Confession time… I’ve never been on a traditional “Spring Break” trip. Personally, beaches packed with a bunch of rowdy college kids funneling beer and throwing wet T-shirt contests never really appealed to me- I know, I’ll admit that I’m an old lady at heart. If I could re-visit my college days though, I would love to have saved up money for a girls getaway one year for Spring Break. Somewhere tropical, but not too far away, like the Bahamas would make for a relaxing and rejuvenating week off from classes and a memorable time with my closest friends. Although I don’t know when my next trip to the tropics will be, I’ve been dreaming of returning to the beach and basking in the sun’s warmth so I put together this little post including some of my favorite summer must-haves for your next getaway! Happy Shopping!
SWIMSUITS & COVER-UPS
I’ve been getting my swimsuits almost exclusively from Victoria’s Secret for so many years now, I almost didn’t know where to turn this year now that they’ve eliminated swimwear from their brand. I loved VS suits because I never had to worry about whether the bottoms had adequate lining or if the tops would be too sheer. I had certain styles that I knew were most flattering on me, so I would just stick with those and get a new color or pattern every now and then. VS PINK released new suits this season and, luckily, the ones I found are a little more refined than styles I’ve seen PINK release in the last few years! I know lots of people like Target’s swimwear, but I didn’t see anything that really caught my eye. I was really impressed with J. Crew’s selection, though it is a bit out of my price-range. They have several very classic swimsuits, with a few trendy ones for good measure. ASOS had some really cute & affordable options, but many of my favorites were already sold out like this one, and this one. I will have to test out some new swimwear brands this year and report back to you! I’d love to hear about your current go-to suits!
Please, please, please do not check your suitcase without packing it up with some mineral sunscreen! I swapped my traditional, chemical-laden sunscreen for a mineral one last summer and I’ve never looked back! Let’s just say it’s almost better to get burnt by the sun’s rays than it is to be slathering your body up with the toxic chemicals these products are comprised of. Learn more about these harmful ingredients and the benefit of mineral-based alternatives here. A little disclaimer; Zinc Oxide/Titanium Dioxide-based sunscreens are more “pigmented” than chemical sunscreens, so don’t expect the white “tint” to fade away completely- a small price to pay to avoid toxins if you ask me! I have yet to try the COOLA option linked above, but it has rave reviews and it’s one of the only more natural sunscreens with a skin-tone evening feature so this would be a great product to use on your face! I’ve been loving Herbivore‘s products lately and use the Rose Mist before applying my facial moisturizer, so it would be a great product to utilize (in addition to your moisturizer) for restoring hydration to sun-exposed skin and also for freshening up during a day at the beach. Sun hats & sunnies aren’t just chic accessories- use them to protect your delicate eyes and facial skin! Less sun exposure ultimately equals less wrinkles! I’m in love with my Lo & Behold Naturals peppermint lip balm and would probably opt for swiping some sunscreen on my lips before applying it (as it doesn’t have SPF). But the tin is not very beach (or sand!) friendly so I may try this COOLA one on a trip with lots of sun exposure.
OUTFITS & ACCESSORIES
I’m definitely the type of beach-goer that would be all set for the week with a few bikinis, some sunscreen, and a pair of sunnies because all I care about is laying in the sand all day, every day! Apart from these essentials, I will usually pack some denim shorts, casual graphic tees & tanks (this is another swimsuit cover-up option in a pinch, but I’m not crazy about the combo of sunscreen skin and tight clothing), summery sandals (at least one nice pair of flats and one pair of heels/wedges), and some breezy dresses. I typically don’t even bring jewelry, but I was too excited about the Sugarfix by Baublebar for Target collection not to share these fun and affordable options and I think you could really mix and match them with any and all of the dresses I’ve linked. P.S. I’m calling it now- I think these Steve Madden Jaylen wedges will sell like hot cakes so if you like them, buy them NOW! Chloé originally released this style, then Mark Fisher came out with a dupe last summer that was perpetually sold out (and it looks like the same is already happening again this year). These wedges are practically identical to both high-end pairs for less than half the price of the designer dupes! Yet another reason to love Steve Madden!
“Spring Break Packing Guide” Photographed by Emily Davis
© Emily Davis
Valentine’s Day is upon us and while many of you are currently on the hunt for the perfect date night dress, I wanted to feature a fun and flirty look to show you that cliché slinky red dresses don’t have to be your only option. Whether you’ve got a fun Galentine’s girls’ celebration planned or a dinner reservation with that special someone, its always fun to think outside the box and a create a look that’s unexpected yet festive. I pulled together this one with several well-loved closet staples (you can see how I styled them in past outfits via the links below!), and I get such a sense of accomplishment when I make a completely new outfit with things that I’ve worn so many times before. Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to treat yourself to a pretty new piece, but I definitely don’t think it’s a necessity- pull together pinks, reds, and/or feminine accessories and you can easily create a love-worthy look. Sending you ALL lots of love this Valentine’s Day! ❤️
H&M Chiffon Blush Bolero Jacket (no longer available, similar options linked) Also worn here
Forever 21 Maroon Knit Pencil Skirt (no longer available, similar options linked) Also worn here
Urban Outfitters Heart Closure Crossbody (no longer available, similar options linked)
Happy first day of February! Although I’m a little confused as to where January went, we are one month closer to Spring, so I can’t complain! I bought this Zara top during their sale while visiting NYC and I couldn’t wait to feature it here – I love all the different textures created by the various crocheted patterns – and the sheer back was such a pleasant surprise! As I started to build looks around this top, I realized that I could showcase two options for Valentine’s Day just by mixing jackets and accessories. It may be a little non-traditional for V-Day, but I think these looks would be perfect to wear to the office (with a cami underneath the shirt and maybe some white slacks instead of skinnies!) or even if you have a casual date-night on your calendar! The Forever 21 blush coat and MNG red tweed jacket have the perfect Valentine color palettes without being too festive and over-the-top. One of my favorite Valentine’s Day memories was my first one spent with Luke when he got tickets for us to do a ropes course together (even though it’s the furthest thing from his ideal date activity! 😂 ). It was such a unique experience to do together and I will cherish that memory forever. ❤️ Have you made plans for Valentine’s Day 2017 (or maybe Galentine’s!) yet?! Tell me what you’re doing (and what you’re wearing!) below! Happy February, y’all! 😊
Zara Black Embroidered Blouse (no longer available, similar options linked)
Forever 21 White Jeans (linked above)
MNG Red & Black Tweed Jacket (no longer available, similar option linked) Also worn here
Shoemint Black Ankle Boots with Cutout Detail and Buckles (no longer available, similar options linked) Also worn here
“Black & White Valentine’s Day Two Ways” Photographed by Luke Bowes
While we saw so much during our first day in Rome, we still had lots of landmarks on the itinerary for day two – the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City & St. Peter’s Basilica, and gelato breaks to squeeze in between all of the sightseeing. 😉 Get ready for one busy summer day in Rome!
We began our day at Rome’s single greatest monument and one of the “new wonders of the world”, the Colosseum. As I mentioned in the first part of my Rome Photo Diary, I took a couple of art history courses prior to this study abroad trip and it made me truly appreciative of the art, architecture, and history of Italian culture so getting to see all these famous works in person was life-changing. The Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre ever built, has a storied past. I will admit, aesthetically it’s much more pleasing to look at from the outside but being inside where gladiators once violently fought to the death, where animal hunts and public executions took place to provide a spectacle for the public, was chilling. Luckily it’s not what it used to be, but the fact that a place in which humanity witnessed some of the most barbaric forms of entertainment is still standing today, so many centuries later, is absolutely incredible.
An interior view of the Colosseum.
In the mid-morning we continued our tour with a walk through the Roman Forum, stopping along the way to snap photos of adorable Vespa’s. The Forum was the center of Roman life in the imperial times, an ancient market and meeting place which also housed many important government structures. There are lots of reminders throughout the city that emphasize just how old Ancient Rome actually is but compared to structures such as the Pantheon and Colosseum, it’s hard to visualize how long this civilization and their creations have actually been around. The forum is a great place to reminisce on the “golden age” of Rome and imagine what it once was – a shining example of power and community.
We continued our walk through the center of Rome until we made our way to Altare della Patria, the monument built in honor of first Italian King Victor Emmanuel and the spot where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier resides. An impressive large white marble building, the bottom section contains a museum dedicated to the unification of Italy, but go to the terrace for what most consider to be the best panoramic view of Rome. As seen in the very first photo in this post, you’re able to get a great look at both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum from this spot.
A group of stilt-walking street performers pose for a photo in one of the piazzas we passed through on our way to Vatican City.
First on our Vatican City itinerary were the Vatican Museums, a group of buildings with 54 total galleries which house the vast papal art collection. Perhaps the most notable part of the museum is the Sistine Chapel, in which Michelangelo painted the elaborately frescoed ceiling and where his famous “Creation of Adam” can be seen. They don’t allow photography in this area, but I would definitely recommend you visit the Sistine Chapel even if you don’t have time for any of the rest of the surrounding museums. I’m much more of a fan of Michelangelo’s paintings than his sculptures (Nothing compares to Bernini) and this ceiling illustration is incredible and something you just can’t miss when in Rome.
This spiral staircase is one of the architectural highlights of the museums.
One of the most famous ancient sculptures ever, “Laocoön and His Sons”, on display in the Vatican Museums.
If you do have longer to explore the Vatican Museums, there are many great paintings by world-renowned Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and Caravaggio on display throughout the numerous galleries. I would, as always, advise you to do research about these pieces and artists prior to your visit so that you’re able to truly appreciate seeing them in person. Wikipedia is a good place to start. I made flash cards for my art history classes with a printout of the work glued to one side and all the important information about it on the other and I actually found it helpful to take these cards with me to the museums and cathedrals so that I could quickly refer back to them while browsing the museum.
The Gallery of Maps, a long corridor with an illuminated ceiling and huge, entrancing Italian maps is another highlight of the Vatican Museums.
Famished from an eventful day, we stopped for lunch at the first restaurant with outdoor seating that we could find and grabbed some gelato afterward for our walk to St. Peter’s Square.
A view of Vatican City, the smallest “country” in the world, from an open museum window.
There are so many adjectives that can be used to describe St. Peter’s Basilica. Grand. Opulent. Monumental. But no combination of words I could string together would do it any justice at all. It is the holy grail of Catholic Churches and the site of which so many historic events have taken place, including the coronation and inauguration of Catholic Popes past and present. Both Michelangelo and Bernini were on the design team of the new St.Peter’s Basilica, a shining example of Renaissance architecture. There was so much beauty to take in that I thought it would be better appreciated from the floor but unfortunately, security disagreed. 😂 It makes for a good story though, right?!
Bernini’s bronze “Baldacchino” guards the tomb of St. Peter.
We returned to Rome in a daze, still absorbing all that we’d seen throughout the day. We stopped into Ristorante Strega for a late dinner and enjoyed wonderful wine & wood-fired pizza on the beautifully ambient tented patio. We ended our meal on a sweet note with a photogenic and delicious tiramisù.
Since it was our last evening in Rome, we made one last pit stop to the Trevi Fountain before calling it a day. It’s always beautiful but like most of Rome, it has a certain romanticism at night. We decided it was the perfect ending to the first chapter of our Italian adventure.
Summary of Rome Travel Tips
- Visit the Colosseum and imagine a time when gladiators once inhabited the arena.
- Roam through the Roman Forum to get a glimpse of the oldest neighborhood of the Roman Empire.
- Stop by Altare della Patria for an unmatched panoramic view of the city center, where both the Forum and the Colosseum can be seen.
- Take a minute to watch and even interact with the street performers. Italy is one of the few places where these talented artists seem to captivate locals and tourists alike.
- In the Vatican Museums, head to the Sistine Chapel first and spend as much time in the rest of the museum’s galleries as your schedule allows.
- Make flash-cards to act as your museum guide, loading them up with all the information you could ever want about a particular piece.
- Stop for gelato frequently. 😋
- Appreciate St. Peter’s Basilica from your feet, not from your back.
- Don’t be discouraged to re-visit your favorite spots.
“Rome Photo Diary; Part II” Photographed by Emily Davis
© Emily Davis
Oh Italia… As I began to put together this post, I realized that I went to Italy in 2012 which means it was almost 5 years ago… and that makes me feel REALLY old. But five years later, and this trip still holds a special place in my heart and I dream of the day I’ll return all too often. This study abroad trip was special for many reasons. One of my best friends and I got to go together, it was my first time taking a photography course abroad (and one of my first photo classes), and it was a learning experience unlike any I’d had before in which I discovered so much about myself and saw the world from many differing perspectives, including those of my classmates and professors. Our first destination on our Italian tour was the capital city of Rome, where we imitated Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday”, ate our weight in pasta, pizza, and gelato (well really that happened during the entire trip, but luckily we didn’t waste any time), and fostered a deep appreciation for art and architecture. Here is the first part (of two) of my Rome Photo Diary, including travel tips for your own visit to the Eternal City. Enjoy and, as always, please voice questions/suggestions/opinions in the comment section!
We arrived at our convent (yes, we stayed with nuns, which was super cool minus the 10 PM curfew) late in the day, so I jumped in the shower to freshen up and our whole group went out for a pizza party. We wandered back to our Roman residence slowly, entranced by Rome’s lively evening activities. Entertainment is provided in every piazza by night from flame-throwing performers, spray-painting artists, to even a few silent mimes. We had just landed in Italy less than 10 hours prior and we were already so in love with the vibrance of Rome that we discovered during our indirect route “home”. This was the first trip that really showed me the importance of exploring your neighborhood upon arrival. It’s helped so much in my own travels to be able to know the distance and relation between monuments, my residence, and other points of interest. I also encourage that this time to be dedicated to discovery – no pulling out a map (grab your hotel’s business card to hand to a cab driver in case you walk too far), no zig-zagging to see all the things you’re most excited to see (you’ll have time for those later), just be in the moment and see where your feet wander because that’s when your fondest travel experiences will be created. (Right) Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the center of Piazza Navona, a popular meeting place during the day and at night. You’ll hear more about my love for Bernini later. 😍
One of our photo assignments in our class was to choose a subject to make a “series” of photos about, and after just 24 hours in Rome, I knew that I would be seeing plenty of vespas and cute cars. However, to make it feel a bit more “me”, I chose to document the ones I saw in my favorite color (it’s truly Tiffany Blue – hence the logo and color scheme on the blog) but I brake for anything remotely sea-foam hued and teal, too. This little Volkswagen was parked right outside the convent and I just had to stop and snap it. Rome, Italy in general honestly, is a wonderful destination for photographers and artists. There are so many beautiful details to be seen if you take your time wandering through the cobblestone streets. It’s easy to get side-tracked on the way to your destination, but I think the little minutiae of a place often times tell a better story than the most famous landmarks.
Italian selfie before our first day of Roman adventures! We got ready early and headed to San Pietro in Vincoli, a Roman Catholic church close to our convent that houses Michelangelo‘s “Moses” sculpture. I’m not sure if it was because we were there so early, but this was one of the emptiest cathedrals we visited on our entire trip, and a visit is definitely worthwhile. It’s a beautifully simplistic (compared to the many more elaborate Roman Catholic cathedrals) church and it’s probably your best opportunity to see a Michelangelo piece that everyone isn’t crowded around.
First up on our class itinerary for the day was the Pantheon. Being able to go to Italy was especially exciting for me during this time as I had just taken art history courses the previous year, so I had extensively learned about all the things that we’d be seeing. Reading up on these amazing buildings, artists, & pieces is the only way to have a truly enriching and inspiring encounter when seeing them all in real life. At first glance, the Pantheon may seem rather plain in comparison to the many frescoed (painted) and gold leafed domes you will see in most of the cathedrals. If you didn’t know that it was built in the 2nd century and has been in continuous use since the 7th century, it may seem rather boring. If you weren’t aware of how the oculus (dome) was constructed by layering differing formulas of ancient concrete on top of each other so that each layer was lighter in weight than its predecessor in order to create a sound structure long before the invention of modern concrete, then you may think the Pantheon is rather uninteresting. You can probably gather that I’m quite fond of this particular structure – it was one of my favorite places in Rome, but my point in all of this is that these sights are only as interesting as you make them. You can look at pretty paintings and intricate buildings all day long but your visit is much more meaningful if you know the story behind why this art was created and the incredible power and relevance that it still wields so many centuries later.
