27 years old and currently living a transient lifestyle as a travel nurse in Southern California. I moved from Wisconsin in September 2017 with a fire in my belly; I'm an avid curator of my own life experiences. I have a plethora of hobbies and experiences that I'm bursting at the seams this blog will serve as a place for me to cement them.
Very recently a friend and I decided to take a comprehensive trip visiting the Mediterranean coastline of Spain, France, and Italy.So,I’m going to talk exclusively about our trip through the south of France in this post because, full disclosure, I always anticipated that France was going to be unbearably bourgeois/pretentious, and I’m the least classy person ever. So, I entered the country feeling a little unnerved and guarded. I do partially believe that this misconception lies purely in the “Parisian” experience of France and most part we were welcomed with open arms and we learned that perhaps after all “southern hospitality” really is ubiquitous phenomenon anywhere you go.
1. Aix en Provence
The first place we landed in France was a university town about 30 minutes north of Marseille in the Provence region called Aix en Provence. It had this charming college town vibe and was bursting with energy but unfortunately at this point during our trip we had hit a wall. We had just finished a week in Spain with friends and avoided planning our next moves and suddenly realized with 2 1/2 more weeks of travel we had better get our shit together. We arrived at an AirBnb that positively wreaked of college student desperation to make some $$ because to our dismay there wasn’t a shred of toilet paper, a hand or body towel for either of us, or normal pillows. After 5 hours on a train ALL we had wanted was to shower… and we couldn’t. We decided to leave the next morning after a grueling night of mapping out France, rented a car, and hit the road. For the record, renting a car is the best thing we could have done. I think that for 4 days it ended up costing up $300 total which we split. The freedom of a car was a necessary and my recommended vector for seeing off-the-beaten-path spots!
Ah, with the wind on our backs we decided to first drive and visit Cassis. No, it’s not pronounced “Kah-sees” but more like “Kah-See”, and of course we didn’t know this until we were well out of France and in Italy. Typical. Cassis was a great stop in southern France and I *highly* recommend you make the trip there and enjoy the broad range of activities from beautiful pebble beaches with crystal clear water, an assortment of mom & pop restaurants featuring pre-set menus for cheap, well curated shopping at the pier, and probably our favorite, hiking to the Calanque d’en Vau. Hiking the Calanque is not to be missed! It’s hard, and a bit steep, but with enough coffee and determination you will make it and be thrilled you did so. Also there is parking from the hiking spot, a local tip we learned from the boarding house we stayed at.
3. Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur
After leaving Cassis we really didn’t know where to head other than east toward Italy. We found this next gem of a place through AirBnb. We were ultimately looking for an authentic experience with the opportunity to meet some French locals, and we were not disappointed. We found a small guest house on a family owned ranch with goats, chickens, dogs, cats, and pool. There was even an option for us to pay 20 euros to have dinner with the family. We exuberantly swigged our wine and enjoyed our fromage with the family despite the very strong language barrier and the adorable Grand-mère even washed our laundry for us, and hung our underwear to dry out on the line. Pure. Love. If you have the opportunity to do something like this I would highly recommend doing so!
Menton was our next destination, which was ultimately a bit backwards as it’s not far from the Italian border, but it made more sense for us to drive here and double back to fly out of Nice. We stayed at an AirBnb tucked away in stunning green mountains! Just a fair warning: The roads in Menton are very winding and narrow and the locals tend to zoom by at 45 mph like it’s no big deal. Meanwhile, we are crawling up this mountain at 25 mph in a manual car the size of a FIAT. Phew. Although rather touristy at the time we went Menton won my heart with its architectural beauty and is allegedly one of the oldest cities in southern France.
Our last stop in France was the city of Nice nestled right in the middle of Southern France. We had a very limited amount of time here but we were still able to enjoy everything we saw. We walked through the local markets/vendors which carried locally grown herbal teas and some slightly bizarre items that reminded me of my grandmothers house when I was a child like dolls made out of panty hose hot glued to a wooden sign that says “home is where the heart is” and those strange little velveteen plastic teddy bears… ANYWAY it was still nice. We dropped out car at the airport and bailed off to our next destination: Rome!
What’s up my dudes! I’ve tried something a little funky because I have an abundance chard in my backyard that my landlord planted and left for me to munch on while she is living in her summer house in Mexico. I have developed a deeply penetrating love for lacto fermentation in the last year and I will attempt pretty much anything because let’s be honest – IT’S MAGIC.
There are a few basic steps to lacto-fermenting vegetables and its incredibly simple. Like I’ve mentioned in some of my previous blog posts… I am not really a recipe person. I look for frameworks on how to do things and then I experiment in my own way!
