Santa Monica's Drive-by Facials are No-Frills Perfection

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Fast facials are quickly replacing luxury day spa visits for the millennial set. We're more interested in results over pampering, as evidenced by the proliferation of drop-in and slightly more affordable facial retailers cropping up across New York and Los Angeles. 

The other week I discovered that Santa Monica's Montana Avenue is one of the ultimate incubators for testing and growing these drive-by pore cleansing purveyors. I checked a few of them out to see just what can be done in the span of a mini appointment. Here is the scoop on some of the buzziest fast facials in LA's most wellness-obsessed beachside community. You better believe these quickie facial chainlets are coming for your town next, if they're not already there! 

If you have 10 minutes:

Dermalogica is Santa Monica’s original quickie facial purveyor, offering a range of aptly named Express treatments that take 10 minutes. A technician asks what skin concerns or requests there are, offers an option of around six facial themes ranging from hydration to peel, and then dives into a super quick treatment targeting specific issues. All Express treatments are $15, which can then be applied to products if any are purchased.

If you have 12 minutes:

Bulletproof Labs on Main Street offers seemingly every machine-based biohack available, including a cryotherapy facial device. Cryotherapy is said to aid in cell rejuvenation, improve skin tone, reduce signs of wrinkles and promote skin tightening. Bulletproof performs its cryo treatment across the face and neck, which in addition to the above reported benefits, can also reduces puffiness and inflammation to help reduce eczema and acne. Treatments are $50, and package pricing is available.

If you have 15 minutes:

Laser facial empire Skin Laundry’s very first laser facial location is located in Santa Monica, and still acts as an incubator for new treatments including a new ‘mini Fraxel’ that is only offered at the Montana Avenue location. This and every other location offers a signature dual laser treatment, administered by registered nurses in private rooms. The first part of the lightning speed treatment is a YAG laser said to deep clean the skin, followed by one pass of IPL on a low setting, said to stimulate collagen production. There is zero downtime and Skin Laundry has most faces out within under fifteen minutes. Treatments start at $65 per appointment.

If you have 45 minutes:

Since opening in 2013, Facehaus has treated over 50,000 faces at three drop-in facial studios across Los Angeles. Having just opened a location on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica this June, the new kid on the block might be the tipping point that makes Santa Monica's Montana Avenue officially Facial Row. Facehaus offers 30-60 minute treatments bookable by the type of results preferred and performed in an open, sterile-chic and spa-like space. A signature Facehaus treatment costs $65 for 45-minutes of straight to business facial work. Boosts like extractions and oxygen can be added for a $10 fee.

The Best Vegan Brunch in Beverly Hills This Summer

Vegan Lunch in Beverly Hills

Vegans staying at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills no longer have to skip their luxurious hotel digs to find one of the city’s best plant-based meals. While always on the forefront of plant-based options, the property has just launched its most ambitious vegan food and beverage endeavor: an entirely vegan summer menu with renowned vegan chef Matthew Kenney. Called Folia, meaning “from the leaves”, the new vegan and often raw menu is comprised of 10 appetizers, entrees and desserts designed by Kenney. The Folia menu is offered at Four Seasons’ Cabana restaurant starting July 25 and lasting through September 7, 2018.

Folia appetizers include watermelon poke, hearts of palm ceviche and beet hummus; entrees include green herb tacos and a kelp noodle cacio e pepe; and dessert includes a coconut cream pie. Prices start at 12 USD per item.

The partnership with Matthew Kenney is the latest in the property’s partnering with local wellness experts. Just this spring, the hotel launched a juice bar partnership with Kimberly Snyder of The Beauty diet.

Of these partnerships, general manager Michael Newcombe says, “Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is excited to partner with Chef Matthew Kenney on the new plant-based menu Folia, as well as celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder on a new juice bar, to further enhance our wellness offerings throughout the hotel. Our new wellness rooms and suites have proven to be very successful, and we are confident that our new food and beverage options will be well received.”

