OTTOs: The Pizza You Never Knew You Needed

OTTOs: The Pizza You Never Knew You Needed

Coolidge Corner in Brookline is such a cute little area because it has a classic movie theatre, amazing pizza shops, along with an adorable bookstore. What more could you ask for?

When I went for the first time, my friends brought me along to their favorite pizza place- Otto. I had high expectations because of all the conversations we’d had about it. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. The pizza choices are a little unusual. For example, the six of us ordered three different ones: Mashed Potato, Bacon, and Scallion; Butternut Squash, Ricotta, and Cranberries; and Pineapple Salsa, Bacon, & Fresh Jalapeno pizza. Unorthodox, right? But they tasted SO. GOOD. Not going to lie, I did have to take off some of the jalapenos because my mouth was tingling and I was running out of water immediately available to me. But even then, the pizza was delicious. I think the pineapple salsa was the best part. Oh, that one was my favorite pizza of the three, by the way. Burning tongue and all.

Plus, the atmosphere inside is really cool. There are hanging bulb lights, wooden decor, and a look inside the kitchen. The tables are kind of close together, but only because they are so popular and need to maximize space. There is also a bar area off to the side that offers a bit more room. The waitstaff are super friendly, attentive, and energetic, and there is some soft music going on in the background to keep the awkward silence at a minimum.

The prices are pretty reasonable as well, especially if you split a pizza with another person. Each pizza comes with six medium sized slices, and it took about three slices before I was full. Simply put: If you’re looking for a fun place to grab some food with friends on a Friday or Saturday night, Ottos is the place to go.

Ciao for now!

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Portland: Places to go during your Maine Journey

Portland: Places to go during your Maine Journey

I drove to Portland, Maine for the first time in August and it was fantastic! The city itself is so alive and colorful, but it was also fun to see it through the eyes of someone who has lived there her whole life. When I arrived, my friend Taylor drove us into the city and we walked around looking at all of the cute shops and I had my first potato donut which was so good! We saw the most beautiful fluffy black dog as we were debating whether or not to get our fortunes read, ultimately deciding $40 was too much to learn what we’d find out in time anyways. We then went back to her house and made pizza and played Wii sports (I know, so 2010) until our other friends arrived for the weekend.

The next day was a bit rainy, but that didn’t stop us from having fun. The group of us drove to this abandoned tower in the middle of a forest-y area and we climbed to the top. It was a dark climb, and at one point the stairs had fallen away so we had to climb on a crate leaning against the wall to get up another floor, but the view was worth it. At the top, we were level with the tops of the trees and with the rain it seemed as though we were in the middle of the rainforest. We could also slightly see the water in between some of the trees.

Afterwards, we headed out to lunch at The Lobster Shack. It is such a cute little place to eat, but because of its small size, it felt very crowded. We ordered our food (I got a lobster roll) and then headed out onto the rocks as we waited for our order to be announced over the speaker. The Lobster Shack is located right on the ocean, so there was a grouping of large rocks below the picnic tables. Although it was slightly drizzling, we ventured out onto the rocks and explored. By the time our food was ready, we had worked up an appetite. The lobster tasted so fresh and filling that I was thoroughly satisfied with my choice. After lunch, we went to the other side of the building where there were even more rocks to climb. We climbed out onto a rock ledge and looked out into the ocean as the lighthouse whirled on the shore next to us.

Later on in the day, we drove to a little river area and jumped off not-too-tall rocks and swung on rope swings into the water. The current was pretty strong, but we had fun swimming against it. It began to really rain after a couple of hours, so we decided to head back. That night, we went up onto the roof with lots of towels and blankets and a speaker. We set everything up and just looked at the stars while listening to quiet music. We didn’t talk much because the stars were brighter and more numerous than I’ve ever seen. Her house is in an area with very little light pollution so we got to see the sky in all its glory. I also saw my first shooting star… and second, and third, and fourth! There were so many and it was awesome in the literal sense of the word. At one point, I started to get annoyed because there was such a bright light off in the corner of my eye that I thought was a neighbor’s house light. It turned out to be the moon in such brilliant light as I’ve ever seen. It was the perfect night.

Our last day, Sunday, it was bright, sunny, and hot so we headed to Peaks Island. On our drive to the dock, we stopped by Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. It was so beautiful and green! There was a gorgeous lighthouse that, according to my friend, is the most photographed lighthouse in the world, and I can see why. The flowers around the trails were stunningly bright and colorful. The water from the ocean was beautifully blue and clear. We only spent about half an hour there, but it was enough to see how absolutely incredible a place it is. I would love to go back and stay longer.

When we got off the ferry at Peaks Island amongst the hundreds of other people, we took a ride around the island on a golf cart so that we could see Peaks Island in all it’s glory. Everything was so green and beautiful and lush. By the time we returned to the dock, we were warm and ready to cool off. We got into our bathing suits and jumped off the pier along with everyone else around us. There were tall wooden structures sticking out of the water that we climbed to the top of and jumped off. Jumping into the Atlantic Ocean felt like diving straight into a bucket of ice water. But it was exhilarating! We had to stop once another ferry was arriving, so we walked a block and got ice cream.

