Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Breaking the Habit - Tales from a Former Crystal Light Addict

**This is an old post from 2012 that I accidently republished, ha... but on the plus side, I am still on the wagon and Crystal Light-free! ;) **

I tend to go through food and drink phases where I become OBSESSED with particular items for a certain period of time...

Some were short-lived:
~ Kashi cereal, Luna bars, Annie's mac-and-cheese, Propel water, Nut Thins (so addicting... they seriously put the "crack" in cracker)

Some are off and on depending on the season or my mood:
~ baby carrots, oatmeal, pumpkin coffee, pomegranates

Some are relatively new obsessions:
~ red grapefruit, sweet potatoes, Ezekial bread

And then some have been sticking around for quite some time:
~ bacon, orange juice, salmon... and Crystal Light... that is, until I recently challenged myself to stop drinking it.

Crystal Light... helping water get in my belly for much too long now...
I've been a Crystal Light (CL) drinker for a LONG time.  I started years ago as a means to increase my water intake.  I was never a huge fan of drinking plain water... even when I worked out, I usually drank either Propel water (see short-lived obsessions, above) or orange Gatorade mixed with a little protein powder.

When I discovered CL - and subsequently, CL To Go single serving packets - I found myself stocking up on the iced tea flavor and kept To Go packets everywhere so that I'd never be stuck drinking (gasp!) plain water :)

While training for my first bikini competition last year, my coach continuously stressed the importance of eating real food and watching intake of processed foods, such as artificial sweeteners, due to their toxicity.    This included CL, which contains aspartame.  Are artificial sweeteners toxic in small amounts? No, but research is still unclear as to what the long-term effects are... especially if being consumed on a daily basis.

I was consuming up to three CL To Go packets per day, not to mention my sugar substitute of choice at the time was Splenda.  I was quick to cut out Splenda entirely (I can't even stand the taste of it now) but CL remained a staple.

Last month, I decided to challenge myself to cut out CL cold turkey and focus on finding other ways to get my daily water intake (like I needed to add another challenge onto my year).  I wanted to put serious effort into eliminating this remaining artificial sweetener from my routine and, considering I went through at least one CL box per week, this would be a big test!  I also wanted see if I felt a difference being off it.

Now, my background is in strength and conditioning, not nutrition, so I was curious to know what a nutritionist thought of CL and if it matched up with what I had been coached on while competition training.  I decided to reach out to the creator of Beautifully Nutty, Registered Dietitian Melanie, for her thoughts...

"All in all, I don't think Crystal Light is a bad product," Melanie said, "but I also don't like the ingredient list and lengthy additives."  She pointed out that if one of her clients refused to drink water unless it was mixed with CL, then she would say to have it because it's better than nothing.  However, she advised not drinking CL in excess and recommended adding your own ingredients instead for the majority of the time.

I discovered that Melanie had also gone through a CL phase in college in an attempt to drink more water but she admitted that it also wasn't the healthiest time in her life.  She now prefers to drink plain, filtered tap water or club soda and adds lemon, lime, cucumber, orange or mint (but not all at once!) to give the water a nice, subtle hint of fresh flavor without adding any funky ingredients.
cucumber mint water, yum!

It's been almost 1.5 months now that I've been CL-free and, honestly, I don't really miss it.  Granted, I couldn't say that in week 1 and had to shield my eyes when I walked by the display in the grocery store so that I wouldn't be tempted to reach out and throw one in my basket... but I can definitely say that now :)  I also don't have that constant "bloated" feeling anymore but not sure if that's from removing CL or not.

How do I get my water intake these days, being CL-free?

  • Adding fresh limes - it's almost a joke how many limes I go through a week but I seriously love lime in my water.  I'm definitely going to try Melanie's tip of adding mint to my water too!
  • Making my own fresh brewed decaf iced tea instead of the CL version - much more of an authentic taste... who knew?! ;)
  • Keeping it cold - I am much more apt to drink water the colder it is... I have this water bottle ice cube tray from IKEA that freezes the cubes in a long, narrow shape that fits in a water bottle... Perfect!

