Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Tale as Old as Time Afternoon Tea



Tale as old as time, true as it can be! Yes, a Beauty and the Beast afternoon tea actually exists and I am living for it. A while back my bestie and I traveled to London and I am just now getting to writing a bunch on content on what we did and saw while we were there! As you may know I studied abroad in London so London holds a really special place in my heart. It is my favorite city in the world and I never get tired of it, and always miss it. 

One of the magical things we did while in London in October was attend an afternoon tea at the Kensington House in South Kensington. The hotel was super close to our hotel so it was the perfect location. While I was studying abroad I actually walked past the hotel and thought it looked so gorgeous, but never went inside. Let me say it did not disappoint!


The lobby feels super intimate and they have a little cafe with big cozy chairs. For afternoon tea we headed to the back of the lobby to the greeter. We waited for a few minutes in the little cafe area then were shown our table. 



The tea included so much food and of course tea. If you aren't a tea person you could swap tea for a hot chocolate or even a fountain drink. But, the food was delicious! It was a mixture of traditional afternoon tea bits like sandwiches along with some treats and pastries. 


The best part was everything was themed Beauty and the Beast! Complete with a Cogsworth clock little dessert and an enchanted rose like clear jelly. 




To say the tea was Instagram-worthy is an understatement. It was a Beauty and the Beast fan's dream! Just goes to show you don't have to be in Disney to find some Disney magic. 




I hope you enjoyed these snapshots from my afternoon tea! Sadly, the tea has been discontinued by the hotel. But, be on the lookout in case they every bring it back. If you ever find yourself in London I highly recommend doing an afternoon tea one day. You're bound to love it! 
XOXO 
Miranda

Monday, February 11, 2019

Purple Trail Planner Review


If you know me then you know I LOVE planners. Planing and planners is a major hobby of mine. It's my way of crafting and being creative but also helping with my organization. I worked with Purple Trail to customize a planner to review. 

I ended up with a daily planner that has a place to schedule your morning, afternoon, and evening. It also has a spot for to-dos as well as a don't forget column! If daily planners aren't for you they also have weekly planner options as well. Not only can you pick between daily or weekly, you can also select how many months are included in your planner, plus the size. To make a planner for easy travel I chose the smaller size. But, if you plan on keeping your planner on your desk or have a bigger bag you could go with the larger size.


I've found that this system really keeps me organized as a work planner. The structure allows me to map out appointments and to-do's based on when they are happening/ when I want to get them done. Then I have a running total of my to-dos on the side column. If you have a busy schedule I think this planner set up would do wonders for you. 

The best part about Purple Trail is that you can totally customize your planner and other stationery goods. I opted for this cute marble patterned cover, but there are so many others to choose from! From photos, monograms, to colors you can really create something that is unique to you.

What is your go-to planner style? I love weekly and daily set ups! Let me know in the comments. 
XOXO 
Miranda

This post was sponsored by Purple Trail. Purple Trail sent me complimentary product in exchange for review. All opinions are my own. Thank you to brands like Purple Trail for supporting Sew Cute Style! 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Valentine's Date Ideas

It's time for Valentine's Day folks! Which means you can break the boring just dinner date cycle this year. I've put together a few fun date ideas for you to do with your boo....

Movie Night In | I'm sorry but nothing beats a lazy night in, even on Valentine's Day. Complete your movie night in with a new movie from Red Box or another rental service. Set up a bunch of blankets and pillows to create a cozy setting. Don't forget some candles and fresh flowers for added romance. Oh la la! Obviously, you can't forget the snacks. Create a spread of chocolate covered strawberries, popcorn, and candy to complete your movie viewing. If you want to be super extra, get a projection screen and project your movie onto a wall in your place. 

Dinner and a Show | Mix up a normal dinner and go to a show afterwards. Whether you find a concert, play, musical, or even going to a movie at the theater adding a show to your date adds an extra element to your evening. 

