Category Archives: Travel

Embracing Awareness with Hearts

Happy Earth Day! In honor of today, I want to tell you guys about a wonderful fashion e-commerce retail site I discovered last week that inspires people to think differently about what they buy. Consumerism can impact change on a global scale and that’s why Hearts believes in conscious consumerism, which only comes with transparency–meaning you know the facts about the items you purchase. Do you ever question whether the products you buy exert a high impact on the earth? Are they ethically sourced? You get the picture.

Creating Change with Conscious Minds

Hearts is part of a growing fashion movement that collaborates with artisans in the U.S. and around the globe to offer rare, chic designs that keep “people and planet” in mind. Eco-friendly materials are used whenever possible and items are crafted with low-impact processes. What I love most about Hearts is their mantra of working toward conscious consumerism and demanding that other companies do the same. And that you can purchase products from around the world (you know how much I love anything travel-related!) that you cannot find here.


Fashioning a Better Future

What exactly can you buy on the Hearts website? Bags, jewelry, fashion accessories–you name it! They make it easy to find what you’re looking for too. You can shop by Process, Materials, and World Causes, for example. Or you can find your own style within the Hearts collection and shop by your personal style: Advocate, Peacemaker, Explorer, Ambassador, Rebel, or Historian.

I was personally drawn to the Hearts site by their really cool, different items made from natural materials. But once I learned the story behind the brand, I was even more interested in supporting their business. How great would it be if for every item you ever bought, you’d be able to learn exactly where it came from, how it was made, and how your purchase would benefit the artisan(s) who made it?

If you care about fashion and world affairs, and would like to learn more about Hearts’ Product Values, head on over to their site for a ton of info on how fashion can positively affect people and the planet.

Where do you usually shop for environmentally-friendly, sustainable products?


Disclosure: Hearts did not ask me to write this nor did I receive any compensation for this post. I just really love what they’re doing!

Movies that Travel

Wanderlust is something that ails me daily. The truth is, I just want to travel. I’ve always been this way and will be for life. This much I know! But just because I have the travel bug 24/7 doesn’t mean I get to do so nearly as much as I wish I could. On those days when I really need to escape to some place new but can’t quite afford it or find the time, I like to indulge in movies that literally move me.

Great Escape

That’s the awesome thing about movies. They provide us with a momentary departure into a world that is not our own. And aside from jumping into someone else’s storyline, what better way to truly feel like you’ve entered another world than for it to be set in a location that is foreign to you? Being the travel junkie that I am, it’s no surprise that I gravitate toward movies that take place in far off lands. And when a city becomes a character in a movie, much like they do in most recent Woody Allen films, well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

Image via Sun Sentinel

Eat Pray Love – Image via Sun Sentinel

The List

Here are my top 15 picks for movies that will have you traveling without ever moving. And if you do happen to add them to your Netflix queue, let’s hope they do inspire you to get moving…at least to your computer so you can research (and possibly plan) your next trip!

Disclaimer: These aren’t in any particular order. Also, I’m not saying that these are necessarily great movies, though I do happen to have enjoyed all of them; the point is that they’ll have you immersed in another city or culture for about two hours of (free!) travel bliss.

There are so many more I wanted to include but I had to narrow it down for you guys! What other travel-inspiring movies would you add to the list?

Cooking up a Career Dreams are Made of

Master Chef Brendan Cronin’s career in the hospitality industry has taken him all over globe—from his hometown in the west of Ireland to hotels in Limerick, Dublin, the Swiss Alps, Africa, and Asia. To this day, he remains the only Irish chef to have been given the prestigious international culinary title of ‘Chef de Cuisine Diplomé,’ or Swiss Master Chef; quite a feat for someone who’s had to struggle with overcoming the general misconception that the Irish can’t cook.

In his book, Cheffin’ from Potatoes to Caviar, Brendan takes us on a journey of cooking and travel. With humor and Irish wit, he tells the story of how he followed his dreams to become a skilled chef as he worked in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Filled with funny anecdotes from the kitchen, he ends each chapter with a mouth-watering recipe. Whether you’re a foodie, or just simply love to eat, you’ll enjoy this behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to become a professional chef in the fiercely competitive international hospitality industry.

An adventure of food and travel? I’m already hooked! I had the chance to speak with Brendan about his journey and book. Be sure to check out the delicious lobster salad with mango recipe he’s sharing with us after the Q & A!


MissAnaMon: What made you want to become a chef?

Brendan Cornin: I was encouraged by mother when I was about 12 years old, as she saw my interest in food when I helped her in the kitchen of our bed and breakfast on our small dairy farm in the west of Ireland. She set up an interview for me with a local hotel training college. I got accepted with a scholarship for my associate’s degree in Hotel Management and Culinary Arts, and left home to study and work there at the age of 14. My career developed from there, which is the story the book is based on.

MissAnaMon: Why did you write Cheffin’ from Potatoes to Caviar?