My water bottle ice cube tray from IKEA

There is a new CL product sweetened with stevia instead of aspartame, which I recently tried, but the taste just didn't win me over. I discovered that I prefer to go the natural route with flavoring my water.  CL definitely helped me achieve my goal of drinking more water; however, my nutrition priorities have gradually shifted over the years and CL simply no longer aligns with them.  As with any individual nutrition plan, you have to find what works for you :)

One quick side note - if you haven't been on Melanie's website, Beautifully Nutty, do yourself a favor and check it out.  There are some delicious recipes in there that look amazing, including her recent Petite Squash Puffs with Bacon Saute... are you kidding me??

It has bacon in it... 'Nuf said.
photo courtesy of Beautifully Nutty

Have you ever tried to eliminate anything from your nutrition practices?  How did it go??

Sunday, November 20, 2016

My Row45 Experience at Alloy Fitness

August of 2016 marked the 10th year that I've been working in the health and fitness industry. Whoa time flies when you're having fun! 

In those 10 years, I've held jobs in many areas of the business... front desk attendant, protein shake-maker extraordinaire, personal trainer, fitness center manager, wellness program manager, and group exercise instructor. 

The struggle was real as a protein shake maker...

I stopped teaching group ex classes a few years ago, when my role in the industry shifted more to the corporate wellness side of things.  So when I have an opportunity to attend a class, especially one that I've never tried before, I jump on it.

Lucky for me, Tina Morin, Owner of Alloy Fitness in Norwell, MA, happened to reach out and invite me to check out her gym and take a class, which I'm super excited to highlight on Fitness MoeJo!

Alloy Fitness is a chill, unintimidating, smartly-equipped gym/studio right off of Route 3 in Norwell, MA.  From the moment I walked in, I got a sense that members feel - and are treated - like family here. 

"You can be anything you want... but you must be STRONG first!" -Pavel Tsatsouline (infamous Kettlebell guru)

I was cheerfully welcomed and given a tour of the facility before class began. Real Ryder bikes and WaterRower rowing machines are on the 1st floor, while the 2nd floor has TRX suspension trainer setups, kettlebells, weight plates, and is where the strength classes take place.

TRX haven

If, by chance, you happen to be lacking a little motivation when you get to Alloy Fitness, the staircase leading to the 2nd floor will remind you what you're there for ;)

I wanted to try a class that was outside of my comfort zone, so opted to take the Saturday morning Iron Oar class, which is a mix of rowing and weights.  We scheduled it so far in advance though that the schedule had changed right before the Saturday I planned to go. 

Not to worry though, Alloy had a Row45 class scheduled for 7am on Sunday... not normally a time that I plan my Sunday workouts but it turned out to be the perfect start to my day.

Row45 was such an  awesome workout!  It was led by Tina's husband, Tim, and was very straightforward in its formatting but SUPER effective (as my glutes so kindly reminded me for about 3-4 days afterwards).  We alternated between rowing and bodyweight exercises done right next to the rower.

I had been on an Concept2 rower before but never a WaterRower.  Tina mentioned that they are a bit tougher than the Concept2 and she was correct :)  (Have I mentioned yet that this is a good workout??) 
WaterRower row

We started out by reviewing proper rowing technique then warmed up by rowing 1000 meters then went into AMRAP circuits for a set amount of time (AMRAP = as many reps as possible).

The first circuit included 100 meter sprints on the rower paired with 10 pushups. We were instructed to count how many reps we did but, true to form, I lost count after round 2.  (My clients will be the first to tell you that I am NOT a good rep counter!)

However, based on my rower's computer after factoring out the warm-up distance, I estimated that I did roughly 13 rounds... which is 130 (!) pushups... which if I had been told that the workout was going to include 130 pushups, I probably would've fell down laughing.  I'm not generally a high repetition exerciser.  Doing them in this format was much more manageable though!

