CA Gold Rush

We’ve all heard of the 49ers right? No no, I’m not referring to the San Francisco football team… I’m talking about something else! The 49ers- a nickname given to the miners that took part in the 1849 California Gold Rush. 

Located in the Northeastern area in CA, the historic Highway 49 passes through the old mining communities that have been very well preserved. Go on a roadtrip through this highway to travel back in time to the sights of these mining towns! It’s perfect for families with kids as there are tons of interactive mining activities to experience, for history lovers that want to take a step back in time, for architectural lovers to admire different structures and couples looking to get a change of scenery. 

HISTORY

A glimpse of history… On Jan 24,1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter from NJ found flakes of gold in the American River at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This moment instantly changed California- leading to the largest immigration in US history! Word got out worldwide- migrants from Chile, China, Peru, Brazil, Caribbeans etc spent their life savings to make the trek to CA to pursue their dream of gaining immense wealth! People dreamed of striking big and living a prosperous life and California experienced a huge rapid economic growth. Because of this event, a total of $2 billion worth of precious metals was extracted during the Gold Rush period.

AWARENESS

Although the Gold Rush was a significant event that has shaped our history, it is IMPORTANT we recognize the shameful parts of our past as it created dark devastation to the Native Americans community. The Gold Rush was a heinous chapter in CA history & I personally find it important to address and spread more awareness on the whole truth before we get to the fun sights and itinerary.

First, all the mining, specifically hydraulic mining, destroyed the regions landscape. It ruined fertile land for native farmers, choked the rivers with sediments, ultimately destroying crops, making it extremely difficult for Native Americans to survive and eventually became victims of starvation.

Second, violence, discrimination and genocide against Native Americans were carried out. Hundreds of Native Americans were enslaved and used as laborers and makeshift militia for James Marshall (the one who found flakes of gold) to defend his territory and expand his empire. Mass massacres wiped out tribal populations (9,000-16,000 were murdered in cold blood), children were forced to attend “Indian Assimilation School,” and people caught diseases that were brought in from overseas. 80% of Native Americans were wiped out 20 years later, specifically the Nisenan Maidu and Miwok tribes, and by 1870, only 30,000 Native Americans remained in CA, most of them on reservations WITHOUT access to their homelands. 

This part of the history shouldn’t be overlooked or avoided because ignoring our history doesn’t make the situation disappear. There can only be progress by confronting the truth, acknowledging these experiences, learning from the past so we can move forward. Keep that in mind as you explore these communities!  

Towns and developments were created to accommodate the gold miners and to this day, so many of them are still well maintained for historical preservation and tourism! You’ll have an array of Gold Rush towns to choose from, however not all of them are worth visiting. All the towns start to blend together, but there was one town that was memorable and stood out the most so I will be highlighting that one!

COLUMBIA, CA 

Columbia State Historic Park 

This area is the largest single collection of existing Gold Rush era structures! You can spend a whole day roaming around here- the streets are lined up with boutiques specializing in nineteenth century goods. You’ll see merchants dressed in 1850’s costumes, areas for you to pan for gold, museums & blacksmith shops. Fun fact- I was told by a local that the reason so many of these towns are at the bottom of hilly mountains is because of all the mining. The land use to be flat and because of the insane digging it created these huge pits.

P.S I applaud the town for its free admission, parking, and guides!! You can even bowl for free at an antique bowling alley.

Stop by a saloon to quench your thirst with a Sarsaparilla soda (tastes just like root beer!) This is a popular soda in Southeast Asia- I actually grew up drinking it and didn’t understand why it was so popular in these historical towns. I learned that the Native Americans used Sarsaparilla as a medicinal drink to cure blood problems. Sarsaparilla is produced from a vine and the beverage became popular in the US in the 19th century.

Other Gold Rush Towns to visit if you have extra time!

Jamestown: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park- offers seasonal excursion rides! Featured in a ton of films. 

Murphy: For wine lovers! A Charming town known for their vineyards & award winning wine- there are 25 wine tasting rooms along the main street.

Nevada City: Hike the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Sonora: Sonora, named after the miners from Sonora Mexico who settled the City in 1848. Visit the Tuolumne Museum  & History Center.

Sutter Creek: Visit Knight Fondry- a national historic mechanical Engineering Landmark

ULTIMATE SATURNIA GUIDE

HISTORY
INFORMATION
TRANSPORT
WHAT TO BRING
TIPS
WHERE TO STAY

Saturnia di Terme… also known as Cascate Del Mulino, the mythical landscape you’ve most likely seen in magazines wondering if it’s actually a real destination. I’m here to confirm that this natural Tuscan bath is very much a real spa town that does not disappoint and the pictures don’t do it justice!  

RUMOR HAS IT….

SATURN

This hotspot (see what I did there 😉 ) dates all the way back 3,000 years ago! According to the Etruscans and Romans, Terme di Saturnia was formed by lightning bolts thrown down by Jupiter. Two mythological deities were in the middle of a violent quarrel when Saturn had thrown bolts down and missed, causing the formations at this hot spring. 

A BIT OF HISTORY

Hot springs are heated by geothermal springs- heat from the Earth’s interior. The water in the ground comes into contact with hot rocks or magma and it seeps through the cracks/crevices of the Earth’s crust, which leads to hot springs like Saturnia!

So what is heating up Saturnia? Meet Amiata volcano, which also doubles as the tallest mountain in Tuscany. This volcano sits 80km south of Siena and is actually considered “extinct” because there has not been any recent activities in the past 200,000-300,000 years. 

INFORMATION

The best things in life are free: family, love, & SATURNIA’S NATURAL TUSCAN BATH! We all know how instagrammable spots have turned into huge money making businesses with entrance fees, life jackets, parking fees etc, but thankfully, this spot has remained generous and FREE all year round. You heard that right. Open 24 hours for 365 days!

WHERE IS SATURNIA?

Located in Tuscany, halfway in between Florence & Rome sits Saturnia. It is in the province of Grosseto, north central part of Italy.

Saturnia Di Terme coordinates: Latitude: 42.648; Longtitude: 11.513

TRANSPORT ME HERE

Easiest way to get here is by renting your own vehicle and driving through the hills of Tuscany. We rented from Hertz: started our trip in Florence and ended our road trip in Rome. The roads are well paved with clear markings and signs. Definitely use your GPS/ Google Maps to get around. Screenshot directions ahead of time because cell reception is a bit poor in some spots in Tuscany.

PARKING

As you approach the destination, you might see cars parked alongside the road, DO NOT stop or park there. You will get a ticket! 
Drive to the end of the road, make a right following the blue parking sign. The lot is pretty spacious & that is where you can park for free all day long. The area is safe, but don’t leave any valuables visible in the car- throw it in the trunk.

WHAT IS THAT SMELL?

Ever wondered why hotsprings smell like someone is cooking up dozens and dozens of hard boiled eggs? 

The water heats up due to the earth pressures and proximity to the core. As it comes through the surface, the warmth dissolves the rich mineral deposits (sulfur in the surrounding rocks/soil) and this chemical reaction creates that eggy smell. The hotter the water, the stronger it’ll be. The smell is actually caused by the bacterias eating up the sulfides in the water. The smell is pungent at first, but you get used to it. 

HEALTH IS WEALTH

The thermal waters have a temp of 37.5 °C and brings therapeutic and relaxing properties. The water helps with skin elasticity, psoriasis, relaxes the muscles/aches, rashes, circulation, supports respiratory and many more conditions! Nature truly heals!!!

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Spring! This place attracts locals and tourists from all over the world. Summer crowds are often big and the weather is wayyyyy too warm to soak in a hot bath.

WHAT TO BRING

  • Water shoes/flip flops: the pebbles and sharp rocks sitting in the springs is no joke. Couldn’t handle the pain so I ended up having to wear my Birkenstocks (totally destroyed my shoes!)
  • Towels: dry yourself before you destroy the rental car with the eggy smell and get fined for it
  • Biodegradable Sunscreen: there’s minimal shade here so protect your skin and make sure the sunscreen ingredients won’t harm the mineral deposits here
  • Water: hot springs dehydrate you, so bring/ drink plenty of water
  • Camera: don’t forget to capture some memories here to look back on! 

TIPS

  • Visit during sunrise: you will have this magical place to yourself! 
  • No changing rooms: come dressed in your bathing suit 
  • Wear an OLD bathing suit: the eggy smell will linger even after MANY washes…. I made this mistake and wore a brand new bathing suit… 
  • Remove all jewelry: the sulfur can tarnish silver
  • No lifeguard on duty: although it is shallow, always be extra careful 
  • LEAVE NO TRACE: preserve the beautiful land and keep it clean

!WARNING!

Saturnia’s OG tenants- itty bitty red worms….. No one warned me about this- I learned the hard way. As I was relaxing, soaking my body in the springs, I noticed  little worms swimming around me & YES I freaked the fuck out! They’re actually harmless, but yuck! This is just an FYI so you don’t get scared. Still totally worth going in and I have no regrets! 

WHERE TO STAY

Luckily, there are plenty of options from luxury spa hotels nearby to authentic Tuscan style airbnbs. Below are my recommendations!

SATURNIA TUSCANY HOTEL 

TERME DI SATURNIA  RESORT

ELEGANT TUSCAN VILLA AIRBNB

FARMHOUSE AIRBNB

SUBSCRIBE DOWN BELOW FOR EMAIL UPDATES!

XO,

Soph

Menstrual Cup

Ladies!!! Let’s talk PERIODS. When that time of the month comes, do you instantly feel like there’s a cloud over your head? The first thought that pops to my head is UGH again???? It is such a hassle when you constantly run to the bathroom to change your pad and tampon, worry if there’s leaks and generally feel uncomfortable down there! Periods are EXHAUSTING. 

I heard so much about menstrual cups, but never had an interest in it for years. The more I read up on it, the more it kinda repulsed me…  But something changed and I was in an experimental mood to give menstrual cups a try! So today I’ll be sharing my unfiltered opinion and experience using it.

STORYTIME 

Taiwan Feminine Care Section

I’m a huge fan of buying pads in Taiwan. They feel more comfortable and super affordable. About 2 years ago, I stocked up and filled an entire checked luggage with pads to bring back to the states. Well, that stash has lasted me 2.5 years (& the pandemic has prevented me from restocking) so I finally ran out… I was forced to head to my local target to pick some pads and tampons up. I was SO shocked by how expensive feminine sanitary products have gotten. Let’s say you use 3-5 pads a day over a 5 day period, you’re likely to spend $4752 on pads ALONE in a lifetime… and that’s not even the organic prices. Insane! 

Did you know our vaginal walls are permeable so pretty much anything we put inside can be absorbed through the mucus membrane, then directly into the bloodstream. The cotton used in tampons/ pads? Guess what? They’re sprayed with pesticides, exposed to glypohsate, an herbicide used to kill weeds that contains carcinogens. Other chemicals included are dioxin and furans (from the chlorine bleaching process), which also links to cancer, disruption in the endocrine system and reproductive toxicity. There’s Toxic Shock Syndrome which is caused by an overgrowth of staph bacteria from using super absorbent tampons for long periods of time. Chronic exposure to these chemicals can increase our risk and disrupt our system contributing to more health issues in the future. So WHY in the world are we buying these products? After doing further research and gaining more knowledge on the reality of this industry, it has deterred me from ever wanting to use cotton products ever again! 

Another concern I had was the amount of waste produced every month. Every year, the US alone discards 12 billion pads / 7 billion tampons- this adds up. Tampon applicators are made out of plastic  that do not easily degrade and are often found in shorelines. Most women menstruate for 40 years in total= 2,400 days in the course of a lifetime= 6.5 years TOTAL! Imagine how much plastic accumulates over the years and can be found floating out in the ocean harming sea creatures.

Introducing, Organicup! It is an award winning menstrual cup that replaces pads and tampons! FDA registered, medical grade silicon, vegan & allergy certified! No more period undies. No more worrying about the string during summer season in a bikini. No more diapers. One small action can lead to big changes: 1 menstrual cup alone replaces 2 years of period products (528 pads/tampons) SO much better for the planet & yourself! 

Some thoughts prior to trying this because I had my doubts & fears. Is it going to hurt? What if it gets stuck? How does it fit inside without moving around? Will I get an allergic reaction? How do I pick one that fits my cervix? After doing my research, I went with Organicup. There are sooo many different kinds of menstrual cups out there and it seemed like the Organicup is less stiff and smaller, which I think fits my body type more and it felt a bit less intimidating to use. 

Because the menstrual cup is a vacuum seal and does not come into contact with air there is zero odor, ultra hygienic and antibacterial! Organicup only collects the blood so it eliminates dryness, irritation & keeps the natural pH intact . It can hold 3-5 times the amount of blood as a regular tampon and allows for 12 hour wear. This way you will not have period interruptions at work/school/ travel!

PURCHASE HERE!

Have I convinced you to give this a try? Hip hip hooray! I’ve linked it for you on my Amazon page- under Wellness Section. Click HERE to purchase!!! Plus, Amazon has a very simple return process if it doesn’t end up working out for you.

DIRECTIONS

Watch THIS video to visually understand how Organicup works! I promise it will help!

First step is to disinfect it by boiling it in hot water for 4-5 minutes. Make sure there is enough water in the pot to prevent the cup from burning. Always have clean hands before inserting and after every use, rinse it under hot water. Once your period cycle has ended, boil it again for 4-5 minutes and store it away for the month! 

TIPS

In the beginning, it can be difficult to put in, adjust or check to see if it’s sitting correctly. I’ve listed some tips to know before you give this a try! It may take a few period cycles to get the hang of it so I recommend using panty liners in case there’s leaks. When it is inserted correctly, the vacuum seal prevents ANY leaks, but it takes some time to get use to it! Personally, the benefits are out of this world. I don’t see myself going back to pads or tampons ever again! 

RELAX: when you are relaxed, the muscles are relaxed and that allows for easier insertion, placement, adjustments.

FOLDING TECHNIQUES: There are many ways to fold the cup that fits your body the best- Punch Down Fold, C fold, 7 fold . Watch this informative video on all the options- she demonstrate each technique with clear & helpful directions!

POSITION: Find a comfortable position for you to insert. I find bending my knees in a slight squat is the most comfortable way.

CHECK PLACEMENT: After it is inserted, use a finger to swoop around the base to ensure it is in place around the cervix and the cup has popped open inside with proper suction.

REMOVAL: Gently squeeze the base to release the suction BEFORE you pull out the cup. A great tip from a friend was to hop in the shower at the end of the day to empty it out- that way it prevents messes and you can easily rinse it!

AIR HOLES: Organicup has tiny little air holes at the top. Make sure those air holes are rinsed clean. If blood is caught in it you can gently blow it out. (a little TMI..)

CERVIX CHANGE: Your cervix changes throughout the cycle so every insertion may be slightly different. When it is inserted correctly, you should NOT feel it whatsoever.

CONS

  • Your fingers get bloody… It is messier than a tampon/pad. Not the easiest thing to use in a public restroom since I prefer to have a sink on standby. There are wipes you can buy to use when you’re on the go.
  • Slight pinching of the skin while I adjust the cup inside. It might just be because I’m a beginner though!
  • After many uses, your cup may look have discoloration and that is normal. To get rid of the stain, in a bowl, mix 1/2 water and 1/2 hydrogen peroxide, submerge the cup and leave it overnight in the mixture and clean it with boiling water afterwards.

Lavender Farm in SoCal

Ohhh we magically transported ourselves to Provence, France over the weekend! Juuuust kidding! No need to fly to Europe to see this when it’s right here in San Bernardino! 123 Farm celebrates lavender harvest season and it’s the largest organic lavender field in the state of CA.

Frolic through 20 acres of organic lavender (over 90 varieties of lavender too! Who knew?!) You can wander around yourself, participate in guided tours in an antique tractor, taste lavender inspired dishes, and learn about how essential oil is extracted. There’s rows of hundred year old Olive Trees with twinkle lights that transports you to Tuscany. You can take a break and chill in the small petting zoo filled with baby goats, sheep, chickens & dwarf pigs! There are even life size jenga blocks, chess pieces and a ping pong table in the woods for when you want to take a break from exploration. Obsessed with lavender products? There’s a shop for you to bring some goodies home with ya. 

The Lavender Festival season is only open from May 14-August 1. It’s closed on Mondays- make sure to check their online calendar to see if they are open. Admission fee is $15 IF you purchase online // $18 in person. However, there’s a separate parking fee $10 (boo i know, super annoying that parking isn’t included..) Click HERE to buy your tickets!

MUST KNOW TIPS

  • Cheaper to buy the tickets online ahead of time
  • Bees galore! Be mindful & don’t bother them.
  • Come on a weekday or right at opening to avoid crowds (10AM)
  • Heat: Weather there is dry and HOT so wear sunscreen

WHAT TO WEAR

Wear whatever makes you feel confident and comfortable! Keep in mind the weather gets pretty hot so go for the cottagecore boho vibes and wear a flowy dress! The easiest color to match is white or try a monochromatic look and wear any purple shade! Avoid jeans, leggings, tight clothing or sandals. Bring a HAT- the sun is pretty harsh out there. 

4th Of July Looks

Happy birthday America! I sure am proud to be an American! I will be celebrating 21 years of living out my dream life in this beautiful country! Thankful to all that have made sacrifices for our freedom in this country. My life would’ve looked very differently if my family hadn’t moved us halfway across the world for better opportunities. I am beyond grateful to be pursuing and living out the lifestyle I’ve always dreamed of!

What a better way to celebrate the holiday by being in theme! I know makeup can be tough to recreate so I’ve kept these looks very simple and easy to follow. Check out the 5 looks down below for inspiration and enjoy Independence Day weekend! Stay safe!

KEEP CALM AND SPARKLE ON

Grab a bottle of star shaped sequins or red/white/blue glitter, add a layer of lip gloss and drench your lips with it so that it sticks! You can find glitter and sequins at your local Michael’s for less than $4. 

RED, WINE & BLUE

Change up your usual natural eye makeup! Apply on your black eyeliner as the base and add another blue line on top for a subtle pop of color on your eyelids. This gives you a festive look without being over the top. Pair it with any red clothing and that’s it!

BORN TO SPARKLE

Go all out and cover yourself with sparkles!!! Perfect way to demonstrate your pride and love for our country! Dip the stars in a bit of eyelash glue (not too much) and pop the stars on your cheeks! 

U.S of YAY

Don’t want to go all out with makeup? I got you! Do your normal eye look with a natural lip and buy star shaped stickers and add a couple different sizes right next to your eyes and call it a day. Instantly makes you festive without any effort! How easy!!!

MADE IN THE USA

This look is for you if don’t want to be the center of attention. It’s a classic look that can be rocked for so many occasions. Pop on a bold red lip, put on a headband (you can find on Amazon, Claire’s or TJ Maxx) and you’re ready to party in the USA! My favorite red lipstick is by MAC in the color A10 Red with a Satin finish.

Our Elopement

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, that means you’re engaged and trying to decide whether to have a wedding, elope or you’re just curious about this option for the future! So…. let’s get started. When you hear the word elopement, there’s a bit of a negative association to the word right? Well I hope as time passes, society will normalize this option because every couple celebrates diferently. I hope this post can help you feel more confident and comfortable in your decision to elope! You CAN make a whole day out of it and truly feel like you just celebrated an intimate marriage.

We have all heard the horror stories on the wedding planning process and the wedding day itself. From psycho controlling in-laws to you turning into a bridezilla freak- it can be such a bitch having to deal with the pressure of putting on a wedding. Now I know not ALL weddings are like this, but knowing how much of a perfectionist I am, I would’ve gone mad. We all have our preferences and please keep in mind these are just mine! Some might love a huge wedding celebration and that is okay too! 

Let’s go back in time. As a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of having a massive wedding. Over the top decor with butterflies/ doves being released, horse carriages pulling me up to the alter, dramatic wedding gown, and an insane amount of flowers everywhere. Glamorous, fabulous and the classic Disney movie scene was what I dreamt of because that’s all I knew. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that the intent behind why I wanted these things was because it’s the “norm” and a part of me wanted to put on a pretentious show. Thank god we grow out of those phases am i right? Well most of us do 😉 

For David and I, we didn’t feel a wedding fit our vibe as a couple. It would’ve been a very forced day to please certain family members and that should never be the intention in having a wedding. From feeling forced to invite specific people to dropping insane amounts of money on materialistic things to feeling discomfort while guests stare at us and having to fake our joy the entire time, we ultimately chose not to have a wedding and guess what, it was the BEST decision we’ve ever made. Reminder: your wedding day is about YOU (& your partner) It is NOT about pleasing family or continuing traditions that you have no interest in or fulfilling social etiquette.

Below I’ll be sharing tips, recommendations on how you can still create an intimate ceremony just the two of you if you choose to elope! There are still traditions that you can implement to create your special day without having the wedding. Maybe years down the line you wish you had a wedding, you STILL CAN! There are renewal vow celebrations for a reason! Keep on reading!

MAKE THE DECISION TOGETHER

Okay, you and your partner finally decided that eloping is how you want to do it, what’s next?  BEFORE you alert anyone about these plans, make sure you’re BOTH on the same page, like 100% sure on this decision. 

Make statements that aren’t wishy washy so people do not think they can talk you out of your decision. Stand your ground- you don’t owe anyone any explanation.

ETIQUETTE

YOU get to decide when and how you want to announce your marriage plans. There is no proper etiquette to follow and do not feel the pressure to have to tell people beforehand. I am tired of hearing the whole “but they’re family so they should know.” It  honestly depends on the relationship you have with your family/friends. For me, my family are my bestest of friends- I run every thought, idea through them and never fear a judgemental response or feel that they would impose to change my ideas. There was never a single moment where they inserted their opinions on what I should or shouldn’t do- the response was pure genuine happiness!

However, not everyone will be like that. IF you decide to tell people beforehand, expect pushback from family (esp the older generations) Insecure people will take it personally (that is on them, not you) and if you know deep inside that people will have certain reactions to this announcement, then make the decision to not tell them so the special occasion doesn’t get spoiled.

Make sure you both make the choice together. If you choose to tell people ahead of time, go ahead! If you don’t want to, do not feel guilty about your choices. IF people project negativity towards you, don’t let it get to your head. This is not their wedding/marriage.

WAYS TO CELEBRATE YOUR ELOPEMENT

  • RENT A SPACE!

Choose where you want to celebrate this intimate ceremony! A bucket list hotel, destination, event space- somewhere you normally wouldn’t splurge on. Changing up your environment will automatically make this moment special!

We found a stunning airbnb in Tulum that was perfection! The moment I saw the interior, I knew this was where I’d shoot my wedding photos. If you’re obsessed with our wedding photos, you can also rent out this space for yourself! Check out the listing here!

  • SAY YES TO THE DRESS!

Get that dream dress you’ve always wanted to wear! Grab a couple girlfriends, pop that champagne & go wedding dress shopping or check out Nearly Newlywed for a second hand dress. You deserve to have that fairytale moment in your wedding gown (only if you want to) and there are a ton of options out there! There is truly a special feeling when you put on that dress to say your vows and you can still have that princess moment you’ve dreamed of!

I knew exactly what dress I wanted from BHLDN, but guess what? It was thousands of dollars for something I’d wear for a photoshoot and I wasn’t comfortable with dropping that much money…. My heart was so attached to it and no matter how many other websites I checked out, I kept going back to the dress. One day, I stumbled upon an online boutique called Nearly Newlywed, that sells authentic, preloved designer dresses. They had 1 listing with the exact dress/sizing and it was the universe aligning with my wishes. I was able to buy it for 3X cheaper!

  • WRITE PERSONAL VOWS

Expressing your own vows is impactful. Creating a genuine, heartfelt declaration is something that will be appreciated by your partner and establish a meaningful moment to the day.

We each wrote our own vows weeks earlier and took turns sharing them while we were dressed up. I set up cameras & recorded the whole thing for our personal keepsake. Our vows made us laugh, cry & ultimately feel closer together.

  • THE FIRST DANCE

Dance it out! Every relationship has a song that reminds them of a period of time together- when you had your first kiss or when you met this song was playing. If you don’t, you can pick one! Play it, dance to it and have your moment! We all have iphones nowadays so set up the camera on a tripod and record your moment for yourselves! 

  • BRIDAL BOUQUET

Grab your favorite flowers and create the bouquet of your dreams. Use it as a prop to add an elevated elegance to your wedding look!

  • CAPTURE THE MOMENT

Capturing the precious moments is priceless! Hire a photographer or set up a tripod and take some cheesy wedding shots to document the process! You can decide to share or keep them to yourselves! You’ll be able to look back on the moment & still feel like there was a mini celebration for this joyous union. This will also allow you to include & share the news with everyone else when you announce that you’ve gotten married!

  • A PIECE OF CAKE
LADY M CREPE CAKE

Bring on the sweet treats! Get your favorite go-to cake & savor it! You can even keep the tradition of saving one slice for the one year anniversary by freezing it too! 

We opted for Lady M Mille Crepe Cake which I totally recommend. Lady M is a luxurious brand marries French pastry techniques with Japanese sensibility in creating 20 alternating layers of soft cream and French crepes. The green tea & passionfruit flavors are divine.

  • THE ALTER

Love the look of standing at an alter? Buy an affordable arch, decorate it with florals or find a business to rent out that has wedding backdrops! 

  • CULINARY CELEBRATION

Hire a private chef for a luxurious meal at home/abroad/hotel or go out for a meal that you normally wouldn’t splurge on. If you’re a foodie, book that Michelin star restaurant you’ve been eyeing to go to!

  • SURPRISE GIFTS!

Planning a surprise for your partner can be such a sentimental way to show your partner the love you have for each other. A gift doesn’t have to be pricy- it can be an inside joke between the 2 of you, something symbolic or you just want to spoil each other!

  • SEND OUT WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENT

After you’ve thoroughly enjoyed your moment and you feel ready to share the news, you can send out a photo announcement to update everyone! That way, people still feel included and get a sneak peek. No pressure to feel the need to share the news- do it whenever you’re ready as a couple!

I chose to share the news a month later to savor those precious moments & truly be in the moment. Below was my announcement!

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Gathering legal documents abroad can be difficult and time consuming. Every country varies in their marriage law certification process. Local courthouses can also take some time to process and does not offer flexibility with specific dates/times. My recommendation is to go directly to a private business that offers efficiency and flexibility.

We decided to officially sign the documents at a quick drive thru chapel and travel to a destination to capture the intimate ceremony of just the 2 of us. We went to Albertson Wedding Chapel in LA  (fun fact: Alaric from The Vampire Diaries also got married here! AH!) It was such a smooth & pleasant process- you can opt for them to complete all the paperwork for you and it simplified the process. They were SO generous with upgrading & offering us to come inside their beautiful chapel to seal the deal!

Tulum Travel Guide

GENERAL INFO

Click to enlarge & read.

GETTING AROUND TULUM

Tulum is divided into 2 different areas: Tulum town center and Tulum beach zone. Decide what kind of vacation you are looking for- relaxation? Then the beachfront is for you! If you’re off adventuring, getting out of tourist trap spots- then stay at the town center for a more authentic feel! Traffic is CRAZY since there’s only one road connecting the town center to the beach- keep that in mind. It can sometimes take 45 minutes just to go 7km to/from town center/ beach so if you’re constantly driving to explore other parts of Mexico, then staying at the beachfront will add time to your drive. Taxi ride from town to the beach is usually around 250 pesos. Always try to negotiate if they throw an unreasonably price tag at you. You can always rent a bike to get around too- only takes 30 minutes to bike the path between the 2 areas in Tulum!

ACCOMMODATION

Click here to read my review on the airbnb we stayed in! Depending on the kind of vacation you want, there are a ton of options to choose from- there’s a range from budget to luxury. Note: the beachfront properties are on the pricy end. 

RUINS

Chichen Itza

Truly a one of a kind archeological site! It is one of the 7 New Wonders of the World. The most well preserved, excavated ruin here in Mexico- you will NOT be disappointed. Because it is fully excavated, there aren’t many shady spots and the weather is oppressively hot. Make sure you bring a hat, sunscreen & stay hydrated.

Some fun facts about Chichen Itza.

  • Mayans were astronomically aligned! The main pyramid functions as one huge calendar. It has 365 steps total: 91 on each side and 1 at the top. Each side represents each season- Autumn, Winter, Spring & Summer. Coincidence? I think not!
  • Clap your hands at the base of El Castillo stairs. You will hear an echo that resembles the Mexican Quetzal- a bird that’s considered sacred in the Mayan culture & native to the Yucatan area! Mindblow!
  • The Temple of Kulkulkan forms the shadow of a serpent twice a year during Spring/Autum equinox. The body of the snake slowly moves down as the sun sets and merges with the serpents head at the bottom of the stairs. I mean, major goosebumps!!

The drive from Tulum takes about 2 hours. Come right at opening/ early in the morning to avoid crowds because this place fills up quickly with tour buses dropping off tourists. Literally over 2.5 million tourists visit Chichen Itza every year! There is plenty of space here to roam freely and local guides you can hire on the spot right as you enter. When you are putting in the address in Google Maps, type in Chichen Itza Parking Lot instead of Chichen Itza. 

Chichen Itza Entrance Fee is 533 MXN Pesos which translates to $27 USD approximately

Hours: Monday – Sunday 8AM- 5PM (last entrance at 4PM)

P.S.  Tripods are NOT allowed & GoPro’s count as a “professional gear” so they’ll charge you an extra $3 for it

Coba

Coba means “waters stirred by the wind’, which explains why this settlement is tucked in between 2 large lagoons. Coba is located deep in the jungle and not easily reached. You will truly have an authentic Mayan experience here & feel like you’re on an Indiana Jones adventure.

The main ruin (Nohuch Mul Pyramid) is deep in the jungle and requires you to trek a bit. The civilization here was a thriving so many of the sites are spread far apart. Your day at Coba can last up to 3 hours if you walk the site, 1.5 hours if you take advantage of the bike rentals or an hour if you opt for the Mayan Uber, a chauffeured tricycle where you just sit and take in the sights. Both bicycle options are inexpensive and super fun- definitely opt for it!

Some fun facts about Coba:

  • Coba structures show influences from Teotihuacan (near Mexico City) architecture- evidence that inhabitants had contact with Central Mexico.
  • It takes 120 steps up to the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid (the main one), and reaches 137 feet in height. This is the tallest temple pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula! (unfortunately, due to the pandemic, you are no longer allowed to climb it- it may change)
  • There’s more than 50 sacbes (white roads) that have been discovered within the Coba settlement with 16 open to the public. All roads originate at the main pyramid and stretch out in the four cardinal directions; east, west, north and south.

Coba Entrance Fees: 80 Pesos // $4 Parking Fees: 50 Pesos // $2.50 Bike Rental: 50 Pesos // $2.50

Hours: Monday-Sunday 8AM-5PM

CENOTES

What are Cenotes?

pronounced “seh-no-tay”

Cenotes are natural sinkholes, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Cenotes comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes: caves, semi-open & open. The Yucatan peninsula use to be a gigantic underwater reef millions of years ago and as sea levels dropped, the limestone land mass was exposed and the network of fractures created an underground river system. As of 2021, there are over 7,000 cenotes in Mexico!

Importance of Cenotes

The Mayans considered cenotes as entrances to the underground world where the Mayan Gods were and it was a place that provided fresh water for them. These sinkholes holds significance to them, which explains why most temples & villages are built near cenotes. Some of the cenotes became sacred sites where human sacrificial offerings were made- many had human remains & gold at the bottom (eeeek!!)

Here are my thoughts on the cenotes we visited!

Click on image to enlarge & read!

Here are some more photos for you to get a better idea of each cenote’s vibe:

DAY TRIPS

IZAMAL

Izamal is nicknamed La Ciudad Amarilla– The Yellow City. It was founded nearly 2,000 years ago by the Mayans and became a center for the worship of the supreme god, Itzamná and the sun god, Kinich-Kakmó. We were told the town was painted yellow in honor of Kinich Kak Moo, a manifestation of the Maya sun god to impress Pope John Paul II visit in 1993. Izamal is often referred to as the ‘City of Three Cultures’ due to its fascinating blend of pre-Colombian, colonial and modern cultures. Around half the town’s population speak Mayan (along with Spanish).

The drive from Tulum to Izamal takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Alot of sites in Mexico can get extremely crowded, but Izamal is a hidden gem away from the tourists. It’s a little off the beaten path, but sooo worth it! Every inch of the town is photogenic & extremely instagrammable!

Izamal Sights

  • Kinich Kakmó Pyramid, translated to ‘fire parrot’, had the head of a macaw and was said to descend to Earth to accept offerings of fruit, flowers, animals and spices when the sun was at its apex.
  • Convento de San Antonio de Padua: one of the oldest Catholic monasteries in the Americas and its outdoor atrium is the second largest in the world (after the Vatican).
  • Dine at Kinich Restaurant: Yucatan food in a beautiful atmosphere

VALLADOLID

Valladolid is a breathtakingly restored colonial town UNESCO Heritage Site) It’s listed as one of Mexico’s “pueblos magicos”, aka magic towns! My favorite activity was wandering around the streets admiring the colorful buildings, street vendors & people watching! You instantly feel the vibrant culture & it transport you back to how the Mayans use to live. This town is centrally located from all the major hotspots- Chichen Itza, Cenote Suytun, etc so it makes for a great place to stay overnight too! Everyday at 7pm you can join a free walking tour with a knowledgable guide! 

VALLADOLID SIGHTS

  • Cenote Zaci: located in the heart of the city
  • Visit Museums 

Museo San Roque – archeology lovers

Choco Story – Chocolate museum and shop

  • Walk around the main square:Plaza Central, walk the Calzada de los Frailes to the Ex Convento.
  • Convent of San Bernardino de Siena: one of the oldest colonial sites in the Yucatan, the former Convent of San Bernardino de Siena dates to the mid-16th century and even has a cenote on-site, which was used as part of an irrigation system during the time that a Franciscan order called the convent home.

Dine at El Saxon De Valladolid

RESTAURANTS in Tulum

What makes Tulum so versatile is that you can get a 25 cent taco in one corner and walk a block away to dine at a Michelin level restaurant.

