Category: Beauty


Amidst the plethora of 2017 resolutions and “decide who you want to be this year” and how you can “change everything about yourself” articles, I find that this post will be severely out of place. However, that’s why it actually matters. It isn’t about changing everything about yourself or letting something go or accepting a past failure or turning over a new leaf. It is about continuing to evolve with every day we are blessed with, even when it is depressing, lonely, and hard to breathe. It is about forever forging forward despite all the difficulties and challenges we face in order to grow and achieve our dreams.

Achieving dreams is a different process for everyone. For some, it is go to school, struggle, find an internship and debut in the world. For others, there are a lot of detours along the way. For yet others, school is not even a factor. What they love and are talented in doing doesn’t require any teaching, it’s an intrinsic talent that they polish by actually doing what they love. For a lot of people, a dream is finding something to be passionate about in the first place. Sometimes, we have to explore new avenues to search for a dream. We have to do things and experience things that are out of our comfort zone in order to find what it is we have always been looking for. And sometimes, for some of us, we have more than just one dream.

This post is about how one of my amazing friends inspired me to try something I never thought I would do and it has ended up being one of the most unique experiences of my life. It is about how when we have the courage to pursue our dreams, despite countless setbacks, it is possible to fulfill them and become the people we always wanted to become. It is about me doing something I would have been terrified of doing just a couple years ago – and having a blast doing it. This is the story of a dream becoming a reality.

One of my friends decided to pursue a dream. She created her very own photography business called Ember Faith Photography starting late last year. Her Facebook Page and website are just little steps in the journey towards her achieving her dream. They don’t show you her hard work, joyful enthusiasm and absolute passion for her work. While working a full-time, exhausting job (I know because we work together), being a mother to her beautiful daughter Eden, who I will be showcasing below, and her adorable son Oliver, and going back to school at the same time, she somehow managed to not only start a time-consuming business but excel in her craft.

She has done everything from family portraits, to maternity pictures, to couples photography, to boudoir shoots, to (with me) artsy-ethnic photography, to even a small wedding. I can’t express how fun the shoot we collaborated on was or how mind-blowing the resulting pictures are. I have never seen myself as attractive but Sarah managed to make me feel eclectic, exotic, beautiful and comfortable (even while dancing in an empty parking lot or posing on the street as passerby slowed down to see what was happening XD). I can tell from my own experience that she managed to do the same for all of the people that made a great choice and chose her for their photography sessions.

So, my dear friends, lets go down a road to the realization of a dream and just how beautiful it can be with the pictures that speak for themselves. Here are a few portraits that Sarah did of her daughter Eden, the enchanting flower girl, some time before she began Ember Faith Photography:

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All of the shots of Eden have this certain abstract, almost magical quality to them that make me just get lost in the innocent beauty she has managed to capture here with Eden as the enchanting fairy she is:

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Underlying all those images is the love only a mother can have for her child. Eden being the fascinating model she is certainly doesn’t hurt.

However, there is so much more to showcase that I must move on to these amazing pictures of a very unique wedding photoshoot that absolutely blew me away:

Followed by this great collage of maternity pictures that she made for a friend of ours:

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As well these adorable newborn shots:

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As anyone with any kind of experience taking pictures of children will tell you, it is difficult at best. Sarah, however, makes it look effortless and enchanting as evidenced by the shots of some very different kinds of children below:

Not only is she amazing at making these kids grin from ear to ear and look adorable, she can take the best family portraits I’ve seen in a good long time:

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Not to be remiss, I must showcase her talent for capturing the little special moments between couples of all different kinds as well:

However, none of this encompasses all her talents as a photographer. She and I had the best time collaborating to turn a vision she had into a reality. I was the model, decided on the wardrobe and makeup, and provided some of the looks. She scoped out the locations and brought her enthusiasm and sass. It was absolute magic and I loved every second of it. Here are a few (well sort of) pictures from the shoot we had:

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In front of the wall mural painted by Tyler Kay, a local Houston artist and absolutely phenomenal person: http://www.instgram.com/tylerkay/

I’m sure it is hard to tell from these photos but I’m not normally the type to model on the streets. Sarah made me feel beautiful and valued. I can’t say how much of a confidence boost that was. Below are the pictures where I even danced for her in an empty parking lot:

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After this singular moment in my life, we moved onto another location where we some extremely striking wall art and took a few more pictures that make me question if that is really me in the pictures or if Sarah did some magic and put someone else there in my place:

I think the pictures and their vibrancy speak for themselves. These are all proof of the hard work, the talent, the personality and the artistic eye Sarah is in possession of and is using to the best of her abilities. If y’all ever decide to have a private photoshoot done for yourself, then Ember Faith Photography should definitely be your go-to!

I find nothing as satisfying and humbling as seeing the talents of my friends grow, blossom and stun me with the beauty they produce. Seeing them achieving their dreams and becoming empowered, fulfilled people is such an inspiration amidst the negativity that runs rampant in the world today. I am so, so proud of all of them and am so very grateful that they continue to be part of my life.

A special thanks to Sarah and her amazing work for allowing me to not only feel beautiful for a day but to feel special and unique every time I see the pictures she took of me. Thank you boo!

To all of you out there struggling to make ends meet and feeling down-hearted because nothing ever goes right and you cannot even imagine pursuing that dream you have always had – I know your pain. I know how soul-crushing and difficult and isolating it is. But please, don’t ever give up on yourself. Don’t ever believe the world that assures you that you will never amount to anything. Don’t let your inner demons hold you back.

You Can Do It. I believe more in the power of the human will to accomplish its goals than anything else. May God be with all of you and may you all find success in this new year! Happy 2017!

 

 

 

 

So far, we went to Rome, Assisi, Orvieto, Spello, Florence and Venice together. I suppose it’s now time to introduce to you Padua, Verona and Milano before concluding with Lake Como.

The largest piazza in Italy, Prato della Valle, is surprisingly located in Padua. Just a little ways from the piazza is the Basilica di Sant’Antonio di Padova which is just lovely and also houses a museum of its own.

After that early morning stroll, we ventured onwards and found ourselves in romantic Verona, home to the famous balcony of Juliet and her statue as well as the Arena and several very expensive designer stores all lined on one street. the people of Verona were the most fashion conscious Italians I met outside of Milan.

After a brief time in Verona, we continued to Milano and it’s incredibly different and modern buildings that are a direct result of Milan being bombed during World War II. However, the most recognizable and renowned location in Milan, il Duomo, did not disappoint with its centuries old majesty. The Galleria adjacent to Il Duomo was quite simply one of the most complete collection of exclusive and extremely pricey designers under one figurative roof. Even famous car companies had shops at the Galleria. Behind the Galleria was the famous Opera House and housed in the Galleria is the one artwork I did not get to see – Leonardo’s Last Supper. I wasn’t aware that the tickets had to be bought far in advance and hence did not book myself one. Hopefully, some day I can return to see that historic painting as well.

That regret aside, Milan did not disappoint in its extravagant offerings. It quite reminded me of NYC, just a little less insanely busy. My favorite thing, however, were the roasted nuts being sold by snack carts all over Milan – they were absolutely delicious!

Our activities for the night came to an end after dark and most people returned to the hotel. I returned later that evening to explore the Duomo and visit with a friend. It was perfect.

The next day it rained from morning till night and into my last day in Italy. Unfortunately, it was that day that we had Lake Como on our schedule. I imagine it must be even more amazing during summer, or when it is not raining as it was the entire time we were in the area.

We traveled by bus to the city of Menaggio. From there, we took a boat across Lake Como to Bellagio. We didn’t go to Como itself which was a shame – a friend informed me there was a cheese and chocolate festival at Como that day. However, just exploring Bellagio itself turned out to be great fun for me and though it was raining I still got some beautiful pictures of a place straight out of a fairy tale.

