San Diego Recap: Part 1

Beauty, Food, Life

If I had to sum up my trip to San Diego in one sentence, it would be: 3 full days/4 nights there is just not enough. Each day was pretty jam-packed, which meant we got a lot accomplished, but not nearly as much as we wanted to. I guess that means a return trip is in the (hopefully) nearish future.

I was in San Diego from Friday, July 26 through Tuesday, July 30. I only know what it’s like there in late July since that was the same time I went there on my last visit back in 2017, but it’s a really nice time of year. The weather was basically perfect and honestly, the crowds weren’t terrible. Sooooo, let’s get to the recap! I’m splitting this into two posts cuz otherwise it would be definitely maybe too lengthy.

Day 1: Friday, July 26

No rest for the wicked (erm, those going on road trips). I woke up early for a day off (around 6:45) so I’d be able to get everything done I needed to before hitting the road with my fam. Basically, dropping off my dog at Happy Pets Palace in Chandler (the boarding place I take her to every time I go out of town), going for a quick 3 mile run (my last as a 26-year-old!) and packing up last-minute items.

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Nothing but good vibes for the road trip ahead!

We were off by 10 am and ready to get to San Diego. It’s about a 6 hour drive, plus we planned to make two brief stops before leaving Arizona.

First stop: Dateland. It’s an actual place, even though the name sounds fake, and obviously they grow dates there. It’s a tiny town that’s mostly a convenience store/restaurant and gas station. I picked up a bag of Khadrawy dates because I have never tried anything but Medjools, which are good, but when in Rome Dateland. My dad got a date ice cream cone, which he said was good. It got me wanting to try making (vegan) date ice cream at home. The store also sold a bunch of touristy things, including flip-flops made with locally grown grass, which is super interesting.

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The date palms of Dateland. Fun fact: dates have to be harvested by hand!

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Spotted: this cute mug (which I didn’t buy).

Then it was onward to our second (and last stop before SD): Yuma. It’s right on the border of California, and it makes Phoenix feel like the Arctic, it’s that hot. I appreciated the dry heat, though, as PHX has been more humid as of late due to monsoon storms.

We got lunch in Yuma, at a place called the Dog Haus, which has locations in California, Colorado, Texas and also Scottsdale (also soon to be less than 10 minutes from where I live). They make all kinds of hot dogs and brats and sausages, which doesn’t sound appealing to a vegan, but they actually have decent vegetarian and vegan offerings, including the Impossible burger and Beyond sausages! I’m more of a vegan sausage vs. vegan burger fan, plus it’s hard for me to find the Beyond sausage in restaurants, so I opted for their Beyond Brat, which was basically like the classic German brat, topped with mustard, onions and sauerkraut (I love anything sour and pickled!), which I got wrapped in their lettuce “bun”. I was definitely impressed!

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The Beyond Brat was beyond my expectations!

After stopping for gas, we were back on the road en route to our destination. I took a ton of videos as we drove through California because the landscape of that part of the Golden State is super interesting to me. I’m used to the desert of Tucson and Phoenix, which is actually a lot more green than you’d expect and full of cacti. California has a LOT of sand dunes along I-8 and then suddenly, mountains appear that are super rocky and made up of huge boulders. It’s really cool.

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Next stop: San Diego!

We got to San Diego around 5, and honestly traffic on the freeways wasn’t terrible, considering it was rush hour. We got to the hotel we were staying at, which was near the airport, the harbor and the Little Italy neighborhood, and unfortunately, hit a snafu: our room wasn’t ready, even though we were checking in more than an hour after check-in time began. We were assured our room would be ready in about 45 minutes, so we killed some time by walking over to this deli/convenience store nearby, where my parents each got a glass of wine (not great wine, especially by California standards, but they just wanted to try it) and we sat across from the harbor and waited. And waited. And waited some more. We waited more than an hour before we went back inside, and guess what? The room still wasn’t ready! By this point, we were annoyed and hangry so we decided to go walk to dinner, and hope the room would be ready when we got back.

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We walked along the harbor, where I got a pic of this cute seagull!

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So nice to see the ocean again!

