Author: lucy

Exploring the Mourning Caverns

Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Calaveras, CA, the Mourning Caverns is a historical site that lead many people to it . My idea of a cave which was very much structured by fictional movies and cartoons was a horizontal hole in the ground with plenty of footing to walk on and a huge hole on one side where you could walk in – this was quickly dispelled when I visited this cave.

Narrow vertical staircase at the entrance of the cave

The Mourning Caverns turned out to be a vertical cave with a horizontal drop so deep that the entire statue of liberty could fit in it! And imagine stumbling upon a cave like this before the 1800’s – the terror of walking into a dark hole and not knowing where you are stepping led a few innocents plummeting to their deaths… and that’s what makes the Mourning Caverns an important archaeological site as well.

The 2nd flight of stairs

Getting to the part about why it’s called the “Mourning” caverns – people reported hearing these distinct moaning sounds emanating from the cavern well before the 1800’s. These haunting noises kept many away in fear of what lived in the dark below.

Damp walls with formations of limestone, calcite

However, after WW1 when the spiral staircase was constructed, the moaning sounds got very faint as the metal from the staircase absorbed most of the sound. They then drew the moaning mystery to a close. It turned out that due to it’s original shape and constitution, the dripping glacial water echoed against the large cave causing the moans.

A funny looking bulbous cave formation

 

As archaeology advanced, the skeletal remains were dated to be over 12,000 years old and it was concluded that the cavern might have even been used as a burial ground by Native Americans!

More frilly cave formations

The cave is humid and is around 60 degrees throughout the year. Being a Solutional cave, the Mourning Caverns offers a lot of interesting formations to see some of which I captured in the images below. One of them is a gorgeous calcite precipitation pool with a lovely hint of turquoise green.

Water in the cave accumulated in a small calcite pool
This particular calcite formation is so thin and fragile that it absolutely looks like cloth
This one is known as an igloo. Don’t let your eyes fool you. It’s over 25 feet tall!

For the most daring of visitors there is also the option of rappelling down and while you are there you can also take a really cool zip line nearby. All in all, the unique experience of walking down a 165 feet long metal staircase made from a sunken WW1 ship is the most exciting!

Flimsy looking yet strong metal rails. Try not to look down!

The echoes from the clanking metal combined with the fact that you are over 165 feet up high can leave an unsettled taste in your mouth at-least for the first few minutes if you are afraid of heights. You can feel the vibration as people above and below you step through the staircase.

And finally, the famous spiral staircase that was built out of metal from a WW1 ship!

A tranquil escape to Lake Tahoe

I was fortunate enough to make my way to Lake Tahoe last weekend. It was such a spontaneous trip that we didn’t even reserve any lodging until later in the afternoon on the day that we arrived 😀 ! Being my first trip to Tahoe, I wasn’t even sure what to expect. All I knew was that pretty much everyone I had talked to who had been there had something amazing to say about how beautiful Tahoe was.

The drive to Tahoe was a little puzzling at first with snowy mountains on one side and dry parched hills on the other. I think this was mainly because of the time of the year when half of the place is defrosting. Soon the view shifts to clear open roads with nothing buy snow covered alpine meadows in view. You’ll find yourself glued to the windows looking at the trees and the sky and the white snow and just trying to peak ahead of every turn in anticipation of what’s next. If there is one thing I learnt during this part of the trip it was that it’s really hard to take pictures from a moving vehicle. Luckily, there were a lot of stop friendly places along the way with stunning views of the lake.

It felt so surreal and I found solace basking in the same view that inspired some of the greatest minds to come up with fine poetic works. Among many other poets and writers, Mark Twain described the beauty of Tahoe in one of his travel autobiographies Roughing it. And I used to think most of it was exaggerated poetry and such but Tahoe is one of those places that in no time will have you sitting on a rock pondering the meaning of life lost in the beauty of what is in front of you!

“Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite like an alligator.” – Mark Twain

“To obtain the air that angels breathe, you must go to Tahoe” – Mark Twain.

Further north we stopped at Sand Harbor which quite frankly was the highlight of my trip! There are a lot of water activities here. I saw people in canoes as well as a group of snorkelers.

I knew that there was going to be snow but there was a LOT more than just snow here – with clear turquoise water, sunshine and melting snow all at once – Tahoe really is a magical dream come true in Spring!

Sand Harbor  looked more like a beach with snow except that it was surrounded by these angelic alpine mountains all around! This portion of the lake was so clear it looked like glass. You could see right through the water. This was all so much more than I expected to see at Tahoe.