What to Pack for a Yoga Festival

What To Pack For A Yoga Festival

Combing the internet looking for the perfect yoga festival or retreat is the easy part. Harder is figuring out how to pack for early morning hikes, post-breakfast Vinyasa flows and 3pm pool parties. Depending on your location, the amount of layers required might change, but the general formula for packing remains the same. This year I drove up to Wanderlust Squaw Valley with co-pilot and Stretch*d Founder Vanessa Chu, who as a former yoga teacher and current time-strapped founder of a New York stretch studio knows how to pack a perfectly edited yoga carry-on. Together, Chu and myself, a veteran of Wanderlust Tahoe and yoga festival fangirl, put our heads together to come up with the ultimate yoga festival packing list.

Best Mineral Sunblock

Sunblock
Before you pack anything else, make sure you’ve stuffed a mineral sunscreen into every bag headed to the festival: luggage, backpack, purse. The more the merrier, and in a variety of sizes. Natural sunscreens with high SPF like Coola are an easy pick with bonus points for smelling like the tropics. Chu says she likes Colorescience’s travel-sized Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-on Shield in SPF 50, that she says takes her from, “sweaty yogi to poolside presentable even on a minimalist yoga weekend.”

Best Hiking Boots for Yoga Festival

Hiking boots
Nike Frees are meant for the road or the treadmill - not a dusty, gravelly or muddy mountain. And if you’re used to sitting behind a desk all day, having ankle protection to stabilize joints can mean the difference between having a full weekend of outdoor adventure and having to watch from the sidelines. For a well made, comfortable option that won’t break the bank, Hi-Tec’s Altitude VI boots are an easy go-to. Chu also recommends, “Bombas socks because they are super comfortable and supportive and they don’t slide down, which matters when you’re trekking up a mountain.”

Best Swimsuit for Yoga Festival

Bathing suits
Keep your bathing suit (and a towel) in your backpack at all times - you don’t know when your group of yogis is going to want to ditch afternoon Vinyasa for a dip in the pool (especially if you’re going somewhere warm). Guarantee you’re prepared for any water sports or poolside margaritas that might arise by packing one chic, poolside appropriate suit like the flattering one pieces at Andie plus a stand up paddle-friendly one that is built for movement like the new Malia Manuel collaboration collection at lululemon.

Best Refreshing Facial Spray

Luxe facial spray
You will be hot and covered in a thin layer of dirt mixed with sunscreen and sweat for the duration of your time outdoors. Do yourself a favor by taking a moment every few hours to spritz your face and exposed limbs with a cooling and luxurious-smelling facial spray. For something summery and natural, Kat Rudu Dewy Botanical Flower Mist has a chamomile rose cantaloupe scent and is made with witch hazel to chase away bacteria from all of that dirt.

Best Linen Top for Summer

Apres-yoga gear
Yes, it’s a yoga festival, but you’re going to want to take a break from spandex by the end of the day. Mix it up with wellness-vibing separates like gorgeous and flowy linen tops and pants or dresses by a sustainable brand like Rough Linen. Or for lounging in your cabin, gear from Spiritual Gangster is one of the comfiest yogic options.

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Apres-yoga shoes
Post-shower, when you toss on your linen separates for evenings of healthy, family-style meals and kombucha or cocktails, having a pair of easy-to-toss on and comfortable slides feels like such a luxury. San Francisco’s Birdies makes the perfect apres-yoga slipper-shoe in a multitude of jewel tones and textures, from citrine to blush.

BKR Bottle Water Balm

Water bottle
It is not possible to over-hydrate at a yoga festival. Many don’t even have bottled water as an option and instead have fill stations scattered around festival grounds. Having a full water bottle will ensure you’re feeling great all day. Bkr makes a variety of sizes, with cheeky details, so you won’t confuse your bottle with your neighbors or forget it after an extra zen meditation session. Even better than a standard bottle is Bkr’s new water bottle with their new water balm snapped onto the cap.

Best Affordable Sunglasses for Yoga Festival

Sunglasses
It’s likely you’ll be under the sun’s rays for a solid portion of your days, so sunglasses are key for protecting eyes and being able to soak in the scenery. But an active-outdoor trip is not the time to splurge on designer shades. Instead try fashion-forward but affordable options from sustainability minded brands like Sunski or Diff. Chu says that “even if you lose them, you know they’ll at least go to another yogi and you’re not out hundreds of dollars.”