My mom picked Ballast Point for our first night in San Diego, so we walked about 20 minutes into the heart of Little Italy to get there. We quickly noticed that those electric scooters are a huge deal there, even more than in Arizona. Like, everyone was riding them and they were scattered up and down every street. It was nice to see people using them and walking (like us), instead of driving everywhere, though!

Ballast Point was packed, so we were lucky to snag a table after ordering our food at the counter. My parents got beers, naturally, while I opted for a glass of viognier wine, which was really refreshing. You gotta have wine when you’re in California! My mom and I both got tacos (she got fish, I got the adobo tempeh) while my dad got the heirloom tomato sandwich, and we all raved about our dishes. My tacos were some of the best vegan tacos I’ve ever had! I’m not always the biggest fan of tempeh (I usually prefer tofu) but these were so flavorful and actually spicy, which I appreciated. The good food took our minds off the hotel situation, at least for an hour or so.

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Gotta have wine in California, no?!

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I thought I wasn’t a huge tempeh fan but these tacos made me a convert!

Walking back to the hotel, we hit another snafu: we were stopped by probably the world’s longest train. Not kidding, we stood there for at least 5 minutes waiting for it to pass! At this point, my dad and I just had to laugh because so many things were going wrong, it was just funny. Fortunately, when we finally got back, the room was ready so we grabbed a cart and loaded all our stuff on to take up to our room. Then the elevators weren’t working, so it was even more frustrating/funny. We did eventually make it up to our room!

After getting settled in, we sat out on the balcony overlooking the harbor, drank more wine and talked for awhile, before we got yelled at by the security guy for apparently being too loud, even though no one else was outside. My parents were mad, because last time we were in San Diego, we kept getting yelled at by the lady living upstairs (we were in an Airbnb condo), who said we were too loud even when we were basically whispering, and we didn’t want the same thing to happen this time. So we reluctantly went back inside and got ready for bed.

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Night harbor views.

Day 2: Saturday, July 27 (aka Birthday)

Happy birthday to me 🥳 Sadly, I woke up with a slight headache (probably from the previous night’s wine), but after taking some ibuprofren, drinking water and sweating it out at the hotel gym for 30 minutes, I was ready to celebrate!

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The hotel had the smallest gym ever (and it was soooo hot) but it was next to the pool and had plenty of equipment, so it was all good!

First things first, the beach. We drove across the Coronado Bridge to head to one of the beaches on Coronado Island. Lemme just say that I fell in love with Coronado! It would be amazing to stay there next time, though hotels there are really expensive, but the beaches were beautiful and it was fun walking around town and exploring.

We parked a few blocks away and hauled all our gear down to the beach. The one we went to this day was actually right next to the dog beach, so we got to watch the doggies play in the water 😍 The beach never got too crowded either, even though it was a Saturday, so that was nice. We spent several hours soaking up the sun, braving the cold water and enjoying some beach snacks. My dad and I also tried boogie boarding for the first time, and it was a lot of fun, though I had to stop after awhile because I couldn’t stop shivering from the ocean water.

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Beach daze. 

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Soaking up the sunshine & salty air!

After loading our stuff back in the car, we drove down Orange Avenue, which is basically Coronado’s main street. We parked, and then walked a couple blocks until we stumbled across a wine bar. We were all hot from the beach, and walking in the humidity, so we needed some refreshing bevs, and the wine bar definitely delivered on that! My parents each got a glass of sangria, with fresh berries in the bottom of the glass, and I got the black bellini, which was made with red wine (hence the darker color) and fresh peach slices. Our drinks hit the spot, but I also had my eye on another kind of drink — my free birthday item from Starbucks!

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I love these kinds of murals!

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Refreshing bev #1.

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Refreshing bev #2. 

Last year, I missed out on the freebie because we were stuck in traffic most of the day en route to Sedona, and I didn’t realize you can only redeem it on your actual birthday, not the day before and day after as in years past. But this year, I was determined not to miss out, and luckily for me, there was a Starbucks just steps from the wine bar! I haven’t gone to Starbucks in months, so I was pleasantly surprised to see they’ve added a bunch of new iced tea flavors. I went with a venti (go big or go home) iced blueberry black tea, with no sweetener. It was perfect for a hot day!

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I took an Insta Stories poll, and everyone voted for the whale! But I thought the octopus was super cute too.

