My Top 5 Tips for Travel Recovery (because Jetlag Sucks)
CAN’T WE JUST STAY ON VACATION FOREVER?? ✨ Coming back from vaca can be really HARD, and dealing with jet lag is always the WORST. As a girl who feels like she is CONSTANTLY on the move (over 20 flights last year!), here are my top five tips for getting back to reality as sanely as possible. But hey - a really long nap also won't hurt. Scroll down for my tips and a few good photos from our recent trip to Oahu! (PS thinking about framing the last one and hanging it in our bathroom - that North Shore sunset is the best!!)
1. Stop thinking about what time zone you WERE in or SHOULD be in - sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light. Your body’s natural circadian rhythm will do the rest! 😴 Don’t be afraid to let yourself sleep ok if you need it the next day, too. If you’re craving sleep, you probably need it!
2. HYDRATE like a crazy person. Water helps every system in your body move more happily and more efficiently - so chug chug chug! 💦
3. Move that sweet bod! Sweating, stretching and moving your muscles helps bring more fresh blood and oxygen to your tried and sore muscles. Even a little gentle yoga is GREAT before and after you get on that plane! ✈️
4. Have a PROBIOTICS PARTY in your belly! Take plenty of high-quality probiotics (my FAVE are @goodbelly) before you fly, while you travel, and after to land to help your digestion get and stay on track. 👌🏼
5. Skincare is a MUST. The plane is full of germs that get onto your skin and is it just me or do I always leave looking SUPER greasy?! The oils are real. 🙈 Bring face wipes and masks for the plane, and be sure to give yourself plenty of extra skin love after you return home. You’ve had a week of fun and your skin could probably use a good exfoliant and a whole lotta moisture. Treat yo’self and keep that visible vacation glow going long after you land!
What are your best travel recovery tips?? Share them below so we can all be better, happier travelers together!
We made our first trip together to Hawaii last month! It was a trip we had talked about taking for years together, and after a lucrative first part of the year I was able to buy tickets and surprise Alex for our 1 year wedding anniversary. The trip coincided with our 9 year dating anniversary, so it felt like the perfect place to celebrate and make some new memories together! Alex had been to Maui once as a kid, at around ten, but had few memories of what to do or see and mostly remembered sea turtles and black sand beaches from his first visit.
The first and hardest decision was simply what ISLAND to go to! There are 8 major islands, though obviously a few are far more frequently traveled than others. It had come down to choosing between Maui and Kauai for us, as we'd heard they both offered a very "Hawaiian" experience. Oahu and Hawaii seemed a little too 'city-like' for a vacation, and Kauai only lost out because I heard its better AFTER you've experienced Maui. Kauai is a much more 'rustic' and jungle-y island, more for the hikers and campers in your group than those who prefer to lounge pool- or oceanside. While we didn't stay in a resort (not our style!), we definitely felt the in-between on Maui of having everything you needed but also being a reasonable drive from anything you wanted. We loved it!
We flew out from LAX and took a direct flight to Maui. Five and a half hours later we were flying over Molokini, the horseshoe shaped crater off the southwest coast of Maui that we'd be snorkeling in just a few days later. It was incredibly gorgeous from above!
We stayed in an AirBNB and LOVED it (check out the house here), but we'll get there in a moment. After landing we scooped up our rental car, a basically requisite red open air Jeep to tour around the island in. Perfect for taking in that salty ocean air and traversing the sometimes sketchy roadways along the Road to (and from!) Hana.
On the way to our AirBNB we drove through our first real little beach town and the one that easily become our favorite throughout the week, Paia. Paia is a tiny, adorable little stop on the north side of the island. Since we were staying in Makawao, just south and toward the center of the island, Paia became a frequent stop for us going in and out of town. The first little spot we fell in love with was Choice Health Bar. Located directly downtown, this clean and bright spot offers fresh, often locally-sourced dishes with specials that change daily. Our first stop I just grabbed Lilikoi (local type of passion fruit) Acai Bowl, but we ended up back there often for their warmer lunches and dinners, too. Below you'll see their Kale Caesar Salad and Ulu Breadfruit soup. We kept coming back for these dishes after long days at the beach, and they satisfied every time. For the record, breadfruit grows like a fruit on a tree but tastes like a potato or squash and is a cousin of the Mulberry. It is super nutritious and we were told than a single breadfruit tree can produce a ton of fruit and feed a TON of people! (Not like a LITERAL ton. But a lot!) There's a picture of an actual breadfruit tree down by the blue smoothie below. It kind of looks like a jackfruit while growing!
When we arrived at our AirBNB, a Plantation Style Tiny Home, we totally fell in love! Pictured below, it was a super cute guest cottage or 'hale' on a young, local family's small, private farm and orchard. It overlooked the orchard and banana trees, and had a screened in kitchen porch that made cooking up leftovers and farmers markets finds a truly unique experience! It was also super enchanting to hear the rain showers gently pound against the tin roof at night and had my husband asleep even before I was! Inside the place was small but perfect for us for the week. A single room with a large, comfy bed and a small futon, plus some gorgeous vintage furniture inside, and a completely renovated bathroom with some really cool features. Plus, a shower for two!
On our first full day of exploring we made our way across the island to Valley Isle Kombucha. We're not big drinkers but we'll go almost anywhere for good kombucha, and it was really amazing how much of it was on the island. We went to two different kombucha bars (Valley Isle was the best!) and even the general stores in the area had locally-made kombucha on tap. Valley Isle had at least 16 taps of different, fresh kombucha on tap, as well as a case full of bottles and a full lunch menu, too. They also partner with a company called Alchemy Maui that bakes fresh loaves of bread and baguettes right in their kitchen, so you can grab a loaf for the road or take it with you to the beach afterward!
We also fell in love with Coralynn, the server at Valley Isle and a local artist. She gave us so many tips - things to check out and places to go, and we ended up buying one of her gorgeous hand-drawn stickers to take home with us! The locals on the island were all incredibly helpful and friendly, which lent itself even more to the idyllic perception of island life. Nowhere to go fast and time to chat with everyone along the way!
Our second full day we decided to do The Road to Hana, basically an all-day adventure around the outer eastern edge of the island. We downloaded the GyPSy Guide, which is an app that adds historical and locational notes to your drive. It'll tell you where to stop for the best sights along the way the entire way there, and will give you history of the island on the drive back. I'd highly recommend spending the few dollars to download it, it was really fun and useful on the trip, and since most rental car companies don't insure you to drive all FULL Road to Hana all the way around the island, it gives you something fun to listen to on the drive back in the dark.
We started in Paia, heading East. Our first real stop was at The Garden of Eden Arboretum. In the bottom left picture, you can see the pointy rock to the right of the V - that's the rock shown in the opening scene of Jurassic Park! We loved getting out and walking around the lush gardens, enjoying the tropical flora and fauna, and checking out the waterfalls and 100-year old mango tree inside the park! Worth the visit for sure. Especially if you like birds - tons of them, including peacocks everywhere! A small admission fee, very much worth the stop if you take the trip - though I don't recommend wearing nice shoes. I forgot my extra flip flops the first day and totally destroyed my favorite fancy sandals. Whoops!
I won't tell you about every stop we made on the Road to Hana - we'd be here all day! But I recommend stopping often and eating often, too. There was SO much good food, but THE BEST BANANA BREAD ON THE DRIVE (this part is important - can you tell?) is at Aunt Sandy's along the Keanae Peninsula. Trust me. Buy at least 3 mini loaves for the day, you will not regret it! We saw painted eucalyptus trees, black sand beaches, and a million farmstands. We bought and ate local lilikoi and sugarcane, banana bread, and local kombucha and took selfies in front of waterfalls and fell even more in love.
We stopped at Coconut Glen's on the way up after many suggestions and had the BEST vegan ice cream I've ever eaten. We tried the coconut and lemongrass ginger flavors, which both had chunks of real coconut meat mashed inside. Literally could eat it for every meal ever - the perfect blend of sweet and fat and creamy. It was a perfect day.
We ended up checking out a ton of beaches, but the best for snorkeling and beach hanging while we were there seemed to be on the south side of the island, toward Wailea-Makena. We ended up returning here a couple times to hang and swim in calmer waters away from the resorts. At Big Beach there were waves so high and so powerful - shore pounders - that lifeguards weren't allowing people to swim, and one beach over at Little Beach we stumbled upon a nude beach! It was a fun, if unplanned, surprise and definitely a memorable one. At first I was intrigued, but after realizing the beaches occupants were almost entirely men, I was less enthused. This ended up being one of the places we also saw a TON of sea turtles swimming one afternoon in the rock outcroppings off the beach. Super cool!