Yoga Road Trip

Bottom line
Chu recommends that if you forget all else, remember to, “think survival mode-light. Pack strategically for what you need for the day: you’re going to go from class to poolside to grassy picnic to live music without going back to your home base.” And if you’re making any new purchases, to, “try to buy mission-driven, you are going to a yoga weekend after all!”

Join us this Saturday for a Mother's Day Pre-Game

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It's a sweaty, self-care Saturday for anyone (from moms to those who just want a good sweat and spa day before Sunday's family time) produced by us and hosted by our partners at Hotel Zetta in San Francisco. The morning will start with a Pilates Bootcamp taught by MNTSTUDIO founder (and boss mom) Elaine Hayes, followed by Burke Williams manicures and our favorite new rose by Domaine de Cala

For details and to grab your ticket, visit Eventbrite. Be sure to use promo code WAblog for $10 off of admission! 

The 9 Best Mother's Day Gifts for Health-Conscious Moms

Buying your mom a special something on mother’s day should be simple enough, especially since you’ve known the woman nine months longer than even your dad. So you should understand her and her gifting preferences pretty well. But no matter how many birthdays and mothers days go by, getting her something that will tick all the boxes of being something she wouldn’t buy herself, something she will actually use and not break the bank is not as easy as it might sound. So, the following is a list of health-inspired treats that she likely wouldn't buy for herself.

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For the mom who wouldn’t splurge on herself: A weekend away at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, or at least a spa treatment with resident wellness expert.

Why? There is nothing better than being pampered by the best in one of LA's most oasis-like five-star hotels. The visiting practitioners are leaders in their respective fields and are invited to the property from all over the world.  Regular experts in residence include the London-based Reiki master Shaylini and naturopathic doctor Dr. Nigma Talib.

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For the mom who is diving into healthy cooking: The just-released Wicked Healthy vegan cookbook by Chad Sarno, Derek Sarno and David Joachim.

Why? For moms who are working to ditch the meat or up their plant-based cooking without going full kale salad, this new tome is filled with stunning imagery and ideas for how to serve the gorgeous food on display.

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For the marathoner mom: New Speed Up sports bra by lululemon.

Why? Made of four-way stretch and sweat-wicking Luxtreme fabric, this new release from lululemon is a major gear treat with some of the highest support available. It works just as well for moms who clock miles before dawn to those who prefer a more casual morning walk.

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For the coiffed mom: A 10-free mani pedi at organic-luxe salons like tenoverten and Sundays.

Why? She may have her regular corner shop for a weekly manicure and pedicure, but tenoverten's spa-like digs and chic, chemical-free polishes should be an appreciated upgrade.

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For the mom who says she’s too busy for self-care: An at-home massage by Zeel or a local practitioner.

Why? A spa day is a lovely indulgence, but having the spa come to you is next level. Bonus points for including an at-home spa gift card in a spa care package with other goodies like a soothing candle and a creamy moisturizer.

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For the mom who digs a good soak: CBD bath bombs.

Why? Is there a mom out there who doesn’t deserve a solid hour tub soak with 35 grams of muscle-soothing CBD? 

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For the mom who needs some more shut-eye: A beautiful ceramic diffuser and essential oil kit from Canada’s Saje Natural Wellness.

Why? Because who couldn't use an extra dose of spa vibes in the bedroom? Also, Saje's signature Liquid Sunshine essential oil is a sure way to start the day on a sunny note.

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For the mom who’s still using Pond’s Cold Cream: The new 'it' face oil, squalene, like this cruelty-free version by Mirai Clinical.

Why? Squalene has been said to be one of the most easily absorbed face oils, and this sugarcane-based version out of Japan is the next big thing in skincare. 

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Gift: For the practical mom. Bombas socks.

Why? Even though they are all kinds of practical, this Mother's Day 8-pack is secretly luxe. Who buys eight pairs of premium athletic socks at a time, outside of Costco? The hoardes of Bombas fans who swear by the brand's Honeycomb Arch Support System and extra plush footbed, that's who.

Come Sweat With Us this Sunday in SF!