We were dying to see the Trevi Fountain so we made our way there during our free-time between the class-scheduled activities and fell in love with this Roman landmark. To make our time with the Trevi even more exciting, an editorial shoot was wrapping up upon our arrival and we witnessed a team of people primping a tall, fur-cloaked model between the photographer’s shots (Look closely in the bottom right corner and you’ll see the model!). Even though it was during broad daylight, I was immediately overwhelmed by a wave of whimsy that I’d soon associate only with this magical fountain. We returned a handful of times during our week in Rome, and each time we left more enchanted than the time before.
After our morning of sightseeing, we stopped at a street-side trattoria and had more than enough bread, olive oil, and pasta to power us through the rest of our jam-packed itinerary for the day. I’m *sadly* not exaggerating when I tell you that I actually gained 10 pounds in Italy (over my month-long visit), but all the incredible food I ate was more than worth it. True Italian cuisine is hard to find anywhere outside of Italy – take advantage during your visit. I brought Rick Steves’ Italy Guidebook with me and while I didn’t use it much for scoping out sights (as most of that was already planned out for us), I did use it almost exclusively to find incredible restaurants. There wasn’t a single eatery he recommended that was bad. If you’re going anywhere in Europe, I highly recommend using the resources provided by Rick Steves.
Next up was San Luigi dei Francesi, a Roman Catholic Church which, most notably, contains three paintings by Baroque “master of light”, Caravaggio. This cathedral is pretty spectacular itself but seeing Caravaggio’s work in person was breathtaking. I discovered “The Calling of St. Matthew” and its significance in my art history course and being able to study it with my own eyes was beyond magical. His work is relevant even as a photographer. I recall one of of my professors showing his images in class a year after my trip as an example of how light can be dramatic, yet controlled and manipulated.
Incredible ceiling of San Luigi dei Francesi.
Our final stop of the day was at the Galleria Borghese, which was hands down my favorite museum/cathedral in Rome, and definitely among my top 3 of the entire trip. I mentioned Bernini earlier and his works are what make this museum so memorable. Bernini’s legacy can be seen throughout Rome, including in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican city, in several piazza fountains, and in Santa Maria della Vittoria (yet another cathedral worth a visit). The pieces on display at the Borghese gallery, which were commissioned by Cardinal Borghese when Bernini was in his early 20’s, are truly revolutionary. No artist had ever captured movement frozen in time through a slab of marble like this young sculptor and his work is so incredibly rendered with every single detail that it actually brought tears to my eyes. I was enthralled by all of the Bernini sculptures in the Gallery, but “The Rape of Proserpina” always comes to mind when I ponder on the talent that he possessed. To create the grasp of Pluto’s hand on Proserpina’s thigh – to make something that realistic out of marble… Observing that sculpture first-hand had me in a puddle of tears. So if you only have time for one museum when in Rome, make it the Galleria Borghese. P.S. The gallery doesn’t allow photography (the above photo is from a mystery church in Rome… PLEASE comment below if you know which one!), but even without documentation, I will always remember the incredible art I had the pleasure of seeing at this small jewel of a museum.
We ended our first day in Rome watching the sunset from atop the Spanish Steps and witnessed the Italian sun drown the western-facing building facades in a warm summer glow. Almost every square, piazza, open public area is great for people-watching but the steps create the perfect atmosphere to do as the Romans – slow down and appreciate life.
The Trinità dei Monti hovering high above the Spanish Steps.
Summary of Rome Travel Tips
- Take a neighborhood walk upon arrival to grasp your bearings.
- Don’t get too obsessed with all the famous landmarks and sights that you fail to notice the little things.
- Visit San Pietro in Vincoli to see the lesser-known (but nonetheless incredible) Michelangelo sculpture, “Moses”.
- Do your research. Know the history and significance of the art and architecture you want to see to make your visit 100 times more meaningful and inspiring.
- The Pantheon is a non-negotiable, so be sure to include it in your list and thank me later.
- Visit the Trevi Fountain. Fall in love. Go back every day, tossing a coin held in your right hand over your left shoulder each time.
- Eat lots of pasta using Rick Steves as your guide to the best restaurants at any and every price point.
- Visit San Luigi dei Francesi for a beautiful example of an elaborate Roman Catholic church, and to see three of Baroque superstar, Caravaggio‘s famous paintings, including The Calling of St Matthew.
- Reserve Galleria Borghese tickets here and visit this museum over any others in Rome. If you will have time to do several, then others are definitely worthwhile, including the Vatican Museums, which I’ll cover in Part II. But make Galleria Borghese a priority over the many more popular gallery and museum options.
- See more of Bernini’s sculptures in Roman Catholic cathedral Santa Maria della Vittoria.
- Observe the hustle and bustle around you while taking some time to reflect on your day seated on the Spanish Steps.
“Rome Photo Diary; Part 1” Photographed by Emily Davis
© Emily Davis
There is something very unique about the first week of a new year. For most of us, it’s the first week back to work and school after the crazy busy yet relaxing Holiday season but with the newfound motivation that our resolutions bring, it seems that nothing can get us down – even the frosty air and grey winter skies. So as I venture back into the real world, this is the year that I am challenging myself to focus. To focus on the positives, even when the negatives seem all-consuming. To focus on the task at hand and be present enough to get back on track when I catch myself wasting time or energy on things that are of little importance. To focus every single day on the “goals” (I’m not keen on resolutions) that I’ve set out to accomplish this year in all aspects of my life (health, relationships, career, etc.). To focus on my own unique voice, personal style, and awkward quirks that make me who I am instead of trying to fit my persona into a pre-molded cookie cutter. Of course, these habits and mind-sets don’t develop overnight, but the way I see it is that I have a whole year to put them into practice in my every day life until razor-sharp focus becomes second nature to me. 😊 What goals have you set for the new year? Do you like the idea of doing a “word of the year”? I’ll let you know my thoughts on this resolution method next year! 😂 Happy New Year, Epicureans!
“Winter Blues” Photographed by Luke Bowes
This time of year, it’s easy to get in the habit of moving on quickly. Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season and before you know it you’re back home for Christmas, and ringing in the New Year a week later. With all of the hustle and bustle associated with this season, I think sometimes we forget to reflect on the progress and memories we’ve made within an annual chapter of our lives. Many of you may remember the Instagram “Best Nine”, a round-up collage of your most-liked photos of the year that were flooding your feeds immediately after Christmas for the first time last year. I began thinking about this “best nine” concept and, just like it’s tough to choose our top nine favorite photos, the same could be said for the best moments, memories, and growth spurts within the year. For me, this year has been proof that change will happen whether you’re ready for it or not, so I finally decided to just grab the reins, hold on, and see where it led me! I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me!
1. Celebrating Epicurean Emily’s 1st Birthday It may sound strange to some, but the milestone of one year of blogging called for some balloons and confetti. When I first began my blog, I was just looking for a platform to discuss and showcase my many passions after struggling to find a career path that would incorporate them all. Not only am I proud of my mission and the work featured on my corner of the internet, but I’m very proud of myself for putting in the late nights editing photos and writing posts, spending my weekends planning and shooting content (and counting my blessings for my #InstagramBoyfriend, without whose support system I would’ve given up a hundred times over by now), and constantly putting in the work with no compensation. Even if you love something, it’s very hard to work for free. But I’m choosing to make sacrifices now so that I can one day live a life that I don’t need a vacation from.
2. Paying off Debt/Building Savings Like most of my fellow millennials, I was on a paycheck to paycheck financial situation until this year. I had some outstanding debt that I wanted to take care of before our summer move and I needed a chunk of dough in savings to stay afloat for a couple of months while job-searching in my new state. The only way to do this in a short period of time was to literally save every penny I made. I only bought necessities and cooked almost every meal at home. I completely paid off my debt and contributed to savings with every single paycheck. With Luke’s help, I continue to make financially smart decisions and it feels amazing to be prepared not only for emergencies, but also for upcoming financially-draining events like vacation and Christmas. I realize that not everyone has the luxury of being able to put most of their paycheck into savings, but even setting aside a few hours worth of compensation each week builds up more quickly than you think and automatically puts you in a more comfortable financial position to handle all the unexpected things life throws your way.
3. Strawberry Picking/Open Farm The quest continued this year for truly good food, and I was lucky enough to prosper from some amazing farms and meet the hard-working and passionate farmers behind them. Visits to my local farms were among some of my favorite experiences this year. From strawberry picking at Mountain Meadow Farms to spending a Sunday at Blue Whistler Farm, 2016 was the year that I truly tasted the difference and, as a result, set higher standards for the produce and meat that I was consuming and discovered the undeniable positive impact local farming provides for my community.
4. Meeting the Family Luke and I went to England this summer and after a year and a half of dating, I was finally able to meet all of his family. I was pretty nervous initially, but they welcomed me in right away and I cherish the time I got to spend with them and am already looking forward to our next visit. I’ve heard several in-law “horror stories” and I feel really lucky to be with someone whose family treats me as one of their own.
5. Clean Beauty Journey After learning about the health hazards and toxins in the personal and cosmetic products I use every day, I have spent the last half of the year converting the products in my medicine cabinet and make-up bag to non-toxic options. The synthetic ingredients in these products have been proven, in most cases, to be a prominent factor in the development of cancer, they wreak havoc on the reproductive, endocrine, and respiratory systems, and they have been linked to allergies and skin conditions such as dermatitis and acne. And the worst part? The companies making these products have absolutely no unbiased over-sight by the FDA. We are literally paying for products filled with chemicals that are hazardous to our health. For me, the choice to cut toxins was not necessarily to benefit my health. Similar to my feelings about America’s food “industry” developed over the last couple of years, I could no longer fathom supporting deceitful companies by spending my money on their dishonest products. Once I’ve gathered some accurate opinions on alternative products, I plan to write informative posts about my clean beauty journey.
6. Tea at Sketch One of the biggest “pinch me” moments of 2016 was most definitely experiencing the wonderful world of multi-themed tearoom and restaurant Sketch in London (Read about my visit here). Although most would consider afternoon tea at Sketch a luxury, I thought it was worth every penny because it created a memory that I will cherish forever. And I don’t think I will ever visit a more posh restroom. 😂
7. Starting a Life with Luke Luke toyed with the idea of going back to business school last year and we were packing up a U-Haul to move to North Carolina 10 months later. It’s been a year filled with changes; moving out of my childhood home, getting accustomed to a new city, figuring out how to live with a romantic partner, finding a new job, making new friends – I would be lying if I said all of it wasn’t overwhelming. But there’s no one else I’d rather have holding my hand while I watch everything around me change than Luke. Adjusting to this new chapter has been the furthest thing from easy, but it has strengthened our relationship every day and I am so proud of the man that I am building a life with.
8. Buying a Full-Frame Camera I finally took the plunge of buying a truly “professional” camera this year (you know, only two years after graduating with a degree in photography…) and it has been fun to familiarize myself with my new professional powerhouse (and I think it’s made Luke enjoy photographing for the blog a lot more 😉).
9. Being Home for the Holidays It’s still such a surreal feeling coming back to my family’s house and being a visitor. I lived in my childhood home for almost 20 years so it’s taken some adjusting to feel comfortable in my new apartment that’s so far away from my family. When I returned for the first time, I realized that while everything had changed in my life, my friends and family were still there doing what they’d always done. It was an eye-opening realization for me to come home and think about how if I’d stayed there for familiarity, my life would be on such a different path – one that would involve taking the long way around to accomplish my goals and dreams. I really enjoyed being able to come home for the holidays for the first time and am so thankful for a family that welcomes me “home” with open arms, but also accepts that I now have a new home.
What are some of your best nine moments, memories, or progress of 2016??? Tell me below!
“Two Thousand Sixteen Best Nine”
Written by Emily
All Photographs © Epicurean Emily
Please tell me I’m not the only art nerd/color lover out there who looks forward to hearing Pantone’s new Color of The Year each December. 2016’s colors have been some of my favorite yet and I find it fascinating to look back and see how Pantone’s picks influence fashion, design, and art annually. As most of you probably know, there has definitely been no shortage of blush on Epicurean Emily this year and my craze for this “Rose Quartz” color all began with this beautiful Forever 21 coat. (I even wore it on New Year’s Eve last year!). My love for this lady-like pink has influenced several purchases this year and I’ve filled my closet with pieces like my favorite blush Forever 21 sweater seen here and here and lots of pretty pink accessories, as seen here. Burgundy is one of my favorite fall and winter hues, so I decided to have a little fun pairing my bright tights with a pastel coat. I love that this outfit is still festive for the Holiday season without the traditional color combo of red and green. Speaking of green… Have you seen 2017’s official color of the year??? I love the theory behind the choice of this color for the upcoming year and can’t wait to see what it will deliver in the fashion world.
“Blush & Burgundy” Photographed by Luke Bowes
One evening before we headed back home for Thanksgiving, I was running around town trying to find a styrofoam cooler for our Blue Whistler Farm turkey’s five hour journey to Tennessee. I ended my search at Wal-Mart with a non-styrofoam cooler (apparently that’s not a thing anymore???) and on my way home I saw the cutest Christmas tree lot glowing with sparkly lights.*Cue the Christmas music* So the first thing on my photo agenda when we returned home was to do a shoot surrounded by the beautiful trees – nothing gets me in the Holiday mood quite like the scent of pine and fir. I wanted to wear red to contrast with the trees, so my H&M burgundy cape and my 100% Pure Lip Caramel in Red Velvet added the perfect amount of pop. One recurring winter wardrobe issue I always seem to have is resisting the urge to wear jeans every day so over the years, tights have become essential cold-weather accessories for me! It’s so nice to be able to work my favorite closet pieces into any-season staples. With the help of a good pair of tights, I can wear my spring skirts in the coldest of temps. Now if I could just find a way to wear my furry robe outside in the cold… 🤔 What are your winter weather styling secrets? Leave a comment below telling me your favorite way to bundle up for cold weather!
“Christmas Cape” Photographed by Luke Bowes
Another day, another outfit with this blush sweater… We all play favorites, right?! This look features lots of old favorites – the vest and the jeans are both from my high school/early college American Eagle-obsessed era. I’m always super proud of myself when I find pieces that I continue to wear years after purchasing, especially ones from when I was younger (I’ll put it nicely by saying my style has “evolved” since high school). 😉 Since the military trend is alive and well this season, I wanted to share some tips for choosing flattering pieces that tend to traditionally lean on the masculine side. As always, fit is key and even though this look is “borrowed from the boys”, that doesn’t mean that you should settle for shapeless silhouettes. In the four or so years that I’ve had this vest, I’ve received countless complements on it – usually from women who say they haven’t been able to find a military vest that isn’t too stiff and boxy. The secret to this one (and what you should look for if you’re on the hunt for a flattering utility vest) is the cinching just above the waist. It makes it so very versatile – if you want to wear it with a form fitting outfit, cinch it tighter and if you’re going for a grungy or effortless look, leave it looser. I have worn this one over just about everything and in every season. I don’t really consider myself a minimalist and would never describe my style as “neutral” but as I’ve grown up, I’ve really learned to appreciate the pieces that I can style a million different ways.
“Effeminate Military” Photographed by Luke Bowes
Emilia Italian Restaurant is located at 16 Market Square in Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.
One Friday evening about a month before our move to Durham, Luke and I went out for an impromptu date night. Hoping to enjoy what was left of our short time left in Knoxville, we wanted to go to a place where we knew we would have a wonderful meal. We couldn’t agree on any of our old favorites so I pulled out my phone to browse the Yelp app and discovered Emilia, the brand new sophomore restaurant of Chef/Owner Matt Gallaher, whose Knox Mason has been a fresh southern staple of the downtown community for nearly four years. It was clear from the moment we entered Emilia that this place was special, and the rest of Knoxville seems to agree.
Until this year, there had been an absence of Italian restaurants in the downtown area since its recent revitalization, with Primo being the first and opening just a few months before Emilia. After our dining experience at Emilia, I think it’s safe to say that there won’t be many more Italian joints sprouting up in the area any time soon as Emilia presents some stiff competition. Named after Chef Gallaher’s grandmother and sister (both called Emily) and the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy in which many quintessential Italian diet staples are produced (balsamic, prosciutto, and parmesan, to name a few), Emilia can be enjoyed by both native Italian palates and by fellow epicureans who appreciate modern culinary inventiveness. Chef Gallaher, who worked his way up to sous chef at luxury hotel and resort Blackberry Farm, recognizes the importance of eating seasonally and supporting local farms. Emilia has in-season specials, usually featuring ingredients bought right outside their front door at the Downtown Knoxville farmer’s market. The pasta is made fresh in-house every day, with their pasta extruder producing every shape and size imaginable.
