what entering my late 20's has taught me

27: you have been my favorite.

People say getting older sucks. And in a sense, I honestly do feel a little bummed out when I think back to how easy life was when I was 16-17, but this past year was different. This was truly a year of profound self-discovery, freedom, and growing up. 

I'm pretty cheesy and love doing little retrospectives during milestone moments in life; birthdays, a new year, etc. As I walk right into year 28 today with my head held high, I felt like it was time to take a look back and celebrate.

This was the year where I OFFICIALLY fell into the demographic of "late 20's." That blows my mind. Unfortunately, I think our society does a pretty bad job of preparing its youth to fend for themselves in the real world after 20+ years of living in such a structured environment where your next move is pretty cut out for you. So at this point, you definitely need to have your ish together, according to society, haha.

I think the liberating part for me is that I no longer feel that pressure to live up to the world's standards. I have something else driving me and that is the identity Jesus has given me. 

Going into this past year with that truth in tact, I think I had one of the most fulfilling years to date. In every regard. Read on past the jump for the 10 most valuable lessons revealed to me and the milestones that I'll be remembering forever. 

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A Retrospective at 27

& hopes for 28

Milestones: 

  • 2017 marked my first FULL calendar year at Naseem Events. I started my business officially in April of 2016 and do count that as my first season for sure, but this was like solidifying it in place :) I did 15 weddings at amazing venues all over the Bay Area + booked my first out of state destination wedding for 2018!
  • I did five styled shoots and all were published in various blogs that I had not yet been published in.
  • I got word that three of my real weddings will be published in big name blogs nation-wide in the coming months :) 
  • Weddings are already booked (and continuing to be booked) for 2018 and I'm getting more and more exposure and opportunities to go more in depth with design and creative direction when it comes to these events.
  • I was interviewed on The Real Female Entrepreneur Podcast and received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and support from the topics I candidly discussed on the episode. 
  • My vision for Naseem Events has become so grounded in its place this year. The more clients I have the pleasure of working with, the more clear it becomes to me why I do what I do. On top of the fun of the actual planning, my goal is to be that breath of fresh air for my brides. I want to provide them peace, patience, and a listening ear to get through one of the most pivotal seasons of their lives. To me it's so much more than getting a menial task done but to leave a lasting impression. I believe we have all been called to create and it's an honor for me to use my talents and abilities to have established my own business that is thriving.
  • I started working simultaneously on staff at my church as our Communications/ Connection Ministry Team Lead which has been SO life giving. I now fully understand what it means to be working with purpose and on mission. How lucky am I to work two jobs, each of which have such a special spot in my heart? This role at Awakening Church has changed my life in such a personal way. I have seen God use a gift He's given me for connectivity and empowerment to encourage and activate those around me FOR His glory. 

Lessons:

  • Your early 20's suck. It gets better. 

    • Hold on tight to that truth (I promise, it's the truth). But save yourself the time, effort, and pain of riding the roller coaster of emotion and seek to figure out WHO you are. Not who your friends say you are, not who your job says you are, and definitely not what society says you are. Your identity is not correlated with your circumstances. Stop trying to do things to impress others or gain their acceptance. Be unapologetically you. I went through some of the darkest seasons until this became clear to me at age 26/27.
  • Comparison is not the thief of joy; the "triple E" is: 

    • Hear me out. The old adage above has always been my go-to mantra. I've struggled with the joy-depleting repercussions of comparison for so long, especially in my 20's. But then I dug into the root of this issue further and realized something. Comparison is not the root of the joy depletion; in fact comparison on a straight forward level is pretty objective. I can compare that my friend is a size 7 shoe, but I am a size 9.5. No real emotions stirred there. But when you dig into what comparison is rooted in is when you can tackle exactly WHAT is depleting your joy. I like to call it the "triple E" -- envy, expectations, and entitlement. 
    • When we become jealous of what someone else has and start coveting // when we let our expectations get the best of us and begin comparing (oh well I did X for my BFF's birthday but she only did Y) // when we let a sense of entitlement about what we DESERVE get in the way -- these are all the root of the joy loss that comparison brings. I think this was one of the biggest lessons I learned this year. I began checking myself each and every time the comparison reared its ugly head in my emotions and realized that every single time, the emotion was rooted in one of the 3 E's. The key lesson here is first identifying which E it is and then getting outside your own head and uprooting the pride that our flesh keeps us in. We can't do it on our own. I think this is where I might lose some of you, but that's ok because this is simply my revelation. So often self-help theories of thought teache us that it's all about within. Our mindset. The energy we take in. The type of person we choose to be, etc. It makes it ALL ABOUT US. That's a lot of pressure, right?
    •  Friends, it's not about us at all. It's about JESUS. In my own flesh, I am a mess. Simply put. Yet when I choose to actively pursue Him each and every day and look at the amazing grace He bestows on me with my new form and identity, I am amazed. I am liberated. I am free. When we choose to let Him take over, we surrender the crap that drags us in the mud. We surrender the entitlement, the pride, the envy, and the expectations. Because it's not about us. I've been challenged this year to think in an UPWARD / OUTWARD mindset, vs. inward and downward (focus on me and myself). I am reminded of two of my favorite verses in the Bible: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Cor.5:17) // and once we believe we are a new creation, what do we do? -- "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know God's will for you; which is GOOD and PLEASING and PERFECT." (Rom.12:2). How freeing is this? I want to walk in this new perspective daily. 
  • Friendship is a verb not a noun:

    • I've made some of the tightest friendships I've ever had in this past year. Some who had been in my life for over a decade and our bond just went to that deeper place this year. Others who I met earlier this year who now feel like life-long friends. I realize now the importance of having friends in your life who are intentional with you. Who challenge you. Who force you to look in the mirror and check yourself when you're walking in your flesh too much or you're letting distractions get in the way of the beauty around you. One life mantra that has become my M.O. = quality over quantity when it comes to friends. Being an extrovert and extremely relational, this has always been tough for me. But I felt like God taught me this year the difference between investing in people vs. investing yourself in too many people. 
    • Not everyone deserves your whole heart. No one can meet the needs and expectations you feel unmet inside. So don't place that burden on people.  BUT, friendship is a verb. It takes work, effort, and reciprocation on both ends. Value yourself to invest in the few who meet you in that sweet spot and show up for you. Let go of anyone bringing you down or not making you feel valued. And seasons change. Expect that reality (don't learn it the hard way and let it come as a shock to you. Been there!). 
    • I read this article that said, "There are friendships that belong in different places and at different times, with different versions of who we are. Because a friendship’s time has passed does not mean that it was not and is not important — still. Sometimes the only way to get to have a forever friendship is to let it go in the form that it was and allow it to take on the form that it needs to be — all the while holding it steady in your heart."
    • Above all, just LOVE selflessly. That's all I want to do when I meet people and when fostering the friendships already in my life. I love love; and I love hard. But with that, remember to protect your heart. I think for me, experiencing God's love on the daily more tangibly this past year is truly what's led to me being able to love expecting nothing return because it's just out of the overflow of my heart thanks to Him. 
  • You have NOTHING to prove. To anyone: 

    • I'm a work in progress. And one thing that's been/still being demolished is this complex of caring too much for people to affirm me/accept me/want me in their lives. It took a few really nasty experiences but I was able to come out shining bright. This was a year of the negative, forcefully being sucked out. Wow just writing that reminds me of the quote at the end of Mean Girls where Cady talks about sucking the venom out of her life.

