Simple Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

Thanksgiving is almost here! Are you stressing about what dish you’re going to bring to your relatives? Or how about mulling over what you’re going to serve your gluten intolerant guests? If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you know I’ve written many articles about Thanksgiving. Letting my foodie monster roam free to cook for nothing but two days straight is something I look forward to every year. It’s more than just the creative aspect of it though, to me, food is what brings people together. Because I’m constantly traveling, it’s hard for me to make it home all the time so I’m so looking forward to spending some quality family time.


Here’s a round-up of my favorite Thanksgiving articles. I made every side dish in my, Show-Stopping Thanksgiving Side Dishes, article last year. My younger cousin, Brianna, uses this article to make my kale salad all the time she says. Everything I write about is personally tried and tested, so I hope you enjoy these recipes and let me know what you think! These recipes also work great for any time of the year but are particularly great dishes for Fall/Winter.


Show-Stopping Thanksgiving Side Dishes


8 Gluten-Free Recipes for Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving Dinner Alternatives to Turkey


For more Thanksgiving, check out these articles too:

How to Turn Your Thanksgiving Gathering Into a Party


8 Dishes to Enjoy While Watching Football


MerissaPrincipe4 1-4


Happy Thanksgiving!


Love your favorite city girl,





The Best Italian Restaurants in New York City

This past month, October 17th, marked the official National Pasta Day. Of course, October also happens to be dubbed Italian heritage month here in NYC. Kicking off the biggest Italian celebration in NYC is the famous San Gennaro feast, one of the cities longest running street fairs on Mulberry St. As an Italian-American myself, I go there for the best sausage and pepper sandwiches and zeppoles. Although I grew up on fried dough and chicken parmigiana, I’ve been lucky enough to make it to Italy several times. Not to mention, it’s my favorite cuisine to whip up on a Sunday night. I can’t say I make it to Italy as often as I’d like for authentic Italian cuisine, however, New York City is home to some of the best Italian restaurants in the nation. If you’re in town, I’d highly recommend checking out a few of my favorites…



228 W 10th St
West Village


This West Village restaurant is a favorite for pasta lovers. Although it’s hard to come by reservations on a weekend, you can always hang around for seating at the bar. When at the bar, I’d recommend ordering a starter followed by two pastas to share and an olive oil cake to finish. The staff is also extremely knowledgeable on wine pairings so I’d say ask away when it comes to recommendations. Regardless, one night at this sleek West Village stop and you will see why everyone’s saying A’more.


Bella Gioia

209 4th Ave
Park Slope, Brooklyn

Probabl the only restaurant I’d travel for! Italian-American chef Nico uses his Sicilian background and old school family recipes to bring new life to Sicilian classics. Bella Gioia had the best calamari I’ve ever had in awhile. I went for an Italian-American heritage night, which was just as delightful but on a typical night you can find dishes like, deep-fried burrata, charcuterie, pappardelle pasta, truffle fries, and Sicilian style pizza, to name a few. Not to mention the incredible wine pairings and charming decor that make you feel like you’re in a cozy alleyway in Sicily amongst friends. When I was there they had live music featuring a vocalist and guitarist playing a mix of classic beatles as well as classic Italian numbers. I was a BIG fan! The live music was such a great touch and would be a great choice for a first date or family outing.


I Sodi

105 Christopher St
West Village


I stumbled upon I Sodi as most do, through a recommendation through a friend of a friend. Italian food is my favorite cuisine and I always like to ask foodies where they go for their favorites. I Sodi was one that kept coming up time and time again. I couldn’t figure out what was so special? Simple Italian dishes with few ingredients and very straightforward menu items like fresh bread, fried artichokes, and lasagna. After a visit to see for myself, it was clear why New Yorker’s kept raving about this place. Here you won’t find over played flavors all competing to be something revolutionary. What you will find are delightful combinations of fresh ingredients, classic to the point menu items, and an explosion of flavors. Even the decor is to the point and crisp lending a pleasant atmosphere to the restaurants biggest star, the food.


Spaghetti Incident

231 Eldridge St
Lower East Side


To be honest, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and have a meal at Spaghetti Incident. I have, however, gone to experience what they’re Insta-famous for…the take out spaghetti! It’s served up nice and hot in a big cone. GENIUS! The pastas, are rich, creamy, and the flavors are delicious. Simple pasta comfort dishes like pesto, pomodoro, and carbonara. It’s cash only but these prices are worth trading paper for. Perfect for grabbing and walking around the streets or to the park. Talk about ambiance!



