Gwada Girls

I have been dreaming, daydreaming, planning, and stalking every Instagram post on Guadeloupe for the past year. After relocating to Canada for love but not the love of cold winter and weather, I have been just dying to go somewhere tropical filled with warm weather, endless beaches, and the jungle as my playground. I’m normally a Costa Rica wanderluster. I have spent much time down there since my first trip in 2009 and it feels as if I’m ‘home’ when I land. Unfortunately, between the trials and tribulations of baby making, Zika, and baby making with my second I haven’t been down south since 2015. After much thought and consideration this is why we ended up exploring Guadeloupe.

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  • Direct flights from Montreal. Ease of traveling with a toddler and baby.
  • Guadeloupe is a French territory and is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean.
  • The air and sea weather in January is warm 78 degrees at an average of , so we wouldn’t have to worry about it being to chilly to fully enjoy the vacation, or too hot for the baby.
  • There is no current cases of Zika. (While we are not expecting we still try to avoid tropical diseases because you never know the side effects years down the road and the little one’s brains are still developing.)
  • Food and wine. Um who doesn’t want some French food and wine beach side? I know I do!
  • Amenities. Hospitals, shops, paved roads, child friendly condos, and basic stores.
  • Diversity of excursions. You have pristine beaches that are child friendly with soft sand and aqua water. There is a volcano and hiking trails, tons of beautiful waterfalls, and rougher rustic beaches that are postcard picturesque.
  • It is mainly French visitors and population. No offense Americans. I myself was born and raised a proud American, but there is something refreshing traveling to a destination that is primarily traveled by another country.
  • Affordable. You can go luxury or keep it simple within a decent budget.
  • A place I’d like to explore with the hopes of coming back to explore more.

We left at the perfect time Mid January when it gets beyond frigid in Canada. I was starting to look and feel like a snowman. We scored direct flights down on Air Canada for around $450 CAD each. I was happy with our flights. We got in at 2 pm so that gave us time to get to our rental and we still had some day left. At least that’s what I thought. After we landed customs was fairly quick even though they only had 2 agents working. They pulled us through faster because of the baby and my little girl Charlotte had to use the potty which is after customs. Our luggage didn’t take too long either. The trickiest part was figuring out contacting the rental car company to come pick us up. They are 15 minutes off site. There is a courtesy phone in the information center after customs. Finally, we found you have to add an extra  when making the call. My -and husband both got roaming plans and had trouble 70% of the time during our stay using the service. After reviewing many car rental companies, I ended up renting from Pro-Rent. It seemed they were less shady than others companies who charged little fees here and there. They had many good reviews and decent rates. We paid about $230 Euros for a weekly rental of a small Euro size hatchback. The car rental place picked us up within the next hour. It took over twenty minutes with traffic to get the the rental. Then there was a long ass line up of about 15 renters and one agent in a tiny building do the paperwork so that in itself added some painful time in our commute. I was seriously worried about fitting our car seats and luggage in the tiny car but we managed after taking away the back privacy divider. Our drive to our rental in Saint Francois took over an hour during rush hour. We even chose back roads as the sun set for the night as we tried to get to our destination as quickly as possible. When we finally arrived it was dark. It had taken us almost just as long as our flight time to get the rental car and drive to our destination which makes for a 12 hour day of traveling with tots. It was no fun indeed.

We rented a 4 bedroom apartment in Savannah Residence. It had more than enough room for 7 people and was in a gated community with a private pool. The residence was walking distance to everything, the local bus, bakery, grocery store, marina filled with restaurants and a bit of night life. It is the perfect safe location for families and those looking for a relaxing retreat.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/15671777?locale=en&guests=1&adults=1

I found the French to be very warm and welcoming. I tried my best to speak French as I relocated to Quebec, and I am still practicing. I found the locals and French tourists to be very kind and understanding that I was attempting to speak French more so than where I currently live.

From Saint Francois you can easily take the bus to the flavorful town of Saint Anne. It’s a 35 minute bus ride for a few bucks and there you can find nightlife, beautiful beaches, colorful markets and restaurants galore. I did it easily with my baby and a stroller but getting back was tricky. I couldn’t find the bus stop for the way back and nearly found myself stranded. Some kind locals saw me with the baby sitting on the bus stop bench once I did find it to ask if I was ok.

We ventured to the other island Basse Terre for a day trip. We left a bit later than I wanted but that happens when you are traveling with groups. It took us over an hour to get to Deshaises where we stopped to enjoy Plage Grande-Anse. It is a gorgeous long and rustic beach with golden sand and larger waves. I didn’t find the current too strong, but it drops off quickly so it can be a bit dangerous for kids. My two year old got knocked down and pulled under a wave with her float a few times, but she is still alive, and I would go back again.

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It was a busier beach, yet you can find quiet spaces to relax and shady spots to retreat away from the sun. The town itself wasn’t as accessible and walking friendly as I would have liked, but the beach was worth it. The roads are very well kept in Guadeloupe, but the French drivers are so scary! I felt like we were going to get into an accident at any minute. To raise the stakes my husband told me he didn’t get the insurance on the car and he wasn’t sure what his credit card would protect us for. Even the owner of the rental car company said he doesn’t drive after dark in Guadeloupe as it is too dangerous. The roads are very narrow. Mix that with crazy drivers and no guard rails; it doesn’t leave much room for error.

My husband and his friend did the volcano hike at la-soufriere. There were signs that there is a toxic gas that can come out at any time but that didn’t stop them from doing the hike all the way to the top. They left at 4 am to make time for the sunrise. They were able to do the hike up and back in under four hours. The end was a bit strenuous where you need to grab onto stuff and actually work for it, but they made it to the top!

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We didn’t eat out much. The restaurants all seemed a bit expensive and it is tricky traveling with kids. In general we cooked at home or grabbed small stuff from the market for snacks on the beach. The best were the bagettes. Every bagette I ate in two weeks was on point and only cost a Euro.

Our second week after the in-laws left we ventured off the main island to Marie Galante which is an hour ferry ride further. We had mixed feelings about this island. It was the last thing we planned and we weren’t sure between the second week in Deshaises, ClubMed all Inclusive, or Marie Galante. Marie Galante is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches, no crowds, and local flavor of country, sugar cane fields, and the roots of Guadeloupe. Would we get bored? Would it be the best part of our vacation and we wished we had spent the whole two weeks there? Would we want to come back for three weeks and live like locals? When I first got off the boat I said, “YES! This is exactly what I was looking for. I am totally feeling it. I love this place already!” Even though our rental was a 10 minute was from Grand Bourg we had to rent a car for a day to get our luggage to the house and to explore the upper part of the island known for its beaches. Rentals are more on the island. We paid $45 Euros a day for a tiny car. They seemed  a bit shady when it came to the rental conditions and even hit a huge dent by standing in front of it while we were checking off scratches on the car. We later figured this out when we washed the car and put the pieces together they wanted to charge us for something. Before returning the car since the charge already went through we cancelled our card. Later we found out they had put a $1,000 hold on it but it was later released. Locals recommend renting from Magloc it a few blocks away from the ferry.  Once we got to the island we heard there was a dengue fever outbreak recently in the Caribbean and a few cases in Guadeloupe. We didn’t see any mosquitoes in Saint Francois but already in Marie Galante we saw a few buzzing around. Our home was a rustic cabin that had basic amenities. While each bedroom had AC I thought the ridiculous part was the windows hatched open with no screen so bugs could squeeze through and there were no bug nets. At 11 am there were flies and mosquitoes flying about the house. Dave, my husband was ready to cancel the rest of the trip and go home since he was paranoid about one of us catching dengue fever. A close friend of the family recently got it and lost over 30 pounds of muscle in a month, so I couldn’t imagine what it would do to a baby. We opted for getting trash bags and taping them over the windows so bugs couldn’t get in. We then killed all the bugs we could find, and didn’t venture out much after that. 😦 The property was lovely with lush vegetation for privacy and a hammock for relaxing, but the bugs kept hunting for our blood. The best part of the island was being able to experience Plage Anse Canot.