When we finished, we hopped back on the golf cart and drove to a tiny beach on the other side of the island. The water was just as cold over there, except that there were random pockets of warmer water that we occasionally took refuge in. We stayed there and had a wonderful time at the beach for about an hour. On our drive back to the pier, we stopped on the side of the road and stacked some rocks together to add to the accumulation of cool rock towers and sculptures that littered the shore of the ocean. Once back at the pier, we hopped on the ferry with the hundreds of other people leaving and watched as Peaks Island faded into the distance.

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Some places to visit if you ever visit Portland include:

  • The Holy Donut
  • Shipwreck and Cargo souvenir shop
  • The Lobster Shack
  • Fort Williams National Park
  • Peaks Island

Ciao for now!

 

Falling for Fell’s Point

Falling for Fell’s Point

Fell’s Point, for those of you who don’t know, is a fun and adorable part of the Baltimore Harbor area. It is home to various restaurants, shops, and activities. What I love most about it is the scenery. I think the architecture of the buildings is neat, the shops are quaint, the restaurants are cool and quirky, and the water is right there.

I’ve only tried a few places to eat around there (Barcocina and Smoothie King), but there were plenty more I’d like to try out. There was one restaurant/bar, The Horse You Rode In On, that I kept passing and wanted to try out. There was always music coming from inside, the people looked happy, and the atmosphere just looked cool. Many of the places in Fell’s Point have a similar vibe, which is what makes it so hip I think. It’s kind of retro and hipster in one.

The shops are also really cute too. The ones I went into were pretty small but more like boutiques and independent shops rather than chain stores. It This gives the area a more homey and cozy feel, at least to me. There were furniture stores, clothing boutiques, record shops, and so many other places to stop by and peek into. The coffee shops were made for taking cute pictures sipping delicious coffees and lattes, and the aesthetics of the buildings will please your eyes every time you look around.

My favorite part of Fell’s Point is the weekend flea market (for lack of a better term). On summer/ fall weekends, people put up tents and tables and sell all kinds of cool items. I happened along one Saturday and came out of it with five records for $15. The guy selling them had so many and was very knowledgable about each one. Most of the record were legit as well. He said he’d had most of them since the 70s. I got some albums from ABBA, Boston, and others of that variety. My mom also gifted me a gorgeous heavy silver with turquoise ring that we had seen in the tent of a woman selling a bunch of silver jewelry. It was all so exquisite and real. One thing about this market is that everything is all real and legitimate. They sell things like records and jewelry, as well as vintage signs, comics, and clothing among other things.

Everything in Fell’s Point is within a short walking distance, so there’s not really any trouble getting from one place to the other. At night, it becomes the place to be with many young people going out and enjoying the night. Because of that, there is an air of activity about it and you can just feel the good times in the air.

Ciao for now!

Eating your way through Baltimore Harbor

Eating your way through Baltimore Harbor

If you’re like me you will probably eat almost anything! That means I’m always open to trying new restaurants and eateries wherever I am. When I was in Baltimore, there were so many cool places to eat that I simply did not have the time to try them all… although I wished I could. I did come across a few, however, that I thought I’d share with you all. These restaurants had some fantastic food and they are all of different varieties, so if you have varying tastes check them out! And if you’re more picky, this will give you a bunch of options the next time you visit the Harbor!

If you’re interested in price, my range will go from $ (least expensive- around $10-$15) to $$$ (most expensive- $70+)

The Oceanaire ($$$)

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Seafood lovers rejoice! The Oceanaire has all your seafood needs, although it is on the pricier side of things. I went with my aunt for a little bonding dinner before we went to the airport to pick up my mom. Because it was a slow summer evening (I believe it was a Tuesday) we were offered the couples special. This meant we would each get an appetizer, a main course, a dessert, and a bottle of wine to share (although I did not indulge) for $70. Overall, I think it was a pretty good deal for the amount of food we received. I will say though, that it is very pricey if you simply order off of the regular menu. But it’s what you’d expect from a nicer seafood restaurant.

I ordered the Caesar salad as an appetizer, the jumbo shrimp scampi as a main, and strawberry sorbet for dessert. My aunt got the escargot (which we shared), the salmon fillet, and bread pudding to finish the night off. Everything came in a timely manner, and the waitstaff was polite and attentive. What I liked most about the atmosphere was that it was more formal than many seafood places. The waiters were in white coats and nice clothing. This is definitely a place to go if you’re looking for a nice date night location or a celebratory dinner.

The Rusty Scupper ($$)

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I have written in detail about The Rusty Scupper in a previous post (check it out here), so I’ll just give an overview. If you’re looking for the perfect Sunday brunch place, this is the restaurant to go to. It’s right on the water and overlooks the entire harbor area. The atmosphere is fun with a live jazz band playing throughout the brunch. There are two times to choose from, one from 10am-12pm and another from 12:30-2:30.

You pay a flat rate of $45 per person (less for children) and receive an all included brunch with drinks. There’s tons of seafood along with the usual foods like eggs, bacon, meat, etc. Plus there’s lots of dessert options and food enough to stuff yourself silly. This was probably my favorite experience while visiting Baltimore, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is near the Harbor.

M&S Grill ($) 

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If you want a great Happy Hour spot, M&S Grill is the best. Their menu is full of great options, including seafood, and the waitstaff are wonderful. I went with my mom one evening around 6pm and we were seated outside right by the flowers and looking out at the water. The historic ship Constellation was about 30 feet away and the umbrellas shaded us from the harsh summer sun. Altogether, it was a perfect atmosphere to enjoy our early evening treats.

