Kayaking the Upper Cuyahoga River

If anyone is looking for a fun socially distant summer activity, I highly recommend kayaking! There are lots of places to kayak in the northeast Ohio area, including the Upper Cuyahoga River. I’ve been kayaking in this area half a dozen times or so, during different seasons, and it’s always lovely. My mom started taking my sister and I to this area when we were young and I’ve been going ever since!

If you don’t own a kayak, there are a variety of places you can rent kayaks from along the Cuyahoga. Ryan and I actually have an inflatable kayak which worked great on our recent trip to North Carolina. However, because the Cuyahoga is very rocky/shallow in certain areas, we ended up renting some from Burning River Adventures. We’ve rented kayaks from this company before, and we felt safe with the social distancing precautions they had in place. Burning River Adventures also provides shuttling and drop offs if you do own your own kayak.

Ryan organized our excursion as a birthday gift for his Dad, and it was so fun. We had perfect weather and it was beautiful out. Birds were chirping, dragonflies humming, and the cicadas whirred as we floated down the river. You do not need kayaking experience to head out and paddle the Cuyahoga. It is slow paced with a few “rough” spots of water, but you mostly just glide with the (2 mph) current the entire time. As I mentioned before, the water is shallow in some parts, so you can get stuck! Just push with your paddles and scoot your way out if this happens.

We rented kayaks and did the 4.5 mile trip. I would love to do the longer 10 mile trip next time.

Some beautiful flowers near the river.
A serene setting.
👋🏻

We rented sit on top kayaks which I love. They’re much more comfortable than traditional sea kayaks in my opinion, and much more open. This leaves you exposed to the elements so they wouldn’t be ideal in open water or inclement weather, but for a slow paced trip down the river, they were perfect.

Debbie and Gregg paddling along.
📸 by Ryan

There are also some other great areas to kayak in the greater CLE area.

  • 41 Degrees North Kayak Adventures – kayaking rentals and tours out of Rocky River. My mom and I did the Lake Erie sunset tour years ago and it was amazing!
  • Hinckley Lake – another great spot for any skill level. You can rent kayaks through the Metroparks here.
  • LaDue Reservoir – a big reservoir with lots of nooks and crannies to paddle around. I love that this company gives you a sizable discount on rentals if you help keep the area tidy while out paddling- check out Breakaway Excursions, here.
  • The Metroparks has additional rental options on their website. They usually have special outings but unfortunately have scaled back this year.
  • River Cruiser Kayaks offers a couple of unique routes – one of which ends up downtown.
  • More Upper Cuyahoga River rentals through Camp Hi. Camp Hi also offers canoe rentals as well as pavilions and campgrounds.
Camp Hi started as a camp back in the 1930s – photo c/o Camp Hi website

Kayaking is a beautiful way to spend a few hours and it felt so peaceful. I think getting out in nature is always so good for the mind, body and soul, especially in the craziness that is 2020! What other activities do you think would be fun? Leave some ideas in the comments below!

Orvieto, Italy

Today, I am sharing some photos and snippets from our short visit to Orvieto, Italy. If you didn’t read my blog posts on Florence or Praiano, Ryan and I went on a two week trip to Italy last fall. It was the kind of trip that you spend months dreaming about before, and years dreaming about afterwards. I still think of this trip regularly, and cannot recommend a stop in Orvieto enough. I know that traveling to Italy and much of the world is impossible right now, but it has been amazing to revisit these trips through photos and memories. There will come a time when it is safe to explore, and when that time comes, I know Italy will again be at the top of our list.

Orvieto is a small town in the Umbria region in central(ish) Italy. We wanted to visit this town for a number of reasons. First of all, it was in a convenient location for us, having not rented a car. It is right off the train in between Florence and Rome, so logistically, it was a no brainer. Secondly, Orvieto is a very unique town with so much history. Founded by the Etruscans (or perhaps even an earlier civilization), it sits on top of a cliff in the middle of one of the most beautiful regions in the world. It is truly stunning to behold.

