Ktchn Apothecary – The New Fresh Skincare

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Mmmmmm fresh-made skincare you say?? That will get my attention every time! And that’s exactly what Ktchn Apothecary did.

Founded by Kevin Lesser, Ktchn Apothecary began by simply wondering what ingredients really comprise our skincare regimen? Per the Ktchn Apothecary website, standard skincare is made with up to 75% synthetics for shelf life – not for the good of your skin! Due to my own sensitive skin (and body…), natural skincare is something I’ve begun to delve into the last year, creating my own various home recipes. While I LOVE this method of delivering freshness to my skin, it did take some time, research and experimentation to discover what really works. These exact factors can easily make it intimidating to someone jumping into fresh skincare for the first time! Unless you or a loved one has a health issue that propels you into the natural world, we’re all so used to brand names and convenience that cooking your facial moisturizer isn’t likely to top your priority list.

That’s where Ktchen Apothecary comes in. The company aims to bring you a convenient, quick and user friendly method of delivering hassle-free freshness to your skin that you make fresh at home. MAKE. FRESH! Who does this? A skincare company that allows you to do such a thing…..yourself?? I had to find out.

I tried their Revitalizing Facial Cream which gets delivered to you in the most adorable packaging comprised of such fresh ingredients as a special blend of facial oil that smells like delicious essential oil, pure aloe, beeswax, oats (my fav <3) and a precious reusable beaker and whisk for mixing!

Through a combination of mixing the ingredients and cooking some in hot water on the stove, you have fresh facial cream in about 10 minutes that lasts you approx. 60 days. The texture is creamy and smooth, very hydrating. I keep mine in the fridge since summer is bringing the heat fierce in my house and it’s incredibly refreshing when I apply it to my face and neck.

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When I began this process, I was having what I would call your general “life breakout” (ya know – work stress, occasional unavoidable lack of sleep, period starting soon, perhaps a gluten free Sidecar Donut that I shouldn’t have encountered…all the usual suspects…) but I applied my facial cream morning and night for 10 days and had fantastic results. The natural ingredients agreed beautifully with my skin and I plan on using my cream for the entire 60 day life span until it’s gone.

I had SO much fun following the super easy instructions and cooking up my own beautiful product. I felt like a real chemist! Not only did I have a physical connection to a product I created, but I knew exactly what ingredients were in it. No fillers, no preservatives. Just fresh, legit skincare. The biggest takeaway I have from this experience is that the process was soย  e a s y! If you’re intimidated by the research that goes into fresh skincare, haven’t even heard of such a thing as fresh skincare, or simply don’t have the time for any of this, I recommend you give Ktchn Apothecary a try. Not only will you love the product but you’ll have the most fabulous time mixing up your own concoction in no time. Truly the most convenient foray into fresh, homemade skincare.

Let me know what your favorite skincare items or ingredients are?! xoxo

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Hot AF? Cooling Summer Strawberry Cilantro Limeade!

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Nothing like delish homemade strawberry cilantro limeade in this f*n HOT summer weather!

If you’re like me, you LOVE lemonade. But as I started learning more about Ayurveda for my intestinal disfunction, I found that lemons heat up your insides! Usually that’s helpful for digestion and elimination BUT for those with fiery pitta constitutions like me, we need limes. Although part of the citrus family, limes have a sweeter taste than sour lemons and a cooling effect on the bod. I’ve been drinking limeade lately which has been hittin’ the spot during my lemonade hiatus.

In today’s delectable concoction, I’ve added additional cooling ingredients for the ultimate summer refreshment. Cilantro cools the intestines, clears the urinary tract and refreshes the immune system. And for that sweet touch, summer berries like strawberries have a cooling effect on the liver and are packed with Vitamin C.

If you’d like to try this cooling summer summer bev, recipe below!

Summer Strawberry Cilantro Limeade

Ingredients:

  • Organic strawberries
  • Fresh organic cilantro
  • Limeade (start with 1 cup lime juice, add 1/2 cup filtered water. Add either 1/2 cup organic cane sugar (or preferred natural sweetener) OR for a sugar free touch add 5-10 drops Stevia to taste)

Directions:

  • Grab a mason jar or cup of your choosing
  • Wash and core 5-8 organic strawberries, mash them into the bottom of your cup/jar to your preferred texture
  • Fill jar or cup 3/4 full of limeade
  • Add splash of filtered water
  • Add a pinch of finely chopped cilantro
  • Add ice cubes if the day is hot AF ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Stir, pop in a straw and enjoy!!

