#ALifeInTheDayinBelize: An Awe-Inspiring Trek Through The Ancient Maya Ruins of Xunantunich

The red ginger plant on the grounds of Xunantunich

Visiting Belize for me is a time for many things; a time to relax and unwind, a time to spend with family, but most of all, a time to uncover my roots, and the history of the country. For the past few years now, I have made it my duty to visit various museums, reserves, and archaeological sites in my trips to Belize, to learn more about the country’s rich, multicultural history. As the country is situated in what was once the center of the “Mundo Maya” (Mayan World), visiting various Mayan ruins is always a part of my journey. On this trip we visited the extremely popular, Xunantunich.

El Castillo, the main structure of the grounds

Xunantunich has always been on the top of my list of Mayan ruins to visit for many reasons. I had learned at a young age that the site has one of the tallest structures in the country, and that that structure happened to be called “El Castillo”. For me it felt like a duty of all Castillos everywhere to visit, climb to the top, and take in the glory of such a feat. And that I did.

El Castillo stands at 130 feet tall making it the second largest structure in Belize, after the structure at the ruins in Caracol. The structure is the center of the Xunantunich (Stone Lady) grounds, and is believed to be the edifice in which the kings lived. For this trek we had a lovely guide, of Mayan descent, who really gave us a full history lesson on Xunantunich, the rise and fall of the Mayan empire, and how that all equates to the current state of Belize. Our journey was simple; climb to the top of El Castillo, and learn more about it along the way.

The view on our way up the side of the pyramid

As I have climbed the ruins at Altun Ha and Lamanai in the past, I was not scared to embark upon El Castillo, but there was a significant height difference. Given the fact that this trek was years in the making for me, I did not let my nerves get the best of me, and pushed forward. The photo above shows the view looking up during our hike to the top.

The view from the top of El Castillo; just gorgeous

The stone steps leading to the temple’s zenith were steep and uneven, but sturdy nonetheless. As the space around me lessened, I will say that anxiety set in, but I wouldn’t let it hold me back from getting to the top. I took a quick break on the level below the top as I was sweating at this point, then made my way up the narrow stairs to the top.

What I was greeted with is what you see in the photo above; awe-inspiring greenery in an area of the country that is almost untouched. The site is less than a mile away from the Guatemalan border in the West, and you could literally see the country from standing on the top. I felt such satisfaction to have made it that far, like I was coming closer to finding some lost treasure. Maybe that will be in the next chapter of my travels?

Close-up of the frieze on the side of the structure

I took tons of photos, and had my brother take a few of me, which I decided not to include as I looked a bit tired and sweaty. I know, I know, I should have just included them, but I’m a little self-conscious, you know? I stayed at the top for about ten minutes, and I knew it was time to go down when this little thing called anxiety kicked in. For whatever reason, it was more difficult for me to walk down than up, as I imagined myself tumbling on one of the stones, and having a terrible accident. This, thankfully, did not happen, and I was able to take more photos, like the one above showcasing the detail of one of the friezes, depicting life of the ancient Maya.

When we were back on the ground, we took time to walk through the plaza, learn about the native trees and how the Maya used them in ancient times, as well as learn about their leisure activities. Exploring Xunantunich was by far one of the high points of my Belize trip. I feel satisfied that I made it, and am forever thankful to our tour guide.

But wait, the Belize stops don’t stop there. Look out for more adventures in #ALifeInTheDayInBelize!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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Capsule Women’s NY SS15: Modern Americana, Feat. Gant Rugger, Brooklyn Tailors, & Billy Reid

Capsule Women’s SS15 tradeshow took place right after New York Fashion Week on September 12 – 14 in Lower Manhattan’s Basketball City venue. As there was no time to really regroup after my fashion week whirlwind, I decided to sit out Friday, and hit up Capsule on Saturday and Sunday.

This was my first time attending the Women’s show, so I was personally looking for brands that matched my aesthetic; revamped classics, silhouettes borrowed from the boys, happy prints, and color galore. In my first round-up, we take a deeper look at a few brands doing Modern Americana well; Gant Rugger, Brooklyn Tailors, and Billy Reid.


