Girls Trip Sedona Arizona

If I had to describe Sedona in 3 words it’s stunning, spiritual, and relaxing. This isn’t the destination if you want to be boozy and hit on men. This is the place you go when you want to be a sophisticated grown up. It’s a place you relax with your gals or even consider a solo trip to.


sedona arizona

Where to Stay:

We stayed at the Arabella Hotel. It wasn’t our top pick, but it was a very reasonable pick considering we wouldn’t be spending much time at the hotel. However, I would 100% recommend this hotel. From the front of the hotel there’s views of Sedona’s famous red rocks. There’s pools, fire pits, and nightly entertainment. They also host star gazing with telescopes that you’d think were stolen from NASA and in a prime location.

If you have money to burn and time to enjoy all of the super spa-like amenities that Sedona is known for then I’d also look into these spa retreat hotels:

What To Do:

Hiking & Vortexes

The vortexes are rumored to be super alive with energy. I’m stealing this wording from this site because well it totally captures the magic of vortexes -“The term Vortex in Sedona refers to a place where the earth energy swirls and draws to it’s center everything that surrounds it like a tornado. At these magical sites, trees often exhibit this swirling or twisting of their trunks due the powerful vortex energy at the core of a Sedona Vortex.” There are companies that do vortex tours, but don’t waste your money. They’re easily accessible and the only fee if you do it on your own is parking. Some of the sites state you need to pay for parking spots in advance, but all of the destinations I went to had machines to pay.

Bell Rock Vortex Sedona
I swear it, this was my happy place and where I felt the energy of the vortex. Sat here for a while thinking about literally nothing.
  • Bell Rock – There’s a bunch of separate trails. I say, get lost and see what you find.
  • Airport Mesa – I wouldn’t call this a hike. You literally can walk up and down in 20 minutes. However, the parking is super limited (maybe 10 spots) so you’ll likely have to park up the street and then have about a mile walk to and from to get to the Airport Mesa. I absolutely loved being up there. You have 360 degree views of red rock. I went early in the morning and there were few people there so it was super peaceful.
  • Boynton Canyon
  • Cathedral Rock
Seriously?! How do you deny a vortex when you see that type of swirling energy?

Pink Jeep Tour

The Pink Jeep Tour came highly recommended to go off road and experience the red rocks. However, we couldn’t fit it into our schedule. If you plan on doing this, book it in advance because the best times sell out. I plan on going back to Sedona one day because I missed this activity.

Cowboy Barbecue

I came across 2 BBQ experiences that looked super fun:

  • Blazin M – About a half hour from the center of Sedona, you can experience a BBQ for $44.95 per person and some cowboy entertainment
  • Diamond Ranch – Horse ride (I had to correct myself, I originally wrote cowboy ride…), cowboy cookout, and live music for $120. You can skip the 1 hour horse ride if you wish and just pay $56 per person.

Other Suggestions

  • Tlapeque Arts and Crafts Village – the cutest little shopping village you’ll ever see. So many boutiques for one of a kind items and the aesthetics of the village is so quaint and tranquil. Skip the Secret Garden restaurant though – not a fan.
  • Psychic Reading – Across from the village is a new age center with plenty of psychics on hand to tell you your future
  • Spa Day – Sedona is known for its luxury spa hotels
  • Sedona Trolley
  • Day Trip to Grand Canyon
  • Breweries of Flaggstaff – Less than an hour away. A great place to stop on your way back from a Grand Canyon field trip
  • Day Trip to Scottsdale- It’s about 2 hours and 15 minutes each way

Where to Eat:

These restaurants came up again and again in our search for being delicious and scenic. We loved Hudson so much, we ate there twice. I’d suggest reservations at all of the below keeping in mind restaurants don’t stay open all night.

  • HudsonAmerican food / classy cocktails / beautiful views. You MUST try their peanut butter dessert and their chicken dish
  • Mariposa Latin food / beautiful views
  • Salt RockSouthwest native type food

Botch and Learn

  • It’s smack dab in the middle of Sedona and Grand Canyon so you can build it into a road trip
  • Things fill up fast here, so book it in advance
  • You will need a car to get around and the car rentals are not cheap in Arizona
  • 7/11 sells wine if you’re looking for a beverage to sip around the fire pits
  • Make sure to star gaze in a remote area like the corner of a parking lot
  • Things close relatively early, so plan for that
  • Sedona is a day city, not a night city. So maximize your day by waking up early. That’s the best advice I can give you for visiting.

Fab Fit Fun Secrets

It’s Friday night and I’m raging on my couch drinking pinot G with a deep cleansing mask on. I’ve got 15 minutes to kill as it works its magic and I’m all sorts of giddy because I just scored some amazing finds on Fab Fit Fun. As I share my excitement on snap with a few gal friends all of their responses were… “It’s always sold out when I look”, “Do they restock?”, etc.

No girl, there’s a secret to scoring the good stuff and Imma ’bout to tell ya.

During a certain time each month, Fab Fit Fun offers Add-Ons to purchase. They ship with your monthly box. They’re all products which are deeply discounted. Some of them are no name brands and some of them are must have well known brands.

Needless to say, the must have brands sell out pretty quickly. But I’ve learned the secret. Only took me a year… My friends, this is a LIVE sale. Which means people add and remove stuff from their cart all the time. And when it gets removed from someone’s cart it goes back up for sale.

So to score the good stuff here’s what I do. I click the little heart next to everything I want but is sold out. This adds it to my favorites.

