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Life is Beautiful Weekend | 2018

Fresh coconuts, good weather, and even better company… Life got a little more beautiful in downtown Vegas last weekend when Life is Beautiful came back to town! The line up was pretty similar to Coachella’s with The Weeknd, Miguel, and Daniel Caesar as a few of the headliners, but the artists were just that good that I had to see them again! Plus, it didn’t hurt that LAUV, T-Pain, Florence + The Machine, Bastille, Arcade Fire and N.E.R.D. were there.

Here’s a recap of the weekend!

DAY 1 | Park on Fremont, The Weeknd & Daniel Caesar

My cousins and I arrived downtown and had a few drinks at the Park on Fremont—a super cozy bar with the nicest ambience and the cutest patio—before heading to the festival. We hung out at Container Park for a few hours and watched local performers beatbox and breakdance, before getting serenaded by Daniel Caesar and ending our night dancing to The Weeknd.

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DAY 2 | Exploring the festival grounds, N.E.R.D., Miguel, and Florence + The Machine

We arrived a couple of hours before our first set to explore the festival grounds and there was a lot to see! We visited the “Crime on Canvas” art gallery, admired a lot of the street art, and spent the rest of our night sipping on fresh coconuts while dancing to Miguel and Florence!

Top, bandana, and harem pants from ASOS.com | Shoes: Nike Cortez

DAY 3 | LAUV, T-Pain, Bastille, ODESZA, Blackbear, and Arcade Fire

This was our longest day, but it was also our best! We saw so many performances from Bastille to Blackbear, and we briefly saw ODESZA and Arcade Fire, although we were so sad we didn’t get to see their whole set! My favorites of the day though, (or maybe even the whole weekend 🤫) was T-Pain and LAUV! I knew LAUV would be amazing, but he was even way better than I anticipated! And T-Pain’s set was so. much. FUN. I felt like I was in middle school again, hearing him perform so many of his old songs. The whole crowd was singing loud and dancing hard, and it really made the weekend that much more memorable to me!

Pants from ASOS.com | Body suit from Capezio | Sunglasses from Abella Eyewear | Crystals from Silver Post USA

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Life is Beautiful really can’t be compared to other music festivals. It’s got its own charm. Located at the heart of downtown Las Vegas, it’s giving a new name to our budding downtown community. Vegas is becoming more than just The Strip, and Life is Beautiful is one of the reasons why. I loved getting to enjoy my city like this! And I know you guys will too.

Check out my VLOG below from Life is Beautiful!

Lots of love,

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“The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang: Book Review

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Photo by Ariana DeCastro

“Girls like me intimidate boyfriends away. Girls like me have never been asked out by a single boy. Girls like me have to find their own way, make their own luck. I’ve had to fight for every success in my life, and I’m going to fight for this.” – Stella Lane

This book is the perfect summer read! “The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang is such a heartwarming, quirky, and quick read.

The story is about Stella Lane, a successful math genius with Asperger’s who wants to enjoy dating despite her condition making it difficult to do so, and Michael Phan, an escort she hires to “professionally teach her” a thing or two about how to interact with men. Their time together, however, turns into more than just a business deal.

I love that the main character, Stella, has autism. I think that’s a big reason that a lot of people picked up this book to begin with—it’s definitely why I chose it as my Book of the Month. It was hard to connect with her at first which, in reality, is how it can be with people with autism, so that actually made her character more believable for me. I rooted for her the whole time despite that. I really wanted her to get her happy ending!

Michael is so dreamy! He works as an escort to provide for his family but his real dream is to work in fashion—he’s such a skilled tailor, as you’ll find out in the book. Helen Hoang also gets bonus points for making him Vietnamese and Swedish! I do have to say though, he seemed a little too perfect and too good to be real at times. While he had some deep-rooted flaws from his father’s abandonment, I wanted him to have character flaws that were innate. It would have given him more dynamic as a character.

Despite that, Stella and Michael have an undeniable and uncontrollable chemistry. You can feel their attraction towards each other come off the page. And warning! There are a lot of steamy, intimate scenes in this book, so if you don’t take a liking to that, I would suggest finding another romance novel. I personally didn’t know that it would be an adult romance, but nothing felt forced. The scenes were written very organically and I definitely felt giddy over the progress of their romance throughout the book.

If you want a light, funny, steamy and uplifting read, definitely pick up “The Kiss Quotient.” It’s all about family, dreams, work ethic, and love!

Order “The Kiss Quotient” through Book of the Month (It’s $14.99 to be a monthly member and you can pick one of their selected books for the month—some of which aren’t even released to the general public yet—and using the code YESPLZ, you can select “The Kiss Quotient” and get it for free! So two books for the price of one. And every book you order through BOTM will be a hardcover and each package comes with a free bookmark!) You can also order it on Amazon.