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It is hands down one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to. There are shady areas for kids to relax out of the sun. There are tables and grill areas for cooking, and the water is soft and crystal clear. My two year old could swim far out with her floaties, and we weren’t afraid she’d be tossed by a large wave or pulled out by a strong current.

Personally I wouldn’t go back to Marie Galante except for a quick day trip to the beaches. There is not much to do there and the eating out options and grocery store selection is very very limited. When we were not at the beach we felt a bit confined to our home rental where we kept the doors shut and the ac blasting because of a dengue fever outbreak locally. Would I go back to Guadaloupe again? Yes. It is a very safe destination where natural beauty meets relaxation and pristine beaches. The French are very nice even when they knew I couldn’t speak Francais very well. If I were to do it without children, then I would chose to stay on Basse Terre where the beaches are more rugged and there are more outdoor activities. If I took the children again, I would stay in Saint Francois without a car and then take a day ferry once or twice to Marie Galante.

One day I’ll be back, but first I want to visit Kauai, Spain, and Italy.

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End of Winter Power Salad

I used to live in the city where take out and delivery were a staple in my life. It was difficult for me in my twenties to order salads when the other options like Classic Ruben and fries, cheese melts, breakfast all day, and all the greasy appetizers were readily available and calling my name. The most I got in the fresh green category was the side of coleslaw in the small plastic container that came with my meal.

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Fast forward ten years later, living in Canada in a community where delivery is only pizza on occasion, and two babies in I tend to strive for healthier fresh meals I can whip up quick at home. I love fresh foods that give me energy without making me feel sluggish or full.

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Not only is this salad a breeze to make, it is refreshing, filling, and filled with wellness. It is a protein packed snack with added anti-oxidants, fiber, and immune boosters. I love it at the end of winter because it is refreshing to eat lighter and it still has the nutrients to protect against the last days of cold and flu season as the pomegranate has lots of vitamin c and the garlic is an immune kick starter.

I rinse small lentils and add crushed garlic, tiny amounts of cucumber, chickpeas, pomegranate seeds ( I normally buy the frozen ones and thaw quickly under warm water) and small amounts of parsley. I squeeze fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and a dash of local honey. lentil.png

Relax wrinkles naturally while getting beauty sleep

I am 38 years old, and I am still a Botox virgin. For years slight changes in my facial volume and sneaky little wrinkles have been creeping up on my once perfectly smooth face…all signs that I am human and will age like ever creature on this planet. While my ancestors come from Transylvania I am not immortal (sigh).

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My long journey with conceiving started when I was 33 years old. It took two years to conceive my daughter before I began breastfeeding. A similar long process with my second daughter and here I am Botox free. This happy go lucky once go with the flow gal has never struggled more to keep her eyes open and frowned so much in her life saying no on a regular basis to her dare devil daughter.

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This is me pre-baby vs. two kids in. And while things may never be the same and aging is inevitable, I’ll be damned if I don’t attempt to preserve my skin and fuel my body with natural goodness.

 

Pre-baby days my I was much cheekier, my skin was more supple, and my wrinkles were  far less pronounced.

 

Facerest is a natural alternative to chemical formulated serums, fillers, and Botox. It is blended with organic botanicals that feed the skin the vitamins and nutrients needed to replenish and repair, while promoting facial relaxation and a blissful slumber. It has Melatonin infused into the formula and has a very pleasant soft scent.

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For those who are not familiar with  Melatonin, it is a hormone made by the pineal gland. That’s a pea-sized gland found just above the middle of your brain. It helps your body know when it’s time to sleep and wake up. Normally, your body makes more melatonin at night.

Taken orally, Melatonin promotes sleep and helps with jet lag. Melatonin applied topically promotes the production of fibroblasts, a type of biological cell that synthesizes the extracellular matrix and collagen. This increases elasticity and collagen production in skin. It also protects against harsh UV rays.

Facerest is produced with important ingredients that serve as relaxants such as chamomile of Morocco, jasmine and ylang ylang, and the exotic oils carry healing attributes such as having high levels of amino acids, vitamin e, beta-carotene, vitamin a, and essential fatty acids.

I’m in the thick with a newborn waking up three to four times a night. This is my face before using Facerest for a few nights a week for two weeks and after.

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While sleep aids are not recommended for nursing mothers who co-sleep , Melatonin taking orally is generally not a concern for those breastfeeding as long as they are not co-sleeping or need to be alert as it promotes sleep. Taken topically, the amounts are much smaller and promote relaxation and skin renewal.

You can purchase it online

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/CharlotteWillow23?ref=seller-platform-mcnav

http://www.Charlottewillowbotanicals.com

 

My Benjamin Moore transformation

When we purchased our forever home, it was quite the project we had undertaken. The home itself is in good condition for being built in the late 80’s but everything from the original appliances to the wall papered rooms needed updating. It is a large Georgian home, so we expected to tackle room by room over the course of the next five years. After living in it for a few months and staring at bubble gum pink walls that gave us aneurysm every time we passed through the room and orange brown walls that made us feel like we were prehistoric, we decided to choose a few rooms and hire pros to paint it nice for years to come. It’s amazing how something so simple as a paint color can change everything from your mood when you walk into your home to the whole energy of the space.

In the past, I used cheap basic paints of an array of colors and painted the rooms in our starter home myself. I did them as quickly as I could because once I started painting I was all in, yet I regretted starting in the first place. My husband insisted we hire a professional team of painters so it would look sharp and we wouldn’t have to do it again. At first I was hesitant spending that amount of money on something I could do over time, but with 10-14 foot ceilings, a toddler, and new pregnancy I gave in to the hired labor.

I knew I wanted a timeless neutral palette of colors for our home, and I chose Benjamin Moore for the quality and discount we got at a local store. When it came to narrowing down the most basic of neutrals I was flabbergasted. I felt as if I was in design school. I was reading up on natural light, southern vs northern exposure. The undertones of colors. Like who would have thought there was actually over 50 shades of gray? Green undertones on an off white? Not to mention the light reflective value. You’ve got to be kidding me, one white can out bright the other. I was getting dizzy reading up on all the blogs reviewing the Benjamin Moore neutrals. I found one color that had a great LRV but the wrong undertones. Another color was great for southern exposure…next…moving on. To top it off our house is finished on all four floors with a reddish orange oak trim. Every detail from the interior doors, molding, and windows has it so it is tricky to find colors that compliment the wood instead of making it clash or blend in. I even hired at the request of my husband a local interior designer to ensure we were on the right path. She actually gave me other choices. She suggested we paint our living room deep teal, which we almost did but got cold feet- thank God we didn’t, but I might use it for our dining room one day. She gave us a few other suggestions, but at the end of the day I went with my gut and chose what I thought was perfect for our space. While I was nervous watching the first few layers of paint spread across the walls the end result was exactly what I wanted! We get many compliments and I’m glad we not only hired painters, but chose colors that spoke to us even if they were possibly boring or not typical.

Here are the before and afters of some of the rooms we painted, the color we chose, and the runners up. So many shades to chose from it was hard. Like Collingwood and Edgecomb gray are very similar, but a slight undertone can make all the difference in the finished product.

Living room to the master/ my office

It was the most blinding stomach wrenching shade of bubble gum pink. From the changing room to the main room the color was painted ceiling to floor. How just how could they live with this for thirty years? The owner was astonished I didn’t like the color as he claimed it was very feminine. They even left me a gallon in case I wanted to do touch ups.

The interior designer suggested Halo, which I found to be dull and murky. I chose a classic Ivory White. It is warm and inviting and adds brightness to the room which lacks not only natural light but a ceiling light fixture.

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Photos do not do the transformation justice. It is really night and day. It feels like a normal space versus a trippy time machine warp to Barbie world. The ivory really enhances the wood trim and doesn’t feel sterile like a hospital ward.

