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Black is Beautiful: Following Your Dreams and Finding Your Passion

Our Journey from Travel Book Idea to Landing a Collection at Nordstrom

A few years ago, shortly after I became a mother, I got itchy feet. I could remain where I was, with a comfortable life enjoying new parenthood, or go on an adventure, living and traveling around the world, as I’d long desired to do. After much planning and preparation, my husband and I decided to leave the United States and travel full time with our daughter Asha, who was just shy of turning two years old. I was uncertain of where we would land, or the long-term professional outcome, but I was open to the journey and the excitement of doing something different.

Over the next two years, we lived in four different countries, across three continents and traveled with Asha to over 20 countries, including Ethiopia, Indonesia, Singapore, Turkey, Iceland, Greece, Oman, Tanzania, and Senegal. In the course of our travels, I saw how much the world has to teach young people and how open the world is to children.

At a very young age, Asha, now with her baby brother, has seen so much of the world. They have met children all over the globe, heard the languages they speak, learned the games they play, the songs they sing, and tasted the foods they eat. These experiences led us to create our children’s story book collection, The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete, which shares some of what we’ve seen and learned with other children and their families.

The idea behind our books was to share with children the little things we learn in new places, like what languages are spoken in France or England, what are some foods you could find there, what kinds of currency they use, and what are the key landmarks. But we also wanted to convey the intangible elements of travel, like compassion, understanding of cultural differences and appreciation of our shared humanity. Even if children can’t travel themselves, they could still experience the magic and wonder of exploring and learning about other places through a beautiful book. Plus, there is something truly magical about seeing the world through the eyes of a child!

Our journey to creating Aya & Pete started with an outline for the books, and the lead characters. Aya is inspired by our daughter, and Pete by her favorite stuffed animal at that time, a toy monkey named Frenchie. We wanted our books to be informational, but also fun, so we created character-driven narratives with a good dose of adventure and cheeky banter between Aya and her stuffed sloth, Pete.

We published our first book, the Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete in Paris in December 2017 under our publishing company, Ashima. Since so much of our story is inspired by Asha’s lived experiences, it was important that she be the co-author, and co-owner of our publishing business. This was an opportunity for her to learn how to create something, how to build a business, when to pivot if necessary and to get back up if you stumbled. Most importantly, I wanted her to have ownership of her story.

While the first two years of this project were one fledgling step after the other, we realized we had something interesting when we launched our second book, The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete in London, in the spring of 2019. We organized a five-city “book tour” and in each stop, bookstores and libraries welcomed us and readers and supporters showed up! The day after Asha turned six, we hosted a reading at our local bookstore, and a roomful of nearly 100 people sang her Happy Birthday. That was a very special moment.

In the fall of 2020, we launched our third book, The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete in New York! One of the keys to succeeding in whatever it is you want to do, is to be passionate about it. Sometimes you’re in a full sprint, and it’s easy to keep going. Other times it’s a slow crawl and you question whether it makes sense to continue. But we never stopped, and our tenacity eventually caught the attention of Nordstrom, which started carrying our line of books and products last fall. With a national platform, more children have access to Aya & Pete and imagery that shows a little girl who looks like them, or perhaps who doesn’t look like them, boldly exploring, trying new things and just being herself – a kid having fun!

At a time when we cannot travel as freely as we wish and it seems like all of our vacation plans are on extended pause, we believe these books are more relevant than ever. We hope our books can inspire excitement for little ones to see new places, and spark their imaginations with adventures that lay just around the corner. But our story and our books are really not about the act or art of traveling. It’s about our core belief that you cannot dream what you cannot see, and we want all children to know, whether they are traveling, or simply traveling in their imaginations, there’s a big world out there, there’s a place for them, and they belong in it as much as anyone else.

Featured Lifestyle Shopping

Items That Are Lifting Our Spirits This Winter

We made it! We survived one of the toughest years in modern day history and finally made it to 2021. There’s a lot of hope floating in the air and that makes us want to celebrate and treat ourselves. Check out our favorite items we’re currently entering the new year with and are obsessed with.