Silk bomber goodness

I’ve been a long-time fan of Gant and their various lines, so I was excited to see the new Gant Rugger Women’s line IRL at the show. Their booth was a short walk from the entryway, and filled with duds that have made me a fan of the brand; great shirting, easy layering pieces, stripes, and classic color. I happily introduced myself to Spencer, who runs wholesale, and basically got the lowdown on the new collection.

Gotta love a chambray shirt!

Gant Rugger for women has launched this season (Fall/Winter 2014) in their respective online and brick & mortar retailers, but the Spring/Summer 2015 collection is their first Gant Rugger collection available for wholesale. New to Capsule, the collection was everything I would expect from Gant, with some whimsical touches. One piece in particular is the floral silk bomber in the first photo at the far right. The colors are super Americana, in navy, white, and reddish pink, on a simple bomber silhouette. The unexpected touches were the usage of silk, and the understated floral pattern, that blend the masculine and feminine in a beautiful way.

Red, white, and blue jeans

They had a full offering of shirting, one of the pieces I love the brand most for, in shades of white and blue, also offering shirt dresses in similar fabrications. Stripes and plaid remain a constant, but always done in a fresh way.



Signage and blazers

After my perusal of Gant Rugger’s collection, I sashayed over to the Brooklyn Tailors booth, which was just around the corner. I had read in the Capsule show guide and online that the brand was new to the show, so it was necessary that I get to know the folks behind the brand, as well as the collection.

Can I have all these shirts in my closet, right now?

When I entered the booth, I was greeted by Brenna Lewis. She and her husband Daniel founded Brooklyn Tailors in 2007 when they started offering custom tailoring out of their Brooklyn apartment. Fast forward to 2011 when they opened their first storefront in Williamsburg, and 2012 when they unveiled their first men’s collection. Now in 2014, they have brought us a taste of a new women’s line, to launch in Spring/Summer 2015.

Shift dresses, shirt dresses, and trousers

Some of the silhouettes mirror that of the mens collection, as well as using similar fabrics. We see this in the oxford shirts, in a divine weight, tight-woven cotton, pants, and blazers. There were more feminine touches in shift dresses, slightly cropped blouses, and shirt dresses, all of which I would love to add to my closet ASAP!



Signage and a quick preview of the collection

After a lovely chat with Brenna, I walked over to Billy Reid, which rounds up my Modern Americana list. If you are not familiar with the modern Americana luxury that is Billy Reid, let me just give a quick rundown of some awards:

  • February 2010, winner of the CFDA “Best New Menswear Designer in America”
  • November 2010, he won the “CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund”
  • June 2012, recipient of the CFDA’s prestigious Menswear Designer of the Year award.

A close-up of some textured offerings

I can continue to read off accolades, but let me be clear, Billy Reid embodies modern luxury; wearable modern luxury. My heart melted a bit when I walked in to the corner booth and viewed its three full racks of goodness. The Spring/Summer 2015 collection takes notes from the Middle East and American Southwest in pattern, and color assortment.

Understated footwear

There was a multitude of pieces that could mix and match in the color scale of ivory, navy, camel, faded red, and gold, including chunky blazers, breezy tunics, and luxe leather jackets. Along with the lovely clothing items, Billy Reid has a full footwear collection, masterfully crafted out of some of the best leathers offered. The tasseled croc loafer on the right was by far my favorite. I think what I love most about this collection is the keen attention to detail, whilst keeping the silhouettes breezy, and easy to wear.

Viewing all these collections has me pumped for the coming spring season, and gives me piece of mind that my slightly boyish style is all the rage right now. Hope you dig the duds. Look out for more recaps on the radar!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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#ALifeInTheDayinBelize: Simple Pleasures, Food, & Drink In Caye Caulker

The motto of the island, “Go Slow”

In my previous post on Caye Caulker in my #ALifeInTheDayInBelize series, I discussed the stillness of the island, and how much I believe it is a great place to unwind and reflect. In addition to its stillness, Caye Caulker is a wonderful place to enjoy a true Belizean culinary experience.

