Off to Haiti!!

Wednesday, May 20

I'm in Haiti this next week, so this blog will be a bit quiet! But, follow my adventures on instagram @hopeengaged. I'm currently in Atlanta...spent the night with the sweet Jenna, and am now about to get on my flight to Port Au Prince, Haiti. I get to see my best friend Katharine, and her husband Ted, and learn about their life and work in Haiti!!! I cannot wait! Have a great week friends!!! xoxo

5 Reasons You Should Visit Ecuador in 2015

Monday, May 18

In all our research on South America, Ecuador kept coming up as a crowd favorite. And now having visited, I can attest to why this country makes such positive ripples in the travel realm. If you are considering visiting South America, I want to give you 5 reasons why Ecuador should be on your itinerary:

1. It's Cheap
{picture taken at the swing at the end of the world, here

If you are on a budget, this is the country for you my friend! Generally, meals cost us about $2-5 and lodging around $40-50. Transportation is incredibly cheap with taxi's around $2 anywhere in the city, and buses between major cities costing a mere $3.50! We bused from Cuenca to Baños, and then from Banos to Quito, all for $7 bucks a person!

You'll notice that in Baños, we were able to do a ton of adventure sports, only because the prices were so cheap! Zip Lining cost around $25, Bridge swinging was $20, thermal baths were $20 (for the resort style ones) and $3.5 (for the public ones). My hour long massage costs $25. Activities are cheap and fun...the perfect combo!!

2. They use the American Dollar

Since we're already on the topic of money, Ecuador uses the American dollar, making it very easy to get around. No need to exchange money or try to spend the last few cents before you leave! You can bring your money or get it out of the ATM in Ecuador. When you leave Ecuador, you just take whatever you have left with you and spend it in the US! So easy!

3. The Natural Beauty is Breathtaking
One of the most important reason to visit Ecuador is that you can relax and enjoy the most unbelievable scenery at your doorstep. Particularly in Baños, you will be surrounded by lush green mountains, rushing rivers, and waterfalls galore! While we didn't have time (or money) to visit the Galapagos Islands, i've heard there is no place in the entire world like it! You can't go wrong in Ecuador in terms of beauty!

4. It is Rich in History

I'm pretty sure the history of South America was overlooked by my elementary school teachers, besides the week we spent on the Maya, Incas and Aztecs. So reading about Ecuadorian history was new and fascinating! It was easy to see the influence of the Spanish colonizers, as the architecture paralleled Spain in so many ways. Quito {Part 1, Part 2} has some of the most beautiful buildings in all of South America, and Cuenca is a historical gem in it's own right!

5. It's less touristy

One of the things Kevin and I noticed about Ecuador is that it is way lest touristy than other countries. If you're looking for a bit of a hidden gem before the masses of people "discover" it, definitely consider Ecuador! There were plenty of places we were the only tourists around, and it felt divine!!

I hope you'll give Ecuador a shot in the coming year, I promise it won't disappoint!
And check out Caity in Wanderland's sweet interview she did with me last week {here}
Happy Monday Friends! 

Top 10 Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Friday, May 15

Cartagena is a must stop location for any South American itinerary. It's colorful, fun, historical, and teeming with charm. Kevin and I spent 3 lovely days in the city, exploring the various aspects that make Cartagena so special! Below are the Top 10 things we loved to do in Cartagena….

1. Walk the Historic City Center
An absolute favorite of mine…especially at night. The city center is So colorful, and so well preserved! You'll be swept back in time as you stroll along the cobble stone streets passing by ladies with fruit on their head, horse drawn carriages rhythmically passing by. At night, the city is filled with twinkly lights,  guitar playing gentlemen, and lovers strolling down the lane. More pics and info here. 

2. Tour Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
Castillio San Felipe de Barajas is an iconic part of the Cartagena city scape. The fortress was built by the Spanish during the colonial era, construction beginning in 1536. It is built up on a hill, securing a strategic location to defend both sea and land attacks. The fortress gives a great foray into the history of Cartagena, and is worth visiting one of the first days you arrive! To see more of our pics and read about the fortress, click here. 

