10 Christmas Movies to binge-watch this holiday

We are getting closer to Christmas week (and the end of 2018, how crazy?!) Here are some of my all-time favorite Christmas movies you can binge-watch on whether on the journey traveling back home or simply just craving some good old quality snuggle with the fluffiest pillow, hot chocolate (or any drink of your choice at this point, no judging) in hand and eyes on the screen. I tried to stay away from the cliche and picked out movies that in my opinion are highly comical, romantic, AND stylish. I hope you enjoy this little list! Let me know under the comment section if you have more suggestions for movies I should definitely watch this Christmas!

Featured image: Southern Curls & Pearls

  1. Home Alone

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2. The Chronicles of Narnia

3. The Man Who Invented Christmas

The Man Who Invented Christmas

4. Four Christmases

Four Christmases

5. The Holiday

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6. The Family Stone

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7. A Christmas Tale (un conte de noel) 2008

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8.Metropolitan (1990)

Metropolitan 

9. A Christmas in New York

A Christmas in New York

10. Ghost of Girlfriends Past (2009)

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BONUS*: the Harry Potter Series! I know it’s one of those movies you can watch anytime throughout the year but still. HP movies will definitely bring out the magical winter wonderland feels in you. Major winter vibeeeee.

Merry Christmas lovelies!

XO J simple

Life Lessons Gossip Girl has Taught Me.

When it comes to inappropriate and scandalous teen drama/chick flicks, gossip girl often is enlisted as one of the “classics” (especially since it is been on Netflix since FOREVER). It has definitely made its mark and stood out from all the other young adult tv series. Not gonna lie I’ve been watching the show since the tender age of 13 years old. Too early? You might say, but it’s not difficult to find out that majority of people who grew up watching the series when it first aired were around 13 to 25 years old (sometimes even “real” adults enjoyed it).
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When I first discovered the show as a “fresh” teen, I was immediately drawn to the impeccable prep-school fashion, the glitz and glamour, the lavish yet carelessly lifestyle, and most importantly, the relationships between all the characters (including struggling ones with the parents). If there is one show that in my opinion glorified New York City as a place to be, gossip girl is it. A 13 years aspiring fashion designer and self-proclaimed art hoe, I found myself fascinated by how effortlessly (as it appeared) the show incorporated fashion into building the foundations of the show’s characters. Who is Blair without her headband and colorful stockings? And who would even recognize Serena van der Woodsen without her golden voluminous champagne blond hair and risqué outfits (I mean for 16 years old)? Their ridiculously mean demeanor and cruel adult-queue conversations were in the most part so unrelatable and shocking for most middle-class suburban teenagers that it’s so cringy and ADDICTING to watch! In a major way, gossip girl has shaped my teenage years. You constantly feel like you are not “cool” enough to know these characters in real life, yet every episode you find yourself relating to them more and more. My love for gossip girl is a far more personal one, and let me explain why.

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Blake Lively on location for 'Gossip Girl' in Midtown Manhattan