I never thought I'd get deep with a Mean Girls reference, but there it is.

  • Often times we don't realize how much that venom is blocking us from living our best life. The venom can clothe itself with the glitz and glam of allure (i.e. being well-liked; on social media or real life), and it will suck the life out of you over time. Biggest turning point for me has been realizing my self-worth and learning to protect my heart. Remember, your story is valid and worth hearing. It's GOOD to be vulnerable. Do it for the right reasons though. Not for affirmation from others, but because you want to showcase who you are // apart from the filters social media places on us (or that we ourselves place!). Finally: You have been created uniquely and are loved by a God who DELIGHTS in blessing you. Believe that.  I realized the absolute biggest take away for me is choosing to DAILY walk in the freedom and security I have through Jesus. Those are the two concepts that will bring me full contentment and confidence through my life. "When our lives tell others that He is our greatest treasure, He begins to look as great and glorious as He truly is. He made us to show His glory and by showing us more of Himself he planned to make us the happiest people who have ever lived" 

When you trust in Him and who He has called you to be, you begin shedding the layers of societal expectations and living for others' approval.

 

xx, Nas

indigo xx succulent dreams [[styled shoot inspiration]]

This week I had the honor of being published on the highly coveted White Magazine for a styled shoot I had been dreaming up all summer long. SO exciting! Before jumping to the gallery, I wanted to share the inspiration for what led to my initial vision for this shoot. This is hopefully right up your alley if you're all about organic, boho style and your spirit animal is a succulent ;)

The initial inspiration for this photo shoot came to me in a very simple form; texture.

I had just finished taking a Ginny Au styling course and felt led to start creating a mood board based off of particular textures that spoke to me. I ended up with a palate whose end result birthed in the shoot below. I wanted to showcase a “bohemian meets Anthropologie” aesthetic, if you will. There are so many couples who fit this look/demographic and I wanted to create a set of vignettes to cater to this particular vibe. Enter DIG Gardens in beautiful Santa Cruz. This space brought my vision to life the moment I stepped in. Every where you turn, there’s something to marvel at. 

The vessels I picked out were all from DIG and each unique in their own way. Even in constructing the dessert table vignette, I wanted to showcase multiple tables of different sizes and shapes. I think there’s something so enamoring about aesthetics you don’t see every day. We’re so used to seeing one cake on one table at weddings, so this look was so fun for my team to put together. 

The table set up was personally my favorite part of this shoot because of all the elements I was able to incorporate. We used DIG Garden’s beautiful farm table and chairs, and topped the table with Rachel Wadlow’s beautiful hand-dyed indigo napkins, a gorgeous set of mismatched Anthropologie plates I picked out, and natural wood cut flatware. Angie of Bobo Design Studio came alongside my vision and created these stunning vellum menus and laser cut name cards for each seat.

 

CREDITS

the sun does come out eventually

 
 

I'm stoked to finally share one of the biggest changes going on in my world at the moment. You've probably already caught wind of it with the new domain name, but without further ado, I am pleased to announce that I'm embarking on a new venture of starting my own wedding and event planning business! 

I've been obsessed with planning & hosting events for as long as I can remember. That, paired with being a bridesmaid more times than I can count + my Type A overly-organized personality + watching The Wedding Planner at an age when I was easily influenced and there we have it! I can't think of a better way to expand my career than taking on this new path. Working at a tech start up was one of the most invaluable experiences I've ever had. And now I see the beauty in my last role which was so heavy on client communication and making sure my vendors were satisfied 247. I can't wait to translate that over to my love for weddings and events. Weddings especially are so dear to my heart: what the union means for the couple on a deeper level, for the extended family, and all the emotions that come with it. It's seriously such a pivotal moment in one's life and I'm stoked to be a part of that for my clients.

For those of you who have been so supportive of my lifestyle/travel blog, first off: THANK YOU. I can't tell you how much it means to hear from friends I don't see regularly but yet hear that they love reading my posts. Fear not: This blog is going no where. In fact, I'll be updating it regularly alongside this new business website so any potential clients have a better chance of getting to know the real me and what I'm all about :) 

On that note, I wanted to have a tiny soap box moment and encourage anyone out there who is in a transition period of their life. I can honestly say going through that in your mid-twenties and dealing with the up and downs of soul searching can be exhausting; both mentally and emotionally. However, I wouldn't take this time back for a second because of how much it's helped me grow both as a person and as a working professional. And the sun does eventually come out "tomorrow." I never thought I would be starting my own business, but during this down time, I've realized how much I want to break that mold that we're so forced to fit in: that you have to go down the tech path if you're in the Bay Area. That's great, but it's not for everyone. And especially for me, I want to spend this next part of my life making my own dreams come true vs. someone else's. Best of all, I love that I'll be able to give back to my clients and help remove the stress for them during a joyous season.

So bottom line, do you. I used to be so stuck on what people would say/ how so-and-so would react to what I'm doing. But now as I'm getting older and specifically in this season, I just see how much freedom there is in simply doing you. No second guessing. No over analyzing. You might have 20 people supporting you or only 1 in your corner. No matter what, if you feel at peace with what you're diving into then DO it. In my personal life, I've learned that God wants us to take that risky step first before He'll unveil the whole picture. So, here goes :)

best of #march

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.56.48 PM Can you believe tomorrow is April 1st? Where is this year going?! I swear each year flies by sooner than the last. Starting at the end of each month I've decided to do a round up of a few of my favorite indulgences. This is definitely geared more towards the ladies, sorry boys! I'm hoping to incorporate a mix of things to stay true to covering all things lifestyle related, so expect to see my most satisfying shopping buys, skincare reviews, as well as cute things I just had to share. Let's get started!

  1. YSL Radiant Touch Highlighting Pen: I got this as a gift from my cousin when I was visiting Paris earlier this month. Cannot explain how much I love it. It's the perfect highlighter to apply midday when you're feeling like your makeup is wearing off and you need the extra pick-me-up.
  2. Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil: I'm becoming more and more of a fan of the matte look on lips, especially for darker colors like red. Pairs as a lipstick and liner.

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3. Mario Badescu SkincareThis entire line is to die for. I sampled their lotion this past weekend in an Urban Outfitters in LA and was so surprised at how soft it kept my hands all afternoon long. Being the lotion aficionado I am, I'm always on the hunt for a good bottle. I carry lotion around with me everywhere I go since I have extremely dry skin so finding one that keeps them moisturized for longer than an hour is key. This one did the trick. My cousin told me she had been using his skincare line for 20 years now so as soon as I got home I went all in and purchased a few of his things. I am OBSESSED with the silver powder. It's seriously a magic powder that works wonders for blackheads and oily skin. Plus side, each product is very cheap considering the quality and quantity that comes in each bottle. Cannot wait to try more of his skincare line.

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4. Madewell's Brisbane Crossbody Bag: Perfect bag for the summer and I'm loving the size since I was getting sick of carrying my bigger Madewell bag. Bonus - get 30% off right now, see link for details!

