Exploring the Van Aken District

Hi guys!

Today I want to chat about a little area that has been majorly revamped over the last couple of years: the Van Aken District in Shaker Heights, OH.

Van Aken is the name of the street that ends at the intersection of Warrensville and Chagrin Boulevard (about 4 minutes from our house conveniently!) and has experienced a complete renaissance as of late!

A few years ago, it was a mess of an intersection (literally, it had 6 stoplights) and a collection of aging strip malls. Today, it has been reimagined and redesigned with amazing local shops and restaurants. It has quickly become one of our favorite places to visit and discover. It definitely reminds me of downtown Cleveland, or an area you might see in a more urban setting vs ~the ‘burbs.~

Let’s start with the #eeeeeats. This place has so many good options (mainly casual but a few sit down restaurants), your only problem will be choosing where you want to dine!

To name a few:

  • Brassica– casual Lebanese restaurant. Think Chipotle but with roasted veggies, falafel and tahini instead of fajitas, steak and salsa. So delicious!
  • Restore– juice bar/ all around healthy options (smoothies, bowls, avocado toast, and of course fresh pressed juice). I have been getting smoothies here after my spinning classes and they are fantastic. Highly recommend Smoothie #1- Bluebs, Almond Butter, coconut oil, flaxseed, banana and almond milk.
  • Mitchell’s Ice Cream – no description necessary. My ultimate indulgence/forever craving.
  • Rising Star Coffee– my favorite coffee in Cleveland. Amazing lattes, mochas, espresso drinks, delicious vegan pastries.
  • On the Rise Bakery– the original location is just a mile or two away on Fairmount Boulevard. Amazing bread, pastries, and sandwiches. Their croissants and tarts are heavenly. Good iced coffee to boot!
  • Nature’s Oasis– a small organic grocery store with a full service cafe inside. They make fantastic waffles, and a smorgasbord of other options as well. Their other location is in Lakewood, OH and was one of my favorites!

There’s a bunch we haven’t tried too, and I can’t wait to check them out this summer:

  • Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink (have heard good things)
  • ChutneyB (casual Indian joint from Doug Katz)
  • A new TBD Jonathan Sawyer restaurant with a rooftop wine bar!
  • Banter (poutine… drool) – the other location is in Gordon Square on near west side
  • Scorpacciata (fresh handmade pasta, double drool)

A lot of these places are housed in “Market Hall,” sort of like a giant cafeteria. They offer beer and drinks too. There is communal seating inside and outdoor seating available as well, which is perfect for the summer weather we’ve finally been having!!

There are also a ton of shops in the area. Most are local, and all are fun to stop into!

Personally I am more into eating than shopping, but why not support a few local businesses while you’re grabbing a meal!

  • Cleveland Clothing Co– all things Cleveland + clothing. I love their t-shirts!
  • Room Service– mix of trendy clothing and home goods
  • Shinola – a fancy boutique featuring American made leather goods and watches (started in Detroit)
  • Stem (handmade and yummy smelling soaps)
  • Luster– cute boutique with home goods and fun knick-knacks
  • Bonobos– fun menswear with a flair for patterns and prints (and fitting well)

As I referenced earlier, there is also a spinning studio here. I took my first class a few weeks ago and I have to say, I can see what the hype is all about! The studio is called GrooveRyde and so far each class and instructor has been amazing! It is such a challenging workout, but actually fun at the same time (sounds cheesy buttt its actually true). The studio staff are extremely welcoming and helpful, especially to a nervous newbie like me 😁.

Outdoor seating for Market Hall:

^Nature’s Oasis, one of many casual (and wonderful) dining options.

Love this mural in the little square area.

I am so happy to see this whole space focused on local shops, stores and restaurants doing so well.

The area also hosts pop up shops with other local shops, the North Union Farmers market every week, and has happy hours every Friday as well!

It’s easily accessible via the RTA for Clevelanders who live in other areas. Have you been to the new Van Aken District? It’s definitely worth checking out!

