Travel Guide: Stratford-upon-Avon

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Stratford-upon-Avon is a small town in the Southwest corner of England and is best known for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. For that reason, it has become somewhat of a tourist destination.  I visited there a few years ago when my mom visited, and ended up back there a few months ago to meet some friends. The second visit was just as nice as a the first and I’m happy to share my picks of the city.

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Running through the middle of the city is the River Avon surrounded by a pretty park and public space. The Royal Shakespeare Company theatre also sits right on the river. A theatre has been on the same site since 1879, but was destroyed in a fire in 1926. It was rebuilt in 1932 and redeveloped in late 2010.  The theatre hosts several productions a year and attracts a large number of visitors.  Even without seeing a production, there is quite a bit to see in the building including costumes, restaurants and a viewing tower that offers lovely views of the surrounding countryside.

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The remainder of the town is very cute. There’s not a ton to do or see, but for a small town it has lots to offer. Over the course of the weekend, we stumbled upon three different food and wares markets, had two excellent lunches at little tea rooms, found a nice old pub with the best mulled wine and took a very brief river boat cruise. We wandered through the city centre to see Shakespeare’s house, checked out the old timber houses, found the church where Shakespeare is buried and walked along the river.

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Other highlights of the visit, include an excellent meal at The Encore. The entire meal was great (and one of the most expensive I’ve ever head), but dessert was incredible: a sampler platter with four different desserts. I think that was the first time I’ve ever not been able to finish dessert! We stayed at a cute little B&B about a 10 minutes’ walk from the river called Bradbourne House. I stayed here during my fist visit as well. Stratford is very picturesque and a lovely place to spend a weekend. And I’d recommend it if you’re in the UK.

x K

What I’m Watching

Kelly told you what she was watching, so I thought I would give you a little update on my tv show obsessions. I know, it’s pretty ground breaking stuff over here. My tastes are a little schizophrenic these days, but that’s to be expected in today’s day and age of binge watching.

1- Breaking Bad

what i'm watching

Yeah, yeah, I’m seven years late to the party, but I’m not usually on the cutting edge of television. It took me a while to get into it, but I’m officially hooked.

2- House of Cards

what I'm watchingSeason 3 is finally here! Frank Underwood is putting South Carolina on the map (though not always in the best of lights…).

3- Friends

what I'm watching

It’s only the 800th time I’m seen each episode, but I will never grow tired of Friends. These six fools have gotten me through some dark times and always remind me that you are never a failure if you have friends.

4- Girls

what I'm watchingIt’s season 4 and so far this season is proving the show’s worth to me again after two mediocre seasons.

5- Broad Citywhat I'm watching

Someone told me this show reminded them of me, and though I would like to deny, deny, deny, they are exactly right. I’m this awkward and weird so naturally I love this show. And I’m a long time fan of Hannibal Buress.

x B

Holy Mole-y

face moleWe all inherit our external features (and internal) for better or for worse from our gene pool. Mine has so kindly “blessed” me with skin that is more prone to develop moles instead of freckles or just even pigmentation like most people. This means I get to visit the dermatologist every six months for routine checkups and now have some super attractive scars from where some of my little friends have had to be removed. Luckily in all of my procedures they have found nothing serious and for that I am grateful. It also means that I have had a mole on my right cheek ever since I can remember. This is by far my most significant mole and subsequently, my most significant feature. We’ve had a love/hate relationship my entire life, but love wins by a hair since I have never gone through with having it removed.
face moleThe first time I felt self conscious about it was when my mom and I went to review my senior photos and the photographer asked if I wanted him to airbrush it out. My parents always called it my beauty mark growing up and that’s what I believed. I never realized it was a “blemish” that needed to be photoshopped. To this day I hate looking at those photos because they lack authenticity and bring back the self consciousness. Every time I begin to come to terms with it, someone brings it to my attention again in a seemingly offensive way. (I have actually been told that I am the mole-iest person my dermatologist’s nurse had ever seen). They always quickly backtrack and then try to tell me it is beautiful, they love it, blah, blah, blah. I have also discussed removing it with multiple doctors including a plastic surgeon (and my therapist!) and they all tell me the same thing, it’s so beautiful why would you want to remove it? I don’t know why it is so difficult for me to get past, but its been a struggle for me since those senior photos. I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes saying, “white girl problems” right now, but low self esteem isn’t just limited to white girls.

