Thanksgiving at Pismo Beach


Duke and I spent Thanksgiving at Pismo Beach soaking up the sun and, most importantly, relaxing. Although we love living in the city, we do escape every chance we get. What can I say, we aren’t city people! The beach and nearby dunes were so beautiful I could hardly believe the area wasn’t packed with people. As you can see in the photos, Duke and I surely enjoyed it.
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I Lost My Head in San Francisco

Okay, so it’s been a while since we (Duke and I) posted, but that’s because we had so many changes happening! First, I finally finished my degree. Second, Duke turned TWO years old. And last, but certainly not least, we MOVED!

Duke and I are proud new residents of the city of San Francisco! We are absolutely loving it so far, and can’t wait to explore our new home. I will say it’s been a huge adjustment, but it’s definitely starting to feel like home. I will share a few posts in the coming weeks about our new city and what we have been up to (as well as updates of the last few months), but in the meantime, Happy New Year to you all!

Love,

Ashley & Duke

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Boost Energy With Food

Monday morning breakfast! Follow on Instagram for more picks @ashwick

Monday morning breakfast! Follow me on Instagram for more pics: @ashwick

Whenever I’m feeling extra stressed or am trying to overcome an illness (or both), I always switch my diet before I resort to medicine. While it can be easy and convenient to turn to energy drinks or sugar-packed options for a pick-me-up, neither of those things are going to help you in the long run (although I love coffee, it’s my guilty pleasure).

First, I switch to better fats. My last post discussed how much i loooove avocados, and I always pick up a bunch of them when I’m not feeling the best. They are rich in vitamins and all the right fats for optimal health. Plus, yum.. am I right? Next, I boost my vitamin/mineral intake. I sometimes take an iron (feosol) pill, but I prefer to get a boost of iron from a green smoothie or a big salad. Spinach, kale and beans are all great for this!I also like to increase my intake of vitamin D on days that I know I won’t be outside much. It’s hard for college students to get the vitamin d they need from the sun because we spend so much time in the library, class or wherever else we need to be studying. My energy levels ALWAYS increase after a few days of a vitamin d supplement! Finally, I try to grab a few fruits for snacking on the go. Berries, apples, you name it. I love fruits and the fiber and vitamins they pack are such a great bonus.

There are endless ways to boost your energy levels with food, but these are my favorite tricks for especially stressful weeks. I definitely recommend considering what nutrients you might not be getting enough of in daily diet and lifestyle, and adding foods that will fill in the gaps. Happy snacking!

A is for Avocado

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Avocado is easily my favorite food in the world. I take full advantage of any opportunity to incorporate this amazing fruit into my diet and routine. Since I currently live in Virginia, it’s not always easy to get my hands on fresh avocados, but it’s one of the few foods I am willing to spend a little extra for. Avocados are incredibly nutritious and are known as a superfood for all of their amazing health benefits. They contain multiple vitamins such as Vitamin K, Vitamin E and B vitamins, and are also packed with good fats and protein!

People who eat avocado in their regular diets tend to be healthier than those who don’t, and also have lower cancer rates, which is a big win for me. One of my favorite things to do with avocado (besides eating it, of course) is make a face mask with it. I like to mix any combination of honey, avocado, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and uncooked oatmeal and just smear it all over my face for 15-20 minutes. If you don’t have every ingredient lying around, just mix together what you have and enjoy!

For those of you who prefer to eat your avocados rather than making a mess with them, here is a great recipe for avocado cream salad dressing (my fav)!

BPA Free Since ’93

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You’ve seen it on the news, you’ve heard about it in the break room at work, or at the very least you’ve seen a water bottle with a “BPA FREE” sticker on it. As Americans, we love convenience, and what is more convenient than plastic containers/bottles/bags? Nothing is easier than popping open a can of soup, throwing it in the microwave, and BAM! Dinner is ready (if you went to college, I know you’ve done this before, stop lying to me).

As it turns out, those cans and $3 cases of water are doing more harm than good to our bodies. This WebMD article explains the issues with BPA and phthalates, but I’ll give you the reader’s digest version. Bottom line: plastics are bad. Avoid at all costs. Plastics leach into our food, and immediately enter our bloodstream (which isn’t ideal). The study cited in the WebMD article above stated that over 90% of people sampled had detectable levels of BPA in their systems. The effects of these chemicals range from hormone and reproductive disruptions all the way to diabetes, heart disease and even liver toxicity.

