Hello, Ireland!

Traveling to Ireland for Spring break was definitely an adventure I’d love to repeat. The 14 hour flight from Albuquerque, New Mexico wasn’t very exciting but well worth the adventures that followed.

As this was my first trip to Ireland, I can tell you to expect a warm welcome, gorgeous scenery, interesting ruins, fun and friendly locals, a relaxed atmosphere, and a lot of rain.

Ireland is a place where you can fill your days with outdoor adventures and hours of sightseeing, but it’ll also tempt you to slow down and soak up the natural beauty and inviting culture.

The Temple Bar, Dublin

The Temple Bar is quite possibly one of the most iconic bars in all of Dublin, with tourists flocking from all over the world to have a drink inside its famous walls. I’m not a beer or whiskey gal so I opted for fresh Oysters and and an Irish Coffee. Although the history of the bar dates back to the early 1300s, it still remains popular to this day due to its famous red exterior, its great location in the heart of the city, as well as being a huge part of Dublin’s central nightlife scene.

Take a Tour of the Old Jameson Distillery

Another historical gem is the Old Jameson Distillery, located just off Smithfield Square. This location previously used to be the original site where Jameson whiskey was manufactured and distilled until it stopped production in the early 1970s. Although I am not a fan of whiskey, I was rather intrigued by the process in which this solution is made (pun intended). This tour of the old distillery will take you through the history and process of creating the refined whiskey, along with the unique opportunity to take part in a comparative whiskey-tasting experience. At the end of the tour, you will be given a drink coupon to indulge in the greatness, I chose a Jameson and Ginger ale which is now one of my favorite cocktails.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Known as the largest church in all of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is actually one of two cathedrals that were built on Dublin soil. However, St. Patcrick’s Cathedral still remains the most popular of the two when it comes to tourists. A brilliant architectural wonder, its beauty can be noticed both inside and out although I didn’t get to see the inside due to services being in session. The cathedral was originally founded in 1191 and is the final resting place of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s travels and Dean of the Cathedral (according to the sign outside).

The Cliffs of Moher

Another spectacular trip that awaits you just beyond the city is a tour of the marvelous Cliffs of Moher. These natural wonders have also been used for various film shoots, such as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and The Princess Bride, and are an absolute breathtaking experience to view in person.

The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most recognizable landmarks. Finally seeing them in person was one of the things I was most looking forward to on my trip to Ireland!

The Cliffs of Moher stretch over 8 miles along the western coast of Ireland. They tower above the Atlantic Ocean, reaching over 702 feet at their highest point.

The Visitor Center is located at the midpoint of the cliffs, which is also the highest point. If you’re short on time and just want to see the most recognizable view of the cliffs, you can do that from here.

Giants Causeway

This spectacular rock formation on the coast of Northern Ireland. It is an area of about 40,000+ hexagonal columns rising out of the sea. The unique look of the causeway was formed by an intense ancient volcanic eruption. Or if you’d prefer to believe the legend which was told by our awesome tour guide, the columns are the remains of a causeway (bridge) built by an Irish giant named Finn MacCool to connect Ireland and Scotland.

Giant’s Causeway is free (without a guide) to visit and is always open. However it can get super busy during the day, and knowing where to park can be confusing. We found an official parking lot for the Visitor Center. Parking costs around £10.00 per person (not per vehicle, per person) and gives you access to a museum about how the causeway was formed. However you can visit the causeway for free without visiting the museum.

After exploring the causeway, there is a hiking trail you can take that follows along the upper cliffs of the coast, giving you a panoramic view down onto the causeway.

The Book of Kells

I had heard about the Trinity College Library from friends but never thought I’d actually see the inside. We didn’t spend much time in Dublin, but I’m glad we made time to see this beautiful establishment.

It’s more than just a place for book lovers, the Book of Kells exhibit at Trinity College is an interesting lesson in art, history, and religion.  And if that is not enough, the Long Room upstairs is just visually stunning and filled with so many amazing books. Books on books, these books have books!

You don’t get to see the Book of Kells right away.  You have to go through the exhibit which helps you appreciate the book and learn some Book of Kells facts.  

First, you learn about how the Book of Kells was made.  I hadn’t thought about it before but obviously, they don’t have the tools that we do now to be able to make books.  They actually used 185 calf skins to make the pages.  They were very resourceful and used various things such as gypsum, green clay, and indigo indigotin to get the colors that they needed.

The Blarney Castle, County Cork, Ireland

One of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions is the Blarney Castle, a medieval stronghold in Blarney. I still can’t believe that people from all over the world come to this old castle to climb to the top and kiss its famous Blarney Stone. The reason people kiss the stone is to ‘gain the gift of eloquence’, though I’m still not entirely sure how kissing a stone can make someone eloquent.

