Thursday, March 28, 2013

austin, texas: sxsw


This was our first time at SXSW and were not really sure what to expect. We knew what it was but had no idea how intense it would be, but we absolutely loved it--and the city of Austin--and plan on going back next year!


One of our stops was the Doritos Bold Stage--where they gave us free Cooler Ranch Doritos (score) and had a great line-up of fun artists throughout the day.  We also checked a few of the other smaller venues around--most of which have free admission and were a lot of fun. Even if we didn't know the artists, we still enjoy live music and the overall high-energy atmosphere.

asos event

One of the highlights of the day was hanging out at the ASOS event, where we saw Youngblood Hawke. It was the best. I seriously almost went home and cut bangs that very night--the female vocalist in the group was rocking the bangs and had me convinced. Thankfully, I got over it in a couple of bangs and avoided the dramatic hair change (sidenote--if you happen to have any opinions on if and how I could pull of a full set of bangs...please comment below because I'm honestly still so torn on if I should do it one day)

rob at sxsw

The street's are obviously full of life and energy during all of this. To be honest, I kind of felt like I was back in San Francisco with the the variety of characters hanging out around there, the trash piled up in the gutters, and the lingering smell of weed in the air...

Here's my handsome hubs :)

street artists

Plenty of folk-rock in the streets just callin' out to all the hipsters.


Across the street from one of the shows we were at. Good day to be a construction worker, eh? I loved this.

SXSW street

Overall, we fell in love with the city of Austin & the SXSW experience. My tips for anyone interested in planning a trip for next year--

1. Plan on walking a lot & wear shoes for it.

2. Be active on Twitter (it's where all the inside info & updates are posted for shows)

3. Be your best hipster. Girls, bring your side sling bags & thrift store get-ups. Boys, go manorexic and get your front hair swoop in full swing  (because if I'm being perfectly honest, my husband and I were NOT hipster enough to fit in, but heyyy we enjoyed it all the same!)

4. Eat at the food trucks. They're delish.

5. If you're travelling in from outside Texas, make sure that you leave some extra days to do some "Austin" things. It's such a rad city! Robert and I are planning a trip back shortly.

Have any of y'all been? We'd LOVE some tips for next year! Also, what are your favorite things to do in Austin? We want to go back and kayak the river--and see the famous bats, but let me know if you have any other must-do's in Austin.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

travel guide: cappadocia, turkey

Cappadocia Travel Guide

Cappadocia was by far one of the most unique places we have traveled. Many people are not familiar with it (and have maybe never even heard of it) and I used to be one of them. To see where it is located exactly look here. It is in the central region of Turkey on the continent of Asia.

We only spent a weekend there, but a weekend was literally the perfect amount of time. Personally, I wouldn't suggest going for much longer. It was a fun-filled couple of days, and we saw everything that they had to see & do. Most people we talked to that had visited Cappadocia used tour guide with shuttles and itineraries. We're not really 'tour guide' kinda people--so we did it our own way--renting our own car at the airport and using trip advisor reviews to plan out our days. I would 100% recommend doing it this way. It's a very easy place to get around, and it gave us the ability to see a lot more than we would have on a guided tour.

Okay, so here we go. Time for some details and pictures to help you get an idea of what Cappadocia is all about.

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1. Exploring Uchisar Castle

Our review on Uchisar Castle kind of falls in line with most other reviews that you'll see online--the castle itself is not really all that special. It's basically a really large mound of rock with cave dwellings, but they don't let you explore much of the inside because it is literally eroding away & falling apart. However, the view from the top is great. It's a small hike and you can see all over the valley & get an idea of the overall landscape. This was our first stop of the day, and I'm glad we did it first because there were definitely more exciting things to see and do--but I recommend scheduling it in as a quick stop.

(Above) This is a picture of Robert at the top of the castle & the gorgeous view behind him.

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Picture of the castle from the bottom. Pretty unreal, right? It's a really easy trek up, but we did get pretty warm--so I'd recommend going in the early hours of the day (if you're there in the summer)

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Here's me in the village below the castle. They have some gorgeous textiles, local dried fruit, and fun souvenirs  for the tourists.


And of course, they have camels about for the tourists. You can't resist getting a picture with such a decorated camel can you? We're often suckers for the tourist traps, but hey--we live it up while we can!

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2. Derinkuyu Underground City

This sign really says it all--"This is risky for those who have heart diseases high blood pressure and for asthma patients". And I'll talk more about that in a second--but really quickly I want to give you some detail behind these underground cities in Cappadocia.

Derinkuyu is an ancient multi-level underground city that was large enough to hold & house over 20,000-30,000 people--along with their livestock and food. These cities included schools, chapels, wineries and pretty much any other space needed to live. Literally, these people would reside underground for large chunks of time.

Derinkuyu is just one of many underground cities found in the area. Scholars believe that it served as a refuge for the early Christians who were being persecuted for their beliefs.  Below is a diagram of what they think the city looked like in its fullest.