28 Cornelia St
West Village


Another West Village gem, this little Italian restaurant is what Instagram dreams are made of! After walking through the entryway, which I would describe as a picturesque rustic italian kitchen, past the bar you’ll enter a beautiful courtyard. With gorgeous tiles, plenty of greenery, flowers, and a retractable rooftop this place is like an escape. So you already know summers at Palma are a warm weather must! And the food? Delicious Italian classic just the way grandma used to make it. I’d recommend the Ravioli’s with a side of broccoli rabe. Caio Bella!




Happy Italian Heritage Month,





The October Issue

Happy October everyone! I don’t know about you guys but I’m so excited for fall.  From pumpkin flavored everything to cooler weather to my favorite holiday, Halloween! My costume in particular, has me counting down the days till Halloween, however, I love  looking back on some of my older October articles as they’re some of my favorites. I recently finished the new Netflix docuseries called, “Dark Tourist.” The show features some of the scariest and most extreme tourist destinations around the globe. In one of the episodes the host visits Mckamey Manor, which is featured in my, “Scariest haunted houses in America,” article. Probably the only time I’ve written about a destination that I have not personally experienced myself. But kidnapping, flogging, eating BUGS!? NOOOOOOOOPE! I was luckily enough to make it through the trailers. I’ve linked below my favorite October articles. Let me know if you have any questions or feedback!


5 Scariest Haunted Houses in America

Step by Step Halloween Makeup Guide

5 Spookiest Halloween Travel Destinations

How To Turn Your Home Into A Haunted House

5 Pumpkin Spice Recipes You’ll Love




Happy Halloween,


The Easiest DIY Hair Oil for Long and Shiny Hair

As I sit in my NYC apartment, soaking wet from the rain, scolding myself for not buying a replacement umbrella for the one I lost weeks ago, I can’t help but stop and laugh as I pass the mirror and see the giant fluffy, pom-pom, cotton ball that my hair has morphed into. At the faintest sight of moisture, my hair expands to volumes no self-proclaimed beauty blogger should ever have to endure. In fact, I’m sure many of my thick haired ladies out there know the struggle I’m referring to. Even women with thin hair, know what it’s like to leave the house after meticulously blowing out their hair to find that moments later it’s demolished as soon as “moisture hits the fan.”

So the big question is, can weather really effect our hair that much? The short answer is, YES. In summer months, humidity will attract water molecules from the air causing your hair to expand or become too heavy. In the winter months, the scalp is more prone to dehydration causing dry and brittle hair. Not to mention, the excess heat you apply during these months from excessive blow drying. As we approach winter here in New York, I’ve slowly started to switch all my beauty products over to my winter routine. My hair oil, however, is a staple that works for me year round.

Did I mention its only one ingredient? Grapeseed oil! I originally bought this oil for my skin many years ago. It’s lightweight and good for sensitive/oily skin types. Once I read it was good for hair, I had to try it for myself. My hair has never been the same from there on out. The oil leaves my hair feeling shiny, smooth, and knot free. That’s because this oil is full of nutrients like vitamin E, C, and D. It protects against heat, sneaky weather conditions, breakage, and it detangles. Plus, the fact that my hair has reached incredible new lengths is something to write about. I mentioned this hair oil in a previous article, “three tips for longer healthier and hair,” and I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and blog about it. So I give you the easiest hair oil recipe that actually works…

DIY Hair Oil


  • 7 parts Water
  • 1 part Grapeseed Oil (10 drops for fine hair, 20-30 drops for thick hair)


  1. Using a spray bottle combine the two ingredients.
  2. Feel free to add other hair friendly essential oils for added benefits or fragrance, such as rosemary, chamomile, grapefruit, or lavender.
  3. Shake, spray, and brush!

Side note: If you spray too much and find that your hair is too oily brush a little baby powder or dry shampoo over it. This will absorb the excess oil. 

Have you tried hair oil before? Have any questions or love this post? Let me know in the comments below!

