I believe in miracles.
I try to change the world every day.
I love my husband, my friends, and my family.
I plan my next great adventure constantly.
I think most occasions call for a dress.
I write what I know and believe.
Can I be honest here? (Of course I can – it’s my blog.) I’m a baking snob. I hate ready-to-bake, processed items. I LOVE to bake from scratch. I also happen to be insanely busy, so anytime I can find a way to optimize my time, I take advantage of it. Last year, I hosted a couple holidays in our home, and I knew I wanted to make cookies, but I knew that the oven would be occupied with other items, so I started working on a slice and bake cookie recipe that could be prepped ahead of time!
This toffee shortbread was a hit! The cookies stayed moist, they weren’t overly sweet, and it was easy to pop them in the oven when I was ready to make them. Clean up was super easy because all the “heavy lifting” was done ahead of time!
I have mixed feelings about self care Sunday, but all those melted away when I decided to book an appointment at Spa del Rey. I was in LA for work and impulsively booked at room at the Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey because I wanted a late check out and I knew the area around the hotel. I was traveling alone and I wanted to feel comfortable. Linking up with B for weekending… because I actually did this weekend right.
Sunday morning, I woke up in the most relaxing room ever and decided to call down to the spa to see if I could add more enjoyment to that beautiful morning. (I’m seriously obsessed with the renovation at the Marina del Rey property – full, updated review coming soon!) The spa opens at 8:00am, and within a few minutes of leaving a message, they called back and offered me at 9:15 massage with Kevin. I was totally in.
Note: I don’t take pictures at spas. I just feel like it infringes on everyone’s ability to relax, including my own. That being said, the pictures on the website are an accurate reflection of the spa facilities!
I walked down to Spa del Rey from my room approximately 25 minutes before my appointment. I wanted to have plenty of time to get situated and check out the facilities. The receptionist was super friendly, asked if I needed spa sandals, and explained the optional treatment options for my massage. I ended up choosing hot stones and the scalp massage based on her recommendations, but I was definitely torn on whether or not I wanted to add the foot treatment. That sounded amazing as well. Once my treatment plan was settled, she showed me around the facility and recommended that I check out the eucalyptus steam room either before or after my massage.
I quickly secured my things in a locker, grabbed a robe, and headed for the steam room. I’ve used these rooms at Bliss, and I love them, but they don’t even compare to the one at the Spa del Rey. First, it was hot. Really hot. I had to grab a towel to sit on because the tile was so warm. The steam was thick but the scent wasn’t overwhelming. I could feel the toxins beginning to leave my body almost immediately. I took a few minutes in there just to breathe for a few minutes (something I don’t do nearly enough) before toweling off and heading to the serenity room to wait for my massage.
Spa del Rey – Treatment
Kevin is amazing. That’s basically the only thing you need to know. Just book an appointment with him and move on your merry way. But actually, I booked an hour massage and it seriously felt like time stopped for that hour. I actually wondered if the treatment options had extended the massage, but nope – it was exactly an hour. And, it was glorious. It felt as though all the pain and tension in my body, even in places that I didn’t realize were carrying it, was finally released.
As soon as Kevin started using the hot stones on my back, it felt as though all the tension and stress was melting away. Literally, melting. That’s the only way to describe the sensation. The scalp massage used oils that smelled refreshing but not overpowering.
Spa del Rey – Post-Treatment
After my massage, I headed back to the steam room. I felt like I needed to finish releasing all the toxins in my body, but I also didn’t want the experience to end. I rolled up a towel, laid another one out on the tile, and just rested until I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked out, cooled down, and did it again. The hot tile further relaxed my body and the steam hydrated my skin. Between the massage and the steam, I don’t think I could have gotten more relaxed. (And, my skin has never felt so soft.)
When I finished the steam, I decided to head to the spa showers, which offered full body sprays. Again, I was all in. The shampoo, conditioner and body wash had a refreshing scent. The water pressure was great and the temperature was easily moderated. I stayed in there as long as I could, but truthfully, I was so relaxed, I just wanted to lay down and savor this feeling.
