DIY Care Package

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A very close friend of mine is currently enlisted in the army. I met him through that special someone I spoke about in my Valentine’s day post so by default the three of us have spent A LOT of time together. My friend has been in army training since September and to say that I miss him is an understatement. I REALLY miss him. He’s become a very important person in my life and we became very close friends the year before he left. I wanted to put together a little something special for him that shouted out Hey I miss you! It was a bit difficult because I wanted to send him basically everything but after some research I narrowed it down to a few key items I thought he would enjoy. Take a peak!

Care Package Items:

  • Jif Peanut Butter
  • Walkers Shortbread Cookies
  • Assorted Peanuts
  • Gillette Shaving Cream
  • Old Spice Deodorant
  • Loofa
  • Men’s Health Magazine
  • Pictures of close friends

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Supplies:

  • Shoe Box
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Tissue Paper
  • Construction wrapping paper
  • Rope

Here are a few tips I rounded up which I thought could be helpful if you’re ever thinking of putting a little package together:

Packing Tips:

  1. There are various size and weight restrictions depending on where the package is being sent. After some research, I read that as a rule of thumb it’s best to limit the size to a shoebox container
  2. Use reusable packing material, something that the person can potentially re-use.
  3. Make sure to write out the complete address (unit, name, platoon etc.)

Food & Drink Tips:

  1. Anything that can be mixed with MREs (meal ready to eat) is very much appreciated like salt, pepper, ketchup, relish, mustard, peanut butter etc.
  2. Energy bars, tuna fish, non perishable beef jerky are a good source of protein
  3. Cookies and snacks are scarce but they should be packaged in hard containers such as nuts, pretzels, chips, etc.
  4. Powdered drink mixes are simple for them to use such as instant coffee, cocoa, tea, ice tea or lemonade

Personal Product Tips:

  1. Toiletries such toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving cream, disposable razors, deodorant, dental floss are always needed
  2. Eye drops, lip balm, aspirin, lotion, loofa, & soap are good items to give as well

Entertainment Tips & Reminders of Home:

  1. Books, magazines, crossword puzzles, word searches are a good source of entertainment
  2. Writing materials like envelopes, pens, writing paper and stamps can be really useful
  3. Friends & family pictures, homemade goods, local newspaper articles are nice to have (I personally think pictures are so important to have) 

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And voila, after you’ve chosen your key items and packaged everything neatly together, the shoe box is ready to be sent!

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Blueberry – Orange Tart

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 I can’t stop thinking about warmth and summer probably because this freezing February weather is unfortunately going to linger for a bit longer. With summer on my mind comes images of fresh fruit, especially blueberries. I love all fresh fruit but blueberries particularly remind me of sitting on a warm beach on an island in Greece… I tried this recipe on this cold afternoon and I have to say it was pretty fabulous. IMG_5197

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted & cooked
  • 4 ½ tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 5 ½ cups of fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Juice of and finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons quick- cooking tapioca
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, combine flour, butter and 3 ½ tablespoons of powdered sugar. Press dough in a thin layer on the bottom and sides of an 8-in square pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Prick dough all over with a fork and bake crust for 25 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and cool.
  2. In a medium sized saucepan, combine 4 cups of blueberries, granulated sugar, orange juice and tapioca. Blend well and let stand for 15 minutes
  3. Cook the blueberry mixture over medium heat until mixture comes to full boil. Reduce heat and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring constantly and lightly crushing berries with slotted spoon against sides of pan. Add orange zest then remove from heat. Cool for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Pour cooled mixture into baked tart shell and chill for 30 minutes. Top with remaining blueberries and continue chilling.
  5. Before serving, sift remaining 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar atop tart.

IMG_5201 IMG_5203 IMG_5204With a glass of prosecco, in front of the fire, it was a perfect afternoon treat that hit the spot.IMG_5216

Snowy Valentine’s Day

There is a special someone in my life so for Valentine’s Day we are going out to a nice, quiet, candle lit dinner. Even though we’ve been together for close to two years, I still love getting dressed up & putting in that extra little effort especially when a fun holiday like this comes around. I hope everyone is having a wonderful, lovable day in the snow! XO

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#BeDoSay

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Be yourself; everyone else is taken – Oscar Wilde

I attended a very interesting and insightful lunch seminar the other day: Building Your Personal Brand – How to be Purpose Driven.  A brand strategy director spoke about the key dimensions of building a strong brand. She emphasized throughout that one must clearly articulate his/her purpose in order to build a successful brand.