Then Fab Fit Fun has tab called “My Favorites”. So rather than have to refresh the whole catalogue and waste precious time loading everything, you just to have to refresh the My Favorites page. I leave it open on my laptop during the entire sale.

Whenever I’m logging into my computer, I give the browser a little refresh and let it work it’s magic. If something becomes available, then the “Add to Box” gets some color and becomes clickable. Click fast because it’s possible it sells out before you click it.

I’ve just scored 2 different R + Co Products which I am very excited about. And once those were added to my cart, I removed a No Make Up Bundle from my cart because I now had products I wanted more and I was trying to stick to a budget. So that bundle went right back into stock and some other lucky “favorite refresher” snagged it. Ya see how it works?!

I got a lot of good loot, a total of $216 worth of product for………… $76. That’s a 65% saving!!!

PS – Fridays at 8PM EST was a great time to refresh and grab the goods.

PPS – I was going to share a polaroid of my face mask but the lighting is horrific so instead you get an XOXO Katie.

Girls Trip Scottsdale Arizona

I’m obsessed with Scottsdale Arizona. I would totes move there.  With its myriad of outdoor eateries, the most perfect weather (in April at least), nightlife, shopping, and nature… Scottsdale is all around a joyful city.  Two nights there were definitely not enough although  we  certainly  squeezed  in  plenty.

Hotel: Saguaro

Located in the heart of Old Town, the Saguaro was the perfect place to stay.  We could easily walk to dinner, shopping, and night life.  It’s super cute with a retro/pop vibe which outweighs the mediocre room.

Upon arrival we snagged a spot poolside where I ordered a frose (which melted in minutes). We spent a few hours relaxing out there and taking in the Arizona sun.  The weather in April was absolutely perfect and the best part – no humidity.  

Food:

First stop on the list was Diago Pops.  This Instagrammable Mexican hot spot came up in our research repeatedly.  The reccos were spot on.  It’s the cutest little restaurant with soft pinks and turquoise decor and a massive outdoor patio.  I had a watermelon mint margarita which was super fresh and so fab, I had to have another.  We split chips and guac and for the main event I got one of each of the chicken tacos.  They also bring out a carton of sauces.  There was a pink beet sauce that was surprisingly tasty.  We loved it so much, we came back on our last day before the airport.  This time, I grabbed the chicklets on the way out. Totally reminded be of 8th grade Spanish class.

For dinner we had a reservation at Olive & Ivy. This place had a bunch of good reviews so I was excited to check it out. It definitely was not worth the hype. The menu was expansive so its suitable for picky eaters and the place itself is massive.  Like most of the Arizona eateries, there was a big outdoor patio which was located on the water. Unfortunately, our hostess refused to sit us out there, the service was slow, and the food was nothing special.  I enjoyed my Mediterranean salad  but how do you mess that up?  My friends got some sort of chewy chicken and overcooked shrimp risotto .  Neither were impressed with their meal.

On the first day I woke up super early and  strolled the quiet streets of Old Town and ended up at Cartel Coffee. I grabbed an iced chai tea latte and a cookie because they looked freaking amazing and it did not disappoint.  

We met for breakfast at Farm & Craft.  You order and pay at the counter which I loved. It’s great if you’re with a large group and makes bill splitting easy because you pay for what you got.  I got a green juice which was very good and then I also ordered an egg sandwich.  Also good.  My friends enjoyed their food as well but the acai bowl was a little on the small side.  I saw on Instagram they serve drinks in watermelons. I would have loved one of those but it was way too early.

Image

Didn’t snag a pic so got it from here.

We also ate at another Mexican joint, Cien Agave which was a couple of blocks from our hotel.  Got guac and tacos as well.  Tacos came with rice and beans which was nice.  Also tried a prickly pear martini. Apparently prickly pear was very Arizona.  It was a little sweet for my liking. Overall food was enjoyable but I still preferred Diago Pops.

Spa Day: 

Did you know Scottsdale boasts the highest number of spas per capita in the entire United States?  So a spa was definitely on the to do list.  It’s not quite the mega spas like Miraval and the Enchantment but are still quite nice.

Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Princess.  It was a bit of a drive from Old Town – probably about 20 minutes.   We had a 2 o’clock appointment and arrived before noon to enjoy the amenities.  They had a pool with  a stunning  mountain view and poolside service. I enjoyed a mojito and salad.  There was an outdoor waterfall jacuzzi next to a picturesque courtyard.  Inside there’s the usual hot tub, cold pool, sauna, steam room, swiss shower, and nap pods. 

After enjoying the extras I had the Havasupai Falls service. This full body service was more about releasing toxins and negativity energy so it began with a sage smudging followed by a dessert salt body scrub.  Then, I rinsed it all off then sat in a magnesium bath for about 20 minutes. I wasn’t aware a bath was part of the service and annoyed that I had to waste 20 minutes of it in a tub.  At least my lady left cold wash cloths, ice water, and hydrating spray by the side to make it more enjoyable.  After that a quick hot stone massage, then I got cacooned in a warm herbal wrap which is basically wet towels and blankets that help you sweat and release toxins.  Closed it out with a Sedona red clay mask on my face and a warm coconut scalp massage. 

Overall it was a very relaxing experience. However, it cost almost $500 with tip and it definitely was not worth that. I wish I got a massage or something basic.

I did a lot of research on the spas before landing on Well & Being.  Other spas that looked super cool were Joya at the Omni which was Moroccan themed, Sanctuary Resort & Spa, The Four Seasons Spa, and Spa Avania at they Hyatt Regency.

