My name is Diana Elizabeth. I'm a journalist, photographer, graphic designer and FORD model who had memorable days reporting from the LA red carpet for E! Online. I love sharing my life as a creative professional and the things that I discover along the way - with camera in hand.

My husband and I live in a restored 1952 red brick home that sits on a former citrus grove in Phoenix. I love traveling, home improvement projects, sewing, gardening, and John Mayer and Twilight. This is a glimpse into my life and work.

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france-outfit-floral-pants Pants: Morning Lavender

Ten full days of France, plus two days of travel, means a whole lot of packing.  Somehow, I came back with half my clothes and the other half of my suitcase was full of things I bought.  Sorry product links won’t happen much since a majority of these items are older or vintage.  If they are still available I’ll list them.  Remember, you can be creative!

It takes the same amount of time to dress plain than it does to dress cute (thanks for saying that Brenna).

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“Pardon my French” shirt

Remember, I already planned leaving a lot of my clothes and shoes behind (I left a pair of my Sam Edelman ballet flats behind, as they got ruined in the rain in Aix). Oh well, I replaced the space with something better!

I also got photobombed a bit, especially by vespas. I didn’t mind. I mean really, how many places can you get a vespa in your photo?

See this one.  He looks like he was speeding up to get in my photo.


Dresses were easy.

And those vintage skirts I never wore, finally looked great in France!  But really, doesn’t everything and everybody look better in France?

Bag: Madewell

Adding a top (crochet or lace) over a tired maxi skirt also helps.  I belted a scarf to make it more unique.

If you forget something, just buy a new top, like I did!  Fabric made in France, I bought this top from one of the markets in Aix-en-Provence and paired it with linen pants I brought.

An oldie but goodie Anthro top with shorts.  Welcome to my palace!

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The perfect dress to boat down the Canal du Midi, don’t you think?

There were also quite a few outfit changes as it was warm and only lightly humid – but we were also very busy all day so a quick shower before dinner was always necessary, so I had two wear two outfits a day.  Good thing I packed enough!

Here’s something you might get a kick out of, in France, they only have sales twice a year, they last for about a month and a half.  It’s law, they aren’t forced to do it, (trust me, I wanted Hermes to have a sale but they didn’t), but it’s the only time they can do it, as I was told.  ”SOLDES” is said like “Sold” and that means sale.

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The day we arrived into Montpellier, it was the first day of the big sales. It was craaaazy.

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Isn’t it also crazy that on Sundays the stores are closed, most anyway.  The Galeries Lafayette (high end) is open, but closes early – by the way, sales they have on their tags apply only if you have their card.

As a huge shopper I couldn’t imagine life with sales only twice a year.  Gosh dang we are lucky in America, aren’t we?  The freedom of sales anytime! *wink*  Although I gotta tell you, French fashion is just stunning, the quality, creativity, I took interest to multiple French clothing lines.

I fell in love with this 100% silk scarf from Souleiado - (different print). I was looking for a memorable piece of jewelry as a souvenir but couldn’t find anything unique enough and saw this scarf which was created in France and begged to drape my shoulders and be twisted on my head.  Some of you might know Liberty London, Souleiado prints are very popular in Southern Europe, and um, quite pricey.  Their items are gorgeous, see their fashion look book, the photography is stunning!

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I also found this unique soap holder, of course, made in France.  Marseille is known for their soap – made from olive oil.  Isn’t this cool?  Good news, if you really like it, I found one online too here while looking for refills. Mr. Wonderful said I probably should’t mount it unless I could find refills, and, done.

Did you notice the pink scrubby towel under it?  Have you ever considered going to a supermarket in another country just to see what they use?  Of course see the “Made in France” logo, as in France, not much is made in China.  The kitchen cleaning towels were under 3 euros.

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I also knew I had to get an olive wood piece and loved this ladle, it was 14 euros.  The tablecloths under it are French fabrics, so so so so divine.  I bought two, plus six matching napkins.  The cost of the tablecloths vary from 20-35 euros.

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So this is all the stuff I bought.  No wonder I didn’t have room.  Yep, that’s pink sugar and olive oil in an Eiffel Tower glass.  I had a quick layover in Paris and since I didn’t have much room the last time I was in Paris to buy much, I figured I’d dump all my euros and buy a few more things.

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There’s a lavender sachet – also a must-buy especially in Aix, and more towels, candy, and I also came home with six tea towels, my favorite souvenir of choice, but again, I won’t be keeping them all.

Speaking of not keeping things, I did also bring back stuff with you in mind, truly.  The fact that this took up space in my suitcase means I really really love my readers.

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How about this adorable tin I picked up from the Roy Rene Calissons factory.

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But wait!  That’s not it!  I also got a soap from Nice, a towel from Montpellier, candy from Aix – note this candy has almonds so if you are allergic to nuts don’t eat it!  There is also a small glass wine stopper from Château La Coste in Aix. Everything is made in France so it’s a special treat!

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  • Leave a comment below with what city you’d like to visit in France – Nice, Aix, Carcassonne, Marseille, Montpellier, or Le Boat down the Canal du Midi?

US residents only because I’m not sure how to ship internationally, sorry, I still love you international readers! Comments close tomorrow, Thursday at 5 p.m. Arizona time, I gotta make it brief so this is a quick giveaway –  I have to mail this out before I take off again!  Winner selected at random so just leave a comment :)

Diana Elizabeth only felt slightly guilty when she left things behind, but she needed the space and she knew some things would never come out of the closet again.  A photo in it was all she needed!