P.S. There’s a second book about Michael’s cousin, Khai, who also has Asperger’s, called “The Bride Test” which will be coming out May 2019! You can pre-order it here.

A New Space for Me — and For You!

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Hi, hello! May I just say that it feels so good to be back?! For my new readers, welcome. For my former (and shall I say, loyal) readers, welcome back.

This is the new arianadecastro.com. It’s still as colorful and pink as ever. It’s still a bit all over the place (you’ll find recipes, and poetry, and book reviews, and photography, and travel diaries, and skincare tips, and…OK, you get where I’m going here). But I’ll tell you what has changed: Me.

I told myself that this blog would be for me. For me to share the genuine “me.” The good, the bad, and the really ugly. And by sharing my truth, my hope is that this blog ends up feeling like it’s for you too.

So much growth has happened since my blog launched in 2015. I was still a sophomore in college then and surprisingly had a lot of time on my hands. But that changed. I went through a really difficult creative writing block and I really had no enthusiasm for writing. Not short stories, not blog posts, not even journaling.

You can imagine how particularly traumatic this time was for me, because I mean, all I knew myself to be was a writer. And I couldn’t write? It was a period of total crisis.

I eventually found my way out of that block (I promise to tell you more about that journey soon), but I missed the innocence behind my writing and doing it for the sole purpose of just doing it because I loved it.

All I focused on in college was getting published, and hoped that if I get published enough, I’d eventually get paid for it. But it was a taxing, daunting cycle. It sucked all the love I had for writing.

A few other health reasons contributed to my hiatus, but I knew I had to stop using uncontrollable situations as an excuse and make a commitment to myself to begin writing again. And I wanted my current rebirth to happen where it all started: blogging.

It began circa 2007 in the Myspace bulletin boards. Then, for years, I bore my deepest, darkest feelings on Tumblr. And eventually, I had my very own space. Unfortunately, I just didn’t know who I was at the time and sharing parts of myself became really, truly scary. Baring vulnerability was too hard for me. But I’m trying to change that.

This relaunch is happening because I’m finding bits and pieces of who I am and want to be, and I’d like to have you along through the journey.

My biggest hope is that in this creative space, you find a little of yourself in me and I find a bit of myself in you.
Let’s be friends. ♡

With love—always,
Ariana

 

How To Make Sure Your Instagram Posts Are Visually Appealing

Have you ever looked at someone’s Instagram feed and think, “Just how do they do that?” You probably see their followers commenting, “Feed goals,” and you think, “I wish my photos were pretty like that.”

Well, you’re not alone.

For so many people, Instagram has been a portfolio of their photographic work. It’s become more than just a place to filter your selfies with and has really become a place that people showcase their photographic skills.

Some people just click their camera once and get a great photo, but for many people, it takes more than one try. For amateurs like myself, I’ve found a quick way to accomplish getting a visually appealing photo on Instagram.

The main two things I use when I take photos are my handy dandy LED lamp and white rug from IKEA.

The white light from the LED lamp allows me to achieve great lighting, even when I’m taking pictures at night, and the white rug gives me a solid background that brings cohesiveness to all of my photos no matter where I am.

VSCO also plays a huge part of how well my photos look. It’s my favorite photo-editing app because it has so many filters and so many editing tools as well. Many of the editing options don’t over-filter photos, but merely enhances them, which is what filters are meant for.

I really suggest that you download VSCO app if you love to take photos!

So those are my secret weapons in achieving many of the my most-liked Instagram photos.

But lighting and background aside, I think what makes someone’s Instagram so appealing is when it has cohesiveness to it and that the photos really represent that person’s interests.

Instagram is my favorite social network because I don’t need to know someone to follow them– I just have to like their photos, and on Instagram, people’s photos represent their interests.

Make sure you showcase yours!

Watch the video above to see a step-by-step “behind the scenes” video of how I take my photos for Instagram!

 

Hogwarts Just Got a Little Closer To Home (& It Brought a Lot of Espresso With It!)

A new coffee shop in Nevada brews up magical caffeine concoctions for Henderson and Las Vegas locals.

Bad Owl Coffee is a Harry Potter themed coffee shop, full of decorations that allude to the Harry Potter series, and as an avid Harry Potter fan, it’s become my favorite place to hang out!

As soon as a customer walks in, they are transported to King’s Cross Station, where they’ll find “Platform 9 6/8” (photographed on the left) that mimics Platform 9¾ from the Harry Potter series.

