How I Got Longer, Thicker and Darker Lashes

Everywhere you look eyelashes are getting longer and thicker with the growing popularity of eyelash extensions. My lashes are naturally on the longer side, but I wanted to get a little more length and fullness. While a lot of eyelash extensions look great (and others like cartoon characters), some have bad experiences including eye irritation and damage of natural lashes. The cost for extensions is no joke at $150 bucks per set with required refills every few weeks.

Not liking the risks and cost associated with eyelash extensions, I decided to give Latisse a whirl. The product is managed by a medical professional with more natural yet effective results vs. possible the daddy long legs effects of lash extensions. Due to the 2020 lockdown, I opted to use an online delivery service and had a positive experience with SkinSolutions.MD. A 10 week supply, cost $134. An MD reviews your driver’s license and face photos, fulfills the order and it ships out to you. The entire process took about 10 days from order to receiving.

I’ve now used the product for the full 10 weeks and am happy to share my before and after photos with you. I am definitely going to continue with the product but will get it from my local medical spa as I like to support their business. See below for my great results and what the application process entails.

Top image before. Bottom image is 10 weeks of Latisse once per day. No mascara.

The growth process is slow, considering it takes 10 weeks to get these results versus the instant results provided by lash extensions. I do like that the results are natural and you can see my lashes are not only longer, but also darker and thicker.

A few caveats are that you must continue to use Latisse at least every other day to maintain these results. You apply a droplet to each top lash line once per day. The kit provides a separate, sterile brush for each eye, for each day. I did not experience any eye pain, headaches, redness, itchiness or irritation. Overall, I highly recommend and am delighted with the natural results, cost and easy application.

Six Game Ideas For Fun Zoom Calls

Amidst this pandemic, Zoom has become a household word and something I never thought my 88 year old grandma would be savvy at. Since we aren’t able to travel to see family this year, we’ve implemented a weekly Saturday morning Zoom call with our extended family. It’s become something we all look forward to and has helped us stay more connected in each other’s lives than ever before. As the host of these calls, I’ve made it my weekly challenge to keep the calls fresh with at least one activity planned.
This helps keep the kids engaged and also creates some structure so we don’t go down the conversation trail of how much 2020 has sucked (easy to do!!). I’ve rounded up the activities we’ve done so far and hope they spark some great conversations and fun amidst your own family Zoom calls.

  1. Name That Tune

This was fun to put together. The hubs and I put together an Apple play list of songs from movies and all genre’s and generations. We then played them over the call and whoever shouted the name out first got a point. You could easily use a Spotify playlist as well. Each household was a team and we sent the winning team a surprise prize. In this case it was a tie dying kit complete with shirts to tie dye. If you need some inspiration, we used the Harry Potter theme, Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, Ed Sheeran’s You Look Perfect Tonight and The Beetles Let It Be, to name just a few.

2. Bingo

This was a bit of a labor of love as I made up Bingo cards for each person and then sent them via email before the call so they could print them out. We then used this site to generate the bingo numbers to call. The winner got a prize worth $10 (fro-you gift card in this case) and a $10 donation to their charity of choice.

3. Jeopardy

This is by far the best game that we played together and worth every penny I spent on the pre-built Powerpoint Jeopardy template that you can buy here for $9.99. You do have to make your own categories, questions and answers but the template is all programed and you only have to type in the info. It worked flawlessly and was so much fun. To inspire you, some categories we made up were Star Wars, Disneyland, All About Cats, and Young Adult Fiction.

4. Virtual Baking Show

For Fourth of July, we gave everyone the challenge before the call to bake or cook something with a Fourth of July theme and share their completed product with everyone on the call. The kids got to play judges in the style of the Great British Baking Show. Would also be fun to send everyone a recipe ahead of time and share/eat the results together on the call.

5. Pictionary

Zoom has a great whiteboard option that makes it super easy to allow anyone to share their screen and then draw. People on the call get to guess. We just used whatever popped into our heads as ideas of what to draw, but you could easily keep to a theme if you wanted to.

6. Birthday Party Ideas

Over these last few months, there have been tons of Zoom birthday celebrations. We’ve dressed up, worn silly hats, used fun birthday Zoom backgrounds and created birth year quizzes using Kahoot. Kahoot is an online quiz/game platform that allows users to submit answers from their phone or the website, making it a fully interactive experience as you can see the answers they submit and rankings.