France, Style, Travel

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Staring from Nice and working our way slowly west, we had to return to a city with an airport to eventually return home to the States.  Montpellier is a very large city filled with lots of students and international students, a young crowd. We only had half day and really a few hours to see Montpellier after a lengthy drive from Le Somail after leaving our Le Boat fun down the Canal du Midi.

About Montpellier

There’s quite a bit of history in this city, lots to see if you take the time to grab a tourist map and see the Historical Montpellier.  There is a lot to see while you can also check out the shopping on your way.  Since we only had a few hours I wasn’t able to give as much time as I wanted to this city, but it’s a lovely location to walk the streets, of course lots of decisions when it comes to food.  There’s a pretty park that you can’t miss right in the middle of the plaza area.  Visit the Montpellier tourism site here.

Things we saw and where we ate

We were starving so we found a little spot to eat.  It was around 3 p.m. and many restaurants were no longer serving lunch as they were out of food and getting ready for dinner.  So eat when the French do or starve.  But we did find a place that was serving, so just ask around.

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For lunch I decided to cater to my sweet tooth and get a banana Nutella crepe with vanilla ice cream.  I should also clarify that it’s pronounced “krepe” not “cray-pe” as us Americans say.  I’m not sure where we put the “A” vowel in the word but I’ve come to the conclusion we have butchered many words.  Did you know “tampon” means stamp in French?

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The drink of choice in France, Orangina!  I have loved this drink as my local LGO has this and it’s a treat.  I drank way too many of these.

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Oddly enough during lunch a storm rolled in and just poured on us, but only for a few minutes as we waited for it to pass so we could explore the city.

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The Arc de Triomphe.  Now I know you’re thinking as I thought, wait, isn’t this in Paris?  Well, apparently there are many of these in the country, not just Paris.  This one was created in the 17th century to honor Louis XIV and was built where one of the gates of the rampart used to be.

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We got the access to go up top as we were press and wow look at this view!  Thanks to Crystal for this awesome photo, my favorite.  She was so patient with me taking photos of me, I am so thankful.

I believe I was yelling, “I love France!!!!!” from the top of the Arc. I mean, what better place, right?

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Can I stay, pretty please?

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Let me also briefly tell you about me waving around the wrong flag around town.  But first, let me explain that I know what the France flag looks like before the mishap.  I had purchased a blue, white, and red striped flag from a tent selling World Cup memorabilia.  I started waving the flag around town, taking photos with it (including the top of the Arc) and I reviewed the photo off my camera right.  ”Wait a second,” I said, “Those stripes are going the wrong way, is my flag broken?”  I freaking bought the Netherlands flag.  And this dumb American was waving it around the Arc taking photos.  HOWEVER, for the record none of my other blogger friends even noticed, nor the France gal giving us the tour, so it was an easy mistake, but I caught it in time!  THANK GOD!  You know, before I started waving it around the streets at night during the World Cup game and got spit on.

Tsk tsk, what happened was the flag I purchased was displayed sideways, so I saw it the CORRECT way of the France flag.  So for the record, that guy probably knew I wanted a France flag but sold it to me anyway.  I want my 3 euros back.  I suppose I made some funny memories for everyone else at my expense.  I shall never show you those photos on my blog.

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We saw a medieval Mikve used by the Jewish who used it to purify their bodies before a lot of the holidays. This was also an exclusive because we were press.  I believe I was told it was around since the 11th century but again, I’m bad at numbers so I could be wrong. They build where natural water comes in and it is very cold. They dip themselves in it, not to wash themselves. Observe how clear the water is which is also 10 degrees Celsius.

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A little dinner at La Panacée.  Even though this was really amazing to see inside, we decided to enjoy tapas outdoors since the weather was so lovely.

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The kitchen staff was so excited we were Americans they made us a special plate!

The World Cup was on TVs set outside by restaurants and everyone was outside cheering which was an amazing experience to observe, listen, and cheer for France.  I was genuinely rooting for France to win all their games.  I know, I’m not quite patriotic, they still let me back in the States but when one spends 10 full days in France exploring it in unique ways, well, of course I’m going to fall madly in love with everything about it!

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Oh, goodnight France, what a way to end a lovely trip. We said our goodbyes with long hugs and sweet words, sad that our adventure had come to an end – that moment you wish wasn’t happening so soon, that time when you know as soon as you said hello that before you would know it, you’d have to say goodbyes.  I will forever treasure my time with my sweet blogging friends and hope one day we can travel again together, as we all bring a unique background and specialty to the blogging world.

Have you seen my 3 minute video tour of France?  Click here.

Equipment used: Sony NEX-5R (c/o), 50mm f1/.816mm f/2.8 + 18-55mm (c/o), 18-105mm f/4 (c/o) + Canon Powershot S100

Diana Elizabeth is ready to give you some tips about visiting France, a few more travel tip advice and also a France giveaway!  Stay tuned and make sure you don’t miss it.

