Getting Wet at 27 Charcos in The DR

Hello Lovely,

The last stop on my summer tour is The Dominican Republic. I was really excited about this one. And why shouldn't I be? The mountains, the culture, the coffee! Okay can I just go on record as saying that every time I travel to a foreign country, I must buy coffee. Especially if it's not a predominantly English speaking country. I absolutely hate American coffee (Dunkin Donuts being the only exception) and my favourite is Haitian coffee. Although I must admit, as I write this post, I'm enjoying the hazelnut New Orleans coffee my dad bought me. I prefer medium roast, tolerate light/blonde roasts and basically just NEVER bring me a dark roast.

Whoo! Sorry that was a long, random tangent about coffee. Back to what really matters. The DR! This was my favourite stop! In researching it, I saw that we were going to Amber Cove, which was described as a cay off the DR mainland, so I was a little bummed. But when we arrived and I saw that Amber Cove is actually just the name of the port the ship docks in, and it's very much attached to the DR mainland, I nearly did a cartwheel!

I chose to spend the last stop with my dad and new step mom and sisters. It was the first time I had spent any time with them since the wedding. We were all kind of doing our own thing on the ship. Once we left the ship it was just chaos. The walk felt long in the heat; it's probably the same length as the walk from the ship in Grand Turk. After walking through a gift shop, we were met with various excursion options like ziplining and waterfall adventures. We opted to get a taxi that was supposed to take us on a full tour. Our taxi driver spoke very little English, but we tried our best to use the little Spanish we knew. So a lot of things weren't really explained.

When we first started the tour, there were a lot of empty lots, filled with lush green lands. We passed a lot of businesses and I was surprised to see the price of gas was so high (my calculations may have been wrong but it was about $8 per gallon). Our first stop was the 27 Charcos, one of the waterfalls that can be found in the DR. We thought we would just be going to look at a waterfall, take some pictures and continue the tour. We didn't realise we would have to walk a path to get there. When they started giving us helmets, life jackets and water shoes, we all became increasingly aware of our mortality and wondered what the heck we were getting ourselves into. They said it's a 15 minute hike to the waterfall, once we got there we would jump off and then it would take another 15 minutes to walk back. They strongly advised we carry bottles of water to stay hydrated. At first we weren't going to since it was only a 15 minute walk, but eventually we agreed and trust me, you need to get that water bottle. IT TOOK TWO HOURS!!!!!! We climbed up stairs and steep mountains in dangerously high rainforest temperatures. Then as we approached the top, they told us, we wouldn't be jumping once, but SEVEN times!!!! My camera battery actually died after the first jump.

Here is the video of our trek:

Climbing 27 Charcos on vacation in The Dominican Republic. It takes about 2 hours to do the entire course and you MUST stay hydrated. My camera battery died so I couldn't record all of the jumps.

This is where we actually got annoyed. While the experience was truly amazing and I would recommend it to everyone I know, it was very misleading. Had we known it would've taken 2 hours out of our day, we would've planned better. We could've made it our last stop, or split the group so that half did it, while the other half continued the tour. I felt guilty that the half of the group that didn't do the hike had to sit there the entire time and couldn't leave because they didn't know when we would be coming out. If you're on a cruise with only so many hours at port, this may not be the activity for you if touring is more important.

After that we were so hungry, our priority was to get something to eat before it was time to return to the boat. We were horribly disappointed with the food in Puerto Rico so we were really hoping our luck would change at Polanco. The restaurant has free open WiFi and the staff was very friendly. None of the waitresses spoke English so the manager had to translate for us, but the service was efficient and fast. Even better, our food tasted amazing! The fish just melted in your mouth like a cheesecake! I know that's an odd comparison but I was really impressed. 

After lunch, we really didn't have time for anything. We were approaching 30 minutes to get back onto the ship before the doors would close. We didn't have time to see or do anything else. I barely had time to buy two bags of coffee and a bottle of rum (it's called Brugal Coco-Pineapple infusion rum) 25% alcohol per volume and it tastes absolutely divine! Well maybe divine isn't the right adjective, but you get the picture. If you like fruity drinks, this is the one. It's so smooth, you wouldn't even know it's there so I usually mix it with a dark rum for more a bite. I made a cocktail out of apple juice, plantation rum, the Brugal pineapple rum and peach schnapps and everyone loved it! I practically had to fight the cup back from my best friend, Tiana!

