If #RAW is Wrong, I Don’t Want to be Right

Today I finally got the chance to go to #Raw, a vegan cafe in Florence, and once again I was blown away by the vegan presence here in Italia. Let me just start out by saying that they served me coconut water straight out of the coconut… I mean, does it get any better than that? Not to mention that it was hands down the best coconut water I have ever tasted.

The inside of #Raw is a minimalistic, trendy atmosphere laden with bamboo furniture and plates as well as hanging plants and cotton pillows. It’s light, fresh, and welcoming and I will be spending a great deal of time there.

Today, I ordered a vegan falafel veggie wrap with avocado and a light peanut sauce. It was completely raw and completely delicious! I usually am not a huge fan of raw bread substitutes, but this wrap was one of the only exceptions I have found thus far. I absolutely loved it!

The menu at #Raw is the stuff of my dreams, there are beautiful salads, smoothie and chia bowls, a vegan burger, a full smoothie and fresh juice menu, vegan deserts and baked goods, and much more… It’s safe to say #Raw is a vegans paradise in basically every way possible, and I can’t wait to try everything on the menu!

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An Acai Bowl Abroad

If there’s one thing you can probably deduce from the food section of my blog (aside from my flaming veganism) it’s that I am nothing short of obsessed with smoothie bowls. From my point of view, they’re just the most perfect food: delicious, nutritious, versatile, customizable, and the list goes on..

Anyway, you can probably imagine the separation anxiety I have been feeling from my soul-mate-meal since I have come to Italy, leaving behind my blender and my go-to Bay Area smoothie bowl spots. There’s nothing like a big, satisfying bowl of health and deliciousness to start the day off right, and I was about to go crazy if I went another day without one.

Luckily, this morning I was able to find a great smoothie bowl right in the heart of Florence at Shake Cafe! I tried the classic Acai Bowl with almond milk (substituted for cow’s milk) and every topping offered. They also offer a green bowl, a tropical bowl, a chia bowl, and a power bowl (you know I’ll be trying them all, so stay tuned for the verdict)!

The Acai Bowl was absolutely wonderful, it had the perfect amount of flavor, everything about it was fresh, and the topping-to-base ratio was just right. Not to mention how cute and photogenic it was for the 5 seconds before I devoured it. Anyway, Shake Cafe, you’ve done it again and I will most definitely be back for much, much more!

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P.S. Do you know of any great smoothie bowls for me to try in Florence or the San Francisco Bay Area? Comment below or shoot me a message and I would love to check them out!

P.P.S. Want more of my smoothie bowl obsession? Check out my posts: Low Sugar, Low Calorie Smoothie Bowl HackQuick n’ Easy Sweet Green Smoothie BowlStrawberry Dragonfruit Smoothie Bowl

Destination Relaxation: Monterey Bay Area

As you’re probably well aware at this point, I’m currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area and chronicling my life as a vegan (among other things). Admittedly, California and the Bay Area especially is probably one of the best places in the world for vegans. Even still, it’s always a special treat to escape from your every day environment and see what other places have to offer! This passed weekend, my Mom and I decided to take a quick trip to Pacific Grove and Monterey, CA where I stumbled upon some beautiful vegan meals, beverages and gorgeous views.

Before I begin to gush about all that Pacific Grove and Monterey have to offer, I’d like to give you a little bit of background information about weekend getaways with my mom and I (the self proclaimed real life, authentic version of the Gilmore Girls). Since day one, my mom and I have always been chillers. Hanging out and relaxing, living on island time is our absolute jam and we do all that we can to indulge ourselves in some good old fashioned lazy vacation days at every opportunity we can find. For us, the perfect getaway involves lots of long walks, comfort food, wine, and shopping. The Pacific Grove, Monterey, Carmel area has always been exactly our speed for weekend getaways because of it’s quaint, mellow nature and dog friendly communities as well as it’s close proximity to the Bay Area.