The town is very small and easily walkable. To enter the city, you can either take the funicular up to the top or walk up from a number of roads, however, I do not recommend this. It is an extremely steep and challenging walk and there are no sidewalks for pedestrians until you reach the very top, at which point, you may be covered in sweat, blood and tears (just me?). If you are renting a car, there is ample parking once you make your way up the winding roads to the top. Although the town is small, there is plenty to do. We visited the Orvieto Cathedral which was incredible, saw ancient underground caves, ate delicious food, and walked all around town. We also did an incredible sunset bike tour, where we learned all about the history of Orvieto and enjoyed spectacular views along the way.

We had two full days in Orvieto which was amazing. I think three would be even better, but you probably don’t need too much more time if you are just hoping to get a sense of what a small Umbrian town is like. If you have more time, I encourage you to stay even longer and see everything it has to offer.

Things to do in Orvieto:

Visit the Duomo. The Cathedral in Orvieto is breathtaking, especially when you consider it was built in the Middle Ages (starting in the 1300s) on top of a giant cliff. The church has a striped basalt facade with beautiful frescos inside. It is reminiscent of other churches in Italy, including the cathedral in Siena. The exterior, especially the sculpture and marble work, is exquisite.

The stunning exterior. It had just drizzled, hence the water droplets on my camera.
Detail of the interior. The beautiful carvings, the interior gate, and frescoes. Swoon!
Detail of tile work. I love this pattern and the colors so much.
The magnificent organ. How?!

Because of the town’s strategic location (and topography) between Rome and Florence, it became popular with Popes during the 13th and 14th Century. Several papal palaces were built and various Popes sought refuge in the town during wartime. It became a Papal State until 1860 – when Italy as we know it was formally created.

A look at the Cathedral from atop a Bell Tower. The beautiful surrounding countryside beckons.

Climb the bell tower for the most beautiful views! The bell tower is in the center of town and is a fairly easy climb. Enjoy beautiful vistas with rolling countryside and farms as far as eye can see.

The view from the bell tower. This is what dreams are made of!
While it was upper 70s and low 80s in Praiano, it was mid 60s in Orvieto!
The Bell Tower we climbed.

Visit the underground caves: This sounds pretty mundane, but hear me out. Orvieto has a massive system of over 1200 underground caves, passages, labyrinths, etc. Back in ancient times, the caves served as means for rich folks to escape siege or conflicts. In fact, most homes/ buildings in Orvieto have their own personal wine cellars built under ground. On our second night, we enjoyed a feast at a local restaurant and the owner took us underground to check out his cellar, stocked with his family’s own wine! Sidebar: Orvieto also has it’s own distinct white wine, which we found delicious.

Holes that used to keep pigeons. Pigeons were used for messaging hundreds of years ago.

Walk around town! This should be a given, but walk around and take in the ancient and rustic alleyways of Orvieto without any plans. When we visited it was not crowded at all. We had some gelato as we strolled, admiring the sites and beautiful buildings at our own pace.

The beautiful streets of Orvieto.
Beautiful carved door.

Visit and Have Dinner at La Badia di Orvieto: We actually stayed in this hotel during our time in Orvieto. I would NOT recommend staying here as it is removed from town (amongst other reasons) and it ended up being difficult to get back and forth during our few days here. Learn from us, stay in town, save money, and spend more time exploring! Now, all that being said, the hotel and surrounding area itself was breathtaking and I think it is completely worth it to go visit during your stay. We also enjoyed an amazing dinner here, so I would definitely add it to your to do to list if you are in the area.

On our first day we arrived, it was drizzling a little bit and we walked into town. As noted above, I do NOT recommend doing this, but, it ended up being an amazing day. We had a glass of wine on the main square and saw the Cathedral. After a few hours, we went back to the hotel, via one of two town taxis, and were greeted by one of the most incredible sunsets I have ever seen.

The town is in the distance under the arch.
The sky changed dramatically from one moment to the next.
This is kind of how I pictured Umbria. Cyprus trees, olive groves, hills and mist rising from the green valleys

Have lunch at Antica Bottega del Duomo. We had lunch here and it was one of my favorite meals on our whole trip. It is a small deli type of place and we enjoyed some of the most delectable sandwiches ever. Friendly service and family owned with very reasonable price points. I highly recommend.

