Portugal: Belém

It has been an insanely long time since I wrote in this blog. Definitely not for a lack of content in my life, but more a lack of words. Ben and I got married in October, so life has been moving quite fast. There’s been almost too many memories to share! From now on, anything artist-related will be posted over on my artist website and Tide & Bloom will remain more about my personal life, food, style, travel, etc. Sorry to do this, but I’m skipping over the whole wedding thing and going straight to recapping our honeymoon in Portugal. You don’t mind, right?

We landed in Lisbon after an overnight(ish) flight and went straight to our first hotel in Belém. This is an area just a short drive away from Lisbon and was a great way to ease into vacation mode. We spent the day exploring on foot, eating our first pasteis de nata and exploring The Berardo Collection Museum. It only made sense that our first pastel de nata would be from its origin, Jerónimos Monastery.

Then we stumbled upon a botanical garden which cost like only a couple euro to go in so naturally we went. Lots of ducks, lots of peacocks, lots of beauty. Perfect for our first afternoon stroll as a married couple.

So although Belém is usually only a quick stop for most tourists, it was such a lovely spot to spend our first day of our honeymoon. It was not super touristy and everything was within an easy walking distance. Our hotel, Altis Belém, was right on the harbor and the perfect place to relax. We were welcomed in our room with their own house-made pasteis, and they continued to treat us throughout the day with surprise cookies and chocolates. Our honeymoon was off to the loveliest start and it only got better from there. Next up… Lisbon!

Hungry in Houston

Houston for Lunar New Year, two very short days, lots of delicious meals and quality time with my family. When can Atlanta get some of this amazing Vietnamese food? Below acts as a pretty good visual checklist of all – well, most – of the things I can only find in Houston. I’m sorry, I probably should have taken note of WHERE all these dishes are, but I’ll do the best I can…

  1. These crazy sausage spring rolls (I think it’s nem nuong cuon). These are like your normal Vietnamese spring rolls EXCEPT there’s also grilled sausage inside along with a crunchy fried stick thing. It’s a very difficult thing to describe, but so unbelievably scrumptious. And I have no idea what is in that yellow dipping sauce. Egg? Someone who is more Vietnamese than me, please help me out.

2. Banh Xeo (in various forms). I actually do think you can find this in Georgia but I don’t think it’s as good? I’m not sure. 

3. Vietnamese Chinese Food. There are like LOTS of restaurants that are like a hybrid? Vietnamese food with Chinese accents. Either way I like it all.

4. Che. Specially RED BEANS. Again, another thing you actually can find in Atlanta on BuHi BUT it pales so much in comparison to Houston that I cannot even bring myself to get it. Every time I try, I end up throwing it out. And in Houston, I get one like every single day. Happy hour is che hour.

5. Banh mi. SO. This is the one thing I’m proud to say we actually have a really great option for (Quoc Huong) on BuHi. The banh mi we get in Houston is a little different – more butter. Lots more butter. Which is awesome in its own way.

6. Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky. I have a feeling this is in Atlanta but I just haven’t found it yet. Anyone know something I don’t? This, like most of these other dishes is just about ingredients. I don’t know if anyone does this jerky, I don’t know if anyone does the sauce.

Long story short is that I love Houston for family and food; two of the most important things in life! Sorry this blog writing is not more finessed. I’m just dying to get these pics out there.

howard finster’s paradise garden

Sitting down to write this, I realized the for all the art I’ve taken in over the course of my life… I still feel challenged when expressing my thoughts or feelings about it. Food is easy, style is logical, but art – perhaps because it’s what I feel most deeply about – doesn’t translate to words. So while I’d love to say to you that I can help you navigate the arts scene in Atlanta, it’s probably the last thing I’d be able to help you with.


It took me way too long to find the time to take the drive to see Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden. And of course I ended up forgetting my real camera, so please enjoy these photos from my crappy old phone (lost my iPhone recently). It’s the best I could do, but really nothing can do this justice. Or really, any art justice.


Art HAS to be experienced in real life. Digital reproduction will never be the same as seeing something in front of you. 

sinclair’s mercantile

The longer I go on blogging, the more I want to get into vlogging. Why? For one, pictures say a thousand words but then videos say 10,000. Secondly I think my genuine reaction in real-time would be so much more entertaining than coming here and trying to rehash the experience. Do you watch food network? I basically want to be Guy Fieri but also touring shops, testing products, and interviewing artists, et cetera. How do I become a famous personality so that people become interested in my opinion?… I guess I’ll just keep working on it. If you know anyone looking to make a TV show featuring me, let me know.

For this blog post/episode, I’m pleased to introduce you to Sinclair’s Mercantile, a newly opened lifestyle boutique down in the heart of McDonough. Where’s that, you ask? It’s about a 45 minute drive South of Atlanta. So not TOO far, but far enough (for me) where this really has to be a purposeful visit. Which is really just fine seeing as how Lanie Beth and her husband Brad have made it their mission to create a beautiful open space with just about anything you’d need to enhance your wardrobe. If half my bank account wasn’t already committed to Anthropologie, then I’d be spending a whole lot of it here.


The duo has paid careful attention to what comes into their shop, in regards to both assortment and origin. It’s truly a shop for the whole family and includes thoughtful accessories for life and home as well. Being that they are in the heart of a small town, they knew it was going to be quite a big risk to bring in premium denim and designer names. Somehow though they’ve managed to create a balance – I can tell it was an intentional focus – between accessibility and aspiration. I couldn’t really resist and I bought a ring for $14 and bangin’ Matisse shoes for less than $100.


