Refugees Welcome: Exit West


Refugees Welcome

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Can you believe we are SIX MONTHS into 2019?  June is one of my favorite times of the year, not solely because it’s Spring and the start to Summer weather, but also because I get to talk about a topic that I love very much.  For those who don’t know, I work in the immigration field where my subject matter expertise is asylum and refugee law.   June is World Refugee Month, so I wanted to present some of my favorite books documenting the world’s most vulnerable humanitarian migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.  Every year on June 20th, the United Nations commemorates “the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.”  The United Nations chose June 20th as the national day of recognition because every 20 minutes, people leave everything they have – their home, jobs, even family and friends – to escape war, persecution or terror.  For more information on humanitarian migrants and World Refugee Day, visit here

For June’s book of the month, I chose author Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West.  Hamid tells the fictional refugee story of Saeed and Nadia.  After meeting in a class at their University, Saeed and Nadia begin their attempt at dating, just as any young college lovebirds would do. However, their curiosity and desire for one another comes at the most inconvenient time, at the beginning of a civil war in their home country.  At first, it’s simple checkpoints by the government’s army and countering militias.  Then, it’s mandatory curfews. Next, there’s no internet, cell phone or television service.  Finally, there’s no city power, clean drinking water or food.  Both Nadia and Saeed hear gunfire in the distance of their respective homes, but it’s not until Saeed’s mother is killed by a stray bullet that Nadia finally takes Saeed up on his offer and moves in with him and his father.  When Saeed makes contact with a human smuggler to help him and Nadia escape their now war torn country, Saeed’s father refuses and the two young college students – who have never left the boundaries of their country – must put their lives into the hands of strangers to help them escape to safe territory.  Exit West tells their year-long story of escaping to safety and the troubles they face along the way.

What I liked…

I thought Hamid did an excellent job portraying the difficulties refugees face during their journey to a safe haven.  Nadia and Saeed made it to several countries, including Britain and Greece, before finally making it to America.  Hamid not only illustrated the strain that escaping war can have on a family, or two people who believe they’re in love, but also the additional challenges that refugees face along their escape route.  Nadia and Saeed had their money taken by a stranger who promised to smuggle them into another country, only to not disappear; they had to live in overcrowded refugee camps and work for little to nothing; and, were even faced with threats by xenophobic protestors. 

I also really enjoyed Hamid’s writing style.  For example, there were instances in almost each chapter where Hamid would throw in a quick paragraph about another character – almost seemingly in a parallel universe – where the author attempts to illustrate how the refugee crisis affects this person.  Hamid attempts to demonstrate to the reader that the current humanitarian crisis affects all of us, in diverse ways.  I thought that these short paragraphs were equally compelling as the main story.

I also greatly enjoyed the character development of both Nadia and Saeed.  Nadia is independent, strong willed, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  Nadia wears an all-black veil and gown, similar to a Muslim Abaya, but doesn’t consider herself religious and she doesn’t practice strict prayer like Saeed.  She notes to Saeed that she wears the gown not for religious reasons but almost as protection against unwelcome harassment by men in the streets; that anything contemporary (e.g., jeans and a shirt) would be inviting to some in a misogynistic society.  And even as she travels over the next year, long escaping her home and war, she continues to wear her gown in public.  The gown has religious and cultural symbolism but Nadia’s refusal to pray, or even continue to speak her country’s language, begins to annoy Saeed, as he sees this as a contradiction.  Saeed is much more traditional and doesn’t want to forget where he came from, seeking out other refugees who both look like him and speak his language.  While Nadia understands that they may never see their country again, Saeed doesn’t want to lose hope that one day they will return, searching for ways to hold on to his roots in a new world.

What I didn’t like…

I couldn’t think of one thing that I disliked about this book.  It was a fast read, finishing in one day; and, I’ll likely read it again in the future.  Mohsin Hamid has other publications, including Moth Smoke, that I will likely pick up this Summer. 

I hope you enjoy Exit West if you haven’t read it yet.  If you have, feel free to share your thoughts on this novel.  As always, here are additional recommendations on some other refugee stories.

You may also like…

Shop This Post

Pajama Set: Sant and Abel x Donald Robertson Team Immigrant Pajamas available here and here.