5. Le Sportsac X Rifle Paper Makeup Bag: I think I am what one might call brand-obsessed when it comes to Rifle Paper. I even call the brand my spirit animal, LOL. So when I found out they came out with their own line of cosmetic bags, I had to get one. I had been looking for a new makeup bag for a while too and I'm super happy with the quality of this one (plus the pockets inside for my makeup brushes). It's big enough to take on a trip if you want to stuff it with toiletries too.

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What do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

 

6 Ways to #Travel Budget-Friendly 

A lot of people have asked me how I manage to travel both domestically and internationally so much and not go broke. When I realized I had the travel bug a few years ago, I made it my mission to spend time doing the research and educating myself on exactly how to answer this million dollar question. A ton of backpackers out there will blog about how they saved the most on staying in hostels, buying their own groceries, and limiting their eating out. I think that's awesome and definitely one way to do it. However, I'll be honest here, that's just not me. I'm big on the comfort factor, especially while traveling (not to mention safety), so for me I'm not really into the hostel thing and traveling for months on end with only two shirts. Not trying to be high maintenance or anything, but it really just depends on the person. And for me, having a secure place to leave my bag for the day is important. So with that being that, this post will cover 6 ways I've been able to travel pretty luxuriously without having to dip into any savings;)

  • 1) Constant research: if you want to get into travel (more specifically, cheap travel), you've got to do the research. While my friends were on Snapchat or CandyCrush during a long line at the food trucks, I would be on travel apps. I downloaded the top apps on my phone and that was my go-to boredom buster. I'd consistently be searching flight deals and playing around with the best times to fly. Helpful hint here: download the Cheapoair app as well as Sky Scanner -- which brings me to my next tip 
  • 2) Know when to travel: it's crucial to know the peak seasons for the country you want to travel to. For example, going to Europe in the summer (May - September to be exact) will always cost you an arm and a leg. However, winter -- not so much. That's why I decided on finalizing our Europe adventure a month ago because the tickets were so cheap! I mentioned Sky Scanner because this app offers you a matrix to compare travel dates (not only individual but also month to month comparisons). Some people are Excel wizards, I'd proud of say I'm pretty much a wiz at this app, haha. 
  • 3) Stalk airlines for glitches: no I'm serious. This is probably my favorite secret to share with you guys. One of my favorite things to brag about is that I got tickets to Bali (roundtrip) from San Jose for $375. Yes you read that correctly. My trip to Austin earlier that year cost more. Have you picked your jaw off the floor yet? This occurred simply because of an airline glitch. For me, it could have been that the reps at Delta just wrote the wrong price down (human error) or forgot to include oil charges in the flight cost. It can really be anything. There are a ton of blogs out there that highlight when these glitches occur, and one that I'll share is Secret Flying. Subscribe! It can be tedious but to me checking it now is comparable to checking my Email; I just do it by default. 
  • 4) Sign up for the right credit card: I'll split this one into two parts. Part 1: sign up for a card that has a 0% charge for international travel. Most credit cards charge a 2-3% fee on all international transactions. My family has had Wells Fargo for years now but even they have the fee. I had signed up for the Capitl One Venture card about a year ago and this is one of the only cards not to have any fee. I highly suggest it so you can avoid the annoying fees. Part 2: sign up for a card with travel perks. My mom has the CitiBank Expedia card and pretty much purchases everything on it, and therefore we accumulate points on the daily. This has led to a number of completely free tickets (for example, her Europe ticket RT was free!). 
  • 5) Master the art of TripAdvisor: ok so shameless plug here, but TripAdvisor has become my new best friend. I absolutely love this site and all it has to offer travel junkies. It's pretty much the Yelp for travel. And if you know me, you know how much I love Yelping. I would suggest using this site pre-trip so you can compare the prices and ratings of all the hotels of your destination. They include the ratings from guests, the overall ranking of the hotel compared to all the rest, as well as prices across the board from all booking sites. I did all the booking for our past trips via TripAdvisor. I love the fact I'm able to see real photos instead of only the professional ones the hotel has on their site. Not to mention, hearing from past travelers on their tips and overall thoughts after their stay. Best of all, I'm able to find the cheapest hotel for my personal budget and wants. 
  • 6) Fly into a less popular city: finally, I'll leave you with this -- always look into a nearby airport to fly into. I've seen this both domestically and internationally. For instance, for those of us living in the Bay Area, flying out of Oakland will almost always be cheaper than SFO. Same goes for your overseas destination. London and Paris will always be pricey. Consider a city like Zurich to fly into and then take the train (super comfy) to your final destination. Best of all you get to see the countryside by train and save a ton on the flight. Happy travels friends! Let me know if these tips help. XO

  

    #salzburg

    Hello Austria. On this next leg of the trip we took a short, two hour night train from Munich to Salzburg. We arrived close to midnight and the best part was that the hotel I found us for the night is pretty much connected to the train station. You walk out, turn the corner and right there in front is the beautiful Ramada Hotel. This hotel was one of the most beautiful and most modern of our stay. Best of all, the glass walls are built noise-proof so you don't have to worry about the sound of the incoming and outgoing trains all night. We were only at this hotel for ~12 hours but we loved it. Blame it on our exhaustion maybe, but nothing felt better than climbing into freshly washed sheets and taking part in an amazing Austrian breakfast buffet first thing in the morning. After breakfast, we checked out and headed to yet another Hop On, Hop Off double decker tour bus ride. These bus rides are seriously the best way to see a city in Europe. Especially if you only have a day or two in each city these buses take you all over the major landmarks of the city, as well as provide an in depth explanation of everything under the sun as you're driving around. We spent the first half of the day seeing the landmarks -- highlight for me and my mom was seeing Mozart's house and walking where he walked. It's crazy to think about. For those looking for which tour to use, I highly suggest Panorama Tours . Being the review nerd that I am, I researched a ton via TripAdvisor for the best tour. Panorama is the way to go! For more resources and offerings, check out their website. 

    Around 1pm we got off that bus that walked around their Old Town for a bit. It was perfect timing since our next tour started right at 2pm. Ok, I can't hold it in any longer -- our next tour was the SOUND OF MUSIC tour!! If you know me and my family well, you'd know that this is our absolute favorite movie (right up there with Father of the Bride and Home Alone), I think we've seen it over 70 times at least. I think that's what made Salzburg so special for both of us was going on this tour -- private, may I add! Blame it on the low tourist season; it was just me and her on a private tour with our amazing tour guide, Rosemary. She was so sweet and knowledgable. Our entire 4 hour tour she was spitting out fire facts about the film and behind the set. Leave it to me and my competitive nature to try and one up her the entire time. Let it be known that even I was schooled when it comes to Sound of Music trivia! Rosemary's lived in Salzburg for 40 years and has met over half the actual Von Trapp family in person so ok, I guess she wins. Haha. We went everywhere. The church that Maria gets married in, the terrace and backyard of the home where the kids fall out of the boat when their dad comes home, the yellow wall Maria runs by while singing "Confidence" in the very beginning (see video below for us trying to reenact it), and even the fountain and gardens where they sing Do Re Mi. It was magic. Oh and of course, the iconic gazebo! Thanks so much to Bob's Special Tours for making this so memorable for us.

    Finally, we had an hour of downtime before the end of the tour where Rosemary drove us an hour outside the town to the outskirts. We devoured some delicious toasted ham and cheese sandwiches (only 4 euros - what?!) and a few (ok, 4) pastries between the two of us. #treatyoself.