MerissaPrincipe15 1-3

Till next time,


3 Beauty Tools for Better Skin

For years, the beauty industry has been dominated by makeup brands all promising to help you achieve better looking skin. In recent months, I’m happy to report that skin care has slowly started to steal the show as women are starting to realize that the secret to a radiant complexion has little to nothing to do with makeup. Showing your skin some extra TLC means you’ll need less makeup or even better, your skin will be so flawless, you’ll have the confidence to walk around makeup free! In addition to sunscreen, moisturizer, and a good serum, I lend my skin a helping hand with a few “go to” beauty tools. A smooth canvas is the key to glowing skin and I’m here to share some of my favorites that I’ve been coveting and testing for the last few years. Let’s start with my morning routine, one of the first things I grab in the AM after I wash my face is a…


Facial Roller




How I’ve made it this far without a facial roller is beyond me! For those of you who aren’t familiar with this tool, a roller is a device that is designed to message the face, decrease puffiness, and minimize the look of fine lines. Essentially the tool replicates an in person facial massage which encourages the natural drainage of the lymph nodes, which carry waste products away from the facial tissue. As someone who suffers from bad allergies, this really helps with getting rid of inflammation and fluids that like to linger in my sinus cavities.


This also really helped with my under eye bags. I use The Ordinary Caffeine Solution with the roller and my under eye bags immediately disappear. Plus, I’ve noticed I don’t have as much puffiness in the morning after a month or two of using this! What I find to be the most effective is: putting this roller in the freezer. I learned from women in Scandinavian countries that the key to having virtually no pores is to wash your face with cold water. This shrinks the appearance of pores, helps with redness, and reduces inflammation. I’m obsessed with my roller from ReFa Carat Face Roller! I started with an ice roller, then tried the jade roller (which is also a great budget friendly option), but nothing beats the Refa!





So I know this is an awkward topic BUT…I shave my face! Hear me out, it’s rumored that one of the reasons why men look younger as they age is due to the fact that they are constantly exfoliating their face, removing dead skin cells, and in effect, causing rapid cell turnover for younger looking skin from shaving. I know multiple beauty bloggers and skin care guru’s who swear by this! So naturally I had to test it out and I am now a coveted believer! After the razor removes the dead skin cells, I’m left with a silky smooth canvas. Meaning my makeup glides on easily, the finished product looks more natural, and skin care products absorb more easily into my skin.


For me, In the summer when I get tan, the blonde hair becomes more visible and after a little shave I’m fuzz free! If you have hyperpigmentation on your upper lip this product is for you! One of the best ways to shave your face is by dermaplaning. Once every two to three weeks an aesthetician takes a scalpel and gently shaves your face. I don’t always have time to get dermaplaning done, unfortunately, so I use a “Tinkle Razor.” Pull the skin-tight and in gentle sweeping motions, working from the outside in towards the chin, follow the natural contours of your face until all the hair is removed. Just be careful around your eyebrow area as you don’t want to accidentally remove those guys.  This is a great budget friendly option and I got mine from Amazon, here.


Face Cloth




I know this doesn’t fit the standard beauty tool “status quo” but everyone should have one in their skin care routine! The reason is simple, when taking off your makeup, it’s important to use a face cloth to remove all the buildup. Your fingers simply won’t do the trick this time. In the past I used to use makeup wipes. If you’re using a makeup wipe, STOP! Wipes can be harsh, pulling the skin and most products contain chemicals that are not great for your skin or even worse, make your break out! Plus throwing away all those wipes isn’t the best for the environment.


My recommendation would be the face halo round washcloth pads! The pads are so soft, they don’t pull on your skin, and you can SEE the makeup residue on the cloth. Trust me, you won’t be able to go back. My favorite thing about them is you don’t have to wash them every day either. You can use soap and water to clean then. I wash mine, in the wash machine, once every three weeks. I personally like to double cleanse, which I’ll do a separate post for, but using an oil based cleanser or makeup remover I use the halo round to remove makeup and then follow-up with benzoyl peroxide face wash for my acne prone skin. My face has never felt cleaner and my skin couldn’t be happier.



Photo credit: Chris Loupos





Disclaimer: I was provided with a free service in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I only support companies I would actually use in real life and like. 

Iceland on a Budget

The One with Fire and Ice




…and they are not joking about that tag line. I rented a car on the last leg of my Iceland trip and on our drive from Vik to Reykjavik we experienced sun, hail, partly cloudy, rain, wind, everything within an hour! Which made driving through one car bridges, over mountains, through big snow storms quite challenging. I’m happy to report this was the only “hiccup” on this trip and for that I’m grateful.


On my first visit to Iceland, I went right after I moved back to NYC from Germany. Apparently, I couldn’t stay away from Europe for very long. I once bought a coffee table book called “Make the most of your time on earth,” which I highly recommend. In this book, one of the things they recommended was snorkeling with wild Orca whales in Norway. If you’ve been following along on my journey you know how much I love the ocean! If I wasn’t a writer, I would have went to school for marine biology.  So naturally, I put this as a top priority on my bucket list. I’ll do a separate post on Norway but when I knew I was traveling to Scandinavia again, first time was Sweden, I immediately thought of Iceland. It’s been a dream destination of mine for quite some time.


