Friday, June 15, 2018

5 Activities to do in the Algarve

Scrolling through my feed on Instagram seems like Portugal is the place to go this year! The coastline of southern Portugal, known as the Algarve which means West in Arabic, has endless sandy beaches and is the perfect place to go for a sun-soaked holiday in Europe. There you’ll find breathtaking cliffs, castles, churches, palm trees, charming small towns and delicious cheap wine. I just got back from a 2- week trip to Portugal, my second time there. After seeing all the major cities, I took the train down to the Algarve to spend 3 days there, taking it slow to soak up all it had to offer. Here’s my list of top things to do in the Algarve.

 1. Explore the old town of Lagos, an Iberic word which means lakes, also the name of the capital of Nigeria. In Portuguese it is pronounced “La-goosh”. The narrow cobble stone streets of this small town are best explored by foot. The buildings are painted colorful colors or have mosaic tiles. The Moors settled in Lagos 2000 years ago as part of their maritime trade network. It was also through Lagos that the African slave trade entered Europe in the 15th century, you can visit the slave market museum in Lagos to learn more. The Church of St. Sebastian (Igreja de Sao Sebastiao) has a small chapel where the monks lined the walls with sculls. See the Castle of Lagos and the Fortress of Ponta da Bandeira which was used to guard Lagos by protecting the river from an attack. Sit in a café and enjoy some Portuguese wine while you people watch. Wine was cheaper than bottled water (they don’t drink tap water).

 2. The walled city of Lagos is also known for its fascinating rock formations, sea cliffs, grottos, and lighthouse that offer amazing views of the rocky coastline and Atlantic Ocean. I visited two beaches in Lagos: Dona Ana and Camilo which offer amazing scenery from the top of the cliffs. There’s a walking trail from cliff to cliff with picturesque views of the cliff formations and beautiful blue green water. If you want to go swimming, just be warned the water was quite cold in June. Surfing and kayaking are popular here. This was my favorite town and I would love to go back!

 3. Tour the coastal grottos by boat. I visited the Benagil Cave which is the most beautiful sea cave that only small boats can enter. The cave is so large it has a beach inside, but it’s not dark because there’s a hole at the top of the 100 feet cave that a huge ray of sunlight comes through. The water is a crystal clear turquoise color.

 4. Visit the town of Silves which has an amazing Moorish Castle. Throughout the town you’ll see tons of storks with nests on top of vacant buildings. It was quite a sight to see!

 5. Experience the nightlife in the lively town of Albufeira.

Practical Info How to get from Lisbon to the Algarve 
We took the train down to Tunes which was a 3-hour ride in an unconditioned car for only 12.5 euro since we bought our tickets in advance from the Portugal's rail website. The train station was very small so we were lucky to find a taxi. We flew home from Faro's airport to Lisbon.

How to get around the Algarve 
We didn’t rent a car, instead we utilized the local bus service Eva Transportes. We traveled from town to town for less than 5 euro. The drive time was between 30 minutes to 1 hour and only tourists were on the bus. Taxis between towns will run you 20 euro. Each town has a tuk tuk that is basically just a cheap transport around the town. Bring cash because a lot of restaurants don’t take credit cards. Lagos has money exchange places but other small towns do not. English was widely spoken in Portugal.

Typical tiled buildings

These purple jacaranda trees were all over Portugal and so fragrant!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Trader Joe's Beauty Products

I know everyone is shopping the Sephora sale this weekend and I got my order in too, but I'm starting to be over paying $90 for a 1 oz product. Trader Joe's has started selling some amazing affordable beauty products. Here's what you can find on their shelves lately.

Rose Water Facial Toner
Rose water is known for its refreshing and hydrating properties (plus it smells like fresh roses). This also contains witch hazel, which has been hailed for centuries for medicinal and cosmetic uses, is known for its skin-soothing properties, and can help remove excess oils from your skin.  This mist-spray bottle is a 4oz bottle  for $3.99.

