The Art of Wondering at the World: A Few Thoughts

When people say that you “find yourself” or you learn about yourself when you travel, I think perhaps this is what it come down to. When you travel alone, you experience the process of trying to understand yourself more—how you react, how you feel, how you perceive and see and think. We bulldoze our way through life in a state of over-stimuli, and it's only when we're stripped of that and we're just left with us—no people to bounce ideas off of, no one to judge, no one to help us decide or influence how we see the world—that we start to realize just how little we know about ourselves. How little we've allowed ourselves to grow in the "me" category. 

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Peter Pan Syndrome

In my fifth grade class this week, all of the students went around the room and said what they wanted to be when they grow up. When all of the students had given their answer, one of the girls raised her hand and said, Kristine, what do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m not going to lie, the whole growing up thing is a little scary (okay a LOT scary). I mean, honestly, does anyone really, fully understand how taxes work, or what exactly a high dividend stock is, or just what exactly makes up your credit score?

Where is the textbook, the college class, the How-to-Be-An-Adult for Dummies book?

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Exploring Caves, a Live Concert in an Underground Lake, Jellies, and More...

From caves created by ancient Genoese sailors to live music concerts in caves, this weekend was one for the record books. Swarms of jellyfish, hikes through pine forests overlooking clear blue Mediterranean water, and boat rides in underground lakes surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites.

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Take a Risk, Take a Chance, Make a Change...

As Kelly Clarkson once said...take a risk, take a chance, make a change....and breeeeaaaakaaawwwaaayyyyy. 

Alright, karaoke session is over for sec.  But K. Clark's lyrics make a good point, and that is that change won't happen unless you make it.  It can be scary, but moreso, it's exciting and, dare I say, necessary. 

And it's high time I take a risk.  

"I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly..."

This is going to sound like a tired phrase from an awful rom-com, but during the last few weeks of 2014, I could sense that something big was about to happen. Change was literally in the air. Maybe it was because 2014 bred so much negativity, or maybe it was just the unseasonable warmth...but I felt the need to act on it. 

I was #blessed with a fantastic boss and coworkers, and had the incredible opportunity to work in a creative environment with some of the best designers, illustrators, and writers in the entertainment world.  But the long hours and stressful environment always made me question what the hell I was doing there. Is any of this worth it? I would ask myself every morning, noon, and night.  In a sense, it was. I learned so much, not only about my industry, but about myself. I worked with the most fun-loving, encouraging people around.  But I quickly reached a ceiling, and got bored.  Plus, the stress stagnated the creative energy, motivation, and inspiration I once had. No matter how much I loved my friends and how much I laughed each day, I couldn't help but feel trapped.  

In short, I was growing tired of the knock-down-drag-out days that seemed to be taking more out of me than they were giving. 

"Out of the darkness and into the sun..."

I've learned a few important lessons in my relatively short life. 

One is: trust your gut. Trust that every challenge is leading to a great reward, as long as you keep moving forward. Believe that the trials and tribulations are temporary. The greater the obstacle, the better the outcome - trust this. The universe may seem to work in mysterious ways, but if you can work through the hard times, your reward will be that of unmatched happiness. 

This past year, it felt at times that my life was snowballing out of control, and for the first time in my life, I felt a bit depressed. But once I took a step out of my own head to look at the bigger picture, I realized that everything was happening for a reason. Each "event" - every tear, every letdown, every moment of frustration - was part of a very important puzzle. It took me some time, but once I connected the dots, I finally realized something big was coming in my future - it was just up to me to make it happen. Which leads me to my second point...

The second is: you control your life. Only you. No one is going to make your dreams come true. If you want change, you have to toss the security blanket and get a little uncomfortable. So after years of dissatisfaction, my mind and soul were itching for big changes. Big risks, even. 

"And maaaaaake aaaaaaaa chaaaaanngeee..." 

It was then I decided, I'm not going to do anything that sucks for awhile. 

So, I quit my job. 

I bought a one-way ticket to a different country. 

I tossed everything holding me back. Packed the bare necessities. Cleaned out my apartment.  Said my goodbyes. 

And I'm out. 

I'll return when I'm good and ready. Maybe. Who knows - maybe I'll be drawn to the road, or find somewhere or something (or someone? {kidding, ma}) that captures my heart. In one word, the next few months will be: unpredictable. Which, after so many years or hard work, safety, and routine, is the perfect vocab word to fill the blank space in my story. 

I'll occasionally be posting from the road on all the cool shit we'll be doing...until then, I ask the question: what can you do to change your life and "breakaway" today? 

Getting Shit Accomplished: 6 Ways We Are (And How to Stop Being) Our Own Worst Enemy

Usually once a year (if we're lucky and we’re actually on top of our game) we make a list of what we want to accomplish. Sign up for 5k race, plan a trip abroad, start a business. But somewhere along the way, most of these items (if not all of them) get lost or forgotten. We arrive at the following year, unsure how a whole 365 days have flown by and wonder, a little abashedly, how we have yet to make good on all of those promises we made to ourselves. 

While we may come up with 173 reasons why we didn’t get to all of those to-do items this year, the real issue isn’t the time, and it’s not work, and it’s not the weather. 