Since I was a little girl, my mom and I have stayed in a picturesque, rustic group of cottages in Pacific Grove called Andril Fireplace Cottages. We love it there because of it’s laid back, vintage feel and it’s dog-loving environment. We also love it there because of it’s walkable yet not-too-close distance from the downtown areas of Pacific Grove and Monterey, if I had to guess I would say that it’s about one mile from downtown Pacific Grove and two miles from downtown Monterey (where the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is located). Our go-to vacation day activity is covering ourselves head-to-toe in athlesiure wear and setting out on foot to find brunch, shopping, and wine tasting if we’re lucky.

As promised, the best brunch was found this passed weekend in Pacific Grove at a restaurant called Toasties Café on Lighthouse Ave. A die-hard lover of potatoes, you can probably imagine my excitement when I spotted “potato dish” on the menu of an otherwise somewhat traditional, non-vegan brunch menu. A restaurant meal of breakfast style potatoes, vegetables, avocado, and various hot sauces? I honestly don’t think I could name four things I would choose over those for any meal. To make the experience even more wonderful, we were able to sit outside on a sunny patio with our beagle, Diego while we enjoyed mimosas, coffee and our breakfast.

I could seriously go on and on… and on and on and on about how delicious this breakfast was. Maybe it was the mimosas, but this simple dish was exactly the brunch that I always dream of, and as someone who used to enjoy breakfast scrambles it’s the perfect vegan substitute for that simple savory breakfast option.

After our wonderful breakfast experience, we continued to walk around downtown Pacific Grove and all the way through to Monterey. On our walk, I found an awesome store called The Mind Shop Metaphysical Books and Gifts where I was lucky enough to find some low priced quartz, rose quartz, amazonite, selenite, and amethyst. Although I don’t know a lot, or anything really, about crystals, I have been wanting to educate myself on their healing powers and how to use them so I was excited that I could pick some up for less than $10.00! I also got a bumper sticker for my computer that says “There’s No Place Like Om”.

Just down the road, and located in the tourist area of Monterey, we came across another highlight of our trip: the Carmel Ridge wine tasting room overlooking the Monterey Bay! We had the most pleasant experience looking out at the water and tasting some awesome wines (somewhat reasonably priced, too!) and we were even able to veganize their meat and cheese platter, turning it into an assortment of delicious crackers, dried fruit, and nuts! Lucky for me, my mom is completely on board with my choice to be vegan and she even tries to eat vegan as much as possible herself, which makes traveling and eating together super convenient for me.

We loved the Carmel Ridge tasting room so much that we ended up going back the next day! After our long walk home that second night, we were more than ready to indulge in some margaritas and Mexican food. It is a common misconception that vegans would have an extremely difficult time finding fare at Mexican resteraunts. Fortunately for me, the reality is quite contrary! Vegetable Fajitas are a staple on pretty much every single Mexican menu, so they tend to be my go-to when ordering Mexican.

This weekend, however, I was able to mix things up a bit on the Mexican food front with El Torito’s delicious spinach enchiladas! Aside from the fact that they sprinkled some cheese onto my dish (which was very minimal and easy to remove), I was obsessed with everything about this dish. It was as amazing to look at as it was to taste. The margaritas and guacamole were splendid as well, we had the most wonderful time watching the Warrior’s game and enjoying our dinner. All and all, both my mom and I were left with a good taste in our mouth – literally and figuratively!

Along with these four places that we found and loved were countless other adorable spots in Pacific Grove and Monterey. There are tons of vegan eats that I didn’t have time to try, and dozens of charming shops and experiences that we made a note to check out on our next trip. At the end of the day, the Monterey Bay Area is an amazingly beautiful, unique and relaxing part of California and we will definitely continue to cherish our stays there! Walking, eating, drinking, and shopping our way through a new place is by far our favorite way to get to know a new location and after this weekend I have a few other recommendations up my sleeve. Feel more than free to reach out to me if you’re curious. For now, keep on keeping it simple and keeping it whole 🙂

Yogi Diaries: Updates and Intentions

As I delve deeper into the world of yoga and as I am suddenly at a point in my life where free time is scarce, I am becoming more and more aware of the importance of going about my life in a more purposeful and mindful way. When there are fewer hours in the day than you might like, it’s important to ration your time and to assign a purpose or reason to each thing you do, which is why I want to start to focus more on setting clear intentions for my life, weeks, days, and even little tasks.