I remember hearing through the grapevine that Iceland Air was offering free layover stops, in Iceland, if you were flying to a neighboring European country. I believe they still have this deal so if you’re interested definitely check it. Of course, you know I am the cheap flight guru and I found a great deal through Wow air, $250 round trip from NYC. However, I decided to keep my plan the way it was for the best deal so I spent two days in Iceland, then flew to Norway for three days, then came back to Iceland for another 3 days. It wouldn’t be a vacation for me unless I took an obscene amount of flights to a remote, hard to reach destination halfway across the world.


If you’re thinking of planning a trip, you’ve probably heard by now that Iceland isn’t the cheapest place to travel to. The US dollar doesn’t stretch as far with the Icelandic króna. Of course, it’s still possible to visit this beautiful country on a budget. Here are some of my tips and recommendations. In addition, to everything you may need to know about beautiful Iceland.

When to Go




The most popular times to visit Iceland are during the summer months from May to September. The sunlight is almost 24/7 as Iceland experiences it’s summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. I went in January during the Winter months, from November to April, where I experienced significantly less sunlight. It was snowy and much colder in the winter months but I personally don’t mind the cold. When packing, definitely bring snow appropriate attire. The summer month’s are warmer ranging around mid 50’s so layers and rain gear are a MUST.


If you’re trying to catch the Northern Lights, the best time to go is during the Winter months, however, you need complete visibility to see them aka no clouds. So it’s best to leave yourself at least two weeks to see them. Most people would recommend going to see them in September or March/April. Gray Line bus offers Northern Light tours that allow you the opportunity to re-book if you don’t see them the night of your scheduled tour so it’s a great question to ask before you commit.


Lastly, bringing important camera gear is crucial for capturing the Northern Lights. You won’t be able to capture a good picture on an iPhone so a DSLR camera is recommended. My best advice would be to get as far away from the city as you can. You need complete darkness with minimal light pollution. I’d also recommend bringing a tripod, although some tours provide them, and, most importantly, a shutter release for steady pictures. To capture the lights you’ll need to adjust your camera settings manually. Your ISO should be set to 800+ and your aperture should be set to the widest setting, between f/2.8 anf f/5.6 with a shutter speed between 15-30 seconds.

Getting There and Getting Around




As a small island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, your only option to getting to Iceland is to fly. As I mentioned before, Icelandic Air runs a deal that allows you to book a long layover in Iceland at no additional cost. This a great option to explore the main city of Reykjavik and get a quick feel of this beautiful country. Although I’d highly recommend staying for a while and checking out the rest of the country. I ended up flying with Wow Air who offers great deals to Iceland.


From the airport we used the Gray Line bus from the airport to our hotel. We then booked our tour for the next two days through Gray Line buses. The first day we did the Golden Circle Express tour and the following day we took their bus to the Blue Lagoon. Tours are a great way to get around if you don’t want to drive yourself.  You can even find tours that schedule everything for you and include your own private driver.


Of course, if you’re looking to stretch your dollar, you could always rent a car. We did this on our second time back to Iceland. I booked through enterprise care rentals. Our car was fine and we drove during winter and although we had some crazy weather, we had no problems. I choose Enterprise because you don’t have to put a deposit down, which is not the norm for renting cars in foreign countries. We used to kayak to book, very simple. At the end of the day my best advice would be to choose the cheapest options with the best reviews.






Wether traveling alone or just looking for a great budget option? Try staying at a hostel! Hostels are my go-to when visiting expensive cities. I stayed at the Reykjavik City HI Hostel just a few minutes away from the downtown area. I stayed in a four person mixed dorm, which I thought was perfect. The hostel was conveniently located in front of a public bus stop that you could take to get downtown, which was fairly easy to navigate. The staff was helpful, the rooms were clean, and the common room and breakfast was lovely. So I’d highly recommend this location. They even have a campsite in the back if you really want to rough it.


For my second portion of the trip, we rented a car from Reykjavik and drove down to Vik to see the black sand beaches. It’s a great hop off point on the southern coast to go see the glacier, the lagoon, and the beach. Of course, you could always do a day tour from Reykjavik as it’s only a few hours away. Vik is a popular destination and can get pricey during peak times. Even in Winter, a lot of accommodations were booked up and we ended up staying at the Puffin Hotel. Basic accommodations, great service, and great breakfast. We stayed in a two person private room which was lovely.


