Friday, April 3, 2015

Business and Blog is Moving Over to Vitae Essentia

I am working on a new VE logo. This was my first attempt and now I am hiring someone to do a better job!

I have been hard at work getting everything done for the opening of Vitae Essentia. You may have noticed that I am winding down activity on all things Ladybug Soapworks. I have closed my main website and only have my Etsy store still active. I still have a lot to do before I open vitae essentia, but if you are interested in following my journey and keeping up to day with what is going on, please check out my vitae essentia blog. I will start updating it regularly. You can also subscribe to my email newsletter to be kept in the loop and receive discount coupons when I open the new store.

You can also follow me at Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My new foray into fitness!

Many of you know me and have been following this blog for a while. You may have noticed my absence this past year. I have been busy focusing on improving myself during this time. For those of you that are new to this blog, I am Sarah. As of a few weeks ago, I am now a Beachbody fitness coach. 
Let me tell you my story about how I got to where I am today. As a child I was always very active and athletic. I was always involved in multiple sports teams each year in school and maintained a good level of fitness. When I went to college, it was the first time in my life that I did not join a sports team and I really let fitness fall to the back burner for the next 3 years. In my senior year, I decided I needed to get into shape and started hitting the gym nearly every day and started watching my food intake. I quickly lost 10-15lbs and looked and felt great. I kept up with my exercising habits for about a year. Then, I started my PhD program. This was a long (nearly 7 year process!) that brought a lot of challenges. During this time the weighted piled on, 10lbs each time my doctor put me on steroids for my stress induced eczema, and another 10lbs from birth control. I could also never seem to get myself to go to the gyms regularly. After grad school, I joined another research lab for a Post doc and in the time there I gained another 10lbs! That is a lot for someone who is only 5’2” tall! 

So in 2011 I vowed to make a change and I bought my first Beachbody program, Insanity. I had seen some friends who had achieved major transformations from the program. I set out to do it from start to finish, but after 3 weeks my knee hurt so badly that I had to stop. Without a good support group to help motivate me, once my knee felt better I fell back into my old ways of maybe working out 1-2 times a week on an elliptical. Sometimes I would convince myself to workout 5 days in a week, but then I might go two weeks without working out. I could never seem to muster the motivation to stick with it. Most likely cause I was just eating too much food and, therefore, not seeing any results each time I gave working out a try again. 

In 2013, I heard about a new program from Shaun T, Focus T25, which is only 25 min a day and could be modified for lower impact. At my New Year's Eve party, my friend and I decided to get control of our lives and start T25 together. This time I did it correctly, I had a support group and a great coach from Beachbody. I followed the meal plan and kept within my daily calorie allotment. Having to check into our Facebook group everyday kept me accountable and I stuck with it! I am now a complete believer in group accountability. I completed Alpha, Beta, and then went on to do both Gamma workout calendars. I am currently on my second round of T25, but am super excited to start PiYo next. This has become a new way of life for me and I don’t ever want to go back. 

I have started a blog, facebook page, and twitter account to provide support, accountability, and information on how to be the best and healthiest you possible. I look forward to helping you on your journey to a healthy and happy life as your personal Beachbody coach! Please check out my content on these pages and let me know if you would like help reaching you fitness and nutrition goals.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 14 Off to Mishualli

We left for Mishualli after breakfast, which is about 1.5 hrs from Puyo by Taxi (cost us $55 for anyone planing to follow the same route). The road was nicely paved and in very good condition, but it snakes around and over many hills, so it is like a roller coaster ride. When we arrived the taxi driver did not know where the hotel was so we stopped in the town center where he asked for directions. During this time the mischievous monkeys that live in the town plaza stole a water bottle from a man walking by, they opened it and tried to drink. To their surprise the bottle was empty, so they dropped it and allowed the guy to take it back.

We stayed at the lovely Banana Lodge, which is just a 5-10 minute walk out of the town center or a $1 taxi. It is located right on the river and had the best/fastest internet we experienced in the entire country.

We had lunch at a restaurant just off the main square and for a couple bucks each, we had the set lunch. This included the best soup we had on our entire trip and then a plate of fish, rice, salad, beans, and fried plantain. It was delish! While we were eating a storm came to town and brought with it torrential rain. We tried to walk around and explored, but the rain was just too much and we were entirely soaked. We ended up spending the rest of the day just relaxing at the lodge until the rain went away.