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This Sunday, March 25, we're kicking off our 2018 monthly rooftop fitness series at Viceroy's Hotel Zetta with a mindful bootcamp taught by our friends at Zenfit. In-store is a 45-minute bootcamp, followed by a meditation with aromatherapy featuring Aura Cacia essential oils. Afterwards, dig into healthy post-class treats from REBBL, Republic of Tea, Rise Bar and more. 

Nab your tickets here

LA’s Best Vegan Ice Cream, Better Than AC

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I popped by Brentwood Country Mart last week to grab a cup of dairy-free ice cream and accidentally spent around 45 minutes in the Goop shop smelling every bag of their very temptingly packaged new bath salts and then (prob on a slight bath salt high) seriously considered buying the entire apothecary merchandise thinking I could transform my tub and vanity games into GP’s. Which, thankfully, the staff ignored me out of doing. But back to the ice cream. I walked around the corner from Goop into Sweet Rose and ordered one scoop each of the vegan versions of dark chocolate and coconut, and left realizing I had just spent almost $10 on a one scoop of ice cream. Which made me think, ‘wow I could have just gotten an entire pint of Vegan Vixen or Van Leeuwen for that amount’. So in the spirit of totally overpaying for one of life’s great simple pleasures, here is a rundown of my favorite, overpriced-but-WORTH-it vegan ice creams in LA:

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Sweet Rose

A medium cup runs around $9, and the selection of non-dairy flavors like dark chocolate, bergamot basil and horchata coconut is small but mighty. There is normally a rotation of around four seasonal flavors, all of which taste like heaven. The place gets overrun with neighborhood kids and their carpool moms between 3-4pm, so plan accordingly. $4.50/scoop.

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Pressed Juicery

Honestly, this is more of a sugar splurge more than anything else. I mean, you’re walking into a juice shop with 10 flavors of green juice and ordering soft serve. Sure, no refined sugars are used in the process of making either the Freezes themselves (sweetened with dates) or the toppings like an amazing cacao drizzle that solidifies once it hits the frozen ice ‘cream’, but they taste pretty decadent. Flavors include a classic vanilla, chocolate, strawberry almond and matcha. $5.95 per 4 oz serving with toppings.

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Craig’s

I feel very strongly that one can never go wrong with a night at Craig’s. Unless you’re on a cleanse, I suppose. Martinis/vegan bolognese/hard-to-find wines/celeb sightings - it’s all right there. But most importantly, they serve a non-dairy ice cream made from a blend of coconut and almond milks brought in daily by a local vendor whose name they will not reveal. I think there are normally two or three flavors in rotation, but the signature peanut butter cup kills me with its richness and sweetness, so much so that I don’t even listen to the other flavors available on any given evening. $11 per massive bowl of ice cream

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Van Leeuwen

I really enjoy indulging in letting anyone/everyone who mentions Van Leeuwen know that I used to make almost nightly ice cream runs to the first Van Leeuwen truck on 75th Street and Broadway, 100 years ago. The thoughtfully designed but modest ice cream truck continues to service it’s OG artisanal best in flavors like vegan Sicilian pistachio, vegan honeycomb made without honey, salted caramel and chocolate chip cookie dough. And then when I moved to Williamsburg, so did the truck (nice of them), and then I eventually moved back to LA and thankful they already had four brick-and-mortar locations here ready to appease all of my Sunday treat cravings. $6 per scoop/$11 per pint.

For a full rundown of all of the vegan frozen desserts in LA, this awesome LAist post is pretty handy. And for a deep dive into Pressed Juicery’s Freeze, Passport to Friday had a wonderfully detailed post here.

 

SoulCycle's New HIIT Class is Murder, in the best way

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Right after our first set of intervals, as I gasped for air amid encouragement from instructor Laura Crago, I thought well, gym cycling classes are toast. After more than a year in a development by a team of master instructors, SoulCycle launched its new SoulActivate class on Tuesday, February 27. And it is a bitch (but in that I DID IT AND NOW I CAN DO ANYTHING kind of way).

