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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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 postbreaks 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.
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.
Same tree as above but in full bloom!
I hope that you’re having a great weekend and spring season, staying healthy and safe. Cheers to warmer, sunnier days ahead!
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let’s get to it! Without further ado, here’s the recipe.
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)
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!
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!
Today I’m sharing a tried and true recipe that Ryan and I absolutely love. The original recipe is from Chelsy’s Messy Apron, linked here.
With current social distancing measures in place, Ryan and I have been eating every meal at home (obviously). This adds up to a lot more dishes than we have ever had! Seriously, every day, there is a stockpile of dishes waiting to be rinsed (and yes, we do have a dishwasher which we are running daily).
I love this recipe for many reasons: it’s easy, cheesy, delicious, adaptable comfort food and, the kicker…. it only requires one pan! We have made this dish a LOT (it’s pinned to our “Favorite Recipes” board) and everyone seems to love it. It’s super filling and soooo easy – the perfect meal for when you just really don’t feel like cooking.
As I mentioned above, it’s also easily adaptable to different dietary restrictions or preferences. We substituted Banza elbow pasta (made entirely from chickpeas) for normal elbow pasta. You can also include chipotle peppers, bell peppers, or any other items you may need to use up in your fridge! You can make this as spicy or mild as you want, depending on the salsa and taco sauce you use.
If you have kids it could be a fun recipe to have them help out with, and it’s sure to please the pickiest of palates.
Without further ado – here is the recipe that we have modified a bit along the way.
1 lb ground beef (could also use ground turkey/chicken, tofu, or even a few cans of beans!)
1 cup of salsa (or a can of tomatoes with some spices and scallions would work too!)
1 medium yellow onion diced
1-2 (or more) cloves of garlic minced
1 cup of taco sauce
2 cups water, divided
Taco seasoning – you can buy a premixed packet or make your own! We made our own using 1 tbps chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp chipotle powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Yum!
2 cups of elbow pasta (or other small shaped pasta). We used Banza pasta.*
1- 2 cups shredded cheese (we erred on the generous side here)
1 cup frozen corn
Toppings: Sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt), scallions, cilantro, etc.
Start by browning the ground beef (or substitution) in your skillet over medium heat. This should take around 4-7 minutes depending on the amount and type of meat you use.
Remove beef from stove and drain (I skipped this step so it is technically optional and saves additional dishes #lazyAF)
Add your onion and garlic to the pan with the ground beef. Sauté for a minute or two over medium heat.
Add in your taco seasoning and stir so everything gets evenly coated.
Add in the corn, taco sauce, and salsa. Stir so everything is well combined.
Add in the pasta and 1 cup of water and stir to combine.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat and then reduce heat to low or medium-low and simmer, covered, for 5-7 minutes. If you are using a nonstick skillet, you’ll need to stir the mixture every two minutes or so.
Remove the cover and add in the last cup of water, again, stirring to combine everything. Cover again and continue to cook for an additional 5-7 minutes.
Turn off the heat and stir. Add in the shredded cheese and stir until it’s all melted and delicious 😋.
Serve in a bowl with your favorite toppings!
* Please note, if you substitute the small elbow pasta for something more substantial (like penne, rigatoni, etc.), you may need to add a few additional minutes for the cooking time.
Today I am going to walk through my skincare routine and some favorite products. A few friends, coworkers, and others have asked me about skincare (much to my bewilderment), so I decided to do a quick little post. To be honest, my skincare routine isn’t the most regimented, and I think that I was (very fortunately) genetically blessed with fairly low maintenance skin, which always helps. However, over the last five years or so, I have been focusing on trying to use better quality products and take better care of my skin overall.
So, what prompted my skincare journey (aside from realizing I am no longer 22)? My sister also has great skin, and several years ago, I asked what her routine was. She sent me down a rabbit hole of Korean skincare products that I still use today, in addition to some other items I recently picked up. Let’s get started!