3. Take a day tour to a surrounding Island
Cartagena has a variety of surrounding islands that offer day (or even over-night excursions). The islands offer more of the white sand beaches you might be imagining when picturing Cartagena! We chose to visit Isla del Encanto, and it was a perfect all-day excursion! We got on a speedboat in the morning, spent the entire day lounging and swimming and eating yummy food, and then boated back in the late afternoon! The perfect restful day! More pics and info here. 

4. Try some street food 
Cartagena has a plethora of tantalizing tastes for you. The most common item is the arepa, a corn cake covered in cheese. Then there's the delicious fresh juices, a favorite being coco-limonada. At night, Kevin and I found the sweetest little empanada spot, and Kevin tried a few flavors. A favorite of mine was the fresh fruit…especially the mangos! Yum!! 

5. Take a Taxi out to Boca Grande
While Boca Grande was not my favorite part of the city, it was absolutely worth exploring. Boca Grande is essentially "Miami Beach" of Colombia. It was built up in the 1950's by rich oil executives, and has the very modern "built-up" look. Kevin and I took a taxi down there one night and found a fun little outdoor restaurant to eat at. We spent the next day at the beach there. It is dense and crowded and has a lot of energy. 

6. Spend a night in Getsemani
Getsemani is a short walk from the old walled city, but is very historical in and of itself. In some ways, I loved Getsemani even more than the city center, as it felt very authentic and local. Walking down the street where our hotel was located, there were young kids playing checkers and chess, riding bikes, and old men sitting out in their rocking chairs laughing the night away. Many new hip restaurants dot the area, and it is so lively and colorful, especially at night! More pics of Getsemani here. 

7. Sample Colombia's #1 coffee, San Alberto
f you are a coffee lover, you can't miss Cafe San Alberto! San Alberto coffee, started in 1972 in Colombia, has won multiple international awards. Known as some of the best coffee in the world, this sweet cafe offers legit pour over coffee that will have you coming back each day! Visit their cafe in the historic city center…the ambiance is super cute too!  {More info on the best restaurants here

8. Walk the Historic City Wall at Sunset
One night Kevin and I took a gorgeous stroll around the old city wall at sunset. We walked hand in hand, and while the sky turned rich hues of pink behind us, we soaked in the magical town to our back, and the ocean to our front. Walking high up on the wall allows you to see much of the city, over to Boca Grande, and of course the expanse of the sea. It was just dreamy! {More pics

9. Relax! 
Take a siesta! Get off your feet! Read, sleep, and just soak in the slow pace of life. Our hotel, properly named Casa Relax, had a lovely courtyard with a pool and several hammocks outlining the property. One afternoon Kevin and I laid in the hammocks and just let our body rest. It was divine! 

10. Pause to Enjoy the very talented street musicians! 
Not all street musicians are equal. We've all had our share of walking by someone playing terribly on the sidewalk. Not so in Cartagena. I don't know what it was…but every musician we walked past was brilliant. One night we stopped at 2 or 3 different performers, as they strummed their guitar so incredibly. Buy a gourmet popsicle at La Paletteria, the cutest little home-made popsicle shop ever, and then find a musician to enjoy! 

Have you been to Cartagena? What would you add? The beauty of this city is that there is more than enough to do and see!! Happy Weekend!! xoxo 

incase Luggage {and where i'm headed next week}

Thursday, May 14

So…I gave out some clues last Wednesday as to where i'm headed next week! Most you were totally on point…i'm headed to Haiti!!! My best friend and her husband live in Port au Prince, and i'm going to visit and spend time with them as I experience their new home for the next few years. I'm So excited!!

Speaking of traveling, the awesome company incase sent me an incredible roller bag to review. Most of the time I tend to use beat up old bags…and friends, let me tell you…I could feel the difference in this roller suitcase. It is SO easy to use, rolls like butter, has compartments for all your different items, and the best part is…has a special place for you to store your laptop. When I travel on the weekends, I never trust my laptop to my suitcase and so have to lug it around in my purse or hand! Not anymore…this awesome piece of incase luggage has a fully padded little pouch for my laptop and I felt completely safe storing it in there.