Things you will need:
A sterile mason jar
Chard stems (duh)
Spices of your choice!
A fermenting silicone lid (optional) allows gas to escape without letting anything in
First you will need to gather your product. I cut the stems in half and made them roughly the size of carrot sticks. You can pour boiling water into the mason jar and let it sit for awhile to sterilize it. Once you’ve done this you can prepare your brine.
For the brine you will need salt and filtered water. Choose whatever kind of salt you want. Sea salt, kosher salt, pickling salt, your salty attitude… Dissolve the salt in luke warm water over the stove. It should be pretty salty. You pretty much need a tablespoon per cup depending on the size of the mason jar you intend to use.
SO the spices. I found some amazing Merquen smoked pepper which totally blasted me to the past from when my friend was living in Chile and sent care packages of Pisco and Merquen pepper! I added this, a few springs of fresh dill, some smashed garlic cloves, and a few brown mustard seeds.
The silicone fermenting lids!
Nicely stack the stems in the jar with the spices in the bottom and pour the brine over the top. Make sure there is no air for the product to sneak up and hang out in or you can risk mold contaminating your fermentation creation! You can also check it every couple days and add water if needed. Some people use weights to keep the product down, I have not tried them.
Once you pour the brine and secure the lid, you don’t NEED the silicone tops, but they are nice, you can leave your jar in a cool dark place for about 24 hours to get things going. After that you can leave it on the counter for 2-3 days depending on your preference! If you have normal aluminum tops on your jar, leave it on loosely so gas can escape! Obviously the best way to tell if it is ready is to taste it!
A couple of years ago I was living in a studio apartment by myself in a new city and my urge to travel was so irresistible that I bought a ticket to Amsterdam without a fleck of hesitation and decided I was going to hop around Europe for 2 1/2 weeks aimlessly. The memory recall is definitely far from fresh but I’ll highlight some of the basics.
PSA: This is not always a good or enjoyable experience if you are dealing with shit in your life (like I was) and you think that traveling will put everything in perspective for you or solve your problems. I’ve been told before that I have a syndrome called “destination addiction” and that I am unable to live in the present because I am constantly worrying about where I am going to be in the future or that somehow things are better elsewhere. I will admit that while spontaneous travel has worked for me in the past sometimes the desperation and yearning for experience coupled with inappropriate timing or circumstance can leave you feeling befuddled and grasping at straws on your trip. SO GET YO SHIT TOGETHA’.
So I flew into Amsterdam initially and planned to meet up with a friend who had just embarked on her own personal journey as a student abroad! I hate to admit that she definitely held the burden of my earnest bewilderment regarding the reason for my travel and I wasn’t as easy going or flexible as I wish.
1. Don’t stand in the bike lane
I’m dead effing serious about this one. If you are a tourist and are not sure where you are going, if you do one thing and one thing only, GET OUTTA THE BIKE LANE. You will know when you are in it because suddenly you will be disoriented by the dinging of bells, garbled voices of people yelling, and the colorful blur of being ambushed by thousands (okay not thousands) of people on bicycles.
2. Be careful at the smart shops…
So if you don’t know what a smart shop is I will give you this opportunity to look it up and sit quietly with your jaw dropped for a brief moment. Are you finished? Okay good! So my friend and I went to one of these, purchased AND ate the recommended amount of a legal substance and holy absolute mother of all deities… I was already in a funk of a place with my emotions and this sent my teetering over the edge into an abyss of anxious uncertainty about everything in my life. We got held up in Vondelpark for something like 5 hours lying in the grass contemplating existence. Yup. By the way Vondelpark is like being on another planet. The exotic foliage, swamps, and beautiful people everywhere can keep you entertained for countless hours. Go have a BBQ or something.
3. The Red Light District
Yes, we went to the red light district. I will be 100% transparent that I don’t remember a lot but I did have the chance to see the silhouettes of the women through the hazy lit booths, moving their bodies slowly and enticingly waiting for bystanders to become intrigued and approach. As someone who supports sex workers choice to use their bodies and believe they should have resources available that keep them safe, I can’t help but wonder what circumstances led some or the vast majority of these women to Amsterdam specifically. While many women choose to and LOVE performing these jobs there is still a lot of sex trafficking happening in the world, especially in Europe. I did not take, nor will I post photos of the district.
4. You don’t have to eat the herring.
Say it with me now! Of course, because I am disgusting and actually quite like herring I had to try it. It wasn’t…great. I mean I bought it in a plastic tray from a random grocery store simply because I HAD TO and my poor friend eyed me with disdain the entire time curious as to why I brought that shit into the house.