We visited Lahaina and spent a morning and early afternoon walking around checking out the beach city, but if I'm being honest, this was one place I definitely only needed to see once. It was super touristy and felt kind of fabricated - I prefer to hang like a local when I travel and all of Lahaina felt like a tourist trap. Also, it was just down the street was a ton of huge resorts and the contrast of seeing how locals are forced to live in poverty next door to these huge tourist draws was more sad and reflection of the financial struggles really facing the island. BUT, we did meet a really cute little hippie kid selling vegan, gluten-free, marijuana-infused banana bread...and we definitely bought some and enjoyed a hazy afternoon on the beach.
Some of the best things we ate, besides all the fresh local lilikoi, mango, starfruit, dragonfruit, guava and papaya - were macadamia nut chocolate chip pancakes (pictured above!), fresh mahi mahi, and basically any combo from Ululani's Shaved Ice, but especially the Paia location which ALSO carried Coconut Glen's vegan ice cream. My go-to order (we got it 5 times in 4 days - no joke) was CG's original coconut ice cream covered in lilikoi, strawberry, and guava shaved ice and topped with house made mochi. I am literally drooling just thinking about it! We also fell in love with a local coconut kefir that we found at the local health food store, Mana Foods (also pictured below), that we would come home each night and top with local lilikoi and take to munch in bed.
Since we were in Maui celebrating our 9 year dating anniversary and 1 year wedding anniversary, we decided to treat ourselves to a reservation at the fanciest restaurant on the island - Mama's Fish House! We got all gussied up and and headed to the loveliest dinner. Did it cost us a couple hundred dollars? Maybe yes. Was it worth every penny as we looked over the over eating some of the best food ever, more in love than ever? YOU BETCHA! An expensive dinner out, but VERY worth it if you can make room for it on your itinerary. Heads up - reservations go fast! We made ours 6 months in advance.
We loved finding tiny, locally owned places like Brekkie Bowls to eat at all week long. We like supporting local economy whenever possible, and frankly - the locals have the best recs for snorkeling, finding sea turtles, and sharing secret sunset spots! I also loved how accessible fruit, smoothies, acai bowls, and juice was on the island. My digestion was high functioning and I felt great all week long - which is NOT always the case when I'm traveling!
One of the definite highlights of out trip was snorkeling at Molokini, the horseshoe shaped crater off the coast that boats calm water, tons of beautiful fish, and sometimes even seat turtles! We didn't see any turtles but we had a blast boating out, snorkeling together, and filming underwater with the GoPro. We saw tons of beautiful, brightly colored fish and coral reef, and had a great time with the crew on the boat. We were out from about 7 am to 2 pm and chose to sail with The Four Winds. Highly recommend their outing, they let us hang out way longer than all of the other tourist-filled boats and they prepped a great lunch with a veggie burger option! We saw tons of dolphins on the way back too, some even swimming alongside out boat for over 20 minutes. Super cool!
I loved that we were able to hit the island's big Saturday Upcountry Farmers Market. It was full of local vendors selling unique and delicious specialties, and we feasted on a local eggs, probiotic coconut yogurt, tons of tropical fruit and of course - fresh coconuts! The market had something for everyone, and there was no shortage of vegan and vegetarian options, which was pretty cool to see in such a small place. We made friends with some locals and ended up bringing some local raw honey and bread back on the plane home a few days later!
We searched high and low for turtles while we were there and I don't know if was the time of year or just our luck but we barely found any. We FINALLY stumbled - literally I thought it was a rock until we got pretty close - upon a giant sea turtle at Tavares Bay, and hung out watching him for awhile. Like I mentioned earlier we also saw some near Makena Bay, but other than that - not a one!
Also if you have time, get over to Bamboo Forest Hike that leads to Pipiwai Waterfall - it was easy and a fun way to spend a couple hours after a heavy lunch and was super photograph-friendly.
One day ended up being SUPER rainy (it's Hawaii so daily rain is expected but this day was SUPER wet) so we decided to ditch our hiking plans and booked an afternoon at North Shore Zipline, which happened to be literally a half mile from our AirBNB. We had a damn blast! I expected it to be a little cheesy or lame but honestly the guys that worked there went above and beyond to make sure everyone had fun, and I would go again if I had the chance. Also - the photos at the end didn't suck like most places that try to sell you photos, so we actually bought them. Worth it! They gave us like 30 pictures for $30. Again - not normally a sucker for that stuff, but it was SUCH a fun outing and they really made it worth every penny. Check them out if you're in the area - we had a kid as young as 6 in our group so it's definitely family friendly!
The next day ended up being FAR nicer outside, so we packed a day bag and drove to Kula, basically where all the lush farmland lives at the center of the island. We found a super cute pumpkin patch flooded wit families and overlooking the ocean and stopped to take pictures and enjoy literally the most beautiful and scenic pumpkin patch maybe ever. It was incredibly gorgeous, and after we continued into Kula to the Ulapalakua Ranch Store, full of fun kitsch and really great locally raised, grass-fed burgers. Driving through Kula and all of the pasture and free roaming cows (literally no fences - drive carefully through here as they sometimes travel through the roadway to get to another pasture!) was a little bit like being home in Maine - if Maine started suddenly taking on a jungle climate.
That last afternoon we made the loooong (2-3 hours) drive from Kula to Haleakala National Park to see the sun set over the Haleakala Crater. It was SO incredibly worth it. It was a super cool, winding, beautiful drive up to the top, and then we parked and hiked the last mile or so to the very top. The place was crowded, but there was plenty of room to hunker down and watch the sun go down. We were ill-prepared clothing wise, both in shorts after a long day at the beach, but it was worth every shivering second to see what looked like literal heaven play out in front of us. Make the trip, but bundle up first. The drive down will take a little longer than you'd expect because of all the other people also departing as soon as the sun drops, so reward yourself with an extra trip to Ululani's on your way home!
We loved Maui SO much and can't wait to go back and take advantage of the chill vibes, beautiful views, and delicious food! If you're considering going, check out my rec's below as well as all the one's mentioned above, they're an easy copy and paste into your phone before you go so you can reference place as you drive around. And when you go - LET ME KNOW so I can live vicariously through you and your vacation. 😉
Food places we tried and loved: Choice Health Bar, Valley Isle Kombucha, Tin Roof for super traditional Hawaiian cuisine, A'a Roots, Paia Bowls, Brekkie Bowls, Mana Foods, Flatbread Company, Paia Fish House, Joy's Cafe in Kihei, Maui Kombucha Bar, Choice Health Bar, Aunt Sandy's along the Keanae Peninsula, Mama's Fish House, Farmacy, Paia Inn Brunch, Mokuroots, Ululani's Shaved Ice, Coconut Glen's, Ulapalakua Ranch Store, and the Upcountry Farmer's Market.
Places to See + Things to Check out: EVERYTHING! But specifically - Sea Turtles at Tavares Bay, Turtle Beach, Makawao Forest Hike, Bamboo Forest Hike to Pipiwai Waterfall, Lao Valley, Waihee Ridge Trail Hike, Paia, Poli Poli, Haleakala Crater + National Park for sunrise or sunset (sunrise requires a planned ahead permit), Kaupo Drive (the long way back from Road to Hana - only if you've got a jeep), Red + Black Sand Beaches, Maleaka Beach, Ulua Beach, Ahihi Kinau Natural Reserve, North Shore Zipline, Kula Country Farms, Little Beach (NUDE beach!), Upcountry Farmer's Market, snorkeling Molokini, Lahaina, Road to Hana (download the GyPSy App!).
Okay guys, it took me 4 1/2 months BUT our Amsterdam Travel Diary is finally here! After our wedding, we spent the weekend recovering and packing and then left bright and early Tuesday morning for LAX where we boarded our the first leg of our flight to Reykjavic, Iceland and then over to Amsterdam for the first 5 days (technically 4 - we didn't get to our AirBNB until like 10 pm on the first night) of our 14 day honeymoon. When we first stepped off the train we were right downtown, just outside the Amsterdam Centraal Station. The sun was just beginning to set low in the sky - they're on about 20 hours of daylight over there in late June. We found our way to our AirBNB, not far from downtown but worth jumping on the metro. We checked in - our host was awesome and even had warm beer waiting for us - which apparently is how they prefer to drink beer in Europe. I had no idea...and my Dad is a US beer company executive! 😝
Since the sun wasn't due to set until around midnight, we were wide awake when we hit the AirBNB. Plus, we were just SUPER excited to be in Amsterdam! We used the HappyCow app a couple times during our trip to find vegan food, but mostly just used the incredible lost of recommendations you guys sent us on social media. I collected them all on a list and then starred all the places on Google Maps, so that as we were walking around cities I could see how close we were to our recommended places at all time! PRO TIP: You can download maps for offline use on Google Maps, so before our trip I downloaded maps for all of the cities we were visiting (Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and London) and then used them offline and without burning up data overseas while we walked and traveled through the cities. Since your GPS works without needing data, you'll even see where YOU are on the maps. Very convenient!