For dinner we walked all the way to the other side of town, over a sketchy suspension bridge, to the El Jardin restaurant. Yes, that is the same name as the place we stayed in Puyo and this restaurant is owned by the same people. The grounds of the restaurant were superb. It contained a very well manicured garden with koi ponds/rivers running through the property. One of the koi we spotted was HUGE. Say 2-2.5 ft long and nearly 1ft in diameter! The food was as well prepared (if not better) and tasty as the main El Jardin in Puyo. I had the shrimp with pasta, which came in a creamy pink sauce, and tiramisu for desert.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day 13 Puyo and Paseo de Los Monos

After breakfast we took a taxi to the road that Museo Ethnographica Huaorani was supposed to be on. After asking a local, we found the building, but now it is only the Huaorani organization offices. I guess the museum no longer exists. This was sad as it seemed like it would have been a good learning experience according to Lonely Planet.

So to occupy some time, we went to the Waorani shop in town to buy some nice items handcrafted by the Huaorani tribe (with the proceeds going to them). The shop was filled with really nice jewelry, bags, and other items; all of which was really reasonably priced.

We wandered around town waiting for lunch time, then had lunch at a little Chifa, which is a Chinese food restaurant here, but with an Ecuadorean flare. We had some pretty good stir fried rice with shrimp and, unexpectedly, chicken and, of course, French fries, which seems to come with every meal in this country.

After that we grabbed a cab to Paseo de Los monos. I believe this reserve has had to undergo several changes recently due to new government regulations and most of the animals are now in large fenced areas and we are not allowed to touch them. In the past, I believe that the monkeys were free roaming and would climb all over you when you entered the reserve. We only saw three monkeys free to roam and two of them seemed like major trouble makers and at one point we really thought they were going to attack us. To make the whole experience even a bit more adventurous, the guy working there at the moment didn't speak English and all Dylan could make out was "beware of snakes on the trail"! So here we were wandering around the jungle without a guide after being told to look out for snakes and we had two scary, seemingly angry monkeys chasing after us! I think we were both terrified. Haha. 

The monkeys are in this sanctuary either because they are injured or too domesticated to return to the wild. They were rescued from the animal trade or the like. Besides the monkeys, there were at least 2 coatis, which I had not seen that close before. Boy are they cute! 

We had to walk half the way back to town (read LONG walk!) before we could get a taxi to stop for us. I think the guy who did stop had pulled out of a bar just down the road from us, but if he was drunk, I couldn't tell.

We once again had dinner at our hotel, El Jardin, after trying to eat at the hotel next door and finding the place empty with all the lights off (they did turn them on for us), but they had no beer or bottled water so luckily that was a good enough reason for us to leave. 

The dinner at our hotel was once again amazing. We split a papas de locras soup that is made from potato, cheese (queso fresco), and avocado that was light and had a perfect mix of herbs as seasoning. We also split a Greek salad and a vegetable casserole with oven-crisped cheese on top.

We ended the evening in the Japanese wooden hot tub (ofuro) with a large bottle of beer. Ah relaxation!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 12 The Oriente, Finally!

Today we had an amazing pancake breakfast at our hotel! Finally not eggs!

Our first stop for the morning was to the hot springs near the hotel called Las Piscinas de La Virgen. They were only $2/pp. They had a hot pool (118 Deg F), a warm pool, and a cold one. We were the only obvious tourists there which was pretty cool. It almost seemed like a seniors water aerobic class as the vast majority of people there were elderly and using the pool to swim and do other exercises. 

After relaxing for a bit at the hot springs, we changed and then walked around town to do some shopping. We found some very nice leather worked goods and some handmade pulled taffy which is the candy of choice in Banos. Also, there was a lot of amazing graffiti in Banos.

After a healthy lunch of ice cream and taffy, we got a taxi ride to Puyo. Our driver was very jovial and really enjoyed talking about monkeys. He spoke pretty decent English and I think he was very happy that he could communicate with us. He let us stop at two beautiful waterfalls along the way and gave us tidbits of information about each town we passed through. 

Puyo is the capital of the Pastaza province in the Oriente (known to the rest of the world as the Amazon basin). The town itself is uninspiring, but our hotel set across a foot bridge from the city in secondary forest is beautiful. The hotel is El Jardin and has very lovely grounds with 3 ducks, 2 macaws, 2 cats, and a small (compared to the Galapagos) tortoise. I'm not sure if they are pets of the hotel or were just passing through the grounds.

Next stop was to visited Parque Omaere which is right next to our hotel. This is an ethnobotanical park, which is right up my alley of favorite things! We were guided by Chris Canaday, an American biologist, that runs the park with his wife Teresa who is a Shuar (one of the local indigenous groups in this region) plant expert. This tour was most excellent, while I have researched a lot about the Huaorani peoples and medicinal plants, I still learned a ton of information. 

