Wednesday, July 23, 2014

International Day of la Francophonie

Today I saw a pin on pinterest where someone commented on how it was "the international day of French language". Eager to celebrate the French, I began watching all of the Youtube videos related to everything French without actually bothering to note that March 20 is actually the international day of the French language. Oops.

Maybe I can celebrate next year? :)

In celebration of what I thought was the day of the French language, I went on an internet search to find the department store Justin and I shopped in while we were in Paris. I keep hoping that they will start selling real French macarons online. Everywhere we go, including our recent visit to Charleston, we try the macarons just to see if they taste anything like what we had in Paris. So far we haven't had any luck. Nothing tastes quite as decadent or perfect. On my search though, I discovered two places that might have what I am looking for … Maison Roberts of Atlanta, which I will be trying first, and Pierre Herme of … somewhere else (Paris, perhaps?). They were recommended by some random macaron loving blogger that I forgot to get the link for. She says Pierre Herme has some of the best macarons ever and that she has tried many. (There were links to about 1,000 macaron makers on her site, many she recommends but most she doesn't.)

At some point there was the realization that I most likely won't get to eat another truly Parisian macaron again until I return to Paris unless I (or my husband) make it ourselves. Given that my birthday is coming up rather quickly, I told Justin that I wanted him to make me macarons for it. (A vacation is simply not enough of a birthday treat!) … Will he do it? Probably not. Macarons take time… lots of time. Justin's time is running out.

That didn't stop me from watching this video about how to make them. The macarons look so easy to make! Clearly Justin can do it whenever he wants without difficulty. Of course, my fear is that the macaron recipe above is an Americanized version missing all of the Parisian-ness that I require in macarons. Luckily, we have a French cookbook bought in France with a macaron recipe we might try first. Unluckily, the book is in French, so it may be a tad difficult to comprehend. We shall see.

After all of my time spent worrying about macarons, Paris, and happiness, I decided to watch Emmy eat Paris. Emmy is cute and makes me happy, so you should watch her too.

So how have you celebrated the day that was not actually International French Language Day? Did you do anything decisively French?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Creativity, Photography, & Inspiration

"To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them." 

- Elliott Erwitt

Friday, July 18, 2014

Longing for the Beach

Did you know that I am excited about going to the beach this weekend?

Only 6 more hours of work + drive time.

What are you doing this weekend?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Where to Stay in Charleston

All day yesterday, I attempted the long process of booking a hotel. I suppose it is not typically a long process, but for me, it is. I have status at a few hotel chains, and I always have this argument in my head about whether I should stay somewhere to get points … or if I should stay at the cheaper place. Yesterday was no different. I've stayed at a few hotels in Charleston in the past 10 or so years, so I have definitely developed a taste for what I do and don't like in hotels there. Given that I only had a few days in which to look for a hotel and price points to consider, it was a struggle for me to not be able to choose the hotels I am familiar with and love. I decided that I would give those hotels a shout out in this blog post since I won't be staying at any of them over the weekend.


Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina

A few years ago (maybe 4?), I made plans with a friend to visit Charleston. She cancelled last minute, but I convinced Justin to take me anyway. (Summer birthdays are great for convincing husbands/boyfriends!) We couldn't afford to stay by the beach (who wouldn't choose the beach first anyway?), but I wanted to stay near water. CHR&M was a good much cheaper alternative. It had just gone through renovations and prices were much less than they are today. Unfortunately, years later unless you book through groupon or some other fantastic hotel deal site, the hotel is far more expensive. Nevertheless, it is always my first choice.

CHR&M is located right on the marina (as the name implies) and also right at the touristy Patriot's Point. They have a boat that goes back and forth from the hotel to Charleston city proper and you are within a quick drive to the beach at Isle of Palms. Another feature is the summer bonfires (which I've never seen) and the variety of things for the elderly to do. If you go on July 4th, you are set up perfectly to watch the fireworks. And one of my favorite things to do is to meander the property and especially exploring the marina at night. In my mind there is nothing more magical than hearing and seeing the boats on the water at night. Truly fantastic. :)

The large rooms are simply lovely at CHR&M decorated in yellow and blue making you feel as though you are at home rather than at a hotel. I recommend getting a room on a higher floor looking out at the marina, because the parking lot view just never seemed to be too appealing to me. Don't worry too much about booking a room with a fireplace. As beautiful as the fireplace is, it is not worth the extra money since you get a balcony with a (regular) double queen room anyway for a lot less.