The real issue is (drumroll please)… Ourselves.

Yep. Me and you. The truth is, more often than not, we are own worst enemy when it comes to accomplishing our goals. 

But we don’t have to be. Here are the top reasons we stand in our own way and the best ways to rid ourselves of those inhibiting mental games we play. 

Live big, do you, and let’s check some items off our list this year.

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How to Do Mallorca in Three Days: The Winter Edition

As a small island in the Mediterranean, Mallorca has some of the most beautiful beaches and clearest water in all of Europe—perfect in the summer when you can go from scuba diving to cave swimming to cliff jumping in a matter of hours. But even Mediterranean islands get cold, and winter here is no exception. 

So what do you do on an island in the middle of winter? You adventure by land. And lo and behold, you come to find out that Mallorca is not too shabby of a winter destination—especially during the holidays.

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New Year, New Post!

That's right, back at it! The holidays really got in the way of important things  like this here blog. No more!

Now that a new year has begun (when? How? Where does time go?), time to stop for a little reflection. Kristine wrote a lovely and inspiring post that you should definitely read if you haven't already, and if you have, read it again. She drops truth bombs left and right. 

I'm going to be honest: 2014 was not a good year.  I'm not saying it was entirely awful - good times were had, laughs were laughed, new adventures were abundant. But mentally, phew, it was a rough one.  It was a year of disappointments, regrets, isolation, self-doubt, tears (and I'm not a cryer).  I wasn't depressed - I didn't let myself fall entirely. But I found myself gritting my teeth and putting my head down just to get through each day. That's no way to live. 

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To sum it up: I let the world get the best of me, and that was my own  fault.  

Yep. MY fault. Because not once during those moments of desperation or self-questioning did I ever stand up and make a change. I never once took a risk. Instead, I let myself fall further down the hole rather than stand up, pull myself together like a grown-ass woman, and step confidently out of my comfort zone.  

If there's one thing 2014 taught me, it's that there's never a "right" - a right time, place, thing to say, way to do things, career...you name it. I was always waiting for the "right" thing or the "right" time or was doing what everyone told me was "right." How silly is that? That's a lot of time wasted spent worrying about something that doesn't even exist. 

Coffee mugs should always be a reflection of your core beliefs.

Coffee mugs should always be a reflection of your core beliefs.

So, my mantra for 2015 and beyond is (drumroll please): there is no right. So if you're worrying about taking the right job, or saving up just the right amount of money for that trip, or saying just the right thing to make that guy like you, whatever it is...guess what? You're wasting time. And there ain't time to waste, because life is short. 

It's only two weeks into the new year, and this state of mind is already working out pretty darn well for me. I feel good about my decisions because you know what? They're always "right."  I'm not wasting time worrying or feeling sad or wondering "What if?" I'm just doing. Because when you follow your gut, you take action, and that's empowering. 

I'll talk more on setting specific "goals" later, but for now, happy 2015. Trust yourself, be mindful, do cool shit when you feel like it, and stop and smell the roses (or ocean) every once in a while. Life will love you for it. 

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Reflections on 2014

I distinctly remember the weekend before New Year’s last year as 2013 came to a close. We decided to do something outside of the typical New Year’s Eve shenanigans and went camping at El Cap. Kelsey brought six pounds of fresh fish that her dad and brother had caught in Mexico and we stuffed ourselves with fresh sushi as we sat around the campfire and stared at the stars and listened to reggae. The next day we woke up to the sound of the ocean, sat on a bluff for a bit with coconut waters, and the ocean was so clear we could see sand sharks swimming below us. This was followed by a yoga sesh in the sunshine overlooking the water, headstands at the beach, and surfing. To cap off the weekend, we drove back to Hendry’s Beach in Santa Barbara, watched the sunset on the beach with hot mugs of kava tea and someone strumming on the ukulele in the background.

I vividly remember looking at the sunset with these incredible girls, thinking how glorious these moments were. We had sat on the beach and talked about our prospective ideas for the upcoming year and all the ways that we would make it amazing. And before the year came to a close, we promised each other that we would make 2014 an awesome year filled with adventures.

The year has flown by, and although miles apart from the girls at The Toasty Avocados, I know that we all have fulfilled our promises. From climbing mountains to starting crossfit to starting businesses, I can honestly say I’m proud of these girls and feel so lucky to have them in my life. We made 2014 pretty badass.

December in Venice, Italy. 

December in Venice, Italy. 

Now, as December comes to a close again, we come to a time to reflect on the past year - on what we're proud of and what we can change. To hopefully help steer us in a positive direction as we enter into the next year, the next chapter of our stories.

And I start to think about what I am proud of, of what I consider to be well-lived, of what I will look back on in 50 years and say, Yes, that was a good use of my time.

And when I start to think about it, the moments that stand out are experiences. Moments that were explored, savored, times that were spent with family and friends, adventures that peaked and satisfied curiosity. 

When I think back on the moments in the past year that I'm proud of, I think back on watching my brother walk down the isle to marry his love. I think about wondering whether I could do an ironman and then 8 months and more than 500 hours of training later, that moment of crossing the finish line. I think of spontaneously going to Nicaragua for a girls trip of yoga, surf, cocktails and hammocks, fresh lobster while watching lightening storms over the ocean, and awesome hikes... 