While I have always had goals in life, I’m finding myself now at a time where I am completely in the driver’s seat of my life for the first time. It’s a strange mixture of terrifying and exhilarating, most importantly, however, it’s inspiring. At any transition point in life, it’s important to find the direction that’s right for you and run with it. While I am constantly exhilarated and excited by the possibilities of the future, I’m beginning to learn that the “run with it” part of finding your path can be easier said than done.

For the past week or so, I spent time focusing on the beginning two aspects of the 8 limbed yogic path: the first Yama, Ahisma which represents non-violence or non-harm, and the first Niyama, Saucha which stands for cleanliness and purity in all aspects of life (for more background information, see my earlier post Yogi Diaries: A Spiritual Journey Beginning with Yamas & Niyamas). The outcome of my focus on these aspects of life was somewhat minimal, but meaningful nonetheless.

Since I already have an inherently non-violent vegan diet, I sort of feel like I used it as a cop-out for focusing on Ahisma. I would have liked to spend more time looking inward and focusing on how I treat all of the people I interact with on a daily basis. I would have liked to make more progress towards eliminating any accidental rudeness or unintentionally inconsiderate behavior, but at the very least it’s good that I am thinking about it at all so that I can continue to make an effort going forward. For Saucha, I made an effort to keep my bedroom space more tidy and to clean up after myself more thoroughly, especially in the kitchen. While my room is still far from perfect, I do think that I made some progress or at least taught my self some helpful tidiness tips and tricks that I’ll be able to employ in the future.

For the week or so to come, I’ll be focusing on the next Yama and Niyama. Respectively, Satya which stands for honesty and truthful communication, and Santosha which represents personal contentment and being enough on your own. As someone who has recently been in recovery from an eating disorder, I think that this one could be particularly hard for me. Intrinsic contentment and confidence is something that I deeply struggle with. I am nervous and scared to look that still-open wound directly in the face because I don’t know how it will feel. I’m terrified to be alone with my thoughts and feelings on this matter, but the fact that I have such fear shows me that it needs to be done and that I should give this aspect of my life special attention. I think that Satya and Santosha will compliment each other as my focuses for this time period to come because I will have to focus on communicating honestly with myself, and being truthful about my progress when it comes to self acceptance. Wish me luck and send me good vibes through this microjourney that I’m embarking on!

Now on a very different note…

Since this is my diary as an emerging yogi, I’m going to bring the conversation back to the mat for a hot second. Since day one, my balance has been sub-par to say the least. Nailing crow was much more of struggle for me than I would ever care to admit. Since I mastered it, I have been trying to work on my tripod head stand and my chin stand. I want to emphasize how unbelievably difficult balancing is for me, because these poses seem to be much harder for me than the average person. It is beyond frustrating to advance so slowly in some aspects (balances) as compared to other aspects of my practice.

That being said, last night I finally found myself in a comfortable straight leg supported head stand (or sirshasana if you prefer Sanskrit)!!! This was a seriously big deal for me, like HUGE! I was so excited and proud of myself that I lost my focus and toppled straight to the ground. In the process, one of my knees ended up hitting my right forearm instead of the ground and as a result my arm has been hurting all day since. It actually caused so much pain in my forearm that I decided to skip yoga class completely today in order to avoid putting weight on the arm (since that’s when it hurts the most). This kind of stuff is scary for me as someone who has little to no experience with injury. Luckily, my arm is feeling better already so I think I’ll just be able to chalk it up to a close call and a sign that I shouldn’t get ahead of myself in the future.

At the end of the day, I’m so so so very excited about getting into my head stand and I hope it will open more doors for me! I am attending a balancing workshop this coming Saturday so hopefully I’ll have a few solid days of headstand practice before then. I hope that my struggles and constant sequences of trial and error will inspire y’all to try something new or tackle your goals because even if you (literally, in my case) fall on your face the first time it will always be worth it in the end.