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I did grow up differently compare to majority of the teens I went to high school with (click on this link if you want to find out more), being a teen was already hard. At times I felt that under my circumstances it’s even more difficult to find a sense of place in and comfort. I felt that no one understood me, including my parents and siblings back in Taiwan. For the most part, I worried that I couldn’t meet their expectations, and eventually failed them if I were to completely infuse myself with the American culture. I feared for not getting acceptance from my peers at school and feared that if I did become one of them, my parents would be ashamed and disappointed because I didn’t become their ideal prodigy. The culture differences was already a gap that I struggled for years to cross, left along adding living without parental guidance in a “foreign” country that I was told I belonged. The show that made me feel better was gossip girl. It opened my eyes to endless possibilities, ways to live as a teen in America, and most importantly, I feel that my life at the time was a big assortment of all the characters and their various life struggles/circumstances combined. In season 1, Serena’s parents sent her away from home to boarding school, Blair’s mom often verbally abused her into dieting and eventually turned her into a bulimic, Nate’s parents looked picture perfect on the surface but they were rotten inside, and overall they were all pretending to be more grown-up than they actually were, just like me traveling internationally by myself every year to be with my family, and managing my own life (for the most part). In a funny way, I was relating more to the crazier “unrealistic” parts of the show because of how unconventional my own life was as a teenager, and it was comforting to know that there were teens sharing the same (if not more) problems that were bigger than us.
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The truth is Gossip Girl has received a fair amount of criticism over the years. Some said it’s injecting inappropriate ideas and served as a bad influence on teens. Some even straight up think the show is trash with its melodramatic plotlines and everchanging character personalities. But I think one might even argue that it has exactly achieved its purpose of existence. When I revisited the episodes as an adult in my 20s, I somehow ALWAYS get something new out of it, things I simply didn’t have the capacity to pick up on when I was younger. Gossip Girl is one of those shows that no matter how many times you rewatch it, it never gets old. The fashion still looked fresh af, they used social media and are addictive to their phones like nobody’s business. Somehow the show shaped and predicted the millennial culture in the incoming years. The accurate portrayal of a narcissistic generation is ON POINT. These characters have a group of solid squad members that are constantly falling out yet in a various fucked-up way always ended up working together and repair their seemly broken friendships. Not to mention the idea that apparently our parents are as flawed as us, they are just better at hiding it.
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My recommendation for people who’s been a fan and want to rewatch some episodes but don’t like the commitment, start off with the first two episodes of each season (Summer madness shall I say?), then proceed to the Thanksgiving episode from each season and then finally the winter episodes are absolutely a MUST. They are not only dramatic, but the scenery and aesthetic are immaculate. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Don’t forget to serve yourself a glass of white wine/champagne with strawberries or your favorite dessert. IT IS A VIBE.
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Bonus: the Paris Episodes (Season 4 Episode 1 & 2)* soooooo good.
Gossip Girl is hands down my favorite television series because:
1. The fashion
2. The crazy plot lines
3. Aesthetics
4. Rewatchability
5. I grew up with it!
Let me know your favorite episode(s) and whether you think it’s as genius as I praised it to be in this post!

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XO J simple

How I Grew Up

Today I want to briefly talk about my not so ordinary way of growing up.

Due to globalization, more and more teenagers are leaving home and studying abroad, not just your one semester or one year abroad, some teens study far away from their parents and home for a long extended period of time (we are talking five-plus years). And I am one of the later cases. Asia is known for its strong emphasis on schooling and the competitive education atmosphere (or excelling in exams, if I may). It’s been a trend during the past decades for Asian parents to send their children as young as 10 years old to the Western world to study under the belief that the education system in the West is simply “better”, and will give their children better opportunities and career choices in the future. Depending on the parents, some only feel confident to send their kids off to American/Western university at a legal appropriate age (18 years old) and some parents worried that their kids will fall behind so they sent their kids abroad right before they hit puberty. This most likely explained why my parents decided to send me away from home to Denver, Colorado at the age of 12 years old to live with a family I’ve never met before for the sole purpose of education.

I remembered crying nonstop on the way to the airport, on the plane, when we landed, and even when standing by the carousel, my tears just wouldn’t stop filling eyes and rolling down my cheeks. My mom chaperoned me the first time around and yet I was threatened to death. Looking back, I had no idea why I was crying so much, perhaps it was the fear of the unknown world, the strong nauseating fact that I wouldn’t see my parents for another six months.

Prior to moving to America by myself, I’ve always been super attached to my parents as a child and I would always made a scene when I get dropped off for summer camp or at the babysitter’s place. I MADE SURE people knew how much I dislike new surrounding, new things, and new faces. So the fact that my parents now wanted to send me super far away to a foreign country for a long extended period of time was just unacceptable. It was too much for my 12-year-old mind to understand, and I was crying out of anger and frustration. After all this decision was made mutually. My parents did have multiple discussions with me before making the decision of sending me away. My mom visited the Middle School and High school I will be entering a couple of summers ago to make sure (needless to say she loved it). I was thrown into an environment which was completely unfamiliar to me. The language barrier was brutal, but puberty was perhaps even worse. The first semester in an American middle school I gained a solid 10kg just from eating American lunch food by myself because I didn’t know how to speak to the other kids. I went from head to toe pink outfits with classic thick Asian bangs to a punk rock 2009 Avril Lavigne inspired princess. When I went back to Taiwan two summers later, my parents were in shock with the heavy smokey eyeliners and a transformative all-black wardrobe. But they let it slipped because she is American now and they do things differently there. And from that point on, my life is changed forever.