Living Room

This room drove me nuts! Some may disagree, but the brown orange drove me nuts.

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We almost went with a dark teal color Dragonfly.

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I researched high and low for the perfect cream. Gentle Cream is what I chose and I highly recommend it. Whether it be a bedroom, main open space, or a cozy room that needs brightened up, this is a solid go to color. It is THE perfect cream! It has a lower LRV 67 which makes a richer cream versus a lighter off white. The undertone is warm without being too yellow and goes well with grays too. I’m so happy with this color!

 

 

Runners up were: Balboa Mist, Albalone, Classic Gray, Navijo White, and Wind’s Breath.

Powder Room

It wasn’t awful but the room was dated and not our style. It’s a room we as well as guests use often, so I wanted it to have some flair. I almost went with a calm blue green and chose Healing Aloe, which I still adore and will someday find the space for. We ended up going with a deep blue and chose Van Deusen Blue. It is deep, rich, and soft without being too harsh. I absolutely love it and it still looks good with minimal natural light.

 

 

Runners up were: Hale Navy, Newbury Port Blue, and Gentleman’s Gray.

Our entry lobby has barely any light as well as our second floor mezzanine. It was painted the same murky blah taupe color ceiling to floor and made us want to crawl under a rock and die. We  have wainscotting throughout, and I know it is custom to have it painted white, but my husband wanted a darker color to shield the marks of kids and scuffs. I wanted an earthy greige or gray without being too loud. On the top I chose an off white with classic white ceilings in Oxford white.

After many swatches taped on the walls for months and studying them as if they were a CIA case I chose Dune White on top and Collingwood for the bottom. The color combination rocks! The Collingwood is the perfect subtle greige that works with all types of lighting and has minimal undertones although the undertone is faint purple. Dune White has very soft gray undertones without making it gray at all, but it works well with gray counter colors. My space went from drab to fab instantly!

Before dark and dull.

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Before and after.

 

Off white runners up: White Dove, Paper White, and Ivory White.

Wainscotting runners up: Edgecomb gray, Gray owl, and Dove Wing.

Our kitchen was another lovely shade of putty taupe. While it wasn’t horrible by any means, my husband begged and pleaded me to paint and change it to something bright and cherry since we spend most of our time in the kitchen. Even when we have parties, we may have a great space set up in the entertainment room to chill, but everyone seems to always gravitate towards the kitchen. He really wanted yellow but not a soft or subtle yellow. He wanted some energy. He wanted a fun and vibrant yellow. I threw caution to the wind and chose Mellow Yellow. It is not so mellow and the color pops with our white cabinets. It is one of my favorite rooms. We can’t have a totally neutral house, and we wanted our personality to show through some of our interior choices. We have minimal natural light in the kitchen due to an attached solarium and this really makes the space feel alive without giving one a headache.  It is a rich solid yellow without orange undertones. Depending on the lighting it can look a bit brighter than the picture.

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Runners up: Yellow Rain Coat

Our bedroom was painted a bright powder blue with floral borders with one wall a floral wallpaper which we decided to keep for the time being to add some character and taking down wall paper seemed like a pain. We chose to paint the three walls and take down the border to freshen it up and cover the 1,000 painting nail holes that took over the walls. I chose a neutral color I thought would blend well with the floral and navy wall paper but after the first coat I aborted the mission. London Fog looked great online. It’s a few shades lighter than Thunder (see below)

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London Fog

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It made the room look depressed We quickly reverted back to a blue and chose Benjamin Moore White Rain, which is a chalky soft powder blue. It isn’t a color you would normally see in a kid’s room. It is cheery in the morning when the sun beams in and soothing at night in the shadows. I love it, and the color goes well with the wood work too!

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If you need more color guidance for your own projects check out this interior designer’s blog http://www.kylieminteriors.ca

She also gives reasonable over the phone consultations!

Laguna De La Nava Reserva 2012 review

I am no wine connoisseur by any means; I just simple know what I like and what I don’t like. What i love is Spanish wines. After a trip to Northern Spain I was hooked their variety of wines and vineyard productions.  This Tempranillo has character. Good on the nose it has a balanced acidity and firmness while carrying notes of chocolate, leather, and cherry on the palate, and it is easy on the wallet. An easy crowd pleaser, this wine goes well with steak, aged hard cheese, and roasted lamb.

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Tips for a healthy and fit pregnancy

First of all, let me start off by saying I don’t consider myself a fitness or healthy junkie by any means. If you put a mouth-watering cheese pizza in my face, chances are I will devour it before you have time to even ask if I want a slice. I enjoy a leisurely jog yet there is no way I could fathom the idea of signing up for a marathon; however, I will put out a hard sprint at the opening of a sample sale. Fitness to me personally at the age of 37 is being able to fit into my skinny jeans, join my husband on a hike without complaining, and actually enjoying bikini season and shopping for one.

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Before having my first child, I was petrified of pregnancy, labor, and everything that comes with the aftermath. It felt as if it would be an alien implanted in my body, taking over, and morphing me into a whole different entity forever.

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I got pregnant with my first child at 35. It had taken me almost two years and three miscarriages to hold a healthy pregnancy. Hormonal rollercoasters and a workout hiatus due to a lisfranc injury from running in flat shoes (not recommended ladies) set me back a bit before I got pregnant with my daughter. I was working at a popular Greek restaurant and went to the gym on the regular. While I was a few pounds heavier than I would have liked, I was solid and toned. I’m 5’8″ and my pre-pregnancy weight was 134. In nine months I gained 40 pounds. While I still worked the first three months which burned calories, I didn’t workout much due to my high risk factor and I was down right sick as a dog all day. I didn’t throw up, but I was so tired and nauseous I would lie down all day before heading to work. By month four, I was on an early medical maternity leave and felt like new again. I started working out every day at the break of dawn for 45 minutes at the gym. Afternoons I spent doing yoga at home and swimming for thirty minutes daily at the public pool. I slowly gained the weight, but by keeping up with light weights I maintained my muscle tone and shape. I have a super long torso, so I didn’t even show until I was nearly eight months pregnant. I tended to eat what I wanted without pigging out. The day my water broke I had gone to the gym for an hour and swam for an hour. The first week after having my daughter I dropped 30 of the 40 pounds effortlessly. My appetite increased while breastfeeding, but I started going to the gym 4 days post. I had no clue the dangers or that my internal organs could have collapsed, but they didn’t – ignorance is bliss moment. When I look back at photos I saw the rest of the weight and shift in body change happened gradually. By 8 months I was my pre-baby weight and after one year post I was almost at my skinniest I had been in 20 years. My elimination of dairy and eggs combined with workouts had gotten me to 126 pounds.

I tried for number two that spring, but it didn’t work out as planned. Three more miscarriages in six months. I gained four pounds bringing my weight to 130 before finally conceiving my second daughter. While the pregnancy was similar to the first, my lifestyle and habits were not.

When I found out I was pregnant in December we just moved into a new home and it was quite the project we had undertaken. I had a hyper toddler, no gym membership, and had to manage my previous home on the market, renovations, and my small business. Needless to say, workouts were a thing of the past. The previous owner left us a workout equipment set from the 80’s which helped me squeeze in ten minute workouts here and there but there was no regular schedule of training time.