Less about the sweaty playfulness and clubby choreography that put SoulCycle on the map, the hour-long, HIIT-style Activate class is the answer to critics who say Soul rides aren't scientifically optimal training for the cardiac system—a number of competing gyms and cycling studios have long focused on "smarter" programming that centers on increasing heart rate and strength training. Now, with an aggressive studio expansion and a following of veteran riders who could complete the traditional SoulCycle class in their sleep, the company is upping its game with the addition of this endurance-building class in studios throughout the Bay Area, New York, and Los Angeles.

The class begins as usual, with a warm-up song and a series of climbs and sprints with the brand's signature tap-back and push-up movements. At about minute 20, though, things took a more serious turn.

An extended weight-training session gave our legs a break but worked our arms using multiple, heavier weights than Soul's traditional rides. And then our instructor sprang it on us that we were in for some gnarly HIIT.

"This is how Olympic athletes train!" Crago shouted, pumping us up. "Pushing your heart rate as hard as you can, followed by real rest, is proven to make you a stronger rider, make you faster, make you better."

At what would have been halfway through a standard SoulCycle ride, we began a series of six intervals, turning up the resistance on our bikes until it felt like pedaling in quicksand. We spun as hard as we could for 20 seconds, then took a one-minute rest, our legs completely still, our chests heaving. After each run, Crago marked the number of sprints we'd completed on a whiteboard behind her; after the first, my legs felt thoroughly worked, my lungs like they were going to explode; after the sixth and final run, I felt like someone really should be handing me a medal.

After a brief reprieve sprinting on a lighter load, we rolled into a second set of intervals. I think I laughed as Crago announced what was coming—I'd barely finished that last set alive. (At this point in the class, a normal 45-minute ride would be over and I would be halfway down the street grabbing protein waffles at Project Juice.) But she wasn't joking, and we instead embarked on a series of eight sprints, 20 seconds each with just 10 seconds off. I honestly don't know how I made it through, but once we moved onto our final sprint song, I was high on my own oxygen and would do whatever she asked.

It's important to note that this class is definitely not for noobs: SoulCycle recommends riders take at least 10 standard classes before signing up for Activate. For experienced riders who already incorporate SoulCycle into a weekly fitness regime, the brand advises taking the new class about two times per week. For myself, I think once a week, as a way to really test and push my cardio system, is plenty ambitious.

Prices vary per market, more info at soul-cycle.com.

LA’s Vegan In-N-Out is in Chinatown (and it’s better than the real thing)

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It’s called Burgerlords. Across the street from a small framing shop that W+A art insider friends swear by, is Chinatown’s vegan-friendly burger joint Burgerlords. Orders get placed at an outdoor, fast-food styled walk-up window, behind which housemade vegan (and meat) burgers, and vegan animal-style fries called ‘lord of the fries’ are made. A handful of picnic-style tables sit in the middle of Chinatown’s Central Plaza for messily (and delightfully) stuffing thousand island-drenched fries, vegan burgers and cheeseburgers into your face. You can go nearly healthy with a traditional vegan burger on a lettuce wrap, or go full treat meal with a double vegan cheeseburger on a traditional bun with a full order of lord of the fries.

 @burgerlords

@burgerlords

It’s fun, worth-the-drive downtown detour for made-from-scratch burgers that are 100% our new favorite veggie burger in town. Fun fact: the whole Burgerlords concept stemmed from a Tumblr. Yup.

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Last Minute Valentine’s Day Gift Guide for your Healthy Boo

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You want to know how to mix it up this Valentine’s Day and you only have, like, 24 hours to get a gift that kills? No prob. Ditch the flowers (is it just me, or is it a bummer to receive a $100 arrangement and have to then cram it into the compost not even a week later) and embrace gifting outside of the Hallmark holiday box. The following are our favorite, sexed up gifts to give your boo TOMORROW.

Soooo get reading and prepare to hit ‘one day shipping’ on Amazon ASAP. Valentine’s Day gifting solved below.

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Sexy Cannabis treasures

For us, somehow no-booze January has rolled into barely drinking February. Which means Wine Wednesday has become cannabis treat Wednesday (hmmm not the same ring to it), and that we are now totally buzzed-treat experts. Spice up your Wednesday, Feb 14 with our February faves, Dosist Arouse or Passion pens and Sensuali-Tea.