Facial Cleansing Oil
This chamomile-scented Cleansing Oil mixes with your skin oils, while also binding to surface impurities. When you rinse it away, the dirt departs but the delicate balance of natural skin oils is left undisturbed. It’s made from a unique blend of natural botanicals, including coconut oil, argan oil, Abyssinian oil, and vitamin E that all work together to break up impurities and moisturize. It is $6.99 for a 4oz bottle

Blueberry & Açaí Facial Scrub
Stored in a glass jar, this scrub smells like blueberry yogurt. It’s made with blueberry purée, açaí fruit extract, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) to gently exfoliate the skin, and colloidal oatmeal to soothe it. Also included are shea butter, meadowfoam seed oil, and various plant extracts to pamper you for $5.99.

Coffee Body Scrub
Made with ground Arabica coffee beans, sea salt, and sugar to exfoliate the skin, and vegetable glycerin, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, orange oil, and bergamot fruit oil to moisturize it. This is great if you have Keratosis pilaris skin. The 8oz tub costs $4.99.

Organic Argan Oil
With only one ingredient on the label, this 1.7 fl oz bottle retails for $6.99! Compare that to the price of Moroccan hair oil! Argan Oil is noticeably silky, lightweight, and non-greasy; it absorbs quickly, and yet is still deeply moisturizing.

Shea Butter & Coconut Oil Hair Mask
This stuff is amazing! It’s an intense conditioner, made with ingredients that will moisturize and protect your hair including coconut oil, Shea oil, Argan oil, along with a number of fruit and seed extracts, including blackberry, açaí, and sunflower seed. The 5.1 oz tube for $3.99 is a phenomenal value for such a high-end formulation!

Micellar Cleanser & Makeup Remover Towelettes
100% natural fiber cloths that feature a hypoallergenic micellar cleansing solution that’s formulated with emollient, softening and smoothing plant extracts. They contain no alcohol, no colorants, no allergens and no parabens. Each resealable package of 20 Micellar Towelettes is $3.99.

Refresh Citrus Body Wash
It’s a citrus-y formulation with orange, grapefruit, tangerine and lemon scents to truly “refresh” every time you cleanse. It’s made with vitamin C, chamomile, ginseng, ginger, essential oils, and vitamin B5. It was developed to nourish, moisturize, and leave your skin clean and silky smooth – refreshed. It's $2.99 for a 16 oz bottle.

Coconut Body Butter
This is a thick, smooth, buttery, body cream that’s made with pure coconut oil and other natural, skin-soothing ingredients, like aloe vera, shea butter and vitamin E. It absorbs into your skin very quickly, and doesn’t leave it feeling oily. An eight oz jar is $5.49.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cruise Packing Tips

I just got back from my 9th cruise so I've compiled a helpful packing list.

  • Irons and steamers are not allowed on cruise ships so pick up a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser
  • Highlighter pen - every night in your room you will find a printed program for the next day.
  • Refillable insulated water bottle to fill up with free water to take ashore with you that stays cold
  • Beach Chair Towel Clips - to hold your beach towel up on the beach chair
  • Packing cubes - this is how I pack
  • Seasickness relief - prescription behind your ear patch, Seaband pressure bracelet, Bonine or Dramamine
  • Hat - so important! Caribbean sun is so strong and you want to protect your forehead skin from premature wrinkles so you should be wearing a hat everyday
  • Nail file - I always forget to pack this and it seems like only on vacation do I have a nail emergency lol
  • Sticky Notes - to leave in your cabin for your travel companion to say where you are
  • Disinfecting wipes -  wipe down in your cabin the remote control, door knobs and light switches
  • Plastic bag - to bring home a wet swimsuit
  • Travel Scarf - to hide your valuables when you travel
  • Waterproof fanny pack - this is the best invention ever! You can go swimming with your phone if it's not waterproof
  • Travel Safe
  • Portable Phone Charger
  • Sunglasses, bandaids, sunblock, aloe for sunburn, large beach bag and flipflops
  • Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring one bottle wine per person when you first board the ship, so pick up a bottle from a liquor store in Miami and throw it in your suitcase.
  • Luggage tags - Cruise lines now make you print out your own luggage tag and staple it to your bag handle at home. Here's a plastic alternative you can purchase:

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Monday, April 2, 2018

5 TV Shows to Binge Watch

Orphan Black
I'm hooked on this series! There's 5 seasons that aired from 2013-2017. When Sarah witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks just like her, she assumes the deceased's identity, her boyfriend and her bank account. Soon, she finds herself caught in the middle of a deadly conspiracy. It's filmed in Toronto. Every season is a completely new story line and plot twist. 
Homeland  - Season 7 is airing right now on Sundays on Showtime, but I'm a season behind since I have to watch it on Netflix. It's a fantastic gripping drama, so much so that Claire Danes has won both Golden Globes and Emmys twice for her performance on the show which is highly deserved! Every episode is full of twists and surprises that it keeps me on the edge of my seat in suspense. I can't recommend it enough, you'll love it!

Here's the synopsis:
Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) is a CIA operations officer on probation after carrying out an unauthorized operation in Iraq. As a result, she has been reassigned to the Counter terrorism center. While in Iraq, she was warned that an American prisoner had been turned by Al-Qaeda. When Nicholas Brody, a U.S. Marine Sergeant, is rescued after being held hostage since 2003, she suspects that he is the turned American prisoner. Brody is received home as a war hero, so Carrie goes to any lengths possible, ignoring protocol, to catch him out. And that's just season 1, each season is in a new location with new cast members added and subtracted.

Big Little Lies
Based on a book set in Australia, the book follows the stories of 5 moms whose kids all attend kindergarten together. I read the book first and kept the characters apart by remembering who played them in the HBO miniseries: Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoë Kravitz. The book begins by alluding to a murder that takes place at the end of the book, but you have to finish the book to find out who! The book has humor, mom rivalry, and vivid characters. The TV show takes place in tiny Monterey, CA and doesn't have as much detail as the book so I recommend reading the book first. Despite originally being billed as a miniseries, HBO renewed the series for a second season which will air next year. 

Will & Grace
Will & Grace has returned to the air after a 11 year hiatus! Best friends Will and Grace are roommates while both looking for Mr. Right. They have the most entertaining sidekicks - cocktail swirling Karen and her flamboyant boy toy Jack. This Emmy winning show is one of the funniest sitcoms on TV.  You can catch it Thursdays at 9pm on NBC or you can watch it for free online. It had eight seasons in the past, now on it's new run it's just been renewed for a third season! So you might want to catch up on all the old seasons for a good laugh.

Sons of Anarchy
Sons of Anarchy, aka SAMCRO, is a motorcycle club that operates both illegal and legal businesses in the small town of Charming, CA. They combine gun-running and a garage, plus involvement in porn films. Clay, the president, likes it old school and violent; while Jax, his stepson and the club's VP, has thoughts about changing the way things are, based on his dead father's journal. Their conflict has effects on both the club and their personal relationships. Starring Charlie Hunnam and Kathy Sagal, you have 7 seasons to watch! It's one of the best shows I've seen in a long time. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What's New on Netflix 2018

After watching the Golden Globes and Oscars you probably have a long list of movies you need to see. Here's a round up of 28 new films that you can find on netflix now. Did you know netflix is celebrating it's 20th anniversary this year?

I, Tonya
Here's the story of ice skater Tonya Harding and the most famous sports scandals in American history: the assault on rival Nancy Kerrigan before the 1994 Winter Olympics. Allison Janney won an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. Margot Robbie had to use drugstore hair dye to get the right shade of blonde. There was a lot of controversy on Twitter for Margot taking Tonya Harding as her date to the Oscars. I mean would you invite OJ to an awards show for the TV show based on his life? lol 

Lady Bird
I loved this movie! It's a coming of age story set in 2002 of a lower middle-class, 17-year old girl in unglamorous Sacramento. She named herself Lady Bird, has a tumultuous relationship with her mother and wants to go to college in New York City against her mother's wishes. It's a slice of a suffocated teenage life. Directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. It was nominated for five Oscars. Won two Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy - Saoirse Ronan. 