After stopping in a couple stores (my mom bought a cute octopus toy in one of the stores for my dog!), we headed back across the bridge to our hotel to relax and get ready for the evening. Because I’m extra, I had brought along a set of fake eyelashes that I bought about a year ago and was waiting for the right opportunity to wear. Obviously, my birthday was the best choice! They’re the “mermaid” lashes from Tarte, with streaks of magenta and teal and I love them (side note: I wear fake lashes basically every day, so I’m used to them, but this pair was special).

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Even the packaging was pretty!

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Lashes on, ready to celebrate! 🥳

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This is 27.

We headed out a little earlier than we needed to to drive to my birthday restaurant pick, Donna Jean. It was only about 10 minutes away from the hotel, so we showed up before our reservations, but they had no issue seating us, and we were able to park almost right in front of the restaurant, which I feel is unheard of in San Diego 😉, considering the parking situation at most of the other places we went to (hence why we walked a lot). We actually parked right in front of Evolution, an all-vegan fast food joint, and I made a mental note to go there next time!

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It felt like dining in a garden!

I had heard amazing things about Donna Jean, so I was excited to finally try it. We sat outside, on this really lush patio filled with all kinds of plants. It felt so chill and totally my vibe. I ordered a glass of Boochcraft kombucha, and I had no idea they were based in SD!

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Locally made booch >>>>

My family almost never gets appetizers/starters when going out to eat (unless it’s as an entree), but I really wanted to try the roasted cauliflower (since I’m cauli obsessed) so we ordered that to share. It was made with green cauliflower, zhoug, hemp yogurt and dukkah, so it was a bit spicy but really delicious. I almost opted for the hot shrooms (Nashville-style spicy mushrooms) but I think they would have been too salty for my dad, but I’ll have to get them next time since I’ve heard they’re really good.

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A big bowl of deliciousness! 😋

We each got a pizza — my mom got the Four Horsemen (with vegan gouda, mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and pesto), my dad got the Bread Fang (mozzarella, mushrooms, onions, spinach, dried olives which he gave to me and calabrian chiles) and I got the Black Widow on the gluten-free socca crust (black garlic, smoked dates, ricotta, red onion and calabrian chiles). I’d made socca before, but I’d never had it in a restaurant, so I was curious to see how it would work as a pizza crust. It was a little soggy, but tasted great with my pizza toppings, which kind of reminded me of a spicy BBQ pizza!

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I can see why Donna Jean was named Best Pizza in 2017 & 2018!

With it being my birthday, I had to order dessert. I decided I wanted to take it back to the hotel to enjoy later, so I got a slice of the New Mexico chile chocolate pie in a to-go box. We drove back to the hotel to drop it off, and then decided to go walk to a nearby tiki bar to grab drinks. Well, we didn’t realize just how popular it was, and there was an hour wait just to get inside, plus reading reviews sounded like you had to wait awhile once you got in to actually get a drink. Instead, we walked another few blocks to a bar/restaurant called Kettner Exchange, which was also packed (I mean, it was a Saturday night in downtown San Diego), but we were able to go up to the rooftop bar and order drinks, and then miraculously a couple seats opened up at a communal table that we snagged. My dad and I both ordered the same drink — the Spicy Gallagher, made with serrano-infused tequila, aperol, lemon and watermelon. Whenever I see a drink made with a spicy or smoky liquor and/or watermelon, I must try it, and this did not disappoint!

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I got some amazing sunset photos when we came back from dinner!

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No words 🤩

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Terrible lighting but at least the drink was good!

We walked back to the hotel, where my parents sang Happy Birthday and I opened a few presents (I had a few more than I had opened the day before the trip, and left at home) and had the pie, which was soooo good. Chocolate & spice go so well together! It was the perfect way to cap off my 27th birthday.

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Had to have cactus gift wrap!

Stay tuned for part 2 of my recap!

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Favorite Finds of the Month: April

Beauty, Food

This is the third in a series of posts highlighting my favorite product finds each month. 

Can you believe we’re already more than a third of the way through 2019? Christmas feels like it was forever ago at this point but I still can’t believe how fast this year is flying! I’m not complaining, though, as I have some great things to look forward to this summer (including my golden birthday). Summer is my fav season by far so I can’t wait!