In the summertime…

Just sharing some pics from a nice weekend. We spent time with my mom (birthday celebrations) and her sister (my Aunt Jeannie) who was visiting.

I also grabbed some flowers at Trader Joe’s:

And picked some from our yard ☺️

My mom + Maggie = 🥰🥰🥰

Mini photo shoot by Ryan 😄

We also visited the cultural gardens (sneak peak below) which I blogged about here.

^ Maggie chewing eating a stick per usual.

Her gnashing little teeth 🦷🤣.

Enjoying a Lake Erie sunset 🌅.

Dinner and delicious drinks at the Fairmount!

Such a fun weekend! Thanks to Ryan for capturing some great pics of the three of us and Happy Birthday to my wonderful Mom! It’s been a great summer so far.

The Cleveland Cultural Gardens

Today, my mom, aunt (who is visiting from Louisiana) and I went on a guided tour of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. Ryan and I had some of our engagement photos taken here, and I’ve visited several times throughout the years but never really knew much about the history.

The Cleveland Cultural Gardens are located in East Cleveland and stretch along a picturesque few miles of MLK and East Boulevard. There are currently about 35 gardens and more in the process of being build.

Today we saw the Italian, Hungarian, Hebrew, Syrian, Croatian, German, and Irish cultural gardens. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we learned so much.

The land on which the gardens sit was dedicated to the City of Cleveland by John D. Rockefeller back in 1896, and the first garden, the Shakespeare Garden, was dedicated in 1916. Ten years later, the Hebrew Garden was dedicated and the city began to set aside other plots of land for other cultural groups.

From the Cultural Gardens Website: “In the 1930s and 1940s, the federal Works Progress Administration – Franklin D. Roosevelt’s jobs and infrastructure program – helped the city build the bridges and stonework that to this day beautify Rockefeller Park. Many of the early gardens representing European immigrants were helped along by the WPA and were an early testament to  multiculturalism in Cleveland and the country.

“The Cultural Gardens are unique to the world. They represent the diversity and multiculturalism that is Cleveland, and bring life to the Gardens’ mission of “peace through mutual understanding.”

I love that dozens of different cultures work together through gardens to create such a beautiful and harmonious environment.

Our tour guide mentioned that oftentimes the most marginalized immigrant groups found peace and understanding through community and the building of these gardens. They are truly a reflection of Cleveland’s immigrant history, past and present.

While we were visiting the Hungarian garden, we met a volunteer named Ernie. He had been at the dedication of the garden back in the 1930’s as a child and still comes to help today (he is 93 years old!).

If you have a chance, I would definitely recommend doing a guided tour of the gardens. We learned so much and all of the different gardens were stunning. As I look through my pictures it’s hard to believe that such a place exists so close to us!

Now for some of my favorite photos:

Italian gardens:

Syrian and Croatian gardens:

^this arch is meant to mimic a structure in Palmyra, Syria which has been largely destroyed in recent years.

^ This is one of my favorite pictures. Walking in between gardens, and looking through the beautiful foliage, it would be impossible to know you were in right in the middle of Cleveland.

Greek Garden:

Hebrew, Hungarian, German, Croatian, Irish, misc:

Weekend Guide to Charleston

Hey y’all and Happy Friday! (I can say y’all since we’re talking about Charleston right?)

Today I’m sharing some amazing places to visit and fun things to do in the beautiful Holy City, in the format of a weekend guide! This guide assumes you have 36 hours, but there’s plenty to do if you have more time 😀.

Day One:

Start your trip off right with brunch at Husk. Ryan and I have gone here multiple times and it is quite simply fantastic cooking. The dishes are unmistakably “southern,” but with a fresh and modern take. We loved the shrimp and grits, fried chicken, cornbread, and pimento cheese starters. The (mayo-free) potato salad is different and to-die-for. Order a delicious drink from their cocktail list to get your weekend off to a kickin’ start! Make sure to book a reservation a couple weeks out.

After you are thoroughly stuffed with some low country cookin’, take a leisurely stroll around historic Charleston. The preservation of architecture and buildings is unparalleled. Check out my previous post here which is totally dedicated to the beauty and architecture of Charleston for some inspiration.