Shopping:

We road an Uber bike from our hotel to Fifth Avenue.  There aren’t exactly bike lanes so I almost got hit by a car pulling out of a bank soooo needless to say we did not take them back to the hotel.

Fifth Avenue in Old Town is filled with boutiques and souvenir shops.  It annoyingly is open from 10/11 to 6PM which is smack dab in the middle of the day.  It’s not like New York. The owners seem to stroll in and open whenever they want.

The stroll down the street is enjoyable. There’s a couple of statues and many benches with cool stats.

There were a few cute stores there but I wasn’t really impressed.  I wouldn’t say this is a must do if you only have a couple of days.  However, if you LOVE shopping, you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.

NightLife:

Around 9 on a Friday, we took a golf cart for $3 each to the Entertainment District in Old Town.  I was in awe when we arrived. There were so many bars in one location and it’s easy to bar hop.

Every girls trip I find my favorite spot and always end up back there. For this trip it was Dierks Bentley Whiskey Row.  The early hours played country but the late hours played top 40.  Loved the low key vibes here.  Bathroom line was quite long though. Def not enough stalls.

Then we went across the street to El Hefe.  The music here was more techno and dance.  There was a tiny “dance floor” in the front by the DJ.  It definitely wasn’t the scene.

After that we went to The District which is connected to Maya. It was a nice open outdoor area but the party was definitely not there that night either.

We also checked out the Bottled Blonde. Holy crowded.  When you walk in there are all bottle service tables around the perimeter. There’s only a tiny space between those tables and the bar and security is constantly pushing you forward.  The crowd there was also super drunk and obnoxious.

There were many other bars there that we didn’t have the opportunity to check out.  I also feared that this would be super young and collegy but it wasn’t.

In addition to those bars in the entertainment district there were many random bars scattered throughout. Some with rooftops, etc.  So definitely a heavy bachelorette party location.

Botch and Learn

  • There’s a little River in Old Town. I insisted we had to take an Uber to Olive & Ivy because of that bridge. Nope, it’s completely walkable.
  • We only stayed in Scottsdale 2 nights I would have liked one more and I wish I also explored Phoenix.
  • We rented a car to drive from Scottsdale to Sedona and the Grand Canyon. Luckily I had my Hertz points otherwise for 4 nights and 5 days it would have been almost $700!  That’s cray. Instead it was just shy of $200.  So expect pricy car rentals.
  • For the most part, I did everything I wanted to do. I was a little bummed that I didn’t fit in a hike through the Sonoran dessert.

Motivational Playlist

You see, I love music.  For me, music is my meditation, happiness booster, motivator, mind setter, my escape but also a way to ground myself in reality.  Damn, who knew one thing (music) could be that much to someone (me). Spotify creates a personalized playlist just for you tiled “Your Top Songs 2018”.  It’s composed of your most listened to songs throughout the year. As I review my playlist, I’m hit with a common theme.  In 2018, I really focused on living each day fully and getting back up. Whether I succeeded at that or not is debatable.  But these are the songs that inspired me daily to turn that frown upside down. 

Warning: I rarely listen to new music anymore, and I don’t have a particular genre I favor so… here you have it.  Songs to inspire.

I Lived, One Republic

“Hope that you spend your days, but they all add up and when that sun goes down, hope you raise your cup”

Seriously, I’ve contemplated what does it mean when someone says a life well lived. This… this song is what it means.

Good Day, DNCE

“Today is gonna be a good day.  Don’t care what anybody else say.  I don’t need a fortune cookie, to tell me the way I’m feeling.  Gonna be a good day.  A good day”

This is the song I played when it didn’t feel like it was going to be a good day LOL.  It says good day so much, I suppose it was hypnotic and could reframe my point of view.

Dare You, Hardwell

“I dare you to fall, and lay on the ground. I dare you to feel, I dare you to be.”

Someone sent me this song once before Hardwell was even a thing.  Likely because I was closed off and super cautious.  This is the song I play when I need to remind myself to take some risks!

Life’s About to Get Good, Shania Twain

“Oh! Life’s about joy, life’s about pain.  It’s all about forgiving and the will to walk away.  I’m ready to be loved, and love the way I should. Life’s about, life’s about to get good.”

I think this is more of a breakup song, but it still speaks to me in the same way that Good Day does.  You gotta believe that the future is bright.

 

Be As You Are, Mike Posner

“There are moments when you fall to the ground, but you are stronger than you feel you are now.  You don’t always have to speak so loud, no just be as you are.  Life is not always a comfortable ride, everybody’s got scars that they hide. And everybody plays the fool sometimes, yeah… Just be as you are”

This is the song that reminds me to learn from my botches, be authentic, and get out of my comfort zone.

 

Anything Could Happen, Ellie Goulding

“But now I’ve seen it through, and now I know the truth.  That anything could happen, anything could happen…”

Couldn’t tell you what this song is about but I remember Fifth Harmony’s performance on X Factor clear as day.  They were the underdogs who sang this song – and you know what anything could happen… like pretty sure they lost and went on to become one of the greatest girl bands (then the girl band with all the drama that is no more… but hey I’m keeping it positive.)

Remember the Name, Fort Minor

“This is ten percent luck, Twenty percent skill, Fifteen percent concentrated power of will, Five percent pleasure
Fifty percent pain, And a hundred percent reason to remember the name.”