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Last minute Vday Getaway

Grab your boo and hop in the car headed south/north/east/west for a night at a gorgeous resort for spa, sunsets with a horizon and all the room service. From Los Angeles, we’re thinking destinations like Terranea, El Encanto or my favorite wellness getaway in Northern California, 1440 Multiversity.

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Your new favorite spirit

Oh you’d rather stay in? How about gifting the UK’s beautiful, zero-proof spirit Seedlip and whipping up a couple of sultry, warming cocktails like any of these stunners put together by Food & Wine.

 @DedCool

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Scents are personal, sure, but when chosen well it can be one of the best-received gifts. And there’s not all that much at risk when shelling out sub-$100 for a cool kid fragrance from LA’s indie olfactory darling DedCool. Of the five varied scents, we’re suckers for the original number 01, but they're all beautiful.

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Luxe Fitness Tracker

We discovered the Nokia Steel HR when hunting for the best new trackers for 7x7, and cannot get enough. It's chic, tracks not just steps, but heart rate, sleep quality and one charge lasts nearly two weeks. Just in time for Vday, the brand has released a rose gold version.

 @foxandbond

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This bangin’ jewelry from Fox & Bond

So jewels might not be the first thing you think of when pondering gifts for your healthy SO, but they should be! We’re pretty sure gifting an F&B Ombre Ring from Fox & Bond will earn you some serious ‘thank you’ cardio!

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Wine all the time

Stocking your partner's wine fridge, wine cellar, or stash with a regular wine subscription is a sure-fire way to appear thoughtful when really it's  a gift for yourself as much as it is for them. Brands like Dry Farm Wines only work with natural wine producers, and some of the smaller subscriptions like Wine Trees seek out producers with minimal eco-impact.

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Powerdot

This new ‘muscle stim’ gadget is the ultimate recovery tool. It’s hot off of the presses, so your boo will be one of the first to delight in the twitchy, delightful benefits of pre-workout, post-workout or massage muscle stimulation.  

SF Babe Katey Yurko on Her Healthy Faves for 2018

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One of the things on our cleanse list this month is releasing things that don’t make us feel awesome and challenged and appreciated and like we’re living that high vibe life. The benefit of any purge? Creating room for more of the good stuff: practices and relationships that enrich and inspire. Which brings me to our guest contributor and founder of awesome, positive, real talkin’ women and wellness-focused site The Violet Fog, Katey Yurko. One of my favorite new friends and inspiring member of the W+A tribe.

Katey, take it away!

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I am STOKED to be a guest on Well + Away! Margaux has enlightened me about many new things in the wellness space so I am so happy to share MY personal favorites for the new year! Feel free to connect with me over my site or on Instagram- find me at @TheVioletFog. I LIVE to connect with other like minded women! Men, too, but we are a site full of girl talk. ;)

My Wellness Faves Taking Me into 2018

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1. GUA SHA TOOLS

Holy moly-- this practice is not only effective but it feels SO GOOD. With rose quartz tools (pictured above) you basically make upward motions on an oiled up face to increase circulation and ward off premature aging. In Ancient Chinese medicine, they believe that aging and bad skin comes from a lack of circulation. When circulation isn't in top form, collagen production can break down. Sagging happens. Breakouts happen. Gua Sha facials take TWO minutes and make such a difference. And not only is it good for skin health, it legit gives you a temporary FACELIFT in seconds. You'll love it. You can read my full article here or just skip to the video.

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2. VEGAN DELIVERY SERVICES

I will be honest. I'm a health nut who does NOT want to put in a lot of effort cooking. I'm just not super confident in the kitchen and although I know the basics- it's not enough to eat as healthy as I would like to. Using a vegan meal delivery service has saved me: 1, time. 2, money. and 3, a lot of health issues. Eating clean makes ALL the difference in how I feel and when I have healthy food already prepared for me, I am more likely to make healthy decisions. There are plenty of food options out there but my favorite is Thistle- an organization I’ve worked with throughout 2017. You can see my first article here on why I love them. If you are a health nut like me- food delivery services are an awesome resource. I promise.

