After ringing in the new year with the ball dropping in Times Square, the new year celebration continued in NYC on January 12th, but this time at the French Institute:Alliance Française (FI:AF) on the Upper East Side. A traditional French pastry, la Galette Des Rois (Three Kings Cake), is the center of the Epiphany celebration that the French (and francophiles alike, like me!) look forward to every January. Good company, food, wine and a delicious cake — what’s not to love?!

The evening was hosted in their beautiful Skyroom (top floor of the building with a beautiful glass accented wall that doubles as part of the roof). Wine and cider, along with a delicious spread from Le District (found near Battery Park) hit the palette of those in attendance, along with the king of desserts itself, provided by Financier Patisserie, la Galette Des Rois.

galette french fiaf

Truly massive, it was the center of attention and we even learned from the pastry chef himself that the first Galette Des Rois was actually filled with almond paste and mashed potatoes! Today, it is filled with delicious almond paste- simple but still oh-so-delicious! The added fun in this is ‘la fève’ (or ‘lucky charm’) that can be found inside select pieces of cake! Find one and you are crowned king for the night– those gold crowns are highly covetable, you know ;). The rest of the evening included a photo booth station where you were entered to win tickets to a comedy show, complimented with great networking opportunities and fun conversations with friends. If you ever wanted to put your French language skills to the test (no matter your level), this is the place to be! This was just one of the many exciting cultural events that FI:AF holds throughout the year. Want to try your own slice of galette heaven? Head on over to your local Financier Patisserie, but hurry(!), this cake is gone after January!

FI:AF is a non-profit organization that was founded back in the late 1800s to help educate and spread the French culture to the community. Also worth mentioning is that FIAF holds the largest French library in the whole USA- how cool is that? For more information on workshops, classes (I actually just ended a semester of French courses here myself!), or events (art viewings, theatre, etc.), you can visit www.fiaf.org.

Thank you to FIAF for hosting me at this event. All opinions are my own.

xx,
signalorenii

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Brooklyn native, Latina, and founder of Enlightened by Bravery, an adventure/travel and wellness blog that focuses on drawing inspiration from adventures around the world back into your life // iPhoneographer // Francophile

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E.

Easy, Healthy Homemade Granola Recipe!

easy healthy homemade granola

To be honest, my love of granola grew from my efforts of trying to make plain, unsweetened greek yogurt seem delicious years ago. Alone, the greek yogurt was tangy as heck (ugh, why). But with granola? Man, that crunch saved me. IT SAVED MY SOUL!

Yet, pacing down the aisles of the supermarket, I was baffled as to why granola wasn’t pure in the sense that it seemed to have to have juices/syrups from concentrate to sweeten it and things like TOCOPHEROLS to keep it fresh. The really good ones I did find (more natural, organic, simple ingredients) were all at least $9/$10 for a little bag. Yikes.

So, I did my research and started making my own at home! I found that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and having the power to control the ingredients made it everything I ever wanted and more. Throughout the years, I’ve done lots of trial and error, but it has brought me to tune the flavors into the easy, healthy and homemade granola recipe that I share with you today! It also happens to be my husband’s favorite — a big compliment, as he can sometimes be a bit of a food snob. What? I keep it real ;).

I promise that when you’re making these in the oven, your kitchen is going to smell like someone lit up a cinnamon-vanilla candle (best part? you can eat this!). Put it in your favorite yogurt, atop of smoothie bowls, or just have it with your favorite milk/mylk as a cereal! Enjoy!


Healthy Homemade Granola – total prep, cook + cool time: 40 mins
yields 3.5 cups of granola. keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
gluten-free*/vegetarian/dairy-free

* 1 TBSP virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil
* 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free* oats if making gluten-free)
* 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
* 1/2 cup walnut pieces
* 1/4 cup raw, local honey
* 2 TBSP ground cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp vanilla powder**
* 1/8 tsp (or a pinch) of ground, pink himalayan sea salt

1) Preheat oven to 300ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment baking paper. set aside.
2) In a pan over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. once melted, swirl around the pan and add in your oats + pumpkin seeds. make sure to coat them evenly with the oil. let toast while constantly stirring for about 2-3 minutes (do not burn. if you start to smell popcorn, lower the heat). remove from heat.
3) Place your oats + pumpkin seeds into a large bowl. Add in the walnut pieces, honey, cinnamon, vanilla and pinch of salt.
4) Combine (I love to use my hands for this) ingredients are all well mixed. Reach over for your prepped-ahead baking sheet with parchment paper and pour in mixture, making sure to create a think layer across the whole pan.
5) Pop baking sheet into the oven for 8 minutes and then remove to toss, mix up, relay into thin layer, and pop back in oven for another 8 minutes. Granola should be turning into a nice golden brown color.
6) Remove from oven and let sit to cool down for at least 15 minutes before storing. Enjoy!