We returned to Milan after those stunning vistas to enjoy another excellent dinner and say our goodbyes. I left Italy the next day. It became an extremely fulfilling and uplifting memory for me.

The beauty of this world and the human mind’s capability to imagine and adapt is endless. Everywhere we went, we encountered warm-hearted, kind and helpful people. I didn’t have a single negative experience with any Italian person. My tour group afforded me a few new good friends and allowed me to meet some kindred spirits.

Italy itself gave me a sense of endlessness. The civilizations repeatedly upended, the many stories associated with every cobblestone, the many different belief systems that came and went, and the astounding art that people created surrounded by the natural beauty of creation – it was a package that is still making me smile with a joyous soul.

There is nothing quite like getting more than you bargained for, especially if it is a pleasant surprise. Italy was much, much more than I had imagined and I didn’t even see all of it. Pisa and Naples were sorely missed. However, everywhere I went, I saw one thing every Italian had in common – a pride in their people and in their heritage, as well as very, very big hearts. I’m sure others have experienced different but I am simply sharing what I experienced.

If I were to live away from the States, Italy is where I would want to create a new home. If you can go, please do visit Italy. It is worth every penny.

For staying with me until the end of my journey, grazie! And because this journey has come to its end, Ciao!

May 2017 bring you many pleasant surprises!

I know this post has been a long time coming and I apologize. I have just been really involved in personal issues and life in general. The recent election is something I’m not going to discuss in this post – I’m incredibly drained from the political and human drama of the moments. Instead, I’m going take this opportunity to talk about my recent trip to the Big Apple.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned I went to Seattle and saw some amazing things in Washington and Vancouver, BC. I learned a lot from that trip and was delighted to reconnect with family I hadn’t seen in almost two decades. That trip wasn’t just about going away from Houston, it was about reconnecting to my roots – I spent several summers in Seattle as a child. However, this post is about my time in NYC and growing as a person through my experiences there (be prepared for a lot of pictures)!

A few weeks after returning home from Seattle, I visited New York City for the first time in my life. I was a little nervous before I left – I would be on my own in a strange and fantastic city and had no one there to help me out. However, the very thing I was afraid of turned out to be one of the best things about my trip. I absolutely loved exploring, getting lost in, and finding hidden treasures from losing my way in NYC. I rode the subway, the ferry and the bus. I once lost my way and ended up in Harlem at midnight. That resulted in me walking through Brooklyn streets at 2 am on my way back to my Air BnB and almost using my taser on someone that was approaching me threateningly. Hence, while there were moments of anxiety and frustration, there was so much More excitement and energy!

When you hear that New Yorkers are always on the go, you should believe it. People are always on their way to somewhere to do something. It doesn’t matter where you go, people are intent on accomplishing a goal, even if it is to spend an idyllic day in Central Park. That energy infected me too. In just three and a half days, I managed to visit the Empire State Building, Lady Liberty, New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street, the 9/11 Memorial, 5th Avenue, Times Square, Central Park, the MET, the MOMA, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and Grand Central Station. Each place was unique, exciting and thought-provoking. Some of the more iconic locations literally made me tear up with happiness.

One of the best things about NYC was the ease of access to everything one might need. It was great to be able to buy Halal food literally everywhere I went. It was really great being able to get basically anywhere with public transport at all hours of the day and night. I could buy anything I hadn’t brought with me at the countless little stores lining every street. And having street vendors made it easy to get nice things for a low price. In short, NYC surprised me by being so easy to navigate and being so convenient for someone a lone traveler in a strange environment. In retrospect, going there became a huge source of both confidence and self assurance for me. And it gave me the courage to go somewhere else shortly after, which I’ll be talking about in my next post (hint, it looks like a boot!).