Tying the knot!

Tying the knot!

Napa Ironman finish

Napa Ironman finish

Nica trip

Nica trip

I think about celebrating my quarter-century birthday (wuddup 25!) with some of my closest friends on a giant inflatable raft in the ocean with nothing but laughter and beers and sunshine. I think about the weekend of hiking through Yosemite and conquering Half Dome followed by a Jack Johnson concert at the SB Bowl (holla, Ronnie!).  I think about that moment when Kelsey asked if I wanted to do another marathon - which was two weeks after my Ironman - and thinking how it would hurt but you know, yolo and all, and coming home with a PR and Boston Marathon qualifying time...

Bday celebrations...aka Kristinetopia 

Bday celebrations...aka Kristinetopia 

Ronnie and I on top of Half Dome in Yosemite

Ronnie and I on top of Half Dome in Yosemite

SLO Marathon 

SLO Marathon 

I think about starting a blog with some of the coolest ladies I know. I think about adventures in Amsterdam and Barcelona. And—the real kicker--I think about the decision to make a change in my life, to quit my corporate job to buy a one-way ticket to a Spanish island and live the life I imagined. 

The Toasty Avocados

The Toasty Avocados

Park Güell in Barcelona

Park Güell in Barcelona

Hello, Mallorca!

Hello, Mallorca!

I think about the past week - of eating amazing food in Bologna,  going to Rome and visiting the Vatican on Christmas Eve and hearing the Pope speak, of traveling to Venice, the place my dad proposed to my mom--on a Gondola. (P.s. Props on that one Dad!)

Venice, Italy. 

Venice, Italy. 

The Vatican. Rome, Italy. 

The Vatican. Rome, Italy. 

And as I write this, typing away on my little iPhone, I'm sitting in Berlin with the snow falling outside. 

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

Not too shabby for a year, I’d say.

My mom always told me as a kid, "Don't say 'I can't.' You can." Even as a child, this largely shaped how I viewed, and now view, the world. I grew up believing that what you want to do is possible, you just have to set your mind to it and do it.

So growing up, I didn’t have a choice to settle for "can't."

Now as an adult, I still feel the same way. If you want to do an ironman, you can. Yes, it will take a hell of a lot of work, but damn is it worth it. Want to travel? A new adventure is literally a plane ticket away. Not happy with where you are in life? Change it.

Sometimes you just gotta change your perspective. Berlin, Germany. 

Sometimes you just gotta change your perspective. Berlin, Germany. 

I recently heard the following quote: “You know those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should go do them.” It struck me because it’s so simple. If you want to do something, go do it. It’s at your fingertips. It’s just a matter of your mindset.

If you don’t have a clue where you’re going or what you want to do with your life, relax. Tranquila. Accept the fact that it's okay not to know what you want to do. Start with what you do know. Want to do your first 5k run? Always wanted to skydive? Never had time to get scuba certified? All those things you wanted to do? Go do them.

Bologna, Italy. 

Bologna, Italy. 

For some people (like me), it takes time to figure out the big-life stuff. So start with what you know. It doesn't have to be some grandiose life goal. It could be as simple as, I want to learn to play guitar. I’ve always wanted to slackline. I want to travel more. Make a list --something concrete that you can go back to in a year and see what you accomplished.

And most of all, enjoy the process. Allow yourself the luxury to fail once in a while. Appreciate the moments when you don't. And never say the words, 'I can't.' You can.

So this next year, let's create a life we can be proud of come December of next year. Stay curious, savor, explore, accept fear and venture out of your comfort zone more, love, and don't forget to be grateful for it all.

Cheers to 2015 – let’s make it a good one. Happy New Year, everyone!

Rome, Italy. 

Rome, Italy. 

9 Reasons Why Barcelona is Awesome (Especially at Christmas)

1. Gaudi. If you've ever seen pictures of Barcelona, chances are, a good chunk of them are probably of Gaudi's works. There's a reason for that. The architecture is unbelievable and makes you feel like you've just walked out of some whimsical book. Pretty sure if you combined Alice and Wonderland, The Lord of the Rings, Pan's Labyrinth, and Dr. Suess, you'd have a fairly accurate description of Gaudi's works. My favorite was walking around Park Güell which had beautiful views over Barcelona, gardens, and incredibly intricate mosaic-embedded buildings. 

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

We also walked by La Sagrada Familia one of the days but unfortunately didn't have time to go in. Even though it was under construction, the details were absolutely breath-taking. It was right next to some Christmas markets, as well.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

2. Which brings me to: Christmas markets. When it comes to miniature nativity scenes, the Spanish don't mess around. Go to any Christmas market and you will find virtually any small nativity figure imaginable. Tiny baskets of eggs? Got 'em. Little vases of olive oil? Yep. Dwarf sized camels and barrels of hay? More than you can count. We were walking down Las Ramblas and decided to explore a side street that had a bunch of lights. Turns out, we stumbled across the Christmas market in front of the Cathedral which had everything from Christmas trees to ornaments and nativity figures to crepes and hot drinks. 

