Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

This past weekend I spent time in Orlando, Florida for my bachelorette party with 7 of my bestest friends. Being the nerdy granny that I am, I knew that an all-night rager in Vegas, Miami, or one of the other usual suspects was probably not in store for me. Enter Harry Potter world at Universal Studios…dreams really do come true, guys and gals. I’ve got a few thoughts and tips to share if you intend on making Orlando/Universal Studios your bachelorette party destination, but first, a few snapshots.

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1. We stayed at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, one of the four onsite hotels that allow you to access early admission into Universal Studios. The resort had a cute 50s retro theme and include multiple pools, including a lazy river that you could float around in.

2. We all received Harry Potter style glasses as part of our favors.

3. Also included in our goodie bags were temporary tattoos that read “I belong to Winnie’s bachelorette party. If found, please buy me a butterbeer!”

4. And t-shirts/tanks that read “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” Adorbs.

5. The Hogwarts castle where the Forbidden Journey ride takes place. With early admission, we only waited 30 minutes for the ride. I was blown away at the extent of the details inside the park, from the holograms, to the talking pictures, to the random knick knacks found in the books and movies.

6. Likewise, the village of Hogsmeade was chockful of details, including the faux snow on the rooftops.

7. Inside of Honeydukes, enough candy to satisfy even the most sugar-fiending signficant other (*cough Darren*)

8. Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes also had a lot of sweets to the tune of “U-No-Poo”, “Puking Pastilles” and other treats as found in the book.

9. Tried my first [frozen] butterbeer and butterbeer ice cream. It tasted like a combination of butterscotch and cream soda and was delicious…for the first ten sips. I recommend sharing with a friend, as I found it to be quite sugary.

10. We ate at the Leaky Cauldron for lunch, which features English cuisine. I had 2 mini-pies which included fisherman’s pie and cottage pie.

11. The architecture and decor inside of Gringotts bank for the Escape from Gringotts ride was absolutely breathtaking. Our whole group literally exclaimed, “WOW” when we caught a glimpse of the main room when making our way in. Unfortunately most of us left our cameras in the locker, so this is the only evidence I have. The ride was also my favorite.

12. Hagrid’s motorcycle and side car. The park(s) were full of details like this that made for ideal photo opportunities.

 

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Dear Friends,

Happy 2015! Things have been pretty quiet on the blog as Darren and I come into the final few months of wedding planning. We have some pretty exciting travels lined up for 2015 (Croatia, Montenegro, Malta, and Iceland), and this article I came across on CNN today really affirmed for us that 2015 is our year to explore Europe!

For those located in the DMV, we hopped onto  WOW Air’s $99 Baltimore- Rekjavik promotion. Iceland is only 5 hours away, so it’s a great long weekend getaway if you’ve only got a few days of vacation to spare. We’re not heading out there until late September, but we have plenty of adventures lined up that you can read about in the meantime!

We’re currently browsing around for one or two more European locations to visit over the summer, and we can’t wait to share where we decide to go once we decide. What are your 2015 travel plans?

london parisSource: Wikimedia Commons

 

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Darren and I recently had the opportunity to spend a relaxing four days in Aruba. We didn’t explore much while we were there, but have a few notes on our stay that may be of use for those of you contemplating a trip there.

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Howdy friends! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I’ve been in Los Angeles for the past week or so eating up a storm (what else would I be doing?). The actual reason I’m over here is because my brother, who is back from his semester in Shanghai, got an internship over here. LA is pretty non-public transportation friendly, so my dad and I flew out here to go car shopping. Fun stuff, I tell ya. At any rate, we were able to squeeze in some gastronomical adventures and shenanigans of the random variety. So without further ado:

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My brother introduced me to a chain called the Veggie Grill. If anything could convince me to turn vegetarian/vegan, it would be this chain. // Half & Half, what is it about your boba and pudding that makes me weak in the knees?
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I’ve heard from multiple people that the Korean food in K-Town is better than Korea due to the availability of fresh ingredients. After spending a few days in Seoul this past winter, I’m inclined to agree. The panchan at Beverly Soon Tofu was delish. // Spotted a bunch of cute terrariums at the Grove that make my terrarium look deplorable. It doesn’t help that Nugget has eaten 2 of the 3 plants in mine =\
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Bought some Venezuelan chocolate at the Grove’s farmers market to bring back to Darren. And a bar of fudge for me. // Took our dad hiking at Runyon Canyon. We took the easy path and had our dad huffing and puffing in no time.
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Spent a quiet day at Hermosa Beach // Viet food at Saigon Dish – my dad’s find. Tasted allllmost like mommy’s.
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Dim sum at King Hua in Monterey Park. I have never seen har gow and shiu mai this large.
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More food from King Hua. As delicious as this was, I am pretty certain they put MSG in their dishes. About 30 minutes after we left, I was dragged into an MSG-induced coma. Doh.
darwindiscovered_losangeles13 darwindiscovered_losangeles15Explored Arlington Garden near old-town Pasadena. This quite sanctuary would be a perfect place for a picnic. I was enamored with all the succulents that sprouted around the grounds. // Not just Hi-Chew. Individually wrapped Hi-Chew. Once again, Daiso wins my heart.
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The bistro that we stayed at (Courtyard El Segundo by LAX) served up the cutest oatmeal . I took notes for any future guest stays at the Darwin residents. // Ramen. There is so much ramen in LA. This bowl is from Hakata in Little Osaka. I loved that the restaurant allows you to specify the hardness of your noodles (I prefer mine on the al dente side).

