To the ‘End of the World’ and Back–A short recap of my trip to South Africa

Sunset in South Africa

Let me just start by saying this: One week is not NEARLY enough time to experience South Africa. However, a few days is no doubt better than none. The flight alone is 15 hours from NYC to Johannesburg, and then another two-hour flight into Cape Town.

The journey there was quite long, but my friends and I were nothing short of psyched once we arrived.

Selfie in South Africa

Exploring the V&A Waterfront

Naturally I expected to be dropped straight into the Lion King–surprise, surprise–Cape Town is nothing like that and I’m slightly embarrassed for thinking so.

Ferry to Robben Island

Ferry to Robben Island

Instead of boring you with a play-by-play of my trip I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves and leave you with a running list of do’s and don’ts if you ever find yourself in South Africa. The first being…

DO: GO TO SOUTH AFRICA!!!!

Helicopter tour South Africa

Views from our helicopter tour over Cape Town

DO: Take a helicopter tour…it will never be this affordable anywhere else!! The views are incredible and you’ll spot places you never knew existed (ahem, go explore those places).

DON’T: Take too many selfies in the helicopter because they won’t nearly be as cool as what’s right before your eyes.

Hiking Table Mountain Cape Town

Hiking Table Mountain

DO: Hike Table Mountain (don’t wimp out and take the cable car if you are in good health. There’s no feeling like reaching the top knowing how hard you worked for that insane view). Also, if you meet a mysterious music man on your hike, DON’T let him convince you there is no water at the top…THERE IS.

DON’T: Hike Table Mountain on the hottest day of the year (over 108 degrees) with less than two liters of water. Yes, the water is heavy, but you will fear for your life when you run out halfway to the top..

Feeding wild seals

Feeding wild seals in Hout Bay

DO: Track down the man who feeds the wild seals in Hout Bay. For a small tip he will share his fish scraps with you and lure the seals to the side of the marina.

DON’T: Let this man pressure you into feeding the seals with your mouth (I didn’t)…it’s much more entertaining (and sanitary) to watch him do it instead.

Cheetah cubs in South Africa

Visiting a Cheetah sanctuary

DO: Stop at the Cheetah Outreach center en route to Stellenbosch for a quick Cheetah encounter.

DON’T: Pet the Cheetah’s anywhere but their backs…belly rubs are simply out of the question.

wine tasting in South Africa

Wine tasting at Ernie Els winery in Stellenbosch

DO: Visit Ernie Els winery in Stellenbosch and request a fellow named Ollie to lead your wine tasting. Until this moment you will never know just how much a bottle of wine truly contains.

For instance..

“Notes of leather, wild asparagus, optimism and the touch of a friendly fall breeze grazing your cheeks.” All in a single sip? But, of course.

Cheese plate in South Africa

Trying Springbok carpaccio for the first time at Ernie Els

DO: Try the local cuisine. South Africa is all about the meats. Springbok carpaccio was by far my pick of the trip. Melts in your mouth.

DON’T: Book your wine tour with a group or tour bus. Having a private driver (really affordable) means you can drink and pine after the sommeliers on your own time :)

safari in South Africa

On Safari in Kruger National Park

DO: Bring your best camera with you on Safari AND binoculars. Not every animal is just hanging out on the side of the road waiting for you to pass by.

DON’T: Expect to get any decent photos with your iPhone.

elephants on safari

Elephants in Kruger National Park

DON’T: Withhold elephant sightings from the rest of your group on Safari…they will not be pleased when you confess later to hoarding such information.

DON’T: Leave your snacks unattended in your safari vehicle while you’re at lunch. Guaranteed a band of small monkeys will ransack the truck and take bites out of your candy bars.

Cape Point South Africa

Cape Point (a.k.a. “The end of the world”)

DON’T: Hesitate on booking a crazy trip like this. It could turn out to be the best trip of your life. My friends and I knew very little about where we were going when we booked the trip initially, but somehow we made it to the “end of the world” and back in one piece. I’d jump at the chance to go back again.

 

 

I booked a trip to South Africa on a whim.

Female side profile

 

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.”

I’m 23 years old and all I want to do is travel. Not completely out of the ordinary, I don’t think. Having a full-time job and relatively low funds hinder my wanderlust quite a bit, but if there’s a will..there’s a way!