The knowledgable chefs that are working with local farmers and utilizing local ingredients whenever possible are pioneers of the future of food and I think the success that Chef Gallaher has had is a testament to how much he truly cares about his community and his craft. I’m curious to see the impact his skill and presence will continue to create in the Knoxville food scene, keeping a close watch as I’m aiming to make a stop at Emilia every time I come back to visit. 😅
Above; The Insalata Caprese with Tennessee-grown heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, sweet basil, olive oil, and saba, “balsamic’s ancestor”. Left; I was in town recently visiting family so I dragged them along for this restaurant post. Our collective dishes? Dad chose Orecchiette with Ragu alla Bolognese, Mom chose Polenta and Meatballs Pomodoro, and as usual, I picked the dish with the pesto – the Pappardelle Primavera. Right; The Polenta and Meatballs Pomodoro, a unique twist on the classic Italian spaghetti & meatballs, seems to have found a home on Emilia’s permanent menu.
Above; The Pappardelle Primavera with pesto sauce, greens, toasted pine nuts, finished with parmesan. Left; The Orecchiette with Ragu alla Bolognese boasts a hearty tomato sauce made with local Mitchell Farm Beef, Heritage Farm Pork, and Strauss Veal. Right; Another shot of the Insalata Caprese because you just have to appreciate the art of plating.
Like any good Italian eatery, Emilia has an extensive wine list including house wine on tap and many more options by glass or bottle. They also have a full bar and a specialty cocktail menu echoing the Italian palate with the use of spirits such as Campari and Montenegro.
For “Dolci” we shared Emilia’s most popular dessert, the Butterscotch Budino – butterscotch pudding topped with salted caramel, whipped cream, and pine nut crumbles. I don’t even have to tell you how it was because that spoon shot describes it all – pure decadence!
Caroline Farris took on the task of designing the interior of Emilia “on a budget” as she describes, combing through local thrift stores for the pieces now hanging on the whitewashed walls. She acid-washed the mirror display herself, dug through vintage to find rustic maps of Italy, and arranged thrifted ceramic plates (a few contributed by Gallaher’s family) into subtle but statement-making installations. I love the finished product of her aesthetic – a juxtaposition of southern modern and traditional Italian, which mimics the well-curated menu presented at Emilia.
Emilia was voted the Best New Restaurant in the Knoxville News Sentinel’s 2016 “Best of Knoxville” Awards in September – a mere four months after their Market Square restaurant opened in May.
Since it has been so unseasonably warm, I’ve been trying to take advantage of the fact that I can still wear skirts without tights, even though I’m a little bitter about the fact that fall layers are so impractical right now. I threw this outfit on for date night with Luke a couple of weekends ago and posted the look on Instagram and it got so much great feedback that I decided to take some proper photos of it. Lately I’ve had a hard time finding inspiration for new outfits to feature and when I was getting dressed for that Friday night out, this one came together so organically. I tend to be a person that can become paralyzed by the thought of not always meeting expectations (including my own). It’s not that I don’t work well under pressure, it’s just that sometimes the whirlwind of to-do lists and deadlines really puts a damper on my creative process. When I get overwhelmed with life, I try engage myself in projects and/or activities to recharge my right-sided brain. What I’ve found that helps me work through a creativity rut is to;
- Be inspired Save and print images that you see online (or tear pages out of magazines) of things that inspire you. It doesn’t always have to be clothing – it could just be a painting with a beautiful color palette or a photo that you love for aesthetically pleasing reasons. I take these clippings and put them in a space where I’ll see them often. I’m currently working on building a “mood board” to display these inspirations on my office walls.
- Just go shoot The problem with creatives is that they’re their own worst critics. We constantly doubt ourselves, our abilities, and our talents while people with opposite skill sets are out there getting stuff done because they are confident (even if sometimes that stuff is sub-par). The only way I’ve found to cope with this crippling feeling is to take the first step. Whether that’s grabbing my camera, hopping in the car, and driving until I find a subject begging to be photographed or completely dismantling my closet and trying 100 different combinations until I find an outfit I love. A big part of being creative is being in love with the process of your craft and if it starts to feel overwhelming, just go create something without an agenda in mind.
- Find your tribe Even though I am a pretty introverted person, I always appreciate time spent with fellow creatives. Since moving, I have joined a blogging community here in North Carolina and it has been such a great experience to just be able to share stories and celebrations with a group of women who are connected by a common interest. It’s important to have a network of people in your life that make you want to be your best self.
“Blush & Brocade” Photographed by Luke Bowes
So I guess it’s almost time to break out those Winter coats, which seems odd considering our Fall has been more like an enjoyable summer in terms of temperature… I know come February I’ll be daydreaming of laying on the beach, so I guess when we get a little extra sunshine and warmth, I can’t be mad about it – although it is hurting my fall layer game! 😂 Just like everything else seems to be categorized by editors and influencers these days, coats are “staple” pieces – AKA, you can “spend a ridiculous amount of money on a nice coat because you’ll have it forever”. And I think if you A) have a comfortable income and B) find a timeless coat that fits you well and is made out of durable material, then go for it! There’s nothing wrong with splurging on something that is good quality, but the reality is that many of us just don’t have the luxury of doing that unless we save up for months, even years, and go without in the meantime. And I don’t know about you, but I HATE being cold. The holidays, electric blankets, and not having to shave my legs 🙊are the only things that help me make it through winter alive. So since I care about you all so much and want you to be not only warm, but CUTE during the “most wonderful time of the year”, I’ve rounded up my coat and jacket picks for the season that are all under $200! As a whole, I was super impressed with the Zara and ASOS collections of outerwear as I thought they were great quality while still being affordable and they had lots of styles to please every girl and flatter every body type (ASOS has Petite, Plus & Curve, and Tall options!). These may be a little pricier than my usual Forever 21 pieces but I just couldn’t find many that I loved there, but if you can, definitely snatch them up! I have two old styles from there like this blush one that have lasted me several winters and I still wear them.
Vests are the perfect outerwear for Autumn, as they can be easily thrown over anything from long-sleeved tees, to flannels and sweaters, making them versatile for the unpredictable Fall weather (especially in the south – November is coming quickly and our weeks are still consisting of 80 degree temps, with a day or two in the 50’s for good measure…Fall, where you at???). 🙄 I love a good utility vest like this Modcloth one. It’s olive hue adds an autumnal feel to any outfit and is especially good for the current weather when it’s still warm enough to wear short sleeves but you need an additional layer. The Goodnight Macaroon Herringbone Vest is a good option if you want a more classy style – it’s still very versatile and can be the perfect statement piece of any look – perfect for throwing over your office attire for your morning commute, or heading out for date night worn over a nice sweater, jeans, and over-the-knee boots.
PARKAS & PUFFERS
I can honestly say that the coat that gets the most day-to-day wear in my closet is, and has been for a few years now, my beloved green parka. It can accompany an edgier outfit for a night out, but in my opinion, it really shines when paired with the most casual streetwear for on-campus, errand-running, or rainy days. The parkas above are perfect for fall (and winter, depending on where you live). Maroon and Olive are some of my favorite colors, and while I wear them a lot in the Autumn months, I consider them year-round staples in my fashion color palette. A nice, CUTE, puffer coat is something every girl should have – super warm and practical for winter’s cold temps and more importantly – wind chills, these options will keep you bundled up and cozy with their faux fur accents.
Shearling was one of the biggest trends on the FW16 runways including those of Coach, Altuzarra, and Burberry, and while at first I had a hard time getting on board with it, after discovering these beauties, I think I’ve changed my mind. Faux shearling is much more wearable (and kinder) than the real deal. I don’t want my coat to be so thick that I look like an armless marshmallow (Yes, I know marshmallows don’t have arms but that’s the best analogy I can come up with rn) and I’d rather the sheep kept their skin. 😃 I’m smitten with these options because they incorporate the trend as a trim and/or thin lining, instead of the runway versions that looked uncomfortably bulky. This Asos Blush one is at the top of my wish-list! 😍
CLASSIC & NEUTRAL
When it comes to shopping on a budget, neutral is always the way to go! Sure, I like the idea of having a hot pink coat, but in reality a grey or camel shade would get a lot more milage and when you don’t have extra income to regularly spend on clothing, you want a wardrobe filled with interchangeable and versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched so differently that they always seem fresh. Whether you’re an essentials-only budget conscious girl, or you just prefer neutrals, these are the coats for you! I’ll never say no to a classic skater shape, like this Asos grey skater coat because they are the most flattering coat (on my body type, anyway) AND when you go ice skating in the winter, they make you feel like Michelle Kwan with their flirty flared “skirt”. 🙈 I think we’ve all welcomed blush as a new neutral over the past year, so it’s high time for me to continue my color obsession by purchasing this Boohoo blush coat.
TRENDING; MILITARY & VELVET
Some would say military-inspired styles and plush velvet were the stars of the FW16 runways, so if you want to be very avant-garde, push the boundaries in one of these statement coats. A lot of people argue that buying trendy “investment pieces” is a no-no, but while I am someone who likes to keep up with trends, I won’t discard a piece I love after its season of spotlight has ended. I think trends exist most importantly to constantly be improving and re-thinking fashion and what it can be. And while they are important for setting the tone and theme of each season, I don’t think anyone who truly loves the creative side of fashion gets too obsessed with what’s “in” style and what’s “out”. Fashion trailblazers wear what they love, whether it’s a vintage 1960’s gingham dress, a 1990’s choker, or modern sock boots, and the best will pair all of their favorite things together in one balanced look.
This is my personal “Not Gonna Happen” wish-list; the frivolous coats that I will buy in another lifetime, in which I am a wealthy heiress. 😂 I really do think a lot of these could be worn in more ways than you’d think, but my bank account doesn’t agree. I especially love this Zara checked coat (the pink faux-fur collar makes me feel some type of way 😍) and can you imagine how cute it would be to wear on Valentine’s day (It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a disposable income…) 😅I’m just really feeling the need for a pink coat this year, since I now have a pink couch. Totally justifiable, right?!
I’ve always wanted a nice, quilted vest to serve as an autumn wardrobe staple. Simple ones can be worn over any top and look best with a pair of jeans and boots- everyone’s go-to Fall outfit. The J. Crew Excursion Vest has become a classic for so many of us, but after trying it on a couple of years ago, I couldn’t ignore how boxy it made me look because of it’s lack of shape. One thing that I really try not to compromise on when clothes shopping is fit. When I was packing up my things to move, I cleaned out my closet many times before selecting the final cut of items that would be coming with me. It was during this time I realized how ill-fitting most of my high school wardrobe was – American Eagle low-rise jeans that never sat flat against my waist, too-tight Abercrombie tees (judgement free zone here at EE) 😅, and huge Victoria’s Secret PINK bling hoodies that I was so afraid of outgrowing (c’mon Emily, they had SEQUINS) that I sized up in. So when I actually started buying items that weren’t from the juniors’ section, I really honed in and paid attention to how well they fit and whether or not they were unique enough to justify tailoring if they didn’t. We may not realize this consciously, but all of us care about fit – we all have that one pair of jeans that we’d rather dig out of the dirty laundry and re-wear, over a clean pair hanging in our closet. We all want to wear pieces that make us feel confident about our bodies and since we all have different shapes and sizes of bodies, it’s important to just keep visiting the fitting room until you discover which styles and shapes work on you. Personally, I try to avoid oversized pieces because they never really look like what I’m going for (I’m a 5’10” wannabe model in a 5’5″ girl’s body). I just have to accept the fact that the baggy, effortless streetwear style doesn’t do me any favors in terms of being flattering and I need some shape in certain places to prevent me from looking short and stubby. I found this tailored vest at a Zara clearance sale in England over the summer, and was over the moon when it fit like a glove and when I walked out paying less than $20 for it! I love the little gold accents and I really prefer how overall chic it is compared to lots of quilted vests that tend to look a little too rugged and outdoorsy for my taste. Have you discovered a look that just doesn’t work on your frame, no matter how badly you want it to? Tell me your fit horror stories below in the comments! #TeamTightAbercrombieTee 😂
“Vest Weather” Photographed by Luke Bowes
Does anyone else struggle with shopping weaknesses? The items that aren’t really necessities, but upon seeing them, it’s love at first sight and you can’t fathom leaving the store without them? Shoes are the one item that always get me in trouble! I saw these sparkly dream shoes on another blogger’s Instagram back in September and, however impractical they may be, they immediately went to the top of my wish-list. But I had some other things that took precedent over these frivolous shoes, such as a brown pair of fall boots (I have like 10 black pairs and no brown at all #Goth). I combed the internet over for the perfect boots before browsing the mall and, to my dismay, discovered that the sparkly shoe I wanted most had sold out online. I was pretty upset, but then I thought that maybe it was a sign that I shouldn’t be wasting my money on such an impractical pair of shoes. I made a trip to the mall later that week to scout out some possible contenders to step up my boot game and there they were – the glitter Mary-Jane’s that had been on my mind since September. I ran to the nearest Nordstrom associate I could find and literally said, “If you have these in a 7.5, I’ll take them!” As with any impulse purchase, all logic went out the window and I ate Ramen for the rest of the week (kidding… but it will probably be winter before I can buy myself a pair of brown boots “for fall”…) 🙂 However, I am here to inform you that although they may seem quite the contrary, these unique Mary-Jane’s are actually pretty practical. Or maybe I’m just so obsessed with them that I’ve been brainwashed into thinking that they look good with everything. A lot of girls consider leopard print to be a “neutral”, meaning it can be worn with just about anything. But since I’m not a fan of animal print, I have had to come up with other versatile options that add a pop of personality and a dose of fun to any look. For me, glitter is a “neutral”. Although sparkles scream “kindergartener”, they can look very fresh and modern on the right piece. Mary-Jane shoes are a huge trend for fall so I love that these are right on trend for the season, but I also think their modern pointed toe, chunky heel, and chic details (like the circular clasps), will keep them on staple status in my wardrobe for many years to come. What are your biggest shopping weaknesses? Tell me all about them in the comment section below!
“Twinkle Toes & Pussy Bows” Photographed by Luke Bowes
There’s just something so magical about autumn, and when it’s finally time to break out the sweaters, I’m like a kid on Christmas morning – I have the hardest time picking out which one to wear first on those initial chilly fall days. I nabbed this over-sized cardigan at H&M while in the U.K. over the summer and I was so excited to wear it that I almost draped it over myself for the journey home, only refraining because getting airplane germs on my newest and prettiest cardi is my idea of torture (germaphobe over here!). So when I walked outside to a brisk morning breeze for the first time this past week, I ran back inside and grabbed this warm hug of a sweater and was ready for anything, because it GOES WITH EVERYTHING! At this point I’m just keeping it in my car at all times, in the event that I ever find myself without a jacket and/or in need of a little comfort. I’ll be wearing my new baby over relaxed tees and joggers, casual daytime outfits (like the one in this post), and with dresses and boots for cool autumn evenings. I may even brave the pumpkin patch while wearing it (thank goodness for stain remover, am I right?). What are some things that always get you in the Autumn mood?
“Cozy Cardi” Photographed by Luke Bowes
When shopping on a budget, one thing that I always struggle with is finding unique pieces from mainstream, affordable fast-fashion retailers. Sure, they have pieces to fit almost every personal style, but sometimes it’s hard to find special things that aren’t so trendy that everyone else will have them too. But every so often you come across the perfect piece, which is what happened when I fell in love with the tom-boyish cut and fit (and colors!) of this sweater dress. Because of the looser fit, you’re able to wear it both casually with sneakers for a street-style inspired look or with a pair of simple, strappy heels to dress it up. I’m on the shorter side of the spectrum so to get that effortless off-duty model style, I think I would have to hem a dress of this length to be able to pull it off with sneakers. While I didn’t intend for this outfit to be a part of my fall trend series, it seems the perfect opportunity to give the jewelry of the season – the choker necklace, some recognition. 90’s trends have really been gaining momentum over the last few years, with the choker being one of the 90’s most iconic accessories that is currently being re-imagined in many different materials, including intricate lace and luxe velvet. I went with a simple tattoo choker to add some interest to my neckline without detracting from the statement-making sweater dress. Which decade inspires your style the most? I think I pull little bits and pieces from all of them! 🙂 Leave a comment below telling me your favorite!