Well that's it for my summer travel adventures! I won't be travelling again until Christmas (maybe). I really hope you guys enjoyed my travel guides. Don't forget to leave a comment in the comment section below to tell me what you thought! If you missed any of them, you can check them out at the end of this post. And if you're planning on travelling soon, don't pack without my new packing checklist. I promise you'll never overpack, under-pack or leave essential items again!

PACKING CHECKLIST.jpg

Savoury Ham & Cheese Bread Pudding with Tomato Hollandaise

Savoury Ham & Cheese Bread Pudding with Tomato Hollandaise

This yummy brunch casserole can be put together the night before and placed in the oven a few minutes before your guests arrive. Adding a bit of tomato paste to a classic hollandaise sauce gives it a lovely rosy hue and a nice tangy flavour.

Read More

I Went All The Way To St. Thomas to Get Tatted

Hello Lovely,

The third stop on my cruise was St. Thomas. Before going on the cruise, I knew there was only one thing I wanted to do in St. Thomas.  You guys might remember that I went to St. Croix a few years back. I was told that if you've seen St. Croix, you've seen St. Thomas and St. John, but St. Thomas would be nicer. But I didn't see enough of the island to really know. Apparently if you're only taking a taxi to get to a particular stop, and you're not taking the tour, the tour guide won't explain anything until you're off. That was kinda harsh, and while I understand, I can't say that I agree. I got dropped downtown and walked a part of the waterfront to get to the studio: Salt of The Earth. You're probably wondering why I chose to get another tattoo. After my step dad died, I did a lot of soul searching. Around June, I realised that I wanted another tattoo but it had to mean something. I don't see the point in getting inked if it doesn't mean something to you, because this thing is going to be permanent. But before I show you my new ink, I want to share the few photos I was able to take of the island while I was there.

My only regret is that I didn't leave earlier. Had I left the cruise ship earlier I would've been able to see more of the island including a bakery I had arranged to meet with. Eventually I found my way to the arcade (or alley as it's commonly known) where the Salt of The Earth Studio was located. I was blown away by how beautiful it was. I would definitely consider it one of those hidden, off the beat paths. If I had more time, I definitely would've gotten lunch at this gorgeous restaurant.

Salt of the Earth Tattoo is the tattoo and art studio of artist, Kristin Forbes-Mullane. She's super nice and patient and I loved every moment. I wasn't in pain until the shading and even then, Kristen was really friendly and encouraging. Here's how it turned out:

I LOOOOOOVE my new tattoo! It says, "She believed she could, so she did", which is the quote on a bracelet my mum bought me as a graduation present. That quote means so much for me because there's a lot I have accomplished simply because I didn't give up. There have been so many trying moments so I see my tattoo as a reminder of my strength to overcome those negative moments and feelings. I highly recommend her for anyone who likes to collect tattoos from artists around the world. Even if you're not a tattoo person, her artwork is incredible and you should definitely check it out.

Well that's it! I'm almost done with my cruise recap. Have you been enjoying it so far? I can't wait to show you the last stop, which was my personal favourite: The Dominican Republic.

 

Simple Blueberry Galette

Hello Lovely,

Who doesn't love a good blueberry pie? I love pies, but I don't always have the time to make the crust from scratch; especially before I got my food processor, it was just a nightmare. The scent of blueberry pie bubbling away in the oven is comforting and familiar, even in high summer, when pie baking isn't desirable because of the heat. Before I left for my summer travels, my mother insisted that I make a dessert for her. I had wanted to make a blueberry pie for awhile, so I figured it would be the easiest thing to do. I already had frozen pie crusts in the freezer and blueberries happened to be on sale. This recipe is easily done in , so you can have a warm blueberry pie on table in no time!

Blueberry Pie.jpg

Simple Blueberry Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pillsbury frozen pie crust, thawed
  • 3 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Line pie dish with one pie crust. The pie dish I used was smaller than needed so I actually had a little leftover. I folded it over to form the top crust in Step 5.

3. In a saucepan, add blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, water, and lemon juice. Stir just to combine.

4. Cook the blueberries over medium low heat for about 10-15 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Remove it from heat and let it cool down.

5. Pour berry mixture into the crust. If you have enough to cut: Cut remaining pastry into 1/2 - 3/4 inch wide strips, and make lattice top. Crimp and flute edges. Or fold the edge of the crust over to make a galette, like I did.

6. Bake pie on lower shelf of oven for about 50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Cool before serving! I got greedy and didn't wait and that's why my pie fell apart, but it was still delicious!

