New blog!

Howdy peeps!!

After a 2-ish year hiatus, I’m back! And now blogging on a new site:

Alex’s Al Fresco Adventures 

Looking forward to seeing you there!! 🙂

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Get Your Head Right

When I say the word “future,” what comes to your mind?

A scary, hairy monster that gives you goosebumps and paralyzes you with fear?

Or a peaceful, mountain meadow that fills you with joy, excitement, and happiness?

It’s all in how you decide to approach things.

The right mindset, so to speak.

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The future used to terrify me.

Back in high school, I was distraught with fear when senior year came around and I had to choose a college, choose a major, and basically choose the life I wanted to pursue without anyone telling me what to do or how to do it.

I was a ball of stress. I was so focused on fear, my priorities went down the tube. I lost a lot of weight, gained a lot of anxiety and parted ways with some friends. Once I decided on a school, I eventually just had to take a semester off to re-evaluate my long term goals and rediscover Alexandra.

Taking time to breathe turned out to be the “pause” I needed to jumpstart my life.

That “pause” gave me mental clarity and the tools I needed to cope with my fear of the future. God has a perfect plan for our lives and I just needed to RELAX and trust His timing. After attaining my Bachelor’s in marine biology, the future doesn’t seem so scary.

I have big dreams in both bodybuilding and the marine science field and I don’t plan on half-assing either anytime soon…

Bodybuilding-wise, my long term goal is to compete in Women’s Physique, and in order to do so, I need to put on a lot of size. While I’d love to compete again sooner, I know what has to be done. I’m absolutely LOVING the offseason and learning to maintain balance, consistency, and the daily routine. The stage will always be there, and I don’t want to sacrifice long term goals for short term pleasure. I’m in it for the long run!

Marine biology- wise, I haven’t told many people, but next February, I plan on pursuing my Master’s (and eventually PhD) in Marine Sciences from the University of Otago in New Zealand. Yes, it’s a long way from home, but I’ve always been one for adventure, travel and new experiences, and I’m not afraid to branch out! Aaaaaand the University has an incredible program and an absolutely awesome location for research.

I wish I could go back and tell high school Alexandra that everything turned out just fine. Sometimes, I still get anxious about the future or feel like I should have my life more together, but I quickly slap myself and say, ” You’re in your 20’s, you DON’T have to have your life all planned out. God’s got that all worked out for you. That’s what makes life exciting, enjoyable, and amazing.”

YOU are in control of how you interpret life, the future, and your dreams.

When you decide to make “getting your head right” a priority, everything else just seems to fall in place, and the future no longer has its fear-gripping power.

Where’s the Beef?! (No Cow Bar Review)

Hey everyone!! Long time no blog!

It feels like an eternity since I last posted, life got pretty busy with competition prep, work, and grad school applications. But I’m back!! 🙂

Competing in my first figure show was a whirlwind of an experience, I actually placed second in my class! It got me even more addicted to the sport of bodybuilding than I ever thought possible. I’m currently taking a long offseason to add some quality size to my frame…EAT ALL THE THINGS! 😀

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Since my diet isn’t as strict during offseason, I can fit some treats into my macros. Additionally, I have two free meals a week that go untracked. So, when I stumbled across D’s Naturals No Cow Bars towards the end of my prep, I made sure to bookmark their website to try out there stuff as soon as offseason began.

What makes No Cow Bars so unique? They have the macronutrient profile of many other high fiber protein bars on the market, but they’re made without milk products or whey protein! They’re soy free, dairy free, vegan, gluten free, and high fiber. Perfect for plant-based, vegan athletes or people just trying to grab a healthier snack.

I contacted the company and they graciously sent me samples of their three current flavors: blueberry cobbler, peanut butter cookie dough, and mint chocolate chip!

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So without further ado, here’s a taste review! 🙂

(Note, I was not paid or endorsed to say anything about these bars. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.)

Taste: Blueberry Cobbler: I gave this bar to my mom as a snack for work (hence no picture). She said it tasted very fruity with major emphasis on the blueberry. The little freeze dried blueberries in the bar provided a lot of flavorful zing! 

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough: Reminded me of the powdered peanut butter PB2 in flavor. Sweet but not overpowering, tiny chunks of chocolate and peanuts, more peanut buttery than chocolate.

