13 Pretty Little Finds From Around the Web

prettylittlefinds3

In the past year or so, I’ve transitioned most of my shopping to the web. I spend much less time at TJMaxx and Homegoods and more time browsing Etsy shops and startup e-boutiques. I’ve found so many beautiful, creative products recently.

My maybe-someday digital wishlist. Listed from top to bottom:

1. The Long Distance Watch by Keung, $480: As someone who has been in a long-distance relationship for the past year and a half, this elegant, two-time-zone piece captured my heart instantly.

2. Monogrammed python iPad cases by GiGi New York, $110+: I’m a sucker for a leather-bound journal, and I absolutely love that these personalized cases make it look like you’re carrying a journal instead of a tech gadget.

3. Kimono-style robes by Pretty Plum Sugar, $65+: These robes were designed for bridesmaids, but I want one now.

4. Metal hinged Fitbit bracelet by Tory Burch, $195 + $99 for the tracker: I’ve been intrigued by Fitbit’s mobile fitness tracker for awhile, but have never seriously thought about pulling the trigger on one because I just couldn’t imagine wearing a clunky thing on my wrist everyday. So this stylish collaboration with Tory Burch is absolutely brilliant.

5. Couture Book: One of the most gorgeous photobook-printing companies I’ve seen. They literally turn your photos into coffee table books.

6. St. Louis Bengal sunglasses by Krewe du Optic, $195: This New Orleans-based company produces handmade eyewear with a lifetime warranty. I’d love to own a pair someday, but in the meantime I’ll keep following the company’s killer Instagram feed.

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The Best Carrot Cake in Fort Lauderdale – Beauty & the Feast

Best Carrot Cake in Fort Lauderdale at Beauty & the Feast

There aren’t many things I love more than a good brunch. Carrot cake, though, is one of them.

I thought I already knew where the best carrot cake in Fort Lauderdale was. The food at the old Lester’s Diner is just OK, but the milkshakes and the cake slices – especially the carrot cake – are enormous and amazingly decadent. The perfect pick-me-up when you feel like treating yourself. I thought for sure that the restaurant’s slice of carrot cake was unmatched in South Florida.

I was wrong.

Beauty & the Feast‘s carrot cake is absolutely divine – perfectly spiced, layered with cream cheese icing and paired with homemade coconut gelato. Ugh. I can’t. Wait to go back for it, that is. The cake is the work of Pastry Chef Donna Silverthorn, who makes all the desserts and pastries in-house.

Beauty & the Feast

The gorgeous new restaurant at The Atlantic Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach, initially lured me in the Ferris Bueller quotes on its wall and its brunch. At $29 for all-you-can-eat small plates and omelets, pastries, fruit and more, I can’t think of a better value brunch spot in Fort Lauderdale. (Plus, add bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys for $15.)

You know those expensive brunch buffets with lavish steak, lamb chop and chicken small plates that are prepared ahead of time and then sit out for hours, getting soggy and cold? Beauty & the Feast is not like that. Guests can order a few small plates at a time from the server, who sends the order to the kitchen and brings them out fresh. Small plates include red velvet pancakes, pineapple mascarpone French toast, seafood paella, barbecue and ribs, these awesome meatballs served with ricotta and tomato “gravy,” … you name it. The dishes are all sized perfectly to allow just a taste, so it really is possible to try a ton and not get full. Which is really important if you want to go all out and order a slice of carrot cake for dessert, like I did. Continue reading →

Wanderlust Wednesday: Dubai Miracle Garden

Dubai Miracle Garden Dubai Miracle Garden Dubai Miracle Garden Dubai Miracle Garden Dubai Miracle Garden Dubai Miracle Garden (images via: 1, 2, 34 and 5/6)

Going to Dubai would be enough of a dream, but Dubai Miracle Garden is like something out a fairy tale. The world’s largest natural flower garden is 721,000 square feet garden and boasts more than 45 million flowers. Flowers range from petunias, geraniums and marigolds and are sculpted to look like giant castles, boats, cars, peacocks and pyramids. There’s even an enormous clock made out flowers that displays Dubai time. The garden also holds the Guinness Book of Records spot for longest flower wall.

