Parque Tayrona, Colombia

Parque TayronaOur hike through Parque Tayrona was breathtaking. There are many options to travel to Parque Taryona, including by boat, public bus, or private car. We opted to arrange a tour through our hotel, which offered door to door service.

The park is incredible – there are parts of the hike that are through the jungle. We were lucky enough to see multiple monkeys, lizards, iguanas, ant ‘highways’, and several huge centipedes. Throughout the hike, you also leave the jungle and walk along the beaches, which are bright blue with clear water. It was quite the juxtaposition of jungle to ocean together, side by side.
Parque TayronaWhat to expect:

After a 45 minute ride from Santa Marta, we arrived at the park entrance of Parque Tayrona at an area called Playa Cañaveral. Our guide left the car to purchase our wristbands. The wristbands are priced differently depending on if you are a Colombian citizen, foreign citizen, or student.

For a day trip, the most common hike begins at Playa Cañaveral and goes to Arrecifes, Piscina, and ends mid-day at El Cabo. We hiked for about 2 1/2 hours on our way to El Cabo, stopping many times to take photos. There are beautiful beaches at each of stopping points, and a restaurant for lunch at El Cabo. The restaurant was painstakingly slow, however, and we ended up enjoying freshly baked bread rolls from a local vendor. 

After lunch, we relaxed on the beaches and swam in the warm water for another hour and a half, until it was time to hike back. The hike on the way back took us 2 hours since we didn’t stop as often for photos.

Parque TayronaWhat to bring:

  • Passport (need to show to buy a ticket)
  • At least two bottles of water per person (water is sold expensively outside the park, but not readily available inside the park)
  • Bug Repellent
  • Sun hat
  • Snacks
  • Bathing suit
  • Flip flops
  • Towel
  • Snorkeling equipment (optional)
  • Camera/phone in a zip-loc bag

Parque TayronaParque TayronaParque Tayrona Parque TayronaParque Tayrona Parque Tayrona

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Minca, Colombia

Minca WaterfallsThe first day trip we took from Santa Marta was a tour of Minca, Colombia. It is about an hour drive from Santa Marta into the mountains. We toured a coffee hacienda, La Victoria, and went swimming in the local waterfall. Minca, ColombiaIt had rained significantly the day before, so the roads were quite muddy. On our drive up the mountain, a large truck ahead of us got stuck in the rain. I’ve never seen anything like it before – townspeople came with their shovels and dug the truck out within half an hour, and then stayed to dig each subsequent truck and car after until all were successfully up the mountain. 

Minca, Colombia

stuck on the side of the road

As we were waiting, everyone got out of their cars and began talking amongst each other. We met fellow American travelers from Texas, who were on a bird watching expedition. We then met the owners of Hacienda La Victoria, our first destination! They were an older German couple, and they welcomed us warmly on the side of the road. Hacienda La VictoriaWhen we finally arrived to the Hacienda La Victoria, we were ready to try their coffee. They grow Arabica beans. There are over 400 types of coffee, the two major ones are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is widely grown in Latin America and has a caffeine content of 1%. Robusta is typically sold to Europeans who like strong coffee and has a caffeine content of ~4%.  

Coffee Beans Hacienda La Victoria

un-ripe arabica coffee beans. they turn red when ripe

We were lucky enough to continue our conversation with Micky, one of the owners. He told us the complete history of the farm, which was spectacular. In 1892, the British decided to begin a coffee farm in Colombia. The transported an immense amount of supplies across the ocean, and then ultimately through mules, up the mountain in Minca. They set up the farm next to a river. The entire operation uses the river for energy, and is not dependent at all on electricity. The original machines from 1892 are still in use at La Victoria.

In 1950, Micky’s parents, a German couple, purchased the farm from the Brits. They lived there for years and continued to cultivate coffee. Unfortunately, Colombia entered a period of time called La Violencia, the Violence, due to the increasing drug trade and an increase of guerrillas in the rural areas. Micky’s parents were forced to abandon the farm for their own safety.

For years, the guerrillas lived on the expansive land and kept it as a headquarters. In 2002, Micky was living in Mexico. He was determined to get his land back and begin working the land as a coffee farm again. He decided to travel to Minca and negotiate with the guerrillas. Micky told us he knew this journey would end in one of two ways. He would either receive his land, or he would be killed. But he felt he had nothing to lose, and off he went to the jungle.

He arrived and was greeted by 70 men armed with machine guns. As he entered his own land, he proceeded to sit down with the men and began by cracking a few jokes to lighten the mood. Quite the mood it must have been. 

Micky explained to them that the land they were occupying was, in fact, owned by his parents. He wanted to take the land and make it productive. He wanted to bring jobs, wealth, and most of all, peace, to the area. He asked them that they give the land back to him so he could begin his quest. And they agreed, at a price of course.

They would visit him weekly to check up on his operation. They wanted to be paid. Here, however, Micky held firm. He told them that he would pay them if they kept him safe, but he needed a guarantee first. Six months of safety and payments would begin. 