I’m a shop girl at heart so I love things.

charleston meals: spero

Yes, believe it – I have MORE photos from Charleston. The lighting was a bit weird for this one, but I have to share this little gem of a spot with you. A little bit more under the radar, and best of all was the bread flight. Three kinds of bread and three kinds of spread – I was there in a heartbeat. Everything was pretty tasty and it was a good spot for a low-key beer and shared meal; filled us up really fast!


charleston meals: chez nous

Yes, two weeks later and I’m still ruminating on the best moments of our Charleston trip. That and also my normal life is just not that exciting. So I finally get to bring to you photos from one of my favorite meals in the Holy City, a lovely Sunday dinner at Chez Nous. We did our due diligence prior to the trip and Chez Nous was at the top of our list – the kind of place that focused on high quality simplicity, changing their menu every single day to suit the prime ingredients of the season.


The day we drove to Charleston we checked Chez Nous’ instagram to see what was on the menu. Every day features two starters, two entrees, and two desserts – you can select however many you’d like for the table, even just a dessert if that’s your fancy. Their dishes are inspired by French, Italian, and Spanish cuisines – classic flavor combinations cooked exactly as they’re meant to be.

On top of that, we were lucky enough to get the best al fresco table in the house. Well, outside the house. Sitting outside as the light slowly dipped beneath the trees, everything felt exactly as it should be. The service, ambiance… it was all juuust right.


I guess I should talk a little bit about the food, right?

walks in charleston

Bear with me on all these Charleston pictures. I don’t get to travel much so when I do, I go just a little ham on the photography. Can you blame me? Charleston is a beautiful landscape of pastels that is easy to walk and easier to enjoy. We stayed a 15-min drive away from downtown so every day we just drove on over, parked, and took in the scenery on foot.


coffee in charleston

Earlier this week, I spent two-and-half days in Charleston. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but if you know me then you know that I can pack in a whole lot of sightseeing into one day. This was my summer mini holiday and so I wanted to go somewhere new and do all the things I love with the person I love. Those things include: eating, drinking, walking, marveling, and taking photos of it all. I’m breaking down my trip into categories so I can share every little bit of inspiration with you! And one of my new goals for the rest of this year is to make more time for short trips to nearby cities so that I can continue finding beautiful places and sharing them here.

Anywhere I travel, I have to visit coffee shops. Multiple coffee shops. Partially because I need coffee to function, but also because coffee shops are local cultural landmarks. No matter where I go, if I find the right coffee shop then I can get a glimpse into what it would be like for me to live in that city. So in a way they make me feel at home.

I would never consider myself a sophisticated coffee connoisseur, but I know what I like and what I don’t like. I visited a total of 4 coffee places in Charleston (narrowed down from many internet searches) and here’s what went down.

Black Tap Coffee
The vibe: quiet neighborhood, minimal interiors, a place to sit and work/read on your computer
What I got: black julep (a refreshing espresso, honey, mint concoction) & a blueberry lemon scone
How it made me feel: not cool enough. It was extremely quiet and anonymous inside; there were plenty of people around, but everyone was into their own space which is really good if you want to stay and linger for some peace. Great natural light coming in.


Would I go back again? Yes. I didn’t try their traditional coffee drinks because I had read about the Black Julep online prior to the visit. I would probably go back if I were alone and wanted to sit and think. They do play music so it’s not silent, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable having a private conversation in the shop.

The Daily
The vibe: easy parking, more of a market/lunch place, meeting up with friends for a chat
What I got: cold brew and a cherry pistachio pastry… thing


How it made me feel: Casual. Definitely a great weekend spot or breakfast meeting place. They have a wide array of items for your pantry and dishes made to order, but it seemed bustling and perhaps a little more tourist-y. Loved the little patio seating area outside (but it was too hot to partake) and the decor shops right next door.

the-daily-coffee-9 the-daily-coffee-10 the-daily-coffee-8

Would I go back again? Definitely. Delicious delicious pastry – which makes me think the rest of the food will probably done just as well. A place to go with family or friends to enjoy brunch and browsing.

The Rise
The vibe: Accidentally happened upon this while walking around sightseeing. Found out it was actually a hotel cafe (there are many in Charleston), attached to The Restoration.
What I drank: another cold brew! it’s an easy go-to.


How it made me feel: I don’t know how I feel about hotel cafes. It was a lovely small space, completely empty and seemed like maybe only made for tourists or hotel guests.
Would I go back again? Probably not. My drink was sufficient due to my need for refueling, but it’s not a coffee destination for me. Totally acceptable though!

Kudu Coffee
The vibe: Easygoing. It makes you want to stay a while, except there’s no wifi.
What I drank: vanilla latte


How it made me feel: really really good. As the last coffee visit in Charleston, it ended up being perhaps one of my favorites. The side patio is absolutely darling and this spot could easily become a staple in my life if I lived in Charleston.
Would I go back again? Definitely for sure. The patio was lush and serence, and my latte was just what I wanted.

That’s all I got! Did I hit all of the good spots? Probably not. But I think for two days, four coffee shops is definitely a good run. Next time I visit Charleston, I might find it hard not to go back to some of these!