Tampa Treats



Jet City Espresso

Conveniently right around the corner from our AirBnb (like we walked there) was a highly rated breakfast place. Although more expensive than I prefer to spend on breakfast, it was pretty good; the coffee drinks were excellent! We both got the Cafe Borgia which is essentially a Cafe con Leche but with orange zest and nutmeg on top. Don’t knock it until you try it!

Cost: $30.00 (2 specialty coffee-drinks,”scone-which,” and a Spinach & Swiss Quiche)

Oxford Exchange

So I heard a lot about this new book store/cafe/tea room/restaurant so I HAD to stop by while we were in town. I was over & underwhelmed at the same time. I felt super out-of-place; the space was gorgeous but felt really pretentious. I spent a couple of minutes walking around pretending to look like I knew what I was doing and that I was a super cool local who came by here all the time. That didn’t work. I just kept bumping into people awkwardly before I decided the coffee and pastries were too expensive and got the hell of out there. I do want to go back but maybe when I make a fancy-shamcy reservation for afternoon tea. Pinkies up!

Cost: too much!


Oddly a French-style Pizza place that was really good! I was originally going to get an afternoon snack at the Oxford Exchange (see above) but it felt too fancy for me so I went around the corner to TamPiz and loved it!


Cost: $12.00 (Prosciutto & Brie Grilled Cheese)


Cover image: https://wellnessusf.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/photo2.jpg

When you can’t travel…cook!

So it would be naïve to think that we all had an unlimited budget and time off work to continuously travel the world, at least I don’t! So when you can’t travel, instead bring a piece of the world to you home via the kitchen. Food is one of the best ways to explore a new culture.


A few mornings ago I was inspired to take out taste buds to New Orleans with some beignets (delicious pockets of fried dough with powdered sugar). Although I did not make these from scratch, they tasted heavenly! FYI, I cut the Cafe du Monde box recipe in half because there was only two of us and I try not to eat a pound of doughnuts in one sitting. 🙂 See recipe at the end of the post!




Things to do in the Tampa Bay Area


Well, we’re back home from our Tampa Bay trip and boy did we get a lot done! 🙂 See the original to-do list below with added items in red:

  • Ybor City
  • Dali Museum
  • Tampa Museum of Art
  • Beaches (St. Petersburg Beach)
  • Dinner with Tampa family
  • Downtown Tampa Riverwalk
  • Oxford Exchange (didn’t eat there just popped in)
  • St. Petersburg Farmer’s Market
  • Sunken Garden
  • Henry B. Plant Museum
  • Hyde Park Village

In addition, the weather was absolutely PERFECT except for a short 2-hours of torrential rain Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned for more information about our trip!


Student Series! Stained Glass and Gargoyles


Sweeping, grand buildings once completely ruled the skylines of medieval Europe. Even to this day, they stand out among modern buildings as pure solid pieces of beautiful art. We’ve all heard of pointed arches and flying buttresses, but what about the stained glass windows that brought a stunningly ethereal aspect to Gothic buildings, and what about the juxtaposing dark and demon-like gargoyles that decorated the outside of these intricately ordained buildings? While they are not quite as looked at as much as the structures that supported cathedrals, the detail was equally important to creating the stunning effect architects strove to achieve.

Stained Glass

Scanned from Fuji Velvia slides

This is the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris; the rose window was first introduced in Romanesque architecture, but is a defining characteristic in Gothic construction. (via)

But for a moment, let’s take a step back. Gothic architecture was a revolution to building during it’s time. Coined after the barbarian group the “Goths,” Gothic architecture was condemned by the Renaissance builders who favored very cold and “clean-cut” lines and styles. The new style, first built at the church Saint-Denis, represented giant steps away from the previous, relatively basic building systems that have prevailed in the Romanesque period. And these techniques—the pointed arches, ribbed vaulting, flying buttresses—all contributed to making the insertion of celestial windows possible.

The windows are literally glowing examples of timeless art that still takes the breath away today. They are hand crafted, and when one looks upon them, it is hard to imagine the amount of work that went into them. The pieces of glass were inserted between what is called “bar tracery,” which is a delicate way of holding glass; it is what made the formation of flower shapes possible.  One of the main reasons that stained glass is so aesthetically pleasing to the eye is that the glass relies on light to shine through it, and that aspect changes based on the time of day, weather, and season. So the illiterate peasants of the time would experience the same scene a thousand different ways in their lifetime


Reims Cathedral, France (via)

Without a doubt, these masterpieces are awe-inspiring. I hope one day I will be able to visit these places and see the stained glass windows in person.


