1 Day in...Sedona, AZ

1 Day in...Sedona, AZ

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With the weather still being warm in Phoenix it's always a good idea to find some ways to cool down.  One of my new favorite ways is to escape to Sedona for the day!  It's a quick 2 hour drive from Phoenix and at least a 10 degree difference in temperature.  This was my second time driving up for the day and it is honestly the perfect escape.  For this trip I like to pack a backpack or CamelBak, sunscreen, plenty of water, snacks, and layers since it can be a little chilly or even sprinkle!  

Food in Sedona can be pricey, so if you're budgeting I would recommend packing a lunch and snacks!  We forgot this and ended up grabbing sandwiches at Red Rock Deli before we ventured out to hike!

After you're in town I highly recommend heading for the Devil's Bridge Trail.  It can be found off Dry Creak Road where there is a parking area, public restrooms, and a nice little map to decide which trail you want to take.  I prefer the Dry Creek Road Trail over the others because it is quicker and easier, in total about 2 and a half hours including photo stops.  

Once you head out from the parking area you come to this sign on a dirt road.  The first 3/4 of the 3.6 miles is a lot like this dirt road, nothing really intense to walk through.    

After about 15-20 minutes of walking you will reach the trailhead!  From here you only have about 2.5 more miles to go, again it really is pretty flat terrain still.

The last 30 minutes or so are when it starts to get a little more difficult.  There are about 4 sets of dirt stairs to get up, but I have seen people of all ages on the trail doing just fine!

The first main view area at about the 3/4 mark shows off the surrounding mountains beautifully and is a great option for selfies!  There's also amazing plant life along the whole trail, like this blooming prickly pear so be sure to keep your eyes open.  There can also be wildlife like snakes, scorpions, and other animals on the trail to be cautious of.

At this point you're so close to the bridge!!  About 10 minutes before you're there you'll hit two steep incline step areas.  These are more difficult than the previous ones but there are plenty of areas to hold onto to get yourself up.  If you take your time there shouldn't be any issue getting through it!  I promise that even though the last bit is a little intimidating, it is well worth it!

This is the Devil's Bridge!  It is a natural structure and even more incredible in person.  It's wider in person than it seems so taking pictures isn't terrifying but please be cautious, there's no need to do anything crazy or dangerous just for a photo.  If you can't get enough of the views there's a ton of other trails to hike and quite a few options available to stay for a few days.

How have you been escaping the summer heat?
XOXO, Cierra


The Vet School Series: Transitioning from Undergrad to Professional School

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In honor of starting my second year of veterinary school, I’m back with Part 2 of my Vet School Series!  In case you missed the last one on applying, you can find it here.  In this post I want to keep with the flow and talk about how it was to go from interviewing in undergrad to being a full blown veterinary student!  I want to start out by saying no it was not an easy year, not by any means.  The transition was tough in ways I hadn’t expected, but with that being said I made it through!  Just because it was tough does not mean it wasn’t doable.  Much like the process of applying, people make out the transition and first year to be traumatizing and impossible, I’m here to tell you it most definitely is possible!  

I went from studying the bare minimum, maybe a few days before an exam at most.  I did the assignments I was assigned when I had the time to, but didn’t really have to spend every night or very many weekends working on things or studying.  Boy was I in for a change when the 1st week of classes I was now studying from the moment I got home from class to the moment I went to sleep.  It also was a bit of an adjustment to have class from 8am-4pm or 5pm most days when I was used to only having about 4-5 hours of class each day.  Between these two changes I was feeling exhausted before the year even really started.  

I had to get a schedule put in action, and it had to happen quick.  I decided I would work out twice a week in the evenings, and never the night before an exam.  I would try to be in bed by 9pm each night, eat breakfast every morning, pack my lunch for the day, study for a few hours when I got home, break for dinner, and study more until bed.  This schedule stuck with me for basically the whole year, granted if it was a crazy week I would slack on working out or buy lunch at school and occasionally I did have to stay up until 10 pm or 11pm but that was the most I ever differed.  I found having a set schedule helped because it was one less thing to think about.  

I also think that working out was very important for me.  Yes, school was the most important thing for me during that time, but I couldn’t preform my best if I wasn’t feeling my best and working out always made me feel good.  Finding something like this that’s quick but impacts your attitude, and even body, in a positive way is very important to try to keep your stress levels low.  I still made time on weekends when I didn’t have upcoming exams to see my family, attend my alma maters homecoming, and even have game nights with my study group.  You’re allowed to still have a life while you’re in school :)  

Along with making time to do things, finding a group of people you fit with in your class is also hugely important!  I didn’t think much of this during orientation until the 2nd or 3rd day, then I realized wow I really need to make some friends, this isn’t something I want to go through alone.  I got really lucky and found my group right after coming to that realization, but don’t give up if you don’t find your place right away, just keep branching out!  Having peers to reach out to when I was confused or needed some extra study time really made a huge difference for me.  Sometimes I study really well on my own, but for other things I found going through it with others helped it stick way better.  Plus, the support system was something I never realized would be so important.  No one not in your situation can truly understand exactly what’s going on each and everyday, but the people in your class do!  They will be right there with you when an exam was awful or an awesome case was gone over in lecture.  Don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need to, I definitely did!  