The Cambridge Satchel

We’re missing London dearly but the Cambridge Satchel makes us feel like we’re back in the UK. Made in Great Britain, the bag is 100% leather, has adjustable straps and absolutely stands out with its unique look. We love it!

Spruce Up Your WFH Office

There’s nothing like a little Rifle Paper Co. touch to breath life into a space with their gorgeous designs and prints. Some of our favs include the Shanghai Garden writing pen, the City Maps Desk Calendar that we have to have EVERY year! And gorgeous prints like this one of Morocco. 

Fancy CBD

It was a tough year, treat yourself to some fancy CBD by Lord Jones. They’re delicious, effective and gorgeous.

Lift Someone Else’s Spirits with a Mini Cupcake Delivery

There’s no better feeling than putting a smile on your loved one’s faces and we love Baked by Melissa’s mini cupcakes for just that! This year, for every Valentine’s Day 25-pack sold, Baked by Melissa is donating $1 to Good-Grief.org, helping to fund peer support programs for kids & families who’ve lost a family member due to Covid or otherwise. ❤ There’s still time to order and they ship nationwide!

Escape to Other Lands with Luxurious Hand Sanitizer and Hand Soap

The moment I read “Gently massage into hands to escape to candle-lit bistros, cabin getaways, and the bustling markets of Marrakesh.”  on AMASS‘ website. I was sold. AMASS’ clean and botanical infused products are some of the best I’ve ever tried. Their scents truly transport you and their aesthetic is perfect. Their clean products are non-GMO, carefully considered, and vetted by the best in the business. I love the Four Thieves Hand Sanitizer and Four Thieves Hand Soap.

Jewelry with Meaning

I’m quite minimal when it comes to jewelry but when it comes to jewelry with meaning and I love Joy Dravecky Jewelry  for that. Her pieces are absolutely gorgeous, unique and of high quality. Some of my favorite pieces are the Lady Lourdes Stud Earrings in Blue, the Rosa Tennis Bracelet, and the Lady Lourdes Ring.

Clean and Sustainable Loungewear

We have been LIVING in everything MATE the Label this winter not only because this essential brand is so cute but because the brand prides themselves in creating non-toxic, natural and Organic materials. We especially love their GIVE A DAMN Organic Cotton Graphic Tee, their Organic Thermal Henley and the oh so comfy Fleece Relaxed Sweatpant. We truly can’t get enough of this awesome brand.

White Tee With An Edge

We are loving 525’s Asymmetrical Neckline Stretch Knit Top with its flattering asymmetrical neckline and far from basic style.

Travel From Home

We still cannot believe that it has been almost a year since the pandemic took over the world but we’re passing the time with our Dame Traveler: Live the Spirit of Adventure book until it’s safe to travel again. We hope you take comfort in it too! The hardcover photography book features over 200 destinations. insider tips and inspiring stories of female travelers all over the world.

Featured Lifestyle

My Parisian Style Apartment in Manhattan Decor Guide

As many of you know, I’ve been based in NYC for about 4 years now, with a short stint in Paris. I’ve always had love for both cities for different reasons and in my imagination, I feel like there has always been a love affair between Paris and New York City with Paris being the feminine and New York City, the masculine. I’m very grateful to have called both cities  my home. For the past 5 years, I was traveling for work about 80% of the time and though I moved to NYC in 2016, I never felt like a true New Yorker because I was never here. That is, until the pandemic hit and the city went into complete shutdown on March 14, 2020. I locked the door and didn’t come out for awhile. This experience completely flipped my world upside down and I was forced to adapt. But I’m no stranger to tough times and every time I’ve experience tough times, a creative project was always the cure so I decided to become my own interior designer and create a space that was not only cozy and truly felt like home, but also made me feel like I was in Europe, which is my happy place.

I moved into this apartment exactly one month before the pandemic with nothing but my clothes and the old furniture the previous owners had left for me so I was completely starting from scratch. I consider myself an old, romantic soul who should have been born in Europe during a different era so that’s what I wanted my home to reflect. And so, I’m excited to share all of these pieces that came together to make my house a home!

