Fall Travel Essentials

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The temperature is decreasing in fall, and with these colder winds comes an itch to leave, to fly away somewhere warmer and summery. At least that’s how the birds and I both feel. As much as I like this crisp season full of everything pumpkin and falling leaves, I miss summer and crave warmth like you wouldn’t believe.

I don’t have any plans to travel THIS fall except to go to my real home for Thanksgiving break, but that’s only an hour away. However, I made a list of my fall travel essentials for those of you ready to jet off to somewhere exciting. Check out my travel advice and carry-on essentials, and let me know where you’re off to on your next adventure!

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Travel Advice:

  • Wear comfy clothing that you can sleep and relax in. My favorite travel clothes are leggings, a graphic t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. The pants from Betabrand are also great to travel in, and they have options from cute travel jeans to yoga pants.
    • Remember to keep in mind the temperature of the place you’re traveling to so you’ll be prepared clothing-wise when you land.
  • Wear layers. The temperature in an airport can be hotter than the sun or colder than Antartica within the same hour . Wearing layers allows you to be comfortable at any temperature by either taking clothes off or putting them on.
  • Bring a carry-on neck pillow so you can sleep more comfortably in the airport or on the plane.
  • Bring a carry-on backpack full of travel essentials.
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Some travel essentials: a comfy sweatshirt, granola bars, a journal and writing utensils, a water bottle, hand sanitizer, and comfy tennis shoes.

Here’s what’s in my carry-on backpack:

  • an extra pair of clothing just in case my suitcase gets lost: a pair of pants, a t-shirt, and undergarments.
  • activities for the plane
    • paperback books
    • my phone and headphones
    • journal and pens to write all about my travel experiences so I can share them on the blog! Check out my travel log on my trip to Guatemala here and my Asia trip log here.
  • snacks
    • granola/ granola bars
    • nuts
    • dried fruit
  • mini hand sanitizer
  • lip balm and lotion because planes are SO DRY
  • a water bottle
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Can you tell I like LÄRABARS?

Want ideas of what to pack in your suitcase? Look here! Want more travel advice, especially about traveling on a special diet (like veganism)? Look here!

Good luck with your fall travel! Where are you going, or where would you like to go this fall?

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Summer Snapshots

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Guess what!? Today was my FIRST DAY of SCHOOL! And not just any school… college! I am attending Michigan State University this fall as a freshman.

I moved in this past Sunday, and have been getting settled in and ready for classes since. I’ve also been making friends of course! It’s strange being at college. Even though I went to two classes this morning, it still feels like summer… like I’m just at camp or orientation and will be home next week. But now “home” is university! I have a dorm room. I have a room mate (her name is Emma and she is super sweet!). I have a meal plan! Which means I don’t get to cook or bake my own food anymore, which is kind of strange. Some dorms have kitchens though, so I think I’ll have to find a friend in one of those dorms to bake with since I don’t have a kitchen in mine. 😉

Anyway, college is very different but pretty good so far. I felt kind of out of place the first night I moved in but it’s gotten better every day. Have you been to college before? If so, where and how was it??

Even though my school has started, it’s still TECHNICALLY summer so I though that today I’d share some snapshots from earlier in the summer with you. They relate to a recipe that I’ll be sharing on the blog this weekend. Key word: LAVENDER. 100_8647.jpgAt the end of July, my mom and I decided to take a mother/ daughter road trip to Brys Estate and their “Secret Garden,” aka a lavender and blueberry farm. It was a nice secluded location in the ring finger peninsula of Michigan (see map).


We walked around lavender fields, picked blueberries, and enjoyed refreshments– lavender lemon ice cream for my mom and lavender lemonade for me. It was a pleasant afternoon with my favorite person!

Here are the “summer snapshots” of the trip. Enjoy!100_8516

100_8531100_8621100_8657Above are pictures of some of the plants sold at the farm, as well of pictures of the lavender field. 100_8550.jpgWe packed a lunch of peanut butter &jELLIE to enjoy at one of the property’s many picnic tables.

You could cut your own lavender! We didn’t- we just enjoyed looking at it.

From top left, clockwise: 1) the inside of the secret garden’s store (white building in the third picture). 2 ) & 3) the store was stocked with goodies made from blueberry and lavender from the farm, like laundry satchels (2), lavender s’mores bundles, and blueberry jam (3). We bought some cooking lavender. 4) The store had specialty ice cream, made in northern Michigan, with their products in it. The lemon lavender ice cream my mom got had Secret Garden lavender in it!

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Above, enjoying lavender lemonade from the shop.

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My mom and I each picked a quart of beautiful blueberries- YUM!

100_8603100_8652.jpgCute quotes marked the ends of each lavender row. I loved them, especially this quote!100_8659100_8532An impromptu little photo shoot between the lavender rows with my mom! Miss you, momma!