Anyway, after we arrived we went to a HappyCow recommended, vegan restaurant near us called Mezebar Bodrum that served a sort of Greek-inspired tapas that was truly phenomenal. The first real food we'd had in hours, sure, but we went back again and I can confirm that is truly wonderful. The owners were sweet and accommodating and gave us awesome recommendations of stuff to see all over the city, plus they literally served us dinner at like midnight. The best introduction to this super friendly city! After we ate we found a 'coffee shop' and tried our first joint in Amsterdam. We didn't really understand why it made us feel SO weird until later, when we figured out that spliffs in Europe are usually rolled with tobacco. For a California girl used to a regular old joint, it was an unpleasant surprise and a serious head rush. Ick. We walked it off around the general area of our 'home' for the week before calling it a night. We were staying in a cute 1 bedroom overlooking the East side of Rembrandt Park. It was a huge, beautiful green space not far from the more famous Vondelpark. The parks and green spaces like the Bos quickly became our favorite part of being in the Netherlands. That and all of the friendly, off-leash dog culture! So many chill dogs, it was truly amazing.
Day two we started early, grabbing bagel sandwiches at the Bagels & Beans nearest us. I got hummus and veggies - a welcome meal after all the traveling. They are a chain, so we were able to find them all over the city. Perfect in a pinch! (I did bring probiotics with me while traveling to help with my crazy wonky digestion - more on how I pack for trips in an upcoming post!) After food we walked the city - over 17 miles the first day we were there! I came back with THE best, strongest booty I've ever had. It was awesome. We perused the canals and hit up the Van Gogh Museum area, including the Park Museumplein where the I Am Amsterdam sign is. There were also a bunch of small eateries, touristy shops, and plenty of people tripping on mushrooms in the park. We also stumbled upon some super cool Banksy and Salvador Dali exhibits at the Moco Museum, just across the park. We even found some kombucha at a small grocery store! It wasn't quite the 'booch we're used to, but it was cool to try different flavors and brands. We tried to get one or two different brands in each country and definitely ended up finding our favorite brand, Jarr, while we were in London. The whole 'I Amsterdam' area was super cool and busy with locals and tourists, and we stopped for lunch after seeing a big sign advertising vegan hemp burgers. It was delicious, and awesome to see so many plant-based options in Amsterdam. I totally fell in love with that area, and we ended up walking through it again on day 3, too!
Because of my soy and dairy allergy and dietary restrictions, we ended up eating a LOT of bread. This was no problem since I LOVE bread, but I did start craving fresh veggies at every meal pretty hard early on into our trip. Luckily for Alex, a baguette a day is literally what he wishes he could eat everyday. Luckily for me, we walked 11 more miles on day two, so I could deal with the bread intake. And of course the freshly baked bread from real neighborhood bakeries was SO much more satisfying than the grocery store crap we have here in the States. That said, we were super excited to find Maoz Vegetarian (last picture in this post), basically the Chipotle of falafel in Europe. It was so convenient and easy to make your own pita pocket stuffed with things you actually liked, and nearly everything was soy-free. Score!
The 2nd night in town we ventured over to the famed Red Light District, or De Wallen. We found it near the Hash, Marijuana + Hemp Museum, among other coffee shops, boutiques, cheese counters and tourist trinket shops. It sure was something! The dark, thin alleyways were lit up so that you could see them before you arrived. After turning down the alley you are immediately greeted on both sides by matching glass doors, spanning the length of the alleyways. Each has a woman in the window, usually wearing a small amount of lingerie or waggling her finger at you as you pass by. It's kind of crazy to see, but in a country with legal prostitution and brothels, its certainly not out of the ordinary. Rumor has it that the woman are actually generally quite respected and have close relationships with city police. We saw that in action, with friendly ladies chatting up the local police patrolling the area, offering them a drink or letting them in to chat. It was a very professional way of doing things, really, and was wonderful to see the women so in charge of their space and presumably their bodies. As a couple we were smiled at a lot but I think they generally knew we were tourists just talking a look; we did see a few people enter the rooms and quickly shut the door behind them, but for the most part, everyone around were curious tourists, too. We even found a few tobacco-free joints in that area, and enjoyed those for the rest of our stay in the area.
Day three we decided to trek like locals and rent bicycles! That's how most of the population gets around in Amsterdam, and it felt only right that we participate while we were in town. We started early in the morning, trekking nearly 6 miles over to the Amsterdam Bos, a huge green space of over 2,500 acres with a full forest, rowing lake, and even a few small restaurant snuggled inside. It's over three times the size of Central Park! That was probably my favorite part of Amsterdam - the incredible swaths of bright green space. Not overly manicured, but full of people enjoying it. I wish we had more spaces like that here! We spent hours biking around, watching a rowing race, stopping at small cafes for rolls and fresh fruit, and just straight up loving being on our Honeymoon. For a late lunch we headed from the Bos back toward a place I'd been recommended on instagram called De FoodHallen, which was basically this amazingly designed old warehouse that has been converted into a community space for restaurants. There were at least 12 small cafes and restaurants in the space, and a bunch of long, community style tables in the center. Alex ordered a veggie temaki roll from Meneer Temaki and LOVED it, and I found and fell in love with a small Mexican place call Fento. They made killer jackfruit nachos and homemade iced teas, and I was really impressed that there was such good Mexican food in the middle of Amsterdam! Turns out Fento is owned by someone from LA who moved to Amsterdam and opened up this place - which is probably why it tasted to authentic and good to us. I totally LOVED it and highly recommend stopping by! After lunch we headed back to the AirBNB for a nap - those long days were killing us! - and then back out to a small, local hole-in-the-wall Indian spot for some chickpea curry for dinner. We returned our bikes and headed home. Renting bikes are enjoying the city really is a must-do while you're in the area, but know that the bike traffic moves fast and waits for no-one. Know where you're going before you start biking so you stay out of the locals way!
On day four we walked all over the city one last time, hitting up all of the favorite spots we'd accrued over the previous 3 days. We went all the way across town on foot to get to Dophert, a restaurant we'd heard literally rave reviews about. It was pretty good, and a super cute spot - plus the staff was incredibly friendly. That said, like most of the places we visited on our trip, the soy-free options were abysmal, and the portions were pretty small. But Alex really liked his Fried Seitan Sandwich, and we ended up loving walking around that part of the city, so it was totally worth the visit. I even found and made Alex take my picture in front of 'St. Peterhalsteeg' street sign! We finished off our last day walking the canals and stopping by the Vegabond vegan grocer. They didn't have a ton of options for on-the-go eating, but had some great groceries to take back to the AirBNB and a quality selection of kombucha, too. That night we hit up Mezebar Bodrum one more time and crashed hard, and were up early the next day for our train trip to Brussels! Hopefully I'll get it together and have THAT travel diary up next week! 😝 Until then, check out the resources below to help plan your trip, and check out our IG posts from the trip for more on what we ate + saw, and make sure to visit our youtube channel to watch the video recaps of our Amsterdam trip here. Vaarwel!
Hi friends! This post has taken me a lot longer to write than it probably should have, between my crippling anxiety that dealing with this particular event gave me and the fact that my wedding was Saturday. If you wanna see some sneak peeks from our gorgeous, perfect wedding (posts coming soon!), check out my instagram page + story. If you're interested in reading more about my anxiety attack and how I am learning, in an ongoing way, to deal with it, you can check out my recent post on both subjects here. If not, then I'm going to dive right into this post and focus on the good: because that's really how I'd prefer to remember it! It wasn't a perfect weekend, but it was pretty great, and I'm really lucky that I had people there that had my back.
The weekend kicked off in a caravan to Palm Springs and a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum to see the new Jeffrey Gibson installation in the sculpture gardens. Our ultimate goal that afternoon before our AirBNB check-in would be to visit Desert X, his other running installation just a mile from where we were staying in PS. The sculpture garden was really neat, and I particularly loved the amount of blown glass artwork they had - so cool to see!