face moleBut after a quick google search I realized that some of the most beautiful women in the world, Cindy Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, Eva Mendez, and Kate Upton, all share the same feature. A face mole. It’s time I learn to embrace it and realize that it is a feature that makes me unique. It is also time that I learn that everyone is beautiful in their own way, with or without a face mole. So, here’s to losing the genetic lottery, but being perfectly ok with it, learning to love yourself, and learning to embrace your uniqueness…being generic is overrated.

face mole

x B

The best brownies

IMG_2024 editBrownies are one of my favorite desserts, so I’m glad I’ve finally found the perfect recipe.  This week a friend tipped me on Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc brownie recipe.  I’ve only baked these once and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to any other recipe. My version is a slight adaptation from the original.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
3/4 pound (or 340 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into chip-sized pieces ( about 1 1/2 cups)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour your tray (either 13 x 9 or 9 x 9). 
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside. Melt half the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Put the remaining butter in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter and stir to melt the butter. The butter should look creamy, with small bits of unmelted butter, and be at room temperature. Mix together the eggs and sugar until think and very pale.  (I whisked for approximately 5 minutes because I don’t have the luxury of a KitchenAid).  Add one-third of the dry ingredients, then add one-third of the butter, and continue alternating the remaining flour and butter. Gently mix after each addition. Add the chocolate and mix to combine. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. (Side note: the batter is delicious and I’ve tasted my fair share of brownie batter. It is definitely a sign of the goodness that is to come.)

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes if using a 9 x 9 or 30 to 35 minutes if using a 13 x 9 pan, until a cake tester or wooden skewer poked into the center comes out with clean.

Allow to cool and serve while still warm with some vanilla ice cream and hot fudge if you’re really lucky.  And you’re welcome.

x K

5 Favorites: Restaurants in Greenville, SC

restaurants in greenville scGreenville is a small city in the upstate of South Carolina nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. When I was growing up it wasn’t on anyone’s radar, but it is gaining more and more buzz as of late for its restaurant scene. Many prestigious chefs and restauranteurs are setting up shop in Greenville adding to its rapid growth rate. Though I don’t live there currently, I still daydream about its delicious food. Here is a round-up of my five favorite restaurants from around town.

  1. Tako Sushi: A combination of Asian (not just limited to sushi) and Mexican cuisine. My favorite dish is the Ahi Pokke, so incredibly good!
  2. Lemongrass: A quiet restaurant that is tucked into the heart of downtown, but some of the most incredible Thai food I have ever had. And that includes the food I consumed while in Thailand. I can’t decide which is my favorite between the Massaman Curry or the Cashew Nut Chicken, but you really can’t go wrong with anything on this menu.
  3. The Trappe Door: A relatively new addition to the Greenville restaurant scene, but it has quickly climbed its way to the top of my list. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu especially the burgers or mussels since they are served with fries and multiple flavors of mayonnaise (your choice!) for dipping. If this isn’t enticing enough, there are tons of delicious Belgian beers to choose from or even Absinthe.
  4. The Bohemian: Another quaint restaurant, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a lot to offer. The menu is incredibly varied and nothing disappoints. They are open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Once you are done eating, be sure to stop by Horizon Records to see their latest vinyl collection.
  5. The Lazy Goat: A tapas restaurant with the best brussel sprouts and fried goat cheese I have EVER. HAD. It is best to grab a seat on the patio and enjoy your meal al fresco and take in the stunning views of the revitalized Reedy River.

That’s not to say there are only five great restaurants in Greenville. Trust me, there are dozens more!

x B

Pattern Obsession: Graphic Tile

graphic tileimage via Kismet Tile

There has been a rise in the use of graphic tile in interior design. I don’t want to call it a “trend” because that indicates that it will go out of style and I never want graphic tile to be out. Most people are turned off to the idea of making such a bold statement in an element as permanent as tile, but its versatility will change your mind. It comes in various shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns to please any customer. You can use graphic tile boldly like the above Kitchen floor, or you can incorporate it more subtly in architectural details.

tiled entrytiled stairstiled moroccan floorimages via Domino

graphic tileimage via popham design

Many tile manufacturers are incorporating more bold colors and patterns, but this look is best achieved with artisan tiles from vendors like popham design, Lindsey Lang, and Kismet Tile. Be sure to visit their websites to see more great installations and products!
graphic tileimage via Lindsey Lang

x B

Frances Ha

Don’t you just love the feeling that you get when you see a movie that makes you feel like you’re not the only one who doesn’t have their shit together? Frances Ha was this movie for me. It totally resonated with me since Frances, the movie’s leading lady, is a 27 year old who is still trying to find herself through various day jobs, failed relationships, and no money to her name. (Been there)

This film is a beautiful depiction of life, love, and friendship. It is shot entirely in black and white and is filled with quotable one liners. The actors are all incredible, but Greta Gerwig is perfect. She cowrote the film with Noah Baumbach who is responsible for the screenplays of The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox to name a few.