I know that my writing has been lacking lately, but I’m getting back into my groove this week I promise so stay tuned for more recipes and/or bay area eats and whatnot. For now, keep it HONEST and keep it CONTENT in solidarity with me!

 

Fluffy Vegan Blueberry Cinnamon Muffins

I’m usually not the type who reaches for a muffin first thing in the morning, but every once and awhile I just crave something sweet and decadent in the morning. As a vegan it can be hard to satisfy certain cravings, especially when it comes to baked goods since options are somewhat limited, that’s why I decided to take matters into my own hands!

Even beyond the fact that there are few vegan baked goods available to buy (although the options are improving exponentially), I prefer my own homemade baked goods because I like to know exactly what I am putting into my body. I tend to be weary of store bought baked goods because it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting, especially when it comes to preservatives and the quality of the ingredients.

This recipe is extra near and dear to my heart because it will forever go down in history as my very first original vegan breakfast baked goods recipe. As such, it’s extra simple with no complicated directions or uncommon ingredients which makes it super easy to replicate! I always love to whip up a batch of some yummy vegan food to share because it gives me the opportunity to show the people in my life that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor or indulgence in order to enjoy a vegan lifestyle!

Without further adieu, here’s the recipe:

You’ll Need:

For the Muffins:

  • 2 Cups of Brown Rice Flour
  • 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 3 tbsp. Baking Soda
  • 3 tbsp. melted Coconut Oil
  • 3 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 3 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
  • 1/5 Cup Blueberries

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup Chopped Raw Almonds
  • 1/4 cup Oats
  • 2 tbsp. Coconut Sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Agave Syrup (maple syrup will do as well)

To Prepare:

This is the easy part! Preheat oven to 225 degrees. In a big mixing bowl combine all of the muffin ingredients except for the blueberries together until the batter is smooth and even. In a separate bowl, combine all topping ingredients to make a granola-ish mixture. In a greased muffin tin, fill each muffin hole about 1/3 of the way, and add 2-3 blueberries to each one. Bake in for 20 minutes. At this point, sprinkle the topping mixture over top of each muffin, and bake another 5-10 minutes or until the tops are just solid. Let cool, and watch them disappear! 🙂

The cool thing about this recipe is that it’s extremely versatile so it gives you the freedom do customize it however you want. For example, you may want to exclude the coconut flakes and add in chocolate chips or substitute the blueberries for goji berries! The options are endless. The other awesome part about this recipe is that the batter is so light and fluffy that it works as a vegan baked doughnut recipe as well! To make vegan doughnuts, just grease a doughnut tin and fill up each doughnut about 1/3 of the way, bake for 15-20 minutes and voila! Vegan Doughnuts! I actually made a few flower shape mini muffins as you can see in the photos below, and they turned out great as well.

Since this recipe is so new, I would absolutely love to hear any feedback or constructive criticism that you might have for it! I hope you enjoy these as much as my friends, family and coworkers that I served them to did! Keep it simple, keep it vegan and keep it whole!

Smoky Spicy Sunday Night Buddha Bowl

I think we can all agree on one thing when it comes to Sunday nights: in a perfect world it definitely includes meal prepping. If you’re like me, it also includes one last delicious and indulgent meal to end the weekend on a perfect note. But what if you only have an hour to cook and you have to choose between the perfect dinner or a weeks worth of lunches? Your head tells you meal prep… but your  heart and tummy tell you to make one last perfect weekend dinner. Well debate no more, head and heart, because you can do BOTH with this delicious, nutritious, Buddha Bowl composed of healthy week day recipes that will keep in the fridge for the work week ahead!