I hope you have a wonderful end of the summer! If you are in school, or are teaching school, have you started? If not, when do you start back up again? See you this weekend for a lil’ lavender recipe! 🙂

xx Ellie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago Recap (part 2)

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Welcome to part two of my Chicago trip recap! PLEASE read part 1 of the trip HERE before continuing so you get the whole trip lowdown!

Okay so Chi-town part 2…

Saturday: 

**Today was the day that my friend Emily and I didn’t eat “real” (healthy) food for 24 hours. Because we’re almost adults and we can eat what we want!

I woke up and worked out in the hotel gym, then Emily and I sauntered over to Do-Rite Donuts to find- you guessed it- donuts! I got their only vegan donutlemon, and it was better than I expected! It was a baked donut, so it tasted like lemon cake. Yum. Emily got a vanilla bean glazed donut and a gluten free cinnamon donut.

We worked off our donuts afterwards by walking to the Maggie Daley Children’s Park, where we climbed up towers and slid down slides like the five year olds we are at heart.

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After that excursion, we ambled along the shoreline to Navy Pier, where we people-watched and enjoyed Ben & Jerry’s from the scoop shop. I got their VEGAN flavor, Peanut Butter & Cookies! It was to-die-for.

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Happy because of vegan ice cream!!

After that excursion, we walked back to Millenium Park and Emily saw “the bean” for the first time, a Chicago landmark and mirrored statue in the shape of a bean.

After we finished being touristy, we decided to shop some more and get a snack. I tried matcha iced tea for the first time at Argo Tea, which was quite refreshing.

Then we found dinner at a pizza place called Bar Toma that Emily heard was good. I asked if they had vegan options, and they said they could make their pizzas vegan by omitting the cheese on top. We split a small spinach & garlic pizza, but got half of it with cooked brussels sprout shavings instead of cheese for me.

IMG_2656The pizza was basically crust, a lemon zest/ garlic/ oil sauce, spinach, and brussels sprouts/ cheese. It was okay- it needed a lot more sauce. It was just what I needed at the time though, since before dinner I’d only eaten sweets the entire day. I literally hadn’t eaten a “healthy” meal since dinner the night before, which is a record for me! 

After dinner, we walked back to our hotel and collapsed into bed. We walked a lot throughout the day- like 12 or more miles!

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One of the attractions we walked past was the beautiful Chicago river!

Sunday:

Sunday was the day I was most looking forward to throughout the trip, and it did not disappoint. I started the day with a workout, and then we walked over to Meli Café for brunch. I chose Meli because it had a full-page vegan menu, as well as many non-vegan items for Emily. I decided on the carrot coconut pancakes, which turned out to be fluffy, fresh, and cinnamon-y cakes of delight.

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Emily got the Eggs, Toast, & Potatoes breakfast, which was toast, two (“really good,” according to her) scrambled eggs, and baby red potatoes.

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No one ever sees the AFTERmath of the meal! I felt so accomplished and SO FULL after eating all the pancakes. 

After breakfast we went to the hotel, packed up our stuff, and went to Lolla. As soon as we got into the festival on Sunday, we high-tailed it to see all the bands below…

  • Låpsley– highlights were “Operator” and “Hurt Me.” She was okay live- there was a lot of technology involved in her performance (like a voice changer) which I didn’t like. Em and I were in the third row for this show which was cool.
  • Oh Wonder (OW), aka the most WONDERful band ever (see what I did there?)- highlights were “Dazzle,” “Without You,” “Landslide,” and “Technicolour Beat…” but I love all of their songs! Can you tell OW is my favorite band? This was my second time seeing them live. While they were amazing as always, I liked the first time I saw them better just because I was closer (third row!) and there was a talkback after the concert. Give them a listen because I love them- plus they are such cute and nice people.

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After this we got food. Em got a lot of ice cream and I got a popsicle for lunch. When in Chicago, right¿?

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  • We stumbled upon the tail end of Marian Hill and I immediately liked them. So good, so soulful, and so much saxophone. 😉 Highlight was “I Want You.” I recommend listening to the duo when you’re feeling funky.
  • Years & Years– another band we stumbled upon that I fell in love with. SUCH a fun concert with such great, soulful, poppy music! I recommend listening to “Desire” if you’re feeling upbeat or “Eyes Shut” if you want a slower song.
  • Halsey– I love Halsey’s music, so I loved this concert! She was fabulous live. Highlights include “Castle,” “Hold Me Down,” and “Blue.”
  • AURORA– I first discovered AURORA this winter, and have loved her ethereal, upbeat music ever since. I was so excited that I got to see her live since she lives in Norway. Song highlights include “Running with the Wolves” and “Conquerer.”

Dinner time! Emily got deep dish pizza and I got a SPICY black bean tamale and an apple.

