Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Berlin: the cafe edition


As I’m sitting reunited with my favorite café in DC, it seems fitting to reminisce and talk about my favorite cafés in Berlin.  There is no shortage of cafes in Berlin, that much should be obvious.  Whether you are looking for a cozy cafe to curl up in and read a book or a busy cafe to get you working, Berlin has it.  I have to say, there are far too many cafes for me to visit...I mean there are too many cafes on my street for me to even visit in just a few weeks.

When I visit cafes, I have to admit that I make a lot of my judgments based off the atmosphere and not necessarily just the coffee.  Don't get me wrong, I will not enjoy my time if I receive a lukewarm coffee or badly made espresso, but I'm not claiming to be a coffee connoisseur. I want my coffee to be strong, but I'm not at the level of being able to detect different notes in my coffee...yet.  But if you want that anyway, Berlin is also the place to go for good coffee.

However, the places I'm including in this post are the cafes I have frequented; they are tried and true favorites for me to get my coffee fix and also sit down to do a little bit of work. There are some famous coffee places in Berlin, including The Barn, Bonanza Coffee Heroes, Double Eye, and Sankt Oberholz among many many others, but some of these a little more unknown.  It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the abundance of cafes and restaurants in Berlin, so I hope this helps some of you out who are looking for some different options.

The first café was essentially right around the corner from my apartment, making it easy for me to pop over and grab some coffee and catch up on my emails.  It had the qualities of an ideal café for me – good coffee, nice people, a cozy environment, and fast Wi-fi…which unfortunately can be harder to find in Berlin than most people think.  It was also in my favorite district of the city Schöneberg, a quiet historical area in the center of Berlin.  By historical area, I mean that it was the cultural center of Berlin during the Weimar Period, aka one of my favorite historical periods.

Mokalola
Leberstraße 21, 10829 Berlin
S-bahn Julius Leber Brücke or S-bahn Südkreuz 
 
The first time I visited Mokalola was through the recommendation of someone I knew.  She encouraged us to find out what the name of the café meant.  It turns out that it was named as a nod to its location in Schöneberg, and especially after Marlene Dietrich, born near the cafe in Schöneberg and ultimate femme fatale. One of her most famous roles was as Lola in The Blue Angel, making Mokalola an adorable name for the café.


photo from flickr because I forget to take pictures....


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Travel Makeup for Long Trips - packing the essentials

What do I do when I have to pack for a 5 week trip with only a 55L backpack and a smaller regular sized backpack?  Pack the essentials, make sure everything is absolutely fool-proof, and use as many space saving solutions as possible. 

For my first packing post, I thought I would show you how I packed my makeup, and how I managed to pare everything down to the bare essentials (sort of) for a 5 week trip.  Except for my lip products...because when I keep my eyes simple I need to have options with my lip products. I'm quite proud of everything else that I packed, as now that I'm back from the trip I can safely say that I used everything, but wasn't lacking anything!

The trick for me was packing as many travel sized/samples of products as possible for me.  I basically amassed everything I could find in a travel size and brought them with me.  This includes travel size brushes, and *shudder*..using sponge-tip applicators as my eye brushes!


How it all fit in my two makeup bags, complete with foundation spills.



Monday, August 18, 2014

Berlin: some sightseeing

Although I managed to do a lot of sightseeing my first time around in Berlin, there was still so much more I hadn't seen.  I didn't actually go to a lot of the museums or typical sightseeing sites, but I did manage to get out a couple days and face the crowds of people downtown to explore everything Berlin has to offer.  

In terms of history and culture, Berlin is a fantastic city.  For a history nerd like me, I never get tired of the museums and memorials.  While Berlin has had somewhat of a dark history, I credit them for trying to come to terms with it.  I view it as a way to incorporate the past into the present, a part of a permanent reconstruction of Berlin.  In this way, Berlin will never be "finished."  It is constantly evolving, seamlessly weaving the new in with the old, because there is no strong distinction between an "old" city of historical buildings and a new city of business and fancy architecture.  It is all placed together, and part of what makes Berlin so special.

Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauerstrasse


 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Being Back in Berlin


Berlin.  The original destination for this entire trip.  The city I’ve endlessly talked about the entire year, waiting for the moment I could finally be back in the city that so effortlessly defined me and even more than that, was me.  

Lots of people have asked me, “Why German?” or even better, “Why Berlin?”  And to tell you the truth, I have no idea.  Part of it was because I wasn’t really interested in learning Spanish, French, or Latin in school, but part of me was also puzzled when I started learning German and fell completely in love.  It was one of those gut instincts that I knew I was doing the right thing and making the right decisions.

As for Berlin?  Call it weird, but I always knew I would come here.  It was another one of those feelings that I knew I would love it.  Before coming here the first time, I always wondered if I had built up this fantasy image of Berlin in my head; that I was looking for something I wouldn’t be able to find, especially in a city (or country) I had never visited.  Upon my arrival in Berlin for the first time last year, I knew that wasn’t going to be the case at all. Never have I had the sensation that everything was sinking into place the same way I felt when I was settling into Berlin.  

