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!

My Lazy Bolognese Recipe

TGIF everyone!

Today I want to share a quick and delicious recipe Ryan and I have enjoyed several times in recent weeks. It is somewhat similar to a bolognese (although citizens of Bologna would likely *strongly* disagree 🤣), but doesn’t require any sweating of onions, braising of meats, or long waiting periods. This dish is not meant to replace a traditional bolognese, it’s just an easier, quicker take on it.

This recipe comes together in under 30 minutes, so it fits right into my #lazydinner vibes. Next time we make it, I will take some photos and update this post. We usually devour it so quickly I forget to capture anything!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb ground beef, we used 85% lean grass fed beef
  • 2-3 large carrots, peeled and shredded (I use a cheese grater and it works great, or you can buy pre-shredded carrots)
  • 1 jar of pasta sauce or 1-2 cans of fire roasted tomatoes (we used Rao’s Marinara Sauce – bc we had it, and did not have any fire roasted tomatoes. I love it because it’s all natural with no sugar and is very yummy.)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic; very finely chopped or Micro-planed
  • 2-3 tbps tomato paste
  • 1 tbps Italian seasoning (we used Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset)
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pasta of your choice, prepared per instructions – we used Banza (chickpea pasta) again!
  • Parmesan, ricotta, or mozzarella for topping

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Start by browning your ground beef in a large skillet over medium- high heat. I do not use any olive oil or anything due to the fat content in the beef. Simultaneously, start boiling the water to prepare your pasta, if using dry pasta.
  2. While beef is cooking, shred your carrots. Again, I used a cheese grater to do this but you can do it in seconds with a food processor or buy shredded carrots at the store. I do think home shredded carrots would work better because they are fresher and more likely to take on the flavor of the sauce.
  3. After the beef has cooked around 5-6 minutes, add in the shredded carrots and stir. Add in the Italian seasoning, oregano, a few dashes of red pepper flakes, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Stir to make sure everything is coated.
  4. Add in the tomato paste, stir to combine.
  5. Add in your garlic. I usually do this live, so I just microplane the garlic right into the sauce. Stir to combine.
  6. Finally, crack open the jar of pasta sauce and add the whole thing in. Stir well. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. After the mixture is boiling, reduce to a simmer.
  7. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, however long you need to wait while your pasta cooks. The longer it simmers, the more the flavors will meld.
  8. Once your pasta is cooked and strained, your dinner is ready! Serve in bowls and top with an additional sprinkle of red pepper flakes and cheese. I’m partial to Parmesan but ricotta, mozzarella, or a blend would work great too!

That’s it! This makes four large servings. It could easily be 5 medium servings. It is delicious the next day and heats up well. I love this recipe so much – it’s delicious, filling and so easy. Let me know if you make it! Bon Appetit!

Marrakech Express: My Trip to Morocco

Since we have all been under quarantine measures the last month or so, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and finally write about one of my all time favorite trips. And no, it’s not Italy but don’t worry, I will be posting more in that series soon!

Back in May of 2017 I went to one of the most visually stunning locations in the world: Marrakech, Morocco. It was a *very* last minute trip and one of my absolute favorites to date. If you are thinking of heading to Morocco I can’t recommend it enough and I hope to return one day. This post is fairly detailed, so feel free to skip to the bottom for the ~lite~ version.

I normally plan bigger trips like this well in advance. However, my jet-setting friend Dana had a trip planned and when I jokingly suggested (three weeks out) I should tag along on her upcoming adventure, she invited me. The next thing I knew, a far fetched dream had become a reality and I bought a plane ticket to AFRICA!

Marrakech is an ancient city, in the foothills of the stunning Atlas Mountains. We stayed in the ‘medina’ area of Marrakech. This is the older, central section within the original city walls. Outside of the walls, there are modern looking buildings, boulevards, a McDonald’s 🤣, etc. like any larger city. Within the medina, you will find a maze of brick and straw houses, narrow unpaved alleyways, and motor bikes speeding around every corner. Most of the buildings here are crafted from red sandstone, giving the city a warm earthy appearance. Stalls line the roads, filled with fresh fruit, herbs, and pastries. It is bustling with people, day and night.

Because I didn’t do a lot of planning (zero tbh) for this trip, I didn’t really have any expectations. When I thought of Morocco before this journey, certain words came to mind: sandy, isolated, antiquated, and mirages in the desert (lol). Many of these words are very much applicable, but I left knowing that there is also so much more to Marrakech and the surrounding area! It is completely inspirational from an architectural and design perspective, and while there are European influences, it was entirely different than anywhere I’ve gone before.