I’ve been trying my darndest to save a little money so that I could take a big trip by the end of this year, having no clear destination in mind. Sure enough, I’m heading to South Africa tomorrow! For the next week I’ll be exploring beautiful Cape Town and going on Safari with two of my most cherished friends in the world.

Financially speaking this was not the wisest choice for me, but there are some experiences you simply cannot put a price tag on. My friends asked me one morning if I was interested in taking the trip and in less than 24 hours we all had our flights booked. I’ll start saving again once I’m back :)

This stage in my life–in anyone’s life–is in continual motion. In your twenties there are so many things that tug against your sanity and bring about whole new levels stress, sadness, and frustration. I think it takes real time and patience to find true stability and to grow into yourself. More time than we would hope. This is why I believe that when unique and exciting opportunities surface, you just have to grab onto them before you have any time to talk yourself out of it.

When I think about it, all this ‘twenty-something’ instability is a constant. It’s going to be there for a while. In that I almost find a little peace, which gives me room to be spontaneous and go on adventures like this one.

I’ve got a 16-hour flight ahead of me and a new keyboard for my iPad which means I’ll be lining up some good posts for you guys. Stay tuned for some trip highlights and healthy travel tips!

XO

 

The Best Kale Chips in the Game

kale chips

1) Urban Remedy 2) Trader Joes 3) Rhythm Superfoods

Consider me hooked.

I tried making my own a few years ago and burned them to a crisp (not hard to do). Since then I’ve avoided kale chips all together. However! After doing a cleanse from Urban Remedy which included kale chips daily, I couldn’t believe just how long I’ve gone without these AMAZING and healthy snacks in my life.

All three of these brands taste great. Trader Joe’s is the cheapest kale chips I’ve found anywhere at $3.99 per pack. I say try them all, though. Urban Remedy’s Sour Cream & Chive are unreal (they’re my favorite).

I’m almost inspired to make my own again…

Finding time to change.

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girl at the beachChange is an interesting concept. It’s something that is equally feared and sought. January brings with it a huge wave of change seekers. It seems that one January morning we’re going to wake up and have eliminated all of our bad habits. We’re going to dig ourselves out of whatever rut we’re in and we’re going to suddenly lead a healthier, happier life.

There are two ways change occurs: it either happens to you or you bring it on yourself.

For some reason most people tend to forget about the second part and think that whatever situation they’re in is because of luck or simply the cards they were dealt. However, I believe strongly in your ability to influence the direction of your life. Yes, some things are simply out of our control, but you are always in control of how you respond.

When you feel stuck it’s hard to visualize a way out, but know that there always is. You never have to accept things the way they are if you aren’t happy.

girl smiling on the beach

After talking to a few friends it seems the most difficult part about change is this fear of the unknown. The always looming possibility that things may not work out is frightening enough to stop action before it even starts. Sure, having a routine is comfortable–you know what you’re supposed to be doing and generally you know the outcome. If you’re not careful however, you could find yourself stuck wishing you were somewhere else rather than working to be.

Pursuing something different is uncomfortable, but in my experience it always works out it one way or another (success may not be as obvious as you’d like it to be though, remember that).

When you fall so deep into a routine you lose the thrill of life.

Change is what makes life exciting.

Whatever’s got you stressed or feeling sorry for yourself, make an effort to change it. Only you have the power to do so.

Not happy with your body? Move more, eat better.

Hate your job? Network like there is no tomorrow, don’t stop surfing those job boards, and think far outside the box. No one lands their dream job the first time around (or second, or third).

Constantly unhappy in your relationship? It might be time to move on. You know how you want to be treated and there will be someone out there who will go above and beyond your expectations–I promise. Just be patient and openminded.

Change is never easy and it rarely occurs overnight, but the time will pass anyway…so why not go for it?

 

DIY Hydrating Face Cream

Ingredients for homemade face cream

As a compliment to my previous post about the importance of using cleaner cosmetics I wanted to share with you a kick-ass DIY recipe for face cream. Now, I have incredibly dry skin. Some friends who shall remain nameless may have drawn comparisons between my skin and the desert or even reptilian skin–funny (but not too far off). In all honesty though, I’ve always had problems with my skin being so sensitive and dry, and this stuff has practically saved it.