Gallery Wall by Printique

I’ve always wanted to create a gallery wall in my home but I never got around to it in my previous apartments until I discovered Printique, an Adorama company. Based out of Brooklyn, the photo lab prints the highest of quality products like the canvases I opted for my gallery wall.  Printique not only produces the highest of quality products, their website is super user friendly and their shipping is fast (especially during a time when shipping has been so slow!) They offer books, albums. wall decor and more. Use promo code DAME20 for 20% off!

Mid-Century Modern Velvet Sofa

I opted for the Sven Pacific Blue 72″ Velvet Sofa by Article which I absolutely love. It’s deep and almost feels like a sofa bed without the pull-out feature. This color is gorgeous too and went well with the brushed gold accents in my apartment.

Red Persian Rug

I opted for a red Persian rug to add a little bit of Middle Eastern flair that reminded me of my upbringing (I’m Iraqi!) and the faded red color was a great contrast to the Pacific Blue sofa. I also love the vintage look adding to the European look I was going for. The price point is really great for this rug too.

Gold Coffee Table

I opted for a glass and gold trimming coffee table which I love. the size is perfect and the details are feminine.

Paris to New York Hooks

I obviously fell head over heels in love when I saw these Paris to New York hooks! They’re perfectly placed right by my door and I use them to hang my keys, mask and hat but you can also use them in your bathroom as a towel hook.

La Toilette Bath Mat

It doesn’t get more Parisian than this bath mat for the bathroom! I had to immediately get it!

Decorative and Well Made Storage

I felt like it was nearly impossible to find great looking but also durable storage that weren’t cheap plastic and bulky until I found Open Spaces.  Their post-industrial steel Wire Baskets offer exceptional durability and they’re so beautiful and their Storage Bins store everything from shoes and garments to appliances and cleaning supplies with a durable set of stackable bins.

Chic and comfortable Desk and Chair

With most of us working from home these days, it’s now more important than ever to have a really great at home office. I searched high and low to find a desk and chair that were chic, comfortable and most of all, not bulky. I finally found this Mid-Century Art Display Mini Desk and this Blush Pink and Brass Office Chair that is so gorgeous.

Smeg Vintage Fridge

This Smeg fridge has been on my wish list forever so I finally pulled the trigger and went for it and I do not regret it one but. It’s a bit of a splurge but it’s a staple that you will have for a long time and it really added so much character to my space! I chose the neutral Cream color in case I want to change up my color palette design in the future but there are so many fun colors such as pink, cream etc!

Gold Antique Chandelier

This antique and elegant gold 6-Light Candle Style Chandelier truly added the Parisian touch I was looking for. I love that the gold isn’t shiny (more matted and antique looking) and the crystals are subtle and not tacky.

Parisian Style Mirror

We’ve all seen the popular gold Anthropologie mirror a thousand and one times and I too wanted to get it until I discovered the Josephine Mirror and fell in love. It’s still a Parisian style mirror but it’s not as overdone as the Gleaming Primrose mirror that you see every blogger post!

Hand-Embossed Lotus Six-Drawer Dresser

Storage is key in my tiny NYC apartment but I did not want to spend a ton of money on just a basic boring dresser and was surprised to discover how few dressers with character are out there! I eventually found this Hand-Embossed Lotus Six-Drawer Dresser which had a bit of Asian and European antique flair which I LOVED. It’s super gorgeous and the drawers are deep allowing for lots of storage space!

Wine Rack

I don’t like to have too many bottle of wine at a one time and since I don’t have much space, this Moroccan themed gold wine rack is perfect.

Retro Fan

The cutest retro fan to keep you cool during those hot summer days!

 

Lifestyle

2020 Holiday Gift Guide for the Dame Traveler in Your Life

Holidays are around the corner and we’ve rounded up the best gifts to get the Dame Traveler in your life!

2021 Travel Themed Desk Calendar

From New York to Tokyo, this travel themed desk calendar by Rifle Paper Co. transports you to the world every month with the gorgeous sketches of cities on each page.

