Monday, December 17, 2018

The Origin of the Christmas Tree

Hi! I haven't posted in forever, and plan to get around to finishing my Europe posts! While it is the holidays, I have decided to post some of my holiday themed posts first and post my other ones later! I apologize if you wanted it the other way around, but I just haven't had time with my new job! :)

So, let's talk about fun Christmas trees! :)

Christmas Trees have been around since the 16th century, where they were first used as decorations inside homes in Germany. Germans would decorate Christmas trees in their homes, and then also would have them outside in town squares. 

Also, rumor has it that Martin Luther was the first one to light candles in Christmas trees, because he wanted to replicate the view of starlight on the leaves of pine trees. 

When German families came to America, they brought this tradition with them. They did this mostly in Pennsylvania, where the German population was bigger. For years they were the only ones using Christmas trees because Christian Americans associated this with Paganism. 

Finally, in the 1840s, Christians came around to the beauty of the Christmas tree and they adopted the practice (thank goodness)! Since then, Christmas trees have been apart of the holiday tradition! 

Also, along with America adopting the tree - Queen Victoria did as well, and was possibly the one that made it popular!  Her and her German husband Albert, had a sketch done of them in front of a Christmas tree, and that really solidified the Christmas tree in the history! 

I went to a tree lot with my cute friend Brittain and loved taking pictures with these beautiful trees! It smelled so good and I loved how beautiful the different kinds of pine trees were! I didn't realize how many kinds there were until I was walking around the lot! :)

What kind of Christmas tree do you use? Real or fake? I grew up with fake but now do real ones in my own home! I love the smell, but hate the mess! I have been loving having my tree up in my house and it makes me so happy every time I walk by! 



Monday, November 5, 2018


I have always wanted to go to Milan, but never really made it a priority in my past trips to Europe. After visiting it, I am mad at myself for waiting so long & I am mad at myself for only having two days there! 

One thing you will learn about me as a traveler is that I do not like wasting time. Michael makes fun of the way that I don't like to relax on vacation. Honestly, I just love exploring and I love to jam-pack my days with everything! When it comes to Europe, I basically run on adrenaline cause my body is so so tired from the long long days & I am happy as can be when I am exhausted in Europe, haha! 

Ok, side note over... Back to Milan! My amazing & cute sister in law lived in Milan as an Au Pair, and so she gave us so many recommendations - check out her cute instagram here. We tried to hit as many recommendations as we could, and still didn't manage to get to them all! If you go to Milan, I definitely recommend this pizza place! Probably the best pizza I have ever had and my sister in law would go here with her host family, so we know it is native approved! ;) She also recommended Gelato Giusto, but we were unable to make it on our trip! 

Milan is an interesting city because we didn't really talk about it much in my art history classes. In the Renaissance, Rome & Florence were the centers of the art scene and Milan really took the back seat. Even though Milan wasn't super popular, it still was a place that Leonard Da Vinci worked at times, and is actually home to the famous Last Supper! 

Related image

Along with housing this famous work, Milan actually was the home base for the Sforza family. The Sforza family, who were basically the Medici family of Milan. They had claim to the Duchy of Milan and were rather large patrons of the arts! Leonardo Da Vinci actually traveled to Milan because he was searching for work & he was actually trying to work for the Sforza family as a military engineer.  In his application (see translated version of his application here), Leonardo lists all of his mechanical abilities, and leaves his artistic ones as a small side note! So crazy that his paintings are the reason he is so famous! The Sforza family is actually the reason the Last Supper was even created, because they are the ones that commissioned it! Sadly, I was unable to get in and see the Last Supper when we were in Milan (pro tip, if you are going to Milan, book a space to see the Last Supper ahead of time!).

While we were there, we did get to see the Duomo. The Duomo is a very interesting Cathedral, and one that was quite controversial since it took centuries to build (from 1386 to 1965!). Over its construction, it had 78 architects... speaking of architects, did you know that Leonardo Da Vinic actually contributed to the plans for the Milan Duomo? I only recently learned this and I am constantly amazed by Leonardo's genius! His plans didn't end up being used though, but Leonardo lived right next to the Duomo and would analyze it everyday! Look at his plans below: 

Along with having a bunch of architects,  there are more statues on the Milano Duomo than any other building in the world! The statues total at 3,159! The Duomo really has seen it all, and is quite hard for me to analyze since there are so many things going on stylistically. John Ruskin critiqued the Duomo and said that the cathedral steals from every style in the world and it spoils each one. He also said that the statues look like they were made by common stonemasons. While Ruskin hated it, Mark Twain visited it and loved it and remarked about how grand it was. When you walk in the Duomo, it is jaw-dropping how tall the entire structure is. I am always impressed by how they could build such grand buildings without modern technology! Although the composition is all over the place, I still think the cathedral is beautiful in its own way. 