The word itself brings to mind images of dilapidated and half-formed demons hanging off the walls of giant cathedrals, with their mouths wide open in an eternal scream from hell. Well, you wouldn’t be wrong. Gargoyles were essentially water spouts (hence the gaping mouths) that helped to rid the roofs of excess water, protecting against erosion. But because cathedral architects were super fancy and loved attention to detail, the created grotesque half man-half creatures to sit atop the walls and strike fear into peasants, scaring the hell out of them(literally) and into the church itself. They were designed to not only represent evil, but to ward it off as well. All in all, gargoyles are pretty awesome, for the exact opposite reason that stained glass windows are.

It’s easy to see why gargoyles were so scary; they are still! But they are stunning nonetheless. They’re endearing in a creepy sort of way.

Stained glass windows and gargoyles are only small bits on a gigantic, timeless whole. It is truly spectacular that they are still around for us to appreciate today, are still functional for their designed purposes, and still have the same effect then as they do now.

Anyone else remember and LOVE the Gargoyles TV show!!!?? My students are wayyy too young to know this show, but I loved it!


Title image: https://enthusiastical.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/dsc02086a.jpg

Tampa Here we Come


We’re in Tampa this weekend chaperoning our school’s Marine Bowl and decided to extend the trip into a post-Valentines celebration (eh…we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day, it’s just an excuse lol).

Probably won’t fit this all in but here’s some things on our to do list:

  • Ybor City
  • Dali Museum
  • Tampa Museum of Art
  • Beaches
  • Meeting up with with my Tampa family (we have family EVERYWHERE)
  • Downtown Tampa
  • Oxford Exchange

I’ll let you know what we hit up when we get back!


Day Trip to Assisi


While studying abroad in Florence, Italy a few years back I made every opportunity to travel as much as possible on the weekends. Assisi is a little more than 2 hours away from Florence and a pretty easy train ride. Assisi is most famous for St. Francis and his basilica painted by Giotto and this is exactly why I went.

Although I was unable to take pictures inside the church, I don’t think the photos would do it justice anyways. The lower basilica feels so intimate, like a hug, and it just envelopes you in this rich colors relating the narrative of St. Francis’ life. It is most certainly the most religious spot I have ever been to and that’s saying something because I’ve done a lot of church hopping. 🙂


I highly suggest it! Even if you are not religious. Assisi is a gorgeous and quaint town to walk although it is quite a hike up from the train station.

Annnndddd it’s a UNESCO Site 🙂


Student Series! A Hindu Union

Continuing on with the Valentines/love theme of the month…a Hindu wedding post!

Disclaimer: I am not Hindu and this post was also written by a student who is not Hindu for a Humanities project. Basic facts were checked but I am sure some of the more complicated aspects of Hindu weddings were glossed over. If you know of any inaccuracies, please let me know so that I can correct them ASAP!



A woman’s wedding day is one of the most special days of her life, and for Hindu women it is a day of vowing her life to her husband through many elements of religious tradition and practices. The variety in marriage ceremonies around the world is fascinating; the traditional Hindu wedding ceremony is particularly intriguing with the vivid colors, costumes and practices are truly unique to this religion and hold a special meaning to Hindus.

Origins of the Hindu Wedding

An ancient Hindu text called the Mahabharata explains this topic by saying how women were independent and wandered at will from their husbands. A son of Brahma didn’t like this practice and ruled that from then on wives should remain faithful to their husbands and husbands faithful to their wives. In this same text there is strong prominence on the idea that the best purpose for marriage is love. The Laws of Manu, which outlined the basic rules for society, disapproved of the voluntary union of a couple.