We did a 2nd AMRAP circuit of a longer row at a more moderate pace than a sprint paired with alternating reverse lunges. Yep lost count here too.

It was crazy to me how fast the 45 minutes flew by.  This class has totally opened my eyes to incorporating rowing in my workouts.  I think my butt will thank me ;)

The ride from Boston to Norwell on a Sunday morning was exactly 30 minutes... not bad!  If you live, work, or visit the South Shore MA area, definitely check out Alloy Fitness!  In addition to the rowing classes, they offer indoor cycling classes, kettlebell classes, and classes that incorporate all of the above... oh, and personal training too! 

Pre-ass-kicking selfie at Alloy
Have you tried a rowing class before?  If so, did you like it? 
What are your favorite group ex classes to take?

Disclaimer: Alloy Fitness invited me to participate in one of their classes as a guest but all views and opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, November 7, 2016

To Fitbit or Not to Fitbit?

I had been contemplating getting an activity tracker for a while, if only (mostly) out of pure curiosity about how many miles I tend to walk on a given day.  There are many days when I know I crush it - and others when I definitely don't.  For some I had a strong desire to have that confirmed by wearing an activity tracking wristband ;)

Adding to the equation is the fact that I am coordinating a global walking challenge at work, in which an activity tracker would be super helpful... so I decided to give in and make the purchase.

But first, the research!

To know me is to know that I like to research everything I do, travel to, eat, drink, etc.  Why would choosing my activity tracker be any different? 

To start, I went on the Fitbit website to compare models and to narrow it down.  That was helpful but I realized there are sooo many other trackers out there that are not Fitbits and I wanted to throw them into the mix too. 

I was referred to an article from that gave recommendations on the best overall tracker, best for endurance training, and best basic tracker.  The Garmin Vivoactive HR was their pick for best endurance tracker and became one of my top contenders, along with the Fitbit Charge 2 (which didn't make their list because it came out after their research concluded).

Garmin Vivoactive HR

Fitbit Charge 2

I singled these two trackers out because, in addition to the obvious step count, distance tracking and positive online reviews, both also track sleep and HR, which were (initially, anyway) must-haves for me. 

My other must-haves: not super ugly (but let's face it, none are super pretty either) and thin-sized wristband.

The differences between these two trackers:
  • Vivoactive HR tracks GPS (one of only a few trackers that does!)
  • Charge 2 tracks your cardiovascular score (a metric based on estimated VO2 Max), as well as gives you Guided Breathing Sessions, which are like brief meditation 'timeouts'
I had planned to order on Amazon... but one of my weirdly responsible adult-like qualities is that I can be very controlled when it comes to making purchases (unless you feed me wine at a Mary Kay party, then all bets are off...). 

When packages show up to your door and you're like, "wait a minute..."

I decided to shop in person instead.  I'm glad I did.  If you are in the market for an activity tracker, I HIGHLY recommend seeing them in person first.  Both the Vivoactive HR and Charge 2 were wider than I expected, which I didn't love.  I have small wrists and didn't want to feel like I was wearing a cuff.

The Charge 2 was smaller in size than the Garmin (and also smaller in cost... about $100 cheaper).  BUT I really wanted something even smaller. 

Enter the Fitbit Alta, which up until this point, I hadn't seriously considered because it didn't have all of my "must-haves".  It tracks sleep but not HR or GPS.   However, I realized that size and cost really were most important to me. 

Fitbit Alta

The Alta was about $30 cheaper than the Charge 2, not a heck of a lot in the scheme of things, but also had a smaller wristband.  As with the cost, not THAT much smaller, but enough to make a difference. 

It happened to be available at Macy's, where I had a gift card (yay!) so was only going to cost me about $80.  I didn't absolutely need the other things that came with the Charge 2 so... the Alta won!

Although it has taken some getting used to wearing it on a daily basis, I really like it.  It's become a bit of a self-motivated competition to surpass 10,000 steps each day (the recommended number), even if it sometimes does mean pacing my house before bed, and it's pretty cool to see how many steps I take on a busy day.  Not so cool to see how little steps I take when I sit at my desk all day...

Ultimately, I may purchase another wristband that blends in a bit more seamlessly with my jewelry and outfits (or maybe Santa can bring that for me!) but in the meantime, the black one works.

Are you a Fitbit wearer?  Activity-tracker-in-general wearer? If so, what do you find most motivating about it??

My Fitbit Alta...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Glute Day! 30-Minute Lower Body Circuit

I've become a pro at short but sweet workouts. Not because I don't love being in the gym but now that my day job isn't inside a gym, I simply don't have the same kind of time to exercise that I once did.

My workouts are rarely longer than 20-30 minutes... primarily due to having to squeeze in my workout before work... but I find that quality over quantity works every time.  Maximizing my time in the gym and lifting heavy (for me) weights help me stay on track.

You do not need to spend hours in the gym or take back-to-back classes to see results...
Efficiency is key.


I mostly work out to offset my Dorito habit maintain my muscle and feel good about myself.  However, if I decide to compete in another fitness show next year (which I'm contemplating!) then I will have to adjust my routine a bit because my goals will change from maintenance mode to show prep. My goal will still be to fit everything in in 30-45 minutes though, albeit adding another day or two per week.

Generally, I stick with full-body workouts but this past weekend I solely focused on lower body.  I've been traveling a lot lately, both car travel and plane travel, which means a ton of sitting... so I wanted to shake things up a bit!

I did 3 sets of 10 repetitions on almost all exercises, only resting enough in between each exercise to catch my breath and drink water.  It took me about 30 minutes, including my warm-up and foam rolling.

Here's what I did...

30-Minute Lower Body Circuit
  • Dynamic warm-up: walking lunges, high-kick walk, squats, hip-openers, side lunges
  • Foam Roll: quads, adductors, abductors , glutes, back, lats
  • Stretch: Hamstrings (mine are notoriously tight!)

Circuit #1 (3 x 10, unless noted):
  1. Hip Thrusters (double-leg x10; single-leg x5ea)
  2. Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat
  3. Wide/Narrow Squat Jumps *

Circuit #2 (3 x 10):
  1. Step-Down Taps (I couldn't find a good video but basically you start on top of a bench, tap down with one foot then use your glute to pull yourself back up.  Do all one side then switch)
  2. KB Deadlift
  3. Jump Lunges *

*The jumping exercises can be modified and performed without the jump as well.  Be smart and listen to your body!  If your knee or ankle or some other part of your body feels a little out of whack, don't make it worse!

You'll notice that I do a LOT of single-leg work. I do a lot of single arm work too.  My body is pretty off-centered, literally and strength-wise, because of my scoliosis...

I have a clear weaker side in both upper and lower body, so unilateral exercises (aka, working each side individually) helps train the asymmetries in my body.

Train smart, unlike Ron...

Let me know if you decide to try this circuit out!  I recommend bodyweight only to start, especially if these exercises (or strength training in general) are new for you... see how you feel in the 48 hours after (especially those glutes!), and then add weights the next time if muscles feel good.

Consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program and always seek professional advice before engaging in any physical activity.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The End-of-Summer Rose Wine Spritzer Rules

It kills me that the summer season is so short in New England... all the more reason you gotta enjoy every second of it!  If you are like me, then wine may have accompanied some (most?) of your enjoyable moments throughout summer...

This summer, I decided to bring wine spritzers back.  To be fair, they never actually went anywhere but it had been a while since I had one.

They've been my go-to deck drink throughout summer.  I even created my own little 'signature' spritzer drink, the "60-Second Sangria". 

(Side note: this drink only takes 60 seconds to make when you are making one. It becomes the "10-Minute Sangria", as my family so teasingly lovingly called it, when I tried to make a batch of five at once).

Although I have been making these with white wine (most often with the Vinho Verde from Trader Joe's), I happened to have a bottle of rose in my fridge (also probably from Trader Joe's) that I thought would make for a pretty drink, on a late Friday afternoon, to kick off my Labor Day Weekend (the unofficial end of summer).

