Dark 21st Birthday Party

My sisters are like me and they like things dark and spooky. So that’s the theme I went for on one of their 21st birthdays!

Black normal balloons
Black heart balloons
Party tattoos
Skull doomsday napkins (my fave!!)
-21 balloons
-I cut the banner letters out of black sparkly paper
Silver runner
Black cups
Black streamers

We made everyone wear black and had drinks. This was about as easy as you can get, but still turned out super cute.

Three Day Kyoto, Japan Itinerary

After spending three days in Taiwan, we flew over to our first stop in Japan – Kyoto! After this we went up to Tokyo via the bullet train. Kyoto is definitely the more cultural and historic city of the two.

DAY 1: NORTHERN KYOTO

Kyoto International Manga Museum: We’re not huge manga fans, but still really enjoyed this museum. It’s informative, interactive and there’s tons to read/buy while you’re there.

Cafe Bibliotic Hello!: This is a super cute restaurant! It’s full of books, plants and just a cool aesthetic overall. They had vegetarian options and helped us order.

Nijō Castle: Very beautiful grounds and castle. We loved walking around the area afterwards. You can buy tickets online. The ticket line was decently long, but not unbearable.

Gyoen National Garden: Really pretty National Park with views of nature. It was a little bit touristy/crowded, but still worth a visit.

Tetsugaku No Michi/Philospher’s Path: This is a famous path in Kyoto. We had to take a bus to get to the area. It starts at the Silver Pavilion and ends in Nanzenji. We just put it into our map and easily found it. It’s a canal lined with cherry blossoms and is named for the famous Japanese philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, that used this route for meditation. The cherry blossoms hadn’t bloomed yet when we visited, but was still pretty. There are shops and cafes along the canal as well. It wasn’t crowded at all when we went – maybe because of the lack of blossoms. Everyone else online said that it gets very crowded so much so that you’re walking in a single file line.

After this we tried to find Higashiyama Jisho-ji (Buddhist temple) and Hōnen-in Temple using our map/just walking around. We did find a cemetery and some temple like buildings. We still don’t know what we were looking at, but it was pretty!

Nanzen-ji Temple: Another temple on the way back to our airbnb. It has big stairs to walk up and a pretty garden. Make sure to check the hours of all of these temples! A lot of them close at 5pm.

We got dinner at a random hole in the wall with a ticket/vending machine setup. We had to try it! You go in and punch your order in with buttons like on a ticket machine. You get a card and wait for them to call your order. There were literally like 5 bar seats in there and we were lucky to nab two by the time our food came. I love this idea because it’s less person interaction haha.

There was a decent amount of vegan/vegetarian ramen around Japan and in Kyoto. You just have to search a little bit harder for it. And there is usually just one option on the menu, which was fine with me!

Bar Rocking Chair: This is a “fancier” cocktail bar – with yes, rocking chairs! We sat by the fire in two rocking chairs and got drinks. They do have a million normal tables and chairs too.

L’Escamoteur: A very interesting, steampunk/speakeasy (?) vibe. It’s really small and upstairs. We had to wait in line to get in which was hard because there was only a small amount of room at the top of the stairs and everyone else had to wait downstairs. They spoke/understood English really well. Lots of fancy/showy cocktails. We didn’t get a seat because it was so busy so we just stood to the side.

DAY 2: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE + DOWNTOWN KYOTO

Fushimi Inari: The famous orange gate shrine in Kyoto – it even has it’s own emoji! Depending on where you’re staying, you will most likely need to take public transportation to get here since it’s out of the main city. Buy tickets online and heed all the warnings to get there early. The shrine is open 24 hours. We got there around 8:30am and the crowds were still pretty small. There was enough space for us to have room to walk and get a few nice crowd-less photos.

Kyoto Tower: We stopped here as it was on the way back to our other activities. It’s a pretty standard observation deck, but the views are pretty. You do have to buy tickets and they’re cheaper to buy online beforehand.

Nishiki Market: We came here for an early lunch/late breakfast. There are lots of food stalls with local foods – like mini octopus!