Annnnnd if you’re too lazy to go out? Trust me, I get it. After a long day of exploration, you kinda just want take out. Order delivery from tomato.mx . Simply set up an account, pay a little delivery fee and you’re good to go! Below are my recommendations on the spots we went to!

VERDANT

This place was SO phenomenal I wanted to expand on my dining experience here.

The chef’s tasting menu was a culinary delight! You can taste the love and care that goes into the food and they use all locally sourced ingredients. The farm to table experience is evident – make sure to tour the garden in the back to see where they grow a portion of their herbs and vegetable. Each dish is inventive, flavorful, ingredient driven & sustainably ethos. They incorporate a whimsical twist on simple ingredients & it was worth the splurge! Make a reservation ahead of time!

BEACH CLUBS

EXTRA TRAVEL TIPS

  • FLIGHT: Book an overnight flight to Cancun & find a flight that lands in the early morning. CUN Airport is the second busiest airport and immigration/TSA takes FOREVER. The airport is a lot less busy when you land in the morning.
  • SUNSCREEN: You’ve got to wear lots & lots of sunscreen, but please make sure we keep our ocean life happy by using non toxic chemicals. Here is a guide breaking down on what types of chemicals to look out for when purchasing sunscreen.
  • WATER: Bring your own canteen to prevent buying plastic bottles. DO NOT drink from the tap in Mexico!!  I personally don’t even like to brush my teeth with tap water. Take precautions, stay on the safe side and avoid spending your whole trip in the bathroom. My Zojurushi bottle is vacuum insulated which keeps the water SUPER ice cold all day. Highly recommend!
  • SAFETY: Yucantan peninsula is considered one the safest place to drive around in Mexico in the daytime. Make sure you get to your destination before it gets dark. Walking around Tulum center/ beachfront at night is okay as long as you are not traveling alone. Also, don’t leave things in the car- hide it in the trunk!
  • HAVE FUN: You’re on vacation!! Go with the flow and channel your inner child mode. Plans might change, things might not go according to plan, but stay open minded & enjoy the time off!

Tulum Airbnb

Hola Tulum! A year later (that darn pandemic), we were finally able to get married and go on our honeymoon! In this post, I share the Airbnb we stayed at & damn, it was absolute perfection. I know there are SO many options to choose from on Airbnb, but this spot is truly a one of a kind! 

Firstly, we wanted an intimate & private space to celebrate our wedding shoot/honeymoon for this trip. We craved a space that was aesthetically breathtaking, simple and architecturally unique all at the same time. It was important for the space to incorporate lush natural elements in a luxurious way, but also provide that cozy feel!

The moment I saw the staircases next to the 20 ft living room windows looking out to tropical trees, my heart instantly knew this was where I’d celebrate my once in a lifetime moment.This airbnb has impeccable designs in every corner, the hosts adds special touches- from fresh bouquets of flowers in every room to all the amenities you’d need. The kitchen has a reverse osmosis water filter, in house washer/dryer and effective air conditions in the rooms, safe/secure area with parking spot included. The host is extremely responsive through messaging, he was happy to coordinate, answer any questions we had, and provided very clear/detailed directions. They even arranged for a nurse to come to the home to do a private COVID-19 PCR test for us! Here is the link to the airbnb! Enjoy!!

CHINO HILLS STATE PARK

CHINO HILLS STATE PARK

Spring is in full bloom! Chino Hills is thriving in Black Mustard flowers & it has caught everyone’s attention. Life doesn’t get any better than this. Being out in nature admiring blooms, hearing the birds chirp, bees buzzing with excitement & soaking in the sunshine. This is the perfect day trip for those living in LA- takes about 1 hour from Santa Monica and is a doable weekend venture to get in touch with mother earth.

When you do decide to visit, please stay on the trails. Be mindful of not stepping on any flowers/ destroying the wildlife, leaving behind trash & always remain respectful of the rules mandated at this state park. Be aware: that there are rattlesnakes!!!

Entrance Fee: $5 per vehicle , $4 seniors 62+

ADDRESS: 4721 SAPPHIRE RD. CHINO HILLS, CA 91709

PARK HOURS: October-March 8:00AM- 5PM // April-September 8:00AM-7PM

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Silver lining to the pandemic? Taking the whole year to PERFECT my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I think we can all agree, there really isn’t a more quintessential baked good than a classic chocolate chip cookie. One bite of this ooey, gooey, chewy cookie will leave you wanting to eat the entire batch in one sitting. Follow my simple, straightforward recipe and you’ll be the next Betty Crocker!

QUICK TIPS

BUTTER: When melting in the microwave, make sure it’s not sizzling hot. You can stop it every 5 seconds to check on how the butter is doing.

CHOCOLATE CHIPS: If you like it more chocolatey, add 1 whole cup instead. Feel free to use dark chocolate, semi-sweet or white chocolate. Your cookie= your preferences!

COOKIE DOUGH: Do NOT skip this step! You must set the cookie dough in the fridge for at least 45 minutes BEFORE baking it!!! Cover the bowl with saran wrap, pop it in the fridge, clean up the mess in the kitchen and the time will pass quickly before you know it.

Floral Themed Photoshoot

I’m back with another 1 Prop= 5 Shots and this time, the prop is my beautiful wisteria tree located right in my front yard. You can apply this concept to any flowers you have in the neighborhood, park, garden or just head to your local grocery store to buy a bouquet for less than $5! Make sure to tag me on Instagram if you recreate any of these looks!

XO,

Soph

POSE WITH IT

The easiest one out of alllll these photoshoot ideas- simply lay down or sit next to the flowers and smile! All you’ll need to bring is your big beautiful smile & it’s that easy. I wanted to create a monotone look by matching my outfits with the flower color theme. Feel free to wear whatever you’re most confident in!

PETAL LASH

This photo idea takes quite a bit of practice, but for those makeup lovers out there, you’ll LOVE recreating it. Take a bunch of petals, carefully use lash glue and apply it on your lash line! I matched my eyeshadow with the purple theme, but feel free to do your own makeup however you like. This concept gives you an instant glamorous & effortless look! Perfect for an unclose self portrait headshot. I wrapped a couple wisterias around my camera lens to give this photo some depth during the shoot.

HOLD THE FLOWER

Cut a couple pieces or take a whole bouquet and hold it in front of you. You can use the flowers to block a part of your body from revealing, cover your face with it and it instantly gives you a candid, editorial looking shot!

FLOWER CROWN

Why not wear the flowers on your head? I grabbed a headband (any type will do) and some tape and used the pieces I cut to create a flower crown! You can tape as little or as much flowers on for a unique look. I wanted the wisterias to look as if they were drooping over my head so I taped the branches down at the top of the headband for this look.

FLORAL BACKDROP

Use it as an easy backdrop! Any kind of flowers can instantly turn a photo dreamy, romantic and feminine. Set up a small table, lay out a book, a cup of tea, and you’ll have a fancy photograph!

BRIDGERTON EDITION

Is anyone else going through Bridgerton withdrawals or is it just me?? I binged all 8 episodes, rewatched the entire season AGAIN with David and now I’m sitting here missing the whimsical, steamy plot line.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Bridgerton is a Netflix original show produced by the one and only, Shonda Rhimes. Um Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, pretty much all of ABC Network shows! Bridgerton was adapted from Julia Quinn’s bestselling novels (there’s 12 books in this series… So fingers crossed for 12 more seasons of Bridgerton!) Of course any Shondaland production is going to be over the top, intentional and very well executed. It’s a period drama that focuses on powerful families, specifically the Bridgertons and we watch the eldest daughter make her debut on Regency London’s competitive marriage market.

Back to what I was saying… All that’s been running through my mind since the show are location scouting the historical castles, thinking of ways to rent some fabulous ball gowns, & looking up properties in London on Zillow. You can definitely call me Bridgerton obsessed. My favorite part of the show was most definitely the wardrobe. I don’t think there is another show out there that can top the custom made clothing. Although it was centered around the Regency period, the clothing was a blend of tradition and modern styles and it was aesthetically pleasing. I loved that there was meaning behind each family’s color palette (it just shows you how intentional every detail in the show was) The show has inspired me to dress up more for everyday mundane life and below are some of my looks for each character! Enjoy!

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

DAPHNE BRIDGERTON

The Bridgerton blue- you see it everywhere. In their London home with blue carpets, drapes, flowers, and decor. Of course the entire family’s clothing has incorporated the color in every single piece of wardrobe . It’s a pale, pastel like shade of blue, which symbolizes their class and standing in high society.

I’ve linked below some of the dresses that I’ve found to be aligned with Daphne Brigherton’s style. They are more modern and wearable versus an uncomfortable tight corset that takes forever to put on/ take off.

Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Dress 3 | Dress 4 | Dress 5 | Dress 6 | Dress 7

PENELOPE FEATHERINGTON

The Featherington’s in general are seen to be wearing very bold and vibrant colors , always wanting to scream for attention. Penn is seen in yellow ALOT and throughout the show, she shows her disdain for the color. Yellow symbolizes the sun and cheerfulness and was a very popular color during the Regency period. It’s a common color worn by marriage seeking women . However, the color yellow also reflects jealously, deceit, and betrayal, which is very telling of her other personality. The over the top wardrobe from the Featherington’s symbolize new money and the vibe of outsiders trying hard to fit into the upper class.

Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Dress 3| Dress 4

QUEEN CHARLOTTE

Queen Charlotte’s character was actually written into the show and is based off of  Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1744. She fell in love with King George and married him within 6 hours of meeting him and actually had one of the more successful, loving royal marriages. In the show, she’s seen sniffing drugs and it’s a real depiction of Charlotte’s addiction to drugs.she had the nickname Snuffy Charlotte and always had a whole room stocked with drugs in Windsor Castle.

Dress 1 | <a href=”http://&lt;!– wp:embed {“url”:”https://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/jump/product/Fit-And-Flare-Cocktail-Dress/1000652564?colorId=NS1448848\u0026pos=1:100\u0026Ntt=floral%20dress”,”type”:”rich”,”providerNameSlug”:”embed”,”className”:””} –> <figure class=”wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-embed wp-block-embed-embed”><div class=”wp-block-embed__wrapper”> https://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/jump/product/Fit-And-Flare-Cocktail-Dress/1000652564?colorId=NS1448848&pos=1:100&Ntt=floral%20dress </div></figure> Dress 2 | <a href=”http://&lt;!– wp:embed {“url”:”https://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/jump/product/Floral-Printed-Frill-Hem-Dress/1000643098?colorId=NS1003538\u0026pos=1:95\u0026Ntt=floral%20dress”,”type”:”rich”,”providerNameSlug”:”embed”,”className”:””} –> <figure class=”wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-embed wp-block-embed-embed”><div class=”wp-block-embed__wrapper”> https://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/jump/product/Floral-Printed-Frill-Hem-Dress/1000643098?colorId=NS1003538&pos=1:95&Ntt=floral%20dress </div></figure> Dress 3 | Dress 4

SIENA ROSSO

The opera singer with a secret affair with a prominent lord. She’s longed for that status. Back in the day, it was shameful and scandalous to be an opera singer because being a part of an opera house meant having a patron. who in exchange for sexual favors, would fund a young woman’s career.

Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Dress 3 | Dress 4

LADY DANBURY

As for Lady Danbury, she projects iconic energy and represents the color purple so well in all of her outfits. She is the ultimate queen of the social order and no one dares to mess with her. I’ve found some modernized, trendy versions that is Lady Danbury inspired and a lot more wearable on a day to day basis.

Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Dress 3 | Dress 4

VALENTINE’S DAY PHOTOSHOOT IDEAS

Valentine’s Day is coming up and I know alot of us are still trapped indoors due to the pandemic. BUT, that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating and changing up the scenery at home for a fun filled weekend. Whether you’re hosting a galentines zoom party with your girlfriends or you want to surprise your partner, here are some photo inspiration for you to easily recreate them right at home!

BALLOON BATH

This photoshoot is probably one of the easiest I’ve ever done! Blow up a bunch of balloons ( you can find them at Michaels, 99cent store, Amazon, etc), tie them up, toss it into a bathtub and plop right in! I do want to kindly remind you to tie your balloons in a REUSABLE way to be more environmentally friendly. Here is a video you can watch to learn how. Now I know not everyone has a bathtub, so you can fill up your shower too or even buy a blow up kiddie pool! My tip is to not blow up the balloons too much to prevent it from popping when you get into the tub.

XOXO

Did you know tic tac toe can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt? The game was found on roofing tiles dating back to 1300 BCE! Soooo historical right?! Well let’s modernize this game by drawing it on your mirror with a hot pink lipstick! This is perfect for a Valentine’s Day shoot to do with your partner!

CONVERSATION HEARTS

Conversation hearts are the symbol of Valentine’s Day here in the US. Growing up, I remember buying a bunch to pass out to all my classmates at school. So of course, I headed to the grocery store to buy some for myself! As I stared at the products trying to think of a creative way to use them, I began to find the sayings on there boring and plain. I wished the messages would change from just the basic phrases to more meaningful deeper messages. It inspired me to make DIY life size conversation hearts with personal messages that we should all preach and spread more of- from choose kindness, to goal digger, to my favorite, dream big! Check out my IG video here for a step by step guide!

VALENTINE BACKDROP

I wanted alllll things pink for Valentine’s Day so I flipped our entire living room completely! Hang up some banners, blow up a balloon that says “love” or “XOXO” or any lovey dove phrases and hang it up as a backdrop. Remember those balloons you blew up for another shoot? Well hopefully you saved them and reuse it for this shoot!

SWEET TOOTH

One of my biggest hobby is baking! I made some sugar cookies, decorated them with pink icing and thought why not use it as a prop! I filled a cup with sugary conversation hearts, laid down on the floor for a fun picture!

WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK

HISTORY

The 62nd official national park in the U.S, located in the Chihuahuan Desert in Southern New Mexico, is White Sands National Park. It’s filled with soft and white sand dunes comprised of gypsum making it the world’s largest gypsum dune field. The entire area used to be underwater 250 million years ago! The dunes were created from selenite crystals that formed during the Ice Age and over time, the selenite crystals eventually wore down into gypsum sand. The effects of wind and rain leaves the pure gypsum sand to blow around and create these incredible dunes.The dune fields cover about 275 square miles with 115 square miles located within White Sands National Park, and the rest is military land that is often used for missile testing (crazy right!)

WHERE IS WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK?

White Sands is a bit out of the way & kinda in the middle of nowhere. Located near the border of Mexico and Texas, the closest airport is located in El Paso, Texas (1.5 hours away) FYI The first first 5 miles of the road is paved and the last 3 miles are made of compact gypsum sand (might want to think about what kind of car you take) 

WHERE TO STAY

Alamogordo The closest town to White Sands National Park. I would recommend staying at a simple Holiday Inn or Motel 6 located in this small town. You will spend the majority of your time out and about exploring White Sands so all you really need is a clean bed and bathroom! However, if motels aren’t your thing (trust me, I get it) then there are a couple airbnb options!

Las Cruces A larger city with more options . Downside is the 1 hour drive to White Sands . This is where we chose to stay since the first leg of our trip was a direct drive from LA — Las Cruces (12 hour driving) If our driving day wasn’t that long, I would’ve much rather prefer staying in Alamogordo!

Airbnb Options
Las Cruces Charming Casita with Hot Tub & Patio
Wish we stayed here over motel 6… 100% booking this the next time we visit White Sands!
One Bedroom Apartment
AlamogordoTwo Story Guesthouse
Cozy Home

WHEN TO GO

Temperatures vary greatly throughout the seasons so make sure you research the weather patterns ahead of time. Spring is the best season to go with the most stable weather patterns or even September October in the Fall. Summer // Winter- You will deal with extreme weather that’s unbearable. The average weather during the summer is 95F and can spike to 110. Winter nights can get so cold to 20 F. In September, there is an annual White Sands Balloon Festival! How cool!

P.S Did you know w there are free national park days? Click here to find out what day is free to visit!

WHAT TO DO THERE

  • Camp

Campsite 5 is the gem with untouched sand dunes. Like the ones you see in movies without any footprints. Keep in mind you do have to hike 1 mile each way to get to the camp site. I would not recommend camping during the winter or summer time (due to the extreme temperatures) 

  • Chill & Picnic

Soooo much space to explore and spend the day just enjoying this incredible space. Bring a blanket, food and have yourself a dreamy little picnic!

  • Hike

The park has 5 established trails ranging from easy to strenuous:

  1. Interdune Boardwalk – easy stroll, 0.4 miles round trip, accessible to wheelchairs and strollers
  2. Playa Trail – easy trail, 0.5 miles round trip, at the end you have the opportunity to see what this area looked like 10,000 years ago and learn about the giants that once roamed this area!
  3. Dune Life Nature Trail – moderate hike, 1 mile loop, kit foxes, badgers, birds, rodents, and reptiles all live in this area and you can often either see them or their tracks
  4. Backcountry Camping Trail – moderate hike, 2 mile round-trip, hike through the heart of the dunes
  5. Alkali Flat Trail – strenuous hike, 5 mile round-trip, you’ll be hiking up and down dunes along the edge of the final remnant of Lake Otero

  • Photogenic Opportunities

I mean nowadays, we are all about instagrammable shots & hands down, you can’t go wrong with a photo here. The bright white sand pairs perfectly with any color outfits. Hopefully you witness an epic sunset on top of that. 

  • Sand Sledding

Embrace that inner child in you and get a work out in! Bring or buy a sled/ smooth saucer- they sell it at the park for a higher price, but if you plan ahead you can purchase one at a Walmart for an affordable deal 

  • Sunset Strolls 

The national park offers a 45 min- 60 min ranger guided sunset tour for FREE! You learn first hand about the geology, animals and plants. The hike is a leisurely 1 mile long. Bonus: pets are allowed to join! Meet near the sunset stroll sign parking area, a 5-mile (8.05 km) drive from the fee station. Click here for more information

THINGS TO BRING WITH YOU

  • Sunscreen: There is absolutely zero shade here, it might feel like you’re under the sun burning
  • Water: you never want to be dehydrated out in the middle of a desert so load up on a ton of water in the trunk for emergencies
  • Snacks: there aren’t any restaurants anywhere in the national park so bring your own so you don’t get hangry!

TIPS

  • $20 Entrance Fee // $40 annual pass // US Military members remains free
  • You can easily get lost in the sands… I know it sounds a bit ridiculous but pay attention to markers and where you’ve parked your car. Once you explore deep enough, the entire area blends in
  • Check for closure before you go. The national park closes for military uses aka missile testing.
  • Do NOT hike in the heat. Don’t even try it…. There is zero shade there and extremely unsafe to hike in the heat.
  • Cell service is a bit unstable there so if you are expecting an important call or need service, you might not be able to do that here
  • As a safety precaution, drop a pin on Google maps to wherever you need to get back to, whether that’s a tent, parking lot or start of the trail. 

SNOWY GETAWAY IN LA

Stuck in LA and NEED to get out of here? Wishing you were on winter wonderland trip in Finland? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with a hidden gem! This location is not your typical Big Bear Mountain or Mountain High… It’s a lot more secluded, quiet and delivers just as gorgeous of a snowy backdrop view. Depending on what season you’re visiting you can expect a full on winter wonderland or a lovely camping ground during the summer.  Yessss I know we are in a pandemic… BUT that should not stop you from exploring your backyard SAFELY. This is the year to spend more time and develop a stronger connection to nature.

LOCATION 

Mount San Jacinto, located in Riverside county east of LA is a California state park perfect for a day or weekend getaway. It’s tucked next to Palm Spring/ Coachella Valley. The drive is relatively easy and it doesn’t get too windy. There was ice on the road, but as long as you are going slowly and carefully you should be ok. Multiple times throughout the day, there are snow plow trucks going back and forth cleaning the roads and keeping it well paved.

WHERE TO STAY 

You can easily do a day trip, however there are plenty of beautiful A-Frame cabins to stay at through Airbnb or bed and breakfast! 

LuxuryModerateBudget
AIRBNB Upscale Cabin
AIRBNB Treehouse
AIRBNB Modern A-Frame Cabin
AIRBNB Creek Cabin
AIRBNB Lakeview Lodge
AIRBNB Cozy Home
AIRBNB A-Frame Cabin
AIRBNB Romantic Log Cabin
AIRBNB Studio Cabin
Boutique Hotel
AIBNB Guesthouse Cottage

WHAT TO DO THERE

There are plenty of pull off points to hop out and play with snow. It’s the perfect destination to social distance during this pandemic and who doesn’t love a day out playing in nature. You can make snow angels, build a snowman, do a photoshoot or have a snowball fight! In the other seasons, there’s plenty of hikes to do! 

We came after a full night of snowfall and by morning, the entire mountain was covered in fresh snow. Every inch was untouched, the snow was fluffy/ clean and it was truly a winter wonderland! Bring your own food, hot cocoa/coffee and set up a cozy picnic inside the car and have a romantic day watching the snowfall! 

WEATHER CONDITIONS 

P.S Be mindful of the weather conditions BEFORE you start your journey here. Check the Cal Trans App or online maps for the travel restrictions here. You will see on the map that each point of destination will have a tire restriction. R2 means you can drive up in a 4 wheel drive without any chains (however you MUST carry them in the car) and R3 means chains are REQUIRED. This is for your own safety so please do your research before you put yourself in a dangerous situation.

BANDELIER NATIONAL MONUMENT GUIDE

As we headed back West on our cross country road trip, we stayed in Santa Fe for 2 nights and researched on what we could do around there, and damn, we were so pleasantly surprised with this destination.  

Today’s blog post is about a very sacred & special place… drumroll please…. Bandelier National Monument! Bandelier National Monument encompasses more than 30,000 acres of historial desert mesas and canyons and easily became one of my favorite USA national parks. It is only 1 hour West of Santa Fe- super feasible to do a day trip out here. The monument preserves Ancestral Puebloans structures that dates back to 1150- 1600 AD- almost 15,000 years ago! You will have the opportunity to discover cave dwellings, petroglyphs, and rock paintings. Today, the people of Chochiti Pueblo are considered to be the most direct descendents of the natives’ ancestral puebloans. 

As you drive into the park, you will come across some viewpoints where you can park and hop out to take some photos, which I don’t think its worth stopping. Keep in mind of your time here. Ultimately, you want to get down to the main Visitor Center area to start the adventurous hike so make sure you make your way down there to see the cave dwelling and archeological sites.

Parking is extremely limited once you get down to the Visitor Center area (where the start of the hike up to the cave dwellings are) In the summertime, you’ll have to park at the top and take a shuttle down, but in the winter time, you can pull in directly to the main lot. Once you get down to the main parking lot,  you will see a visitor center where you can learn about the early inhabitants that dates back thousands of years. From there, you can start your hiking adventure!

Main Ruins loop trail is 1.2 miles. You start the trail right by the visitor center and make your way through archeological sites and cave dwellings. It’s easily worth seeing even if you’re limited on time here- it requires very minimal hiking/short walk. I’d say average 30 min round trip. As you continue on the trail, you will see a sign that says “Long House,” which is another collection of Pueblo Ruins. They use to be 4 story houses built along side the cliffs. You can add on an extra mile & the trail will lead you on to see the Alcove House previously known as the Ceremonial Cave. The Alcove House is the tallest one, which served 25 people at one point and is 140 ft above ground…. so be prepared to do a lot of climbing (4 sections of long ladders )! P.S look into weather conditions before coming here. The ladders are closed off if there is abundant snowfall. If you have a fear of heights, you might want to skip out on the Alcove House.

Cave Dwellings

There are 3 short ladders to climb right at the beginning of this trail. Definitely give those a try and if you are up for an epic adventure, challenge yourself to the 140ft ladder by the Alcove House. You can tell the ancestral puebloans were much shorter based on how small these caves were. You are able to freely climb up, explore the space, observe the interior of the caves. The ancestral puebloans used these spaces to escape from the extreme weather changes. PLEASE only enter the caves that have ladders. Be respectful of the historical preservation here!  

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Entrance Fee: $25 (you can use your national park pass for this too!)
  • Parking is LIMITED. It’s such a small lot and fills up quickly. My advice: head there early in the AM!
  • Check the weather conditions before you go. Ancient Pueblo sites have closures that are dependent on weather conditions so check before you go!
  • Pack your own food and drinks to have a lovely picnic there. There is a cafe on site, but the menu is small.

FAVORITE AMAZON DRESS FIND

I felt the need to dedicate a whole blog post to this dress because it is such a hidden gem of a find and YOU can all easily purchase it too! You won’t believe it, but it’s from Amazon and it’s only $32. Who knew Amazon had such stylish options for an affordable price!

This dress gives you the perfect twirly flow for photos and can be worn for so many different occasions- It’s versatile which is why I LOVE it. I wore it in the winter with heat tech leggings underneath to keep me warm. For Spring & Summer it’s the perfect loose fitting, airy dress. It’s elegant, flirty, luxe all in one and I’ve linked it HERE for you all to buy!! (Go to the Fashion section of my storefront and you’ll see it there) Seriously, you won’t regret it! 

XO,

Soph

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO NEW ORLEANS

New Orleans, most notably known for its epic Mardi Gra celebration, has earned quite a wild reputation, but it’s sooo much more than that. There’s alot to learn & experience- from the cultural traditions to the food & history. The city is a blend of Creole, French, Cajun all intertwined and represented throughout every inch of the city. Music flows down every street you turn, every dish is a work of art and you are left in awe from the historical architecture. 

We spent a couple days here and squeezed in as much as we could. You can definitely get a good sense of the city in 24 hours so it’s the perfect place for a weekend getaway. Below is my guide and recommendation for your next stop in New Orleans. Feel free to comment down below with any questions or find me on my Instagram where I post daily content!

GETTING HERE

Drive or fly? You choose! Louis Armstrong International Airport is very well connected with tons of flights daily and it is only 15 minutes away from the city center. Ubers are accessible & safe to take from there. Minimum airport fee to and from is around $35 each and dependent on high-demand periods. 

Since we were on our cross country road trip, we drove. I don’t think there is a single person out there that enjoys driving into and around busy cities. The annoying traffic, complicated parking signs, confusing one way streets, & worst of all, parking is a shitshow. I recommend going directly to your hotel parking lot or a reliable lot and pay up that awful price and just leave your car there for the entire duration of your trip.

GETTING AROUND

Riding St. Charles Street Car ( P.S always mask up! )

Driving your own vehicle around the city will give you a HEADACHE. Don’t even try it. I suggest using New Orleans public transport! Riding the street cars (only $3 per person for the whole day! You can hop on/off as you wish) adds to the whole experience and on top of that, you’d be supporting a local business. New Orleans is a small-scale city, so if you stay somewhere centrally located, it’s pretty accessible by foot!

Fun Fact: St. Charles street car is the oldest continuously operating street car line in the world!

WHEN TO VISIT

February- May is when the celebrations are in full swing and the weather is ideal. You’ll be visiting with thousands of other people so be mindful of the crowds. If you’re looking to save $$, travel here in the summer. The summer heat and humidity can feel oppressive, which is why hotel rates will be much lower. If you’re not interested in the celebrations, I recommend coming in December and January when the weather is chilly, but manageable. Way less tourists & you feel like you have the city to yourself. 

WHERE TO STAY

Magnolia Hotel

Magnolia Hotel

I did a ton of research on where to stay and debated on whether or not I wanted to be on Bourbon street… and thank god I didn’t. I recommend staying right on the edge of French Quarter so you get some peace and quiet at night. Magnolia Hotel was the perfect location. It’s steps away from the French Quarter so we were able to walk everywhere! It’s removed from the French Quarter craziness/sketchyness. Magnolia hotel is sophisticated, clean, cozy & modern. The bed was comfortable, staff was friendly & professional & covid protocol was implemented. The only downside is parking. There are ONLY 6 free parking spaces right in front of the hotel, but there is a lot you can park at across the street for $30 a night. I know.. so pricy, but that’s how it is in every city.

WHERE / / WHAT TO EAT

CAFE BEIGNET

 334 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Yes, we’ve all heard of Cafe Du Monde, but Cafe Beignet is where the locals go! Beignets are basically a French “donut”- deep fried pastry covered in powdered sugar. The beignets here are chewier (my preference, if you prefer airy, pillowy ones go to Cafe Du Monde!) and they serve more on the menu. IF you’re craving beignets late at night and it’s closed, know that Cafe Du Monde is open 24/7 and going there would be more of an experience. 

BRENNON’S

417 Royal St, French Quarter, New Orleans LA

Known for its iconic dish, THE banana fosters. Who doesn’t want bananas that are flambéed tableside with brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, rum and served with New Orleans Ice Cream Co. vanilla bean ice cream?? It’s the most ordered dish on the menu and for good reason. You can thank me later.

Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar and Fish House 

512 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 

The world is your oysters!! If you’re looking for an authentic “New Orleans” meal, this is the place to go. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but don’t let it fool you! The raw oysters were super plump & clean. The charbroiled oysters were soooo juicy (currently drooling as I’m thinking back to this meal). Man, now I’m wishing I ordered more! The best part is that it’s super affordable for quality seafood!

Central Grocery Company

923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116-3381

We came here because of alllll the hype on the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta recipe is over 100 years and the store dates back to 1906. The muffuletta is pretty much an italian sandwich packed with meat (salami, ham), cheese (swiss, provolone), & olive salad. My advice: get a half sandwich. The portion size is huge and a half will fill up 2 people! It’s the perfect place for a quick to-go meal and you can easily bring it over to Jackson Square & and enjoy it outdoors.

Being raised in Santa Monica, I am spoiled with a shop called Bay Cities with the same Italian deli like supermarket so the flavors tasted oddly familiar and I have to say it did not beat it. Bay Cities trumps this place.. BUT if you’ve never had something similar, then it’s a pretty darn good sandwich!

Leah’s Pralines 

714 St Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Did you know New Orlean’s signature candy started out as one of America’s earliest street food? It also emancipated black women to make a living during a time when civil rights weren’t even in the picture. The candy is a symbol of a rich black culinary heritage and city tradition. Leah’s Praline is a family owned business since 1944. They use locally sourced ingredients such as Alabama pecans and Louisiana sugar. New Orleans praline has origins that can be traced back to its French heritage, however Louisianians adjusted the traditional recipe to include almonds and cream. There is a wide variety of toppings to choose from and let me tell you, pralines are not cheap! To be honest, I don’t have too biggest sweet tooth so it tasted a bit tooooo sweet for my liking. But definitely go here for the experience, treat yourself to a sweet treat & support a local business!

NOLA POBOY

908 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Legend has it, that the name poor boy, also referred to as po’ boy, comes from the Great Depression era when a sandwich was created to be given free of charge to transit strikers. It’s a must whenever you visit the South. Po’ Boys use French bread and dress it up with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and your choice of meat- shrimp, roast beef, etc. I can’t ever say no to oysters so I go with the fried oyster poboys & it hits the spot every time.

GALATOIRE’S

209 Bourbon St New Orleans, LA 70130

Established in 1905, this family owned restaurant has the best traditional Creole/Cajun dishes. Come here for a nice wholesome bowl of gumbo. P.S did you know the word gumbo originated from the African word okra? Suggesting gumbo was originally made with okras! It’s a melting pot of Louisiana cooking & its one of my favorites!  Other dishes I would recommend to try are jambalaya (comparable to Spanish Paella), etouffe, & red beans and rice. 

FRENCH TRUCK COFFEE

1200 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Chicory, the root of a blue flowered plant is a widely used as an ingredient in NOLA coffee. During the Civil War, Louisianians used chicory coffee as a substitute when the naval cut off the port- leaving people with a coffee shortages. Chicory coffee is commonly used during economic crisis and New Orlean continues this tradition.

WHAT TO DO // SEE

FRENCH QUARTER

The oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. The French claimed Louisiana in the 1690’s. The streets are named after French Royal houses and Catholic saints to pay homage to France’s ruling family. You can spend all afternoon wandering through the streets and I’d say THE most instagrammable spot in the French Quarter is at the corner of Royal and St. Peter. (location of the photo above!)

BOURBON STREET

TBH, Bourbon street brings out the binge drinker in all of us… HA jk.. This historic street is located in the heart of French Quarters. The entire street embodies the life of the party with neon lights bursting, loud lit music blasting, and beads decorated/ thrown everywhere. At night, it’s packed with Bachelor/ Bachelorette parties, sketchy looking people. Now, it’s certainly not my type of scene, but still fun to observe every once in a while. It’s a VERY entertaining place to people watch 😉 trust me on that.

For solo female travelers, I DO NOT recommend coming here at night by yourself. Always have a buddy or come here in the daytime.


LOUIS ARMSTRONG PARK // CONGO SQUARE

If you need to get out of the French Quarters and go for a nice stroll to work out all the delicious food you’re having in NOLA, this is a great option to walk to. This park is filled with a historical oak trees dripping in lush Spanish moss, a pond filled with adorable ducklings, & lots of benches for you to sit back and relax.

There is an area inside the park called the Congo Square that holds a lot of historical significance. During the 18th century, enslaved Africans were only allowed to congregate and gather in remote public squares on Sundays. This particular square (located right outside the French Quarters) was a place where they could celebrate their African roots and dance together during the oppression.

GARDEN DISTRICT

Take the St. Charles street car for $3 per person and go on a scenic ride to the Garden District. It’s a fun 15 minute “Disneyland” trolley ride! Sometimes the French Quarter can feel a bit overwhelming, so it’s nice to spend an afternoon away from it admiring the charming historical homes in the residential area. P.S if you’re into American Horror Story: Coven, Miss Robicheaux’s Academy filming location is actually at one of the homes in this area, the Buckner Mansion. You can even stay there for a night!

LAFAYETTE CEMETARY NO.1

While you’re visiting the Garden District area, take a moment to step back in time and check out this cemetery. Walking around a cemetery can feel eerily and creepy, but it can also be quite interesting. If you’re someone who is intrigued by ghosts and spirits, this is the place to go and see if you can encounter some of the ghostly energy. Each cemetery has its own “charm and personality” so do your own free walking tours at the various cemeteries in NOLA to observe the different tombs & styles.

JACKSON SQUARE // CATHEDRAL ST. LOUIS

Centrally located in the French Quarters, this is an iconic spot to visit in NOLA. Admire the beauty of the Cathedral sSt. Louis while you soak in some vitamin D at Jackson Square. Aside from the beauty, its a great place to wander around, sit in the courtyard and people watch. Grab some beignets, muffuletta and have a picnic at the square! 

TIPS ON AVOIDING TOURIST TRAPS

With over 10 million tourists a year, you are bound to be bombarded with tourist traps and scams here. My best advice is to NOT engage ever or politely decline. Don’t pause when someone approaches you- just keep on walking! 

  1. The Infamous Shoes

This scam makes me laugh! You will 10000% have someone approach you and say “I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes” or “Where did you get your shoes?” Once you respond to their question, you’ve just participated in the bet… So be prepared to pay up! The answer? Buddy you got dem on your feet on Bourbon street (or whatever street you’re on) in New Orleans! HA! 

David and I knew about this going into the city, so the moment a man approached him about it David walked away. He actually followed us for a bit and even started to BEND DOWN to touch David’s shoe. Totally crossing the boundary, so be careful!

  1.  Tell me your first name and I bet I can spell your last name!

Someone will most likely come up to you and say, “Bet you $10 if you tell me your first name, I can spell your last name.” So you give them your first name, and then they will LITERALLY spell out “L-A-S-T  N-A-M-E” hahah! If you want to play along, go ahead! But remember, you’ll have to pay up at the end! 

  1. Can I borrow your cell phone?

Someone will come up with a fake storyline, “my cell phone ran out of battery, can I borrow your phone?” or “I left my phone at home and need to make an urgent call.” What do you think happens when you hand it over? Hmm.. They run away with it and you’re left phoneless. Nowadays, theres a good excuse to not hand your phone over, um COVID-19, so politely decline and say you’re in a rush. 

VISIT THE REAL LIFE MYSTIC FALLS FROM THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

Oh hello there, nice to meet you. I’m Sophie & this is David. We are Mystic Falls newest vampires 😉 JK!  With 2020 being such an unprecedented year, I wish we were all slightly immortal/ part vampire so we can stay healthy and safe… Okay, but for real, does this look familiar to you? That’s right, it’s MYSTIC FALLS from CW’s hit show The Vampire Diaries. If you’re a fan or into vampire fiction, then you’ll 100% love need to make a trip out here and follow this guide! Seeing one of your favorite shows come to life is SO surreal- I was flipping out in the car when we turned the corner into this town!

For our cross country road trip, we toured the real town behind the vampire diaries, aka Covington, Georgia. It’s a small town located 35 miles east of Atlanta (about 40 minutes away) and is often referred to as “The Hollywood of the South!” Downtown Covington has remained a gorgeous backdrop for over 100 films/ television shows and I can totally see why!  

You’ll feel right at home in this iconic town square the moment you drive in. You can pretty much visit almost every TVD filming location on your own OR you can pay ($60 each) to join an official tour with a guide. Due to Covid-19 & trying to keep our trip budget friendly, I decided to do the research ahead of time and see it all on our own and it worked out super easily!

Let me take you along our visit and give you the grand tour of the highlights worth seeing! 

P.S. Team Damon all the way! Aside from the Salvatore Brothers, I’d choose Alaric- loyal, intellectual, mature, family oriented… 

Don’t forget to check out my IG for more daily content inspo! Xo, Soph

MYSTIC FALLS WELCOME SIGN

1143 Oak St SE, Covington, GA 30014

Start here! This is where you can find the Mystic Falls, Virginia sign from The Vampire Diaries. It’s a bit underrated, but I mean you might as well take a pic with the welcome sign! Only takes a second to hop out for it! 

THE CLOCK TOWER

1132 Usher St NW, Covington, GA 30014

Ahh! Built in 1884, it is known as the Historic Newton County Courthouse in Covington and is the ultimate TVD backdrop. You see the clock tower in so many TVD scenes and the church bell inside is part of an important storyline in Season 8! There are so many angles to shoot from since its located right in the center of town square. P.S who remembers that iconic scene when Katherine jumped off the clock tower??

MYSTIC GRILL

1116 Clark St.  Covington, GA 30014

Yes.. this place is REAL. You can really dine inside here! Mystic Grill serves traditional Southern food with a twist! The outside scenes were filmed right here on location and was a common spot for the cast to dine at. Although the interior isn’t the same (it was filmed on a soundstage), it’s worth a visit. The rooftop overlooks the whole historic downtown square and there’s a hallway filled with signed autographs from the cast. They serve locally sourced ingredients from local vendors- we ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes (pimento cheese & tomato jam), Sweet Tea Fried Chicken (andouille sausage, red eye gravy, green beans, Yukon Gold Mash), & Shrimp & Grits (bacon, cilantro, lime). The ONLY complaint I have was that Matt wasn’t our waiter.

Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm Friday – Saturday:11:00 am – 10:00 pm Sunday:11:00 am – 9:00 pm


THE GILBERT HOUSE

2104 Floyd St NE, Covington, GA

Don’t worry everyone, the house is still standing ( remember Season 4 Elena… humanity turned off.. cover story.. fire….) Look, to most people, this is just a random house. But for those that are TVD lovers, you’d know there have been so many important scenes that have taken place on the porch and inside this very house! Discretion: This is a private property with REAL people that live inside… Respect their space and just stand on the sidewalk rather than walk all the way up to the front porch.

THE LOCKWOOD MANSION

2111 Anderson Ave., Covington, GA

Known as the Worthington Manor in real life, this is a gated mansion and to grant access to it you’d have to join the official TVD tour that you can sign up at the gift shop in town center! We didn’t feel the need to physically go inside the mansion and you can still see it very clearly from the gates! P.S keep in mind, if you decide to join the exclusive tour, you only get access to the front and backyard…

TWELVE OAKS INN

Address is 2176 Monticello St, SW, Covington, GA

Remember those old flashbacks scenes where you’d see the Salvatore brothers & Katherine frolicking around the front yard? And the 1864 flashback of the old lockwood mansion? Well that’s this house! It’s ALSO the plantation home that inspired the one featured in Gone with the Wind. I really wanted to stay here, but it was all booked up so make sure to book this as early as possible. 

Damon and Katherine stroll in flashback scenes in front of Twelve Oaks Inn (Covington, Georgia)

The Vampire Diaries Gift Shops

There are 2 gift shops you can stop by to buy alllllll things TVD- The Alley and Vampire Stalkers Gift Shop. From blankets, pillow cases, to shot glasses, vervain & even your very own blood bag! Both gift shops have original props from set so it’s like a mini museum!

More TVD Locations

Isobel’s House 2146 Conyers St, SE, Covington, GA

Caroline Forbes’ House 2118 Floyd St, NE, Covington, GA

Grayson Gilbert, M.D. Sign 1105 Washington St, SW, Covington, GA

Witch Burial Ground from Vampire Diaries 3190 Conyers St, SE, Covington, GA

Damon and Elena Rain Kiss The Academy Springs Park 3120 Conyers St SE, Covington, GA

5 COUPLES HOLIDAY SHOOT IDEAS

A CLASSIC CHRISTMAS

Alllll I want for Christmas…. Isss….. YOUUUUU! Blast some Mariah Carey music, get into the spirit and do a classic pose in front of the tree. You can keep this picture simple by sitting in front of any X-mas tree or go all out and surround yourself with decor and extra twinkle lights. It’s a versatile shot that will work with a variety of poses, but I thought this one was a bit more unique. First, sit down and do a half criss cross while he stands behind you bending over to give you a kiss on the forehead. You can thank me later 😉

CHRISTMAS PILLOW FIGHT

Throw on some Christmas pajamas that you have laying around. Target has matching PJs for $10! Set your camera right in front of the bed and have a pillow fight match! It’s perfect for an adorable, low maintenance, “candid”  Christmas themed photo. 

CANDY CANE HEART

Don’t be shy! Show off your lovey dovey PDA by holding up candy canes in front of you to form a heart. It’s such an affordable photoshoot idea that can easily recreate. Do this shot out in nature by some pine trees, in front of a christmas tree, or even at the beach! You can’t get any cheesier than that! 

JINGLE (LIGHTS) ALL THE WAY

I was SO inspired by the 2006 Deck The Halls movie promo shot and wanted to recreate it in our own cutesy way (duh! hehe) Wear Christmas pjs or any festive print clothing, wrap yourself up in some christmas lights and you’ve got yourself a cheesy holiday shot. For the Christmas lights, I recommend getting the white wiring versus the green (won’t look as “snowy/dreamy”) but it’s your own preference!

FESTIVE BACKDROP

Backdrop paper can get pretty expensive, especially since holiday patterns are used seasonally and can get pretty repetitive. I thought of an affordable way to change up your backdrop every holiday season without breaking the bank! Target has the Dollar section by the entrance with tons of simple garlands/ decor for you to put up on a blank wall or you can DIY your own! For this shoot, I used a small wreath and center that on a blank wall and slowly taped on candy canes in a pattern. I love repurposing the same decor and this makes such a unique backdrop for your house. You can even keep it up the whole holiday season! 

5 Holiday Makeup Look Ideas!

The holidays are here and we’re all back in some form of a lockdown…Let’s all continue to keep one another safe by staying at home as much as possible. Large gathering’s should be put on hold for this year, BUT that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating with family & friends. Since Zoom only sees the top half of your body, I decided to create 5 easy and diverse “holiday themed” looks that you can all easily recreate at home!

The Classic Look
Tarte
Shape Tape Concealer in Light Neutral
L’oreal Flash Cat Eyeliner in Black
Nars Matte Lipstick in Intrigue
Ardell Lashes in Demi Wispies
The Angelic Look
Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Foundation in Light Sand
NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk
Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Peaceful
Bite Beauty Yaysayer Lip Plumping Gloss in Guava Puff
The Naughty Look
Pixi Eyeshadow Palette in ItsEyeTime
Benefit Bronzer in Hoola
Benefit Blush in Rockateur
L’Oreal Lipstick in Bold Bordeaux
Velour Lashes in Can’t Be Tamed
The Themed Look
Dior
BB Creme in 020
Nuview Cosmetics Fall In Love Palette
NYX Glitter Primer
Recollections Fine Glitter in Cherry & Snow

The Evergreen Look
Urban Decay Naked Palette
Fenty Beauty Eyeshadow Palette in 10 Money
Becca Cosmetics Blush in Flowerchild
Mac Lipliner in Whirl
NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Istanbul

BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!! If you know me, you know I love a good cheesy, predictable Christmas fairytale movie. I think it’s safe to say we ALL need some extra festive cheer this year (did ya forget were still in a pandemic??) and what a better way to get through the year by staying inside and watching holiday films. I’m sharing my Christmas movie guide of all of the favorites I have on repeat every year. It’s sorted by genre and I rank my top 5 in each category. Some of these films have sequels that are just as good (I didn’t list it, but recommend you to watch!) PLEASE let me know what other movies I should add to my list and check out my instagram @sophcation for more daily updates.

ANTWERP TRAVEL GUIDE

 When you hear the word Belgium, you think beer, waffles, chocolate, and frites? Well, Belgium is so much more than that. The country is filled with medieval historical sites, festive Christmas spirit, and a relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still dreaming about the scrumptious Begian waffles and frites dipped in curry ketchup. Though the winter time can get pretty chilly (we went during Christmas time), it truly is the most festive and coziest time to visit. The whole country transforms into a real life Hallmark Christmas movie and it feels so surreal. All in all, we spent 5 nights in Belgium-4 nights in Brussels, 1 night in Bruges and we can’t wait for our next trip back to Belgium because there is still so much to see. I think it’s one of the most underrated countries in Europe and I have a feeling more and more people will begin to discover its beauty. I will break down each city so continue down below to dig deeper into Antwerp!

AIRBNB

Option 1 , Option 2, Option 3, Option 4, Option 5

HALLOWEEN: Spider Makeup

Annnnnd we’re back with another Halloween look, except this time its spookier, creepier, and I’m giving you all the Halloween vibes.

I saw various spider inspirations online and it motivated me to create my own look! I combined bits from each inspiration to create this specific makeup look. As always with any looks, you can adjust accordingly. If you want it spookier, you can give your skintone a pale white ashy look as if you’re rising from the dead, if you want it to be more cutesy then leave out the spider on the face! The key is to create something that you’re comfortable and happy with so as long as you LOVE it , that’s all that matters!

Be sure to check out my Instagram for more daily content creation! Enjoy!

My Favorite Highlighter

Introducing the holy grail highlighter that I use religiously! The one and only, Becca Cosmetics’s Shimmering Skin Perfector Highlighter- it lives up to its hype.

I don’t even experiment with other highlighters because this one has worked so well for me. I have it in both the pressed powder and liquid version, and recently misplaced my powder so this complimentary gift came at the perfect time!

It truly does give you the most luminous glow without looking too over the top.The formula is buildable and does not ever get chalky on top of your makeup. It glides onto your skin seamlessly and it’s very pigmented, so a little goes a long way!

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the shade Champagne Pop (their best seller), however for my skin tone, I prefer the shade Moonstone. The color is a pale golden sheen that’s perfect if your skin tone is more on the fair-light side. I apply it on the high points of my cheeks, inner corners of my eyes, bridge of my nose, and the cupid’s bow (top curve of my upper lip) 

I highly recommend this product and feel free to follow along on my Instagram for more daily content!

Xoxo, Soph

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post- it was sent complimentary by Becca Cosmetics.

Best TV Shows To Binge

If you’re still being a responsible human and staying at home (um because Covid-19 still exists people!!!) then I’m sure you’re running out of shows to watch. I love a good binge and we all have those days where we don’t leave the couch. If watching TV is the way you prefer to unwind then keep on reading! Here are the shows that I’d’ recommend! Warning: I’m not a professional T.V show critic. I love anything girly, cozy, cheesy, dramatic, aka hallmark vibes. So if you don’t have the same preferences then this list might not be for you…

Genre/shows are listed in alphabetical order. I have a * next to my favorite show in each category! Let me know in the comments if I should check out your favorite show that’s not listed!!! 

P.S You’ll need to have a Netflix/ Hulu account for these shows. Unless you know your way around the web and can fnd them on a sketchy website 😉

COMEDY

Gilmore Girls (Netflix) *my absolute favorite in the whole wide world!*

The show’s main focus is on the relationship between single mother, Lorelai Gilmore, and her daughter Rory, who live in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, a small fictional town filled with colorful characters. The series explores issues of family, romance, education, friendship, disappointment, and ambition, along with generational divides and social class.

Jane The Virgin (Netflix)

Set in Miami, the series details the surprising and dramatic events that take place in the life of Jane Gloriana Villanueva, a hard-working, religious, young, Venezuelan-American woman. Jane’s vow to save her virginity until marriage is threatened when a doctor mistakenly artificially inseminates her during a checkup.

Modern Family (Hulu)

The series offers an honest, often-hilarious perspective of family life. Modern Family revolves around three different types of families (nuclear, blended and same-sex) living in the Los Angeles area, who are interrelated. Modern Family employs an ensemble cast and is presented in mockumentary style, with the characters frequently speaking directly to the camera in confessional interview segments.

New Girl (Netflix)

After going through a rough breakup, awkward and upbeat Jess (Zooey Deschanel) moves in with three single guys.Together with Jess’ best friend, Cece, they bond to form an unlikely, and dysfunctional, family.

COZY/ ROMANCE

Hart of Dixie (Netflix) *

Dr. Zoe Hart, a New Yorker who, after her dreams of becoming a heart surgeon fall apart, accepts an offer to work as a general practitioner in the fictional Gulf Coast town of Bluebell, Alabama.When she arrives in town, she discovers that the man has died and left her his half of the practice in his will.. Despite the shock of Southern life and some less-than-hospitable town folk, Zoe decides to give her new life a chance and discovers a new side of herself in the process.

Sweet Magnolias (Netflix)

Lifelong friends lift each other up as they juggle relationships, family and careers in the small Southern town of Serenity.

Virgin Rivers (Netflix)

Seeking a fresh start, a nurse practitioner moves from Los Angeles to a remote Northern California town and is surprised by what — and who — she finds.

DOCUMENTARY

Evil Genius (Netflix)

We can’t get enough of true crime, and documentary film makers keep digging up real, bizarre events.it follows the events after the death of Brian Wells, a pizza man with a bomb around his neck. As a trail to find the real culprit goes on, it becomes increasingly evident that the plot isn’t quite what it seems. 

Fyre (Netflix)

The documentary tells the inside story of the failure of Fyre.The “luxury” music festival took place in the summer of 2017 but its reputation has lived on following its catastrophically bad organisation and execution.

Don’t F*ck With Cats (Netflix) *

The three-part true crime docuseries follows a group of amateur internet sleuths who launched a manhunt for Luka Magnotta after he gained international notoriety in 2010 for sharing a graphic video online of himself killing two kittens.

The Keepers (Netflix)

The unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnick, who disappeared in 1969.Cesnick, who taught at the Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore and later at Western High School, was found dead two months after she disappeared. While it remains unclear who killed Cesnick, the series explores how her death may have been linked to efforts to keep secret allegations of sexual abuse against a chaplain at the former school.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez (Netflix)

A true crime documentary series about convicted murderer and former professional American football player Aaron Hernandez. The three-part documentary explores his conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd, other murder cases in which he was a suspect, and the factors in his life that shaped his behavior.

Tiger King (Netflix)

The series explores the deeply interconnected society of big cat conservationists and collectors in America, and the private zoos and sanctuaries they have set up for these unusual and deadly animals. The primary subject is Joe Exotic, the eccentric owner of the G.W. Zoo and his bitter years-long feud with Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue. Baskin presents herself as an animal rights activist whose mission is to provide a sanctuary for big cats raised in captivity, but Joe Exotic maintains that she is simply a rival zookeeper whose aim is to eliminate her competition.

The Twinster (Netflix)

Anaïs Bordier always knew she was adopted. Her parents were French, but she’d been born in South Korea before being adopted as a baby. What she didn’t know, however, was that she might have a twin sister. That’s until she stumbles across a YouTube video of an LA-based actor who looks surprisingly familiar. Twinstersfollows the two young women as they adjust to their new lives and try to untangle the mystery behind their birth and separation.

DRAMA

13 Reasons Why (Netflix)

It is the story of a young high school student as she descends into despair brought on by betrayal and bullying, culminating with her suicide. She details the thirteen reasonswhy she was driven to end her life in an audio diary which is mailed to a friend two weeks after her death.

The Act (Hulu)

The series follows the story of Gypsy Blanchard, who uses a wheelchair due to an illness. Growing up, her relationship with her overprotective mother begins to sour as she increasingly insists on her independence.Gypsy’s quest for independence opens up a Pandora’s box of secrets, which ultimately leads to murder

Big Little Lies (Hulu)

The series’ narrative explores society’s myths regarding perfection and its romanticization of marriage, sex, parenting and friendship.A  comedic tale of murder and mischief in the tranquil beachfront town of Monterey, Calif. 

Desperate Housewives (Hulu)

Behind the facade of a postcard-perfect subdivision live four women whose lives are anything but idyllic. Desperate Housewives follows the lives of a group of women as seen through the eyes of their friend and neighbor who took her life by suicide

Devious Maids (Hulu)

In Beverly Hills, whoever `has the dirt’ holds the power. In some of the city’s wealthiest families, that power belongs to a close-knit group of maids who have ambition and dreams of their own. The maids are brought together by their jobs, life struggles and the upstairs-downstairs universe of their employers. 

The Fosters (Hulu)

It follows the lives of the members of the Foster family led by lesbian couple Stef and Lena, a cop and school vice principal respectively, who raise one biological and four adopted children in San Diego, California.

The Good Trouble (Hulu)

Sequel to The Fosters. It follows Callie and Mariana as they embark on the next adventure in their lives in Los Angeles. Mariana tackles the male-dominated world of tech, and Callie faces the harsh realities of the legal system as she clerks for a federal judge. After moving to The Coterie in downtown Los Angeles, Callie and Mariana realize that living on their own is not all it’s cracked up to be. Although they have new neighbors, new romances, and new challenges, the sisters must rely on each other to navigate the City of Angels.

Gossip Girl (Netflix)

The series revolves around the lives of privileged upper-class adolescents living in Manhattan‘s Upper East Side A ruthless and mysterious blogger reveals secrets about teens in upper east side New York. With roller coaster romances and piles of secrets hiding away for Gossip Girl to find, this show is sure to bring the upper east side and its drama into our lives.

Grey’s Anatomy (Netflix)

The medical drama series focuses on a group of young doctors at Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital, who began their careers at the facility as interns. The fictional series focuses on the lives of surgical interns, residents, and attendings as they develop into seasoned doctors while balancing personal and professional relationships.

Parenthood (Hulu) *

The show revolves around the four grown Braverman siblings — Adam, Sarah, Crosby and Julia — share the joys, heartaches and headaches of parenthood in their California hometown. As their parents deal with life and marital issues, the four lean on one another while tackling the challenges of modern family life in an updated reimagining of the 1989 film by the same name.

Pretty Little Liars (Netflix)

The series follows the lives of four high school girls whose clique falls apart after the disappearance of their leader. One year later, the estranged friends are reunited as they begin receiving messages from a mysterious figure named “A” who threatens to expose their deepest secrets. 

This Is Us (Hulu)

The series follows the lives and families of two parents Jack & Rebecca, and their three children, Kevin, Kate, & Randall, in several different time frames. Kevin and Kate are the two surviving members from a triplet pregnancy, born six weeks premature on Jack’s 36th birthday in 1980; their brother Kyle is stillborn. Believing they were meant to have three children, Jack and Rebecca, who are white, decide to adopt Randall, an African American child born the same day and brought to the same hospital after his biological father William Hill abandoned him at a fire station

The Vampire Diaries (Netflix)

Set in the fictional town of Mystic Falls, Virginia, a town charged with supernatural history since its settlement of migrants from New England in the late 18th century. It follows the life of Elena Gilbert , a teenage girl who has just lost both parents in a car accident, as she falls in love with a 162-year-old vampire named Stefan Salvatore. Their relationship becomes increasingly complicated as Stefan’s mysterious older brother Damon Salvatore returns, with a plan to bring back their past love Katherine Pierce, a vampire who looks exactly like Elena.

FAMILY

Full House (Hulu)

The show chronicles the events of widowed father Danny Tanner who enlists his brother-in-law Jesse Katsopolis and best friend Joey Gladstone to help raise his three daughters, eldest D.J., middle child Stephanie and youngest Michelle in his San Francisco home.

FOOD

Chef’s Table (Netflix) *

Some of the most renowned chefs in the world share their deeply personal stories, inspirations, and unique styles. Each chef’s discipline and culinary talent is explored while he or she prepares an awe-inspiring creation.

Crazy Delicious (Netflix)

Everyday meals are turned into extraordinary culinary creations in a magical food competition on an edible set. The UK’s most talented food lovers are challenged to produce meals that must impress with originality, visuals and extraordinary flavours.

Somebody Feed Phil (Netflix)

In this charming, delightful & food& travel series, he takes viewers on a goodwill eating tour of the world with his comical comments. No one loves food as much as Phil Rosenthal!!!

REALITY

The Bachelor/Bachelorette (Hulu)

An American dating that revolves around a single bachelor who begins with a pool of romantic interests from whom he is expected to select a wife. During the course of the season, the bachelor eliminates candidates each week eventually culminating in a marriage proposal to his final selection. The participants travel to romantic and exotic locations for their dates, and the conflicts in the series, both internal and external, stem from the elimination-style format of the show.

Bachelor in Paradise (Hulu)

Former “The Bachelor/ Bachelorette” cast members — both fan-favorites and characters who caused controversy — try to leave their wounded hearts behind as they take another shot at finding love. After traveling to a secluded paradise in Mexico, the cast members explore new relationships and see if summer flings will turn into something more — or if their hearts will be shattered yet again. The pursuit of a potential happily-ever-after is sure to include shocking twists, unexpected guests, unlikely pairings and other surprises.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians (Hulu)

The show focuses on the personal and professional lives of the Kardashian–Jenner blended family. Even though things are always changing for the Kardashian family in ways they never expected, Kim, Kourtney, Khloe and the rest of the Kardashian/Jenner clan are determined to remember that family always comes first. 

Dancing With The Stars ( Hulu)

American dance competition show where each week celebrities will leave their comfort zones and endure hours of grueling rehearsals to master new dance styles and technical choreography to perform a dance, which will be judged by a panel of renowned ballroom experts as well as voted upon by viewers.

Love is Blind (Netflix)

Singles try to find a match and fall in love — without ever seeing each other face-to-face, as emotional connection attempts to conquer physical attraction.

Love Island– UK (season 5+6 best one), AU, AU (Hulu)

A cast of hot young singles arrive at a luxury villa looking for a summer of love and romance, hoping to leave the island with the grand prize of £50,000. But in order to claim it, they have to win over each other and the public.

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Hulu)

Cameras follow affluent women (some regulars, others who recur) as they enjoy the lavish lifestyle only Beverly Hills can offer. 

Real Housewives of New York City (Hulu) *

Same as Beverly Hills. This is my favorite Housewives series!! 

THRILLER

The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

This series is set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian state, known as Gilead, that has overthrown the United States government. The Handmaid’s Tale explores themes of subjugated women in a patriarchal society and the various means by which these women resist and attempt to gain individuality and independence.

How To Get Away With Murder (Hulu)

American legal thriller television produced by Shonda Rhimes- a law professor at a prestigious Philadelphia university who, with five of her students, becomes entwined in a murder plot. Mysteries arise that test everyone’s limits and reveal dark truths.

Narcos (Netflix)

Netflix chronicles the rise of the cocaine trade in Colombia and the gripping real-life stories of drug kingpins of the late ’80s in this raw, gritty original series. Also detailed are the actions taken by law enforcement as they battle in the war on drugs, targeting notorious and powerful figures that include drug lord Pablo Escobar. As efforts are made to control cocaine, one of the world’s most valuable commodities, the many entities involved — legal, political, police, military and civilian — find themselves in conflict.

Scandal (Hulu)

American political thriller television series produced by Shonda Rhimes- Olivia Pope, a former media consultant to the president, is ready to move on with her life and opens her own crisis-management firm, but she can’t seem to shake ties with her past. 

Stranger Things (Netflix)

Set in the 1980s in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the first season focuses on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy amid supernatural events occurring around the town, including the appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities. As they search for answers, they unravel a series of extraordinary mysteries involving secret government experiments, unnerving supernatural forces, and a very unusual little girl.

You (Netflix) *

What would you do for love? For a brilliant male bookstore manager who crosses paths with an aspiring female writer, this question is put to the test. A charming yet awkward crush becomes something even more sinister when the writer becomes the manager’s obsession. Using social media and the internet, he uses every tool at his disposal to become close to her, even going so far as to remove any obstacle –including people — that stands in his way of getting to her.

TRAVEL

Anthony Bourdin Parts Unknown (Hulu)

 Anthony Bourdain travels the world uncovering lesser-known places and exploring their cultures and cuisine.

Down To Earth (Netflix)

Actor Zac Efron travels around the world with wellness expert Darin Olien to find healthy, sustainable ways to live.The documentary travels to France, Puerto Rico, London, Iceland, Costa Rica, Peru and Sardinia,

Expedition Unknown (Hulu)

Intrigued by legendary mysteries and driven by curiosity, Josh Gates is on a mission for answers. `Exhibition Unknown’ chronicles his global adventures as he investigates iconic unsolved events, lost cities, buried treasures and other puzzling stories.

Extreme Engagement (Netflix) *

An engaged couple travel around the world for a year, exploring marriage customs in diverse cultures; the journey may bring them closer or tear them apart.

Ugly Delicious (Netflix)

James Beard Award-winning chef David Chang stars in this travelogue that sends him on a journey to culinary hot spots around the world. He is joined by writers, activists, artists and other chefs who use food as a vehicle to break down cultural barriers and tackle misconceptions.

SOLVANG GUIDE

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the Danish Capital of the USA…. California’s Little Denmark… SOLVANG!

I’ve been yearning for a little European love, but thankfully, this little European delight brought out all the feels for a perfect weekend getaway.

Solvang gives you enough of a taste of Denmark! You feel like you’re in a fairytale movie and that any second Snow White & the 7 dwarfs will start marching on by. It’s a popular tourist destination with over 1 million visitors a year! This quaint little town has architecture, food, and culture that reflects traditional Danish style.

I’ve included all the details that was on our itinerary. It is about a 2 hour drive from LA–>Solvang. You can take PCH to enjoy the scenery or the freeway for a faster drive.

Our first stop

SUMMERSET FARM

Pre-Covid19, our plan was to head to the south of France and roam the flower fields. Unfortunately, that had to be pushed back and I was about to find a farm with a bit of flowers. This little farm had sunflowers, lavender, pumpkins, etc. It was already past sunflower season so they were all super tall and wilted… But the lavender was still thriving! I even spotted a little weasel enjoying the scenery along with us haha! This is about 10 minutes away from Solvang so depending on when you visit, this is a great spot to enjoy some nature, smell the flowers, and take floral shots! If you do stop by, please purchase a product from the farm to support them! There is no entry fee so it’s always nice to support by buying their produce. We picked out some yummy homemade raspberry jam!

SOLVANG


WHERE TO EAT

FIRST AND OAK

This is a Michelin recognized restaurant located at Mirabelle Inn. It was our first meal out since MARCH… Can you believe it? 5 months of not dining out and it was DEFINITELY worth the wait. Go online, make a reservation, get dolled up and enjoy a fancy night out with your babe! I recommend ordering the Roasted Truffle Cauliflower- the flavors are exquisite. Every element of the dish was cooked to perfection and who doesn’t love truffle? For the main course, I thoroughly loved every bite of my scallops with black linguini & yuzu emulsion. Keep in mind the menu is seasonal! 

THE BREAD SHOP

Delicious freshly baked goods with a huge variety to choose from. Pastries are pricy, but it’s soooo worth it & why not support a small business! Plus, the entrance is extremely instagrammable!

COPENHAGEN SAUSAGE GARDEN

If you’re all about the sausages and beers, this is the place to check out! They have a whole range of options! It’s basically sausage heaven with killer sauces. It’s a very casual dining option if you need something quick. It does get pretty crowded- reminded me of a frat house HA!

MORTENSEN BAKERY

Fill your tummy up with some good ol’ Danish pastries! They’ve got bear claws, streudals, kringles, and all the the sweets! It’s flaky and buttery- my favs are the classic apple or cream cheese flavor. 

SUCCULENT CAFE

Head over here for a delightful charcuterie plate, cocktails, and relaxing outdoor seating. It’s a cute cafe on the main street and you can people watch while you eat. 

VIN AND MAD

Go for bites and drinks (aka happy hour) from 4-6pm! Order Duck Fat Fries, Ceviche, and a delicious cocktail! Withered Passion and Den-Mark My Words are the two drinks that stand out to me. 

WHAT TO SEE

WINDMILLS

There are a total of 6 windmills… question is, can you find them all? 😉

MISSION SANTA INEZ

Location: 1760 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463

It’s a historic spanish mission founded by Father Estévan Tapís on 1804. Today, it serves as a museum and a church! Tip: If the town center is looking crowded, head here. There’s peaceful benches with beautiful scenery for you to take an hour or two break. 

LITTLE MERMAID FOUNTAIN

Location: 1693 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463 Corner of Mission Drive & Alisal Road

It’s the replica from the original one in Coppenhagen. Based on Hans Christen Andersen, it’s the storyline of the mermaid giving up everything for hopeless love of a prince.

OSTRICHLAND USA

Ah I even feel guilty mentioning this… I’ve been here twice…. And this time, I did a bit more research and realized it was a meat farm. If you’re okay with supporting an organization then by all means. I personally didn’t feel comfortable 

SOLVANG FESTIVAL THEATER

When it’s not covid times, come here to watch a play!

WINE TASTING

If ya like wine, there’s plenty of vineyards here for you to get shwasted. Rusack Vineyard, Rideau Vineyard, Los Olivos Wine Tasting, Sanger Family of Wines, etc.

Grape Stomp (Annual)

Only in October, you can join the harvest celebration by stomping and making your own wine 

Julefest (Annual)

This happens in December and it’s a cozy month of lights, celebration and holiday cheer! There’s Santa’s Village, Tree Lighting, parades, Christmas Light Shows, and many more! 

WHERE TO STAY

THE LANDSBY

A modern, contemporary, luxury hotel. Located smackdab right in the center of town, we had the most lovely stay here. Service was impeccable, bed was comfortable, shower was clean, and everything was tidy! We stayed in the Luxury King that was a corner room so it had allllll the windows for perfect lighting! We had a separate staircase for entry/exit and the windows looked out onto the main street. I loved people watching from the comfort of my room (cuz covid) and at night, the twinkle lights shine through making it feel like Christmas. It was such a cozy and fabulous stay and I would definitely book another stay here for another getaway.

I’d love to hear about your thoughts on Solvang and if there are any places I missed! You can find my daily updates on my Instagram!

Xo,

Soph

Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Face Mask Review

Asian skincare has been trending for quite a while and it’s finally making its way here in the US. Woot Woot!! I am beyond proud of the spotlight Asians are FINALLY receiving: from Crazy Rich Asians premiering to various Asian brands going internationally. Asian culture, cuisine, traditions is flourishing and it’s such a beautiful thing to witness as a Taiwanese American. 

Sulwhasoo is a luxury Korean skincare brand that found international success using traditional Korean herbs to protect and strengthen the skin. The brand’s belief is that our bodies are one with nature and that balance and creating harmony is vital for our body. The foundation of the ingredients is based on Korean herbal medicine inspired by Asian wisdom. Growing up in Asia, I remember seeing my mom and Aunties all owning a bottle of Sulwhasoo’s skin care and fast forward to now, I have the opportunity to create content with the brand means the world to me.  

Sulwhasoo gifted me their bio-cellulose Snowise Brightening Serum sheet mask. The key ingredient in this mask is fermented white ginseng extract: it delivers nutrients and is rich in tone correction. This sheet mask is drenched in potent serums! I saw INSTANT results after 20 minutes of using the mask. My skin felt hydrated, radiant and luminous! Living in LA, the weather is extremely drying and my skin always feels thirsty for moisture so this was the perfect product for me. And who doesn’t want more hydration in their skin? We only get one set of skin in this lifetime and its crucial to take good care of it from an early age. 

If you’ve never heard of Sulwhasoo, go give it a try! They sell at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Sephora. Happy shopping!

There is more daily content and inspiration on my Instagram so go follow me on there for daily updates!

Xo,

Sophie

BEST TRAVEL TRIPOD

I’m happy to share my favorite travel tripod with you all! It wasn’t until I went on a recent trip and realized how crucial it was to have a legit tripod. I forgot my trusty old tripod and had to hop out to the closest Walmart and buy whatever option they had. And all weekend long, it was falling apart, getting jammed, and shaky.

After that incident, I could not be more appreciative for the one I use & depend on, so I wanted to share with you the BEST travel tripod I bring on my adventures around the world. (Click the link, go to Photoshoot Equipment Tab and it’s linked right there!)

  1. Compact & lightweight. I can toss it into a backpack and won’t feel like something is dragging me down.
  1. Sturdy: the legs lock/release easily, have good grip (won’t slide around)
  1. Ballhead: smooth, easily navigated, and can hold my heavy DSLR camera
  1. Price : Affordable and dependable. Reasonable price for the quality!
The copper sheen against the black makes this tripod look more chic!

Let me know what tripod you use or if you give this one a try tag me on Instagram @sophcation. Follow me on there for more travel Inspo!

XO,

Soph

INSTAGRAMMABLE CINQUE TERRE

My Instagrammable travel series is where I dive straight to the point and list out the most photogenic & memorable spots in each city I visit.

CINQUE TERRE

Enchanting, magical, the ultimate photogenic Italian dream. I don’t know about you, but I have been dreaming to see these picturesque villages all my life! These colorful coastal backdrops are all over social media, but did you know they’re actually located in different towns? 

Cinque Terre consists of 5 coastal villages: Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso, Riomaggiore, & Vernazza. All 5 villages are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and there is a train that runs from La Spezia that can drop you off in each town or if you like a challenge, you can spend the day hiking the trail that connects you to all 5 of them. Although each town has similarities, they have personalities of its own that make them stand out. I’ve listed them from the southernmost town to the northernmost town.

RIOMAGGIORE

Riomaggiore has a cascade of multi colored houses right on the mediteranean sea. We chose to stay in this town because of an INSANE airbnb location we discovered. Book this AIRBNB NOW. There’s no other place to stay- nothing beats it and the pictures don’t do it justice!! The airbnb is a 5 minute walk from the train station, located smack-dab on the port, yet with just enough privacy away from the crowds.

Another location to shoot is down by the rock waves. You can also capture an epic view from the fisherman’s port by walking along some rocks located at the bottom. Rocks do get slippery and waves can get intense so please go with caution. 

MANAROLA

Come to this town just so you can dine at Nessun Dorma. Sip on some yummy Aperol Spritz with a view of the picturesque cliffside homes. Make a reservation ahead of time and request for a spot with a view. Another photo spot here is down by the stone pier. Cross the ropes and wander onto the rocks. Please be careful if the tides are high!

Nessun Dorma Address: Localita Punta Bonfiglio, 19017, 19017 Manarola SP, Italy

CORNIGLIA

One of the more quiet villages. The only town that cannot be accessed from the sea because it’s elevated. From the train station, you will have to take 377 steps up a steep stairway just to get to the center of the town… To be completely honest, this town does not really stand out compared to the rest because it’s one of the oldest and there’s not much development… If you’re short on time, I’d suggest skipping this town.

VERNAZZA

This town is known to be the most photographed village out of all of them. This is the spot where you see the classic #postcardgoals backdrop all over IG. If you are stopping by for a quick day trip to Cinque Terre and have to choose, I would say to choose this instagrammable spot over all the other ones! Take the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso, follow the signs, and within 5-10 minutes into the hike, you’ll see a wired fence to your left with this epic view. Please be safe and do not get too close to the edge.

Follow the blue dots! This is the path we took from the train station to the entrance of the hike! That sharp right off the main road is when you want to start timing the hike to get to the specific spot.

MONTEROSSO

It is the largest town out of the 5 and the only one with a sandy beach where you can lounge. When you’re here, make sure to visit the 14th century Church of San Giovanni Battista. The black and white striped church contrast is stunning and the gothic architecture makes it look like an ancient chic Sephora.

Church of San Giovanni Battista Address: Via Roma, 12, 19016 Monterosso al Mare SP, Italy

I hope this Cinque Terre guide will help shorten your planning process and that you’re able to find these instagrammable spots the next time you visit. If you have any ideas for future blog posts, please leave a comment down below!

Xoxo,

Soph

INSTAGRAMMABLE SEDONA

I dive straight to the point and list out all of my top instagrammable spots in each city I visit. I know, I know, it sounds so cliche/vain and I’m well aware that traveling is NOT about getting the most perfect shots or creating a false illusion on social media, but I truly enjoy the process and experience of capturing these moments and hope it inspires and motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and explore these magical destinations . The photos are not just for the world to see, but for my memories and keepsake. If you enjoy capturing some killer angles and views, keep on reading! 

Disclaimer: Please be respectful. Be polite. Be educated. Be safe. Act with manners. Every city is special, ancient, historical, etc. So please do NOT climb on a monument, dress appropriately, don’t hog a spot if you see a bunch of people waiting to have a turn, don’t ride an elephant (harms the animal/not an industry you should support), trespass into private property, etc. You get the point…?

Seems to me we are turning road trips to Sedona into a yearly tradition! Our first trip here was around the same time last year and we could not get enough of it! As you drive towards Sedona, you start seeing the red canyons peaking in the distance and the closer you get, the more amazed you become. There truly is something special about this town. The abundant, positive energy flow radiates here. You instantly connect deeper to your spirituality, there is heightened inner peace that settles in, and you instantaneously become present. The thoughts, stressors, anxieties in life magically fade away and you become one with Earth’s power.  Even with 2 trips here, I still feel like there are soooo many other spots I’ve missed and have not yet visited. These are just the main instagrammable spots that I recommend so far.

SECRET SLICKROCK

This was a hidden gem that we discovered through our airbnb host. It was literally in their backyard (about a 10 min walk) There is a trail that you can follow to get to this spot called the Secret Slickrock Trailhead. It’s only a short walk up to an unobstructed view of Cathedral Rock.  It’s not as popular of a spot so you can definitely find some peaceful moments here for sunset/sunrise. We sat down and watched the mountains glow from red to orange as the sun came down and it was a pretty epic moment. Highly recommend to set up a fun little picnic!

Address: Chavez Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

FAY CANYON ARCH TRAIL

1.5 mile out and back trail that is soooo underrated! It’s got an awesome view and a thrilling upward climb (as if you’re rockclimbing) It’s pretty steep towards the end so if you have a fear of heights, this might not be for you. I do want to point out that as you are on the Fay Canyon trail, there is a normal straight trail that is very walkable, however the spot pictured above is a side trail that takes you UP to the arch so don’t get confused! You will abruptly turn right to continue on an unmarked trail… The only way to describe the entrance is you will see 2 cairns with a wooden stick on top… I know, slightly confusing but make sure you are looking out for it as you walk on the trail at the bottom. From there, you just keep hiking up until you reach the arch! (Side Trail for Arch (marked by cairns)34.9083775, -111.8627545) You can also download the trail map app that will show you where the entrance to that turn is.

RED ROCK CROSSING

Park at the Crescent Moon Picnic Site (Address: 300 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Munds Park, AZ 86017)

There is a $11 fee (cash only), please support and be a good citizen even if there’s not a person monitoring. The money goes towards maintenance and supporting Sedona national parks. From the parking/ picnic area, continue on a path that leads you towards Oak Creek. You will see an old ranch on the left side, but head right in stead! There is an entrance to a path that will lead you closer to the creek. Check out this website for more information on how to get to the specific vortex energy spot here.

Address: 333 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

BELL ROCK TRAIL

Unfortunately, it was over 95 degrees all weekend long and it was impossible to go on a long hike. Even stepping out for more than 10 minutes in the sun made you feel a little loopy. We decided it was not a safe choice to hike, but I read everywhere online that this is quite an enjoyable hike. We wandered around the entrance of the trail for about 5 minutes and even from the bottom of the trail you can capture an insane view. 

Address: Bell Rock Access Trail, Sedona, AZ 86336

Soldier’s Pass/ Brins Mesa 

Wow wow wow! This was our very first hike in Sedona last year and it exceeded our expectations. If you only have time for 1 hike in Sedona, this is the one I would HIGHLY recommend. If you know me well, you know I’m not a work out fanatic, but if I can get through this hike, you can too! This was recommended to us by our airbnb host. We started bright and early at 5AM to avoid the heat later in the day. It’s a 6.4 mile loop and you will pass by the 7 sacred pools. We loved every minute of it. This hike is on the longer end with no shade the majority of the time, so please pack enough water and snacks.

Directions: From the roundabout intersection of State Route 179 and State Route 89A in Sedona, go north on SR 89A for 0.2 miles to Jordan Road. Turn left onto Jordan Road and continue 0.7 miles to Park Ridge Drive. Turn left onto Park Ridge Drive and continue 0.1 miles to where the pavement ends. From there, continue 0.5 miles on the dirt road that leads to the Jim Thompson Trailhead.

LOVER’S KNOLL

One of my favorite scenic viewpoint. Parking is limited since you do pull over on the side of the road. It doesn’t get crowded and you don’t have to do too much walking to get to this spot. Absolutely breathtaking view!

Address: 1891 Upper Red Rock Loop Road Sedona, AZ 86336 GPS Coordinates: 34.8388857, Lng: -111.8235568

AERIE TRAILHEAD

I’ve read that it was a pretty boring trail, but the drive here was very enjoyable. It’s a bit more secluded and farther away from the center of town so if you are looking for a quiet spot to enjoy the scenery then this is the place! We did not do the hike, but rather found a space to sit and watch the sunset from the parking lot.

Address: 340 Aerie Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

CRESCENT MOON RANCH

If you’re looking for serenity, this is it. Listen to the water running in the creek and admire the glowing rocks during sunset. You won’t want to leave this place. It’s so spread out that you can roam and wander everywhere without it being too crowded. This trail is not strenuous and you won’t have to hike at all so it is the perfect place if you’re looking for a relaxing stroll during sunset.

Address: 333 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

AIRBNB: CATHEDRAL ROCK VIEW

This Airbnb was such a gem. The price was considerably cheap compared to all the other accommodations in Sedona. You feel the energy of Sedona the moment you wake up and look out the window. It’s a small space, but there’s everything you would need inside. There’s privacy (separate entrance on the side door), everything was sparkling clean, a grill outside to use, a spacious backyard for you to roam freely and explore. Most of the bathrooms in hotels/airbbnbs have never exceeded my expectations, but the shower here made me want to take an hour long shower! I looovedddd the shower here- it was a luxurious rain shower system and wish I could transport back to my home. If you’re coming to Sedona & you love airbnbs, this is the place to stay at!!

Use my LINK to sign up and get $20 off your first home booking!!


I’d love to see your recreations of these instagrammable spots, so don’t forget to tag me on IG @sophcation ! Have a rejuvenating time here and stayed tuned for my next adventure!

Xoxo, Soph

My Techniques for Anxiety Relief

Going from one pandemic to another, it feels like the world is collapsing down on us. My anxiety has most definitely heightened and I’ve noticed my mental and physical health taking a toll. Nerve wrecking events lead to chemical imbalances and can have long term negative effects on your health. When the body is under stress, you’ll notice it starts breaking down. We are in fight or flight mode, which makes your internal body work in overdrive. Be aware of that, acknowledge that we all experience those feelings and know that it will pass. The key is to admit your anxiety, express those feelings, and make the changes in your daily life to maintain your physical and mental health.

Health has always been my number one priority. I’ve tested and tried out so many products for the past 3+ years to see what will keep my body functioning well. Here are some natural supplements and products I’ve incorporated in my daily routine to keep my temple balanced and protected. Remember, our bodies are all built differently, so what works for me might not work for you. Long term consistency with ALL of these habits/supplements/products below has made a difference in my life. This does not happen overnight- developing a routine and incorporating all of these elements habitually will help in times like this. 

AFFIRMATIONS

I’m constantly scrolling on Pinterest. There’s an abundance of information on there that is so useful and whenever I’m feeling down or anxious, it’s been an extremely helpful site for me. I search up positive, strengthening quotes that help keep me level headed. Visually reading motivational quotes shifts my mindset and when you consistently repeat positive affirmations, you are actively rewiring your anxious thoughts.

CBD CREAM

Have you noticed the facial expressions you make whenever you’re under stress/ anxiety? Your face has so many muscles and sometimes we furrow our brows or clench your jaws without realizing it. These unconscious facial expressions deepen your wrinkles overtime, but worse, it leads to tension headaches. I constantly suffer from headaches and CBD cream has helped relieve some of the inflammation. I buy the ShiKai brand from Co-Op and apply the lotion on my temples, neck, shoulders, wherever the tension is. 

EPSOM SALT

Epsom salt is also known as magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is a mineral that we do not get enough of in our diet and when you dissolve this chemical compound in a warm bath, you soak in all the benefits through your skin. Taking a hot bath also has calming effects. Whenever I feel an anxiety attack coming along, taking a hot bath reverses those feelings. I like to add Dr. Teal’s foaming epsom salts in my baths. If i’m taking a bubble bath to relax and unwind, I use the lavender scent. If I’m having any sort of tension, aches or stress, I use the Eucalyptus Spearmint scent. 

EXERCISE

I’m not the best with this one… but staying active is key! Even if you do not enjoy exercising, it’s important to get your body moving. Go on a simple walk around the block, a 5 minute yoga video on Youtube, or stretch out your body! It will provide mental clarity, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. 

MAGNESIUM POWDER

Magnesium helps your brain produce neurotransmitters that reduce stress. I like to scoop some Natural Vitality CALM powder into some sparkling water and drink it right before bed. I’ve noticed it helps me sleep through the night better and relaxes my body. They sell this at Whole Foods and it comes in different fruity flavors for you to choose from- my favorite is raspberry lemon!

MAGNESIUM OIL 

During traumatic, stressful times, our body tenses up, our shoulders and necks form knots, our jaws clench down so tightly, and we might not even notice the subtle changes in our body. The minerals in magnesium help relieve sore muscles. Your body absorbs it very quickly and in a short 10-15 minutes you will feel a difference in where you apply this oil. Make sure to buy a highly concentrated good quality one for the full effect. Sometimes for me, as a hypochondriac, the moment there is a slight discomfort that is all my mind can focus on. So when I’m able to temporarily make the tension fade, it distracts my mind from it and I’m able to relax more. This is the specific magnesium oil I recommend and use.

MASSAGER

This massager was recommended by Chrislle Lim, an influencer I’ve been following and I rarely fall for promotion/ad products, but this was something she purchased on her own and was highly recommended. When I first got it, I wasn’t too big of a fan… It didn’t seem to make my muscle tension feel any better. I realized wearing it properly on my shoulders didn’t fix the deep knots, but I played around with it and made it work. Now I’m constantly using it to ease my shoulder tensions. I don’t recommend just wearing it normally on your neck, but instead place it diagonally on your back, starting from the shoulder. Adjust the massager depending on where the tension is. It is pretty powerful and you will be sore the next day if you pull on this massager too tightly. 

MEDITATION// DEEP BREATHING

This is probably one of the hardest tasks, especially when there are so many thoughts running inside our brain. It’s something you’ll have to practice, and if meditation is too difficult, try 5 minutes of deep breathing exercises instead. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen which stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and that promotes a state of calmness. It takes the focus off of the anxiety and helps you feel more connected to your body. There’s many resources out there for guided meditation such as HeadSpace, but there’s one deep sleep meditation soundtrack on YouTube that always does the trick for me! Give it a try and see if the music helps find your inner peace.

PEPPERMINT/ MENTHOL STICK

Menthol is known as a muscle relaxant. It does not cure you, but will help the symptoms subside. I swear by this product!!! It has gotten me through anxiety, nausea, headaches, motion sickness. You can pretty much find one of these sticks in every single room in the house. This is the one I stock up on whenever I’m home in Taiwan. I’ve seen other products out there, however I know this is 100% menthol and I’m all for supporting Taiwanese businesses.

PRAY

Sometimes anxiety can make you feel like your mind is spinning in circles, so actively setting aside a moment to pray can train your mind to snap out of it. For some, praying can help with calming anxious thoughts. Reciting a prayer, repeating a mantra will help you control your thoughts a bit better and slow down the pace. 

PROBIOTIC

When your body is under stress, your tummy gets into all these knots. It can lead to nausea, constipation, diarrhea, etc. Calming an anxious gut with probiotic has been a MAJOR life changing supplement for me. Even if I feel fine, I’ve incorporated probiotics into my diet every single day. If you don’t want to take probiotic supplements, try drinking Kombucha or yogurt, which both contain natural antioxidants and probiotics! I use the brand Antibiophilus for probiotics, which is not sold in the US (my parents send them over from Taiwan), however David uses this one which is widely available online and at Whole Foods. Important: focus on the amount of STRAINS in the bottle (the more the merrier)

SUNSHINE

We’ve been in lockdown for 3+ months now, and with current events, Santa Monica’s even had curfew starting as early as 1:30pm… We all feel so trapped inside. It’s necessary to keep your body moving and soak in some vitamin D! Vitamin D will boost your energy level and nervous system. Go for a walk, read in your backyard, plant some vegetables. Never take a breath of fresh air for granted.