Blueberry Pie 1.jpg

If you try this recipe, don't forget to share it with the hashtag, #LifeByOlivia! Happy baking!
 

What I Loved (and Didn't Like) About Puerto Rico

Hello Lovely,

Our second stop was Puerto Rico. I was really excited to see Puerto Rico because it's filled with rich history and gorgeous architecture. I was also looking for any way to give back to the country after the devastating hurricanes last year. We landed in San Juan and set off on foot to explore. Just as I like it, no signs were in English so we all had to rely on our high school Spanish to get by (not being sarcastic). I don't know why I was surprised to see how modern the buildings were given that it is a U.S. territory, but there's still a colonial theme in their designs.

We walked up Recinto Sur Calle, where I saw the most gorgeous blue cobblestone street, and almost got knocked down while I stopped to take a picture of it. Then I saw the colourful buildings I had longed to see. When it comes to architecture, my favourite designs are colourful buildings and Gothic cathedrals. We ducked into a little bar and got Sangria in a pouch for $3. I really thought I was going to get to drink it out of the pouch like an adult CapriSun, but apparently that's not how it works.

We walked up a fairly steep hill to get to Castillo San Felipe del Morro. On the way a strong wind blew up my cousin's dress and apparently flashed everyone. While we were all just grateful that she was finally wearing underwear, this didn't earn us a free ride up the hill. The view from the top of the fort is breathtaking! We didn't go inside but we did enjoy a little photo break. I even got to take a photo of my 14 year old cousin, who up until that point, had been my personal photographer.

My cousin thought it was a must for us to walk through La Perla. La Perla is a historical shanty town in the steep hillside between Old San Juan and the sea where the video for the pop hit Despacito was filmed. My cousin mentioned nothing about Despacito. She was excited because it is supposed to be a very dangerous area that they typically warn tourists to stay away, but given that it was her fourth trip, she felt like a veteran. Afterwards I did some research and found that the little houses that make up La Perla are clustered on the other side of the wall, where the sea crashes against the rocks. Its residents have fought tooth and nail to preserve it, and artists like Calle 13, Ismael Rivera and Ruben Blades have dedicated songs to it. With 1,600 inhabitants, it is one of the poorest communities in San Juan. Drug trafficking largely drives its economy, with the government trying in vain to clear it. On Yelp, reviewers comment on the dangers outsiders risk going there. At one point (thanks to my knowledge gained from Narcos) I identified a few "drug houses" and when two men came out to have a smoke on the rock wall, I knew that was our cue to leave because we weren't welcome. But the graffiti my cousin promised was absolutely gorgeous and worth the walk! 
 

From there we were all really hot and tired, so when we came out by Castillo de San Cristóbal, our first priority was to find a restroom and hail a taxi. Our first stop on the tour was the Bacardi factory. I'll be honest, coming from a country that used to have a Bacardi factory (and actually put Bacardi on the map) there wasn't much that amazed me, but it was still very beautiful. After the tour, you can buy bottles of Bacardi, some flavours are only sold in Puerto Rico. But I'm sorry at $160 a bottle, I can have Bacardi anywhere, because they all taste the same.

After a day of touring it was time to eat. My cousin insisted on us eating at a local favourite called Bebo's. The line was unnecessarily long and slow. I contemplated crossing the road to McDonalds but I had to keep telling myself that I didn't come all the way to Puerto Rico to eat McDonalds.She wanted us to try the national dish: Mofongo. Mofongo is often touted as the best Puerto Rican food. Whether it is or isn’t is debatable with so many tasty options to choose from; however, it’s certainly the most famous. It’s a mashed concoction of fried green plantains with garlic seasoning filled with vegetables, shrimp, chicken, steak, or pork. Think of your favorite mashed potato but oh so much WORSE! I hated it! And sadly it wasn't even the worst thing I ate.  I ordered white rice, mofongo and tostones. Tostones are twice-fried plantain slices. Most commonly known as tostones, they are also known as tachinos or chatinos, Platano frito, bananes pesées, and patacones. I didn't want to trash anything about my trip, but I am not lying when I say there was ABSOLUTELY no seasoning in the food. My dad ate at a different restaurant and he said everyone there hated the food as well. Lastly, my rice was so undercooked, it only could've cooked for about 5 minutes on high. I really wanted an authentic experience, but I'm so sad that I didn't like it.

Have you ever been to San Juan or any other part of Puerto Rico? How did you enjoy your trip? Did my guide prepare you for a trip to Puerto Rico? Or maybe you have questions. I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below!