Successful brands articulate what they stand for and why they exist. By articulating who you are & what your values are, you create a deeper connection with the people around you. If a brand has a clear and distinct meaning, it will ultimately be successful.  But what is a brand? A brand is what you stand for, a brand is your reputation, a brand is a promise you make to your audience, and most importantly, a brand is an authentic attribute that differentiates you from the rest of the pack.

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This really got me thinking about where I currently am in my career and how vital it is for me to hone in on my personal brand and what I stand for… especially on this blog & in my 9-5 job. I have to communicate it and put it into action; there’s real power in sharing your meaning.

So #BeDoSay. Be – Identify your core values and beliefs. Do – Communicate them and put them into action. Say – Articulate your purpose, your values, and who you are. This is what I ultimately hope to achieve with this blog.

And…there’s my motivational speech to close out the week (phew, that was a mouthful). Hope I haven’t bored you to death……….Au revoir!

 

Music Thursday ~ No.1

I am so screaming happy that it’s almost Friday. AND this weekend… is a much needed long weekend. I can’t seem to get this song out of my mind since I heard it on the Grammy’s Sunday night. It is pretty amazing and Rihanna is such a force to be reckoned with. I have officially decided that Thursday’s will be Music Thursday because everyone should be celebrating the day before Friday. Only one more day till Friday.

Travel Guide // Cocktails & Bites in San Fran

Top two questions always on my mind before visiting a new place is where can I eat the best bite & where can I drink the best cocktail? ! I’m a big fan of gathering recommendations through word of mouth and I’m also a huge Yelp fan. I really believe in reading reviews and customer experiences. Here are a few restaurants and bars that really stood out for me on this trip!

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{ Mint Cotton Candy Dessert – picture taken at The Slanted Door }

Bites:

Nopa // This restaurant is first on my list because it is an absolute MUST. The atmosphere was really fun and very nouveax American. I loved my meal – a plate of housemade pappardelle infused in an incredible bolognese sauce and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Appetizers consisted of fried broccoli and sardines – both really tasty. Plants and greenery surrounded the tables with geometric shaped lights hanging from above . It should definitely be on everyone’s top restaurant list. * Note: You must make a reservation a month in advance or you will not be seated.

 + Papito // I love Mexican food but I just can’t seem to find a great place in Manhattan which is a real bummer. But in SF, totally different story. I was walking around Hayes Valley and all I wanted were a couple of tacos and a giant margarita. It was my first day in the city so I had no idea where I was going. I quickly “yelped”  Mexican restaurants around the area and *bam* a huge list of four-star places appeared on my phone screen. Papito, an organic Mexican restaurant, had unreal pastor tacos ( pastor = marinated pork shoulder, roasted pineapple, onions, cilantro, salsa verde) and the guacamole was so yum. I was also very content with my Pomegranate Marg. I highly recommend trying this place for lunch!

The Slanted Door // This restaurant is located inside the ferry building and has an amazing view of the bay bridge all lit up at night. My experience here was honestly a bit iffy. The cuisine was modern Vietnamese and the restaurant layout was pretty with huge windows overlooking the bay and the bridge. For apps, my friends and I ordered the Crispy Imperial Rolls & Vegetarian Spring Rolls – all very good. For the main courses, we all shared the lamb rack, the short ribs, scallops and jasmine rice. The meal was definitely pricey and the service was below average, which was fairly disappointing. A few orders were missed and the waitress/hostesses were not very friendly. But something tells me to give  The Slanted Door another try, especially after trying their mint cotton candy dessert…

Super Duper Burger // I sadly did not make it to In-N-Out Burger because believe it or not there was only one in all of San Fran (near Fisherman’s Wharf). Luckily, as soon as I saw the bolded words Super, Duper and Burger I hopped & skipped right to the front. Super Duper Burger is an SF burger chain located all around the city. The burger was so.juicy.so.good. The brioche bun was intertwined with two patties and the perfect amount of cheese was oozing out on my plate. The fries were so crispy and also had the choice of ordering a basket of garlic fries. I am a huge burger/fries aficionado and was overall very impressed with this find.

2836825b6d75d1d4e89648adc1d99457{ cocktail image from Pinterest }

Bars & Cocktails: 

The Tipsy Pig // This place had such a cute & sweet atmosphere. A few friends and I stopped by right before dinner for a drink or two which was perfect. There is a lit up outdoor area with wooden benches where we all sat outside in the warm January Cali weather. Christmas lights wrapped around all of the trees and there was a very American rustic feel. I had two very different cocktails – Strawberry Fields which was a bit too sweet for me and the Mariposa Gimlet which ended up being jusstt right.