Now to review all the amazing places I was lucky enough to visit:

I ended up at Wall Street by accident (took the wrong train) and had a surprisingly good time wandering around there on a holiday (it was Labor day). From there I walked to the majestic and awe-inspiring 9/11 Memorial grounds. I must also admit that I fell in love with the mall/train station adjacent to the Memorial. Being at the Memorial was a really surreal feeling for me, especially given the day I went there. The building itself is amazing enough but the names written on the walls surrounding what looks like a waterfall seen from above made me really grateful for the life I’ve been given. Here are some pictures I took to commemorate my visit there:

 

Following my time there, I decided to go to the Empire State Building. On the way, I got lost a couple of times and wandered through 5th Avenue as well as Korea town, but it was totally worth it. The mass of humanity in NYC is almost overwhelming, but at the same time it’s really wonderful to be around people from so many different places and no one gives your race or gender a second thought. In any case, I did reach the Empire State Building and enjoyed a fascinating view of New York City from up high. It looked more amazing the darker it got and I just have to share the view with all of you!

From there, I went where literally every tourist ever has gone before – Times Square! It was everything I’d ever seen on TV and more. The energy was unbelievable, there were countless street vendors and performers, and I doubt a single true New Yorker was in sight. Even so, it was a dream come true to be there and just enjoy the sights! I absolutely loved Broadway though I didn’t catch a show (I just don’t enjoy theater, I know blasphemy but what can I do?). It was a great way to wrap up my first day in NYC.

I started off the next day with going somewhere I had always dreamed of visiting – the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As an art and history buff, I absolutely loved the MET. If I had the time, I could go there every day all day for a week and still not see everything. Thus far, it is the most awe inspiring museum I have had the pleasure of visiting. There was too much I loved there but I’ll just share a few things that really stood out for me.

I know those are a lot of pictures, but I promise you that that these are only a small percent of the things on display at the MET. For anyone who loves art or history, this is a must see!

After spending the whole day at the MET, I decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge and fell completely in love with it. The MET and the Brooklyn Bridge are easily my favorite places in NYC as of now. Walking across the Bridge was both amazing and unreal – it felt like I was in a different world for a little while. It’s one of the few things I would like to do again if I ever go back to NYC. Here are some views from the bridge.

Following that amazing experience, I went onto Rockefeller Center. It was a lesson in grandeur and tastefulness. I had an amazing time going to the top and seeing NYC from on high once more.

My adventure on the way back was quite interesting. I had an almost hour long conversation about spiritualism with a hotel employee on my way out of Rockefeller center, followed by an interesting shopping trip for a hoodie which resulted in a stranger offering to take me to dinner and drive me back to my Air BnB. Such an interesting evening.

I started out my next day in NYC by going on a free walking tour of Central Park – or rather a corner of it. The day started out extremely windy and cloudy so I was afraid it would be a disaster but it cleared up right on time for the tour. In fact, it got extremely warm during my time there. Following the tour, I took a brief walk around Central Park on my own and can safely say I completely loved it there, as is obvious from the following shots I took while there.

I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked as I had another significant trademark of the Big Apple left to see – Lady Liberty! I ended up riding the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island and back in order to see Lady Liberty. I didn’t go to Liberty Island (it was closed) but I did get to see her! No good pictures of that adventure, sadly, but here is at least one of her and one of the NYC skyline as seen from my angle at the time (I love the NYC skyline, if that isn’t obvious yet lol).

Following my trip to see Lady Liberty, I had a disappointing and frustrating time walking around SoHo (I’m sure this is because I’m a clueless newb) and stopped by Little Italy to have some truly excellent pasta and also strolled through Chinatown – it didn’t feel like I was in the States anymore at that point with the shop owners yelling out their wares, everything written in Chinese and the kind of crowds you see on TV when they show you a shot of Hong Kong.

I concluded my day with a trip to see a place I have dreamed of seeing since I first saw Home Alone as a child – Grand Central Station! I’m not even going to ┬álie – I happy cried right before I took that selfie down there. It was just fantastic – the energy was unbelievable and it took my breath away. Totally a dream come true for me!