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After a good four years of studying in the States, I’ve made multiple friends, my English definitely improved and I was able to gain more insight into what is it like to be a proper American teen. However, the feeling of insecurity and not having a sense of belonging was starting to eat me alive. I started to constantly disagree with my parents on a fundamental basis, I refused to oblige to the cultural expectations they tried to impose on me when I was back home for break. It was becoming a lot more difficult to live with my own family members in Taiwan because I am not used to all the house rules and how they functioned as a household. I was gradually feeling distant from my own family because they all knew the ins-and-outs, where things are but I was utterly clueless. The hardest part was they assumed I know EVERYTHING because I am biologically related to them, but I genuinely question if I belonged at all. When I finally adjusted myself to adapt to my own family, it’s time to say goodbye again – on to living with the family friends who I spent more time with during my teenage years than my own family members.

Over the years, I’ve stayed with so many families to a point where I’ve lost count. I’ve gone to a Greek Orthodox church, had multiple Russian dinners, attended graduation parties and fashion shows, tried Australian cuisine and of course, cheered on football games, all the while being the only Asian person in the room. I did it all before the age of 17 years old. Some people looked at my upbringing confused, and I just saw it as a form of training. I want to believe that there is a bigger picture in this journey: that ultimately my parents wanted to train me to become an independent, well-rounded, worldly woman who can handle herself in any situation. Although I don’t think I exactly turned out to be the person they wanted me to become, pretty confident to say that I have grown up to become a person with a global view.

Studying away from home has definitely broadened my worldview and expanded my capacity to absorb and adapt to new culture regardless of where I go in the world. I am currently studying in Europe (this is probably going to be yet another post I will write about in the future) and I did find myself more at ease the second time around. Nothing comes easy when you first go to a foreign country and live there. But we shouldn’t be afraid of the unknown, instead, we should embrace our fear and make the most out of it.

 

 

xo, J

 

Life update: finding purpose & some thoughts

I haven’t posted anything in almost 4 months….a lot had happened and my mind was/is just a constant mess. I didn’t want to vomit all my thoughts on this blog considered that it just wasn’t my intention when I first started this blog, yet here I am, trying to articulate proper descriptions of what I’ve been feeling and still feeling today.

Long story short, I’ve lost someone significant in my life.  Perhaps it’s too early to talk about this because the loss still feels fairly recent and that we are all still hurting as a family. Sometimes life is fucked-up in various ways, and my family have been through hell and back the past couple of years. Every single incidence was life threatening and definitely unexpected. We’ve always believed that what you’ve given out to the universe is what you will receive in return, thus my family have always been about trying to do good, help others, and never complain. But it just somehow didn’t work out. Bad things were still happening. There were constant unavoidable dramas taking place despite the best attempt to avoid them. To be honest, I still don’t know how my family is going to survive this one. I assumed it will take multiple group therapy sessions in the future to sort out everyone’s emotions and properly heal. Maybe we will never completely heal and the void will be inside us eating us alive.

The hardest part of the aftermath of the death of a family member is that everyone demands and expects you to go back to normal life, the “old” life from before. But the truth is it will never be the same without that person. I am still trying to get used this fact and it hasn’t been easy. I sincerely hope somehow I gain some profound wisdom from this or I understand the world better compare to where I was before. But honest to god, I haven’t felt this empty inside in a very long time. We can carry on and live as fulfilled as we possibly could, but in the back of my mind, I still think that our tragedy just served as another warning or fictionary tale to other families and friends, to help them make an adjustment or change their attitudes about their loved ones because life is too short and my god you really have to cherish every moment! 