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18 weeks, 21 weeks, 24 weeks, and 28 weeks pregnant

This pregnancy I ate way more healthier. I didn’t have much of an appetite or any cravings. I had to force myself to eat in general and normally chose lean foods, salads, humus, crackers, steak, and vegetables, not because I was trying to be healthy, but I just wanted basic foods. I worked out at home when I could, as well as renovating and chasing my escape artist toddler. I managed to keep up with squats the whole pregnancy, but I didn’t have the stamina for many since my second baby was head down pushing my pelvis since week 24. She came two weeks early and was a bit smaller than the first. I only gained 33 pounds this time around, but my body felt softer in general. My arms where tighter from lifting my toddler and household projects. I wore the belly wrap hours after labor, this helped contract my uterus down again and shrink the belly. I dropped 17 pounds the first week. At four weeks post I am 141 pounds. The extra weight doesn’t bother me, but I feel I need to tone up in a major way. My stomach feels so soft and my booty does not have its bounce back shape it held previously…not to mention the cellulite factor.  This doesn’t make me sad, but I feel motivated over time slowly I will get where I want, and I am excited I survived pregnancy! I am still the crazy old me in the same body that is just a bit worn down. I’ve done stretching, narrow squats, and more core work and resistance bands this month. I’m scared of my uterus falling out, so I haven’t over done the workout or gone for a job. Maintaining our bodily strength and stamina as we get older is a feat in itself – not to mention adding a crying baby or toddler smearing oatmeal on its head demanding to watch Paw Patrol for the 100th time. Give yourself goals but don’t forget to give yourself a guilt free break and enjoy the process.

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The day I went into labor vs 2 weeks postpartum

 

Here are some tips to help you get where you want to be during and after your pregnancy. 

  • Force extra calories or healthy meals in with quick shakes, juicing, or ice cream. The times I was a bit under weight I ate more ice cream. Diary is good for the baby and the calories are easy to eat. If I needed more healthy stuff I’d whip up a juice with apples, carrots, beats, you name it.
  • Give yourself long-term goals. Don’t expect noticeable changes over night or within weeks. Create a lifestyle that works for you whatever it may be positively.
  • Go easy on yourself. We are our own biggest critics.
  • Motivate others, and you may find you motivate yourself as well!
  • Give yourself a break. Sleep more, skip a workout, eat that cheat food with your kids. Enjoy life.
  • Maintain your muscles throughout your pregnancy journey. You just want to keep them alive. Once you shed the pregnancy fat and water weight, workouts will bring you back to where you want to be. You can eat a cookie while dropping a squat. The goal isn’t losing weight. It is keeping the muscles working.
  • Cardio is good for blood flow to the baby.
  • Don’t deprive yourself of cravings. Use portion control. I used to stock up at Bulk Barn all types of treats such as candy, chips, sweet, sour, and everything in between. I’d place them in small zip lock bags and when I had that craving I would only eat that portion.
  • Hydration is key. Drink as much water as you can daily. It promotes blood flow and oxygen to the baby as well as keeping skin supple which reduces stretch marks.
  • Don’t forget or take lightly your internal health. Take Folic acid, omega oils, probiotics, vitamin D daily throughout your whole pregnancy. After labor you can take raspberry tea leaf to help your uterus contract. I still take prenatals while breastfeeding. Eat foods that promote a healthy baby. Nuts, kale, eggs, salmon, lean meats, and veggies.
  • Oils such as fractionated coconut oil, grape seed oil, rosehip oil keep things nice down under and can help prevent tears or minimize them at the least.

When you look in the mirror, know you are beautiful no matter what size you are. Don’t sweat the small stuff like spider veins, some extra cellulite, or love handles you have just created a human who will love you for years to come.

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Nailed it- my favorite nail polishes and the worst

Nail polish – it is simply one of my survivor items I can not even fathom life without. Life without color? I’ve been wearing it since raiding my mom’s closet in grade school and since then the addiction has only gotten worse. I need every shade of periwinkle blue, every shade similar to a ballet slipper pink, and don’t forget those rad colors that make perfect strangers ask, “Where did you find that?”

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I consider myself lucky that my childhood friend’s major vice is beauty products. She will shop through Sephora and department store cosmetic counters as if it’s a sport. Not only does she not use 75% of the products or just tries them out once, but she gives me all the hand me downs! I should be a good friend and help her break her addiction, but I don’t. I just love all her makeup selections that find their way to my beauty closet eventually.  She’s recently given me tons of nail polish in different brands and colors. I’ve selected my top brands and not so favorites and rated them on a scale of 1-5 including application, color, and chip resistance.

I would have loved to add photos of the colors on my nails, but I have a better chance of owning an ocean front resort in Fiji before becoming a hand model, so I will leave my troll hands to typing and just add photos of the bottles.

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Let me start with my top lovers.

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My top winner is Nailsinc Geleffect. Hands down this polish is amazing! I was always a bit hesitant to try gel polishes. I thought they needed a special light, or the polish would take forever to scrub off when I was ready to switch it up. I’ll even post a photo of my ring finer in the polish because the color is the same as the bottle displays.

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Application: 5/5 The cap is a bit misleading, but the bulky square cap comes off leaving a small black cap that is easy to handle. The bristle leave a smooth finish without streaks. Just after one coat that dried within seconds my nails look finished. Two or three coats gives it a nice finish.

Color: 5/5 The color was perfect. I am wearing a soft pink and it looks great with a tan or without.

Chip resistance: 5/5 I am a busy mom that literally does everything from gardening to renovations on a daily basis. I paint my own nails because I get bored of colors and I constantly  mess them doing projects. If painted well and you don’t have a bad habit like I do at picking at your nails, this polish can last well over a week and half. It is simply amazing!

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China Glaze- I have color up all night. It is a very dark midnight blue with a slight shimmer preventing it from being too matte without being sparkly.

Application: 4/5 Easy to apply. Thin brush and paints well. Comes out medium in velocity. You need 2-3 coats for the full effect.

Color:  5/5 I love this color. It is classy and edgy at the same time. You need a double take. Is it purple, blue, or black? It is perfect when you are sick of girly colors and want to step it up.

Chip resistance: 3/5 It’s middle of the road. It looks fabulous first 3-4 days but after will need touch ups.

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Sally Hanson Insta-Dry – Show Steeler

A busy woman’s dream polish. I have under two minutes to paint my nails- done and done.

Application: 5/5 A breeze to paint on. Dry time is under a minute. What is the secret to quick dry nail polish? It can cover well with just one coat if you are super busy.

Color: 3/5 This gray is very matte with blue undertones. When it comes to this brand’s color selection, it is very blah and predictable. Not enough neutrals or fun colors to wear it on the regular.

Chip resistance: 4/5 Gives some expensive brands bang for its buck. But when it chips its big chips and it looks horrible.

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Defy & Inspire- Target’s first line of polish. This brand is pretty awesome. With 38 colors of 5 Free polish (5 chemicals you don’t want to see on the ingredient list) It has great coverage, color selection, and wear ability.

Application: 3/5 It doesn’t flow as well as other brands. Brush is a bit bigger and polish takes some concentration to make it even.

Color: 5/5 I had a nude with sparkles that shimmered in the sun. Great coverage and only needed two coats.

Chip resistance: 4/5 If you let it dry properly which by the way can take a longer time than other brands, it sets nicely. It is good for a 4-6 day period with minimal work.

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O.P.I. Infinite Shine 2- I am normally an Essie girl over O.P.I. but this polish is great! It has amazing application, coverage, and chip resistance. The shade is Cajun Shrimp. It is the perfect orange red combo to accentuate tans.

Application: 5/5 It went on thick and easy. It doesn’t get tacky in the bottle or on the nails and leave a smooth finish.

Color: 5/5 They have a great range of colors and Cajun Shrimp is fun and bright.

Chip resistance: 4/5 It definitely serves as a long lasting polish and has strong resistance to housework and hobbies that might scuff it up.

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Ruby Kisses- Teal Envy  This is an oldie but a goodie. I purchased this polish over seven years ago when I lived in New York City. Teal Envy is as teal as you can find. I’ve gotten so many compliments on this polish and I refuse to throw it away until I can scrape out every last drop. It is not the least bit tacky after sitting on my shelf 3/4th of the way finished seven years later.

Application: 4/5 It doesn’t go on as smooth as higher end polishes, but with a little patience you can get a nice manicure.

Color: 5/5 If you want the pop factor choose Teal Envy if you can find it online.

Chip resistance: 3/5 It doesn’t last long before starting to chip…maybe 3-4 days, but I wouldn’t want to wear the color longer anyways.

