My 26th Birthday - Royal Wedding Style

May 22, 2018

Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard about or seen photos from the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, which took place this past Saturday, May 19. What you probably don't know is that Saturday, May 19 also happened to be my 26th birthday.

When the Royal Family first announced the date of the wedding several months ago, my roommate texted me and told me I needed to somehow incorporate the wedding into my birthday weekend. Never one to turn down a fun theme or a celebration, I created an event page on Facebook seconds later inviting my friends to "Princess Stephanie's Royal Wedding Slumber Party."

Yeah, you can say I had a little too much fun with the theme. This was the cover photo for the Facebook invite, created by my friend Erin:

What can I say? I like to go all out.

And just like that, after months of built-up excitement, my "Royal Birthday" weekend finally arrived. My sister stopped by on Thursday night to help me shop, bake and decorate. We spent all night Thursday and all day Friday prepping (lucky for me, I got the day off of work). Here's what I purchased for the party and how I decorated the apartment:

Great Britain flag pennant banner, Amazon; "Yay" balloon, gifted to me by my roommate; Target

On the coffee table: London candle, Bath & Body Works; Big Ben filled with Ahmad English Breakfast Tea bags; The British Shoppe. In the background: music by U.K. artists streaming all night on Spotify 

Big Ben and Telephone Box cutouts, Amazon

Paper crowns and pearl necklaces for guests, Target; tabloids featuring the Royal Family; Princess Diana coffee table books 

Ring Pops from Party City; Polaroids; more Princess Diana books

Friday Night 

Finally, on Friday night, my friends, sister and mom arrived at my apartment dressed in silky pajamas, crowns and pearl necklaces. We danced and sang along to music by some of the most iconic U.K. artists and bands, took pictures, drank wine, ate three boxes of pizza (and a box of cheesy garlic knots - I'm grateful Pizza Hut is down the street), ate a lemon cake (yes, the same flavor as the Royal Wedding cake) and watched The Princess Diaries before crashing on air mattresses and couches in the living room. The plan was to pass out at a decent hour so we wouldn't be exhausted waking up at 6:45 a.m. to watch the wedding, but somehow, we didn't fall asleep until almost 3 a.m.

My best friend, matching my level of Extra.
On me: pajama slip, Victoria's Secret; gloves, Party City; pearl necklace, Target; crown, Amazon

My dad was hesitant to walk into a room full of women drinking wine in crowns and pajamas, but he was a trooper and agreed to stay a few minutes for some pictures

Our Royal Riley!

Cookies from Scotland, purchased at British Marketplace

Lemon cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes (if only we had different candles ...)

Saturday Morning 
Royal Wedding/My Birthday!

At about 6:30 a.m., my mom marched into the living room to turn on the TV and wake me and my friends up. It took a few minutes to feel excited to wake up early on a Saturday, but once I heard those English accents on TV, I was ready for round 2. We watched the wedding (alternating between ABC, BBC and E!) while enjoying Buck's Fizz (mimosas); Ahmad English Breakfast Tea (purchased at The British Shoppe); homemade smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onion and caper tea sandwiches; homemade scones with strawberry jam imported from England (purchased at British Marketplace), homemade honey butter and cool whip; puff banger pastries imported from England (purchased at British Marketplace), and fried eggs on English muffins.

Homemade scones (a friend's secret recipe) that tasted delicious despite their awkward shape; homemade smoked salmon tea sandwiches (recipe from BBC)

Like mother, like daughter (my friends weren't feeling photo-ready at such an early hour)

Cheers to a beautiful (and historic!) Royal Wedding and to turning 26 surrounded by people I love. It's a birthday I'll never forget!

10 Sweet Last-Minute Ideas for Mother's Day

May 11, 2018

Ahh, holidays. It seems each one serves as another opportunity to convince ourselves that we won't wait until the last minute to purchase a gift, only to prove ourselves wrong for the millionth time. Trust me, I get it. While I didn't wait until the last minute to buy my mom her Mother's Day gifts this year (progress!), I know that procrastination panic all too well. But here's the beautiful thing about Mother's Day: gifts aren't a focal point. The purpose of Mother's Day is to simply enjoy being with our moms, talking to our moms, or thinking of our moms, wherever they may be. Of course, when we love people, we want to surprise them and make them smile, and gifts are great for that; but you don't need to run to the mall or pay extra for overnight shipping to make your mom happy. In fact, in my experience, the best Mother's (and Father's) Day gifts are the ones that come from the heart, often requiring nothing more than a quick trip to the grocery store or a small local shop. They're personal and thoughtful, rather than flashy and stressful.