    This day is really one that stands out to me because of how special it was to act like true groupies from one of our favorite films, but also because of how short and sweet it was! We took the 7pm train that night to head to Vienna so we really only had one full day. And to be honest I think that's all you need! We both love walking and being on the go so we were able to get a ton done. I highly suggest both tours if you ever go! Enjoy the photos :)

            

    #germany 

    And the train keeps going. Next stop for us was Germany, where we spent the most time during this adventure -- and made some of the best memories. We took the train from Paris to Frankfurt, where my mom's uncle and his German wife picked us up and hosted us for 5 days at their home in Hochheim (super tiny town!). My great aunt was born and raised in this home so it's over three generations old and has been their home for almost 70 years. It was so awesome to transition from the busy city life to being immersed in a true, European small town. This is one of those towns that everyone knows each other. When you call the nail salon, you greet the person by saying your last name and you're immediately recognized. My great uncle and his wife know almost all the restaurant owners and who's who. The town is completely walkable; no metro, only a few bus lines. 

    Our stay with them was so memorable because we got a change from the hotel feel/ living out of a suitcase to a much more home-y and cozy experience. I think what I'll miss most are the breakfast spreads my great aunt would have laid out for us in the mornings. All different kinds of cheeses, fresh bread, soft boiled eggs in the cutest little holders, and a German delicacy: poppyseed cake. We stayed there for four days and explored more of Hochheim as well as Mainz, where we went to the Gutenburg Museum.

    That was one of my favorite places we went this whole trip because of how cool it was to learn the history behind print. Obviously being a writing lover, I was captivated from the start. Even cooler, we entered this vault that holds the world's oldest copy of the Bible. Sadly no cameras were allowed but it was even better in a way to soak it all in even more. That's actually been a trending nugget for this whole trip. Not to go off on a tangent but -- we only have wifi in our hotels/ the houses we stay in so during the day we're completely phone less which at first was really unknown, new, and outside my comfort zone. A few days later, and I've gotten so used to it and it's proved to make the trip that much more memorable. Instead I've been journaling during the day when we're out and have down time, and really taking the time to soak in every moment. 

    A few days later, we left small town life for Munich! Munich was amazing. I'm so glad we made the stop here as well. The city is so alive and filled with so much history. We did a full day tour on a double decker bus which was perfect. The city is filled with castles, $2 sausages, BEER,  and such intricate architecture. Fun fact too is that there are no skyscrapers allowed to be built in the city because under the Catholic law, no building can be higher than their oldest church. So all of the skyscrapers are actually right outside the city lines. 

    Other than that, Germany definitely lives up to its stereotype about having mean people. Sadly. The people have been so rude!! :( it's crazy but it just opens your eyes so much to the level of care and customer service we get in America. The grass isn't always greener! 

    Finally to end things off, the absolute best part of Germany was hands down meeting 4 of my second cousins that I had never met before. It's so amazing the connection that family brings that is unlike any other. Within one hour of meeting all of them on different occasions, it was like we had been friends for a lifetime. I'm so blessed to finally have met more of my family-- they're truly people I want to do life with on a consistent basis. And hopefully have them visit us here in the Bay! 

    Alright, let's get to the photos now. Next stop: Salzburg, Austria.       

                                    

    #paris

    Ah Paris. Just writing the name gets me giddy. I want to start off this post by saying that the phrase, "Paris is always a good idea" now has new meaning to me because I was able to actually put that into practice on our trip. We didn't really have plans to hit up Paris on our trip since the journey has been so packed with train trips and city stops, BUT, the day before our flight my mom and I had this moment of smiling and looking to one another and saying, "Should we fit in Paris too?" And oh, am I SO glad we did. The first time I went to Paris I left feeling like this was one of my favorite cities in the world. I loved being able to go back a second time and seeing if this remained true. Did it? Big, fat yes!  Paris is magic. Paris is romantic. It's mysterious, illuminating, and simply draws you in. Every time we got off the metro and walked up the steps we were surrounded with an entirely different landscape. All of course included busy streets, colorful buildings, and most of all - people chillaxing. I know I mentioned this in my last post but it continues to ring true the more of Europe I see and explore. People value their time and well being so much. They close up shop when they feel like it, they sit down for an hour- long coffee break if they're in the mood. Anything goes. The sense of consumerism we have in America is completely blown to pieces in Europe, and it is so refreshing to be a part of. 

    What I loved most? The eating of course, come on! Every morning my mom and I were on the hunt for better pastries from the day before. Because it just kept getting better and better. Huge shout out to my friend and fellow food blogger, Shikhalamode for all the amazing suggestions -- we tried almost everything! [i do have to note though that I thought Angelina was way over priced and not amazing food.. That being said, go for the experience! Oh and Strasbourg had better drinking chocolate ;)]. End rant. The food was all amazing. I'm iust glad we did so much walking every day so I'm not going home a fattie. 

    The other part of the trip I loved was taking a boat ride tour across the Seine one of the afternoons. The sun finally came out while we were on the water and it was so relaxing after 5 hours of walking to simply bask in the sunlight and admire all the beautiful landmarks across the river.

    I cannot wait to come back to Paris. Especially in better weather. That being said, the city was so good to us and I'm left smiling from ear to ear when I think about our time there. 

                            

    #strasbourg

    And we're back. Next stop on the EuroTour was Strasbourg. I can't even begin to describe how much I love this town. Strasbourg is in Alcace, a region of France that has a lot of German influence so you get a totally different feel here -- worlds apart from Paris. I feel so lucky to have seen such different parts of France, from Paris to Strasbourg to Nice and Cannes... this country never ceases to amaze me with its vibrant character and the "joie de vivre" that is so evident in the inhabitants. When my mom and I arrived in the train station, she turned to me and said, "I feel like I'm at home." This resonated so much with me because I felt the exact same way. We both fell in love with France on our last Europe trip and to feel the same way our second time here was so comforting. Even though it was still freezing, we both got this second wind and had a little night on the town and went exploring after dark. It was so magical. There were swans swimming in the river, moonlight reflecting off the cobble stones, and every café was booming. Truly out of a storybook. I told a friend the first comparison that came to mind to describe Strasbourg was: "Man in the Iron Mask" meets Disneyland. Haha! But truly no better way to explain it. The town is so tiny too that you can get around by foot almost anywhere. One of those places where you want to get lost and just soak in each quarter. I don't think I've ever walked so much in my life! We spent 2.5 days here and just left to take the train off to Paris. Can't wait to come back here. Thank you Strasbourg, you have a piece of my heart.

         

    #oscars2016 round up

    We interrupt the travel diaries to bring you a very special installment of my annual Oscars Round Up! Guys, Oscar Sunday is only ONE week away so the countdown is officially on. This is the first time I won't be home to watch the entire show with friends and fam since I'm in Europe (not too shabby), but I will do whatever it takes to watch so I'm not too worried. With that being said, for this year's round up of all things Oscar-related and my predictions, I decided to come at you in true reporter style -- behind the camera. So sit back, relax, and get ready for the big night. Let me know what you're most excited about![[ special shout out and major thanks to my amazingly talented friend, Elmira Saalabi for shooting and editing this film]]

    Naseem Talks - Oscar Countdown from elmira saalabi on Vimeo.