On our way back we decided to stop near Eagle falls. This is a MUST SEE stop and offers a stunning view of Emerald bay and Fannette island. By this time of the day, things were getting a lot darker.

I did my best with the camera but this picture doesn’t do much justice to the tranquil scenery.

Just behind me, the other side of this view had a small waterfall – I’m sure it wasn’t actually the “Eagle Falls” but was a small creek formed from all of the snow melt.

In all, Lake Tahoe is a magical dream come true in March. It really is nothing short of paradise  – just perfectly paired shades of turquoise, cyan and green paired by nature. It’s a huge place with a whole lot more to do than just sight seeing. I only had about a day and a half to look around but I hope to make my way back here again to see more. My recommendation – Don’t miss out on Tahoe in the spring. I will vouch for this time of the year over any other time!

The novice hikers guide to surviving Mission Peak

With a 7 mile trail and no shade in site, a hike to the top of Mission Peak is best taken in the winter sometime around February – May when it isn’t too rainy for muddy boots and isn’t too hot to get a heat stroke. The trail is usually open to the public from 6:30 am to 8:00 pm. Compared to Big Sur and the 17 mile drive trails, this one is a little less scenic but worth it for the challenge. Most north Californians know about this moderately tough trail and have been on an adventure or two here to enjoy the view of the silicon valley from the peak. Mission Peak is one of the high hiking trails in the city of Fremont, California.

Some things never to forget are:

  1. Water

    You’ll see plenty of warnings on the trail to turn back and get water if you don’t have any and as with any hike you will definitely need at least 2 litres depending on your pace. Also make sure to use the bathroom before you enter the trail as you will not find loos in abundance on the trail. If you are getting your pet along, make sure to get them some extra water for them too!

  2. Snacks

    Pack light with granola bars, dried fruit, nuts and small sandwiches especially if you are going with a family or kids (Yes, I have seen kids completing this hike and if they can do it, you can do it too 😀 ).

  3. Sunscreen

    Mission peak is a combination of valleys and hills with a few choices along the way about which path you want to walk. Since there is absolutely no shade anywhere, sunblock is a must if you are taking this trail during the day. It takes anywhere from 2.5 to 5 hours to get back down depending on your pace and with no shade be certain that you will thoroughly be bronzed and burned by the time you are back.

  4. Jacket

    It can get extremely windy during the winter months especially at the peak. Come prepared with layered clothing that you can easily modify depending on how you find the weather.

  5. Running shoes

    You will be doing a lot of walking/running on this trail if you intend on reaching the top and no pair of flats will save you from the steep slopes and rocky terrain on the last 500 feet so it goes without saying that you will need a good pair of shoes to make this journey comfortable.

  6. A Camera

    Finally, about the selfies – on most days you will find people queued up by the 20’s to get a picture at the top. And why not? If you made your way to the top, give yourself a pat on the back and whip out that selfie stick. Whether it be your phone or a fancy DSLR, no hike to mission peak is complete without a selfie at the famous pole.


     

    Additionally, you can take pictures of green hills, views of the valleys and cows grazing, sometimes even a para-glider!

Detoxing with Wheat-grass

Wheat-grass is one of the most powerful super-foods on the planet with benefits ranging from getting rid of acne scars to neutralizing toxins from your body. Lets leave the magical cancer curing, weight dropping and other such hype surrounding wheat-grass consumption at the door. I chose Wheat-grass mainly for it’s anti-oxidant properties and it’s rich nutritional content (Nutritional Value Information Link here). And as with anything else – consistency is very important if you want to see results. I drink wheat-grass juice up to 3 times a week in the mornings and on the other 4 days as a post workout fruit smoothie add-in.

Wheat-grass can be consumed in quite a few ways – nowadays it’s available in both tablet and powder form. You can also buy the fresh pressed juice at most grocery stores. I prefer juicing it myself to avoid the “yummy” added preservatives in either of those forms. There are also claims that wheat-grass juice begins to lose nutritional value about 20 minutes after it is juiced so I grow my own stash at home to keep things fresh.

Homegrown healthy wheat-grass also claims to have the highest chlorophyll and vitamin C content than any other form. Based on the numerous articles I read before I tried Wheat-grass shots, I found that it’s best consumed on an empty stomach so I prefer taking it early morning. Preparing wheat-grass juice at home from is quite easy but I have to warn you that it’s not as delicious by itself. I mix it with some lemon juice and honey  to dilute the strong taste.