My Dad Got Married & Other Highlights From Grand Turk

Hello Lovely,

It's still a little weird being back to real life after vacationing for three weeks! I've never travelled for so long but I must admit: as much as I love to travel, three weeks might be a little too long to travel at one time. Earlier this week I shared some tips for any first time cruisers. Cruises can be fun because you get to visit so many different countries, with 24 hour food and hospitality services. So I'm going to be breaking down the different stops from my summer cruise, starting with the first stop: Grand Turk.

Only July 9, we arrived in Grand Turk and left the ship for a very special reason. My dad remarried! My parents divorced 11 years ago and during that time my mum remarried and widowed. My dad's new wife has two teenage daughters and we were all a part of the wedding. They got married on Governor's Beach in Grand Turk. It was kind of funny seeing other tourists come to the beach and "attend" the wedding. Some even took photos. I couldn't understand why anyone would want photos of random people getting married on the beach, but it was a little nice to be commemorated in another family's vacation memories.

At one point, I began to cry almost hysterically when I thought about my step dad. It's weird how grief sneaks into random moments that have nothing to do with what you're grieving, but I had to pull it together because I knew my dad's side of the family wouldn't understand (they're not the best at handling emotions). I had to give a toast at the wedding and even though I already wrote it out, I HATE public speaking (mostly speaking in front of people I don't like) so this was really anxiety provoking for me. I just had to remind myself that the toast was to my dad and no one else, so it only mattered that he liked it.

After the wedding we took a tour of the island seeing most of it. I loved the wild donkeys and horses. A lot of people may not know that Grand Turk is still under British rule and independence is a huge debate in the country. So don't be surprised if you happen to see a few red telephone booths. The island is very small and still recovering from the hurricanes, so don't expect a lot of places to be open. The simple lifestyle is very nice and peaceful. We also found out you could buy a 1/4 acre of land for only $35,000. Can anyone say vacation home/investment property?

Grand Turk was a nice but it wasn't my favourite stop. Which one was? Well you'll just have to wait and see. But until then, I'd love to hear from you guys! How was your summer? Did you travel anywhere interesting? Have you ever been to Grand Turk before? Would you want to go? Contact me for more details on how you can vacation in Grand Turk if you're interested and I can give you the low down on where to go and all the must see sites.

What You Should Know Before Taking a Cruise

Hello Lovely,

I just got back from my summer vacation and I’ve got to say, IT…WAS…A…BLAST!!! I took my second cruise on Carnival (my first cruise was 2001, and also on Carnival). While it wasn’t my original plan to spend my summer trapped on a boat with my family, the fact that my dad was getting married kind of made it a priority, regardless. We boarded the Carnival Glory on Saturday 7th July, 2018. The first part of the trip was a little stressful because we were supposed to do an online check in, but no one told me that we were supposed to do an online check in until the night before. But the moment I walked up and saw the Carnival Glory (in all its glory) I was overwhelmed in awe. Luckily it wasn’t too much of a hassle for me to get checked in at the ship. When I realised how many things were limited, prohibited or simply not included, I just knew that I had to write this guide to help anyone considering a cruise vacation. Keep in mind, ships may have different regulations or the small stuff, but in general, they all follow the same guidelines.

DSC_0123.jpg

1.      Wi-Fi is not included

I was pissed to find out that for the S1100 I had invested, it did not include Wi-Fi. To make it worse, there were different internet packages for different services just to force you to spend more money. The most basic was the social media package (access to Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram etc.) for $4 per day. That came out to $28 for me for the entire trip. If you wait until you're onboard, it's $5 per day. The Value Wi-Fi plan adds access to email, airline sites as well as news, entertainment (not including streaming sites), sports, weather, banking and finance. Pre-Cruise price: $10.25 USD per day | Onboard price: $12.00 USD per day | Onboard price for 24 hour plan: $16.00 USD.
Then there's the Premium Wi-Fi plan which truthfully provides nothing worth paying for as you still can't stream Netflix, Hulu or, well anything. This plan just boasts having the fastest internet speed. Pre-Cruise price: $14.88 USD per day | Onboard price: $17.70 USD per day | Onboard price for 24 hour plan: $25.00 USD.
 

2.      Online check in is preferred

U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires Carnival Cruise Line to submit a final departure manifest with specific guest information at least 60 minutes prior to departure. This allows you to print out your boarding pass and luggage tags in advance. Don't feel bad if you don't get a chance to do it, as the site wouldn't allow me to complete my online check in the day before. I was still able to check it on the ship, it'll just take a little longer (like 10 minutes).

