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Peru Uncovered with Contiki

I know it’s definitely been awhile since I’ve given an update on this blog! Earlier this year, I decided to take some time off from my career to spend 6 months traveling. This trip began with the 2 week Peru Uncovered tour with Contiki. I honestly didn’t know much about Peru besides Machu Picchu. When I took my Brazil & Argentina trip, the group was continuing on to Peru and I was so jealous! I knew I had to come back and tour Peru. I remember my tour guide, Flor, told me there was so much to see in Peru, so I decided to do the whole 2 week trip in the country.

The tour started in Lima for a night, then we flew to the Arequipa region where we took a bus around the region seeing sights like Colca Canyon. Then we went to Puno where we spent the day on Lake Titicaca before making our way to Cusco for a few nights. From there, we spent a day in Ollantaytambo and took the train to Aguas Calientes where we got ready to see Machu Picchu the next morning. Then we went back to Cusco for a night and took a flight to Puerto Maldonado (the jungle) where we stayed in a jungle lodge before going home. This was a modular trip, so some people joined at Lima and stayed for the whole thing, some joined at Cusco, and some left before we went to Puerto Maldonado.

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Here are some of my highlights:

The beautiful Plaza Mayor in Lima

Loved seeing the paragliding on the Lima coast

IMG_9683I was lucky to get Flor again as my tour manager! Here we are in Arequipa

IMG_9666One of the many great meals we had – Ceviche!

IMG_9673Some funny ad with llamas
IMG_9656The Queso Helado was delicious – They hand churn it and it looks like cheese afterwards

IMG_9680Beautiful grounds at our hotel in Arequipa 

IMG_9723We made a stop for some coca tea and they had lambs we could snuggle with

IMG_9780One of my favorite photos — this llama’s face cracks me up!

IMG_9749The tallest point we visited – over 19,000 feet! I was not feeling well haha

IMG_9766The volcano view from our hotel

IMG_9824The little alpaca I met named Blanca

IMG_9842Our fun group! One of the best I’ve traveled with!

IMG_9831One of the many beautiful stops – it was cold and I think I was a little sick from the altitude still

IMG_9893Beautiful lunch on Lake Titicaca

IMG_9917I got to play soccer with the locals

IMG_9867We visited this island made from reeds and these ladies welcomed us with open arms!

IMG_9948The group at ancient ruins in Raqchi 

IMG_0067Beautiful view in Ollantytambo

IMG_0061Trying one of the local foods – Guinea Pig!

IMG_0101Foggy morning view at Machu Picchu

IMG_9986Beautiful view of Cusco

IMG_0209View from our jungle lodge – One wall was open!

IMG_0604Last views of the jungle!

This was definitely one of the more off-the-beaten-path tours that I’ve done with Contiki. We were nearing Peru’s winter, so it was a little colder than I was used to. Also, the altitude took some adjusting to — one person on our trip had to go to the hospital because of it. I didn’t end up doing the day trek on the Inca Trail to save some money, but I’d definitely encourage anyone else taking the trip to do it. Peru ended up being a very affordable country and I only spent about half of my budget.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend Peru and the 2 week tour with Contiki. I was very surprised with how much the country had to offer and how safe I felt. I can’t wait to explore more countries in South America now!

Snickerdoodle Kiss Cookies

As soon as I saw this recipe for Snickerdoodle Kiss Cookies, I knew I had to try them! The ingredient list was relatively easy and I love snickerdoodles, so it was a no-brainer.

For some reason, my cookies turned out different than the photo of the recipe. They were a little darker and slightly crunchy — but nonetheless delicious! I think I made the balls of dough too big as the cookies ended up huge. I also think I mixed up baking powder and baking soda (I wasn’t paying attention), but they turned out fine.


Overall, I think this recipe is a good option if you are craving some snickerdoodles or want to get rid of some Hershey’s kisses from your pantry. I still want to make these peanut butter snickerdoodles again too :)

Browned Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles

This recipe was a mouthful! I had some extra caramel bits, so I decided to use them up by making these cookies.


By not using caramel squares, the shape is a little different than the original photos. I’m always nervous to do the browned butter, but luckily didn’t burn it this time. I realized that I forgot to cool it before mixing it in, but it didn’t affect anything. Also, I didn’t have greek yogurt, so I used almond milk and it turned out fine. Besides the caramels and browned butter, I found that these were just regular snickerdoodles.


Also, the thing I don’t like about cooking with caramels is that after the cookies cool, it gets really hard. I found myself picking the bits out of my teeth later on. These cookies were definitely delicious, but I’d be curious if they were any good with caramel squares instead. Otherwise, I might just cancel out all the extra work and make regular snickerdoodles next time!

Reeses Stuffed Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m honestly getting really hungry for these as I write this! These Reeses Stuffed Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies were a mouthful and so so good!

The recipe called for a few extra steps like having the eggs at room temperature, but it was all worth it! It was pretty straightforward otherwise — combine the wet ingredients, then add in with the dry ingredients. Do note that the dough requires refrigeration, so allot for that time when making them.

I was nervous that the Reeses cup would burst out of the cookie while cooking, but I didn’t have any issues luckily. These were great and I wouldn’t hesitate to make them again. I think even without the chocolate chips they would be scrumptious.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

I know it’s been awhile! The holidays took hold of me and now I’m finally getting a moment to breathe. I’m excited to share a few recipes I’ve had a chance to try in the last month, including these Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars!

