Friday, June 27, 2014

What's New?

Last week, I was in the sunny (and majorly hot) Outer Banks in North Carolina on vacation! I am going to be posting all about my trip next week but for now, here are some of the pics I posted on Instagram while I was there...Enjoy! 

And don't forget to follow Instagram for daily updates! 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Good Eating: Three Rivers Arts Festival

Every summer the Three Rivers Arts Festival takes over downtown Pittsburgh for 10 days. It brings gorgeous art, amazing musicians, and most importantly (in my opinion) awesomely delicious food! 

This year was just as fantastic as usual! The music line up included Jake Bugg, the Kaiser Chiefs, Trampled By Turtles, and many others.  Not only that but there were tons of art stalls that sold canvases, ceramics, and more.

So, when the day came that the Kaiser Chiefs were performing, my whole family went down to enjoy the show...and dinner, of course! 

There was so much to choose from: hot sausages, hamburgers, gyros, crepes, tacos, the list goes on and on. Even so, deciding what I wanted was easy. Upon the recommendation of Annie, and with my new found love for all things seafood, I headed straight for the lobster burger stand. 

To no surprise, as I walked toward the stand, I could already smell the deliciousness. They had at least a dozen burgers already cooking on the grill (they were so popular, they couldn't keep enough hot!) and as I looked at them, my mouth began to water!

Before this, I had only ever eaten lobster one time and I loved it. But honestly, nothing could have prepared me for how much I was going to enjoy this burger. It was the perfect amount of meat and spices with just the right balance between the hot burger and cold bun. 

So, if you haven't figured it out already, I HIGHLY recommend lobster burgers and am already preparing myself for next year's festival.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Outfit of the day!

Top: Primark Shorts: Primark Shoes: Primark Bag: h&m Earrings: Forever 2 Lipstick: Avon

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

This weekend I:

Watched: Mad Men 

Listened: to the waves of the ocean in the Outer Banks
Learned: I can't please everyone all the time 
Ate: crab legs for the first time 
Read: this blog
Drank: a Shirley Temple 
Thought: I hate the game show network 
Wished: I tanned more easily 
Realized: to just be happy 
Bought: a new phone case after having my old one for like 2 years

Friday, June 20, 2014

Things I miss about London:

  1. Walking out of the front gate of my apartment towards the Farringdon tube station
  2. The sounds of people walking around Regents Park
  3. Getting a flat white coffee from Starbucks in the morning before work
  4. Sitting in St. James Square on my lunch break and looking at the flowers
  5. Wearing my (uncomfortable) brown ankle boots with bright socks

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Good Eating: Round Corner Cantina

One of the side effects of turning 21 while abroad is that sometimes you forget to celebrate legal drinking once you get back to the States. So, my sister Annie decided that although she couldn't buy me my first drink as a 21-year-old, she could buy my first shot of tequila! 

To celebrate, we went to the Round Corner Cantina in Lawrenceville! From the outside, the restaurant looks small with only a few two-seater tables out front and a bar inside. To my surprise, however, as I followed my brother-in-law Ben to the back, I realized there was an oudoor patio. High tables, bar stools, bright colors, and string lights hanging above makes this a fun and cozy dining space. 

Despite being there on a busy Thursday night, we were kindly greeted by the hostess and seated right away (no wasting space, we were at a shared table). After looking at the menu for a while and realizing I had no clue what makes a good tequila, I let Annie and Ben do the drink ordering. We ended up getting three shots of tequila, two La Cantinas Margaritas, one can of Tecante, with chips and salsa, which all tasted amazing. 

After a few more minutes perusing the menu, I ordered the Lamb Barbacoa tacos and both Annie and Ben ordered the Gobernador Tacos. In what seemed like just a few minutes, our food was already on our table and looked delicious. 

Before ordering my tacos, I thought to myself 'should lamb really be put on tacos?' but decided to order them anyways...and it ended up not being, well, not my favourite. After trying Annie's shrimp tacos, I regretted not ordering those. Mine were a bit too spicy for me and the flavors just didn't mix as well as I had hoped. 

Even so, I highly recommend the Round Corner Cantina and can't wait to go back and get some shrimp tacos all to myself! 

Visiting Lawrenceville but in the mood for French food? Head over to my post about La Gourmandine Bakery!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to make studying abroad happen: Suitcases

Studying abroad is one of the best things I have ever done! It is exciting, full of adventures, rewarding, and so much more. With all that comes some challenges, as well....and I don't just mean deciding which of the many restaurants you are going to go to for dinner each night (which you will also be faced with). I am talking about the things that you won't even think about until you are in the midst of the struggle. 