These laws expressed eight forms of marriage:

  1. Brahma: The groom’s achievements are considered in this form before bestowing the daughter upon him. The groom is eligible to get married once he has completed his student hood. Parents of the groom consider the bride’s family background, while the parents of the bride make sure the groom has gained knowledge of the Vedas, sacred Hindu texts.
  2. Daiva: The girl’s family waits for a suitable groom to marry her to; if they do not find one, they send her away where she is typically married to a priest.
  3. Arsha: The bride is given away to the groom who gives the bride’s family two cows; this marriage shows that the groom did not have any significant qualities.
  4. Prajapatya: The bride’s father searches for a groom for his daughter and the groom is enticed with wealth and presents.
  5. Gandharva: The bride and groom get married without the consent of their parents.
  6. Asura: An unsuitable groom and his family entices the bride’s family with wealth in return for the bride’s marriage.
  7. Rakshasa: The groom fights with the bride’s family, carries the bride away, and persuades her to marry him.
  8. Paisacha: Girl’s wish is not considered; she is taken away and forced to marry, her family given nothing.

Interested in learning about Greek Orthodox weddings? Click HERE!

The Hindu Ceremony

For me, what piqued my curiosity the most about Hindu weddings were the distinct practices involved. Below are the ten key elements to a Hindu Wedding Ceremony:

Swagatam and Madhuperk (the welcoming of the groom and his family): An all singing and dancing procession of the groom and his family travel to the wedding venue where they are welcomed by the bride’s family with traditional sweets.

Shri Ganesh Prayers & Poonyahvachanam: the start of the ceremony comes with prayers to Lord Ganesh; blessings are asked in these prayers for the ceremony.

Vadhu Aagman (arrival of the bride): The bride is traditionally brought by her maternal uncle to the mandap, a covered structure made for the wedding where most of the ceremony takes place.

Mangalashtakam & Sankalpa (mutual approval): the bride and groom garland each other; under the eye of the pandit (usually a teacher who overlooks the ceremony), they propose to each other.

Kannyadaan (giving away the bride): The Mother of the Bride pours holy water on her partner’s palms, which then flows onto the groom’s and bride’s palms; this shows the continuing of life and the passing of family heritage.

Ashatropanam & Panigrahanam (expectations for married life): The bride and groom share their expectations for married life and show their consent by showering rice on each other. They then tie each other’s wrists with a special thread called a Sutrabandhanam which symbolizes them spending the rest of their lives together.

Mangalsutrabandhanem (commitment to each other): The groom places the mangalsutra onto the bride’s neck as a symbol of good luck, love and friendship, the kumkum is also put on the bride’s forehead by the groom, a powder for religious and social markings. The bride then applies the chandan tilak onto the groom’s forehead, another traditional symbol. After this the groom’s sister or mother joins the two in a marriage knot to symbolize a permanent bond.

Vivaah Homa (worshipping the Sacred Fire): This element of the ceremony is the start of family life for the couple; they light a holy fire together, symbolizing light, power, and knowledge.

Laja Homa & Agni Pradakshina (starting the marriage journey): The bride and groom circle the holy fire four times; this symbolizes their transition into married life.

Saptapadi (taking the marriage vows with seven steps): The couple takes seven steps together with their marriage vows.

With the first step, we will provide for and support each other.
With the second step, we will develop mental, physical & spiritual strength.
With the third step, we will share the worldly possessions.
With the fourth step, we will acquire knowledge, happiness and peace.
With the fifth step, we will raise strong and virtuous children.
With the sixth step, we will enjoy the fruits of all seasons.
With the seventh step, we will always remain friends and cherish each other.

The Hindu marriage rituals are truly captivating with the abundance of colors and practices. The marriage and wedding traditions of Hinduism are a beautiful coming together of man and woman who vow their lives to each other. It is certainly an amazing experience for couples to show their eternal love for one another.

Want to see photos of my wedding? Click HERE!

Valentine’s Day the Art History Way

This year, I had my AP Art History students create art history Valentines for extra credit (mostly because they didn’t do so well on their last exam…). And they came out super cute! I’ve never done this before, but I may have to keep this in rotation regardless of their test scores.


Here are some of my student’s creations below:




Top 10 Experiences from Germany


Gosh this was a hard list to narrow down because we had so many fabulous moments like thermal spas, adorable AirBnbs, and nature walks. But if I had to make a list of the top 10 things that made their mark on me, this would be it:


Dachau Concentration Camp

This was so incredibly moving, solemn, and terrifying at the same time. Unfortunately, the awful terror of the Nazi regime isn’t dead today and that is quite evident in the global media today. Dachau however serves as a reminder and warning of the dangers of humanity:we are capable of great pain but also sweet relief. Never forget the ripple effects small acts of kindness or mercy can have upon the world. Never forget.