Bike Tour: If I could recommend doing one activity in Orvieto, it would be this night time bike tour. We found this last minute on AirBNB and it was one of the most memorable nights we had (on any trip we have been on). I cannot recommend this tour enough. Paolo took us all over the city where we were able to take in incredible views and learn about Oriveto’s storied past. We stopped at churches, cycled through residential neighborhoods, and ended the night with a fantastic dinner at a small restaurant. Paolo had invited some Italian friends to join us for dinner, so it ended up being a fun group. We had course after course of amazing local cuisine, homemade in the restaurant (our server’s grandma cooked for us). Each course came paired with wine and our server explained the significance of each dish. We had pasta, truffles, rabbit, roasted duck, cured meats, cheeses of every variety, and more. I loved everything, especially the chocolate torte. Our stomachs and hearts were completely full by the end of the night and we are so thankful we were able to experience the magic of Orvieto at night.

We rode around the perimeter of Orvieto, and were able to see our hotel from afar!
At the end of our bike tour, Paolo offered to take a pic. A rare photo op with us both!

Even though Ryan and I only stayed in Orvieto for two nights, it has a special place in our heart. We would definitely go back and loved every minute of our stay. There are soooo many amazing small towns in Italy, I would love to see many more some day.

I am slowly but surely working on my fourth and final Italy post- Rome. Until then, stay safe everyone!

Weekend in Washington, D.C.

Hey everyone –

It’s been a while since my last post. I just haven’t really felt the motivation to blog much since it kind of seems like my life revolves around work and doing dishes at this point. The dishes… I just cannot deal with the endless pile of dishes! I am really not trying to complain, but I just don’t have that exciting *content* to share right now. So, while I do feel like a blob (#jabbathehuttvibes) a lot of days, today, I am sharing a post from the archives I meant to write about months ago.

Back in November of last year (2019, lest we start forgetting the years soon), I went to DC to visit some wonderful friends (and humans in general) from high school. It was such a fun reunion weekend. I hadn’t seen both friends together in probably ten years, but it felt like no time had passed at all! Nellie (who has lived in DC for years now) and her adorable family graciously hosted Laura and I at her stunning Capitol Hill home, which was the perfect location for exploring. We walked along the mall, went to a birthday party, ate delicious food, visited an amazing museum (the Hirshhorn), and strolled the charming cobblestone streets of Georgetown, all in a few days. Most importantly, we were able to relax and connect with each other after years apart.

I’ve been feeling nostalgic for human interaction, weekend getaways, and sharing tapas with friends, so this post will have to tide me over until that day is possible again.

If you are in the Cleveland area, and have a free weekend, I highly recommend visiting DC (post pandemic). I have been there half a dozen times and it never disappoints. It’s an easy drive and has so many amazing highlights I won’t begin to list them here. Since all of us had been to DC several times, we had no agenda which was awesome and made for a stress free and relaxing weekend.

Laura in the middle and Nellie on the right- they are the best!
Beautiful fall foliage!
We had perfect weather and even enjoyed brunch outside in the sunshine (in Mid November).
The cutest, tiniest house I have ever seen.
Said brunch outside! I’ll take it 🙂
Walking around Capitol Hill.
This is a favorite- not perfect, but I love the trees and the little water spot- it was cloudy and some water dripped from the tree branch onto my lens.
Beautiful townhomes in Georgetown.
Visiting the Hirshhorn Museum. Amazing exhibit by Pat Steir that spanned the entire (circular) floor. Their largest installation to date!
We also saw a Marcel Duchamp exhibit while we were there. Both were amazing.
Capitol Building at night.
Doorways in Georgetown dressed up for fall!
This pic is from 2017 when I was last in DC for a wedding. I got see Nellie then but it was so fun to see my two best friends from high school together for a whole weekend!

That about sums up an amazing trip! Nellie, Laura and I are already talking about our next get together, whenever that may be! At least we have virtual hang outs for now. Back to #jabbathehut life for the rest of the evening/ year. Side note, Ryan and I have decided to watch the entire Star Wars series on Disney+, hence why Jabba is top of mind. If anyone has any other TV or movie recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments below. Hope everyone is staying healthy and sane!

Photo credit: Starwars.com

Book Review(s) – ‘Circe’ and ‘Song of Achilles’

Popping on to quickly talk about two books I read recently, both by the extremely talented writer Madeline Miller. I read these this past month and thought they were both absolutely phenomenal. I truly cannot say anything negative about either of these books, I just wish they had kept going.