The entryway of Tropical Paradise

I’ve been spoiled growing up with the food of the women in my family, who put their all into Belizean cooking, never skipping a beat. Whenever I return, aside from the beautiful sites, I am very much focused on finding great food that is reminiscent of my family, if not better. Tropical Paradise is a hotel and restaurant that rings true to this.

Breakfast favorite, Lobster Scrambled Eggs w/ Fried Jacks

I’ve visited Tropical Paradise a few times in my years, but on this occasion I was truly set on good meals. Whenever you are out at caye, it is always suggested that you eat some lobster, and the restaurants in Caye Caulker have been making a breakfast of Lobster Scrambled Eggs with Fried Jacks for years now, the offering at Tropical Paradise being the most popular.

I ordered this breakfast my first morning at caye, and it was everything that I had expected. The lobster was fresh and sweet within the eggs, so minimal seasoning was added. The fried jacks, which in short are triangular pieces of fried bread, was the perfect density and flavor that I had expected. I finished my meal off with a fresh lime juice to keep it light, to truly savor in all the flavors I had consumed. My belly was full and happy.

Lazy Lizard, in all of its glory

At The Point of the island, there is a lovely beach bar called Lazy Lizard which is popular both with locals and visitors. The open air space takes up the end of the island with a two-story palapa bar and two piers in which guests can lay out and chill throughout the day.

The view from the point

I visited with a few family members, and we were lucky to get a little table by the water. We ordered buckets of the local beer, Belikin and Lighthouse, which offer six bottles for $20-$25, which is a pretty consistent figure throughout the country. I myself ordered Rum Punch, as I am not much of a beer drinker, and was pleasantly surprised that their main ingredient was watermelon juice. Not to worry, the punch still packed a kick, which I am all for.

A bucket of local Lighthouse Beer

In between drinks and stories, I made it my job to take a little swim in the water. Caye Caulker has great swimming grounds, but do be warned that the areas to swim near The Point are quite rocky, so keep your eyes open! The water is also quite salty, so I would recommend you bring goggles if you visit.

I would definitely recommend Caye Caulker to those that love an authentic experience with a small town vibe. With great food, drinks, and friendly locals, it is an awesome place to experience Belize in a relaxed setting.

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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MANday Watch: Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace, Presented by PBS

Kehinde Wiley is one of the most prominent portrait painters of our generation, focusing his work on the African-American male. We see his works in art institutions throughout New York City, and the world, and in his recent PBS Arts presentation, we see the road to one of his most recent exhibitions, An Economy of Grace, which was held at New York’s Sean Kelly Gallery.

The exhibition was Wiley’s first using Black women as subjects; exploring sexuality and beauty in the 21st century. You may view the entire special over at PBS Video.

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Saturday Sounds: “Inside The Mind Of MeLo 4 (Mixtape)” by MeLo-X

On this gloomy Saturday, I wanted to bring some jams back into the forefront. In a slight break from fashion re-caps, I wanted to share the latest from the homie, MeLo-X. “Inside The Mind Of MeLo 4″ is a mash-up of tracks remixed/produced/featuring MeLo, in all of its downtempo/electro goodness. Press play, and see the full track listing below. Happy listening!

1. MeLo-X & Bunji Garlin – Carnival Tabanca (MeLo-X GodMix)
2. MeLo-X & Drake – Trophies (MeLo-X GodMix)
3. MeLo-X & Cheri Coke – I Love You (MeLo-X God Mix)
4. MeLo-X – She Likes It (Prod. By Quan Luv)
5. MeLo-X & Janelle Monae – Primetime (MeLo-X GodMix)
6. MeLo-X & Boy/Friend – About Love (MeLo-X God Mix)
7. MeLo-X & Beyonce – Drunk in Lust (Version 2)
8. MeLo-X & PartyNextDoor – Break From Flatbush (PartyNextDoor Remix)
9. MeLo-X – Sweet Bitch (Back n Forth)
10. MeLo-X – Finer Things feat. Elle Pierre (Prod. By MeLo-X & Sango)
11. MeLo-X & Wild Belle -Another Girl (MeLo-X GodMix)
12. MeLo-X – She’s on Fire (Prod. MeLo-X)
13. MeLo-X – Mojitos & Little Dragon (Prod. By AbJo)
14. MeLo-X – A Tree Must be a Tree (Prod. By MeLo-X)
15. MeLo-X & MoRuf – Fallen (Prod. By MeLo-X)