Why as humans we never truly learned until something drastic happened around you? The history shouldn’t repeat itself yet it has been in every aspect of the existence of mankind. I did some research and read up the five stages of grief. And needless to say, I diagnosed EVERYONE in my family. But like I said, it is still too early to tell which direction our family is heading towards, and I won’t be sharing more insight on this until I know more.

I’ve also found it difficult to focus and concentrate on my daily task. Everything just seems less interesting and every perception changed forever. I hope to find fuel again, and get more motivations to get my life back on track. Maybe working on this blog again is my way of coping with heartache and finding a sense of purpose again. I’ve been stimulating myself with constant creative inspiration and social media distractions to get out of being sad or angry or depressed. So bear with me, my readers. I hope to stay consistent with my content even during the busier months.

XO J simple

Holiday Vibes in BCN

Morning:

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Night:

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Spent one wonderful and relaxing weekend in Barcelona, taking a quick short break from school and the hectic schedule. Who like me is not a big fan of choppy breaks? I mean I know I should be thankful I get ANY holidays at all but still, something just doesn’t sit right with me when I had to constantly readjust myself from vacay-Joyce to uni-Joyce (trust me, there is a difference). I absolutely adored Barcelona in the winter. It is not your typical white Christmas from its Northern European neighbors, with snowflakes falling down the windows, and bundled up in front of a fireplace, but the cold Mediterranian wind can still add to the chilly-effect. I personally love when the temperature drops a good 4-5 degrees at night, and the wind swiftly pierced from one stone wall to the other as pedestrians cuddled closer to each other, searching for warmth and comfort. I think winter in Barcelona adds a touch of an enigma to the city compare to the warmer months when the city is flooded with tourists and young hooligans. Winter in Barcelona is like the more reserved and serious side of this city, in other words, mysterious and discreet. My favorite activities include: indulging sweets (Chok donuts, for example), visiting Christmas Market, walk around the city to take in all the festive decors on every street, and enjoying one or two…too many cocktails in a hidden bar in a basement somewhere with dim light and impeccable atmosphere. Can’t think of any other way to spend a Saturday night, to be honest.

 

XO, J.

 

 

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The perfect staycation spent village hopping around Girona, Catalonia. The autumn atmosphere is definitely in the air and I am loving every single second of it. We visited Gala and Salvador Dali’s castle in Pubol (he gifted her the castle) and of course Peratallada – arguably the most beautiful Catalan town – my all time favorite especially during the fall months.

“Autumn that year painted the countryside in vivid shades of scarlet, saffron, and russet, and the days were clear and crisp under harvest skies.” -Sharon Kay Penman

XO, J

White Jumpsuit.

It’s official that June has been around the corner, which means the start of summer vacation and beginning of various activities under the hot summer sun. Ever since the CFDA 2017 award, my obsession for white (especially during the summer months) is officially confirmed. There were so many interpretations of white gowns and off white pulls on the red carpet everything is practically TO DIE FOR (cue Gigi Hadid*). Every summer I find myself purchasing at least one jumpsuit (or two, guilty). And this year I thought why not incorporating my two favorite summer essentials and find me some white jumpsuits. As always, I tend to find some inspirations online before making a big purchase. Here are wide range of white jumpsuits style to observe and learn from:

 

  1. City Cool

 

I probably would’ve never thought to wear completely white while strolling on the city street because 1. you would you pop out from the crowd (I guess that’s the point) and 2. non-stop stares from strangers 3. at risk for stains/ruin the clothing (but come on, we gotta be rebels somehow). However I love how these bloggers instantly transformed these looks from causal vacay to super sleek white by pairing some sunnies and black heels/dope-ass handbag with the look. With this style I would say, simplicity is KEY.

 

2. Office Chic

 

Again, another city look to take notes from (in this case, Kendall Jenner). White or off white blazer/coats are a working woman’s best friend. I could totally see a girl boss rocking this feminine yet professional look to the office, a business meeting, or even a lunch date. This looks is super versatile and definitely is a confidence boost.

