June 29, 2014

Great Escapes - Prague

With one trip nailed down this upcoming fall, I can't help but dream up more future travels.  Just when I say that my France trip will be the last major trip and that I'll start a family soon, some exotic locale gets permanently ingrained in my mind and all that family planning goes out the window and in comes that obsessive need to take off and travel.

Prague has been on my list for quite some time now.  I hear it's amazing in December when the Christmas market opens in the main square, and it wouldn't surprise me if Hans Christian Anderson stories were inspired by its fairy-tale setting.  Whenever I look at Prague photos it reminds me of those village town figurines my mom would display during Christmas, some with choirs singing carols on repeat.

Christmas markets usually held at the Old Town square.

Can't get any more romantic than this...

Sleeping Beauty comes to mind when I see these magnificent spires

June 28, 2014

Top things to do in Istanbul

In honor of summer and all the fun things associated with it - 4th of July holiday, vacations, and sunny weather depending on what part of the hemisphere you live in, I wanted to do a July series on my favorite vacation destinations.

Istanbul was one of the cities I visited in Turkey during my honeymoon last year, and it was truly an exotic, memorable trip that I'll never forget.  What surprised me the most about this trip was the extreme depth and richness in history of this country.  If you think Roman history is ancient, Turkish history goes much further and it was astounding to see the level of artistry humans had as far back as the 1400's.    

I could go on and on about Turkey, so I better cut to the chase...If you've only got a couple days in Istanbul, here are some activities and sights I recommend in no particular order:

*Visit the Blue Mosque.  You're required to take off your shoes and women must cover your hair.  They provide you plastic bags to keep your shoes in and if you're female and happen to forget to pack a scarf, they'll provide you with one as well.

*Bosphorus River Cruise - This is a nice alternative if you're still suffering from jetlag or just want to relax after a long day of sightseeing.  Also you get beautiful photo ops of Istanbul that you otherwise wouldn't get on land.

*Visit the Hagia Sophia.  This was once a church, then became a mosque, and is now a museum.   The architecture and mosaics are truly breathtaking and inspiring. 

*Visit the Topkapi Palace Museum.  This sight will keep you busy for hours with many courtyards, buildings that were once libraries, imperial courts, rooms that house relics and artifacts, and so much more.  There's also a few cafes where you can sit and enjoy some Turkish coffee with views of the Bosphorus.

*The Grand Bazaar - The name says it all and is one of the world's earliest trading centers and today is a shopper's paradise with a plethora of Turkish goods.  Sadly, we didn't have enough time to thoroughly explore the bazaar, but I will most definitely make another trip to make up for it.

We booked our Turkey trip through livingsocial.com and although we had a few reservations about doing it, I'm so glad we did because it was well worth it.  The deal was affiliated with Keytours and our guide Recep was amazing- saying that he had a wealth of knowledge is a major understatement; he spoke non-stop.  It was a very well organized trip and we saw more sights and covered more cities than what we otherwise wouldn't have been able to if we had traveled on our own.

I have to admit though, if I had to do it all over again, I would have either booked my flight to Istanbul a couple days before the tour actually started, or a couple days after.  It's such a whirlwind itinerary that oftentimes you're not left with plenty of time to explore on your own, or by the time you arrive at your hotel at the end of the day and venture out at your own leisure, most shops are closed by then.  

June 17, 2014

Surviving San Francisco's June Gloom: Part deux

I finally got my Restoration Hardware faux fur throw a couple weeks ago and I'm loving it, and apparently so does my husband, who likes to hog it during weekend Netflix movie nights on the couch.  Besides keeping you warm, it's incredibly soft and reminds me of my Pomeranian's fur.

I still dream of a chinchilla throw or blanket, but that'll have to wait until later...Another item to add to my wish list.

June 16, 2014

Hair salons in San Francisco

I know how hard it is to find the right hair stylist when you move into a new city, but I didn't realize how hard until I was still searching 7 years later.  I was beginning to get a little worried when I would read Yelp reviews of people flying back to their hometown in L.A. for cuts with their old hairstylist.  And I thought my friend Claire was bad- she would make the 1 hour drive from her Russian Hill home all the way to Santana Row in San Jose for a haircut.  Talk about committed.

I'm not particularly picky about my hair and I have the easiest hair to style - medium to long length, stick straight, normal to slightly dry in texture.  But for some reason I either get 5 inches chopped off when I ask for 2, or I come out with a blow-out looking like a 1950's housewife with a bouffant 'do.    

