The Best European Palaces

When I booked the flights for my Euro trip in March it sounded like my Eastern Euro trip would occur some time in the far feature but now it is next month! As we are now within 60 days the reservations have opened for the high-speed trains, museum tours, and boat trips all of which have been booked in fornits, euros, and korunas respectively. 

After writing my post about beautiful European castles last month you might recall that I learned the difference between a castle and a palace – a castle is a fortified building designed to withstand enemy attacks and sieges versus to palace a which is a leisure building, designed to maximize the comfort of its inhabitants and impress visitors.  Now that I have shared my favorite castles, these are some of the most stunning palaces and I will include chateaus  for the sake of argument. I dare you to try and get through these ten beautiful buildings without stopping to pin one. 

European Palaces - Château de Chambord in Chambord France

Château de Chambord
Chambord, France

European Palaces - Buckingham Palace in London England

Buckingham Palace
Palace in London, England

European Palaces - Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg Russia

Winter Palace
Saint Petersburg, Russia

European Palaces - Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna Austria

Schönbrunn Palace
Vienna, Austria
(on my list)

European Palaces - Palace of Versailles Enterance in Versailles France

Palace of Versailles
Versailles, France

European Palaces - Royal Palace of Amsterdam in Amsterdam Netherlands

Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Amsterdam, Netherlands

European Palaces - The Palace of Pena in Sintra Portugal

The Palace of Pena
Sintra, Portugal

European Palaces - Stockholm Palace at Night in Stockholm Sweden

Stockholm Palace
Stockholm, Sweden

European Palaces - The Nymphenburg Palace in Munich Germany

The Nymphenburg Palace
Munich, Germany

European Palaces - The Palacio Real in Madrid Spain

The Palacio Real
Madrid, Spain

European Palaces - The Royal Palace in Oslo Norway

The Royal Palace
Oslo, Norway

Images: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 

I have been lucky enough to visit Buckingham Palace and watch the changing of the guard as well the chance to visit Paris and take a tour of Versailles in France – the Hall of Mirrors really is spectacular.  And now of the nine palaces left, I will cross another off the Schönbrunn Palace from my list next month!

Have you been to any of these palaces? 

A Birthday Letter and a Giveway

Dear Sparkles and Shoes,

Happy Birthday my love.  Yesterday was the third anniversary of my first post on this special blog of mine and today you are three years old, time does fly!  Your birthday was actually yesterday but we came to a mutual agreement early last year that there would only be posts Monday through Friday, plus, I believe birthdays should be celebrated for me than one day.  I looked up the usual child behaviors are of a three year old and the article began with, “Your little one isn’t so little anymore.”  That is very true, it has been 36 months of ups and not too many downs and you are growing much quicker than I ever thought was possible in the summer of 2012. 

Sparkles and Shoes 3rd Birthday Cupckae

This is definitely a time to sit back, think, and honestly, marvel at how far you and I have come. Together we have published 883 posts and shared over 5,000 photos wit the world in the last three years.  With the exception of five hours in 2013 you have been live the entire time, ready for anyone to read what we have put together.   As real life gets busier and busier I will admit, I have thought a few times about giving you less attention or taking a brief hiatus but those thoughts are fleeting.  You are my creative outlet,  my voice of reason, and often the reason I step outside my comfort zone and try new things.  

Thank you for pushing me to be a better version of myself.  Because of you my writing skills have noticeably improved (although proof reading and spell check are still not my forte), I have learned a great deal about HTML5 coding and SEO, learned how to use a DSLR on manual, and brushed up on at least half a dozen other skills.  The way I talk about you is the same as a proud parent and it means the world to me when friends ask how you are doing and I can report that you are doing phenomenally.  Looking  back on the letter I wrote you a year ago so much has changed in my life but not much in yours – you are simply a bigger and better version than you were on your second birthday. 

With as I like birthdays I threw you a party on Saturday night where friends from high school, college, and work all withstood the 90+ degree heat to come celebrate.  The party was  terrific and I had a wonderful evening – I had so much fun I forgot to take more than a few photos.  Many of my friends brought you cards, balloons, and gifts as they know how much you mean to me.   Speaking of gifts, I decided to purchase an item I have had my eye on for a long time a Kate Spade Gramercy Watch in rose gold in honor of your birthday.  

Sparkles and Shoes 3rd Birthday and  Kate Spade Gramercy Watch in rose gold
To help celebrate I have decided to give one of our loyal readers a gift too, a $100 gift card to one of my favorite websites, Shopbop so they can join in the 3rd birthday celebration.  Even though we have readers from all over the globe this giveaway will only be open to our fantastic U.S. readers only and will run through Sunday evening: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Sparkles, thank you for sticking by me for the last three years and I hope we have many, many more years of happiness and creativity ahead of us!