Ice Skating | If you don't live in Chicago where it is -100000 degrees outside try going ice skating with your sweetie! I always love ice skating with my boyfriend. It's a fun different activity that gets you moving but can also be romantic. Be sure to pack gloves and hats to stay warm. 

Pamper Night | Okay, as much as guys won't admit it, everyone loves to get pampered. Bust out some face masks, smoothies, and moisturizers to get your skin and mind refreshed.  For an extra fun element wear little cucumber slices on your eyes, because why not? 

Cook a Gourmet Meal | Skip the restaurant and build your meal together! Get a nice cut of meat and prepare sides and appetizers to go along with it. It will be a fun activity to do together, plus you'll have an amazing meal afterwards. Try a new recipe or opt for a meal box like Hello Fresh to make things easier. Complete your tablescape with a fun table cloth, fresh flowers, and candles to make things extra special. 

And for my single ladies, you can do any of these with your Galentine's too. Valentine's Day single actually kind of rocks. Plus you can be the first to get to Target to get the candle on sale!! Let me know your Valentine's Day plans in the comments! 
XOXO 
Miranda

Monday, February 4, 2019

Easy Valentine's Day Gifts


bottle of alcohol or wine | Valentine's Day candy
monogrammed tray | restaurant gift card

Valentine's Day gifts can be tricky sometimes. But, I wanted to create a simple list of gifts that would work for your boyfriend, girlfriend, whoever! They are super simple and easy and will making gifting for your loves that much easier. 

First, let's talk about treats, drinks, and food. I mean who doesn't love getting food? No one. Valentine's Day can be as simple as a little box of chocolates from Target. It doesn't need to be anything crazy! But, if you do want something a little more unique try Sugarfina for some fun candy boxes, a cupcake or pastry from a local bakery or a place like Sprinkles Cupcakes, or even a bottle of their favorite wine or liquor. Another food option is a gift card to their favorite restaurant! There is nothing like the gift of food. 

Next up, personalized gifts. Mark and Graham has some really cool options like monogrammed wine glasses, trays, or leather accessories. All these options are neutral and come in different color and customization options. 

For a more personal gift I love going to Image 3D to create custom viewers. You can create your own slides with photos of your sweetie, family, or gal pals. I've given a new slide to my boyfriend for different occasions and I've had great experience with the site! Plus it is a super cool and unique gift that no one else will have. I'm personally a sucker for a good photo, so Frame Bridge is also a good option to create customized gifts. They are having some deals for Valentine's Day right now so it's a great time to buy! Use think link to get 15% off your purchase! 

What are your go-to Valentine's Day gifts? Let me know in the comments! At the end of the day Valentine's Day is to show your love to your loved ones. Don't stress about gifts! As long as it comes from the heart that's all that matters. 
XOXO 
Miranda

Friday, February 1, 2019

My Current Netflix Favorites


I am the first to admit that I am a Netflix binging queen. There is nothing better than a good night in watching Netflix until midnight. Since I've been traveling so often I've been able to watch a lot of Netflix shows on the plane and at night while relaxing at the hotel. So, I wanted to share a few of my current favorites that I have watched to add onto your watch list! Most of these I will say are crime related. I'm not sure why but crime documentaries or shows are really interesting to me. Fair warning some of these are kind of creepy so watch alone with caution! 

The Ted Bundy Tapes | It seems like everyone in their brother is talking about this documentary series. I have to say I didn't know much about Ted Bundy prior to this show. He was a very interesting and manipulative man. I 100% recommend this documentary to really get an idea of how this serial killer came to be. Especially with the new movie with Zac Efron coming out getting the background info is super helpful!

The Innocent Man | Another great crime documentary is The Innocent Man. If you are a fan of Making a Murderer I think you would really enjoy this series! It follows two different cases that have men who say they are innocent of the crimes charged against him. I won't share any spoilers but, things get very interesting! 