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#NYFW Tales: #techSTYLE Lounge Takes Over House Of Bumble For A Fashionista Retreat

The view from above at techSTYLE Lounge

On Monday, September 8th, the folks at Janine Just Inc. & Bloggerini joined forces to host the #techSTYLE Lounge. The lounge has become a must for fashionistas over the past few seasons, and this time around House of Bumble (headquarters of Bumble + Bumble salon) was host to the festivities.

My look the afternoon: Ralph Lauren blazer, Gap tank, Forever 21 pants, Pour La Victoire sandals

I hopped over to the lounge in the early afternoon after completing a photoshoot, dressed in garb that I’ve called “comfy chic”. This was the beginning of a busy evening, so I opted for cotton pieces that would look smart all night long. Upon entering the massive space, my list of priorities went as follows:  nails, beverage, food. So let us begin with some of my faves of the afternoon!

Guest getting a mani from Diosa Nails

Upon looking straight back to my right in the space, I spotted the manicure station, sponsored by Diosa Nails & PolishThe NYC-based brand is somewhat of a “social nail brand”, holding various nail meet-ups and special events, in addition to selling vibrant polishes. I decided to go for a mani in Oro Solido, a pale metallic gold color, to match with my accessories.

Checking out Happy Tree Water with Lorie

After my mani, I stepped on over to the Happy Tree Water station. They are a maple water that has some of the same benefits of coconut water (electrolytes, vitamins), with a mild maple flavor, sourced right from New York State in the Catskill mountains. The consistency was light, and above all, refreshing.

Heather from FashionistaNYGirl (and fellow NY Blogger Collective member) checking out PINCHme

As a lover of product samples (what can I say?!), my next stop was the PINCHme table. They are a subscription-box service that offers various consumer goods/personal care items for FREE each month. Users sign up to receive, and are asked to give feedback on their experience from time-to-time, which is then reported right back to the brands. I received a box at the event, and can’t wait to try out the goodies.

Instagram photo printing station. Perfect!

Instagram was popping throughout the event (of course). All guests who used the event hashtag were able to print out their photos from IG within minutes. So meta, right?

Outerwear from Snowman

After picking up my photo, I swung back to Snowman Outerwear. The NYC-based brand makes stylish ladies jackets for all seasons. They had their Fall collection on view, with some sneak peeks of Spring ’15. I dig the simplicity of the lines used throughout the collection, as well as the color palette.

Malaysian street-food bites made possible by Mamak

After the jackets, it was time to refuel. I whipped back near the entrance, where Mamak was located. They serve delectable Malaysian street food, in compact sizes for eating on the go. The robust flavors made my tummy happy.

Taking a work break to catch up on e-mails and social media

Since I was now sitting and re-charged, it was time to catch up on my social media, and blog of course! I used the time to send out time-sensitive e-mails, and publish a post before I was off to the next event. As a blogger, and woman-on-the-move, events like this are so crucial to me. Kudos to Janine Just Inc. & Bloggerini for another great event. I will be looking forward to next season!

*Photos courtesy of Janine Just Inc. 

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#NYFW Tales: Maison Kitsuné SS15 Mens + Womens, #EFFORTLESSFRENCH

A glimpse of Maison Kitsuné SS15. Credit: Billy Farrell Agency

On the evening of Monday, September 8th, Parisian label Maison Kitsuné showed their mens and women’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection as part of MADE Fashion Week. The presentation, entitled #EffortlessFrench, was held at The Standard, High Line, and marked the label’s first official presentation during New York Fashion Week.