Yasui Konpiragu: I love this shrine. You write your wish down on a white piece of paper – crawl through the hole and then back through the other way. Then pin your wish to the shrine. It’s supposed to be good for relationships. The line was super long though unfortunately so we didn’t partake. Plus I didn’t want all those people watching me squeeze through that small hole. It was fun to see though and great people watching!

Arabica Coffee: A shop known for its amazing latte art! They have many locations. I really wanted to get something, but the line was very long at this location and all others that we passed.

Ishibe-koji Alley: A cool alley that’s quiet and has a traditional Japanese street vibe. A good place to take photos!

Kiyomizu-dera: Another temple! This one has a veranda with awesome views.

You could add Maruyama Park and Shōren-in Monzeki to your list. Both are in the area.

Pontocho: We spent our night exploring this area. This is the famous spot where you can see real geishas. There are a lot of rules of how to know if they are real and how to interact with them. We don’t think we saw any real ones :(. But there are a lot of tourists in kimonos and other traditional dress. There are bars and restaurants throughout the area to stop in for dinner and drinks.

DAY 3: ARASHIYAMA AREA

We really wanted to check out the Kinkaku-ji Temple or the floating gold temple before going over to the Arashiyama area, but it was just too much transportation/travel time for us. It looks cool if you have a car or more time!

We took the train over to Arashiyama. It was pretty straightforward and easy. After you get there, everything is walkable (some walks are longer). We put everything in this order to end up back at the train station and we wanted to go to the bamboo grove early before the crowds.

Tenryuji Temple: Very pretty garden area with lots of places to sit. Again, touristy, but not too bad.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: Walk out of the temple at the north gate and you’ll eventually get to the bamboo grove. We tried to get here early to beat the crowds, but failed. I think we got there around 10am and it was insane. Looking up was still really beautiful, but don’t expect to get those idyllic photos.

Giouji Temple: This was the furthest walk (about 25 minutes there and 25 minutes back) and we weren’t sure if it was worth it, but it 100% was. It was very quiet and serene. The temple is surrounded by a moss garden which was really breathtaking. I’m SO SO glad we made the trek. There’s a little town surrounding it with restaurants. We were intimidated since none of them looked English speaking (which is a good thing, but we get nervous). It was also harder to find vegetarian food. We stopped in a really nice place with the owner making all the food. We got green tea noodles!

If you keep walking north, you’ll find the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple, which looked interesting via photos. It’s a temple with thousands of stone carved statues. We didn’t have time to walk up there.

Kimono Forest: I loved this area. It’s connected to a train station, which is kind of weird, but the kimonos were really pretty. There are a lot of people there wearing traditional clothing taking photos, so that alone is cool to see. The train station part has lots of food/snack options. We got green tea ice cream finally.

Arashiyama Monkey Park: A weird place for sure. You enter and walk up a lot of stairs. A LOT. Make sure you research the distance before going in if that worries you! At the top of the hill, there are just monkeys running around. There’s a house viewing station thing that was really hot and crowded. The monkeys didn’t seem necessarily happy…but I don’t know. I felt torn. The views from the top are nice.

Chao Chao Gyoza: When we got back to downtown Kyoto, we got this for dinner. It was so good! The staff were super nice and helpful. And there many vegetarian dumpling options!! I think this was my favorite meal in Kyoto.

Overall, we really loved Kyoto. We learned so much about the Japanese culture. I’m glad we went here before Tokyo because it’s more laid back and we got to learn how things work.

Three Days in Taipei, Taiwan

Our first trip to Taiwan! We didn’t have much time so we tried to hit all the highlights in three short days.

DAY 1: ZHONGZHENG DISTRICT + MORE

Dongmen Market: Our first stop! It’s a pretty typical day market with lots of stalls full of meals, snacks, flowers, fruit, etc. It’s big and covers a lot of ground. We got a sweet treat and kept walking.

Huashan 1914 Creative Park: I loved this area! One of my favorites. There are a bunch of cool themed stores, like Hello Kitty, plus a lot of really cute “normal” restaurants and stores. There’s benches and a park area.

Liberty Square: A large plaza with lots of important buildings like the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall! Very pretty and historical.