    #zurich 

    First stop on our European adventure. We were here for only 2.5 days and I'm up fighting my jet lag so I thought why not get a head start on my first post from the trip. Best way to fill you guys in on each city we head to is a little blurb in addition to my photos. So here goes: Zurich: industrial, extremely hipster restaurants and bars, FREEZING this time of year, waterfront, amazing public transportation, grocery stores have everything you could ever ask for, reminds my mom of Tehran, reminiscent of UES meets Venice Italy for me. 

                                               Next stop, Strasbourg! 

    #unwritten

    2016's been exciting so far to say the least. As I'm writing this I'm waiting to board my plane en route to Switzerland. My mom and I are about to embark on a little European adventure, just us girls. I feel so blessed to have the time and the means to travel like this right now and take three weeks to literally get away and get soaked in an entirely different world. I've been wanting to immerse myself in Europe for such a long time now and to be able to do so for an extended period of time gets me so pumped. We'll be making a loop starting in Switzerland, passing through France, then to Germany, then closing out the trip in Austria and hopefully doing a few day trips to neighboring countries in between.

    I'll be blogging photos and memories from each city we stop in so feel free to follow along on my journey with me. As the year unfolds (can you believe it's mid February already?), I've been thinking a lot about this blog and what my hopes are for it personally as well as for you the reader. I'm currently working on a revamp, hence the new domain (officially all mine!) as well as the new look and feel. My main goal is to inspire you and myself. I think that term is thrown around so loosely that we tend to roll our eyes and often forget what inspiration even really means.

    That brings me back to why my blog is called "undefined & unrestrained." I want to inspire myself and you who might have happened to stumble on my blog to BE you and DO you. Every. Day. One thing that really makes me tick when it comes to social media and this new phase of technology advancement that we're in is the amount of comparison that brings along with it. Most notably for women but definitely for men too. For myself personally, seeing others' coming and goings, endeavors, and various life milestones has been a wonderful thing thanks to social media. However, let's not to ourselves. I think we can all recall a time where it's made you stop and think. "Should I be doing this too?" "Am I not on the right timeline?" "Am I supposed to be going down this career path to fit in with the rest of my demographic?". These questions can be suffocating. They can cause anxiety and ultimately steal your joy. One thing I yearn to encourage you with (and myself since this is much easier said than done on a daily basis) is to embrace the undefined. To live a life that's beautifully unrestrained. To allow the adventures and fleeting moments of passion that you are seeking to fully engulf you. Not what you see on Instagram that makes you get down on yourself for not having X amount of likes or followers.

    In this next chapter of my life which is one that is TRULY undefined since I have no clue what's next I am doing just that in embracing the unknown. I have this newfound excitement for what is to come and a new patience, if you will, for taking each day as it comes and finding the small pleasures that each day brings; instead of trying to skip steps and follow this established timeline that the media or our peers have set before us.

    I encourage you to tear up that timeline you have written down, physically or in your mind. Find the joy in being yourself and doing what makes you happy. You might be the only one doing X but that's what you're passionate about, do it. For instance, there were times when I thought at my age it's too late to think about taking an extended trip. What about my timeline? Job? What about what my life is "supposed" to look like right now? And then it just hit me. Throw those questions out the window. Take a deep breath and look outside. We're so surrounded by a beautfiul world that is begging to be discovered. Whether that looks like taking time off to travel or quitting your job to pursue a hobby that's become a passion... if that's what drives you, do it. Because at the end of the day, all of us simply want contentment. I've realized even the richest people in the world can be the most depressed. Yeah, we've all heard this but really let it sink in.

    And maybe you haven't figured it out yet. Those passions, that calling. Trust me, I haven't. But instead of stressing out (my usual M.O.) I'm finally learning to roll with it and embrace the undefined. Not to end on the cheesiest of all notes but as Natasha Bedingfield so perfectly puts it, "The rest is still unwritten..." -- I'm finally grasping the beauty in that lyric. As someone who has thrived on living a life where my next step/ direction was always sort of laid out before me, I'm starting to slowly get it now and accept the beauty in the unknown. 

    With that, I hope some sort of spark has been lit for you. Thanks for following along my journey as I chase what's next. 

    #SEATTLE

    Almost a month late but worth the wait! I couldn't resist posting some photos from my recent trip to Seattle at the end of April. I had such an amazing time visiting one of my childhood friends and exploring the city together for a few days. As soon as I touched down, in true "Naseem fashion" we took the train to an old abandoned cinema where they were hosting this 90's music video sing along party. It was amazing. The seating was almost like an indoor drive in where each person had their own little booth and waiters would come over to you and deliver drinks and snacks. We danced, we sang, we were nostalgic to the MAX. It was epic. The rest of the weekend was filled with a whole lot of F O O D. I took the train to Pike Place Market by myself on Friday and explored all there was to see. There was so much action -- someone selling freshly caught fish in one corner, another corner filled with fresh flowers being arranged and sold, and another corner of little shops like a quaint magic store and one with screen prints from the last few decades. The market was like a maze. I felt like I got lost a million times but I couldn't stop going around and around. I walked past the gum wall -- and couldn't help just staring at HOW much gum there was on it! What else? Treated myself to Beecher's mac and cheese while watching the cheese being made in front of me! Got some Seattle coffee, baked goods, and of course the clam chowder. (Hands down the best I have ever had!).

    Aside from that, it was so nice to experience a change of pace from what I'm used to with SF. Seattle was definitely similar but it had this really interesting vibe about it. More laid back, more defined. I really loved it. Plus the area my friend lives in is so diverse, everywhere we went had its own charm. She unknowingly found out she lives next to this hole in the wall Vietnamese BBQ spot that Anthony Bourdain swears by. We found this out and went at 9:45pm after having lounged rooftop in her jacuzzi. Perfect Saturday night. Then came home and passed out, haha.

    One other really fun part of the trip for me was driving out to Alki Beach. It was so stunning to see this beach because not only are you staring out into the ocean while laying on the sand but your view is of snow covered mountains. It was truly majestic. The mountains there are something else. I felt like I was Maria in Sound of Music with the backdrop of Austria's mountains almost. It was so beautiful. I seriously can't wait to go back, this was one of those cities that grabs you and leaves you itching for more of it. So, so glad I had the chance to go and feed my wanderlust bug that is yearning for more and more travel ;)

                                          

    #beautyprivilege

    2015/01/img_6315.jpg "Beauty privilege is very real. None of us are imagining it, and if we aren’t born genetic lottery winners, our only option is to compensate with style, grace, and charm. Of course, none of that shit comes cheap. That’s kind of the whole point. It’s all meant to be aspirational and exclusionary. We’re supposed to feel depressed by our skin, agitated by our bodies, and anxious about our invisibility. That’s the insidious subtlety of social control. The worst part is that we know in our rational minds that it’s all bullshit, and yet we’re still plagued with self-loathing when we can’t live up to unattainable beauty standards. No matter how much self-acceptance we achieve, we can still look in the mirror and instantly catalog all the things about ourselves that we don’t think measure up. It’s maddening. It makes us feel like hypocrites even though it’s not our hypocrisy." - The Coquette

    #bestoftheyear

    It seemed only fitting to follow up my goodbye to 2014 post with a look back at some of my favorite memories of the last year. So much has happened in one year that it feels like January was forever ago, but then on the other hand it's all flown by so fast that I am shocked we're at another NYE. As I'm sitting here by the fire, cozying up with my Anthropologie candle, I couldn't be more content. I'm loving that I get to spend my evening blogging about my fondest memories instead of worrying about getting dolled up and having high expectations for some night out. Call it getting older or what you will, not sure what it is — but this year I feel so at peace just staying in, baking cookies, and reflecting on how awesome the year was. So without further ado, here is my top 8 (in no particular order, except maybe the top two, haha).