 

3.  V-neck

 

I guess this V-neck loosen silhouette is a classic statement piece that’s been around forever now. I love this jumpsuit interpretation of it. Adding a flare with a bow-tie on the waist to distinguish and accentuate the form of the women. This look is super effortless and holiday appropriate. And you can either wear it with some sneakers or a cool pair of off-white/cream high heels and ready to kill it.

 

4. Vacation Mode: ON

 

This is the wide-leg-don’t-care-because-Im-on-vacation look. Simple, classic, comfortable and effortlessly stylish. Need I say more? I think in this case, accessories is important. Whether it’s play if safe and go with similar white tone, or go completely crazy with the purse/bag. The beauty of this look is that there are no rules! Your outfit is practically a blank canvas for you to get creative.

Hope you enjoy these 4 styles! What are some of you summer favorites? If you have any comments or questions please drop it on the comment section below!

 

Cheers!

xo, J.

 

El Palace – Afternoon Tea.

There is not a better timing to taking some tea on a lazy afternoon during a spring shower, or at least that was my excuse when me and bf marched down the luxurious El Palace hotel for a sweet treat. Located 5-7 minutes walk from the lively Passeig de Gràcia avenue (a main shopping /site-seeing destination for many tourists and locals), El Palace holds its own refinery style with its extravagant interior decor. We were first greeted by the doormen who’s dressed in the most charming uniform and greeted us with big smile, foreshadowing a spectacular view ahead. The first moment entering the lobby, we were stunned by the magnificent decor and details in front of our eyes. It was everything I’ve expected if not more. All of the sudden I was reliving my own Barcelona version of Gossip Girl dream. 

We got seated and menus were presented to us:

The tea is traditional English style (sandwiches, biscuits, cakes) with a hint of French influence (the pastel colors, flower arrangements, etc)

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There is a wide range of selection for tea on the menu to choose from, and you can also order champagne if the mood is right. The service is really attentive, the servers always came around to see if we need any help. I asked them to heat up my tea and they actually just ended up giving me a refill, which was extremely nice.

Out of the 3 layers, we were least impressed with the biscuits but they were still exceptionally delicious. The pastries were such a nice ending to this unforgettable afternoon. To learn more about the menu click link down below:

High Tea Menu

 

If you would like to enjoy a luxurious afternoon in Barcelona and treating your taste bud to an unforgettable symphony of finger foods, definitely make a reservation ahead of time at the El Palace webite!

Cheers!

 

xo, J

 

bon profit! A guide to brunch spots in Valencia, Spain.

Being in Spain for 3 years now, I’ve definitely missed the weekend brunch culture in the US (especially in college town setting). However in recent years I think the concept of brunch has made its way to Europe and particularly Spain. Here I think the closest thing to brunch is called “almuerzo” which can be interpreted as ‘lunch’ or a ‘middle day snack’. One thing for certain is unlike brunch, it does not come with big portions and variety of sweet and savory. Personally I have gone to a few restaurants, cafes, and pastries shops in Spain that serve delicious and VERY photogenic brunch. Here are some of my recommendations and personal favorites that you should put on your brunchin/ list if you are visiting Spain (Valencia and Barcelona, to be more specific)!

  1. Bar & Kitchen

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Located in the Le Seu (old town) district in Valencia tucked away behind the Cathedral and tourist crowds, this adorable restaurant is usually packed with locals and tourists who happen to live nearby. The dishes are a nice mix of modern and traditional Spanish cuisine. The portion of each dish is just perfect for two to share. The patatas bravas is my personal favorite from this place. One of the best I’ve tried in Valencia thus far.

Address:  Plaça d’Ibanyes, 7, 46001 València

Opening Hours:

Sunday

9:00 am – 12:00 am
Monday
9:00 am – 12:00 am
Tuesday
9:00 am – 12:00 am
Wednesday
9:00 am – 12:00 am
Thursday
9:00 am – 12:00 am
Friday
9:00 am – 12:00 am
Saturday
9:00 am – 12:00 am

*hours might differ during the holidays*

2. BASTARD Coffee & Kitchen

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Egg benedict+avcado on pancake

This place is usually packed with local Spanish families and university students especially on the weekends. They serve everything from classic egg benedict to burgers and pancakes. I love the variety of egg benedict selection there, which you can find here:

http://www.bastardcoffeekitchen.com/brunch.html

The environment is super cozy and rustic.