If at all possible, please try to choose glass, metal canteens or even PHA polyesters (biodegradable plastic substitutes) when storing your food. There is a glass or metal alternative to pretty much everything you could ever imagine, so just doing a little research or keeping an eye out for them will make your search a lot easier. For those moms reading, look for BPA free baby bottles and start the trend while your children are young. Most of all, PLEASE avoid eating canned foods whenever possible. Cans are the biggest culprits of BPA exposure in America (they are all lined with plastic, FYI), so if you can get it from the freezer section or prepare it fresh, I highly recommend it.

I personally love glass tupperware because I feel like the food keeps longer than in plastic containers, so I have used them pretty much my entire life. I was also taught never to heat anything up in/on plastics of any kind, and my parents always used glass and metal products for school lunches and such. I never knew why until BPA started making headlines in the past few years, so thanks Mom and Dad!

Plus, then you get to carry adorable glass to-go cups around and everyone gives you compliments on them! (see photo above-taken today!)

Meatless Monday

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Every week, I try to go at least one day with absolutely no meat. Although that may seem crazy to some of you, it actually isn’t so rare in other parts of the world (read: not America). Meatless Monday is healthy for your body, your wallet and the environment altogether. It takes nearly 1,680 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, and only 39 gallons to produce one pound of vegetables. Although eating an entirely organic diet can be more expensive than the average American’s diet, going without meat once a week statistically saves money (replace with rice and beans for example), which can be put to buying pricier organic produce later in the week if you wish. Considering that Americans eat more than four times the amount of animal protein than the rest of the globe does, this is probably a long overdue tradition.

I’m not a huge fan of meat, so I tend to go for tofu options pretty often, but I will say that the health benefits are a great benefit. Substituting tofu or grains for meat can lower cholesterol (which is ONLY found in animal products, by the way), which lowers the risk of heart disease, many cancers, type 2 diabetes, and more. More than two-thirds of Americans (68.8%) are considered overweight or obese, and over 74% of American men are overweight! If that doesn’t scare you into eating a carrot, I don’t know what will.

I challenge all of you to try to go meatless at least one day next week, and try tell me it doesn’t make you feel better!

P.S. A great blog to read for meatless motivation is http://www.nomeatathlete.com/. Matt Frazier is one of my idols, I swear he is so inspiring.

P.S.S. Duke goes meatless once a week too, and I prepare a variety of veggies for him! Dogs need healthy hearts as much as humans do.

How to Live – 5 Life Lessons From A Dog

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Living with a dog changes you. Since it’s just Duke and me at my apartment during school months, I have had a chance to really bond with him. I truly think that he makes me a better person, and he is the BEST stress reliever (doggy kisses after a terrible exam? game over)! Here are a few of the many things that Duke has taught me.

 5. Forgive

Betrayal never feels good, but holding grudges takes a toll on your mind and soul. If Duke can forgive me for keeping him locked in a crate all day while I’m in class, then you can forgive your friend for lying. Trust me, you’ll feel better.

4. Make Time For Exercise 

This is a big one. I am admittedly pretty lazy (and so is Duke), but we are infinitely happier after a short walk. I can tell that it lifts his spirits, and I know that I feel better after getting my heart rate up a little bit. Take a walk or go for a bike ride a few times a week, and you will see your mind open up in ways you didn’t know were possible.

3. Be Yourself

Dogs never try to be anything but exactly who they are, and I think us humans could take a few pointers from them. I know that I  always feel better when I’m not pretending to be something I’m not, and I find that most people do this more than they should. People will love you for who you are, and if they don’t then they just aren’t the people you’re supposed to fill your time with. If I ever start to feel myself falling away from who I truly am, I remind myself that I’m the only Me who has ever, and will ever, exist on this Earth, and I should own the $#%! out of that! (And then I do.)

2.  Trust Your Instincts

Fact: If it feels wrong, it probably is. When I was in high school, my best friend was three years younger than me (she’s wise beyond her years, if you knew her you’d agree). When she was looking at colleges last spring, I told her exactly what I’m saying to all of you. If you don’t feel confident about something, don’t do it. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Duke doesn’t go near things that he thinks might be dangerous, and now I don’t either. This could apply to anything in life, but always just trust your gut and you will never steer down the wrong course.

1. Love With All You Have

Okay, everyone with a dog is familiar with this one. Duke loves everyone he meets and almost everything he sees, and it is such a beautiful thing to witness. I had a book growing up (and if you know the name, please remind me!) that said “fall in love with one thing every day.” Whether it is a place, a food, a feeling or a person (or a dog, duh), just try to love something every day of your life. If you love the world, it will love you back. And if you love a dog, he will lick your face. I’ll let you decide which is better :).