What to See

Iceland is a beautiful country with vast landscapes tha offer everything from stunning waterfalls to glaciers to volcanoes. Hence the popular coined term, “Land of fire and ice.” As I mentioned, I started my trip in Reykjavik. On our first day, we took the Golden Circle Gray Lines Express Tour. You can always rent a car and drive this yourself as well.


The Golden Circle


The Golden circle tour we did consisted of three attractions: Thingvellir National Park, The Geysir, and the Gullfoss waterfall. The Thingvellir National Park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates, with rocky cliffs and fissures like the huge Almannagjá fault. The landscapes are absolutely stunning! If you’re really brave you can even snorkel the Silfa, between the two tectonic plates. Dry suit anyone?

The Blue Lagoon

The next day we took another bus over to the infamous Blue Lagoon. The day we went to the Lagoon, it had been raining on and off, however, we didn’t mind since we were already in the water. The Blue Lagoon is a bit on the pricey side. There are tons of other spa’s and hot springs in the area if you’re looking for a more budget friendly option. To justify the bigger price tag, I decided to spend the entire day there to really get my moneys worth. This would be a great option in combination with the golden circle for a quick day or layover in Iceland. My number one tip would be to buy tickets in advance to get your desired entry time before it’s all booked up.


Vik, Reynisfjara Beach

Formed from volcanic rock, the black sand beach offers miles of dramatic coastlines as far as the eye can see. From staggering columns to volcanic sea caves, this beach is an adventurer travelers dream. In the summertime, you may even be able to spot a puffin or two. I went during the winter, so no puffins and definitely no sun. It actually snowed. First time I can say I’ve been to the beach while it’s snowing. Something to keep in mind, the water at this beach can be deceiving and quite rough. In the week I was in Iceland, someone had passed away because they got too close to water and unfortunately couldn’t recover. Look for signs regarding safety and always be respectful of mother nature.


Jökulsárlón  & Diamond Beach


Also known as the Glacier Lagoon, Jökulsárlón is probably one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen. I could have sat there for hours listening to the sounds of glass breaking as one glacier collides with another. On the other side of the bridge, after the melting icebergs exit into the ocean, you’ll find remnants of shattered ice scattered all over this shoreline at diamond beach. Another notable mention, which comes highly recommended from friends, is the boat ride onto the lagoon. There you can get a up close and personal view of the lagoon and, if you’re lucky, you may even be able to spot a seal or two.


Vatnajökull Glacier


Although home to several glaciers, the Vatnajökull glacier is not only the biggest glacier in Iceland, it’s the biggest in the world. From ice caves to ice hikes, this glacier offers everything. I did a tour with Glacier Guides  and had the best time! I did the half day glacier hike combined with an ice cave tour. You must go with a guide to hike the glacier as it’s extremely dangerous to go on your own.  You can even do a full seven hour extreme ice climb. I didn’t do this here but I did in Alaska and it’s a lot of fun. In the summertime, I’d also recommend a stop to the Fjaorargljufur Canyons for a great “non-ice” hike and stunning dramatic landscapes.



Some of the best I’ve ever seen, Iceland is brimming with waterfalls as far as the eye can see. As I mentioned earlier, in the golden circle you can find the Gullfoss waterfall. The most famous one, would be the Skógafoss waterfall. In the summer, when the light reflects onto the fall it creates rainbows. You can even walk behind the waterfall and climb up to the top. Other notable waterfalls would include the Seljalandsfoss, Svartifoss, and Goðafoss.


Where to Eat

Although Iceland is not the cheapest country in the world it’s not difficult to find a decently priced meal. One of my favorite budget bites is the Icelandic hot dog, at the famous chain Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. Doesn’t taste quite the same as the American hotdog, I actually think it’s better, and you can customize and choose your toppings. My second favorite meal was a Nordic classic, Icelandic Fish and Chips. Freshly caught fish with a flakey buttery crust and deep friend potatoes, yummy! Of course, if you do plan on indulging a bit, definitely check out the Grillmarket, try the trio of Reindeer. I had my first taste of Reindeer in Sweden and it’s delicious. It tastes like a cross between venison and veal, in my opinion. Highly recommend!


Any other suggestions or questions? Drop a comment below! Hope you enjoy as Iceland as much as I did!


