Wrapping up the year: 10 most-read stories of 2021

“It’s almost New Year’s. Can you believe it?” Gosh, if I had a dollar for every time I heard others — or myself, really — utter those words. Can you believe it? I almost can’t. The past year has gone by faster than a hyped-up auctioneer hollering, “Going once, going twice … and gone!” Bang. However, even though it disappeared in a flash, so much happened. For starters, whether you’re pro vaccine or against it, we began to see a return to life. After a year of running and hiding from the pandemic, we finally slowed our sprint into a light, beginner’s jog. Of course, things aren’t fully back to normal quite yet. The sad reality is: Thousands and thousands have died from Covid-19 this year, and the virus is still raging. 

When it comes to my personal life, a lot has changed, a lot has stayed the same. I celebrated a few major milestones. For example, 2021 was the year I shot the music video to my first single, Room to Breathe. (I talked about the whole process, from recording to shooting and publishing in this post.) It was my first foray into creative direction, and although there were many, many hurdles along the way, I learned a lot. 

Over and over again, I’m reminded of the value and importance of family. Right now, as I write this, I’m in my ol’ stomping grounds of Ohio, where I first landed when I moved to America from Egypt close to a decade ago. I’m here surrounded by loved ones, strained by the chaos of the virus, work and assorted crises, but softened by their affection. We haven’t been together, all under one roof, in quite some time. We’ve been eating together, clinking wine glasses together and even watching A Christmas Prince together (something my mom initially turned her nose up at initially but ended up enjoying). I’m forever grateful for these moments.

In regards to this blog, things have moved forward, too. In 2021, only two years after I started blogging on a regular basis, I nearly doubled my number of visitors and views. My little blog — which I started when I was struggling to find work as a freelance writer and needed an cathartic outlet to flex my writing muscles — seemed to be resonating with more and more readers. For a writer, there’s no better feeling than knowing that someone out there is reading your words.

Of course, this year, as the city reopened, I found a lot of exciting things to write about. Like, the Gucci Love Parade fashion show, which took place in Hollywood. And returning after a long hiatus, Los Angeles Fashion Week. And of course, how can I forget the mind-boggling immersive Van Gogh experience? I have so much to be grateful for. But what did you, readers, like? Well, I took a trip to the land of stats and numbers, and rounded up the top stories that viewers perused the most. If you haven’t read these pieces, I hope you enjoy them — and lastly, have a wonderful holiday season! See you in 2022. 

How to dress for the LA Opera (And what to expect)

Here’s the thing about the opera. It’s not a particularly low-key kind of leisure. Whether you’re an opera buff or someone who doesn’t give a hoot about that kind of musical theatre but try to keep to yourself, you can still agree with me on this: going to the opera is a special event … So here’s the question I get asked every once in a while: Are you supposed to wear something fancy to the opera? And if so, how fancy are we talking? Here’s what you need to know before you go, especially if it’s your first rodeo. Read more.

10 inspiring fashion Instagram accounts to keep on your radar in 2021

When I’m not keeping my mind busy by planning out outfits for my Instagram and styling quirky pieces in my head, I’m usually scrolling through other fashionistas’ accounts, recharging my batteries and hoarding one too many screenshots. Spanning different styles and moods, these are the people I regularly turn to for some much-needed fashion inspiration. Read more.

6 designers to watch from LA Fashion Week

After a year-long hiatus, Los Angeles Fashion Week was back with a bustling scene at the Petersen Automotive Museum … The collections seen at LAFW (and the exchanges I had with the designers) touched on important topics like sustainability, diversity and mental health. They did it all while showcasing some seriously wonderful and cool clothes. So, without further ado, here are the top LAFW designers to keep an eye out for and hit the “follow” button — in my humble opinion. Read more. 

Inside Kimberly Crest House, a French château in Redlands

I look up at the turreted, French-style building, often referred to as “le petit château” but more commonly as the Kimberly Crest House, narrowing my eyes against the sun. It does stop you in your tracks. Large, storybook-like, with steeply pitched hipped roof, ornamented balconies, spires and crosses. (Those who often drive by the Magic Castle in Hollywood will notice it’s an almost-exact replica of this estate even built by the same architects). Read more.

What to expect at at the Van Gogh Immersive Experience in Los Angeles

This is not a figment of my imagination; It’s not a fever dream, even though it feels like one. And that’s exactly what you should expect from Van Gogh Immersive Experience, a series of connected spaces boasting 500,000 cubic feet of projections that wholly submerge you into many of Van Gogh’s works. Here, inside the Lighthouse Artspace building in Los Angeles, you can see every brush stroke of Van Gogh’s Irises — a work he painted in the garden of an asylum on the outskirts of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where he was retreated after mutilating his ear — in microscopic detail. Read more. 

Almond tree blossoms bring in spring in Bakersfield, CA

Every spring, the celebration starts. You can call it an annual gathering, with an invite date set to the final days of February, and with the exception of a few late attendees, every party goer is right on time. Yes, social events have been curtailed in most states, but I’m talking about a different kind of shindig here — the kind that prompts its 20-some feet guests to thrust their branches up and out, bud and bloom. Florets begin to unfasten and unfurl in whites and flamingo pinks, and though this might be more of a quiet affair, the explosion of color is decidedly loud. Read more. 

This tucked-away LA oasis is a place for quiet contemplation

I’m very much aware of my feet. The quiet lift of the heel, the bend of the knee, the extension of the toes and the clackety tap of shoe against ground. Following the serpentine path of the stone labyrinth, I take one step in front of the other, watching and listening to my feet. Tap, pause, tap, pause, tap. In between there’s a kind of wet silence. A misting of sound — birds stirring branches, the burble of water, a light breeze tumbling through the air. Read more.

European conservatories and Italian villas: Small town Sierra Madre is big on charm

Often, when we think of the kinds of landscapes that travel writers and bloggers physically traverse and turn their minds to, we don’t necessarily think of unbustling small towns. But never much of a believer in the bigger-is-better argument, I was drawn to Sierra Madre — an under-the-radar city that’s been sitting quietly at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains since 1881. “Sierra,” after all, means a rugged chain of steep mountains, and as we drive to this Los Angeles suburb, we notice the mountains’ jagged peaks rising and falling like the serrated blade of a saw. Read more. 

Where to see ‘House of Gucci’ costumes in Los Angeles: Look Around

To walk through the “House of Gucci” costume exhibit at the FIDM Museum is to visit where the true-crime drama’s secrets are kept — pockets of detail that are often too small, too blurry and rushed to notice on screen. It is to pause a scene and walk up to its characters, to stand in direct confrontation and give them proper, leisurely examination. Read more.

Our weekend guide to California’s Wine Country

Here it is: Our two-day vino-infused itinerary. I’ve included highlights of each place, with more in-depth and guided narratives coming up in the weeks ahead. (Like, what it was actually like being in a 13th-style medieval castle that, yes, also serves up some incredible sips.) I’ve also listed a few honorable mentions — places that long-time wine-country visitors told us about or ones that constantly kept cropping up in our research. Read more. 

LA-based journalist and blogger sharing her deep-seated, honest love for fashion and travel. Check in every week for new stories of exploration and roundups!

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