If you want to learn some history along the way, try joining a walking tour! We used this tour group and loved it. Our tour guide went through the entire history of Charleston (well, abbreviated history, we only had 2 hours) pointing out meaningful sites and details we would have never noticed along the way. If you’d rather sit back and relax while learning about Charleston, a carriage tour is for you! Both are wonderful options.

Details from a building on Meeting Street^.

After you’ve strolled down King and Queen Street, relax with a cocktail at the The Vendue. They have a large and spacious rooftop bar with gorgeous views of the city and harbor! Make sure to stroll through the Charleston City Market afterwards. It’s an old market where you can buy anything from sweet grass baskets to local grits/ hand-mixed spice blends, etc.

Dinner time! There are too many good options to name, but I’ll try my best! Try Magnolias or High Cotton for a classy meal with impeccable service (hey you’re on vacation, right?). If you’re looking for seafood, check out 167 Raw. But ~diner~ beware, the wait times at 167 Raw can be very long as they do not take reservations and only have five small tables.

(Ryan and I at Magnolia’s in 2016)

After dinner, it’s time to hit the hay and gear up for another great day!

Day 2:

Venture a little bit outside the city limits to Mount Pleasant and Shem Creek. Mount Pleasant is the neighborhood bordering Charleston and is such an adorable little community.

Grab a bite to eat and an iced latte at Vintage Coffee Café. The avocado toast and egg sandwiches are not to be missed. Then head over to Nature’s Adventures on Shem Creek for a wonderful kayaking tour!

This was one of our favorite things that we did, and again, so educational. Our guide, Matt, knew anything and everything about the wildlife in the surrounding areas. He pointed out blue crabs, oysters, horseshoe crabs, dolphins, different species of plants, and even explained the difference between a swamp and a marsh. (Swamps have trees, and marshes don’t. Who knew!?) We kayaked peacefully through the saltwater marshes that surround Charleston, and then out into the harbor for a fabulous waterfront view of the city. If you love being outside or kayaking, don’t miss this!

Head back to Charleston for some relaxation or shopping before dinner. King Street has all the big box stores, but also amazing local boutiques and wonderful antique stores as well. I mainly window shopped but it was such a fun experience.

It’s suppah time! Head to Home Team BBQ for a meal that does not disappoint.

(C/o Home Team BBQ, my picture inevitably did NOT turn out like this 🤣)

Once you’ve enjoyed all the brisket, why not wash it down with a cocktail at Proof. We happened upon this little bar and I loved the vibe. Ryan loved the Pappy Van Winkle 🤣 so we were both happy.

It’s late and time to head to bed. Unless you’re still up for more fun! Check out a Charleston ghost tour or just walk along the cobblestone streets and take in the smell of fresh magnolia blooms under the soft light of the gas lamps that line the city.

Day 3

Grab a quick bite to eat at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits. These delectable biscuits will start your day off right. All of the flavors are delicious but I loved the cinnamon, blueberry jam, and bacon cheddar.

Next, head to Charleston waterfront park to check out the pineapple fountain and gorgeous harbor views. If you haven’t walked along East Bay Street, now is the perfect time to do so. East Bay Street is right along the harbor, eventually turning into the Battery. Some of Charleston’s oldest and most beautiful homes line this promenade.

Time to get out of the city again! Head to Magnolia Plantation for stunning gardens and scenery. The grounds are breathtaking and you could easily spend a whole day here. We saw so many gorgeous gardens and beautiful wildlife when we visited. The plantation is a bird sanctuary and very peaceful.

You could also visit Boone Hall plantation to see a more traditional looking house. This plantation was the setting for Allie’s summer home in “The Notebook.”

For your final night in Charleston, dine in one of the city’s most renowned restaurants, the Peninsula Grill. The coconut cake is 15 layers deep and worth every penny.