After the museum we headed a little further into town to the Palm Greens Cafe, one of my favorite places to grab a meal whenever I'm in town. They have a great, super vegan-friendly breakfast, brunch, and lunch menu, plus a board full of fresh juices and smoothies that'll keep you cool in the hot desert weather. My favorite is their Pineapple Jalapeño Cucumber juice - it's sweet, spicy, and super refreshing. We met up with most of the rest of our group at the restaurant for lunch, and texted final grocery and alcohol orders to the stragglers meeting us at the house later. At this point I was getting super excited to see where we'd be staying and to finally head over to the Desert X exhibit. We headed to the AirBNB for check-in, and were a little surprised at how small it was; cute - totally! But also super much smaller than it looked in photos (isn't that always the case?) and a little dingier. But it would do the trick! It was a strange setup - like a house with most of the rooms combined, plus two attached in-law apartments. A strange structure that made for even weirder sleeping arrangements, but it had a pool and hot tub! Not even the semi-creepy on-property manager (yeah, that definitely wasn't in the listing) could kill the vibe.
We split into rooms, my sister and I splitting one of the larger and more personal in-law apartments, and then headed back to the outskirts of town towards Desert X. The exhibit is basically a large house made entirely of mirrors - and it is super cool! Only about half the group made the trip, but we all thought it was rad and made sure to get plenty of cool photos. I mean, we had to! It was incredible to be alone in an entire room of mirrors - which you might've seen behind the scene footage of if you're following my instagram stories. 😉
Since I want to be super transparent and honest with you guys, you should know that I was lucky enough to have some really great brand support the weekend through product donation from the following brands: Dandies, Eat Pastry, Harmless Harvest, YumEarth, Organic Gemini, Tater Tats, Larabar, Ozery, Juicero, Hippeas, NadaMoo and Utopia Farms. I want to give them all a HUGE shoutout for being involved and for sharing their products with us for the weekend. They kept us fed, hydrated, full and ready to party, and for that I am so thankful. I love and support ALL of these brands, and recommend their products for real: no paid advertisement needed!
The snacks made the weekend a freaking blast - and saved us a bunch of time and money. Our fridge was fully stocked - it was truly a thing of beauty. I wish I'd gotten a better picture, but the lighting info ur AirBNB was total crap - lots of shade to block out that hot desert sun. There's a picture of every product on here, but the Ozery + Juicero (in the bottom right of the first photo set) are unlabeled - though were maybe the most eaten products! 😝
We loved using Organic Gemini's tigernut-based protein for our morning smoothies along with some fresh fruit (especially those that indulged in alcohol the night before, haha!) and munching on Larabars all day long between meals to keep us full-time on healthy fats. The Harmless Harvest and Juicero kept us hydrated around the pool, and the Dandies, Eat Patsry, YumEarth and NadaMoo made delicious desserts! Most of the attendees had never tried Hippeas before and they were and instant hit at the party. Utopia Farms provided the medicated edibles - which was AWESOME for me because I don't really drink, and Tater Tats gave us the temporary tattoo entertainment!
The first morning we woke up and everyone was a little hungover - except me - so I practiced a little yoga and made morning smoothies for the group. The rest of the day was the perfect pool day - lots of sun, drinking, poolside snacking, and floating around in fruit-shaped inflatables. I brought along a tie dye kit and we made rad, very nineties souvenirs take home. Turns out you can get a super easy, 30-dye kit with easy apply nozzles at Michaels for like $20. It was so worth it! The evening was a blur of games of Cards Against Humanity, late-night hot tubbing, and some serious dance sessions. We headed to bed late and got up early the next day for our 11 am check out. Everyone was sleepy, a little hungover, and tired of being in the sun.
Lots of long and loving goodbyes later, we were on the road home. I was exhausted from the weekend emotionally and physically, and was so ready to get home to see (my now HUSBAND!) Alex. We cruised back past the Cabazon Dinosaurs and home. Over - a great weekend. My tips? I've got a few!
Plan activities that everyone can actually commit to. My morning yoga mesh was a major bummer for me because everyone else was hungover and uninterested.
Bring lots of healthy snacks! We wee lucky that we had help from such great companies. But buying healthy snacks in bulk is a great way to DIY on the cheap.
Make time for you and your needs during the weekend. I didn't do that enough, and ended up feeling sad and stressed because of it.
Ask friends to keep it vegan (or veg-friendly, or whatever your thing is!) because it's your weekend. It's okay to be selfish!
Make sure you stay hydrated! That's half the battle in the heat.
Accept that things won't always go as planned. And that's okay.
And once it's all over, just remember - no matter how it goes - you are that much closer to marrying your partner and that part is so, so worth it. A snapshot of the crew below - thanks to all my friends for sharing my bachelorette weekend with me!
25 Things I've Learned at 25 (plus where we celebrated, what we did, and what we ate)
Yup, I turned 25! If you're following us on social media, you probably saw some pictures from our Mammoth/ Yosemite trip last month to celebrate. We've been so busy since we got back that I've barely had time to sort through pictures, let alone get together a post or even absorb the fact that somehow another year has gone by already. I'm almost 30! Okay, maybe not almost but it feels like that. 25 is definitely the first birthday that made me feel like I was aging - I'm midway through my twenties? When the hell did that happen? But it was a really great trip and we had a ton of fun and ate way too much good food. And now that I've got time to reflect, I thought I'd share a few things I've learned and hope to learn, and some of the photos and stories from our trip. Let's just dive right in!
We hopped in the car with Maddie early Sunday morning and made our way up to Lake Mary Campground. We sent up camp the first night, hiked around a bit with Maddie to stretch out our legs, and had a DELICIOUS dinner our first night of Beyond Meat meatballs in ariabatta sauce over pasta with a healthy sprinkling of nutritional yeast. My birthday wasn't until the 1st (Tuesday), so we headed to bed early so we could get up and hike the next morning.
On day two, we hiked and ate and hiked and ate and hiked...and ate! Seriously, it was a great day full of exercise, experimenting with fun camp meals in the JetBoil, hanging with the dog, bonding with my guy + spying some of the best views Mammoth Lakes has to offer. We cooked up a few dehydrated meals we had picked up at REI + were not disappointed. I particularly liked the Moroccan Bazaar meal from Made in Nature!
Day three was finally my 25th BIRTHDAY! I woke up to a chilly morning and a sweet snuggle from Alex + Madds. We layered up and hopped in the car first thing to drive into downtown Mammoth Lakes for a visit to our favorite, extremely-vegan-friendly café, Stellar Brew. As you can see in the picture below, we've made quite a few trips down to Stellar Brew over our visits (sometimes you just want food not cooked over a campfire, ya know?) and they some incredible food. Some of our favorites on the menu are the Golden Nectar smoothie (top left), the Ginger Tempeh sandwich with Lemon Tahini spread (top right), and the vegan breakfast burrito stuffed with tempeh & roasted veggies like kale and sweet potato in spinach wrap (bottom left). They also regularly sell vegan + GF baked goods and have CSA in the store. Its a really rad little place and totally captures the feeling of being in Mammoth; totally relaxed and friendly, but also really really good at what they do.
On the day we were driving up it was early and we had been packing late so I was totally scatter-brained when we were leaving. Alex had bought me cupcakes to eat on (or before, whatever) my birthday, but I left them on top of the car and we drove away and didn't notice until about an hour later. So yeah. Graceful, I know. Luckily I called Stellar Brew on our drive up and after explaining what happened, they offered to prepare a dozen vegan, GF chocolate cupcakes for me + Alex to eat and celebrate with. Which was amazing not only because it was SUPER short notice, but also because they definitely didn't overcharge us and they were quite delicious cupcakes. It really made my whole birthday feel like a birthday, so a HUGE thank you to them for saving the day! You can check out the cupcakes and my thankful/ excited-to-pig-out-face below.
After that, we drove up to Yosemite National Park, about an hour drive, and spent the day exploring streams, beaches, lakes, forests, meadows, the almost completely diminished Bridal Veil Falls, the bridges carved into the mountains over Yosemite Valley, the world famous Ahwahnee Hotel, and the the views to over Half Dome. We also saw a baby bear our exploring in the wild! We didn't see his mama, so we kept moving, but we did get a quick picture of the little guy!