We ordered two oyster shooters and a shrimp cocktail, and my mom had a specialty mojito that she says was quite delicious and refreshing. This was my first time trying an oyster shooter and I have to say it was pretty fun! Not only did it taste great, but having it in shooter form made it slide so easily down my throat. The shrimp was fantastic (but if I’m being honest, anytime I have shrimp I love it), and I enjoyed sipping a lemon water to wash it all down. Great place: great atmosphere, great staff, great food!

Lebanese Taverna ($)

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I had never really had Lebanese food before, but my mom took me to this restaurant for lunch on her last day visiting me. The restaurant itself was full of light and relatively quiet, which was nice since I wanted to be able to have a conversation. The waitstaff was attentive yet kept their distance which I liked. We decided to order a couple of different platters so that I would have the opportunity to try a bunch of different types of food.

While we were waiting for our meal to come out, we were given a basket of fresh pita bread and a bowl of hummus. It was so good that I almost filled up on bread! Luckily, I controlled myself and was able to enjoy all the different options when they arrived. There was more but different types of hummus, some tabouli, a mini salad, different types of meat, some rice, and other little foods. It was honestly amazing and deceptively filling.

Definitely worth going to Lebanese Taverna if you’re ever around the Harbor. You also get a view of all the boats docked in the harbor and it’s only a couple of steps from the giant Under Armour store if you’re interested in that.

The Hard Rock Cafe ($-$$)

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Almost everyone knows what the Hard Rock offers, so I only add it because I had such a fun time there. It’s a classic restaurant that offers great burgers and a variety of different and exciting combinations of food. It is also on the water (although it’s more of a little straight than an actual waterway), and because of that there are two different seating areas. You can either eat outside in a more cabana-y type of place or sit inside in the more “normal” Hard Rock setting. Both are good option, I just chose the inside because I like to see the music videos. Outside, I believe, there is live music however.

My favorite drink to order there is the strawberry lemonade because it comes with real strawberries and is really satisfying on a hot day. There are a bunch of options to choose from, so if you have picky eaters with you there is something for everyone. The atmosphere is cool too because there are records, and outfits, and instruments from classic rockers and bands hanging all around the place. The TVs play old (and sometimes new) music videos so you can jam out while you eat.

 

There are so many more restaurants around the Baltimore Harbor that even if you don’t want to go to any of these places, simply walking around them will find you in a location with tons of different options. Wherever you choose, I hope you enjoy Baltimore as much as I did!

Ciao for now!

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Sunday Brunch at The Rusty Scupper

Sunday Brunch at The Rusty Scupper

Hello all! This past week my mom was in town visiting me and we had a great time walking all around the harbor and the city. But my favorite part was when we went to the Rusty Scupper restaurant for their Sunday brunch. Oh. My. Goodness. It was delicious. What makes this brunch special and by far the best brunch I’ve ever been to is that it’s all you can eat, has tons of fresh sea food, unlimited included drinks, a live jazz band, and a gorgeous view of the Baltimore Harbor. If that doesn’t grab your fancy then I don’t know what will. It certainly impressed me and my mom.

They have two seatings for the Sunday brunch buffet: one from 10:30-12:00 and another from 1:00 to 2:30. We went to the 1pm seating because we’re late risers. It’s $45 per person ($16 for children) but that includes the all-you-can-eat buffet and as many drinks as you can (responsibly) handle. If you’re interested, check out the menu here. That may seem like a lot of money for a brunch to some, but, personally, I definitely think it’s worth it.

I ate a ton and could have eaten more if my stomach would have allowed it. For my first round of food, I opted for a breakfast variety since I hadn’t eaten anything yet. I chose scrambled eggs, some bacon, chopped pineapple, a biscuit with strawberry jam, and some asparagus. I ate it all and delighted in it. My mom opted for a made-to-order omelet with cheese, spinach, and crab. It tried it, and it was amazing. We also both got a Bellini, which, surprise! was also fantastic.

Second round, mom and I decided to share since we knew we could not continue to consume so much food at that rate. We picked out a plate full of seafood including lots of oysters, tons of shrimp, and some salmon with a bagel. (We didn’t eat the bagel because it was a little too hard for us, but everything else was wonderful.) There was also a sangria ordered because we heard it was delicious (I tried it: it was).

Third time’s a charm right? Well for our third round, (I know, you’re probably wondering how we could continue to eat. I really don’t know what to tell you other than we had sheer perseverance and a desire to try a little of everything.) we went for the desserts. Luckily they were a nice petite size, otherwise I don’t think I would have managed to try them all. Mom and I opted to try the chocolate chip cookies (a classic), the mini creme brulees in espresso cups (adorable), a couple of fruit tart things (strawberry and lemon), two mini waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, and some more fruit. We ended our brunch experience with a coffee each and a last look at the harbor view, before we headed out to walk along the harbor ourselves.