Looking for something more casual? If you’re up for an adventure, bop over to Folly Beach and grab a table at Chico Feo, a laid back taco joint with live jam sessions and amazing food. This was a random stop for us and ended up being one of our favorite meals our whole trip.

That wraps up 36 hours in Charleston! I’m no expert having only been a handful of times, and there is so much more to explore and see!

Some other options are below:

  • Charleston harbor sunset sail
  • Anyone of the various museums
  • Fort Sumpter and Fort Moultrie
  • Drayton Hall
  • Old Exchange Building
  • Pitt Street Bridge (great for catching a sunset or sunrise)
  • Walk or run the Arthur Ravenel Bridge
  • Free tour of the Unitarian Church
  • Visit Angel Oak tree
  • Stop by the Preservation Society of Charleston
  • Rent bikes and ride to the Morris Island Lighthouse
  • Historic homes guided tour
  • Try SUP (stand up paddle boarding) in the Charleston Harbor
  • Visit Sullivan’s Island Beach or Folly Island for a beach day

Some more pics from our trip:

Sullivan’s Island:

Pitt Street Bridge:

Shem Creek:

Morris Island Lighthouse:

Unitarian Church:

Hope this guide was helpful and enjoyable! Have a great weekend everyone 😄.

Charleston Architecture Appreciation Post

Ryan and I just got back from an amazing trip to Charleston, SC. We had perfect weather the whole time and it was a great mix of beach days and sightseeing. I want to share some pictures from the walking we did around the historic neighborhood. This is definitely not an all inclusive blog post, but a good starting point with a focus on the city itself.

This post is all things beautiful in historic Charleston! Without further ado….

This picture below might be one of my favorites from my trip.

The curved scrolling iron handrail, the trails of ivy on the steps, magnolia leaves dappled with warm sunlight…. and the red brick driveway of course, all come together in such a charming and classic way.

I love the worn facade below:

Pink and green perfection!!

^notice the chimney between the two homes!

The below photo is another favorite. I love the weathered white exterior and gray shutters with the scalloped roofing. This house is on East Bay Street, overlooking the Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumpter.

The boxwood 😍. Can you imagine how tall the windows are inside? I often found myself wondering if the interiors matched the outside of the homes. Beautiful, majestic, and ancient (for us Americans!).

^The iconic “Rainbow Row. ” Very hard to photograph because there are many cars in front. The colors of the houses dates back to the prohibition era, while the actual structures themselves are much older.

^ a random private courtyard I spotted. I love the salmon door and half moon window above it. It kind of reminds me of an orange slice 🙂.

I guess I have a thing for brick + ivy. Again, I love the windows here.

^One of my absolute favorite homes I saw. I’ll take it! I love the pink door leading to the carriage house on the far left.

Ryan in front of St. Phillips cemetery.

Church steeples dot the entire city skyline (there are no skyscrapers). Charleston is called The Holy City because back in the early 1700s, in order to attract settlers to the (swampy and very muggy) newly formed settlement, the government allowed people to practice whatever religion they chose (vs. adhering to the Church of England). Many different churches belonging to different denominations sprung up because of this.

^ The way the clouds are passing behind the steeple almost makes it look illuminated or glowing! They are really framing the outline of the building quite well!

^ Beautiful live oaks along the harbor.

Me + flowers = pure happiness! Also already dripping in sweat by 11AM if you couldn’t tell🤣.

Details on a building (below). Not sure what this was! But thought it was neat.

^ We had an amazing meal at Husk, a delicious restaurant set inside an old Victorian home on a quiet cobblestone street. The interior is even more stunning, but I forgot to take any photos… I had food on my mind!

That’s about all for this post. I am hoping to put together a more comprehensive weekend travel guide soon!

Have a great week everyone.

Splurge or Save? Black Swim Suit

Hi all! Almost Friday and almost a *long* weekend!

I wanted to share another Splurge vs. Save with everyone 😀.

It’s the classic black, scalloped two piece swimsuit.

Here is option 1:

And here is option 2:

Both options are classic, timeless, and flattering. Can you tell which is the designer version vs. the bargain?