*while oats are naturally gluten-free, if your product does not state that it is gluten-free, then it probably has been in contact with other wheat products. if very sensitive to gluten, please ensure you use gluten-free oats.
**vanilla powder does not have the alcohol usually found in liquid vanilla extract and you get a more concentrated taste with it; however, if using vanilla extract, ensure it is 100% pure and substitute the powder above with 1 tsp of extract.

xx,

9.

9 Ways to Help Ease Anxiety on Long Flights

Seeing the world is a beautiful experience and I vowed to myself, even when I suddenly became afraid of flying from my first panic attack years ago, that the fear and anxiety would never stop me from exploring this beautiful, blue planet of ours. With some self-work and self-education, I was able to overcome my fear of flying and started with small 2-hour flights and grew to our most recent (total) 24-hour flight to New Zealand! Yay!

The key is to try new things and feel yourself out, all while moving forward. Throughout the years, I’ve experimented with ways to help soothe my nerves while in the skies and have found my own recipe for the tried-and-true. Check out my must-list below and don’t forget to comment what you think/your own ways of coping in the skies!

1. Get Excited

I know, I know. You may be thinking “what the –, I’m more nervous than anything!” Yes. I know. But hear me out: by replacing the word “nervous” with “excited” whenever you think it, your brain will ease up on the anxiety and move into the ‘joyful anticipation’ bucket. Say it out loud: “I’m excited!” with a big smile on your face and notice the difference. Try it right now! Repeat after me with a big smile: “I’m SO excited!!”

Sure, there is always going to be a little nervousness in the background, but let’s be honest, you’re getting on a plane to a destination you don’t get to go to every day– that’s pretty exciting! Put some photos of the destination you’re headed to on your phone and flip through them, imagining yourself there and think about something you are most looking forward to. Always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Have a cool reservation at that “must” restaurant in Cabo? Getting a close look at the Niagra Falls in Canada? Think about that special, cool thing you’re going to do and let that propel you into excitement versus nervousness! Traveling is amazing and you’re doing it — woohoo!!

2. Carry Essential Oils

After my first panic attack, I went through a cleanse to rid my body of toxins and, with it, went any and all over-the-counter drugs that I have ever taken. Since then, I’ve turned to essential oils and I always make sure to take them with me as I swear by them. The two essential oils that I always carry with me are lavender and peppermint; they come in small bottles that are perfect to fit inside your clear plastic bag when going through TSA at the airport.

Lavender oil helps calm nerves with its soothing properties and can soothe you into a peaceful state of mind, maybe even helping you catch a few Z’s on the plane. Before takeoff, I like to apply one drop on the inside of each of my wrists, rub them together and then place my wrists up to my nose, inhaling for three, deep and relaxed breaths. Ahhh.

For headaches, I use peppermint oil, topically, one drop on each of my temples; it works so well that I haven’t popped a single Advil nor Tylenol in my mouth in years. Also, once you get to your destination, why try to deal with buying something for headaches in another country that could be in another language and may come with different pharmaceutical standards? Avoid the hassle and bring your own natural oils!

3. Browse the Airport Village

At least, that’s what I like to call that part of the airport after security where stores and restaurants await you. Go ham just bouncing in and out, checking out what the latest at the airport is. I find that the bookstores have some of the best selections, especially at international terminals. You can even sit down for a meal at a restaurant, just like you would any other day outside of the airport. I find that this helps me ease into the “traveling” way of life and helps me deem flying as just a normal part of the day; we may catch trains, busses or drive our own cars, and while a plane may be less frequent, it’s still a mode of trusted transport. You got this :).