After spending most of the day driving and hanging our in Yosemite we headed back to camp to snack on a cupcake and change into some warmer layers for an evening hike. It was my birthday and I wanted to soak up every bit of the day as possible! And Alex + Maddie were very obliging. We took the short hike up to McCleod Lake, which is mayyyybe my favorite place in California, and walked around the lake, letting Maddie play and snapping photos. It was a really fantastic way to finish up my birthday. The sun was setting just as we hiked back so were watching for emerging bears on the hike back but didn't see any activity besides ourselves. We had a really great dinner of rice, beans, and veggies prepared in the JetBoil with a side of Food Should Taste Good's blue corn tortilla chips. More cupcakes for dessert!
On our last morning we woke up early, packed up camp, and started the 5 hour drive back down the 395 for home. We stopped at a really great little juice shop in Bishop called Eastside Juice for acai bowls with lots of fruit + chia seeds. They were SO GOOD and the whole place was just such a great find. They had plenty of raw, vegan + GF homemade or locally-made snacks for sale and a bunch od cute t-shirts featuring slogans related to completing the challenging 220 mile John Muir Trail that ends after summiting nearby Mt. Whitney. Alex and I are hoping to do the JMT next year and would LOVE to stop here for our first real meal back! After hearing it was my birthday the day before, they even generously gifted us a piece of REALLY good raw cheesecake for the road. It was the perfect end to a great birthday weekend! So what have I learned now that I'm 25 and wiser than ever? You'll just have to keep scrolling for that!
Okay, I've given a bit of thought 'cause 25 feels like a big year for me. I got a COOKBOOK DEAL this year! Its exciting. Here are 25 things I've learned after 25 years of fumbling through life:
1. You really are in charge of your destiny. Work your ass off for what you want.
2. Never count on or hope for handouts - you and your work ethic are better off without them.
3. But don't be afraid to take help when you need it. And ask before you get to the breakdown-and-cry-from-stress stage, because you'll be way less embarrassed asking for help when you don't have mascara streaming down your cheeks.
4. Crying isn't a weakness, but respect yourself enough to know when it is a waste of time.
5. Everyone in your life that sucks is optional.
6. Don't be afraid to say NO. Also, don't be afraid to say YES. Whatever the answer is, it needs to be right for YOU.
7. Happiness is the ultimate goal. But to borrow a line from Christopher McCandless, 'Happiness only real when shared' - so don't be afraid to be happy with someone, too.
8. Try anything you want, you're the only one that cares if you fail or look stupid doing it.
9. Don't do things to impress other people, its a really great way to start hating who you've become.
10. Love your body and learn to appreciate each part of it. We all hate our thighs sometimes, so why stress about it? Confidence will affect your appearance more than changing the way it looks.
11. Treat other people the way you want to be treated, even if they don't always deserve it.
12. Be a good role model for kids and be nice to animals. That's just common sense.
13. Your body, your diet, your happiness: don't worry about other people judging what you eat. Having a good relationship with food can be hard, but really all that matters is how it makes YOU feel.
14. Fuck that boy in high school who slept with your frenemy. The second you leave high school and start to exist in the real world, you realize that you can choose to be around way better people than that and that real relationships should never involve being treated so disrespectfully.
15. Work your ass off in real life so you can go to your high school reunion and just be a straight up badass.
16. If you travel, do what the locals do. You'll have a way better experience not being a tourist.
17. Eat good food, and always try new food. Let other peoples recipes inspire you to create dishes you'll LOVE eating.
18. When you find someone who gets you - like just really gets you- let them know. And then spend as much time with them as you can.
19. People always say they wish they'd started saving younger. I'm 25 now and barely have a savings. I wish I'd started younger, too. SAVE!
20. But also spend money on travel. Life experience in priceless and will make you a better person.
21. Respect other people cultures, views, opinions, and rights. No one deserves any less.
22. Stop giving a fuck about things that don't matter. Let the small stuff slide and don't do anything you don't wanna do.
23. Someday you'll realize your parents aren't perfect, and they're just sometimes crappy human beings like the rest of us. Don't fault them for that.
24. Maintain relationships you appreciate, and don't bother with the ones that feel like work. True friends are hard to come by and well worth investing in.
25. Just do you. Be who you want to be, love who you want to love, and make yourself as ridiculously happy as you can, 'cause thats really all there is.
That's all the wisdom I've got. At least until 26. Thanks for recapping my birthday with me! If you're over 25- you probably know all this stuff already. If you're NOT, trust me. Alright, I've gotta get back in the kitchen. I have a cookbook to work on!
1. ENO Doubleneck Hammock + Straps We bought our ENO hammock at REI after seeing it advertised a few times. We were super curious and love to snuggle so it seemed like it would be a nice addition to our camping gear. Priced at about $70 for the Doubleneck - or 2 person - hammock, we figured it was worth it. We also bought the ENO brand attachment straps for the hammock so we could still string it up in areas with few trees or hanging spots. We first used our hammock on our Big Sur camping trip 4th of July weekend (above), and we've been hooked on it ever since! We even brought it with us on our most recent trip to Maine and I didn't think my younger sister was going to let us have it back. She loved it! It is made out a parachute-type material and spreads to fit two bottoms or two people laying down side by side. It was a great way to catch a breeze on top of the mountain we were on and a nice way to unwind and watch the sunset after a long day of hiking. The best part? The whole hammock folds up into that attached bag shown at the center of my back in the picture above, which is only about 4x6 inches. Seriously- best camping purchase we've ever made!
2. Jet Boil Flash Cooking System
This system has changed the way we camp. Before we were always concerned about having a fire ring so we could cook, but now we can dispersed camp anywhere we want and always have hot meals on-the-go! We're thinking about hiking the 220 mile JMT next year and owning a Jet Boil is an absolute must. We've made oatmeal, pasta, pho soup, and even just boiled water for hot drinks and to do dishes with. The setup is easy and about 2 cups of water is boiling in less than a minute. Plus, if you're into attachments (Alex is), Jet Boil offers a ton of other cool things like portable pots + pans, a stability system, canister cozies, and a range of other cooking attachments. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, do yourself a favor and invest in a Jet Boil. The fuel is cheap and it is so, so worth it to have steaming hot chocolate in under 2 minutes after a rainy 9 hour hike. Trust me. You can check them out at JetBoil.com.
3. Squeeze Pod Travel Toiletries
My biggest issue with travel - of ANY kind - is always dealing with the toiletries. Packing them into travel-sized bottles for convenience, only to have them explode or pop open and leak all over everything. So then you start wrapping them in plastic sandwich bags but then you're just left digging the exploded bottle out of the goop it's swimming in. Ick. Enter SQUEEZE PODS! When I was first emailed about these I was skeptical, but as soon as I received the product I realized how genius it really was. The creator was a huge traveler with as much frustration as I have over toiletries, so he aimed to make something better. These little pods come in 9 toiletry types: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair gel, lotion, shave cream, hand purifier, facial cleanser + toilet odor eliminator. They are made with pronounceable ingredients you can trust like coconut oil, aloe vera and shea butter and contain NO parabens, phthalates, sulfates, phosphates or other harmful preservatives. All of Squeeze Pod's products are made in the USA, 100% vegan and TSA compliant! They even offer cute kits for 'Girls Getaway Weekend', 'Guys Getaway Weekend', and 'Sleepovers' that contain a bunch of toiletries into an easy-to-share kit. We really loved taking our Squeeze Pod toiletries camping, especially on our super rural Big Sur trip, because we often didn't have access to facilities of any type, so having small, easily dispensed amounts of product became key. Plus, there is so little waste, it's easy to pack in the toiletries and pack out the trash without it being an issue. We're taking our Squeeze Pod's everywhere now, and we want you to be able to, too! Scroll all the way to the bottom for a chance to WIN the kit pictured above! 9 travel-sized, leak-proof toiletries in one TSA-friendly carrying case could be yours. Details below. Good luck! If you don't want to wait, you can check out their full line of products at SqueezePod.com!
4. A Sharp Knife
There is just no better thing you can ever have in life than a really great, sharp knife. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and when we're camping it's no different. We like to eat as much fresh food and home-cooked style meals while camping as we can because it's cheaper than buying everything pre-packaged and its way healthier. Don't get me wrong, I am all for some packaged mac n' cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but there is really only so much that food will do to power you for an 8 mile hike at camp. Start throwing some fresh veggies and fruit into your meal ideas and that knife will come in seriously handy. Plus, if an axe murderer is roaming the woods at night, you got this. We even bought a knife we keep specifically in our camping gear, which you can find here. (pictured above)
5. Vegan Snacks!
On top of meal planning for our trips to conserve space and wasted food, we are always sure to bring plenty of snacks. Between the drive to where we camp (usually about 5ish hours) and the downtime spent at camp, plus packing for hikes and adventuring, we like to bring a variety of goodies - both sweet and savory - to munch. Above is a photo of the haul we took on one trip, but its a pretty good representation of what we normally bring with on smaller trips, too. Lots of granola + power bars, faux jerky, granola, oats, chips, fruit, and PB + J for when you want to feel like a kid again. Oh and of course, S'MORE stuff! Of course you could just bring these S'mores cookies, instead. And if you're like us and go camping year round, be sure to check out the monthly snack boxes from Vegan Cuts + Urthbox! They both offer great deals on fun and creative snacks that get shipped to your door monthly. We always end up with leftover snacks in our box that we toss into our camping tote for trips. It's perfect and always snack sized!