Deep Fried Strawberry Glazed Biscuits


Prep Time: 15 minutes minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes

What You’ll Need:

1 can of Pillsbury Buttermilk Grands Southern Homestyle Biscuits

2 cups of liquid Coconut Oil

1/2 cup of fresh Fresh Strawberries

1 tablespoon of Refined Sugar

1/2 cup of Dried Strawberries

1 bar of white chocolate


First, heat coconut oil in deep fryer or frying pan. Pull apart biscuit dough and place in heated oil. Cook until golden brown on each side (approximately 3-5 minutes).


Next, place cooked biscuits on napkin covered plate and allow oil to drain.

For the strawberry glaze, boil water in saucepan or pot. Bring water to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer. Place white chocolate in heatsafe bowl, at center of boiling water. Stir frequently until melted. Do NOT attempt to melt chocolate in microwave as it will burn!


Then, purée fresh strawberries in blender. Mix puréed strawberries with melted white chili ale. Drizzle over biscuits.


Lastly, grind dried strawberries into powdery substance. Add refined sugar or sweetener. Sprinkle over biscuits and enjoy.


Serve with a glass of Veuve Cliquot Brut Rosé, chilled, with a fresh lemon and / or strawberries. It’s the perfect new brunch item for rosé season. I loved this recipe so much (and the easiness of it) that I think I may make it again but with peaches. I hope you babes enjoy!


My First Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic


It’s Clicquot season!

I finally attended my first ever Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic at Liberty State Park in New Jersey this past weekend! I have seen this event posted all over social media for a few years now, so, I appropriately placed it on my bucket list of things to do in NYC. The champagne dynasty did NOT disappoint! Each year, Veuve Clicquot hosts a polo match for the kick off of summer on the East Coast. Since this was my first appearance — and decidedly will not be my last — I wanted to provide you all with a quick guide and answer all of your questions in the event that some of you’d would want to attend next year’s event, or maybe even check out the West Coast end-of-summer Polo Classic in Los Angeles.


Don’t get left behind!

This year, the polo match took place on Saturday, June 1st from 11:00 a.m. (EST) to 6:00 p.m. (EST). It appears from their website that the event usually takes place on the first Saturday of June. Veuve Clicquot releases tickets every April. If you are an American Express cardmember, you could purchase early bird tickets before general release to the public, for $150 (NYC departure only). For General Admission tickets, there were three price points with the first release at $90; the second release at $110; and, the third release at $130.

For general admission, ticket holders receive:

  • Transportation to and from either Manhattan or Jersey City to the Liberty State Park.

  • Access to champagne bars, merchandise tents, lawn games and food trucks.

  • First come, first serve open lawn seating.

Veuve Clicquot also offers VIP access known as the Rosé Garden for $475. Rosé Garden ticket holders receive:

  • Transportation to and from either Manhattan or Jersey City to the Liberty State Park.

  • Priority boarding lane for transportation shuttle (Jersey City) or ferry (Manhattan).

  • One bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé.

  • Individual gourmet lunch.

  • Dedicated entry and photo moments.

  • Access to champagne bars, merchandise tents, lawn games and food trucks.

I bought a general admission ticket.

Granted, I greatly enjoyed my day at the polo match, in the future, I will be purchasing a Rosé Garden ticket. Why? Because although the general admission ticket was much cheaper, the lines to take photos at large photo props were an hour or more long, with little help from the staff in monitoring photo shoot times (and also people cutting the lines). In the Rosé Garden, it was less crowded (with much more gorgeous props) and you essentially avoid photography lines.


Be Picnic Ready

Another reason why I’ll be purchasing Rosé Garden tickets next year? So I can travel light! Don’t get me wrong, my little picnic basket from Amazon is absolutely adorable. And, there are available food trucks on site, in case you don’t feel like packing snacks. Since it was my first attendance, I didn’t want to chance it and depend on the food trucks, so I packed a bunch of fruits, cheeses, salami and a small veggie platter. We also made sure that we had a heavy breakfast in the morning, since we knew we would only be snacking during the polo match and likely be there until dinner.