Wanderlust Inducing Dame Traveler: Live the Spirit of Adventure Book

For your travel loving friends who are missing travel right now, our latest release, Dame Traveler: Live the Spirit of Adventure hardcover photo book will provide a sense of comfort and hope for future adventures for the travel lovers in your life.

La Buvette: Recipes and Wine Notes from Paris

As the world continues to social distance from home, cookbooks that transport you to different destinations, especially ones like La Buvette, to Paris are so fun to have on hand. This book will make you feel like you’re living the Parisian lifestyle in no time.

Christmas in New York City Matching PJs and Mask

Nothing says Christmas than Christmas in New York and since we are based in NYC, we absolutely fell in love with these Flannel Pajama Joggers with matching Flannel Pajama Shirt and Mask! So soft, cozy and cute.

Teleport to Paris in This Silk Pajama Set

A collab with fashion illustrator, Megan Hess and  female-led Australian sleepwear and lifestyle brand, Papinelle led to the creation of this gorgeous silk set that is perfect for the Francophile in your life.

PJ Salvage Into the Wild PJ Set

PJ Salvage creates the most adorable and cozy PJ sets and we love their latest, Into the Wild set, perfect for a cozy evening in a log cabin!

Tote Bags Made in NYC

We don’t know about you but we’ve been collecting totes like crazy lately because plastic bags are so 1995. Our go-to tote shop is defintely Maptote which endless cities to choose from and the most adorable illustrations ever.

Leather Tote by Dagne Dover

Pockets, pockets, pockets, we sure do love ’em and the Allyn Leather Tote has tons and even the smallest size fits a small laptop,  which is rare to find in a bag as gorgeous and sleek as this.

Keep Your Bag Safe with The RYDIR Band

A passionate albeit anxious traveler, Kim Hart, the Founder of RYDIR, couldn’t count the times her tote bag balanced on her rolling suitcase fell over or swung around ending up on the ground. In late 2018 she had an idea to solve this age old problem. A soft and stretchy compression band that easily slides over the handles of your rolling suitcase and continues over your bag. Keeping the bag safe and secure. The The RYDIR Band was born. The practical design is simple and effective. Get yours here! Use code DAME25 to receive 25% off.

Cozy Boots for those Cold Winters

Cozy and chic, the Zurich Boot by Bernardo have a rubber and knit upper and rubber lining as well as a rubber sole, making these gorgeous boots slip proof while keeping you warm. We love them.

Support Women Owned Business

How could Pineapple Collaborative not catch your eye? The design forward branding is so gorgeous, making it the perfect gift but they’re not just a pretty face- Pineapple Collaborative is on a mission to connect & celebrate women who love food! They also use their buying power to support exceptional women farmers, creatives, producers, leaders and chefs!

A Well Made Coat Made in America, Based in New York City

Coats by FLEURETTE are incredibly well made and the recipient will have this coat forever because it was made to last. The fitted silhouette and the one button style of the SIDEWINDER Peak Lapel Coat  is super chic and absolutely stunning.

Brooklyn Based Home Fragrances

A candle that looks and smells like Christmas in New York City? What could be better? We love this holiday candle by Brooklyn based brand, Apotheke.

R & R Self-Love Kit

This year more than ever, the gift of self-love and self-care is key to get through these hard times so what better git to give than this beautiful gift set by Moonlit Skincare?

Holiday Hair Fix Kit

The Holiday Hair Fix Kit by Olapex is everything you need to repair, rebuild, strengthen, hydrate and eliminate frizz this holiday season. Treat yourself or your loved ones!

Lively

We are living in Lively lately with all of this time home and we’re not complaining because the luxurious and high quality material is a pleasure to live in.

Shop Clean with Sustainable Brand, MATE the Label

‘Give a Damn’ is the motto of 2020 and we proudly rock this epic tote bag by MATE the Label, along with their gorgeous lounge wear.  The fashion industry is dirty and we are here to clean it up. Did you know that there are over 8,000 synthetic chemicals used in clothing manufacturing? Many of these chemicals are known to be carcinogenic, endocrine disrupting and hazardous to our health. MATE is committed to using non-toxic, natural and Organic materials.