I love you to the moon and back!


Black and White Cupcake Skirt

“Your outfit does not match”. I looked at the acquaintance I was speaking to with a puzzled face – I was wearing a black shirt tucked into a white skirt paired with black and white shoes.? Hmm. When I recounted this tale to a coworker a few days ago she suggested it might be the case of the blue dress, well played.

I do not think I am in the minority when I say that black and white match. Always. I have found myself gravitating more and more towards neutral looks this summer for some odd reason, and I wore this black and white skirt during my 4th of July celebrations. My thought was that if you do not dress patriotically in red, white and blue go the polar opposite and wear black and white!  While my fitness journey is on its way I love that this skirt hits me at my smallest point (which is recently three inches narrower) and then poofs out to cover all of the areas which that are still getting the lift, buff, and tone they need. 

Black and White Cupcake Skirt 01

Black Tank Top Xhilaration Cupcake Skirt Black/White
 BaubleBar Stone Stretch Bracelet Light Blue and Gold | Essie Polish in Lacquered Up 
 Steve Madden ‘Canastel’ Ankle Strap Sandal in Black Suede 

Black and White Cupcake Skirt 02Black and White Cupcake Skirt 06Black and White Cupcake Skirt 03Black and White Cupcake Skirt 05Black and White Cupcake Skirt 04

And then a photo you have seen before but one that had to make a resurgence on this post, posing with Uncle Sam on stilts. He was just too funny and after all of the five year olds flooded to him for photos I took my turn! 

Black and White Cupcake Skirt 08

I liked this look so much I wore it last week to work paired with Jack Rogers instead of heels and without a few pieces of the more flashy jewelry.  With simple pearl studs and a cardigan it transitioned nicely!

Have you ever purchased a cupcake skirt? 

Sweet Snacks Under 200 Calories

I am excited to report that my fitness goals are off to a great start and I have really found my groove with Class Pass exercise classes but when it comes to food, I will admit, it is a struggle.  Why can’t I just eat all of the carbs all the time and loose weight?  Wouldn’t that be lovely?  Oh well, reality check.  I have found my stride with high fiber / high protein meals but I have struggled to curb my sweet tooth that usually hits around 3pm.

Even the healthiest people need treats now and then and I struggled to find options that did not take up 30-50% of my daily allotted calories.   After a few weeks of searching and trying different combinations I have found four snacks that satisfy my sweet tooth without compromising my diet. These are my favorite delicious snacks under 200 calories: 

Snack Options Under 200 Calories

Kettle Korn:  Many of my friends know, I have been a fan of kettle korn for more than a decade. The crunch of the popcorn mixed with the salty-sugary goodness of the coating gets me every time. I always chose a low sugar option because I think they taste the same and why waste the calories.  The best part?  Three cups of popped cups will only set you back 100 calories!

Snacks Under 200 Calories - Kettle Korn

M&M’S® Crispy  – Chocolate is my happy food and I was excited to hear about the relaunch of M&M’S® Crispy this January, they are back in stores for the first time since 2005 (hello high school).  It is a great treat to enjoy any time of day but especially mid afternoon with my sweet-tooth kicks in. It is also nice to have a single pre-packaged sugary snack coming in under 200 calories where I do not have to worry about breaking off one square and putting the remainder of the chocolate away.   M&M’S® Crispy are a satisfying chocolate treat at 180 calories per single pack.

Snacks Under 200 Calories - Crispy M&Ms 180 Calorie Package

Apple with Honey  –  Granny smiths are my favorite type of apple, I love the sharp acidity and the 5 grams of fiber help me meet that daily goal. A large granny smith apple, cored, and sliced into eighths can be drizzled with a tablespoon and a half of honey to come in right at 195 calories. 

Snacks Under 200 Calories - Granny Smith Apple with Honey

Berries with Whipped Cream – Berries and cream, berries and cream, I am a little elf that likes berries and cream!  One cup of blackberries, one cup of raspberries, and six tablespoons of light whip cream create a bowl of patriotic colored happiness and come in at 160 calories. 

Snacks Under 200 Calories - Rasberries Blackberries and Light Whip Cream

Kettle korn, a granny smith apple with honey, and berries with whip cream are all great options for sweet snacks under 200 calories if you have all of the ingredients and time to prepare them.  On the other hand M&M’S® Crispy are very portable – the package could be hidden in your desk for when you need that chocolatey treat or put in your purse to be enjoyed on a break during your weekend shopping.

Snacks Under 200 Calories - Crispy M&Ms

What is your favorite snack under 200 calories? 


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.