They are two individual books but in the interest of time, I’ll write about them as one. Everything about both of these books was incredible. There are a lot of articles and summaries available out there, so I won’t do much recapping but wow- these have to be two of my favorites I’ve read in a long time.

Both of these books are based on Classical Greek mythology and both draw largely from Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey. I think part of the reason I enjoyed them both so much is that it took me back to my Latin and classics classes which were always amongst my favorites.

You don’t have to have read the Odyssey or the Iliad to enjoy either of these novels. Miller breaks down hugely complex epic poems into brand new and inviting tales all her own. Her writing is so beautiful it’s hard to describe.

Anyways, if you have any interest in history, classical mythology, or just a beautifully written book, I highly recommend either of these novels. I don’t think I could pick a favorite between the two as they are both fantastic. I will say I think ‘Song of Achilles’ is a little easier to get into, but ‘Circe’ is more of an epic tale and I really enjoyed that it was written from a female perspective, given that it’s set in Ancient Greece. I recommend both and give them 5/5 stars ⭐️.

Done and Dusted – Product Reviews: Acqua di Parma Rosa Nobile

Starting a new series of posts that I will update periodically called “Done and Dusted.” I am going to review products that I have finished and my thoughts on them!

Acqua Di Parma Rosa Nobile Parfum: Buy it here.

I bought this perfume (in the smallest size, during a VIB sale) after receiving a free sample with a previous Sephora Order. It is a beautiful, light every day scent that I feel can be worn year round. It’s floral and not overly sweet at all. It is also not powdery smelling whatsoever which can be the downfall of many rose scented products. This smells like something you could wear for years, at any age. I definitely recommend this and will likely repurchase at some point after I run out of other perfumes. It stays on fairly well (the scent is still obviously present after 2+ hours). Not as good as some Chanel or Aerin perfumes, but better than many others I have tried. This is the fastest I have ever gone through a bottle of perfume, because it became my everyday scent soon after purchasing. I also received complements on this several times. If you’re looking for a lovely, everyday perfume, I love this product! And yes, I had been using daily even while WFH just because.

Would I repurchase? Yes

Price: $72.00

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Cocktails 101: Spicy Palomas

Hi all! This past Friday I posted a cocktail on my Instagram stories and got several messages, so I thought I may as well let you know how I made it. It could not be any easier and Ryan and I both thought they were refreshing and delicious (and tasted like a fancy cocktail from a restaurant, remember those?).

We will be making these all summer long (once it finally arrives!) . If you don’t like spice, I would recommend omitting the jalapeños. Try adding in some fruit slices instead – oranges, strawberry, mango, etc. Now is the time to get creative!

Ingredients (for one drink):

  • Tequila (one shot glass full)
  • Lime juice (3/4 of a shot glass)
  • Simple syrup (1-2 tsps)
  • Sliced jalapeños- I used 1-2 slices per drink and they were pretty spicy (I have a moderate- high spice tolerance)
  • Grapefruit LaCroix (1/3 can) – feel free to use any flavor or juice you have on hand!
  • Ice – I used ~4 normal sized cubes

Put your ice in a glass. Add tequila, lime juice and simple syrup. Stir to combine. Add jalapeños and stir again, trying to muddle the jalapeños as you stir. The muddling is not super important because the peppers will impart a lot of flavor naturally. Top off your drink with Grapefruit LaCroix (although I think any flavor would be good). That’s it! Enjoy!

Cheers!

Praiano, Italy

As promised, here is part two of my Italy posts! Ryan and I visited Praiano on our two week tour-de-Italy last year, and it’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to. We left dreaming of returning!

Praiano is a very small village on the ‘Costa d’Amalfi’. The Amalfi Coast is a small region along the Tyrrhenian Sea in southern Italy. This whole area is just breathtaking (honestly breathtaking is an understatement). There are many villages and towns in this area, most of which sit high up in the cliffs, overlooking sparkling blue water. The drive from Naples to Praiano was filled with gorgeous vistas and dramatic scenery. Praiano, as with most towns in this coastal region, started out as a fishing village many centuries ago, and has remained fairly small throughout it’s history.