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3. APRICOT OIL

I have always been a HUGE believer in oils. I truly think they are the fountain of youth and the best way to get nourishing ingredients into your skin. My favorite thing to do is a layer of oil and then a thin layer of moisturizer on top to really trap it in. Apricot oil is one of my favorites- it is SO HIGH in vitamin A (which our body needs but doesn't product naturally!) and is so gentle it works on every skin tone. It's anti-inflammatory and when you wake up in the morning after using it you just feel so soft and glow-y. It's incredible. I have gotten many friends hooked on it! You can see my full article here.

4. WELLNESS ESCAPE

I don't have set plans on where I am going to travel. I do have themes around the kind of travel I want to do though and those are: nature, wellness based, and unique culture. I am a very "play it by ear" kind of gal. This year, I would love to do a wellness retreat somewhere in Oregon. I am in love with that state. The people, the greenery. I could live there! I find that a lot of their beauty companies are more on the natural, earthy side- as opposed to more labby and high tech (which I also enjoy.) One shop I’m crazy about is Fettle Botanics in Portland. They have all these elixirs, oils, herbs, and spices. I have an immunity tincture from them that I use all the time. They’re huge on Eastern Medicine healing and in just one trip there you can learn a lot.

I also love Oregon-based Seagape Soaps. It's basically a trip to the Pacific Northwest coast in the shower. They make minimal makeup, balms, and of course- soaps. They are incredibly clean. My favorite product is their healing balm, which another Violet Fog writer recommended to me. It’s incredible! 

Come say hi anytime on www.VioletFog.com or at @thevioletfog on Instagram.

 

 

We Just Discovered Healthy Cruising and are Obsessed

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Outdoors-y Cruising is the New Glamping

A travel-savvy friend recently took a cruise on one of Viking’s new ocean ships from New York to Puerto Rico, raving about it enough to convince me to pen a Spas at Sea story for RobbReport based on her trip. It also inspired me to try to find a healthy, sea-bound holiday for myself. With the generous help of the Viking Ocean Cruise PR team, I booked a fourteen night sailing through the Norwegian fjords, from London to Bergen, to health and millennial-hack the AARP set’s favorite way to vacay.

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True to expectations, my fiance and I were the youngest couple on-board. Which translated into a surprisingly blissful setup: complete lack of iPhones at meals throughout every dining room, zero laptops in public spaces and no rude conference calls in random places getting in the way of my seafaring zen.

But what about the food? And surviving for 14 at sea with just my fiance and our 900 silver-haired new friends? And what did we do all day? Read on!

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Dining

Meals were leisurely and a nice way to meet some of the crew - many of whom were in our peer set. The kitchen teams consistently went above and beyond to accommodate my dietary restrictions at all restaurants onboard. While the standard buffet items at the Star’s World Cafe were upgraded versions of continental fare, the kitchen team customized all meals for us making it a bit like private dining - especially because we were one of the very few couples to hit the dining rooms 'late night' - after 8pm.

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Activities

My fiance and I easily found ways to age-down the scheduled activities in port stops or DIYd where they weren’t active enough for us, and filled our sea days with gym, reading and spa. A lack of city access while cruising the North Sea wiped out any of my normal weeknight FOMO at home, making it easy to turn in early for another day of exploring (the midnight sun, on the other hand, I never fully adjusted to…). Small fjord town ports were light on fjord-chic shops or temptingly scene-y happy hours, which made it even easier to get ourselves out into nature via hike, kayak or ATV to soak in the fjords from above, below, in and around. Unpacking once and waking up to new wonders of nature almost every morning  never grew old.  

But what did we do when we got off of the ship?

The Trip

Day 1 + 2: London! Highlights were East London Juice Co, Dishoom Shoreditch and White Cube

Day 3: Edinburgh - Highlights included turmeric lattes at Burr & Co, the most filling veggie lunch in town at Henderson’s Vegan and the National Gallery. Accidentally happened upon a whiskey flight at Scran and Scallie, which turned out to be the best part of the afternoon.

Day 4: Sea Day - After sleeping in and reading through Scottish author Jenni Fagan’s Panopticon, I hit the gym using audio workout app Aaptiv followed by the steam/sauna and snow grotto in the LivNordic Spa. The bartending team at the onboard World Cafe made me my first of many custom smoothies using my BYO Sun Warrior protein powder. A leisurely lunch, hot tub time with almost 360 degree sea views, an even more leisurely dinner and after-dinner scrabble matches topped off the first sea day.