I admit, I had some trepidations about coming back the second time around.  Although I knew I loved it the first time, I keep hearing how people seem to find things different the next time visit, and end up realizing they don’t love it as much as they did before.  I always had a good instinct about Berlin, but I couldn’t help but be afraid that the same thing would happen to me – that I would realize my love for Berlin was just an infatuation and not really the city I was looking for my entire life.  It turns out that I should just trust my instincts because I seem to love it even more the second time around.  
 
From the quiet to buzzing and alive; from the cafes to the craziest clubs, Berlin has it all.  It’s a city for everyone, but at the same time while at the same time takes some getting used  to.  It’s not a city that jumps out in its beauty or glamor or friendliness in the same way other cities like New York, Paris, or London attracts people, but spend a little bit of time here and you realize the city is buzzing.  It starts early in the morning, from the fresh bread and fruit at the markets to the coffee in the afternoon, and lasting long into the night at the bars and clubs around the city…taking you all the way to the first morning light when you finally stumble home and then do it all over after a couple hours of sleep.  What strikes me is the ability for anyone to fit in – and how everyone seems to mesh together.

Berlin is a really hard city for me to capture in photographs.  To me, there is no way to really adequately show the city in photos as nothing correctly shows the life and beauty of the city.  Those moments are almost too intimate - as if I'm intruding on peoples' personal lives by snapping a photograph on the Ubahn or the way a man walks his dog down the street, quietly whistling for it to follow along or the way two friends chat in a cafe.  It's these little moments that make me cherish the city, and also the moments that I don't capture on camera.  But I tried anyway.






Friday, August 8, 2014

The Hauling Begins: Barcelona and shopping in Spain

In case you haven't noticed, I've been in Spain recently.  In case you also haven't noticed, I like to shop.  So when I combine the two together, surely some magic has to happen.

I actually wasn't planning on buying too much, but of course things never go as planned.  While wandering through all these streets, I came upon so many nice stores and found some unexpected items that I absolutely love.

The first, and probably most treasured purchase of this trip was this black bag from a small boutique in Barcelona.  It was pretty much love at first sight with the large slouchy, but also slightly structured shape, and brown handles.  And although it is not real leather, it is still a soft buttery material.  I have been looking for a new tote bag for awhile, but did not expect to find it while I was in Barcelona at all, so I'm pretty happy with this purchase...but that's not even the best part.





It's actually three bags.  Yep.  There's a smaller bag inside that can be used as a shoulder bag (and also has become an essential for me), and there's also an even smaller wristlet/coin purse.  All for 40 Euros.  There was no way I wasn't buying this.




I'm really impressed with the quality, and I can fit my laptop (14'') plus everything I else I need for the day and I usually still have tons of space left.  I have been using it like crazy since it's really the only bag I have right now.  

This is just the beginning.  Read after the jump for more shopping!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Paris, the second time around.

Oh, Paris, you iconic city.  You're known as the city of lights and the city for romance; the city every girl dreams of visiting.  The city of beautiful architecture, art, history, food, fashion, and of course - the Eiffel Tower.  It holds a certain magic that keeps millions of people coming, and then coming back over the years.  




Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hot Off the Shelves: Kiko Daring Game Collection and Queen of Hearts Eyeshadow Palette (review and tutorial)

Stumbling into another Kiko store, I picked up some of the remaining items that I wanted to buy before going back to the states (which I'll be compiling a huge post for soon!), I was about to check out before I realized that I missed an entirely new display in the store. 

It seemed to be completely new, as the testers looked barely touched, and I can't even find it online on the website yet, but everything was gorgeous.   I had to exercise restraint not to buy everything in the collection.  Although I didn't take pictures of the display (oops), it seemed to be designed after a deck of cards.  Everything was card (aka rectangular) shaped in a white pearly packaging with an image of a suit on the front. The image is metallic and reflects light beautifully.  I believe that all the palettes have a different color, as well!  Kiko always impresses me with its packaging - I love standard black packaging, and I'm sure that that's the reason I'm so drawn to Kiko in the first place, but their limited edition packaging is always so unique and well thought out that they deserve extra points for that, too.

Although I've been saving all my recently acquired items for a master post later on, I wanted to try this out and let you all know to be on the lookout for this in your Kiko stores.  It wasn't too hard for me to walk away from the blush palettes since I could think of a dupe I already had for most of the shades but oh lord the eyeshadow palettes.  There were three that looked equally gorgeous, but I made myself choose just one.  It wasn't hard.  It was the neutral one. 







To be fair, it reminds me of the MAC  x Pedro Lourenco nude quad that I lusted after, but decided not to buy.  This quad had the same rosy neutral shades, but for much less money.  I could see myself using this one to death, especially as fall rolls around.

Even the outer packaging of this is gorgeous!  I think I'll definitely be saving the box of this one.


Most of the items in the collection (bronzer, blush, and eyeshadow palettes) were 14,90.

Read after the jump for my thoughts, swatches, and a full face look!