CHIC PLACES: LA TROPEZIENNE FRENCH BAKERY

I came across this place on Instagram... as expected in the year 2019. Aside from looking like a perfect spot to settle in for a couple hours, the bakery itself has some delicious treats and outstanding coffee. The croissant was so big and buttery I ended up actually leaving some behind, not without a mountain of regret less than an hour later. 


I sat here for a good hour and a half, catching up on emails, sipping coffee and debating whether or not it was cool enough in West Hollywood that day to legitimize my thick sweater choice. I didn't get much more than ten minutes to read the featured spread about the new Downton Abbey movie in Town & Country, which I hope everyone reading this has already seen and loved as much as myself. How witty and clever the writing was, with so many heartwarming moments and all the glamorous details we were craving since the beloved show's final episode. 


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But before leaving to start my day, I also happened to have a random, but nice chat with the girl sitting next to me. I must say it's quite reassuring that in the year 2019, when almost everyone is attached to some type of screen for hours on hours each day, that I can still meet a person face to face and have a nice conversation. Is it baffling to think people still meet each other in real life? Particularly at quaint little coffee shops like this one?


So where exactly is this quaint little Parisian cafe, where one might sit and meet a perfectly normal stranger? La Tropezienne is located on La Brea Avenue in the La Brea neighborhood  near West Hollywood, but they also have a spot in downtown Los Angeles with a black and white checkered floor I'm eager to visit. 


In addition to my delicious croissant, I also snagged a pretty lemon tart for my sugar addicted husband, who was so grateful and was more than willing to trek back down to the garage to devour it, despite the fact it had been sitting in my trunk for a few hours. And I came home happy to have found yet another great option for a lazy afternoon or productive morning, depending on my mood that day. 


-MGN

FALLING FOR FALL: AN AUTUMN INSPIRED BIRTHDAY GIFT + CAKE


My sister's birthday is in October... but these goodies actually aren't for her! Sorry Becky, but I figured my October loving friend Leila would benefit a bit more from a pumpkin spice latte cake with seasonal rap lyrics and a basket full of fall festivities. So where in the world did I find a pumpkin spice latte cake you may ask? SusieCakes- arguably my favorite cake place in Los Angeles- where I religiously order the marble cake each year for my birthday. But when I went to place an order for Leila, I am so glad I checked the website first before calling, as I was struck by the most #basic cake flavor. And given my obsession with writing Drake lyrics on cakes, I figured this line from The Weekend's Starboy was perfectly appropriate given Leila and I's joint obsession of all things Autumn and hip hop. 



Her actual birthday present, like most of my good ideas, came to me while bored and not distracted by my phone, waiting in line at the grocery store. We could all use another basket for random stuff and so I did my best to make it as cozy as possible by adding a snuggle-worthy blanket, festive candle, cozy cookbook, the Hocus Pocus movie and more. The candle is from The Little Market and I encourage you to visit their online shop and browse all the amazing scent options they have, the champagne is obviously my favorite. They also monogram them in store, if you live in Los Angeles make sure to visit them at the Palisades Village. I love that all the proceeds go to independent female artisans across the world and everything they have is so cute! 


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The other things I added like creme brûlée coffee, pumpkin sauce, fall colored pasta, a coffee scrub and real pine cones to garnish are pretty easy to find at places like Tuesday morning, Target and HomeGoods. I also considered adding a seasonal fiction novel, a cute mug and mini pumpkins to garnish - all good additional options. I linked similar items from my basket but you can really use whatever you know your person will like! The last basket I made was summer themed for another friend who's birthday was at the end of May, so the idea isn't limited to October/November birthdays. 



-MGN

CHIC PLACES: THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

Dreams are coming true here... I'll be honest, I am not the biggest theme park fan. I love a museum, a movie, a fashion exhibit, a late lunch...etc. I've been to Disneyland twice since living in Los Angeles and I am saving the next trip for my future children. But the second I heard about Universal Studios opening a Harry Potter themed park a few years back I was not far from booking a ticket to Florida, Orlando, not Miami. Fortunately, the Los Angeles park got it's own version not too long after and I immediately felt the immense pressure to live out my childhood fantasy. I have since been twice, most recently with my sister who of course felt the same strong calling to venture into the replica of Hogsmeade, the fictional town outside Harry's famed boarding school, Hogwarts. For all fans hoping for a Diagon Alley don't worry, the Los Angeles location still includes all the charming little shops your small English countryside town dreams inspire, just beware of the butterbeer, the sugar content alone is worse then the Cruciatus curse! Enjoy. 