That being said, here are 10 last-minute ideas for Mother's Day - from personal gifts to sentimental surprises - that will ensure you and your mom/mother figure enjoy the holiday to the fullest, with your bond as mother and daughter kept top-of-mind. :)

1. Breakfast in Bed + Old Home Video + Matching Jewelry Set

When my sister and I were kids, we surprised my mom and dad on the morning of one of their wedding anniversaries with breakfast in bed and played their wedding video for them to watch as they ate. It made both of my parents sentimental (which made me incredibly happy) and is something they still reflect fondly on to this day. Try the same concept this Mother's Day, but with a home video of your birth date (you don't necessarily have to take her through the memories of labor; I'm suggesting something more along the lines of a video of her holding you after you were born). To make the breakfast in bed even better, try preparing one of her favorite breakfast foods to add to the surprise and effort. For a gift that will ensure she never forgets this surprise, give her a necklace or ring that serves as the other half to one you purchase for yourself.

2. Sangria Bar + Monthly Wine Delivery Service

Surprise your mom with a festive Sangria, Mimosa or Bloody Mary Bar (my hope is to recreate this one this weekend), and add a membership card for a monthly wine (or spirit) delivery service in the envelope of the card you're giving her. The bar will create a celebratory vibe for the holiday and her  wine/spirit delivery will serve as a monthly reminder of the fun gesture (plus, who doesn't love a surprise wine delivery?).

3. Family Photo + Pretty Frame

If you ask my mom what her favorite anniversary gift from my dad is, she won't mention a piece of jewelry, handbag or tech device; she'll tell you it's the framed photo he gave her years ago. He found a photo of the two of them on a camera, ordered it, and placed it in a beautiful frame that had a sweet message about love engraved on it. She said it made her cry because it wasn't just a swipe-the-card purchase, but rather, something that required multiple steps to complete. Find a photo of you and your mom - or better yet, you, your mom and your mom's mom - and place it in a pretty frame. It's small and simple, yet personal and special.

4. Summer Bag Filled with Goodies + Surprise Beach/Pool Day

Have a mom who's desperate for summer to arrive? Give her a pretty summer bag and fill it with some sunny-day goodies (sunglasses, beach wave hair spray, a funny koozie, etc.) and take her out for a surprise beach or pool day. Tip: call your local hotels to see if they offer any affordable packages that allow you to take advantage of the pool for a few hours. I find calling always helps more than emailing or messaging on a website.

5. Bottle Of Her Favorite Perfume + Mini Bottle of Your Favorite Childhood/Teenage Perfume

Ah, again with the sentimental and nostalgic gift (I'm a sucker for these!). For the mom who's obsessed with all things beauty and body, surprise your mom with a bottle of her favorite perfume - then take it a step further by adding a mini bottle of the perfume you wore as a kid or middle/high schooler to take her back in time. There's something cute about the bottle of your childhood/adolescent perfume being smaller than hers - it plays into the "mommy and me" factor. :)

6. Handwritten Letter + Pretty Frame

While handwritten cards alone are always a "Do," there's nothing like an unexpected and elevated twist on a tradition. Swap your annual Mother's Day card for a lengthy, from-the-heart handwritten letter (typed if you write like a two year-old, please) on a piece of thick, pretty stationary, then place it in a frame she'll love. Tip: make sure the frame matches the area you think she'll want to hang it in, so she doesn't have to worry about exchanging it for another.

7. Basket with Indulgent Bath/Body Products + Spa Gift Card

Nowadays, it seems we could all use more time to relax - amiright?! Now, if I - a single twenty-something - feel this way, it probably means the moms of the world could really use some personal downtime. Give your momma the gift of bliss with a basket filled with indulgent bath and body products (think: sugar scrub, body polisher, stress relief body wash, etc.) and add a gift card for a massage, facial or treatment package at a local spa. The bath and body goodies will give her something to look forward to every day, while the spa day can be used on a day when she's asking Jesus to take the wheel.