This particular luggage says it's a perfect size for a 3 day trip. I used it a few weeks ago when we vacationed in San Diego for the weekend. It fit everything I needed in there, and more! If you are an avid traveler, a lover of the weekend get-a-way, or business women who has to lug around her laptop, this would be the perfect roller for you!!

Check out incase if you are looking for a sweet bag! They also carry backpacks, messenger bags, and duffles too!!

The Oaks at Ojai // Mother's Day Spa Retreat

Tuesday, May 12

This past  weekend all the ladies in my family (mom, sisters, aunts, cousin) drove from different parts of California to reunite in sweet little Ojai, California. Ojai is nestled in between the coastal mountains, surrounded by idyllic orange groves and avocados. It's an artists haven, and has maintained it's old world charm:) {ie: it's an extremely wealthy and swanky place where a ton of celebrities live! I heard rumors Channing Tatum frequents the farmers markets, and Anne Hathaway is sometimes seen walking the neighborhoods! I may or may not have been on a celebrity look-out! ha} 

My mom has started a tradition of brining all the ladies together to attend a spa called The Oaks at Ojai. They have a special mother/daughter weekend over Mother's day, which is awesome {and gives a discount!}. Now...this isn't your average "spa" resort where you lay around and eat bon bons and get massages and facials. No, this little gem was founded by the grandmother of aerobics, Sheila Cluff. And at this spa, you eat healthy, work-out like crazy, and have all sorts of hilarious activities at night! 

A typical day included waking up for a 6:30am hike into the mountains {which was just gorgeous!}, then coming back for a yummy breakfast at 8am. This was followed by 3 work-out classes, then lunch, and then 3 more work-out classes! {Are you feeling tired just reading this? haha!}. The work-out classes ranged anywhere from yoga and Pilates to dance classes and hoola hoop, to boot camp, interval training and water aerobics! They were so much fun! Then we'd shower, and have a lovely dinner feeling so good about how healthy we were all day! 

The first night we were there it was pajama bingo, with 'I Love Lucy' trivia, haha! My mom ended up winning the grand prize, and I made off by winning a dozen gluten free muffins (score!). The second night was Karaoke...and let me tell you, we were off the hook! My sisters and I sang "Shake it of" by Taylor Swift, a little "Roar" from Katy Perry, and of course "Call me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepson. We literally are the world's worst singers...but we put our heart and soul into dancing. When we finished, the bougie karaoke guy told us that's the first time he's seen people lose weight while singing {ie: we were killing it in the dance department...apparently to make up for our lack of singing on key!} The finale was when my whole family got up and sang love shack...watching my mom and aunts dancing was a site to behold:) 

Late at night we'd all pile into the room together, tell stories, laugh, and giggle like small children. I'm so grateful that my family values being together and making sweet memories! 

If you are interested in visiting the Oaks, i'd absolutely recommend it. You get to choose what you do, so if work-out classes aren't your thing, there are plenty of relaxing opportunities! Ojai is a gorgeous little haven, you'll love it! Hope your Mother's day was grand!! 

Mother Daughter Tradition // The Tradition Series

Friday, May 8

This weekend is Mother's Day, and my mom and sisters and I are headed to the most adorable spa on the central coast of California to celebrate (you can read about our weekend here). You may think that sounds pampering, but really it's a kick-butt-work-your-socks-off kind of weekend! We will pretty much be eating healthy (and yummy) food, going to 5-6 workout classes a day (yoga, zumba, dance, pilates, etc.), hiking through the Santa Barbara mountains, and just enjoying one another's company. My aunts and cousins are coming too, so it will be so perfect! I tell my family I get my workouts in for the entire year, haha! Speaking of Mother's Day, the sweet Marina submitted a post about a tradition she has with her mom!! I thought it would be fun to share today...enjoy!

Bonjour! I'm Marina, a (soon to be married!) American who now lives and works in Paris. I like museums and Mexican food and Michigan. Garlands in Paris is where I write about playing in museums, with a focus on creativity and imagination. I celebrate the little things in life that, like art and friendship, have "no survival value; rather [they are some] of those things which give value to survival" (C.S. Lewis).