One thing that is super fun about visiting the Duomo is the ability to climb to the top of it and see the city of Milan & look at the statues up close. I loved this aspect and thought it really was a neat experience! 

One thing that I really loved about the Milano Duomo was the color and texture of the marble & stone used on it. It is really unique compared to others that I have seen and I think it is my favorite marble that I have ever seen on a cathedral. 

From Milan, we traveled to Venice. I will be posting about that soon haha, I started a new job and I am just a little bit behind on writing all my posts! I am so excited to share all the pretty things I have seen in Venice! 



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Lake Como!

While we were in Europe, we stopped by Lake Como! We only went for a day trip and it was a lot of fun! We took a train from Milan to Varenna and explored the lake by water bus. Lake Como is really beautiful and we loved the town of Bellagio. We also took the water bus to Lenno, which has Villa del Balianello on it, which is a villa that has been used for a James Bond movie and for a Star Wars movie. We didn't go into the villa, but saw it from outside.

my dad sitting after the long hike up. 

After our trip to the lake, I started to wonder what the history of Lake Como was. The geographical location of Lake Como made me wonder if it had been a location of possible political moves. When I looked it up, it appears that I was correct!

Originally, the city of Como was inhabited by a Celtic tribe. The tribe had chosen to start their city in the neighboring hills surrounding the lake. After the Romans took control of the city, Julius Caesar decided to move the city to the lake. Caesar drained the southern tip of the lake an built a walled city, which is where the city of Como is now located. Isn't it so bizarre that the Ancient Romans were that innovative? I am always blow away by the things they did back then! There is a castle in the hills near the current city of Como, which shows you where the Celtic city used to be. There are also still villas surrounding the lake from the Ancient Roman period.

Como was eventually taken over in 774 by Charlemagne and there it became an important trading city. While under Charlemagne, it was a free commune until it was destroyed by the Milanese. Eventually they made peace and Como was set under the rule of the Visconti and Sforza family of Milan. Under these families, Como became a big producer of wool and silk and were the big suppliers of those products for Milan. This makes me think of my silk scarf and how the silk has so much more history than I realized! Como is actually now the site of the National Silk Institute!

Overtime, Como was under many different rulers and was constantly changing alliances. It wasn't until 1859 that it was part of the Italian kingdom again.

One other interesting fact: Mussolini, while trying to escape Switzerland after WWII, was captured in the city of Dongo (a city on Lake Como) and was brought to Mezzegra (another Lake Como city). In Mezzegra, he was executed by firing squad. There is actually an American newsreel from the time about the event online - it is surprisingly graphic! I didn't know they were allowed to show things like that back then.

So there ya go! You probably weren't expecting this kind of blog post... I wasn't either! I am sorry if it was kinda boring, I thought it was super interesting!

some nuns enjoying some gelato



Saturday, October 13, 2018


Michael and I went to Europe two weeks ago and we had a total blast! For our first day, we were in Paris and then we flew to Innsbruck for the UCI World Championships Road Race. Michael does road racing and seeing the UCI World Champs has always been a dream of his, so we made it happen! If you want to see more on my trip, check out my instagram highlights here

Innsbruck is so beautiful. It is like a prettier and cuter version of Park City. It is surrounded by monstrous mountains and has the prettiest architecture. On our first day, we watched the woman's race in the city. It was pretty cool seeing these bikes race by the beautiful buildings and the river.

Watching the men's road race on the second day there was super fun because we had to climb up into the mountains and to see some of the fun areas of the race with hills. Before going to Innsbruck, Michael and I watched Sound of Music (childhood favorite) and I had the songs stuck in my head the entire time were were there (not mad about it).

While we were up in the hills watching the race, we had some extra time and so we stopped by Ambras Castle. The art historian in me couldn't pass up an opportunity to see the "oldest art museum". Ambras Castle is a beautiful Renaissance castle that is closely related to Archduke Ferdinand II, who was  a big collector of art. He had an interesting museum of art & curiosities, which contains the oldest collection of Asian art acquired by Europeans. He also had portraits of strange people (see below). 