I interpret this song as someone doing what they love and pursing it hard core.  Not for the fame, not for the money, but because he’s passionate, good at it, and works hard sooooo those things follow. 

 

We Got The World, Icona Pop

“They say you’re a freak when we’re having fun.  Say you must be high when we’re spreading love.  But we’re just living life and we never stop. We got the world. We got the wo-wo-wo-wo-wo.”

Probably another love song… because what song isn’t [insert hands up by side emoji].  But I interpret it as life is about fun and don’t care what other people think about you.  Is that a stretch?!

 

A Moment Like This, Kelly Clarkson

“Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this. Some people search forever for that one special kiss.  Oh, I can’t believe its happening to me.  Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this.”

This song reminds me of Kelly’s moments on American Idol.  It reminds me of humble beginnings and again… anything could happen.  It’s the song I’d expect to hear playing in my head when my biggest dreams are realized.

 

 

2018 Year In Review

Well, it’s that time of year again.  The time to look back and reflect on all that’s transpired this year.  I have to say, this year was WAY better than last year.  If I had to sum it up quickly – I travelled a boat load, got a promotion, paid off my student loans, lost some weight, gained it back, started a side hustle, and might just end this year as an Aunt!

I kicked off the new year with a trip to Antigua.  I love me a beach vacation. 

Then I travelled a little for work, and luckily mixed in some pleasure.  I cruised to Bermuda aboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. Seriously, Bermuda has the prettiest water I’ve ever seen!  This was the trip that totally derailed my diet and it was all down hill from there.  Whoops.  Work had its annual conference in Columbus Ohio.  I wasn’t excited about going, but it ended up being a lovely city.  They have tons of cute shops, bars, and eateries.  I could picture going there for a girls trip for sure! 

Bermuda

The highlight of the year was a trip to Greece. I am SO spoiled.  Nana and her sister took me and my girl cousins to an unforgettable trip to Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos.  While there, we road donkeys, chartered a sunset sail, visited ancient ruins, hit up the beach, ate and drank A LOT, and so much more.  If you haven’t been, add this to your bucket list.

mykonos with fam

Just before my trip to Greece, I flew to Miami for an interview!  While there, I explored Brickell and Wynwood.  I envisioned a future there.  I obsessed over apartments, made new budgets, and explored extracurricular activities.  I saw myself getting fit, walking on the beach, taking road trips to all these Florida cities, and hosting my home peeps for a visit.  I was hopeful, but scared as heck that my life could change so drastically especially with a niece on the way!  Anyway, it didn’t work out because I was out of their budget. BUT they reached out months later to see If I was still interested and things were moving quite fast.

As I was re-interviewing for that position, I was also being considered for a promotion at work.  It was such an anxious time, because my future was up in the air. I had two excellent options on the table – what would I do if both worked out? How would I feel if none did?

In the end, I stayed at my current job and was promoted to a Senior Manager of Program Strategy and Experience.  It’s nice to finally be recognized for hard work.  This year, I’ve grown a tremendous amount professionally.  For starters, I was given a platform to connect with our Representatives on Facebook Live.  I love being in the spotlight and shooting videos is super fun for me.  I also learned to articulate my opinions and back it up with data, stick up for myself, and think bigger, badder, better.  I have to be honest though, I was super stressed at times and let it spill into my personal life.  I cried often, became depressed, and even wrote my resignation letter- I was seriously 2 seconds away from quitting.   I stuck it out, and I guess it all worked out.  That in and of itself was a big learning experience for me.  I know that the tough times are there to make you stronger, and they pass.

I also started selling Avon.  I made a few extra hundred dollars from this endeavor, and I love trying out all of their products.  If you’re interested in shopping – check out my online Avon store.

As if you didn’t hear enough about my jet setting life I took yet another trip.  I did a European tour with two girlfriends.  We met a friend we previously studied abroad with in her home town of Copenhagen.  We then went to Budapest and ended the trip in Iceland

Copenhagen

In November, I went to Asheville North Carolina with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while.  We visited the Biltmore (Vanderbilt’s home) which was beautifully decorated for Christmas.  We ate a lot, shopped even more, explored the many breweries, and enjoyed the night life.  This trip happened to coincide with a huge milestone for me.  I finished paying off my student loans!  I wiped out my savings to do this, but it’s such a relief to not carry that burden anymore.  Next year, I’ll focus on replenishing that.  Speaking of student loans… I also had my 10 year college reunion.  Holy smokes… where does the time go?

I celebrated by 33rd birthday this year. For some reason, I felt old this year!  I didn’t really plan any celebrations but my friends kept surprising me with dinners and nights out.  I think people sang “Happy Birthday” to me the most out of any other year. Just prior to my birthday, my parents had to put our family dog Roxie down.  I’m glad I got to see her just before at Thanksgiving.

Entertainment-wise, I saw the broadway play Beautiful. Finally checked out Oktoberfest and Bear Mountain, saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, checked out the Liberty Science Center after Dark, saw my first outdoor concert at PNC (Lady Antebellum & Darius Rucker), took a weekend trip upstate to Troy New York, went to the San Gennaro Festival, checked out the Pizza Museum… sensing a theme that I like italian food LOL.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I ate out this year.  Especially by the water. That seemed to be a recurring theme, I always wanted to be by the water! I also enjoyed my parents boat – hi light of course … taking it out to eat on the water.  I also got back into crafting, reading, and baking more.   Finally, this may have been the first year I didn’t have any weddings to attend in like a decade.  I certainly attended my fair share of baby showers though.  Speaking of which….