8. Homemade Recipe of Her Favorite Dish + Cookbook

Millennials aren't the only ones who carry the title of "foodie" (ever heard of Ina Garten or Giada De Laurentiis?). If your mom's favorite spot in the house is the kitchen or her favorite weekend activity is enjoying dinner at a nice restaurant, treat her to a homemade recipe of her favorite dish and throw in a gift-wrapped cookbook featuring flavors, chefs or cuisines she loves most.

9. Rooftop Yoga/Dance Class/City Bike Ride/Group Hike + Monthly Membership

Your mom out-runs and out-sweats you during a workout, and it's embarrassing. So do yourself a favor and get on her level. If cardio or #namaste is your mom's favorite way to spend a Sunday morning, treat her to a class with a special fun twist (e.g., rooftop yoga vs. regular yoga) and add a monthly membership to extend her endorphin-boosted mornings.

10. Favorite Album or Film + Tickets to a Concert or Show

If Netflix, Spotify or Playbill is your mom's middle name, tickets are your best friend. Head to a record shop or local store and purchase one of her favorite albums, films, or TV series, then add to the surprise with tickets to a concert, Broadway show or movie she's been talking about seeing. Bonus points if you throw in a vintage concert tee for the music junkie mom.

Remember: regardless of what you give your mom, be sure she has something to open or enjoy on Mother's Day.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there - especially mine! :) 

A Month in the Life

May 1, 2018

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I'm baaaaaaack! (There's really no way to say that without picturing a scene in a horror film, is there?).

After a bit of a hiatus from blogging, I've finally returned feeling more refreshed, inspired and excited to write than I may have been the day I started this blog (fun fact: back when I created it in 2015, it was called "The Stela" - a combination of my and my sister Gabriela's names).

That being said, I'm thrilled to share my revamped site, "Lady and Rebel." After years of blogging under names that never quite fit, I felt I needed to make a change that reflected how I feel as a woman and how many women in this day and age often feel themselves. I wanted to create a name that I felt would encourage, inspire and excite readers, and one that I could build a community around. After days of brainstorming and never feeling like I hit the nail on the head, Lady and Rebel came to me while I was parking my car in front of a coffee shop to meet my best friend, Jess, for a productive blogging day (she just revamped hers, too! Check out Moral of the story: coffee is sacred.

All that said, I'm kicking Lady and Rebel off with a new "A Month in the Life" post, sharing thirteen things I'm loving and looking forward to this month.

1. Sweetbitter

I'm still in the process of reading Sweetbitter, a novel about a 22-year-old who leaves her rural town for NYC and finds herself enthralled by a life of sex, drugs and self-discovery after scoring a job at a popular restaurant. The writing alone is spectacular - author Stephanie Danler's words consistently reflect the sensuality of food and taste - but what has me really excited is the fact that the novel has been adapted for a TV series on Starz! From the looks of the trailer, it seems as though the show will stay true to the story, in which case: I'm in. Read the novel this week, then set your DVR for May 6 (and don't forget the food!).

2. Gal Meets Glam Collection

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Julia Hengel of the Charleston-based style blog Gal Meets Glam recently launched a collection consisting solely of feminine dresses, and while most of them aren't my style, there are a select few that I've got my eye on - mainly Tyler in navy, Isabella (perfect for a Mother's Day brunch!) and Carly. Not sure if I'd wear the Rose, but in light blue, it's giving me major Allie Hamilton vibes.

3. Royal Wedding 2018

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I wasn't one of the millions of people who stayed up/woke up incredibly early to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding a few years back; however, considering Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding falls on my 26th birthday, I knew I had to find a way to weave the two together. The morning of May 19, my friends, sister, mom and I will be waking up on air mattresses sprawled across my apartment living room floor to watch the royal wedding together. We'll be wearing silky pajamas and pearl necklaces, drinking English breakfast tea and eating iconic English food while crushing on Harry (and Meghan!), and trying to figure out what the Queen is thinking about an American in the Royal Family ...

4. Pack Up + Go

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Anyone else feel like they're half spontaneous floater, half planner? Sometimes the combination can make planning a trip complicated. Enter Pack Up + Go. I came across an ad for them on Facebook and was instantly intrigued. Here's how it works: you fill out a survey and the company plans and prepares a 3-day trip for you based on your answers. The catch? You don't know where you're being sent. A few days before your trip, you'll receive a designated place to go with a date and time. Once that moment rolls around and you're at the location, you open your envelope and figure out where you're going. Now, who's signing up with me?