After struggling through the condensed streets of Amsterdam I flew to London and spent a few days at Wombat Hostel, which I totally recommend because of the awesome “pub” in the basement and the central location to the metro. I met some amazing people that gladly explored the city with me! My only regret is not doing much for night life.
1. Notting Hill Carnival
While I was in London an absolute shit storm of a festival was going on called Notting Hill Carnival. It’s a Caribbean festival that’s widely celebrated, but this is London’s version. The reason I call it a shit storm is because it becomes so apocalyptic that for 2 days straight businesses purchase plywood and BOARD UP THE STORE FRONTS because apparently British will unleash and destroy everything. It was a sight to behold. For 2 days graffiti festooned plywood decorated the streets while crowds large enough to give you panic attacks undulated through the streets. I don’t think these photos do justice by the way. An aerial view would be much better.
We literally saw a girl that had been stabbed (allegedy) walking through the crowd with blood soaked t-shirts clutched to her abdomen trying to find a landmark for paramedics to meet her.
I also had to pee in someone’s courtyard because port-o-potties aren’t a thing apparently along with garbage cans, and pandemonium just ensues for two days… I’ve definitely grown out of these things now that I think about it.
2. Camden Town
Camden Town was the only other real London experience I was able to get with my short time there, but it was worth the entire trip in my opinion. The Camden market has everything handmade, vintage, or new that you could possibly ever want and the food stands at the public market featured a plethora of different ethnic foods I hadn’t tried before. We ambled around Camden Town with a pungent and funky hard cider we purchased, people watched, and enjoyed the sunset. NEVER. BETTER. No photos to share on this one… But please check out CyberDog. It’s a rave clothing store and now even you can look like a fashionable version of the Jetsons and glow in the dark.
3. Windsor Castle
Since I had such a short time in the UK I had to decide to capitalize on a couple things and one of those being seeing a real castle. I grabbed my sock holder-uppers, put on my tourist pants and got on a bus with a bunch of strangers Windsor Castle-bound. I didn’t think I would be as interested as I was seeing knight’s armor, elaborate décor, beautiful gardens, and an eccentric doll house (The Queen’s prized collection). Not far is a village called Old Town which was easily walkable and featured some fancy shops and food joints.
Bath is a city near the border of Wales that is old as shit. I took a day trip here and marveled at the 18th century Georgian architecture and Roman baths that are centuries old. It’s known for it’s hot springs and has been a destination of wellness for a very long time. We didn’t get a lot of time to spend here, but we did get to see Johnny Depp’s house there. Cool.
Mannn. I had wanted to see this place since I could remember and I thought I might have felt a strange wind or a chill move through my body as aliens tried to contact me telepathically… but I felt pretty normal. Bewildered, but normal. Even so this place had a remarkable feel to it. It lies in the middle of a large pasture which appears very unassuming at first, then BOOM there it is. I was happy to see it. Of course nearby is a gift shop that offers every extraterrestrial novelty item you could envision, which can be a little tacky and over done at times. But hey! STONEHENGE.
Okay Berlin is the shit. I had no idea what I was in for when I landed in this city. I intended to visit a good friend here but he had a personal emergency which left me to fend for myself and pioneer my own experiences. While I was here I did a few different tours. Berlin amazed and frightened me with its dark history surrounding the Holocaust and the walking tour I took of the city center left me with worms in my stomach. I actually stood where Hitler “allegedly” was buried (c’mon we all know he lived out his years on a tropical island somewhere) and it was fulfilling yet curious to see that the place had ABSOLUTELY no mention of his existence whatsoever. No recognition. Good job Germany.
One of the favorite things I did in Berlin was a street art tour through Alternative Berlin. Walking through Berlin you would never know that graffiti is not legal. Every building and window as far up as a ladder can reach is ornamented with tags, murals, and glass etching. I actually learned that the penalty for vandalism is nothing like it is here in the states. They actually measure the size of your tag (or whatever) and there is a predetermined scale of how much you owe based on the size of your damage. NEAT right? Why send people to jail for years for tagging? After the street art tour we were lead back to a studio and taught how to make our own stencils and some basic spray paint technique. I think I made a french bulldog with a part hat? Yas.