The Rules for a great wine spritzer, aka "60-Second Sangria", are as follows:
  1. Put ice in wine glass
  2. Squeeze in juice from any fruit
  3. Drop squeezed fruit in glass
  4. Pour wine (I've been portioning roughly half wine, half seltzer.  Ok maybe a skosh more wine.)
  5. Top off with seltzer water (I've been gravitating towards the yummy flavored ones from Polar lately)
  6. Sit outside and enjoy!
Some of the yummy new Polar flavors I've been taste-testing

Currently, I have grapefruit and lime on hand, in addition to Pomegranate Sangria flavored seltzer water, and my pretty Chilean rose wine... so that was the combo I used for today...

Forgot to add the lime in this pic but at least I remembered to add it in the drink

In the words of one of my favorite 80's commercials (PollyO String Cheese!), this combo was "Belissimo!  Magnifique!  C'est si bon!" (which you will only get if you are old like me ;)

The face everyone who doesn't remember that TV ad just made...
I've used combinations from almost every kind of fruit from oranges to raspberries to blueberries.  All delicious.
My fave deck drink in my fave wine glass... please don't end, summer!

Cheers to the weekend! How are YOU celebrating??

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My Solo Anguilla Adventure

The infamous (and unfiltered) Anguilla Blues :)

Since 2016 is the year of my 40th birthday - and traveling has been on my bucket list since I created my bucket list - I decided that this is the year I'd FINALLY start adding stamps to my passport.
I firmly believe that fun travel adventures and the ocean air is medicine for the soul.  I live a few blocks from the ocean, so I'm good there; but I never thought I could afford to travel like I wanted to. However, the past few years have made me realize that life is really short.. why wait?
Geraud's Bakery in Anguilla clearly understands the 'life is short' concept... #bacongoodness

Traveling to fabulous places doesn't have to cater to the rich and famous...  I quickly learned that if you do a little research and figure out some things ahead of time, you can have amazing adventures anywhere.

So, with my new outlook on living life and incorporating travel, this year I decided to line up a few trips for myself...

The first was a solo trip to Anguilla, an under-the-radar island in the Caribbean that's now my new home away from home because it is simply amazing.

Pretty Crocus Bay, Anguilla

This was my 2nd trip to Anguilla.  The first was on my honeymoon, 11 years ago.  The marriage may not have lasted but the memories of Anguilla did... including how the island smelled and the breathtakingly gorgeous beaches and the amazing food.  I've been wanting to go back ever since; plus, I really liked the thought of creating NEW Anguilla memories for myself.

My objectives as a solo traveler were:
  1. to step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life
  2. attempt to remain budget-conscious on an island where budget can easily get out of hand
  3. quench my thirst for adventure
Managed to check all boxes in Anguilla!

Off-tune singing at Mango's back in June 2005
True to form, and just like 11 years ago, I obsessively researched the trip, to the point where I felt like I knew the island before I got there. 

This time though, since I was traveling solo, I could do WHATEVER I wanted.  I didn't have the big honeymoon budget this time (quite literally had a fraction of it) but I was able to do so much exploring and have an amazing experience.

So here's a recap of my time in paradise... I stayed 5 days, 4 nights which, of course, was not long enough.  All the more reason to get back sooner than later ;)

About as crowded as it got on Rendezvous Bay... this is my kinda crowd right here :)
(Dune Preserve in background)

omg.... first time driving on the left side of the road!
Day 1: I'm New England-born and raised, so I know rotaries/roundabouts... BUT navigating rotaries that go in the opposite direction from how my brain typically processes them was... apparently too much for my brain to process haha.  The first day of driving I kept veering off to the left when I would approach a rotary because I was so freaked out haha.  Luckily that wore off by day two.

First rum punch courtesy of Elvis' Beach Bar
I heard that Elvis made a great rum punch so of course I had to sample it for myself straight away!  After that, I walked to Barrel Stay and had an amazing sea scallop dinner... and my very first jonnycake :) They were playing the best 90s love songs... like random-old school-amazingness.  Truly the icing on the (jonny)cake for my first night in Anguilla.
My apartment view by day...

...My apartment view by dusk
Day 2: Now I'm a morning person but I was not prepared for my daily 3:30am wake-up call, ha.  I did not get the memo about the roosters in Anguilla. I will say though, it was lovely waking up to the sound of waves crashing in between all that cock-a-doodle-doo-ing.  I decided my first order of business was breakfast at Le Bon Pain in Island Harbour.

Anguilla's Jammin' jams... made in an aquaponic garden!

For some reason, I had a heck of a time trying to find it but so glad I did!  Best French bread ever.  Hugest egg sandwich ever.  Ate half of it on their palm-covered patio and decided to continue on to Shoal Bay East (after buying some cute Anguilla's Jammin' jams for souvenir gifts!).

One of about 45 pictures I took of the crystal clear water at Shoal Bay East. Doesn't even do it justice.  I could do an entire blog post on how awesome this beach is. 
I parked at Elodia's on Shoal Bay East, grabbed a chair, and proceeded to drain my phone battery while taking a million pictures because the beach really is that beautiful.  Oh, and sampled a rum punch of course!  After spending a good portion of the day there, I decided to take a drive to Zemi Beach House and check it out.  Amazing property. 

Self-guided tour of Zemi Beach House... the gorgeous pool area
My Bostonian winter skin had maxed out on sun exposure by this point, so I decided to head back and shower for dinner. 

I had dinner reservations at Veya for 8pm so I decided to chill on my deck for a bit and watch the sun set. Ronnie Bryan, who I rented my car from, happened to be in the area so he stopped by to take care of my paperwork. I asked him, "How did you know I would be here?" He said, "Well, if you weren't here, I'd just check back another time!" You gotta love the laidback, relaxed pace at which everything gets done in Anguilla! Not a nicer guy on the planet, by the way. 

I don't have pictures from Veya because, to be honest, it was the one place in which I felt slightly self-conscious being alone.  Veya was so busy and I was the only person dining solo.  I'm sure no one noticed or cared but I did feel self-conscious.  If I go back by myself, I will likely belly up to the bar instead of sitting at a table.  However, dinner was nothing short of spectacular. .. from the cauliflower soup amuse bouche to Bon Iver playing on the speakers when I came in (which changed to a live performance by Omari Banks), to the spicy jerk shrimp cigars... all fantastic.

Shoal Bay West; Covecastles Resort Villas in the background
Day 3: Today was all about the West Side!  I really wanted to explore that area so I first headed to Geraud's for breakfast (omg so good), then to Shoal Bay West (had the beach to myself), then decided to try and find the natural bridge...

You had me at "road close".... The sign that kick-started my impromptu West End hike
lol... road closed?  Ok, well let's get some steps in!  Next time I will know to bring sneakers instead of flip flops...

View from the end of my West End hike

West End stairway to heaven
Everything was so pretty... but seriously, where is the damn natural bridge??  Sadly, I didn't find it but I fully intend to when I go back to Anguilla!

Little pink houses, for you and me...  And goats on goats on goats.  Because... Anguilla.

Self-guided tour of Viceroy
I don't stay at the luxury places but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in them!  Decided to check out Viceroy (now the Four Seasons) and see what all the fuss is about. Super pretty, very nice.  Just FYI on the foot rinse machine... there is a top and a bottom button... the bottom button turns on the foot rinse, the top button turns on the shower it does NOT turn OFF the foot rinse. An unexpected shower is always a surprise but makes for a lovely walk back to the car in the Anguilla heat.

Since I was itching to do something active (hiking in flip flops didn't exactly qualify haha), I decided to drive to Da'Vida, rent a kayak, and paddle over to Little Bay.