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Yes, this is it. literally…

Me, kiss the stone…. I did not. I have no interest in putting my mouth on a rock that has seen millions of mouths. No thanks, hard pass.

To kiss the Blarney Stone, you actually have to lean backwards and grab the iron railing. There is a man there to hold you and keep the line moving. There are also railings under the stone for an additional layer of safety.

Waterford Crystal Factory

Waterford Crystal is known throughout the world as a premiere brand and it’s my name, so of course I went to see it. It’s used for famous occasions, well known trophies and glassware for royalty. You can see first-hand how the crystal gets made in a tour that takes visitors through every phase of the process, including watching master craftsmen put cuts in to the pieces that make for unique designs. When you’re done, there is a showroom on hand to buy your own souvenir. Don’t worry about having it break in your luggage; you can arrange to have them ship it home.

Well folks, thats all I got for you this trip. Thanks for joining along for my Ireland adventure.

All photos used for this blog post are mine and are not to be used without my permission.

Athleisure, please!

fullsizeoutput_54fa

I’m sure you all have noticed that “athleisure” is (and has been) a HUGE trend right now and I couldn’t be happier about it.  I mean, I’m totally down with wearing leggings and sneakers ALL day!  Of course it’s fun to get dressed up but I also love incorporating my workout clothes into my everyday wardrobe.  When I’m looking for new active wear I always head straight to Nordstrom. I’ve been buying my active wear from Nordstrom for years and I always know their selection will be awesome and have amazing quality. I bought this Adidas crop hoodie from Nordstrom a week ago and have been wearing it like crazy! I love that the old-school Adidas logo is totally back in now and I am completely in love with this geometric panel vibe.   I bought a size x-small for reference, it does have a slightly over-sized fit! I paired it with a pair black Adidas sweatpants similar to these I’m wearing a size small in these for reference. Finally, how cute are these Adidas Swift Run J sneaks?!  I’ve got a small foot so I’m able to save about $15 and get them in a kids size 5, SCORE!

Thanks for stopping by…

Crys

fullsizeoutput_54f8

Petite, Chic and Magnifique!

There’s nothing better than owning a flattering dress you can simply throw on and quickly head out the door feeling great—the fit is flawless and the design flatters your figure at every angle. Sounds great, right? But if you have a smaller frame, you can vouch that finding just the right dress can take a lot of searching.

After research, experience, and lots of shopping, I know that, in general, styles that are cinched at the waist, hemmed to hit above the knee, or have a plunging neckline work best.

You can find this Eliza J dress on Nordstrom.com or click the link below.

http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/4931017

AFRICA / MOROCCO

Morocco is home to beautiful nature, exotic ancient cities and some and the world’s best food. If you haven’t been there yet maybe this little list of amazing things to do in Morocco will convince you to plan that trip!

IMG_1135

Medinas of Fez, Morocco

One of the first things I see as I walk down the main street of the old medina here in the Moroccan city of Fez is this feathery fellow.  Quite an introduction! Moments later, he’s getting his head chopped off….The other birds in the shop seem not to have noticed the death of their friend, or perhaps they just don’t understand. There’s no fuss from them even though their lives can surely be counted only in minutes.

FullSizeRender 20

It feels rough and raw – but I guess that’s because I’m comparing the Fez medina to the cities where I grew up. Outside the walls of this old part of town, things are a bit more relatable. But when you’re inside them – in the crooked alleyways with just glimpses of sunlight, smoke billowing up from stoves, the glow of lamps reaching out from stalls – you lose perspective of time.

FullSizeRender 17

Not just the amount of time you have been wandering through the enormous labyrinth – and it’s certainly easy to lose track of that. But also the medina’s position in the timeline of Morocco’s culture. It may be 2017 as I wander through the souks and residential areas but, in many ways, it could be any century from the past millennium.

FullSizeRender 18

The Medina of Fez was founded in the 9th century at around the same time that Islam arrived in Morocco and the imperial rule that would create this country.  It grew in the 12th and 13th centuries to about the size that it is today.

FullSizeRender 42

Fez was the capital of Morocco until 1912 and, although political power may have moved to Rabat, this still feels like the cultural and spiritual centre of the country. It has an energy that is inescapable that comes as much from the buildings as it does the people.

FullSizeRender 27

I wonder how different the behaviour is here these days compared to hundreds of years ago. I suspect not too much. It’s one of the reasons I find it so hard to place the medina of Fez in a particular place in time. The donkeys that walk up the steps carrying goods to shops have probably always done that; the men sitting and smoking on wooden stools in front of their carpet shops would never have look out of place; the markets full of fruits and vegetables on the outer edge of the city wall has probably always been just as busy.

FullSizeRender 34
The Moroccan Hybrid

In one small square, men sit on stools outside banging copper into place as they make pots in front of the crowds rushing past.