France, Life, Travel

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When we were asked if we would be willing to extend our France trip by a few days to go boating down a canal, I was beyond ecstatic!  The lovely people at Le Boat wanted to show us what it would be like to experience boating in France.  Um, OK, dream come true.  After our brief yet lovely visit in Carcassonne, we rode in a car to Homps, a little area where boats were docked and we spent our first night on a boat in our individual rooms (rooms sleep two) and private bath. Our particular boat had 4 rooms and 4 bathrooms, a kitchen below and an amazing deck above, including room to lounge (as you see me doing above), seating in the back and an outdoor grill!  We spent two nights on Le Boat, with one true full day from Homps to Le Somail.

First, this video that will explain it all!


{On mobile?  Click here.}

About Le Boat

Anyone can rent a boat to sight see down the canal.  Le Boat offers several different types of boats all over Europe so you can go at your own pace while enjoying your mobile hotel.  It’s kinda like cruising only private.  If you enjoy boating anyway, this is definitely the route for you to take.  I grew up on a lake, though our Sea Ray was nothing like this amazing boat provided by Le Boat, and you won’t get any motion sickness, the boat doesn’t rock even while in motion and the canal is very smooth.  At night, you dock and anchor so there are no weights and again, the canal is a quiet body of water.  To plan your boating vacation with Le Boat, click here.

We woke up the next morning and walked to a little market.

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I had to take a few photos, this little gem is for sale by the way.

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Then I got all nosey and peeked into someone’s backyard.  Look at this garden!  When I came back, a little old lady was outside checking on it and I thought to myself, that’ll be me one day.

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The tiny market had pink and orange, and green toilet paper.  Do you see how the French just have more fun, even in el toilette?  If only I had more room in my luggage you know I would have bought some pink toilet paper.

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About our boat

Here’s the inside of our boat, I’m with Crystal and Beth.  We called our boat the Princess Cruise line since we had the Captain and honestly, the three of us can’t do anything that involves sportiness.  So we pretty much lucked out and were thankful that we had Captain to go through the locks and manage on his own.  We would have been useless!

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Our friends – four of them had to go on another boat.  Thankfully Dave had a sailing/boating license and was experienced so he could handle the boat.  Again, anyone really could, but it was much easier with him since he was on a boat full of girls.

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The Locks

Here is a lock, after the water has gone down.  You need to watch the video I’m including at the end of this post to see how it works.  Le Boat will help and explain how to go through the locks, as there are several down the canal and you must take turns.

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Feeling on top of the world in France!  John Mayer playing a sweet breeze, oh the life!

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Duck!  Watch out for those bridges!

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Who let this crazy drive the boat?
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Scheduled was an exclusive wine tasting at Château de Paraza.  We had a bit of a climb, but it was worth the view.

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I really wanted a donkey after meeting these two who took a huge liking to Amanda but backed away from everyone else in the group.  Donkey whisperer!

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Now onto wine tasting in this chateau.  This has been in the family for generations and they have lots renovations planned.  It’s amazing yet mind blogging the details and upkeep of such a lovely place.  I asked if they planned on having weddings here one day and they said they were planning on it.  So, I’ll be your photographer if you want, just saying.  I mean, I’d be perfect for it since I already scouted the place.

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This little spot is the kitchen area where the cooks way back in the day used to hang out and make the meals.  I thought of Downton Abbey of course.

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However, the stairs hit this very low ceiling.  Here’s Dave showing.  I mean really, could you imagine carrying food and all sorts of things having to duck so low?

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We jumped in a jeep and got a gorgeous eyesight of a tour of all their vineyards.  They are one of the oldest estates dedicated to growing vines in the South of France.

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Look at this chicken coop! The girls were clucking and were so excited to see people I had to run over and snap a few photos for inspiration and to share.

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Now those are real French hens.

Now trust me when I say French food is absolutely amazing, no doubt about it.  However, sometimes when you’ve been away from home for so long, you crave the familiar.  Even the things you rarely eat back home, like a burger.  All of us freaked out when we saw a burger delivered to another table that well, some of us had to order one.  This was at L’eau à la Bouche.  We fell asleep with happy tummies.

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The next day Francois from Discover France showed us the different bikes we could take to discover France.  OK so maybe I took a picture to show you again how beautiful France is, and the people.  Shame on me.

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A little bit about Discover France – you can do a bike tour in Spain, Italy, Holland/Belgium, Czech Republic/Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, and Sonoma County, California.  I want to try the Sonoma County one since my friends and family are in Nor Cal.  And you can also do the Tour de France route.  They will plan your entire tour, give you a GPS and itinerary so you can stop for lunch, sight seeing, wine tasting, whatever you want, just tell them and they will plan it for you.  Just another way to discover France!  Click here for more information.

If you are not athletic as myself you can choose to ride an electric bike, one little pedal it goes so fast!  Weeeeeee!

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Here we are with our Captain, such an amazing guy!  Thanks Captain for keeping us safe and your amazing company, you truly were such a fun captain to be around, the experience would not have been the same without you.  Also thanks for cooking lunch for us.

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Time to say goodbye to our Le Boat and go onward.  Goodbye sweet room!

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Onto Montpellier tomorrow!

Have you seen my 3 minute video tour of France?  Click here.

Equipment used: Sony NEX-5R (c/o), 50mm f1/.816mm f/2.8 + 18-55mm (c/o), 18-105mm f/4 (c/o) + Canon Powershot S100

Diana Elizabeth thinks when she looks back at photos she sees people who are part of her memories forever.  