Both my mother and I swear by it and use it morning and night. She was blessed with beautiful skin, and this cream has only made it that much better!

Beeswax for DIY face cream

Don’t be alarmed by the high concentration of oils in this recipe because it soaks right in after you apply and won’t cause breakouts like you may think! I may only be 23 years old, but hey, we all fear the inevitable arrival of wrinkles and aged skin. The secret to preventing wrinkles for as long as possible is keeping your skin adequately hydrated all the time. (Psssst, drinking lots of water is key). However, this particular recipe is rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids which help fight free radicals and also work to hydrate skin from the outside. Prevention over treatment is always the way to go 😉

After using this cream religiously for the past 6 months, I’ve seen my skin improve leaps and bounds. It’s also worked as a great primer under make-up and helps give your skin that dewy complexion.

homemade face cream recipe

This was my very first time actually making the cream myself. My mother has been making it for me all along :) To my surprise, it was not nearly as involved as I expected it to be! It took a quick 10-15 minutes to make.

Face cream recipe

 

Here’s what you’ll need: 

2 tbsp beeswax

1 tbsp shea butter

1/4 cup almond oil

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp vitamin E oil

Go for it:

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar or cup.

In a small pot, bring about 3 inches of water to a simmer.

Place the jar in the pot.

Let ingredients melt completely.

Pour liquid mixture into a new jar (one with a lid!) and let sit until hardened.

Store at room temperature and enjoy!!

If you test this one out let me know what you think :)

When beauty is toxic.

EWG Skin Deep Toxic Cosmetics

Take a good look at your medicine cabinet, your make up bag and your shower caddy. Everything look normal? Are you sure? Have you ever read the ingredients on the back of your face wash or shampoo? Probably not, right. If you happened to glance at it, it’s impossible to know what most of those ingredients are.

Think about how we eat for a moment. There’s a major emphasis on what’s in our food and what we should and shouldn’t be eating. The nutrition labels on food packaging help us gauge healthy versus not. It’s unfortunate however that we spend so much time focusing on what we put into our bodies and not nearly enough time on what we put ON our bodies.

The skin is your body’s largest organ. Whatever you slap on it gets soaked up through your pores. When you apply products that contain toxic ingredients those toxins find their way right into your body, and let me tell you–they’re not just hanging out in there all nice.

How many cosmetic products do you use over the course of one day? Not just makeup! Think face wash, toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, nail polish, perfume, lipstick, mascara…the list is long! Each of these products comes with a long list of ingredients (some healthier than others). Sadly, the cosmetic industry is very loosely regulated, which means that we have to be extra careful with what types of products we use! The Environmental Working Group, an incredible non-profit dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, has done some really great research on the matter. Here’s a quote I pulled from one of their articles on why this is so important:

“…a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA.” (FDA 2012).

Does anyone besides me find this alarming???

Research is still being done on the harmful effects of exposure to the kinds of chemicals found in cosmetics, but so far it’s not looking good. I’m no expert and I don’t claim to be, but consider the number of women and people in general who have cancer nowadays. Why? What in our environment today is contributing to this? When you think about it, we live in a completely different world than our grandparents and their parents did. Everything today is so highly processed and manufactured. We keep getting further and further away from “natural” and “real”.

Now! What I REALLY want to share is how to take charge as a consumer. I give complete credit to my beautiful mother for sharing this tool with me. The Environmental Working Group has a database called Skin Deep, where you can search more than 70,000 products to find out just how healthy your cosmetics are. I have the APP downloaded on my phone and all I have to do is scan the bar code of my soap or face cream to find the dirt on it. They rank products on a scale from 0-10 in terms of their toxicity, and also break down the ingredients within the product by telling you which are harmful and what risks they pose. They don’t have every beauty product logged, but they have covered an impressive amount.

Quick tip: I’ve learned that nearly every single product containing “fragrance” or “parfum” always ranks high on the toxic scale, and should therefore be avoided.

I really hope you take a moment to look at Skin Deep and try out the database. You will be shocked at what you discover! They have some really amazing articles and research on their site as well.

Recently I’ve been getting into making my own beauty products (that way I know exactly what I’m putting on my body). Have you tried the avocado-honey face mask yet? Stay tuned for more DIY beauty recipes :)

Homemade Fruit n’ Nut Bars

Chopped Nuts for homemade power bars

So this was my first attempt at making homemade granola bars (second if you count DIY Larabars…honestly so simple, but I’ll share those another time). These came out looking exactly like KIND bars–if you can believe it! Taste-wise I give them a 10 out of 10. Overall my only issues with these were because I cooked them a little too long and the edges were a tad too crunchy/didn’t stay completely in tact when I tried cutting them up. Otherwise, I highly recommend this recipe! I put half of the bars in the freezer (should last for about 3 months), and put the other half in the fridge (should last about two weeks). I meant to calculate the cost per bar but alas, I threw out the receipt by accident. Next time! I’m positive though that making a batch of these will save you some cash if you’re willing to do the work. And by work, I mean spend a total of 30 minutes chopping, mixing and baking. Not too bad.

bar-ingredients

You can really make these bars your own by adding different dried fruits, nuts and seeds. All you have to do is keep the same measurements, but the rest is up to you!

rice-syrup

Oh, and I’ve heard sweeteners like honey and maple syrup don’t work as well as binding agents, so I would stick to the brown rice syrup if you want your bars to actually keep their shape!

bars1

Hungry yet?

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups chopped nuts and seeds…I used almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds (preferably organic)

1/2 cup chopped dried fruit…I used dried figs, raisins and tart cherries

1/3 cup puffed brown rice cereal

1/3 cup organic brown rice syrup

Coconut oil (for non-stick agent..don’t be shy with this!)

Go for it:

Line baking pan with tin foil and grease WELL with coconut oil.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour mixture into pan.

Flatten mixture by pressing a separate sheet of greased tinfoil or parchment paper on top until about 1/3 inch high. It helps if you shape the mixture into a square or a rectangle so you can cut into even bars later.

Bake at 325 degrees for 15-17 minutes (or until edges are golden brown). Remove and let cool for 20 minutes. Cut into bars and enjoy!!!

**This recipe was adapted from the book “Power Hungry”, an amazing power bar cookbook. I highly, highlyyyyy suggest checking it out if this recipe appealed to you.

A holiday toast.

Healthy Turkey Dinner

A friend of mine brought to my attention that I haven’t posted in a while–yikes! So bad, I know. Sometimes I need a little kick in the butt. I’ve been caught up trying to re-balance after Thanksgiving and have been fighting off a cold–no excuses, though! How was my holiday you might ask? Well, I can sum it up by saying it was filled with chocolate, wine, pie and more pie. Oh, and that turkey. It speaks for itself ;). My dad knows his way around the kitchen. But! I’m not about to go on and on about my “food sins” because they were delicious and I enjoyed them all. However, what I realized over Thanksgiving wasn’t how much self-control I apparently lack, but rather how much I love my family and how much I need them.

I really believe that you should learn to love yourself and be able to enjoy spending time alone. However, we work so hard to love ourselves and to grow to love new people, but often that kind of gratitude only gets extended towards your family in times of need or during the holidays. Your family is your built-in support system, and if you treat it as such it will only grow stronger.

Thanksgiving table set

My mother said to me over tea, “I don’t care what my children do as long as they’re happy and as long as they come home and want to come home and we all hug.” Cute, right? In that comment though she touched on the most important part of the holidays–it’s not about obligation to your family, it’s about getting to know them and growing to really love spending time with them.

So here’s a toast to family and healthy relationships. It’s never too late to get to know them. Whatever your goals or struggles may be, they can help you. It’s the holiday season and while most people are concerned about the food aspect–the dreaded weight gain that comes with overindulging and the excess drinking–I think we should be concerned with the people we’re spending time with. Focus on those you love and let go a little. Enjoy yourself and be PRESENT with your family.

Thankgiving dinner

I read somewhere that if you’re worried you’re living in the past, if you’re anxious you’re living in the future and if you’re at peace you are living in the present. Remember that :)

I’m on a cleanse, and it’s not horrible.

girl drinking green juice

I’ve done quite a few cleanses in my day. You know that wacky Master Cleanse that Beyoncé did that one time? Where you’re supposed to survive off of an elixir made from lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper? Did it. In case you didn’t know–it’s horrible for you. I lost 5 pounds in 5 days, but gained it all back and then some in the following weeks. I’ve also tried other juice cleanses like the ones from Liquiteria and Blueprint. To be honest, they’re incredibly difficult to get through and the juices more often than not were full of sugar. Some contained twice as much sugar as a can of soda. Keep in mind: Just because something is green or natural doesn’t mean it’s automatically good for you or without health consequences.