+ 15 Romolo // This bar was a real hidden gem that I would have never found if I wasn’t hanging out with friends whom have now become SF locals. It is a bigger sized bar located down an alley just a few flight of stone steps up. The atmosphere was very hip and very grey cave like. It reminded me of the hidden speak easies in Manhattan. The Pimms Cup is their famous cocktail on the menu and I definitely recommend it.

Vesuvio Café // This is a really classic bar and should be a definite must visit. The setting is really quirky and very cool with an eclectic set up. The walls are filled with poetry, pictures, actors, actresses, quotes and phrases. Red velvet textured curtains draped across the windows and it was once upon a time Jack Kerouac’s favorite bar. It felt like an old saloon from way back when, filled with a lot of charm and history. A historic bar everyone should try.

Travel Guide // What to Do in San Fran

DSC00797{ Mt. Tamalpais aka Mt. Tam, San Francisco }

I am very passionate about traveling and I have been fortunate enough to have traveled and lived in various countries around the world. I am so grateful for all of my incredible experiences because each journey has truly shaped who I am today. There is this one country though that I feel like I haven’t really explored… and that is the USofA.

I can actually count on one hand how many states I have been to thus far. This year, I made it a New Years resolution to explore at least two states that I have never been to. Most recently, I crossed one off my list…CALIFORNIA! And HOLY WOW, what an amazing trip. The idea of traveling to the West Coast was so exciting and invigorating that I could.not.wait. to do e.v.e.r.y.t.h.in.g. in San Fran.

I thankfully had a whole document of “what to do in San Fran” written out before the trip (disclosure: I love lists & over planning) and I was determined to see as much as possible in one weekend. With the help from amazing friends and gracious hosts, I felt as though I had seen the entire city in just a few days. I absolutely loved SF and I cannot wait to go back (wine country, I am looking at you)! I thought it would be fun to share my favorite places in the city in case you ever find yourself traveling to the land of San Fran.

+ Night tour Alcatraz Island // The audio tour is very well done and Alcatraz is super spooky at night. I highly recommend visiting the Island, I learned a tremendous amount in just a few hours. Tip:  buy tickets at least one month in advance, they sell out really quickly.

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+ Mt Tamalpais, East Peak // If you have a car at your disposal, driving to the peaks to hike the trails of SF is definitely a must. I went to East Peak, a quick car ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. There are hundreds of hiking trails to choose from & the best view of the city we found is from Mt. Tamalpais. Tip: If you decide to go hiking, definitely bring a turkey sandwich with you.
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 + Ghiradelli Square // The sweetest part of the square is the Ghirardelli chocolate shop where you can really stay for hours on end. It is chocolate land and you have so many choices; you can get a bag of chocolates, hot chocolate, big chocolates, small chocolates and they give out free mini bites of chocolate too.
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+ Fisherman’s Wharf // This is a touristy attraction with tons of seafood, restaurants, games & museums. It’s located right next to Pier 39 which is a really fun area that has street performers, a carousel, a sea lions watching deck, more restaurants and bars. It’s essentially a mini Disney Land on the water.
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+ Ferry Building // I could walk around the Ferry Building all day & night. There is all sorts of fresh produce surrounding the main part of the building & the market is filled with tons of meats and seafood. You can also buy $1 oysters and shuck them right there!
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 + Mrs. Doubtfire’s House // Growing up and having watched Mrs. Doubtfire over and over again, I thought it was a cool experience to go see the actual house from the movie. There was a small memorial for Robin Williams where people wrote their thoughts and prayers on little rocks and pavement leading up to the front of the house.
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+ Painted Ladies // Full House, anyone? The painted ladies is your “typical” San Fran strip of colorful houses, famously known for being on “Full House.” There is a park right across the street where you can take pictures to admire the beauty and color of the homes as well as the back drop of the city. 
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+ Lands End // A really beautiful park where you can see a terrific view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I recommend going when it’s clear out because when it’s foggy (like the day we went) it’s really difficult to a get a good view of the bridge from here. The hike up the hill is really nice but definitely bring sneakers. 
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+ Lombard Street/Crooked Street // The steep hills of the city really took me by surprise, especially walking up Lombard Street. I had never experienced anything like these hills in a city before. Crooked Street is a really windy, narrow, steep, downhill street on Lombard with beautiful homes surrounding it. A very unique experience for sure.
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+ El Camino Del Mar // This strip of breathtaking homes is a great walk if you enjoy architecture. I highly recommend walking on El Camino Del Mar right after going to Land’s End and soaking in the Mediterranean feel of the homes located right on the water.
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+ Embarcaderos/ Walking along the Pier // If you walk along Embarcadero you are walking along the main strip of piers. There is a nice view of the water and a great site of the Bay Bridge. You really get a sense of the outdoorsiness of the city and along the way there is some really cool street art. 
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Hayes Valley // This was a really cute area near Mission/Market street with lots of restaurants, coffee shops and home good stores. There is a lot of food in Hayes Valley, especially delicious Mexican food. 
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Golden Gate Bridge // Last but not least… this amazing site. I must admit, I did not actually get to bike across the bridge (there’s always a next time) but I did drive on the bridge and it was really breathtaking. I was also able to see different views of the bridge from all sorts of locations (Land’s End, Mt. Tamp) and it was absolutely gorgeous.
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All in all,  I hope this trip inspires you to take a weekend to explore an entire new city. I am sure there is a lot more I still need to see and would love any recommendations or suggestions for San Fran trip #2!