What other summer fruits do you enjoy? Let me know what versions you enjoy!

 

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#PosiVibes Bracelets Are Here!

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Carry Positive Vibes throughout your day with the #PosiVibes SOUL Cuff!

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I found these cuffs recently and fell in love! The adorable message is perfect for what I’ve been feeling recently and I had to carry them on my site and share them with you. The #PosiVibes SOUL Cuff spells our “Spirit of Unconditional Love” and is available in Gold and Silver. Get yours today!!

Proceeds go to Blake’s Medical Fund.

-Blake xo

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Steroid Injections for Pain – All Risk, No Reward?

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My outpatient bracelets for the procedure

I recently heard this intense story on NPR about patients who were dangerously affected by contaminated steroid injections administered as nerve blocks. At least 64 people died and about 700 more were seriously sickened, causing their lives to be changed forever. The tainted steroid compound was mixed at a Massachusetts pharmacy in 2012 with expired ingredients in unsanitary conditions.ย Barry Cadden, an owner of the pharmacy, is now on trial in U.S. District Court in Boston. He faces federal charges that include racketeering and second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty.

This story really struck me because last year I went through a series of steroid injections or “nerve blocks” for my chronic pelvic pain. The experience of the injections was really unsettling and I feel I wasn’t made as thoroughly aware of (or warned of) the side effects as severe as what happened to the patients mentioned above. I had a lot of feelings pre and post procedure(s) but the thought of having infected substances injected directly into my body is utterly horrifying. While I’m thankful I did not endure long term complications from my experience, I feel so thoroughly pained over what’s happened in the lives of these affected patients and their families.

I had no idea of a “nerve block” prior to my own experience with them so I wanted to share what I went through…

Post Ganglion of Impar Nerve Block Procedure with bandage at coccyx (forgive the photo quality!)
Post Ganglion of Impar Nerve Block Procedure with bandage at coccyx (forgive the photo quality!)

“Here, I’ll Refer You to a ‘Pain Management Specialist'” – Sounds great!

In June 2016, I found myself at the UCI Women’s Health Department. After being referred to Dr. Lane, a Uro/Gyno Specialist, I was then referred to Dr. Shah, a Pain Management Specialist, who was to “address” my pain. During my initial meeting with the very pleasant Dr. Shah, she seemed extremely certain that since nothing had been found on my tests and no diagnosis had been made, that my nerves must certainly be the culprit of my pain. She went on to explain that nerve blocks had been used to relieve chronic pelvic pain and that a Ganglion of Impar Nerve Block would be the most effective place to begin treatment. Every step along this journey I’ve been so hopeful of anyone with “an answer”. So many doctors have simply turned me away, perplexed at what I’m going though, so I would have jumped 100 miles at any opportunity for a diagnosis and cure. After leaving the appointment with Dr. Shah, I decided to go ahead with the procedure.

Procedure #1: Ganglion of Impar Nerve Block – This seems intense, but I got this!

One month later (the soonest available appointment for the procedure), I found myself slathered in antiseptic and face down on an operating table in a room filled with an x-ray machine, my doctor and a crew of fellows and assistants. For these nerve blocks to be administered, they offer no sedation, only topical anesthetic at injection site (Lidocaineย  1%). The Ganglion of Impar is administered at the base of your coccyx (right at your tailbone), you’re awake the whole time as the needle is guided into your pelvis by x-ray. The needle reaches to the center of your pelvis to administer a combination of numbing drug (Bupivacaine 15cc 0.25%) and steroid drug (Dexamethasoneย  10mg – anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, same class as infected meds from the NPR article) to remove inflammation in the area. Since you receive no sedation, you feel EVERYTHING. A fellow administered my injection while the doctor observed. Once the needle was slightly into my body I jumped from searing pain and the doctor quickly warned me to stay still as the positioning of the needle and efficacy of the procedure would be compromised. The pain was extreme, but I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and I breathed through it. The whole procedure took approximately 10 minutes.