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  • Flume (a famous DJ)- this concert was okay- I wouldn’t call it a true concert though because he (Flume) wasn’t singing! He was just DJ-ing with his computer. I like live music with actual singers much better. The music was fun to dance to, though.
  • Ellie Goulding– aka possibly my favorite concert I went to at Lolla. She was AMAZING LIVE- OMG. I liked her before seeing her thanks to hearing some of her more famous songs on the radio, but now I know more of her songs and LOVE her music and and her (did you know she’s vegan?)! I am proud to share my name with her. 😉 Song highlights for Ellie’s concert were “Army,” “Don’t Panic,” and “Aftertaste.”

After Lolla, we walked back to the hotel, ate some food, and went to bed. An overall good day.

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Us right before the Ellie Goulding concert started!

Monday:

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I got the only vegan donut from Stan’s Donuts and it was SO DANG GOOD. It was a yeast-raised ring topped with granulated sugar and it tasted like a Krsipy Kreme Donut. 

Monday morning I worked out (surprise), we packed up, ate donuts from Stan’s Donuts, and drove back up north with Emily’s mom. It was a boring day compared to the others.


I hope you had fun reading my little trip recap! It was strange but fun to be on a trip with no parents- just me and my best friend. Have you ever been to Lollapalooza or a music festival similar to it? Have you been to Chicago? Tell me all about it in the comments if so!

Thanks for reading- it means a lot!

xx Ellie

P.s.- I’ll be back on Friday for some summer snapshots, then on Sunday for a wonderful bread recipe you might have seen on my Instagram story. 😉 Yay for sneak peaks!

Chicago Recap (part 1)

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A few weeks ago I went to a music festival in Chicago called Lollapalooza! My BFF Emily and I spent two days at the festival and two days wandering around downtown Chicago.


Friends and I drove from northern Michigan to Chicago on Wednesday evening, then we spent the night at their house. We stopped at Panera Bread on the way, which surprisingly had a few vegan options! I ordered the Mediterranean salad minus cheese.

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Thursday:

We got up, ate breakfast (I brought pumpkin date scones), got ready, and went to day one of Lollapalooza!

Here’s what Lollapalooza, or Lolla for short, is like: lots of people, and therefore lots of good people-watching. Lots of smoke. Lots of alcohol (which we refrained from). Lots of noise, from people and from instruments. Lots of standing. Lots of food. It’s a festival of plenty.

We had to wait in line for about fifteen minutes to get our bags searched to get into the festival, and in line, we noticed people from all over the U.S., as well as multiple drunk people- and it was only 2 pm.

When we got into the festival, we scurried from one concert to the next. Emily and I saw…

  • Melanie Martinez– highlights were “Dollhouse” and “Cake.” She was great live! It was a wonderful concert with which to open my first festival experience*.I highly recommend listening to her upbeat, spunky music- keep in mind though that she does swear quite a bit.
  • Bastille– highlights were “Good Grief” and “Pompeii” (of course). We were pretty far away, but it was still fun to listen to this British band. They were also great live.

*It rained during the Melanie Martinez concert, then just as we were finally dry at the Bastille concert it POURED. If you go to a festival, be prepared for all weather! Here’s Emily and I right before we were poured upon at Bastille.

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  • Daughter– we didn’t stay too long at this one because even though I like Daughter, their music is pretty slow and not the best to jam out to… which is what we wanted to do. I prefer listening to their music in the winter or while I’m doing something pretty “low key,” like editing pictures.
  • The 1975– highlights were “The Sound,” “Chocolate,” and “She’s American.” The lead singer, Matty, had so much energy and was such a great performer as he was very expressive and good at singing live**! I recommend listening to their music- at any time.

**Oh yeah, we witnessed a random girl peeing in the middle of the crowd during the 1975 concert. She literally just lifted up her dress and started peeing in the grass while everyone around her stepped away from her as quickly as they could. Note to everyone at music festivals- if you have to pee, please either hold it or leave. We don’t want to watch you do your business. K thanks!! Below is the 1975 concert. 

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  • a random DJ, which was fun to dance (specifically dab) to. Do you have a favorite dance move? I love dabbing.
  • J. Cole- we didn’t know any of his songs… but it was basically just swear word after swear word. Haha.
  • Lana Del Ray– like Daughter, this was a slower concert so it wasn’t the best show to end the night on. However, it was fun to sing along to some of her well-known songs such as “Summertime Sadness” and “Young and Beautiful.”

After the festival, we went back to our friends’ house, ate some food (I’m surprised at how hungry I was post-concert), and went to bed.

By the way, the food at the concert was pretty tasty and reasonably priced (for a big city)! Emily and I split the BEST FRIES I’ve ever had in my entire life- (vegan!) Triple Truffle Fries from the Franks ‘n Dawgs food booth. Basically the best $6 ever spent.

I also got a $3 mango popsicle that was very fruity and good. I was super healthy on Thursday (NOT). Heh.