Typical colors of Marrakech

I am going to go through some of my favorite experiences and hope that this will serve as a guide if you are looking to explore the area. Or, if you’re a daydreamer like me, maybe it will offer a little inspiration. Luckily, I made a huge note on my iPhone during this trip which served as a great reminder of everything I saw. Let’s get to it!

I couldn’t believe my eyes most days.
Beauty and inspiration around every corner.

Some of my favorite things:

Take a few hours to walk around the medina and accept that you will probably get lost. The streets are like a maze and can be difficult to figure out at first. There are dozens of ‘riads,’ or guest houses (similar to bed and breakfasts in the US), throughout the medina, that serve tea, food or drinks. Go explore and see what you find! I saw some of the most incredible scenes all within the riads of the old city.

Stained glass window.
I love the intricate stone carvings on each of these columns.
The tile work and artistry in Marrakech is unbelievable.
Ceiling detail.

Make your way to the central square known as Jemaa el-Fnaa. The square is full of vendors selling their wares. It is very lively (a tad hectic) and full of locals and tourists alike. You don’t need to stay long but I definitely recommend visiting for the experience (and this is coming from someone who doesn’t love crowds).

Ben Youssef
A beautiful door on a typical alleyway

After you’ve had your fill wandering through Jemaa el-Fnaa, head next door to the neighboring souk. I bought some exquisite traditional pottery here that I was able to pack and take home with me. I also picked up a lovely Jacques Majorelle print and had it framed back home. It’s one of my favorite souvenirs ☺️.

The stalls are filled with everything you could imagine. If you have been looking to redecorate your home in the very #ontrend Moroccan style – make sure you spend time exploring this area. Berber carpets and pillows, woven baskets, lanterns, leather poufs, stools, furniture, etc. at a fraction of the cost of items for sale in the US. They will ship items for you as well!

Once you’re done shopping, leave the souk and wander the nearby narrow streets, stopping for traditional Moroccan mint tea. There are a ton of cafes with rooftops in this area. Head upstairs and away from the crowds. The views over the city are beautiful and Moroccan mint tea is a daily ritual for many citizens. Served hot (or iced) with handfuls of fresh mint and home baked pastries, it is a celebrated activity, and not to be missed.

Daily tea at the riad.

If you are up for a more *adventurous* activity, visit a traditional hamman. A hamman is similar to a turkish bath – a public type of steam room – and they are very popular in Morocco. My friend and I went to the hammam located within the exquisite La Sultana Hotel and it was incredible. Before you visit, I would definitely recommend researching what the experience entails as it may not be for everyone (hint: you get naked and your entire body gets exfoliated beyond belief.) There are separate areas for men and women, and at La Sultana, they offered private spa services as well. At the end of the “experience” I felt utterly relaxed. We were served mint tea and enjoyed their pool for several hours. I loved it and would do it again!

Detail of the beautiful hotel.
Just stunning. The elegant chairs, lanterns and red tile floor.
We stayed here a while after the hammam ☺️

If you stay at or visit La Sultana, make sure to head next door to ‘Saadien’s Tombs,’ a beautiful necropolis dating back from the 1500s. Sultans, sheiks, and other royals have been buried here for centuries. The architecture and buildings within this space are breathtaking. Detailed tile, carved stone, and beautifully colored arches adorn the buildings. The Chamber of Twelve Columns is the stunning centerpiece of the tombs.

Chamber of Twelve Columns – speechless!
Intricate carvings on a wooden door at the Saadien Tombs.

Another favorite stop on the trip was The Jardin Majorelle. French painter Jacques Majorelle planned and created this enchanting urban garden over several decades. Filled with the most striking colors and lucious plants from the world over, it was definitely one of the most visually stunning locations in all of Marrakech. I loved wandering around surrounded by fronds and palms. Most of the garden is well shaded and a welcome respite from the high temperatures.

I’m convinced this is the most beautiful shade of blue ever: Majorelle Blue.

From the official website: “We amble along shady lanes, in the midst of trees and exotic plants of dreamy origin; we walk past refreshing, burbling streams and pools filled with water lilies and lotus flowers; we hear wafting through the air, laden with sugared fragrance, the rustling of leaves and the chirping of numerous birds who come here to take refuge; we stop, and the path turns unexpectedly, revealing a building with Moorish charm, with a hint of Art Deco, painted in astonishingly vibrant primary colours, glowing with an intense blue the artist perceived in the Atlas Mountains.” I mean….. don’t think I can top that description.

It is a very popular spot with tourists and fairly #instafamous, so I would recommend arriving early to beat the crowds. We came here as part of a bike tour in the afternoon and as such, it was a little bit crowded. Make sure to check out the adjoining exhibits and gift shops.

Once you’ve had your share of exploring the medina, venture out of the city to the Atlas Mountains. There are tons of day trips or guided tours to choose from – hiking, camping, caravan-ing, etc.