Enter our giveaway below to win 1 loaded Squeeze Pod Travel Toiletries kit with 9 different types of portable, spill-proof toiletries and a cute zippered pouch to carry them in! US entries only please. Winner will be chosen 8/19/15. Good luck!
I grew up in Maine, so anytime I get to head back for a vacation- especially when it's not winter- is a welcome retreat. This summer Alex and I were able to both take off from our real lives for a week to head east and hang with some of my family. Normally around this time of year, my whole family- aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family and friends- would all go camping at a place (peninsula) called Hermit Island. Its a magical place that I grew to really love and cherish spending summers there every year. I love going back, but these days it seems like we've all grown up and moved away and it can be hard to get everyone together for a whole week of just enjoying each others company. So instead, this year, Alex + I joined my Dad and sister Jade, plus my Dad's partner and her daughter as we planed to hike to the top of Mt. Katahdin, Maine's tallest mountain, and then raft our way through class 5 rapids in the Penobscot River. We hopped on a plane at LAX (Miley style) and spent 5ish hours traversing the country before waking up at about 4 am in the Boston Airport, where my Dad was waiting to pick us up. First stop on the way home? A bright and early check in at LL Bean for some quality hiking boots and then to Mister (Mr?) Bagel to get double toasted onion bagels with veggie tofutti cream cheese (at least that's what I ordered). It was humid AF outside, but it was good to be back!
We got home and napped, then woke up to do a bit of foraging on Dad's property. We found at least 6 different crab apple trees, plus ripe raspberry bushes and early season blueberries to munch, and we collected some for later. It also just so happens to be peak strawberry season in Maine, so we stopped by our favorite local and SUPER vegan-friendly farm + cafe Sheepscot General to pick as many pints of organic strawberries as we could hold. That night we made dinner for the family, which included a big green salad with lots of goodies from the garden and our foraging adventure, a whole roasted cauliflower like this one, some chickpea salad with rye bread and a strawberry raspberry crisp made from the fruit we'd collected ourselves. It was so good + we were so happy to cook a healthy, protein-packed vegan meal that everyone could enjoy.
The next day we spent driving north and setting up camp and eating bagels at my FAVORITE ever bagel joint in Maine, Bagel Mainea, where I coincidentally worked in high school - so maybe I'm biased?- but almost every bagel is vegan and they offer 5 vegan-friendly spreads as well customizable vegan sandwiches and even house-made granola and bagel chips! I always get the veggie garlic, double toasted, with plenty of veggie tofutti cream cheese and sliced down the middle for my eating enjoyment. If you're in Augusta, it is way worth the visit.
The next morning we were up and out of camp by 5:30 to drive to the trailhead and get our permits checked in. Below is a picture of my sister Jade, me, and my Dad at the beginning of the hike, probably about a mile in. (Note the rad fanny back if you will!) I have a super weak stomach in the morning and rarely eat before 10 am, plus being up so early hadn't allowed me my normal morning *ahem* ritual, so at about this point I was slowly dying inside. I felt SUPER nauseous and dizzy, and also like I was going to crap my pants while hiking uphill in front of my boyfriend so yeah, it was getting bad. It was about 3 miles to the first stop with outhouses on the trail, Chimney Pond, and somehow I managed to make it there without throwing myself off the mountain itself, although I did manage to get stung by a bee while attempting to sit down and rest on the way up. It wasn't a great start. But after a visit to the ladies room at Chimney Pond, a lot of trail-side dry heaving and half of a chickpea salad sandwich, I was feeling ready to push on and conquer Katahdin. (2 pics down is Chimney Pond in all of its shorts-saving glory.)
When we left Chimney Pond, we were about 4 or 5 miles from the top and the weather was getting worse and worse. We had worn shorts and brought light rain jackets, but overall we were seriously underdressed for the ascent. Alex and I ended up getting quite a bit ahead of the rest of our group as we neared the top, and the higher we climbed the steeper it got. We kept hearing about rock scrambles but it felt like the whole top half of the mountain itself was one giant rock climbing expedition. Your arms felt like they were working just as hard as your legs, and it was getting colder and harder to bend your fingers and toes all the time, but we pushed on. We look happy even!
In the picture above right we're about 1/2 mile from the summit peak at the top of the mountain, and pretty much where we ended our hike. We had originally planed to hike Knife's Edge up to the top but the wind conditions were so strong at Chimney Pond they advised against it. When we reached the tablelands, about 1 mile from the tippy-top, the hail began. First it was a light rain, then harder and harder until actual hail was hitting us all over and the temps had dropped to about 30 degrees. Oh, and there were 50 MPH winds, so we were getting sucked around and hiking behind large boulders to stop and catch our breath. It was a really crazy expercience being up there, and even though some people chose to keep going- and I applaud them- I just could.t My fingers were frozen and I had a little mental breakdown cry feeling so guilty about turing back just before we snapped the above right picture. Luckily, Alex was (always is) amazing and coached me through it, reminding me that no one really cared if we summited but us - and that in his opinion we had gone far enough. That was enough for me! We started our descent back down the tablelands and met up with my Dad, sister, and the rest of our group just before we begin our final descent. A few of them decided to keep going, and did summit (you go guys!), but the rest of us took our frozen buns back down the mountain. We stopped and chatted a bit when we got back to the Chimney Pond station, and we continued down the trail a major thunderstorm rolled in. The lightning was close and we were soaked, but at least my feet stayed dry until the last mile or so. At that point there was a veritable river running down the trails and we were just splashing our way down, trying not to lose footing or each other in the dense rain. When we finally got to the bottom we had hiked a total of 14 miles over 9 hours, in some of the worst conditions I have ever voluntarily placed myself in. We were soaked, but we were happy to be heading back to camp, where we made a big pot of black pean pasta with garlicky tomato sauce and toasted bread. It doesn't look like much, but it was the perfect post-hike hot meal.
The next day we spent rafting down the Penobscot River, where Alex, my Dad, his partner, and the raft guide all got tossed out in a Class V rapid and I had to steer the boat to safety. NO JOKE PEOPLE. I have video evidence, if I can figure out how to single out that part and upload here. I'll work on that. Anyway, it was incredible and I wish we had more pictures but the whole losing-your-iphone-in-the-river thing was something none of us was willing to risk, so we have to pictures to prove it.
After that, we spent a day at Hermit Island, walking around a getting a small piece of what we used to go there for every year. We hiked around the island, collecting seashells and taking in as much fresh sea air as we could. Afterwards we want to the best pizza joint in coastal Maine, The Cabin. Its a great wood-built cabin (literally) that houses some of the worlds best pizza crust and lives right next door to Bath Iron Works, Maine's largest ship builder. It gets pretty busy when those guys are out for lunch around 12-1 pm, but any other time its worth stopping in for a veggie topped pizza for two.
We visited our favorite hidden gem farmstore next door, admiring the produce and hanging with the chickens they keep in the back pasture. Th next day we went paddle boarding in the Damariscotta River while my Dad and sister kayaked, and afterwards enjoyed lunch at The Newcastle Publick House, where we got to try their new vegan menu item - inspired by our cauliflower nuggets recipe! They tasted great and it was awesome to see a small restaurant like that offering something for all their customers. Also, their hand-cut french fries were AMAZING. And isn't my boyfriend just the most handsome? I sure think so.
On our last night, we played trivia at the Liberal Cup in Hallowell, and Alex and I each ordered one of their hand-made, bean + veggie based burgers with grilled onions and a side of hand-cut fries. I also worked here in high school and was always a fan of the fries. In fact, I used to be the one that CUT them all! I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore, but I love coming back for trivia night and its always great to run into old friends while we're there. We didn't win at trivia (but we didn't lose either!), and afterwards we headed home for an early bedtime so we could get our butts up in time for our flight the next day. Lucky for us, our favorite little donut shop, The Holy Donut, in Portland is open early and let us reserve and order of a dozen vegan potato donuts to scoop up on our way by. About 7 made it all the way back to California, and the rest were gone the next day. You can read our full review on The Holy Donut here. We love hanging in Maine and can't wait to go back. I'll be there for a quick visit in September again, and will definitely be getting another dozen donuts to bring back. Have you been to Maine? Where are some of your favorite places?