Din Tai Fung: Ugh. The best discovery of our lives. Going here is so easy especially if you’re nervous about ordering food. They speak English, the menu is very easy to understand, they have vegetarian options and are very nice. They have a system for ordering that makes everything very efficient. They have multiple locations around Taipei. I would highly recommend coming here! We went twice in three days.

Ximending Area: A shopping area with lots to see even if you don’t go into any stores!

Snow King Ice Cream: A cute little place with lots of weird flavors! It’s kind of hard to find. Look for the address and then you’ll need to go up stairs.

Driftwood Brewery: A super cute, wood decorated brewery. We sat outside and loved the vibe.

Revolver: This bar was super cool! I read that it’s touristy and there were quite a few tourists there, but it didn’t feel fake (if that makes sense). They HATE Coldplay and have signs everywhere saying that haha. The bartenders seemed really cool and hipster. When we went there wasn’t a band playing, but I guess they have really cool shows on the second floor. The whole thing is open air and you can sit outside. As we were drinking, a guy came up to us and started talking to us and telling us about his life in Taipei and his travels. He started sketching something on a napkin and then handed us this! A cool memory for sure.

DAY 2: NORTH COAST TOUR

On our second day, we got out of the city and took a tour with kkday. We really enjoyed the experience – I don’t think we would have been able to make it to any of these places on our own. You have to keep in mind that it is a typical bus tour though…so sometimes the stops are too quick and you’re always with/working around other people. BUT ALSO IT’S $12, YES I REPEAT $12.

Stop 1 – Yehliu Geopark
This place was very cool! A lot of nature formations and water. There’s a lot of ground to cover in the allotted time so choose what you want to see wisely. You do get a map with descriptions of each area. I would definitely go back here when we have more time.

Stop 2 – Shifen Waterfall + Shifen Old Street

The waterfall area is very pretty! You walk through a little spot with snacks and art to see. Then walk across a bridge to a large waterfall. After that we got back on the bus and headed over to Shifen Old Street!

It’s an old railroad town with the tracks still running down the middle. There are little shops and food stalls on each side. The town is famous for releasing lanterns up into the air. There are a ton of vendors selling the lanterns and the tour guide will take you to his favorite. You write your wish on the lantern and let it go!

Stop 3 – Jiufen

This town is from the movie “Spirited Away” and is built right into a cliff side. You walk up lots of steep stairs and then there are alleys that go either way. It gets super crowded and we got lost a few times, but it’s a really cool experience. We were walking down one alley and noticed a place with vegetarian food – it was literally a hole in the wall. Like a hole with a few stairs and you turned and it was a few tables and just one guy just cooking up food! And it did not disappoint!

Elephant Mountain: When we got back we took a break and then climbed Elephant Mountain. This is not for the faint of heart! It’s A LOT of stairs and the area isn’t very well lit so you can’t see where you are going. I wanted to give up like 20 times, but we made it to the top for some pretty awesome views (bad pic below)!

Ounce: We stopped here for a drink after almost dying. It’s a cool speakeasy – we couldn’t find the entrance at first! The owner was really nice and moved to Taiwan from New York. He decided to open a NY vibed bar in Taipei. We def recommend getting a cocktail here!

DAY 3: BEITOU AREA

Heritage Bakery: We got pastries and coffee here before setting off for the day and it was really really cute. And they had some merch with Michigan on it!!

Spring City Resort: This area is known for their spring water and we really wanted to try it out. There are a bunch of resorts in the area that let you rent a room for a few hours vs. staying there overnight. After some research, we chose Spring City Resort through kkday. We thought this was easier to do and cheaper! There are options for an outdoor spring where you wear a bathing suit (make sure you read the rules), but we wanted to be alone.

You get a little room with a big bathtub that fits two people. They explain to you how to use the room and then leave you be! There’s a mirror, space for your clothes, water bottles, etc. in the room. It was nice, clean and definitely relaxing. We didn’t feel anything “magic” from the spring water, but it was still a cool way to relax after two busy days of traveling.

Thermal Valley: Next we walked about 8 minutes over to Thermal Valley. It’s a green spring – one of the only two green sulfurs in the world! It’s a really cool site and does get really hot.

Taipei Public Library: Another 8 minute walk takes you to the library! It’s a really interesting building on the outside and in. We went to the balcony area and sat and looked out at the water.