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Mint Chocolate Chip: IDENTICAL to a thin mint Girl Scout cookie. Little mint chunks in the bar really added to the overall flavor. I got kind of tired of the flavor by the time the bar was over though.

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Texture: Each flavor was VERY soft, almost dough-like. The peanut butter cookie dough was a bit grainy, but not bad. The mint chocolate was probably the softest and best texture. All had tiny chunks of chocolate, fruit or nuts in them. I didn’t try them heated, but I bet they’d taste like fresh baked cookies.

Smell: Blueberry Cobbler: Grandma’s fresh pie 🙂 Peanut Butter Cookie Dough: A brand new jar of peanut butter or a Reese’s cup! Mint Chocolate Chip: Thin mint cookies all the way!

Price: $29.99 per box (Store locator on their website, may be able to find them cheaper locally)

Nutrition: 20-21g of quality plant protein, 25g carbs (19 of which fiber), between 2.5-5g fat, 2g net sugar, and roughly 200mg sodium.

Ingredients: Blueberry Cobbler: 71BNi2mG2LL__SL1300_

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough: 

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Mint Chocolate Chip: 71wmnY10r0L__SX522_

Overall: I probably would buy again and highly recommend them! The texture was a lot better than other high protein bars on the market and they digested well. The only thing I’m not a fan of is erythritol since it has the tendency to upset my stomach, but I had no ill-effects from these. I can’t wait to see what other flavors they come up with!

Thanks again D’s Naturals for allowing me to do this review!!

If you’re interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to check out D’s naturals’ website, Facebook page, or Instagram (@DsNaturals)

Wanderlust Wednesday: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, AZ, 2014

Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

Page, Arizona

September 2014

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The lovely city of Page is a small town located on the southwestern edge of Lake Powell, near the Utah/Arizona state line. It features Glen Canyon and other gorgeous natural wonders.

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As we soon discovered, it’s pretty much the only metropolis for miles–restaurants, stores, boat docks for the lake, hotels, tours.

So, what brings people to this neat town? The gorgeous, off-the-beaten-path, natural gems. Namely Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon–two hidden treasures in the desert landscape where countless photography enthusiasts and national geographic paparazzi flock every year.

On our southwestern road trip last September, I knew we had to make a pit stop in this city to see these iconic landmarks!

First up, Horseshoe Bend!!

Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe shaped portion of the Colorado River just outside of Page. The overlook above the bend is a breathtaking 1000 feet above the River with a sheer cliff face drop.

To get to the landmark, you have to take a little 3/4 mile hike from the parking lot. The hike is easy to follow and pretty self-explanatory, but I’d recommend you pack some sturdy shoes–people in flip flops were struggling in the deep sand.

Horseshoe Bend Trail

Many suggest you go at sunset for the best pictures, but sunrise is optimal as well. We decided to go in the morning to beat crowds and have more time in the afternoon to explore.

The view was outstanding!! The sheer drop to the bottom was steeper than I’d imagined. Dad and I lay on our stomachs and inched our way to the edge to get some neat shots.

We explored the area around the Bend and had fun meeting lizards and posing on rocks like Rafiki from Lion King 😀

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And, to give you an idea of the grandeur, that little person below is me!

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We left about an hour later and picked up iron-on patches from the Glen Canyon visitor center 🙂

Later that day, we’d scheduled a tour with Navajo guides in the popular Upper Antelope Canyon. Signing up for a tour is the only way you can get to the canyon since the roads are off-limits to pedestrians and regular vehicles. They even offer photographer-only tours during midday for a special VIP experience. We opted for the general tour.

There are two parts of the canyon you can explore–the Upper and Lower portions. We’d read online that the Upper was the more popular of the two, and recommended for those only staying a day in Page.

The tour place was just outside of the city and many guests were huddled around when we arrived at about 2pm.

The ride was BUMPY on the sandy terrain and our SUV had all of the warning lights blinking–transmission, oil, overheating, coolant, DING DING DING DANGER! I kept slamming my head on the window and thought for sure we would break down. A crazy 15 minutes later, we arrived at the canyon in one piece. It looked like nothing special from the outside, but man is it deceiving!!

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Other tour groups were already there so people lined up and were herded through the canyon like cattle. The guides explained to us how the canyon formed and even pointed out good places for picture opportunities. The one pictured below is called the “Candlestick”!