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Friday

We woke up and explored Bucktown, the Chicago neighborhood where our friends live. We stopped in a few shops and ate Miko’s Italian ice, which was quite good. I tried mango and strawberry, and the cold treat was very smooth and fruity.

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Then Emily and I took the “L” train downtown to a hotel since our friends were heading back up north. It started raining, so we spent the rest of the day eating food and wandering around shops (ZARA, Topshop, Sephora, Urban Outfitters, Books-a-Million, Target, etc.). I also squeezed in a workout at the hotel.

We tried Native Foods Café, an entirely VEGAN CHAIN restaurant, for lunch thanks to a recommendation via Instagram. It was so nice to be able to pick whatever I wanted on the menu!!

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Our lunch experience was great. You go up to the counter and order like at fast food restaurants, but our food was delivered to our table unlike at fast food restaurants. The food was kind of expensive ($28 for 2 meals and a dessert to share), but the portions were HUGE and the food was healthy, vegan, and tasty so it was WORTH IT.

I got the Bangkok Curry Bowl because I was curious about the “tofu steak” advertised as being in it. While the tofu in the bowl didn’t end up being much like real steak, the meal was still good. The bowl, which was basically two servings, was full of steamed veggies, kale, brown rice, tofu, and coconut milk red curry.

Emily ordered the Thai Meaitball Bowl, Seitan “meatballs” tossed with mango-lime chili sauce on a bed of quinoa, kale, and other vegetables. Both meals were good, but I think next time I’ll try the soul bowl (fried “chicken” and beans, rice, veggies, ranch, BBQ sauce, and cornbread) or a burger.

For dessert, we split the peanut butter parfait, creamy peanut butter mousse topped with banana bread crumbles and chocolate chips. I have to recreate it because it was so good!

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It cleared up weather-wise right before dinner, so Emily and I decided to walk around downtown to find a good place to eat. Not the best idea. Moral of the story is to figure out where you want to eat beforehand. We walked for more than an HOUR and couldn’t find a restaurant we wanted to eat at, so we finally went back to the hotel and asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation. We ended up going to the Marq, a somewhat fancy restaurant about a block from our hotel, since we were tired of walking. Service was fast, which was good because we were hungry!

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Emily ordered the Mediterranean salad and I got the Watermelon Farro Salad (minus cheese) because I was curious as to how watermelon would taste in a salad. Answer? Good! The salad was quite refreshing as it consisted of farro, watermelon, corn, edamame, basil, and a sriracha lime vinaigrette. After dinner we went back to the hotel and crawled into bed so we’d be ready for another full day of adventure.


I’ll be back tomorrow morning with part two of my trip! I had to split the post into two parts because I take too many pictures and use too many words. 😉

xx Ellie

Guatemala: Part 3, Adventures and Goodbyes

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This is the final recap to a fun-filled trip to The Yoga Forest (TYF), a yoga retreat in Guatemala. I want to go back to Guatemala right now, especially since it’s 80 degrees F there and 45 degrees F here! For now, though, I’ll have to fondly remember the trip through these recap posts and dream of going back someday.

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Catch up on the first part of the trip with recap #1 and recap #2!! Then book a ticket to Guatemala because it’s nice and warm there!

Sunday, Day 5

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I tried meditation this morning without mom. It went a little better. Then Mom and a few others joined the meditation gang for yoga. After yoga was the standard breakfast. Man, I miss the breakfast food there in general.

100_7776After breakfast, there was a temple dance at TYF, but Mom and I’d had enough of dancing what with contact dance and all so we decided to take a trip to another town on the banks of Lake Atitlán- Panajachel. Another guest from TYF, Melissa from Los Angeles (CA), came with us. We walked down the mountain to San Marcos, then took a small boat from the San Marcos dock to Pana.

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100_7948The bumpy ride took about half an hour, and it was 20 Q per person for a ride (which is about $2.50 U.S.). We saw an active volcano on the way there! It had smoke coming out of it and everything. It was dope.

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Vendors immediately started trying to sell us their wares as soon as we stepped off the boat and onto the dock. We did our best to turn them down, then walked down the street to the main market area of town. Town was fun and lively with tuk-tuks and a lot of shops, market stalls, and restaurants. We slowly strolled down the main street, looking for the best souvenirs to buy.

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We stopped at Chinitas, a Guatemalan/ Asian restaurant, for lunch based on a recommendation we’d gotten. I tried a horchata, rice milk and cinnamon in a glass with ice. I was curious to try it since Melissa said it tasted like liquid oatmeal. It was tasty and refreshing. The adults got alcoholic beverages (a margarita and a mojito) since booze is banned at TYF.

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Food-wise, I tried a traditional Guatemalan green cilantro sauce-filled dish with potatoes, carrots, and tofu with tortillas. It was okay. It didn’t compare to the fab food at TYF, that’s for sure! Mom tried a Cambodian salad with pineapple, rice noodles, and grilled tofu.