We wanted to check out the Beitou Market, but didn’t have time.

We got a late lunch nearby and then had to head out to go to Kyoto (and then Tokyo), Japan!

1960’s New Year’s Eve Party

I planned a 1960’s themed party this year for New Year’s Eve! It was fun to find some actual vintage items and re-create the vibes with other normal New Year’s stuff. Everyone dressed up in the era’s clothes and brought a 60’s inspired appetizer!

I set up two tables and a counter. One table had all the midnight fixings – noise makers, NYE headbands, champagne and glasses. The other was a cocktail area – a menu with how to make drinks, all the alcohol, shakers, glasses, coasters, etc. Lastly, the counter had all the food!

BALLOONS
-Champagne pop wall: I tried to make a mini version of this! You can use this balloon strip and place silver, white, gold balloons in each hole. Then tape the champagne bottle balloon to it!
Number balloons are a must-have!

DRINKS
-I made a cocktail menu and left all the necessary ingredients out so people could serve themselves. It would be fun to have someone serve as the bartender as well. I did a martini, old fashion and high ball.
-Don’t forget to have some vintage beers (or High Life for NYE) and lots of champagne!

FOOD
-As I said, each person brought a 60’s theme food item. Some ideas were: a cheese ball, veggies and dip, jello mold, chips and dip, sliced apples + cheese and more!

60’S DECOR
-I made a sign with glitter letters, “Let’s Get Blitzed” – there are a million other 60’s says you could use!
Fake cigarettes
-Vintage New Year’s baby sign
Vintage Happy New Year banner
-Vintage napkins
-Vintage champagne glasses (from Salvation Army)
-Cocktail shakers
-Vintage coasters with cocktails on them

I got most of the vintage stuff from Etsy!

NYE DECOR
-Happy NYE headbands
-Noise makers
Gold & silver table runners
-Gold streamers
Star garland
Star toothpicks
-Plastic champagne glasses
-Solo cups
-NYE plates and cups

This set looks vintage-y to me! I tried to keep everything silver, gold and black with a vintage, but glam vibe.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!









Friends Weekend in Downtown Saugatuck, Michigan

Saugatuck is one of my favorite cities Michigan – so of course we had to plan a friends trip there! Four couples stayed in an apartment right downtown for the weekend. It was great to be able to walk to dinner and drinks every night.

DAY 1:
Of course we started off our day getting coffee from Uncommon Coffee Roasters. Then we packed up our cooler with lunch items and headed over to Oval Beach. It’s a beautiful beach right on Lake Michigan. After a long day of laying in the sun, we headed back to change and then went to dinner at The Mitten Brewing Co.

DAY 2:
Our second day was a little bit more strenuous. We started off taking a tour with Saugatuck Dune Rides. You can buy tickets online beforehand and the tour lasts about 45 minutes. It takes you through the dunes and provides a lot of history. You get out a few stops to take photos with beautiful views. The tour isn’t too scary/bumpy.

Next, we went to Saugatuck Brewing Company for lunch and some beers. My favorite is the Oval Beach Blonde. Make sure to stop at Blue Star Antiques while you wait for your table. We then made a pit stop at Virtue Cider. They have a really cute outdoor seating area!

After eating a quick dinner, we headed over to the Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruise for the sunset sail. It’s a really fun boat ride with great views, especially at sunset. There is a bar on the boat too. Make sure you book seats on the top deck.

We decided to big on our last night and stayed out late at the Sand Bar Saloon. It’s a crazy piano bar that’s a ton of fun.



QUICK ITINERARY:
DAY 1
-Coffee at Uncommon Coffee Roasters
-Spend the afternoon at Oval Beach
-Dinner/drinks at The Mitten Brewing Co.

DAY 2
Saugatuck Dune Rides tour
-Lunch at Saugatuck Brewing Company
-Shop at Blue Star Antiques
-Drinks at Virtue Cider
-Sunset sail on Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruise
-Drinks at the Sand Bar Saloon

Check out a more couple-y Saugatuck itinerary here. And other Michigan friends trip ideas: Muskegon, St. Joseph and Boyne City.

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