I was told if the procedure had worked, I’d feel relief within 30 minutes to 24 hours of the procedure. Unfortunately, I felt no relief immediately after. I went home and alas, 24 hours later still felt no relief. I instead developed a whole host of other issues: a small rash around the injection site (red bumps that lasted approximately 10 days that the doctor believed was due to the bandage adhesive), a wicked yeast infection (which the doctor said was likely caused by the ingredients of the injection resulting in a PH imbalance) and tingling sensations running through my legs (instilling in me the fear of nerve damage) which lasted about a week.

Three months passed and my doctor told me since the Ganglion of Impar didn’t take, we could try a Pudendal Nerve Block. The pudendal nerve is the main nerve of the perineum, supplying sensation to the genitals and for pelvic muscle function – there are two separate pudendal nerves running down each side of the body. (*FUN FACT: Latin for “pudendal” is “parts to be ashamed of” – for real. Google it. One of the many historically sexist things I’ve learned about medicine which begs a whole ‘nother conversation about female sexual health and acceptance in modern culture. I digress…) Desperate for relief, I agreed to the procedure.

Procedure #2: Pudendal Nerve Blocks – Holy hell, what did I sign up for!?

One month later (again, the soonest appointment), I found myself once again, slathered in antiseptic and face down on the operating table in the same room with an x-ray machine, my doctor, and this time a room full of a different crew and different fellows. Again, a fellow administered my injection while the doctor observed. After my uncomfortable previous experience with the Ganglion of Impar Block, I requested an oral sedative prior to the procedure. They would not oblige and again, I only received topical anesthetic at the injection site (Lidocaineย  1%). Where the Ganglion Block was administered through the coccyx, the Pudendal Nerve Block is administered in two separate injections, one through each pudendal nerve running through each butt cheek – I did not learn this until day of the procedure. This time they injected the numbing drug (Bupivacaine 15ccย  0.25%) with a new steroid drug (Triamcinolone 20mg – synthetic anti-inflammatory cortico steroid).

As the first injection took place through my right butt cheek, I almost passed out from the pain. It was infinitely more excruciating than my previous procedure. I tried to breath through it – I could actually feel the minute tissues in my butt cheek ripping as the needle was being forced into my body. After the first injection was done I thought to myself “I cannot possibly take another one of these. I’ve got to get up and run away before the next one” then my doctor said “And now, the next one…”. I tensed my body and breathe/cried into the pillow below me for yet another excruciating 10 minutes.

After the procedure, I felt no relief. Mostly I was traumatized from having gone through the torture of the Pudendal Nerve Block. As every moment passed, I realized how inhumane it was for the doctors to not administer local anesthesia for this procedure (one of many torturous procedures I’ve had sans anesthesia). I had asked specifically for an oral sedative too and they did not honor my request which made me feel helpless as a patient. As the next week passed, I received no pain relief and one month later I met with my doctor for our follow up appointment. She informed me that since both nerve blocks didn’t take, there was nothing more she could do for me. No doctors note to give my employer, no referral to someone else who could help, not even a follow up phone call after our last meeting. Simply, nothing more she could do…

When Reality Hits You Pretty Hard…

Not only are these situations physically and emotionally painful, they’re financially painful as well. The cherry on top was receiving the healthcare bill in the mail for these experiences. On top of my growing medical debt pile, my cumulative $1,200 out-of-pocket cost for these procedures was more than I could afford and this is something that many Americans face. The patients in the NPR story have been tied up in litigation since 2012 and have not received a dime for their hardship. Family members have died, individuals have been deemed paralyzed/unable to live life properly and yet they still were expected to pay their out-of-pocket portions for these botched procedures.

The entire time I worked with my pain management doctor, she never really managed my pain. She never prescribed me effective oral pain medication (instead she advised a strict Advil only regimen and vaginal Valium suppositories, both of which didn’t touch the pain) and she administered the blocks which were supposed to relieve the pain but in the event that they caused more pain, she had no back up plan for me. I left this experience feeling completely deflated.ย  It showed me that most doctors are very limited to their specialties and our American healthcare system is not set up to venture outside the box to help you. The one and only good thing that came from this was my renewed sense of self-advocacy. You must fight for your health. When someone tells you no, you have to keep going until you find a yes. I have since journeyed my way through the grapevine of medicine and continue to find new avenues for my potential cure. I will continue this until I am back to 100% health and I implore you to do the same if you have similar experiences!

