Summer Essentials-Part 2

I can’t believe that it has been about a month since I started Live Life on the Classy Side.  Time flies!  I think that I’m starting to get the hang of it.  Maybe?   I would love to hear your comments and feedback!  Enjoy…

A few months ago, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal style section that emphasized the importance of a simple white bottom-up shirt.  I was intrigued, especially after realizing that I didn’t even own one myself.  The article talked about how a white blouse can last forever, pointing to designers and such in the fashion industry who have owned one for 20+ years, a remarkable feat.  It also talked about the versatility of the shirt, explaining that it can be worn with virtually anything.  Inspired,  I sought to invest in one to see the importance for myself.

With some luck, I found one quite quickly for sale on J.Crew’s website with the help of a great promo code.  It has definitely lived up to itself and the Wall Street Journal was right,  it is extremely versatile.  I tend to wear it on a regular basis with many different shorts and skirts, depending on the occasion.  It has, like the Wall Street Journal wrote about, become a staple in my closet and something that I find essential, especially in the summer months.

You can find one almost anywhere with different costs depending on the brand and material.  As I said, I found mine on sale and it was pretty reasonable given the brand.  It probably isn’t that hard to find a nice one on sale since so many stores that sell a simple white blouse.  There are also many different variation that can be fun and just as versatile if you are feeling especially fashion forward, but they could be less timeless than the classic style.

The white bottom-down that I bought is called the “boy shirt” from J. Crew and I believe that it is a regular style from them.  Here are some ideas on how to wear a white shirt with many different styles but, of course, there are many more ways to wear it and look nice.  You can’t go wrong!

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The classic white button-up

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Cool and casual with jean shorts from J. Crew.  You can also slightly dress this up with a small leather belt as I often do.   

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Pair with some colorful shorts from Lilly Pulitzer for a fun summer look.  

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For a more formal and professional look, a white blouse looks great with an A-line skirt and a statement necklace.  This particular skirt is from Vineyard Vines while the necklace is from J. Crew.  

P.S- There are many great sales and promo codes going on at online stores right now.  Check out Club Monaco.com and Vineyard Vines for 30% off all sale items.  Sperry is also having a semi-annual sale with many items being 50% off including classic boat shoes while Shopbop is offering 70% off selected items.  Most spring collections are on sale, meaning that you can get great deals on clothes for the rest of the summer!

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Belizean Cuisine

Belize offers plenty of different flavors when it comes to food.  The culture is a true melting pot and the food is no exception.  From traditional Mexican dishes and Belizean staples such as rice and beans to a broad range of seafood fished right out of the Caribbean.  While spending time there, I had the opportunity to try many new things while discovering the culture of the country.  To be honest, Latin American cuisine isn’t really my forte but I still managed to enjoy several of the foods that I tried.

Regarding restaurants in San Pedro, I really enjoyed Elvi’s and Pineapple’s Restaurant for dinner while Estel’s was great for breakfast.

Elvi’s was a fun seafood joint with a great atmosphere that served many traditional Belizean plates.  I enjoyed the conch fritters, a speciality of Caye Ambergris.  To me, they tasted like a crab fritters but less fishy.  Conch has a very mild taste that can be associated with the taste of chicken.  However, they were still quite tasty as the batter was fried perfectly and presented on top of sticks resulting in a fun but unusual presentation.  Other people had various kinds of fish or ceviche and we agreed that they were all prepared very well.  The atmosphere is like a beach even though it is indoors.  There is sand on the floor and fake lit up trees.  The walls are covered in paintings made by local artists.  They were all for sale and contributed to a very colorful ambiance.

Pineapple’s Restaurant’s food was similar in that they served a lot of fresh seafood.  However, it was slightly less traditional and maybe a little more Americanized.  The atmosphere is what made the experience stand out.  The restaurant is located outside just off the beach under a canopy of thatched roofs and tiki huts, creating an ultimate tropical dinner experience complete with a fresh Pina Colada.  I ordered the coconut shrimp which was ordinary but excellent while many of my peers ordered the lobster, being the first day of lobster season down there.  They found it amazing, pointing to the fact that it was super fresh and they were enjoying it on the beach.