10.25.14 – A Day to Remember

I am always stunned and impressed as to how the little details of a wedding can truly depict and tell the story of a beautiful couple. The thought and consideration that goes into every minute step of throwing a celebration that one will remember forever is pretty amazing. After recently receiving pictures of one of my best friends wedding, I was able to relive every moment of that day which brought me back into a flurry of emotions. The wedding was not only gorgeous but it was also so authentic and genuine, that it warped you into the love that Mike & Casey have for each other.

Their story is a romantic one. Girl meets boy at a sailing summer camp in New England. Girl flirts with boy by pushing him into the water. Boy flirts with girl by pushing her into the water. They start chatting and from that moment on, sparks begin to fly.  That day, laid a foundation for a friendship, which turned into a relationship, which ultimately turned into the type of love and respect that everyone strives to find at least once in their lifetime.

I was extremely lucky to have been part of Casey’s special day as one of seven bridesmaids. We have been as close as two sisters’ ever since our freshman year of college. The stunning reception was nautical themed, with blue, white & red hues, and piercing Massachusetts water taking over the backdrop. New England oysters, Moscow Mules, laughter amongst friends and non-stop dancing ( as well as bouquet catching), all made this day a day to remember.10959675_10204135924898699_4825953725366063169_n10984067_10204135941139105_7054404985162916478_n 10527806_10204135943179156_2048697646879603153_n10959370_10204135932258883_5232761794779294917_n10406731_10204135940299084_2881651575322504125_n10989166_10204135924938700_23293791525539254_n** All images taken by Henry + Mac

 

Grammy’s & Pie

I absolutely love award season…. The beautiful clothes, the excitement and all of the anticipation keeps me guessing “who will win, who will win!?” Below is a list of unbelievable performers that I have my $$ on (figuratively speaking) winning in a few top categories tonight. Who do you think will win?

  1. Album of the Year: Beyonce, Beyonce
  2. Best New Artist: Sam Smith
  3. Record of the Year: Shake It Off, Taylor Swift
  4. Song of the Year: Stay with Me, Sam Smith
  5. Best Rap Album: The Marshall Mathers LP2, Eminem
  6. Best Pop/Duo Performance: Bang Bang, Ariana Grande, Jessie J & Nicki Minaj
  7. Best Rap Performance: i, Kendrick Lamar
  8. Best Rock Album: Songs of Innocence, U2
  9. Best Country Album: Platinum, Miranda Lambert
  10. Best Rap Song: We Dem Boyz, Wiz Khalifa

Watching these award shows on Sunday nights is never complete without some sort of treat. Ask anyone I know and they will tell you that if it was socially appropriate to start meals with dessert, I would without a doubt.. A cute, cozy pie business just opened up on the Lower East Side of NYC and I already have had my fair share of pies since they’ve opened. Tonight will be no different…Petee’s Pie (perhaps the cheeseburger pie) will definitely be calling my name as I watch gorgeous performers take the stage. Happy Grammy’s night!

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   { Image from peteespie.com }

 *** You can also follow me on twitter to see what I have to say on tonight’s show– https://twitter.com/cestmoinatasha

Bienvenue / Welcome!

If you’re reading this post, thank you & welcome! I am so excited to share with you the launch of c’est moi natasha. Without the support of my friends & family, I would have never had the courage to start a blog in any way, shape or form. I wanted to start this blog as a creative outlet, encompassing my life & adventures.The idea is to share my journey with travel, food, décor, fashion and photography.

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{ picture taken in San Francisco }

So here’s to taking my first step forward into an online adventure that will enable me to connect with my friends and family all over the world. Bienvenue and stay tuned!