We picked Praiano for a few reasons. Ryan’s parents had stayed in this village (upon recommendation) on their previous trip to Italy and loved it. After some research, it sounded like the perfect place to relax and slow down after a stop in Rome. It wasn’t very touristy and we enjoyed seeing residents just going about their normal day to day activities throughout our stay.

Praiano has a beautiful little beach in an inlet close to town. The water alternates between a deep cerulean blue and aqua depending on the sunlight and shadows. It was remarkably clear. The pricing at the local beach is very inexpensive (for the area). Ryan and I shared a bottle of wine one day for €11. Considering this was likely marked up because we were at the beach, it’s still very reasonable! The open air restaurants and hotels surrounding the marina add to the charm.

If you’re heading to the Amalfi Coast, I don’t think you can go wrong in any town that you pick. Positano was much more crowded/touristy, but it has more expansive shopping/dining options and a much bigger beach area along with gorgeous views. Ravello (which we didn’t make it to) is even more removed than Praiano (with no readily accessible beach), so it might be nice if you just want to relax at your hotel pool all day, enjoying the incredible scenery.

I read a book called “100 Beaches of the Amalfi Coast,” during our stay in Praiano and it provided great tips on visiting the area, including geographical insights, the colorful history of the region (pirates and pillaging included!) and beautiful photographs to boot.

Beautiful book! Unfortunately I can’t find it online anywhere.

We stayed at a hotel in between one of the beaches and town, built into the cliffs (like the rest of the Amalfi Coast). It was under a ten minute walk to town and a 15-20 minute walk to the beach. This whole area is very hilly, so we definitely got in some steps during our stay!

The restaurant at our hotel.
Watching the sunrise from our room. This was one of my favorite things from our entire Italy trip. Tranquility.
Just stunning. See the little wisps of clouds over the cliffs?
Our hotel had an absolutely divine breakfast included, and each morning we enjoyed a cappuccino (or two) and frolla (a Sicilian pastry).

Ryan’s parents recommended a great hike from Praiano to the neighboring town of Positano. The trail is called “The Path of the Gods,” and it is easy to see why. You climb above the clouds to views that left me speechless. The hike was about 7.5/8 miles and took us about three hours. We took the bus back home from Positano afterwards.

Beautiful view of Praiano in the foreground and Positano across the inlet. This was about five minutes from our hotel, still a long way to go.
Every where you look is beautiful!
This unassuming door opened up to a well tended garden overlooking the sea.
Making our way up and saw this dog enjoying the sun. What a life!
A small church we passed towards the top of the mountain. I think it’s just beautiful.
The trail.
Positano in the distance.
Our delicious lunch in Positano after the hike! One of my favorite meals of our trip.

Most of our days in Praiano were spent relaxing. We walked to the beach and enjoyed pizza, seafood, and wine. The beach at Praiano is small but gorgeous, set in a little cove with the local marina and a few restaurants/ hotels around it. We also explored the town and stopped in a Limoncello factory which was super fun! We ended up sampling and buying several different kinds of Limoncello to bring home. The owner was so friendly and helpful.

This was my screensaver for several months! The water 🤯.
A refreshing drink at the beach.
You can see how buildings are built into the cliffs.
Pre – Dinner photo 😊

I have tons of beach pictures but again, I’ll save you all 😉. FYI: the Amalfi coast beaches are generally rocky (or just slabs of rock jutting into the ocean). Just something to be aware of.

Praiano was one of the highlights of our whole trip to Italy, and the place that I reflect back on the most. It was so relaxing, peaceful, and enjoyable! I guess I am tending to gravitate towards the more relaxing parts of vacations these days! Duh- isn’t that the whole point of it? Being near the water and feeling the sunshine on my face just makes me happy, what can I say. The town itself was small and beautiful, with many delicious dining options. I would stay here again in a heartbeat and hope we do!

Some more favorite pictures:

Stairway to heaven 😉
Golden hour. Love this couple making their way up a very steep hill.
Prosecco and sunsets 🌅.

Highlights (hint, everything).