Preparation

  1. Blend equal parts of wheat-grass and water in a mixer – I use 1 oz of each. The juice will get separated from the fiber and can easily be strained out.
  2. Strain the juice from the pulp using a cheesecloth or a strainer.
  3. Squeeze in lemon juice (.5 oz) and stir in some honey or agave syrup to your taste and drink up asap! You can even blend in some apples, oranges, pears, kiwis and avocados with this shot for a more filling smoothie specially if you don’t plan on eating anything else for breakfast.

If you have any interesting information on wheat-grass or insights from your experience, feel free to share them in the comments section below 🙂

French Skincare With Caudalie

“Nature gave you the face you have at 20. It is up to you to merit the face you have at 50”- Coco Chanel.

When it comes to skincare, the earlier you start the better. After all, your skin is going to stay with you for a long time. Though healthy eating, exercise, stress relief and sun protection do play their own roles in maintaining the youthfulness and beauty of your face so does a good skincare routine. It takes time and a lot of failed attempts to find what works best for you but in the end it will all be worth it. I had a hard time keeping breakouts at bay during my teen years. I tried almost every acne related product in the market without paying attention to the harsh irritants that were present in them – none of which showed any results. By this point my skin was in need of pretty intense repair. That’s when I decided to go for gentler more eco friendly skincare and I began to see drastic improvements with natural ingredients.

When I was on a shopping spree in San Francisco, the friendly ladies at Sephora pointed me to this french skincare line called Caudalie. What got me interested is that all of their products are based on one powerful plant – the grape vine- which is known for it’s powerful anti-aging properties (No wonder french women look so youthful – it must be all the wine they drink 😉 ). So I went ahead and splurged a little to see what this brand was all about. Fortunately, it worked for me! They have everything from cleansing, toning and moisturizing products to detox face masks, nourishing creams, lip balms and anti-aging elixirs. Not only do they contain natural ingredients that benefit your skin but they also don’t contain any parabens, mineral oils, phthalates sodium laureth sulfate and other such harsh chemicals. They are also animal testing free and eco-friendly 🙂

3 basic skincare steps – Cleanse, Tone & Moisturize

The Caudalie Gentle Cleansing Milk is a great start to taking the day off with the Instant Foaming Cleanser and the Moisturizing Toner  being great follows. The cleansing milk is very moisturizing and melts on your skin taking off most light makeup and the cleanser + toner combination gets rid of any remaining traces.

On most mornings you can get away with cleansing, toning and misting the Caudalie Beauty Elixr. It’s a refreshing burst of freshness formulated with essential oils and extracts of rosemary, mint, grapes and rose. Not only can you use this elixr on bare skin but you can also use it as a makeup setting spray to combat oily skin!

Their Vinoperfect Radiance Serum contains viniferine – an ingredient from vinesap. This is one of my favorite of all. I found that this worked wonders with healing my acne scars and getting rid of sun damage to get back to my clear(ish) skin.

The Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet is a great moisturizer to layer on as the next step. It is packed with grape seed polyphenols that help combat free radical damage throughout the day.

Anti-Wrinkle Eye & Lip Cream – With a tag line of “Don’t let fine lines turn into wrinkles”, this one was hard to resist. It claims to block 100% of free radicals while boosting collagen production with Vitamin C. I found it to be quite moisturizing as a lip and eye balm.

Day Serums and Detox masks

The Vitamin C Defense Serum like most of the other Caudalie serums, it is moisturizing but what makes it stand out is the high concentration of their Vitamin C ester. It claims to defend against UV rays, pollution and smoking damage. This most definitely is the showstopper of this set. Barely 10 days into using this serum, I noticed that it gave my skin a very youthful glow.

I got the Caudalie Detox mask in a set with the vitamin C serum. It’s enriched with coffee, grape, pink clay and papaya extract. A little bit most definitely goes a long way. It’s a refreshing mask and does a nice job at making your skin feel fresh and soft.

If you tried and loved any products by Caudalie or other similar brands, leave a comment below with suggestions! 🙂

The 17-Mile Drive

I love the California coast. It’s buzzing with all kinds of scenery and of all the iconic west coast road trips, the 17 Mile Drive is one of the most  scenic in Pebble Beach, California. It’s one of those few places that stays picturesque all year long. You can expect to see turquoise beaches, rugged cliffs, groves of cypress trees, wildlife and some impressive mansions along the 21 stop route. From when you enter the gated community to when you leave, all you need to do is drive along the dotted red lines to hit all 22 of the stops. Here are some of my favorites.