The lush landscape of the Atlas Mountains – unexpectedly verdant.

We did an overnight trip to the Sahara Desert and it was truly one of the most magical and memorable experiences of my life. We rode camels into the sunset with Berber guides and arrived at a well setup camp on the outskirts of the Sahara.

One of my favorite pictures I have ever taken.
Just call me the ~dromedary~ whisperer 🐪

The sky was a beautiful clear blue and the moon and stars twinkled above us. Our host, Youssef, poured the group tea while we learned about his life and experiences. The only downside in all of this were the giant scarab beetles scurrying through the sand. Gave me flashbacks to “The Mummy,” but hey, if I can get through it (and love it), I guarantee you can too.

One of our hosts, Youssef.
Sunrise.

Another day trip that is a must in my opinion is Ait Ben Haddou. This ancient ksar, or grouping of buildings, is a UNESCO world heritage site and “illustrates the traditional earthen habitat, representing the culture of southern Morocco.” Ait Ben Haddou is a well preserved former trading post that sits in the shadow of the Atlas mountains. It has recently become a more popular tourist destination, appearing in several films, including a personal favorite, “Gladiator.” I recommend getting a tour of this site if possible.

Throughout your stay, make sure to sample copious amounts of local foods. Moroccan food is a unique and mouthwatering blend of Middle Eastern, European and African cuisines filled with spices and flavor. A a typical dinner might include a tajine, which is a cone shaped pottery dish, used to cook herbed meats and vegetables, along with delicious fresh couscous. We also loved the homemade breakfast at our riad. Fresh squeezed orange juice (the best I’ve ever had, don’t skip it!), yogurt, and delicious pastries each morning.

Our daily breakfast.
Dreamy lunch setting at El Fenn.
Mint goes with everything here.

Lastly, take time to relax! Many riads and hotels offer beautiful pools for a small fee. The temperatures are HOT (90s) so taking a dip in a pool is a welcome activity. Pick out a few places you’d like to visit and plan out a few hours of relaxation throughout your stay. Most of the hotels who have pools also have wonderful spas with a variety of affordable treatments.

Wrapping it up:

I hope you enjoyed this post about Marrakech. Going through these photos was such a joy, especially with our current state of affairs. Taking time to reflect and appreciate past trips is so important and often forgotten in this fast paced world. I loved this city and wished I had more time to see it all – and in the surrounding areas as well. The people, culture, food, etc. were all amazing. Marrakech is city of contrasts- both new and old, bold and subdued, coexisting in a beautifully symbiotic way. Have you been to Morocco? What was your favorite part? Where else would you recommend exploring? Check out my “quick hits,” section below for even more suggestions! Thanks for reading and following along.

Quick hits:

Where to Stay: We stayed at a the cutest boutique hotel called Riad BE Marrakech. It was honestly perfect with some of the best service I have ever experienced anywhere. The co-owners were younger (one Swiss, one Moroccan) and very helpful and welcoming. I would stay here again in a heartbeat. Here are some other options for a variety of price ranges:

  • Riad Yasmine – couldn’t find pricing but I remember researching this place and it looked amazing – great reviews and location!
  • Riad Karmela (Budget & great reviews – $48 USD/night)
  • Riad Saba (Budget – $60 USD/night)
  • Riad Palais des Princesses (Budget -$70 USD/night)
  • Riad & Spa Spirit of Morocco (Budget/Moderate – $94 USD/night) – we actually came in here and had drinks by their lovely pool!
  • Riad Les Yeux Bleus (Moderate – $150 USD/night)
  • 72 Riad Living (Moderate/higher end – $170 USD/night)
  • La Sultana (Luxury – $380+/night)
  • El Fenn (Luxury -$420+ USD/night)
  • Royal Mansour Marrakech (Luxury – $500+ USD/night)
  • La Mamounia (Luxury – didn’t look and don’t want to 🤣!)

There are also tons of places listed on AirBNB. A lot of boutique hotels list their rooms on this platform so I would be sure to check their inventory as well. The bottom line is you could easily stay in a nice, safe hotel for well under $100USD/ night. With breakfast included, I think its one of the more affordable trips I’ve been on!

Where to Eat:

Ugh. I didn’t do the best job of keeping track of where we ate when we visited, but I do remember everything being very good. I love Middle Eastern food in general so it wasn’t hard for me to find things I liked.

My two most memorable meals were very different. The first was the meal we had on our desert excursion trip. Fresh baked bread, and tajines full of savory chicken, lamb, onions, and vegetables. We ate communal style inside the yurts of our Berber hosts. It was so simple but so fresh and delicious. The other meal I still remember to this day is the lunch we had at El Fenn. The hotel itself is next-level beautiful. I *highly* recommend dining here as the food and service were both incredible. Fresh everything. We ate on their rooftop terrace and it was just perfection! If you visit El Fenn, make sure to check out the shop within the hotel. It is full of remarkable and unique handmade goods.