Okay, so I'd now like to jump back to the original sign/warning for those with heart disease, high blood pressure, and asthma. I am going to use this diagram below to describe my experience to you at points one, two & three.

derinkuyu underground city

[ONE] Where we began our adventure into the underground city. Before I even considered the fact that my mild claustrophobia may become a problem...before everything went dark....before I could no longer see the light....

[TWO] This was the point when I realized that the tunnels were legitimately the same 7th century tunnels that have been standing for all of those years (no additional support--no staircases built in--this was the real deal--the kind of historic adventure that would never be allowed to tourists in the United States for safety & liability reasons) and we were slowly making our way deeper and deeper into the earth, no tour guide, no "fire escape" out, and no way of really knowing how deep we were. This was officially the point when my claustrophobia started to kick in and felt as if there was no way out (okay, maybe a little dramatic but it's how I felt in the craze of the moment)

[THREE] The lowest that the Turkish Government will current let the public go (only a small portion of the city is actually open for tourists) and it was officially the point when I had a full on panic attack. No joke. Short of breath, almost in tears, hovering in a corner--my husband tried to comfort me and calm my nerves, but I was pretty much a lost cause. I just tried to look straight ahead and work my way back up to the top as quickly as I could...and about twenty-five minutes (and a solid glute work-out) later--I could see the light of day and the hope of a beautiful future once again.

Thank heavens I am a modern day christian and wasn't an early one running from the persecution of the Roman empire. I don't think I would have made it hiding out in those underground villages.

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The freak of nature herself...before the claustrophobia kicked in...

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A rolling stone where they used to be able to block off certain parts of the city for protection/or opposite--block in the enemy.

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One of the many very small stairwells (and I wish you could get the whole effect of how long some of these stairwells went on for...)

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I'm thinking that these people were probably much smaller than my husband. A 6'5" man would not have done well in this little city, though he surprisingly did much better than my 5'3" self!

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All claustrophobic talk aside, this is a MUST while visiting Cappadocia. It was one of the most eye-opening and incredible experiences of my life, and if my large mammal of a husband can fit through those small stairwells, anyone can!

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3. Love Valley & Rose Valley

Sadly, I don't have an exact location on where this small church was, but it was a random find that we came across in between Love Valley and Rose Valley.

It was quite amazing, and actually one of my favorite stops.

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A personal favorite. I feel like it captures the craze of emotions, mystery and intrigue I was feeling during this whole experience.

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4. Sunrise in Cappadocia

This is obviously a must. Cappadocia is world famous for their sunrise hot air balloon rides. We--of course--decided not to do it the usual "touristy' way and instead decided to stalk the drivers for the different hot air balloon companies, and followed them up this small dirt road to the top of this amazing plateau and watched it from there (mostly because we wanted to have the best possible pictures of all the balloons and sunrise)

It was quite the experience--a beautiful one. I will remember for the rest of my life.

They have different rates for different balloon rides. I think the going rate is about 150 euros for a shorter ride--and you're in a basket packed with ten to fifteen other people (depending on the the size and which vendor you go with). You can pay 200-300 euro for longer more private rides.

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And I need to give out a shout-out to my husband on this one--because I was really not wanting a picture of myself this particular morning, and protested for a long time. Eventually he convinced me that I would regret not having one later on...and he was right. Thanks babe for always looking out for me, even in my most insecure moments ;)

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5. Goreme Open Air Museum

A few quick things about this museum--it is definitely worth the time and money, but it does get very busy with large shuttles and buses full of tourists. We went mid-afternoon, and realized that it probably would have been a lot smarter to go earlier in the day. This is where some of the most famous sites are, and you'll have to wait in a lot of lines to get into some of the chapels and dwellings.

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Mind blowing, right?

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I mean, he's got a good face. A real real good face.

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6. Zelve Valley & Zelve Open Air Museum

This was gorgeous and definitely a great stop. It's not as busy as the Goreme Open Air Museum, because it's not quite as exciting--but still equally as intriguing and educational! And I actually enjoyed being away from the tourist buses and big crowds.

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An old winery. These monks were serious about this business. I swear the majority of the rooms we saw had something to do with wine.

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Amazed by this old chapel.

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Cave creepin.

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Side of the mountain. If you look closely towards the bottom where the stone gets darker, you can see where an old stairwell used to be. It's amazing to think how much of these cities have eroded away already. Eventually there will be nothing left.

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I loved Zelve Valley, but love this man more.cave hotel

7. Cave Dwelling Hotel

Last but not least on my list today...stay in a cave dwelling hotel. If you don't, you are just missing out on a major part of the whole experience. Granted, you're not going to get the most stellar cell or internet signal in a 'cave room' but it's most definitely worth the experience. As you plan out your Cappadocia adventure, you'll notice that this is a common review across the board. Staying in a cave hotel is the only way to go! Prices vary depending on how nice you go--personally we just decided to do something pretty average that had a complimentary breakfast, wifi, and a great location--and it worked out perfect for us!

This picture above is actually from a restaurant that we ate at close to our hotel. One of the local women was making fresh bread right there outside in a stone oven, and it was so incredibly delicious. It's called Koy Evi, and it has pretty great reviews that concur with ours.