Estel’s has been a long time favorite among San Pedro visitors and I can see why.  They are known for their classic Belizean breakfasts and their fabulous location on the beach.  I ventured over there with my group for the first breakfast we had in Belize.  They set the bar very high.  So high that no other place could top the food at Estel’s for breakfast.  Everybody ordered the fryjacks which are a Belizean variation of a french beignet.  Top them with butter and sugar, jam, hot sauce, you name it… They will always be delicious.  I preferred them with butter and sugar since I could fully appreciate the fried goodness of the actual fry jack without too much flavor.  Besides the fryjacks, Estel’s had great omelets and fruit that one could also have to fulfill a big appetite.

These restaurants were a delight but it was the smaller stands and speciality food shops that really characterized the best in Belizean Cuisine for me.  The Belizean people are masters of sweet and deserts.  After a long morning spent working in extreme heat, walking through town eating a fresh popsicle or milkshake was extremely refreshing.  Here were some of my favorite places to satisfy a sweet tooth on Ambergris Caye.

My favorite was hands down The Belizean Chocolate Company which was conveniently located right near where I was staying.  This place was fabulous.  Not only did they offer homemade gourmet chocolates and truffles but also these amazing chocolate shakes, available in three different flavors.  In addition, the boutique sold a wide range of bath and body products made from Belizean chocolate.  My group made a habit of visiting this place everyday after work to cool down and splurge on the chocolatey goodness.  I would recommend the chocolate banana shake and the Island crunch toffee truffle.  If toffee isn’t your thing, then try the Mayan Pyramid which is filled with coconut rum cream.

Another fun place was a local fruit and snack stand on 3rd street in San Pedro.  It didn’t have a name but it had a lot of great fruit, nuts and treats that we all enjoyed.  The mango on a stick was perfectly rip and I loved it even though I’m not a big mango person.  Also, the coconut candy was out of this world while we all fell in love with Tamarin nuts, a tropical nut that tastes either like brown sugar or a spicy chili being that their were two kinds, sweet and spicy.

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Delicious and sweet coconut candy!

A great place for dessert or an afternoon snack was Manelly’s homemade ice cream.  Many people enjoyed the ice cream but it was the popsicles that blew our minds away and kept us coming back multiple times.  All made right in the shop, the popsicles sat in a cooler ready to be taken out and enjoyed for only 65 American cents!  Flavors ranged from traditional strawberry to exotic “Sweet corn” and tropical coconut.  I tried many but the sweet corn was my favorite as it was different and unconventional.

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Sweet Corn popsicle from Manelly’s

Together, the foods I tried in Belize really helped shape my understanding of the culture while enriching my overall experience.  Not everything was amazing but I can say that I tried a lot of great new things while creating memories that will last forever as I continue to explore the world with my tastebuds!

You better Belize it

Over the course of the last week, I haFullSizeRender-25d the opportunity to travel to the beautiful country of Belize for a mission trip with my church.  Although the trip centered around mission and volunteer work at a local school, we still managed to explore the vast culture of the country while contributing to a great cause.  I hope the experiences that i witnessed stay with me forever and I would like to share them and encourage others to look into traveling to Belize or to participate on mission work.

After arriving at the airport at 3:15 am, my group finally disembarked the plane at what seemed like a late hour (12:00 pm) to suffocating heat that instantaneously brought about extreme perspiration.  Now I know that that does not sound like the most pleasant welcome from a country but it resulted in a greater appreciation for air-conditioning and we knew automatically that we would be experiencing tropical climate and weather at its finest.  Once the initially shock of the heat died down, we made our way through customs and out of the airport to be greeted by a bus that would take us the lunch and the port.  The first meal in Belize that we ate truly embodied the traditional Belizean cuisine with their staples substances of rice and beans.  I will write more about the food in another post.  After lunch, we boarded a boat and traveled to the island of Ambergris Caye and the town of San Pedro.