The Dubailand-based garden opened on Valentine’s Day 2013. Ironically, the world’s largest natural flower garden is built on desert land. A total of 400 landscapers built the garden – and it took them only 60 days (makes me feel unaccomplished when I think about all that I’ve done the past two months!). The flowers are nourised with reused waste water distributed by drip irrigation.

The garden blooms from October through May and is closed through Dubai’s hot summer. The best part? Admission the see this world wonder is only about $8 USD per person, according to the website.

Browse more pictures of the garden here.

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Travel Journal: Curaçao

Curacao travel guide

When I packed my bags for Curaçao, I was expecting to spend a long, relaxing weekend in a bikini, sipping cocktails. I was not expecting to eat iguana, or hold an ostrich egg, or visit a healing herb garden, or interact with people from more than 50 different cultures.

To me, the Caribbean is like a better version of Florida, where I grew up. The water is bluer, clearer, more gentle. The days feel slower, longer and always more relaxed.

So of course, I was prepared to find beauty and serenity in Curaçao. The adventure, camaraderie and color that came with it, though, were pleasant surprises.

One of the travelers from our crew put it perfectly when she compared the way we experienced Curaçao to the way Anthony Bourdain would – we experimented with trying the local fare, listened to the stories of locals, browsed the markets, and got up and close with a few ostriches along the way.

avila hotel - Curacao travel guide Avila Hotel

Avila Hotel - Curacao travel guide Avila Hotel

Avila Hotel - Curacao travel guide Avila Hotel

Papagayo hotel - Curacao travel guide The infinity pool at Papagayo Beach & Lounge resort Curaçao

Papagayo hotel - Curacao travel guide Me, relaxing in the infinity pool

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Wanderlust Wednesday: New Orleans

New Orleans French Quarter

Just over a week ago I was on a little vacation, wandering through the French Quarter with my love.

I’m daydreaming about being back there, admiring the beautiful Southern homes with their porches and gas lanterns. Of course, I’m also daydreaming about some of my favorite NOLA restaurants – the best donuts ever at District, the Guinness hot dogs at Dat Dog, hunting down my favorite food truck Taceaux Loceaux, the rum cake at Parkway, and, of course, late night beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

Travel Accessory: Designer Backpack Lookalikes for Less

 

Cheap designer backpack lookalikes - 3.1 Phillip Lim and The Row lookalikes from Forever 21 The Row Small Leather Backpack ($2,900) vs Forever 21 Faux Leather Backpack ($32.80)
3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli Backpack ($895) vs Forever 21 Faux Leather Trapeze Backpack ($35.80)

I posted a few weeks back about the designer backpack trend, and now I just have to share these affordable options I stumbled upon at Forever 21.

Is it just me, or is the quality of inexpensive handbags at places like Forever 21 and Target just getting better and better? Handbags are one of the few things I’m picky about buying. You’ll use a good one every day and it should last you years. My philosophy has always been that a good handbag is worth the splurge, but the Phillip Lim x Target collaboration last year changed my life – I bought this beauty and have used it every single day for at least six months. Amazingly, it still looks good as new.

Boutique Spotlight: Elle Studio in Hollywood, FL

Elle Mawardi of Elle Studio in Hollywood FL

Quay sunglasses at fashion boutique Elle Studio in Hollywood FL

Fashion boutique in Hollywood FL Elle Studio

Fashion boutique in Hollywood FL Elle Studio Opening a clothing boutique is not an easy job, but Elle Mawardi sure makes it look like it is. The recent college grad decided she wanted to open a women’s clothing boutique, and three weeks later doors were open. During that time period she completely redid and redecorated her space, curated and secured a collection of clothing and accessories, created social media accounts and websites for the store, organized a grand opening event – and probably did a million other behind-the-scenes things that just come with the territory of opening a business. She even developed a business plan to make her boutique unique – like offering a jet setter program for traveling girls looking to pack their suitcases, a rental program for formalwear, and a bar cart for guests to help themselves to coffee or drinks. A corner of the boutique is even designated as a photo booth – a fun spot complete with lighting, props and a full-length mirror.