An ocean currently separates me from my mom, so when we get to see each other, it's a kind of a big deal. Without meaning to, we have started a tradition of visiting museums during our visits. Fine art, it turns out, is an awesome backdrop for talking about life with my mama.

I live in Paris, so when my mom comes to visit me, there are quite a few choices of locations to get our art-fix, including special destinations that must always be visited.

I am a professional museum educator, but my passion for art is nothing compared with my mom's. The way she engages with objects is full of curiosity and a desire for connection. She finds such utter joy in the beauty of creation. Walking through an exhibition of kimonos, she stared hard at one particular garment before wondering, "How must it make you feel to wear that? How would you move? How would you hold yourself?" She couldn't look at such a beautiful object without fully engaging with it, absorbing all its luscious details, and letting her imagination run wild. When I am with my mom in a museum, I learn how to not only look at art, but how to look at life.

Art can also spark some epic conversations about life. Art and artifacts are witnesses to the human quest for meaning and the passage of time. Surrounded by such gravity, it is easy to sink into beautiful conversations about life, love, loss, the past, the future... During my last visit with my mom this winter, we made our pilgrimage to the wall of Iznik tiles in a dark corner of the Louvre. In that beautiful, calm place, we talked about my upcoming wedding. She showered me with lots mama wisdom about what it looks like to love someone well. As quickly as the conversation had taken a turn for the serious, it became instantly silly when we decided that my wedding cake will be based on those sumptuous Iznik tiles!

As I wander through museums with my mom, I am always aware of how precious our time together is. The extraordinary art around us serves as a perfect metaphor for the treasure that is a leisurely afternoon strolling with my mom.

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Where am I going next...Can you guess?!?!?

Wednesday, May 6

So i'm super excited to share with you that i'm headed abroad exactly two weeks from today. Unfortunately Kevin has to work, so i'll be flying solo! As you all know I love to travel, so I spent the first few months of the year pondering where I should go and what I should do! It didn't take me long to realize I wanted to visit a dear friend of mine from college, Katharine. She and her husband moved to this country almost a year ago, and i've been dreaming of a way to get there since!

I'm going to give you a few clues to see if you can guess where i'm headed!! Ready? Let's begin:

1) Nearly 79% of it's people live in rural areas

2) Author, statesmen, and ex-slave Frederick Douglass was an ambassador to this country in the 1800's

3) Over 40% of the population is under 14 years old

4) France ruled this country immediately prior to their independence

5) For 105 years (1697-1802) this country was responsible for 40% of the sugar consumed in the entire world; 123 millions pounds in 1788 alone.

6) It is an island 

What's your best guess?? Was it easy? Hard? Good luck:) 
I'll share with you on Friday!!!

And a sweet happy birthday to my lovely sister Lena!! Hope your day is amazing girl...see you in a few days!!  

Happy Wednesday friends!!! 
And ps- don't forget to enter the give-away from Monday!! xoxo 

GIVE-AWAY! The Best Make-Up I've EVER Used!

Monday, May 4

You may think the title of this post is a little dramatic...but i'm totally serious. I've been searching for a good 15 years for make-up like this, and i've finally found it {PTL! Cue the confetti!}. If you need any more convincing, let me preface this post by saying that I found out about 100% Pure through a friend and immediately used my own money to buy quite a few of their products. They did not pay me to write this post! That's how much I love them:)

With that being said, I can literally tell you that 100% Pure's products are hands-down the best make-up i've EVER used. And i'm not exaggerating. Here's why:

1. They are 100% Pure and use fruit pigments and essential oils! No yucky toxins!  
Skin is the biggest organ of our body, and for most of us, we've been slathering chemicals and toxins on our skin for far too long. Everything we put on our skin seeps into our blood stream. Because of this, i've been on a mission the last few years to find make-up that isn't toxic. Let me tell you, it's hard! If you read the back of any drugstore make-up label, my guess is that you'll have no clue what any of the ingredients mean...because they are all chemicals! Not 100% Pure. I've heard of every ingredient on the back of 100% Pure products because they are all natural ingredients such as Goji Berry, Peach, Apricot, Rice Starch, Grapefruit, Vitamin E, etc. I literally can't believe how clean these products are!!