But before we look ahead to the next few months, let’s rewind to April and check out some of the best products I discovered last month!

1) Coco Bakes Gluten Free Sourdough

Bread has been one of my biggest fear foods since my eating disorder but it’s also been one of the foods I enjoy the most. Go figure! I pretty much eat almost entirely gluten free when I’m at home, not because I’m celiac or have been diagnosed with an intolerance, but I just feel better when I avoid wheat (however, I’m down to enjoy gluten when I go out to eat, since I typically only eat out once a week, and sometimes I still seek out GF options if that appeals to me at the time) so it’s hard to find GF bread that’s also vegan and tastes good. I have found a couple brands (Little Northern Bakehouse and O’Dough’s bagels) that are available at Sprouts that are pretty decent, but I was craving real bread, ya know, not just sandwich slices or bagel thins.

Lots of bloggers/Instagrammers I follow raved about Coco Bakes, a small-batch bakery in LA that specializes in GF vegan sourdough. I had had a similar sourdough before (from Bread SRSLY, based in the Bay Area) and wanted to give another, slightly cheaper version a try so I bit the bullet and ordered a loaf.

Since it was coming from LA, it arrived in my mailbox just a few days after it was baked, which means it was nice and fresh when it was delivered. And I gotta say, this bread lives up to the hype! It is perfect for toast (it crisps up nicely in the toaster even after I sliced it and put it in the freezer) and it has a great, chewy texture and that slight sour flavor that I missed from legit bread.

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Honey wants in on the sourdough toast action!

Each loaf costs $20 (plus $7.99 for shipping), which seems expensive for bread, but for bread this good (that’s made in small batches, no less) it’s worth it. I’ve already ordered it twice and I plan to make it at least a monthly purchase.

Also, you should definitely follow Cocobakes on Instagram for serious toast inspo plus the founder of Coco Bakes (Coco Kislinger) is really hilarious and down to earth in her IG Stories!

2) Trader Joe’s Sweet Basil Foaming Hand Soap

I am typically a ride-or-die Bath & Body Works girl when it comes to hand soaps (though I make an exception around the holidays when I stock up on the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day peppermint soap). I haven’t shopped at B&BW for a few months as I’m saving my last Christmas gift card for their summer scents, so when I ran out of hand soap in my bathroom, I decided on a whim to try one of TJ’s soaps.

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Even the bottle is supah cute!

I’ve loved nearly everything I’ve ever bought from TJ’s, including this soap. It smells just like a fresh bunch of basil, and it foams up just as well as the soaps from Bath & Body Works (I prefer foaming hand soaps). Also, it’s cheaper at just $2.99 per bottle, and much more convenient to buy, since I’m at TJ’s almost every week.

3) Kaleidoscope Juice #LoveUp Sport

Hydrate but make it compassionate. That’s basically the gist of Kaleidoscope Juice’s #LoveUp Sport drink. I’ve already professed my love for Kaleidoscope here but within the last month they introduced a totally new kind of sports beverage. Move over, Gatorade, cuz #LoveUp Sport is way better for you (and for the community…more on that in a sec).

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Even dogs love it (JK, Honey doesn’t get to drink this)!

Whereas Gatorade and most sports drinks are made with sugar, sugar and more sugar (and fake colors/flavors), #LoveUp Sport is made with blue majik spirulina powder (giving it its pretty ocean-blue color), monkfruit (a natural zero calorie sweetener), lime juice, Himalayan pink salt and trace minerals to help you replenish your electrolytes after a tough workout.

The flavor of #LoveUp Sport is subtle, but that’s why I love it. But I also love that it supports the #LoveUp Foundation, which supports kids in the foster care system. Now that’s a sports drink I can get behind!

4) Herbaland Calcium & Vegan D3 Gummy Vitamins

Canada is really leading the way when it comes to vegan gummies (since most gummies are made with gelatin and aren’t even vegetarian). First it was SmartSweets which makes some awesome sugar free gummy candies (2 varieties are vegan), now it’s Herbaland coming in clutch with the vitamins.

Most of us probably don’t get all the nutrients we need from our diet, especially vegans. While many people are hung up on the protein thing, there are key vitamins that vegans can struggle to get from food, namely calcium/vitamin D3 and B12. I strive to eat a balanced diet full of fruits and veggies, but I make sure to supplement so I can stay healthy, and that’s where Herbaland gummy vitamins come in.

