The Land of the Free

Author: Ali

Every 4th of July, I've done something different. But no matter where I am, there is always a BBQ, fresh fruit salad, and a pool. Last year, I spent my 4th of July in Delray Beach with my parents. The fireworks were great, the energy was electric, and it was one of the highlights of my summer.

This year, however, while my friends and family were sitting poolside or at the beach sipping margaritas in the Hampton's, I was stuck in the city working. That's ok though! I had an entertaining - although random - afternoon that consisted of french fries, kale salads, and watching fireworks on the East River with a friend.

Once the show began, the fireworks left everyone exclaiming "ohh" and "ahh." The show was impressive, but the amount of people in red, white and blue, waving their American flags was actually one of the highlights for me - not to mention refreshing.

After a year of increased racial tensions, terrorism threats, scandals, and every other thing that seeks to divide and destroy a country, it was nice to see everyone united as a whole - standing proudly, waving their flags. People of all colors, races and ages, stood together to celebrate what a great nation we are.

The following day, we watched the U.S. claim their title as "World Cup Champions," for the first time since 1999. I jumped, I screamed, I cheered and finally, I cried. There is something about seeing women not only work together as a team, but working together as a team to represent a country that has been seen as a joke in the soccer realm. With that being said, I think our patriotism will continue throughout the week.

All in all, I'd say this weekend turned out just fine for us Americans. Now, if only the job sector could improve...

Must-Haves: Summer Edition

Author: Ali

 

Ah summer. The time of year when you can wake up to find the sun shining, birds chirping, and officially say “sayonara” to all of those pesky layers!

Depending on where you live, your summer attire could range from classic sundresses and sunhats, to bikinis, cover-ups and flip-flops. For many of us, we’re rarely given the opportunity to wear our swimwear from nine to five during the summer season. However, when it comes to summer vacation, there are a few items that I think are vital for anyone traveling to warm-weather climates.

I’ve compiled a short list of items that I always bring with me on vacation – and have on hand during the hot summer months – and why I believe you should consider investing in these products too. Without further ado, here are my must-haves for the summer season:

1.   Breathable sun hats: Eric Javits' Sun Hats. More than just a fun fashion statement, sun hats are also one of the best ways to protect your scalp, face, and ears from the sun. Many people tend to forget that your ears, scalp and nose are the most susceptible to sunburn. What better way to protect all three while looking cute, right? With that being said, sun hats designed by people like Eric Javitis and San Diego Hat like to incorporate UPF 50+ protection into a lot of their hats to protect your pretty face from the sun.

2.   Leave-in conditioner or Smoothing Cream: Liss Unlimited Thermo Blow-Dry Cream. I don’t know when I started using this Liss Unlimited Thermo Blow-Dry Cream, but I can thank my hairstylist a thousand times over for introducing this product to me when I first started seeing her. Technically meant to be used prior to blow-drying your hair, I consider it my life-saver during the dog days of summer. It protects your hair from heat damage and smoothes hair as it’s drying. I typically let my hair air-dry when I’m on vacation in Florida, but I find the product still leaves my hair with a nice finish afterwards.

3.   BB Primer-Cream: Bare Minerals daily defense SPF 30. My mother uses this prior to applying her makeup. Typically, I use the original, but during the summer, it’s best to go with something that has SPF in it. You can wear it out before a run, or before hitting the pool or beach, providing you with SPF and minimal coverage. Also worth noting is its formula, which is designed to reduce the look of “discoloration, uneven skin tone and imperfections.”

4.   Bug Repellent: Wipes that have bug repellent in them. Everyone knows how irritating bug bites can be, sometimes even painful. Thanks to brands like Off! and La Fresh, you can now plan on a worry-free night on the town, or evening by the campfire with these easy bug repellent wipes. These towelettes are made so that you can throw them in your backpack or purse to use whenever you need them, especially if you’re dining outside. Both items are formulated with a repellent that offers protection from mosquitos.