What To Do Next

If you find yourself in the position of considering receiving nerve blocks for chronic pain, I have two recommendations:

  1. Make sure that the pain you’re living with is enough to justify traumatic procedures. I was to the point where I had nothing to lose – death would have been better than continuing on with the pain. Frankly, the perfect candidate.
  2. DEMAND anesthesia or at least an oral sedative prior to procedure. Especially for the Pudendal Nerve Block since it’s two very intense injections into a very sensitive, nerve-rich area of the body that in my opinion is a crime against humanity to expect a patient, already in extreme amounts of pain, to endure even more unanesthetized pain AND THEN refuse to prescribe appropriate pain medication for post-procedure healing and comfort.

Have you had this procedure or a similar one done? What was your experience? Let me know!

-xo

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/01/24/511442863/victims-of-contaminated-steroids-still-hurting-my-lifes-upside-down

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Coffee Please! A Fav Pick Me Up

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After a flare or generally feeling less than healthy, I love to pull myself together and go for a coffee run. There’s no shortage of delicious options in Long Beach. Today’s stop was Portfolio Coffeehouse where the Hemp Milk Lattรฉ is on point.

I’m thrilled about this brief return of wet weather! I have always lived in Southern California so I’m admittedly spoiled (sometimes tortured!) by the warm weather, but I can’t get enough of the rain. Any opportunity I can have to gather my fall clothes is fantastic.

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Items In This Post:

  1. Shades/Hat – Forever 21
  2. Shoes – Indigo Rd.
  3. Cape – Macy’s
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#FreshStartFive Natural Skincare Challenge with Little Green Dot

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Honey Cleanser, Apple Cider Vinegar Toner & Sunflower Oil Moisturizer

Little Green Dot is my new recent fav discovery from Instagram. It’s run by natural skincare maven Militza Maury who crafts natural skincare recipes as an alternative to standard cleansers and lotions with questionable or toxic ingredients.

As an introduction to DIY skincare, Little Green Dot just launched the fabulous five day, email-guided #FreshStartFive challenge. The challenge was based around an A.M./P.M. routine of Honey Cleanser, Apple Toner and Oil Moisturizer that you prep at the beginning of the week. The most exciting part? Each day I received a new email in my inbox incorporating a different recipe to the routine!

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Day 1: Honey cleanser
The first step in the A.M./P.M. routine was to cleanse. I will admit rubbing honey on my face was suuuuuuper funny. I’d never done it before… But it smelled so nice and I rubbed it on my lips and was def snacking while cleansing! After finishing the A.M. routine, my skin immediately felt so clean, fresh, and most importantly, not irritated!

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Day 2: Glow Scrub

The recipe for step 1 of Day 2’s P.M. routine was so delish I almost ate it before I put it on my face! Honey, oat flour, rice flour and sunflower oil produce the perfect scrub texture. I went ahead and scrubbed my dรฉcolletage and back of hands too.

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Day 3: Soothing Oat Cleanser & Mask

We’re on an oat roll! And for good reason since oats are so calming to the skin. Day 2 was an oat scrub but Day 3’s P.M. routine mask called for oats mixed with water, adding honey to make a leave-on mask consistency. Yup, basically oatmeal with honey for your face! I personally know how helpful oats can be. For years I’ve dealt with eczema and keratosis pilaris and used Aveeno Active Naturals Oat Body Wash to soothe and soften, so I showered with the extra from this mask and it was so much better with fresh, natural ingredients.

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Day 4: Fresh Start Check In!

We’re nearing the end of the challenge and Day 4 was a day of taking stock. The A.M. and P.M. routines were the same as the first day: Honey Cleanser, Apple Toner and Glow Oil. But today, Little Green Dot encouraged research into natural beauty brands from around the world and compiled a FAB list to delve into. After all, ingredients and company message make a big difference in how your skin feels and where you choose to spend your $$, amiright?? As I’ve mentioned before, I have extremely sensitive skin, especially on my face. Searching for natural makeup and skincare brands has been on my radar for quite some time. I’ve recently been using products from two natural skincare lines I really like –ย  Ilia and Kahina Giving Beauty. The products are just lovely and have caused no irritation! Check out my recent blog post on which products I’ve been using and what I recommend.