3.      No plastic bottled beverages are allowed

Carnival’s  Liquor and Beverage Policy states that guests are prohibited from bringing water, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages onboard that are packaged in bottles. This also includes juices. But if it's in a can, you can bring it on board. You'll meet two litre-sized bottles of water in your room on embarkation day but they costs $4 each. A complimentary bottle of water will be delivered to your stateroom on embarkation day. Bottled water may also be purchased onboard by contacting Room Service (gratuity fees apply).

4.      That means you can’t bring your own alcohol

The ship has bars all over so it makes sense they wouldn't want you bringing on your own alcohol, which would cut into your profits. But there are ways you can sneak them on, like in travel sized clear bottles (you know the stuff you put your shampoo and what not in), or even in the Listerine bottle. Shh! Don't tell anyone I told you that.

36634360_2055090877848903_3938326637807927296_n.jpg

5.      If you’re not a US citizen, you need a US Visa

Because I'm Bahamian to go anywhere in the US, I need a US Visa. And because a lot of the ports were US territories, my US Visa was definitely a necessity. I'll never forget travelling to London last summer and thinking everything was fine, until I got stopped at the airport check in because I needed a Canadian ETA just to connect through Canada. Guests should check with their travel agent and/or government authority to determine the travel documents necessary for each port of call.

6.      Luggage restrictions

This one isn't so bad and it's pretty much just like flying. Each checked suit case and carry-on suit case should not weigh more than 50 pounds, and when lying flat, bags must not exceed 16 inches high by 24 inches wide (the length of the bag is not a factor). For security screening purposes, all luggage should be unlocked. Oversized luggage and locked luggage may cause delivery delays. The common sense thing here is to pack sensibly, so limit your luggage to a maximum of one bag per person, if traveling on cruises of 3-5 days duration, and no more than two bags per person, for cruises of 6 days or longer.

7.      The rooms are really small

You know how hotel rooms are usually tiny? Well subtract about 20 square feet and that’s the cabins on a cruise. It’s not small enough to trigger claustrophobia (unless you have it bad) but don’t expect a grand space. The bathrooms are tiny and there are only five drawers, only two of which can actually hold clothing. There are three closets, but the hangers aren’t the best if you have the type of clothing that easily slides off the hanger.

8.      Bring a drop cord, not a surge protector

I am not kidding, there is literally one outlet in the entire cabin. ONE!!! And the way it's set up, it's at the desk so an outlet won't fit in the socket, only a drop cord. So if you have a cabin of three, it's going to be hell for the three of you to charge all of your electronic devices. However, we were told that surge protectors are not prohibited so make sure your drop cord is not a surge protector.

9.  Beware of hidden charges

On the last day, we were all shocked to find out that our accounts had been charged $90.65 for “Gratuity”. I was grateful that I didn’t attach any of my cards to my account so technically my account was in the red, and I had to pay it back. Other hidden fees include having to buy soda and juice from the bar as it’s not available from the free beverage dispensaries, having to pay for photos that are taken of you from the photo gallery, and a few restaurants and coffee shop that are not free.

10. Pre-booked shore excursions sometimes cost more

How many of you like to pre-book your activities before you get to your destination to save time and money? I know I preached this with my trip to London, but guys, after this recent experience, I have learned that does not apply to everything. When we got to Amber Cove, DR we were surprised to see the ziplining that was advertised as $75 per person, was only $20 per person at port and came with unlimited use. Had we actually booked it, I would've immediately demanded a refund! Then a guy for the waterfall excursion told me it was $110 to go to the waterfall. There was no way I was paying that much! When we got a taxi for $20 per person and the driver said he would take us to the waterfall, imagine our disbelief to see it only costs $10 per person. That is a HUUUUUUUUUGE difference! So please be careful when book shore excursions in advance. In fact, you're probably better off just doing a tour.

11. There is ALWAYS something to do

I looked forward to reading the itinerary every night for the next day so that I could know what to expect. On the last night we had a Mardi Gras party, which was full of energy and live music that simply brought the ship alive! The waiters would put on a show at dinner time that was really adorable. We had a Motown show, 80s and 90s music trivia, trivia games, raffles every day for art work and jewellery and even free fitness classes in the gym. There are several opportunities to score free booze with free rum tastings, and free champagne at the raffle events.