I hope that gives you some inspiration to jazz up your Zoom calls as we might still be having these for a long time! Take care.

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday. I know it might feel a bit like Groundhog Day lately, but I hope you have some fun weekend plans even if they aren’t as exciting as you would have hoped because 2020 has shaken up all the plans. We’ll be working in the yard this weekend and watching my nephew play some tennis in La Costa. He’s so good and we love cheering him on.

I have a few things to share that I’ve been loving this week including a new vegetarian dinner recipe we loved.

Chocolate PB cups

So first things first, let’s start off with some chocolate. I have a sweet, sweet friend in NY who sent me these delicious Perfect Bar dark chocolate peanut butter cups. I love everything I’ve had from Perfect Bar and these are no exception. They do need to be refrigerated, and while they aren’t exactly “healthy”, they are a delicious whole food alternative to Reese’s. They have a tiny sprinkling of sea salt which is a marriage made in heaven with chocolate and PB in my opinion. You can order directly from Perfect Bar with free shipping (they send with ice packs) and get 15% off your first order.

Eye Sleep Mask

Next is a sleep hack that I just discovered. The hubby has been staying up later reading with his bedside light on making it harder to fall asleep. I also was waking up before the alarm as light comes through our cheapo blinds. I decided to try an eye sleep mask that I got for free on some Jet Blue flight and I love this thing. It’s like a light switch for my mind and I can instantly fall asleep once I’ve drowned out the light. I’ve ordered a silk one from Amazon (only $7) hoping it’s a bit more comfy, but this might be something you want to try if you’re having issues falling/staying asleep.

Hint water

So when this first came out, I did not like the blackberry flavor I tried and wrote it off. They’ve since come out with a flurry of flavors and they are delicious. It’s still water that is lightly and naturally fruit flavored. My favorites are the apple, black cherry, pineapple and watermelon. There is a peach flavor, but I have not been able to find it at my local stores yet. If you don’t like sparking water or like me, you can’t drink due to reflux issues, give this a try. Ensure it’s super cold as it’s not very good at room temp. You can order off Amazon, but I found mine at Target and most grocery stores do carry.

And for the recipe we tried and loved this week…..I’ve tried a few black bean taco recipes and this one was similar but the cilantro pesto made it stand out. So delicious and good on a hot day.

Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Pesto

Here’s to a gorgeous weekend!

Reduce GERD, Acid Reflux and Gastritis With 3 Easy Tips

If you’re reading this, I feel your pain and am sorry you are suffering with the frustration that acid issues bring. I have been struggling with Gastritis and GERD for over three years now, and am happy to say that I’ve found almost 100% relief from it. It has taken some discipline and changes to my daily choices and habits. Acid issues can be very damaging to your body over the long term and in my opinion PPI’s (Proton Pump Inhibitors) were not a solution due to the side effects including hurting gut health and overall immunity. Here are my tips and I hope they work for you. Obviously, I’m not a doctor, so be sure to consult with your physician.

  1. Find your triggers, eliminate them, find replacements

You might already have an idea what triggers your acid problems. My triggers are primarily coffee, alcohol, carbonated water and too much caffeine. I’ve eliminated almost all of these from my diet with the exception of coffee because I just don’t want to live in a world without my coffee. I’ve made some adjustments to my coffee regimen which deserves it’s own post here. Occasionally I’ll have a sip of wine or beer without issues, but I really don’t miss it anymore. Don’t know what your triggers are? Try keeping a food journal to track what you eat and drink so you can pinpoint any culprits as issues occur.

**Some common triggers to avoid and other options**

Coffee: See my coffee regimen here

Black Tea: Switch to a caffeine free rooibos or caffeine free chai

Carbonated beverages: Switch to flavored water like the hint brand or make your own with fruit ice cubes.

Citrus: I just use this sparingly in cooking. Lots of non-citrus fruits and veggies still provide plenty of vitamin C too.

Spicy foods: Experiment with other spices and fresh herbs to keep flavor but cut out the trigger

Fried foods: Try homemade baked versions and invest in an air fryer to get the crunch that fried foods give

Chocolate: Try semi-sweet or milk chocolate or only small amounts of very dark chocolate. Another tip is just avoid two triggers together such as coffee and chocolate at the same time. Ensure they are spaced out.