I’m hoping to close out the year with the arrival of my first niece.  I can’t wait until Savannah makes her appearance in this world and I get to see my twin sister become a mama and me an auntie.

4 Day Road Trip in Iceland

I hate driving, cold weather and don’t appreciate nature as much as I should. Yet, I still ventured to Iceland in September with two of my girlfriends.  By the end of the trip, I learned to appreciate nature more.  My peaks of the trip were the natural spas – that’s nature right?!

I have to be honest, my friend Sera made this itinerary.  I then googled the heck out of it to learn more and put a picture to each location because at that point, it was a foreign language to me – literally.  I also looked up the directions and played with the order of stops to reduce travel time.  What follows is the most comprehensive, easy to follow four day road trip. It’s epic.

Here was the order of stops:  AIRPORT -> HELLA->HOFN->VIK->REYKJAVIK

  • Reykjavik -> Hella (4 hrs driving)
  • Hella -> Vik ->  Hofn (5.5 hrs driving)
  • Hofn -> Vik (3.5 hrs driving)
  • Vik->Reykjavik (2 hrs driving)

Day 1: 

We began our trip straight from the airport.  No stopping in Reykjavik.  I’ll admit, it was exhausting to have an early flight and then immediately begin a road trip. But looking back, I wouldn’t have changed it.

Thingvellir National Park: I’d say this was fairly anti-climatic compared to everything we saw. But it broke up the drive.  Parking will cost you $7 and you could go for a walk/hike.

Kerid Crater: My friend recommended this and it was a great stop.  The water was the most beautiful color I’ve seen and there were lots of photo opportunities.  You’d probably only spend about 20 minutes here.  It’s $4 per person to “hike” up to the crater and down.

Geysir: It’s a famous hot spring in the geothermal area.  You could see tons of water explode out of the earth – and it’s all natural.  It’s actually pretty remarkable if you think about it.  A few warnings: don’t touch the water because apparently it’s super hot and the sulfur makes it smell like rotten eggs. As an aside, there’s a cafe there with a really great mocha.  You’re going to need it if you start your trip straight from the airport after pulling an all nighter (yup, I did that). 

Gulfoss Waterfall: It was way to cold by the time we got to this waterfall. And for some reason, it was cold by all of the waterfalls. It was massive but I literally looked at it, snapped a photo, and ran back to the car.  Looks like you can walk around it.

We ended the day at Laugarvatn Fontana Spa.  A great recommendation from my friend, and perhaps the peak of my trip.  What a great way to end a long day! It seemed much more upscale than the Budapest baths, very pristine.  The view was gorgeous.  It was so relaxing and it’s seriously miracle water.  They also have a buffet where you can grab dinner.  You must try their volcano bread – it’s baked in the earth and scrumptious! (Did I just use that word?)

After the spa, we drove about an hour and a half to Hella.

Day 2:

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall:  You can climb the stairs and view the waterfall from a different angle. I also believe it’s possible to walk behind the waterfall. We didn’t do this because we didn’t want to get wet, although I’m not certain we would have gotten wet. But I swear I saw people drenched there and blame it on that.

Skogafoss Waterfall:  Definitely not the largest waterfall, but by far my favorite out of the many I saw this trip.  It’s so picturesque and we were lucky enough to catch it while there was a rainbow!  Apparently that happens often which is a result of the spray from the waterfall.

Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck: We saw cars, pulled over, and thought we were walking towards a black sand beach.  There was a sign upon entering that it would be a 3-4 hour hike to get to the plane. We laughed at it like “no way” and had every intention of just going to the beach that looked close enough.  Well it was a never ending path along black “gravel”.  We haphazardly ended up at the plane.  I wouldn’t recommend you walk out of your way to go, as it’s not that impressive and there’s not even a good story behind it. However, I think we did the round trip walk in about 2 hours, and we weren’t hustling (that’s for sure).  Iceland is  filled with natural miracles and perhaps the miracle here is the mirage. Warning: objects appear closer than they are.  If you want to though, you can endure the walk for the “gram” because it was some of the most impressive photos I got on my trip.

Vik’s Black Sand Beach & Dyrhólaey: It was stunning but we didn’t see puffins 🙁 

We then stopped in Vik for dinner at Sudur Vik.  It was extremely cute and we were all happy with our meals.  It was a bit pricy for what we got. I got a salad and glass of wine and it was about $50. 

After all of the stops, we drove about 3 hours to Hofn.  We saved the stops along the route for tomorrow.

Day 3:

Snowmobiling: We used the company Iceland Advice to snow mobile on Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier.  It includes a ride up a rigorous mountain which you wouldn’t be able to drive on your own and then one hour of snowmobiling.  There was another company that operated there, but their tours were bigger and on more of a paved path. We were more free.  Our instructor was a member of search and rescue, so I felt safe with him.  We did go quite slow.  We happened to go on a super overcast and gloomy day so it just seemed like a white abyss. But if you go on a clear day, the views are supposed to be spectacular.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: This photo doesn’t do it justice.  The color of the broken glaciers and lagoon are out of this world.  It’s hard to believe that this is all natural. This is a MUST on your Iceland to do list.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon:  So I really didn’t want to go here. I was exhausted and just wanted to head back to the hotel to get my free wi-fi.  As I told you earlier, I looked up pictures before so as we were driving in, I thought this rinky dink thing on the side was the canyon.  But we kept driving up.  To be honest, it looked like we were heading the wrong way, but we kept going and then we found it.  You walk up a few stairs and see the most surreal thing ever. Like really, this photo isn’t even edited.