First and foremost, I am talking about your luggage. Yes, you want to fit as much as possible in them because you will be away for months and months. However, you have to think about how you are going to get from the airport to your apartment/dorm/homestay.

This is something that many people overlook, including my sister and her friends back in 2008. They all arrived in Heathrow airport with their 40 pound bags, carry-ons, and purses but hadn't thought about all the stairs and tube stations they were going to have to lug them through to get to their dorms in North London.

Even with my sister's warning, it took me until I landed in London to realize that I had packed way more than I could physically carry all the way to my East London flat. 

To avoid this problem, my first piece of advice would be to find a program with airport transfers included. However, that's not always possible (like for my sister and I) and so my best advice is to buy good these amazing suitcases I saw at Costco the other day! I'm not sure how I made it through two semesters abroad without buying one, and now looking back I realize I could have made it a lot easier on myself with one or two of these.

They have four wheels! It would be so nice to not have to worry about lifting it, except when there is a curb or gap. My biggest problem with my luggage was that even when I rolled it, it still only had two wheels and would often get stuck. Plus, these Kirkland suitcases have a hard shell to protect everything. My suitcases were really beat up from all the travel, but I imagine that this type of suitcase would withstand the shuffling from plane to train to city streets. If you're still not convinced, check out the video below of me pulling two of the large suitcases.

*This is not a sponsored post. Costco and Kirkland have no idea who I am, but I was really impressed with these suitcases and wanted to share. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

DIY: Three piece art display

Throughout my college career I have gone through a lot of firsts: my first day of classes, my first roommate, my first party, my first college friend, my first (and only) college football game, and more! Now that my senior year is approaching, most firsts are behind me. 

Luckily, there is still at least one first left for me in first apartment! I didn't think it was going to be a big deal because I have lived in apartments while abroad, but those spaces weren't really mine. I didn't get to choose the location, the room, or really anything about it. Plus, with the limited space of two suitcases, I could barely bring any decorations.       

Now that I have the ability to decorate the way I want without any space constraint, I really want it to represent me! I want it to be a place where I can escape and relax. 

To customize without spending an arm and a leg, I have found a few DIY projects to do this summer! The first being a three piece art display from one of my favourite blogs, A Beautiful Mess. I am not the most artistic person so I was a bit nervous taking on this project, but once I got started it was quite simple and really fun! 

First, I printed off the supply list:

-Two 12x12 canvases
-One 8x10 canvas
-Mod podge
-Paint brushes
-Painter's Tape

Then, I headed straight to Michaels to pick up most of the items. I plan to paint my desk a bright mint color, and wanted something to compliment that so I chose to do this project in sheer lilac and new black from Lowes. I printed off a few maps of London from Google images instead of using newspaper like the original directions.

Now that I had all my materials ready, I began my project! I taped diagonal lines on one of the larger canvases (I chose to do diagonal so that I didn't have to worry about the lines being perfectly straight). I then painted two coats of the lilac color onto it and set it aside to dry. 

For the second large canvas, I used the top of a water bottle to create simple black dots. A little heads up, if you use a bottle cap like I did, make sure you dip the cap in-between every dot because they will be uneven if you don't. 

Last but not least, I cut up my maps into random shapes and then mod podged them onto the smallest canvas. To do this I covered the canvas with a thin layer of mod podge, laid out the maps, and then put another layer of mod podge on top. After about two hours of drying, I went back to add the words onto the canvas. I picked lyrics from one of my favourite Jake Bugg songs, "Simple as this". 

And that's it! In just an afternoon, I created three pieces of art that are totally unique. Now, I know they are not perfect but they turned out exactly how I wanted them to! They are fun, simple, and cost less than $25 to make all three! I just can't wait to hang them above my desk in my new room! 

Don't forget to check out my Apartment Pinterest Board or my summer to do list to see what crafts are coming up! Plus, click here to see the overall inspiration for this room. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Good Eating: La Gourmandine Bakery

Hello again! It's Annie, Hope's sister. Now that Hope is back from London I'm trying to spend as much time as possible with her! I love hearing all about her European adventures, but I have to admit that I sometimes get a bit jealous. So the only logical thing to do in my opinion is eat like we're in Europe while I listen to her stories about actually being there. Our first stop, La Gourmandine Bakery in Lawrenceville just a few minutes east of Downtown Pittsburgh.  