The staff are friendly and service is extremely nice (for Spanish standard). They also speak English if there is any difficulty communicating. Keep in mind that week days are less crowded than the weekends and as everything else in life, early birds will usually always have available seats right on the spot!

Address: C/Leandro de Saralegui, nº 1, bajo izda., 46021 Valencia

Opening Hours:

8:00 am – 12:00 am
Monday
8:00 am – 12:00 am
Tuesday
8:00 am – 12:00 am
Wednesday
8:00 am – 12:00 am
Thursday
8:00 am – 12:00 am
Friday
8:00 am – 12:00 am
Saturday
8:00 am – 12:00 am

*hours might differ during the holidays*

3. Bluebell Coffee Co.

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Avocado toasts

My first time entering Blubell Coffee Co. I thought I accidentally intruded someone’s backyard/garden. The interior is the perfect combination of vintage and organic chic. They have various vegetarian and vegan options, also seasonal smoothies and cake. You never know what surprise will be thrown at you on the menu. This place is also very pet and toddler friendly. The back drop is perfect for an afternoon relaxation / chill out after a lovely day wandering around in Ruzafa district.

Address: Carrer de Buenos Aires, 3, 46006 Valencia

Opening Hours:

9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Monday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Tuesday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Wednesday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Thursday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Friday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Saturday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm

*hours might differ during the holidays*

4. Dulce de Leche BOUTIQUE Café Pastelería

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Bagel Salmon Sandwich

Also located in the Ruzafa district, this restaurant is great for their vast selection of delicious and cakes and pastries. Usually the staff will ask you to order around the counter and they will bring the food over to you. You will not be surprise to find crowds of students, hipsters, bloggers, or all of the above gathering here on weekly basis. The coffee is great and satisfying, But the desserts are a must try! The fresh flower decor on each table also makes your food more “gram-able” if you know what I mean.

Address: Calle Pintor Gisbert 2, C. Cuba 46, 46006 Valencia

Opening Hours:

Sunday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Monday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Tuesday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Wednesday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Thursday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Friday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Saturday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

5. La Más Bonita Patacona

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English Breakfast

Valencia is famous for its beach and party lifestyle. This is why this brunch spot is almost too perfect to miss. Located literally right in front of the beach,  La Mas Bonita Patacona is the place to be whether is a morning brunch before hitting the beach, after a Friday night out or a Sunday catch up sesh with girls. They also make king size fruit smoothies, jugs of sangria, and of course a mean cup of mimosa.

The interior decor is a beach-y mermaid Mediterranean paradise. The spacial breakfast (brunch session) is from Saturday to Sunday 12.30pm – 5:00pm. So make sure don’t miss out on it!

Which place is your favorite? Comment below and I hope one of them makes it onto your bucketlist!

Cheers!

xo, J.

Blossom.

 

It spring time again! And every week my urge to go flower shopping is only gradually increasing. Peonies have always been my favorite flowers (next to roses and lavender). So it came as a surprise to me that I had no knowledge whatsoever on it and had to look up peonies’ flower meaning. What is not so surprising is that peony is believed to be named after Paeon, the Greek physician of the gods(that corresponds to my current studies, duh).

In the recent decade, peonies have also been used as a fashion accessory and the perfect transition pic in every fashion girl’s instagram layout. I personally adored peonies fulsome appearance and their ability to instantly upgrade a space when placed in a room.

Here are some of the fun facts I found on the internet which basically proves that peony is me in flower form:

  • As mentioned above, medicine/physician origin
  • Native to China (where my ancestors are from)
  • Lush, rounded, and fulsome appearance
  • It is also called the flower of “riches and honor”, need I say more???

If you are ever interested in planting your own peonies in the backyard/garden, here is a brilliant video that is a step to step instruction on HOW TO PLANT PEONIES.

If you find the real one too high maintenance, here is a DIY on how to make realistic fabric peony flowers:

 

I hope this post inspired you… Happy Spring!

 

XO, J