Skaftafell National Park: You can hike here and the views are kind of nice. But at this point in the trip, I was tired, cranky, and lazy. Plus I had gotten some pretty terrible news from back home and din’t feel like going for a hike. So I hunkered up in their cafeteria while my friends walked. Best – move – ever.  Wi-Fi, warmth, and wine.  PS. my friends said I missed nothing.

Stay near Vik in Edinborg, a super small town but it has more affordable hotels.

Day 4:

Blue Lagoon:  I think this is on everyone’s Iceland bucket list, and for good reason.  This is insanely incredible.  Where else can you immerse yourself in the bluest waters that’s filled with minerals and feel good power as you look out on rock formations unlike anything you’ve seen.  The water is hot, and it just feels amazing in the cold air as you see the steam rise.  You do have to reserve this in advance as they only let in a limited amount of people.  It’ll cost you about $90, but you can stay as long as you’d like. It includes a locker to store your belongings too and there’s free wi-fi there.  I was concerned about a few things before going –

  • Was it a good idea to go before flying home? Yes, best move.  I was sore from all the walking previously and this helped to relieve it. I still had plenty of time to enjoy it and then head to the airport which was about 20 minutes away.
  • Was it going to destroy my hair? No. They provide conditioner to put in your hair to protect it.  The minerals in it can be drying but I didn’t experience any of that. I debated not showering before heading to the airport, but I did and my hair is A-OK.
  • Was it going to live up to the hype?  Yes. It’s like Wicked on Broadway. You go in with the highest of expectations, and they’re surpassed.

After this, you can check out Reykjavik. I headed straight to the airport but my friends checked it out and said I missed nothing.

A Few Tips:

  • Gas is fairly pricy, be prepared for that. 
  • While I didn’t drive, road signs were different. You may want to study up on those beforehand.  There was NO traffic anywhere, so you’re good with that.
  • The food options are slim. I’d suggest sticking to finding hotels with breakfast and having one meal out a day.
  • Bring boots.
  • Wear layers. 
  • Don’t bother doing your hair, it’s too windy. 
  • Don’t plan on partying, there’s no place to party on the road trip (that I found, although Reykjavik is supposed to have some night life)

Plan a Trip to Budapest

Budapest is beautiful, fun, and affordable.  It has a great mixture of nightlife, food, sightseeing, and relaxation.  This city should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Where to Stay:

I guess it depends on what experience you’re looking for.  The Danube River divides Budapest into “Buda” and “Pest”. 

The Buda side of town is more laid back and probably better for families and older people. Attractions there include the Royal Palace and Fisherman’s Bastion.

The Pest side of town is probably better for most people who want to be close to all of the action.  This area is the heart of shopping and night life.  I stayed in an Air BNB in District VI.  It was perfect, because most attractions, restaurants, and nightlife were within walking distance.  District V and District VII are also good options.  District VII is where most of the bars are.

What to See:

Fisherman’s Bastion: This is on Castle Hill on the Buda side of town. It’s a viewing terrace that overlooks the Danube River. The architecture is absolutely breathtaking but the views are equally as stunning.  There’s also a little cafe up there next to the arches.  I had a Palinka cocktail at a cafe there, and it was one of my favorite moments of the trip.  [As a side note, Palinka is a Hungarian liquor. The menu made it sound like a sangria, but it most certainly is not that.  It’s more like a fruity brandy.] 

Thermal Baths:  There are a few baths Széchenyi, Rudas, and Gellert.  I only made it to Széchenyi, the largest spa complex in Europe.  I thought it was lovely but my friends thought it was dirty. It was less than $20 to enter.  It’s some fine architectural work and the medicinal springs are filled with water from deep within the earth filled with all these minerals. Couldn’t tell you what minerals these are, but I know they’re great for you and I left feeling relaxed and refreshed. I was so sore from walking 10-13 miles a day around the city and it felt like miracle water to me.

Danube River: There are tons of cruises that line the river but also lot of boat restaurants.  We opted for a night cruise that was included with our hop on hop off ticket. It was lovely to see the city lit up at night. They served alcohol on board too.

Heroe’s Square: Right near the famous Szechenyi baths is Heroe’s Square.  It’s a large plaza with a center column and statues throughout.  

Funicular – You can take a tram car up the mountain. It’s a super quick trip and lets you off right by Buda Castle and other beautiful scenary. You can see the whole Pest side of town – bridges, Parliament, etc.

Other things to Consider: Opera House, Parliament, Museum of Terror (if that’s your thing), Synagogue, St Stephan’s Basilica, Buda Castle, Budapest eye (ferris wheel).

Night Life:

I will preface this by saying I was in Budapest mid-week.  But the night life was still booming.  It seems to be acceptable to go out every night of the week. However, the majority of late night party goers were definitely college aged students and tourists.  I’m sure it’s entirely different on the weekend.  But either way, it’s fun!

Budapest is famous for its Ruinous pubs. These are concentrated in District VII and are bars in run down buildings that each have their own unique flair to them.  It kind of reminded me of Rainey Street in Austin Texas.  The main night life streets are Kiraly Street and Kazinczy Street.

  • Szimpla Kent – probably the most famous ruin pub and a must see. It’s the first one created.  It’s located in a run down building with a court yard and some weird decor from a hanging gnome to a Barbie straddling a keg.