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Day 5: Shower Workout Body Scrub

This delicious, muddy concoction is a body scrub. For the final day of the challenge, we’re taking it below the neck! This scrub is made of coconut oil, brown sugar and coffee (I may have added too much coconut oil – wait, there’s no such thing!). The active ingredient is coffee which activates the tinglies when applied to your body. Little Green Dot brings everything together by highlighting the importance of movement in life, even in your skin care routine! Little circular motions scrubbing your body gets the blood flowing and is great for circulation. In the shower this morning, the bathroom instantly smelled like a coffee shop while the pooling water at my feet legit became a cup of coffee … #indulgent

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#FreshStartFive Done!

I’m a fan! This challenge has been really enlightening. Having an A.M./P.M. routine for the week was a great intro to natural skincare. I truly feel that the base routine (honey cleanser, #acv toner, sunflower oil moisturizer) was as good OR BETTER THAN my standard beauty/cleansing products that I’ve been using. It was much less expensive and really didn’t take much time to prep. Especially after having the base routine prepped at the beginning of the week. The skin is the largest organ in the body so you’ll see benefits from head to toe by using more natural recipes. Instead of running to the store the next time you run out of body wash or face cleanser, consider peeking into your cupboard and creating a yummy, fresh and natural recipe!

 

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8 Tips to Get Involved! A Walk in Downtown Santa Ana, CA – Women’s March 2017

A beautiful thing happened last Saturday, millions of women joined forces worldwide to stand up for their rights. Treating women fairly and adequately continues to be an issue in this world so we women continue to speak up. It’s estimated that approximately 3 million supporters came out on January 21, 2017 to support the cause and the good intentions were felt internationally.

I took part in the Orange County chapter of the march in Santa Ana, CA where 20,000 men, women and children marched the streets of Downtown and it couldn’t have been more peaceful, well organized and positive. The signs were amazingly creative and effective – one of the most impactful held by a woman reading “Planned Parenthood cancer screening saved my life.” Below is a peek of what the streets looked like:

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If you’re inspired by recent events, here’s 8 tips on how to get involved in politics:

  1. Learn who elected officials are. Get to know who does what here and who to reach out to.
  2. Actually talk to the officials! While social media offers a equal-opportunity platform to reach out to those you might not be able to otherwise, the government is traditional – painfully traditional. So use the system! Jump through the hoops, go through the motions, and make sure some work is done in order to appease you. Research measures and vote. If you get a parking ticket, appeal it. If you reach a person that can’t help you, keep calling until you get an answer. Show up in person, let government offices know you won’t go anywhere until your questions have been addressed.ย  The squeaky wheel gets the oil and you’ll never know what the outcome may be unless you try.
  3. Attend City Council Meetings. Not only will you get your chance to speak on issues that matter, but public radio and local TV stations broadcast these meetings. You never know who will be listening and who you may educate and inspire. If you’re a first-timer, here’s more on how to locate your city’s goings-ons:
    1. Google “City Council Meetings [INSERT CITY NAME HERE]” (ex. City Council Meetings Long Beach) OR go directly to your city’s website.
    2. The “City Council” page of your city’s website will pull up in the first few Google results OR you will find the page within your city’s website.
    3. The “City Council” page will give you the schedule so you may attend. It will also tell you where it is broadcasting, usually on the local cable TV Channel (ex. LBTV in Long Beach). Many cities now stream the meetings live from the website.
    4. If all else fails, call the city directly and ask when and where to attend!
  4. Take part in a protest. A meaningful first step in gaining attention for your cause is to take it to the streets. Well-organized, nonviolent protests that refrain from causing public disorder send a fabulous message of organized thought and commitment.ย  Organizing with plenty of time in advance can give you the benefit of power in numbers and show observers that you really mean business!
  5. Support organizations near to your heart. When you come across organizations that are already working hard on the causes you care deeply for, jump in. Volunteer, donate, write to public officials, knock on doors, make phone calls, write newsletters. Unfortunately in some situations, employment or family pressures bar your involvement in publicly partaking in or speaking on issues BUT don’t let that deter you. There are still many anonymous methods of support to give.
  6. Research, research and more research!ย  With “fake news” and “alternative facts” more prevalent than ever, it’s imperative to remain proof based in your stance and assertions. When opposing or advocating a cause, research and collect information on the matter. If the specific event/issue has happened to you or someone you know, you’re stance is more valid because you can speak directly on it and chances are you easily have the information available at your fingertips already. Be your own advocate – the same goes for healthcare!
  7. Consider running for office. Since arguably the most important job in the world, the highly influential and coveted position of President of the United States of America requires absolutely zero qualifications (no 2-5 years of prior political experience, 3 letters of recommendation or a LinkedIn profile!), then there’s no better time than NOW to get involved. You can only learn, gain a better understanding of American politics and inspire those of your like mind. Here’s a couple fabulous resources aimed at getting women into politics: She Should Run and Emily’s List.
  8. Create To-Do Lists.ย One of the trickiest things to do is begin. Often people are very passionate about causes, but don’t know the first steps to take. While this list is to help you navigate your personal journey through politics, you might find yourself in a situation that requires a call to action – asking supporters to phone an elected official, sign a petition or write a letter to them. Simply asking “Hey friends, call you local politicians!” isn’t always going to work. So, anytime you can lay out the plan for fellow supporters, do it! Share the overall plan, the name of the representative/elected official to contact, provide the phone numbers/email addresses/mailing addresses/URL links of who to contact for the cause, and end with any additional bullet points that will help others complete the process. As humans, it’s easier to turn your back on something that seems too difficult so make a process so simple people can’t say no! One of my absolute favorite examples of this is from one of my absolute favorite ladies Santigoldย whoย posted the below call to action on her IG page @santigold. She laid every step out in calling speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s office and made participation doable! LOVE this example! (Song in video above: Santigold – “Run the Races”).