San Pedro is a lively but quant town, bustling with locals and tourists alike.  The island is very narrow with

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A bustling street of San Pedro

only 4 streets including the beach.  Walking up and down the beach, you find it lined with restaurants and hotels along with more extensive resorts and small little shops.  There are docks extending the town every 100ft or so that offer different water sports and snack stands.  The sea itself is crystal clear.  With the water being only a few feet deep,  swimming and relaxing is easy.  Everyday, after a long morning of work (starting at 5 am), we would all go and relax and swim in the waterfront right outside of our hotel.  Strangely, or maybe not,  the water is warm for the ocean but we weren’t going to complain.  Any water felt good after being drench in sweat all morning long.  As for the shops throughout town, there are many great places for souvenirs and artisan crafts.  One of my favorites is called “12” and it sells all handmade gifts from Belize such as jewelry, spices and clothing.  Another place that is fascinating was the artisan market where there are booths lining a square with all sorts of crafts and souvenirs.  In addition to shopping, we also ate our way through the town by means of fruit and candy stands, ice-cream shops and smoothie shops and my particular favorite, the Belizean Chocolate Company, a local chocolate shop with all sorts of delicious delicacies.  I’ll tell you now that the Belizean people have master the art of sweets but more on that later with my food post.

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Holy Cross Anglican, the school that my church helped out at.

After 5 long days of work and play, in addition to a day filled with snorkeling, our group headed to another island called Caye Caulker.  This particular island is smaller than Ambergris but still filled with culture and charm.
I highly recommend the boutique hotel called “Seaside Cabanas” since it offers great beachside views and comfortable accommodations.  The rooms are decorated in Belizean style and the courtyard is gleaming with a beautiful pool and

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Seaside Cabanas hotel

lounge chairs, exactly what we needed after a long week of work. We spent that last weekend relaxing poolside and on a catamaran sailboat where we swam and snorkeled in the sky blue water.  Caye Caulker didn’t offer as much shopping and recreation as Caye Ambergris did and I would recommend Ambergris over Caulker if you wanted to vacation on a Belize island.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience filled with memories of joy.  Belize is a beautiful countries with a great culture.  Through the work involved with the mission, I am proud to have hopefully made an impact on the kids of San Pedro and Holy Cross Anglican, the school that we worked at.  I hope that the memories and experiences stay with me so I can cherish them forever and fuel my love of travel.

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Sunset over the ocean

 

Restaurant Review-“Coconut Thai”- Edina, MN

Here it is, my first restaurant review!FullSizeRender-17.jpg

Tucked behind other popular 50th and France establishments is the newly founded “Coconut Thai”.  Chef Nong, being influenced by thai cuisine her whole life, wanted to finally open her own spot and share the joys Thailand with the Minneapolis metro region.  With years of experience behind her, chief Nong infuses”Coconut Thai” with a refreshing take on traditional thai plates in a casual and cool setting.

The atmosphere is perfect for a pleasant lunch or a quick night out with family.  Nothing too fancy yet refined and classy at the same time.

The food itself is great.  I would recommend getting multiple appetizers to share since there are so many choices to chose from.  Try the spring roles or the chicken satay.  On the sweeter side, the cream cheese wontons and the curry puffs are perfect indulgences for a craving sweet tooth.  Most of the appetizers cFullSizeRender-1.jpgome with various dipping sauces that fabulously go with the food.  As for the main dishes, they are huge.  Expect to share or take home.  Fortunately, many of the entries serve as great leftovers and can be easily transported to work or school the next day.  Entries are split into different categories with different variations of a classic dish.  For example, they is a category for curry, stir fry and fried rice. Each come in different unique flavors.  I enjoyed FullSizeRender-18.jpgthe pineapple fried rice which was a delicious mix of sweet and salty.  The funky hallowed out pineapple bowl made the dish delightful and contributed to the fabulous presentation.

As for the service, you could tell that they were new.  It took a while for a waiter to come over and get us water and when the order came, it came all at once.  We were left with a ton of food in front of us at a small overwhelmed table.  Also, they were out of some of their drink products including a Thai juice that I wanted to try.  However, the staff were friendly and the food didn’t take too long which is promising for a new restaurant.  I’m sure that once they become more established, they will be able to overcome the flaws that I experienced.

Overall, I would highly recommend “Coconut Thai” if you are looking for good and innovative thai food or just want to try something new.  I was surprised to see how busy it was on a Tuesday night and I hope that they continue to experience that kind of success once they are ingrained in the 50th and France restaurant scene.  I know that I will for sure pay them another visit.