    1) Moving to SF

    This was definitely the biggest highlight of the year as I'm sure many of you know by now with the past blog posts and whatnot. It was always a dream of mine to experience life in a city, on my own -- being free to explore and truly find myself amidst the hustle and bustle of a city that's not too big and not too small. It's been one of the best decisions I ever made. I have learned things about myself and the world around me by choosing to step outside my bubble and what I've always known. I can't wait to begin year 2 in the city and go on even more adventures.

    2) An impromptu trip to Vegas & partying with the Backstreet Boys

    This was also a blog post in itself so I won't get into the amazing twist of fate that is this epic tale. But I will note again that this one's up there in my top memories of the year. My friend and I decided almost 48 hours before that we were heading on this spontaneous adventure together. What happened later was epic and will always be one of my top memories in life. Read the entire story here.

    3) Soul Cycle

    I tried Soul Cycle for the first time this March and it's honestly changed the way I view fitness and working out completely. I have never really been into exercise, it's more of an after thought. I only get into it like a month before a big trip and I'm feeling fat, haha. But this year after trying Soul Cycle for the first time I was mind blown. Not only did I learn so much about how much exercise can change our moods, our perspective, and stress levels — but I also just feel so much more comfortable in my own skin after being active. Every time I attend one of these classes, I leave feeling I just went out dancing in a club and came out of a therapy session at the same time. It's that cathartic. That's not to say I'm a weekly attendee (ain't nobody got money for that unfortunately, haha) but those experiences have actually led to me being more aware and conscious about how important it is to stay active and fit. I finally joined a gym and looking forward to continuing to keep at it in the year to come.

    4) One of my best friend's weddings in Hawaii

    This summer I was so honored and blessed to celebrate the marriage of two of my oldest and closest friends in HAWAII. The summer was spent prepping for the big day with tons of dress fittings, a girls trip to Napa, a bridal shower, and resting for a week in paradise leading up to the big day. I've attended close to 10 weddings in the last two years so I know how chaotic and stressful of a time it can be. For some reason this one holds such a special place in my heart. Maybe it's because of how close of a bond I share with both the bride and groom. As well as how much humility and character I saw in the precious bride from day 1 til the end of the wedding. It was also such a honor to be up there with her with such an intimate group of us bridesmaids, only 5 of us including sisters from each side of the family. It so awesome praying together, sending email threads of devotionals before the big day, dying of laughter together at the bachelorette, and witnessing one of the most powerful ceremonies. In Hawaii of all spots! True paradise.

    5) Turning 25

    This one was huge. I didn't think I would feel any different because I honestly never do when I initially have a birthday. But for some reason this one was much different. I went into it not having any expectations (a first for me) and it ended up being the best birthday I've had to date I think! Not only was I overwhelmed with love and affection on the day of, but the entire week was so special to me. I heard from so many people I hadn't even seen in so long and I was able to celebrate with those nearest and dearest to me. On top of all that, I really felt like this time, turning one year older made a lasting impact on me. I genuinely feel a year older and I feel the weight of being at that season where I am a quarter-century. It's just been such a defining time. I'm making more life changing decisions and choosing what/whom I want to invest in even more. I've let go of so many old mindsets and I just feel such a wave of contentment. It's such a good feeling. I can't wait for the year to unfold.

    6) Ten year elementary school reunion

    This day was so awesome. I had gone to school with the same ~40 people from first to eighth grade. From age 6 to 14! It's insane. Flash forward ten years later and I decided: we. must. reunite. Although we didn't get as big of a turn out as I wished, it was such a precious time. With only 10-12 of us, we had an intimate lunch and just spent time catching up and reflecting on old memories. It's insane how you can feel distant with certain friends that you do life with daily. And then with others, you can not see one another for close to 10 years and when you do it's as if NOTHING has changed. That's how it felt with this group. It's also something that no one will ever understand, you know? That bond. We did close to nine years of life together. Every day. The bond we share.. having legitimately grown up together.. is one that's unshakeable. I'm so glad we reunited and just the fact that I have stayed in touch with a few of these friends over the course of more than half my life is a feat in itself.

    7) Brunching

    I'm sure by now most of you know how much I love food. Like an insane amount. Sometimes I worry it's an obsession but I deny it. Oh well. Anyways. SF is known for having one of the finest food scenes in the nation so as soon as I moved up, I've had a bucket list of all the places I've wanted to dine at, specifically brunch (my favorite meal, of course). It's been so amazing to try so many incredible dishes. I know I am truly lucky to live in a city where I can take advantage of that on the weekends. Being an avid Yelper, it's been the best feeling to mark off so many of these legendary places with more than thousands of reviews off my bucket list. It might seem so random to some, but amazing food hands down makes my list of top memories for this year :)

    8) Spontaneous nights out with my co-workers

    I couldn't think of just one memory for this one because there are so many nights that stick out to me when I think of this past year. One of the best parts of being a part of a start up like the one I work for is that everyone is relatively in the same age range and that everyone is always down for the most spontaneous things. I can think of numerous nights were we all decided to go out and karaoke after work, or hit up my favorite 90's night and dance until the club kicked us out. What else? Hot dogs from a hole in the wall at 1am, epic concerts where we were front row singing along.. the list goes on! We're so fortunate to have a company who values team morale and community so much that we're always doing something on the weekly. Even if it means staying in the office playing video games until midnight.. we always manage to have a great time together. These memories made my year so much more exciting and full of life.

    Happy New Year, everyone! <3

    #BeYourself

    beyou

    Be You. One of the shortest sentences one can form. Yet one of the most powerful assertions. So what does it mean to be you? What if you don't know who YOU are? Today at work we had a mini offsite for our team that was meant for some team bonding and brainstorming. With only 10 of us, we all went through the book Strengths Finder 2.0 to see what our top five strengths are (or "themes" as they call them). It was so beneficial to go through this with them because when you're working so closely with a team, often times you're left disappointed, confused, or just plain annoyed because you don't know how to deal with them. Maybe you're wondering why they react certain ways to specific situations -- or why they don't react at all. It was so eye-opening to share our results with one another because now I know exactly why they operate the way they do. And most of all, where their top strengths lie. This way we now know how each member of the team can best utilize these strengths to contribute to the team. 

    I highly suggest reading this book and taking the assessment (within a team at work, with your significant other, or just for fun between your family or group of friends). As soon as I finished I wanted to share my results with those around me and curious to hear the results of my good friends. 