The men behind the brand: Gildas Loaëc & Masaya Kuroki. Credit: Billy Farrell Agency

The collection, spearheaded by co-founders and Creative Directors Gildas Loaëc & Masaya Kuroki, embodied the lightness and wearability of what #EffortlessFrench styling is; a base in neutrals paired with whimsical pastel print elements, classic stripes and checks, made of totally wearable textiles.

The menswear GAWD himself, Nick Wooster. Credit: Billy Farrell Agency

The crowd was full of tastemakers and cool kids. I personally spotted everyone’s favorite man in menswear, Nick Wooster, it-girl Kilo Kish, stylist Cleo Wade, and MADE Fashion Week co-founder Jenne Lombardo.

Overall, the collection was very strong and wearable, and we know I’m ALL for wearability! Below, you can see my top looks for both men and women. Can’t wait for the collection to drop!


Bias-cut geometric print dress. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

Silver jacquard sheath dress worn over black sheer blouse with tie. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

*FAVORITE* Neon salmon cape worn over pink/white lace printed skinny pants. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich


Olive bomber and hat worn with white tee and khakis. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

Black + white gingham suit worn over white tee. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

*FAVORITE* Multi-color palm print bomber jacket worn over navy oxford shirt, with white pants. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

Until the collection drops, feel free to listen to some jams on their website. They have a record label as well, so get into it!

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#NYFW Tales: Backstage at Etxeberria SS15 w/ AJ Crimson

On Sunday, September 9th, I had the pleasure of shooting backstage at Etxeberria at The Pavilion at Lincoln Center. Etxeberria is young mens and womenswear line based in Spain, that called upon the make-up master AJ Crimson to doll up the faces of their models for the runway show.

Model getting prepped

Since the focus was menswear, with a few women’s looks, the make-up was very clean with a white highlight on the lower lash line, and a strong contoured cheekbone.

Model Diandra Forrest getting her make-up done by AJ Crimson

The New York show was coordinated by model Shaun Ross, which was nice as many models of color were included in this presentation.

Shaun checking his phone prior to makeup

A few of the models backstage, prepping

As for the collection, Etxeberria SS15 was entirely made of leather, suede, fur, and exotic skins, showing how light and versatile these skins can be in warmer weather. The color palette was quite neutral, composed of black, ivory, camel, navy, and burgundy, with pops in scarlet and sky blue. The feel across the board was quite androgynous, given the cut of the garments.

A few of the leather and fur looks

Here’s some of that color pop, in scarlet exotic leather slide sandals for the men.

Hair was pretty low maintenance as well. Models with long hair were given a slight wave for a worn in look, men with short straight hair were given a parted slick-back, and women with shorter hair were given a slick back bun.

Hair in the works

Once all was done behind the scenes, I was able to take a seat in the pavilion to watch the entire presentation, which was quite solid! I have a penchant for leather, so I really enjoyed seeing it structured in a more delicate way. Some pieces were more conceptual than the others, but I would say about a third of the collection is completely wearable.

Many thanks to the ladies at Bella Public Relations for having me!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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#NYFW Tales: G-STAR RAW #RawForTheOceans, Curated by Pharrell Williams

On Friday, September 5th, denim brand G-Star Raw showcased a women’s capsule collection entitled #RawForTheOceans, curated by none other than Pharrell Williams. I was overjoyed to receive the invitation, as Pharrell is one of my favorite people, and in my mind, can do no wrong in the realm of fashion.

Light projection on the ceiling

The show was held in the heart of the Financial District at a space on 23 Wall Street, which was transformed to resemble the ocean floor. The entry way was marked with a black flag with a blue octopus in the center, one of the main inspirations seen throughout the collection. All items in the collection were made with Bionic Yarn, which is a textile fiber comprised of recycled plastic bottles found in the world’s oceans. Pharrell Williams serves as the Creative Director of Bionic Yarn, and this is his first collaboration with G-Star Raw.