3. Lights. Everywhere. Las Ramblas is beautiful at night, and Plaça d'Espanya is definitely a sight to see with the fountain and surrounding buildings. Plaça Catalunya is no doubt amazing with light-filled trees and a skating rink in the center. 

Plaça d'Espanya

Plaça d'Espanya

P  laça Catalunya

Plaça Catalunya

4. Chupitos Bar. Need I say more? For my U.S. friends - I'll get you up to speed real quick. Chupitos are shots. That said, let me paint a picture for you. €1 or 2 shots. 570 to choose from. Take a few of these chupitos bars, stick them in the middle of Barcelona, and you've got a ruta de chupitos. Think bar crawl but just with shots. Yeah... 

So many to choose from...

So many to choose from...

The Bob Marley chupito.

The Bob Marley chupito.

5. Music on the way to...wherever. If you're looking for a good concert, just take a ride on the local metro. We were riding on the metro to the airport when one of the guys down the way started clapping, busted out a trumpet, and for the rest of the ride we had a live jazz show. Not a bad way to end the trip!

6. Surf. Okay, so maybe I miss getting out in the water a bit. But it was fun to watch a crew of Barça surfers do their thang. 

7. And of course... Food!! Paella goes without saying. But if you take away nothing else from this post, remember this: The eggs benedict on waffle at the cafe/restaurant,  "Brunch and Cake." The place is in L'Eixample and it was definitely one of the best (if not the best) things we ate. I can't even describe it, but it was a sweet waffle with some kind of brown sugar something on top with creamy eggs benedict on top. Absolutely incredible. 

8. Speaking of food, La Boqueria, aka foodie heaven. From fresh smoothies and juices to fresh fish, meats, eggs, veggies and fruit, breads, pastries, chocolates, anything you can imagine, they have it. Go to a few places and taste at least a few items they have to offer. 

9. It's Barcelona. Quite simply, it has a beat and a vibrancy of its own. The dramatic architecture, the city life combined with the wide stretches of beaches, good bars, good food...needless to say, you will no doubt eat good food and see some cool shit here!

14 Lessons I Learned in Amsterdam

1. Assume the role of Bilbo Baggins. Here's the thing about Amsterdam: Good food, cute cafes, and amazing bars are about as plentiful as bikes here (which is a LOT in case you've never been to Amsterdam). So accept the fact that you are not getting anywhere fast in this town and by the time you get to breakfast, you will have already had first breakfast, second breakfast, third breakfast, and probably stopped for an additional pastry or two along the way. 

2. Speaking of: Bikes. Everything you ever thought about Amsterdam and bikes is true. They are everywhere. And I mean, everywhere. One of the days it started pouring and we took shelter in our warm houseboat to drink wine and eat cheese and crackers and look out and think how glad we were not to be in the rain. When lo and behold, we saw quite a few people riding their bikes. In the rain (or downpour, really). With light jackets on. Lesson learned: In Amsterdam, rain or shine, hot or cold, all day errr day, you ride your bike.

3. Say yes to all of the bread, all the fried bread, and all the pastries you possibly can. And nutella. When it comes to delicious holidays treats, Amsterdam brings its A-game. Just walk through any Christmas market and by the time you emerge you will probably wish you had worn your stretchy yoga pants and probably be asking yourself what just happened. P.s. Food blackouts are a thing. They occur when something so incredible happens to your taste buds and you temporarily blackout due to its sheer deliciousness. Never had one? Go to a Christmas market. You're welcome.

4. Try ALL the cheeses. Note: Lavender cheese is a thing. And it's delicious. Don't ask questions, just go to a cheese shop and do some exploring. You'll thank me later.

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5. When in doubt, think like a moth: Follow the Light.
Amsterdam is a big city with quite a few districts, and it's easy to get lost - especially at night. We quickly learned a valuable lesson: if you see light, you'll probably find adventure at the end of it. And no, I'm not referring to the Red Light District, although I don't doubt you'd find your fair share of adventures there.

No, I'm talking about actual lights (go figure). We wandered through all the side streets that were lit up for Christmas and following our "Follow the Light" mantra, we found Dam Square which was absolutely incredible at night. In the middle of the square was a huge Christmas tree and all of the surrounding buildings were lit up - a definite sight to see during Christmas time.

Using our theory, we also stumbled upon the Light Festival which featured a number of works by artists around the world on and around the canals. We took a night boat tour and drank hot mulled wine as we looked out at some incredible works of light art. 

6. By the end of your trip, nothing will surprise you. I'll save you the trouble: just let this go right now. In Amsterdam, anything goes. Take Vegas, stick it in the middle of Europe, and you start to get an idea.

7. Staying in a houseboat was pretty freaking awesome. Wake up on the water, in Jordaan, walk to amazing restaurants and the city center in no time. Enjoy the night life of Amsterdam and be back home before you know it. Repeat.

8. Try the mint tea. Maybe I've been out of the loop on this one all these years. In any case, I had never heard about this before, but the mint tea in Amsterdam is incredible. They literally take a huge handful of mint leaves, stick it in some hot water, and give you a bottle of honey. Bam. Freshest, most refreshing mint tea you've ever tasted.