These brands and colors completely disappointed me, yet I still hold onto them like a beauty hoarder.

Essie- Secret Story  At first it looks like a nice creamy magenta. After I applied two coats it still was a sheer polish that looked as if I ran out during the middle of a manicure. One or two coats of sheer didn’t look good and who is wasting time painting there nails 4-5 coasts for a basic shade of pink?

Sephora by O.P.I. This polish has a huge hard to maneuver handle, a thin brush, and is tacky to apply. I would never purchase this myself and don’t recommend it to anyone either.

Sally Hanson Triple Shine– At first application I liked the sheer natural color, and I’ve almost used the whole bottle because maybe I didn’t have many nice neutrals in my closet, but this product chips a lot. It is very frustrating. One moment you have the perfect manicure and bam- you are missing chunks of polish.

What are your favorite brands? I’m really loving the gel. I love the fun of mixing up shades during the seasons of the year. Summer is my favorite. Bright, nude, wild, almost anything goes, as long as it goes with your bikini.

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Jollymore Ranch

We left the charmingly quaint town of Smithers BC and ventured off the main road onto a bumpy scenic route that led us to our rental house for the week. Just as I was wondering if we perhaps missed a turned and ventured off track, distracted by the natural beauty of the mountains surrounding us, I looked up from my map of directions to see a gigantic handcrafted wooden sign that read, Jollymore Ranch. We found our destination!

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Jollymore Ranch is new to the area which allows one to witness many great viewing experiences of wildlife such as black bears, wolves, moose, deer, and beautiful birds that find comfort in the territory they still call home.

The property has five new log cabins that have every amenity needed for a relaxing yet luxurious stay what feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of life. The homes are all surrounded by magnificent mountain ranges. The fresh air makes my lungs expand, and the views make my heart flutter. I wish we would have booked two weeks instead of one at the magical property. The property is nestled on 1,310 acres of rolling meadows surrounded by trees, rivers, and mountains- every aspect of nature one could desire in a peaceful setting. I felt one with nature instantly as I carried my bags to the entry of our rental.

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View from the terrace of Pink Sky Lodge

We were a large group of couples traveling with toddlers, so we opted for the largest of the log cabins and chose The Pink Sky Lodge. This lodge is simply a masterpiece of craftsmanship.  Not only did the impeccable luxurious log cabin take my breath away, but the scenery surrounding the whole property from the majestic mountains to the iridescent sunsets is postcard worthy.

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We enjoyed a carefree and comfortable stay. No detail was overlooked in guests’ comfort. The inviting sofas and the beautiful teak wood furniture enticed us to relax into the setting and unwind. The interior design was tastefully thought out with interesting and unique pieces of natural elements, art, and even a giant sculpture of a moose the kids enjoyed.

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Even though we were a large group of people traveling together, we didn’t have to fight over who was getting what bedroom because they were all equally comfortable, large, and had spectacular views. The beds are so comfortable. After a long day of hiking and exploring the local area, my body just melted into the plush mattress which is comparable to the Westin Heavingly beds … if not even more comfortable. Every bedroom has an incredible view of the mountain range. Each en-suite bathroom was unique. They were large and had excellent water pressure and hot water. An interesting aspect of the home is the automatic lights that come on in the hall or bathrooms when you enter; you don’t have to worry about searching for the button or remembering to turn it off which is fantastic in a large home you are not used to.

We fully enjoyed the large safe terrace. From dawn until dusk the views are every changing and incredible. By the end of the day, the sun dips into the mountain range leaving a remarkable pink sunset. Relaxing on the balcony while grilling was the perfect way to end an active day. There is plenty of seating outside as well as an excellent sound system, grill, and easy access to the dining area which is key for entertaining!

 

Exciting wildlife such as the wandering lynx in search of breakfast, black bears munching on wild berries, and even the hedge hog who showed up nightly at dinner time kept us entertained throughout our stay.

I felt renewed waking up to the extraordinary view while practicing yoga on the glass balcony. If it’s a bit chilly, we took our workouts to the fully equipped gym downstairs, complete with mountain views, his and her changing rooms, hot tub, and sauna. The kitchen was large enough for a few top chefs and had all the high end appliances and platters needed to serve large groups. The dining room has direct mountain views and terrace access with enough seating for large groups.

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Another fantastic aspect of this rental home is the space. There is a room for every need. If you want a full workout, it has a brand new fully equipped gym along with mountain views. If you want to play pool or have a card game, the downstairs entertaining area is perfect. The huge space has a mini bar set up and great mountain views with outdoor access to the yard. If serenity is what you are in search for, there are plenty of quiet spots in the home you can curl up with a book and tea and relax without even hearing the other guests.

We enjoyed Smithers so much! From the outdoor activities, to the kind locals, we look forward to returning again in the winter for some skiing and snow fun!

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Jollymore Ranch was the perfect property to connect with loved ones in such an enchanting setting. Our beautiful week ended with a full rainbow over the home; it was truly a magical  and unforgettable experience!

 

I recommend this property to families, adventure and outdoor enthusiasts, and writers looking for inspiration and tranquility.

You can check out more photos and information on all the homes they have for rent at http://www.jollymoreranch.com

Here are some direct Airbnb links to there rentals as well!

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/21607653?location=Jollymore%20Ranch

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/22446786?location=Jollymore%20Ranch

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/21618234?location=Jollymore%20Ranch

 

Smithers BC, an unexpected oasis of nature, tranquility, and adventure.

Pre-baby I had the freedom to pick up and go at a moments notice. I didn’t worry about the situations surrounding travel. Present day I actually spend more time Googling and researching destinations than the time spend enjoying them. I look up tourist precautions, Zika, and child friendly zones.

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I’ve been lucky enough to witness and experience some amazing cultural experiences abroad. I’ve had the chance to ride on yaks in Tibet. I’ve surfed in some renowned off the beaten path destinations, and I even held baby sloths- they are the cutest little creatures I’ve ever seen.

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My favorite part of traveling is finding like minded wanderlusters, exchanging stories and laughs, and sometimes creating life long bonds; hence, I met my Canadian adventure seeking husband abroad.

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Since having a baby we’ve toned it down a few notches, and we started exploring the beauty of out backyard- Canada.

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For those of you who are in a similar mind set as I once was before actually relocating to the great North, let me tell you something. Canada is much more than Mounties on horses conversing about their favorite grade of maple syrup, hockey fanatics, igloos, and overly friendly locals.

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Yes…the locals apologize…a lot. Canadians say thank you and sorry religiously, but who wants to travel to a land full of angry jerks anyways?

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Canada is nature at its best. The air is pure. The spring water is refreshing, and the wildlife is abundant. After exploring the historical east coast of Canada, it was time to venture out west into the wild abyss of raw untouched nature.

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Smithers, BC is a picturesque town of 5,000 nestled in the Rocky mountains. With the majestic backdrop of the Hudson Bay Mountain and Babine Mountain Range, it is no wonder why films such as Eight Below, The Grey, and currently Wings over Everest have filmed here.

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This versatile destination suits many interest of travelers. Whether you are in search of tranquility, nature, and solitude, or you are ready for outdoor adventures, Smithers, BC will not disappoint.  If you are looking to align yourself with nature, stay away from overly populated touristy crowds, and enjoy the perks of Canada’s nature beauty  then Smither’s BC is right for you. It is known to be a great fishing destination, and seasoned anglers travel across the globe to test there skills and luck on the rivers that flow with Steelhead and Trout.

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http://www.tourismsmithers.com/explore/fish

Big game hunters become one with nature as they hunt for bears, moose, mountain goats, and caribou. The goat population in Northern BC is 60% of the worlds goat population.

http://www.tourismsmithers.com/explore/hunt

If you are an animal lover such as myself and prefer to watch the beauty of the animals in their element Smithers BC is abundant with Black bears, Grizzly bears, Mountain lions, Lynx, Moose, Deer, Timber wolves, snow owls, loons, and the mighty bald eagle.