2. Sleep Elevated and with an empty stomach

This matters as sleeping elevated helps keep the stomach acid from seeping out of your tummy into your esophagus. I’ve invested in this wedge pillow and have been using it for six months with great results. No more sore throats in the morning from acid. It does take some getting used to and I’ve trained myself to sleep like a vampire on my back. A side bonus is that this is great for reducing puffy eyes and wrinkles!

3. Eat smaller meals and try fasting

I find that if I get really full, this exacerbates my acid issues. I now try to never get to that full point and just stay at the satisfied point. Intermittent fasting has become an easier task because I stop eating very early in the evening (no later than 6pm) to avoid going to sleep on a full stomach.

I hope these tips help you and would love to also hear anything you’ve done that has helped too! Here’s to good health!

Low Acid Coffee Hacks

If coffee is your love language, the thought of giving it up due to acid reflux, GERD or gastritis is a nightmare. I’ve been there and after lots of trial and error, I can offer some tips on how to enjoy a lower acid version of your coffee. Here are the tips:

Select lower acid beans/grounds:

I personally have had great success with Trader Joe’s Low Acid French Roast. You can also pick darker roast coffees which have less caffeine and can be less irritating. Look for beans from Brazil or Central America which tend to be naturally lower in acid.

Use a coarser grind:

It is better to use a coarse grind vs. a fine grind as less acid is released.

Use a cold brew method or let the coffee sit overnight:

I have used both of these methods, and am currently brewing my coffee at night and letting it sit before I drink it in the morning. I have also used a cold brew Hario coffee maker and this is also a great option. If you prefer a bottled cold brew, I have tested most of the major brands and Chameleon Cold Brew has the lowest acid that I have found.

Mix your coffee with a substitute:

Since I am an all day coffee sipper, I brew in my coffee maker, a scoop of Trader Joe’s low acid coffee with a scoop of Teecino (an herbal coffee substitute). It tastes great and I still get the enjoyment of sipping on my iced “coffee” all day. I prefer the Teecino Java, Hazelnut, Vanilla Nut or Maca Chocolate flavors. I buy mine on Amazon, but you can find it in most natural grocers.

Modify your coffee order:

If you’re ordering at Starbuck’s or another shop, always modify to one shot of espresso vs. the 2-3 that go in a grande. You can even have them substitute some cold brew for the espresso which will have lower acid. Also, try almond milk vs. dairy milk as some have reported that dairy exacerbates their acid issues.

Hope these tips help allow you to still enjoy your coffee habit!

22 “Clean” Adult Shows on Netflix and Prime

We all have a lot more time at home lately which allows for more streaming binges. The hubs and I currently have Netflix, Prime and Disney + and I’m looking at adding Hulu into the mix too. While I’m not judging others, we try to watch shows that don’t contain lots of graphic sex stuff. It’s what we feel is in line with our Christian beliefs and it’s hard to unsee something once you’ve seen it. It’s also really hard these days to find good shows that don’t contain over the top nudity. If you’re like us and looking for some cleaner options, I wanted to help you out by compiling a list of shows we’ve really enjoyed that you don’t have to worry about seeing stuff you’d rather not. I won’t give a synopsis of each one, but hope you enjoy. Keep in mind these aren’t necessarily family friendly as some might have violence, language and/or more adult themes.  Also, there might be implied scenes in these shows, but they are all graphic nudity free. I’d love to hear any options you recommend too.

Netflix

  • The Blacklist
  • Rebellion
  • Colony
  • Wanted
  • The Umbrella Academy
  • Secret City
  • Somebody Feed Phil
  • The Staircase
  • The Killing (season 1- can’t speak to season 2)
  • Fallet
  • Safe
  • Hinterland
  • Shetland
  • Limitless (similar to movie with Bradley Cooper)
  • Longmire

Amazon Prime

  • Detectorists
  • Homecoming
  • Dickensian
  • Unforgotten
  • Endeavour
  • The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
  • Little Dorrit

2020 Goal Setting Tips

I love the fresh slate that a new year brings and it’s even more exciting to have a new decade. I went through the last ten years and wrote down one big thing that happened each year from 2010 through 2019. All I can say is, time sure does fly! I wanted to share some of my 2020 goals with you and the process I take to ensure I don’t just forget about these goals after January has passed.