The interesting point about the guerrillas is that most of them were local townspeople. They were impoverished, most were uneducated, but they were fighting against perceived injustice. When Micky came, he was exactly the type of person they should have wanted to protect. He was trying to bring jobs to their town. To bring money to their town. And ultimately, to bring peace. He set up an arrangement with the local school for children to be educated. He gave the more prestigious tour guide jobs to local students and farming jobs to local men and women. Micky seeked to build something that was integrated into the lifeblood and wellbeing of Minca, and in that, he succeeded. Hacienda La Victoria Thank you to Micky for sharing his story, and for being an example of the true beauty Colombia achieves.Hacienda La VictoriaHacienda La Victoria Hacienda La Victoria Hacienda La Victoria Hacienda La VictoriaAt the conclusion of our tour, we traveled 20 minutes to the Minca waterfalls. Luckily it was a hot day, because they falls were ice cold. We parked and changed, and then hiked about one kilometer to the falls. It was a beautiful hike, with small but refreshing falls.Minca Waterfalls Minca Waterfalls Minca Waterfalls

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Travel Guide: Santa Marta, Colombia

Hi friends! I hope you’ve been doing well. GC and I are honeymooning in Colombia for two beautiful weeks. As I’m writing I am staring out at a sunrise over a lush, green mountain, surrounded by birds chirping (and a few rogue mosquitos). This land is like a dream.

Casa Carolina BreakfastWe’re spending one week in Santa Marta, Colombia, a coastal town. It is an interesting mix of desert land with cacti abound and lush ocean greens. Santa Marta is right next to one of Colombia national parks, Parque Tayrona. Our next week will be in Pereira, in the center of the Eje Cafetera, or Coffee Triangle.

Where to Stay:

We stayed in a boutique hotel in the center of Santa Marta, Casa Carolina. The hotel was impeccable and consisted of 5 floors of rooms, all overlooking a central pool surrounded by beautiful landscaping. The food was better than we could have imagined. Every night, the presentation was like eating in the finest five-star restaurant.

Casa CarolinaCasa Carolina Guacamole

Things to do in Santa Marta:

What to Pack:

Santa Marta is HOT. And humid. There are also lots of mosquitos there, so bringing bug repellent is a must. We avoid wearing DEET whenever possible, as it is a neurotoxin (toxic to the central nervous system). GC found a great brand of natural bug repellent which proved highly effective during our stay. A lot of our activities were very active, so bringing work out clothes is a great idea.

  • 3 dresses
  • 2-4 short sleeve shirts
  • 1 button down
  • 2 shorts
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1-2 pairs work out leggings/shorts
  • 1-2 work out tops
  • 1-2 swim suits
  • 1 swim suit cover up
  • Sneakers
  • Sandals (that can get wet)
  • Sun hat
  • Bug repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • SPI Belt (to hold money in a safe place while you are walking around)
  • Passport (you need it to get into Parque Tayrona)
  • Water filter (this is the absolute best travel filter I’ve seen. Make sure to buy the travel purifier, which removes microbes and pathogens, in addition to heavy metals and chemicals)

Casa Carolina

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And we lived happily ever after

As you may or may not know, GC and I got married on September 3, 2016. It was truly the most perfect day we could have ever have dreamed of. It was a whirlwind of love, fun, and excitement. Seeing everyone we both love so dearly, and who has supported us and our relationship, was more overwhelming than I imagined it could be.

I cannot wait to post photos from our incredible photographer, but until we receive them all, I leave you with this one.

carnegie institution for science wedding

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Farms in the Berkshires

Berkshires FarmsOne of our favorite things to do when we go up to the Berkshires is visit the local farms. We always stop by a maple syrup farm and a goat cheese farm to load up on farm fresh goodies. The maple syrup farm is a true blast from the past. The farmer leaves his big sugaring house unlocked, with maple syrup lining the sides. He has a price list up, and a cash box on the counter. You are free to take your maple syrup, make your own change, and be on your way without ever seeing the farmer! It is refreshing to see that kind of trust still exist somewhere.  Continue reading →

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Continue reading →

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Low Sugar Strawberry Jam

Strawberry JamHello there! Have you ever tried making homemade jelly before? Or canning in your home? There’s been a HUGE influx of ripe strawberries in our farmer’s market, and we wanted to preserve their sweet taste for the months to come. Last year, we froze several gallons which lasted us through the late spring. There is nothing better than opening up the freezer and finding a bag of strawberries just waiting to be made into a pie or smoothie!

We still decided to freeze a good amount, but I wanted to try my hand at canning. A few years ago, Jay-Z and I took a canning class at a farm in Kentucky. We learned how to make pickled beets, plus the basic ins and outs of canning safely. A word to the wise–please be careful and sterile! You do not want to get sick from your prepared foods. 

There are two methods of canning: water or pressure. Water canning is used for low acid foods, while pressure canning is best for less acidic foods that need extra cooking to ensure any bad germs are killed. So far, I have only tried water canning at home. It is great because you likely can start with many things you already have in your kitchen!