12. The pools suck

I've never seen people go to a pool to literally just stand in it! There are two actual pools and everything else is a whirlpool so that was disappointing. Then the pools deepest part is only 4'7". But let's be realistic, it's a giant floating hotel so naturally you can't have massive pools; and the way lawsuits go, the pools couldn't be too deep. Lastly, the pools are almost never free so don't expect to go swimming. Just stand up in your swimmy with your drink and take a few photos.

Currently: Obsessed With Wigs

Hello Lovely,

This is going to sound weird, but within the past three months I have become obsesses with wigs! I made three wigs earlier this year (not the best job but also not bad for a rookie). I really enjoyed the process but I just couldn't figure out how to attach the closure. After everything, there's really only one wig that came out pretty good and I wear it fairly often. So what do I see in wigs you ask?

IMAG3252.jpg
26730690_1848347748523218_8189574031121536496_n.jpg

I do not have the time to constantly fix my hair. Even with protective styles, I get tired of it after only one week. I'm really non-commital with hairstyles, so wigs seemed like the perfect answer! I think it's really cool to completely transform your look by simply throwing on a wig. The best part is there's no commitment. At the end of the day, I can take it off and go about my business. And underneath my wigs, my hair is usually in a braided/twisted style so that if anyone were to snatch my wig (I've watched waaaaaaay too much reality TV), at least my hair would still be cute underneath. I know there are so many rules and regulations to wear a wig properly, but when have I ever been the kind of gal to follow rules?

IMAG3292.jpg
IMG_20180601_151355.jpg

I know that I'm never going to be the one to always have my nails done, or my face, "beat".

Friday Favourites: Books I've Got to Have

Hello Lovely,

Now that it's officially summer, everyone is looking for a good book or two to read. I definitely don't read as much as I used to, but lately there have been some books that really caught my eye. I love the idea of coffee table books and it's even better when those books are actually filled with fun things to do, like recipes and DIYs. So I've compiled a list of 6 books I've got to get before the summer is over.

1. Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering

Can we all just pause for a moment and praise the genius that is Joanna Gaines? I got hooked on her and her husband Chip after being forced to watch Fixer Upper with my mum. Now I'm obsessed with all things related to farmhouse living. When I found out about her book, it skyrocketed to the top of my list for must have books!

Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat
By Chrissy Teigen, Adeena Sussman

2. Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat

Some people call Chrissy Teigen a mean girl. I just think she's hilarious. And after this tweet:

2018-05-29 (1).png

I knew I had to buy her recipe book! For years, she’s been collecting, cooking, and Instagramming her favorite recipes, and here they are: from breakfast all day to John’s famous fried chicken with spicy honey butter to her mom’s Thai classics. I know her new cookbook will soon be available so I want to get the first one and start a collection!

3. Cakes by Melissa: Life Is What You Bake It

I found out about Melissa when I watched my first episode of The Kitchen on Food Network. I think it was the birthday episode and I was absolutely blown away by easy she made everything look. That inspired me to try my own tie dye cake and it actually wasn't so bad. Cakes by Melissa is a mouthwatering collection of easy and imaginative cakes from the creative force behind the delicious bite-size cupcake brand Baked by Melissa. I'm hoping this book would help me to become a better cake decorator.

4. Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts

It's Martha Fucking Stewart. Need I say any more????? Organized by topic from A to Z, Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts contains complete instructions and brief histories for more than 30 techniques, detailed descriptions of the necessary tools and materials, and easy-to-copy templates.

5. 50 Ways to Draw Your Beautiful, Ordinary Life: Practical Lessons in Pencil and Paper (Flow)

I've seriously been trying to get back into drawing, but never quite knew where to start or what I want to draw. So I think this book would be the perfect inspiration as it includes step by step instructions on how to draw a whimsically curated list of the things we see and interact with every day: a bouquet of flowers, a watering can, a cat, mittens, favorite plants and vegetables, a cup and saucer, a kitchen table, fruit wrappers, a seagull, a dress collar, an apple tree.

6. A Touch of Farmhouse Charm: Easy DIY Projects to Add a Warm and Rustic Feel to Any Room

I'm obsessed with anything farmhouse related and a book that's basically a live version of Pinterest sounds like a good idea to me. The projects require minimal effort, yet add instant charm to any room. I like a lot of the projects in the book but I wish that they all had photos attached because I'm a visual person and won't make anything if I don't have an idea of what it's supposed to look like.

Are you digging any of these books? What's on your summer reading list? Share your favourites  or anything you're excited to read in the summer section below.