Step One (Wash your face): Cleansing Oil
So the first step in any skincare routine is to obviously washing your face. I do a “double cleanse” which is just fancy talk for slathering on a cleansing oil, and then washing it off with a typical gentle cleanser (step 2 below). I absolutely love this oil and it’s a very affordable option. I have used it for about 3 years, and one jar lasts anywhere from 8-10 months. It blends really well and gets off absolutely every last bit of makeup. It smells incredibly fresh/ wonderful and is really a treat to use. Your face will feel soft and luscious after using this cleanser. For a more luxurious option, try this Elemis cleansing balm. The scent is ridiculously good and it can also be used as a face mask! It is also a good sized jar that will likely last a long time. I have both and will do a splurge or save post in the near future!
Step Two: Foaming Cleanser
I used this Hadalobo product for a couple of years and loved it. It’s gentle and does a great job of cleaning off any residual dirt/grime/residue after the oil cleanser. Buy it here. Again, this cleanser usually lasts me upwards of a year! You just need a pump or two each time you wash your face. I recently started using Cerave foaming cleanser. It works equally well! With the double cleanse system, you don’t need to use any cleansing products with lots of harsh chemicals or astringents.
Step Three: Serum or Essence
This is the step where you want to tailor your selections to your skin type specifically and can get creative. You can use vitamin C, salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, ampoules (basically supercharged serums), etc. all based on the needs of your skin! I always use this lotion right after I wash my face. It instantly makes my skin feel moist (ew) and honestly, plump (double ew). It almost acts like a primer* (*I think, I do not use primer so I am unsure) in that it makes my skin feel super smooth. As part of Step Three, I also recently started using one of my all time favorite skin care products, Dr. Dennis Gross Peel Pads. These are honestly transformational and make my skin look completely revitalized like no other product. I was definitely #influenced to buy them, and they are one of the pricier items on this list (and in my entire skincare/beauty regime), but they are 100% worth the hype and the price. This is one of the only skincare products I have ever seen visible results with. If you buy one thing from this entire list, I would buy this. I would also highly recommend doing some research on which serums/ essences would be best for your skin type!
Step Four: Moisturizer
Again, this is where you want to tailor your selection to your needs. I have fairly oily skin, so I usually use a light moisturizer. You can’t go wrong with classic Oil of Olay (although it’s categorized as on the “heavier” side it’s always worked for me and feels light). I think I have been using this moisturizer for ten years. I also just recently bought Elemis Pro Collagen Marine Cream. This is waaaay more expensive than Oil of Olay, so unless it’s a miracle worker, it may just be a one time purchase for me. First impressions though – amazing. The smell alone is *almost* worth it. It’s one of those smells that just feels clean, luxurious, and fresh all at once. Kinda makes you feel like you are in a spa overlooking the ocean somewhere (and hey, that’s worth something right!?). Also, a little goes a long way, it is super blendable and absorbs quickly. I have heard this compares to the famous “La Mer,” cream so we shall see.
I love to also use a night time moisturizer, especially in the winter months when my skin resembles that of a shedding snake. This Banila mask is a winner in my book. I have also loved some other products from Laneige, so I want to try this one soon too.
A few more options – all of these have been on my list to try. This Banana Sleep Mask – love the packaging and have read multiple good reviews! Missha is another great K-Beauty brand. I have tried other products from this company and loved them. This sleeping mask is only $12 (on sale right now) and I have also heard good things about it.
Step Five: Sunscreen
Last but not least, you must finish off your skincare routine with an SPF. This is the one step of my skincare routine I need to focus on more (I tend to forget it). It is so important from a health perspective, as well as for an anti-aging routine if that is a concern. The one SPF I love (recommended by my sister 🙂) is this Biore product (from Japan). This doesn’t feel or look like a sunscreen at all and is more of an essence-type product. It is so lightweight and better quality than much more expensive sunscreens like Supergoop, La Roche Posay, etc. This sunscreen is recommended on tons of Korean beauty forums/blogs, is inexpensive, and it lives up to the hype. This is probably the other product I would recommend most (after the peel pads).
Some other favorite skincare products:
Lip balm: Nivea Lip Balm – So moisturizing and so lightweight. Love the smell too.
TULA Eye Balm: This product is wonderful. It is very cooling and provides a little bit of highlight under the eye which is great especially if you struggle with baggy or dark circles.