9. Which brings me to: Walk with a warm drink in your hand. Okay, seems simple enough. Now, maybe it's because I'm from Southern California and I have mind and body paralysis in anything under 50 degrees. I am still uncertain how to properly function in the cold. But one thing I did learn while in Amsterdam: As long as you have something hot to drink - coffee, hot chocolate, mulled wine - everything changes. And the cold can--dare I say it--actually be...fun?? 

10. Do something cultural. You may or may not have your preconceived notions about Amsterdam, and let's be real, it probably does have a district catering to everything and anything. But that's the beauty of Amsterdam. You have years and years of history in that city. A plethora of cultures, walks of life, districts. It's a bit like an onion - the more you pull back its layers, the more you seem to discover. So get out, walk around, unpeel some of those layers. There are countless museums the city offers - from history to art to flowers. Check out a few, and it will give you some perspective on the city. To think of what these streets have seen over the years...

11. Do something touristy. I'm all for avoiding the touristy things when I travel and doing as the locals do. BUT there are exceptions. So find the "I amsterdam" sign and take a picture. Go on a canal tour. Visit the Heineken Factory - and if you go during Christmas you'll enjoy a nice jazz concert as you enjoy a couple drinks at the end. There you go, you've got proof you came, saw, and conquered. And you'll probably get a nice Insta picture out of it while you're at it.

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12. Eat at some amazing restaurants. You knew this was coming. This is the part where I recommend places to go and you realize that Amsterdam is actually as cool and the food is actually as good as everyone says it is. (As if I haven't talked about how good the food is already...)

Wasserette (in De Pijp): Cute place for breakfast or brunch. Everything was fresh and natural, and it was pretty busy when we arrived (always a good sign). Any of their breakfasty egg things (Eggs Florentine, Eggs Benedict, etc.) are pretty popular.

Winkel 43 (in Jordaan): Great breakfast, nice atmosphere, and again, a very popular place. It's also right next to the Saturday farmer's market. Most important part: You must try the apple pie with whipped cream!! It's unbelievably good.

Wasserette

Wasserette

Winkel 43

Winkel 43

Tuin Tien, or T 10 (in Jordaan): Delicious, great for dinner, funky/cool atmosphere, almost seemed like it was some place out of Portland.

Moeder's: Typical dutch food which was amazing. Also, there are pictures of mothers all over the walls, we guessed about 1500 of them. We got lucky, but the place is usually pretty busy so make sure to make a reservation ahead of time.

Tuin Tien, or T 10

Tuin Tien, or T 10

Moeder's

Moeder's

Farmers Market (Saturday in Jordaan). Well, duh.

13. Double and triple check the destination on the metro you're about to take. Especially if it's 4:00am and your flight leaves in an hour and a half. Yeah, so that happened.

14. Amsterdam is freaking awesome during the holidays. Amazing lights all over town, Christmas markets, good food, good drinks, canal boat rides...what is there not to love??

"Sandwich Spot" Revised: Trek from Valldemossa to Deia

Before last weekend’s escapade from Valldemossa to Deia, I assumed that hiking was something that you did in the sunshine with wonderful snacks tucked away in your backpack, just waiting for a glorious view of the mountains and the sea where you could sit down and enjoy your sandwich and listen to the waves crashing against the rocks below you.

Well, last weekend had something else in store for us.

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: Ireland Adventures

Oh yeah, I'm going there - throwing a little #tbt action onto the ol' blog, Toasty style! #basic

Now of course, we Toasty Avos make every day an adventure.  Our daily shenanigans are the spice of life.  But, sadly, not every day is exactly an EPIC adventure. Admittedly, sometimes I find myself staring out my office window and wishing I was elsewhere, doing cool(er) shit (insert obligatory "I love my job" comment here). 

For that reason, I introduce a new series: Throwback Thursdays.  Who cares if everyone's doing it?  Sometimes we need to reminisce on all the awesome things we did in the past as a reminder of why we work so hard in the present: to earn our epic playtimes, and to motivate ourselves to plan our future adventures. 

These past few weeks have been especially rough, filled with long work hours and appointments and "deadlines" - ew.  I find myself longing for a break from the hectic, claustrophobic L.A. lifestyle.  Then I remember, it was only this past April I traveled to Ireland with SEVEN of my relatives to visit my great-grandmother's birthplace.  It was quite the undertaking, but it was truly an unforgettable adventure. 

If you've never visited Ireland, I recommend buying a ticket A-S-A-P and venturing to the land of never-ending greenery and sheep, before tourist season hits in the spring.  

During our trip, we spent the majority of time in County Kerry, located on the southwest coast of Ireland, venturing across the south through County Cork and County Tipperary as well.  No matter where you go in the south, you will find lush hills and incredible farm life everywhere.

Waterville, County Kerry.  Where Charlie Chaplin lived.  True story.

Waterville, County Kerry.  Where Charlie Chaplin lived.  True story.

The best thing about Ireland?  Because there's so much open land and greenery, that means - THERE'S SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES!!!  There are SO many fun activities to do in Ireland, aside from the usual brewery tours and pub crawls (which you should most definitely partake in as well).