France, Life, Travel

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We only had half a day in Carcassonne before we had to head out to catch outrboat.  However, in the few hours we were there, I absolutely fell in love, we all winced that we didn’t get more time there, and we agreed this gem of a spot deserves another visit.  I hope to come back and enjoy this medieval town one day – they even hold a concert inside those walls!

About Carcassonne

This ancient city has been around 1,000 years before Christ.  In 1 B.C. it was part of the Roman Empire, before becoming a part of France in the 13th century.  This Château Comtal was built in the 12th century and restored in the 1800s.  There are 21 abbeys, castles and the like within the Carcassonne nearby area.  There are also concerts within these walls, lots of shopping that would keep any girl entertained for hours, restaurants, and great places to take photos.  If I were to return I’d stay in the hotel inside (it’s 5-star), and enjoy at least two days to explore.  For more information, visit Carcassonne’s site.

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I’m so tiny!

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A jumping photo in honor of my friend Melayne who always jumps in front of things.

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The inside is like it’s very own village.  Stores galore!  I was a happy shopper.

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This is the 5-star hotel inside the La Cité Médiévale, called Hôtel de la Cité.

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A beautiful church.

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I kinda squealed looking at the garden below.

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And that was our evening!  We had a little dinner in a local spot and hopped in a car to take us to Homps for the night to start our adventure on a boat down the Canal du Midi!  See you Monday on a boat!

Have you seen my 3 minute video tour of France?  Click here.

Equipment used: Sony NEX-5R (c/o), 50mm f1/.816mm f/2.8 + 18-55mm (c/o), 18-105mm f/4 (c/o)

Diana Elizabeth says hope you have a great Fourth of July!

France, Life, Travel

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I hope by now you can tell how uniquely different each city is from one another.  Marseille (pronounced – Mar-say) was one of my favorite cities and you’ll see why, this post is loaded with photos with lot of adventures – including fish eating my feet.  Just wait.

About Marseille

Marseille is a port city, France’s oldest major city.  The harbor is full of fishing boats, and on Sundays the port area is filled with an arts and crafts market – which is perfect to visit since most stores are closed on Sundays (customary). This city has quite a long history, as people have lived here for over 26 centuries. The sights of the city are breathtaking and worth the hike.  To plan your trip, visit the city of Marseille site here.

We had one heck of a ride into Marseille, due to a subway and bus ride (not recommended) – take a taxi straight to your hotel.  But, we came out of the subway with happy faces, looked up at the reflective ceiling above, and took a pic.  I love our little blogger travel family. Crystal (mommy), Vivienne (travel photog), Amanda (fitness + health), Kristen (travel vlogger).

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Day 1 – The View, Soap Making + Fish Pedi

To see an amazing view of the harbor, check out Le Palais du Pharo.  It’s up on a hill, not much to see other than well, a pretty spectacular view of the old port.

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We headed down along the port into the old city.

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Here is La Vieille Charité which is just lovely to take photos, and a little restaurant is in there as well.

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Darling, right?

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This is the Marseille Cathedral, look at those pretty stripes, such a fashionable little church.

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Then we headed to the Marseille éternelle museum which will forever be full of giggles in my memory for non artwork related reasons.

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Then off to the fairly new MuCem Museum.

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Just walking around outside is worth it.

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And then I saw a Fish Spa!

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I mean, the 15 euros for 15 minutes was worth every euro it just for the photos.

But first, gotta clean my feet.  I figured the fish couldn’t be that picky, but maybe they are.

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It felt like bubbles. I’m not ticklish so it worked out just fine.  But, maybe you want to see a video?


{On mobile?  Click here}

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Then after we posted the photos on social media we started getting feedback on how that wasn’t a good idea, and we decided oh well, if we have a fish food disease we have a pretty cool souvenir – and story.

Here are French children lined up ready to play games.  I had to throw in French children because that sounds so much cooler than just children.  Fries aren’t the same, but French fries, well, I’m hungry, how about you?  See?

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Had a little lunch with a great view at the Regard Cafe, I just ate a little salad in a jar but I of course had to end the meal with an espresso.

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We then learned how to make our own famous Marseille soap at Grande Savonnerie made with just sodium, water, and olive oil.  Who knew I’d be so enthusiastic about making soap?

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Then it was dinner time at the Rowing Club, a place with another gorgeous view of the harbor.

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I tell you I attract photo bombers.

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I ate a lot of lamb while in France, my meat of choice.  The French really do get me – chocolate croissants, lamb, duck, I mean let’s just get married France!

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Us, posing with our French dessert.  This was a rose macaroon.  Some of the bloggers thought it tasted like they were eating perfume, ha!  I actually thought it was so interesting I enjoyed eating it.

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Day 2 – Bus Tour, Cathedral

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I wish my neighborhood just had a gorgeous two-story carousel, don’t you? Sheesh my city isn’t quite as charming as you, Marseille.

We hopped on a bus and got a tour of beaches – Marseille actually has one sandy beach (imported sand).

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Another great view of the city is from the top of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.  But wait, look at these stairs.  Even the little boy is contemplating if he wants to go up or not.  I’m with you kid, but out of peer pressure and not wanting to be ashamed, I’m going to do it!

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Not gonna lie, I didn’t make it to the top of the actual Notre Dame, I rested at the base and took in this view.

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Then back on the bus and check out this amazing amazing AMAZING place – Palais Longchamp, known for its impressive fountains and is a natural history and fine arts museum.