Huckleberry Hill

The Huckleberry Trees of the Del Monte Forest

This area has a lot of trees and is one of the highest points along the route giving you quite a view of the North Pacific ocean.

The view of the pacific ocean from Huckleberry Hill

Asilomar State Beach

An accidental de-tour led us to this rocky beach along the open ocean with some interesting terrain.

Ice Plant Meadows along Asilomar State Beach

The Lone Cypress

Among the last few stops is this 200+ year old Cypress tree – having to face high speed winds on a daily basis it is stunted in height compared to the other cypress trees but somehow manages to survive out there on its own.

The Ghost Tree

The REAL Ghost Tree stop didn’t really seem as interesting compared to this magnificent view of the sunset opposite it. There are remnants of really old cypress trees bleached by high speed winds that cast shadows on the view of the open ocean.

 

Adventures at Dusk, Santa Cruz

After a week long of rain, the sun was finally shining and so a couple of friends and I set off to explore Santa Cruz. This was attempt 1 at crossing through highway 1. We stopped by for a quick lunch – not far from the Natural Bridges State Beach at a place called the West End Tap and Kitchen.

I loved the ambiance of this place! It’s sort of a cross between a diner and a sports bar with some family vibes thrown in.

The food is really good for just how busy it is here. Their burgers are quite generous and juicy and come with a tray of endless fries.

Their cheese plates offer a selection of 3 cheeses with some sea salt crostini and seasonal pairings. This is something no cheese lover like myself can resist.

And as a palette cleanser, this lovely bottle of ginger beer was spectacular!

We drove down to the Beach  after lunch where there is this really cool natural bridge across the beach forming two arches. At one point both the sections were connected but the earth is always changing!

A few minutes down the road we stopped by this amazing cliffy coastline illuminated by the dim sunset. I’m still getting a hang of using my camera with low lighting. These pics don’t do enough justice to the majestic west coastline of Santa Cruz. It takes a little bit of careful stepping to get to the edge but the view is definitely worth it.

At Dusk the sun sets across the ocean forming a beautiful orange gradient above the deep blue sea. With lovely vantage points high on the cliffs, this makes for a sunset you’ll never forget.

Play! By Sephora Feb’17 – The Soft Side

This months Sephora PlayBox is all about making a radiant understatement with muted mellow shades and skin perfecting formulas. With a pop of lip color, some mascara and skincare, this box focuses on subtle makeup and achieving naturally perfect skin.

Too Faced – Lip Injection

Warning – This Too Faced Lip Injection does not give you that slight tingly minty sensation that a Buxom gloss would. You start off with not feeling much but after about 20 seconds or so it begins to tingle and then slightly goes from that to a soft burn like you applied sriracha all over your lips. While it might work as a better alternative to getting lip injections for those cosmetically obsessed with having bigger lips, it’s not something I would use on a daily basis – although it is really hydrating!

 

Tarte- Rainforest Of the Sea Quench Lip Rescue

My box looked a little different from most of the boxes I was seeing around on Instagram- instead of the NARS lip glide that I was looking forward to, I ended up getting this Tarte lip balm that I never heard of before that quite pleasantly surprised me. This Tarte lip balm has the prettiest packaging ever! It smells and feels slightly minty and glides on really smooth. Packed with antioxidants and vitamins, jaboba, pepermint and coconut oil – it is really hydrating.

 

Sephora Collection – Lash Craft

Lash Craft is an amazing mascara for the price tag it carries! It works better than most mascaras I have tried and is easily removable at the end of the day.

 

Clinique Pep-Start Hydration

This Clinique moisturizer – it mattifies your skin for an overall uniform blurred down look and does give you all day hydration. It works great as a primer but I don’t think I would add it to my night time routine. As per the Play Box pamphlet, you can even apply this above your makeup for shine control and hydration.

 

Origins GinZing Refreshing eye cream

Infused with coffee beans, ginseng and magnolia extract this under eye cream claims to de-puff and brighten the under eye area. It also claims to reduce dark eye circles. I have not used it enough to see many of the long term benefits but it is hydrating enough to instantly give your skin a boost.

 

Prada – Candy

This one was not my favorite but my mom loved it so I gave it to her. It’s another one of those musky more mature scents that older women would love.