  • Gozdu Uvar – This is more like a “mall” of bars and restaurants. There are a lot of choices here of places to eat and drink. We just happened to stumble across it when walking home from dinner. We went to Vicky Barcelona there which was tiny but had a great DJ.  I entered with my leftover pizza box from dinner which I wouldn’t recommend LOL.
  • There is a party complex. I can’t tell you the name of it because it’s composed of over a dozen different bars/clubs. I believe the famous bars within are Instant and Fogas.  We ended up here every night in Budapest. It’s perfect because you can roam from bar to bar each with it’s own feel and music. Our favorite room was under a giant parachute.

Our Air BNB host also recommended these places, although I didn’t have the opportunity to check them out.

  • Wine Bars: Doblo Wine and Bar, DiVino Wine Bar, Kadarka Bar
  • More Ruin Pubs: Corvinteto is a rooftop above an old supermarket, Ellato Kert, Ellato Haz

I also grabbed a drink at this place called 360 bar. It was 1,000 forints to get in and it did have views of most of the city. Definitely over priced compared to the rest of the city, but it’s got nothing on New York.

What to Eat:

I’m a picky eater, so not the best to recommend food.  However, I know these items are fairly unique / popular in Hungary

  • Chimney Cake – Pull apart bread rolled in topping cooked rotisserie style. I didn’t have one while there (biggest regret) but I have had one before covered with cinnamon sugar and filled with a little nutella.
  • Stews & goulash 
  • Anything with paprika
  • Kifli – Shaped like a crescent, but bread. I had this once there – wasn’t impressed.
  • Langos – Hungarian deep fried dough made with mashed potatoes and flower.  I had a chicken burger on this bread from a food truck at this food truck lot called Karavan and it was A-mazing.  But it looks like they also turn this into their own unique pizza-type thing.

Know Before You Go:

  • You can get a lot for your money there.  When I was there $1 USD = 280 Hungarian Forints.  To put that into perspective a cocktail was 1,000 forints.  It equated to like $3.  I was able to get a fancy meal out with drinks for $20.
  • Do bring money with you or grab some from an ATM, many places were cash only.
  • We were warned about the taxis from several different people. Seems they take advantage of clueless tourists that don’t understand the currency.  We experienced it ourselves when the taxi driver claimed to have a broken credit card machine after picking us up from the airport. When she discovered we had no cash and there were no ATMs on the block her machine magically worked.

Weight Watchers Essential Shopping List

I am loving the Weight Watchers Freestyle Program.  Every food is assigned a point value based on calories, protein, sugar, and fat.  The food starts with a points value based on calories.  Then, the points go up based on sugar and fat.  Which explains why you should avoid regular cake and cookies (ugh).  The point value goes down based on protein. So it’s no surprise high protein, low calorie foods are also very low in points and should make up a good portion of your diet.

I’ve been on the program for a few months and these are the essentials I always have in the house. It allows me to have low point options at the tip of my fingertips to stay on track.  Soon, I’ll write about how I use them all, but for now stock up on the below. You won’t be disappointed.  I’ve scanned the aisles and found the lowest point options and alternatives available.

Frozen:

  • Birds Eye Zucchini Lentil Pasta – 3 Points (tastes just like real pasta to me)
  • Jone’s Turkey Sausage – 1 Point for 2 or 2 Points for 4 
  • Trader Joe’s Spiralized Zucchini – 0 Points
  • Trader Joe’s Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons -1 Point for  4 Pieces
  • Wegmens Special Blend Grilled Vegetables – 0 Points
  • Trader Joe’s Hold the Cone Mini Ice Cream Cone -3 Points for 1
  • Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Macaroni and Cheese – 8 Points
  • Riced Cauliflower – 0 Points

Fresh

  • Mini Watermelons – 0 Points
  • Grapes – 0 Points
  • Baby Carrots – 0 Points
  • Potatoe – 5 Points
  • Bananas – 0 Points

Refrigerator

  • Fat Free Greek Yogurt – 0 Points
  • Kraft Fat Free Mozzarella – 0 Points
  • Trader Joe’s Lite Mozzarella – 1 Point
  • Trader Joe’s Lite Cheddar – 2 Points
  • Jarlsberg Swiss Lite – 1 Point
  • Laughing Cow, Creamy Swiss Lite – 1 Point
  • Cabot Sharp Lite Snack Pack – 1 Point
  • Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla Milk – 1 Point
  • Eggs – 0 Points
  • Egg Whites – 0 Points

Meat:

  • 98/99% Fat Free Ground Turkey or Chicken – 0 Points
  • Chicken Breast – 0 Points
  • Boars Head Oven Gold Turkey – 0 Points

Pantry:

  • Skinny Pop – 3 Points for the individual serving
  • Pretzels – 3 Points for an ounce
  • Fiber One 90 Calorie Cookie Brownies – 4 Points
  • Truvia Baking Blend – 0 Points
  • Joseph’s Lavash – 2 Points
  • Joseph’s 60 Calorie Pitas – 1 Point
  • Nature’s Own 40 Calorie Wheat Bread – 1 Point Per Slice
  • Good Thins Corn Crackers – 3 Points
  • Lily’s Dark Chocolate – 7 Points for the whole bar
  • Premiere Pro Protein Shake – 2 Points
  • Quest Vanilla Milkshake Protein Powder – 1 Point
  • PB 2 – 1 Point

Condiments: These are a great way to add flavor without the guilt.