I am not a fan of the huge pills you have to swallow or even powdery chewable vitamins (yes, I’m basically a 5-year-old) so gummies it is, but it can be hard to find vegan gummy vitamins that aren’t super expensive. Luckily, I came across Herbaland when searching for vitamins on Amazon, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that none of their vitamin bottles cost more than $20, which is about half the cost of most vegan gummies! I ordered the calcium & D3 variety (because I already take B vitamins in the hair gummies I have).

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Taking vitamins is easy when they’re this yummy!

I love that these are gluten free and sugar free, because many vegan vitamins have glucose syrup, which I’m not a fan of. Plus, they taste pretty good and you can’t beat the price ($16) for a month’s supply.

I plan to try more of their vitamins, including the vegan collagen booster and cold brew energy gummies.

5) Trader Joe’s Jalapeño Sauce

Y’all know I like things spicy. So I’m always down to try a new hot sauce, especially if it’s from TJ’s.

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This sauce pairs perfectly with tofu potato tacos (recipe on my Insta!).

This green sauce is different from most hot sauces in that it’s creamy, but it is in fact totally vegan! It reminds me a lot of dairy-free crema I’ve had at many Mexican places, so it works really well drizzled on top of tacos, but I’ve also used it to dress up a vegan poke bowl. It’s just good on anything.

What new products did you try last month? 

Favorite Finds of the Month: March

Beauty, Food

This is the second in a series of posts highlighting my favorite product finds each month. 

Back again with another round-up of my favorite product discoveries of the month! I don’t know about you, but I am not one of those people who can eat/use the same products all the time and be content. Sure, I have my all-time favorites I come back to over and over but I always love to try new things and mix up my routine when it comes to food and beauty. I hope these posts inspire you to try something new!

1) Memebox I Dew Care Cake My Day Hydrating Sprinkle Wash-Off Mask

This has probably the longest name of any beauty product ever but it definitely lives up to the name. First, what got me to buy this was the fact that it’s cake-scented. Y’all already know my obsession with cake-flavored/cake-scented anything. So it was basically required for me to get this. But I also love how hydrating it is without being too heavy on my face. Plus the actual sprinkles in it are fun.

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The packaging is too precious. 

Let’s talk price, because I typically buy face masks in the $40-$60 range. This is $25. $25. Seriously, for a 3.52 ounce container. What a steal! And before you think it must be poor quality, this mask is cruelty-free, and formulated without parabens, sulfates, phthalates and silicones so it is good for your face AND your wallet.

I got this at Ulta but they also sell it on the Memebox website for the same price.

2) Kaleidoscope Juice

Sorry to any non-Arizona locals who can’t give this adorable juice bar a try, but I had to give it a shoutout because I recently fell in love with it and their products.

There are sooooooo many juice bars out there now. While I generally buy my juices from Whole Foods or Sprouts or Target to save money (and I’m partial to Suja Juice, as you may know), it’s fun to swing by a juice bar to try out their offerings every now and then. It’s even better when you can support a local business. Like I really do love Nekter Juice Bar for their vegan Skoop ice cream, especially now that there’s a location less than 10 minutes from home, but I’d been hearing good things about Kaleidoscope Juice and wanted to check them out.

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I love supporting local businesses, especially if they have yummy products!

They have 4 locations in the Valley, all in Scottsdale and Phoenix, which is not convenient for me but the downtown Scottsdale location is about 10 minutes from my office so I stopped by after work one day to see what the hype was about. First of all, it’s a really cute storefront. It seems like the perfect place to hang out with health-minded friends on a sunny afternoon. The baristas are really friendly and offered to help me pick out a juice.

Because it was my first time, I wanted to try a few things so I could really get a feel for their offerings. I got the Pink Illuminating Water, Charcoal Electro-light and because I couldn’t resist, a container of vegan/gluten free peanut butter patty style cookies. I will say that their products aren’t cheap. I got all of these things for about $32, including tip. Not terrible, but definitely not a habit I can keep up all the time. It is definitely worth the splurge every once in awhile though! The two juices I bought were very tasty and refreshing, and I could tell they were made with only high-quality ingredients. And the cookies…damn, those were amazing! I wish there were more than four in a container because I had to spread them out over four days to enjoy them longer.