Seaside Inn

My first trip to Charleston, we stayed at this hotel which I managed to get at the cheap, cheap price of $150 a night in the middle of summer. Granted they had just done renovations, and this was maybe 10 years ago. I never saw SI as an amazing luxury hotel which is why, given the price increases, I have only been back once. In other news, the breakfast was lackluster (cold pastries, juice, coffee, and cereal) and my husband (boyfriend at the time) once saw a roach on the floor. (I know. Gross, right?!) The beach was just steps away though, and you could sit outside your room (even if you didn't have an ocean view) and hear the ocean, which was a nice perk. I also loved that cute little bars with frozen drinks and gift shops were all within walking distance. Who doesn't want to go for a late night Ben & Jerry's run? :)

Best Western: Patriot's Point

Last year Justin and I went and stayed at the BW for July 4th weekend. We got a fantastic deal on travelocity and were, once again, traveling with family who were more conscious about money than I am. Spending $70/night or so on 3 nights between 4 people and getting a free breakfast included sounded fantastic. And it was. The hotel itself was lackluster. It was definitely a Best Western without much decoration or flare. It was within (a long) walking distance of Patriot's Point where we went to see the fireworks, but it was within walking distance. We didn't even have to worry about where to park the car! Or driving through traffic after the fireworks! The breakfast was even pretty good with eggs, bacon, pastries, juice, coffee, and waffles being served. While the BW will never be my favorite place to stay, I definitely recommend it if you can get a room for a good price. It's a fantastic budget hotel. :)

Marketplace Pavillion Hotel

If you are looking to stay in historic downtown in luxury, this may be the hotel for you. Justin and I went with some friends of his on a loooooonnnnngggg weekend date and stayed here, a place I never would have considered on my own. The hotel is right smack dab in the middle of town and you pay for that when you stay at this hotel. The interior is gorgeous and they offer packets of coffee and tea in the room along with pastries on each floor in the morning. Because we were vacationing in February, the pool was closed, but I'm not sure I would want to go to this hotel's pool anyway. It is located on the rooftop next to a bar that is open during the summer to the public. The bar area is fantastic for watching the sunset even if the food is a bit expensive. As fancy as the hotel is, I would have a hard time returning and paying such a high price for the little bit of value I seemed to get out of this hotel. I would much rather stay at the beach if I'm going to pay so much. Then again, I don't find much value in staying in the historic Charleston city limits anyway.

Hampton Inn: Historic Charleston

For someone who doesn't find much value inside the historic city limits of Charleston, I still found myself enjoying a stay at this fantastic hotel last year. I was put in a room on the bottom floor with a door that led straight out to the pool. Heck yeah! :) Unfortunately we only got to stay for one night, but we took full advantage of all of the hotel amenities. Free hot drinks all day, free buffet style breakfast in the morning, free cookies in the afternoon, free shuttle service into the city, fantastic staff, and help obtaining forgotten toiletries all made our stay at this hotel fabulous! We felt like royalty!

The rooms were decorated wonderfully. We stayed in a room with 2 queen beds and the room was huuuuuuuggggggeeee! (Yes, the exaggeration is warranted.) Honestly I can't remember any of the rooms amenities because we were there for such a short period, but it definitely felt worth it. If I go on vacation, I like feeling like royalty and taking advantage of hotel perks. I highly recommend this hotel especially if you have status with the Hilton chain, want to stay in historic Charleston, or are traveling with family. It is definitely worth it.

Holiday Inn Riverview

I can't really tell you a whole lot about this Holiday Inn since it was years ago that I was there, but, from what I do remember, this hotel is a great place to watch 4th of July fireworks from your room. They don't really offer any amazing amenities and the rooms aren't stunning, but you are much closer to Charleston city center, you have great views of Charleston from the higher floors, and the price is comparably a lot lower than other hotels in that area. There are definitely benefits to this hotel if none of your preferred hotels are available. It was one of the few I was considering for my most current weekend getaway.


This weekend Justin and I will be staying at our seventh hotel in Charleston, one that we have never stayed at before, the Daniel Island Hampton Inn which provides free breakfast, cookies, drinks, and shuttle service and has high ratings on TripAdvisor. I'm hoping it will be an awesome experience, but you never know. I tried to choose a place with lots of amenities, as close to Charleston (or the beach) as possible, and some place that I have status with. It was between this and the Holiday Inn (Riverview or Downtown). (The price point* and free cookies won me over. haha.)

Have you ever stayed at any of these hotels when visiting Charleston? Would you recommend them? (I'm not even going to ask if you've ever been, because if you haven't, you must go! The sooner, the better!)

See my recommendations on what to do and where to eat in Charleston.