We shopped more for souvenirs after lunch. We haggled with multiple vendors for the best prices (always go with half of what they offer you, and you can always walk away). We left Pana at 4:15 with a pair of earrings for my mom, a patterned purse for me, a patterned purse for my cousin,  a woven pillow and table runner, three painted wooden trays, a painted pottery pitcher for my grandma, two t-shirts for my brother, a smiley face hat for my dad, and yarn friendship bracelets for the kids we tutor.

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We saw many different places, people, souvenirs, and events. One of the stranger things we saw was a typewriting class in progress! This woman is learning how to type.

We took the choppy ride back to TYF. We switched rooms when we got back so Mom and I had our own rooms! Then we had a flavorful and extremely filling dinner of roasted cauliflower with ground cashew “cheese,” roasted eggplant, spicy green beans, olive oil herb potatoes, a tomato-pepper sauce, and a hearty salad. We hung out in our rooms until lights out at 9 PM.

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Monday, Day 6 (our last full day!)

We woke up to a gorgeous view of the sunrise.

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Then we went to our last vinyasa class at the Forest taught by TYF owner. We savored our final breakfast and packed toast with peanut butter for Tuesday’s breakfast on the road.

We journaled, read, and relaxed after breakfast until lunch on a sunny hill.

Our final lunch was…

  • the most beautiful salad I’ve ever seen, full of blackberries, raspberries, and EDIBLE FLOWERS!
  • peanut noodles with broccoli and carrot
  • dill sauerkraut made by TYF yoga teachers

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After lunch, we went into town on a mission- to get a block of raw cacao from this cacao-obsessed dude named Keith who lives in San Marcos. We got the cacao brick (that we’ll end up baking with), as well as a brownie for mom and kombucha for both of us. We also went to a little health foods store and got some chocolate as a way to spend the rest of our Quetzals (Q).

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Where we bought the cacao. 

We rushed back up to TYF when we were done shopping to make it to the 4 pm yoga class only to find out that there was no 4 pm yoga that day because there were not enough people to have class (only three of us). Bummer! We felt spoiled to be able to attend two yoga classes each day, so missing one wasn’t the hugest deal. We did our own class instead, then read until dinner.

Our last supper (sorry to be so dramatic) was salad with mango, nuts, and coconut + rice in vegetables in a special sauce. After dinner, one of the yoga teachers said he could give me a concoction that would reduce the swelling in my ankle. He brought me into the small kitchen and showed me how to mix together turmeric, black pepper, and coconut oil. Then he made me eat the concoction he made. It was DISGUSTING. I cringe just thinking about it now. BUT. Tuesday morning I woke up and the swelling in my ankle was reduced by half so the nasty mix definitely worked!

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After this, we said our goodbyes to everyone at TYF as we were leaving at 6:15 AM the next morning. It has been so fun to meet people from all over who share our love of yoga and good vegetarian food! I miss TYF. I guess I’ll just have to go back! 🙂

We went back to our rooms, packed, and got ready to leave. We went to bed early so we’d be well-rested for our impending LONG day of travel.

Tuesday (homeward bound)

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We woke up at 5:45 and got dressed and ready to go. We had to lug our bags down to San Marcos (it was easier than dragging them up but it still wasn’t the highlight of the trip). Then we met the same shuttle driver that brought us to TYF, and he drove us to Guatemala City. We ate breakfast and slept in the car. We spent the rest of the day commuting from Guatemala City to Atlanta to our hometown. It was a long day, but all the travel we did to get to and from The Yoga Forest was worth it.The sickness my mom and I got the day after we got home that lasted for a week was also worth it (as horrible as it was).

All in all, our spring break was filled with high ups and looooow downs, but it was a great experience that I was happy to share with my BFF (my mom).

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I hope you’ve had fun reading my travelogue and that I’ve inspired you to travel to Guatemala!

xx Ellie

Questions for you: What did you do for spring break if you had one? Where is the most tropical place you’ve ever traveled? Have you ever been on a yoga retreat before? 

 

Guatemala: Part 2, Exploring San Marcos and Enjoying Pizza

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Happy May and welcome to part 2 of the recap of my fabulous adventure to Guatemala! Sidenote: fabulous is my adjective of choice at the moment.

Part 1 is here if you want to or need to catch up.

Let’s dive in, just like I’m sure you want to dive into that clear blue water in the picture above. Actually you don’t since Lake Atitlán is filled with waste water from toilets and such that people dump into it. ICK.

ANYWAY.

Day 3

We woke up to the sound of a very loud, very repetitive gong. Meditation time. We decided to try it. Key word: TRY.