Brendan Cronin: My mother suggested it! After reading a few short stories on travel and cooking that I had written for a school project, she said, “Brendan, you should write a book about this.” I dismissed her comment at the time and the stories sat on the living room bookshelf for 12 years before I wrote Cheffin’ from Potatoes to Caviar. By the way, the title “Cheffin'” is what locals in my village assumed is what I would be doing professionally, as at the time in the farming community, it was unusual for men to cook. Women cooked and apparently chefs cheffed—hence the title. The tagline “from Potatoes to Caviar” is intended to reflect my professional transition from my childhood of picking potatoes on our farm to later on serving caviar in the five-star hotels of the world; the two extremes of culinary ingredients—the lowly starch and the revered delicacy, which actually go quite well together… with the addition of a little sour cream.

MissAnaMon: How did you overcome the “Irish can’t cook” misconception?

Brendan Cronin: It was difficult in the beginning in Switzerland, and later in Southeast Asia, because Ireland was not renowned for its cooking—actually, the opposite was true—and fellow chefs would look at me as if to say: “Who let this Irish guy in to cook in a five-star hotel kitchen?” But as time went by—and thanks to my many years working in Swiss hotel kitchens—it got much better. Obtaining my Certified Swiss Master Chef’s qualification put that misconception to bed. In the meantime, Irish cuisine has evolved in leaps and bounds!

MissAnaMon: How have your travels influenced your cooking?

Brendan Cronin: Tremendously! I acquired taste memories, which I describe in the book, that will stay with me forever. Through traveling I have developed a tremendous admiration for any chef/cook who prepares good and nutritious food, either professionally or in the home, regardless of their qualifications. My palate has broadened and I eat almost any food. I developed a respect for cultures and beliefs, and appreciate and respect the differences between people. This mindset has helped me get along with everyone I meet along the way in kitchens and restaurants around the world. As a result, I only applied for one position in my professional career—all the other positions were referrals or chefs contacting me directly. In essence, travel created a network for me.


Lobster Salad with Mango Recipe Cheffin Food-0018

Ingredients for 6 people:

6 cooked, shelled lobster tails

12 cooked, shelled lobster claws

6 cherry tomatoes

6 finely shredded romaine lettuce leaves (mesclun greens are a good substitute)

2 ripe mangos

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper mill to taste

Optional: chopped black truffles




Place the shredded romaine in the center of a large plate.

Slice the lobster tails and arrange attractively on the romaine.

Decorate the lobster tails with the mango sauce.

Finally, add the lobster claws with the point facing upward and add the cherry tomatoes and a sprig of chives.

To make the sauce:

Remove the stone and skin from the mango and cut the flesh into pieces.

Puree in a blender and drizzle in the oil with the motor running.

Add sherry vinegar to taste.

Season with salt and pepper mill.


Stir in a little sour cream or plain yogurt to the sauce for added creaminess and an extra sharp flavor.


A little extra on the side… I asked Brendan what his cooking tips are for those who are still learning their way around the kitchen. “Do not be intimidated by what is on TV reality shows. It’s television and supposed to be sensational. Use these shows as an inspiration but not as self-judgment (e.g. “I could never do that!”). Begin cooking simple dishes using fresh, local ingredients for friends and family. Experiment with flavors, presentation styles, and plate designs/colors. Ask for feedback and take it graciously; then incorporate it and taste again. Learn the basic culinary techniques as they’re the pathway to understanding how food reacts during the cooking process. There is something to be learned from everyone. Be respectful of the entire kitchen team, including the dishwasher!”

To purchase Cheffin’ from Potatoes to Caviar, visit createspace for the paperback version, Amazon for the Kindle edition, or Lulu for a hardcover copy.


How to Travel Comfortably yet in Style

Travel Chic

It’s the middle of winter and the temperature has been frigid lately here in the northeast. What better time to plan a spring break getaway? Aside from fantasizing about what you’ll wear on vacation, you should also think about what to wear when you’re on your way. The goal is to look good but stay comfortable, especially depending on how long your flight is!

One of the things to consider when picking out your travel outfit is how to make it easy on yourself when going through the TSA security line. Pick a pair of shoes that easily slip on and off without pesky laces to worry about, such as every-trendy cowboy boots, which have a slight heel to add some glam.

Something else to ponder is whether you’re usually hot or cold on airplanes. You never quite know what it’s going to be like on the plane, so the trick is to either wear layers, or go for a light jacket and scarf to keep you warm just in case, but wear a short-sleeved shirt underneath that won’t make you feel too hot either. Also, make sure that the jacket isn’t too bulky, since you’ll have to probably carry it on you for the duration of the flight.

As for pants, I usually go for jeans because they fit well, are always comfy, and go with pretty much everything. And unless you enjoy taking multiple carry-on bags with you, go for a large handbag like this tote, which will fit most essentials and will keep your stress at a minimum.

Belts and jewelry are accessories that will add some chic to your wardrobe but you may want to think twice about wearing a watch since it will be one more item to take off while on the security line. Finally, never, ever forget to bring pair of sunglasses. Why? Well, you can hide your tired, jet-lagged eyes (believe me, you’ll be glad you have them with you once you arrive at your final destination), and those peepers should always be protected from harmful UV rays.

So, what are some of your airport fashion must-haves?

Get the look above: