Chocolatey Pumpkin-Spice Latte

IMG_3826.JPG

You guys may not know this about me but I’m really into fall. You know, the season. Upon moving to LA, one of my major concerns was the lack of seasons to be had in this city but I was determined to keep fall alive no matter what the weather gods had in store. As I sit here, recovering from the heatwave of 100+ temperatures that we had last week, I am not discouraged. Summer got its last hurrah and now it’s fall’s time to shine. What better way for fall to make its annual debut than in a delicious drinkable milky treat?

IMG_3819.JPG

I used to be a big Starbucks girl. I’m embarrassed to say that I made many a pit stop in downtown Chicago on my way to my high school to spend six bucks on a something sugary in grande size. In my older age, I rarely find myself at the coffee chain, largely because I realized that there is so much better coffee to be had for my money. While I have numerous independent coffee shops that I frequent for quality beans, these places don’t typically offer the fun seasonal drinks for which Starbizzle is known.

Being the paleo girl that I currently am, the thought of buying myself one of these drinks, even as a treat, kind of repulses me. All the sugar and weird chemicals in those flavored syrups make even the tastiest of seasonal beverages so much less appealing. It occurred to me that the best way to deal with this situation was to hit up the kitchen….

This recipe is super simple, requiring just a few ingredients and a little time. The great thing about it, like most homemade versions of things, is that you can customize it to your tastebuds. I tend to like my lattes on the creamy side, without too much sugar so that the flavors of the coffee come through. This recipe caters to these preferences but feel free to adjust ingredients as you see fit. It’s also vegan and paleo friendly. :)

IMG_3817.JPG

Serves 1

 

Gather:

1/2 brewed coffee of your choice (I used this amazing snickerdoodle flavored decaf that I got from the farmer’s market)

1/2 C coconut cream (or milk. I used cream because it’s thicker and creamier, like I prefer)

1/4 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I use the Trader Joe’s brand)

1.5-2 TBL pumpkin puree (I used the one from Trader Joe’s)

1 tsp raw honey* (or more if you have an intense sweet tooth but remember there’s sugar in the chocolate too!)

1 TBL dairy-free chocolate chips

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 T vanilla extract

1/4 tsp cocoa or cacao power for sprinking on top

 

*For strict paleo version, use agave or another vegan-friendly sweetener. You could also omit all together and add another TBL of chocolate chips. :)

Do:

1) Brew coffee if not yet brewed.

2) Add coconut milk, almond milk, pumpkin puree, honey, and chocolate chips to a small saucepan over medium/medium-low heat.

3) Stir regularly until all ingredients have combined, chocolate chips have melted, and mixture is well heated.

4) Keeping the saucepan over the heated eye of the stove, turn off heat and add pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract. Stir until combined and dissolved.

5) Pour mixture into the bottom of your coffee mug and pour hot brewed coffee over top.

6) Sprinkle cacao power and more pumpkin pie on top.

7) Indulge.

 

Happy Fall!

Weekly Workouts + What I’ve Been Up to in the Kitchen

IMG_3786.JPG

Hey guys,

I’ve decided to reinstate my weekly workout posts. It’s not a big deal but it’s a nice way to let you guys know what I’ve been doing to stay active. I’m slowly getting into a workout rhythm for the semester. There are a couple of days that I’m playing around with regards to when to schedule my workout / what kind of workout I should do. Rather than trying to come up with a strict plan for everyday of the week, however, I think I’ll hold out until the night before or the day of to see how I’m feeling and just go for it. It’s very easy for me to fall victim to monotony so I think it’ll be nice to have some built-in spontaneity — if that’s not too oxymoronic. :P So here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Monday – 10K Run to Silverlake reservoir + “Align” Yoga at ODD.

This was my first day trying the “Align” yoga class. It’s only offered once a week at One Down Dog and since it worked in my schedule, I thought that I would check it out. Unlike the “Sweat” and “Sculpt” classes that I usually go to, this class slows things down to focus on breath and posture, hence being called “Align.” This hour and 15 minute class is conducted, for the most part, without music, prompting you to pay even more attention to your body. While I absolutely love my faster-paced classes, “Align” was quite refreshing as it gave me the opportunity to think about building up the foundations of my practice. I’m hoping in incorporate more classes like “Align” into my schedule so that I can strengthen my postures and hopefully (!!!) finally get my headstand off the ground. Pun intended.

Tuesday Gym workout + “Flow” yoga at ODD

I started this gym sess with 20 minutes of a the preset “rolling hill” workout on the wide stride and then followed up with a 20 min AMRAP of the following cardio/core set: (I got through 3 full rounds)

  • 10 burpees
  • 20 ballet squat pulses with 10 lb weights at hips
  • 10 full ballet squats with 10 lb weights held between legs
  • 30 half get-ups (15 on each side)
  • 40 Russian twists (with 10 lb weight)
  • 50 high knees
  • 1 minute elbow plank

Wednesday – 6:30am “Sculpt” Yoga with Alexis at ODD!!

Yoga with weights. <3

Thursday – “Express” Gym Workout (I was kind of sore but needed to get my muscles warm)

This workout started with 20 easy minutes on the wide stride followed by about 20 minutes of shoulder/arm/core work.

Friday – “Sculpt” Yoga (again. clearly I’m into it.)

 

So now that I’ve recapped my workouts for the week, on to the fun stuff. The food! Here’s some of the stuff that I’ve been playing around dans la cuisine.

IMG_3723.JPG

IMG_3724.JPG
Got a spiralizer for my birthday (thanks mama!). So much zoodle fun!

 

IMG_3685.JPG

IMG_3684.JPG
Obsessed with these paleo biscuits from The Zenbelly Cookbook.

 

IMG_3773-0.JPG

IMG_3779.JPG
Moroccan Meatballs from the Well Fed Cookbook.

 

IMG_3697.JPG
Veggie bowl topped with chocolate mole. Working on getting this recipe perfected and posted for you guys soon. :)

 

Ciao for now brown (and purple) cows.

Racked LA Giveaway

IMG_3570.JPG

Hi guys!

I’ve been meaning to post this feature for a while but am only now getting around to it. Back when I had just gotten back to LA from my summer adventures, I was lucky enough to win an awesome gift bag from Racked LA. If you’re not familiar with Racked.com, you should change that. They’re a great resource for anyone looking to take advantage of their city. With restaurant features, free fitness events, and great articles about local happenings, Racked.com is definitely a site to bookmark. I’ve come to know the site primarily through it’s “Fit Club.” A few times a month, Racked LA Fit Club holds events at different fitness studios around the city, providing a great opportunity to see what the LA fitness scene has to offer. Studios range from those focusing on spinning, to yoga, to treadmill/Pilates intervals. It’s a great way to not only add some flavor to your workout routine but also try some things that you might not generally go for.

My primary way of staying on top of all of the awesome Racked Fit Club events is through Instagram. In August, I came across a Racked Fit Club giveaway post for a fitness swag bag. To enter, you had to answer the question “What is you all time favorite workout song and why?” Since music is so critical to my workout success, I thought it would make sense for me to enter.

IMG_3556.PNG

A couple of days later I went to a Racked Fit Club event at FitMix (remember those running/pilates intervals that I mentioned) with my friend Stephanie and upon checking in with Instagram after the class, I found out that I’d won! I was really excited. It always feels great to win things but to win workout-y things incites a special kind of excitement in me. Can you guess what my winning response was? Just guess….

I’ll give you a hint.

napolean-dynamite(Photo Credit: Mashable)

My entry response was “Canned Heat by Jamiroquai because it immediately makes me think of Napolean Dynamite’s epic dance performance and all seems possible.” The Racked LA team actually dug (yes, “dug,” as in the past tense of “dig” as in I’m living my life in the 1960’s. Don’t judge.) my response and selected me as the winner. So flattering! My fabulous taste is music is finally being acknowledged and appreciated!

IMG_3558.JPG

So here’s what was in the bag.

IMG_3561.JPG

IMG_3765.JPG
1. Super cute workout tank by // OUT. Love the glittery lateral back strap!

IMG_3563.JPG
2. Sporty workout tank and $100 gift card for Carbon38. So far I’ve gotten a really cute green yoga bra with the gift card. Still holding out to use the rest on something fun.

IMG_3569.JPG
3. Workout hoodie by Koral activewear. I’ve been wearing this over my new Carbon38 yoga bra on the way to class. So convenient for coverage while still allowing me to get some air.

IMG_3565.JPG
IMG_3566.JPG
4. Copy of The Beauty Detox Foods by Kimberly Snyder
5. Copy of Please Meditate It’s Good For You by Olivia Rosewood
6. Gift certificate for 5 meditation classes at Unplug Meditation Studio.
7. Funky hair ties by MyKitsch.
8. A $25 gift card for Pressed Juicery (!!).
9. A gift certificate for two classes at Body By Simone. (I will have to be sure to do a fitness feature with a review of this studio when I visit)

IMG_3567.JPG

10. Two pairs of Pointe Studio socks. Perfect for Pop Physique-ing and just bumming around the crib.
11. An inCase running armband. This was so perfect! I had literally just lost my old one and was prepping to get back into the running swing. Racked LA, my saving grace.
12. Wimberlean Workout DVD complete with resistance bands. I haven’t tried this yet but needless to say, I’m excited.
13. Delicious Paleta energy bars along with a handy info and recipe book.

IMG_3562.JPG

IMG_3768-0.JPG
14. Super cute yoga sweater by Alternative. Perfect for fall yoga (and clearly for summer yoga too seeing as how I’ve been wearing it like 3 times a week…)! It was hard to photograph so it just sort of looks like a big pile of fabric in the first picture so I have to recruit Maria to take a photo of me wearing it. Excuse my appearance. I clearly didn’t prep for the photoshoot.

And is if that wasn’t enough, it was all stashed in this great yoga bag, designed with straps to hold my mat at the bottom. This has officially become my “yoga bag.” Great for holding my towels and water for sculpt at ODD.

IMG_3559.JPG

 

If you guys are interested in knowing some of the other songs that people love working out to, or if you’re in the market for some new workout tunes, head on over to THIS POST on Racked LA to download the spotify playlist that the editors created based on the giveaway entries. I’ve been listening to this since the end of the competition and I must say, it’s pretty groovy (…I asked you not to judge).

So obviously the takeaway from this post is that Racked is awesome. Now that I’m done bragging, I can go run off into the sunset with all of my fabulous fitness goodiessss!

Cardio Ab Row Machine Workout

Hello lovlies!!

As I tried to convey in my last post, life is a bit crazy at the moment. The good news is that despite the reality that this semester is going to be absolutely insane, I feel really good about it. I’m on campus pretty much all day from Monday-Thursday and then I have Fridays class free. In theory, I would get a ton of reading done on Fridays but I’m thinking that I might just make them scheduled personal health / blogging days. Judging from these first three weeks, it’s clear that my brain is going to be in no condition to be academically productive on Fridays so I think that it would make sense for me to make them personally so. Of course, for me, that means, exercise (10:15 Sculpt at One Down Dog is definitely a staple of my Friday schedule for this semester), grocery shopping (dropped by McCall’s Meat and Fish this morning for a meat stock up. Can you say meatballs? Love that place!), and cooking (made Ginger Scallion Pork Meatballs with Sesame Zucchini Noodles from the Zenbelly Cookbook for lunch with Jenny!). In about 40 minutes, I’ll be heading out for a hike at Runyon with Sarah, before returning home to make myself a lovely dinner and chill out with Netflix and get to bed. I’m planning to start my Saturday by doing 10K with the DTLA running group plus 2 miles back to my apartment from downtown so I’ll need to rest up. :) This is what Fridays should and will be from here on out.

The jam-packed-ness of my schedule this semester is really pushing me to think about what’s important to me, as I have to be extremely selfish with my time. I was, and still am, a little concerned with my ability to keep up with blogging but the discomfort that I feel when I think of letting it go tells me that I need to figure out how to continue posting. In my last post, I set a goal of updating once a week, which I’ve already failed to accomplish (I didn’t post anything last week!) but I’m not being hard of myself about it. I started this blog because I thought it would be a fun and personally productive project to pursue and if I allow it to stress me out, it defeats the purpose. So instead of trying to impose a stringent post requirement, I’m simply going to update when I feel like it. This is not to be snippy or sassy in any way, but to acknowledge that if blogging is something that I do because I enjoy it, I should trust that feeling that it ignites in me will be enough to motivate me to post when I need to. This might be 3 times per month or 8. Who knows? But because this act of sharing my life through writing has become very near and dear to my heart, I’m confident that it will maintain its role in my life, even if that role looks a bit different than it did last school year.

Now that I’ve put that out there, I can get to what I really set out to do in this post and that’s share a workout. I haven’t done this in a while. When starting GWHG, I imagined it to be much more workout focused, but as it turns out, the recipes and life updates came to define the site more than exercise routines. Because I was working out at Energi over the summer, I really wasn’t putting together any of my own workouts. What I did do, however, was collect new moves and workout structures that I could incorporate into my routine back here in LA. This one that I’m sharing today, I actually did for the first time while I was in Amsterdam. I didn’t really learn how to properly use rowers until this summer at Energi, and I realized how great they were for both cardio and strengthening and sculpting the lower body and shoulders. When I saw that the gym in Amsterdam was equipped with rowers, I had to have a go at them.

This workout is great for strengthening and toning abs while keeping your heart rate up. It’s awesome if you’re short on time at the gym and want to get the most out of your session. I suggest doing it for 4 rounds and clocking yourself in order to challenge yourself the next time. I’ve also done it for as many rounds as possible within 20 or 30 minutes and it still kills. Enjoy!

Equipment:

Row Machine

Medicine ball

Interval Timer set to do 6 rounds of 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off

 

Workout:

Row 300 meters

Start Interval Timer (30 seconds of work / 10 seconds of rest)

  • Plank Jack Tucks
  • Cross Body Ups
  • Burpees
  • Russian Twists (with or without medicine ball depending on your level)
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Double Leg Stretches (with or without weight depending on your level)

Repeat 4x (or as many times as possible within a certain time period)

Comment for explanations of moves! I’m trying to keep this quick but would be happy to explain!

 

Ciao for now!

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Still Alive

Soooo…I’ve clearly been M.I.A. This last month has been absolutely insane and I honestly don’t feel like I’ve really had time to sit down and update. I kind of hit the ground running when I got back to LA a few weeks ago. I was working hard to get settled black into the West Coast and relax a bit before what I knew would be a crazy couple of weeks. Last week at this time, I was preparing to celebrate my 24th birthday. It turned out to be an absolutely amazing day. I’m pretty sure that it was the best birthday that I’ve ever had. Definitely the best of my adult (?) life so far. Here’s a photo that captures the magic.

IMG_3507.JPG

I started classes on Monday and since I hadn’t really had time to rest or prepare for it, my plan was just to power through as best as I could and then use this long weekend to get my act together. Somehow I managed to survive so now it’s just a matter of me taking advantage of this weekend to get on top of things. While I have a fair amount of work to do for both my graduate classes and my teaching assistantship, it was really important to me that I make time to post today, even if it’s just a short one. It’s already very clear to me that this year is going to be a lot busier than my first year with classes, a TA-ship, and work at the writing center but I’ve really enjoyed blogging for the past 8 months or so (has it really been that long?) and I’m committed to keeping this thing going. I have some interesting ideas of things to share with you guys including cookbook reviews and some beauty regiment tips/ideas in addition to posting some of the workouts that I’ve been doing this summer. My plan is to commit myself to updating at least once a week with at least one recipe post per month. While it might not be much, I think it’s a good goal to set for myself at the moment.

Despite the intensity of this past month and this coming year that I’ve just attempted to convey, I’m really excited about starting my second year or graduate school and my 24th year of life. I’ve been having good vibes about 24 for a while now and after my birthday celebration last week, I’m pretty confident that this will be a good year for me. I think it’s going to require a lot of time-management and organization but I really like where I am right now in life and I’m super excited to dive in and share it all with you guys.

One of the things that I’m excited about is TAing an undergraduate discussion section. At USC, graduate students don’t actually get to teach entire courses on their own but instead lead weekly discussion sections that supplement the lectures that are given by faculty. This semester I’m TAing for a Black Social Movements course which has already been pretty interesting in both subject matter and experience. I met with my students for the first time yesterday and they seem like great students. I was initially a little blah about having to TA but over the past couple of weeks, I’ve warmed up to it and I’m looking forward to building my teaching skills and devleoping/discovering my teaching style in the classroom.

In addition to TAing, I’m pretty excited about my grad classes. Last year was a little clumsy in terms of figuring out my interesting and finding courses that were fitting. This semester I’m taking a qualitative methods course in the sociology department and an ethnography course in the anthropology department. Both of these courses are designed to help me get more hands on with my research, meaning — it’s time for me to start my field work. I’ve been looking forward to and dreading this moment for some time now but it’s nice to have courses that will walk me through it. I also feel way more comfortable in LA this year and more confident in my ability to make connections and find sites for my studies. I will try not to bore you guys too much with this stuff but it’s going to be a huge part of my life this semester so I’m sure that it’ll naturally come up.

Anyway, I said I would keep this short and sweet and I do actually have things that I need to get to. I will be posting again soon as to meet my weekly goal.

Ciao until then.

GWHG

Blueberry Peach Crumble

20140805-111552-40552065.jpg
Bonjour mes amis,

Now that I’ve gotten in the habit of updating on the go, I thought I would get this post going as I head to the gym. This WordPress iPhone app is so handy! Anyway, I come to you with deliciousness. Last week I took a break from the savory to try something seasonal and sweet. I ended up at the downtown Chicago farmers market after my morning workout last Thursday and the peaches and blueberries were calling my name. I was pretty sure that I wanted to try a crumble but I was unsure of which fruit I’d put in it until I got to the market. Sometimes it’s nice to let nature help plan the menu.

I’ve always been a fan of cobblers, crisps, etc but these desserts don’t often make their way into a healthy diet. I’ve especially struggled with this since going paleo. I had come across some interesting recipes for paleo crisps and crumbles and I thought it might be a good day to attempt one myself.

20140805-154802-56882194.jpg

This recipe is paleo but if you’re not into that jazz there are a number of substitutions that can be made. I’ve tried to note them on the ingredients list as I realize that some of the ingredients would rarely be found in a non-paleo kitchen.

20140805-155031-57031546.jpg

Gather:

(For filling)
1 lb firm peaches (about 4 peaches for me)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T honey (would probably be delicious with maple syrup as well)
2 T arrowroot (this is for thickening, can sub with regular flour if not paleo)
3/4 C fresh blueberries
Dash salt

(For crumble)
1/4 raw sliced almonds
1/2 almond meal
1 T coconut flour (can sub regular flour)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 salt
2 T honey
2 coconut oil, cold (solid but soft)

Do:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Peel and slice peaches. You can do this a number of ways. I boiled mine for a few minutes, allowed them to cool, and then I was able to easily remove the skin. This might not work depending on the ripeness of your peaches. If peaches are pretty firm, it’ll probably be easier to just peel them with a nice or peeler. Anyway, after they’re peeled, slice them to your liking.

3. Place peaches in a bowl and add lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, arrowroot powder and salt. Mix together and then add in blueberries. Stir carefully as not to smash them. Let filling sit while you make crumble to give it a little time to gel.

4. Put sliced almonds, almond meal, coconut flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and whisk together. Add honey and stir until combined. Add coconut oil and slice into the mixture with a fork or your hands. Allows the mixture to clump together. It may not clump as much as it would with regular flour but that’s fine.

5. Add filling to an oven safe baking dish or pan. I used a small cast iron skillet greased with coconut oil.

6. Add filling to dish and top with crumble. I used my hands to drop the clumps on top of the filling in a crumble-like fashion.

7. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until the crumble has browned and the fruit bubbles. I placed mine under the broiler for a couple of minutes so that the crumble could brown further.

Et voila.

20140805-155123-57083832.jpg

Pros and Cons of Traveling Light

Ciao.

Now that I’m all done with my summer travel, I thought I would take the time to post my conclusions from my little carry-on only experiment. For those of you who might not know what I’m talking about, these posts (1, 2) lay everything out. Overall, I’m really happy that I didn’t take a ton of stuff on this trip. There were so many occasions where I was aware that not having a crazy amount of luggage made things a lot easier, especially during the solo segments of my journey where paying for a taxi on my own would have been pretty expensive. Here is a quick run down of what I think are the pros and the cons of the carry-on only life.

Pro: Easy to navigate cities on public transportation and through crowded streets. This, for me, was the number one advantage of packing light. Because I mostly visited major cities, the airports were generally well connected to the centers via public transit. Trying to get to your hotel/hostel/AirBnB in a foreign city on public transit when you have a lot of luggage is 0 fun. Trust me, I done it and it sucks. This time around, because I was holding everything on my back, I had very little trouble hopping on and off trains and buses to get where I needed to go.

Con: Washing machine dependency/clothes washing dilemma.  A major determinant in ones ability to “survive” for longer periods of time without much luggage is access to a washing machine and/or facilities to hand wash clothes. I’m honestly not big on handwashing, especially for larger articles of clothing. I also had sweaty workout clothes to deal with. That being said, I was heavily reliant on staying in places where I would have access to a washing machine. Because I was conscious of this when booking my lodging, however, I didn’t really run into any problems.

Pro: Save money on baggage fees and transportation.This “pro” goes along with the first one in some ways. Being able to opt for public transit instead of taking a taxi, which can get very expensive, can save you a fair amount of money, (especially when you’re dealing with monetary exchange rates that are not in your favor!). If I ever got discouraged while traipsing through a city with my backpack, I just reminded myself of the delicious dinner that I would have that night with the 30 euros that I would have spent on a taxi. So worth it! Also, if you’re planning on making use of low-cost regional carriers in Europe, it makes your life so much easier to be able to carry on since the fees to check baggage are often more than your ticket itself.

Con: Can make gift-buying a challenge. If you intend to bring back big elaborate gifts for friends and family members, this could prove difficult if you only have a carry-on. Many of the blogs that I read suggested that you leave room in your suitcase when packing to accommodate for the things you’ll acquire. But when packing light is a major challenge to begin with, as it was for me, it’s hard to actually make this happen. My backpack has an extension on it that I didn’t use at the outset of my trip because I knew it would make it the dimensions too large for some of regional airlines that I would be flying in Europe. The good thing this was that I was able to extend it on my last leg from Dublin back to the States since I got a free checked bag on my international flight. That being said, I only picked up little things in most of the places that I visited at the beginning and then bought more stuff in Dublin because I knew I had the extra space. Some good ideas for great gifts that don’t take up too much space/weigh too much are jewelry (which explains why I have 4 new rings to my name), spices, light-weight scarves, and small figurines.

Pro: A Small Suitcase does a conscious consumer make. The flipside of the above “con” is that having limited space makes you all the more conscious of the things you buy. Because I knew that everything I bought would take me closer to my luggage capacity, I would have to ask myself if I really wanted it. There were a number of things that I would have bought on impulse that weren’t really all that special had I had the space.

Pro: Perspective. As someone who is fairly type-A, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed with things. It’s very easy for me to overthink things and make life way more complicated than it needs to be. Packing light, for me, was refreshing in that it eliminated a lot of stress by allowing me to see that not having everything that I’m used to having is just not that big a deal. I, as many of us, use a lot of products in various capacities throughout my day. But just because I use them doesn’t mean that they’re actually necessary. It sucks to not have both my exfoliating day face-scrub and my skin-toning night facial bar at my disposal but in reality, my day face scrub works perfectly fine at night as well. All of the brain energy that I put into choosing the perfect outfit for a specific outing is really not necessary as it’s ultimately of little real consequence. The simplicity of packing light allowed me to gain a bit of perspective on how little I actually need to “survive” on a day-to-day basis. I’m hoping to take some of this perspective back into my everyday life.

 

GWHG

Summer2014: Palermo and Santorini

20140728-161447-58487734.jpg
Now that I’m down to only two more hours of my eight-hour flight from Dublin to Chicago, I thought I’d get started on my next post. Hopefully reminiscing about my time in Sicily and Greece will help these last couple of hours fly by….

After Roma, the girls and I headed to Palermo. I was really excited about this since Sicily was one of the few place left in Italy that I really wanted to go to. Sicilian culture has a reputation for being very strong and very distinct from general Italian so I was curious to see what that life was like. We only spent a few nights in Palermo and honestly, I don’t think we needed more. Apparently when most people go to Sicily, they pass through Palermo as a day trip but spend most of their time in the small beach towns. None of us were aware of this, however, so we didn’t plan to leave the city. Palermo was definitely an experience. I found it to have a unique charm compared to other Italian cities, one that isn’t bound up in aesthetic beauty or historical significance and has more to do with its quotidian nature. Sicilians were just living their lives, unphased by the presence of three random American girls. Unlike their cities that heavily cater tourists, Palermo was unmoved, which was refreshing in many ways. There were some churches to peruse and some other small attractions but the great thing about Palermo was its realness. Sometimes, it was a little too real. Heated family arguments in the streets. Men being slapped by women, who I suspect, had done them wrong. While some of these scenes were uncomfortable to witness, the random street gatherings that went on into the wee hours of the morning and the delicious home-cooked style food made us feel more at home despite our obvious foreignness. The Sicilian spirit was definitely alive and thriving in Palermo and it was awesome to soak it up for a while.
20140728-162016-58816219.jpg

20140728-162017-58817112.jpg

20140728-162014-58814852.jpg

Part of soaking up the Sicilian spirit, for me, was eating lots of caponata. I think I tried it at 5 different places total. I had actually tried to make caponata from a recipe a few months ago without having actually tried it. I was pretty geeked to have it in its region of origin. And you bests believe that it’s on top of my list of vacation-inspired recipes to post on the blog. ;)

Oh so I should mention that we rented a gorgeous apartment in Palermo. Probably the most beautiful apartment we stayed in. The view was great.

20140728-162218-58938327.jpg
When we weren’t enjoying the gorgeous apartment, we were either eating or at Ciocolatta Lorenzo. This cafe stands out in Palermo as it definitely does not fit the model of the typical Sicilian cafe. It feels like a little bit of Brooklyn thrown into Palermo. With free wifi, delicious coffee, scrumptious baked goods, and a beautiful outdoor sitting area, it’s not surprising that the girls and I fell in love with this place. The people working there were also awesome. The one guy, who we called Lorenzo despite not actually knowing that to be his name, spoke to me in French. This was flattering in the sense that he took my French to be relatively good and weird in the sense that he assumed me to be French before American despite the fact that most of my friends were speaking American English. #blackgirltravelstruggles

20140728-162411-59051326.jpg

20140728-162412-59052365.jpg

20140728-162430-59070405.jpg

Since I still have at least an hour left, I’m just gonna jump right into Santorini. Despite this probably being my favorite stop on my trip, I don’t know that I have a ton to say about it. It was more about being there and taking in all of the island’s beauty than about doing specific activities. Oh and eating! Backtrack: It was about taking it’s the islands beauty and eating.

20140728-162735-59255262.jpg

20140728-162736-59256870.jpg

20140728-162734-59254438.jpg

I knew I loved Greek food before ever having gone to Greece but eating in Santorini has really sealed the deal for me. Simple, fresh, healthy ingredients that deliver incredible taste. What more could anyone ask for gastronomically? I’ll just this time to give you a visual recap while I try to keep myself from drooling.

20140729-100810-36490986.jpg

20140729-100810-36490152.jpg

20140729-100809-36489328.jpg

20140729-100808-36488466.jpg

20140729-100811-36491790.jpg

While I pretty much loved everything I at in Santorini, the resto that Sooze and I went to on our last night definitely takes the cake. It’s called Nikolas and it’s located in Fira (also written was Thira) in the main center of the island. We were staying in Oia (pronounced Eeya) which is at the Northern tip of the island while Fira is more towards the midpoint. We ate in Oia on most occasions but after eating at Nikolas, we wished that we would have spent more time eating in Fira. Oh my goodness, so yummy. This place is an absolute MUST GO when visiting Santorini. It was unreal.

20140729-100907-36547147.jpg

20140729-100908-36548070.jpg

In addition to eating, I did get out on the water. On our last day, I did a boat tour that started at the tip of the island and came up the caldera, stopping at the red and white beaches as well as the hot springs. It was quite lovely. They crew suggested that we sit on the front of the boat, the very front with out feet dangling off so that when we went down into a wave, we got wet. It was sooooo much fun. I felt like a kid again.

20140729-101023-36623914.jpg

20140729-101024-36624847.jpg

The girls and I also went to chill in the black sand at Perissa Beach for an afternoon. I had a little bit too much fun playing with my champagne in the sand and taking photos. I had grandiose plans of posting a cool picture of my feet on the black sand and hashtagging it “blackonblack” but that dream never came to fruition.

20140729-103858-38338798.jpg

20140729-103856-38336811.jpg

20140729-103857-38337820.jpg

So that’s actually pretty much it. I would like to go back to both Sicily and Santorini but will definitely go beyond Palermo next time. I still have flying time left but the onboard entertainment is calling my name so I’m out!

Next post Istanbul!

Sabs

Summer2014: Rome

20140723-222225-80545564.jpg
I’ve been really lagging on the blogging lately. I realized that I really hate typing extensively on my iPad and it’s been a detergent to me making updates. I’ve been typing notes on my iPhone for some, what I hope will be, fun travel-related posts about topics such as the pros and cons of packing light and recommendations for maintaining a healthy lifestyle during long traveling stints. I’m excited to put them together once I’m back in Chicago next week (!!). I actually much prefer to type posts on my iPhone which is why I have pulled over to have a coffee in cute little cafe in the 3rd arrondissement in Paris to start rehashing my Italian adventures.

After my two weeks in Amsterdam, I headed to Rome to meet up with my friends, Nora and Susan. We met while studying abroad in Rome three years ago so it was only fitting that we started our European adventures there. Though only a short stay, it was the perfect amount of time for a trip down memory lane. I got there a day before Norz and Sooze arrived so I had ample time to explore on my own. Since I knew we’d want to go back to our favorite spots together once they got there, I thought I would go on some new adventures during my solo day. I had built a small list of restaurants and shops that I wanted to try to get to while I was there so I started with that.

My first stop was Que Te Pongo for lunch. Since I’m not a big pizza/pasta girl, I wanted to find a place that would allow me to experience the freshness of Italian ingredients while sidestepping the carbs. Que te Pongo was the perfect spot. I was able to build a salad with the ingredients of my choice from their case. Of course, I opted for salmon as my protein and then added tomatoes and olives per the owner’s recommendation. Simple, delicious, and light. Perfect fuel for a hot day of trekking around the ancient city.

20140723-222419-80659800.jpg

20140723-222507-80707748.jpg

20140723-222508-80708686.jpg

My next stop was Grezzo. I had actually found out about this place through #instagram. Since I’m a dark chocolate-aholic, I’m always on the lookout for paleo-friendly (gluten-, soy-, and dairy-free) dark chocolate so this was a must-go for me. Of my three days in Rome, I went here twice. I will not disclose how much I spent nor how quickly it disappeared. What I will say is that if you love high quality chocolate and treats, this is a must-go when passing through Roma.

20140723-222827-80907256.jpg

20140723-222929-80969369.jpg

20140723-222931-80971081.jpg

20140723-222931-80971926.jpg

20140723-222930-80970234.jpg

After having way too much fun at Grezzo, I grabbed my bags from the hostel where I had spent my first night and checked in at the hotel where the girls and I would spend our remaining two nights in Roma. I still had a fair amount of solo time until their flight got in from London so after chilling out for a bit (and partaking of all the delicious chocolatey goodies that I’d bought myself), I headed down to the gym for a quick workout. The hotel gym was not impressive at all but with a little imagination and a lot of Beyoncé, I made it work. After my workout, it was time for dinner in Trastevere. Trastevere is the neighborhood where I lived while studying in Rome and I was super excited to go back. It’s the really trendy, hipster if you will, neighborhood of Rome so of course I felt at home. While googling, I came across Fish Market, which I immediately knew would be a great place to spend my evening. It was a Saturday night and it’s a pretty happening spot so naturally it was packed but since I was only a party of one, I was able to walk in and get a seat at the bar. ;) I went to the case to choose my salmon (you’re probably noticing a pattern at this point) of choice and also ordered steamed greens and a fish burger from the menu along with a glass (okay two) of red wine. Yum yum.

20140723-223056-81056529.jpg

20140723-223055-81055707.jpg

20140723-223054-81054720.jpg

20140723-223058-81058211.jpg

20140723-223059-81059332.jpg

20140723-223057-81057350.jpg

The bartenders at Fish Market were lovely. Since we were in such close quarters, naturally we because friends. One of them spoke English well since he had spent some time in New York and gave me recommendations for my upcoming trip to Sicilia. The other didn’t speak much English but we communicated well with our eyes…

After dinner I went back to the hotel to find Nora and Susan’s bags but not them. They had left a cute note saying that they went to grab food. They soon returned and we headed out for a night out on the town. The night fell a bit short of our expectations as many of the bars and clubs were closed for the summer season. Apparently all the Italians leave Rome for holiday in July. Who knew? Anyway. We need up at this club that we used to go to all the time when we were studying abroad and it was quite the experience. The crowd seemed to be full of American study abroad students (go figure) and we just felt super old. After getting bumped and shuffled by overly drunk 20-year olds one too many times, we made our graceful exit. Clearly our time in that scene had passed.

The next day we proceeded to roam (yes, the pun is heavily intended) the streets and frequent places of study abroads past. After a failed attempt to eat at Roscioli (why was everything closed??), a pizza/sandwich place near where we took classes, we ended up eating in good ol’ Campo de Fiori. After stuffing our faces, we went back to our hotel to relax, shower, and try to recuperate in time for our 9pm dinne reservation.

20140723-223333-81213563.jpg

20140723-223334-81214542.jpg
I guess our meal in Campo really tired us out, however, since we all passed out. I woke up at 9:11 to find Nora and Sooze fast asleep in their bath robes. After scrambling around to get ready, we grabbed a cab and went to Renato e Luisa. I have such fond memories of this place. It’s right next to the palazzo where my study abroad program was housed. My program organized a lovely wine tasting there and it was the first time that I experienced the unique bliss that is achieved through delicious food, great wine, and quality company. It was awesome and fitting for me to have that moment again with friends that I made during that special semester of my life.

20140723-223540-81340407.jpg

20140723-223539-81339553.jpg

After stuffing ourselves (again!!) we headed over to the Tiber which was lined with cute outdoor bars and shops for the summer. Nora and Sooze were taken by the candy spread.

20140723-223744-81464596.jpg

20140723-223745-81465428.jpg

The next day we headed off to Sicily…

As usual, this post is lengthier than intended so I’ll stop here and begin the next one with Palermo.

Toute à l’heure !

Summer 2014: Amsterdam

Greetings from Thessaloniki!