I brushed my teeth, brushed my hair, checked out of the spa, and headed back to my room – which was a short walk away. Perfection. The best way to start self-care Sunday.
In the last year and a half, we’ve made three trips to Prague, which is actually a little crazy. We’ve been at three different times of the year, and each trip was magical in its own right. As such, I’ve put together a short Prague travel guide on the things that we enjoyed from each trip, including where to stay, how to get around, and what to do and see. I’ll be honest – I’ve only found one great restaurant so far. I’m still on the hunt for more great meals in Prague… which only means one thing – we have to go back!
Disclosure: This Prague Travel Guide may contain affiliate links.
Prague Travel Guide – Arrival
Depending on where you are staying (and how much luggage you have), you can easily walk from the train station to the Old Town Square or Wencelas Square. Getting to the Mala Strana or the Castle district may be more difficult, so I would grab an uber or arrange car service in advance. (We’ve had a lot of adventures with cabs, none of which have been good.) You will want to get some CZ korunas from an ATM as soon as you can. Though they accept euros, meters run in CZK.
The subway is also clean, easy to use, and there’s a station very near the train station. You can buy 24-hour tourist passes for 110 cz (approximately $5.00 in 2017). It’s a great way to save your feet and cover a lot of ground, but I love walking through Prague.
The Prague airport is very modern and easy to get around. There’s also a Billa (grocery store) in it! (Don’t judge – we love grocery stores when we travel.) Once you grab your bags and clear customs, you can grab an uber (they have their own waiting area) and be in central Prague in 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. We arrived on a Friday night, and it took a little longer than expected, but it was easy. There was no issue with haggling over the fare either.
We’ve had challenges with airport cab drivers not having change and charging higher fares, so uber works well for us. One thing to note, if you have an early morning flight, you may want to get your hotel to arrange a car for you in advance. We did not find an abundance of transportation at 4:30am and it took awhile for one to arrive. We were very worried about missing our flight. Better safe than sorry.
For me, this was a no brainer. I LOVE the Mandarin Oriental. We stayed there on the Christmas Market adventure with my mom, and she loved it, too. (She basically refused to leave the spa and got daily treatments.) I might have been swayed by the Christmas cookies that were in our room. (No judgement.)
The location. Mala Strana is gorgeous. It’s magical. It’s like something out of a fairytale. I love the cobblestone streets, the small passageways, and the parks.
The bathroom was huge. And, the bathtub was glorious, and the heated towel racks were so nice in December.
The room itself. I wanted to redecorate our master bedroom with the muted navy tones, the elegant furniture, and the textured materials. It felt so luxurious and relaxing every time we walked in the door.
It was quiet. Location is quiet. Courtyard is quiet. The bar is quiet. Everything about this hotel is understated luxury and relaxation. It is absolutely a reprieve and a sanctuary from bustling Prague.
For my husband, this was a no-brainer. He likes the Boscolo. We’ve stayed there twice, and it’s a perfectly good hotel, particularly if you can get a good rate. It’s also a Marriott property (you’ll have to remind them of your status though), so you can earn (or use) points, but I don’t know that I would tell you to use points for it. It’s a luxury hotel as well, but it’s definitely not in the same class as the Mandarin. Here’s what you can expect to love about the Boscolo:
Free breakfast with Marriott status (you will have to remind them) or with certain room rates. I think it’s worth it to book with breakfast if you’re a breakfast person. The Inn Ox Lounge has an extensive buffet with options for everyone.
Convenience. It’s a block away from train station, a subway station, and about a 10 minute walk to Old Town Square. It’s also close to a Billa, which makes my husband happy.
The historic details in the rooms are gorgeous. No two rooms feel the same.
There’s an indoor pool, which we welcomed on the first trip after long days of walking. (It was closed for cleaning on the second trip, so watch the property warnings carefully if that’s why you are booking this hotel.)
This was our first introduction to Prague. We booked it the first night of our first trip. We met our guide at the Charles Bridge and wandered through the Old Town to the Jewish Quarter, and finished in the Old Town Square. This is a great introduction to Prague.