My favorite part of the castle was the Spanish Hall. This beautiful hall has the the most intricate wood ceiling and is lined with the portraits of the rulers of Tyrol. It is truly magnificent and the colors are just gorgeous. The portrait style is not my favorite, but the hall wouldn't be as beautiful without the artwork. 

I had to have Michael take some pictures of me outside too because the weather was so beautiful and I loved the details everywhere in the castle. So crazy that it was built so long ago. I love the use of grisaille in the courtyard. Grisaille is the when the artist uses monochromatic colors to imitate sculpture in their paintings, and you can see that in the courtyard. 

Don't you just love the beautiful green to red vines next to that bright red bannister? It is so beautiful! 

I honestly need to smile more in my pictures, cause I really don't look like I am enjoying myself! So moody looking in that photo, haha! While I look displeased, I absolutely loved Ambras Castle and Innsbruck! I am happy we made it happen!



Saturday, September 22, 2018

History of Eyebrows

Growing up, I never really cared much about my eyebrows until I saw my oldest sister plucking hers. I think it was so cool and always wanted to have the thin plucked eyebrows that she did. I remember being too scared to pluck them (cause ouch), and so I took scissors and trimmed all the hairs short on one brow. I then realized this looked horrible and cried. I then took a marker and tried to color them in, but that just looked terrible. I remember being so embarrassed when my mom realized what I had done, it was not a good day for me haha. After that, I didn't touch my eyebrows (except the uni-brow plucking) until after I was married to Michael and my eyebrows were slightly colored in for my wedding day because the makeup artist did them.

Look at those practically untouched brows!

now look how those are over-plucked and too dark!! :/
Since being married, there have been some times that I plucked my eyebrows too thin, or drew them in too dark. It is funny how cringey it feels looking at what I had done to myself. I will attach some pictures, haha. I am not finally at a point where I love my eyebrows, and I think I found a good base (watch, i'll be regretting it in the future for some reason). I decided to make a youtube video on it. Watch below:

Looking back at the eyebrows of history (here is a good article  if you don't want to read what I have to write), I realize that messing with your eyebrows just seems like the natural part of womanhood.

The "Darnley Portrait" of Elizabeth I of England, 1575.
Let's look at Queen Elizabeth I, in her portraits she has no eyebrows. This is possibly because it was a fashion trend, but also because Queen Elizabeth would apply a makeup substance to her skin called Ceruse, which is basically a mixture of white lead and vinegar. Her maids would apply layers and layers to give her the "mask of youth". This process was damaging to her skin, and probably covered up any eyebrows that she had - even possibly causing them to fall off.

The use of ceruse probably plays into Elizabeth's brow-less portrait, but also it seems like having little to no brows was a popular trend of Medieval-Renaissance period because it made your forehead look bigger, which was a surprisingly desired look for the time.

We also can't forget the infamous brow-less portrait of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa (1503). It is still up for debate the brow-less portrait was intentional. The researcher, Pascal Cotte, discovered in scans that the Mona Lisa used to have eyebrows, and they were possibly removed through the countless cleanings it has experienced. So strange right??

Margaret, Lady Tufton, ca. 1632, Anthony Van Dyck
During the 1700 and 1800s, women beauty standards changed and eyebrows were typically "well divided, rather full than thin; semicircular, and broader in the Middle than at the Ends." According to André Félibien, a French historian. You can see the more full brow in the photo above. 

There has been so many dramatic changes in eyebrows in the last 100 years. We have gone from the shaved off and drawn on eyebrows, to the full natural brows. Here is fun video that shows the development of eyebrows through history above ^^^^.

Now this is all the western culture, in the east, there are even more eyebrow trends that were being explored
“Women of the Tang Dynasty paid particular attention to facial appearance, and the application of powder or even rouge was common practice. Some women’s foreheads were painted dark yellow and the dai (a kind of dark blue pigment) was used to paint their eyebrows into different shapes that were called dai mei.

So, brows have gone through a lot in history. I know I didn't touch on everything, but hopefully the video from Vogue fills in some gaps! I am know that I am happy that I don't have to wear my eyebrows like they did in the 1920s! All that plucking! I am very pleased with my eyebrows today and hope you enjoy my tutorial!

thx for reading!