You | Holy moly this show as addicting! My boyfriend and I finished this show in basically less then 24 hours. So addicting, suspenseful, and interesting. Also, makes you realize how much we document on our lives on social media and how easily someone could stalk you. Made me never want to check in somewhere again. 

The Assassination of Gianni Versace | One of my favorite shows from last year. Darren Criss has an amazing performance and really captures the character that Andrew was. The show has gone on to win a ton of awards this season and I see why. So well done and an interesting back story into the murder of Versace. 

7 Days Out | On a lighter note 7 Days Out is a fun documentary series showcasing major events and the 7 days leading up to them. My favorites included 7 days before the Westminster Dog Show, Chanel couture show, and the Kentucky Derby. I skipped some of the episodes, but there were some really cool events highlighted in the series.

The Staircase | Sorry not sorry another crime documentary series. Everyone was talking about The Staircase a while back and I was late to the party. This is another very interesting story with a lot of turns and twists. 

Abducted in Plain Sight | No one has really talked about this crime documentary, but it is a chilling one. Essentially a girl gets abducted by her neighbor who their family was very close too. I won't give too much away, but the story is crazy to say the least. 

What are your current favorite Netflix shows? Let me know in the comments! 
XOXO 
Miranda

Friday, January 11, 2019

Sew Cute Travels: Aulani Resort Review


Today's post is all about my experience at Aulani a Disney Resort and Spa in Oahu, Hawaii. Before traveling to Hawaii I read a ton of blogposts, reviews, and got insight from my IG followers on what to do, eat, and what to expect. So, I wanted to create my own post outlining all of our experiences at the resort. Hopefully this will be helpful to you when planning your trip to Aulani!


The Pools & Beach 

If you are a pool or beach person obviously Aulani is your paradise. If I'm being totally honest my family is not beach people. We can't spend 12 hours a day everyday at the pool or beach. It's just not us. We are a family of do-ers. Activities, exploring, and site seeing is more our jam. With that being said, the pools at Aulani are very nice. Since everyone in our family was 18+ we spent 98% of our time in the adult only areas. We sat by the adult pool most of the trip and it was quiet and serene. Occasionally a small child would wander into the pool, but the staff was pretty good about making sure they left to the kid areas. There was also an adult only infinity pool that overlooked the beach. A few times we went there to watch the sunset which was stunning! I recommend getting there 10min or so before sunset to get a good spot. Again, there were some kids that wandered in there but the staff escorted them out. At one point a young boy said look there are other kids in here and pointed at me, so that was fun. Sir, I am 23 years old, thanks. 

My mom and I also spent some brief time in the lazy river and the waterslides. While dodging some obnoxious children we were able to have a pleasant time. The water slide was super fun! We only did the inner tube slide, but I'm sure the body slide was great as well. 

Some people may ask, if you're an adult at Aulani do you feel inundated by kids? To this question I would say no. If you work really hard you can dodge the kids at the resort. Spend your time in the adult pools as well as the bar areas. We had very pleasant experiences at the adult pools, and you could tell everyone was there to relax. There weren't any drunken crazy people roaming around, which was also nice. 

As for the beach I think we spent two days out on the beach. There are a plethora of chairs, both lounge chairs and smaller chairs that can be moved around. The beach was pretty empty compared to the pool areas. You can rent boogie boards, beach toys, etc. free of charge, but there are also some items that require payment for the rentals. The water was actually pretty warm, and the beach was spotless and clean. Again, we aren't huge beach people, but I enjoyed the beach area at Aulani. Also, you can spot a ton of weddings while sitting out on the beach. In a 4 hour time span no joke we saw 3-4 brides! 

When it comes to getting up early for beach chairs, we had no issues finding chairs. If you are super picky about where you want to sit I suggest heading out right at 8am. The pools opened at around 8am and stayed open until 5pm. Most of the resort shuts down after 5pm to be honest. 

We went to Aulani from November 25th-December 2nd. So, it was considered their "busy" season. However, I never felt overcrowded at the resort. Especially the adult pool. There were always dozens and dozens of open chairs available. No issues in that department. If you have kids and are planning on being in those areas I would maybe get up slightly earlier, which you probably already are, and head to the pool for chairs. Popular areas for the kids were near the kid friendly infinity pool and the water jungle gym area. 

Prior to each pool day you have to pick up a new colored wristband. This gives you access to the pool areas as well as character meet and greets around the resort. Disney Vacation Club members get a sparkly band and other hotel guests get a solid colored band. You can also pick up your towels when you get your wristband for the day! If you aren't planning on being at the pool the wristbands aren't necessary each day. We only got them when we knew we were going to be at the pool. These stands stay open during all pool hours so you don't have to get it first thing in the morning! 


The Food 

We had some great food at the resort. In total we had three sit down meals at the resort which included lunch and dinner at AMA AMA as well as character dinning at Makahiki. There were very mixed reviews on AMA AMA so we were for sure hesitant to eat there. I had heard from a few people it was amazing and a must do. While others said it was overpriced and the service was terrible. In terms of pricing I thought it was comparable to any other high end restaurant you find in Chicago or even Downtown Naperville in the suburbs. All items are basically a la cart at dinner so you need to purchase an entree plus sides for the table. I would compare it to a Sullivans style meal. I got the filet for dinner and my dad and I split the baked potato no problem. Most of my family got steaks, but my mom got fish. We all really enjoyed our meals! In terms of ordering we had a party of four and ordered two sides and that was plenty. Plus, one dessert because we were so full! Our service was great up until the end when our server got two large tables of 10+ people. I honestly don't blame him but it did take quite a while to get our dessert and check. But, overall the meal was very good. Dinner at AMA AMA also included some live music entertainment which was lovely. We also got photos of the sunset from the outdoor seating area at the restaurant. It was a gorgeous view! An added bonus of dinner at AMA AMA. Lunch at AMA AMA was absolutely fantastic! We had a great server who was super attentive and fabulous all around. Most of us got the lobster roll which was super fresh and yummy! Highly recommend AMA AMA for lunch. We were one maybe 3 families in the place. It was empty and lovely. There are great views of the beach and the water too! Side note: don't get a cocktail there! Both my brother and I got specialty cocktails and honestly they were gross and strong. Would not recommend those, but would for sure recommend the lobster roll. 



In terms of character dining, this was one of the best we have ever been too. The food was sooooo good! The actual characters going around was very busy though. For some reason there was always a random parade or something going on. It was kind of a lot, but the food made up for it. The breakfast included Minnie & Goofy then pictures with Mickey prior to entering the meal. We got some great photos with Mickey as a family and some different individual shots. They had a PhotoPass person set up so we got phone photos and professional photos. Some of my favorite things from the buffet were the bacon (it was amazing), pina colada yogurt, and the awesome fresh fruit! There were so many options it was overwhelming. 

When it came to Quick Service the food was pretty basic. My favorite things included Fish & Chips at Mama's Snack Stop, the kids mini burgers on the pool bar menu, and Mickey Shaved ice! The rest of the food was pretty standard. We ate at Off the Hook, Mama's Snack Stop, the Olu Cafe, and on the pool menu. Most menu items were pretty pricey for what they were. Again, wasn't expecting the world because it was poolside food. But, we did get sick of it pretty quickly. Luckily, being in a DVC Villa we had a full kitchen so we had cereal and other food in the fridge to eat when we got sick of the pool food. Again, nothing wrong with it, we just got sick of paying $18+ for chicken strips each day. So, we opted to pick up food at the ABC across the street for snacks and meals for lunches and even some dinners. 

While I am talking about food I wanted to mention there is a reusable mug on property at Aulani. I believe it is $20 for your stay and you have unlimited re-fills. Three of the four of us took advantage of this and it was super nice. With sodas or coffees at $3-4 a pop it was a no brainer to get the mug. Then while you are at the pool you can get soft drinks or coffee without having to pay each time. The adult pool is also right next to the Olu Cafe which made it easy to get a Diet Coke while lounging at the pool. I also opted for the re-fillable popcorn bucket which I think was around $10-15. This allowed you to get refills for I think $1 or $2. Both were a hefty price tag up front, but I think overall they were worth it to have an easy drink by the pool and popcorn! Popcorn is very important to me. Plus you can take the mug and popcorn bucket home as a souvenir! 

 

The Hotel 

Aulani as a complete resort is stunning. Fun fact: the same person who helped design Animal Kingdom helped design Aulani. You can see a lot of similar touches when you compare the two. Our hotel room was super spacious and nice. We had the two bedroom DVC Villa, which is normally what we stay in when going to a DVC resort. My brother and I shared a room with two queen beds and a full bathroom. I mainly used the powder room to get ready, minus showers. Then my parents had the master bedroom. Their bathroom had a separate shower room and toilet so they both could get ready at the same time. Having this size room really works for our family. If you have adult children I highly recommend this size! We like having room to spread out and hangout. Plus the full kitchen is nice for cooking meals if needed or holding all of our snacks. 

In terms of the grounds of the resort they were breathtaking! As you can see from our balcony view below everything is lush and green. You really feel the Polynesian cultural touches as well. That is what I love about Disney resorts, the theming is always spot on! The lobby area has huge vaulted ceilings all with Polynesian inspired carvings and decor. Honestly, the pictures s`

Overall, everything was pretty well maintained and the staff was super friendly. Our housekeeper was also fabulous! She even gave us extra pens at the end of our trip. We got the hookup! 


Character Experiences 

Each morning you can call the character telephone line to see what characters will be appearing each day. Some days had more characters than others. Mostly on the weekends the schedule was packed full of characters. While some days hardly had any. It was really hit or miss. Luckily being there a week we got to see mostly everyone, except Shelly Mae (SO SAD ABOUT IT). The characters available for meet and great while we were there were: Stitch, Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Chip & Dale, Moana, and Duffy. All of the character experiences we had were great, in exception to Duffy. I was so excited to meet him but he was relocated to a different location due to rain. I ended up going by myself because my family was relaxing in the room. So, I had the greeter take my photos for me and they were pretty awful. Every photo was blurry and none of them were in focus. Luckily the PhotoPass photos ended up being okay. But, I was disappointed that the photos weren't as fabulous as all the other characters I had met the rest of the trip. That was the only day they had brought out Duffy, which is also kind of annoying. The line was super long so I knew he was popular so I wasn't sure why out of 10 days he was out once. ANYWAY I'm just being picky here. All of our other character experiences were great! 

The characters are usually all around the pool area during the day and into the early evening. Most times were around noon/ 1pm and some were at 5pm. Some had PhotoPass people while others did not, which I found odd. But, most greeters were really great about taking photos on your phones or cameras. Just be sure to have your room key or pool wristbands ready to show the greeters. Technically only hotel guests can meet characters. So, you must have some proof that you are staying there! 

In addition to the normal character meet and greets they had special meet and greets for DVC members. These were indoors and had special holiday Aulani backdrops. I imagine they change seasonally. We met holiday Pluto and Goofy at two different meet and greets. These characters and these meet and greets rotate. To get into the DVC meet and greet you will need your DVC card. They had the same thing for non-DVC members as well. The lines were just longer at those meet and greets. 