I arrange my goals in buckets of Spiritual, Financial, Professional, Hobbies/Growth and Health. I try to only plan 1-2 goals per bucket otherwise I know I’m just setting myself up to fail. I also involve the hubby as some goals involve both of us and we want to be sure we’re both on the same page and working towards these goals together.

I only make quarterly goals because I want to keep them achievable and have the flexibility and freedom to adjust these goals as needed. Now to get really nerdy, I schedule a monthly check-in on the first of each month with my hubby so we can review our goals and our progress. Again, this ensures I’m sticking to the goals and not just forgetting about them after the newness of January has faded.

To summarize here are a few goal setting tips:

  • Arrange goals in buckets (Health, Hobbies, Professional) and only pick 1 goal per bucket. 
  • Involve your spouse or significant other to have an accountability partner. This also helps with together goals such as finances or home projects.
  • Make quarterly goals with a measurement metric at the end of each quarter to gauge your progress. 
  • Schedule a monthly check in on your calendar with your goals attached so you can review your progress. 
  • Include your WHY with each goal that you set so you can stay motivated and remember what is driving you to achieve this. 

Here are my goals in each bucket for some inspiration:

Spiritual: Study book of the Bible in depth beyond just daily reading.

Financial: Get a trust completed on Legal Zoom by March 30, 2020

Professional: Start a new career and making a specific salary goal

Hobbies: Do a daily Spanish Duolingo lesson

Health: Cut back daily sugar intake to less than 21 grams per day

I’d LOVE to hear your goals for 2020 and how you are planning to succeed in achieving them.

Gifts for the Man in Your Life

Oh good grief, I do not know where December went, but here we are, five days out from Christmas. Men always seem to be the hardest to shop for and my hubby is no exception. While I’m sure he’d be happy as a clam receiving a Home Depot gift card (and that is one of his little gifts), I do try to put some thought into his gifts. We don’t go too big at Christmas or birthdays as we prefer to spend the moola on travel or big home projects. Here’s a round up of what he’ll be getting as his big gifts and also little stocking stuffers:

  1. Smartwool Socks

Smartwool socks

Hubs discovered Smartwool socks in preparation for our trip to Greece. He wanted breathable (not smelly) socks that he could wear more than one day and on a long airplane flight. Enter in Smartwool socks and these have now become his favorite socks to live in. He’s also a fan of their underlayers for when we’re camping in cold temps. I thought I’d surprise him with Smartwool dress socks so he can literally wear them all the time.

Dress socks

2. Apple Watch Band

We love, love, love our Apple Watches after upgrading from Fitbits. Hubs still has his original watchband that came with it and I thought it’d be nice to have a dressier option to switch out to. It’s not super great quality, but it does the trick.

watch

3. Hand Sanitizer

I know, this seems so lame, but I can’t count how many times he’s needed hand sanitizer while we’re out and about. I got the mini spray bottle at Trader Joe’s and think this will be perfect for him to keep in his truck.

sanitizer

4.DIY Book

Hubs is planning on building his very own workshop from the ground up this year so I thought a book with some plans and helpful tips would be fun for him to have on hand.

book

5. Gift card to Home Depot

It is his favorite place and he mentioned wanting a nail gun. I tried looking for nail guns and it was overwhelming so now he can pick out the perfect one.

6. Allbirds

Hubs can be a Goldilocks when it comes to finding shoes. With all the hype these shoes are getting, I figured these might be a winner. Not to mention, he loves wool socks so why not wool shoes? I will report back on his like/dislike. I got the Wool Runners and they have guaranteed free shipping to make it by Christmas Eve. Weeee!

AB

And that my friends is a wrap that I still need to wrap! Merry Christmas and I hope that gives you all some inspiration for the man in your life.

 

Lululemon Shorts Amazon Dupe for $24

Now we all know about the great quality and fit of the brand that is Lululemon. I have run many a half marathon in their shorts and they have always delivered on comfort, style and function. On the flip side, they are pretty pricey clocking in at $60 a pop for a pair of shorts. Living in sunny SoCal, I run in shorts 99% of the time and decided to go searching for a Lululemon short dupe on Amazon.