5.   Sunscreen: Coppertone SPORT SPF 30. I’m very fond of spray sunscreens. However, when applying sunscreen, you should always apply it somewhere where isn’t windy or if you’re already sweating. I made that mistake on vacation recently, and I decided it would be best to go back to non-spray prior to hitting the beach the second time around. I used my favorite non-spray, Coppertone SPORT SPF 30, which I love because it stays on even after I sweat or swim. I only have to apply it once, so I don’t have to worry about reapplying as much as I would with a spray.

Believe me when I say that bug bites, sunburn, frizzy hair and an unprotected scalp during vacation are some of the worst-case scenarios one could go through. So instead of risking these unwelcome consequences during what is supposed to be one of the highlights of your summer, why not take my advice and play it safe?

Summer Comfort

Author: Ali

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This summer it’s all about white. White tops, skirts, denim – you name it! I paired a light blue linen top with my favorite pair of white toothpick jeans. Both items are lightweight and perfect for the summer heat. I love my old-school Willis bag in classic mahogany. It fits everything from my sunglasses to my massive wallet. Combined with a nice pair of white sandals, and layered with gold jewelry, I’m able to effortlessly piece together a classic and comfortable summer outfit.

Top: Madewell Jeans: J.Crew Sandals: Steve Madden Gold Jewelry: Nordstrom & Sequin Bag: Coach Sunglasses: Ferragamo


National DOUGHnut Day

Author: Ali

Created in 1938 by The Salvation Army, National Doughnut Day was originally started with the idea of charity in mind. One of the reasons this holiday was established was to raise funds for The Salvation Army’s social service programs. National Doughnut Day was also meant to honor the “doughnut lassies,” who risked their lives in the trenches to deliver coffee, writing materials, and among other things – doughnuts, to soldiers back in World War I. It was said that the doughnuts helped the soldiers both mentally and physically, by reminding them of home and feeding their hunger. Since then, businesses like Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme give out free doughnuts in honor of National Doughnut Day.  However, you won't see me at either of these establishments on National Doughnut day, but you will find me sitting table side at Dough.

Since its opening in Brooklyn back in 2010, Dough's feedback has been exceedingly positive. With top-selling flavors such as Dulce de Leche with toasted almonds, Hibiscus, and Salted Chocolate Caramel, you really have no idea what you’re getting yourself into when you taste one of Dough’s doughnuts.

Owner and Pastry-chef Fany Gerson, said there isn’t really one thing that makes Dough so special, but rather a combination of things.

We make the doughnuts in small batches so customers can always get the freshest doughnuts. They are made with all natural, good ingredients and we feel the small things make a big difference.

The variety of unique flavors and excellent customer service that Dough offers its customers is definitely a factor in what makes Dough so great. Upon arrival, I was welcomed by the mouth-watering smell of freshly baked doughnuts and warm smiles from the staff. Since my roommate accompanied me, we decided to split a box of four doughnuts: Hibiscus, Chocolate Salted Caramel, Passion Fruit, and Toasted Coconut. All of which left my taste buds in a euphoric state afterwards.

We use European style butter for a richer mouthfeel [and] we grind our nutmeg as well as whole Mexican cinnamon. We have interesting flavors and they are made with care.

The Hibiscus was exceptional in its presentation, but even more so in its sweet and tangy flavor. If you’ve ever had hibiscus tea, then you would probably assume this doughnut would have a slightly tart aftertaste. The Hibiscus doughnut was surprisingly full of flavor, but nothing that was too overdone.

                          From top right: Toasted Coconut, Hibiscus, Passion Fruit, Chocolate Salted Caramel.

                          From top right: Toasted Coconut, Hibiscus, Passion Fruit, Chocolate Salted Caramel.

I was pleasantly surprised by the burst of sweet and salty in the Chocolate Salted Caramel, which was disguised as a basic chocolate covered doughnut. With the use of Belgian dark chocolate, blended with French caramel and dotted with Mediterranean sea-salt, Dough was able to find the perfect balance between these bold flavors.