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Time to eat again in this lovely open air restaurant called Mathazar, owned by chef Michel Portos, a former 2 Michelin stars chef.

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And, this is what 7 p.m. looks like, the sun stays up past 9 a.m.  It seriously looks like it’s 4 p.m.

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A walk back across the harbor, some adorable little French boys sat at the dock and said, “Hello.”  I responded, “Hello.”  And trying in an American accent said, “Hello,” in return.  I was horrified at how they think we sound.  I shook my head and grinned.

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Day 3 – At Sea!

Like my hat?  It was the best price, free.  We needed some protection since being in the sun all day was taking a toll on some of us.  I just put it on because a free hat is just fantastic – courtesy of some alcohol company, this was a promotional hat but J.Crew sells one just like it here.

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When you spend quite a bit of time in a country and experience nearly everything it has to offer, you really truly fall in love with it.  I adore this photo, oh that sailboat, and that flag.

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A little lunch in the park because our not-so-awesome-four-star-hotel-which-should-be-a-two-and-will-not-be-named wouldn’t let us bring outside food to eat in there.  ”That is not possible,” is a very often used phrase that is quite annoying. Tscha! In America everything is possible!

Anyway, this park across the street was quiet and cute.  Lunch was from Green Bear Coffee.

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We hopped on the city bus to the train station.  Crystal dropped her bag and the doors closed and we watched as the rest of our crew scratched their heads wondering why the bus took off with us still on it.  We both were screaming, laughing and almost crying.  The bus thankfully just had one more stop which was closer to the train station and we decided – we have no time, let’s just get to the train.  Neither of us spoke French but managed to get help and find it.  I snapped a quick pic of our crazy urgency.

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Then I filmed a video to explain the chaos of being separated from our group and what on Earth we would do next without them since we couldn’t find them. I guess we’ll just hang in first class by ourselves…to be continued…

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See you in Carcassonne tomorrow – a medieval city!

Have you seen my 3 minute video tour of France?  Click here.

Equipment used: Sony NEX-5R (c/o), 50mm f1/.816mm f/2.8 + 18-55mm (c/o), 18-105mm f/4 (c/o)

Diana Elizabeth and Crystal had an enjoyable time in first class with old French men who were adorable – apparently they weren’t assigned to the car they were in, but the others who were in the different car and so, they got lucky.  We thought they knew each other but in fact, they didn’t but were friendly.  They were as sweet as can be.

France, Life, Travel

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Aix is less than two hour ride from Nice – headed west. We enjoyed the gorgeous sights along the way, Provence style homes, and vineyards.  You can easily take a train via Rail Europe from Nice to Aix (unfortunately during the particular day we needed it the trains were on strike and we needed to get to Aix ASAP).

About Aix-en-Provence

Located in Provence, this is the home of famous artist Cézanne. There is a walkway with his name embedded in the streets, and you can tour his studio and go to the quarry which inspired several of his paintings.  You’ll see lots of 18th century fountains, mansions that used to house several generations at time turned into several flats, and enjoy four major markets (flower, fish and vegetable, and clothing, and other textiles).  The buildings and streets itself are less busy and incredibly charming.  For more information visit Aix-en-Provence‘s site.

Day One – A little rain

The night we got in it was raining, but I was prepared!

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We were starving and walked to Chez Grand Mère where I tasted rabbit and squid – off my fellow blogger’s plates as I ordered my usual lamb.  I had already tried octopus in Nice so I figured this would be the time to just try things.

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Day 2 – Markets and Painting

I woke up to room service breakfast at a four-star hotel, Grand Hotel Roi René.  As you can see I got really used to chocolate croissants and yogurt, and my espressos!  The staff was incredibly courteous, and the mattress was by far a favorite by all of us bloggers, just divine.  We absolutely enjoyed staying at this hotel.

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A new day, the sun is shining, and we aren’t in Nice any longer, Aix looks so very uniquely different.  You feel like you are in a small town, but there’s so much to see and do.

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The streets had these plaques giving tribute to local famous artist Cézanne.

Just beauty, all around.

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Be still my heart, Repetto is one of the most darling stores for ballerinas (and wannabes).  Too bad when I was little my mom wanted me to get into ballet but I didn’t like the shoes.  Oh Diana…

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The flower and vegetable markets in France never get old, ever.

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Lavender of course is a very big deal in Provence.  If you go, ask to check out the lavender fields, we didn’t get to see them this time, but they are in bloom June and July I hear.

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A sweet lunch spot at Chez Thome, located 6 km away from the city, but worth the drive and views.  The chef prepares this menu from fresh products.  We enjoyed an incredible Provencal cuisine in this lovely location!  I want my backyard to look like this…

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The pork with mushroom sauce was amazing, I ate every bite.

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My blogging friends: Crystal (mommy), Vivienne (travel photog), Amanda (fitness + health), Kristen (travel vlogger).  We truly do enjoy one another’s company and I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to share experience, advice, wisdom, and spur one another on in this blogging industry.

Then with full bellies, we headed to Château La Coste which is a vineyard and outdoor art museum in one.

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I was a bit more interested in the landscape than anything else, clearly.  Story of my life as a photographer.

Then it was time to wine taste in this case I just took pretty pictures since I don’t drink (Asian glow).

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We checked out Cézanne’s studio where he worked from 1902 to 1906 before he died.  See the narrow side window to the right?  It’s completely open and used for sliding large paintings outside to transport them since the stairs were so narrow.