Kayaking to Little Bay
THIS was one of my most favorite parts of the trip because it was such a unique experience to kayak to this cutie little beach.  Of course, while on Little Bay, I met a super nice couple who live the next state over from me because it really is such a small world.  (Shout out to Susan and Jay!)

Some people prefer to let the kayaks rest and have Calvin take them to Little Bay in his boat

Post-kayak fluid replenishment... frozen mojito at Da'Vida (Crocus Bay)

I know it's SO tough to tell but I'm really enjoying this
Later in the evening, I had dinner at Roy's Bayside then headed to the Pumphouse for Ladies Night!  In the few days that I had been on the island, I had the pleasure of meeting some great people who live on island - including my super friendly hosts - and they invited me out for a night with them.  Between the company, music, people-watching, and drinks... it was such a fun time! I don't know why we didn't think to take pictures (having too much fun I guess!) but next time for sure.

Tigger the cat just chillin' at Roy's  :)
Day 4: Unfortunately, roosters don't care how late you stay out at the Pumphouse... but I'd rather be tired in Anguilla than well-rested at work ;) I decided to have breakfast at Straw Hat and then take advantage of their loungers for a bit.  They were playing reggae versions of Prince, Adele, etc... it was great! Meads Bay is probably my 2nd favorite beach behind Shoal Bay East (not that far behind though!) and I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out there. The adorable Frangipani resort is right next door, which I did not visit, but may have momentarily pretended that I did haha...

Frangipani Beach Resort pool (Meads Bay)

Frangipani has the cutest thatched umbrella and chairs (Meads Bay)

CuisinArt Resort - I found out after I took this pic, oddly enough, that this is the building I stayed in 11 years ago!
Speaking of frangipani... one of the things I *really* wanted to do when I went back to Anguilla is to go to Cuisinart, where I had stayed when I first visited the island 11 years earlier, and take in the intoxicating frangipani smell that I remembered.  The only problem was... when I got there, there was no smell!  If I'm being honest, the resort looked a little less "nice" than I remembered.  In fairness though, I was there 11 years earlier AND on my honeymoon so probably had my head in the clouds. I was probably even thinking the lizards were "cute" back then ;)  Decided to lift my spirits with a visit to the Sunshine Shack...

Met this cutie on Rendezvous Bay... she didn't speak English and I don't speak Spanish but we got along just fine :)

Sunshine Shack was the perfect antidote to feeling letdown from Cuisinart... Garvey makes a mean frozen margarita, the beach is perfect (I think Rendezvous Bay rounds out my top 3!), and I saw Susan and Jay that I met at Little Bay! 

MA license plate, front and center, at Sunshine Shack!

Me and Sunshine Shack's friendly owner, Garvey

After a relaxing afternoon at Rendezvous Bay, I went back to Sandy Ground to chill for a bit then went to Zemi Beach House to see Mystic Vibes perform.  Can't think of a better way to spend my last night on the island :)

My adorable little studio apartment in Sandy Ground...

...which is also the perfect spot for sunset viewing...
...And is managed by the best people ever who actually BAKED me a delicious carrot cake treat for my flight home!!
Day 5: Last day, so sad :( Decided to finish strong with a walk on the beach, breakfast at Geraud's one last time, a quick visit to Cove Bay, then headed for AXA. I flew in and out of AXA primarily because it was much cheaper than flying to SXM.  Although I've heard of issues with travel through AXA, I had zero issues and a very pleasant experience :)

Where I stayed... if you are familiar with Anguilla and Sandy Ground, you can probably guess where I stayed from my pics... right above Roy's Bayside Grill! I found out about this place from BeachBarBums and I couldn't be more grateful.  As a solo traveler, this is exactly what I wanted... somewhere safe, that my wallet could handle, and located directly on the beach.  This is a self-service apartment, so not in the same echelon as the luxury, high-end places that Anguilla has come to be known for, but I wasn't looking for anything fancy.  This place was perfect for me and I absolutely loved it.

Planning the itinerary now for my May 2017 Anguilla trip... stay tuned for the recap!

Have you ever traveled solo?  If not, would you??