Grand Canyon, we spent a fair amount of time exploring Vegas like a local might. My favorite meals in Vegas were not prepared by the chefs on Las Vegas Boulevard, but instead on Rainbow Boulevard. I had perhaps my favorite foodie experience to date in Vegas. Following a spicy Thai meal at Lotus of Siam of Nam Kao Tod (crispy rice) and duck panang, I indulged in three course dessert at Sweets Raku.

My experience at Sweets Raku was off to a great start with an edible menu, rolled in a cookie ring, and served with dipping sauce. From there, I chose my courses: Pineapple Sorbet with White Wine Jelly, Strawberry Tiramisu, and a chocolate creme puff with raspberries. Anthony skipped the multi-course meal in favor of an indulgent Chocolate Souffle with Banana Pudding.

We loved the area so much, we returned another day to have lunch at the crowded, but wait-worthy Monta Ramen. Having Ramen Tatsu-ya in Austin has really ruined me for ramen, but my Tonkatsu style ramen with black garlic did not disappoint.

For non-gambling fun, we headed north on Las Vegas Boulevard and visited the Neon Museum, a boneyard filled with the neon signs that Vegas is known for, from years past.

Stardust Neon Sign Museum Las Vegas Nevade

Driving from the airport to our hotel, a glimmer of silver glinted in in my eyes and I knew I had seen Gehry. Not far from downtown, we found it: The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. I know nothing about architecture, but love pretty buildings.

Frank Gehry Architecture Las Vegas Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

We also spent a little time on Fremont Street downtown, zip-lining on Slotzilla under the LED video canopy and walking through an old casino or two where you could hear all the coins clambering as people won and lost buckets of money, rather than swiping player cards as is common on The Strip.

Slotzilla Freemont Street Experience Las Vegas

I wanted to purchase a day pass to slide through the shark tank at the Golden Nugget, but it closes early and swimming was not allowed when we had the time. I suppose that means I have to visit Las Vegas again.

Shark Tank Slide Golden Nuggest Las Vegas

Have you been to Vegas? Tell me about your trip.

The Glass Skywalk at the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam

19 Mar

I could not have imagined that a large rock formation could be so humbling and so awe-inspiring. If the Grand Canyon is not on your bucket list, it should be.

I did not comprehend it’s vastness or my own smallness until I visited the Grand Canyon. I could not have possibly imagined how large such a small part of one country could be. Helicopters descend into the canyon, and look like ants by comparison.

On our recent trip to Vegas, we took a day trip to visit the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. Despite the terrible online reviews we opted to go to the Glass Skywalk at Grand Canyon West. It is two hours closer to Vegas than the South Rim and, let’s face it, the National Park doesn’t have a glass structure that allows me to stand 4000 feet above the Canyon floor.

Grand Canyon Glass Skywalk

Photo provided by Hualapai Ranch | Skywalk at Grand Canyon West

Photo provided by Hualapai Ranch | Skywalk at Grand Canyon West

Grand Canyon West Glass Skywalk

If you are planning a trip the the Grand Canyon and choose to go to the Skywalk:

+ DO keep in mind that it will be more expensive than the South Rim

+ DO come to terms with the fact that if you want pictures on the Skywalk, you will have to pay

+ DON’T listen to old reviews: the road to Hualapai Ranch was completed fall of 2014

Jumping Grand Canyon

Coming from Vegas, I think the two hour and twenty minute drive was the right choice for us, but I truly think that you can’t go wrong with any view of the Canyon. I imagine that the South Rim is equally as breathtaking as the West.

Trail Closed

On the way back into Vegas we stopped at the Hoover Dam which was very evidently and charmingly 1930’s.

Hoover Dam

Photos of Las Vegas coming soon!

Thanks for reading,

♥ Dominique

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