For my work week lunches, I like to have a big bowl of ready-to-eat greens so that I can quickly throw together a salad with any toppings I’m in the mood for. The thing about most salads is that they wilt and get soggy with time, leaving them basically inedible. I also struggle with bringing dressing with me in the morning, it just takes too much extra time and leaves me lots of Tupperware dishes to wash and lug around. Fortunately, superfood Tuscan Kale exists!! Unlike other types of greens, Tuscan Kale keeps its crunch if left in the fridge with dressing for a few days. It makes the perfect work week salad base, which is why I like to make a huge container of a simple, vegan Tuscan Kale Caesar(ish) Salad (recipe below)!

I think it has become clear at this point that I’m extremely into spicy food. The more flavorful, the better! Any simple meal can be vastly improved with just a little bit of fun flavor, so I always like to keep some versatile little “flavor bombs” of some sort on hand that I can toss into any dish to spice it up. I’ve been on something of a garbanzo bean/chickpea kick lately, so this week I decided to stick with the trend and make some Crunchy Smoky Paprika Chickpeas to use as croutons and toppings on anything and everything (recipe below)!

The sweet potato lover that I am, I can’t last the week without a batch of my Sweet Potato and Heirloom Carrot Hash. I can’t get over this dish because of the versatility of it; I can seriously eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three. It tastes great with a salad, on some quinoa, in a pita pocket, or even by itself! Another thing I can’t last a week without is a copious amount of ready-to-eat quinoa. Right now I’m really into white quinoa because I love that it goes so well with breakfast foods as well as lunch and dinner recipes. It absorbs and really highlights the flavors and textures of whatever it is paired with, so I like to prepare a good amount of it on Sunday nights so I can quickly put together a filling quinoa bowl in a pinch.

Anyway, I digress.. Back to the star of the show: my Spicy Smoky Sunday Night Buddha Bowl! After preparing all of these work week dishes I was starting to get pressed for time as well as just plain lazy, so I decided to combine all of my meal prep elements into one perfect dish! All I needed to perfect this combination was avocado (of course) and some home made Sweet and Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe below). Below, you’ll find all the information you need to recreate my little meal prep masterpiece, but don’t be afraid to go off book a little bit and add or subtract any ingredients you want! Cooking is a journey of trial and error… with an emphasis on the error if you’re anything like me. Everything tastes great when it’s tailored perfectly to your tastes, so go ahead and individualize everything (or just stick to my recipes, because I think they’re pretty darn good)! Also remember that some of these recipes make way more than you’ll need for the Buddha Bowl because they’re meant to be kept in the fridge and used as lunch or dinner elements through out the week!

Tuscan Kale Caesar(ish) Salad:

You’ll need:

  • 10 cups Tuscan Kale Leaves (if you can’t find it fresh at your supermarket, you can also use 1 bag of organic Tuscan Kale but make sure to still measure out 10 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • Chili Pepper, Salt, and Pepper to taste

To Prepare:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, shred the Tuscan Kale leaves into somewhat small, bite size pieces (omitting any stems or spines)
  2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, finely chopped and crushed garlic, salt, pepper and chili pepper
  3. Pour dressing mixture over shredded kale, and toss until leaves are evenly coated

Crunchy Smoky Paprika Chickpeas:

 

You’ll Need:

  • 1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To Prepare:

  1. Preheat Oven to 425 degrees, drain and rinse chickpeas and dry them off a little bit with a towel or paper towel
  2. Combine all spices in to a small bowl
  3. In a larger bowl, combine chickpeas, olive oil, and about 1/3rd of the spice mixture and mix them together until the olive oil and spice mixtures are spread evenly
  4. On a cookie sheet, spread out the chickpeas and cover them with the remainder of the spice mixture, making sure they are fully coated with the spices
  5. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until they are crunchy

Sweet and Spicy Peanut Sauce:

 

You’ll need:

  • 1/4th cup all natural peanut butter (I like crunchy)
  • 1/4th cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1-2 teaspoons (or to taste) Sriracha Chili Sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • lemon or lime juice to taste

To Prepare:

  1. I’m going to be honest with you here, I’m not sure how you’re supposed to prepare traditional peanut sauce, so I’m just telling you guys what works for me (as someone who is not above cutting corners for the sake of efficiency) – Step 1: Melt the peanut butter over the stove or even in the microwave
  2. Combine all ingredients until combined into a creamy sauce texture. If you are looking for a thinner consistency, add small amounts of water (maybe a teaspoon at a time) until you have achieved your desired consistency.