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Mountain biking is a great way to explore the rugged terrain of the mountains bordering the town. There is a bike rental shop in the center of town.

http://smithersmountainbike.ca/trails

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Yogis can enjoy yoga one of the three studios in town.

Full Circle Yoga   http://full-circle-yoga.ca/

The Yoga Loft    http://theyogaloft.ca/

Luna’s fitness  http://www.lunasfitness.com/

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I’m a huge horse lover, I pulled some friends who are beginners on a trail ride with https://www.mvtrailriding.com/ It was a relaxing scenic ride at sunset and the horses were calm and stable throughout the ride.

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If you are looking for a volunteer program the wildlife shelter accepts volunteers. They help rehabilitate wild animals such as bears, fawns, foxes, and more!  http://www.wildlifeshelter.com/p/about-us.html

Winter outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy a variety of activities including: Snow shoe trails, snow mobile treks, ice fishing, and skiing down the groomed fluffy slopes of Hudson Bay Mountain.

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The last time we traveled to Smithers BC was at the end of July. We had a week of perfect mountain weather. The mornings were revitalizing and dewy, and the days were warm without being overly too hot to hike. Nightly, the sun dipped into the mountain range transitioning the iridescent imperial pink sunset in exchange for a magical blanket of stars. We had the perfect weather to hang out on the terrace of our rented log cabin and enjoy wine while grilling.

The town itself is quaint, but it has all the shops needed for a lovely stay. There is a local butcher, the main grocery store next to a liquor store, banks, Canadian tire, health food store, bakery, and some great local restaurants for when you want to take a break from cooking.

We enjoyed Trackside Catina for lunch. It is a smaller restaurant that fills quickly. We actually had to wait a bit longer than anticipated for the food, but the service was great and the meal was worth the wait. It has great Mexican food with healthy, vegetarian, and gluten free options.

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Our group was traveling with a four year old, a 15 month old, and an 11 month old baby so long hikes and spontaneous adventures into the wild were limited, yet we still got to enjoy the beauty of nature and found easy hikes with the little ones.

Twin Falls has ample parking at the top, but if you can’t find parking there are spots available at the bottom of the hill. It is about a twenty five minute walk to the top with a slight incline. Once you reach the falls there are look out points and places to hang out and enjoy a picnic. We pushed our stroller up the hill and through a small trail. Once we got closer to the waterfall it was a bit tight to go further with the stroller, so we left it on the side of the trail and continued walking a few more minutes to the river.

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https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g499148-d2226855-Reviews-Twin_Falls_Glacier_Gulch_Trails-Smithers_British_Columbia.html

There are plenty of clean lakes to swim in with clean beaches. Our little goons had fun splashing in the water while the adults relaxed enjoying the mountain views.

 

Our favorite part of our stay in Smithers BC was enjoying quality time with family and friends in a beautiful setting. Check out my next blog post on Jollymore Ranch! It was the perfect setting and relaxing stay with panoramic mountain views.

Jollymore Ranch Pink Sky Lodge
A luxurious new log cabin in a beautiful setting.

My top 10 travel items

I was a flight attendant for three years. It didn’t matter if I had a 24 hour layover or a seven day block of trips, I had the horrible habit of over packing. I religiously had to sit on my suitcase or ask for help from the pilots to close it in between trips.

 

7-ways-to-pack-lighter-mixandmatch-360x240After leaving the airline industry and trading my suitcase on wheels for a simple backpack while traveling through Central America, I learned you don’t need nail polish to match every single bikini and some things are better left at home.

 

Here are my top 10 survival items I can not travel without.

  1. Baby Lips

I love this product! Not only is it affordable and easy to buy almost anywhere, but it serves as a great soft moisturizer and color at the same time. I used to love glosses that came in tubes but found they didn’t hydrate my lips as well. They plastic glosses in squeeze tubes can melt and leak, and forget a windy day. Hair blowing into to glossy lips is always a disaster. Baby Lips has so many subtle and fun colors too!

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2. Foldable bag

With all these baggage fees who wants to travel heavy now days? Yet, you never know when you will need extra space for souvenirs and purchases made when traveling. Maybe you are traveling to a destination and taking a small trip outside of that destination and don’t necessarily need or want to bring all your gear. The foldable travel bag is a great solution and there are many sizes and brands easily found on Amazon.

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3. Jacket in a bag

I was always in limbo of whether or not to bring my bulky winter jacket on vacation down south. Sure I’d be freezing after I arrived getting back to my car, but did I want to lug it around? Well now I travel with a jacket in a bag. This plush jacket is so warm and can easily roll up and be packed into your carry on. It can serve as a pillow if you get stuck during a connection. Even traveling to warm destinations, it is nice to have a jacket. Hikes up mountains in even the hottest counties can get chilly, and you never know when you will need it when you least expect it.

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4. Nail Polish Remover Pads

I love having my nails painted, but I despise when they chip. I have a horrible habit at picking at them once one little nail chips. Traveling with liquids can be a pain, so I carry this tiny package of wipes when I travel. They work really well. Just a few pads wipes off a few layers of polish and I never have problems going through security with them packed in my carry on.

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5. Boo Boo Serum

This is one of my top travel items. Forget toting around an array of products for every ailment and beauty regimen. This all natural product made with organic ingredients is a miracle in a bottle. It is 1 ounce, so I can pack it into my carry on. It heals every skin ailment under the sun. Bug bites, sunburns, fungal infections, cuts, burns, and it even works well nourishing my skin and relaxing wrinkles. It is gentle enough to use on my baby when she had eczema or diaper rash, and my husband uses it on his cracked hands.

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6. Pens, Pens, and more Pens

As a writer, I find you can never have one too many pens. How quickly they can just disappear when you need them the most. Paper you can find almost anywhere. Napkins, receipts, airplane magazines are always accessible. You never know when you will spark a great idea or want to exchange numbers and your cell phone is dead. Customs forms can be a pain when you are in a hurry with no pen, and writing down tips from locals.

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7. Zip lock bags

I always carry a few extra on me. They are great for security when you need to get your liquids through, or if you have dirty socks or wet clothes and don’t want to contaminate your luggage.

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8. Cute Slippers

I find it so gross when I am traveling and the passenger next to me decides it is time to get comfortable and take off his shoes to let his feet breathe. I once had a guy next to me not even wearing socks! I always bring a newer pair of cute slippers to wear on the plane or trains during long periods of travel. They are great for going down the halls of hotels too when you need to get ice or get something from the front desk, but don’t want to put on your shoes, and they are a fun conversation piece.

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9. Plastic Zip Wallet

These are so convenient when traveling. I’ve been using the same crusty one for over ten years. When you are at the beach and traveling alone with no one to watch your stuff, having a cheap zip wallet gives you some freedom to worry less about the money you are carrying on you. I normally bring the money I need for the day and possibly a credit card and house keys. When I set up my towel, I subtly dig a hole under my towel and bury the wallet before placing my towel and other non valuable items back on the towel. That way if my backpack happens to get stolen, I don’t have to worry about my money or credit cards. Just make sure high tide isn’t coming, or you don’t hike an hour away like I did once and remember your wallet is still buried after you get back into town. Luckily I found my wallet after digging like a dog hours later, but it was a close call.

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10. Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets, not only do they make your clothes smell good, but dryer sheets work as bug repellents. Try rubbing your clothes and skin with a few sheets before a hike and see if your hiking buddy gets more bites than you. You can add them to your shoes to not only make shoes smell better during travel, but ward off bugs at your feet. They work great for taming wild hair too! A simple and cheap solution to travel woes.

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While those are my top 10 items, here are a few others items that can come in handy when traveling.