My first trip to this bakery was in 2011. Instantly, I fell in love. It's just a tiny store, with only a few tables for two. I ordered pastries for my second wedding anniversary party (they were to die for and got so many compliments!) and while there had a baguette that honestly made me forget that I was in Pittsburgh instead of my favorite hole in the wall sandwich shop on Rue Saint Andres Des Arts in Paris. I've been meaning to take Hope there for quite some time, and when our lunch plans fell through at another place in Lawrenceville, La Gourmandine popped into my head. 

So we walked in and again I fell in love. It's just so cute inside and has such warmth, which probably comes from all the freshly "hand-crafted and baked" pastries, breads and desserts. We each got a ham sandwich (why don't I always put butter on a ham and cheese sandwich? It's perfection.) and decided to split a Marquise, which is a chocolate mousse, creme brulee and caramel masterpiece. I didn't know how to eat it and asked for a fork and the owner said it's like a candy bar and I should eat it with my hands. If that's a candy bar then I want to go there on Halloween. So good!

Even my six-month old Jack got in on the action! We just started letting him eat solid foods and lucky for him he got to try out a Chouquette, very different from the avocados and bananas he is getting used to! The light and fluffy pastry was perfect for his little grip. While most of it ended up on the floor and table, he seemed to enjoy it! The owner was so sweet to give it to him to try and then she insisted we take a few more home for courage, as I told her we had a pediatrician appointment later in the day to get a couple shots!

So for a brief moment on a Wednesday afternoon, Hope and I felt like we were in France, enjoying each other's company and laughing at Jack discover new foods. I love that Pittsburgh can make us feel like we escaped to a new place, all while still letting me drive my minivan to the pediatricians an hour later.

ps. Check out Hope's adventure in Paris, visiting famed sweet spots, Laduree and Pierre Herme. And take a look at her eats in Rennes, France!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Good Eating: Kaleidoscope Cafe

One of the ways I have been attempting to cope with reverse-culture shock is to explore Pittsburgh like I did London! I want to try new things, go new places, and most delicious food! 

With this in mind, Annie and I recently tried to go to the Kaleidoscope Cafe in Lawrenceville after seeing some photos of it on Instagram! The menu is filled with salads that sound amazing and a crab dip that is calling my name! 

Unfortunately, when we got there, it was closed. Even after rechecking the website for the open time and calling the restaurant, it was indeed 100% closed...Hopefully our next attempt will be more of a success! And honestly, it was worth the visit just to see the murals painted on the cafe itself! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Outfit of the day!!

Dress: Forever 21 Purse: h&m Shoes: Primark Sunglasses: Forever 21

Want more style inspiration? Check out Sophia's outfit of the day here

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

London Instagram Spots!

With a city like London, it is challenging to know where to even begin to capture it in a single shot especially when using an iPhone. Fortunately, the Instagram community there is HUGE! Sometimes I feel like there isn't a spot in London that hasn't been posted on Instagram at some point. 

This online community is where I looked to plan my free days in London and it continues to inspire me daily! Some London Instagrammers my feed wouldn't be the same without are: @chaiwalla, @zoecaldwell@presidentjkennedy@jeromecan, and more! 

If that isn't enough to get you exploring, here are a few of my favourite spots to Instagram around London:

The Tube
Each station and platform is unique. Every second the colors are changing with people getting on and off carriages, trains arriving and leaving the platforms, and new ads covering the walls. Check out @missunderground's feed for some underground inspiration!

Every restaurant you walk into will have its own feel, you just need to look at it from a different perspective. 

The many beautiful walls of London
This sounds quite vague but I don't think there is an ugly wall in all of London! Check out the hashtags: #strideby and #sidetraits for some more inspiration from Instagram!

East London Street Art 
This is one of my favourite elements of London! The street art changes everyday and, as visitors, I feel it is our job to document it! Take a look at the @londongraffiti page for some the latest street art in London! 

Holland Park
The most photogenic park in London, there isn't a bad spot in it. 

The Royal Borough 
Architecture, flowers, cobblestones, and pastel houses make it perfect for a mini photo shoot! 

The Olympic Park
This was quite a popular spot while I was in London, partially because the park had just opened, but mainly because the architecture is gorgeous! This is where I saw @chaiwalla and @presidentjkennedy taking some amazing pictures!

Barbican Estate
I was so glad I made it here before I left, there is cool shot in every direction you look! Plus you may be able to spot Joe Thomas who frequents the area! 
The British Museum
With a ceiling this beautiful, it is no wonder the British Museum interests so many London Instagrammers.