  • Peace. This leg of our journey was such a wonderful and relaxing stop. I can’t recommend a stay on the Amalfi Coast enough. This is somewhere I must return to.
  • Insanely beautiful setting. Every morning we woke up, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Fresh air, sunshine, salty breezes, stunning cliffs, you get the idea.
  • The food here was amazing. Such good seafood and pizza!
  • The location. Praiano specifically was a great location to explore the Amalfi coast. We only ventured to Positano but if you had more time, you could easily go to Ravello, Amalfi, Atrani, Minori/Maiori, etc. There’s a convenient bus that goes along the coastal highway so it’s very easy to navigate.
  • The people were super friendly!
  • The Limoncello factory – so amazing to see and hear how it is made and the history behind the shop.

I don’t have anything negative to say about this leg of our journey, I just wish we could have stayed longer (read: forever)! It left such and impact on Ryan and I that we joked about buying a home here…. maybe someday! Until then, we will just have to come back to visit often. I also would love to explore the other towns in this area more. I think a whole summer on the coast is in order ☺️. A girl can dream!

Have you been to Praiano or the Amalfi Coast? What’s your favorite local spot? Comment below!

Ya Gotta Frittata

If you’re looking for an easy, crowd pleasing and hearty meal, look no further! We have a frittata almost weekly (either for dinner or brunch) and it’s just the best. If you’re not familiar, a frittata is similar to an omelet, but instead of solely being cooked on the stovetop, it’s also baked as well. It’s kind of a hybrid of an omelet and a quiche (without any crust).

The finished product!

We love frittatas for several reasons:

  • It’s a great way to use up aging veggies or meat in your fridge
  • They are easy and straightforward to make
  • They are very filling
  • They can be adapted to many types of diet and are relatively healthy
  • They’re delicious and keep well for leftovers

Here’s a recipe Ryan’s Mom Debbie gave us – I’ve updated it and changed some things.

Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs, and 1-2 egg whites
  • 1 tbps butter or olive oil
  • 1 small/medium yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped veggies – I’ve used zucchini, broccoli or asparagus but use whatever you heart desires! I love asparagus with eggs, but anything works.
  • 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (optional, but a great add. Try any fun toppings you have on hand- extra onions, regular or some canned tomatoes, scallions, etc.)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup cooked meat (Canadian bacon, sausage cooked through, bacon, lunch meat, tofu, etc. this it optional!)
  • 2 red potatoes or 1 small/medium sweet potato – this is optional and a variation I just started incorporating, you could also try squash
  • Salt and pepper (haven’t measured- just to taste)
  • 1-2 tsp Garlic powder
  • Your choice of cheese for topping (optional)

How to make it:

  • Pre- heat oven to 415F.
  • Heat up your butter or olive oil in an oven safe 10” non-stick skillet over medium heat
  • Add your onion to the skillet, let it cook for at least five minutes (if you have time!) I try to let the onion caramelize a little bit.
  • Add in your chopped veggies and potatoes if you’re using those. Stir to combine with the onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let these cook anywhere from 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. They should be somewhat cooked but don’t necessarily need to be “done” or totally cooked through at the end of this timeframe since we’ll be baking this dish as well.
  • While the veggies are cooking, crack your eggs into a medium bowl and mix well with a whisk, adding in the two egg whites as well. Season with salt and pepper, and a little bit of garlic powder or seasoning du jour.
  • Add in the cooked meat and sun-dried tomatoes to the skillet. Stir to combine everything. At this point the skillet should be looking fairly full.
  • Add in the egg mixture, pouring evenly around the skillet. Let it cook on the stove top for 1-2 minutes, until the edges of the mixture are beginning to solidify. Top the mixture with cheese of your choice (optional).
  • Once the egg mixture has solidified around the edges (it will still be liquid-y in the middle) remove it (carefully!) from the stovetop and pop it in the oven.
  • Cook in the oven for 15-18 minutes.
  • That’s it! You’re done! Remove the skillet from the oven (using a mitt obviously but it’s easy to forget!) and slice it up, adding extra cheese as needed (or requested ☺️).

This recipe makes 5 good sized servings or 6 smaller servings. Ryan and I usually save half for later. This keeps really well overnight and is also great if you are hosting a brunch. I love this recipe because as long as you have eggs, you really can add any ingredients you like to make a delicious meal! We’ve used a variety of vegetables, meats, toppings, etc.