Overall, I would highly reccommend if you’re ever in Baltimore on a Sunday and you’re looking for a magnificent dining experience, you should try out The Rusty Scupper. I certainly wasn’t disappointed and there’s something for everyone. Now, enjoy the photos if you don’t believe me! 🙂 (sorry there’s no photo of the breakfast foods… I was too hungry and devoured it all before photos could be taken haha)

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The seafood course (w/ bellini)
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The dessert course (w/ sangria)
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Mini waffles and fruit
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I saw a boat go by and thought the view was too good to pass up
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The amazing view from our seats
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Taken on the boat riding away from brunch

Ciao for now!

 

Fourth of July Fun

Fourth of July Fun

Yesterday was, of course, the Fourth of July, otherwise known as Independence Day! It’s a day full of patriotism, colors arrayed with red, white, and blue, and tons of fireworks. I had such a fun 4th of July this year because my mom and aunt came to visit me in Baltimore.

We walked around the city shopping, talking, and eating. Eventually, we ended up in Fell’s Point for lunch where we dined at Barcocina on the water. To start, we ordered an appetizer of crab guacamole and it was delicious. For our meals, we decided to order 3 different types of tacos (Korean Beef, Charred Lemon Fish, and Lamb Gyro) to split, because each taco order came with 3 tiny tacos, and we also split the Green Mango Quinoa Salad which I loved because of how refreshing it tasted on a 95 degree day.

By the time we made it back to the apartment, we were hot and ready to rest. But I got to work finishing up my patriotic dessert surprise: a yellow cake filled with spots of strawberry flavor and topped with cream cheese frosting and fruit. It’s an incredibly easy recipe, and I’ll be writing a post on how to make it if you want to try it out. It will be up on Sunday, so be sure to come back and check it out. It’s festive for the Fourth, but it’s good for just about any occasion.

By the time it was dark outside, we were rested and well fed. All that we were waiting for was the fireworks to go on at 9:30 over the Harbor. (What’s better than fireworks on the Fourth of July?) So we played some American jams while we were waiting on the balcony (Springsteen’s Born in the USA , Martina McBride’s Independence Day, and then the classics like the Star Spangled Banner etc.).

Finally we started to hear the thundering and crackling of fireworks, and we sprinted down near the lighthouse with everyone else to get a prime viewing spot. There’s something magical about a fireworks display because it’s as if nobody can be unhappy in the 15-20 minutes they’re bursting. It’s as if time stands still and that moment is an explosion of color and admiration. It was a great Fourth of July, and I want to share it with you all. Enjoy!

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Down at Fell’s Point
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My patriotic and delicious cake

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I hope you all had a good 4th of July… Ciao for now!

A bit of Baltimore

A bit of Baltimore

Hello everyone! For the past few weeks I have relocated to the beautiful Baltimore, Maryland for my internship at Girl’s Life Magazine. Basically, it’s a magazine aimed at pre-teen and teenaged girls that discusses beauty, fashion, relationships, health, and confidence. I was lucky enough to land the internship for six weeks this summer, and it’s been great so far! I get to do book reviews, pitch article ideas, write articles, and pretty much learn the ins and outs. It’s pretty cool!

One of the main reasons I took the internship (besides the obvious experience part) is because my grandparents live in Baltimore. I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to spend time with them. As an added bonus,I didn’t need to rent a place to stay. Needless to say, the past few weeks have been pretty great, and now I’m on my own (my grandparents split their time between Baltimore and Italy) learning how to be an independent adult.

This past week I’ve discovered that I am capable of cooking delicious meals all by myself, and that I can function on my own. Overall, it’s been a real eye opening experience. I’ve taken a few photos of my surroundings (not many), and I thought I’d share the beauty of this city with all of you. Most of my time is spent in the Harbor area, but hopefully I’ll expand my experiences further outside this soon enough. So, without further ado, enjoy!

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Fell’s Point

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The Marina
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View from the mall
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View of the mall
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Right outside Power Plant Live

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Don’t worry, they’ll be more. Ciao for now!

Tampering with Tampa- What To Do If You’re Passing By

Tampering with Tampa- What To Do If You’re Passing By

If you saw my last blog post, you’ll know that I recently went on a cruise out of Tampa, FL and it was fantastic! This post will be dedicated to sharing a couple fun things to do in Tampa if you’re only there for a short time. If you’re waiting for a flight or you’re just passing through, there is a bunch of neat places to visit in Tampa.

The Florida Aquarium 

If you like the water and all things sea life, I suggest checking out the Florida Aquarium. My mom and I went for the morning before our afternoon flight and we spent an enjoyable and informative couple of hours exploring. Here’s a tip: it’s cheaper to buy tickets online than in person. I used my iPhone to go on the aquarium’s website and bought the eTickets online for a few bucks less than if we had bought them at the ticket counter. We arrived right as it was opening since the aquarium is about 100 feet away from where our cruise docked, so the place was pretty empty.

What’s also great and convenient is that they stored our luggage for us so we could walk around unencumbered. We spent the first forty-five minutes looking around the gift shop and watching two 15 minute short 4D films. The first movie was about sea creatures and we were spattered with bubbles and misted with water as we watched. It was pretty cool. There was about 10 minutes in between the films so we sat outside in the sun and just enjoyed the day while we chatted. The second little short film was a sequel-type film to Happy Feet and the little theater was filled with a bunch of mothers and their toddlers. It was cute.

Then we walked around and saw some stingrays, which I got to touch, a seahorse, and other cool sea creatures. They were feeding the sharks and other big fish as we sat down to look in the large tank, and we learned what they all ate, and in which part of the tank their specific feeding area was. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was field trip day for the entire Florida school system and tons of groups of children began flooding the aquarium.