I've been to different salons all over the city, some of which I discovered through Groupon or Living Social deals and Yelp, but here's one that got a big thumbs up in my book:

Salon Miel -  305 Grant Avenue, Union Square:
Based on the Yelp reviews I requested David Holt as my stylist and he did a phenomenal job- hair came out shinier and smoother than ever.  They also use the Sachajuan hair product line, which I've never heard of before, but made my hair smell great.

June 15, 2014

Surviving San Francisco's June gloom

The micro climate weather can be confusing enough for San Francisco residents (sunny by the At&t ballpark but foggy in the Sunset district, or sunny one minute and patchy fog an hour later on Mount Davidson) that I can't imagine how tourists must feel when they come and visit - I feel bad when I see them shivering in their shorts and their new Giants tees as they ride up California on the cable cars.  If they only knew...

I've got my eye on this sage trench by a Mission district-based fashion line called Everlane, which is light enough to wear in San Francisco's mild weather but not so warm as to make you sweat while you climb those steps up to Coit Tower.   

June 14, 2014

Summer beauty

Here's a list down below of a few products I love all year round but more so during the summer, and a couple of which I can't wait to get my hands on (Serge Lutens perfume and Nars Casino).    

Moroccan Oil - I really love the scent and the fact that the shampoo and conditioner is paraben free is a plus

Nars Casino blush - I've been reading it's a great bronzer and will probably get this when I'm all out of my Dolce blush.  If you're fair-skinned, Nars Laguna may be a better option for you.

Klorane dry shampoo - I was a little skeptical but I was surprised how my scalp wasn't itchy by day 2 of not washing my hair.  If you're going to Paris anytime soon I hear it's much lower in cost (see French pharmacy) than in the U.S.  

Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer - It's so light that I pretty much use this everyday.  If I need more coverage I'll mix it up with my MAC Sculpt foundation.  Best part is it's paraben and sulphates free.

Serge Lutens Fleurs d'Oranger - I'm very particular about my fragrance.  I'm a little bit more considerate and choose fragrances that not only please me but also don't give people headaches on Muni when they sit next to me.  I went to Barneys the other day and fell in love.  But it'll have to wait until my next birthday.  

Lovely sunnies for summer

I just came across an article on MSN that sunglasses are becoming the new luxury splurge.  Personally, the most I've ever splurged on sunglasses was $200 on a pair of simple, black, wrap-around, polarized Gucci sunglasses about 10 years ago.

When you end up getting beach sand all over them or lose them forever by forgetting them at the last restaurant you just had brunch in, (I know people who own several pairs and keep them in their car, at home, and in their purse), lower priced alternatives are sometimes a safer bet and there's plenty of chic options out there.   Two of my favorite are less than $100.

Left: Banana Republic Mayer sunglasses; Right: Le Specs Chesire sunglasses 

June 8, 2014

The Apartment

I'm a few months late in learning about The Line, but since discovering it, I've grown obsessed over its style aesthetic and its refreshing take on minimalism and simplicity which leans more towards masculinity.  Looking at photos from The Apartment, it can easily be taken for a man's dwelling but when you notice feminine touches like the luxurious fur throw and delicate cream flowers, then its obvious it can just as easily belong to a woman.

As a fellow San Franciscan, I always admired Vanessa Traina's style, the co-founder of The Line and I can't wait to what new concepts she has in store from her new venture.

 All photos from The Line

 Co-founder Vanessa Traina

Home wants

After four years of living in our home, I've been wanting to mix things up in terms or decor.  I know tastes and styles evolve and change over time and that's why I'm very thoughtful and choosy about what I purchase for the home.  One thing that I always live by though is to only fill the home with things you truly love.

These are a few items that I've had my eye on for quite some time now.  My only recent purchase is the faux throw in lynx (perfect for foggy SF "summer" nights).

Clockwise from center:

Diptyque candles - I've been reading Baies is a perfect starter than the much stronger fragrances.

Plantation Design - Golden branches mirror.  I have a sunburst mirror I purchased from Target that unfortunately is beginning to lose its luster.

Tim Walker photography - I'm in love with his whimsical, magical art.  This one is called Floating Drive-in with the Great Escape film in the background.

Restoration Hardware - Faux fur throws.  I've been wanting a chinchilla throw but it's beyond my budget, these are a perfect, lower-priced alternative, especially when they have their sales.

Serena and Lily- Feather rug in Berry/Violet.  The base color of my living room / dining is gray so this is a great pop of color.

CB2- Art gallery style frames.  I want to create a minimal gallery in my entry way.  I don't want to go crazy by adding 10 frames on one wall - I think less is much more sophisticated.