Camping in Big Sur + Cooking Vegan WITHOUT a Campfire!
[Just a brief warning before we get started: this post is pretty picture-heavy, but I promise they're worth it! Also, I compressed the files but if you have trouble loading the page, try refreshing it. Thanks!]
This 4th of July weekend, Alex, our pup Maddie and I traveled 5 hours north to Big Sur, on the California Coast, to do some camping. Now before we go any further, I'm going to be honest with you: I'm not going to be honest with you. That was confusing. What I mean is that I can't / won't tell you EXACTLY where we camped in this post because there are a few really great secret spots we know of that have remained nearly untouched, even in a state with nearly 39 million people, and frankly, we want to keep them that way. If you REALLY REALLY are itching to go here, I could maybe tell you. If you pinky promise to never litter or start a campfire there and if you send me a super convincing email about what a great environmentalist you are. Seriously. I like this spot too much to let it get trashed by unknowing or unruly campers. Snobby camping etiquette aside, this place was a serious gem. After a 4 hour drive up route 101, one of the most beautiful scenic coastal drives in California, you have to drive an hour up a twisty dirt road to the top of a small mountain (really large hill?) to get to the area we camped in. We found a place where it looked like someone had set up before, then hiked down and up another hill about 500 yards back to get to this primo spot. Lugging the stuff in kind of sucked, but it was so worth it to have our own super secluded, above-the-clouds campsite. Plus, we started our vacation a day before most people so we were lucky enough to have the place almost completely to ourselves until our last day. Also, we had originally planned on a 3 night stay, but the bugs were incessant, our sun burns (being above the protective loud layer and all) were crisp and our poor puppy was chewed alive and sore from hiking so we went home on day 3 instead. Plus, sleeping in your own bed is always a welcome comfort after ANY amount of time sleeping on the ground.
The view from the top of our campsite, looking onto our new favorite purchase: our ENO 2-person hammock. This hammock may be my favorite purchase like...ever. It gave us a comfy place to chill off the ground and under the shade of the trees for most of the day, and was big enough for both of us to comfortably sit inside. We would've loved to have slept there but the bugs were so awful that we couldn't stand it. It provided a lovely view of the clouds and fog that formed in that valley and over the ocean though, and we were happy to have it with us. Below you can see the view in the afternoon, once the fog and clouds had cleared.
Since we arrived in the early afternoon we had eaten breakfast and had a munchie lunch of chips, hummus, and fruit. For dinner, since there no campfires allowed (CA is in a serious drought and as you'll see in the pictures, the land was SO DRY), we brought our Jet Boil. We acquired the JB about a month ago at the REI used gear sale for like $30 (it usually sells for $100ish) and were hesitant that it might not work. On the contrary, after attaching our fuel to the bottom and adding 2 cups of water to the insulated cup, we turned up the heat and literally had boiling water in under a minute. It was awesome. Since we like to camp, we had invested in some just-add-water dehydrated camping meals to test out in the JB so our first night we made up the Santa Fe Black Beans + Rice combo. After added the hot water and resealing the pouch, you wait ten minutes and voila! Dinner was served. We even added a few of our own tortilla chips for crunch, and we enjoyed it WAY more than we thought we would. Definitely pleasantly surprised and would definitely purchase again for camping + backpacking trips.
I way overpacked for our trip (As usual. I have a portion control problem.) but this is what we brought with. Everything was ready-to-eat or a just-add-water type of thing, and we ended up never even opening 2 of the freeze-dried meals, the Daiya mac, the soups or the oatmeal. Being in the sun so much definitely suppressed our appetites, but thats okay. More food for our next trip!
After dinner and a sunset snuggle in the hammock, we (and that adorable sleepy puppy) crawled into the tent for an early night. The next morning gave us a little reprieve from the hot morning heat with a bit of cloud cover. We spent some time in the hammock and then noshed on some cashew yogurt with mango, plums, and granola with a side of chia drink for breakfast. We did bring a small cooler so things like our yogurt and fruit would stay as fresh as possible in the heat and that was a huge help. We also saw our first other campers across the ridge this morning, and realized our complete aloneness was coming to an end so we decided to get out and hike while we could without crowds. After a little yoga-ing to stretch out (warrior pose!) we packed some water and sunscreen and headed out to explore.
It was super dusty and dry on our hike, but well worth the exploration. There were some beautiful vistas and plenty of little shady inlets to stop for water breaks, but after the hike we were dusty, dirty, and exhausted. The temps were in the high 80's and poor Maddie had to be carried the last quarter mile or so home by Alex after her legs started getting super shaky. Poor pup! We all probably drank less water than we should've, but we did our best to recoup through the afternoon. We were pretty pink with sun exposure so we avoided it the rest of the day and camped out in the hammock for the better part of the afternoon.
That night we did another Jet Boil meal, this time heating some Vegetable Phó Broth we found at Whole Foods with black rice ramen noodles. It was quick, easy, and a little boring. I enjoyed it more than Alex but we agreed that next time we would bring some dried mushrooms and maybe some spices to make it a little more interesting. The sunset that evening was gorgeous, as the sun and pastel clouds dipped behind the thick, foggy cloud layer. It felt like we were at the top of the world. The moon wasn't as bright on night 2 either, so we had a seriously gorgeous view of the night sky filled with stars from our hilltop perch. We look a little silly and sunburned, but it was one of my favorite weekends of the summer so far.
The next morning we woke up to a bright blue, cloudless sky- which meant the sun got hot FAST. We were definitely feeling sunned out at this point, so we each ate a granola bar and some fruit and then started packing up our gear. We didn't have much, mostly we broke down the tent and made sure we left no remnants of our visit, then hauled it all back up to the car. We decided to take our time coming back down the California Coast, stopping to enjoy everything that looked interesting (or yummy!) since we had planned on being gone that day anyway. The next few pictures are from stop on the side of the road out of Big Sur and down as we traveled into San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
Maddie had never been to the ocean before, and she loved it! Well, kinda. The incoming waves freaked her out a little but she for sure liked splashing around the beach anyway. The drive was lazy and wonderful, and we stopped at least 6 times. For lunch we decided to stop in beautiful Morro Bay at a vegan joint called Shine Café, a small place offering local, organic ingredients, gluten & soy-free options, kombucha on tap, and a menu packed full of goodness. They offered everything from pancakes to soups and salads, jackfruit tacos, sandwiches, and spring rolls. And if liquids are more your style, they also have a full juice bar + offer smoothies and acai bowls, too. Next door to the café is Sunshine Health Foods, the store that started it all. The place is small but packed with fun vegan treats and bulk bin yummies. We loved it. AND we FINALLY found Miyoko's cheeses! We'd tried them them way back at ExpoWest and had been drooling over them since, so when we found both the smoked farmhouse (my favorite flavor) and the double cream chive, I knew I had to get one of each. And while $10 seems like a lot for a product like this, its definitely comparable to other brands and this store was selling them for the same price advertised on Miyoko's website, and of course we didn't have to pay shipping. Score! For lunch at the café we ordered a trio of jackfruit street tacos, and a tempeh reuben that was packed with veggies + a side salad. Alex loved the sandwich, but I preferred the tacos. I could've eaten like 20 of those babies, no question.
After lunch we continued cruising down the coast for home and stopped at The Farm Stead, a great farm that sold their own organic produce off the side of the road. They offered U-Pick for some fruits + veggies too, but we were just too sunburnt to stay outside any longer than necessary. We grabbed some berries, white peaches, and cucumbers, and headed back out to the car. Once out there we realized that attached to the barn was a table-filled area to sit and munch in the shade, plus some super cute animal friends for company. Maddie made friends with the albino donkey, and we munched berries and relaxed in the shade. Oh - also cute, this farm had a little charging station for vehicles. We loved how eco-friendly they were! We'll be camping again next week in Maine and can't wait to find more cozy, underutilized camping spots when we're back in California in August. Get out and explore where you live - there are so many great places to see! Just always remember to remove any trace of you being there so awesome places stay awesome for everyone for a long time. Got any great camping spots? We'd love to hear about them! And we're always looking for new things to cook up in the Jet Boil, so suggestions are most welcome. Thanks for going virtual camping with us!