My first thought upon entering this magical place was; it's small! Which there is no sugar coating around, I haven't been to the original in Florida, however, I have heard that it is bigger and has a bit more than it's Los Angeles counterpart. However, I will say that it was still a wonderful experience and most certainly worth doing, especially if you're not willing to commit to a vacation in Orlando. 




We arrived pretty early, despite the theme park's own advice to visit later in the day, as we just couldn't contain our own excitement. However, I think I will have learned by my third visit to go in the afternoon/early evening, as the lines will be shorter, the sun less blaring and the atmosphere a bit more like the Hogwarts we expect; particularly one with less strollers. 

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On our way into Hollywood, my sister and I had quite a long drive and so per her suggestion we listened to a perfectly befitting podcast called Binge Mode: Harry Potter which offers wonderfully thought out recaps and commentary on each and every Harry Potter book. My sister absolutely loves the podcast and apparently they also recap the wildly popular Game of Thrones show as well. It was fun listening to some of the thematic connections made by the hosts who clearly have done their research and are great fun to listen to. I'll be honest that one of the things I look forward to most about becoming a parent someday is re-reading the books to my future children. Right now, my only option is a sleepy French bulldog who's likely to be much more interested in chewing paper edges than the magical journey of a young British orphan, but I digress.





Like I said before, the attraction is setup to be Hogsmead, the small fictional town nearest to Hogwarts, which in the books and movies is typically frequented by the students in the wintertime while at school, hence the snow-capped buildings. Hogsmead still has the infamous wand shop from Diagon Alley and candy store, among others. You can certainly get any and all the different wizarding house paraphernalia you like and I am fairly certain an unsolicited sales person determined I belonged in Hufflepuff, based on limited and likely unfounded, anecdotal information I might add. 




However, I was most excited about the thoughtfulness behind Three Broomsticks's, the tavern-like eatery Harry and his friends would drink butterbeer at assuming the legal drinking age in the magical world (and Europe) ceases to exist. I think they did a fantastic job creating a very on brand menu, with turkey legs, fish & chips, Shepard's pie and also some reliably kid friendly snacks. I also really appreciated the Hog's Head bar, with a full bar menu; a perfect stop before waiting in a 45 minute line for the main attraction. 




And a main attraction it was. I loved it so much on my first visit, that I got everyone to ride it four times that day. I am extremely impressed with how well drawn to scale the castle was, appearing perfectly from every angle we could see it, let alone the fabulous interiors which housed real set designs from the films. On my first visit the lines weren't too long, particularly because we went later in the afternoon, however, my second visit was quite a long line and unfortunately without a refreshment from the Hog's Head bar. But once inside the castle, the decoration is truly spectacular, with all the elements that came to life in both my childhood imagination and on the big screen, the portrait of the singing lady being my favorite one of all. 




All the elements and digital effects leading up to the ride were great and the ride itself very entertaining, my only wish is that it lasted about 20 minutes longer! It was combination of traditional ride effects and big screens with very effective wind effects; I really felt like I was flying around Hogwarts and it was so fun. My only complaint is the big spider who spits in everyone's face which I found very distasteful. I really hope they invent a broomstick I can fly on before the end of my lifetime, especially for those of us living in Los Angeles traffic. 



The other attraction wasn't too special but fun for younger kids I suppose and had a nice little setup resembling Hagrid's home. After many rides we eventually collected a bunch of treats from the candy shop and made our way back into the real world. I must say, visiting this place was very fun but left me craving a long weekend experience in the English countryside, with Harry Potter themed activities and an open bar. If anyone in England reads this can you please create an opportunity for us all to go to Hogwarts, but without any tests or scary spiders please? 


-MGN

SANTA MONICA BEACH APARTMENT TOUR: MY DESK AND FAVORITE "SCHOOL" SUPPLIES


I know back to school content has likely passed... but since I am just getting back at it, and really only care about grown up school supplies right now, I figured this would be the perfect time to share my little desk situation from our last home. Before moving into our unfinished condo, Arthur and I shared a one bedroom apartment with amazing views, but very little space. So this desk has continued to serve as my little slice of freedom and inspiration, and despite my strong preference for Arthur not to hang a giant television above it, I will say it worked out somewhat in my favor, as I would often watch The View or Bravo reruns while I worked away. And I am excited now for my desk to find a whole new purpose in our new home, whenever I can actually unwrap it and put it together. Hopefully this time it rests under a beautiful live version of a Pinterest board, instead. Enjoy! 