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We channeled our inner Cézanne’s and created our own memories and drew with .  She’s an amazing artist and instructor and she likes to draw things so she can remember them, we were in complete awe.

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And there’s mine!

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Just a few sights around the workshop…

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We then took a walk to our dinner.

I ordered a salad at Café Jeanne so I didn’t take a pic, but I also ordered dessert which was THREE creme brûlées so I did take a pic.  Pistachio, chocolate and vanilla.  Yeah, the whole losing weight thing in France, that didn’t happen.  I’ll call my extra weight a souvenir.

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What a sweet ending to a great day.  I think the streets of Aix love me too.

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Day 3 – Quarry + Candy Factory

We checked out Bibémus Quarry, a pine forest, where artist Cezanne was inspired by, and created some of his pieces.

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This is what happens when no one knows what a quarry is – you come dressed completely unprepared.

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We then headed to a confectionary, Roy Rene Calissons where we had a nice tour of how they make the famous candy.  So let me tell you about this candy!  It’s very unique, and dates back to the 14th century and was made just for royalty, it’s made from melon, sugar, and almond.

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Just filling up my French tin with some goodies.

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Then lunch time at La Fromagerie, known for their cheeses.  We ate upstairs and had a lunch that was just too pretty to eat, but I was hungry and I ate it anyway.

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Then we hopped on our Rail Europe train for a quick ride to Marseille.  See you there tomorrow!

Have you seen my 3 minute video tour of France?  Click here.

Equipment used: Sony NEX-5R (c/o), 50mm f1/.816mm f/2.8 + 18-55mm (c/o), 18-105mm f/4 (c/o)

Diana Elizabeth brought back the calisson candy and Mr. Wonderful really liked them! 

France, Life, Travel

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I took a noon flight from Phoenix to JFK and JFK to Nice, a 9 p.m. flight red eye.  The 8+ hour of flying had me landing after 11 a.m. which was perfect to start the day.

A little about Nice

It’s France’s 5th biggest city with the second busiest airport.  You can fly directly into Nice, and since Italy is 1 hour away (Nice is south west, next to Monaco), you will find a lot of Italian restaurants and influences.  The iconic blue chairs line the coast so you can take a seat and take in the view, and there is a large pavement area that follows the seafront for casual walking, bike riding or running if you should want to do those activities.  Old Town is a place to discover historic tall buildings, narrow streets, where boutique stores are located on the bottom as residences live up top.  There is a large market area which is typically set up for selling spices, vegetables and flowers, and on Mondays turns to French antiques and collectibles.  In the evening the market area showcases artisan shopping and plentiful restaurant seating to enjoy the cuisine in perfect weather.  To learn more about Nice, visit their website here.

Are you ready?  It’s gonna be a long one, here we go!

Day 1 – Italian lunch and rocky beaches

Here’s the main plaza which we walked through to get to the beach, Old Town – tiny boutiques and Massena Street – more well-known stores.

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How’s this for a splash pad with a view eh?

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Before we hit the beach, we had an incredible Italian lunch at Attimi.  Since France is so close to Italy – only 1 hour away so there are many Italians and influences in France – lucky me, I got to eat French and Italian food!

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Then it was beach time, I even changed into my swimsuit.  Ahhhh.

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Wait a sec…that doesn’t look comfy at all!  We sure are lucky to have sandy beaches in the States, aren’t we?

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The tourism office of Nice gave me a sweet souvenir, I finally understood it after the beach visit.  Salt and pepper shakers in the shape of the rocks on the beach.

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Hm, shopping instead you say?  Just ask for Old Town, it’s quaint yet very large in size and oh so charming.

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My sweet friends, Crystal (mommy + family), Vivienne (travel photog) and Amanda (health + fitness).  Not pictured because she hadn’t arrived yet, Kristen (travel vlogger).

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That night for dinner we ate at Luc Salsedo, where you basically just pick chicken or beef (or vegetarian) and tell them anything you dislike or are allergic to.  The chef has a new menu every 10 days and he just whips something up for you!  It’s a surprise dinner!  I wish I had that kind of creativity in my kitchen.

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We had some of Nice’s very own famous Socca chips.

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Believe it or not, this fruity drink didn’t even have any alcohol in it.

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This pretty and delicious thing was stuffed in a flower of a zucchini!

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Day 2 – A Spectacular View of Nice

Woke up in this darling three star hotel, Grand Hotel Florence.  Hotels include a great breakfast in the morning you shouldn’t pass up.

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They even house some bees at the top of the hotel that make some honey – I’ve never been stung so I gave my camera to one of the nice and brave employees so I could show you.

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A little market shopping at the flower and vegetable market.

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Then a spectacular, famous view of Nice from the top of Castle Hill (Colline du Château).  It’s free, open to the public and a huge park and botanical garden.  The little French children have no idea how blessed they are, truly.  I stood there listening to them speak French and kick balls around, my heart just smiled.

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Back through Old Town to enjoy the narrow streets and bright facades.  This architecture is called Sardinian.  I’ll just call it perfection.

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A delicious lunch and wine tasting at Compagnons de la Grappe who has an impressive wine cellar, having a bottle of $50,000 wine!  So, who wants to go back and celebrate?

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A little time to rest then back out for dinner!

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The flower and veggie market turns into a night of shopping of accessories and other goods. Chairs and tables from restaurants as the French take their place.