“Striped Sweater Dress” Photographed by Luke Bowes
I recently visited the U.K. for the first time over the summer. We were primarily there to visit Luke’s family and to sort out his visa situation, the latter affording us a couple of days in London. Paris has really set the bar unfairly high for any future visits to famous capitals. I tend to have high expectations when visiting big cities, as I’m always on the hunt for the next location I’ll fall in love with. I feel like I didn’t spend enough time in London to truly get a feel for it, but the two 10-hour days I was there didn’t excite me as much as I was hoping it would. I did, however, manage to shoot some of the things that I was inspired by during my short time there so keep scrolling to see London through my eyes. I’m looking forward to returning one day and doing some of the things we didn’t have time for on this trip, such as visiting a market (We were planning on going to Camden Lock Market), having a picnic in Kew Gardens, seeing the inside of Westminster Abbey, and visiting the Notting Hill neighborhood to walk down the photogenic streets lined with pastel walk-ups. London is just so big and busy and when you have to be back to catch a bus on time, going to places across town is quite risky. I’m looking forward to exploring more of London in the future, but I think it’s safe to say that Paris continues to be my favorite city thus far. 🙂
P.S. Read about my visit to Sketch, a non-traditional option for an exquisite afternoon tea experience in London here.
(Left) Beautiful architectural details inside St. Pancras rail station. (Right) A swan swims tranquilly in St. James Park, a peaceful escape from the city located directly in front of Buckingham Palace.
One of my favorite little quirks about London was the window boxes decorating almost every residence that were overflowing with colorful flowers.
(Left) Facade of Westminster Abbey where royal coronations and weddings (including that of Prince William and Dutchess Kate) have been held for nearly 1,000 years. (Right) Interior of the former Covent Garden farmer’s market. Now a fashion, food, and cultural destination in London, Covent Garden was one of my favorite areas because it was so lively and had something for everyone.
(Left) There were so many beautiful stoops throughout London, but I particularly loved this pistachio green door. (Right) The Elizabeth Tower, which houses the famous bell known as “Big Ben” is a part of the Houses of Parliament building and is a true London landmark.
(Left) View of the London Eye from the North side of River Thames. (Right) One of my favorite window displays on Oxford Street, London’s most famous shopping area.
Interior of St. Pancras station where we arrived to and departed from our London day trip.
(Left) Gorgeous gardens and elaborate golden gates surround Buckingham Palace, the royal residence. (Right) The quintessentially British red double-decker bus driving down Oxford Street.
Harrods was one of my favorite places in London. I’ve been to several high-end shopping centers, including many in Dubai and Paris, but the shopping experience at this British department store is unmatched. Instead of being elegant in a grandiose way, such as Galleries Lafayette in Paris, shopping in Harrods is like walking through a chic fashionista’s closet and being invited to play dress-up. I walked right up to a Chloe Drew bag (which is at the top of my designer wish list) and examined the fine craftmanship in my own hands. Most stores would only ever have a $2,000 bag on display through a glass case, not just casually sitting pretty on a shelf. I’ve never felt more welcomed to browse through numerous rooms and several floors of high-end pieces than I did here. If and when I ever have money to spend, I will go back to Harrods for the experience alone.
(Left) We didn’t arrive in London in time to see the famous changing of the guards at Buckingham, but we did get to see a trooper of the Household Calvary horse-back so that’s even better because HORSES. (Right) The National Gallery, a world-renowned art museum which houses an incredible collection of oil paintings, is situated at the top of Trafalgar Square, a popular meeting and common area.
“London Photo Diary” Photographed by Emily Davis
© Emily Davis
I’m beyond excited to finally feature my favorite versatile and wearable trend for the Fall and Winter 2016 season – the bomber jacket. This cold weather staple comes in a plethora of fabrics from simple satins to heavily embroidered works of art. No matter which style you prefer, this piece is about as versatile as they come and to prove it, I decided to feature my H&M army green satin bomber in my first ever post with multiple outfits curated around one item. I have been wanting to do a post like this for quite some time because I think it’s a great source of inspiration if you’re on the fence about a trendy and/or expensive purchase. If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly on the hunt for versatile closet staples that afford you the most bang for your buck. Keep scrolling for all three of my looks created with this fabulous bomber jacket, along with styling tips and, as always, product links. Leave me feedback in the comment box below and let me know if you would like to see more of these “3 in 1” posts!
Bombers aren’t just for casual days – if you’re looking for a fun and on-trend replacement for your blazer, look no further than the new jacket in town. Bomber jackets instantly ooze a playful and sporty vibe and offer that effortless look that we’re all aiming for. Ready to throw on a bomber over your workwear? My biggest tip for pulling off this trend at the office is to alternate fits – a tighter and more structured bomber paired with loose yet work-appropriate pants (such as the H&M pair that I’m wearing) OR an oversized bomber over a pair of classically fitted cigarette trousers. When it comes to incorporating trends in a subtle way, there is always a balancing act involved (i.e. fitted vs. oversized, pattern vs. solid, texture vs. smooth, etc.).
Bombers are great for nearly any occasion, but I can’t help but think that they were made for a sassy night out on the town as they’re not too bulky, can be worn unzipped like a cardigan, and they’re the perfect complement to a glam outfit. I have opted out of wearing a jacket on cold winter nights out for fear of ruining my outfit more times than I can count but now that this bomber is in my life, I think it’s safe to say I can now look fab and be warm simultaneously!
And last, but certainly not least, everyone’s favorite casual look – a white tee and jeans. A bomber jacket is the perfect piece to dress up this go-to style. I’ve also worn mine with joggers before because let’s be honest – I wear joggers more often than I wear jeans on my days off! Keep this look plain and simple with a solid t-shirt and lightly distressed, fitted denim. I love the combination of the olive green jacket and my tan Nike Thea’s, and these colors are heavily in my fall color palette rotation so I know I can pair this dynamic duo with many more outfits.
“The Brilliant Bomber” Photographed by Luke Bowes
Click carousel photos for product links
The universal theme for the fashion trends of the Fall and Winter 2016 season was most definitely opulence, with designers’ meticulously patterned creations made with gilded details flowing down nearly every runway. So I wanted to incorporate the FW16 fabric of choice – brocade in my trend series to showcase a realistic (and affordable) way to justify it being a necessity in your fall wardrobe. I recently had a request to see some non-traditional, work appropriate outfit options and I think this look is perfectly professional while still maintaining personality. I’ve never worked in a corporate atmosphere (with the exception of my high-school internship to which I wore ill-fitted khakis…Let’s all take a moment of silence in remembrance of those awful pants and my pre-college lack of style..) but I think the most important aspect to always look for in workwear options is fit. Finding a good fit is all about balance – not too loose and just tight enough to be flattering – and honestly it can sometimes be tricky, especially if you’re on a budget. I always visit the store to try on clothes whenever possible to make sure they fit me well. Remember that you can always have things tailored, too if you like the overall fit but want a piece to be tighter or shorter in certain places. We all have different body types and shapes and we have to accept that no one looks good in everything. Find shapes and cuts that you feel great in and build your wardrobe with variations of those – be it with different colors and patterns or slightly different silhouettes. If you’re wanting to incorporate a little more character into your workwear, the best technique in which to do so is to find small repetitive patterns and soft yet unique colors in classically professional silhouettes, This H&M brocade floral skirt is a timeless pencil skirt shape in a subtly on-trend fabric. A large print or bright color tends to be more on the risky side of business attire as it can sometimes be too distracting. Finish the look off with office appropriate accessories like this DKNY satchel and these blush Sam Edelman pumps and you’re good to go! Let me know if you’d like to see workwear looks more regularly represented here on Epicurean Emily and which other FW16 trends you’d like me to cover (list here) and previous posts in this series here and here.
I was wearing;
H&M Bow Knit Blouse; Similar Here
H&M Brocade Floral Skirt; Exact Here
“Business in Brocade” Photographed by Luke Bowes
The official start of fall is this week and with it comes hayrides, Pumpkin Spice lattes, and sweater weather! As a constantly cold person, I take every chance I get to wear a sweater – it’s the next best thing to my warm and cozy sweatpants and makes me look pretty put together so easily. I used to never buy sweaters from fast fashion retailers because I thought that they would be such poor quality that they wouldn’t last the season. But I went on a little (or big…) Forever 21 sweater haul last winter when I realized that all of my sweaters that I’d had since high school were looking a little ragged. My updated collection saved me during the winter and most came out looking practically brand new. I’m really careful with all of my clothes (yes, I am that girl that will take a $17.90 Forever 21 blouse to the dry cleaners and pay $4 to have it cleaned) but I aim to be even more gentle with sweaters. From cashmere to cotton, knitwear is all very delicate and should be washed as such. Here are my top sweater care tips;
- Hand wash in lukewarm water with a dash of detergent and let soak for 10 minutes.
- Gently ball up sweater to squeeze out the majority of the water. Don’t wring – it will cause elongation.
- Rinse out tub and add clean water. Place sweater in water and swish around to remove any sticky detergent that may be clinging to the fabric.
- This may be the most important step – Always, always, ALWAYS lay your sweater out flat to dry, even if you didn’t hand wash it and just threw it in the washing machine. When it comes to knitwear, heat is the enemy which is why its soaked in lukewarm water and NEVER dried with heat.
- If your sweater is still excessively damp, let it dry on a flat surface with a white towel underneath (the white prevents the bleed of the dye from the towel onto the sweater).
- Gently re-shape the fabric as it dries, paying special attention to the sleeves as this is where elongation is most prone to happen. Grab either side of the flattened sleeve and gently tug in opposite directions.
- Once dry, fold and store. Never store knitwear on hangers as it causes stretching.
Follow these knitwear care commandments and you will keep everything from affordable synthetic sweaters to 100% cashmere pieces looking their very best!
P.S. Every piece listed is under $45! Happy shopping!
These are the perfect sweaters that you’ll be wearing for the milder fall temps. This Zara short-sleeve sweater is sporty but sophisticated and because of its turtle-neck you could continue to layer it over or under warmer pieces for winter. The H&M Lace detailed sweater is a must-have staple piece for fall because you could use it to dress up a pair or jeans or tuck it into an on-trend skirt or pair of trousers (brocade or floral print, anyone?) and it comes in 3 great colors (I love the blush, but the olive is too good to pass up for fall). I’ve already purchased this H&M striped knit dress after falling in love with it on Instagram. The fit is great because it’s not too tight but also not too loose, and if you’re afraid of looking too matronly, the slit shows the perfect amount of skin to make it flattering. The Missguided options I’ve linked keep everyone’s favorite off-the-shoulder trending pieces relevant for fall with Bardot OTS shapes and cold-shoulder cut-outs.
These sweaters are a bit more traditional, but you all know my style is anything but boring so while these options may be classic and some timeless, they have unexpected details. The Forever 21 basic mock neck sweater is the most affordable and most versatile piece to have in your fall wardrobe. I love all the colors and the mock neck collar provides modernity. A camel-colored sweater like this H&M merino turtleneck is a year-round staple that can be worn just as well with cutoff shorts as it can be with boots and jeans. Since I normally wear high-waisted jeans, I’m always looking for the perfect cropped sweater like this Forever 21 cropped turtleneck – and I love every color that this one comes in! They’re all so perfect for autumn! Military and nautical influences were seen all over the FW16 runways. This Zara patch sweater and Zara striped navy sweater are a great way to subtly incorporate these of-the-moment trends into your outfits without investing in a statement piece that may go out of style in a few years. If you need a basic ladylike sweater to wear both to the office and to a chilly September date night, look no further than this Zara basic sweater. It comes in any color you could want and what attracted me to it was the button detail on the cuffs. It’s the little things, am I right?
Cardigans & Ponchos
Cardigans are a girls best friend in these transitional months. You can still get away with wearing tank tops and strappy dresses in the fall by simply throwing a cardi over them. On my casual days, I also utilize my favorite flowy cardigans by pairing them with black leggings and a tee which is a great technique to dress up the college girl uniform. This Zara classy buttoned cardigan reminds me so much of the classic Chanel aesthetic. Pair it buttoned with a tweed skirt (another Chanel staple), or leave it unbuttoned over a simple LBD (little black dress) for a more effortless elegance. This H&M draped knit cardigan is perfect over everything – even jeans and a white tee as shown on the model, and it comes in several practical colors that you’ll be able to get a lot of mileage out of! Ponchos and shawls are big for fall, but I usually have a hard time finding affordable ones because they tend to be a little too Coachella-esque with crocheted patterns and knit tassels. So I was ecstatic to find this Forever 21 color blocked poncho with a simple cut and a great color palette – neutral enough to pair with almost everything, but also interesting enough to shine as its own statement piece. The Zara cowl neck cardigan is a great option for a more dressy basic cardigan. Personally, I like a little draping on the cardis that I wear with jeans or leggings to keep me from looking boxy, but the product photos show this one worn with jeans as well. I would tend to wear this one with dressier pieces such as patterned trousers and a blouse or a skirt or dress. If you need styling ideas, Zara has created a different look for each of the many colors that this cardi is available in, so that is also a great resource for inspiration!
“Fall Sweater Guide” written by Emily
Click photos for product links
Luke and I always try to make the most out of our weekends. We’re not the type to frequent the movie theater every Friday night – we’re always on the hunt for unique experiences. Because of our recent move, Durham is our oyster and with sites like Get Offline and plenty of contacts at Duke who are more than happy to lend recommendations, I don’t see us getting bored any time soon. I found out about Blue Whistler Farm on Facebook by seeing their “Open Farm” event. According to their website, Open Farm and Markets are typically held every second and fourth Sunday of the month but the next one will be held on October 9th. See their event calendar for more activities and “Like” their Facebook page to be in the know with up to date info (in the event of a cancellation, etc.).
Anyone close to me knows about my strong feelings against factory farming. It is ruining our country in so many aspects that I don’t think were initially anticipated by corporations and the FDA, but they believe that they are in too deep now to admit that they were wrong and remedy the situation. Mass-produced livestock eats primarly (or in most cases, only) GMO-produced feed which makes them abnormally large, equaling more meat. Antibiotics are heavily administered to prevent infection from breaking out because of the confined quarters. When we eat this poor-quality “meat”, we are ingesting the GMO’s and the antibiotics as well. The run-off from their waste is toxic and spawns disease in vegetation (E.Coli outbreak in Spinach). If I kept typing all the things I despise about the American “industry” of farming, you would be reading this post until Monday. So when I find a special place like Blue Whistler Farm, I have to share it. This farm, located in Bahama, North Carolina (20 minutes north of Durham) is run by young couple Josh and Amy Sliffe. It is a sustainable farm using non-GMO feed and creating an environment on its 5 acres that allows the animals to fulfill their natural duties, “with the larger animals mowing, the smaller animals scratching and spreading”, the farm is naturally efficient. As someone who cares very deeply for animals, I love being able to see them in an environment that they were created to be in and that is exactly what Blue Whistler is all about – raising livestock the way they were meant to live, informing the community about these amazing animals, and providing that community with quality experiences and products. If we want to put an end to factory farming, we have to start supporting trustworthy, local farmers like Amy and Josh. P.S. I learned that the poultry eat lots of bugs, including mosquitos, and I’m here to say that we had no issues with bug bites whatsoever during our visit (I don’t even remember flies being a nuissance).
There is plenty to do and see on open farm day. Carrots and apples for the rabbits and pigs are welcome (and I would recommend bringing some – nothing like some food-inspired motivation to bring the animals up close and personal). Chicken holding 101 was a favorite among the children, but the tire swing came in a close second. There were plenty of newborn animals for this open market, although the piglets were my favorite (I just can’t handle the cuteness of those curly little tails)! After making our way around the farm, we stopped at the Bluebird Bakery stand to grab some sweet corn and blackberry ice cream (unexpected combo, I know, but so delicious!).
Visiting Blue Whistler Farm has been one of my favorite things we’ve gotten to do so far in Durham. It makes for a unique weekend experience and spending some time on the farm gives you an unmatched sense of peace that you will carry for the rest of your Sunday and into your week. The whole family will love it and it’s a great educational opportunity for the kiddos to learn about farming and livestock. Bring a picnic if you like, or grab a pastry or ice cream from BlueBird, find a bench or a spot in the grass and just take some time to appreciate farmers like Amy and Josh who are committed to sharing their sustainable practices with their community – and don’t forget to leave without some Blue Whistler Farm fresh meat and eggs. I’m pretty picky when it comes to eggs – I like a rich, orangey yolk, but thanks to their chickens’ variety of diet these are some of the best eggs I’ve ever had!