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I’ve never been so shutter happy in my life–every angle offered another beautiful perspective of the canyon walls in the light. Pictures just can’t do it justice! It was so fun playing with different modes and shutter speeds with my camera, too.

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We snaked our way through the canyon and came out the other side about 30 minutes later (pictured above).

The trip back through was meant to go quickly with no pictures, so you could just enjoy the canyon and get out of there in time for the next batch of tourists. It was an awesome experience, that’s for sure!

Both Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon are MUST-SEE if you make it to the Arizona Utah border. You will be blown away by the beauty and serenity found in every tiny detail! 😀

Antelope Canyon FINAL

Wanderlust Wednesday: Wildcat Trail, Monument Valley, Utah, 2014

 

Wildcat Trail

Monument Valley, Utah

September 2014

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Monument Valley has always mesmerized me. The beauty, the grandeur, the unique rock formations– I mean, what’s there not to love?!

While my dad and I were on our southwestern roadtrip last September, we decided to take a pit stop at this gorgeous natural wonder which also happened to be one of the top places on my bucket list.

The long, desolate road out to the monument was filled with picturesque rock formations. Look for the horse in the first picture below! (I actually took that one randomly out of the car window!)

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Upon arrival, I was shocked at how large the iconic rocks actually were! We swore we’d landed on Mars.

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We discovered there was a short trail that led around “The Mitten” and offered close, spectacular views of the rock and the surrounding desert.

Some fun facts about Wildcat Trail:

  • 3.2 miles around the West Mitten Butte, about 4 miles including the trek from the road
  • 5400 feet elevation
  • Walking takes about 1.5 – 2 hours

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The trail started off very steep downhill grade in deep, copper colored sand. I was glad I wore my hiking boots for the ankle support.

We arrived at a fork in the trail about a mile down from the road and it pointed right. We followed the trail all the way around the Mitten and literally gasped in awe at each angle. The moon even came out to greet us! And, way off  in the distance, was a rock that looked just like a pair of praying hands.

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After completing the full circle, we trudged back up the extremely steep, deep sand hill. It was like trying to swim in a pool of peanut butter–we were huffing and puffing by the top. But we made it and got some food at the visitor center cafĂ© afterwards. It was a really fun short hike!

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So, if you ever visit Monument Valley, take some extra time to venture beyond the gift shop and visitor center and get up close and personal to the gorgeous rock formations! You won’t regret it! (Click on the picture below for a full landscape panoramic shot of the valley!)

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Wanderlust Wednesday: Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon AZ, 2014

 

Bright Angel Trail, Rim to River to Rim

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

September 2014

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Every sign, pamphlet, and advertisement in the park said, “DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GO TO THE RIM TO RIVER AND BACK IN ONE DAY!!”

he..he..hee…….my dad and I kinda sorta violated that recommendation…..

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What can I say, we’re rebellious explorers! 😀

Here’s some facts about the hike and the beautiful and daunting Bright Angel trail:

  • 15.6 miles total
  • 4380 ft elevation change
  • 20 degree temperature change
  • 11 hours total
  • carrying 30+ lb packs
  • Very easy to follow, groomed path

We began the hike at sunrise (6am) and boy, was it chilly! We figured we should enjoy the cooler air while it lasted though, so we didn’t complain.

2-Bright Angel Trailhead

As we walked ever downward, we met two Vietnam veterans, both in their 70s, who’d hiked all over the country! If I remember correctly, this was their thirs hike into the canyon. I love meeting new people on hikes and hearing about their stories! We even spotted some deer on the trail thanks to their elderly prowess 😀 We kept talking about how weird it was to start a hike going down rather than up.

There are three rest stops on the way down to the river stationed at 1.5 miles, 3 miles, and Indian Garden at 5 miles. These stops consist of bathrooms and a place to fill up your water bottles! Definitely a nice mini destination to look forward to–especially on the way back up which we soon found out.

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We made it down to the first house relatively quickly,  and even though we felt great, we took advantage of the bathrooms, a breather, and chugged some water.

The sun still hadn’t crested over the rim of the canyon yet, so we were feeling awesome and continued on the adventure. We went past the second stop and onto the third and final stop at Indian Garden, one of the park’s popular campgrounds for day hikers. We checked our water, shed our jackets, ate some snacks and prepared for the final long trek to the river. If you click on the picture below, you can see a better depiction of the distances between the rest stops.