If you purchase the Rosé Garden, this is something you need not to worry about as you would receive an individual catered lunch. Almost no one ever posts pics of the catering in the Rosé Garden, but Gayle King came through on her Instagram and the food looks amazing!


Game Time!

The polo match starts at 2:00 p.m. (EST) and the awards ceremony starts at approximately 3:30 p.m. (EST). If you paid for general admission, then it is open seating on the lawn (first come, first serve). It is possible to get to the event early enough to set up your picnic blanket as close to the polo match as possible. However, there is a fence that encloses the match to prevent attendees from walking onto the field. During the match, many people gathered around the fence, so if you were seated on the lawn, your view was likely obstructed.

Rosé Garden ticket holders had a view of the field that was not fenced off and allowed ticket holders to be close enough to even greet the players and horses.

Even though my brother and I were on the lawn, we still were able to get these awesome shots!


The Most Important Part — Pop Champagne!

When you purchase a General Admission ticket, you are provided a wristband with two (2) glass ticket stubs and one (1) bottle ticket stub. This year, Veuve Clicquot offered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne Yellow Label for $105; the Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé for $125; and, the Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame for $275. If you purchase the VIP Rosé Garden ticket, a bottle of Brut Rosé is included. I really wanted a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rich Rosé, however, it was only available by the glass ($28). One bottle of the yellow label was definitely sufficient for two people.

Each bottle purchase includes a Veuve Clicquot Ice Jacket ($127 value).


The Fashion

Think southern flair, Kentucky Derby. Everyone looked absolutely gorgeous. Men looked dapper in bright colored suits and button down shirts. The women put on the ultimate summer fashion show with bright dresses, what you would assuredly find at the Kentucky Derby or Preakness here in Baltimore.

We got lucky this past weekend, and there was a thick haze that created an overcast over the NYC skyline. So, the heat was not excruciating and i barely worked a sweat. My maxi skirt from ASOS is very long and the field was muddy from a downpour two days prior. So, most of the time I was lifting my skirt as I walked to avoid the dirt and mud. Now, shoes…I only saw a very small handful of women who wore stiletto heels and instantly regretted it before they even checked into the park. DO NOT WEAR STILETTO HEELS. If you must wear heels, where a block heel or wedge shoes. There is no sidewalk to walk on around the park, since the entire event is gated off from the rest of Liberty State park. I didn’t want to take a chance with any kind of heel so I wore Zara flats and it was absolutely fine.

Another must — wear a hat and bring an umbrella. While the Rosé Garden is adequately tented for shade, the main lawn is not! Even with my sun hat, I needed my umbrella. Again, it wasn’t too hot but the umbrella still helped with keeping us cool as we picnicked on the lawn.


I can’t wait to go again next year! It was the just the jumpstart I needed to start my summer!


Shop My Outfit:

Bodysuit: AFRM Nora Bodysuit | Tiered Pleated Maxi Skirt: ASOS, similar here | Tassel Earrings: BaubleBar (sold out), similar here | Shoes: ZARA (old) | Boater Hat: Evrfelans | Handbag: Rue La La Fallon & Royce Pom Pom Straw Tote.


Shop This Post:

Picnic Basket: Amazon SatisInside 4 Person Insulated Basket | Picnic Blanket: Amazon California Picnic Waterproof Picnic Blanket | Umbrella: Veuve Clicquot, also available here.


DIY on a Dime: Colorful Spring Porch Refresh


Colorful Spring Porch Refresh

My Bright and Budget Friendly Porch Makeover

My front porch has been such a drab these last two years. Although I have had my bench and coffee table for awhile, I’ve been completely laxed on decorating the space and making it an extension of my home.


First, I painted my burgundy chipped door “Dutch Tulip” red by Benjamin Moore. I used the Aura Grand Entrance line in high gloss finish. I’ve seen this front entrance in Dutch Tulip circulate all over Pinterest for years, and i finally bit the bullet and decided to go for it. I knew the color would look great on my little row house.

According to the paint expert at my local Benjamin Moore location, I did not need a primer because my door was already painted a red base with the burgundy. However, if you need a primer, I really like using Zinnser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer.