As I mentioned before, the breakfasts included in our stay were a delight. I suggest booking a hotel or AirBNB that includes breakfast. Fresh cappuccino, orange juice (not to be missed, even if you are not an OJ fan), tea, flatbread, yogurt and fruit each morning.

What to Do:

  • Shop in the souks and look for spices, pottery, leather items, or home goods. Make sure you barter to get the best price!
  • Explore the various riads throughout the city. We wandered around and walked into ones that caught our eyes for tea, coffee, a snack, or meal.
  • Enjoy a refreshing mint tea and don’t forget a fresh squeezed orange juice as well
  • Visit Jemaa el-Fnaa and let it all soak in!
  • The Saadien Tombs – significant necropolis for Moroccan royalth
  • Ben Youssef Madrasa – A historic Islamic college with beautiful Andalusian architecture
  • Palacio da Bahia – A beautiful 19th Century Palace
  • Jardin Majorelle – Stunning garden oasis
  • Musee Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech – didn’t get a chance to make it here but this museum is entirely devoted to the iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent
  • Ait Ben Haddou – UNESCO heritage site outside of Marrakech
  • Book a bike tour – We did a bike tour that was amazing! We had a guide for a few hours that took us to several amazing sites. The roads can be a little bit scary as there are people on motor bikes, cars, and even goats, but our guide was very patient with us.
  • Book a spa or hamman experience – We loved La Sultana however there are a plethora of options to choose from in different price ranges. This was considered a luxury spa and the hammam which was at least an hour was $38USD. You could go to the public hammam or a much less expensive one as well, but this option felt like a treat.
Until we meet again!

Easy Filling Breakfast Hash

Back with another quick, filling recipe for my readers. This one comes from the “Always Hungry?” book I wrote about in my smoothie post. This recipe is great for breakfast/ brunch but we’ve also had it for lunch and dinner as well! It couldn’t be easier and it’s so filling.

And the recipe is: Black Bean Tofu Hash. To some readers this might sound delicious, to others (like myself), it might sound more like, “ew, beans and tofu?” I too was a skeptic but we’ve had this recipe at least half a dozen times in the last two months and it really is delicious. I had only ever had tofu sparingly in the past, but I’ve been buying it on each grocery trip (or grocery delivery) these days.

I love this recipe because it’s quick, feels hearty, and is inexpensive to boot. Like all great recipes you can easily modify it 😆 and add to it based on what you have in your kitchen.

This is basically all you need!

Let’s get to it! Without further ado, here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 block of extra firm tofu (or whatever firmness you prefer) well drained/ pressed*
  • 1 clove of garlic (or more if you are a fellow garlic lover) minced or microplane-d (I think I just made that a verb)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
  • Southwest seasoning (we made our own blend using 1 tbps Chili powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp chipotle, 1 tbsp Cumin, and a dash of salt)
  • Toppings: cheddar cheese, scallions, cilantro, sour cream, taco sauce (go nuts here!)

How to make it:

  • Start by heating the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds or so. Yum… the smell of garlic and olive oil is just the best.
  • Add the tofu, crumbling it with your fingers as it goes into the pan. It will kind of resemble ground meat at this point. Stir around for another minute.
  • I add about 3/4 of my seasoning at this point, stirring to make sure all the tofu is coated.
  • Dump in the can of black beans and stir. Add the rest of the seasoning.
  • Let the mixture sit over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until the flavors meld together.
  • That’s it. Scoop it into a bowl and enjoy. Yes, you’re literally done except for toppings!
Doesn’t look like much but it’ll taste great!

I love to top this with cilantro (the original recipe calls for adding into the mixture whilst in the pan, but I like the fresher taste of it on top) or scallions. I would also recommend using sour cream or cheese to get in some fat as the rest of the ingredients have no fat, except the tsp of olive oil. You could also add some taco sauce or salsa!

This recipe makes four servings and it keeps really well for next day consumption :). I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do! If you haven’t used tofu before #tofubie (tofu + newbie, no, just me?), I think you should give it a chance. It’s a great substitute for meat and takes on the delicious flavors of this dish – the more garlic the better! Honestly I do not think ground chicken or turkey would taste any better in this dish, but if you have those on hand you could substitute as needed and they would work well.

*Editor’s note: I wrapped our tofu in a dish towel and set a pan on top of it for ~20 min to get more liquid out, but I normally don’t have time to do this and just press as much water out as I can with a dish towel or paper towel. The joys of the weekend hours!