We haven’t been living here in Durham for all that long, but we’ve somehow managed to eat at Monuts a few times already. I feel like I should be ashamed of going to one restaurant multiple times instead of trying new places, but when you find a place as special as Monuts, you will be willing to wait in line all day for a peach pistachio donut. From what I’ve heard (I can’t tell you because I’m a repeat customer at only one restaurant), Durham is quite the foodie town. Over the next two years I plan on eating around to see if Bull City truly lives up to the title of the “foodie capital of the south“, and of course I plan to document my experiences for all of you, too. 😉 Something that particularly excites me about the Durham food scene is that “farm-to-table” dives seem to be the name of the game. I am a strong supporter of local farming and eating seasonally so I’m thrilled that this “trend” is catching on and I hope it continues as more and more people begin to think about where their food is coming from. Monut’s menu is made by hand from scratch using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. They began selling donuts off of a tricycle at the local farmers market, upgraded to a restaurant, and moved to the current Ninth Street location after they out-grew their previous store-front. I’ve only been on the weekend so I don’t know how applicable this is Monday-Friday but if you want a table, you should be there when they open. For this review, we arrived about 10 minutes prior to the eight o’clock Sunday morning opening and there were already a handful of people waiting outside. Saving tables isn’t allowed until you’ve placed your order and gotten a number to put on your table-top, so finding a spot is definitely a matter of good timing. The bar however, is first come first served so if you see a couple of free chairs, snatch them up and wait on the bartender to take your order.
Something that is really unique about Monuts is that they are not only a bomb bakery, but also a full-service breakfast and lunch joint. It’s the perfect brunch spot because there is truly something for everyone – not just donut aficionados. Their variety of breakfast sandwiches is vast, but even if you can’t find anything on the main menu to tickle your tastebuds, there is always the option to build your own sandwich or create your own breakfast or lunch with a customizable side plate (think avocado toast and maple Sriracha home fries, to name a couple of choices). This time around, I tried the “Heirloom Summer” sandwich with a plain bagel, chèvre cream cheese, heirloom tomatoes, over-medium farm eggs and basil pesto. Albeit a little challenging to eat, the flavor combinations in this sammy were amazing and it featured some of the freshest and most flavorful tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. Luke chose the “Guac Dirty to Me” – house breakfast sausage, farm egg, red onion, queso fresco, and – of course, guacamole between a fresh biscuit. You can’t go to Monuts without getting donuts, so I chose the Peach Pistachio yeast (traditional donut) while Luke chose the Blueberry Pancake (cake donut). I’ve eaten many donuts in all my carb-loving years, but Monuts are continually some of my favorites and these two flavors were no exception. I couldn’t believe how much the blueberry pancake tasted like an actual pancake and Luke and I were arguing about the science behind gourmet donut making before coming to the conclusion that maybe buttermilk was the secret pancake-flavored ingredient.
I know I don’t have much validity to say this quite yet, but Monuts is definitely my favorite Durham dive so far. I relate to Leslie Knope in more ways than one but in particular, our undying love for breakfast foods is eerily coincidental – I could eat eggs, avocado toast, waffles, or even donuts for every meal and be perfectly satisfied. I imagine that kind of versatility is what keeps people coming back to Monuts time and time again – their menu is anything but boring and with their seasonal offerings, you could come once every week for a year and never have the same breakfast twice. But these sandwiches and sides are mere supporting characters to their superstar – the Monut donut. With classics such as plain glazed to more gourmet options like the North Carolinian – a sweet potato cake donut with a bourbon & sea salt glaze, Monuts donuts are sure to please the entire crew.
“Monuts Restaurant Review” Photographed by Emily Davis & Luke Bowes
© Emily Davis
While I love shopping for all kinds of autumn clothing, stocking up on fall footwear is my favorite. I’m sure all of you who have been readers for any length of time know that Target is where I do most of my shoe shopping. They almost always have fashion-forward styles at amazing prices and I’ve had Target shoes that have held up for over two years with regular, seasonal wear. However, my favorite red bullseye retailer is a little lacking in the boot department (seems to be the case more-so this year, but I’ve honestly never been overwhelmed with their shoe selection for the colder months). I know that I can be very particular – which can be a blessing or a curse depending upon the day, but when I shop for boots at reasonable retailers, I notice an annoying pattern. I see boring colors, repeated shapes year after year, and poor quality materials (I’m looking at you, faux-suede!) There is no modernity in their winter selection. I know that many women are in search of cognac riding boots and western-style booties come autumn and I understand the need to cater to the masses, but Target’s design department seems to produce cute pieces for women with more unique personal styles in every other season and leaves us out in the cold come winter. So I’m writing this guide with the girls who don’t want to look like equestrians and cowgirls in mind – the girls who want to have trendy, stylish, AND affordable options. I know that many of these selections may be a bit above the Target price-range, but I would rather pay just a bit more to have better quality shoes for the colder months since I feel that the winter takes such a toll on them and cheap shoes begin to look really worn out after only a few outings. Comment below and tell me your favorite shoes from the post and also which fall staple item(s) you’d like me write about next!
Over The Knee Boots
I must admit that Over the Knee boots intimidate me a little bit. Maybe because my first pair had a narrow heel and the tops folded down and reminded me of a trashy pirate Halloween costume. Lots of people love wearing OTK boots under leggings which makes it even harder for me to appreciate them. But as much of a love/hate relationship that I may have with over the knee boots, I must admit that they really are a versatile staple, making your favorite summer dresses autumn-appropriate or spicing up a pair of skinnys for date night.
Flats work for any and every season, whether you’re running to the office or vacationing in Europe. The lace-up trend is still going strong and I’m still loving it. However impractical they may be, the pom-pom flats are at the top of my wish-list because they’re so unique and I love the understated and muted colors. Slipper loafers are also having a moment right now, and while I can’t afford the embroidered Gucci pair, I love the unique striped detail on these Zara ones.
I have a thing for booties, y’all. I would consider my personal style a tad on the edgier side and it can be very hard to find tall edgy boots that don’t make you look like a hooker… or a pirate. So booties are my go-to by default.
#Trending; Patent & Velvet
Sock boots are huge this year, making them the only decent thing to come out of Kanye West’s Yeezy fashion line. Personally, the true “sock” boots aren’t for me (I don’t like my shoes to suffocate my ankles) but they have spawned a lot of modern options donning patent leather and clear heels, which I can definitely get on board with. Velvet was all over the FW16 runways and if you’re a little intimidated by the trend, starting with a velvet statement shoe is the way to go because it can be styled both femininely or edgy and it’s not overwhelming either way.
I just purchased these Adidas maroon superstars and I’m obsessed with them. I know they will get so much use over the next few months. Please note that this style is only available in Men’s and “Big Kids” sizes. BK sizes will fit up to a women’s size 9, just subtract your normal size by two (I’m normally a size 7.5, so I ordered a 5.5 in Big Kid size).
“Fall & Winter Shoe Guide” written by Emily
Click photos for product links
Even though fall doesn’t “officially” start for a few more weeks, I’m sure you’re already dreaming about Pumpkin Spice lattes, layers, campfires, and boots – I know I am! So to celebrate everyone’s favorite season, I’m beginning a series starting with this outfit showcasing wearable looks inspired by the season’s biggest trends on the Fall/Winter 16 runways. I know you’re probably looking at this outfit thinking, “Is she kidding?! That looks like something I’d wear on Easter Sunday!” But that is part of what excites me about high fashion – it’s constantly redefining the industry’s standards and everything seen in mainstream fast-fashion retailers and department stores is heavily influenced by designers’ collections. This spring-evoking color combo of yellow and dusty pink was one of the most unexpected trends seen on the fall/winter runways of both Delpozo and Marissa Webb. The traditional fall color palette is undoubtably my favorite (give me all the burnt orange, olive green, and maroon!) but I have been loving this soft begonia shade of pink lately so I’m excited to have an excuse to continue wearing it into the Autumn months. This look is definitely still wearable in these late summer weeks when the temps are still high, but if you wanted to make it feel a little more appropriate for the season, I think a great pair of culottes would be a great transitional piece as they resemble a skirt but aren’t too tight so they’ll keep you cool (I’ve linked my favorites below). I’ll be sharing more of my favorite trends for fall throughout the season in addition to some shopping guides for my autumn must-haves over the next month or so. Take a look at the best FW16 trends and let me know which ones you’d like me to re-create by leaving a comment below!
I was wearing;
“Mellow Yellow” Photographed by Luke Bowes
Pubs in England are about as abundant as Starbucks in America. Going out for a pint at the local pub is a regular English tradition that has been around for centuries and remains a common past-time in modern England. During our holiday we were able to experience several different pub settings – some had lawns with outdoor seating and even a playgrounds for the children, others were very dark and donned with a rich and masculine traditional interior. On my itinerary for pubs to visit in Nottingham were two that are a little more known to be tourist destinations but are still frequented by locals because of their long-standing good reputation – Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and The Pitcher & Piano. Claiming to be the oldest pub in England and dating back to 1189 AD, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem sits at the base of Nottingham Castle. The pub is carved out of Nottingham’s network of caves and sits atop cellars that were once used as the castle’s brewery but are now being used to store the brews available on tap – making for a true “cold one” no matter the season. Since the weather was so lovely, we sat outside on the spacious patio and enjoyed our drinks while watching the sun set over Nottingham Castle. Inside, the setting is much more intimate – misshapen sandstone cave walls divide the pub into several different “rooms” and a more private courtyard is located at the rear. It would seem that there is never a bad time to grab a pint at Ye Olde Trip. Sit on their patio in the summer while enjoying the best view of Nottingham Castle, or warm up by the fire inside the cozy caves during the winter.
Housed inside an old Unitarian church, The Pitcher & Piano provides a very unique pub experience. Although P&P is a national chain, the Nottingham facility may be one of the best, boasting tucked away tables in all the nooks and crannies of the old cathedral, and an outdoor terrace offering plenty of seating with a full bar in the summer. We just went for drinks but The Pitcher & Piano is a full-service restaurant as well – serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner and offering a traditional roast dinner on Sundays. It was a great place to mingle with friends over a drink (or two)!
What better way to celebrate the last month of summer than with a bright and cheery flamingo-printed piece?! I actually scored this adorable Kate Spade piece in a New York consignment store that Keiko recommended last summer. When I have the time (and the patience!), thrifting is one of my favorite ways to shop. Some of my most beloved items are pre-owned pieces, and it’s so rewarding when you find a gem after all that searching! I’ve discussed my mission to feature affordable fashion here on Epicurean Emily before, but I thought in addition to linking reasonably-priced pieces of my outfits, I would also start sharing some tips for shopping on a budget as well. “To thrift or not to thrift?” I’ve never met anyone that has been in the middle of the spectrum – you’re either obsessed with looking through racks and racks of old clothes or you think that sounds like something you would be asked to do as a punishment. I do love consignment shopping, but I definitely have to be in the mood for it – which doesn’t happen all that often (I’m practicing my patience!). Thrift stores are really a hit or miss shopping experience. Something that happens to me quite regularly – in all shopping scenarios, is that I have a hard time finding things when I’m in search of them. That is especially true in my thrifting experience – I go in to look for a certain item and since I can’t find the one thing I’m looking for, I discard all the rest. The key to consignment shopping is to go in with an open mind and just see what you can find. It takes a lot of patience, which is why I reserve it for once in a blue moon. But if you enter with a positive attitude, you’ll walk out of the store with a bag full of second-hand steals! I also try to thrift shop when I’m out of town because my options back home are so limited. I try to get in touch with the locals and fellow vintage lovers before a trip to see where they frequent to find their most loved pieces. Yelp is also a great app that can be used to scope out new stores if you don’t have someone that you can contact for recommendations. They compile reviews and assign ratings to local businesses (restaurants, salons, shops, they do it all!) so it helps to hear from locals whether a place is a treasure trove or an over-priced tourist trap. These are my top tips to conquer the thrift store! What are yours?!
Kate Spade Flamingo Print Blouse; Similar Here
Target Merona Nude Quilted Cross-Body; Similar Here
Target Mossimo Taupe Gladiator Heels; Exact Here
“Frolicking in Flamingo” photographed by Luke Bowes
I can’t believe I’m already saying this, but it’s Epicurean Emily’s first birthday! I began this crazy blogging journey with my first post one year ago today. The time has absolutely flown by, which I guess is a good thing because it means I’m still just as much in love with blogging as I was when I first started. A lot of people ask me what my purpose for starting a blog was and I know I’ve discussed my answer vaguely on EE before but in celebration of my blog-iversary, I’d like to re-iterate for any new readers and honestly just to remind myself why I work so hard to constantly create quality content.
I’m not going to tell you my whole life story but you should know that I’ve always been a bit of an oddball. In elementary school, I was a tomboy who would rather be drawing or playing outside with my dog than having sleepovers with my friends. I was terribly obsessed with the Jonas Brothers in HIGH-SCHOOL (middle school was about the oldest age where a boyband obsession was *somewhat* socially acceptable) and my senior quote in my yearbook is literally about having more JB t-shirts than days of the week to wear them. Because of all the quirky things that made me me, I was far from “popular” and never considered myself to be someone who people looked up to. But in recent years, I’ve discovered that there was one quality that people admired about me – my comfortability in being true to who I was (no matter how embarrassed my family and friends were for me at times). Growing up, I often wondered why I wasn’t like everyone else, but I realize now that being a little weird was truly the best blessing in disguise.
This generation of young people weigh especially heavy on my heart because they feel the overwhelming pressure of today’s twisted society so strongly at such a crucial time of their lives. With the advance of the internet and the skyrocketing of social media, teens today are constantly told who they should be, what they should do, what they should buy, and what they should wear. A large part of my mission here at Epicurean Emily is to encourage young people to fully accept who they are and to always be true to themselves in a world that is telling them the exact opposite. Embracing your weirdness and knowing what makes you unique can be the key to success. Beyond the comprehension of your own identity, I also encourage the constant pursuit of the best version of yourself. The minute you lose the desire to learn is the minute in which you will fail. Be passionate in your pursuance of knowledge – about anything at all that you’re interested in. I love photography. I love fashion. I love travel. I love food. Every opportunity I have to shoot, I’m trying new techniques and camera settings to learn how I can improve my images. I’m constantly looking for new editing programs and watching Photoshop tutorials on YouTube to learn new things and/or re-learn old things I’ve forgotten. I consider buying one fashion magazine per month a necessity because it’s a fresh source of all kinds of inspiration. I keep up with several fashion bloggers so regularly that I consider many of them to be old friends (See my favorites here). I feed my never-ending wanderlust by looking at Pinterest and travel blogs and planning itineraries for my future adventures. I’m always excited when a new restaurant opens in town and I research ways to improve my own cooking techniques at home and find new recipes through food publications and blogs.
I am a strong believer in the power of the internet. It’s an endless source of inspiration and education for everyone in our modern world. It has catapulted careers for people who are doing what I’m doing – sharing themselves online in hopes of inspiring someone. But all of us know that while the internet has many great perks, it is also one of the biggest platforms for the spread of negativity. Social media provides a barrier that makes it easy for people who are hurting to inflict emotional pain on others and no one knows that to be true more than today’s teens. I think a big reason for the rise of bloggers is because they are almost a light in the dark tunnel of the internet – a real person you can trust in a galaxy of companies competing for your constant attention. I love YOU (my readers) so much and all I want to do is create quality, wholesome content that elevates your life. While there are a few bad apples in the world of blogging, I think ultimately that’s what most of us are passionate about – helping you feel like the best version of yourself when you read our new post, see our photo on your Instagram feed, or view our far from perfect lives documented on Snapchat.