5. I Am Fy (Art Prints and More)

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I can't recall how I came across Fy, an online shop based in the U.K. that sells art prints, bags, jewelry and more, but let's just say I came across this piece at a time when I really needed it, and that pretty much sold me (hello, serendipity). I'm happy to report that it arrived exactly when and how I expected it to. I already have a full wish list on the site and plan to purchase more prints to finally complete my gallery wall.

6. Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour

Confession: I literally cried the first time I heard Kacey Musgraves' hit song "Merry Go Round" - not because it reminded me of my home or family (I'm relieved to say it doesn't), but because the lyrics were so poetic and beautiful. I instantly admired her after hearing that song and was opening up Spotify the second I heard songs from her new album Golden Hour were available for streaming. One part sass, and another part sweet and sentimental, it's the same Kacey Musgraves we all fell in girl-crush-love with years ago.

7. Armchair Expert Podcast

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I would pay to watch most couples I know interview one another, so when I found out actor Dax Shepard started a podcast, Armchair Expert, and interviewed his wife, actress Kristen Bell, for the first episode, I knew I'd be hooked. It was a long episode (roughly two hours) and yet I still found myself happily listening along the entire time, laughing and agreeing with them as if they were in the car with me. There are now several more episodes available featuring interviews with other "big names," including Ashton Kutcher, Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen Degeneres, and so far, they've all been entertaining and interesting.

8. Opalhouse at Target

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If I got locked inside a Target overnight, I'd not only be fine, I'd be happy. Opalhouse is the latest of Target's home lines and it's true what the articles say - it's straight out of Anthropology and a dream come true for anyone seeking a bohemian-chic home. I'm still trying to decide which of the brand's three collections - Canyon Sunrise, Indochic and Mallorca - is my favorite.

9. Instant Immersion

In Venice as part of my high school Europe trip, 2009

After booking a spontaneous trip to Paris, Jess was talking about how she wanted to learn French and it reminded me that I had a French language program sitting in the back of my closet. I told her I'd let her borrow it and as I was going to grab it, I remembered I had an Italian one, too. Inspired by her interest in learning a new language, I decided to pop the Italian CD in my car while driving home to South Florida this past weekend and was surprised by how much I was able to get through in just one hour! For being relatively inexpensive (compared to programs like Rosetta Stone) it definitely seems to do the trick.

10. Spacells

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After an incredible massage at Spavia, I noticed a funky honeycomb-looking facial scubbing tool called Spacells near the checkout counter. I asked the employee about it and she shared that her team swears by it. Always a sucker for a skincare recommendation, I decided to purchase it and after using it just once, I found myself texting my sister and mom encouraging them to buy it off Amazon. It left my skin looking radiant, minimized the appearance of my pores tremendously and made my skin feel softer than it's felt in over a decade. I'm asking for the bath mitt for my birthday.

11. A Quiet Place

While some of my friends will beg to differ (lookin' at you, Erin) I thought A Quiet Place was sincerely worth the hype. As if John Krasinski and Emily Blunt aren't a strong enough reason to buy a ticket, the premise is truly unique and different from any other horror film I've ever seen. It's stressful and even heartbreaking, but the acting and directing are fantastic; I promise you'll want to keep watching. I couldn't stop thinking about it for days.

*On the topic of movies, I'm going to see I Feel Pretty tonight, and I'm way too excited. #AmySchumerforPrez

12. Martha of Miami

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Growing up in a Cuban family, Cuban bread + cafe con leche were the ultimate iconic duo [*insert "Name a More Iconic Duo. I'll Wait" caption here*]. When I saw a fellow Orlando blogger wearing this Cuban Bred hat, which features a design replicating that of a Cuban bread bag, I knew I'd be wearing it in the near future. It arrives this weekend, and I can't wait to rep my roots. The designer, fellow Cubana Martha of Miami, designs tees, tanks, hats, accessories, household items and more - all showcasing her Latino pride.

13. Alyssa's Cookies

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I'm one of those people who always swears I'm done grocery shopping as I approach the checkout line, but when something catches my eye near the register, I'm suddenly tossing an unnecessary item into my cart. Usually, I regret the irresponsible last-minute addition to my cart, but after taking home Alyssa's Cookies, they went from checkout line temptation to the top of my grocery list. Not only are they delicious, they're healthy: the oatmeal bites are gluten free, dairy free, non-GMO, high fiber, low net carb and sweetened only with chicory root fiber, which means no added sugar. So. Damn. Good.