Source:  Benjamin Moore

First, I poured liquid TSP cleaner into a bucket of warm water and used a textured cloth to remove dirt and pollen from the door. Once the door was dry, I sanded down any nicks and imperfections.

If you’re using primer, you will want to prime the entire door next (and allow to dry 24-48 hours before painting).


Next, paint the panels of the door first.


Then, focus on the remaining trim of the door. I decided to paint three coats, using a single stoke with the paintbrush to reduce the appearance of brush strokes up close.

Please allow at least 24 hours between each coat, so that it may dry properly.


Next, I worked on my concrete floor. Per the instructions for the Behr Granite Grip and Behr Concrete and Masonry Bonding Primer, I needed to strip the porch paint previously applied. Honestly, there was no way that I was going to get all of this porch paint off of the concrete floor. So, instead, I focused on stripping just the areas that were already peeling badly. Then, I sanded down the areas that were peeling to smooth it out before applying the concrete bond primer.


The concrete bonding primer needs a minimum of 2 hours to dry. I allowed mine to dry for approximately 3-4 hours. Then, I applied the first coat of the Granite Grip. Behr recommends at least two coats of Granite Grip for complete coverage. I applied three coats, allowing a minimum of 24 hours to dry in between each coat.


I’m really glad that I covered this porch with the Granite Grip. it’s hiding all of the imperfections. And, thanks to the primer, it should last for a few years.


Shop My Outfit

Midi Dress: ASOS | Headband: Nordstrom | Earrings: Baublebar | Fallon & Royce Straw Tote: Rue La La.


Shop My Front Porch

Outdoor Bench Cushion: Hayneedle | Outdoor Floral Pillow: Grandin Road | Outdoor Pink Pillows: Michaels (old), similar here | Door Mat: Kirkland’s | Outdoor Area Rug: Grandin Road (old), similar here | Outdoor Bench: Target | Paris Bistro Side Chairs: Frontgate | Chinoiserie Garden Stool: Home Goods (old), similar here and here | Pink Candle Lantern: Pier 1 Imports (old), similar here and here | Outdoor Coffee Table: Amazon | Wreath: Target (sold out), similar here.


Shop my Planters

Tub Planter: Amazon | Chinoiserie Planters: Homesense, also available here and similar here.


Shop my Paints

Porch Floor: Behr Granite Grip in Tan Granite | Front Door: Benjamin Moore Aura Grand Entrance in Dutch Tulip (high gloss finish).


Shop Miss Peppermint

Dress (old), similar here | Woof Cliquot Plush Bottle: Haute Diggity Dog.


8 Tips on Keeping Your Dog Healthy this Spring

Pepper in Sun.png

8 Tips on Keeping Your Dog Healthy this Spring

From Allergies to Bees, Know How to Protect Your Pet

Spring time is so much fun because Pepper and I hang out in the backyard.  I’m usually gardening, tending to my roses.  Pepper is usually running up and down the yard with her ball or barking at the neighbor’s cat.  As dog parents, it’s important that we pay attention to our four legged friend when she or he is outside during this weather change.  For instance, dogs can have seasonal allergies, just like us humans.  I wanted to share some tips on how to care for our furry loved ones as we start a new season filled with fresh cut grass, new blooms, and buzzing insects.

Protect Your Dog from the Critters

Keeping your dog up to date with his or her flea, tick and heart-worm prevention is very important.  Spring and Summer, those little critters are out and about just waiting to feast on our paw friends.  Protect your pet’s health!  I visit Pepper’s vet for X flea and tick medication, where I drop the solution on her neck or base of spine (start of tail).


It’s Easter Time, So Keep Your Chocolates to Yourself.

For some of you, the Easter Bunny will visit your household and bring chocolate sweets to your family. Please remember to keep your pups away from chocolate, as the acid in sugary treats like chocolate can be deadly.  If your dog consumes chocolate, please consult your veterinarian immediately for assistance.