We took that as a sign that 2 hours was enough time to spend at the aquarium, and we scooted on out. It was around lunch time when we left and my mom had looked up a celebrated restaurant for us to try in the historic Ybor city part of Tampa. Even if you’re not hungry, this is a really neat part of Tampa to visit because it is where all the immigrants (mainly Cuban, Spanish, and Italian) went during the early 20th century, and it’s home to many old cigar factories. Mainly, Ybor City is just a really cool place to visit. it has a bunch of bars and restaurants to entertain you for a couple of hours if you’re passing through.

The Columbia Restaurant

We took an Uber from the aquarium to The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, and it was as if the restaurant took up the whole block it was such an impressive place. Once inside, I felt like I had entered an aristocratic 20th century house. They, like the aquarium, were good enough to store our suitcases. The waiting area is like a foyer in a beautiful home with dark wood and lovely artwork. The restaurant itself is composed of a number of rooms, each with its own kind of theme. The room we were seated in was large and bright with beautiful chandeliers, old timey artwork, and a loft area above on the side with more seating options. All of the waiters are dressed in fancy dress: black jackets and pants with dark bow ties over crisp white shirts.

It was a wonderful atmosphere and one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve eaten in. The food was to die for as well! I ordered The Original Cuban sandwich with a cup of  the Spanish Bean Soup. The sandwich was delicious but the soup was my favorite. It was so tasty and flavorful that I wished I had ordered a whole bowl. We ordered empanadas as an appetizer and they were served piping hot and yummy!

For dessert, I ordered hot fruity tea that was filled with flavor, and my mom and I split an order of churros. The churros were so good we ate them all. They came with 3 dipping sauces: chocolate (my favorite), caramel, and berry.  Overall, the meal was amazing, and I would recommend anyone who wants to enjoy a delicious meal in a classy establishment visit the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. (They have other locations in Tampa as well, but this is the original.)

To digest our food after that heavenly but hefty meal, mom and I took a walk down the street, reading the history of Ybor City on the signs posted on the street. By the time we reached the end, it was time to head to the airport and end what was a wonderful Spring Break. If we’d had more time, maybe we would have gone to the beach, to the Busch Gardens, to the zoo, or visited one of the many museums that Tampa has to offer. I guess that just means I’ll have to go back!

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Ciao for now!

Cruising through Spring Break

Cruising through Spring Break

 

I have never been on a typical “spring break” during my college career. Granted, I am only a sophomore so this was really only my second Spring Break. Last year, I decided to stay at home with my family in the cold New England weather. It was definitely a nice break from my academic schedule, but I did feel like the cold weather was never-ending. This year, I was lucky enough to go on a cruise to the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico… with my mom. I know you’re probably thinking it’s strange that a college student would want to go on Spring Break with her mom, but I honestly loved it! My mom is so much fun and I love doing things with her. So, I counted down the days until we would set sail on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.

By the time March 2 rolled around, I was ready to get on that plane and head to Tampa, FL for a five-day sun-filled vacation. Unfortunately, the weather in the East was not ready to let me go. By the time I got home from school, most of my friends’ flights had been cancelled due to the nor’easter, so my mom and I were crossing our fingers that our flight would leave as scheduled. I guess we didn’t cross them tight enough, though, because our 6:55 flight was canceled at 2:30. Now, we were a little worried because the cruise set sail from Tampa the next day and if we couldn’t fly there, we would miss it.

Luckily, my dad is a fast thinker and a very smart man, and he suggested that since we were only about 30 minutes from the airport we should just drive there to find another flight. This turned out to be the perfect idea because, although my mom had called the airport/airline and was told there was nothing they could do other than refund out ticket, we eventually found another flight to Tampa early the next morning. (Shout out to Miranda at the Southwest terminal at Bradley Airport because you were fantastic and helped us make our cruise!)

*Flying Tip: If your flight is cancelled and you are close to an airport, I suggest you go to that airport and speak with the people at the airline. Face-to-face contact is more likely to get you booked on another flight than simply calling on the phone because they get tons of calls from frantic flyers. Plus, if you are friendly while at the same time asking if there’s “anything at all they can do,” they will be more willing to try to accommodate you.*

Day 1- Travel and Ship Day

So, early Saturday morning my mom and I set off for Tampa and boarded our cruise. It was so amazing to be on board the ship because there was so much to explore and it was so sunny and warm. We started by looking around and centered on the beautiful atrium in the center of the ship. We sat on a beautiful couch at a little bar and just admired all the details of the boat. Then we decided we should take advantage of the sun, so we changed into the swimsuits we packed in our carry-ons (since you don’t get your luggage until after the ship is about to leave), and lay on the deck chairs. After an hour or so, we realized how hungry we were, so we headed to the buffet and gawked at all the options we could choose from. There was so much food that I think we may have over-indulged that first meal. But it was all too good to pass up.