Also, in case you're kind of nerds like us, and really into the history and culture of places you travel, there is a biblical reference for Cappadocia found in Acts 2:9 "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia" 

Kind of cool, huh?

The whole time I was there, I couldn't help but think of all the deep and meaningful history that occurred in the very trails, stairwells, and hillsides that I was walking, and felt a special connection to the early Christianity that was so desperately fought for and preserved in those lands.

As always, if you have any questions/comments/ or anything to add please comment below! And again, I have to give a shout out to TripAdvisor, Google Maps, & my husbands international phone plan with AT&T for really making this trip much easier on us! ;) I can't imagine travelling without them!

Monday, March 18, 2013

health and lifestyle: juice cleanse recap


Okay now it's time for some facts recapping of our 5-day pressed juice cleanse!

1. The first day was the hardest for me, after that it got much easier. My body just had a freak-out for the first day and a half-ish. I had a pretty bad headache the first afternoon and literally a negative amount of energy for the first 48 hours (like if my energy level is usually at a 10, I was at a -24) I could have slept all day every day (needless to say, they were probably the least productive days I've ever had in my life). However, my husband had a super easy first day--and found that his hardest day was probably the second day. He had very low energy as well, and a headache later in the afternoon. Happy to report though--those were the only headaches that we had. Which kind of amazed us, being that we are what you would call 'caffeine-dependent'

2. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. No, but really. Honestly, it was the mental challenge of not being able to put something in your mouth and chew that proved to be the most difficult aspect of this adventure. I love good tasting food, and gulping down juiced vegetables all day er' day was not exactly a party in the mouth. Juiced kale and beets were probably the hardest part for me (which was rough because that is the majority of what they put in the juices) At the beginning, I had trouble actually getting some of the juices down, but by the end my taste buds had warmed up to it a bit.

3.  I lost a total of four pounds, and my husband lost eleven. I know, right? And apparently it was visible, because he went to a work dinner the day after we ended the cleanse and a colleague actually commented on how he looked like he had lost ten pounds without even knowing he had been on the cleanse. Again, we didn't really do it for the weight loss--but we still kept track and were definitely impressed by the results.

Juice Date

4. By days four and five our energy levels were definitely back up (not quite to normal, but we felt much better than we had the first couple of days). We didn't have energy to go on long runs or bike rides, but we took walks and hung out in the park. One of the hardest things about this cleanse was figuring out things to do. We couldn't really meet any of our friends--because most of the activities involved getting dinner or dessert or lots of energy--and it was  hard being out shopping or by restaurants...because most the time we were just thinking about how we wanted to eat. However, we did go on a juice 'double date' with Robert's parents to Snap--health foods & juice bar. It was a fun afternoon! It is definitely a lifestyle change though--not eating actual food. Food is such a social staple in our lives (which is kind of sad, but is just the way it is)  We may or may not have watched season 1-3 of Downton Abbey that weekend :)

5. By the end, we genuinely felt healthier, cleansed, and refreshed. The day after the cleanse ended I went on a run--and ended up running about double what I had planned just because I had so much amazing energy! We are really grateful we did it, and feel that we have a renewed desire to be healthy and make nutritious decisions when it comes to food. We've had a stocked fridge of veggies, fruits, and lean proteins ever since and are motivated to continue working on our health and fitness. We also stayed off caffeine for a week after we finished, and have realized that it really isn't something we need on a daily basis--especially if we are getting lots of nutrients in our food. We hope to keep up healthy habits of drinking less caffeine!

If you're in the Houston area, and have a desire to do this--I recommend Squeezed. They delivered the fresh juice right to our door at 6 a.m. in the morning and they really did a great job at making a quality product.

*This is what a juice made with a lot of beets looks like....num num.

Juice juice

So, for any of you interested in doing a 3 or 5 day juice cleanse--here are my five main tips that I learned from my experience.

1. Prepare for energy lows for the first couple days.

2. Keep yourself busy (I had a friend tell me this at the beginning, and he was very right!)

3. Evenings and nights are the hardest, so prep for that. It's all a mental game. You won't be hungry, but you'll want to eat.

4. Do pressed juices--if you're gonna do it, do it right! Get the most out of it that you can, and pressed juices are the freshest and most nutritious. Also, if I did it again I'd probably only do the 3-day juice cleanse. It was during the first three days that I saw the most results weight-wise and felt the drastic energy low and then increase. The 5-day cleanse was good, but I'd probably recommend just doing the 3-day to start.

5. Have a good attitude. My husband and I went into this excited, eager, curious and a little scared--and for reals people--I was probably the most grumpy, sleepy and bitchy I have ever been in my entire life during the first two days.  I felt anxious, hungry, and exhausted--and my poor husband just had to deal with it. Ha ha, poor dude. Needless to say, go into it with a good attitude at the beginning, because there will be some definite lows to deal with, but you'll feel great by the end!


If you have any other questions on the cleanse, please feel free to ask! Again, we used a company called Squeezed here in Houston and I would 100% recommend them.