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Acchiardo Restaurant, is run by a 4th generation of the same family, since 1927.  I also learned that night during conversation that it is not custom to ask for takeaway (leftovers to be boxed up), as that’s not something that makes restaurants happy, because they believe the meal is to be enjoyed there and fresh.  Plus, you can always go out tomorrow for another delicious meal.

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Oh, and the brothers are um, pretty handsome as you can see. I insisted on taking a photo just to show you. The French are just as beautiful as their buildings. You’re welcome.

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Day 3 – Bus tour, museum and lunch with a view

Hopped on the Hop on Hop Off bus, I always love bus tours because they show you everything you really need to see. (Nice Tour here).

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Stopped in the Chagall Museum, a collection of 250 works.

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Then a little walk through another market north of Nice, called (I think) Liberty Market or the like.

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Stopped into Arleqeuin Gelati Italiani where the owners spoiled us with endless tastes of gelato and sent me off with a lemon italian soda.

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Waited for the quietest tram in the world, you have to watch out because you might get run over if you run across the tracks.  Be careful!

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A divine lunch with a view, and the most comfortable breeze at Blue Beach Plage Restaurant.  I felt like I walked into a Ralph Lauren Polo restaurant.  All the men had white polos and sneakers on.

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I had to take a photo sitting in one of the famous blue chairs that overlook the ocean.

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All of the South France bloggers together!  What a life!

Take a peek into my latest France home investment.  Ah ok, so it’s a 5-star hotel, Le Negresco and the owner, an older lady lives there on the top floor.  I don’t know why but I think of the movie Clueless.

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Oh sorry, I was just practicing a welcome to my mansion pose.  Check out this amazing carousel restaurant that is attached to the hotel.

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Sooooo…this is art, so I’m going to just say that’s going to justify postsing this racey little piece of artwork.  Hey, marble sculptures are nude so cut me a little slack because this is very cool.  This sculpture made by Paul Pacotto rotates and there’s a light in the corner.  As it rotates, the shadows change.  Just watch it and notice that it changes.   If he had a museum I would definitely spend all day in it!  I would really love to buy one of his pieces.  This was in a glass case on display in the hotel.

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And then, we had to say goodbye to our sweetest Caterina (who speaks Italian, Portuguese, French and English and also used to live in San Francisco) who showed us around, took us everywhere, and translated on our behalf.  My heart was so sad as I just absolutely loved her.  We had to catch our car to Aix-en-Provence, as the Rail Europe was still on strike and our train was cancelled leaving ulterior methods which wouldn’t have been as quick as a private car.

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Goodbyes have always been so difficult for me, but, we had to say them.  We hopped in our car for a 2-hour ride west.

See you tomorrow in Aix-en-Provence, you’re going to love it!

Have you seen my 3 minute video tour of France?  Click here.

Equipment used: Sony NEX-5R (c/o), 50mm f1/.816mm f/2.8 + 18-55mm (c/o), 18-105mm f/4 (c/o) + Canon Powershot S100

Diana Elizabeth looks forward to visiting Nice again, what an experience – you can lay out on the rocky beaches by the way, there are chairs that are available for rent.

France, Life, Travel

Give me 3.5 minutes, I promise this will relieve any stress, inspire you, and make you want to book a flight.  Let me take you on a quick tour of the South of France! Make sure you watch in HD!


{On mobile?  Click here.}

Bonjour!  I really do miss saying that.  I also miss having the TV on and listening to French, even though I understood zilch.

I’ve got one heck of racerback tan on my back from a day on the canal, and a whole lot of memories and photos to edit to recap what I’ve experienced.  I came back Thursday night, 10 pm, after hours of traveling, really all day.  From 9 a.m. car pick up from Montpellier to the airport, into Paris, JFK, then finally Phoenix, I fell asleep thanks to half of a Xanax and didn’t find myself jet lagged one bit on Friday.

Friday I got my iPhone screen repaired (it shattered the first night, thank goodness for the screen protector that kept the glass together), post office, shopped for Mr. Wonderful’s birthday, and wrote a few thank you notes.

I was sent on this trip by the Department of Tourism agency of France, click here if you want to make plans to visit to France.  Thanks to Cellular Abroad for providing overseas wi-fi so I upload and post to social media. Many thanks to Air France (with Delta) for the transportation to the beautiful country. Also thank you Rail Europe for the transportation between some of the top French cities.

Over the next few days or weeks, I will be sharing the experience because that’s what I’m here to do – to encourage and inspire you to take some time off and explore France in so many different, unique and fabulous ways.

For now, as I go through 1900+ photos, check out the video as I take you on a tour, then get super excited because I’m going to show you France like you’ve never seen before!  Check out my fellow blogger buddies I traveled with!

Crystal – Mommy Blogger
Kristen
 – Travel Vlogger
Amanda – Health & Fitness Blogger
Vivienne – Travel Photographer
Dave – Marketing Manager & Tech Guru
Carol – Travel Writer

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Diana Elizabeth is still getting over a little cold she picked up on day 3 of the trip.  It could have been worse, but now it still lingers just a bit.  She’s still grateful that it stayed under control.  A little nose blowing wouldn’t stop her from having a good time!