Seeing as I was the youngin' of the group, I spearheaded the planning of most of our activities. We managed to cram a lot into our short trip, and below are just a few of the highlights, as well as my personal recommendations.

Dingle Bay (hehe).  Ring of Kerry.

Dingle Bay (hehe).  Ring of Kerry.

1) Tour of the Ring of Kerry

County Kerry has many "ring" tours, or tours around their various peninsulas, but the tour around the Ring of Kerry is by far the most popular (though locals will tell you it's not the best!).  Being first-timers in Ireland, we decided to be #basic and take the route most traveled, and it didn't disappoint!  The landscape is gorgeous, and the views out to the ocean are breathtaking.  I highly recommend taking a guided tour with a wise local - they will share many incredible historical tidbits with you along the way.

There were many stops included along the way, including one at a replica of a traditional Irish thatch village!  Look at us kooks.

Irish gypsies

Irish gypsies

2) Visit one of the many eclectic museums

Museum visits are par for the course on any typical vacation.  And sure, you could go the normal route and go to a museum filled with traditional art.  I've BEEN to many of those museums, and I do love them.  However, I planned something a little different for our trip.

Two words: BUTTER MUSEUM.

BUTTER IS LIFE.

BUTTER IS LIFE.

Every country has a unique culture and historical background, so why not embrace the oddities?  Eat schnitzel in Germany; ride elephants in Cambodia; and learn about (AND EAT) butter in Ireland.  In Ireland, dairy farming is, and has been, the backbone of Irish culture for hundreds of years.  And as a die-hard butter fanatic, I promise you: Irish butter is god's gift to the world.  There is no bettah butta. 

The only negative review I have of the museum: there are no free samples. :(

This was our baby sheep.  We named him Jack.

This was our baby sheep.  We named him Jack.

3) Play with sheep, and farm animals in general

I was a little obsessed with the idea of playing with baby sheep when we started planning our trip.  They're so cute!  Plus, they're everywhere.  Seriously.  They're just hanging out on every corner.  

I sought out a farm that not only lets you play with the sheep, but also gives you a sheep-herding demonstration from their sheep dogs!  Watching those dogs do their thang was a truly awesome experience.  In fact, this was probably my family's favorite excursion of our entire trip.

Spring and summer are when most "working" farms open up for visitation.  It's also lambing season!

Precious family photo.

Precious family photo.

4) Get outside and hike

I walked my little tush off in Ireland.  Whenever we had down time and the old folks needed rest, I would set off on my own adventures.

Every turn is an opportunity to get lost in the woods and discover beautiful scenery.

"I should have brought my GPS." - Robert Frost

"I should have brought my GPS." - Robert Frost

And surprisingly, despite the typical dreary, cold weather, the Irish are very outdoorsy.  There's a huge cycling and hiking culture, with plenty of trails within driving distance of most communities.

On our last full day on the island, we visited Glenichiquin Park, a local hiking spot on the Beara Peninsula.  The area was owned by one family, who showed us a map that plotted out all the hiking trails and ranked them in terms of difficulty.  I chose one of the more difficult hikes that led me up behind a waterfall and gave me the best view of the entire peninsula.  Breathtaking doesn't even begin to describe the view.

Five minutes later, I ran into a sheep.

Five minutes later, I ran into a sheep.

5) Get out on the water

Ireland is an island, so it's surrounded by beautiful ocean views everywhere - duh.  As long as it's not raining or crazy windy, you can - and should - take advantage of all the water sports and activities the country has to offer.  My family wasn't too stoked on the idea of kayaking and paddleboarding around the bay of Kenmare, so we went with a more laid-back option: a boat tour of the bay.  I'm happy as long as I'm on the water, so this was quite the enjoyable experience.  There were plenty of sites to see - including castles, seals, and puffins! - and we left the boat feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

On a side note: there is a HUGE surfing culture in Ireland.  Who'da thunk, right?  Rain or shine, they're out there catching a few waves.  During the spring, a group of Kenmare locals get together and go midnight surfing, setting up bonfires around 11 PM and heading out for some sweet late surf seshes.  They really know how to have fun. 

6) Hang out with the locals

Mingling with the locals.

Mingling with the locals.

Did I mention the locals know how to have fun?  I cannot even begin to explain how much I love the people of Ireland.  They are beyond friendly, super chatty, and full of historical knowledge.  Moreso - they're happy.  Life for them may not be the "best" by our typical American standards.  They may not have fancy jobs in big offices.  They definitely don't have a lot of money.  But none of that matters; they get by, and that's enough.  They work hard during the day, and spend time with friends and family at night.  They go to pubs, socialize, listen to and play music.  On multiple occasions the local farmers would bust out guitars in the pub and sing Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan tunes.  They get involved in their community.  One of our buddies took us to a local play, and who were the "actors"?  The local farmers and store owners.  And I swear to you, the ENTIRE town came out for the performance - which kicked butt, by the way.  Suck on that, Hollywood.  The Everyman is winning is Ireland.