We use a non-stick skillet since we love ours, but a seasoned cast iron skillet would also work well I would think. If you have a bigger or smaller skillet on hand, make sure to adjust the baking time accordingly. Let me know if you try this- it’s so easy and is great to use up ingredients you may already have.

New (and old) Skincare Haul + tips for layering products!

I recently got to that point where I was running out of several products, so I decided to repurchase and try a few new ones as well. I noticed a ton of stores are having sales currently – there are sales at Sephora, Nordstrom, Ulta, Neiman Marcus, Tarte cosmetics, and various other beauty related sites. I am NOT here to talk about these sales today. I am here to tell you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for great skincare products. All of the items in my haul (photograph below) were under $150 total!

This may still seem like a lot (everything’s relative), but keep in mind many of these items will last at least a year, and this a full routine with items you may or may not want to incorporate. You could easily buy one or two products at Sephora for that price, and get a lesser quality product at that. Let’s dive in!

Repurchased Items:

I’ve already posted about this oil cleanser here, and I have a very important update 🚨. It *totally* wins over the more expensive Elemis brand oil cleanser, in every 👏🏻 single 👏🏻 category🚨. Having tried 4-5 oil cleansers, this one is hands down the best. This is one of my all time favorite skincare products and I would recommend it to anyone. Price: $17.00 linked here.

I am pretty bummed because the Elemis oil cleanser was so much more money and I had high expectations having heard great things about it from a few people. On the other hand, I’m also very happy because now I definitively know I can get a better product for 75% less. I think I kind of knew this would happen, because based on the price, the Elemis cleanser literally would have had to make me look 20 years old again to justify keeping it in regular rotation. Kind of a big ask for a cleanser, but nonetheless still annoyed about wasting my money. Live and learn!

The Banila product cleans much better, so you end up using way less. I think it takes off way more makeup/ buildup and is much easier to spread than the Elemis product. Similarly, I liked the texture of the Banila better – much less sticky. Lastly, as soon as I started using the Elemis products, my skin started breaking out in areas I’ve never really any issue with. It was honestly odd! Back to my old standby I go (happily)!

Ok. Moving on. I also repurchased the Biore UV Aqua Rich SPF. Best facial sunscreen ever and I stand by that! I blogged about it here. Light, moisturizing and blend-able – it bears no resemblance to traditional sunscreen products. Price: $8.48. Grab it here.

Up next is another repurchase from a few years ago! Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule. Does it sound gross? Yes, absolutely. Is it amazing? Also yes! Snail 🐌 mucin (literally snail slime) is very hydrating and wonderful for skin texture. Sidebar: Who discovered these benefits? And how? I digress. Snail “mucin contains ingredients like glycoproteins, hyaluronic acid, and glycolic acid which all have long-documented skin benefits.” Read more about its benefits here. Price: $15.89.

New Products:

Next up is a product I have been wanting to try for a while now. ‘The First Treatment Essence’ by Missha has somewhat of a ~cult~ following. This hydrating essence contains saccharomyces ferment filtrate (a type of yeast extract) amongst various other humectants, meaning it’s super moisturizing for your skin. This product is extremely similar to SK-II Facial Treatment Essence which retails for over $220.00. This post breaks down the similarities between the two products even more so. My skin has been looking a little bit drab lately so I figured I’d finally test this out! First thoughts: the packaging on this product is beautiful and feels very high end. It blended into my skin nicely. I will follow up once I’ve been using it consistently. Price: $29.00.

Another new-to-me product I purchased (also by Missha) is the Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule. This is also extremely popular and has been compared to Estée Lauder’s Advanced Nighttime Serum. A lot of beauty bloggers, skin experts, etc. swear by the EL product, but it’s at a much higher price point. I’ve heard a lot about this Missha dupe for years so I decided to finally test it out. First thoughts: again, beautiful packaging. I used it last night along with these other products and after my routine it seriously felt like I had a facial. Too early to see if it actually is the fountain of youth, but I’ll keep everyone posted. *Spoiler alert: there is no fountain of youth, except sunscreen.* Price $28.00.

