Monday, April 20, 2015

Ireland Top 5

Our trip to Ireland is comprised of so many wonderful memories including #1, our stay at Ballyfin, long drives in the country and the folklore story telling night at the Brazen Head. I had imagined what it would be like before we left, but it far exceeded my expectations...The people were more than welcoming, the pace is MUCH more relaxed and the scenery is unmatched.

While it's hard to narrow down, I wanted to share my top 5 things to do/see while in Ireland:

The Long Room at Trinity College

This was not only my favorite sight from our Ireland trip but probably one of the greatest things I have ever seen. I've always dreamt of seeing a real life library that resembled the one that the Beast gives to Belle and this was even better.

Built in the 1700's, it is approx. 200 feet in length and filled with 200,000 of the library’s oldest books. When we walked in and saw it all for the first time, I had tears roll down my was a slightly unexpected reaction, but I truly felt overwhelmed by the beauty and history that was surrounding me.

The Cliffs of Moher

This is a destination I had on my bucket list before we ever seriously considered going to Ireland in the first place. I remember seeing it in the Princess Bride and Harry Potter, reading about it in books and deciding it was a place I had to see. Standing 702 feet at their highest point, they stretch for 5 miles along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. 

The human story and history of the Cliffs of Moher dates back at least two thousand years as the name derives from a 1st Century BC fort that stood where Moher Tower now stands. The old Irish word “Mothar” means ruined fort and it is this that gives the cliffs their name.

Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park is located beside the town of Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland. It was the first national park established in Ireland, created when Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish state in 1932. We visited Muckross House & Muckross Abbey, a 19th century Victorian Mansion and a Franciscan friary from approx. 1448, respectively. 

The attractions are gorgeous but so are the walking paths in between - we chose the "adventure path" which led us through a forest along the lake where the trees looked like a set out of Into the Woods

Quay Street in Galway

Galway is overflowing with charm, even if we couldn't escape the heavy mist/rain showers that loomed over us all day long. While I do wish the weather would have been nicer, we will never forget roaming Quay street and taking in all of its quaint details. We ate at the Pie Maker, the tiniest restaurant you will ever see, owned by an equally tiny blonde who creates Sheppard's pie from scratch on the spot. We wandered in and out of stores (most with gorgeous colored doors), visited some gorgeous churches and stopped by Galway Bay.

Gap of Dunloe

THIS place is what you think of when someone says Ireland. The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass in County Kerry and within it are five lakes. We took a horse and buggy along the gorgeous 7 mile path which led to the winding road which makes the gap at the end. The landscape is absolutely unbelievable and it is so serene, almost hard to believe it's real. As you pass by the grazing sheep and the running waterfalls, it's so easy to forget the honking cars and ringing cell phones back home in Chicago...

Have you been to Ireland? What were your favorite sights and destinations? 

Share with us in the comments!

Friday, April 17, 2015

On Fridays, Zahra Wears Pink...

Now that Spring has finally sprung in Chicago, we are finding style inspiration everywhere we look from Pinterest to our fellow bloggers...

Hi guys! It's Zahra here from Love Zahra - I am so excited to be guest posting for some of my favorite bloggers today. Now that the weather in Chicago is turning lovelier than ever, I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss dressing for warmer temps. I chose some of my favorite pieces for today's outfit post that would be perfect to wear for a girls weekend brunch

About the look:

I love to lighten up in Spring so this blush pink faux leather jacket is one of my favorite items in my closet that I plan to wear again and again. Pink doesn't have to be girly when paired with ripped black denim and a classic navy and white striped top- it makes for a casual and slightly edgy look. A chunky bootie is also a must for me this season, and these Vince booties are perfect in a neutral tone and suede fabric. 

Jacket - Tobi (similar) | Jeans: Zara (similar)| Top: H&M | Bag: 3.1 Phillip Lim | Shoes: Vince

Thanks to Sisters Marie for having me today! Have a great weekend! xx

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Rocked it & Swapped it

When I saw this sweater selling in Zahra's closet on Because I Shop too Much it was love at first sight (pun intended!). I remember seeing this knit at J.Crew for almost $100 the year prior but it sold out before I could buy it. Snagging it for $20 was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned! 

When I wore the heart sweater the first time, I styled it with skinny distressed jeans, nude heels, and some fun silver jewelry. A great outfit for a beautiful and warm fall afternoon with my family. 
Five months later, Kaitlyn styled the top with white denim and a neon bag making it the perfect Spring outfit.

Here is how we both styled the top:

How would you style this top?

Shop the look: (We just had to throw in the Pineapple top because how cute is that!?)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Garden Season (Recipe): A Guest Post

Today we are joined by Katy from Naner-A-Day who is sharing a delicious (and SUPER easy) recipe now that the warmer months have arrived...

With Spring officially here, my mind is immediately thrown into garden mode. All of my seeds have been started in my Dad's greenhouse and I am so eager for transport day, which in my mind equals the potential of a successful garden season is near.  

Although we still have a long way to go before we are reaping the fruits of our labor, I can already taste and smell (yes, there is a smell) the vibrant cherry tomatoes.  I have to be honest that gardening my entire life has turned me into quite the tomato snob but even I can put down my snob nose once store bought cherry tomatoes are paired with sweet basil, creamy mozzarella and tangy balsamic.

These little cuties are perfect for your next BBQ, happy hour, or for no reason at all and I promise you the combination of flavors scream the freshness of spring. Not to mention they are extremely easy to make and stand up like little soldiers for easy grabbing. Let's get down to the details...