If you’re looking for a way to occupy a few hours after a bad day at work or on a lazy weekend, Frances Ha will not disappoint. It’s also on Netflix, no excuses.

x B

What I’m Watching

Period dramas are having a bit of a moment and I have been suckered into them all. BBC is currently going from strength to strength with each new series and I’ve watched them all.

1. Wolf Hall

This mini-series is an adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s eponymous Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies books. I read both a few summers ago and really enjoyed them so I was excited when I heard they were being turned into a series. I don’t think it’s out in the US yet, but when it is I highly recommend watching it if you’re into the Tudor period. It depicts the story of Thomas Cromwell and how he became one of Henry VIII’s most trusted advisers throughout a tumultuous period in England’s history. The casting is great and Mark Rylance is exceptional.

2. Call the Midwife

Although this show isn’t new, it’s one I’ve enjoyed over the past few months. I will admit, it took me a few episodes to get past the (at times) revealing nature of childbirth and actually enjoy the show.  Now that I’m used to it, I’ve become attached to the characters as the seasons have progressed.

3. Death Comes to Pemberley

Being an avid Pride and Prejudice fan I have both skepticism and excitement when it comes to anything related to the classic. After the 2005 remake disaster (Matthew Macfadyen is no Colin Firth), I never get overeager when it comes to any new adaptations to the classic.  I haven’t read P.D. James’ novel, but have heard good things. So I decided to give the mini-series a try.  I actually liked the plot and have no complaints on the cast. Plus it’s only three episodes so it was quality entertainment for a night or two.

 

x K

February Favorites

February FavoritesFebruary isn’t typically my favorite month since it involves cold weather and being single. BUT, I’m making 2015 my year so I’m trying to be more grateful and appreciate the little things. Here is my list of five favorite things from this month.

February Favorites:

  1. Friends on Netflix. I’ve seen them all a million times, but I. CAN’T. STOP. WATCHING.
  2. Thin Mints. I would like to thank the Girl Scouts of America for the additional 80 pounds I have gained this month.
  3. Wild. This movie was such a game changer for me. No matter how bad it gets, I can always take a hike and find myself.
  4. Wanderlust. Yes, I gave it a mixed review, but it is fueling my fire to explore.
  5. Nebraska. I realize I’m only a year late on this film, but it is so incredibly heartwarming and unexpectedly hilarious.

Clearly this month involved a lot of couch/T.V. life, but I promise that’s not all I do!

x B

On Money

money in your twentiesThe wise Notorious B.I.G. once said, “mo money, mo problems”. I want to believe this to be true, but since I’ve never been in the “mo money” category, I can’t be sure. Discussing money is seen as a faux pas, but I don’t really consider myself “pas” so I’m totally discussing it now.

I chose a creative field and with that usually comes a smaller paycheck. I understand that I did not get a graduate degree, slave over calculus exams in undergrad, or even learn a manual trade, but I worked my ass off to get where I am today. I barely had a social life in college (which my 20/20 hind sight tells me is entirely my doing). And now I still work more than most people our age whose desk jobs allow them to catch up on Netflix or Facebook, yet I am always the one who is struggling the most financially.

Don’t get me wrong, I have enough to cover my living expenses and to have somewhat of a social life, but I do have to make sacrifices. Despite my measly financial assets, I do enjoy being in a creative position. Though I struggle to live comfortably and keep up with my more financially endowed friends, I like knowing that I have the ability to explore my creativity and push myself in ways I didn’t know were possible.

I also hate that I am very much aware of my financial status. I know that life is worth so much more than what you have in your bank account. I have learned that a night in with friends is so much more fun and meaningful than throwing money away by downing overpriced drinks at a bar. I’ve also learned to exercise outdoors, make more meals at home, and survive without as many clothes. These are valuable lessons that I would not appreciate as much if I was making more money immediately out of college. I need to remind myself that this is what these years are for.

I know one day I will look back on this time and laugh because I will be more comfortable in my financial standing, but until then it is a daily struggle to decide if I can actually afford what I am about to swipe my credit card for or how I can make more money on the side. I know I am more fortunate than some so I need to appreciate all that I have and make the most of it. One day it will all be worth it and who knows, maybe Biggie was right and I will look back on my struggling mid-twenties self and miss that girl.

x B

Image source: The Everygirl