I also purchased this vitamin C serum since I just ran out of my old one. Honestly, I’ve never heard of this brand (just like my last one) but it contains 20% vitamin C, 2% retinol, 5% hyaluronic acid, 2% salicylic acid, et. alt. For $15, it sounded like a great deal to me. Compare this with Sunday Riley CEO Vitamin C brightening serum which has 15% vitamin C, and no hyaluronic/ salicylic acid that I could see, the Eva brand is a better fit (for my current skincare needs and wallet – clocking in at $14.95). The Sunday Riley product retails for $85 for the exact same size (1 ounce), however it also contains glycolic acid (which is an AHA) if you are in the market for that. First thoughts: I used it this morning after splashing my face with water. This followed a full cleansing routine the night before. It has a very nice, herbal smell and went on smoothly without burning my skin.

Next on the list – Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Gold Eye Gel Patch. These eye patches contain five collagen peptides and are supposed to be great for reducing puffiness. Honestly I bought them on a whim (somewhat) but I really struggle with puffy eyes quite frequently. For $15, you get 30 pairs of eye patches. I will likely use these on an “as-needed basis” so I’m hoping they will last a good amount of time. First thoughts: I used a pair this morning and I’m not gonna lie, after I removed the patches, they had de-puffed noticeably. Coincidence? Timing? Not sure – I left them on about ten minutes. More to come! PS – these have a lot of extra product so make sure to take advantage and rub it into the surrounding eye area.

Last but not least, I bought this CeraVe retinol serum. I was interested in a retinol product because I’ve noticed some discoloration where I had breakouts in the past. Retinol helps refinish the texture of skin (which should hopefully help with my aforementioned skin spots) and it can also help reduce pore size. CeraVe doesn’t list the amount of retinol in the product (which I find odd) but since it’s my first foray into this ingredient, I’m not too concerned. If I need something stronger, I will likely go to a dermatologist. I haven’t tried this serum yet but will post an update once I do.

It is important to note that if you are using a retinol product in addition to any sort of active acid (AHA or BHA) in your skincare routine you should really apply the products at different times. This is important because your skin could get not only get irritated, but retinol and acids just don’t mix well at a pH level. Retinol does not sit well on acidic skin, and vice versa! Using the two products back to back will also make both products less effective. Read more about the science in this great article.

If you want to incorporate both (like myself), you could use one in the morning and one in the evening. As an alternative, you could also rotate nights, aka, use AHAs/BHAs on M, W, F, and use a retinol product on the other nights. This is how I plan on working these products into my routine since I don’t necessarily use an acid every day – usually 3x per week. The other option is to wait 20-30 minutes in between use of these two products to allow your skin’s pH to return to normal.

Well that just about sums it up. I wanted to provide some great products that won’t break the bank! You don’t have to shop the sales when you can get great products at great price points. Have you tried any of these products? Any other favorites you love to use? Let me know in the comments.

Spring, or April Fool’s?

Good morning and happy weekend everyone!

What a weird spring it has been. Aside from COVID affecting every aspect of normal life, we’ve also had some really weird weather in Northeast Ohio this month. We went from almost 70 degrees to snow overnight! It’s almost as if Mother Nature knows *something* is up and is throwing her hat in the ring too!

That said, I can’t complain at all. I’ve been walking outside every single day (multiple times a day) and have really enjoyed being able to see all the spring blooms and shoots sprouting up from the frosty earth. Even my morning walk in the recent snowfall (on April 16th 😭) was peaceful and beautiful. I feel extremely lucky that I am healthy and able to experience the beauty of the season, more so than in past years.

Here are some shots from walking around the neighborhood these past few weeks! These are all on an iPhone 📱 so nothing too remarkable from a photography perspective, however I enjoyed noticing little bits of beauty, rays of sunshine, and other things I may have missed in years gone by when I wasn’t getting outside as much this time of year.

Our lovely little street. This day was perfect weather wise!
This house is on a street we walk by frequently. I love the symmetry (shocker) and the little dormer windows. What a beautiful home!
My two favorites on one of our regular routes.
Happy daffies!
Blossoming beginnings

Same tree as above but in full bloom!

Snowy morning April 16th, 2020
This house ☺️

I hope that you’re having a great weekend and spring season, staying healthy and safe. Cheers to warmer, sunnier days ahead!