Around 3:00 we decided to rest for a little bit to recover from our travels and to digest all the food we had just consumed. My mom had decided to get us a room with a balcony, which we’d never done before, and when we entered out cabin we immediately knew it would be worth the extra money. Even thought the balcony was small, it made the room seem so much bigger and added a less claustrophobic feel to the room. Plus, it was nice to sit out there and feel the breeze brush through my hair as I watched the water. Since, we were tired, though, we decided to wait to try out the balcony and instead took a nice little nap. We were awoken by the loudspeaker declaring that everyone needed to head to their prescribed deck for the safety practice. This took no more than 20 minutes, and then we walked around exploring the ship some more.

By the time we were ready for our dinner reservation, our hunger had returned. We opted for the sit-down dinner every night because it was nice to get a bit more dressed up and to be in a restaurant environment for our last meal of the day. My mom requested a window table, and the host graciously accommodated us. So as we ate our food, we were able to watch the sun set over the crashing waves. Overall, it was a perfect atmosphere. After we ate, my mom and I went to a show at the ship’s theater. The performer was a stand up comic, and he was pretty funny. By the time the show was over at around 10:30pm, both my mom and I were ready to turn in. This first day was a long and active one. The beds in the cabin are pretty comfortable and I could not really feel the rocking of the ship as I lay down. I would say Day 1 was a success!

Day 2- Ship Day

Sunday was a day at sea and a very relaxing one at that. The day started with my mom bringing me a cup of tea and a banana to eat on the balcony. Not a bad way to wake up! Then we went for a hearty breakfast at the buffet. We brought our food to a table near one of the huge windows and ate while we watched the sea go by. I have to say, this is my new favorite way to enjoy food. Then we walked around and came across a clothing sale the ship was having and picked out some cute T-shirts and an adorable beach cover-up.  Then we decided to take advantage of the sunny day and went to the front of the ship to catch some rays. I was a bit burned from the day before, so I found a chair in the shade.

After a while, we went back to the buffet for lunch, then tried out the adult-only pool area. This area was covered with huge windows above so that it was warmer but also incredibly bright with sunlight. The pool itself was pretty warm surprisingly and not very  crowded- the perfect swimming atmosphere. By the time I dried off a couple hours later, my mom and I decided that it was tea time. Luckily, right there in the adult area was a little cafe where we ordered some pastries and then made ourselves a cup of tea each. We took our afternoon treat over to the little tables and sat facing the sea as we sipped and snacked. Then we retired to the room for a post-tea rest. I ended up on the balcony just watching water and listening to music. It really was a perfect afternoon.

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner: 7:00. That night was fancy night, so we dressed up more than we normally would- dresses, jewelry, and bright lipstick. The food was delicious as usual, and we took our time to fully enjoy the meal. Around 9:00, we went to see another show at the theater; this time it was a cabaret-style musical. The performers were very good and they all had beautiful voices. After the show, we decided to go to bed early because the next day we had to wake up early. We only had from 8:00 am to 3:00pm at Grand Cayman and we wanted to make the most of it.

Day 3- Grand Cayman Island

The day started early as I sat on the balcony enjoying the tea my mother had brought me and watched as the sun rose over the horizon. Then we got a quick buffet breakfast and got ready to disembark into the Cayman Islands. We took a smaller boat to the shore and then found a taxi to take us to the Calico Jack’s at the Seven Mile Beach (which, fun fact, is NOT 7 miles). We then rented 2 beach chairs with umbrellas for $20 and set up our little slice of heaven. I have to say, I have never seen water so clear and so blue before. It was astonishing! So as I dipped my toes into the crystal clear water, my mom set up the mini speaker we had brought and played some chill beach tunes.

After a little while, I ventured into the gorgeous water for a refreshingly cool swim. My mom had gotten us both snorkel gear (from Amazon) before our trip, so I got to try out snorkeling for the first time and I was not disappointed. I saw tiny little fish and lovely sea life. After a while, I went back to the chairs and it was my mom’s turn to venture into the water. By the time noon rolled around, we were ready for food. My mom went to Calico Jack’s and came back with yummy snacks and some margaritas. It was a fantastic lunch not only because of the food and drinks but because of the absolutely amazing atmosphere which we ate in.

When we finished eating, we stayed at the beach for another half an hour and then decided to head back to the main area. We took a taxi from the beach to the town area and walked around all the shops for a bit. On the cruise, we had gone to a jewelry show the day before and Amanda, the shopping cruise director, had given everyone a huge coupon book and flyers for a bunch of free/ discounted jewelry at each location. So, mom and I went to Effie to collect our free necklace, upgraded to a necklace and earrings set for $10, and then went to Diamonds International to claim our free charm bracelet and charms. One of the cool things about cruises is the free stuff you can claim, and I definitely came back laden with more jewelry than I boarded with. We went into other cute touristy stores as well and got a couple of tee shirts and hats. While we were wandering, we came across a rogue rooster just casually walking alongside us. What a strange and comical sight.

At 2:00, we headed back to the ship so we wouldn’t get left behind when the boat left at 3:00. Back on board, we rested until dinner time. I read more of my book from the beach that day (The Help by Kathryn Stockett if anyone is wondering). We had dinner as usual and then frequented another show. There’s a pattern in our nighttime activities, if you’ve noticed haha.

After the show, around 10:15, there was a really entertaining music and dance in the atrium area. It was 70s night so they played a bunch of ABBA songs and 70s music while simultaneously doing old-school dances. Everyone was crowded around the dance floor and up above in the seating areas on every floor overlooking the atrium. Mom and I were on the 8th floor looking down and singing and dancing along. It was such a lively atmosphere that we were pretty sad when it ended. But we were also tired, so we went back to the cabin for a good night’s rest.