Make a Statement with Bold Prints by Terez

I was starting to grow tired of my solid black leggings and workout gear until I discovered Terez. Terez has endless options of bold and fun prints to choose from! My favorite is the Houndstooth Hi-Shine Sports Bra  and Leggings.

Sharper Image® BodyScan Seat Topper

Most of us are working from home these days but this Sharper Image® BodyScan Seat Topper can make those days much more relaxing and comfortable. Pressure points? no problem, the chair detects exactly where they are and relaxes them for you!

Start Dreamin’ of Spring with this Dress By Pana Mina

We all need something to look forward to during these cold winter days and we’re very much looking forward to wearing this stunning lightweight linen dress by Pana Mina!

Conversation Starter

These days we’re spending more quality time with our loved ones and what better way to spend that time than to dig deeper? We love the So Cards game facilitates deeper connections by asking the right questions.

Vegan Gummies

We’ve all been goin’ through it in 2020 and many of us have been noticing a few more hairs in the shower drain lately! But these Hair Sweet Hair gummies by HUM have come to the rescue that supports hair growth, maintains the health of hair follicles, helps healthy color maintenance and contain Fo-Ti, Zinc, PABA and Biotin.

Sulfate Free Shampoo and Conditioner

We have tried SO many different sulfate free shampoos and conditioners but none have left our hair feeling as clean as the Devacurl Low-Poo Delight Weightless Waves Mild Lather Cleanser and Conditioner.

FACTORFIVE Mini Beauty Products

An Eye and Lash Cream that combats wrinkles while encouraging lash growth? Sign us up. Formulated with humanity in mind—without parabens, mineral oil, sulfate detergents, phthalates, urea, DEA or TEA—and not tested on animals.

 

Lifestyle Shopping

Where in The World to Find The Best Jewelry

Jewelry is not only beautiful and can carry a special meaning for its wearer, but the story of where the products come from and how they came to be make them even more incredible. There are different specialties for jewelry all around the world depending on what is available and produced locally. For example, there are some cities that have jewels as their specialty and where you can go only there to get the most beautiful pieces of jewelry in the world.

Here are a few places around the world where you can find beautiful jewelry:

Milan

Italy is well-known for its high-quality 100% Made in Italy items. It also has beautiful gold that you can find used to create some beautiful jewelry pieces throughout the country. At a luxury store such as Pisa Orologeria, a jewelry store in Milano, for example you can find luxury watches and accessories. In addition to gold, you’ll find precious jewels, including diamonds and colored stones.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is a city that is home to a blend of Native American and Hispanic cultures. Some of the most incredible jewelry that you can find and purchase here is turquoise jewelry. It has a special significance in Native American culture, representing life, and it is more precious than gold. You can find beautiful pieces of turquoise jewelry here, including rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more.

Paris

Paris a historic city that is well-known for its blend of the old and of the new. For trendy pieces head to 3rd Arrondissment, but for pieces that are pre-loved and still beautiful, check out flea markets across the city. From gold to sapphires, you can find a whole range of incredible jewelry in the city. Would you expect anything less than the city of fashion?

New York City

New York City is another fashion hub with plenty of luxury items, and you can find beautiful precious metal jewelry here in the famous Diamond District. For example, you can find gold (yellow, white, etc.) and platinum jewelry in accessory types of your choosing.

Hong Kong

Yellow and white diamonds, pearls and more are amongst the beautiful jewelry you’ll find in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is known for having high quality jewelry that is unique and reasonably priced, and recently there are more designers that are coming out with distinct designs that honor the pieces’ origins.

Overall, if you want to buy high-quality gold pieces, Hong Kong is one of the most affordable places to do it.

These are all cities where you find pieces unlike anything else thanks to their unique aesthetics and design talent. Knowing where your jewelry is sourced from as well as designed and created gives an even greater appreciation into the beautiful pieces you use and love.

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