In case you didn’t see our previous post, our e-sesh is on the Washingtonian. Check them bad boys out. 

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While many turn to Europe for skin care trends and innovations, some of the biggest beauty and skin care developments in recent years have originated in Asia. During my trip to Tokyo, Seoul, and Shanghai earlier this year, I found myself scrutinizing numerous faces on the subway, wondering why everyone’s skin is so damn good. We’re talking supple, glowing skin that reveals little -if any- signs of aging, the kind of skin that can only be realized through skillful Photoshopping. Here are five observations I made about the role of skin care in Asia’s beauty culture.

1. Priorities: Skin care vs. Cosmetics– While cosmetics make up the majority of beauty purchases in the U.S., Asian women live by the philosophy that “bare is beautiful”. Victoria Tsai, founder of the Tatcha skin care line says, “The no-makeup trend has been a big one in Asia for a long time, and it’s very much about the skin — in Asia, they spend far more money on skin care and far less on makeup.”

2. Competition: Quality Products at Lower Price Points- If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my video snippet of the contents of a Japanese drugstore. The market for skincare in Asia is extremely competitive, so manufacturers need to create higher quality products at lower price points in order to capture even a small fraction of the consumer base. Example? Shiseido’s cult favorite Perfect Whip cleansing foam retailed for just under $3 USD in Tokyo (it’s more expensive in Korea and in the US due to import taxes).

3. Cutting Edge Ingredients: Moisturize, Whiten, and Brighten– How do you feel about putting snail on your face? No, seriously. A number of strange- but effective- ingredients have made it to the top of Japanese and Korean skin care lines, due in part to looser restrictions on bringing new skin care ingredients to the market. Most of these ingredients are used with the intention of whitening and brightening (which are synonymous terms in Asian skincare) or locking in moisture. Just a few interesting ingredients that come to mind include snail extract, bee venom, and bird’s nest.

4. Japanese and Korean Brands Dominate, Growing Chinese Market- Korean and Japan have been the longtime leaders in skin care innovation in Asia, but don’t count out China: from 2001-2011, the Chinese skin and cosmetics market grew by 17%, and the premium skin/cosmetics market grew by an even faster rate of 22.3%. In 2012, China became the world’s third largest cosmetics market following the United States and Japan.

5. Layer, Layer, Layer– Whereas Western skin care regimens typically include 2-3 steps (cleanser, toner, lotion- and that’s on a good day for me), Asian skincare regimens can include upwards of 10-15 steps. The ‘layering’ technique involves patting or massaging the products in a specific order, usually from the lightest to heaviest consistency. While the layering technique originated in Asia, the French are also proponents of this method, otherwise known as ‘millefeuille’ –translated as ‘a thousand layers’, not to be confused with the pastry.

All of this background is intended to justify why, after picking my way across drugstores and skin care counters, I returned from Asia with an arsenal of products and a new found determination to take better care of my skin. While I haven’t made it to 10 -much less 15- products on the regular, incorporating and layering some of these new products has improved my skin. Interested? Look for more information and product recommendations in my next post.

Konichiwa, friends! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice that I’m currently in the Land of the Rising Sun. My better half is at home with Nugget, but my little brother and I have still been able to get into some mischief making while in Tokyo. We’re here for another day and then off to Seoul for the rest of the week. Here are a few shots from our adventures:
Tokyo, Japan- Tsukijii Fish Market Tokyo, Japan- Instant Coffee Imperial Gardens- Tokyo, Japan Ginza, Tokyo, Japan Meiji Shrine, Tokyo, Japan Tokyo Skytree, Japan Tokyo, Japan Zara Asian Fit, Tokyo, Japan Tokyo, Japan Tokyo, Japan Louise Bourgeois Maman, Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan Andy Warhol at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan Tsukemen Ramen, Tetsu, Tokyo, Japan Tokyo Observatory, Japan Tokyo Observatory, Japan

  1. Breakfast at the Tsukiji Fish Market. Phenomenally delicious and fresh.
  2. Our AirBnB host provided us with a bag of ‘instant’ coffee, which includes a built in individual filter that pops over your mug. Pour hot water over and…wonder why America’s instant coffee tastes so horrendous.
  3. Imperial Palace East Gardens
  4. Ginza, known for its luxury shopping, looks like someone laid out the designer Rolodex building by building. But seriously, what can you fill 12 floors of Cartier with?
  5. Meiji Jingu Shrine- went here in the afternoon and was fortunate enough to spot a Japanese wedding!
  6. Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world.
  7. My brother isn’t particularly tall at 5’9″, but appears to dwarf some of the furniture here. He also wears a size ‘Large’ in clothing…
  8. Which also leading to a few chuckles when I spotted this tag in a Zara.
  9. Maryland is keeping it real in Tokyo. Spotted this number in Harajuku, a mecca for young fashionistas.
  10. My favorite part of Tokyo is the numerous drugstores that flank the streets. Japanese women take their skincare very seriously, so these stores are oftentimes floors upon floors of various skin and makeup goodies.
  11. Louise Bourgeois’ ‘Maman’ sculpture in Roppongi Hills. No room for arachnophobia here.
  12. The Mori Art Museum is currently hosting the largest ever Warhol exhibition to be presented in Japan.
  13. There is a staggering amount of ramen EVERYWHERE (I know, I know…duh.) Gobbled this tsukemen at Tetsu in Roppongi Hills.
  14. Tokyo City View observation deck at Mori Tower.
  15. The view from Tokyo City View.