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I really like these features of the Lululemon Run Times Short 4″ and wanted to find the exact same features for a better price:

-hidden front pocket

-back zippered pocket

-wide comfort waist band

-lined

-light and breathable

-durable

After a little Amazon searching, I landed on a pair that looked really similar to the Run Times short and they were only $24. These have all the same features of the Lululemon Run Time Short but for such a great price.

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If you like a longer running short like the Run Time Short, then you will absolutely love this short dupe from Amazon. I have completed many runs in them thus far and they are light, do not ride up or down, are breathable and wash well without shrinking in the dryer.

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In regards to sizing, I purchased these Amazon shorts in XXS which is comparable to Lululemon’s size 0. Their durability remains to be seen and tested, but after several washes, they are holding up perfectly. I highly recommend!

What to do with 5 days in Crete

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Ah beautiful Crete. This was by far, our favorite leg of our Greece trip. Crete is the largest of the Greek isles and as such, we decided to split our trip with 3 days in Chania and 2.5 days in Elounda. I highly recommend doing this as it gives you the time needed to explore and really take in the island without trying to drive from one end to the other in one day. It is a beautiful island with amazingly hospitable people who take great pride in their shops and restaurants.

Day One

We took a 45 minute flight out of Athens and rented a car from Sixt (counter at the airport) to get around. If you are brave enough to take on the Greek driving experience, I’d highly recommend renting a car. We drove about an hour to our hotel in Chania, Domes Noruz. Trust me- you must stay here. The service was impeccable, and the restaurant was amazing. Upon arrival, we met our lovely concierge who gave us a full tour of the property and our room. Rooms have Nespresso machines, wading pools and private patios. There is also a spa on site which looks really nice, but we didn’t indulge (should have!)

We were starving and ordered an early lunch from the restaurant, a tasty salad with grilled Greek cheeses and some freshly baked bread with dipping sauces. Heaven!

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Amazing beachside meal at Domez Noruz

We were feeling our jet lag and decided to relax by one of the two pools until dinner where we ventured out into the old Venetian port area of town. The stroll down the waterfront is so romantic in the evening, with tons of restaurants to choose from and little shops to explore down cobblestone alleyways. We opted for some Italian food for dinner as we needed a break from the Greek fare. We both enjoyed pasta dishes at Veneto. The pizza here is supposed to be quite good as well. The food and service were on point and made for a perfect, romantic evening.

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The Venetian Port in Chania

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Restaurant Veneto in Chania

Day Two

We ate breakfast at the Domes Noruz restaurant almost every day and it was worth every penny. It’s a huge Greek spread of miniature baked goods, fresh breads, jams, honey, nuts, fruits, yogurt, granola and hot items like eggs and sausage, all that you can enjoy on the patio overlooking the ocean.

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A less windy spot at Elafonissi Beach

For our first full day, we ventured out to the famous pink sand beach, Elafonissi. It was a bit of a trek from our hotel on narrow, winding roads sprinkled with tiny, idyllic villages. The beach was more crowded than we expected, but still worth the trip. There are several stands where you can buy a bite to eat and restrooms that cost a euro to use. Be advised that the beach is extremely windy so you’ll want to bring a towel to sit on and a towel to wrap yourself in when the wind picks up. We were able to find a spot amidst some rocks to lay out, enjoy the views and read. There’s an inlet of water that you can wade through that is quite warm with clear water. The water is a breathtaking blue with lots of soft sand to put your toes in.

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Milia Mountain Resort

From the beach we headed back to Chania with a few planned stops along the way. We popped in a shop called To Pantopolion which is a gem filled with wares from local artisans and Cretan products. We really wanted to bring back gifts and souvenirs that were unique and truly Greek and this shop offers just that. Our concierge recommended we visit a tucked away eco resort, Milia Mountain Retreat. You guys….this is a must visit. It’s a bit of a beast to get there, up some winding, narrow, non-paved roads, but WHEN you get there, it feels like you’ve stepped into an old world fairy tale. The property dates back to the 17th century and has since been restored into a sustainable resort and restaurant hosting cooking courses and activities for guests. We enjoyed a fantastic late lunch in their rustic dining room made primarily from ingredients grown on the property including a spinach feta hand pie, bean salad, strawberry sorbet and goat’s milk ice cream.

We headed back to the resort and were still full from lunch so turned in as we had a 5am wakeup call.