The Post
I saw this in the movie theater and it was nominated for Best Picture at both the Oscars and Golden Globes. When the Washington Post agrees to publish the leaked Pentagon Papers, which point to a secret escalation of the Vietnam War, the Nixon administration tries to block publication, setting off an epic legal and political battle. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep who plays Katharine Graham who was the first female publisher of a major American newspaper in 1963. She got the role after her husband's death and had to demand the respect of her male colleagues.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
I saw this in the movie theater and this dark, unique movie has a very captivating story line. When law enforcement fails to make headway on the months-long hunt for her daughter's killer, Mildred Hayes takes the drastic step of putting up three large signs questioning the motivation of the town's widely respected police chief. It won four Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Frances McDormand. It won two Oscars for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Frances McDormand  and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Sam Rockwell.

Roman Israel
You may have not heard of this movie as it only ran for a week in limited release and three weeks in wide release in November before disappearing from most theaters.  Denzel was nominated for both an Oscar and Golden Globe for Actor in a Leading Role. This is great movie because of its usual elements. It's about an adorable character (Roman played by Denzel) that does charity through his profession as a defense lawyer in Los Angeles while only being paid $500 a week. Roman seems to be on the autism spectrum although that is never mentioned in the movie.  He uses an old computer, his files are on index cards in lieu of law-office software, uses a flip phone and only eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Denzel had to gain 30 lbs for this role and his wardrobe consisted of looses fitting eighties vintage. When his firm closes he has to join a powerful law firm lead by Colin Farrell. The movie is about moral values in a world were profit is preventing us from making the right choices.

Wonder Woman
A female-led, big-budget superhero movie, when was the last time we had one of those? It was directed by a woman and gave middle-aged woman superhero roles in the movie. Including 50 year old Robin Wright who you see riding into battle and is a fierce fighter. The story line to the movie is that before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers and her true destiny. You don't have to be a fan of superhero action movies to like this movie.

The Shape of Water
It won four Oscars including Best Motion Picture of the Year and two Golden Globes. At a top secret U.S. government laboratory in the 1960s, a lonely cleaning lady forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity. Filmed in Baltimore and the color green played an important role in the movie as there were green walls, green lockers, green clothes, green cars, green jello pie, etc. I was expecting so much nudity in the film. Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Octavia Spencer. 

The Pirates of Somalia
This is the true story of aspiring journalist Jay Bahadur who travels to Somalia in 2008 to make contact with the pirates who are hijacking trade ships as they pass by the African coast. The closing credits identify the many Somali refugees in the cast and crew with the year they became a refugee. I really enjoyed this movie about Somalia as I learned a little bit about the culture and people. Other movies filmed in Somalia based on true stories that I've enjoyed are  Captain Phillips, Black Hawk Down, and Desert Flower.

A United Kingdom
Based on the true story of Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland who was studying law in Britain in the late 1940s in preparation for his eventual ascension to the throne. The prince falls in love with a white British woman named Ruth Williams. When they wed after a brief courtship, their interracial union sparks an international political crisis. His uncle disapproves of this union and Britain fears a backlash from neighboring country apartheid country South Africa. This ends up causing international opposition, a diplomatic firestorm and domestic political tumult. Against all odds, King Khama and Ruth struggle to maintain their love and help their people in a land that becomes the Republic of Botswana. It's a beautiful movie  starring David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike about a story I knew nothing about.

Pixar's magical animation lights up this colorful tale of adventure that follows Miguel Rivera, a 12-year-old Mexican boy who unlocks a long-hidden family mystery after he ends up in the Land of the Dead.

Justice League
We have Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg all in the same movie! The first hour was an introduction to each of them, which means the actual story was only an hour. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes, it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions. Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jason Momoa and Connie Nielsen. I didn't find it as good as the movie Wonder Woman.

Feeling that their lives are out of control, a husband and wife decide to be reduced to tiny size to make life more affordable and leave a smaller carbon footprint. Unfortunately, after he undergoes the procedure, his spouse backs out. Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, and Christoph Waltz.

The Mountain Between Us

Kate Winslet and Idris Elba star in a drama based on Charles Martin's novel. When a plane they've chartered to beat a storm crashes in a remote mountain area, two strangers must trust each other in order to survive the extreme elements. With little hope of rescue, they begin a perilous journey that will shape the course of their lives. I wasn't sure I'd like a movie that was starring only 2 people in a remote location but it was a very poetic movie with stunning landscape.