I was due to leave the next afternoon and head back home so I spent my morning at the Museum of Modern Art. I absolutely had to see the Starry Night that was on display at the MoMA at the time. In doing so, I also saw a very emotional series of stories told my illegal immigrants who left home to find refuge or a better life and ended up in different places in Europe and their lives after the fact. I also saw a series of documentary shorts about Napalm and the horror it rendered on so many people. It shook me deeply. However, many of the exhibitions there did not allow photography so I’ll just share what I was able to photograph.

They had a fairly cool sculpture garden that I took full advantage of after I had achieved my goal of seeing Van Gogh’s most amazing painting (IMO). This concluded my exploration of NYC but not the lessons I learned there.

On my way back to my Air BnB to pick up my luggage and head home, I fell hard on the concrete and scratched myself up. My Uber driver showed up shortly after so I couldn’t even clean up the blood properly. We then ran into some serious traffic followed by construction and road closures. I almost didn’t make it to my flight – or that would have been the case had the flight not been over booked and so full that they requested several passengers to check in their carry on luggage.

On the flight back, I sat next to an elderly couple from Pakistan whose daughter lives in Houston. We ended up talking the whole flight back and I had an amazing time learning all about them and their family. They even gave me some great advice – never stop learning and never give up! Find opportunity where people see only adversity. Life will inevitably be difficult and seriously traumatic events will occur. But that is never the end, unless you let it be. Hope springs eternal and as long as there is hope, there is a chance for success. They gave me so much love it caught me off guard. It was a truly singular experience and gave me so much hope for humanity.

Travel has taught me so much – independence (more than usual), ingenuity, the ability to adapt to unexpected situations, and patience. I’ve grown stronger from all of it.

My message today is simple – travel like your life depends on it. Save and travel, no matter what. You’ll have strange and uncomfortable experiences that will help you grow. You will have awe-inspiring, unforgettable experiences that will lift you up. And you will make fleeting but unforgettable connections with strangers that may become a great inspiration for you and may determine how you live the rest of your life.

More than anything, trust your instincts and never stop growing and learning. You will become stronger every time you learn more and see more. So, travel. And travel some more. I certainly plan to!

I know this has been a long post but I hope you enjoyed it and will look forward to the next one! Until next time, ciao!

 

 

 

Let me start, once again, by the wonder invoked in me by an art exhibit as pictured below:

Kusama Exhibit MFAH

A room of floating lights, a platform surrounded by water, and only a minute and a half to enjoy the wonder of being suspended amongst the stars. A minute and a half that completely captured the kind of Universe I want to live in. A minute and a half of complete joy in the wonder of the human imagination.

The amazing world Kusama created is further expressed in the other half of her exhibit as pictured below:

Kusama Exhibit MFAH

I loved the mirrored room with giant lava lamp-likeness, the kind of place I imagine exists in Alice’s wonderland world.

However, God continues to take my breath away with the beauty He created in this world for us to discover and revel in. I had the pleasure of visiting the Seattle area recently and what struck me most was the majesty and absolute glory of the natural beauty in the area. Hiking up Mount Rainier, I was awarded with these breathtaking views:

The beauty I saw there dwarves anything I have seen created by the hand of man. However, I was further blessed to have seen the extraordinary art on display at the Chihuly Gardens in Seattle Center. I believe each piece speaks for itself.

The Gardens also afforded an incredible view of the Space Needle which I went up and thoroughly enjoyed.

What I discovered most of all is that ultimately the more we see, the more we grow. It’s important to leave the norm behind and experience the extraordinary and the overwhelmingly majestic in order to keep flourishing.

To all of you bound by the chains of expectations and daily pestilence, I advise you to act wisely and plan for days that allow you to experience the beauty that can be life. I know it can be really difficult to work in to your busy and financially draining life. However, what is life without adventure? In that vein, happy future travels mi amigos! Until next time, I bid you adieu.