Pepper Spring Flowers 2.png

Chomping on Greens

It’s okay if your dog eats grass. However, you should take note that if your dog is eating grass, it usually means that he or she has an upset stomach.  Grass soothes their stomach and helps with the nausea, sometimes naturally inducing vomiting.    Now, if your dog is eating grass, and the grass is treated with chemicals (e.g., TrueGreen, etc.), do NOT allow your dog to eat the chemically treated grass!  Again, if this happens, contact your veterinarian immediately.  Always read labels, when conducting or treating lawn care, and determine if it’s safe for your pet.  If not, keep your dog clear of those outside areas.

Pepper in Grass.jpg

Got the Itch?

My cousin previously had a Yorkshire Terrier who developed a skin disease where he was constantly itching and irritated.  Poor thang.  It was finally determined by his veterinarian that the little guy was actually allergic to grass.  I’ve also had dogs that get watery eyes and sneezing when they’re outside for too long, thanks to the pollen in the air.  My vet allows my dog to have half a Benadryl (it is dependent on weight size); however, this makes her sleepy).  If your dog is suffering from seasonal allergies, speak to your veterinarian about allowing your dog to take Antihistamines.


No Chasing the Bees, Please.

My cousin previously had a Yorkshire Terrier who developed a skin disease where he was constantly itching and irritated.  Poor thang.  It was finally determined by his veterinarian that the little guy was actually allergic to grass.  I’ve also had dogs that get watery eyes and sneezing when they’re outside for too long, thanks to the pollen in the air.  My vet allows my dog to have half a Benadryl (it is dependent on weight size); however, this makes her sleepy).  If your dog is suffering from seasonal allergies, speak to your veterinarian about allowing your dog to take Antihistamines.


All the Pretty Flowers.

I have my outdoor rose garden, but I also have an indoor plant that I keep in the living room.  It’s very important that you monitor your pups, making sure that they do not eat your plants and/or flowers, as they may be toxic to our furry friends. 

Pepper Spring Flowers.png

Tag, You’re It.

Keep collar tags up to date in case your loved one breaks free and makes a run for it.

Your neighbors’ furry friends are also out to play.  If your pup is a little advantageous, he or she may try to go say hi.  Unless your dog is well trained or in an enclosed space, keep him or her on a leash and make sure his or her tag is up to date with an updated address or phone number.


Don’t Overdue It.

Some people think that since their dog was inactive all Winter, that they should go jog a mile at a local park.  Whatever you do, don’t over exert your dog as you don’t want them to become overheated or exhausted.  Just as you would build up yourself to be a runner, the same goes for your pet.  Maybe do light strolls, when you’re first getting back outside, and increase over time, monitoring your dog’s energy levels.


Are there any additional preventive measures that you dog moms and dads use, that aren’t listed above? If so, don’t forget to comment so we can use those tips as well!


Happy Mother's Day! Our Day at Sherwood Gardens


Feminine Ruffles and Jewel Tones

Mother’s Day at Sherwood Gardens

I hope that all of you wonderful moms enjoyed your Mother’s Day weekend! My mom and I did a mini photoshoot at Sherwood Gardens here in Baltimore. It was my first time visiting the gardens and I’m so glad that I did. The garden is currently filled with azalea blooms EVERYWHERE. It was the perfect backdrop for a mother-daughter photoshoot.


I opted to wear this ruffle sleeve dress from the Rachel Parcell Collection at Nordstrom. This is my first piece from blogger turned designer, Rachel Parcell. Prior to her exclusivity contract at Nordstrom, this dress collection only went up to a size 8/10 and was dubbed a “large.” I knew that the collection probably ran small due to it’s size chart. Now that the dress collection is available at Nordstrom, the sizes go up to an XXL (est. size 18).

I LOVE this dress. The fabric is lightweight and perfect for Spring and Summer. I normally wear a size 14 dress size, so I ordered an XL (14W). The fabric on this dress does NOT stretch. It’s also properly lined so you don’t have to worry about any seeing through.

One of the things that I always admired about Parcell’s Dress collections are that they are so feminine. She always presents different shades of pastels, especially pink, in different fabric options. Her Fall and Winter collections are a little bolder - but still classic - with hues of navy, crimson and oxblood.

Rachel Parcell dresses can be a little pricey. Also, keep in mind that during the first release in April, not all Nordstrom department stores carried the collection in store (or only had select styles). I recommend sizing since it may be difficult finding the same style in store, hoping to try on.