Interested in our whole itinerary? Click HERE


Aachen Cathedral

Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was an 8th century emperor who based his empire in Aachen. Charlemagne wanted to emulate the old Roman Emperors in artistic style and one of the ways he did that is by building what is today known as the Palatine Chapel. This place had gorgeous mosaics that dazzled at every turn!

Want to see what Christmas Mass is like in the Aachen Dom? Click HERE


Dinner at the Hofbräuhaus

One of the craziest dinners of my life in Munich’s iconic beer house and garden. Liters of beer, pretzels, and sausage who could want more!

Interested in other German foods? Click HERE


Neuschwanstein Castle

This is such an iconic castle, I could not miss out! Its a fairytale castle that is perfectly nestled in its landscape. It was just as impressive I’m person as I had hoped. Definitely up on anyone’s Germany’s bucket list; perfect day-trip from Munich!


New Year’s Eve in Munich’s Olympic Park

I am a New Year’s Eve party pooper. I just don’t like the holiday and I’d much rather be in bed especially with the below zero and fog Munich was experiencing that night buttttt luckily my whole family turned against me and made me go out for a night I will never forget and still cannot believe I lived through!

Want to read about the kookiest German New Year’s Eve tradition? Click HERE


Pergamon Museum

I really wanted to travel to the Pergamon Museum to see two images from the AP Art History curriculum: The Pergamon Altar and Akhenaten & Nefertiti and three daughters. Unfortunately, the museum was undergoing extensive renovations and the Pergamom Altar was closed but there were so many incredible sights, like the Gates of Ishtar above, that were out of this world!

Like to see my list of the top 8 Berlin Museums? Click HERE


Potsdam Palaces

So we weren’t originally going to take this day trip but I am so glad it is! The Potsdam Palaces are part of a chain of Prussian royal residences part of a UNESCO Site. I can’t begin to describe how overwhelming these palaces were, especially the New Palace. Will and I would love to go back during the summer when nature is in bloom and we are not freezing our butts off walking outside!

Want to learn about all three Berlin UNESCO Sites? Click HERE


Vermeer at the Gemäldegalerie Museum

I love Vermeer and this year has been so awesome because I have seen 4 Vermeer paintings in person for the first time ever! I wasn’t even intending to go into this museum but we were killing some time waiting for my family and I am so glad we did! I didn’t get to see much because it was super late and I have to go back. Besides the Vermeers, this museum was super well done.

Interested in more art history? Click HERE


Day Trip from Berlin: Potsdam


The palaces of Potsdam form part of one of the three UNESCO Sites in the Berlin city-limits. They are a string of exuberant palaces and gardens associated with the Prussian Empire. We specifically walked around Sanssouci Park grounds, but there is wayyy more to see!


Sanssouci Palace

Certainly the most famous of all the Prussian Palaces in Berlin, Sanssouci Palace is impressively picturesque (although less so in winter). It has become the poster child of Frederick the Great’s reign as his summer residence. The palace was completed in 1747 and has a gorgeous, impressive stepped terrace leading up to the Palace. Great photo-op!


Picture Gallery

Interestingly enough this was actually the first independent museum building in Germany when it was built in 1763. They have a healthy collection of Rubens, van Dyck, and Caravaggio although they were closed when we visited for renovations. 😦

Read more at the blog Hand Luggage Only: Come See The Most Beautiful Places In Berlin And Potsdam, Germany


Historic Windmill

I love windmills, I find them super romantic! When there is warmer weather out, you can actually go inside this windmill for a little lesson on the mechanics. Again, everything was pretty much closed and cold when we went 😦


New Palace at Sanssouci

We were almost not going to go to this palace because we were freezing and tired but I am so glad we did! This has to be THE most impressive palace I’ve ever seen. Maybe it was the barren tourist-free landscape, or the frozen tundra ground, or the blinding sunlight piercing through the architecture but this was other worldly. I cannot even begin to image what it was like in use with princes and princesses in their gorgeous costumes parading for all to see! The whole interior is decorated in a Frederician Rococo style, so I’m sure it is overwhelming also (FYI we did not go inside, it was getting late and closing).

I would come back to Sanssouci Park just to visit this palace again (when it’s not freezing of course!)