  • Siracha – 0 Points
  • Soy Sauce – 0 Points
  • Teriyaki Sauce – 1 Point
  • Buffalo Sauce – 1 Point
  • I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray – 0 Points
  • Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise – 1 Point
  • Pam Cooking Spray – 0 Point
  • Garlic Salt – 0 Points
  • Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel Seasoning – 0 Points
  • Taco Seasoning – 1 Point
  • Cary’s Sugar Free Syrup – 0 Points

T3 Curling Iron Review & Tutorial

My sister gave me the T3 convertible curling iron base for Christmas. She double checked with me prior to see if that was an appropriate gift because it’s pricy at $100, but you kind of need a barrel to make it work.  Barrels are sold separately and there’s a variety to choose from.  I purchased the 1.25″ barrel which T3 positions as the tool to create polished curls.  

My first impression was pure frustration.  I could not get the barrel to lock into the base. It should be so simple, you literally just place the barrel in the base, then turn the knob to the lock positioned. However, it wouldn’t rotate to that position!  It took me an hour to try to figure it out the first time.  I’m questioning if I got a faulty one, I’m just an idiot, or it’s truly that difficult. 

Here’s what I loved about the curling iron.  It’s beautiful plus heats up quickly and evenly.  It creates very smooth curls without the snags.  I do like the curling iron, but not for that price.  I’m eager to try the other bases and see if my opinion on it changes. 

Anyway, here’s a tutorial using the 1.25″ curling iron which creates very loose, almost non-existent curls. 

Whenever you’re curling your hair, here is the holy grail rule. Hold the curling iron so the clamp faces the front, and twist the curling iron towards the back. I’m not sure I articulated that as well as I could have in the video.  Also, you have to keep clamping and unclamping the curling iron as you twist backwards.  

What you do when you finish curling your hair makes all the difference.  I like to shake my hair, finger comb it, and twist it backwards. It takes out most of the curl but leaves your hair with a great bountiful shape.

 

I am totally botching and learning as I create these videos. Next time, I’ll be more conscious of my use of the word “so”. I’m afraid to count how many times I said that! I also know I didn’t look at the camera. I need to figure out how to position the camera and the mirror so that it doesn’t appear so obvious that I’m looking in the mirror. Botch and learn with me.

t3 curling iron

What to Expect at a Networking Event

I attended my first meet up this week. I went in super nervous and awkward. Because well, that’s how I act when I meet new people… except if it’s part of my job because then I rock it. Why is that?!

Anyway, my nerves did fade pretty quickly. It’s amazing what the power of a nametag does (and a glass of vino). It gives people permission to come and talk to you. What a concept. I’m debating wearing one every night, but I’m not certain it will have the same effect when everyone else isn’t wearing one too.

Everyone else is there for the same reason – to network! I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be like a singles networking event or a professional networking event. But I realized, that actually doesn’t need a label. You’re just there to meet people you might not have talked to otherwise. I actually found it highly entertaining and learned a few new tidbits – for better or worse.

The evening started meeting Dante. Dante worked in the “restaurant industry” and wanted to be President. He talked about the corruption of politics and how he wanted in on that… no joke. I had questioned what on earth I had gotten myself into.

Then Bob (I think that was his name) came over, a gay web developer. I enjoyed talking to him because I wanted to know more about web development and what they do. I also questioned the cost of a recent project I had commissioned at work and felt I was getting taken advantage of – he confirmed I likely was! He also taught me that jewish is an ethnicity (to which Dante argued that tooth and nail).

I also met Ray the old cyber security man and a bunch of other characters whom I forgot most of their names. Although there was one name I couldn’t forget, and that was Shady. Yes, his real name was Shady – he whipped out an ID to prove it.

I missed the ice breaker game because the founder thought we were hotel guests that stole nametags.   Luckily he realized the mistake and gave us free passes for another networking event of our choice. However we did inquire about the game – and here’s the low down. Everyone received a word on a piece of paper at check-in. You had to find people with other words and try to make a sentence together. The best sentence won.

As the night progressed, Dante became a little too drunk after downing several long island iced teas on a Wednesday. I’d like to say I wasn’t judging, but I was. He started stumbling and fell asleep on the couch. As I conversed with the other networkers, we all questioned what we should do. Finally, one girl just got up and got the organizer – that was the best choice ever and I wouldn’t have even thought to do it. The problem was in his hands now.  While I talk about Dante’s drunken antics, the whole event was relatively tame.  Most of the people I talked to, didn’t even have a drink.

We all asked several questions of each other. I think these were the best ones to break the ice and get to know someone a little better and find some common ground.

  • If money didn’t matter, what would you do? We all shared and found we had common enough interests – my friend was going to be a barista, Bob could play music there, I would emcee talent night and so-on. At that point, the conversation dovetailed into this luxury coffee made of coffee beans which cats poop out…
  • What’s your roommate horror story? Because just about everyone has had a roommate and a story, even if it wasn’t the horrific.
  • What’s the worse date you’ve been on? 
  • What was the best date you’ve ever been on? Most people talked about the person, but me and my friend talked more about the experience / what we did. 

At the end of the night, I didn’t find a future husband or any job leads. But I stepped out of my comfort zone. I learned to talk to new people and keep an open mind. I know if I continue to attend networking event, it would help me build my confidence so I could approach anyone and have an interesting conversation with them. Even though we all had different jobs, there were so many common themes and connections. Overall, I had a good time and would  totes go back.