Gift Shops 

There were two main gift shops at the resort. One was higher end items like Dooney and Bourke purses and Pandora charms. While the other was your standard t-shirts, plushes, etc. I spent a fair amount of change in both of these gift shops TBH. In the higher end store I opted for a Dooney and Bourke crossbody bag. I was unsure about it at first, but I really liked the print and I knew I could't get the bag anywhere else. So, naturally had to get it. Then in the regular gift shop I went a little crazy. What can I say the selection of Duffy Japanese style merchandise paired with Spirit Jerseys up the wazzo was VERY dangerous! I will try and put together an Aulani haul for you guys. Since everything is already unpacked in may be kind of hard, but I will try my best! Let's just say there doesn't seem to be a ton of shopping, but trust me there is a lot in those tiny shops. 


Activities 

In terms of things to do besides go to the pool, shop, and eat Aulani does have a large spa on property as well. They also organize different paid excursions, but we didn't do any of those. They also have some rentals like boogie boards, paddle boards, and things of that nature! 

However, there are a few paid and free experiences that are all outlined in their daily itinerary which you can pick up at the front desk. This piece of paper has all of the operating hours of restaruants, shops, as well as times for different activities. We went on the cultural tour which we thought was very cool! During the tour a guide who worked on property walked us around mainly the pool area and gave us cool facts about the resort and the construction/ meaning of things around the resort. It was very interesting, and a good activity for adults! Another activity they had was nightly story telling by the fire. We were always too tired/ lazy to get our booties down there for it, but I think it would be cool to go see. If working out is your thing they had a ton of different work out classes for free in the mornings. The first class would usually start at 6am and the last class would go until around 10am. Things like sunrise yoga, stretching, or boot camp were some of the offerings while we were there. 

There are a TON of child activities naturally, but we weren't able to take advantage of those. If you do have kids be sure to sign up your kids for the kid services ahead of time, I hear that slots fill up during busy seasons. 

As DVC members we also had access to DVC exclusive activities like the meet and greets but also tours and other things. So, if you are a DVC member or are going with DVC members be sure to look out for those. Also, DVC members can go to a member celebration on most Monday mornings at the resort. We had free breakfast which included juices, coffee, and pastries as well as games and DVC info/ sneak peeks! Also, we got a Hawaiian necklace and DVC baseball cap which was pretty cool.

Then there are also paid activities like t-shirt decorating for families/ kids, night photography classes, and more! These change daily so be sure to check the guide. I would always go first thing to the lobby to go pick up the guide to see what was going on for the day. 


Someone had asked how many days you would recommend going to Aulani. Well, my entire trip was a total of 10 days, one night we spent at a different hotel because Aulani was fully booked. I think 8-10 days is the optimal amount of time to spend at the resort/ island. I think a week would also do. I only say that because there is a lot to do around the resort and on Oahu in general. I will be creating a separate post on the things we did on Oahu in general! I know some people stay at Aulani for 2-3 days then go to a different resort, which I think could work well as well. But, I do think we had a good amount of time there to enjoy the pool, beach, food, and character meet and greets. Plus, if you really care about characters they space out all of them throughout an entire week. Something to keep in mind. 

Overall, we had a great experience at the resort. Everything was super nice and updated, pool areas were beautiful, and the food was pretty good too! I will say though.... (un-popular opinion ALERT) I prefer the Disney Cruise Line to Aulani... THERE I SAID IT. But, it is so true. I'm not sure if this is because we are a family of do-ers, but I found Aulani just kind of boring after a while. Also, the food and everything around the hotel was pretty expensive for what it was. While the cruise you pay a flat fee but everything is basically included. Again, that is just my personal opinion. Am I saying you shouldn't go to Aulani, of course not! I still think it is a stunning resort and could be an amazing vacation for you. Personally, however if I had to choose between the two I would for sure pick the Disney Cruise line. 

In this post I tried to be as brutally honest as possible. Hopefully this post will help you if you are planning a trip or debating going to Aulani! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below or DM me on Instagram. I'd be happy to give anymore specific insight on things you may be wondering about!

Have you been to Aulani? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments! 
XOXO
Miranda