We got to see a couple of examples of indigenous houses and learned a lot about their clothing, weapons, hunting traps, and just the general way of life about both the Huaorani and Shaur tribes. What is most amazing about this park is that it was cattle pasture just twenty years ago and was hand planted back into the lush jungle it is today. Dylan got a plant tea to snort as a way to get rid of his sinus issues. You can see him snorting some below! Ha!

We had dinner at the hotel, which is supposed to be the best food in the Oriente according to Lonely Planet. Dylan ordered nachos and guacamole as an appetizer this evening, which turned out to be Doritos and guacamole. Surprisingly good, but very unexpected.

Then for mains Dylan got the trout in a caper sauce and I had the grilled shrimp. Both meals were very good and the sauce on Dylan's fish was absolutely amazing. The food was also plated in a very interesting manner, quite pretty.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 11 Banos

This morning the hotel went out of their way to go buy me a yogurt for breakfast, which was totally unnecessary, but highly appreciated. By this time I am feeling a little egged out and still sick from the altitude.

I just rested in the room until lunch and then Dylan and I found a great little vegetarian restaurant called Restaurante Vegetariano Ari. We had a very filling lunch for $2.50 each! It included a delicious potato soup, a cup of fresh juice, a slice of watermelon, an overflowing plate of fried sweet potato, a cauliflower and bean dish, rice with gravy, and a coleslaw type salad. 

When we got back to the hotel our taxi to Banos was waiting. Unfortunately, we had to travel to the very north of Quito to pick up the others for the ride, which added about 2 hours extra to our drive. But I guess that is the price you pay if you want cheap taxis. We used Executive taxi door to door service $20/pp (taxi would have been $95) and our driver was really wonderful. Our drive from the airport to Quito was crazy and erratic and this guy by contrast was cool and relaxed. I felt very safe with him driving and would definitely recommend this company.

We shared the ride with an Ecuadorian med student and her mother that were heading back to their hometown of Ambato. The student seemed to enjoy chatting with us so she could practice her English. She told us about the popular foods in each town along the way. Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable trip.

Our hotel in Banos was a lovely little place near a very high waterfall and hot spring. We stayed at Posada de Arte and had a room on the second floor Canela 2 that had two Juliet balconies facing the waterfall. 

I should note that by the time we reached Banos my altitude sickness was nearly all gone and would disappear entirely by the next morning. 

We wandered around town for a bit and then it was time for dinner, so we headed back to the hotel as the meals there were recommended in the Lonely planet guide book. I had a quinoa soup and Dylan had two yummy appetizers and a nice salad. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Day 10 Quito and a bad case of altitude sickness

We explored 2 museums in the morning. Both were quite well done.

The first one was Museo de la Ciudad (museum of the city) which did an amazing job of explaining the history of Quito and how the people lived during each time period. The building itself was the former city hospital from 1563 to the 1970's. We were even given a private English tour for no additional cost.

The picture above shows one of the rooms in the museum. You can see a typical home of the area prior to the Spanish conquest in the back. The floor was a map of the city at that time all made out of wood. It was stunning!

The next stop was Casa de Alabado which was also an unexpectedly good museum. In this one, we were given headsets with an English guide so that we could get more out of the museum. The museum was filled with pre-Columbian art made from stone, pottery, wood, and metal. We learned about the ancient peoples who made the artwork and their belief systems about life and death, the spirit world, the role of shamans, and ancestors.

We got lunch at Tianguez in the Plaza San Francisco and I had a sudden onset of altitude sickness. Thought I had the flu, but it was much worse. I'm pretty sure that I passed out momentarily at the restaurant. I forced myself to drink some Mate de Coca (yes, that is the plant cocaine is extracted from, but no worries Mom and Dad there is not enough in the tea to get me high!) as it is a natural cure of altitude sickness. I couldn't eat what I ordered and I left Dylan at the restaurant to go back and rest at the hotel.

The sickness hit so quickly and I was on and off with fever and chills, a headache, entire body was sore, and I was severely nauseous and didn't think I could eat anything. This basically lasted until I left Quito, but with some rest I could walk around for a bit.

After resting for a few hours, I ventured out again with Dylan and we checked out the San Francisco church which was started in 1534, only a few weeks after the founding of Quito. 

We went to a pizza place called Pizza SA, unfortunately it took too much walking to get there and I started feeling very ill again. So Dylan had the best pizza he has eaten outside of America and I was stuck sitting outside by myself with a cup of tea for fear that I would vomit in the the restaurant.  Boy. What a day!