Getting schooled in pool by our local friend

Getting schooled in pool by our local friend

Everyone is fiercely proud of their Irish heritage as well, especially in the south.  They are born storytellers.  The bartenders would recount incredible stories you would never find in history books.  Seriously, I learned something incredible from everyone who spoke with me.  And unlike your dad's college stories you've heard fifty times, these are stories you actually want to hear again and again.

7) Appreciate the experience.

This is a tidbit that applies to all adventures and experiences: appreciate the now.  This adventure won't last forever, so take the time to be in awe of the incredible life you're living.  On your next adventure, wherever you are, whatever you're doing - take a moment to thank your lucky stars for the opportunities this world provides, and the fact that you have the chutzpah to jump on those opportunities and make them YOURS.

Boom.  Adventure awaits.

The FOMO Chronicles: Why No Plan Is Sometimes the Best Plan

On an island that boasts of amazing hiking and canyoning and kayaking and cave swimming and honey and olive and wine fairs, it’s not too far off from the truth to say that I want to do all the activities. All the time.

But I got to thinking how funny it is. How you have something so planned out in your head, the way something should be, or how you should experience something. How much you want to do and how determined you are to pack it all in.

But it rarely turns out the way you expect it to. What you experience and how you experience it.

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The Cold Shower Challenge - Cool, or Just Crazy?

'Sup dudes and dudettes,

Krista here, with my inaugural avo post!  Things are about to get TOASTY up in here.  You ready?  I was born ready.

Anyways, this post may be a little out of the ordinary.  It may not be what most people think qualifies as "doing cool shit."  Those people are dead wrong.  Because this is downright CHILLY, quite literally.

I've decided, as the crazy toasty gal I am, to start a 30-day COLD SHOWER CHALLENGE, starting TODAY.  Yep, just before the start of winter (nevermind that "winter" in California is a relative term).  You probably have a lot of questions right about now, such as: Why? How? And ...What?

I first heard about the Cold Shower Challenge (CSC) a while ago, and to be perfectly honest, my first reaction was a resounding NOPE.  100% no thank you.  What's the point?  Aren't you just doing the Ice Bucket Challenge every day? I'm from Southern California - any temperature below 70 degrees F is antarctic.

                                                                      "This is the North Pole."  "No it's not!  Where's the snow?"

                                                                      "This is the North Pole."  "No it's not!  Where's the snow?"

As it turns out, there are a ton of purported health benefits, and those who have participated in the CSC rave about increased mental clarity, energy, motivation, yada yada.   Hippie dippie BS or not, I'm willing to give it a try. 

Here's how I'm not only going to finish this challenge, but CRUSH it:

1) When I step into the icy water, pretend it's the ocean.

Have you ever jumped into the ocean shortly after dawn after a night of heavy imbibement, and emerged feeling like a brand-new person? No?  Just me and the Toasty gals?  Well, trust me on this one, though the going-in is painful, the result is awesome.  Maybe it's just the restorative power of the ocean, or maybe it's the cold - dunno.  Now that I'm essentially landlocked (meaning, not two seconds from the beach - sob), if I close my eyes and use a salt scrub, perhaps it will feel like I'm floating in the sea - one of my favorite things.  Who doesn't want a mini-escape every morning?

2) Approach it with the resilience of an Arctic nomad, or: Don't be a pussy.

There once was a time when central heat did not exist, and not everyone lived in places where snow is a novelty.  Humans not only had to live in extreme cold temperatures, but to survive.  I admit, I cling a little bit to comfort, in all elements of life.  I like to be cool when it's warm and warm when it's cool. I like stasis.  I like routine.  And there's nothing wrong with any of that except that, well...it's a little boring.  None of those things abide by the Toasty girls' slogan.  So why not shake things up, and give the system a little shock?

I was listening to the Tim Ferris Podcast and his interview with Tony Robbins, discussing morning routines.  Robbins swore by his daily routine of jumping into a cold body of water every morning as a way to shock and jumpstart his nervous system.  Robbins is the "world's most successful performance coach" and imitation is the easiest way to learn wisdom, so again, I ask - why not?  That is the question.

I'm sure the first few minutes will be unpleasant.  But quitting is lame.  Complaining is lame.  Failing is über lame.  Being a superhuman badass is awesome.  Have I made my point clear?

3) It's better than coffee (if that's even possible).

Stepping drowsily into an ice-cold shower each morning will be like getting a punch in the face...in a good way.  You will feel ALIVE.  You will feel INVIGORATED.  You will feel like you just drank a pot of coffee, without the Starbucks price tag.  Save money, ride a cowb- I meannn, take a shower.

Lately I've felt a bit lethargic in the mornings.  I blame the time change, the weather, and general laziness.  It's time to pep the eff up.  And nothing says "Carpe Diem" quite like a sub-zero blast of liquid to the face, amirite?

4) Write about it.

I can't back down once I put this in writing, so really, failure is not an option.  I will be recapping my experiences here, for your enjoyment.  I have my deepest thoughts while in the shower, so imagine how insane my train of thought will be when I'm *this* close to freezing to death.  Literally.  No exaggeration.

5) Set manageable rules.

Every challenge needs boundaries, even stupid ones.  My rules are:

-Morning showers MUST be cold. 