    Just for my own reference so I never forget these (and because I'm sure you readers are dying to know all about me!) ... lol, I'll be sharing my top 5, as well as the tidbits from each that stood out most to me. It's interesting because we actually had to read this book for a course I took in high school and I still have it at home. I was comparing my results to the ones I got today (almost 7 years later) and 3 of my 5 strengths have remained the same. The other two are completely new! And in a new order too. Here it goes: 

    1) Empathy

    People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.

    What stood out most: Chances are good that you are attuned to the full gamut of human feelings. Whenever your own or someone else’s life becomes emotionally barren, you search for people and activities to fill the void. You bring people together. Because of your strengths, you frequently detect impending conflict sooner than most people do. Your keen awareness allows you to sense what others are thinking and feeling. Simply put: You have a gift for helping people find common ground. By nature, you pay attention to what others think. You make them feel valued. Typically people sense that you appreciate what they say. This probably explains why many people enjoy spending time with you.

    2) Harmony

    People who are especially talented in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.

    What stood out the most: You realize everyone sees opportunities, problems, solutions, and events differently. While you have opinions, you refrain from imposing them on others. You are good-natured — that is,you have a pleasant, cheerful, and cooperative disposition. Chances are good that you accomplish everything that others are counting on you to do. This is one reason why people admire you. 

    3) Connectedness

    People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

    What stood out the most: Driven by your talents, you sense that everything in life is somehow interrelated and interdependent. This idea fortifies you to calmly face most of life’s challenges and difficulties. ... By nature, you naturally build bonds that unite different types of people who have separate and often clashing agendas. You naturally identify with someone’s situation. You have a gift for helping people discover what they have in common. 

    4) Consistency

    People who are especially talented in the Consistency theme are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same. They try to treat everyone in the world with consistency by setting up clear rules and adhering to them.

    What stood out the most: You might worry that chaos will reign when regulations or standard operating procedures are not uniformly enforced. Because of your strengths, you may have a reputation for straightening up certain types of things such as your desk, home, and personal items. Perhaps you have a detailed plan or schedule for cleaning, organizing, and maintaining your physical environment. By nature, you like creating familiar patterns of behavior. (dead on!) 

    5) Communication 

    People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.

    What stood out the most: Instinctively, you very much enjoy the animated give-and-take of a lively discussion. You yearn to spend time with your friends. Their absence saddens you. It’s very likely that you are sometimes open and honest about who you are, what you have done, what you can do, and what you cannot do. Maybe your straightforward explanations and stories help listeners see you as you see yourself.

    Perhaps your words and examples move them to action. Because of your strengths, you like to
    amuse people with your stories. Your stories probably provide people with pleasant distractions from their daily routines and worries. Chances are good that you select the right combination
    of words to convey your ideas or feelings. You probably express yourself with ease and grace.

    ----

    That's me! Reading these strengths and diving deep into discovering them is one step closer into figuring out who I am and now the challenge is to BE me with no hesitation, fear, or care about who will accept and and who wont. It's liberating. 

    #sfdigs

    I think it's safe to say it's finally time for an update from the Tiger's Den. (Yes, I named my apartment -- because, why not?). It's been almost six months now and the details are all slowly coming together. There's still a lot I want to add to fine-tune my vision, but lets be real, this get expensive! The great thing is that I was able to find a lot of my accent pieces from Target (Nate Berkus collection for the win!). Everything else is things I had from home or from when I was in college. I think the only thing I splurged on was my Anthropologie comforter.  Other than that, my accent wall is in still in progress but I'm so pleased with the first four pieces that came together. Not to mention the people some of them came from! 20140625-212543-77143324.jpg

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    Flower print taken by one of my biggest inspirations, Delbarr Moradi //"Let's Stay Home" off Etsy -- probably my favorite piece in my room so far. Describes me to the T  // (Thank you, Elms, for the find).

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    Breaking Bad vintage wall art from Vietnam via my soul sister

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    #wheninvegas (AKA: The Time I Kissed a Backstreet Boy)

    20140609-213042.jpg Sometimes in life, the spontaneous decisions end up being the most memorable. I'm not talking about going out on a whim and doing something stupid without any wisdom (i.e. the YOLO mentality that so many teens have today), BUT sometimes a little adventure with wisdom is worth it all.

    It all started when I went to go see the Backstreet Boys reunion tour this May. I've been a huge fan of them since I was like 7 yeas old, and I even went to see their reunion tour (the one without Kevin *tear* back in 2009). It just didn't do me justice. As soon as I heard they were coming back -- WITH Kevin -- I knew it would be epic. To put it simply, the show was amazing. Everything I could have hoped for. But for some reason it wasn't enough. At the end of the concert as we were leaving we saw this sign for an after party with the boys for $75. I think we were all so out of it/ tired/ on a high from the show that none of us really made a proactive decision to go to the party. The day passed, I go back to work; back to reality. For some reason that Tuesday at work I just had an itch. I wasn't done and wanted more BSB (cue my inner jr high fanatic, but that's what I felt!). Anyways, I randomly decided to check their tour dates that were still to come. Lo and behold, they were headed to Vegas for a show Friday and Saturday night. Mind you, I had never been to Vegas either and it was kind of like the stars just aligned -- I. Had. To. Go. Hand shaking, I took out my phone and texted a few of my girls to see if anyone would even be remotely down to join me on this adventure. After a few "are you crazy's?!" one of my really close friends texted back with a simple "YES." And the rest is history.

    My friend Sep and I embarked on this entire fiasco, staying up til 1am that Tuesday night, booking tickets/ picking hotels/ dying of laughter at our spontaneity. Friday couldn't come any faster, but as soon as I got out of work that evening, it was on. We flew out and the plane ride itself was the beginning of a story that seems like it was almost out of a movie.

    We ended up upgrading our seats a few rows so we moved up quite a bit. As soon as the plane was about to take off this woman comes rushing in, trying to catch the flight. As she's catching her breath she realizes her seat's been taken (right across us). Funny enough, the seat next to me was empty so she takes it. We don't talk the entire flight but as soon as we were landing, I peered out the window and was admiring the lights on the Strip. She asks, "Oh is this your first time in Vegas or something?" And I replied and told her surprisingly it was. She proceeded to ask if we were going to see any shows while there and I said, "Yeah, don't judge us but we're actually here to see the Backstreet Boys tomorrow night." She laughed and said, "Wow same here. I actually was just at their other show in the Bay Area last weekend too." Right then, Sep and I knew we had found a friend. Another believer, if you will ;) We went on to have a little bonding sesh and then found out the good stuff -- drumroll please -- she ended up being best friends with the Backstreet Boys' head of security. The second she said that I was like, ok this is it. We have to make something happen right now. Sadly she didn't offer any backstage access or a chance to get in the concert for free or any of my other fantasies so I gave up. We get off the plane, head out, and that's that. Suddenly, she asks us if we want to share a cab since our hotels were so close. We said sure and get in the cab. During the drive I noticed her texting a LOT. As soon as we were about to arrive at her stop, she turns to us and says, "What are both of your full names?" *Cue stars in eyes.* She goes on to say, "It's your first time in Vegas, I want to make it memorable — I'm getting you meet and greet passes to their after party tonight.