I began Epicurean Emily for a lot of reasons. It was one of the only creative venues where I could collectively combine everything that I was passionate about. I don’t just want to be a photographer. I don’t just want to be a fashion designer or stylist. I don’t just want to be travel agent. I don’t just want to be a food critic. I want to be all of these things and more. I want to be an inspiration for my high-school self – the girl who is passionately creative and consequently deemed an outcast. I want to encourage the introverted and shy that sometimes feel as if they don’t have a voice to speak up and let them know that the world is in desperate need of their unique perspective. I want to encourage people that it’s never too late to discover what makes them feel beautiful. I wore blue eyeshadow and “sensitive” mascara in high school, but I wanted to learn how to apply make-up correctly (Out of all the things my mother taught me, make-up application was not one of them – Still love you though, mom) so I watched beauty tutorials religiously and learned everything I know about make-up through bloggers (Thank you makeupbytiffanyd, pixiwoo, xsparkage, and kandeejohnson!). I want to show the fashion-obsessed college girls that it’s ok if you don’t want to wear yoga pants to class every day. Yeah, you may get some weird looks when you show up to class in stilettos, but if heels give you the confidence you need to ace your test or kill your presentation, then click-clock your way across campus. If you’re a girly girl who looks forward to doing your hair and make-up and wearing the perfect outfit every day, then allow yourself the time to get dolled up and pick out the perfect pair of shoes. If you’re the sporty opposite of girly and are perfectly happy going au naturel and wearing workout gear and trainers, then do that – lucky for you, athleisure is very IN right now! I created Epicurean Emily to be a judgement-free platform and source of inspiration for everyone (regardless of race, gender, religion, or social status) to come together to find new ways to invest in themselves. Whether you read my blog to get outfit inspiration, for my photography tips, to hear about my travels, or to see if the new restaurant in town is worth all the hype, from the bottom of my heart I truly appreciate every one of you who has and continues to make Epicurean Emily a success. I’m so thankful for the platform the world wide web has provided me to create my own community of Epicureans who celebrate each others’ weirdness! Cheers to many more blogging years!
Hello from Duke’s beautiful west campus! For those of you who haven’t heard… I moved to Durham, North Carolina! Luke began his MBA program at Duke the day after we got back from England and it has been pretty non-stop ever since. We’ve been “home” for a little over a week now and we’re doing our best to explore our new town, make new friends, and finish unpacking while jet-lag seems to be getting the best of us (I’ve barely stayed up past 9 since we’ve been home!). This is my first time moving and while I’m so excited to see what’s in store for us over these two upcoming years, it’s strange to be apart from everyone that has been a huge part of my life for so long. I’m trying my best to keep myself busy with the blog, social activities, and job hunting (and I’m trying to convince Luke of my need for a dog) but sometimes I get overwhelmed with all of the change. So like any basic white girl, I go on Pinterest to browse through quotes and find this one, “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” I will always love Tennessee and I’ll always consider it my home – it’s where I grew up and where my family is. But my dreams and passions to work in a creative industry just can’t be fulfilled there. While these upcoming two years are a mere pit-stop on the journey to bigger and better things, I’m trying to embrace this new season with open arms and remember that although the majority of us hate change, “great things never came from comfort zones.” Alright, logging off Pinterest now.
I was wearing;
“Summer Monochrome” Photographed by Luke Bowes
When most people begin planning at trip to London, they start with the basics – Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Hyde Park, and Trafalgar Square to name a few. At the top of my itinerary for London was Sketch, a quirky but oh so glam restaurant/art gallery in the Mayfair neighborhood of London. I have a bad habit of setting unrealistic expectations for almost everything, and I’m often disappointed that things are never as good in real life as I imagine them being. So when I find a place or an experience that not only meets, but EXCEEDS all of my wildest expectations, I just have to share with anyone that will listen! If you’re visiting or live in London and appreciate the finer things in life (hello, fellow Epicureans!), you should make dining at Sketch a priority!
Sketch is a work of art in itself and provides a truly unique dining experience. Located in an 18th century townhouse on Conduit Street, diners can choose from a variety of 5 different rooms based on the time of day and type of cuisine they’re in search of. Each separate space has its own “theme”, if you will. We were seated in the often-Instagrammed “Gallery” which boasts chevron-tiled floors, panoramic “sketches” by featured artist David Shrigley, rose-gold details, and the prettiest pink seats. According to this video, Sketch commissions a new artist to transform the Gallery, which is their main room, every two years. If I had to choose one interior that I would want to inspire the design of my own home, it would be Shrigley’s Gallery.
Sketch offers several options as far as afternoon tea goes. All are served with the same finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and desserts, but with your choice of tea, champagne, sparkling wine, or non-alcoholic cocktails. At £45 (~$60) per person (£57+ for alcoholic beverages), the basic afternoon tea is not cheap, but the experience was well worth the price tag and the restaurant is very generous with servings – order more of whatever you want and it is covered under your individual rate. Luke’s mom, Julie, and I each tried three different teas out of their selection of about 20 and we both loved every one that we tried (I’ve been craving the Jasmine Pearls green tea since we left!). When we told our waitress which tea we were partaking in, she informed us that they would be bringing all of our snacks out of the kitchen over the next two hours. We were all quite surprised, but it was really refreshing to be able to sit down and enjoy each others’ company in such a beautiful space and not be pressured to rush for the restaurant’s turnaround.
Our sandwiches and desserts arrived about half an hour after we were seated. My favorites were the coronation chicken sandwich (similar to chicken salad) and the mozzarella and pesto panini (wrapped in parchment paper and tied with a bow to keep warm). I saved the desserts for last and they were all divine, as well. I didn’t have a favorite because by the time I got around to eating them, I was so full of sweets that I just took a bite of each one so I could try everything. I used my sweet tooth on the sultana scones, served with clotted cream, fig, and strawberry jams and I was tempted to have another round since they were baked to perfection – not at all dry or crumbly.
The service at Sketch is a testament to its success. All of the staff seemed to thoroughly enjoy their jobs and their positive attitudes were something that I took notice to. Drinks were never dry, fresh plates were always offered, and multiple rounds of tea or dessert were encouraged. The restaurant seems to have a teamwork-oriented philosophy, with several different waiters and waitresses happily assisting our table whenever we were in need.
As if Sketch wasn’t already the total package, just wait until you see their bathrooms! Yep, you read that right. Sketch’s futuristic “pee pods” are a hot topic and definitely make for the most Instagram-able bathroom selfies. Seeing photos of this art installation of a loo on Instagram is actually how I found out about Sketch – great marketing tactic they’ve used here, getting everyone to talk about their toilets!
Out of all the things I had the opportunity to see and do while in London, Sketch was by far my favorite experience. One thing that I always strive for when traveling is to find off-the-wall experiences that are unique to their location. Obviously, part of being a tourist is seeing all of the famous landmarks, but more often than not, my fondest memories of my travels include one-of-a-kind experiences such as the afternoon we spent at Sketch. They’ve taken the British tradition of afternoon tea and modernized in such a posh and fresh way. It was just what our sore feet and hungry tummies needed after exploring London all morning. If you’re going to London soon, or if you live there and haven’t visited, plan a visit to dine (or drink – the Gallery is a cocktail bar in the evenings) at Sketch and don’t leave without getting a selfie in the bathroom!
“Afternoon Tea at Sketch” Photographed by Emily Davis and Luke Bowes
© Emily Davis
As summer is now in full swing, we are also finding ourselves in the midst of wedding season so I wanted to feature a look that I would wear to attend someone’s big day! I got these statement lace-up ballet flats from Target back in the spring and have been dying to feature them in an outfit post (unfortunately, the pink color has since sold out but I’ve linked a similar pair at the bottom of this post). Most summer weddings are held outdoors, which usually means there is a fair amount of grass to muck through, so save your heels by opting for flats! I love a pink and navy color combo and this was the perfect opportunity to wear this amazing dress that I found at Marshall’s for under $20. The dress is so comfy – the fabric is pretty stiff so it keeps its fit and flare shape, and the length is long enough to make me feel secure (read about my dress-phobia here). Let me know your favorite thing about summer weddings in the comments below! Being outside celebrating with friends and family on a warm, summer night is one thing that I always look forward to!
A struggle that I think all girls have in the summer is finding outfits that will keep you cool, but aren’t too skimpy. One of my favorite ever vintage finds has got to be this pair of Levi’s pink high-waisted shorts that I found a few years ago. I love everything about them – from the fit, to the length, to the color. Most high-waisted shorts available in trendy stores are super short and tight, and I find myself longing for the day when I find another pair that fits as well as these do. I wanted to emphasize the shorts by pairing them with this feminine yet edgy crop top. I’m really picky about floral prints, but I adore this one because it’s not too girly and frilly. Wearing high-waisted pieces with crop tops is one of my favorite ways to elongate my short frame. What are your summer dressing secrets?
I was wearing;
American Eagle Floral Crop Top; Similar Here
Levi’s Pink High-Waisted Shorts; Most similar I could find Here and Here (I found mine at a vintage shop, but you could even DIY a pair by starting with a white pair of high-waisted shorts and dyeing them pale pink)
Target Chain Detail Slide Sandals; Exact Here
H&M Black Rose Embellished Sunglasses; Similar Here
Forever 21 Gold Chain Ribbon Choker; Similar Here
“Golden Floral” Photographed by Luke Bowes
Life has been a bit crazy as of late. In addition to our move to North Carolina in July, I am also finalizing the details for a trip to England with Luke just two days after we move. We will mostly be in Nottingham to visit Luke’s family, but we will also spend a couple of days in London and Birmingham. This will be my first time visiting England so I’m pretty excited about it. I wanted to share my current itinerary with you, but also ask you for any suggestions that you think are “must-do’s” that I should add to my list!
Wollaton Park Home of Wollaton Hall and Nottingham Natural History Museum but also, more importantly, home to hundreds of friendly deer
Sherwood Forest Nottingham’s claim to fame, the forest in the legend of Robin Hood and home to Major Oak (a nearly 1,000 year old tree), Newstead Abbey, and Nottingham Castle
Nottingham Caves One of the largest networks of man-made caves in Europe
The Arboretum Nottingham’s first public park
Old Market Square The center of Nottingham, the largest city square in the U.K.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Known as England’s oldest inn, a pub that has served locals and tourists alike for centuries
Bromley House Library A nineteenth century library fit for Princess Belle
Cadbury World To see how the best chocolate in the world is made (and hopefully taste some) 🙂
Sketch Luke’s family is already giving me a hard time for this one. Aside from being a unique and top-notch restaurant, Sketch is famous for its bathrooms. Each toilet is its own “pod” and the ceilings of the bathroom are colored in every hue of the rainbow. We’ve already booked a table for afternoon tea here, so I’m looking forward to doing a restaurant review!
British Museum History Museum containing the Rosetta Stone, which was used to depict ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics and the original pediments of the Grecian Parthenon (featured in this post)
Buckingham Palace Home of the Royal Family and the sight where many tourists gather to see the “changing of the guards”
Harrod’s “Macy’s but nicer” – Luke
Camden Lock Market Outdoor market with vendors selling everything from art to street food
Kew Gardens The largest collection of living plants in the world
Westminster Abbey A beautiful gothic church and the traditional place of coronations (and weddings – Prince William and Dutchess Kate were married here!) for British Monarchs
Notting Hill Famous neighborhood of streets lined with cotton-candy colored pastel houses
We will have two weeks to spend in Luke’s home country and I’m so thrilled to have a little vacation before he starts business school at Duke in the fall. Are you familiar with any of the towns I’ll be visiting? Is there anything that’s not on my itinerary that should be? I want to hear ALL of your suggestions, from restaurants to historical sights to museums! Let me know by leaving a comment below! I can’t wait to share all of my photos and tips from my travels with all of you!
The “Points of Interest” on Google have been really helpful for me to not only plan itineraries for upcoming trips, but also to help me remember some sights I’ve already seen but maybe have forgotten the name of. They have these for most cities, so just Google “[City] points of interest”.
I’ll be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with rompers. The idea of them is perfect – a wearable dressy piece with the security of a constantly covered backside (read about my dress-phobia here). However, the excitement is usually abruptly ended when I take my pretty little romper back to the dressing room to try on and realize that if I make any movement, I will be mooning everyone. I stumbled upon this high-neck one at Target and was instantly drawn to it because of the color but after inspecting it for a moment, I thought maybe, just maybe, it would give me the coverage that I was looking for. One life-changing trip to the dressing room and here we are! Something that is pretty unique in the construction of this romper is that the shorts have a good, thick lining which seems to tame the thin exterior fabric a bit. In the last few years I have really come to appreciate versatile pieces, especially when I travel. I have worn this piece to the weekend farmers market with a straw sun-hat as well as with some lace-up heels for a date night and it was perfect for both occasions. I’m looking forward to wearing this affordable romper all summer (this entire look is under $50, BTW) and it will definitely be in my suitcase on my next trip in July. Any guesses where I’m headed?
Luke and I are always looking for new local restaurants to try. Primo opened in the early Spring of this year (2016) and, like most new downtown eateries, there has been a lot of buzz about it lately. It is Chef Bruce Bogartz’s first project since the overwhelmingly popular, albeit not exactly successful Rouxbarb. I had the pleasure of dining at Rouxbarb only once, but it was enough to make me a big fan of Bogartz so I was thrilled to hear that he’d be head of the first Italian restaurant in downtown Knoxville. Being that Bruce is such an esteemed chef – and fairly well known by most Knoxvillians, Primo is what I would consider a “fine dining” establishment – one of the more expensive places in the area. I think Knoxville needs more of these types of restaurants. Most of the eateries, especially near downtown, are fairly casual so it’s nice to have a couple of spots to visit for special occasions or even just when you want a more intimate date night. We had previewed the menu online, so we were well aware of the steep prices (it is Bogartz, after all). What did come as surprise, though, was the utterly underwhelming experience we had dining at Primo.
- We made reservations for our Saturday night date early in the week. We like to eat pretty early (we’re both 75 at heart) which is usually not a problem downtown but because of its newness and Knoxville’s flocking tendencies, we reserved a table just to be safe. We arrived on the 5th floor of the Sunsphere for our 5:30 reservations to a fairly empty restaurant. We didn’t have to do much walking as we were sat directly in front of the elevators and hostess stand at a TINY square table (no more than 2×2 feet). Intending to take blog photos, I had my chunky DSLR and I carried a small purse, both of which I had to set on the floor by the time our drinks arrived. One good thing about sitting on the westward-facing side, though, was that we were in the prime spot for the sunset and the Sunsphere provides some of the best views of Knoxville.
To start, we had the “Tartufo Fonduta”, a thick and decadent pesto cheese dip served with veggies, house-made chips, and warm bread. Looking back, this was most definitely the best part of the meal. You know how a lot of people will refer to themselves as a “dessert person”? Well, I am a “cheese person” and I could, and sometimes do, eat copious amounts of cheese for every meal. The fonduta had a rich flavor and I was practically eating it by the spoonful once we ran out of our dipping snacks.
Before placing our order, we inquired about the origin of the meat on the menu and were sadly told that the kitchen did not source locally. Many restaurants downtown really pride themselves on featuring produce and meats that are grown and raised by local farms, so I was disappointed to find out that even though I was paying double what most of these “trendy” restaurants charge, the quality of the meat still did not meet my standards. There was only one vegetarian-friendly entree, so I decided to try two small Primi pasta dishes instead (I’d rather have pasta over meat anyway). I ordered the only two Primi dishes without meat – the “Orecchiette” and the “Dolce Patata Gnocchi”. Luke tried the “Chicken al Mattone”. We had to play a game of Tetris to fit the dishes onto our small table upon their arrival.
The orecchiette was not my favorite – I ordered it despite the menu stating that it had leeks and artichokes which I kind of despise (its a texture thing) but I thought I would be able to eat around them. The pasta was served in a mushroom broth that both of the roots had been cooked in, making them tender but also… flaky. It was impossible to take a bite of the dish without having that repulsive texture against my tongue. The dish was almost in between a soup and a traditional pasta, with the broth making it watery and flavorless. A true testament to my attention to detail is the fact that I noticed that on the menu, the orecchiette was “finished with parmesan curls”. CURLS, people. Like freshly grated slivers of heaven shaved from an aromatic block of parmesan. When it arrived, it was topped with parmesan shreds that were clearly scooped out of one of those industrial-sized Costco containers. As a cheese person, that was the last straw.
Since the orecchiette was such a disappointment, I was really hoping the “Dolce Patata Gnocchi” would be special. What I didn’t realize was that “Dolce Patata” meant sweet potato. I think I would have enjoyed it more had the sweet potato been shaped into gnocchi-sized potato pillows, however it seemed like they just cubed a roasted sweet potato and called it pasta. The gorgonzola cream sauce was almost overwhelmingly sweet, but it did have a good flavor that complemented both the taste of the sweet potato and the poached pears well.