2. They Work...better than any other make-up i've used!
On my search for a clean make-up line, i've tried many other products that advertise as "clean" "organic" or "pure" but the quality is terrible! I feel like in the past i've wasted money trying to be clean with my make-up, only to have it melt off my face or crumble on my eye lids. I even tried Bare Minerals (which is known for being less toxic) but my sensitive skin couldn't handle the mineral make-up. 100% Pure has changed all that! I'm not even lying when I say that my skin has felt flawless (which is quite a big deal as i've struggled with skin issues in the past!). Not only are the healthy products nourishing your skin, but they leave the most gorgeous clean and fresh look on your face! I literally haven't had a break out since I've been using their make-up.

Today I wanted to share the products i've tried, and give away a $25 credit to their online store! So, without further ado...these are the make-up products i've tried:

- Fruit Pigmented Healthy Skin Foundation: Peach Bisque
This will be my foundation forever and amen. It gives the perfect amount of coverage (ie: covers blemishes well), but doesn't look cakey. Make sure to pick up a beauty blender to apply it (100% Pure sells the beauty blenders here, but I got mine for really cheap at Marshalls!).

- Luminous Primer
Ok, THIS PRIMER IS AMAZING!!! {yes, I just shouted that!}. In the past, I could never even wear primers because my skin would break out like crazy! But not this one. This baby actually nourishes my skin and makes it better!!! And it enhances the foundation to an even greater degree. If you bought 2 products from their store, make it the foundation and the primer!! I can't recommend this primer enough...don't believe me? Check out the fantastic reviews it gets here!!

- Fruit Pigmented Lip Glaze: Fig
This lipstick is a total favorite. The color is beautiful, and it nourishes my lips so much I feel like i'm putting on chap stick. The main ingredients are avocado and cocao butter and has extracts of all sorts of yummy fruits!! {Can it get any better?}

- Fruit Pigmented Mascara: Black Tea
This mascara smells so delish you will want to eat it, haha! This mascara really seems to be keeping my lashes healthy. While it doesn't elongate them as much as other products i've used, it is very consistently good so i'm sticking with it!!

- Fruit Pigmented Pretty Naked Palette 
So this is a total steal of a deal! For $35 you get a palette that has 3 eye shadows, a blush, and a luminizer! It was the perfect palette for me to get to try many of their products at once. I love the colors they offer, and have had fun playing around with contouring with the luminizer and blush! A total beauty basic in my make-up bag!

- Fruit Pigmented Eye-Shadow: Cashmere
One of the staples in my make-up bag is a dark purple eye shadow that I use to line my eyes. I love this cashmere color so much, and have had fun playing around with it! This shadow doesn't seem to stick as well as other shadows i've used, but i've noticed that putting a little primer on my eye lid helps a lot!

-Creamy Polish: Kiss
So not only am I trying to clean my make-up products up, but also my nail care too. Most nailpolishes have so many toxic chemicals in them, but this one is free of the common carcinogens in most nail polish: formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, and formaldehyde resin. I LOVE this color too, so spunky!

These are the make-up basics that I have built my new make-up bag around {I've literally thrown out all my old toxic make-up and have started fresh with 100% Pure!}. I can't wait to try more products and let you know what I think...but so far, i'm kind of addicted to the quality of their products!!

So much so that today I want to give away 
a $25 gift card to 100% Pure!

Here's what you need to do to enter: 
1. Visit 100% Pure's website and find what product you would buy!
2. Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite product is!
3. Follow 100% Pure on FB, IG and Twitter (both @100percentpure)
4. Follow Hope Engaged on FB & IG @hopeengaged
{If you don't have a particular social media links, enter anyway! I don't want anyone to be disqualified!}

Give-Away ends Friday, May 8th

That's it!!! I hope this inspires you towards clean living and taking ownership of what products you allow in your body. I've seen a huge difference already!! Happy Monday loves!!