I had really bad allergies for about half the trip (due to volcanic ash and fog). I write this because I was really feeling them during meditation so the deep breathing of meditation was difficult. About half way through meditation, my mom laid down… so I decided to follow her lead. This caused my mom to crack up, so I started cracking up, and because we knew how inappropriate it was to laugh while meditating we decided to laugh even harder (??). We FAIL. At least we didn’t fail the yoga class after meditation! I was the most focused I’ve ever been in a yoga class thanks to the meditation, and I actually fell asleep during shavasana for the first time ever!

After yoga, we enjoyed multiple servings of the usual breakfast100_7512100_7505

Then Mom, Katie (our friend from contact dance), and I walked down the mountain to the nearby town of San Marcos. San Marcos was pretty small (there are only a few streets), and a lot of people speak English since the town is populated with expats from English-speaking countries like the United States and Australia.

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We walked around and ended up at a smoothie shop where we split a mango/ coconut/ lucama/ macadamia nut mylk smoothie. We also went into a place that makes their very own kombucha (probiotic drink) and got some! It was yummy, and great for our bellies.

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We walked back up to TYF for a lunch of veggie curry, veggie stew, rice, corn tortillas, and salad.

After lunch, I hung out on the hammock on the deck of our room. P1270346

Then we went to town again to get dessert since there isn’t much of it at TYF and WE NEED DESSERT! I savored a deliciously rich (vegan!) chocolate tart with an oat base, a creamy banana filling, and a silky smooth chocolate topping from a local restaurant and hostel (Circles) for 20 Q (Guatemalan currency- 20 Q is about 3 US $). Mom got a non-vegan chocolate macadamia nut brownie. 100_7598100_7602

We traversed back up to TYF when we finished our dessert for an acro yoga class! Acro yoga is balancing yoga with a partner. I was a “flyer” so I got to balance on the “base.” We did some cool poses like the ones below.

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P1270454This evening was awesome because first there was acro yoga and second… it was PIZZA night for dinner! The local kitchen staff made thin pizza crusts and sauces, but we got to assemble the pizzas and put whatever toppings we wanted on them! The sauces were tomato and pesto, while toppings were grilled zucchini, grilled eggplant, tomatoes, spinach, onion, mozzarella cheese, and homemade goat cheese made from the milk from the goats cared for by TYF! There was also a side dish of roasted potatoes, beets, carrots, and herbs (my FAVORITE).

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Putting personalized pizzas into the pizza oven!

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Some people also made a delectable dessert pizza with a peanut butter base and topped with plantain slices and raisins. Everyone shared the pizzas while they listened to the live music (drumming and singing) performed by TYF staff. It was such a fun night.

Day 4

My allergies were bugging me again, so Mom and I decided to skip meditation and just go to yoga. Right before class started, I needed to blow my nose (bc allergies). There were no tissues in the studio, so I ran to our room to get some… but on my way there, running down the steep steps, I twisted my right ankle inwards and fell down onto it and onto the stone step below. I heard a loud pop and then I could barely walk. But I ignored the woman who saw it happen and told me to sit down because class was starting in any minute. Instead, I hobbled to our room, grabbed tissues, and limped as fast as I could back to the pavilion where class was taking place. Then I participated in class. And found out after class that my ankle had swollen up. Good job, Ellie.

On the bright side, breakfast was fab and the view was finally clear enough to see the mountains across the lake!

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Above: One of the local chefs flipping bread for toast, as well as a picture of our typical breakfast.

After breakfast, Mom and I put on our bathing suits and worked on our tan until lunch (while wearing copious amounts of sunscreen of course). Lunch was leftovers from pizza night- toppings plus the potato/ beet/ carrot medley. After lunch we continued to relax in the sun, and then we went to restorative yoga from 4 to 5:30.

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Dinner after yoga was pad thai and salad with zucchini and cashews- delicious as usual. Dinner was always one of my favorite parts of the day at TYF since I loved learning more about others at the Forest… and the food rocked! I showered after dinner in the dark under the moon and the stars. I felt so outdoorsy and I loved it.

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Check back on Monday morning for the final recap! Much love!
xx Ellie

Guatemala: Part 1, Getting to Know The Yoga Forest

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I’m baaaaaaack from my spring break trip to Guatemala! I’ve actually been back for a while, but I haven’t had much of a chance to post since the end of senior year of high school is crazy busy.

What’s going on and how’ve you been?! I’ve missed you guys!

Today’s post is the first of three parts of the recap of my trip to The Yoga Forest, a yoga retreat in Guatemala. Let me tell you: it was a grand adventure that I greatly enjoyed! Guatemala is a beautiful place, the people we met were so interesting (in a good way), and the food was quite delicious.

The trip started out on a Wednesday morning at four AM.