FullSizeRender 7

I peek through a wooden door that I’m passing and see workers with large looms creating beautiful scarves and rugs.

FullSizeRender 26
Loom weaver operating a horizontal wooden hand loom in a cloth shop in Fez, Morocco

Follow the right little alleyways and you’ll come across the infamous tanneries where the animal skins are treated in the open air and plain view.  The smell is horrible so when someone offers you a mint leaf to shove up your nose, take it!

IMG_1079

This is Chouara, an 11th-century tannery that still operates as it did a thousand years ago.  Tannery workers plunge the skins into the colored wells, leaving them there for a few more days to absorb each hue. The dyes all come from natural substances, such as indigo, henna, saffron, poppies, and pomegranates.

FullSizeRender 40
This is where the process begins. The raw skins are being soaked in a mixture of cow urine, pigeon feces (yup, shit) quicklime, salt and water.  This loosens the hair from the hides and makes them softer.

FullSizeRender 35
Cow, sheep, goat and camel hides are brought here to be preserved, dyed and turned into handbags, jackets and wallets.

FullSizeRender 41
We were shown around by Mohammad, a guide arranged through the owner of our Riad.

On to Casablanca, Morocco

The number one attraction in Casablanca is the Hassan II Mosque.

FullSizeRender 36

Completed in 1993, the 210 meters (689 feet) mosque rises above the Atlantic Ocean which you can also see through the glass floor inside the magnificent building. It welcomes 105,000 worshippers for prayers at once. The walls are made from hand-crafted marbles with the minaret at 60 stories in height.

IMG_0005IMG_0007

Shop ’til you drop at Marche Central

As Casablanca’s main market, you can find everything at Marche Central: rare spices, olives for days, colorful decor and gorgeous fabrics. This is the perfect place for you to show off mad bargaining skills and bring home loads of souvenir for loved ones.

IMG_1061

FullSizeRender 43
Morocco is the fifth largest producer and exporter of Olive oil worldwide.  It is also among the top three countries with the lowest cost to produce.

FullSizeRender 6

Grab lunch at Rick’s Cafe

An ex-American diplomat in Morocco, Kathy Kriger, established Rick’s Cafe back in 2004 for travelers who yearn to relive the beloved Hollywood film: Casablanca. The restaurant/bar/cafe is inside a traditional Moroccan mansion with an interior mainly displaying photographs, and memorabilia from the film. Every decor placement inside the establishment is a tribute to the film.

IMG_0008IMG_0009

Although we know that Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman weren’t actually in Casablanca during filming (the movie was completely shot in Burbank, California,) there’s no harm in bringing out the tourist in all of us once in awhile and soak in the greatest love story ever told.

IMG_0011IMG_0012IMG_0013IMG_0010

Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech is one of the most evocative places in the world. Just the name is sexy!

FullSizeRender 11
Probably one of my favorite shot from Marrakech.

I don’t like to be bored, and neither does Marrakech.  Of all the things to do in Marrakech, I recommend the infamous market place. The souqs of Marrakech are vibrant color and noise.  Crowds of people weave through the alleys of the medina and its hundreds of stalls displaying brightly colored wares. If this is your first visit to Morocco, you’ll no doubt want to experience the souqs at least once. They’re not for everyone though, the hustle is real and can make it stressful or annoying since you’ll receive plenty of attention from stallholders competing for your money. If you’ve never been to a souq before be prepared to negotiate with everyone selling something.

FullSizeRender 38
The chicken reaper of Marrakech

FullSizeRender 37
Its not as easy as I thought it would be. Much respect to these beautiful women.

FullSizeRender 32
The women who embroider all day do not use templates.  Its all free hand.

Marrakesh is a modern mix of Moroccan and international culture with the most diversity of delicious international food and beautiful architecture in the medina.  The chaotic pace exposed a city and people always on the go. The famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square is truly the mess everyone describes: tens of thousands of people at night eating, shopping, getting henna tattoos, listening to bands and storytellers, and watching magicians (and snake charmers during the day). It’s one of the most hectic but fascinating people-watching places in the country. It still blows my mind how big and full it was!

FullSizeRender 28
Bread on bread.  Even their bread has bread.

FullSizeRender 24

3F7D1EB5-9BD9-4EF4-B1C7-DDF3623582FF
Pastilla at the Argana Cafe, Marrakech

Ride a Camel

FullSizeRender 10
Meet Victoria

Camel trekking may not be the most comfortable means of travelling for some, but it is undoubtedly a ‘must’ for every traveller as a way to experience the mode of transport of the Berber nomads of the Sahara.

Imlil, Morocco

The Ourika Valley is a short drive from Marrakech in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.