  • Lock- you never know if you need a locker or storage for stuff when traveling
  • Resistance band- they are easy to carry and keep your body in check if you don’t have a gym nearby and find yourself over indulging in delicious cuisine during your travels.
  • 2 copies of your passport and credit cards stuffed in separate travel bags. If you lose one, you still have another copy.
  • Poncho- it is easily flattened and small to travel with. You don’t have to worry about it being misplaced or broken like an umbrella.
  • Extra flip flops or water shoes. I love water shoes for the versatility of them. I can jog in them, splash through rivers, and they dry so fast.
  • A clean pair of panties, tiny mouth wash, and toothbrush in my purse- just in case my luggage gets lost or I get stranded temporarily.

Bon Vogayage!

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Sesame Orange Chicken

I’ve come a long way since the days of living in the city and ordering in delivery. I used to be scared of touching raw meats, but I got over that hurdle and found my place in the kitchen. Recently, it was my turn to host dinner for my in-laws. My mother in law never fails to impress us with her Sunday dinners. From a spread of appetizers to gourmet fresh unique meals, we always leave satisfied.

I wanted to make an easy dish that wouldn’t be time consuming considering I’m pregnant with a toddler, tasty, and simple. The last time we all ordered in Chinese delivery, it was a huge disappointment, so I decided to attempt a healthy version on Sesame Orange chicken.

It was so easy to make and flavorful I had to share. It took less time to make than waiting for takeout, and it was quite tasty!

Ingredients
2 medium chicken breasts, cut into small cubes (about 1 inch by 1 inch)
3 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon all purpose flour (substitute 1 tablespoon cornstarch for gluten-free option)
a pinch each of sea salt and pepper (optional)
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
sesame seeds and/or thinly sliced green onions for garnish

Instructions

  1. Add the chicken breast cubes to a medium bowl along with the cornstarch and flour (and salt and pepper, if using). Stir to coat. Set aside.

  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and while it’s heating whisk together the orange juice, marmalade, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, and cornstarch until well combined. Set aside.

  3. Once the skillet has heated, add the oils and then the chicken coated in the cornstarch and flour.

  4. Brown the chicken in the skillet until each side is crispy and golden brown and the chicken is cooked through.

  5. Pour the orange juice mixture over the chicken in the hot skillet and toss the chicken in the sauce until it thickens.

  6. Serve over rice with a side of steamed veggies.

  7. Garnish with sliced green onions or sesame seeds (if desired).

Recipe Notes

Feel free to use more cornstarch in place of the all purpose flour if you stick to a gluten-free diet. The added flour helps the chicken get extra crispy, but it’s not necessary.

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Even my husband approves!

My go to ski skin survival products

Although I love trying new products, I’m pretty basic when it comes to my daily face regimen. I use a seabuckthorn exfoliating face bar to wash and a variety of exotic oils for moisturizing my skin such as Argan, Rosehip, Tamanu, and one of my favorites Goji.

When I do sports I tend to kick it up a notch and add a few extra protective barriers to help protect my skin from harsh conditions like wind while skiing, the scorching sun and salt water while surfing, and bug bites while horseback riding.

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I recently started ski lessons in Canada. At first, I thought ok it’s cold, but I’ll only be outside an hour and a half max. How much can a little wind and cold air hurt my skin? Well in 5 degree weather it can do a lot pretty quickly. My face was an awful mixture of super dry and rosy for nearly three days after.

I’m lucky to have a best friend who has a little makeup and product addiction. She probably owns shares of Sephora by now. She will buy hundreds of dollars worth of products and try them once and move on. Luckily, she is nice enough to pass them down to me. In my pile of new products I found a gem of skin serum, that I will now have to buy since it works amazing!

Murad Invisiblur Perfecting Shield,  is a light weight protecting serum that works with every skin type. It is marketed as a face primer, and it has a 30 SPF broad shield spectrum. Not only is this product hypoallergenic but it is also vegan! It has a thick velvety texture that looks natural and literally fills in fine lines while acting as a protecting barrier to the harsh conditions of the ski hill.

http://www.sephora.com/invisiblur-perfecting-shield-broad-spectrum-spf-30-pa-P394397?country_switch=us&lang=en

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For my lips I’ve been using EOS chapstick in mint. I prefer the regular shape packaging and love the refreshing zest of the mint

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After I survive the slope I go home and take a bath with Eucalyptus and Oatmeal mix.

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I finish off my Sunday Slopes beauty spa with a coconut treatment in my hair and Argan oil  silk lotion by Moroccan Life Products on my body.

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Love it!

Kickass Authentic Mapo Tofo

Ever since traveling to China, I’ve been addicted to my husband’s favorite dish. Some restaurants didn’t prepare it the same way I had experienced in China, so I saught out to find how it was made. I’m sure it might now be exactly how it’s done there, but it damn close and delicious!

Ingredients

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  • 1 cup of chicken broth stock
  • Few tablespoons of cornstarch
  • Teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • Red chili pepper flakes
  • Scallions
  • Garlic fresh
  • Firm Tofu
  • Minced pork (about 1/2 a cup)
  • Ginger fresh
  • Red Palm seed oil (optional
  • Red Chilli oil about 3-6 Tablespoons
  • Chinese 5 spice 1/2 Tablespoon
  • Hot peppers, red or green minced up
  • Doubanjiang (豆瓣酱), also known as spicy fermented bean paste and broad bean sauce, is the most important ingredient in this dish. Try to find “Pixian Broad Bean Sauce” at an Asian market. *I went to my Chinese Restaurant and paid for some of their supply. It came in a form of seed like hard pieces/balls. To infuse, I added about a Tablespoon to my Red chili oil.

The art to making a killer Mapo Tofu is all in slicing and dicing and much multi tasking in the kitchen. I first prepare by setting out all my ingredients in groups that go together. In the mean time you can have some white rice/Jasmine/ Basmati to counter balance the spicy of the dish cooking.

  1. Chop off the white ends of the scallions into tiny pieces. Chop up a few cloves of garlic, the hot peppers and ginger into fine pieces. Satay them in a light olive oil until soft and set aside.
  2. Brown/cook the minced pork. Break it up in the pan into fine pieces. Add the white pepper to your pork at this time.
  3. Blot your tofu with a towel to absorb the moisture and water. Cut it into cubes then softly fry for a few minutes to get warm/toasty.
  4. In a small fry pan, have your red chili oil slowly simmer with the spicy bean and five spice.
  5. Add the chicken stock to your tofu. Add the cornstarch to thicken. Add Red palm oil for color.
  6. Add the satayed vegetables, chop up green scallion tops and add them, as well as the pork, and the chili oil that is infused.
  7. Sprinkle on some flakes of red chili and voila!

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Your Mapo Tofu Dish is complete and ready for you to devour. Below is one of my latest batches. I don’t use exact measurements when cooking; I kind of toss in a dash of what I feel needs more or less in regards to the ingredients. You can put your Tofu mix on top of the rice, or on the side. A glass of milk will help with the spicy burn if it’s too much to handle. This is a great food for flu season!

Surviving San Jose Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica is one of those cities where most travelers want to get out of just as quickly as they arrived. When you think of Costa Rica, images such as monkeys swinging off of lush vegetation and rustic deserted beaches with perfect swells for surfing may come to mind. Unless you have a direct flight to the Pacific coast into Liberia Internation Airport, wanderlust travelers must first make their way through the hectic capital of Costa Rica.

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San Jose isn’t on my top major city list, but there are some diamonds in the rough. First of all, if you are into cosmetic surgery abroad, this is a known destination for plastic surgery complete with many options for recovery in secluded havens surrounded by nature.

Men who are into the nightlife scene and the vast variety of legal prostitutes find themselves  in heaven at The Del Rey Hotel and Casino; it’s one of the largest brothels in Central America. Beautiful women from South and Central America travel to work at this popular pickup spot. I ventured out undercover a few years back as a working girl in The Del Rey Hotel. I got the inside scoop from the men who were in search of their evening delight and interviewed working girls on their view of the industry.