Happy traveling,






The Ultimate Guide to Labor Day Weekend

As promised, I’ve linked below all of my Labor Day Articles from CBS Local. Whether you’re planning to escape the city this long weekend or throw your own party, I’ve got great recommendations for every occasion. For starters, I’d definitely recommend trying the Frosé, wine slushie, recipe in the article Drink Recipes for your Labor Day Get Together.  It’s inspired by my favorite frosé at Sunset Beach in Shelter Island. I also just recently went to the Hudson Hotel Bar in NYC and had an amazing Frosé there too. In my opinion, it’s the only way to say salute to summer. Check out the below articles for more LDW insporation….

How to Throw the Perfect Labor Day Party

Drink Recipes for you Labor Day Get Together

5 Lawn Games for Labor Day Celebrations

5 Labor Day Weekend Getaways in New York




Happy holidays,


5 Labor Day Weekend Getaways in New York



Labor Day is only a few weeks away! Start planning your weekend vacay with this article I wrote for CBS Local New York, 5 Labor Day Weekend Getaways in New York. My top three picks would be the Montauk Yacht Club, the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, and Hunter Mountain. I love long hike’s up to Hunter Mountain and nothing beats a nice relaxing beach day in Montauk. Not to mention a nice day on the boat, preferably wakeboarding, at the Chautauqua Lake. If you’re staying local and plan to throw your own party, I’ll do a post rounding up past LDW article’s that cover everything from food to entertainment. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to make the most of these last few weeks of summer. Clink the link below to check out the article I wrote.


5 Labor Day Weekend Getaways in New York


Happy traveling,



The Microdermabrasion Facial

Atrium Suite Bathroom.jpg

Believe it or not, some of my best travel tips are related to skin care! When traveling, I don’t like wear to a lot of makeup. On a typical travel day you can find me scuba diving or hiking through conditions that would be considered without a doubt non-makeup friendly. Before a big trip, I like to prep my skin before I embark on yet another 18 hour flight that wreaks havoc on my face. As you may know, I do a lot of at home masks and facials, however, about once a month I treat my skin to a spa facial and let the professionals do their thing.


In may, I took a trip to one of my favorite NYC hotels, The Loews Regency. They just recently renovated the hotel from top to bottom. The très chic design perspective effectively echo’s throughout the space, perfectly complimenting the airy spring feel vibes of Central Park. What’s even better? The hotel is connected to the Julien Farel Spa. The Julien Farel Spa provides everything from haircare to full on med spa. On my last visit, I treated my skin to a Deep Intensive Repair & Renewal Facial. Let me tell you…I have NO regrets. The lead aesthetician, Oksana, gave me a great consultation from start to finish. Oksana walked me through the step by step plan she had curated to target my problem areas. I had a lot of dead skin, white heads, and a bit of redness. We started the treatment with microdermabrasion.


What is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is a medical tool used to remove dead skin cells and clean out pores. Using a fixed diamond exfoliation tip, the tool scrapes away top surface layers, while the suction hose, in the middle, sucks up debris and clogged pores. Oksana showed me all of the dead skin that had been collected from my face after the treatment and believe me when I say…I was shook. I usually use a physical scrub for my face a few times a week, however, it’s recommended to use a medical grade tool to remove a few surface layers one a month, so that new skin can regenerate. In my opinion, after the treatment my skin felt baby smooth almost immediately.

Oksana then followed up with a high frequency wand, to kill bacteria, a white head extraction, aka she popped my pimples, a facial steam, to open up the pores, and finished with an oxygen facial.

How does it work?

Here are some of the benefits of this treatment:

  • Reduce fine lines and wrinkles
  • Refine skin texture
  • Minimize the appearance of large pores
  • Stimulate circulation, collagen, and cell renewal
  • Allows for better absorption of products

The Verdict

I’ll definitely be trying microdermabrasion again! I walked out of that spa with GLOWING skin and I couldn’t be more pleased. Plus, no downtime after the procedure. After an hour-long treatment I was immediately on my way. If you’re in New York City, definitely check out the Julien Farel Spa and ask for Oksana. If you’re visiting from out-of-town, I highly recommend staying at the Loews Regency, conveniently located next to Central Park. You can watch videos from my experience under the “beauty” highlights of my Instagram page, @citygirlriss. Keep checking back to see more New York City recommendations from your favorite city girl.





Disclaimer: I was provided with a free service in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I only support companies I would actually use in real life and like. 

Kruger National Park On a Budget

Kruger National Park On a Budget

The One With the Canceled Flight…


Travel blogging isn’t always as glamorous as it appears on social media. Things go wrong ALL the time. I always say there’s no such thing as a perfect trip. Of course, I would consider myself an adventure traveler, meaning my vacations typically tend to have a greater margin for things that can go wrong. On this trip, not only did I book my ticket for the wrong day and have to change it last-minute thus paying a hefty fee (rookie move), but my flight was canceled due to snow storms. South African Airways, insert eye roll here, not only didn’t tell me my flight was cancelled but couldn’t fly me out till three days later.  My perfectly strategic plan, that took months to create, of a 5 day safari in Kruger National Park was diminished to a mere 8 hour visit. To add salt to the wound, our new flight getting into South Africa was delayed leaving Brittany, my travel buddy, and I with an 8 hour drive. An 8 hour drive that needed to be accomplished in 5 and a half. The gates located inside the park close at 6:00pm at Kruger. Fortunately, we were able to make it to our rest camp with 5 minutes to spare, thanks to my lead foot. We spent the night at Skukuza and did an amazing night Safari.  Although, to be honest, Brittany and I slept for most of it, we were so jet lagged. The next day we drove around the park searching for wildlife and let me tell you, mother nature did not disappoint! We saw almost everything on our safari bucket list. Although, no trips complete without a little stress! I had to film video content for Travel Zoo. I managed to film a few quick shots in an African bone graveyard museum, yes that’s a thing, a few minutes before we had to race back to the Johannesburg airport to catch a flight to Cape town. Which we almost missed because of traffic! Murphy’s law, right? Overall, our time at Kruger was incredible. The hardest part of planning this trip was tracking down all the information and figuring out how to plan your own self driven Safari. I combed through every article on the internet for months. Luckily, I love my readers and I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about Kruger National Park below. You can also check out some more photos of my trip to South Africa on my Instagram, @citygirlriss.


When is the Best Time to Visit Kruger National Park?




Generally, Kruger is a great place to visit year round. The winter months, from April to September, tend to be drier. The lack of vegetation during this time makes it easier to spot wildlife. Of course, we were there during a terrible drought so the grass was sparse and the animals were always close to the rivers considering it was the only water source. The South African summer months, from October to March, are wet and rainy supporting an abundance of vegetation meaning less chances to spot wildlife.  However, during the beginning of the summer months, the new babies arrive at the park. We saw a lot of babies, in March, including a special moment with a mommy zebra while she was feeding her calf. You can check out the San Park Average Temperature Charthere, for more specific temperature quotes. We went in March, during spring break, booked months in advance, and still, most of the accommodations were already sold out. So booking as early as possible is highly recommended.


How Long Should I Stay?




The correct answer to this question is to do what makes your heart happy. I personally could have spent months exploring Kruger. It’s honestly so big! As I mentioned, my original plan was for five days. Although, I only ended up staying for one, I would say 3-5 days is sufficient if you plan to do day tours and self drive. If you plan to stay at a luxury lodge I’m sure you wouldn’t mind a few weeks more.


Getting There and Getting Around




Rent a Car

After extensive research, the cheapest and most effective way to explore the park is to rent a car and do a safari on your own. We flew into Johannesburg, rented a car off of Kayak, picked it up at the airport and drove 4 hours to Kruger. Now its four hours to the lower section of Kruger, entering through the Malelane Gate. There are several gates throughout the park and they’re all a considerable distance apart. So it’s best to google how far it is from the airport to where your first nights accommodation will be.


From Malelane Gate to the Skukuza Gate is about another two hours. We spent our first night in Skukuza and had to book it from the airport to our rest camp. When we entered through the Malelane Gate, the guard gave us a suspicious look and said, “You know the gate closes at 6 and you have a two and a half hour drive and it’s 5 o’clock, RIGHT?” I replied, “Yes sir, I know,” and shrugged. Kruger has strict speed limits, and a “no getting out of the vehicle policy,” as well as strict open and close times. Failing to comply with these rules can result in hefty fines. You can read more about the park rules, here.


Fly and/or do a tour

The most popular option for Kruger is to fly into Skukuza Airport. Skukuza is located between the lower section of the park and the beginning of the central section. From there you can either rent a car and drive to a rest camp or arrange to be picked up by a lodge. Many lodges and game reserves offer tours and include daily Safaris. The benefit of having a guided tour by a park ranger is the expertise of knowing how and where to spot animals as well as a large elevated vehicle that makes spotting animals easier. The rest camps also offer day tours for an extra charge and offer a wide variety from day time safaris, sunset safari, bush walks, night safaris, etc. We did a  night safari from the Skukuza Rest Camp and had a great time. The park is closed to visitors at night, only a park ranger via guided tour can take you out. This is to protect the animals and limit wildlife interaction. We were lucky enough to see several animals on the night tour including a mother and baby white rhino, who are now considered an extinct species. Your other option is to stay at a lodge or private reserve where you can customize an itinerary/game drives through them. You can even do a few nights at a luxury lodge and then spend an extra few days doing a self driven tour and stay at a rest camp.