Pharrell and his models

Going against the grain of a traditional runway show where models walk out one by one, Pharrell himself led all twelve of his models out in a group, so each side of the runway was able to see all six looks at once. This collaboration marked the first denim products ever made from recycled plastic bottles, which is truly extraordinary.

Pharrell Williams

Fangirl Andrea was totally distracted by Pharrell’s presence, but I was happy to see how wearable all the looks in the collection were. I’m really low maintenance in regards to my wardrobe, so it was nice to see the ease of wear throughout the line. Check out some of my favorite looks below.

Stonewashed 3/4 sleeve denim jacket with short

Black tank dress with octopus face

*Favorite*: Belted print jacket with denim short

The full #RawForTheOceans collection includes mens pieces as well, which are available now on the G-Star Raw website. Be sure to check it out, and be kind to our planet!

*Photos courtesy of G-STAR RAW

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#AlifeinthedayinBelize: A Time To Appreciate Stillness in Caye Caulker

Peeking through the mangrove into the sea

If the purpose of a vacation is to unwind, reflect, and take in your surroundings, Caye Caulker is the perfect place to do so. Located approximately one hour north of Belize City, Caye Caulker is a friendly destination that is both developed yet untouched simultaneously.

Red mangrove in all its glory

The center of the island, where all boats dock, is full of guest houses and restaurants for visitors (which I will touch upon in my next post), and the southern part of the island is a bit more rustic, covered in mangrove and trees with land that has not yet been developed. During my trip, we were able to explore this section of the island, as it was there that housed the new cemetery.

The beautiful stillness in the cemetery

Although trips to cemeteries are often somber, I’ve grown to appreciate their beauty as I grow older. We visited this site in particular to pay our respects at the grave of a loved one of one of our cousins, who had passed just before we arrived in Belize. He had lived a full life, so the feeling was more of peace than of sadness. Stories and meals were shared, and it was evident that his spirit will continue to live on in the island.

The seaside view of Morgan’s Inn

We stayed at the guest house that he built, Morgan’s Inn, one of the few places to lodge that really encompass the Caye Caulker experience. There are four guest houses in total, built of wood with sleeping quarters, bathroom, and kitchen, with nice verandas to catch the sea breeze. It was nice to stay there because I really felt like I was away, considering that there was no television or internet, I was truly able to immerse myself in the beauty and simplicity of the island.


I see beauty in so many things, but I was particularly drawn to the flowers. Bouganvillea is a flower native to Belize that grows in a bush. It comes in a variety of colors, more so in the red and pink variety. This fuchsia-colored bougainvillea bush really awoken my senses. The color was so vibrant, and the leaves were so lush!

I know this is all so simple, but these things that may seem so minuscule are really what keep me going. These are the things I love to capture and share with you all, because you never know how much a simple photograph, or set of words can inspire another person.

I will let off here, for there is so much more to share about Belize. Stay tuned!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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#NYFW Tales: Colorsplashes at Alax W. Diamond SS15 Womens, w/ Make-Up By Kryolan

The looks at Alax W. Diamond

Spring/Summer 2015 mens and women’s collections are in full swing here in New York City, so let the coverage begin! My fashion week has been full with various events, including attending shows, shooting backstage, and hosting, so I wanted to start from the beginning.

On Thursday, September 4th, I had the opportunity of attending the women’s presentation for emerging designer, Alax W. Diamond. The Thailand-born, New York-based designer is now in his fourth season, conceptualizing his line in Spring 2013. His aesthetic melds the simplicity of menswear in a feminine silhouette, accented by clean color.

Full line-up of models

The Spring/Summer 2015 collection was based in neutral black and white, with color pops in canary yellow, magenta, and fuchsia, showcasing seven strong, yet wearable looks. The color pops continued on the face, with orange eyeshadow on lids paired with a pale lash line, and nude lips. Make-up and nails were done by Kryolan.