You can find my write up at https://www.amazon.ca/San-Jose-Nights-Emily-Turner-ebook/dp/B006ZOPA8W

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If you have some extra time during a layover or a few days stuck in the city, you can easily squeeze in some hiking and nature at Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo. It is just thirty minutes outside of the city. It is open from 8-4 daily with a $10 entrance fee.

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If you don’t have a rental there are easy options for a quick day trip. Public Bus: Any bus going to Guapiles, Siquirres, or Puerto Viejo will pass the Zurqui Ranger Station where travelers can pay their entrance fee and proceed to the hiking trails. Buses depart from the Gran Caribe Terminal at Calle Central and Avenidas 15/17 in San Jose. At the end of the day, just flag down a bus for the return journey. Terminal del Caribe Tel. 2222-0610

Taxi: Travelers can make arrangements with a taxi driver for round trip transportation to the park for around $50-$60 from San Jose.

Accommodations are easy to find, but I have two hidden great spots. If you have an early flight or connection and just need a place to crash near the airport, I stayed at a hostel which was walking distance to the airport. It had hot water and was safe. The owner is super cool and picked us up. http://www.hotelelcacique.com

If you want to stay in the downtown area of San Jose, I love this next spot. The neighborhood leaves something to be desired, but the lodging itself is great for the price. Hotel Aranjuez. http://www.hotelaranjuez.com It is what I would call a small boutique hotel/ bed and breakfast. You have the option of a shared bathroom for a lower price or rooms with a private bath. A single room with a shared bath is only  $32 a person, and it comes with a killer buffet breakfast, a safe in the room, and computer access with wifi.

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The shared bathrooms are super clean, and I never have problems when I need to use them. The gastronomic breakfast entices me to ensure I have a layover in San Jose. Click on this link for pictures. http://www.hotelaranjuez.com/DesayunoBufetGaleria

One of the great things about traveling through Costa Rica is the fact that the public transportation system is on point. The buses travel frequently and are reasonably priced. If you want to take the off beaten path and throw caution to the wind with a rental vehicle, I strongly recommend only considering an SUV. The roads can surprise you. One moment you are cruising down paved highway bliss, and the next moment you are dodging oncoming trucks, cattle, and flying over potholes through the dusty roads.

I’ve experience hell when first handily dealing with the rental car companies down in Costa Rica. The are beyond sketchy. We tried renting a car in the Nicoya from Hertz and the rate was over $90 for the day and it didn’t include insurance…which you totally need down there. We tried adding full coverage and they said they didn’t offer it there. I once rented a car from a company and paid for full insurance. I was glad I did, because I got in a costly accident. The owner of the rental company which was a sub owner of a major company (it’s tricky) tried hustling me. He had my bank account frozen and was trying to charge me for a whole month’s rental for the SUV; the time it would take to repair it he said. I was about to give up rentals in Costa Rica all together and stick with riding horses until I found the best rental car proprietor ever!     24715_10150170457795481_797465480_12039920_4875596_nI have been renting from Peter for over 7 years. His vehicles are maintained to the best care, and he is an honest and loyal expat. He will meet you in the San Jose area for your pick up and even drop you off at the airport. His prices are the best in the country; believe me I’ve shopped around, and it’s no bull shit. They come with full insurance, unlimited miles, and can handle the rough terrain. We’ve even had minor issues with scratches, or a random run in with a palm tree and he didn’t overcharge us for repairs, he is hands down the best rental company. If he wasn’t renting anymore, I would just take the bus. His prices vary according to how long you rent and what season, but you can call or email him through his website. http://www.amigos4x4suvrental.com

If you are stuck at the airport or near the airport, there is a cafe with free Wifi. A quick $7 taxi ride about five minutes away will take you to Hooters. I killed some time there by myself watching sports while munching on snacks and tossing downs a few beers to kill some time.

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There is also a shopping plaza with restaurants and a movie theater only a six minute drive from the airport. http://www.cinemarkca.com/es/citymall-alajuela/portada/

If you have a few days in the capital of Costa Rica by choice, or because someone stole your passport; lock those up in your safe travelers, there are a few other options to spend your time enjoying the culture of the city.

  • The Jade Museum
  • The Zoo
  • Explore local markets for great food and authentic items
  • Check out the PreColumbian Gold Museum
  • Visit Teatro National

While the beach or the mountains may be your main destination, San Jose Costa Rica doesn’t have to be a buzz kill. Enjoy the journey! Pura Vida

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My fall must haves

After the summer days fade away and fall settles in, I feel the need to detox and get into a healthy fall/winter regimen. The dog days of summer where I took leisurely jogs and enjoyed vino by the pool are gone.

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Instead of hibernating and slacking on my workouts and eating everything in sight loaded with carbs, I try to attempt a healthy frame of mind.

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Here are a few of my healthy lifestyle choices I take to stay on the right track.

  • Getting into a regular workout schedule. I try to workout at least 5-6 days per week. I tend to get super bored at the gym. There have been times when I have literally worked out shorter than it took me to get to the gym, say…12 minutes, but my theory is it is better than nothing, and it promotes that schedule thing. I try and do yoga at home 2-3 days a week. I swim 2-3 days a week, and then workout at the gym 3-4  days a week now that I have a baby keeping me busy.
  • Morning hot water with lemon and ginger. Viruses thrive in cooler bodies, so I like to start off the morning with a large mug of hot water with fresh lemon and ginger to cleanse my body, warm up, and protect with ginger.                   Image result for hot water lemon and ginger
  • Local honey.  I tend to have bad allergies and sinus problems. I find that when I incorporate local honey on a regular basis it alleviates congestion and a sore throat. I mix it in my homemade dressings, and I just take a large spoonful ( or squeeze straight out of the bottle more like it) into my mouth.       Image result for local honey
  • Edible Argan Softgels. I take this supplement year round, but I love it in the winter! Edible Argan promotes health and beauty from within. It is known to be liquid gold and for good reason, the oil is packed with great health benefits. It is high in omegas 3,6,9. It has great amounts of vitamin e, polyphenols, and antioxidants. It has been known to lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. It makes my hair and skin lush in the harsh Canadian winters. http://www.Moroccanlifeproducts.com  tiny-argan
  • Spirulina. This is a superfood! I take it in a capsule form. It is a fabulous vegan source of protein. It boosts energy, eliminates Candida and leaky gut syndrome, and reduces inflammation in the sinuses. To top it off contains more essential amino acids, iron, protein, B vitamins, and vitamins C, D and E. Make sure you take a proper dose and consult your doctor if you have previous conditions because it has been known to thin blood when taken in large amounts.                                     Image result for spirulina super food
  • Probiotics. Most diseases and ailments start in the gut, so it is the first part of my body I like to keep healthy and clean. I take these a few times a week as well as a few fruit shakes made with low sugar yogurt. I like the brand New Roots Herbal. They have a great line of probiotics and they test all their ingredients for purity.   Image result for new roots herbal probiotics
  • Organic garlic. Luckily my husband loves garlic too, so we don’t have to worry about smelling like it after dinner. I love trying new varieties I find at festivals and the farmer’s market. I slice it up and incorporate it into many of my weekly meals, soups, and dishes to protect my body. It’s even helped me get rid of an ear infection!    Image result for organic garlic
  • Jasmine Green Tea. An old time favorite of mine. I love the flavour and the little energy boost. I’m not a coffee person, so green tea varieties are my favorite.      Image result for jasmine green tea benefits
  • Oregano oil. Anytime I feel the slightest sniffle, cough, or sorethroat coming on, or even have been around sick people I go straight to my cabinet and pull out my trusty bottle of oregano oil. If you haven’t tried it before, this stuff is potent! I mix it with water, gargle, and voila! I don’t seem to ever get full blown “sick.”
  • Exotic oils. I use these on my face religiously. They melt away wrinkles and leave my skin supple and fresh without causing blemishes. My favorite is Seabuckthorn oil, next to Argan and Rosehip. If I have a wound I use Tamanu. They are all excellent!  Image result for sea buckthorn oil

What are your health and beauty tips? I would love to hear from you!