Day Three

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The trailhead of Samaria Gorge

The Samaria Gorge! If you are on the athletic side and love nature and hiking, you must hike the Samaria Gorge, the largest gorge in Europe. There are several tour companies and I would highly recommend the company we used, Elafonissos Travel and mountain goat of a guide, Kostos. This is an ALL day adventure and does require a certain level of physical fitness as it’s over 11 miles of rocky down and uphill hiking. To begin, the tour bus picked us up at 6am near our hotel and then we begin the drive to the top of the gorge, about a one hour trek through beautiful albeit windy mountain roads (If you get carsick, you’ll want to forgo this or take your Bonine). The bus makes a pit stop at a small restaurant at the starting point where you can purchase grab and go items such as pastries, to go sandwiches, hardboiled eggs and fruit.

And now the hike begins. The trails are primarily downhill and are extremely rocky and uneven. You’ll want to wear a pair of real hiking boots, although there was an older gent in our party who survived the whole ordeal in Teva sandals so there’s that. Keep in mind, if you break anything the only way out is by donkey so just wear the right shoes. There are also bathrooms and water fountains at intervals along the hike.

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Samaria Gorge

The hike takes you through wooded areas, slot canyons and the old Samaria settlement, vacated in the 1970’s. The scenery is gorgeous, and you are hiking next to and through a river the entire way. The hike ends in the small and car-less village of Agia Romeli where you can put your feet in the ocean, enjoy an ice cold beer, gyros and relax. Pack your swimsuit and take a dip in the ocean and relax on a beach chair that you can rent for a few euros. We took a ferry back to our pickup point and made a very long bus ride back to Chania along some treacherous roads, half eroded away by landslides and flooding. Quite an adventure.

Despite being absolutely pooped, we decided to hit up the Domes Noruz restaurant again for an amazing fancy dinner. A great way to put an exclamation point on a lovely visit to Chania.

Day 4

We were in serious leisure mode after hiking the previous day, so we decided to check out late and then head to Elounda, about a three hour drive. The plan was to stop in Heraklion and explore a bit, but once we got into the heart of the city, driving was too chaotic and we opted to head to our hotel to lay by the pool instead. We were in serious relax mode. We stopped for a pizza and salad lunch at Olio in the little downtown of Elounda.

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View of Spinalonga from our room at the Blue Palace

We checked into Blue Palace which is a huge resort right on the ocean and directly across from the small island, Spinalonga which was once used as a leper colony. The service was great, and you could easily get lost at this property as it’s so large. There is a gondola type elevator that moves you between the different levels. We had a two level room complete with a soaking pool looking out to the ocean. Honestly, it was the size of a small condo, way more than we needed but fun nonetheless. There are multiple pools on the property and an extensive beach. We explored the resort and then meandered down to the adjacent little town of Aglios Nikolaos for dinner. We had the loveliest, intimate dinner on the patio of a restaurant called The Carob Tree. Again, the service was amazing and they gave us free starters and dessert (very common in Greece so bring the stretchy pants). We enjoyed fresh bread, fish roe, a bean salad and beef stifado. There are a few eclectic shops right around there that are worth exploring, Mezzaluna and The Blue Shop.

Day 5

We had breakfast in downtown Elounda at a place called Babel and it was pretty tasty. From there we decided to visit a little olive oil “farm” of sorts, The Cretan Olive Oil Farm. It’s really just an outpost for the olive oil producer to sell products but also offer tours and mini classes. Classes include ceramics, cooking and cheesemaking. We chose to do a tour and the cheesemaking class. For the price, it was fun and interesting as we got to meet a real shepherd and watch the initial process of Greek cheese making (and yes, you get to eat it!). We also learned a ton about olive oil and picked up some nice products to share with family.

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Cheese making with the shepherd Mr. Kostas

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Cretan Olive Oil Farm

If you’re feeling adventurous there are several boats to take you out to Spinalonga, but we really wanted to be lazy and laid by the beach all day. The water is gorgeous and we wanted to take it all in. I can’t remember where we ate the last night so it must not have been very good!

The next morning, we were off to Heraklion to catch a ferry to Santorini. I’ll do a recap of our three days in Santorini in a separate post.

Would love to hear if you’ve been to Crete, what you did, what you ate!