You might expect a store pulled together in such a quick time period to look sloppy or unfinished, but Elle Studio is not. The racks are neatly organized and divided by style and mood – one wall is dedicated to formalwear, which can be purchased or loaned through the boutique’s rental program – super convenient for a wedding or bridal shower that you’ll only wear a dress to once. Another wall showcases sophisticated, neutral separates – black, white and gray pieces sourced from Paris, Los Angeles and New York. Another rack holds chic but comfy pieces – baggy solid-color tops made from the softest material in the world. Yet another rack pops with colorful, printed bohemian pieces. Another rack holds swimwear and Turkish beach towels.

For me, the hard thing about shopping at boutiques is that I want everything – but most of the time even buying one thing would be a splurge. One that I’d feel guilty about for days. But Elle Studio is different in that the clothing is high quality but prices are pretty affordable, ranging from $30 to $150. I was surprised to find that a black, snakeskin-print pencil skirt I was eyeing was only $40.

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8 South Florida-inspired Summer Cocktails

  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes Grey Goose melon
    GREY GOOSE® Le Melon “Melon Mule”

      1½ parts GREY GOOSE® Le Melon
    3 parts ginger beer
    3 lime wedges

    Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add GREY GOOSE Le Melon and the juice from three lime wedges. Shake well and strain into a copper mug filled with crushed ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.
  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes Rekorderlig
    Rekorderlig’s “Beautifully Swedish”

    1 1/2 ounces Rekorderlig pear cider
    1 ounce of Absolut pear vodka
    1/2 ounce of framboise liquor
    1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice
    4 strawberries

    Muddle strawberries, vodka, framboise and lemon juice. Top with crushed ice, shake and pour over Rekorderlig pear cider. Garnish with apple slices.
  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes
    NYY Steak’s “Yankeetini”


    2 ounces Absolut Citron
    1/2 ounce curacao
    1 ounce cranberry juice
    1/4 ounce fresh lime juice

    Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Pour into a chilled glass.
  • Refreshing Summer Cocktail Recipes
    Sweet Nectar Restaurant’s “Grandpa’s Apple Pie Cocktail”

    1 1/2 ounces Michter’s Rye Whiskey
    1 1/2 ounces Ole Smoky’s Apple Pie Moonshine
    1/2 ounce Rhum Clément Créole Shrubb orange liquor
    4 dashes aeromatic bitters
    Fresh muddled orange

    Muddle orange in a shaker. Add ice and ingredients. Shake and serve. Don’t strain. Garnish with orange or mint leaf.
  • Tsukuro restaurant's Lavender Bergamot Shooter (pictured in front)1 TeaForte lavender citrus infuser3 oz vodka
Orange wedge Place infuser in glass. Pour vodka over infuser and steep 2-3 minutes. Add infused vodka into a shaker with ice, shake vigorously. Strain into 2 shot glasses. To drink, take the shot and follow with a bite into the orange wedge.
    Tsukuro restaurant’s Lavender Bergamot Shooter (pictured in front)

    1 TeaForte lavender citrus infuser
    3 oz vodka
    Orange wedge

    Place infuser in glass. Pour vodka over infuser and steep 2-3 minutes. Add infused vodka into a shaker with ice, shake vigorously. Strain into 2 shot glasses. To drink, take the shot and follow with a bite into the orange wedge.
  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes Grey Goose melon
    GREY GOOSE® Le Melon “Melon Royale”