Luke is not picky at all when it comes to chicken, but the “Chicken al Mattone” at Primo must be one of the only exceptions. I think their menu is really poorly done, from it not clarifying (in English) that the “Dolce Patata Gnocchi” was sweet potato gnocchi to stating that the chicken was served atop a “brick pesto potato salad and mama’s broiled tomatoes” when it arrived in front of Luke with a pile of olives (one of the only foods Luke cannot stand) the same size as the chicken leg with hardly any potatoes and no tomatoes in sight.
We were both already so uncomfortable by the time our food arrived that the disappointment in our dishes made for a pretty terrible overall experience. It may work in a bar area, but there is absolutely no place for a table of that size in the dining room where patrons are encouraged to eat multiple courses. Our legs kept colliding and as the restaurant started to fill up, we felt even more claustrophobic when fellow diners began bumping our shoulders as they were seated. Other couples who arrived after us (probably without reservations) were seated at spacious four-top tables while we were crammed in between them. The presentation of our meal was surprisingly underwhelming, with all our dishes thrown into what reminded me of my dog’s dinner bowl without much care as to how they looked. I think it’s important to state that, while many may think I am nitpicking, these are things that I expect when I pay for a “fine dining” experience. If you’re curious about Primo, I would suggest going for appetizers and drinks and sitting in the bar area. The lounge is on the south side of the sphere as well, providing good sunset views and it has a row of intimate couch-surrounded tables facing the floor-to-ceiling windows. Our drinks and appetizer were the only part of our meal that we actually enjoyed, so this is our plan should we choose to revisit Primo. If you’re looking for an Italian eatery (with a hint of a southern influence) in downtown Knoxville, Emilia in Market Square opened in late Spring (2016) and it is incredible. The experience I had when dining at Emilia was the one I was hoping Primo would deliver – an intimate setting with traditional, yet inventive authentic Italian cuisine. I’ll try to squeeze in a proper review of Emilia before I leave Knoxville in July, so keep your eyes peeled and let me know if you have any questions or comments about Primo, Emilia, or downtown Knoxville dining.
Like most of my international excursions thus far, my trip to Greece was through a study abroad program. I tried to push myself out of my comfort zone on a couple of my trips, but for my last one I wanted to go somewhere I’d fantasized about visiting for my entire life – so I chose Greece and it totally blew me away. Many times when people envision Greece, they picture cobalt-colored water and little white hillside villages. While I did not get to see Mykonos or any of the more well-known Greek isles on this trip, I was still in awe of the beauty of the entire country. We began our course in Athens, which was a dream come true for an art history nerd like me. I can’t even explain how awesome it feels to have learned about something in class and then to get to stand in front of it. I want so badly for everyone to have that awe-struck feeling about something, whatever it may be, and that’s why I’m such a big believer in the power of travel and pushing yourself outside your own comfort-zone. I can’t wait to share these photos with you, along with helpful tips if you’re planning to visit Athens. If you have any questions about my trip or about Athens, please comment below.
P.S. There will be lots more photos from the rest of my trip coming soon!
From my first night in Athens as I was walking around and exploring the neighborhood near my hotel (which is something I always recommend doing when traveling).
(Left) Slipper shopping at the Plaka market. I bought a pair of these wooly ones and they are the only house-shoes I’ll ever wear! I have to get some backups on my next visit! (Right) Lone poppy in the flowerbed around Agios Eleftherios Church in Mitropolis Square.
Inside the airy Acropolis Museum, where many artifacts of the original Parthenon are on display. While you’re here, take advantage of the amazing view from the cafe patio.
The remainder of the pediment and frieze on the East end of the Parthenon, a temple built in honor of Greek Goddess Athena, the “patron” of the Greeks.
The Mediterranean wind gusts are incredibly strong up on the Acropolis so if you aren’t comfortable flashing strangers, learn from my mistake and don’t wear a dress!
(Left) An intricate artifact from the Benaki Museum, which focuses on Greek art throughout the country’s history. (Right) Fancy Spanakopita (spinach pie) for lunch at an Athens restaurant.
One of my favorite activities to partake in while traveling is people watching. Most Americans are turned off to the idea of people staring at them, but from my experiences, other cultures pay no mind to making eye contact with a stranger.
There are three Metro routes in Athens, all intersecting in the city center.
Overlooking the Temple of Hephaestus through a field of bright poppies in the agora (gathering place) of Ancient Greece.
A sculptural marble head in the Stoa of Attalos overlooking the Agora.
Even though there are symbols of ancient time throughout city, Athens has all the hustle and bustle of most capitals. I love this juxtaposition of the remaining columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus with the graffitied storefront and busy mom.
Fun photo-op alert! The guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Old Royal Palace in Syntagma Square change each hour and you can pose for a photo to see how close you can get before they aim their weapons at you.
The view of the Acropolis from the Ancient Agora. One of my favorite views was from the Areopagus (commonly known as Mars Hill) which is on the northern side of the Acropolis, near the entrance. It has great views of the Acropolis and the city of Athens, both in the day and at night.
A local sits back to people watch in Monastiraki, the “flea-market” neighborhood. Outdoor vendors sell everything from jewelry to fresh produce in the best area for bargain shopping in Athens.
“Athens Photo Diary” Photographed by Emily Davis
© Emily Davis
I think almost all of us get stuck in a rut of repeating the same weekend activities, whether that be going out to dinner, seeing a movie, or staying at home and binge-watching Netflix shows. While I enjoy these activities on occasion, my favorite weekends are ones where I try something new or go somewhere I’ve never been before.
I have been buying fresh food regularly at the weekly farmers market for a month or so and I’m honestly bummed when I have to buy produce at the supermarket now. Since my diet is very heavy in fruits and veggies, I want to have the best possible produce so I can look forward to my home-cooked meals. So when Luke suggested visiting a pick-your-own berry patch over the weekend, I was all for it. We chose to visit Mountain Meadows Farm because we had been buying their strawberries at the farmer’s market so we knew they were delicious. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a few dogs (making for the best first impression ever), briefed with a couple of rules, and sent out with our baskets in hand. The patch was neat and well-manicured which I imagine is not an easy task when the public has access, so I was very impressed. As for the strawberries, they have to be the best I’ve ever had – juicy and sweet, not tart, like store-bought ones tend to be. Not only did we have a unique adventure, but we also were able to support a local family farm at the same time. If it weren’t such a drive, we would go every weekend! What’s your favorite “outside the box” recreational activity that you’ve ever done?
Last week, Luke brought up the topic of targeting a more specific audience, particularly featuring “affordable fashion” as a way to catch peoples’ interest. This has always been something that I have done naturally with Epicurean Emily (I show what I actually wear and I can’t afford high-end items at this point in my life), but I had never really thought of advertising it as such. I think all girls (even the ones who say they don’t care) feel the societal pressure to look a certain way and have the best of everything – perfect hair, quality make-up, beautiful clothes, and designer shoes and handbags. While I love all of these things, I am a pretty frugal person. I learned how to shop from my mom (the coupon queen) who dragged my brother and I through the aisles of Marshall’s before it was cool. I know that my style might not be for everyone, but something that I’ve always been (without necessarily trying to be) is different, and I want that for this lil blog of mine, too. I want my style to inspire my readers to think outside the box, and I want to show them that cheap can still be chic (#Moschino). In the Instagram world everyone always has the latest Louboutins and the coolest Chanel boy-bags, but that’s not a reality for me (or many of their followers). I absolutely believe in buying quality pieces that will take you through many seasons, but honestly so far none of my closet staples have cost me over $150, and that’s ok. One day when I can actually afford a Céline bag, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to drop $3,000 on a purse – there’s a reason they’re called “investment” pieces!
My trusty DKNY satchels, all purchased from TJ Maxx, have been through a lot with me and are still going strong (and I just added a new BLUSH one to the collection!). TJ Maxx and Marshall’s are my go-to stores when I’m looking for a new bag, although I never find one that I like when I go in with the intent of buying a new purse- you have to enter these stores with a “treasure hunt” mentality. I’ll sing the praises of Target’s shoes till the end of my days. They always have what I’m looking for at a price tag for much cheaper than they look. I also adore their shoes because they’re always sturdy, well made, and true to size. As far as clothes, I stick to mainly Forever 21. When there’s an H&M and Zara in my neighborhood, I’ll frequent those as well. There are several amazing fast fashion websites (such as Boohoo, MissGuided, River Island, and Asos) but to be honest, buying clothes online stresses me out. I don’t like the hassle of having to return and/or exchange if I don’t like the fit. I think a common misconception with many of these fast fashion chains is that the quality of the clothes is compromised to drive the price down. While they’re not handmade designer pieces, I never see any major wear and tear on the clothes that I’ve purchased from these stores. I had way more mysterious holes in my middle and high school American Eagle and Abercrombie items (I know I should be ashamed, but we all had that phase).
Along with links to everything I’m wearing below (as usual), I’ve also linked other previous outfit posts in which an item is featured. I would like to start doing some posts focusing on a specific item showing different ways it could be styled. If you all have any other ideas or requests, please comment below. While this blog is a creative outlet in itself for me, I still value your opinions and want to inspire you to find your own unique style!
I was wearing;
Forever 21 Colorblocked Houndstooth Shift Dress; Exact Here
Target Mossimo Orange Pumps; Exact Here
“Orange Is The New Black” Photographed by Luke Bowes
Usually by the end of April, I’ve been wearing sandals non-stop for a solid month. I’m always really bitter come September when I have to start slapping on socks and real shoes again. But lately, I’ve become accustomed to wearing sneakers with many of my outfits (and not just my yoga pants). When I was in high school, the only tennis shoes that were “cool” enough to wear with anything other than gym shorts were Converse All-Stars (Mine were black because I thought I was more hardcore than I actually was… and the fact that I just used the word “hardcore” reiterates that statement). Just recently, more of the classic sneakers (Converse All-Stars, Adidas Superstars, and New Balance 501’s to name a few) are coming back in style in a big way. Not only are they becoming your go-to errand-running shoe, they’re also providing a casual edge to basically any outfit and bringing some practicality back into the fashion scene. This is a trend that everyone – from editors to bloggers to models to the everyday girl can get on board with and for the past couple of fashion week seasons, I would say that there were more sneakers than stilettos on the feet of the attendees. The Nike Thea Premiums were game-changing sneakers for me – I really like how these are all one solid color. One of my qualms with regular trainers is that they’re too busy and usually look tacky worn with anything but gym attire, but these babies are practical AND pretty. I’m still holding out for the suede finish ones like the much-coveted (and sold-out everywhere) “Desert Camo”, although I’m fairly infatuated with my silver ones at the moment. With summer right around the corner, I think this outfit would be great for a day at the theme park. This striped blouse is sheer and airy but will still shield most of your skin from the sun, the high-waisted cutoffs are a classic warm-weather staple, and your feet will never tire in these shoes (they don’t call them “Air-Max” for no reason!).
I was wearing;
Levi’s 501 Denim Cutoff Shorts; Similar Here (I found mine in a thrift store! It takes some patience, but there are definitely plenty of old,”vintage” high-waisted Levi’s to be found. You can can also make your own from a pair of thrifted jeans. DIY video Here)
Quay Australia Quay x Shay “Vesper” Sunglasses; Exact Here
“Silver & Stripes” Photographed by Luke Bowes
I was lucky enough to attend the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby last year (2015) for the first time. I took riding lessons in middle school and had always had a fascination/obsession with horses, so spending a day at the races was something that had been on my bucket list for quite some time. So when my best friend invited me last year, I couldn’t say no – a girls’ weekend, horses, and an occasion to dress over-the-top are a few of my favorite things, after all. Much to my surprise, Derby Weekend can actually be fairly affordable. I had no idea that they had any sort of general admission option, but the infield of the track is practically its own world, complete with betting booths, bartenders, and lots of carnival-type food options. We brought our own snacks for the day, both to save some money and to keep our options as healthy as possible. There is plenty of room in the grass to set up a little picnic area for your crew, just BYOB (bring your own blanket). You can easily fit all the items you’ll need throughout the day in a large tote and each take turns carrying it. You will have to do a significant amount of walking between the nightmare of a parking situation and the various events taking place throughout Churchill Downs. A close spot will probably be around a one to one and a half mile walk but there are plenty of cyclists and uh… professional golf cart drivers that will give you a lift to and from the racetrack. And, trust me, if you don’t wear wedges and don’t pack flats, you will pay ANY price to not have to walk to your car after the races (blisters for days!). If you are wearing stiletto heels and have infield tickets, buy some heel protectors that can be attached to the point of your stiletto to prevent them from getting scuffed and scratched or, more importantly, sinking into the grass.
So now that we’ve covered all the Derby survival tips, we can discuss a more important topic, i.e. what you’re going to wear. I was really on a budget last year, so I had to work with things that were already in my closet. This H&M dress seemed perfect for the occasion and the length and material made it comfortable to trot around in all day. I bought the floral fascinator at Dillard’s for about $20 but they even have some nice reasonable ones on Amazon this year. I’m all about the headpieces, and the next time I have the chance to attend the Derby, I plan to go big or go home. Unless you’re a member of the royal family, when will you have another opportunity to wear a fascinator? There’s no shortage of crazy looks and/or hats and headpieces at Churchill Downs on Derby day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way – it’s people-watching prime-time! I would say 90% of women wear a combination of bright, spring-time colors and floral, so if you’re having trouble deciding on your outfit, you can never go wrong with that combination. Think Easter dress meets cocktail dress. I really love getting to wear fascinators because it completely elevates the outfit and gives you a chance to play with color. With a floral dress, singling out a random color in the fabric and finding a hat or fascinator to match works well (which is what I’ve done here). If you have a solid dress, instead of going monochromatic, try a hat of a complimentary color (directly across from each other on the color wheel) or a color adjacent to the hue of the dress. For example, an adjacent color combo would be a bright orange fascinator with the beautiful solid yellow Zara dress linked below. A complimentary color for the same dress would be a royal purple. My biggest advice when dressing for the Derby is to have fun with it and wear something that makes you feel confident. Everyone goes all out and that is part of the fun. Make the most of your opportunity to play dress up!
A few of my favorite memories from Derby day include watching celebs walk down the red carpet (we saw Nick Lachey and Sarah Hyland!), betting for the first time (even if you don’t get a dime back, it’s still fun), and getting to people watch in a place where everyone is dressed to the nines (it honestly feels like going back in time). Have you ever been to the Kentucky Derby? If so, what’s your favorite memory? Feel free to leave any questions you may have about Derby day and/or Derby attire and I will try my best to answer them!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m all about using blush as a neutral. It adds a nice, subtle hint of color and gives any look a bit of sophistication. I found these shoes at Ross for about one third of the price the exact style retails for on Sam Edelman’s website (linked below). I have a love/hate relationship with all these discount retail stores because I usually go in only needing one particular item and then I leave with yet another pair of shoes. These blush beauties were too pretty to pass up though (and the only pair was my size, so you know what that means – it was fate). For this look, I really wanted to feature my new gorgeous Forever 21 blouse. I’ve been looking for one of these decorative collar blouses for a long time now, since I always love the ones that Keiko Lynn wears. I love its versatility and that I can pair it with an edgy leather mini skirt or black skinny jeans or a retro printed skirt. This feminine yet sultry look is perfect for a spring date night out on the town.
I was wearing;
Forever 21 Rose-Collar Blouse; Exact Here
Forever 21 Faux Leather Skirt; Exact Here
Riviera Feather Headband; Similar Here
H&M Black Rose Embellished Sunglasses; Similar Here
“Black, White & Blush” Photographed by Luke Bowes
Every spring when Coachella rolls around, I get super envious of all the cool people on my Instragram feed who are all in Palm Springs attending the huge California music festival. To be honest, the music is the least appealing part to me. But I anxiously await seeing all the hippy-inspired styles that the It girls have come up with for a weekend away in Palm Springs. And all of the cabana parties seem pretty appealing, too. So until I can check Coachella off of my bucket list, I will just come up with outfits to wear for when I do have the chance to attend. This look really revolves around this gorgeous Forever 21 canary yellow lace top. With 70’s trends heavily in style right now, you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of this color this summer – which I am totally alright with because I’m kind of obsessed with it. When I was trying to piece together an outfit to feature this top, I originally thought I would pair it with some flared jeans and cognac heels (which would still be cute for a casual night out), but as I began to toy around with other ideas, I tried on these shorts and fell in love with the combo. One thing that I really love about fashion is that once you have some staple pieces in your closet, they become building blocks for great outfits. I’ve had these shorts for several years, and my shoes and hat are closet favorites, last seen here and here. But with a little help from the new blouse, I have a new, fresh, and on-trend look.