Day 4- Cozumel, Mexico

As usual, the day began with a big buffet breakfast, but since we docked a bit later I got to sleep in for a little longer and was able to see as we pulled into the dock. Mom and I had decided the night before that we were going to begin our adventure in Cozumel with the shopping tour headed by Amanda. This allowed us to go with a group in a free taxi to the center of the city where we were dropped off at Diamond’s International. Here, we received another free charm for our bracelets.

Then we again went to Effie and got another free necklace, this time in a different color, and my mom bought herself a nice birthday present from there. What was nice about going with Amanda, though, was that we could purchase nice jewelry, leave it at the store with our name and cabin number, and then Amanda would come and pick up everyone’s jewelry to deliver it safely back aboard ship. This was great because mom and I did not want to bring the nice new jewelry to the beach with us just in case something were to happen to it. Because of this perk, we didn’t have to worry about anything. After the jewelry stores, we went to the typical tourist stores and bought a couple more T-shirts and souvenirs. At Viva Mexico! they had a free tequila tasting which was something fun mom and I tried.

When shopping had tired us out, we decided to take a taxi to Chankanaab, the beach. Once there, we had to pay to get in, and then we went to lunch at one of the restaurants. What’s cool about Chankanaab is that there are so many things to do; you can go swimming with turtles, snorkeling, and so much more. We were pretty boring people so we just went to the beach and snorkeled on our own. Even just doing this was a lot of fun though! I found a hammock to lie in and read while mom went snorkeling and vice versa. At this beach, there were a lot more fish and a much deeper area of water to explore. There were constantly waiters coming around asking if we wanted anything to drink, so at one point we each ordered a local beer. We left after a couple of hours and headed back to the port.

However, there was so much to do at the port that we ended up staying there for another hour. We got a couple of knick knacks at a touristy shop and then, oh and THEN, we came across the most fun place I’ve experienced: Senor Frog’s Cozumel! (From what I hear, they have these in many locations.) Let me tell you, this was an atmosphere fit for college students on Spring Break, which is probably why there were so many college kids there. They had great music playing, wild waiters, and lots of drinks to choose from. Mom and I ended up ordering 2 Bahama Mamas and while we were waiting for them to arrive, a  waitress came around with shots 2 for $5 so of course we indulged.

Then our drinks came… in the tallest thinnest cup I’ve ever seen. We got to keep both the shot glasses and the tall glass as souvenirs. Our table was right next to water and overall, the atmosphere in this place was so much fun! After we went back to the ship, we got ready for dinner, ate, and then went back to the room to watch a movie and call it an early night.

Day 5- Sea Day

Because this was our last full day, mom and I decided to take advantage of some of the amenities on the ship. We woke up late and had a calm and filling breakfast from, you guessed it, the buffet. At 11:00, we had an appointment at the spa. I had never had a massage before, so I was excited. I got the 75 minute full body massage and facial; both were amazing. The spa service on Royal Caribbean was excellent- the people were friendly and the atmosphere was so calming.

By the time we were done, it was almost 1:00, and it had started to rain. This meant we were pretty much confined to inside activities unless we wanted to get soaked. So, instead of laying out in the sun as we had planned, we went for lunch. After, we walked around the ship a bit and happened upon a Billy Joel “impersonator” in the atrium area. I absolutely LOVE Billy Joel so I was eager to stay and listen. I got some water and stood up top on one of the balconies as I listened to this guy play the piano and sing like Billy Joel, and I softly sang along.

When this was over, mom and I met up and we went back to the room to rest, because doing nothing all day really tires a girl out. It stopped raining late in the afternoon, so we went out on the balcony for a bit and enjoyed our last night on the water. Then we went for dinner and I enjoyed every morsel of food. I do have to say the food on board the ship was excellent every time I ate… which was a lot!

When dinner was over, we went to the 7:00 final show at the theater. It was a fun performance, and the end was very much ABBA heavy. The performers dressed up as the iconic group and the band played a bunch of their songs as the singers belted out a mixture of Dancing Queen, Mama Mia, and more. At the end, all of the performers came out on stage, took a bow, and said what country they were from. Then, almost the whole staff of the ship, or representatives from each department, came onstage to applause from the audience to show our gratitude. One thing that’s neat about Royal Caribbean is that its staff are from all over the world. After the show, we packed up and went to bed.

The next, and last, day on the cruise mom and I set out to enjoy the buffet and the sun for one last time. By the time it was our time to disembark, we had taken our last stroll around the ship and said farewell to our Caribbean cruise. It was a wonderful five days that I wish would never end.

Ciao for now!

My Favorite Beauty Products for Travel

My Favorite Beauty Products for Travel

I’m going to be honest, I’m not a beauty guru so my knowledge about makeup and beauty is limited. But I know enough to know what’s good and what’s bad (at least in my own terms). These are all inexpensive beauty products, with most of them coming from CVS or Target, but some are nicer pricier products I’ve received as gifts. Now that that is out of the way, here we go!