What You'll Need:
-cherry tomatoes(slice off the stem part)
-fresh basil(torn into pieces)
-mini mozzarella balls
-balsamic vinegar(simmered in a pan for fifteen minutes to thicken)

How To Assemble:
Thread sliced side down of tomato, basil and mozzarella on toothpick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with balsamic.

For more tasty recipes, find Katy on her blog and in her Chicagonow feature!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Taking a Masculine Turn for Spring

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One of my favorite pairings is to take a super girly item, like this wrap dress, and style it with more masculine pieces. By adding a faux leather biker jacket and buckle boots it gave the look the perfect amount of edge I was looking for. Women's fashion is really taking a masculine turn for Spring and it's right up my ally. Most of us have been doing this for years, but this year it is super on trend. Which means finding (and shopping) for androgynous types of clothing items is going to be very easy. SCORE! ;)

I decided to continue the gold from my boots by adding two beautiful gold jewelry pieces from my most recent RocksBox shipment. Don't forget by using code "sadbblogxoxo," you can get your first 30 days for free! I finished the look off with my favorite neutral bag and was good to go for a night out with my handsome hubby.

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Dress: Urban Outfitters // Jacket: Sheinside // Boots: c/o JustFab // Bag: c/o Sole Society // Necklace & Earrings: RocksBox (use code sadbblogxoxo to get your first month FREE!) // Sunglasses: Prada // Phone Case: Kate Spade 

I love this dress so much! It was perfect for my date night and just love the light gray color.

What do you think of this pairing?
Do you ever mix masculine items with girly ones to get an edgier look?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Royalty for a Night

Some reviews describe it as “beyond special”… “out of this world”… and “will take your breath away.” It’s hard to believe that these loaded descriptions are referring to a building, but Ballyfin in Ireland is SO much more than that. After spending less than 24 hours at this castle-esque mansion, I can confirm that all of these claims are (MORE THAN) accurate. However, there is no description that can convey it’s how special it truly is – it is simply something that must be experienced.

We stayed in the "Tapestry Room," which not surprisingly, had gorgeous ornate textiles covering all each wall. Our 4 post canopy bed was a dream come true...if we had more time here, I would have laid there all day and read books.

Our bathroom was larger than life and quite the sight for sore eyes...the chandelier...the oversized tub...the walk-in shower...the his and hers robes/sink. Can I live here?

Tea & sugar cookies upon our arrival...when asked if we wanted them delivered to our room or the library, my husband and I just looked at each other with wide eyes..."this is going to be good."

I loved this quote from a Tripadvisor review"The grounds are hugely impressive...Turns out rich, landed folks had nothing better to do 150 years ago than build grottos and towers." We spent most of our afternoon trolling these places spread throughout the 614 acre estate on our bikes (mint colored with a basket, can this be any more charming?). Our travels took us through the beautiful woods, down by the lake, near the grotto and into the gardens (to Grandmother's house we go...)

We also climbed a million steps up to the top of the tower, built as a folly in the 1860's (complete with a drawbridge and moat -- dreams are made of this stuff!) It was an amazing view that allowed us to see 6 different surrounding counties of Ireland. For a the brief moment at the top, we realized how far away from home we really were and how wonderful it felt to be so isolated from our everyday routine and stress.

Wearing: Sweater, Blouse, Jeans: Old Navy | Rain boots: Kamik | Sunnies: Target

After our afternoon adventures, we came back to our room to clean up for dinner. I loved that there was a specific time set for pre-dinner drinks so everybody gets ready and comes downstairs together yet there are so many (unbelievable) sitting rooms to choose from that you don't feel like you're crashing anyone else's plans. It just felt like an old tradition of friends gathering for a fancy dinner, speaking of which, was memorable for more reasons than one...

Wearing: Top: LOFT (similar) | Lipstick: Kate Spade

With this easily being the most high-end dinner we have experienced, we did our best not to make complete fools of ourselves when it came to etiquette. Use the right fork, sample your wine, pronounce Foie Grais correctly...oh, and still remain dignified after your second bottle of wine. Luckily it was smooth sailing! Thank you Princess Diaries for teaching me the importance of a palate cleanser.

Also, can we talk about my dessert choice? I don't recall the exact title but it can easily be renamed "chocolate heaven." Chocolate crust, chocolate mousse, peanut butter candies and oh yes...edible gold leaf...because why wouldn't there be?

After dinner, we headed outside and parked on the front steps of the hotel to check out the full moon. This was easily my favorite moment of our stay...while there were so many to choose from, I will always remember leaning on my husband's shoulder and turning around to see the front doors open...

A very kind gentleman from the hotel staff brought out 2 blankets and wrapped them around us to stay warm..not only was it such a sweet gesture, but the blankets smelled fantastic, a combination of the hotel and a wood burning fire. Sometimes, a smell can ingrain a memory in your brain forever. 

Before we headed up for the night, we walked around the hotel to see how everything glowed at night and one of the staff members offered to take our photo in the Gold Room. With nobody else around, it seemed like everything in that moment was all about us and it was the perfect way to end our stay.

Everything about our trip to Ireland was incredible and I am so glad we saved this hotel stay for last. I have collected many wonderful experiences in my life but this is one of those that earns a permanent spot in your heart and mind...a once in a lifetime moment. Thank you to the amazing Ballyfin staff for giving us this story to tell!

Full Disclosure: This post is not sponsored - I just HAD to share the details with somebody because I think my husband is growing tired of hearing me talk about it ;)