France, Life, Travel

family Photo by Ryan NicholsonThe Roadway Studio Project (click to check out travel dates)

The outtakes of story telling were actually way more comical of my brother laughing his head off or imitating his screaming as a child when I beat on him when we were much younger, but this shot was for mom and dad.

My brother and I did not always get along, of course there was that typical growing up picking and beating on one another thing, but then there was the adult stage when we still continued to not get along by choice.  Like when I really acted like a selfish absorbed only child, or tried to witness my newfound Christianity to him only to start yell at each other in the car, his Mr. Know-it-all engineering attitude about my mission trip on building a home, and well, his stubbornness of being just a plain old insensitive male that lead us to not talk for almost a year.  There was even the time when I was in So Cal on a shoot and wanting to have dinner with him that he just left during the middle of my shoot for whatever reason and wouldn’t respond to my text messages.  As angry as I remained, my parents even yelled at me on the phone that night blaming me as the older sibling and my responsibilities that if we didn’t change, we’d, “never be good brother and sister.”  But I had enough, and I came to completely accept that maybe we would never have that typical fond sibling relationship, we were just too different and that’s just how life goes, not exactly as you had planned.

Our story goes on as so, with Blake remembering more of the details than I do – apparently he keeps tabs while I instantly forget, or maybe out of self absorbedness never paid any attention and was continually absent minded – I can’t blame it all on him, can I?  When Mr. Wonderful and I decided to get married just six months after our first date, I text my brother and said, “It would be really nice if you could make it.”  In honesty, completely being OK if he didn’t because I didn’t see him showing up at all.  It was a small wedding guest list of 23 in Sedona.  (See our wedding here) but he came, and he said, “I need to be there for family photos, right?”  and the reality is, the thing that brought us back together was my husband.

My brother will even admit it – he wouldn’t be talking to me today if it weren’t for Benjamin.  I don’t have any pride in that area so I’ll take it. Our common bond – Benjamin.

That’s one of the many things I love about my husband and I noticed his character when we were dating – his ability to relate to anyone.  No matter where they are in life, what they do, what they believe in, he can bridge gaps.  He is so relatable and welcoming to all that I think my friends love me more because of him.

I write this post because I think family is important but can be completely imperfect.  Time, maturity, or some one can always bridge the gap so never give up hope.  For that reason, because my mentor and friend Ryan Nicholson was in town for The Roadway Studio Project I think for $95 this one shot is priceless.

Mr. Wonderful really should have been in the middle.

Diana Elizabeth knows there are some out there who compares families to their own, whether negatively or positively.  She thinks that to accept that life here is imperfect, don’t put expectations on people, relationships, or how you want things to be, but never give up trying.

Life

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In most places across the country, you can enjoy Fourth of July outdoors – not in Phoenix, oh dear.  That’s one thing I miss so much since I moved from California – the ability to enjoy a summer.  Oh well, just gotta get away!

Here’s a fun shoot my talented friends and I did.  Melissa Schollaert photographed this little set up by Angela Saban in my backyard.  Makeup and hair by Lizzy Marsh.

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I made these blankets from fabric I found from SAS Fabrics in their random piles of cotton fabric. I just knew they would come in handy, I can use them every day too!  I made one with just the red and white stripes, and the other with the white and blue stars.  The back of the fabric is back with a pre-washed drop cloth.  I did a creative messy sewing edge to join the fabrics together so the edges are messy  but won’t fray past the stitching and ran a few single lines down the blankets. These are two separate blankets laying on top of each other. If you can’t find stars and stripes, consider polka dots, stripes, or even solids so you can use them year round.  Red, white and blue are so classic, and my awesome alma mater’s school colors!

Star shaped bowl from Pottery Barn, but it was for Christmas, until I realized it could be used for patriotic holidays!  Floral plates from Angela Saban’s personal collection she said she found them at Home Goods.  Ceramic berry basket from Anthropologie (small, large).  My silver grapefruit jam spreader is a souvenir from London, purchased from Fortnum & Mason.  Fringe towel from Pottery Barn, see this patriotic kitchen towel.  Square outdoor plates from Target.

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Want to make a citrus curd?  Recipe courtesy of Angela Saban of Angela Saban Designs and Angel Cakes Bakery - she styled the shoot.

Grapefruit* Curd Recipe

*Can also be lemon, lime, ruby red grapefruit) Great as a dressing over ice cream, or on biscuits and toast!

Ingredients

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 tsp citrus zest (lemon, lime, grapefruit)
  • 1 cup fresh citrus juice (lemon, lime, grapefruit – keep same)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Pick some fresh grapefruit if you have it in your yard!
  2. Set a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl.
  3. In a saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and the sugar until blended.
  4. Turn heat to medium and whisk in citrus zest, juice, and salt.
  5. Continue to whisk constantly for 8-10 minutes or until mixture thickens.  Note: About 170 degrees, do not let is come to a boil or it will curdle and be ruined.)
  6. Immediately pour mixture through the sieve, pressing it down with a rubber spatula into a bowl.
  7. Let mixture cool down to about 140 degrees.
  8. Whisk butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces.  Do not allow butter to melt into the mixture, but whisk it until it is combined or use an immersion blender.
  • Cover curd with plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate or our into sealed jars while still warm.
  • Will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks after opened, and also freezes well.

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I hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July!

{Photographed by Melissa Schollaert / Styled by Angela Saban / MUA Lizzy Marsh}

Diana Elizabeth misses when the bunnies were little.

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