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The sun came over the rim about 11am, and after being semi-cold, it felt amazing, so we relished it. Dad even spotted a deer and her baby right by the trail nibbling on a cactus!! They didn’t even move and were so brave!

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A few people we passed were coming up from spending the night camping deep in the canyon at the famous Phantom Ranch! The spots at  filled up fast so we weren’t able to do that, but still LOVED camping in the park close to the trailhead. We’ll have to return in the future to experience that!

Did I mention the breathtaking SIGHTS on the way down?!?! Unbelievably gorgeous. Such a unique, special view of the canyon unlike anything you can experience from the road or observation decks. Pictures can’t do it justice.

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At about 12:30, we made it to the river and never felt so happy to rest our feet and shed our packs! The steep downhill grade was rough on the knees and ankles with the constant pounding.

A couple arrived seconds before us, so we offered to take their picture and they took ours. It was SO serene on the little river beach! My dad even dipped his toes in the icy cold Colorado!

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We spent about 30 minutes taking in the awesomeness, and then started mentally preparing for the return trip. I remember looking up at the rim, realizing just how far we’d come. It was daunting to think of going back UP, but we knew we had to do it. There was no option. As the park’s catch phrase goes, “Going down it optional, coming up is mandatory.”

11-THE RETURN

We contemplated going onto the Phantom Ranch campground, just to see it, but we decided we should turn around and start heading back. After all, our goal was to see the river! There was a tiny bathroom hut and water spigot at the river, so after emptying our bladders and filling our bottles, we began the long, intense hike back up.

One foot in front of the other. Step. Step. Step…

I hit a wall about an hour into the journey back. It was getting HOT. The mix of heat and the looming task ahead was intimidating.

But my dad pumped me up!! Yay hiking buddy!!! We made a game of taking a drink every 5 minutes to get our minds off of the blazing heat.  That game was a lifesaver!! That and seeing a band of mules go by and waving at the riders!

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We made it back to Indian Garden and ate some of our snacks. I’d never been so happy to see the first of the three rest stops. I knew we were a little under halfway back and it egged me on!

I’m glad my second wind kicked in because the steepness between Indian Garden and the second rest stop was the HARDEST. Think of a stairclimber and max incline treadmill having a baby in the Mojave desert. It kicked our BUTTS. Let’s just say, we were THRILLED to see the second rest stop. We ate some more food and talked to some neat people, including a man who used to be a guide on the trail. He was shocked at the great time we’d made for making it down to the river in the same day! Definitely a nice little ego boost haha

We headed out and were stoked to keep kicking canyon booty!

13-Return Hike

About 30 minutes in, a MONKEY WRENCH was thrown at my dad. Things got a little scary right before we made it to the last rest stop. My dad’s pemmican bar started to upset his stomach REALLY bad and he almost passed out. He laid down on a big flat rock in the shade and became super pale. I was nervous, thinking how I could flag down a mule if things got any worse. He laid there, drinking water, breathing deeply for about 45 minutes and then said, “let’s do this.” Cautiously, we started up again. He’d say “pace” whenever I’d start going to fast, and slowly but surely we made it to the rest stop. We knew we were close to the top by then!!

After another 40 minute break, my dad started feeling a lot better and it was my turn to cheer him on and get him to the finish!

Every step was gruesome, our legs were fried, and our sunburns were fierce, but we kept smiling, laughing and enjoying sights. The amount of people began to increase as we made it closer to the top. They’d ask us if we’d come up from spending the night at the campgrounds, but when we’d say no and told them of our adventure, each person was speechless! Granted, a lot of them were just tourists in flip flops, but still! They cheered us on and their words of encouragement helped us to the finish!! Seeing the trailhead on the horizon was overwhelming, and with a “go for it” from my dad, I ran to the finish! We high fived at 5pm and a nice couple took our picture.

14-The Finish!!

It was one of the most challenging hikes of my life, but also one of the most rewarding. I’m so happy I got to experience such a unique, heart pounding adventure with my dad. It’s memories like these that make my brain explode with happiness.

After making it back to our tent, we ate some food and CRASHED under the stars. A fabulous end to a fabulous day! I totally recommend the Bright Angel trail to any avid hiker–maybe not to the river and back in a day, but you catch my drift 😉

16-The Canyon

(And it wasn’t until the next day that I realized how intense my sunburn was hahaha)

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