My husband and my mom were both sick for this tour, so I might be the only one who truly appreciated it for what it was – amazing! We also went in the winter, so that might have swayed their judgement. To be sure, it was cold. We met our guide at the Opera House, walked across the river, wandered through Mala Strana, and made the trek up to the castle. (That trek might be what killed everyone’s joy.) This tour is part of what convinced me that Prague is as magical as everyone says it is. The trek up to the castle and winding through the streets of Mala Strana is absolutely from a fairy tale.
There aren’t actually enough words to give St. Vitus justice. As a result, it’s going to get its own postcard photos post. The glass is awe-inspiring. The entrance options are for the entire complex, so make sure that you give yourself enough time to see it all. If you are pressed for time, make St. Vitus your priority.
This is one place I want to book a guide. We have visited the Pinkas Synagogue (haunting), the New-Old Synagogue (incredible), and the Spanish Synagogue (breathtaking), but I don’t know much of the area’s history. I would suggest booking a guide to learn more, but if you don’t have time for that, make sure to visit all three. They are all vastly different experiences.
The Prague markets had some of the most beautiful Christmas ornaments of all the markets we visited. The tree in Old Town Square is incredible to see, but the view from the Old Town Tower at night shouldn’t be missed either. I really feel like we’re missing out by not doing these kinds of things in the US. Nothing says Christmas like the markets in Europe. Ahhh, I want to go back.
Go to a classical concert, hear an opera, experience a ballet, but whatever you do, experience the arts in some way. We saw excerpts from Swan Lake at the Hybernia Theater, which was its own experience, but the dancing was incredible. It was absolutely fun to try it. All of the performance venues are gorgeous so go see something!
There are a lot of places to do this. The Mala Strana riverbank isn’t as crowded as the Charles Bridge. Old Town Square is NEVER empty except for in the early morning. The castle district will have amazing views that you can’t see from the river. Sunset is far too crowded. The silence and beauty of the sunrise in Prague is something everyone should experience.
Experience the Astronomical Clock on the Hour – Once
If you go before 11:00am, you’ll miss the throngs of tourists with their iPhones. You’ll be able to see everything up close and check out the details on the clock. I don’t think there’s more that needs to be said. I’ve posted more clock pictures and Prague postcard photos previously.
You can take a cab or an uber to the top, but what’s the fun in that? Seriously. The walk is part of the adventure. Prague at night from any angle shouldn’t be missed, but I think the walk up to the castle is the most romantic. The castle grounds are open late, too, so it won’t be as crowded.
Eat a Tredlnik (Chimney Cake) – at least once
Bonus points if it’s cold outside. There’s a great debate raging about whether or not tredlnik is a culturally appropriate food. I don’t have an answer on that, but I’ve never met a Tredlnik I didn’t like. It’s cheap and absolutely delicious. I really love the one that has toasted almonds on it, but I’m also a purist. I’ll eat one with just cinnamon and sugar.
Is this my favorite part of staying at the Boscolo? Maybe so. It’s a block away from the hotel, has outdoor seating, the beer is cheap and the burgers are amazing. The waitstaff ranges from amazing to public shaming, but I love the food. I enjoy the Crispy and my husband enjoys the Urquel. All the fries are good.
I’ve been a long time loyalist to my La Mer skin care routine. I love the refining facial, but it’s not exactly an energizing facial. It’s pretty low key and it’s one of the few products that doesn’t burn or irritate my skin. As a result, I’m hesitant to try new products because of the cost associated with finding out that they don’t work. I spend such little time shopping that I rarely find myself in a position to test products at the store. So, when Influenster sent me these products to try, I was excited but a definitely little dubious. (For reference, my skin type is normal.)
Disclaimer: I was sent complimentary products in partnership with Influenster in exchange for an honest review. This post may contain affiliate links.
The first time I tried the mask, I had just settled into the bathtub after a long day. I lathered the Origins mask on my face and neck and set a timer for 10 minutes. I expected to hate it because of the strong citrusy scent, but I got used to it. The mask stayed fairly soft, but I could feel it drying and tightening my skin. When it was completely dry, there was a light pink tint to it.