Play! by Sephora March’17 – The Gleam Team

The theme for the month is ‘”The Gleam Team” which is all about attaining a glowing complexion with minimal effort. True to the theme – and something I got very excited about is that everything in this play box can be used as a highlighter except for the hair texturing spray – I honestly think I have enough highlighter to last all year at this point! That can be a good thing since it seems like this highlighter/ glowing skin trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon 😉

Benefit Cosmetics – Watt’s up

Besides the gorgeous packaging and cute puns one thing I love about Benefit Cosmetics is their Watts Up highlighter! Even though this stick looks super tiny, it lasts forever and a little bit goes a long way! I’m still not even half way through my 2013 stick that was in the birthday gift but I’m glad I got a replacement for when it runs out! Since it dries off in a matte finish, it’s perfect for combination skin and the champagne hue means that it goes great with any skin tone especially olive/ tan skin.

Josie Maran Surreal Skin Argan Finishing Balm

The first product that caught my eye when I was un-boxing was the gorgeous packaging that this mini came in! It can be used both as a primer as well as a finishing balm – which means that it claims to go well over makeup. With anti-aging properties and tiny speckles of shimmer in it not only does it feel soft and nourishing but it also gives you an instant glow that blurs away imperfections.This bohemian organic beauty blam is a great moisturizer for everyday use and it has a slight almost holographic pink hue which is excellent for brightening your completion. I would not recommend patting this on over combination skin because it can make your situation look a little shinier but I prefer using this by itself because that works best with my skin type.

Bobbi Brown Long Wear Cream Shadow

This product came in the shade Golden Pink. I was quite pleasantly surprised by how well it worked. Usually Cream shadows tend to be on the messier smudgier side especially if they are highly pigmented like this one but as long as you gently dab it on (without excessive blending) it will last you quite a while. It’s an excellent choice to brighten up any smoky eye especially since it has a creamy consistency and won’t have any fallout. Again, the champagne pink color is highly pigmented and goes great with any skin tone.

 

Another great illuminating moisturizer just like the Josie Maran finishing balm! Except that this one is a lot more on the matte finish side. You can expect this to sit well under a full face of makeup without causing any major shine issues. Like the Josie Maran finishing balm it also adds a shimmery glow but is a lot more on the pink side which again really helps with brightening up a dull complexion. One thing you will notice right from the start is the smell – a mix of orange candy meets tequila sunrise sort of artificial citrus. I tried this for 4 days straight to the gym last week and I didn’t get a single breakout. It gives you a great finish without overdoing the shine.

Living Proof Full Dry Volume Blast

This last product by Living Proof is a finishing spray! I’m not really sure about how it’s different from regular hairspray – I don’t think it’s that different at all. It smelled really strong and did a good job with boosting volume. It works best for limp straightened hair if you flip your hair over before spraying some of this. With curls – I don’t think it has as strong of a hold on curled hair.

I loved this months selection! Not only did I get to stock up on my Watts Up but I also got to pamper myself and play around with an array of nourishing moisturizers! What’s in your box?

Play! By Sephora September 2016 Subscription Box

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I’m super excited to use my version of the moisturizer for this months box themed “The Unbasic Basics”. Though the subscription only costed $10, the value of products added up to $37.64. Let’s dive into the breakdown:

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1. Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel ($ 6.68  Value)

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Brow Gel is so ideal if you have full brows that need some taming but not much added pigmentation – one of those products I would never think of picking up off the shelf but thanks to this subscription I got to try it out.

2. SEPHORA COLLECTION Rouge Shine Lipstick ($ 3.36 Value)

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What I like about this lipstick is that it’s moisturizing and the shade flatters most skin tones but it tends to settle in the creases if you try and layer it. It is best used as a sheer lipstick.

3. Kat Von D Tattoo Liner ($ 7.00 Value)

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This eyeliner is perfect! – everything from the felt -tip applicator to the formula to the packaging is worth it.

4. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day® Night Cap Overnight Perfector ($ 7.00 Value)

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What’s so un-basic about this hair mask is that it leaves your hair hydrated for almost 5 days after use. It’s one of those products that would go well with your routine if you have really long hair and trouble getting natural oils from your roots to the ends.

5. Dr. Jart+ Water Drop Hydrating Moisturizer ($ 10.9 Value)

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Light weight, easily absorbed – great for oily/ combination skin especially if you prefer long wearing foundations. This one behaves well under foundation.

6. Tory Burch Tory Burch Jolie Fleur Verte ($ 2.7 Value)

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Another floral scented fragrance sample. This one smelled pretty strong though.