I was wearing;
American Eagle Woven Shorts; Similar Here
Target Sam & Libby Lace-Up Heels; Similar Here
Forever 21 Black Fedora; Similar Here
“Coachella in Canary” photographed by Luke Bowes
Although I don’t really care if I ever attend another baseball game in my life, I really have an attachment to baseball-sleeved pieces of clothing. I wear baseball tees with leggings and jeans all the time for a cool and comfy errand-running outfit, so I was all over this Forever 21 dress. It’s definitely dressier than my typical baseball tee/sweatpant combo, but still laid-back at the same time. I will be wearing this dress to many summer cookouts and casual events this year, as the sleeves are perfect for that extra bit of coverage I’ll need when the sun goes down. (Which is when I’ll be groovin’ and feelin’ alright… Kenny Chesney, anyone?) I got these sandals at Target last spring and wore them through the ENTIRE summer. They’ve made a very similar version this year that I’ve linked below, but I can’t recommend them enough because they’re so well made and durable and bring just a bit of boho glam to any outfit they’re paired with. Which summer traditions are you looking forward to celebrating?
How many ladies out there will admit that you hate pants??? Well have no fear because Spring time is here, which means it’s acceptable to wear dresses all day, every day (I’m not a big fan of leggings under dresses). I didn’t discover the power of the dress until high school, probably, as I was such a tomboy before then. I was always playing outside and they seemed too fragile and impractical. Nowadays, I opt for dresses a bit more often. I love the ladylike quality of dresses, and the instant elegance they provide from the moment you slip them on. The dress-loving Emily is a new breed, and I remember even just a couple of years ago feeling very uncomfortable while wearing dresses. I was always terrified of having a Marilyn moment and was consumed with self-consciousness. I started wearing compression shorts to reassure myself that even if my dress did blow up or if I fell (which was the more likely of the two) that I wouldn’t be giving anyone too much of a show. It’s really helped me to feel at ease while wearing dresses and if you’ve ever been the person always tugging on the hem of your dress, it’s a great way to help you relax and learn how to be a professional dress wearer (#GOALS). When I locked eyes on this Forever 21 dress, it was love at first sight. I sometimes have a hard time finding feminine dresses without a floral pattern, but this one is right up my alley and the fit and flare shape is so flattering. It will definitely be on repeat until the weather tells me it’s time to bundle up again.
Nothing says Spring quite like my H&M flamingo pink pleated skirt and when we found this teal store-front to shoot against, some colorful magic ensued. Because I’m a design freak at heart, this has to be one of my favorite outfit posts to date here on Epicurean Emily. I’m looking forward to start scouting locations and planning outfits accordingly, as I think it adds such a fun element and completely elevates the photographs. I got this skirt at H&M a couple of years ago for no more than $20 and it has gotten so much use because the fit and flare shape is very classic, but the bright pink color makes it unique and fun. I’m all about buying “staple pieces”, but don’t ever let anyone tell you that those can only be neutral and/or solid. I think as long as the shape flatters your body and you feel great in it, you can rock brights and bold patterns year after year. Also, how perfect is this Target Chanel Boybag dupe?! I’ve been looking for a quilted bag for a long time, but could never seem to find one I loved until now. Now tell me, what’s your favorite color combo? For the past several years mine has been Tiffany blue and black (the colors used throughout my blog and in my logo), although at 12 I was obsessed with orange and pink together and I loved them so much that I decided to paint my walls in those shades (a decision I still regret). I’m loving the flamingo pink and teal together now, but I don’t think I’ll be re-painting any time soon.
I was wearing;
Forever 21 Bow Blouse; Similar Here
H&M Pink Pleated Skater Skirt; Similar Here
Mossimo for Target Black Strappy Heels; Similar Here
Mossimo for Target Black Quilted Crossbody; Exact Here
Urban Decay Gwen Stefani Lipstick in Firebird; Exact Here
“Pop of Pink” Photographed by Kurt Eslick
I know I’ve already featured this jacket before (See here) but it is honestly just the perfect pop to any simple outfit. This ensemble is comprised of my favorite basic items – a white tee and fitted black skinny jeans, two inexpensive staple pieces that every girl should have in her closet. Obviously they can be styled so many different ways separately, but together they have a cool and effortless vibe. I decided I wanted to dress it up just a bit with my silver loafers, but the look could be even more easy-going with classic sneakers – like a pair of white Converse All-Stars.
I was wearing;
Forever 21 Baby Blue Faux-Leather Jacket; Similar Here
Forever 21 White Tee; Exact Here (I went up one size so it would be less fitted)
American Eagle Black Hi-Rise Jeggings; Exact Here
Forever 21 Silver Pointed Loafers; Similar Here
“Basic Baby Blue” Photographed by Luke Bowes
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Abu Dhabi around this time last year. Like most westerners, I was fairly familiar with Dubai but knew very little about the other cities that the wonderful country of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is comprised of. While Dubai could be called the New York City of the Emirates, Abu Dhabi can hold its own with many exciting things to offer, including two of its most popular tourist destinations – The Emirates Palace Luxury Hotel and The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
The Emirates Palace is technically a “5 Star” luxury hotel, although it was once famously deemed a “7 Star” Hotel by a journalist. I think the fact that I’m referring to it as a “hotel” is even doing it an injustice because it is truly a palace, from the fountained plaza lining the entrance to the all-gold interior (I’m not lying – EVERYTHING is gold, including a gold vending machine in the lobby that dispenses gold bars!). The palace has about 400 rooms and Luke and I were not exclusive (or rich) enough to stay there, but they welcome visitors to peruse the common areas on the main floor. We took our time looking around, taking plenty of photos, and no one treated us as if we were a nuisance. If the gold starts to get to you and you’re feeling the urge to splurge, you can sit down for coffee at the cafe where they’ll top your latte with gold flakes for about $25 a pop. Seated with menus in hand, we politely passed on this one, and that was the only time anyone saw us for the poor tourists that we were. I definitely consider The Emirates Palace a “must-see” while in Abu Dhabi, as it is truly one of the most immaculate hotels to ever exist.
Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had as a traveler. Since most of my trips abroad have been to Europe, I’ve been to many landmark churches and cathedrals, Notre Dame and St. Peters’s Basilica probably being the most well-known. Obviously old cathedrals are remarkable for many reasons, (amazing architecture, eventful history) but maybe their age is what is most astounding – the fact that they’ve been around for numerous centuries and are still standing in good condition. While the Grand Mosque doesn’t have decades of history (construction was finished in 2007), I can without a doubt say that it is the most beautiful center of worship I’ve ever set foot in. Visiting the mosque is very much an experience. Women must wear an abaya, the “cloak” worn in Arabic cultures, and men must be wearing pants – not shorts. They have a station for women to rent abayas free of charge, although you must leave a form of ID that you can reclaim once the robe has been returned. Everyone, women and men, must remove their shoes before entering the mosque. Upon entry, talking is not allowed although photography is permitted. Everything about the Grand Mosque is exquisite, including the articulately patterned carpets and the giant Swarovski-dripping chandeliers – every single detail is impeccable. We only visited once, but we both agreed that just before dusk was the perfect time to go because there’s enough daylight to get a good view of the exterior and as it gets darker, the illuminated arches lining the structure become more magnificent. Even as I look back on these photos, I still have a hard time believing I was actually there. It was so perfect that it sometimes feels like a distant dream.
It’s finally starting to feel like Spring again, and I can barely contain my excitement as I wave good-bye to winter. Nothing says Spring like pastel hues, so I decided to pair this flowy Forever 21 LBD with a fresh mint blazer. With the two solids paired neatly together, it was the perfect opportunity to take this beautiful opal statement necklace out for a spin. I’m not usually a statement jewelry (or any jewelry) kind of girl, but I love the refined quality the opal stones on this one give and obviously the chain detail was a huge selling point as well (considering almost all my necklaces are some variation of a chain). With the blazer and lace-up heels, this is the perfect Spring date night outfit. The dress could also be worn with tights and flats for a casual day-time look. I’m all about versatile pieces!
I was wearing;
Worthington Mint Blazer;
Forever 21 Black Dress; Similar Here
Forever 21 Statement Necklace; Similar Here
Target Sam & Libby Lace-Up Heels; Similar Here
“Baubles & Blazers” photographed by Luke Bowes
This outfit makes me feel like a modern-day Audrey Hepburn, which I am ecstatic about as she is one of my biggest inspirations. It seemed only fitting to put together an outfit inspired by one of my heroes and feature this beautiful cape (Because Superheroes and Capes, duh… I had to). Since the sweater and cape are solid, I wanted my pants to add some pizazz to the look. These Old Navy Pixie pants did just the trick. The houndstooth print isn’t too distracting and keeps the look playful, but still mature. If you don’t have a pair of these pants, I highly recommend them. They always have new patterns and colors every season and they’re my favorite dress pants because the crop and the fit are so flattering. I finished off the look with some pointed ballet flats, which tied the whole 60’s-inspired look together nicely. Who is your Old Hollywood girl crush? Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor? Let me know in the comments!
Hello! Hope February is treating you all nicely and you’re doing your best to stay warm. Since Valentine’s Day is this week, I wanted to share this outfit as a *warm* date night look option. I’ve seen a lot of V-Day looks that have consisted of a cute dress and a pair of stilettos, which is awesome if you live in a warm climate but seriously y’all, the east-coast highs have been in the 30’s this week and I’m about to freeze to death. I know many of you will sacrifice warmth to debut a cute new outfit but with this look, you can be glam and toasty at the same time. I’m not about that winter life and probably never will be, but this coat is like a warm hug that shields me from the brisk February wind. So now let’s talk about Valentine’s Day plans… Luke and I are making a nice dinner at home (we both hate crowds) and then we’re going to see… wait for it… Zoolander 2!!! (I’ve honestly been counting down the days!) What are your Valentine’s plans?
Guys… I think I have a problem. I can’t stop wearing this gorgeous light blue color. Not only do I love pastel colors to perk up my winter wardrobe, but they also make great transition pieces as spring approaches. I wanted to add some femininity to this otherwise edgy look by incorporating the baby blue sweater. The color contributes to the overall 90’s influences, but the boxy shape of the sweater gives it a nice modern touch. With the end of January upon us, I am anxiously awaiting warmer temps (and spring fashion!). What are some of your go-to transition pieces from winter to spring?
I know this may sound cheesy, but I have to admit that Paris was my first love. France was the first country outside the U.S. that I visited and while that trip primarily took place in Normandy and the western coastal towns of France, the final two days that I spent in Paris were enough to spark an obsession. My first French adventure was through my college’s study abroad program, so we were hosted by French students and their families. My host, Julien, and I have been close friends ever since. He came to visit Tennessee the summer following my trip to France and the following year he hosted my friend, Niki, and I in Paris. Although I’ve spent only a short amount of time overall in Paris, (a total of two weeks and two days) I feel very at home there. Obviously it helps when you have such a knowledgeable friend and guide, and I believe that is how we were able to make the most of our precious time in Paris. Between my two trips there, I’ve seen most of the typical tourist “attractions” as well as some sights that are a bit more off the map. If you only have a short amount of time in Paris, here are the things that I would see over what the guidebooks recommend. If you’re enjoying a substantial amount of time in the City of Light, then by all means, do both my recommendations AND the guidebook ones. Paris is an incredible city with lots to offer but to get a true Parisian experience, these are my preferred activities.
Skip Musée du Louvre / See Musée D’Orsay
Unless you have a good amount of time to spend in Paris, paying admission to the Louvre is a waste of both time and money. Sure, The Louvre is one of the biggest museums in the world, but unless you can spend a whole day (or two) wandering around inside, you won’t do it justice. Trust me – it’s not worth what you pay just to see the Mona Lisa. I do think it is an incredible museum, but only if you have the time to appreciate and see all, or most of (let’s be real – it’s HUGE) what it has to offer. Because it’s such a big tourist destination you have to deal with large crowds and we all know how I feel about tourists in art museums… Meanwhile the Musée D’Orsay, formerly known as Gare d’Orsay (an old railway station), is fairly quaint and sits along the Seine River. Since its much smaller than the Louvre, it has a more natural flow of traffic and you’re less likely to get lost. It boasts an impressive collection as well, featuring work from French artists such as Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and several pieces by Vincent Van Gogh. The building is absolutely beautiful, with lots of natural light and since its not as much of a tourist destination as the Louvre, the crowds are much more bearable. When comparing Musée du Louvre to Musée D’Orsay, the phrase that comes to mind is “quality over quantity”. While the Louvre may have a hundred more exhibits and a thousand more pieces, I wouldn’t consider anything on display at the Musée D’Orsay to be a “filler” piece.
Skip Eating Out Every Meal / See Parks & Monuments over a Picnic
One of my favorite memories that I have from my trip to Paris was taking some time to sit down and have lunch in beautiful locations all around the city. We only ate out twice in our two weeks there, so we packed lunches each day and took them with us to wherever we were headed. My favorite picnic spots were in front of Sacre Coeur, on benches in Le Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil, along the Seine river, and overlooking Place du Trocadéro. You are able to see more of Paris by not having to backtrack at all for lunch and dinner and you’ll save a crazy amount of money, too.
Skip the Top of the Eiffel Tower / See the View from Arc de Triomphe
Since the Tower gets progressively thinner as you get to the top, the wait time to the highest viewing deck is usually a couple of hours. It has a total of three decks and there is minimal to no wait time for the lower two because they are much wider and don’t require elevator access. There is plenty of room to walk around and I still recommend viewing Paris from the Tower, if you have time, as it gives a good perspective of where everything is in relation to Tour Eiffel. However, I think everyone agrees that the tower is the City of Light’s single most famous landmark so what’s the point of a good view if its without the symbol of the city? The Arc de Triomphe sits in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle and is on the western end of the most famous avenue in the world, Avenue Champs-Élysées. Several smaller avenues radiate out from the Arc and you have an amazing 360-degree view of Paris, including the tower.
Skip the Guided Walking Tour / See Paris from the Seine River via Boat Tour
One quality that makes Paris one of the dreamiest cities is the beautiful Seine River that runs through most of the city, providing numerous waterfront views. Boarding a boat and taking a tour by river is the best introduction to Paris. It allows you to develop a sense of relation and helps to set your internal compass. One of the first things I do when I’m visiting a new place is take a tour, whether that’s just walking through the neighborhood or jumping on a tour bus or boat, to get to know the city and gain a sense of direction. I feel more comfortable to explore the city by just having general idea of where everything is. You may be able to see a little bit more during the day, but my favorite time to do this tour is right before sunset because you’re still able to see the sights but the atmosphere is very Parisian.
Skip Going Out for Drinks / See the Louvre at Night over a Bottle of Wine
When I reflect on my time spent in Paris, one of my fondest memories is sitting on the benches surrounding the fountains and the pyramids of the Louvre drinking wine with two of my best friends. I promise I’m not an alcoholic, but one thing I always look forward to when going to other countries is the freedom to drink wherever I want, so I take full advantage of the lack of open container laws while abroad. I much prefer the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of the Louvre at night to the chaos and crowds during the day.
“Paris; What to See / What to Skip” photographed by Emily Davis
© Emily Davis
Growing up as the “artistic” type, I did – and still do, highly value inspiration. Anyone who makes art will agree that there is NOTHING worse than a creative block. I’ve found inspiration much easier to come by with the age of social media. If I’m bored with my daily makeup routine, I can go to Youtube and find tutorials from a thousand different beauty bloggers, each with their own version of an “everyday makeup look”. Maybe I got a scarf for Christmas and since I’m not an accessory person, I don’t know the first thing about how to wear a scarf. There is a Youtube tutorial AND a blog post AND an info-graph for that. With the rise of social media stardom there are hundreds, realistically thousands, of Instagram accounts and blogs to inspire all of us. I wanted to share a few of my favorites because after years of endless inspiration, I have them to thank for encouraging me to start my own in hopes that I, too, can inspire others.