4. Skip the Alcoholic Drinks

I know, it may seem better to numb the nerves, but I’ve personally found that alcohol up in the air can make me feel disoriented and dehydrating. It’s important, with anxiety, that you go through the waves of your feelings and meet them with acknowledgement, rather than suppressing them and making them worse later on. This leads me to what I do love to drink:

5. Drink Herbal Teas

Herbal teas contain no caffeine and do not give way to shaky hands and a faster heart rate. By removing caffeine, which is also dehydrating, you can rid yourself of ‘anxiety triggers’ and travel in more peace. I’ve eliminated coffee and caffeinated teas (like black, green and matcha) from my diet for years now and I’ve seen a huge difference. Next time you want a hot drink, ask for an herbal tea such as: peppermint, chamomile or lemon. The way I like to do it? Bringing my own tea bags and asking the attendant for a cup of hot water.

Ron Teeguarden’s Dragon Herbs are caffeine-free with a slightly sweet and super yummy taste; each teabag can yield two cups of tea and it works in a way that if you drink it in the morning, it gives you a revitalized boost of natural energy and, if drunk at night, can wind you down. I love my dragon herb teas and always travel with them! 

Another tea that I love is an oldie but a goodie: Celestial’s Sleepy Time Tea. I know some people may take sleeping pills for flights, but as I mentioned before, I avoid OTC drugs and try to do things the more natural way. I love drinking Sleepy Time Tea when I want to get some rest on a flight, though you will catch me drinking these when at home, too! It just makes your night’s rest that much more peaceful :).  As you’re winding down, make sure you are comfortable with my next tip:

6. Bring Comfort Up With You

Feeling comfortable is important, even 30k miles up on the air. I’ve been on a very uncomfortable 8-hour flight and a very comfortable 12-hour flight; the difference wasn’t the time, but how cozy I was during the flight.

If you have a favorite travel pillow, headphone set, warm socks, hat, whatever, bring it with you. As humans, we love the feeling of comfort, and it does make the difference. My favorite must-have on planes?

  1. My Cocoon CoolMax BlanketI LOVE this blanket. Not only does it keep you warm on the plane, you can use it for road trips, train rides or around a campfire on a cold night! It comes in a little black cloth carrying case and is super packable. I highly recommend it!
  2. My Slip Silk Eyemask. It’s so super soft and gentle for your eyes. I’ve tried a couple of different ones ranging in prices from low to high and honestly prefer this one the best. My husband actually loved it so much when he tried it on for kicks, that we ended up getting him one, too! When it’s time for a snooze, you go down feeling like a million bucks in the air.

7. Stay Hydrated

Water, water, water. So super important and can help keep some jet lag effects at bay. Not only will you be doing your body good by taking it in, but every time you need to relieve yourself at the loo, you’ll be adding in some steps, sneaking in that extra few minutes of stretching your legs to keep that blood flowing. For an extra boost in electrolytes, I always carry Recover Ors packets with me when traveling. I like to add in a packet every five hours of flying to some water and find that I don’t get any dehydration headaches when in air nor when I land!

8. Keep Snacks Handy

Especially if you have any dietary restrictions. Last thing you want to do is feel helpless and hungry so high up in the skies. I always make sure to grab some goodies for my flight after I pass security (as they won’t let you bring *outside food* inside). You can browse around the ‘airport village’ (you’ll be saying it, too, in no time- haha) or, if in a sincere pinch, head to Starbucks (almost every airport has them I feel!). Here is my list of goodies that I grab: bottle of water, banana, dark chocolate and a protein box (usually comes with apples, peanut butter, boiled egg, slice of cheese and a little piece of sweet bread). It’s my fave in-flight combo and I don’t feel anxious trying to get someone’s attention constantly for every little hankering :).

9. Journal Your Feelings

Notebook and pen: I owe my road to recovery with anxiety to journaling. There is something about getting your thoughts that keep running around in your head OUT and down on paper. Taking the time to form sentences means that you are putting your thoughts together, cohesively, and it helps you see things clearer in front of you. Not only that, but if I am flying above a beautiful mountain range of fluffy white clouds, I feel nothing short of grateful and take the time to write down those positive things. Plus, my notes will be memories for when I look back at it weeks/months from then! <3.

Let me know in the comments below if you found these helpful!
Happy Travels! xoxo