Currently I’m on my second day of the Urban Remedy Metabolism kit. This cleanse is different from the others because it involves real food that you can chew. Hooray for chewing! You really miss chomping your teeth on those juice-only cleanses. This particular program is only three days and consists of pre-packaged organic whole foods and juices.

Urban Remedy Cleanse

Photo Credit: Urban Remedy

I’ve got to say, the food has pleasantly surprised me. You never know what you’re going to get with these types of programs. I’ve been drinking diet tea and green juice in the mornings and eating salads and zucchini pasta for lunch and dinner. The afternoon snacks are an acai lemonade and the BEST KALE CHIPS I’VE EVER HAD. Really though, the sour cream and chive kale chips were a game changer for me. I’m feeling inspired to start experimenting with homemade batches, but I’ll save that for another time.

So far I’ve been a little hungry, but not starving. I only strayed away from the plan on the first night because I needed a little more sustenance before bed and added a few spoonfuls of chia seeds to my evening green juice.

I also didn’t weigh myself before starting this cleanse because I didn’t want the focus to be on weight loss, but rather on rebooting. I’ve been going overboard with the sweets lately and eating really clean like this for a few days usually helps get rid of bad cravings and pushes me back on track.

The kit is a bit pricey, but so far it’s the best cleanse I’ve been on.

One more day to go!

 

Change your mind and you’ll change your body.

Brunette wearing a fedora by an old car

The longer I work in the industry of wellness (in editorial and previously as a fitness instructor), and the more I experiment with my own practices, I’ve come to know just how dire your psyche is to your wellbeing and how closely it’s linked to your weight.

So many outside factors–some controllable, some not–contribute to your mindset. From sleepless nights, to stressful careers and tough relationships, it’s hard to keep your head up sometimes. When your mental state suffers it’s often reflected in your physical appearance. Our emotions manifest themselves a little differently on all of us, but at least for me stress = weight gain every single time.

Now, among my group of friends and acquaintances I’m known as “the fit one”, “the healthy one” or “the girl who doesn’t drink at da club” (which I have to tell you, does not bother me one bit). However, what most people don’t know is how much I struggle on a regular basis to maintain my health and positivity. We all have different body shapes and genetics. Some of us are naturally more slender than others. The fact remains though that living a truly healthy lifestyle comes easy for no one. 

Walking in New York City

Currently I’m adapting to a new lifestyle. I have more free, unstructured time on my hands and easier access to processed foods. Every single day I fight the urge to veg out and eat my favorite childhood snacks mindlessly. Yes, I’m talking about you Oreos and Goldfish. I can’t even begin to express how hard it is to maintain the same self-control I used to have over eating these kinds of things, and I know that temptation in one form or another exists like this for many of you.

The big problem here is not that I’ve lost my focus or commitment to healthy eating, it’s that I’m not paying attention to the root of my stress and am TOO focused on the consequences of it–a.k.a overeating. Rather than getting caught up in my indulgences, I’ve began to shift my focus to what is causing me to feel the way that I do. Why am I feeling anxious? What steps can I take to change that?

The solution here is to RE-FOCUS and to RELAX.

Walking in New York City

I’ve found a few things that help me, and may help you when you can’t shake your stress and fall into unhealthy territory.

Take a walk. A loooooong walk. 

Drink hot water with lemon. 

Turn the lights off, put some music on and take yourself through a few yoga poses (whichever ones you can remember or even look up online).

Drink green juice (if I’m really struggling to avoid junk, this helps reset my taste buds and often gets rid of terrible cravings. Who wants to post up with a bag of chocolate chips when you just gulped down the best stuff your body can have?).

Call one of your best friends (laughter is the best medicine time and time again). 

I also found this article on MindBodyGreen to be particularly helpful and inspiring on this matter.

It’s easier said than done–always. However, just being aware of the root of your anxiety or stress is the most important part. You have to take care of your mind if you want to take care of your body.