Day 1 (of 6 days total)

Beeeeeep beeep beep beep beepbeepbeepbeepbeep. I open my bleary eyes and glance at the clock. Four AM. “Today is the day!” I think. “We’re going to Guatemala!” My excitement gets me out of bed and dressed, and it allows me to hop into the already packed car. My dad drives my mom and I to the airport. We’re quiet in the car, still tired and a bit nervous, but overall pumped for this adventure. We check our bags, go through security, and wait for our 6 AM flight. We board, take off, and land in Atlanta, where we take a connecting flight to Guatemala City. We finally arrive at around 1 PM Guatemala time (two hours behind “my” time). We grab our bags, exchange money, and step outside and into the sweltering heat. A Spanish-speaking shuttle driver awaits to take us from Guatemala City into San Marcos, the town closest to The Yoga Forest. We hop in the van and endure a rough four hour ride through the most pothole-y roads I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. Potholes take up literally half the road.

Below: pictures from our ride from Guatemala City to San Marcos. There were lots of shops, restaurants, and people around. 

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Left: “Alto” means “stop” in Spanish. Right: there was a stuffed llama at the gas station we stopped at! At the gas station, workers  pumped your gas for you (just like they used to in the U.S.).100_7374

Below: riding down the pothole-filled mountain road into San Marcos.

When we arrive in San Marcos, the driver points to the nearest mountain pathway and states some of the only english he knows: “Yoga forest.” Okaaaay. Mom and I have no idea where the property actually is in the mountains… so I guess we’ll just walk up the mountain, lugging our bags behind us, until we find it.

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We see flowers painted onto rocks, and Mom gets excited because she read online that the painted flowers will lead you to TYF. We huff and we puff through the dense air and up the steep path… and eventually we find it. Huzzah! The gates to The Yoga Forest.

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Okay I’m switching tenses here so stick with me.

As soon as we stepped foot onto the property, I felt like I’d opened a book and stepped into a fairytale. Tall trees filled with plump fruits lined a dirt pathway that led us to the steepest rock stairs I’ve ever seen. My mom might have said a bad word or two when she saw how daunting the steps were, especially since we were tired from dragging our bags up a freaking mountain. I felt the warm, tropical-scented air envelop me, and I started to really break out into a sweat as I dragged myself up the last few steps of these stairs which led to the Forest’s rustic buildings.

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The buildings were made of natural materials such as wood and bamboo, and some were built into, or at least supported by, the craggy walls of the mountain. Surrounding the buildings were flowers, from tiny pink petals to “angel’s trumpets,” yellow cone-shaped flowers (pictured below). Mom and I were in awe of how eco-friendly but beautiful the main area was. The view was even better than the main area itself- just look at this picture to see for yourself!

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The first night we got there, we got settled and enjoyed the first of many delicious dinners prepared by some of the local women. Mom and I were surprised to participate in a Sanskrit meal chant before this meal and every meal after that. We stood in a circle around the food, held hands, and sang the chant. Here’s a picture of the words to the chant (as well as a sneaky pic I took of people getting ready to chant):

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Every meal was buffet style, so you could eat as much food as you wanted. I took full advantage of this. I’m not joking when I say I had two servings of every meal. The food was just SO DARN GOOD! The first dinner was veggie “fried” rice, salad with greens from TYF garden, and lemongrass tea with TYF lemongrass. At dinner, we met some of the staff as well as some of the people staying at TYF. We actually sat next to a girl named Ellie at dinner… who happened to be vegan. What a crazy small and unusual world!! The people we met were were friendly and helpful, but also interesting and from all different backgrounds. People staying there came from the U.S.A., Israel, Canada, Malaysia, Australia, Finland, Brazil, Costa Rica… everywhere! Five continents were represented in the short time we were there.

The main dining area.

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Above: rinsing dishes. Left: kitty and compost. Right: doggy and avocado. I loved meeting all the animals on the property!

When we finished eating, we others put leftovers in the compost bins and we washed our dishes by first rinsing them in water, then scrubbing them with soap, then soaking them in vinegar, and finally by rinsing them in water and drying them by placing them on a rack. After dinner, we tried out the on-site sauna (pictured below).

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Then we unpacked our bags and went to the bathroom that was down a path from our room and up some more steep, rocky stairs. In the bathroom, you did your “business” into a hole with a toilet seat, and then you poured a mixture of sawdust and ash into the hole to help turn the human waste into compost used on the property. Waste not, want not? We went to bed at nine, a.k.a. the designated bedtime when lights go out. I slept better than I had in a long time.

Below is are pictures of the bathroom, which was complete with a sweet quote on the wall, a sink with a view, and the compostable toilet. 

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Day 2

I slept through the gong that rings at 6 AM every morning to wake everyone up. I think they would have needed a jackhammer to wake me up this morning because I slept so soundly.