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Girl Scouts peanut butter patties who?

If you live in the Valley — go check out Kaleidoscope!

3) St. Tropez Gradual Tan Watermelon Infusion Lotion

Living in Phoenix, you’d think I’d be tan year round. Welp, that is definitely not the case. It takes about a week of laying in the sun for half an hour each day to start to build up any color, and I usually don’t get the chance to do this except on weekends during pool season when nothing else is going on. So most of the year, I’m fairly pale. Which is okay in the winter when I’m wearing layers but once March rolls around, I’m wearing alllll the dresses and skirts…and shorts and tank tops while running and I feel like a freaking ghost. Self-tanner to the rescue!

Now I’ve tried a lot of different self-tanning brands: Jergen’s Natural Glow, L’Oreal, even Tarte makes some solid self-tanners. But the HG (holy grail) has to be St. Tropez. I’ve used several of their formulations, and they all add a nice color without being streaky. So when they introduced a new product to the lineup, I knew I had to get my hands on it, especially because it’s watermelon-scented (I also love anything watermelon).

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Even the bottle is beautiful. 

If you’re turned off from self-tanners because of the smell, this one smells just like a lotion you’d get from Bath & Body Works. The scent is light and fruity and not at all like the typical self-tanner. It goes on white and absorbs almost instantly, so you don’t have to wait around for it to dry before getting dressed. It builds color gradually, but you’ll definitely notice a difference in a couple of days, and it moisturizes your skin so you won’t look all scaly.

I always apply it after a shower just like I would a regular lotion, and use it daily. The color doesn’t turn out super dark, so it’s best for those with lighter skin looking for a natural glow (St. Tropez has other formulations that are much darker). And for a high quality, vegan tanning product, it’s actually very reasonably priced at $25 for a 6.7 oz bottle.

4) Quinn Snacks Chocolate Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets

Peanut butter and pretzels are a match made in snack heaven. Throw chocolate in the mix and you’ve got the whole package: sweet, salty, nutty, creamy. Make the pretzels gluten free and you’ve got a crave-worthy but still healthy-ish treat.

I try to eat gluten free most of the time because I feel better eating this way, so when I saw that Quinn made a gluten free AND vegan AND chocolate version of this yummy snack, I knew I had to buy it. And these little nuggets don’t disappoint. They’re like a more grown-up version of the pretzel nuggets you remember growing up — not too salty or sweet.

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I am obsessed with salty+sweet combos.

I like that the ingredients list is fairly short and easy to read, and sugar is the seventh ingredient (1 serving has just 3 grams) so it’s definitely not overly sugary. It makes a good dessert option if you’re craving something crunchy.

The pretzel nuggets are sold at Whole Foods for $4.99 a bag.

5) Hard Frescos Brewing Co. Alcoholic Aguas Frescas

Wanna know a secret about me? I hate beer. Okay, maybe that’s not a secret but whenever I would go out for drinks with people from work, most of them would get a beer. I know it’s common for men to drink beer, but even women opted for beer rather than wine or a cocktail in many cases, making me feel like the odd one out. I’m just not a fan of the flavor of beer or how filling it is. Gimme a lighter drink with complex flavors and I’m all in!

I’ve tried hard seltzer before because I love La Croix and Spindrift sparkling waters, but most hard seltzers don’t come in flavors beyond citrus and maybe berry. Enter: Hard Frescos Brewing Co. and their hard aguas frescas.

I first discovered them at the Downtown Mesa Brew Fest in early March. True to the festival’s name, it was mostly beer tents but there were a few offering other adult beverage options, including the aguas frescas. And when I saw it came in flavors like tamarind and cucumber lime, I knew I had to try it.

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Alcohol that’s refreshing? Yes please.

I had the hibiscus flavor, and it was so refreshing. I can see enjoying this drink poolside this summer. And I love that their ingredients are so simple (plus the aguas frescas are gluten free and low carb).

If you have a Total Wine near you, you may be able to find this there. When I used their store locator online, it said the closest store to me was in Vegas, but then I found it at the Total Wine in Tucson when I visited for spring break.

 

 

What fun products did you discover in March?