Option 1: Save: This swimsuit is from Mango. The top is $39.99, linked here and the bottoms are $29.00, linked here. I was able to find them during a sale and purchase for an additional 30% off!

I received the Mango suit and the quality and fit are both superb. The material is textured (veryyyy similar to material on the below splurge) and the bottoms are so flattering and comfortable.

Option 2: Splurge: The second image is the Marysia Swim version. Both the top and bottom retail for $150.00 *each.* How? Why?! 🤣 The top is linked here and the bottoms are linked here.

I have tried on the Marysia version in stores. It is VERY similar to the point where I am not able to tell the difference between the two suits after having tried them both on. If you’ve been lusting after a Marysia suit (it is such a classic look!) but can’t fathom spending $300+, I would definitely recommend the Mango version, which came to $49 with the discount code.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend J. Crew for some great swim options. Their swimsuits are always great quality and they have both trendy and classic styles. I just got a swimsuit this past month on sale for $14.00. Yes you read that right, a two piece suit for $14.00, total. It’s now sold out but check out their website for some other great options. Their sale prices are often in line with prices you would find at Target.

This classic one piece is only $29 (with 40% off code)

J. Crew Classic One Piece

Liberty Print One Piece Beauty

How gorgeous is this print below? This color would be flattering on so many different skin types.

This classic striped suit will never go out of style. You could wear it with jean shorts as well for a cute after pool/beach look. It’s about $35 with the discount code!

It also comes in Navy.

Hope you enjoyed this splurge or save post!

St. Augustine Fun

Happy Saturday!

I wanted to share a super quick recap of my trip to St. Augustine, Florida a couple of weeks ago.

We went to St. Augustine for my stepsister’s birthday. It was such a fun getaway and it was so nice to be able to spend some quality time with the ladies in my family.

St. Augustine may seem kind of random (and it kind of was 😁) but we wanted to avoid a big spring break crowd (Mid-March in Florida), and still enjoy some warmer temps. This location worked best for the group (we were flying in from three different cities) and it was such a blast.

St. Augustine is the oldest city in the US, founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, and it has some amazing architecture and buildings that have survived through the centuries.

The trip was super relaxing. We enjoyed amazing food, drinks, conversation and Publix Key Lime Pie (if ya know, then ya know). I am going to share a few pics below.

These are mainly iPhone photos since my camera died on Day 1 and I forgot the charger 😫.

St. Augustine Light House:

Beautiful old southern live oak trees:

I just love these southern oaks. They look so majestic and the sunlight filters through so beautifully. Plus they just remind me of warmer weather and sunny days 🤗.

Boardwalk on the way to the beach in Anastasia State Park:

^ you can see the lighthouse in the distance here!

It was a perfect beach day. I cannot overstate how welcome even a little bit of sunshine is in the depths of a long winter. After this trip I vowed to do another warm weather trip next year!

Had to get a pic with my sista – we were matching in stripes (not planned).

We walked around and explored the historic area of St. Augustine:

^ Group shot! We also enjoyed a wonderful sunset harbor cruise. The captain was personable and informative and we saw dolphins playing 😁 .

We had brunch at a cute Mexican place that reminded me of Tulum. I had chilaquiles and the food was all phenomenal! Definitely recommend a stop here if you ever visit.

More tree pics 🤣:

^ the view from our lunch spot.

On our last day, we visited a local distillery and did a tour. It was very cool (although that tour guides were somewhat bizarre- think SNL sketch within a Distillery). We learned that they source all of their ingredients, materials, and workforce locally. Their alcohol was pretty tasty too, and we got to sample four different drinks. For more information check out their website here: St. Augustine Distillery

We also visited a cute art gallery. One of my favorite souvenirs to get is a piece of artwork from the city I am visiting. This trip was no different and I purchased a beautiful print. I will share it once I get it framed.

All in all, this trip was amazing and so relaxing. It was nice to spend time with family and reconnect. Hope you enjoyed the pics, and if you’re looking for a cute, easy weekend trip, St. Augustine is a perfect option!