A close-up of the make-up look

I really digged the wearability factor of Diamond’s collection. I love beautiful garments, but wearability is key, and I can definitely see myself rocking a few of these pieces. See some of my favorite looks below.

I love the peeking midriff and folds in the fabric

Super-wearable sheath in canary? Sign me up!

FAVORITE: How can I say know to an easy top and skirt combo that is “Delicious?”

This is just the beginning of my Spring/Summer 2015 #NYFW coverage. I hope you enjoy the photos, and be sure to keep a look out for more!


*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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#NYFW Event: ETA Luxe + Purposerosa Jewelry Pop-Up Shop, Hosted by Andrea K. Castillo, Sat. 9/6

As #NYFW is in full swing in the streets of New York City, it is always a great time to discover designers on the rise. Emerging fashion brand ETA Luxe and jewelry line Purposerosa have teamed up to host a pop-up shop this weekend in Manhattan’s East Village. I will serve as hostess with the mostest/ server of rum punch, and Vibe Vixen will be the official media sponsor.

All details on the flyer. There is still time to RSVP: E.ETAluxe@gmail.com. Come out to support ladies on the rise for a fun afternoon of shopping, sips, and jams!

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#AlifeinthedayinBelize: Art & Sweets In San Pedro Town

Last night I dreamt of San Pedro….

Does that little tune by Madonna sound familiar? Did you know she was referring to San Pedro town in the beautiful land of Belize in “La Isla Bonita”? Well if you don’t know, now you know. In staying true to the beauty of San Pedro (aside from its gorgeous beaches and resorts), I wanted to share with you some local gems that are both creative and sweet.

Belizean Melody Art Gallery as seen from the street

As San Pedro is such a huge tourist destination, catering mainly to the tastes of North American visitors, it is easy to get caught up in the hype; the shoreside karaoke joints, restaurants, hair braiding, etc. Having visited numerous times, and no longer considering myself a tourist, I have discovered that the beauty of San Pedro is deeper in town, starting as close as a few streets away from the sea.

Being a lover and consumer of art, I always make it my duty to purchase artwork/crafts from local Belizean artisans on all of my trips. I’m reminded of such by my grandfather’s late wife, Miss Shirley, who always told me to “support your Belizean brothers and sisters”. Staying true to these words, I stumbled across the Belizean Melody Art Gallery on Barrier Reef Drive while perusing the streets with my mother, and decided to stop in.

A bevy of works inside Belizean Melody

Once stepping through the threshold, I was transformed in a space filled with artwork solely from local artists, which was refreshing. There were reminders around the space that mentioned that none of the artwork/souvenirs were made in China. Kind of cheeky, huh? Mom and I sifted through the pieces and ended up in a corner that housed homemade spice blends and freshwater pearl rings.

Mom near the spice blends

It was in this corner that we decided on our purchases. My mother got two spice blends to bring back home, and we both purchased delicate, freshwater pearl rings. You can see mine in the photo below.

My freshwater pearl ring

After admiring the local art and chatting with the sales associate at the gallery, it was time for ice cream, because it’s always time for ice cream! Directly across the street was the famous Manelly’s Homemade Ice Cream, a San Pedro staple since 1985.

Signage for Manelly’s

As this was a repeat trip to Manelly’s, I wanted to try a new flavor. The ice cream joint sells Belizean favorites in Soursop (Guanabana), Craboo, Strawberry, Mango and more, but on this day I wanted to try the Belizean Fudge flavor. Belizean Fudge refers to a dessert made with sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and butter, that is often mixed with nuts or raisins. The ice cream flavor was vanilla with generous chunks of peanut fudge throughout.

My Belizean Fudge ice cream cone

Disclaimer: this cone is EXTREMELY sweet, but it was such a treat. I’m really picky when it comes to fudge, but to have a great piece of fudge with peanuts (my favorite) in this cone was a delight! Can you sense my happiness whilst writing this? I hope it radiates throughout the computer screen. Along with ice cream cones and cups, Manelly’s sells fruit paletas, milk shakes, and waffle cones.