Neocutis Lumiere Eye Cream: This eye cream is wonderful. I have literally tried a bazillion eye creams over the years and this one has actually provided a noticeable brightening effect.
Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil: This bright blue oil is applied before bed and turns clear as you rub it in. It contains trans-retinoic acid ester complex and gives a nice glow the next day. It does contain retinol, just something to keep in mind.
Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Treatment: I bought this and had it over a year! I use it at night paired with the Luna Sleeping Oil. This is an exfoliating product and contains purified lactic acid. It also has a nice fresh citrusy scent. If your skin is sensitive, I would definitely ease into using this item. You can almost feel it tingling immediately on your face.
If you are a fan of face masks, I highly recommend this Caudalie Exfoliating Mask. I have had this product now for two years (is that even allowed with skincare!?) and it is amazing. Apply to clean, dry skin and leave on for ten to fifteen minutes. I notice visible clarity and that *glow* factor after I use this mask. I only use this mask every other week at most.
Editor’s note:I am obviously not a dermatologist (or a beauty product expert) and you should probably speak to one if you are starting a new skin care regimen and you plan on using items with any sort of elevated pH. I also think it’s great to speak to a dermatologist in general about these products as they may be able to recommend some items with prescription level retinol, glycolic acid, lactic acid, etc. These are just my personal favorite items that I have used consistently and have made a difference.
What are you favorite skincare products? Any must haves? Let me know in the comments below. Stay tuned for an another beauty products related post, coming soon!
Ryan and I went to Italy 🇮🇹 in October of last year, and I am finally getting ready to post some pictures six months later! First up, Florence!
I won’t be doing a traditional post with extensive recommendations, etc., because we barely scratched the surface with what we saw in our few days there. I do have one recommendation if you are planning a trip to Italy – it helps to do some reading and research prior to going. Various websites, travel forums online, and podcasts all proved helpful. I also read a couple of books about the Duomo di Firenze and Florentine art. I ended up purchasing ‘Florence: The Paintings and Frescoes’ which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in art, history, or if you are planning to visit several museums or churches throughout Italy. It provided great context for Italian Renaissance art and beyond. It’s also a gorgeous book. You can purchase it here.
Florence has to be one of the most magical cities in the world. It is truly breathtaking and of another time. Around every corner lies a piece of history on full display. The cobblestone alleys, marble facades, worn wooden doors and ochre stucco buildings form an enchanting maze of streets that are a joy to explore. There is an overwhelming amount of museums, churches, palaces and places to visit. Incredible food and wine are just the icing on the cake! Florence is also very walkable and easy to navigate, especially with the Arno river serving as a beautiful landmark. It’s almost indescribable and I can’t recommend visiting enough.
Shots from around the Arno River:
Views of the city:
One of the “must sees” in Florence is the Florence Cathedral, aka, ‘the Duomo.’ It is located in the center of the city and cannot be missed due to its sheer size. It’s truly an architectural marvel and a wonder to behold. On this trip, Ryan and I did a guided tour to the top which was amazing and so informative. I definitely think it’s worth it to make the climb up, and the views are stunning. The inside of the cathedral itself is fairly simple vs. the outside, however, the dome has an amazing fresco by Vasari which is an incredible sight as you make your way up.
A caveat: Yes, it is extremely touristy. The wait was four hours to get into the cathedral (if you hadn’t purchased a ticket ahead of time). The square where the cathedral is located is also swarming with tourists. However, that said, it is completely worth it to at least walk around it and observe from the outside. The exterior is much more detailed than the interior, other than the dome. Also, only a tiny percentage of tourists climb to the top, so when we got up there, it was hardly crowded at all! Another option is to walk around at night. We did this multiple times and it was very enjoyable.
We also visited Sante Croce on this trip. It is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever been in. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, the poet Foscolo, the philosopher Gentile and the composer Rossini, to name a few* (*this sentence came straight out of Wikipedia, but it sums it up quite nicely 🤣). Sante Croce was much less crowded than the area around the Duomo, and I truly think the interior is more aesthetically pleasing. We just waited in a very short line right when it opened and bought our tickets then and there! Timing is everything – if you visit places on the earlier side, they are much less hectic.