Half a luggage cart disappears into the wall, and Hedwig, Harry’s owl, is placed on top of the cart, just like in the story!

While the all of the decor I photographed at Bad Owl Coffee was well-put-together and well-thought-out, the photo on the left is my favorite because it’s part of a signature Harry Potter moment that every fan knows.

It was a bit difficult to photograph the decor because the coffee shop is always packed with people, but I tried to do the coffee shop justice as a fan.

I used my Canon EOS Rebel T5 camera and had the perfect natural lighting for some of the photos so I didn’t need to do much adjusting or editing. When I photographed the coffee shop at night, I did have to manually adjust my camera to make the photos brighter.

Nonetheless, Bad Owl Coffee has great lighting for photos and you’ll notice that people can’t resist but to take them!

The tables are decorated with customized decals that allude to the Harry Potter series, such as Harry’s lightning scar, the Deathly Hallows sign, the snitch from Harry’s first Quidditch game and many more. There’s also a bookshelf display with the Harry Potter books in them near the lounge area that resembles the Hogwarts common rooms.

“It’s a different environment,” said Kristina Hamlin, UNLV student and Bad Owl Coffee barista. “You walk in and it’s all Harry Potter.”

While Bad Owl Coffee’s décor caught people’s attention, their drinks, pastries and sandwiches get customers to stay.

“The most popular drink would have to be our Butter Brew latte which is our version of the Butterbeer drink from Harry Potter,” Hamlin said.

The drink was so popular that they would run out, but they now make sure they are fully stocked on the ingredients. While the Butter Brew latte is what a lot of people order, they offer a variety of other specialty drinks such as their earl grey tea called “The London Fog,” their English toffee latte and their pistachio latte.

There are also special drinks from their “Espresso Bar” such as the “Mint Mojito Latte” and the “Biscoff Cookie latte,” a cookie butter drink which is riddikulus-ly good! (See what I did there, fellow Potter fans?)

Hamlin also added that most men order their nitrogen-infused cold brew coffee.

“When I tell the customers— especially the male customers— that the nitrogen-infused coffee is like Guinness without the alcohol, they automatically order it,” Hamlin said. “I highly recommend it for strong coffee drinkers, but for those who aren’t heavy coffee drinkers, the sea salt nitro is milder.”

Bad Owl Coffee also offers pastries such as almond croissants, butter croissants, chocolate croissants, macarons and many more pastry selections delivered fresh every morning from a local bakery.

They also recently developed a sandwich menu so that customers can enjoy a meal there for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bad Owl Coffee has been featured on Cosmopolitan, Fox, Eater, Las Vegas Weekly, Las Vegas Review-Journal and Thrillist, and is located at 10575 S. Eastern Ave. #160, Henderson, Nevada.

Browse through their menu and find which magic-infused pastry and espresso you want to try.

Happy eating and ‘caffeinating’!

Coachella Survival Guide: 10 Tips & Tricks To Help You Survive

Coachella is right around the corner and while I won’t be going this year, I wanted to share a few things that worked for me (and tips I wish I knew!) prior to going.

 

1) KIMONOS & SCARVES WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIEND

While kimonos and scarves are a great addition to every outfit, it’s so much more than that. I didn’t realize how useful my kimono and scarf would be and had I known, I would’ve brought more. They were my multi-purpose tools throughout Coachella weekend.

I used my kimono as a scarf: This is crucial! The walk from the shuttle to the actual location gets so dusty that you really want something that will cover your nose and mouth. And if you’re like me and you’re allergic to everything (& you get asthma!) having a kimono or a light scarf to wrap around your face is so important. Others use bandannas as well. You’ll also find that when there’s a lot of smoke around you and it gets hard to breathe, having the kimono, scarf, or bandanna will help!

I used my kimono as a mini-picnic blanket: While sitting and laying on the grass is a part of the experience, if you have a kimono, you can use it as a mini-picnic blanket, too! And when it gets colder at night and you’re waiting for the next artist to play, you can use it as a blanket.

 

2) BRING YOUR OWN HYGIENIC PRODUCTS

The restroom situation: I’ll start by stating my deep hatred for porta potties. So you could only imagine my dismay, thinking about having to use the restroom at Coachella. Most days, I made sure to use the restroom at the house we rented before going to the festival, but lucky me, the year I went was the first year they had REAL bathrooms set up.

Pros: There were a TON of stalls and it was much “cleaner” than the porta potties. Also, the line moves faster compared to the porta potty lines.
Cons: It’s located in the middle of the festival, pretty far from the stages. So as long as you buddy up, it’ll be safer to go.

There is one section with restroom trailers that was clean as well, so that’s another option.