Spicy Smoky Sunday Night Buddha Bowl:

You’ll need:

  • 1 -1.5 cup cooked white quinoa
  • 1 cup Tuscan Kale Caesar(ish) Salad
  • 1/4 cup Crunchy Smoky Paprika Chickpeas
  • 2/3 cup – 1 cup Sweet Potato and Heirloom Carrot Hash
  • 1/2 Avocado
  • 1/4 cup Sweet and Spicy Peanut Sauce
  • Black Sesame Seeds or Garnish of Choice

To Prepare:

  1. In a bowl, lay down a base of quite quinoa, adding the kale salad and sweet potato hash second, and the avocado and chickpeas afterwards
  2. Drizzle peanut sauce overtop of the quinoa. Sprinkle black sesame seeds or garnish of choice over top
  3. Enjoy!


I hope you guys enjoy this awesome and nutritious Buddha Bowl as well as the recipes included in it! I know I’ll be enjoying them all week 🙂 I would love to hear if you have any great tips to improve any of my recipes or if you made any yummy or nutritious changes. Have a great week, keep it simple y’all!!

 

Sweet Potato and Heirloom Carrot Hash

If I had to pick a favorite food, you best believe it would include sweet potatoes (well.. either sweet potatoes or split pea soup). They’re the perfect food in my book: delicious, nutritious, versatile, and beautiful! The first time I ever had sweet potato hash was at True Food Kitchen, and ever since then I have been trying to perfect a sweet potato hash recipe of my own.

Sweet potato hash is one of my favorite side dishes to have on hand because it’s an awesome compliment to almost anything. In the past I have used it as a topping on nachos for dinner, as a side dish with tofu scramble for breakfast, as an ingredient in a buddha bowl, as a filling for a pita, and of course as a main course in all it’s glory!

Along with sweet potatoes, heirloom carrots are also up there on my list of favorites. The two flavors compliment each other wonderfully. They also take on the flavors of seasonings perfectly which makes them an awesome addition to my sweet potato hash, bringing some new flavors, nutrients, and pretty colors to the table!

You’ll need:

  • 2 medium size sweet potatoes
  • 2 heirloom carrots
  • 6 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth (I use vegetable bouillon)
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • chili pepper
  • salt and pepper

To Prepare:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Thoroughly wash and finely chop the sweet potatoes, heirloom carrots, garlic, and onion and combine them with the olive oil and vegetable broth. Roast them for 20-25 minutes in a glass cooking container.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium to high heat and transfer the vegetable mixture into the skillet. Add in spices (chili pepper, salt and pepper to taste) and sauté 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes begin to get crispy
  4. Enjoy!

On a nutritional level, this dish packs a great punch as well. Sweet potatoes are an absolutely awesome source of healthy carbohydrates and dietary fiber as well as some key vitamins and heirloom carrots are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin A, and several B-vitamins. This is the perfect side dish to serve with any salad or as a carbohydrate and vegetable component of any macro bowl!

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Finished product, still in the skillet. Feel free to add in any additional spices and cook it to the crispness of your liking.

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Sweet Potato and Heirloom Carrot Hash as a component of a macro nutrient bowl! One of the endless ways you can use this recipe

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do, and I would love to hear about any modifications or new uses for it! Stay sweeeeeet as yams y’all & don’t forget to keep it compassionate and keep it whole!

My First Blog Post!

Hi! My name is Sophie, welcome to my page! I am currently living in South Carolina and am getting ready to move back home to San Francisco where I will work full time as an Office Coordinator as I continue my college education. I created this page because I have always had a passion for writing and expressing my creative side and I think that an archive of my cooking, exploring, and creative endeavors could blossom into a great resource for anyone who knows me as well as a meaningful testament to my creativity and all the different things I am passionate about. I hope visitors to this page are able to take something away, even if it’s just a chuckle at my undying love for terrible puns!