FullSizeRender 19FullSizeRender 14FullSizeRender 16

FullSizeRender 15
The making of Argan Oil

IMG_1431IMG_1429FullSizeRender 13

High Atlas Mountains

8719F98B-DBDC-4AFF-81E8-E37AEC704314

The Atlas Mountains are an easy one-hour drive from Marrakech, offering secluded tranquility and breathtaking natural surroundings.  A mile hike up the mountains and you’ll get to experience the beautiful waterfalls.

FullSizeRender 46

67B3A50C-202F-40A3-AB25-17C497612DD1
Half way up the mountain you can stop and enjoy a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice.

74843C72-4C53-4B86-98FC-4E7C314CE53B

Well folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on Morocco.  Thanks for following me on all my adventures.

 

All photos used for this blog post are mine and are not to be used without my permission.

How to weather the entrepreneurial storm.

Dreams don’t always become reality, at least not on your timeline.

That’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned as a business owner. Too bad it took attending the school of hard knocks and letting life, the most valuable teacher, impart this wisdom into my stubborn brain.

Taking the plunge into the entrepreneurial ocean has been the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I’d always had a grand vision of running a business where everything would just work itself out, but man was I sadly mistaken. The first two years were inundated with storm after storm that seemed practically impossible to weather. Each time I took one step forward, I took two steps back.

Fortunately, I made up in my mind that it was all or nothing, and figured out ways to endure through the tough times. And guess what? I’m still standing.

Throughout your entrepreneurial journey, especially during the startup years, you will face storms. But it’s how you react that determines the outcome.

I’ve met tons of aspiring entrepreneurs who had brilliant ideas, but I didn’t quite realize that mega success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and dedication. And most of those who went on to pursue their passions quickly threw in the towel once they realized the path ahead was filled with roadblocks, and it would take some time to start generating income.

I wish someone would have warned me to control my thoughts before I opened up shop. During the initial months, when things weren’t going my way, I’d sit and have a pity party because I knew I had the tools to get what so and so had, but luck simply wasn’t on my side. But what I failed to realize is that looks can be deceiving; that the individual or company I was comparing myself to was seasoned, had been in the game for several years, and once traveled the same road I was currently on.

The point I’m trying to make is that in order to survive the tough times, you really have to adopt a mind-over-matter outlook. Stay focused and determined, and be willing to do whatever it takes to power through and reach the prize. Most importantly, don’t spend time letting your thoughts paralyze you.

Embrace your fears.  Fear is a dangerous emotion that only heightens with procrastination, so the longer you spend contemplating whether or not to move forward, the more you’ll talk yourself out of doing something that can change the course of your business. And don’t expect everyone around you to be supportive; some may be hoping you fail, whether it’s out of a selfish desire to prove a point or pure jealousy.

Having the courage to embrace your fears may take some time, but it will be worth it in the end. Besides, most of those traumatizing visions you’ve had about failure won’t come to pass — unless, of course, you quit.  Ok, moving on.

Speak to your market!  The famous phrase “features tell, but benefits sell” is spot on. With any of your promotional content or copy, your primary goal should be to captivate the attention of your target market so you’re their first and only choice.

Once you’ve earned their business, be sure to solicit feedback so you can continue to produce offerings tailored to their lifestyle. Besides, what better and more cost-efficient way is there to learn about your target market than from their own mouths?

Remember, it’s not about you: It’s all about your customers, and what you can do to meet their needs. Miss this point and you could quickly find yourself out of business.

Here’s my favorite…Balance.

When my oldest daughter was born, my life was centered upon her, at least for the first year or so. I took her everywhere I went and her mood affected my actions for the day. (That eventually got old when major fatigue set in; I had to learn to relinquish control).

Anyhow, your new business can seem like a newborn baby in your eyes, but don’t get so strapped to it that it becomes the epitome of your existence or you will burn out. The last thing you should be doing when you’re about to lose your shit! (yup, I said it) is making critical decisions or snapping at employeesfullsizerender-4 or clients. I’m totally guilty of this.

Instead, set aside some time to engage in activities that make you happy and don’t forget to get out and explore the world. You only have one life to live, and the business will be waiting for you when you return. This is one of the reasons I started this blog, which should be filled with more travel and fashion stuff but Ive decided to incorporate my knowledge with my readers (upon request).

Lastly, entrepreneurship is like a roller-coaster ride. In the first few years, you’ll need to do whatever it takes to stay relevant. And once you’re established, never stop putting yourself out there or things could go downhill rather quickly.

Now, take a moment and breathe! The first months, even years, of running your own business are often the very hardest. But you will get through this rough patch. I’ve been there on several occasions, but it’s in those weakest moments that I have to remember why I started. You may cry now, but you’ll laugh later as your business grows and you’re able to sit back and reflect on just how far you’ve come on your entrepreneurial journey.

Cheers!

Crys