Girls Trip
When four lifelong friends (Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Queen Latifah) travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there's enough dancing, drinking, brawling and romancing to make the Big Easy blush. I was surprised I actually liked this movie and Tiffany is hilarious!

Military related films:

Thank You for Your Service
This movie chronicles the experiences of three U.S. military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder following their service in Iraq focusing on their struggle to reintegrate with the civilian world. This is not a war movie but a film of what war does to you and how it affects you after you are no longer in physical war but your mind stays in mental war and no one understands. This is a film about those veterans who are not supported by the psychological services of the Veterans Administration due to lack of funding. Amy Schumer has a small role as a wife in this movie and donated all the money she earned from it to army war vet foundations. The movie was based on real people who you see at the end of the film. 

Megan Leavey
Based on the true life story of a young Marine corporal (played by Kate Mara) and her bomb-sniffing dog who sees them through more than 100 missions during the Iraq War until an improvised explosive device injures them both. 

Movies that were just meh

Get Out

I hated this movie, but it won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year. And at the Golden Globes it was nominated for Best Motion Picture. The story line is a young African-American (Daniel Kaluuya) visits his white girlfriend's (Allison Williams) parents for the weekend in a posh suburb where he learns that young African-American men like himself have been vanishing from. It's a cheesy, suspenseful horror movie with lots of eyes bugging out and hidden messages.

Home Again 
Set in Los Angeles, this romantic comedy follows a recently divorced single mother (Reese Witherspoon) as she defies common sense and takes in three young male boarders who become part of her unconventional family. The premise of the story was unbelievable.   

In this big-screen adaptation of the popular TV drama, the hard-bodied lifeguards who patrol a sun-soaked Florida beach uncover a criminal plot that could destroy the bay where they work. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron. Priyanka Chopra, and Charlotte McKinney. I was disappointed they changed the beat to the theme song.

Rough Night

Preparing for a seriously crazy bachelorette party, five friends rent a Miami beach house for the weekend and hire a male stripper to get things started. But what they didn't expect was that the stud would end up a stiff. Starring Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon with an Australian accent.

Atomic Blonde
When an MI6 agent is murdered in 1989 Berlin, fellow spy Lorraine Broughton is dispatched to investigate and retrieve the list of double agents he was carrying. But that means working with the Berlin station chief which could prove tricky. Starring Charlize Theron and John Goodman.


Worse movie ever, I fast forwarded through most of it. Cop Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) has been working both sides of the law for some time with a fair degree of success. But after he and his partner get caught stealing a drug kingpin's cocaine shipment, the life of Vincent's son is put in danger. 

Tulip Fever

As 17th-century Amsterdam is immersed in tulip mania, a struggling artist and a wealthy married woman fall in love when he's commissioned to paint her portrait. To pay for a new life together, they gamble on the tulip bulb market. Starring Alicia Vikander,  Judi Dench,  and Cara Delevingne.

Coming out in April in DVD

The Greatest Showman
Behind "The Greatest Show on Earth" was one of history's greatest showmen, P.T. Barnum. This musical biopic centers on Barnum's creation of the three-ring circus and his infatuation with Swedish songbird Jenny Lind. Starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, and Zendaya.

All the money in the world
In a crime that rivets the American public for months in 1973, members of an Italian paramilitary organization kidnap John Paul Getty III. When his oil-rich grandfather balks at paying the ransom, the bad guys up the stakes dramatically. Starring Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg.

The Commuter
Insurance salesman Michael Woolrich's (Liam Neeson) quiet train ride home turns into a terrifying situation when a mysterious woman forces him to find a specific passenger before the last stop, entangling Woolrich in a deadly conspiracy. 

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
After her heroics in "The Force Awakens," space wanderer Rey carries on her quest to discover her origins. When she learns the possible location of the long-missing Luke Skywalker, Rey and her allies begin a journey rife with perils.

12 Strong
This tense military drama follows the first American forces to land in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks: a small band of elite soldiers who travel on horseback through deadly territory to help coordinate the efforts of anti-Taliban forces. Starring Chris Hemsworth, his wife Elsa Pataky, and Trevante Rhodes from Moonlight.

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