The porta potties will be easier to get to and there are more spread out throughout the festival, but I definitely prefer and suggest the real bathrooms, even if I have to hold it and sprint across the festival to get there!

Now enough of my neat freak rant, let’s talk about hygienic products you need to bring with you to feel fresh and flowery throughout the festival.

  • Cleansing cloth wipes: The tissue-paper won’t be the best quality and some stalls run out, so having wipes in your purse will be the best thing ever! My favorite would be Summer’s Eve’s cleansing cloths because you can buy the cloths in one big pack or get the individually packed cloths.
  • Deodorant spray: If you need to freshen up your underarms, a travel-sized deodorant will be good for you but the kind of deodorant spray I’m talking about is the kind for down under. My favorite would be Summer’s Eve’s deodorant spray. If you have a teeny purse, this might be annoying to carry, but it’s really good to have! A great refresher.
  • Face mist: Depending on the weather when you go, the heat can really get the best of you and dry up your skin. A face mist is nice for skin re-hydration and it’s a good pick-me-up when you want to feel refreshed. I actually use MAC’s PREP + PRIME Setting Spray as my face mist; it re-hydrates my skin and sets my make-up!
  • Sunscreen: You’ll be under the sun for so long you need to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. Try to find a travel size one and just refill it!

3) WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES

This is supposed to be a given but if you’re like me and you sacrifice comfort for fashion, DON’T.

If you’re not camping and you rent a house, you’ll  have to walk from your house rental to one of the shuttle pick-ups then walk from the shuttle drop-off to the entrance.

In other words, there will be a lot of walking. When you get to the festival, you can absolutely take off your shoes and dance around barefoot, but for all the pre-walking you do to get to the festival, you really want to have comfortable shoes on.

4) BRING A FAN

If you can bring one of those little battery-powered fans, bring it. If it’s too heavy, then a paper, folding fan would do the trick! This was one item I really wish I brought, but didn’t. I saw other people have them and I really wished I did the same.

It’s not a problem at night when the breeze hits and the weather feels cooler but it makes a difference during the day and it’s warm! Especially being in the center of a crowd, waiting for the next artist to perform.

5) BRING A BAG THAT STICKS TO YOUR BODY

By that I mean: Fanny-packs and cross-body bags! Don’t bring a clutch or a handbag because it’ll be such a pain to carry and you might end up losing it.


6) BRING A PORTABLE CHARGER

Who doesn’t love taking photos nowadays? Even though it’s important to immerse yourself in every single one of your Coachella moments, there’s definitely nothing wrong with documenting it. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. There’s no Wi-Fi (or phone signals for that matter) so it’s not like you’ll be wrapped in your social media accounts.

Pictures are memories. And these will be memories you definitely want to remember!

So bring a portable charger. There are charging stations at Coachella, but let’s be real, who wants to hang out at the charging station? Doesn’t sound fun.

7) BRING WALKIE-TALKIES

I was such a nomad at Coachella and walked around by myself to explore (which I totally recommend you do) and as I mentioned, there’s no signal, so the only way I could keep in contact with the people I was with was through walkie-talkies.

Multiple people overlap on the channels so having clever code names will help make sure you’re talking to the right person.

“Eagle one, come in & stop drinking that mojito”

8) BRING SUNGLASSES

This helps with the dust again! & the sun, obviously. But I’m telling you, that dust will get you. Bring a few pairs just in case you lose one.

9) BRING EPSOM SALT

Bet you didn’t expect this on the list because I know I didn’t.

After all the walking you do, soaking your feet at the end of the day in hot water with Epsom salt will help your feet and legs recover for the next day! I promise, it makes a huge difference.

10) BRING TISSUES

You won’t even notice how much dust you’re sniffing and ingesting. You’re going to blow your nose and you’re gonna see SO. MUCH. GUNK. Bring packed tissues and toss them in your bag so you can blow your nose throughout the day. Trust me, you’ll want to.

So there you have it! I hope this guide helps you survive Coachella.

Drink watermelon frescas, dance around barefoot and wear as many flower crowns as you want!

❀May the Coachella gods be with you.❀

Headshots for Zoe Marie ♡

That really awkward moment when you realize a 5-year-old knows how to pose in front of a camera better than you.

Meet my baby cousin, Zoe Marie Paman, who’s a natural in front of the camera!
Here are a few head shots I took of her:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love taking photos of children that adore and revere being in front of the camera! I’ve mostly done photoshoots with kids and it’s truly so enjoyable. The confidence they end up exerting in front of the camera once they get comfortable is incomparable. Insecurities don’t exist for them. They just have fun. And I think that’s what really shines in front of the camera.