Last weekend Alex and I had the pleasure of taking our first trip together up Mammoth Lakes. About 5 hours north of us, Alex has been fishing and camping at Lake Mary and the other Mammoth Lakes since he was a little one, but this was my very first time visiting. I grew up in Maine, so my draw to the wilderness is strong, and I love camping. We picked up a new tent, packed up our headlamps, chess board, blankets + pillows headed up the 395. We only stopped twice- both times for bathroom breaks- on the way up, but as soon as we started climbing elevation, I started getting antsy. As soon as we hit the cozy little town of Mammoth at the relative 'base' of the mountain (we were already like 8,000 ft up), we were ready to get out and explore. The picture above is the very first lookout we found to pull off at once we started up the mountain. The view is of Twin Lakes, with a waterfall in the very far distance. I have awful vision, and I was convinced there was no waterfall there. I was wrong. And it was gorgeous! After our little pit stop, we made our way up to the Lake Mary Campground to find our site and get set up for the evening. (NOTE: This post is a little picture heavy. Oh well!)
We were lucky because this early in the season, there was only one other group of campers nearby and the bugs were nearly non-existent. Plus, Maddie got to come with! While dogs do need to be leashed at all times in the campground and in most places on the mountain, she was able to hang with us and come hiking, which made us all happy. Definitely worth bringing your pup! Our first night was lovely. We explored, set up our simple camp, and started on dinner. For our first night, we enjoyed some grilled vegan hot dogs from Field Roast on buns with mustard, roasted onions, and a side of potato chips. Maddie wasn't much interested in her own food that evening (lots of new sounds and smells), but she was definitely interested in ours!
The ground was hard and we didn't sleep great, but we were so stoked to get up and get hiking that we really didn't care. We each grabbed a banana and packed a sandwich and granola bar for the morning, then headed out. Our first stop was a short, easy hike to McLeod Lake, which may be the most gorgeous place I've ever seen in real life. There was still a bit of snow peppered around the lake in patches, but with the sun out and the elevation making our breathing a little shallower than usual, we were plenty warm. The water was crystal clear and the rocky backdrop was gorgeous, reflecting into the water and making the whole place seem endless. Maddie had way too much fun traipsing through the snow and catching snow balls, and it was the perfect place to start the morning. Plenty of bear tracks, but the only other animals we saw were a cute puppy and his owner at the other side of the lake.
After plenty of photo-ops with a very patient pitbull, we hiked around various trails, taking plenty of time to explore little rock formations and tiny caves we found along the way. We saw some really amazing sights, like the root system below. The tree had fallen and was hollow, so someone laid tall pieces of wood along the outer sides to make it into a little dwelling on the beach. It was pretty rad.
After noshing all the food we brought on the trail, we were ready for a lunch break. We walked back to our campsite, hopped in the car, and drove about 5 minutes back down the mountain to Mammoth's little downtown area. There are a couple great options for vegans in the area, but we stopped at Stellar Brew and were super impressed. Not only did they offer a FIVE non-dairy milks for any of their delicious coffee or tea drinks, they make GF + vegan baked goods to sell at the counter, have a full smoothie and smoothie bowl menu, sell organic produce by the pound, AND make the legit breakfast burrito pictured above. It was packed with ginger marinated tempeh, sautéed veggies and potatoes, and was wrapped in a hearty spinach tortilla. Perfect post-trail fuel! Alex and I split one, but could probably each have eaten our own. We also got a almond flour-based chocolate chip cookie to split for later. Also, the gals behind the counter were super friendly. We'll definitely come back here! If that's not your style, Mammoth also offers a Z Pizza, a vegetarian restaurant called Green V located in the main lodge at the ski mountain, and a place called Garden of Eat'n, which is right off of Old Mammoth Rd.
After lunch we took our time going back up Old Mammoth Rd, the original road built up the mountain after miners settled the area in the late 1800s. We found a marker telling where the old mining encampment had been set up, and a weirdly placed old grave (above) that looked like it had been made of wood and held a picture frame at the bottom. Now it was surrounded and presumably held up by cement with a small fence around it, though people seem to still leave things here regularly. I wonder who she was, and why there were no other graves around though. As we worked our way up the mountain the vista became more and more breathtaking, and we tried to get as many shots as possible. Once we got back to camp we took a power nap, chugged some water (you get dehydrated really easily in high elevations like this!), and headed back out to hike and explore some more.
Our afternoon hike took up to the top of the waterfall that feeds into Twin Lakes, the waterfall that in the very first picture in this post I was convinced couldn't be real. It was AMAZING! The tallest waterfall I've seen in person, for sure. In fact, this trip took me to about 10,000 ft., which is higher than I've EVER been on solid ground!
Next stop was Horseshoe Lake. Alex remembered camping here when he was little, and a guy at the marina had warned us that water level had receded but we couldn't have prepared ourselves for the devastation. For those people who still think Global Warming isn't real, or Californians that can't quite grasp the drought: the ENTIRE area up to the trees in the picture below used to be water. ALL OF IT. Now, all that's left is a much smaller body of water (pond sized) and a lot of sandy ground. The next picture is when we walked right up to the edge to see the water more clearly. It is SO alarming that this is all that's left of it. I'm turing this paragraph into a PSA: CONSERVE WATER, dammit!
After being totally saddened by the state of Horseshoe Lake, we hiked the 2 or so miles back to camp, admiring the gorgeous, stand-alone Crystal Crag, pictured below. There were a lot of people fishing on this lake, but still not many campers, so it was really nice to take advantage of the peace and quiet on the walk home. We were getting pretty tired though, and Maddie had gotten a splinter in her paw and was starting to limp so we took a few more pictures and headed back to camp to get a fire going and make dinner.
Back at camp, we chopped up some onions, peppers & tomatoes from our garden, and some Beyond Meat Beast Burger patties and made a...scramble? Fajita fillings? Stir fry? I don't know what to call it, but it tasted great and a hot meal really hit the spot after a long day of hiking. After dinner we walked a bit more with Madds, hung out by the fire, and enjoyed the frogs calls from the nearby marsh. It was the best way I can think of to spend a weekend and I can't wait to go back! We don't like to cook every meal over the fire, so here are a few of our favorite recipes to pre-make and take along camping:
They're easy to make, easy to carry, and even easier to eat! For more info on camping + hiking at Mammoth, check out VisitMammoth.com. And remember- always do you best to make the smallest impact on the environment you're camping in. Don't litter + don't feed the bears!
Last week I was lucky enough to have traveled to the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands for 5 days. It was beautiful. Having only ever traveled to most of the US and Canada, I was totally enthralled by everything I saw. Tropical coasts, humid weather, daily afternoon rain showers, REAL coconuts...It was amazing. There were a few caveats; I was nannying for a 20-month old & a newly 4-year old the whole time, and I was also super sick. Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain- the whole bit. (The sickness started before I arrived and hasn't stopped since. I've lost a bunch of weight and have been having trouble eating most of my normal foods, so we're trying to figure out what's going on. Blood work should be back later this week.) Other than that, it was a truly lovely trip.
The family I nanny for was taking a pretty exclusive vacation on Necker Island. Yup, Richard Branson's private island. I was lucky enough to get to hang for a few hours over there and man, oh man: AMAZING. Endless infinity pools, cabanas, swim-up bars, lemurs, sea turtles, and every water sport accessory you can imagine. It was the trip of a lifetime- I'm so happy I got to tag along!
The resort, Biras Creek, was beautiful. It was 'hurricane season', so the humidity was high and there were short, frequent bursts of showers all morning and evening. I had never experienced an endless ocean horizon before and it was incredible. SO bizarre- can we really blame Columbus for thinking the world was flat? ;)
We fed local iguanas hibiscus flowers from nearby bushes & admired the other native flora & fauna. The plant below, to the left, was nearly as tall as I was! There were a few nice hiking trails around the island that the little ones and I conquered. It was lovely seeing the island from the tippy top.
Below is the sunrise and early evening views from the balcony of our tiny beachside cottage. The sun came up most mornings around 6:30 AM and the sun set every evening around 6:30 PM. It seemed early to me for it to get dark, but it was very helpful in getting the kids to sleep, and that was golden.
The sunset on our last night was amazing. I was feeling a bit better and was able to actually enjoy some dinner with two very sleepy little ones, before heading back and counting down the hours to my 24th birthday. The next day was full of travel home- a 3 hour boat ride, 10 hours on a plane back to LA with a layover in between, and finally the 30 minute drive back to Long Beach. I was so happy to fall asleep, on my birthday, in my own bed, next to my favorite person. But I certainly wouldn't mind waking up to that view again, either.