The other important thing to know about Berlin is that the nightlife gets absolutely wild and the music is phenomenal. I became friendly with one of the tour guides, a young Portuguese man who fell madly in love with Berlin and had a flat with friends not far from where I was staying. So in Berlin you don’t start going out until at least 2-3 am. We went to this club called aboutBlank and I don’t think we left until 8:30 in the morning. There is something to be said about line etiquette when waiting to get into these places. Always go with a group. Never look bored. Keep it chill and easy, and you will likely get it. DO NOT BE WASTED. You will be turned away, possibly at the expense of your whole group. This place was apparently an old hotel and had loads of empty graffiti strewn hot tubs in the back that you could chill in all night.
I always regret not taking more photos after a trip… But ultimately there needs to be a good balance of living in the moment and viewing the world through a lens!
Lucky lake sounds like an adorable imaginative land featured in one of the CareBear movies and it most certainly lives up to that. I first discovered Lucky Lake when I was planning my trip to Amsterdam and I instantly knew I had to witness this winsome pastel trailer park and so I made the arrangements. Lucky Lake is a hostel that features private rooms inside each teensy weensy trailer, or they over shared bunks in some other converted vehicle or box (I don’t remember).
IS THIS NOT THE CUTEST THING YOU EVER SAW? Don’t lie to me.
Staying here was an absolute BLAST. There are people everywhere running around embracing their childlike curiosity and exploring the channels and lakes that are abundant throughout the area. The hostel itself offers boat rides, yoga, community dinners, and bike rentals. We got lucky and paid some locals to take us for a boat ride. Cute locals. Teehee.
I am not going to lie. This area felt so much like the great lakes in Wisconsin in the summer time I was confused that I had flown half way across the world to behold the same scenery with different architecture. The party vibe and friendliness was ALL the same though.
Not far lied an older village named Abcoude that we biked to on conveniently paved bike trails while waving at absent minded sheep and picking daisies along the way. The village has an old ferris wheel and a quaint old-fashioned vibe.
AND DON’T FORGET TO EAT BREAKFAST ON THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS YA’LL. Miss Frizzle wasn’t there (huge bummer) but she was in spirit. While most of this is my own original photography, this photo is from the website, but needed to be shared.
So I think you pretty much get the excitement surrounding the place. If you are visiting Amsterdam and are sick of accidentally standing in the bike lane and getting dinged at by bike bells, hop on over to lucky lake and check it out!
The biggest problem for me acne-wise is when I got the hormonal IUD inserted. It’s such a shame might I add because absolutely everything else I about my IUD I absolutely loved it. I would have married my IUD, but not after it did me totally dirty. It HAD to go. Thank the lord it came out easier than it went in. Without further ado, lets talk about what I did to get that shit back on track.
Before routine but after most acne
After routine 6-8 months
So I know this probably doesn’t look like much, but on the left side I had had the IUD out for a few months and was mostly trying to work on my PIH.
IF YOUR MIRENA IS CAUSING ACNE, JUST TAKE IT OUT. SAVE YOURSELVES.
I waited significantly longer than I should have for false promises that it would clear up and I took four months of spironolactone which is supposed to do wonders for cystic acne. NADA PARA MI. Now the skin damage is severe and needs work.
Bioderma micellar H20 for makeup removing. “Double cleansing method”
CosRx Low pH cleanser (AM & PM) – NEED A LOW PH CLEANSER YA’LL.
Timeless Vit C serum with ferrulinic acid (AM) – Reduces scar marks and brightens skin
Paula’s Choice BHA liquid (every other day PM) – Salicylic acid exfoliant to PREVENT new breakouts and boost collagen
Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% (every other day PM after BHA) – Prevents breakouts. Might be the only thing in the damn world that actually works.
Tretinoin 0.1% (every other PM, usually don’t use with BP because it’s too drying) – Retinoid which increases cell turnover and prevents wrinkles
CeraVe moisturizers, one with SPF and one for night time (AM & PM) – Magical unicorn tears made into a moisturizer that saves lives
Heres a “shelfie”.
So I am still expecting quite a bit of improvement. That is why this blog category is here. So I can obsessively measure my improvement and eventually post about getting compliments on my dewy, glowing, supple skin, ya feel me?
Anyway I know I’m not the only one struggling with this and I’ve also received a TON of help from R/SkinCareAddiction and highly recommend watching peoples transformations until you cry.
One of my favorite things about being in Santa Barbara is the access I have to a variety of plants and herbs that are quite different from what I am used to. One of my favorite finds so far has been the elderberry bushes! I found some accidentally while walking a path down to the beach and I shrieked like a teenager and pulled out my phone to positively identify. The flowers appeared slightly more yellow than I had commonly seen and the berries had a white coating or “bloom” over them rather than the dark shiny varietal I am used to seeing. After positively identifying I learned these are Sambucus cerulea or otherwise known as a blue elder.