Getting In




To get into Kruger National Park you have to pay a daily conservation and entrance fee. You can choose to either pay per day or opt for a yearly membership, the wild card. You can find prices by going to the Sans Park website. If your going to be there for 5 or more days the wild card might be a better option for you even if you’ll only be visiting this one time. You can purchase these online or at some of the gates.


The Lay of the Land


IMG_1952 2-2


Kruger is a massive park, broken up into three sections. The lower section is located in the South, from Crocodile Bridge to Skukuza, the central section, from Lower Sabine to Ollifants,  and the Northern Section, from Letaba to the border of Zimbabwe. The most popular area of the park is the lower section. Accommodations book up the fastest here. It’s the smallest section of the three but it has plenty of rivers and is great for seeing the “Big 5” if your time is limited. The central section is great for game viewing. Lions tend to hang in prides more in this area, I’m told. The Norther region is the largest of the three and is hailed to be a haven for birds. When planning your trip, it’s best to ask yourself what interests you the most, where your coming from, and how much time you have. From there, you can start to formulate a plan for your itinerary.






There are many factors to consider when choosing the right  accommodations. For me, during my original plan, I chose to do a self driven safari and to stay at multiple camps. Throughout the park, there are several park run rest camps, think gated community. Every rest camp varies, but generally most offer options to either camp (bring your own tent), rent a safari tent (canvas tent bedrooms), huts (single room units), bungalow (single bedroom units with kitchen and private bathroom), cottage, family cottage, guest cottage, guest house, or luxury lodges. Accommodations are based on availability. The earlier you book the better. We stayed in a safari tent at Skukuza, which was perfect for a quick stay. Of course, you get what you pay for so I highly recommend doing some research to find what works best for you and your budget. You can check out the San Parks website for accommodation availability. Since we did a self guided tour, the original plan was to stay at a different rest camp every night. Keep in mind the distances between the camps when planning your rest camps. Kruger has a strict speed limit but you typically end up going below the limit to stop and view animals. In other words, the google map times can differ from the actual time it will take you to get from point A to B. You can plan and view accurate time tables by heading over to the parks website, here. Don’t forget, gates close as early as 5 o’clock depending on the season. Driving at night without a guided tour is prohibited.


My original plan for the five-day safari was to fly in, drive to the park, enter through the Malelane Gate, finishing the day at the Berg-en-Dal rest camp for the first night. The next day, we would travel to Lower Sabine and spend the next night there. Then, we planned to head all the way up to Ollifants, Satara would work well too, for some elephant and lion viewing. As I mentioned earlier, this is the only night we were able to stay, our final destination was Skukuza.

Your other option would be to stay at a Luxury Lodge or a private hunting game reserve in or outside to park. You could even combine the two and do both options, camp and lodge. I do this on trips sometimes when I really want to stay at a nice hotel for the experience but know I can’t afford to stay there the whole week.


Park Facilities




The main rest camps typically all contain restaurants, shops, and gas stations. The best restaurant, in my opinion, were the Mugg & Bean chains, which feature a wide variety of options. You can find locations and menus, here. If you plan to camp, or want to make your own food, be sure to bring cutlery, plates, cookware, etc. All campsites and accommodations have barbeques.  Just be sure to lock up your food as the monkeys have built up a highly accurate reputation for theft. Many camps have swimming pools with the exception of the smaller satellite camps. They also typically don’t have restaurants or shops. You can find ATM’s at Skukuza and Letaba although almost everywhere we stopped took cards. You can only get WiFi at Skukuza and Berg en Dal. The camps themselves have decent 3G but no service between camps unless you have an international plan. All the rest camps have “sighting boards,” that use colored magnets to show where certain types of animals have been spotted. I was in a Whatt’s App group with “Latest sightings-Kruger,” that gave me live, updated, and accurate sightings. you can also check out their Facebook page, here. They have an app as well!


Hope this helps! Working on a master list of Safari Do’s and Don’ts. If you have any other suggestions or tips drop a comment below so that other travelers can stumble upon it too!


Happy Traveling,

City Girl Riss