After 10 minutes, I splashed my face and neck clean. I was not expecting my skin to be so soft! The other thing that I noticed was that my energy level had picked up considerably. An energizing facial? What is this?!
After I finished feeling my face (keeping it real), I put a thin layer of the serum on my face. I was worried that the combination of the mask and the serum would cause my skin to react, but it didn’t! YAY! The serum had the same citrusy scent and created an even more smooth texture.
What I really liked about the serum was that it went on smooth and didn’t feel sticky. I’ve used serums in the past that left me feeling like I had just clogged my pores with glue. I didn’t feel that with this one. It felt like I had just covered my skin with silk.
If I’m being totally honest, the moisturizer looked so unappealing when I opened it. It looked like it might feel gritty or feel heavy. Again, it had the strong smell of citrus, so I thought it might burn. I went for it anyway, dabbing a little bit on at a time. No skin reaction. It went on smoother than I expected (I was wrong) and my skin absorbed it quickly.
When I was done with the entire treatment, I felt ready to conquer the world. Seriously. My second wind kicked in, and I felt awake, alive, and ready to get things done! (This, of course, was slightly problematic as I had an early morning the following day.)
Energizing Facial – Final Thoughts
Not to be swayed by a single use (and inspired by the second wind of energy), I started using this energizing routine on a more (read: very regular) basis. I threw caution to the wind and refused to be bound by their 1-2 times a week directive.
I dried my skin out and burned my eyelids. (Those directions are there for a reason.) But, I really do love the energy that I get from these products. There’s something about the scent and the feel that gets me up and going! I’ve cut back to using it once a week (or less), and I absolutely love it. If you’re looking for an energizing facial routine or some new products to try, I highly recommend this combination for an at home spa experience!
As I mentioned a few months ago, one of my goals was to start updating and repurposing blog content (or pictures that have lived alone on my hard drive for far too long.) This week’s mini apple pie recipe is brought to us via Little Bit of Funky. When I saw these on pinterest, I knew they would be THE perfect fall treat or addition to my Thanksgiving menu. When we were dating, my husband shared that he only ate pumpkin pie, so making an entire apple pie seemed silly, especially once we started our getaways to New Orleans. Since my family is small, it was very easy to half this recipe. Is it just me or is anything mini WAY cuter? I mean, my regular pies aren’t this cute. My mini blueberry pies though? Definitely cute!
A 2.5 inch round cookie cutter was slightly small for the cups, but the 3.5 inch was WAY too big. (I bought this set to be prepared for everything!) You may need to play around with it depending on how deep your muffin tins are. Don’t be afraid to go for it!
4 large apples (Note: I used Honeycrisp, because that's ALL Kroger had two days before Thanksgiving?!. I also used five and I had plenty of leftover apples. You could probably use 3, but I don't want you to have too few and then yell at me.)
6 tablespoons of flour
¾ cups of sugar
2 heaping teaspoons of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
2 boxes of Pillsbury roll out pie crusts (4 total)
2 tablespoons of cold butter (plus a little extra to melt)
Peel, core, and cut apples into ½ inch bits. You should have four cups or so of apples. (I did this the day before and stored in an airtight container to save myself time on baking day.)
Mix apples with dry ingredients in large mixing bowl, making sure to fully coat all apples.
Unroll your pie crusts and cut 12 rounds. Press into muffin tins. Also, cut 12 or so tops... in my case, I cut 12 apple shaped tops.
Fill muffin cups with heaping tablespoons of apples.
Cut butter into 12 equally divided pieces and place a piece on each top.
Cover as desired with left over dough (or in my case, apple cutouts... that started to look like pumpkins just to irritate me...) and brush tops with melted butter.
Bake at 400F for 18-22 minutes. I baked mine for 10 minutes and then checked on them every 2 minutes, and ended up taking them out after 20 minutes. After they cooled, I used the tip of a knife to gently pry them out of the muffin tins.