I’m currently in a cute little coffee shop in the center of Thessaloniki, Greece. My friend Susan (aka Sooooooze) and I opted for an 8-hour layover here on our way to Istanbul instead of an overnight layover. Thought it would be nice to see another Greek city. Bad news is, it’s Sunday so things are pretty dead. The good news is, there are a ton of coffee shops here. Apparently (says Greek Reporter) Thessaloniki has the most coffee shops per capita of any city in Greece. That being said, it didn’t take long before Sooooze and I popped a squat a this chic little spot called Baker Street to have a drank.

20140713-155450-57290682.jpg

We don’t have to be back at the airport for another couple of hours so I thought I’d get some bloggin in. I was trying to think about how I wanted to organize my posts since I’m having trouble posting as a I go. I thought I would just go in order of the places I’m traveling until I get through everything. That being said, lets chat about life in the Low Country…

In Amsterdam, I had the pleasure of staying with my friend Sam. She was finishing up her Masters at the University of Amsterdam so I was able to crash with her until she left and then with her friends for my last few days. This was awesome for various reasons. Aside from not having to pay for housing, I also got to hang out with Sam and meet some of the awesome friends she made over the last year. I can honestly say that they were a solid group of people and since they’re now my Facebook and Instagram friends, I’m sure that our connection will stand the test of time.

As for my class, I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure if I ever went into detail about what this whole European adventure was about. I got funding from my program to take a course on Black Europe in Amsterdam. Since the course was only two weeks long, it was time intensive, meeting Monday-Friday from 9:30-12:30 and then from 2-4:30 following lunch. I must say, the second session was often a struggle. After a long morning session and lunch, everyone was a little sluggish but we always managed to get into some interesting discussions. It was really cool because the people taking the class (about 40 of us) were from all of the world, which allowed for a range of perspectives. Race/racism/racial relations look very different in Europe than they do in the US so I found it extremely valuable for helping me think through a project that engages race and gender in a non-US context. I learned a lot of important fact based information but the incite of the European students was definitely the highlight. So many interesting discussions with intelligent, passionate people. I’m really grateful for the experience and looking forward to seeing how it will influence my work.

In addition to the academic and social components of my time in Amsterdam, I also had a great fitness experience. Since I was in Amsterdam for 15 days straight and my foot fracture was still heeling, I thought it would be worth it to try to find some sort of gym or fitness studio. I did a little research and I came across a blog that mentioned that Health Club Jordaan had a tourist memberships I looked into it. I ended up getting the one month tourist membership for 69 euros since the weekly rate was 35 euros and I would have needed two weeks. While it would have been ideal to not have to pay for a gym and just run as I had planned before hurting my foot, I don’t retreat spending this money at all. The gym was awesome and really helped me get into a mini-routine during my stay. The classes were challenging and the facilities were up to date and clean. The staff and instructors were super friendly and helpful. I often ended up just chatting with them after classes about my course, my impressions of Amsterdam, and just life in general. They also have a great smoothie bar/health store whee I was able to find paleo-friendly snacks! If you’re ever in Amsterdam, as a tourist or otherwise, I definitely recommend this place. Will definitely go back there if I ever find myself back in Amsterdam.

20140713-170713-61633343.jpg

20140713-170712-61632456.jpg

20140713-170711-61631673.jpg
Speaking of health, I was really pleasantly surprised at how easy it was for me to stick to paleo eating in Amsterdam. I didn’t eat out very much because I was able to cook and store food at Sam’s place. I also didn’t have the best gastronomical experience during my first visit to Amsterdam a few years ago so I didn’t come to the city with big foodie plans. Perhaps I should have given it a second change but I figured I’d take advantage of having a kitchen while I could since I knew I’d be eating out a ton for the rest of my trip. The great thing about making my own meals was that I got to play around in the grocery stores. Foreign grocery stores are probably the only thing more exciting than grocery stores in the US. I was really curious to see what the health food scene was like outside if the States. On my second day in the city, I inevitably stumbled upon what Sam described as the “Dutch version of Whole Foods” – Marqt. I walked in, saw the produce section and knew I had found my grocery store home for my stay. After throwing some beets, smoked salmon, almond milk, and a bar of Green and Blacks 85% Dark into my basket, I headed to checkout and found that it was card only and that they take American cards. When does that ever happen in Europe? Can you say heaven?

20140713-170329-61409925.jpg
In addition to Marqt, I also frequented the little store next to Sports Club Jordaan, appropriately called Organic. Though smaller than Marqt and not a chain, this place has a great selection of produce, nuts (and nut butters!), dairy-free products, and premade healthy meals. The owner of this store is also this awesome Dutch man with two super cute daughters. I know this because we talked about them, their differing personalities, and watched a video of the youngest one’s most recent dance performance. Obviously, we bonded. He’s great and so is his store. Not sure what I would have done without almond and cashew butter for an entire two weeks!

Jeez. I didn’t realize how much I had to write about Amsterdizzle until I started typing. I think I’m gonna call this post a wrap and just end with some quick info about some other places I enjoyed while in Holland.

SLA- great salad bar restaurant with great fresh ingredients. So yummy! Loved the lamb meatballs.

20140717-002209-1329215.jpg

Delicious Foods – Great small grocery store next door to SLA. Bulk nuts, seeds, grains, and beans. Also great dark chocolate selection. :D

20140717-002438-1478525.jpg