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Do you do anything different to get involved? Let’s talk about it!

-xo

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A Vacation In My Own Backyard – Catalina

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The only thing more convenient than a staycation is a day trip. One of my favorite day trips in Los Angeles, CA is to Catalina Island. I grew up in Orange County,ย  California so going to Catalina has been preferred destination for a while!

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The Catalina Express departs out of various SoCal ports with ample depart/return times to choose from. The travel time is approx. an hour each way and you get a view the whole time!

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Once you arrive on the island via Avalon Bay, the beautiful views are everywhere from Descanso Beach along the Avalon Shore to the gorgeous mountains that make up the terrain. There have been native inhabitants on the island for over 7,000 years but really, the resort vibe of the island has only developed over the last 120 years. After passing hands in ownership during the 1800’s, William Wrigley, Jr. (owner of Wrigley gum) snatched up the island, investing millions in its tourism and even building the historic Casino on Avalon.

My favorite aspect of the island is the Bison! The story goes that 14 Bison we transported to the island in 1924 for a Western movie. After filming, they left the Bison on the island and they’ve grown to a current population of approx. 150. Part of this growth is due to the Catalina Island Conservancy organization who puts forth efforts to preserve natural habitats and wildlife on the island. Furthermore, there are restrictions on automobiles present on the island. When you travel to Catalina, one of the first things you notice is there are tons of golf carts and slim to no cars. Avalon is the only city in California authorized by the state legislature to regulate the number and size of vehicles allowed to drive on city streets. Currently, there is a 14 year waiting list to own a car! Not only does this do wonders for animals populations but there is absolutely no smog around the island.

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Mt. Ada Bed & Breakfast

 

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There are so many things to see and do. Below is a list of some things worth checking out there:

The island has the most magical 1930’s feel. Even the store fronts and cobblestone roads feel authentic. Hope these tips help you plan your trip. Have you been? Let me know what cool activities you do while on Catalina Island!

-xo

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Free People For Life

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I come from a long line of shopaholics…My aunt purchased this Free People dress and it wasn’t quite doin’ for her what she wanted so it was gifted to me. Fit like a glove, so was clearly meant to be. I wore this to brunch (yes in Fall, because Southern California) but I easily dress it up with a leather jacket and heels.

Items In This Post:

  1. Shades/Hat – Forever 21
  2. Shoes – Steve Madden
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