Not sure what you like to drink while you work but like most people coffee is my drug of choice, usually plain black, but I am also obsessed with vanilla lattes so I try to squeeze them in whenever I can. Fortunately we have an espresso maker that I have learned to use and foam my almond milk with and I even purchased the same vanilla syrup my favorite coffee shop uses, as a desperate attempt to avoid paying $6 for one everyday. However, when I do splurge from time to time, they are soooo worth it and pair very well with their delicious alfajores cookies, just in case you were wondering! 





After my coffee situation gets settled I tend to sit down and get to work. I have had this desk now for almost eight years, ever since coming to Los Angeles for graduate school. It's been with me for all of it; late night papers, the start of Gisele Chic, studying for my licensing exams, planning my wedding, endless episodes of The Real Housewives while simultaneously inhaling Whole Foods sushi. As a creative, I've always appreciated a clean space with good energy, and more importantly, beautiful things on top to keep me forever inspired and excited. Like I always say, pretty desk, pretty good chance of getting work done. 





To stay organized I am still completely old fashioned with my physical agenda and paper to-do lists. Even though I use apple calendar and the notes app on my iPhone, having a real life schedule is extremely essential to keeping me on top of everything. Fortunately, we still have lots of great options for chic and practical products, which I hope never changes. My go to agenda is from a small company in Maine, that makes really high quality leather products and does a pretty good job monogramming. The color and font selection is very old school but the reason I keep coming back each year is for the professional planner I have become so accustomed to. It lays out each day, hour by hour so it's a really great visual for my work appointments. For my personal life I just use the calendar on my iPhone but I kind of wish I used a real agenda, maybe one day I will just have one for it all, hopefully a Symthson (#goals) if I'm lucky! 

For to-do lists I tend to use a very basic notepad but I also love this little pocketbook my friend monogrammed for me, it was especially handy for wedding planning as I kept almost all my tasks and meeting notes in there and is kind of a nice memento to keep. Sugar Paper also does monogramming onsite if you happen to visit them in store which is the quickest item I have ever had monogrammed. I have also used their agenda one year when my usual one wasn't able to ship in time, which was great because of how easy it opened and the super quick monogramming! 




If I could give one piece of advice about organizing both an aesthetically pleasing and functional desk it would be to utilize trays, boxes and books. My palm leaf tray is a wonderful reminder of my favorite hotel but also serves as home base for a lot of the cute, but easy to loose office supplies. Even without fully stylizing a tray, just having things grouped in one will make your desk look 90% less cluttered. 

Since I'm a sucker for cute packaging, I tend to keep lots of boxes that are just too adorable to throw out, for example, the cookie tin container from Sant Ambroeus or the macaroon box from Ladurée which just happens to be the perfect size for the matchboxes I collect (again with the nice packaging) but would also make a perfect spot for paperclips, pushpins, business cards- all the small and easy to loose things that would be so annoying to have sprawled out everywhere. I also love keeping cards from friends and family so I have about 2-3 boxes currently storing those and I will sometimes stack them on top of one another, which if done right can look really nice. 

Books, just like on a coffee table (or closet shelf) work in every space as great decor, but on a desk they can provide more surface space for papers, mail, a handbag, and add a little dimension to the desk in a more stylish way. And I of course didn't invent the genius idea to use a mint julep cup for pens or the occasional single peony but I am beyond grateful for whomever did. 





Perhaps the most practical desk item, however, hands down is this uber chic hanging file! It's absolutely perfect for keeping papers OFF MY DESK. It's a total pet peeve of mine when I have unfiled papers on my desk and I have no idea where to put them. I will often just grab another pink file and create a tab for it just to get it away from my workspace. The hanging files come in so many colors and its the perfect pop my desk needed. If you need more than one you can always store more below but so far I have gotten pretty good at cleaning them out and shredding whatever I don't need anymore. 





The least practical, but most beautiful items on my desk are of course my fabulous blue and white ginger jars that really when you think about it, belong everywhere in my home. Sometimes I will fill them with flowers but typically I have them stand alone and just add a nice energy and color. Flowers are self explanatory. At one point I did have fake flowers but now I just can't, give me the real thing or nothing at all. I've linked a bunch of favorites here but I strongly recommend finding vintage ones at antique stores or Home Goods!





-MGN