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Our room

I slept through meditation, but I wouldn’t dream of missing yoga so I woke up and got ready to go for that. It was a decent vinyasa flow class, but it was very different from what I was used to. The class was an hour and a half but the shavasana within it (the resting pose at the end when people look like they’re sleeping) was twenty minutes long, whereas my normal shavasana is maybe five minutes! Yoga finished and the sound of a gong (the same one that didn’t wake me up) signaled us to the main area for breakfast. Breakfast was…

  • oatmeal with cinnamon, coconut flakes, and the plumpest raisins I’ve ever seen mixed into it
  • fruit (pineapple and papaya plus papaya seeds)
  • toasted bread or homemade tortillas
  • gluten free toasted raisin bread
  • homemade peanut butter

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They make the tortillas by boiling the corn and then putting it in a grinder attached to a bicycle, so the pedaler just pedals on the bike to grind up the corn! Then the cornmeal is shaped into tortillas and baked on the stovetop by the local ladies. I got to grind corn to make tortillas one day (pictures below)!

They make peanut butter by salting and roasting peanuts and grinding them up with the same bike grinder machine. The peanut butter is super thick and crumbly because of this, but it still tastes great.

After breakfast, I got stung by a scorpion.

Yup. You read that right. I got stung by a real, living, breathing SCORPION!

I was making the bed in our room, which was on a little raised platform above the floor. I lifted up one of the decorative pillows that goes on the bed from the floor when all of a sudden a big black scorpion leapt off the pillow and stung my thumb! I was so surprised that I shrieked! It felt like a wasp sting, so it didn’t hurt that much, but I was worried that it would be poisonous and that I was going to die!! Spoiler alert: I didn’t die. After all, I’m here publishing this post!

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I ran down to the main kitchen area and yelled out, “I just got stung by a scorpion!!!!” Sanni, one of the yoga teacher volunteers at TYF poured vinegar onto the sting and had me soak my thumb in a mug of vinegar while she calmed me down (pictured above). She explained to me that, according to the locals, black scorpion stings are good for you since the venom makes you stronger (cue Kelly Clarkson) by strengthening your immune system.

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Plants grown at The Yoga Forest.

After that unexpected incident, Mom and I went on a permaculture tour of TYF property led by one of TYF volunteers! That was much more enjoyable than being stung by a scorpion. We were guided to the goat pen, where we got to hold the baby goats that TYF gets their goat milk from. They were SO SWEET.

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We viewed the terraced gardens where the lettuce and herbs for the salads come from.

We interacted with the ducks at the small duck pond, and I got to go into the chicken coop and hang out with the chickens who provide the eggs for breakfast (for the non-vegans)! One pecked my toes because it thought they were food. There were also adorable bunnies.

Finally, we trekked up tall steps to see the “cave” (it was just an open but acoustic space next to the mountain). After our tour, I got to have a deep tissue massage as a spring break treat. It was just what I needed.

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At 12:30, the gong for lunch rang so we sang the chant and proceeded to enjoy the best lunch we had at TYF. Homemade falafel with the tortillas I helped make, salad with zucchini, avocado, and greens from the garden, hummus, and homemade dill sauerkraut!

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My mom got a massage after lunch so I decided check out the “contact dance jam” I’d seen posters for around TYF. Never again. It was just too different for me- it made me feel uncomfortable. I walked up to the pavilion where the dance was taking place to find three people- the instructor, our new friend Katie, and an older man- rolling on the floor. The instructor invited me to join them, so I did because I didn’t want to be rude. We rolled on the floor to “warm our bodies up,” then we got up and moved around organically, pretending to first move like we were filled with clay and then pretending to move like we were filled with water. Then we had to interact with other “bodies of water” (others in the group)… and we had to make random noises as we bounced off each other. This was fine, except for when I had to bounce off the older man. He was very physical and very into it. I was not. After this exercise, we partnered up. I immediately ran over to Katie, the most normal person in the group. We both whispered to each other, “What did we get ourselves into” and “Can we leave?”

For this exercise, I had to be a “tree” and Katie had to be an “explorer,” so she had to place different body parts of hers on me and then I had to react (don’t worry, it wasn’t dirty- she just put her elbow on my knee or her hand on my shoulder and I moved towards her touch). Then another woman from San Marcos joined our jam and whipped off her shirt. Basically after that happened I was like “I’m out” and I told the instructor that I had to go to the bathroom… and then I left. It was such a strange experience. Afterwards, I went to my second yoga class of the day- gentle yoga from 4 to 5:30. Yoga > contact dance. Contact dance is a cool idea- good for you if you’ve tried it and like it! It just was NOT my thing. At all.

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After yoga, I went to the warm sauna again and showered outside for the first time (pictured above)! It was so cool. Then it was dinnertime: lentil veggie stew, rice, tortillas, hummus, and a giant green salad with tahini dressing. Mom and I loved getting to know the others staying at the yoga forest at dinner. After dinner we got ready for bed and read until “lights out.” I read three books on the trip!

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A really awful picture of a really delicious meal.

Join me tomorrow to hear about the second part of my adventure since the trip recap is too long to fit into one post!!

xx Ellie