Just the name “passion fruit” instills the idea of a strong, satisfyingly sweet taste. The thought of fusing passion fruit with cocoa nibs is one thing, but then creating these flavors in the form of a doughnut? Mind blown. Both my roommate and I agreed that this was the our second favorite in the batch, following the Chocolate Salted Caramel.

Within the last year or so, I’ve realized that I truly enjoy the taste of coconut. Dough’s Toasted Coconut was a tasty delight with its coconut glaze and light coating of toasted coconut. I will say the dough was definitely what stood out to me the most with this particular doughnut. It was different from the others in that it was a bit sweeter than the glaze. Although delicious, it was missing that burst of coconut that I was looking for.

All in all, I believe you can’t go wrong with celebrating National Doughnut Day with one of Dough’s delectable and diverse array of donuts. Whether you’re visiting the Big Apple or are lucky enough to call this splendid city your home, Dough is a must for anyone in the area.

Greatest Gifts for the Greatest Dad

Author: Ali

Every year I ask my mother, “What should I get dad for Father’s Day?” and every year she gives me the same answer, “I have no idea.” Helpful. The truth is, the man has everything. So when it comes to Christmas, his birthday and Father’s Day, it’s nearly impossible to shop for him.

There’s no way I’m the only daughter out there who has trouble figuring out what to get her dad for his special day. With that being said, I’ve kept my eye out over the last couple of months, and have gathered a few gift ideas that I think the father figure in your lifewould like as well. 

For the fit dad: Gym bags by Fred Perry are great for the dad who likes to stay young by running, lifting or benching a few at the gym. All guys want in a gym bag is something that is durable, small, and a bit masculine. For a decent sized bag that can hold their shoes, workout clothes, water bottle, and fit their work clothes after their workout, Fred Perry gym bags are an excellent choice.

For the traveling dad: Even men have small fashion and hygiene emergencies from time to time. Pinch’s Minimergency Kit for Him contains 13 grooming and personal care essentials for men. If your dad is constantly on the go, traveling from here to there for work or pleasure, then this inexpensive kit is the perfect gift for him! Contents include: mending kit, extra buttons, safety pin, deodorant towelette, nail clipper,  stain remover, hand cleansing towelette, adhesive bandage, lip balm, breath freshener, pain reliever, dental floss, and a shoe shine towelette.

For the bearded dad: I don’t know what it is about The Art of Shaving, but every man I know loves it. If your dad is old school or simply loves the art of shaving, then you can’t go wrong with purchasing him the 4 Elements of The Perfect Shave Starter Kit. Complete with pre-shave oil, shaving cream, after-shave balm, and a travel-size genuine badger shaving brush, this kit is for sensitive skin and is hypoallergenic so you can’t go wrong. Also, at $25, it’d be silly to pass this up. On another note, if he ends up really enjoying this gift, then you can follow up with other The Art of Shaving gifts for future holidays and birthdays.

For the tech-savvy dad: Whether your dad is constantly on his phone at work or at home for business, he is going to need to charge it at some point during the day. Be it at the office, in the car, or at home, Mophie has made it easy to charge your phone anywhere and go. Mophie’s Power Reserve is a small, “fast charge battery with an integrated lightning cable and convenient key ring.” Now, this one is just for iPhones and iPods, but they make power reserves for other phone versions here

For the foodie dad: If your dad is anything like mine, he loves popcorn. Not just any popcorn either, but flavored popcorn. Luckily, good ole’ Poptions has so many varieties of popcorn, you’ll find yourself reeling over the fact that you have to choose just three for your Father’s Day Tin! From sweet to spicy to traditional, you really can’t go wrong with this easy option for Father’s day. Unless, of course, if he hates popcorn. In which case check out Pat LaFrieda and Carolynn Carreno's cookbook: "MEAT: Everything You Need to Know."

If your dad has all of these gifts or none of these are for him, then you can always opt for a gift card to his favorite restaurant, retail or hardware store. Just make sure you put it inside a funny Father’s Day card, like those by Emily McDowell – trust me, I know my dad will enjoy his.