Full menu at Manelly’s

The ice cream really perked me up, and prepared me for the rest of my exploring that day. This is just the beginning of my series on Belize. Look out for more posts covering different locales and spots in the country!


*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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Back From Belize, And Refreshed!

Outside my grand-aunt’s house in Belize City.

Living in such a fast-paced world, it is incredibly necessary to take that time to step back to reflect, explore, and re-charge. I had the opportunity to do so during the latter part of August as I visited Belize for 18 days. I used the time to be as offline as possible, although I did post some photos every now on Instagram when I caught WiFi. It was a time to be with my family and really explore the country in a way I had not prior. Usually, my time is split between Belize City (where the majority of my family lives) and Ambergis Caye (where our timeshare is located). This time around, we covered much more, visiting all corners of the country and meeting family, friends, and new experiences along the way.

Peeking through the mangrove in Caye Caulker.

In the Northern region of the country we visited Caye Caulker and San Pedro, which are big tourist destinations, in the center, Belize City and the nation’s capital, Belmopan, in the Cayo District in the West, Xunantunich (one of the most popular Mayan ruins in the country), and in the Sounthern Stann Creek District, the town of Dangriga (where we have family) and Placencia where we have roots and many family friends.

Sunset in Placencia.

I wanted to give you all a written and photo introduction to my tales of Belize. I captured a lot, ate lots of food, and have so much to share! Stay tuned for #AlifeinthedayinBelize!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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Foodie Friday: Mexican Eats + Street Art At La Gringa Taqueria in BK!

The view from inside La Gringa

For those of you that have been checking out the blog on the regular, you know that we are huge fans of Mexican cuisine here at A Life In the Day of Andrea, so much so that we take opportunities to try out new spots on the fly. The evening before I jetted off to Belize, my homeland and neighbor to Mexico, I was invited to try the eats at La Gringa Taqueria in BK.

The full menu consisting of burritos, salads, quesadillas, and tacos

Located on 800 Grand St., steps away from the L-train stop at Grand St, La Gringa is a quaint taqueria that serves up Cali-Mex fare with a twist of the Caribbean; all plates come with fried plantain in the mix. Being a lover of all things plantain, I thought this was a cool little addition to a burrito or taco. I was quite hungry when I arrived, and scanned the menu for the plate I imagined would be most filling. I was advised by Mitch, who was preparing my food, to try the quesadilla with chicken, with a side of guacamole and chips.

My meal: A chicken quesadilla (rolled) with a side of chips and guacamole

I found it interesting that the the quesadilla came rolled instead of served flat in quarters. I guess when it is served this way, it is easier to eat while on the run. My quesadilla was stuffed with cheese, chicken, fried plantain, pico de gallo,  sour cream, and picante pepper, made from my favorite, habanero. The guac  was smooth with chunks of tomato, which I like. Not pictured was my favorite Mexican soda, Jarritos in the Tamarind flavor.

As I did not expect the pepper to be that hot, I failed in my soda pairing as it made the pepper spicier! I know for next time not to be so bold, or to pair my meal with water instead. The plantain mellowed out my otherwise super spicy meal.

Commissioned “La Gringa” graffiti in the back patio

I was informed after my meal that the restaurant had a back patio, so I took a walk to check out the space. In my short walk, my eyes were treated to lots of hand-painted murals in the hallway, and all throughout the patio area. This piece above is what you see above the doorway, looking back into the restaurant.

Aztec-inspired mural in the back patio

The patio is spacious, but I spared my photo of it as it was quite rainy on the evening that I visited. There is ample space to sit and eat, and chill back to play table tennis as well. The image above is of one of my favorite murals, which appears to be in the likeness of an Aztec deity. The colors are so vibrant and brighten up the space in a lovely way.

La Gringa is definitely for those that like to experience Mexican eats in a cool colorful space. As it is Cali-Mex, the flavors are bit milder, and all options are offered in Veggie, Chicken, Grilled Tilapia, and Beef. I would definitely recommend you stop in if you are in the area!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo


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