These were super easy to make and a great last-minute item for a work potluck. I did have trouble finding the exact Krusteaz mix like in the recipe. I went to a few stores and none had it! I ended up using a store brand peanut butter mix that worked just fine. Another thing — I had such trouble finding a small bag of pretzels! I eventually found a medium one at a convenience store. I still have half a bag sitting in my pantry.

The recipe itself was super easy to execute. Just mix together the main ingredients, then add the m&ms and pretzels. Then press into the pan and bake! Super quick and easy. It was a fun take on typical peanut butter cookies. I definitely want to keep some boxes of cookie mix on hand for occasions like this. No need to slave away in the kitchen all night!

My Favorite Books from 2016

Hello there! I know it’s been awhile since I’ve updated, but work has been so crazy. I decided to decompress during the holidays and hermit myself up in my apartment. Furthermore, I ended the year with finishing 27 books. This is a combination of both books I read and listened to. I’ve broken it down below. Honestly, I think I enjoyed the audio books much more this year. Enjoy!

Books Collage2

Favorite Books Read

1. The Girl on the Train – I made sure to read it before the movie came out. A thriller that you can’t put down.

2. Paris Letters – True story of a girl who decides to leave her life in the US to live in Paris. Dreams!

3. The Girls – A story about a girl who spends a summer with a Charles Manson-like cult. It was a surprisingly easy read.

4. The Kitchen House – A heartbreaking historical fiction novel about a plantation and how it changes over the years. I brought it on vacation, though I don’t recommend it as a beach read!

5. The Art of Fielding – This thick novel was chosen by my book club about a college baseball team. While it had a slow start, I found myself not able to put it down over the holidays.

Additional Reads: Everything is Illuminated, The Widow, Same Kind of Different As Me, The Nest, I Knew You’d Be Lovely, Eleanor & Park, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding

Favorite Audio Books

1. Troublemaker – I never thought I’d want to listen to Leah Remini’s book, but it had good reviews, so I gave it a chance. Her stories about her time as a Scientologist were fascinating. I have so much more respect for her now.

2. You’ll Grow Out of It – Jessi Klein’s essays are hilarious and relate-able. I found myself constantly laughing and smiling. It’s nice to know that someone else has the same disdain for bridal stores.

3. Scrappy Little Nobody – Though Anna Kendrick is still young, she’s gone through so much in a small time. I love hearing behind the scenes Hollywood stories, so I enjoyed hearing her point of view about being nominated for an Oscar for the first time.

4. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo – Amy Schumer’s essays were both hilarious and heartbreaking. I was itching for this one to come out and it was definitely worth the wait.

5. Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling dishes on her life and dating. What more can you ask for? I especially loved her story about snagging a date with the president’s assistant.

6. Wildflower – Again, I love hearing Hollywood stories, so Drew Barrymore’s book was truly a gift. Her take on growing up in the spotlight is something not to be missed.

7. Watch Me – Once again, love Hollywood stories, especially old Hollywood. Anjelica Huston’s memoir which centers on her relationship with Jack Nicholson was super juicy.

Additional Listens: The Happiness of Pursuit, The Year of Yes, Heads in Beds, Breath Becomes Air, Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It, Girlboss, Rich Bitch, Dear Mr. You.

Weekly Reading

IMG_8771Fun night seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch

  1. I agree: People are freaking out about how hot Joe Biden was

Pumpkin Nutella Muffins

I randomly came across this recipe and knew I had to try it for the fall season. These Pumpkin Nutella Muffins were super simple to make and disappeared quickly when I brought them to the office. Definitely a winner!


To make these, I simply mixed together the wet and dry ingredients and spooned the batter into a muffin pan. I then put a dollop of nutella in each one and swirled with a knife. I need to be more generous with the nutella next time. When eating these, I definitely wanted more!


Overall, these were delicious and are sure to be a staple to make every fall season!


Weekly Reading

IMG_8662Some rare art spotted in Sherman Oaks

1. Love this: 25 Things Every Book-Loving 90’s Kids Will Remember

Pumpkin and Brussels Sprout Gnocchi

So I got ambitious with all the fall festivities and decided to try this Pumpkin and Brussels Sprout Gnocchi. While this was a fun dish to try for the fall, it didn’t turn out exactly how I thought.

I really enjoyed the pumpkin flavors along with the gnocchi and seeds. I got the packaged brussels sprouts from Trader Joe’s which I cut up and simmered. I recommend getting the tray brussels sprouts which you can steam ahead of time. I felt like not all of mine were fully sauteed, but the onions ended up burning for some reason. Also, I need to remember not to add the red pepper flakes. This ended up being way too hot for me. When I reheated, it wasn’t too bad, but the first tasting was definitely spicy.

Additionally, with all the ingredients and time involved, was this truly worth it? I ended up spending around $20 to get all the ingredients, so it wasn’t a budget conscious meal (pumpkin seeds alone cost $6). I was able to get 2+ meals from it, so technically, it had some legs. Though, my apartment still smells of the onions and brussels sprouts. While this was an ambitious fall meal, it’s not something I would make on a regular basis.