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.