Some other favorite shots from Florence:
I have so many incredible photos to share but as you can see, my blog post would be book length at that point. To summarize: if you’re thinking about visiting, do it! My only regret is that we didn’t have more time.
The unbelievable art and architecture throughout the city. It felt like a treat to wander down each and every street. Unparalleled museums and history everywhere you look!
Gelato every night – the one by our apartment happened to be incredible! Il Procopio is another favorite.
Walking tour of the city at night. It wasn’t crowded, the temperature was perfect, and we learned so much history along the way. Pro tip: Try to do any guided (or self guided) tour early on in your stay so you can become familiar with the city.
Climbing up to the top of the Duomo – would also have loved to climb to the top of the bell tower.
The food! There is no shortage of amazing food. Cured meats, cheeses, Florentine steaks, pasta, gelato, croissants, cappuccinos, etc.
Wine. I’ll just leave that here.
Walkability – truly a walkable city which makes it easy to explore. I especially loved walking along the river and up to San Miniato al Monte.
The incredible churches. I am not religious and I would highly recommend adding several into your itinerary.
The Uffizi Gallery – unbelievable to see all of the pieces in here. The building itself rivals the Louvre.
Wandering around. So fun to walk through the streets, peruse shops and stalls, and stop for a glass of wine along the way!
The Giardino di Boboli- acres and acres of manicured gardens overlooking rolling green hills. A perfect escape from the crowds if you need it!
What I’d like to see next time:
The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
Basilica di San Lorenzo
Santa Maria Novella
A few more of the palazzos-turned-museums
More photos of Ryan and I, and more food pics! Not to worry, I more than made up for this on other legs of our trip ☺️.
We had four full days in Florence and it was incredible. We can’t wait to return someday. Next up: Rome, Praiano, and Orvieto. I hope you enjoyed this post! What do you love to do in Florence?
Howdy! If you are in need of a vacation (or just some inspiration) then this post is for you.Ryan and I recently got back from an incredible week long trip to Tulum, Mexico. We have been having a very gray winter here in Cleveland (as per usual) and a dose of sunand sea was just what we needed!
A Little History: Tulum, (if you haven’t heard of it) is a town about an hour and a half south of Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan peninsula and sits on some of (if not the) most beautiful beaches in the world. Tulum got its start many centuries ago as a port for the ancient Mayan city of Coba (a little bit further inland). It was one of the last cities to be occupied by the Mayans, and remained so even after the Spanish arrived. Unfortunately, it was quickly decimated by disease and soon thereafter abandoned.
What remains of the ancient city is now protected in a national park. The *very* well-preserved ruins are perched on a cliff overlooking the turquoise ocean below. We visited this site on our last trip and it was truly spectacular.
^ Here I am at the ruins on our first trip to Tulum.
Pro tip: Get there right when the park opens to avoid the barrage of tour buses from Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.
The Mayans had the right idea.
^ Some of the buildings are in near perfect condition.
Nowadays, Tulum is more of a beach-y, tourist town that I highly recommend visiting!
Why we love Tulum: Ryan and I have visited this area twice now, and we are already planning a third trip. Tulum really has the best of all things. It has amazing food and culture, beautiful weather, and of course, it’s located on one of the most stunning stretches of land I have ever seen.
^ just looking at this picture makes me feel *zen*. Also, the sky just looks unreal.
We’ve stayed in Tulum town now on both trips (vs. staying directly on the beach). The town is about 2 miles away (by bicycle) from the beach. For our third trip we are contemplating staying directly on the beach, but you really can’t go wrong with either location. Most AirBNBs have bikes so you can easily ride to the public beach or beach clubs, and there is amazing food/drink to be had in both locations.
Pool at our AirBNB:
IMHO, Tulum town is a little bit more authentic than the beach area. There are many Mexican/Mayan people visiting and working in town. In the beach area, we noticed it was less diverse (in some ways) and more touristy, probably due to the higher price points. You likely won’t find a lot of authentic Mexican/Mayan food close to the beach, but, that being said, there are some truly amazing restaurants in this area as well, it just depends on what you’re in the mood for and the experience you want to have. Given the proximity of town to the beach and vice versa, you really don’t have to choose since you can easily go to both areas!