And the May Rachel Parcell Collection released today! If you’re a Nordy Club member, you can shop first, now. If you’re not a Nordy Club member, don’t worry, you can shop tomorrow.


I hope you all had a wonderful Mother’s Day!


Shop My Outfit:

Dress: Rachel Parcell Collection Ruffle Sleeve Dress | Shoes: Aldo (old), similar here | Earrings: Amazon Fashion.

Pepper’s Dress: Fitwarm


The perfect baby. The perfect life. The perfect crime: The Perfect Mother


Happy May as we celebrate our first best friends:  Mom, Mommy, Momma, Mother, Madre, Mimi.  The first woman who loved us – dreamed of us – before they even laid eyes on us.  I’m very blessed to still have my mother.  I call her every day, to catch up on how our days went, although she’s retired now, living the senior life in Florida, with days spent by the pool while she watches Days of Our Lives.  I, on the other hand, am usually complaining about the chilling weather in the Northeast, venting about my latest dating escapades, or excitedly bragging about my latest DIY project.

 When you’re young, your mother is perfect.  She is always right – about everything.  She is nurturing and kind, but she is also  cultivating and preparing you for the world.  My mother was my protector, but she didn’t hover.  To me, she was perfect, while I (in hindsight), was spoiled rotten with the latest toys, ballet, cheerleading and swimming lessons.  Now that I’m older, surrounded by friends who are married with toddlers, I have no idea how any of you mothers do it.  You work full-time jobs, without a nanny.  You send your children to daycare, which costs as much as my mortgage.  And, let’s not forget the monthly expenses like clothes, and diapers and formula.  Anything more is a luxury.  None of the mothers I know are perfect, but they do their damned best for their babies.

 I loved The Perfect Mother.  The author, Aimee Molloy, captures the struggles that new mothers face:  sleepless nights, difficulty lactating, intimacy issues with their partner, and post-partum depression.  Winnie, the protagonist, joins the “May Mothers”– a mommy group organized in Brooklyn, for new local moms.  They call themselves the “May Mothers” for the most simplest reason as it sounds: their babies are due in May.  Winnie joined the group for the same reason most women join mommy groups:  seeking a village of commonality.  Despite her introversion, Winnie attends the meetings with her newborn, Midas, for “May Mothers” gatherings at their local park.  Winnie is a single mom, with little help; so, when the “May Mothers” organize a  girls’ night to relieve some new mom stress, Winnie feels anxious about leaving Midas with a sitter for the very first time.  When Midas is kidnapped, this happy-go-lucky gentrified Brooklyn for the “May Mothers” completely turns upside down and each member has secrets waiting to be told.

What I liked… 

I liked how the author went back and forth between the first and the third person.  One minute, you’re outside looking in.  The next minute, you are in the mind of that particular character, absorbing all of their emotions as they feel the panic for their friend, Winnie; but also, the hysteria, confusion and dread as a mother faced with the reality of a missing child in a large city.  Whether you have children or not, you feel for these women as they try to juggle their lives as they once were, and balance their new little one.  I thought the characters were very authentic and loved how Molloy developed each one.

Truthfully, this book reminded me a lot of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, based on the book’s format and character voices.  Nonetheless, I think I enjoyed this book more than Big Little Lies, in the sense that once I got through 75% of the latter, the ending became indubitably predictable.  On the other hand, The Perfect Mother had an ending that was completely unexpected, up until the last moment and surprise, everything isn’t as it seems.

What I did not like…

I honestly cannot think of one negative critique for Molloy’s first novel.  I thought the plots and mini plots were very well laid out.  I thought each character’s secrets were exposed in due time.  Most importantly, I thought the surprise ending was worth it. 

Kerry Washington is set to star and produce the film adaptation of The Perfect Mother .  As always, I cannot wait to see her on film and bring this book to life.

Have any of you read this yet?  What are your thoughts?


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Mother's Day 2019 Gift Ideas: Buy Black Guide


This Mother’s Day, I decided to gift my Mom some of her favorite products available by minority and women owned companies. Here are some of our favorite items, from skin care to coffee and tea houses, that I’m sure your mom will love as well!



Face and Body


Teas and Coffees