TEA

Staying hydrated is key in everyday life. If you’re like me, drinking water consistently can be a bit tricky. I love a good cup of coffee, but too much caffeine can have adverse effects (heart palpitation which then increases my anxiety) The warmth of a nice hot cup of tea will have a soothing effect. Every night I drink a combination of chamomile and peppermint tea to wind down and relax before bedtime. 

VITAMIN B COMPLEX

This vitamin is so crucial for women. Whenever I am consistent with taking this supplement, I notice a huge difference in my energy level. I’m less fatigued and more alert. Research shows Vitamin B2 helps prevent migraines and vitamin B12 reduces the risk of depression and anxiety.  The one I currently take is only sold in Taiwan and I have not been able to find it here in the U.S, however there are a ton of options!

I’d love to learn more about the tools that you use and incorporate in your life to help manage your anxiety. 

Xoxo,

Soph

Apple Galette with Lemon Marmalade

This has been my go to baking recipe during quarantine. It’s my version of an apple galette. Galette’s are flat, open faced crusts and I’m all about that. I’ve never really been a crust person- with pies & pizzas, I always end up giving David my crusts. I’m obsessed with it and can eat the whole thing in one sitting…. Though I try to space it out with only one slice a day 😉 It looks fancy and complicated, but it’s actually SUPER easy. It’s somewhat on the healthier end compared to brownies, marshmallow stuffed cookies, etc and you can adjust/ add your own twist to it depending on your taste preference! I hope you give this a try and if you do, make sure to tag me on @sophcation 

DOUGH
1 and ½ cup of flour
3 TBS of sugar  (white or cane)
½ cup of unsalted butter  (1 whole stick)
1 tsp of lemon zest
4-5 TBS of cold water 
Pinch of salt

FILLING
3 large apples (it’s quarantine so use what you have!)
2 TBS of brown sugar
2 TSP of vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon cinnamon or more if you like more spice 
1 TBS of lemon zest
Squeeze half of a small lemon 
Pinch of salt
2 TBS of Lemon marmalade jam (substitute with apricot/ sour tangy jam that’ll pair well with apples)

First, make the dough. Combine all the ingredients and use a fork or your hands to knead the ingredients into a soft dough. It should feel like playdoh… If your dough feels too sticky/wet, add a bit more flour. If it’s too dry and flaky, add some more cold water. Use seran wrap and pop it in the fridge to sit for 30 minutes.

During this time, I like to make the filling. Wash your apples and slice them thinly and evenly. Sprinkle in the sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, lemon, salt and mix it together with the apples in a bowl. You can let this sit for 15 min in the fridge so the apples soak up all the flavors.

When the dough is ready, take it out and roll it into a thin round crust. This is when you can add a layer of jam in the center and spread it out (tip: dont spread it out too far to the edge because you will need to fold the edges over after) Line your apples nicely, starting from the outer layer and work your way in. You should approximately have 2 rows of apples! Then take the edges and roll them up to create a barrier.

Bake for 375 F for 30 minutes and voila! Enjoy and pair a slice of this yummy apple galette with a hot cup of coffee.

Xoxo,

Soph

Authentic Taiwanese Pickled Cucumber

This is one of my favorite childhood side dishes- Taiwanese smashed pickled cucumber! My mom and uncle used to make this pretty often and I just can’t get enough of the garlicky, vinegary taste. They have these at Din Tai Fung, but to be honest, they don’t make it that flavorful…. (dont get me wrong, I LOVE Din Tai Fung for other main dishes) 

After my trips back home from Taiwan, I always crave it, so I decided to perfect the recipe. I’m so happy to share this special dish with you and if you give it a try, let me know how you liked it!

INGREDIENTS

2-5 Persian Cucumbers

5 Garlic cloves (we LOVE garlic… add less or more depending on your taste)

1 Chili Pepper (1 Red or Yellow) or substitute with black peppercorns

4 Tablespoons of White Vinegar (depends on how vinegary you like your cucumbers- adjust accordingly)

2 Tablespoons of Sesame Oil

1/2 Tablespoons of Salt

1/2 Tablespoons of Sugar

Red Onion (Optional)

STEP 1:

First, wash your cucumbers. Cut the ends off, take the flat side of the knife and SMASH your cucumber until it starts breaking off into bite size pieces. 

STEP 2:

Put the cucumbers in a glass tupperware and sprinkle in the white/cane sugar and salt. Use your hands and mix it together so the cucumbers are evenly coated. Put a lid on it and stick in the fridge for 2 hours. 

STEP 3:

Slice chili pepper- keep the seeds if ya like it spicy. Since we’re in quarantine, we might not have the exact ingredients…. so improvise! I’ve used fresh grounded black pepper or peppercorn and it works just as well.

Smash the garlic. This method helps the aroma come out more when you marinate it. Optional: slice some red onions

STEP 4:

Drain and rinse the salted cucumbers that have been sitting in the fridge. Add chili peppers/onions/garlic to the cucumbers and combine it with vinegar and sesame oil. I like to sprinkle a generous pinch of cane sugar before I pop it back in the fridge.

Mix it all up and marinate for at least a couple of hours. The longer you marinate the more pungent the taste. ENJOY!

Xoxo,

Soph

INSTAGRAMMABLE PCH

We finally had the chance to explore  our home state, California, from the comfort of our car. David and I both grew up in Santa Monica, CA and I lived in northern CA for 4 years (UC Davis for college), and we’ve done road trips here and there, but we’ve never taken the coast on Highway 1 the whole way. I don’t know why it didn’t happen sooner because it was an epic adventure! So I’m super excited to share my guide with you and hope it encourages you to get out of the comfort of your home and explore the beauty the California coast has to offer. I will most definitely be doing this drive again in the future!

Find more photo inspo on my instagram @sophcation !

SANTA MONICA, CA

We left around 8am and started our drive on PCH. One thing I prefer with driving vs flying is that you can pack AS MUCH AS YOU WANT and it’s so accessible. It’s a long drive so I recommend bringing water, tea, snacks for the road and using the bathroom before you leave the house. No one enjoys peeing in a gas station bathroom… 

SANTA BARBARA, CA

Santa Barbara Courthouse

Our first stop! We’ve been here a couple times already, but here’s a few things you can do: munch on some seafood along the wharf, visit the old mission, go on a whale watching tour, etc . Santa Barbara hands down has the most beautiful courthouse, so this time we stopped by to admire the old Spanish architecture! 

SURF BEACH // LOMPOC, CA

Surf Beach

We turned off our GPS and made the wrong turn, but it led us to the most beautiful beach in CA….. I COULD NOT believe it. Growing up in SM, our beaches were always muddy and brown and I always thought I had to travel far to find serene, white sand, turquoise water beaches. I never realized that there was one this close! It reminded me of the beaches in Cape Town, South Africa. 

When you pull up, there is a small parking lot (maybe fits around 15 cars?) At first, we pulled over at this dead end to check our GPS, but something made me hop out the car and walk over to see what it was all about…. And when I walked past the parking lot over a slight hill, I looked down and saw the most precious and clean beach. I ran back to the car and told David that he HAD to come out and see it.

Surf Beach is a public beach located on Vandenberg Air Force Base. The areas north/south of Surf Beach are closed intermittently on March 1st-Sept 30 to protect the Snowy Plover bird nesting spots. If human violations reach over 50 times, the ENTIRE beach will be closed for the remainder of the nesting season. So be respectful, protect our wildlife/nature & don’t ever leave trash when visiting.. PLEASE.

ELEPHANT SEALS // SAN SIMEON, CA

Elephant Seals

This spot is located right off Highway 1 and is the ONLY elephant seal rookery in the world that is easily accessible. I am all about conservation and I have so much respect for the state for fencing the whole area off to protect these animals. Observing and witnessing these beauties in nature is such a gift. 

The elephant seals birth and breed around December- March. There is a designated parking lot and a couple pathways for you to roam around. DO NOT throw food, taunt, disrespect, etc when you are visiting. The seals are protected by federal law so it is illegal to touch, throw things at them to cause a reaction…  Use common sense and enjoy the wildlife here. 

RAGGED POINT

The stretch of highway from San Simeon to Big Sur is so incredibly picturesque. There are jaw dropping views in every twist and turn. We couldn’t help it and stopped every 5 minutes to enjoy the scenery! There are a ton of turn offs for you to pull over to take a photo. Make sure to slow down and put your signals on so cars behind you can be alerted since cars are going pretty fast here. Don’t be an idiot and hop over the fence to get a shot- it’s not safe.

BIG SUR, CA

Now this stretch of the drive was so enchanting. Take your time and pull over whenever you see something you want to explore. We had the windows down, and I heard some running water so we decided to pull over to find out. We found the Big Sur Creek and it was so magical and lush. It’s as if you walked into Disney’s Snow White movie with massive redwood trees all around you. Dip your feet into the creek for a refreshing break! I promise you won’t regret it! (*use bug spray to avoid bites)

BIXBY CREEK BRIDGE // BIG SUR, CA

Bixby Creek Bridge

You HAVE to pull over at the northern turnout and hop out to admire the beauty of architectural beauty. This iconic bridge was completed in 1932 and is one of the tallest single- span concrete bridges in the whole world. 

I recommend taking photos on the North side of the bridge.  The winds can get pretty strong here so please be careful and don’t get too close to the edge… Your life is more important than an epic photo on social media.. 

PEBBLE BEACH, CA

The Bench Restaurant. Located on 17 mile drive in Pebble Beach

The popular 17 mile drive…. We did this drive a couple years ago and you have to do this drive in your lifestime. Inside the 17 mile drive, there is a special restaurant we fell in love with. We dined at The Bench and lucked out with the best seats! Highly recommend this restaurant- can be a bit pricy… but the food was delicious!!! Tip: order seafood whenever you’re seaside- it will never disappoint.

MONTEREY, CA

I took a class in high school called California Literature and we studied John Steinbeck religiously (Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men). At the end of the year, our class took a road trip up the coast and spent some time here in Monterey. John Steinbeck is one of the best known American literary figures and you can tour the house that inspired him to write the character “Doc” in Cannery Row. Last time David and I visited Monterey Bay, we visited Monterey Bay Aquarium and walked around the quaint fisherman’s wharf.

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, CA

Lastly, we stayed in an eco friendly luxurious Airbnb tent at a working cattle ranch. The most chic way of “glamping” and honestly, the only way I could actually camp in a tent… haha don’t judge.  It is a solar powered tent with a mini kichenette, fireplace, and separate cabin for bathroom. When you’re out in nature, there’s bound to be bugs everywhere, but this place was maintained and cleaned VERY well. You should still bring bug spray with high amounts of deet (listen I’ve tried the organic “all natural” bug spray… it doesn’t work. I got eaten alive in Thailand bc of it.) The host goes above and beyond by preparing wine, chocolates, cheese plate, and adds excellent touches in every corner of the tent. The bed/ pillows were EXTREMELY comfortable and clean. The bathroom had an outdoor shower with all the amenities you’d need and truly every detail that went into this was intentional & thoughtful. We loved the starry night, epic sunset, and morning birds chirping. It was quite a spectacular getaway. We highly recommend it and can’t wait to return.

XOXO,

Soph

Instagrammable Paris

Paris! The city of love (very accurate considering I got engaged there 😉 ) It truly is the most aesthetically pleasing, romantic, and magical city in the world. Now if you didn’t know, it is also known as the city of lights because it was one of the first European cities to use gas street lamps in the 1860’s during the Age of Enlightenment. Everything in Paris, whether it’s the food, history, culture, language, etc is done with exquisite taste. 

Getting Around Paris: The city is quite large so it’s impossible to get all these shots in one day. I’d split each up based on which arrondissement you’ll be spending the day in. In the winter time, it is a lot more empty so sunrise is at 8:40am and there won’t be huge crowds. However, in the summertime, keep in mind that you’ll have to get to the popular locations around 6am to have the whole place to yourself. Every inch of the city is photogenic, so if you turn one corner and see something you find interesting, be spontaneous and do a photoshoot there! This was only my 2nd time in Paris and there’s still so much more to see each and every trip here. 

Below is my list of the obvious hot spots in Paris. If you found this useful or if I missed any hidden gems, please leave a comment below to let me know! For daily updates/ travel inspos, check out my IG @sophcation

Eiffel Tower Shot

Square Rapp (3 Square Rapp, 75007 Paris, France)

  • 7th Arrondissement, Rapp- La Bourdonnnais Metro Station (3 min walk) 
  • Google “square rapp”on maps, located between 33 and 35 Avenue Rapp. You will see a black iron gate in the front of a secluded impasse with a fountain in the middle
  • escape from the hustle and bustle of the typical eiffel tower shots

Rue de L’université (dead end between Rue de l’Universite and Avenue de la Bourdonnais )

  • 7th Arrondissement, Invalides Metro Stop (1 minute walk)
  • Quaint street with beautiful architecture, dead end to the base of the Eiffel Tower
  • Will have cars parked on the street 

Avenue de Camoëns (dead end)

  • 16th arrondissement, Passy Metro Station (4 minute walk)
  • Lovely view of the Eiffel Tower, short street; there is a stairwell that takes you down to a different street

Seine River 

  • 16th Arrondissement, Trocadero Metro Station
  • Unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower 
  • Take it from across the bridge/Eiffel Tower 
  • Walk along the river to capture any kind of shot

Trocadéro View Point (Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre)

  • 16th Arrondissement, Trocadero Metro Station 
  • The not-so-secret blogger spot
  • Stairs with the Eiffel Tower in the backdrop
  • Carousel is located towards the base of the Eiffel Tower
  • Most likely to get crowded first so go during sunrise

Bir Hakeim Bridge  (Stations de métro Passy et Bir-Hakeim, Paris, France)

  • 16th Arrondissement, Bir Hakeim Metro Station (1 minute walk)
  • The bridge frames the Eiffel Tower 
  • A scene from Inception was filmed here

Arc De Triomphe Shot (Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France)

  • 8th Arrondissement, Kléber Metro Station (7 minute walk)
  • Shoot from the center/middle of the road, please be careful here (crowded)
  • Shoot from an angle off to the side

Louvre Museum Shot (Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France)

  • 1st Arrondissement, Louvre Rivoli Metro Station (2 minute)
  • Most famous gallery, where Miss Mona Lisa lives 
  • Exterior is photogenic, shoot from any angle
  • Tickets must be purchased in advance: 17 (I recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time to avoid waiting in line)
  • First Saturday of each month, admission is free from 6-9:45pm

Palais Royal/ Les Deux Plateaux Shot (2 Rue de Montpensier, 75001)

  • 1st Arrondissement, Pyramides Metro Station (1 minute walk)
  • A blogger’s favorite.. You see the black and white striped columns all over IG/ Pinterest
  • Short walk from the Louvre
  • Free entrance 

Montmartre Shots (all located in 18th Arrondissement)

I Love You Wall / Le Mur des Je t’aime Square (Jehan Rictus, Place des Abbesses, 75018 Paris)

  • Abbesses Metro Station (1 minute walk)
  • Art installation: features the words I love you in over 250 languages 
  • Project seeks to unify people from around the world

Sacré Coeur Basilica (1 Parvis du Sacré-Cœur, 75018 Paris)

  • Anvers Metro Station (13 minute walk)
  • Sits at the top of the hill
  • Panoramic view of the city
  • Shoot from the stairs or off to the side at the bottom of the stairwell

Sinking House

  • Anvers Metro Station (10 minute walk)
  • Building is an illusion where you angle your camera and use the hill to make it look that way
  • near the top of the steps to the Sacré Coeur Basilica (on the right side)
  • simply turn your camera at a 45 degree angle to capture the orange house

Moulin Rouge (82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris)

  • Blanche Metro Station (1 minute walk)
  • Cabaret Bar, original windmill burned down in 1915
  • Birthplace of the Can Can dance 

Notre Dame  (6 Parvis Notre-Dame | Place Jean-Paul II, 75004)

  • 4th Arrondissement, Cité Metro Station (9 minute walk)
  • Popular landmark/ medieval catholic cathedral
  • Shoot from the center square
  • Due to the fire that damaged parts of the Cathedral, it will remain closed to tourists 

Pont Alexandre III (Pont Alexandre III | Quai d’Orsay, 75008)

  • Between 8th & 7th Arrondissement, Invalides Metro Station (4 minute walk)
  • Impressive sculptures on the bridge with gold elements

Disclaimer: Please be respectful. Be polite. Be educated. Be safe. Act with manners. Every city is special, ancient, historical, etc. So please do NOT climb on a monument, dress appropriately, don’t hog a spot if you see a bunch of people waiting to have a turn, don’t ride an elephant (harms the animal/not an industry you should support), trespass into private property, etc. You get the point…?

With Love,

Sophie