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Day 5: Orkney - Not really knowing what the differences between the included tours and ‘optional’ (read: $$) ones were, we signed up for the included tour not realizing it was one long scenic drive. Fine for those who aren't super mobile, less so for those with endless ants in their pants. Three hours total in the back of a coach with limited legroom is not my idea of an adventure, no matter how knowledgeable or charming the tour guide (ours was both). We saw just one of the sites we wanted to see (Stones of Stenness, older than Stonehenge!) and should have rented a car to explore on our own. Lesson learned.

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Day 6 + 7: Two sea days, one was a surprise after a visit to the Shetland Islands was canceled due to a combination of wind and a slowing of one of the engines. While relatively rare, this is part of cruising. More time for steam/sauna/cold plunge!

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Day 8: Lofoten: I was unsure of which excursion to book, and a planned hike was sold out by the time I tried signing up, so I DIY-d a six-mile hike in Tromso. After fretting over a car rental and the cost of taxis in Norway (insane at the current conversion rate) a local guide pointed us in the direction of an amazing hike, 10 minutes from where we docked. It was free, beautiful, there was nobody else in sight and I met a family of adorable sheep.

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Day 9: North Cape: I opted to sign my fiance and me up for an ATV tour of the North Cape area, the northernmost point in Europe and the coldest place I've ever visited in summer.  The tour itself was a rainy and scenic ride through town and up the mountain to ridiculous viewpoints of the fjords below and moon-like terrain surrounding us, but some issues that happened with the ship at the dock cut our excursion time in half. Despite the hiccup, the visit itself was a blast and the only way I would want to do the North Cape.

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Day 10: Tromso: After hiking and ATV-ing, we felt ready to take on a Husky trek on the outskirts of Tromso. An orientation introduced us to the  working dogs, as well as puppies and teenage dogs who were going through a sort of finishing school for sled dogs, and prepared us for the logistics of strapping ourselves to these super strong animals trained to pull-pull-pull. The trek itself was the most adorable resistance training-meets-cardio I've experienced.

Day 11: Geiranger: I am not the best at maps, and probably should fine tune those skills before renting a kayak and trying to DIY my own fjord-by-kayak excursion of the Geirangerfjord and its De syv søstrene (Seven Sisters). The trip was magnificent and it was surreal to look up at massive waterfalls from the inside of a tiny kayak, but the 6 km ride that turned into 14km due to a faulty navigator made for some sore shoulders the next day.

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Day 12: Sea Day: Snow grotto all day! And a facial, with a side of Scrabble and tea. Spa and Scrabble day in the middle of the Arctic Circle is now my preferred way to unplug. 

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Day 13: The Troll Church hike instantly sold out to the tour group, so we hopped on another hike to a local waterfall which was lovely but could so easily have been DIY’d and saved tons of time with slow bus ride and a funny, too-long lunch stop at a roadside dining hall for tourists. Lesson? Research in advance what they most popular excursions are and book them as soon as they open up.

Day 14: Bergen: So happy we added a few extra nights here! Ate lunch and a couple of dinners at delightful and sweet Dwell vegan restaurant - which has amazing food and healthy drinks list. The museums are huge and beautiful and wonderfully organized - we devoted a whole day to exploring the buildings of the glorious Kunsthall. Another day was devoted to following Ingrid Williams’ NY Times 36 Hours In story that was hugely helpful and totally walkable. It’s also how we found the gorgeous apparel shop T-Michael, where T Michael himself helped book us a dinner table at Bare Vestland’s upstairs dining room, an eatery with some seriously glam ambience. Pre-dinner, we spent 30 minutes in the attached bar, it wasn’t nearly enough to soak it all in.

All in all, I'm a cruise convert. Viking's ocean cruises visit some ridiculous destinations, and I would argue that visiting them by ship is the only way to do it. I was Googling 'Viking Cruises 2018' as soon as we got to the airport in Bergen waiting for our plane home. I cannot recommend the whole experience enough, and can't wait to do it again.