Canning materials you will need:

  • 1 large pot to boil the sealed jars
  • Jars + new lids (The metal circular lids cannot be reused–the seal loses its integrity after one round of canning. The screw tops of the jars can be reused).
  • Tongs/spatula to retrieve the jars
  • Labels (optional)

You will also need to make the actual recipe for whatever it is you’d like to preserve! Today that is Strawberry Jam. I followed the recipe on my pectin container, and it was great! Do you know the difference between jam and jelly? I did not, but jam uses the whole fruit while jelly uses the juice from fruit! Interesting, huh?

Strawberry Jam

For those interested, here is the cost breakdown of the ingredients I used. This recipe made 232 ounces of jam (I used a variety of sizes of jars so I do not have the exact cost per jar).

  • 10 quarts (40 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled: $60
  • 4 cups honey: $20
  • 2 organic lemons: $1
  • 2 packages natural pectin: $12
  • Jars: $36
  • Total: $129

This equals about $0.56 per ounce of homemade, organic, low sugar strawberry jam! ($129/232 ounces). Of course, you must factor in the cost of your precious time! That is why a recipe like this is best made in large batches–and while you can hang at home and do other things 🙂 

I tried making the jam three different ways. All of them are low sugar.

  1. Pectin-Free Strawberry Jam
  2. Regular Strawberry Jam
  3. Quick Cook Strawberry Jam

The verdict? Both the regular and quick cook strawberry jam were delicious. The regular strawberry jam was made by following the instructions on the pectin container. I had to boil the strawberries for what seemed like forever though–this seemed like a waste of nutrients.

For the quick-cook version, I put all of the strawberries in the blender and blended until they were all roughly chopped and I had a nice strawberry liquid. By doing this, I was able to just bring the liquid to a brief boil, mix in the pectin, and then pour into the jars and process for 10 minutes. Not only did this save 1-2 hours of watching water boil, the nutrients in the strawberries are hopefully more intact! 

The pectin-free jam is still very tasty, but is much more like a syrup than a jam. It’ll still get good use on pancakes later this year! 
Strawberry JamHappy jam making! I hope you enjoy!

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Easy Asparagus

Easy Lemon AsparagusHi there! Things have been super busy in our apartment these past few weeks– lots of family to visit and wedding activities to be done! This summer is already going by so quickly. GC and I realized that we’re only in town 4 weekends until the wedding. Every single other weekend we are traveling somewhere! We have tons of fun plans coming up. Friends in town this weekend, traveling up to the Berkshires for the 4th, bridal shower soon after…can’t wait for everything!

Easy Lemon AsparagusAnyways, when I’m super busy I love to make quick and easy meals. This asparagus side is one that is really easy to make and also totally delicious. The lemon and salt pair perfectly with fresh, crispy asparagus that is hot from the oven. You can cut about a half an inch to an inch off the base of the asparagus to get rid of the woody stalk–this leaves only the tender asparagus leftover. 

Easy Lemon Asparagus

Also, I have a great tip for storing asparagus! You can keep the stalks in a cup or bowl of water in the fridge. This helps the asparagus keep much longer, since it is an alive plant that needs water to keep living! It can keep a week or even longer in the fridge like this. 
Easy Lemon Asparagus Easy Lemon Asparagus

Easy Lemon Asparagus
Serves 3
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
  1. 1 bunch asparagus, about 10-15 stalks
  2. 2 Tb olive oil
  3. Juice from 1 lemon
  4. 1 ts sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Wash and dry the asparagus.
  3. Slice off about 1/2 - 1 inch of the bottom of the asparagus and discard.
  4. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil and lay on a baking tray.
  5. Bake for 15 minute, or until crispy.
  6. Place asparagus on a serving platter and top with lemon juice and sea salt.
Faith in Plants
Easy Lemon AsparagusI hope you enjoy this quick and easy asparagus side dish! I love it on my busy days.

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Weekend with the parents

Had a great weekend with my parents up in Lansdale, PA. It was a great learning time–I learned how to make homemade strawberry jam and how to make kombucha! Very fruitful weekend if you ask me. Homemade Strawberry Jam

Continue reading →

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Apartment Garden | June

Apartment Garden | June

Hi there! We are happy to report that our apartment garden is doing very well! In fact, we have exciting news–there are little buds beginning to form! Exciting things happening over here. 

A fun fact–did you know that eggplant gets spikes? Little things almost like rose thorns have developed on our baby eggplant plants. Pretty cool if you ask me. I had no idea they would do that! We also have finally been able to begin harvesting the basil. We waited until it had grown two sets of leaves before breaking off the top. The trick to getting bushy and healthy basil plants is to break off the pant from the top, which will encourage the side leaves to sprout and grow more.Apartment Garden | June Apartment Garden | JuneOverall, our babies are doing very well! They look healthy and strong, and are definitely enjoying the sunny weather that is trying to come through after weeks of rain. You can see the little buds and flowers beginning to form–hopefully they’ll grow even more this month! I need to look up if they are self-fertilizing plants or not. We grew tomatoes last year and I had to use a little feather to pollinate the flowers.
Apartment Garden | June Apartment Garden | June

Lastly, our little succulents are not so little anymore. They have grown quite tall in this past month. I’m not entirely sure why they have grown up instead of out, but they look healthy so no complaints!Apartment Garden | June

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