* Don't forget that Hilton hotels are offering $50 back when you use your Amex for hotel stays costing $250 or more between now and 9/2/14 and tweet at #AmexHilton with your linked (to Amex) twitter account. See offer terms and conditions here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Charleston, Here I Come!

In 3.5 days I will be in Charleston. Yay!!!

Before I get there I have to work for approximately 12 hours straight tomorrow. I'm grateful for the work, but I'm going to be sooooooo tired! And there probably won't be a blog post.

In the mean time, go check out Charleston Daily Photo, a blog featuring photos of one of my favorite east coast cities. :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Thinking about Home Furnishings

I've been working on a paid project all week about home furnishings, and for the last assignment they asked me to put together a collage of all of my favorite home furnishings. It was kind of fun to see this collage above of turquoise, blue, ivory, and white. Maybe someday my home will be filled with these things. :) What colors would be in a collage for your home if you were to put one together?

(Going from Left to right, up to down)

1. Wisteria: Louis XIV Dining Chair $299
2. Ballard Designs: Castered Tufted Storage Ottoman $449 - $659
3. Kirklands: Beaded Oval Wall Mirror $17.99
4. Pottery Barn: Hydrocotton Bath Towels $8.50 - $24.50

5. World Market: Blue Emma Tufted Chairs (Set of 2) $179.98
6. Sky Iris: Aqua Couli Throw $87 (sold out)
7. Layla Grace
8. Pottery Barn: Crochet Trimmed Standard Sham $39 - $59

9. Target: Brookline Tufted Counter Stool $75.99 - $83.99
10. Pier 1 Imports: Turquoise Lamp (sold out)
11. Devon Bedding (no idea where it's from)
12. Painted Cottages Etsy Listing (sold out)

13. Pier 1 Imports: Teal Crackle Drinkware $5.95 - $6.95
14. Pier 1 Imports: Wooden Drawer Lantern $48
15. Custom Furniture World: Coastal Living Cottage Pedestal Dining Table $1729
16. Layla Grace rug (sold out)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TBT: Metal Roses

Most of the time when I think of "throwbacks" my mind goes to my junior summer of art exploration. It was a time when I was told I wouldn't graduate on time unless I took summer classes, but my college didn't offer any classes I needed. Instead I found myself frantically fighting for a chance to take classes at UGA, the arch enemy of my husband's college, GA Tech.

Waking up crazy early to make the hour long drive to the school, I took sculpture, art history, dance, and photography. It was one of my best semesters in school. In between classes, I would go to the gigantic library and just roam, occasionally finding a book but rarely checking it out. If I wasn't doing that, I was going to get a drink on the square in Athens … more specifically an Italian soda, sometimes with cream and sometimes without. :) And then there were days where I would just sit in the shade of the trees reading a book or chatting on the phone with a friend. Looking back, I'm not sure how I survived the heat that summer, but I did.

I absolutely loved every class I took, but I think my favorite may have been sculpture. Granted, photography is the art I stuck with, but there was something truly magnificent about working and creating with your hands.

I had a very young teacher. It was his first year teaching at UGA, and you could tell. He was very easygoing and extremely helpful to his class of 12 girls learning to do woodworking, use clay, and pour metal. Our first project involved printing an image of a person with a very detailed face, preferably with lots of texture. Then, we had to carve the face into clay followed by a sand mold with metal being poured into the sand mold a week or two later. It was thrilling and time consuming. I'm pretty sure I got clay on everything! Needless to say that the exercise taught me a lot in a short amount of time about the creative process, how to effectively use dental tools with clay, and how to be a detail-oriented individual.

We did other projects in that particular class, but my favorite project came at the end of the semester when it was a "free-for-all". I sculpted a number of roses and a gun (as in Guns 'n' Roses, duh!). The roses came naturally to me as I was sculpting (not carving, like in the last exercise). It was almost like meditating. I had a method that I would attempt to improve on as I completed each rose. In the end, my gun and several of the roses died when the metal in my sand cast didn't reach into all of the crannies and crevices that my clay sculptures had created, so those pieces simply fell apart when they were removed.

Surprisingly, despite the criticism received while making them, everyone (even the teacher) wanted a rose from my collection. Justin got one, my friend got one for her birthday, my mom, my grandparents, and even my brother! Quickly I went from having more roses than I could handle to having just 3 that I tied together with a turquoise ribbon from my childhood. Three was the perfect number for me, and I was grateful to be able to share my artwork with so many others who wanted what I had made.

Many, many years later I still find myself proud and quite pleased with all that was accomplished during my summer at UGA. Not only did I create a beautiful (IMHO) piece of artwork to go on my bookshelf, I created memories, and I put in enough work to be able to graduate on time from college. That summer is what I would call successful.