1. Identifying an elder bush
The trick to identifying an elder bush once the flowers/berries catch your eye is to look closely at the leaves. They should be opposing each other on each side of the stem and have ragged edges on the side. The bushes can become quite large so keep your eyes looking upward! In the right season finding the flowers is the easiest. The second is the look at the flowers. They are pale yellow to white and have a wonderful delicate smell. They tend to split off of the stem in a sort of “spray” pattern. I ALWAYS recommend using a guide book or checking an ID before doing anything with foraged goods because there are so many look-a-likes out there and we’ve all seen or read “Into the Wild” am I right…
2. Soak the flowers
First you need to get all the little buggers off unless you don’t mind a bit of extra protein. Gently soak them in water and strain them off.
3. Make a syrup with honey, purified water, and lemon zest.
Firstly, I am NOT the queen of measuring for recipes. I believe I collected as many flowers as I could filled a large jug with how much water to yield how much soda I wanted and really just went from the there. First you’ll bring your water to a boil with lemon zest and add depending on how you want to do it at least SOME white sugar to the mix, likely 1 cup to yield a gallon of soda. (You can stick with all honey but the white sugar will really get your ferment going). If adding honey wait until the mixture is bath warm and then add it so you can save all the wonderful enzymatic benefits of honey in your soda. I used manuka honey and a combination of white sugar and had amazing results and flavor. Add 1 cup or more. This mixture should be almost sickeningly sweet because the yeast needs to eat the sugar for carbonation to happen!
3. Add the flowers to the syrup
Alright so add those bad boys to the syrup that you made! The bloom on the flowers will ferment over a few days! At this point I squeezed in the juice of about 3 or so lemons to give it a nice citrusy flavor. It blended amazingly with the honey. Transfer to a glass jar and top with a few layers of cheese cloth or a clean tea towel. Make sure the mixture can breathe but no insects can climb in and destroy your beautiful creation. You can also use a fermentation jar with a rubber stopper, but just make sure whatever you do there is a way for gas to escape or BOOM.
4. WAIT *twiddles thumbs*
Boom. Keep the jar on your kitchen counter in a temperate place out of direct sun. I left my mixture go for about 2.5 days (because it’s hot as balls in SOCAL) and it didn’t take long to ferment. It will start to smell a little funky, almost like beer.
As you can see above, the jar has a rubber stopper on it. It allows gasses to exit but prevents little dudes like ants or fruit flies from drowning in my stuff. Check your jar every day for signs of fermentation! If you swirl it around you should be able to see some active bubbling going on. This is a great sign! High five! Woohoo!
5. Strain the mixture and transfer into bottles
After your mixture has fermented you need to strain off the flowers/lemons and transfer into bottles. I have some glass bottles with stoppers that I use but I want to issue a fair warning… If you have never played with fermented sodas try using plastic soda bottles first so you can feel how carbonated they get; It is possible for glass to shatter if it becomes too pressurized. It can be tricky when you are trying to release the carbonation to check the progress.
6. Wait some more…
Leave your bottles out on the counter for another day. Gently release the carbonation at first to taste it! Once you refrigerate the bottles the carbonation will settle down a little and become far less….implode-y. I got 2 1 L bottles from what was in this jar and it was just enough for me and some friends to share for cocktails.
7. ENJOY and revel in your hard work! It’s rewarding and delicious my dudes.
I decided for this first post to be about the beautiful, the golden, the sometimes elusive but not AS elusive as morel mushroom, the chanterelles! It’s peak season in the midwest baby, and those golden beauties are out there waiting for an invitation onto your plate. Being from Wisconsin I have some experience foraging for mushrooms and I am all too familiar with the feeling of excitement when you stumble across a forest floor covered in yellow. How do you find chanterelles? Look for thick forest with nice dark soil after a few days of rain! Just get out there in the woods and check it out. Chanterelles typically grow on hardwood trees in mossy forests mid to late July depending on the season.
Chanterelles are the type of mushroom that you need to eat fresh as opposed to porcinis or morels, because they just don’t for whatever reason hold that “shroomy” flavor that we want. Just a side note of caution for all: If you binge eat foraged mushrooms you COULD get sick. It’s just possible. Take it easy. I mean it…
Make sure that your identification is spot on, and double check everything with online images or a guide book before you put it in your mouth! We found some sneaky Jack-o-lanterns in our pile that we dutifully exiled before preparing our delicious meal. So put em in pasta, put them in a killer frittata with who knows what. Give em to friends and family and enjoy yourself!