    I kid you not, we were both like kids on Christmas morning, shocked with no words to express our joy. As soon as she got out of the cab and left, I started screaming like a true 11 year old girl. Our driver got back in the car and had to ask if everything was ok. LOL. We were beyond giddy. Now mind you, we had bought tickets to their concert and after party for Saturday night but this was Friday. So it wasn't even on our agenda but we just went with it. (In addition, we didn't even have a meet and greet ticket, just access to the party party, which we both had no idea what it would entail).

    Even more funny, we come to realize that this after party is being held in our hotel. The hotel we randomly decided to pick out at 1am a few nights before. We check in around 11pm, get ready in a hurry, and rush over to the club. The line was out into the casino floor, but we went up with confidence and poise. In that moment I felt like true VIP royalty. As soon as we mentioned our connection's full name (after a minor glitch), it was like we were Obama and the First Lady. They opened up the velvet ropes, gave us every VIP/ backstage ticket possible and led us up the stairs through the elevator to the roof of the club.

    And then it happened -- we met the boys. They walked in and for a second it almost felt like just seeing your friend out at a club and reconnecting. They were so friendly and down to earth that it seriously felt like we knew them. In that moment all I could ask myself was, "Ok what do you say to BSB?" And we just walked up to them as if they were our best friends -- "Hey guys!" -- to which I was greeted back with a "Hello beautiful" from Howie D. We took our photos, had a few moments with them (which of course, I couldn't contain myself long enough and blurted out a "I've been in love with you since I was 8" to Kevin).

    The crazy thing was, maybe 2-3 people after us, they decided to shut down the photo taking since it was taking too long. The line still had maybe 50+ people in it. Again, divine favor or WHAT?! From that point on, the guys were literally partying with us in the club. We stayed out until 3am, watched Nick Carter DJ, and danced the night away. Which of course included following them around til we got a selfie with each and every one of them. And of course, I went in for the kiss with Kevin. Mind you, interesting point to note is that I was actually air kissing him but he leaned in for complete contact. [I can die happy.] It was epic to say the least.

    We were on cloud 9. And this was only night one. Way to enter Vegas with a bang right? The rest of our trip consisted of hotel admiring, walking, pool lounging, eating, napping, and even me reuniting with a really good friend that I hadn't seen in ten years since our 8th grade graduation. It was perfect. The next night we went to the concert which was almost even better than the first one I went to. YET AGAIN, our lives were made when AJ decided to run off stage during one of their songs and run into the audience. Which row does he run to? Of course us. We were two away from the aisle too so he legit was in our faces, singing .. and holding the girl next to me. Like, I couldn't write this if I tried -- it was so so meant to be for us. And I'll leave it at that.

    Finally, the last part of the whole trip -- which makes the above occurrences so much more worthwhile was when it was time to head to the after party (this was the one we actually had tickets for). We ended up making a stop at another club before the party, thinking it would be fine since the night before they strolled in around 1am. Long story short, we get back to the after party and see a pretty empty club. Barely any action and a slump in the all-around mood. We find out - they came for ~20 minutes, took a few photos, and left because it was their "mellow night" and they were tired of partying from the night before. No Nick DJing, no selfies with AJ, no kissies with Kevin. Imagine our dismay. Here we were, so confident from the night before, ready for part 2 with our boys -- and they were gone! All of these girls who had tickets to the after party were standing there in disappointment. I was on the edge of tears but kept telling myself, "Wait. Last night happened to you. Remember that."

    And with that, we realized how kindred our decision to take this trip was. Everything that happened from start to finish was golden. It will seriously be an experience I treasure for a lifetime with a friend that was the perfect travel partner. In a sense it brought us even closer to share a memory like this together. It was seriously perfect. And while I'm pissed I had paid for a ticket to a party when they barely even showed up, the spontaneous memory I hold of how Friday night went down is probably one of the best moments I have to cherish. And makes for an epic story too, right?

    The cherry on top of all of it was the way my cousin put it, "Imagine if you told 8 year old Naseem that this would happen to her one day." And that kind of just let it all sink in. As sad as one might think it seems, it truly was a "dream come true" in a sense. I wouldn't trade it for anything :) :)

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    #juicing -- the reality behind the hype

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    So last week I gave in to the hype and did a juice cleanse. I don't know what it was but everywhere around me the media is throwing the "health benefits" of juicing in your face. Add to that the pretty packaging of these $12 juices and you've got thousands of young women everywhere who are throwing their money to try a one or three-day cleanse. I personally chose to do the one day cleanse, mostly because I knew that I probably couldn't handle more than a day and also because I wasn't in that driven of a mood to go all out and starve myself for half a week. Here's the skinny: I. Felt. No. Different.

    I'm not sure how much of cleansing becomes placebo because you're already in the mentality of detoxing and cleaning out your system, but to be honest I really felt no different. During the day, there were certain points where I felt lighter but only because I wasn't left with that "full" feeling after a meal. However, that feeling only lasts half an hour or so after a meal anyway -- you go walk it off, you go to the bathroom, whatever you gotta do. If anything I feel like it's sad that I practically starved myself for a day when  I could have been eating clean just to "detox" and try to shed some water weight. Not to mention the fruits and veggies pretty much lose all their fiber-value when you juice them.

    I don't want to be completely negative about the experience because while nothing amazing happened -- nothing terrible happened either. I actually did the cleanse with two other co-workers. One of whom cleanses pretty regularly and LOVES it. The other was a guy and this was his first time doing it. He felt miserable to say the least. Even the next day at work he said he was exhausted. I felt bad for him because I wasn't dying by any extent, but I simply didn't feel much of anything. A lot of people might argue that you have to juice for 3 days minimum or a week to see results, but then I'm curious to ask what results are we searching for?

    A friend posed his speculation really interestingly to me. He was telling me that there is no scientific proof currently about the nutritional value of a juice cleanse. He was reminding me how long certain medicines, herbs, and supplements take to become FDA-approved and for their health benefits to be tested and proven. He said, "what makes what you're doing different than me telling you to simply eat lettuce for 3 days straight?" That really opened my eyes to a different aspect of the whole fitness craze in general. I think as a society, girls especially, we're so antsy for the next big quick fix. And as soon as a craze hits the market we have to jump on the band wagon and try it out. (I'm guilty of it too, the sole reason I did this was to see what all the hype was about). But really, it's kind of sickening when you think about it. Aside from even "I want to lose weight" or "I want to clean out my system" -- what is it with us latching onto what society throws at us like leeches? I was depriving myself of food  that could have provided me with excellent nutritional value to drink 8 juices over 24 hours just because I was TOLD this is what's healthy right now.

    My entire point with this post was to simply share my findings after trying the cleanse and remaining completely unbiased. To be truthful, I hoping to come out of it the next morning and feel AMAZING -- rejuvenated, energized, fulfilled, and lighter. I felt good but no different. In fact I kept asking myself, "So when am I going to feel something?" Again, I could definitely chalk it up to only doing it for a day but it's just so sad that all these businesses who are charging $65+ a day for a pack of juices are eating away at our wallets and we're so quick to believe them and jump right in. It's simple: want to change your health habits and eat healthier? Cut out the junk and start exercising. Nothing extreme about it. And trust me the results appear sooner than you might think. Anyways, enough soap box. But I had to share.

    I challenge you to think the next time you're about to allow yourself to get influenced into something. The media is smart and it's scary. It's in a constant attempt to get us all to look the same, eat the same, talk the same, and think the same. Don't conform.