-The first week, I can keep the hot/cold water ratio 25%/75%, and slowly graduate to 100% cold.  Baby steps.

-Should I be so inclined to take quick, relaxing showers pre-bed, they can be hot showers.  No need to give the ol' nervous system a jolt when it should be preparing for sleep.

-Baths may be hot.  Ice baths are not required.

 

                                                                                             Superhuman Status: Unlocked.

                                                                                             Superhuman Status: Unlocked.

Okay, I think I've droned on long enough about this insane and silly challenge.  What are your thoughts?  Is it stupid?  It is awesome? Is it super-dee-duper awesome?  Share in the comments! 

Mallorca: The Land of "A Good Place to Eat a Sandwich"

After quite a few excursiones on the island so far, I've begun to acquire a very important skill: How to find a good sandwich spot.

I mean, let's be real. You can't just eat your sandwich in any old place. You have to find the "it" spot--that vista that you will think back on in three years and think, Wow, that was such an amazing hike.

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Casual Wednesdays in Spain: Dancing with Demons at Dijous Bo

This week was Dijous Bo (meaning “Good Thursday” in Mallorquín), one of the largest fairs of winter in Mallorca held in the town of Inca. The festivities on Wednesday night (called Dimecres Bo, or “Good Wednesday,” in Mallorquín) is the event you won’t want to miss. Here, you will see the Correfoc, or Fire Run. People dress up as demons and everyone—young and old—come out to dance with the demons well into the night. A large band of drummers set the beat of the night with dramatic music and the demons light fireworks and dance, ride bikes, and even ride around in shopping carts with a trail of fire streaming around them. 

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To Colorado

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I took a girls trip to Colorado, and let me tell you… “That John Denver’s full of sh*t, man!” But seriously, we went west to visit our favorite land-locked lifeguard in Denver with one mission: KICK IT’S A$$, SEA BASS. The Dumb and Dumber quotes are just too easy and had a heavy presence during adventure time.

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We landed and it was go time. It went a little like this- Haunted Houses on lattes on fall foliage on living room forts on parks on Halloween decorating on elk on coffee on hikes on hot springs on picnics.  

On my second favorite day, we went to Rockies… and saw elk, which happens to be the largest mega fauna I have ever seen in the wild!

Then on my favorite day, our only goal was hot springs. We took a three hour road trip through the mountains, basked in the Strawberry Fields Natural Hot Springs, and picnicked by a stream in Steamboat Springs.

While the hot springs were great, I’ve also been to other GREAT hot springs. That alone was not enough to make it the BEST day of our trip. Imagine the all-day driving adventure (6+ hours in the car) with your girlfriends; the conversation never stops, song lyrics are never right or in tune, and you even finish each other’s… Sandwiches! (Another not so subtle movie quote).

So my favorite part goes tooooooooo… spending time, the WHOLE time, with good people.  



Love these Goons!

Pollença Farmer's Market Treasures

Every Sunday Pollença has a big farmers market, and as should come as no surprise, I've been waiting *all week* to go. So you can imagine that I went a little overboard on the produce purchases come Sunday. 

Farmers markets in Mallorca are a little different than they are back home. While in Santa Barbara all the produce is locally grown/made and 90% is organic, a lot of the produce here isn't local (you have to specifically ask which is and which isn't) and the whole "organic" movement really hasn't made it's way here yet. I've heard you can find organic fruits and vegetables, but I'm told you would have to travel to Palma or another larger city to find a store or market that sells it.

Regardless, you gotta work with what you have, so I bought all the fresh fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, and even meat and cheese that I could find.

My spread of farmers market goodies. So many possibilities...!

My spread of farmers market goodies. So many possibilities...!

Another aspect of the farmers market that I wasn't expecting - how much meat and cheese they sell (and since most of the meat is cured, it's all kept unrefrigerated). Any kind of cow or goat cheese you want - name it, they probably have it (and yes, this is as dangerous as it sounds). And while I've never been much of a huge meat-eater, it's hard to pass by the stand and not get anything, especially when they're passing out slices of perfectly salted and spiced ham or their specialty here - jamón sobrasada, a cured red sausage.

Meat and cheese assortment.

Meat and cheese assortment.

Slightly spicy peppers.

Slightly spicy peppers.

Veggies galore!

Veggies galore!

Olives on olives on olives...

Olives on olives on olives...

Another surprise (and I'm hoping someone reading this can shed some light on this...): I asked two women at two different dried fruit booths what the purple dried fruit in the picture below was, and they both answered pineapple. I asked if it was colored or natural, and they answered that it was natural and that it was a variety that was purple when it was young. I tried to research this mysterious purple pineapple online but unfortunately came up with nothing. I'm still curious as to whether this magical purple pineapple exists, so if any of you reading this have any insight, please click the "Contact" page and let us know!

Mysterious dried "purple pineapple."

Mysterious dried "purple pineapple."

After lugging my spoils of fresh produce back to the apartment, I naturally wanted to get started on some goodies in kitchen. Homemade vegan almond pesto, beet hummus, and vegan veggie lettuce wraps stuffed with hummus and millet recipes to come soon! Stay tuned...