The Importance of SPF

If there is one regret I have in life, it’s that I haven’t always been very protective of my skin. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it should be cared for the most diligently (in my opinion). I grew up in a family that treats skincare as a second religion, so I’m no stranger to the benefits of using SPF, but with skin cancer cases rising in the US every day (more than 5 million people every year), there is no time like the present to pick up a great sunscreen for your face, lips and body. One in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in his/her lifetime, can you believe that?! Read more skin cancer facts here. 

This video inspires me so much, I hope it has the same impact on all of you. Love your skin!! 

My Picks: For my face and body, I use Neutrogena products (this one and this one), as well as bareMinerals SPF 20 Moisturizer for face and hands (also mentioned here). I use Neutrogena face products for my entire body because, as I have mentioned about a million times, I have very sensitive skin. I use Aquaphor Repair + Protect SPF 30 on my lips, which is a spot most people forget to apply SPF but happens to get the most exposure.

Daily Skincare Routine

I don’t know about you guys, but my skincare routine is one of the most important parts of my day. Nothing feels as refreshing as a clean face. I may have a cheat meal here and there, and I have been known to skip more than a few workouts (nobody’s perfect, right?), but I never ever ever skip a step in my daily skincare regimen. I have extremely sensitive skin, so although I can’t always substitute natural products, I try to do so as much as possible.
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Morning: I start every day with a splash of cold water (like, ice cold) on my face. It wakes up my skin and rinses the night’s oil off, but it also wakes up my mind and body as well. I don’t wash my face in the morning, but if I’m extra oily (summer months usually) I will run a cotton pad and some witch hazel over my face to clear that all up. Witch hazel has amazing skincare properties and is a wonderful all-natural alternative to toners or astringents on the market (read  about it here). I also use bareMinerals Advanced Protection SPF 20 Moisturizer because we all know how important it is to protect from the sun.

Make up: I will devote an entire post to this because I have so much to say, but I use all BareMinerals makeup and tools. The products are beyond amazing, I can’t say enough good things about this company. BM also doesn’t test on animals, which may or may not be a selling point for you, but it is very important to me.

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Night – Make up Removal: As I mentioned, I have very sensitive skin. I take my top layer of makeup off with Pond’s Luminous Clean Wet Towelettes (reviews here), and that takes off everything except my eye makeup. These wipes are seriously amazing, they are gentle and smell great and actually clear up my skin. On make-up free days I actually use them multiple times because they just feel so great and instantly freshen me up :). I then use Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution for my eye makeup – it is so gentle and all my makeup comes off in one swipe. This isn’t available yet in the US (my friends ship it to me from Europe and UAE hehe) but if you can get your hands on a bottle, I highly recommend it. A US alternative is Caudalie Cleansing Water. I have never tried this specific product, but Caudalie products are amazing so I’m sure it’s no exception.

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Night – Cleansing: I know this isn’t the best as far as naturalism is concerned, but I use Proactiv cleanser and moisturizer on my face every other day. There are natural alternatives, but it’s the only thing that doesn’t give me a rash, so cut a girl a break! I order all of my Proactiv off of eBay because I’m a poor college student, but for the sake of brand loyalty I will tell you guys to order it from the website here. I don’t use the Proactiv toner though, because I think witch hazel works 1000x better and it is all natural (it’s also cheaper). I only exfoliate 2-3 times a week, but this is all dependent on your specific skin type (I have sensitive but very oily skin). I alternate exfoliators, so on any given day I will either use a combination of raw honey and brown sugar (recipe and benefits here), or RareMinerals Exfoliating Treatment Cleanser. Both work great, but obviously the honey and brown sugar option is less expensive. It also tastes better, so if you’re prone to getting cleansers in your mouth I would recommend starting with that one haha.

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Night – Moisturizing: I have a plethora of night creams for eyes, forehead, neck, and everything else you could possibly imagine. A few of my favorite are RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive, the classic CeraVe PM moisturizer, and finally Perricone Cold Plasma (pricey but SO worth it, just trust me on this one). I find that most popular moisturizers don’t react well with my skin, so these are just a few that I have tried and loved for many years. I tend to stay pretty loyal once I find a good moisturizer, so if you have one that you like, hold onto it for dear life! I also use the entire bareMinerals Mineralixirs line, and if those of you with dry skin haven’t tried any of these products yet, DO! You can get a starter pack for $30 and it has lasted me SO long.

I am constantly picking up new products, so if any of you think I should try something just let me know!