Below: One of hundreds of vibrant murals throughout town.
No matter where you stay, we found people to be friendly and welcoming. The landscape is otherworldly. Lush jungle pushes right up to the ocean along the coastline. Going to the beach is an experience in and of itself. Thick green foliage lines either side of the dirt road as sunlight filters through. You can feel and smell a little bit of the salt spray from the ocean, and as you park your bike under the palm trees on the white sand beach, it feels like you’ve just arrived in heaven (at least my version!).
The color of the water is somewhere between crystal clear and light turquoise. Everyday we arrived to the beach it truly took my breath away and I had to pinch myself.
A true vacation:The best part of this trip for me was how utterly relaxing it was. I recently started a new position (same employer) and the transition has been particularly tough. There is a huge learning curve for this role and a lot of work to be done. This vacation (which was planned well before I took this new job) was much needed by the time it actually rolled around.
Usually when we travel (particularly internationally) I have a lot of places saved, a list of things to do, etc. On this trip, we had nothing planned. It was amazing. We just woke up and decided what to do as the day progressed. Most days we ended up eating a large breakfast and heading to the beach afterwards. On some trips, this lack of structure might not work out so quite so well. For example, when I am visiting a big city like Paris or Rome, I find myself trying to see all the places I grew up reading about in history books, in less than a week’s time. There is often a subconscious sense of urgency for me to see it all on these types of trips (as much as I try to fight it!).
I think generally we do a pretty good job of balancing the “must-sees” with just letting the experience unfold, but I loved this trip because it was a true vacation in every sense of the word. No pressure to see anything, be anywhere at any specific time, or do much of anything at all. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
What we did (Other than eat, beach, repeat): On this past trip, we cooked with a Mayan family in a very small village called Muchucuxcah (located in the Yucatan state). The family was incredibly welcoming and friendly. Since we did not share a common language, I thought there might be a barrier but it was amazing how much we could communicate through facial expressions and gesturing. We made tortillas, traditional bean wraps using banana leaves, and an amazing dish called ‘pollo pibil’ – chicken in red chile spices, cooked underground.
Finished chicken product:
Our host, Alberto, was really wonderful. He grew up in Mexico and ended up going to graduate school in Belgium on a scholarship for engineering. He began teaching Mexican cooking classes as a means to stay close to his roots while being halfway around the world. Eventually, he took his love of cooking and brought it back to Mexico (full circle!). He met the Mayan family he works with through his brother, and he has been cooking with them for five years. This partnership with the family has helped support them and their community.
Our host family’s casa. ^
Alberto was very informative during the trip to Muchucuxcah and Ryan and I both learned a lot about Mayan civilization, Mexico, and cooking as well. We always try to do some sort of food related activity when we visit different areas. This was by far one of the best we have ever done, and one of the best guides we have ever had.
Aside from this phenomenal culinary excursion, we also enjoyed several other amazing meals. We ate a lot of seafood, tacos, and Oaxaca cheese 😁. We also had our fair share of tropical fruits and vegetables. The produce is so fresh in this part of the world. Having delicious coconut, mango, papaya, avocado, and pineapple on hand truly made me yearn to live in such an ecologically blessed area!
^ Why does my arm/ hand look massively large here? Anyways, cheers to this view ☺️.
We also visited an amazing cenote about an hour from Tulum. Cenotes are naturally formed fresh water pools that are below ground level. There are thousands of them in the Yucatan peninsula, and are all connected via an underground river. It was about 70 feet below ground and spectacular. Long vines hung from the opening at ground level and tumbled down into the blue water below. The water was a deep cerulean blue and completely clear. Ryan and I both swung off a rope (!!) and swam around with the fish for a while.
Tulum thoughts: We have absolutely loved visiting Tulum both times and can’t wait to go back. Have you ever been to Tulum? Do you recommend any other places in Mexico?
*Check out my quick (soon to be published) Tulum guide for more details on what we did, things to do, and other tips.*
Thank you for reading, please leave comments below!