I tend to go for lighter makeup when I’m traveling just because my skin is sensitive and adjusts weirdly to new places that I go. And, a lot of the places I go are beachy, so I don’t wear a lot of makeup anyways. But, when I do like to get all glam for a night out or a nice dinner, these are some of my travel go to products (FYI the links go directly to the product I’ve listed if you want to check it out):

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM for normal to dry skin ($16.49 at Ulta)

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My skin varies from normal to dry and this moisturizer definitely makes me feel like my skin is being nourished. It is a little heavy but it’s not that noticeable and it helps my makeup go on easily. I love that there is sunscreen in this moisturizer because on vacation I am usually outside in sunny places and I have very pale skin so it’s good to know I’m protected. There is also a version without SPF 30 if you don’t want the sunscreen. I’m not going to lie, it does smell a bit like sunscreen, but it’ll go away after a few minutes, and I think the benefits outweigh the cons for this product. I’m left with soft protected skin.

Maybelline BB Cream in shade 110 Light/Medium (($6.69 at Target)

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I love this product for beauty vacays because it’s incredibly light and is essentially a tinted moisturizer. I have problem skin and this BB Cream does a nice job of getting rid of the redness and problem spots for a few hours. It also has SPF 30 so I don’t have to worry about my very pale skin getting damaged by the sun.

Maybelline Master Conceal concealer in shade 20 Light ($7.99 at Target)

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As I’ve previously said, I have issues with my skin so it’s nice to know that I can rely on this concealer to help me manage my blemishes. I’ve gotten more confidant in my skin as I’ve grown older, but there are times, especially on vacation when I’m taking a lot of photos, when I get self-conscious of my skin. Master Conceal helps me cover up some of these blemishes so I look stellar in my vacation photos.

Smith’s Rosebud Salve ($7.58 at Amazon)

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I. Love. This. So. Much. I started using this product as simply a lip balm but soon realized it is so much more. It can be used for almost any beauty need. If you’re interested in this product and want to know a few of the many ways it can be used (like eyebrow tamer and eye makeup remover) check out this article from Bustle. Needless to say, it is the perfect travel beauty product because of its many uses.

Mary Kay Kind Heart baked cheek powder ($18 at Mary Kay)

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This is such a beautiful not only because of the presentation, but also because it has a bit of a shimmer when applied. A shimmery blush is perfect for a vacation where I want to give the appearance of a summery glow even if I don’t actually have one. Plus, it’s a light coral that doesn’t stand out too much, giving me just a subtle rosiness to my cheeks. Overall, it’s a lovely look for a sunny vacay.

Sephora colorful wink-it felt liner – waterproof ($14 at Sephora)

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I like this eyeliner because it is really easy to apply and make eyeliner look good when applied. We all know how hard it is to get that perfect winged look, but this felt tip liner is essentially a pen, so it’s so simple to get a nice eye look. In addition, it’s waterproof meaning that during your vacation you can take a dip in the water without worrying about your makeup running. It also lasts a long time and stays looking amazing even after an hour siesta (speaking from experience).

Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara (sample) ($12 at Too Faced)

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I know everyone has been raving about this mascara for a while so I’m here to concur with them! This mascara really does make my lashes look super long and voluminous without feeling extra heavy. I like the sample size for travel because it lasts long enough for a trip about 2 weeks and is the perfect packing size.

Lotus Elixir No.4 perfume ($12 at Anthropologie)

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This rollerball perfume is about the size of my palm and smells amazing. According to its description on the Anthropologie website it is “a focus-inducing blend of hawthorn greens, mint, white lily, rose and violet (FLORAL).” I love it mainly for the strong impression it gives off without being overpowering. It’s not your typical floral scent, it’s almost dark (if that makes sense). It lasts a while and is the perfect size for traveling since it’s only 0.2 oz.

Bed Head ROCKAHOLIC Dirty Secret dry shampoo 2.5 oz ($10 at Ulta)

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I got this as a giveaway from the club HerCampus that I am a part of at college, so I did not pay for this product. (I write for the HerCampus site if you want to check out any of my articles- sorry, shameless plug.) But, I like Bed Head products and I got it for free so I decided to try it out. I ended up loving it because it a) smells good and b) makes my hair look good as new. Those are basically the only criteria I have for dry shampoo. Some others that I’ve tried do not get rid of my greasy hair which, ya know, is a pretty important factor of a good dry shampoo. This is a nice travel size as well so I’ve taken to bringing it on trips so that after an especially hot day, I just spray this in my hair and I’m ready for a night out.

Advanced Clinicals Tea Tree Oil 1.8 fl. oz ($11.55 Amazon)
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I’m not going to lie, I found this at Marshall’s for about $5 when trying to find a cheaper replacement for my other tea tree oil. I got this by chance because I liked how big the size was for the price it was. I use tea tree oil on my blemishes after I take my makeup off, cleanse, and tone my face because I have found that it will diminish or prevent acne. I absolutely live by tea tree oil since it essentially saves my face which is why I need to have it when I travel. After a day of my face full of sunscreen and makeup, tea tree oil does wonders. Luckily, this is a nice size and it comes with a dropper so I don’t end up using too much or pouring half the bottle out when I’m just trying to get a tiny dot. Highly highly recommend tea tree oil to anyone with blemish prone skin.

I hope you enjoyed this beauty review and if you want more just let me know in the comments. Question of the week: What is your favorite beauty/ makeup product for travel and why?

Ciao for now!