     1½ parts GREY GOOSE® Le Melon
    3 parts lemon-lime soda

     Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add GREY GOOSE Le Melon and top with lemon-lime soda. Present with a melon slice.
  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes
    Max’s Harvest’s “Watermelon Patch”

    2 ounces fresh watermelon juice
    2 ounces Crop cucumber vodka
    1/2 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liquor

    Fill 16-ounce shaker glass with ice and ingredients. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into chilled martini glass.
  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes
    Naked Turtle Rum’s “Dark & Beachy”

    1 1/2 ounces Naked Turtle Rum
    3 1/2 ounces ginger beer
    Lime slice for garnish

    Combine Naked Turtle Rum and ginger into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with lime slice. 

All images courtesy of the restaurants and liquor companies who supplied the recipes.

The best part about summer in South Florida? Outdoor entertaining. Barbecues, pool parties, dinner parties at twilight – I can’t get enough.

I asked some local restaurants and liquor companies to share some of their most refreshing summer drink recipes, and they definitely delivered. Use your arrows to scroll through the recipes, and click on the images for more info. Cheers!

Wanderlust Wednesday: the World’s Largest Underground Trampoline

World's largest underground trampoline – Bounce Below in Wales

Here in South Florida, trampoline parks have become quite trendy over the last year or so. It seems a new one is listed locally on Groupon every week. I went to one for the first time last fall – Off the Wall in Coconut Creek. After hours playing laser tag with a bunch of teenagers and bouncing on the giant trampolines until I was out of breath, I wondered why I wasn’t indulging in this awesomeness every weekend. Then my boyfriend slipped one of the trampolines and sprained his ankle, and we decided maybe we’d had enough of the trampoline parks for a little while.

But I’d jump at the chance to go to Bounce Below, a trampoline park inside a cavern in Wales that opened this past weekend. Bounce Below has transformed the nostalgic trampolining from your childhood into a sport for the truly adventurous. Guests are transported to the cavern by an old mining train and they must wear a protective helmet and cotton overalls to participate.

The trampoline nets are spread across two huge chambers at varying levels and are linked together by walkways and and slides that are up to 60 feet long. A technicoloured light display illuminates the cavern so guests can admire the geology. If you go, dress in comfortable but warm clothing, as the temperature in the cavern is about 46 degrees F.

Admission is £15/person (about $25) – not a bad price for such a one-of-a-kind experience, if you ask me.

World's largest underground trampoline – Bounce Below in Wales (images via)

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Chic Travel Accessory: Designer Backpacks

backpacks

Stella McCartney Falabella faux-suede backpack | Balenciaga Classic Zip Traveler Backpack | MICHAEL MICHAEL KORS Jet Set Leather Large Backpack | Stella McCartney Bicolor Faux-Leather Rucksack, Black/White | 3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli Backpack | Moschino quilted Napa leather backpack | The Row leather backpack | Tory Burch Marion Quilted Leather Backpack, Pink | ZAC Zac Posen Eartha Backpack | VINCE CAMUTO Janet Leather Backpack | Marc by Marc Jacobs Classic Q Mariska Backpack  

When I was about 10, mini backpacks were the “it” handbag. I remember being so excited when I got a black faux leather mini backpack for my 11th birthday. I stashed inside my GigaPets, wallet, planner and lip gloss, and proudly took it everywhere.

Over the weekend, I was at Macy’s in Town Center at Boca Raton and spotted an entire wall lined with Michael Kors backpacks that my 10-year-old self would’ve freaked out over. In fact, I’ve been seeing backpacks everywhere lately. It seems every designer has gotten in on the trend, from Chanel to Stella to Vince Camuto.

These pieces provide quite the upgrade to your standard JanSport backpack. They’re the perfect no-fuss, stylish travel companion. Because if you’re running through the airport or train station to catch your ride, why would you want to deal with a giant handbag?