Lastly, take advantage of every opportunity you can your first year!  This is the time to decide what you want to partake in and what you don't.  I chose to join 2 clubs; the Shelter Med Club and the Swine Club.  Fortunately through Swine Club I was able to attend the annual meeting for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians in Orlando, Florida!  I also chose to partake in a program that assigned me a local mentor and let me tell you, this was a game changer!  I never thought they would match me as well as they did and my mentor has given me amazing advice!  I highly suggest seeing if your school or state association offer a mentorship program because I can't even describe how thankful I am for finding mine.  Along with taking advantage of opportunities, you can also say no to things because staying on track and managing your time so you don't burn out is still the number one priority.

As I’m writing this I’m thinking it must sound like I actually had a pretty easy time, all I had to do was make some friends and change up my schedule, how hard could it be?  That part was an adjustment, but wasn’t necessarily hard.  The hard part comes from the pace, you’re expected to learn things much faster than in undergrad.  You also can have multiple hard subjects in the same quarter, which I always avoided doing in undergrad.  This is where the challenge starts, in the beginning I felt I was doing okay with it all, but around spring break I realized I was definitely not.  I let all my stress build up, the feeling that I could not be good enough to be there, the feeling that I had so much to do constantly, everything.  It all built up and finally it started to break me down.  I tell you this not to scare you, but because it can happen to anyone and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  I reached out to a campus counselor we are provided access to and she helped me work through how to manage my stress better, how to keep myself in a positive mindset, and how to focus even when I don’t want to.  After meeting with her multiple times throughout the last quarter I started to feel like I really could do the things I needed to and I knew I was in a place I deserved to be.  It really can apply to anything from vet school to family life to work; if you start to feel like you aren’t able to figure things out yourself, reaching out for help is always a good idea! 

All in all, I wouldn’t give up the last year of school for anything.  I’m grateful I have the opportunity to be where I am and continue to learn and grow into a profession I love.  

If some of you are where I was last year, don’t be afraid to reach out!  I would love to hear how your journeys are going!
XOXO, Cierra


How We Spent 3 Days in Paris

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This year my mom & I’s big summer trip was to Paris! She had never been to Europe and I had never been to Paris.  We decided what time was better to give it a whirl than now!  Keep in mind, between the two of us we know maybe 10 French words.  We had a short & sweet trip that was filled with things straight out of postcards and movies.  I’m going to share our jam packed 3-day itinerary and how we made the most of our time there, so let’s get started!  

DAY 1–
Our flight landed mid day at Charles de Gaule airport, we hit the ground running by taking “Le Bus Direct” from the airport to our hotel.  It was a very convenient and easy experience, the bus arrives every 15 minutes in Terminal 1 and you can buy your tickets with a card at the kiosk or pay the driver in Euros.  It cost us 36,00 Euros one way for 2 adults.  The bus itself was air conditioned, clean, and not crowded.  We took the direct 2 toward Eiffel Tower and got off at the Champs Elysees stop.  In all it was about an hour bus ride to that stop.  I highly recommend this transport option if your hotel is near any of the stops because it saves you the trouble of hauling luggage up and down the metro steps!  I did hear that at times there can be delays due to traffic and later in the day it can become more crowded.  

Our hotel, The Royal Hotel, was perfectly located just 2 blocks the Arc de Triomphe, a must-see landmark, and 1 block from Champs de Elysees, a street filled with restaurants and shops.  The room itself was nice with two windows that opened to view the street, though it was small it worked perfectly for the two of us.  

It was also only a 20 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower and after we checked in we headed there!  Our first stop was the American Cathedral since it was on the way, it was incredibly beautiful inside and completely free to enter!  After about 10 minutes further of walking we reached the Eiffel Tower area.  It was so grand to walk up and see the Eiffel Tower up close and in person.  There is a water feature called the Trocadero that we walked to in order to get full photos and honestly it was less crowded than I expected!  I was able to get quite a few photos without many other tourists in them.  When we were there the water fountains were all on, but I read that early in the morning around sunrise the Tower reflects across the pool area.  

Jumpsuit is old TopShop | Tee | Shoes | Sunnies | Barrette   

On our way home we at at Bistro Des Champs right on Champs de Elysees.  They had a lovely outdoor seating option that seemed to be common for the restaurants around and allowed for great people watching!  We both ordered Croque-Monsieurs, which are basically ham & cheese sandwiches, and a glass of champagne.  It came to about 25,00 Euros each in total and the atmosphere of being right on Champs de Elysees was well worth it!  

DAY 2–
On our second day we got up and went to breakfast around 7am.  The selection was very nice with kiwis, cheeses, fresh bread, pastries, meats, eggs, cereal and yogurt.  

Our plan for this day was to see EVERYTHING.  From what I researched we could see almost all the major landmarks in the city by walking down both sides of the Seine River.  We first came to the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais.  They have exhibits inside, but we just visited the outdoor area.  On the opposite side of them is a beautiful park too.  We looped around them toward the Pont Alexandre III bridge.  This bridge allows for foot traffic as well as cars.  It has incredibly ornate gold accents all across it and is definitely the most ornate of the bridges we saw.  

Top (similar) | Shoes are old Jeffrey Campbell | Jeans 
Some of the foot bridges have vendors with locks you can purchase and attach!

We crossed here and moved forward toward the Louvre Museum.  This area was more crowded than the others we had been in thus far and we did not go inside the museum.  I read this museum alone could take an entire day so we just stuck to seeing the pyramids to save time.  


The last stop before we headed back down the Seine toward our hotel was Notre Dame Cathedral.  We weren’t sure what to expect to see since the fire occurred, when we got close you could still see the cathedral and it was stunning, but there was a massive crane working and large fencing around the entirety of it.  Though it was not like it was previously access wise, it was still a sight to see.  

The way back was much quicker for us since we didn’t need to stop as much, the two exceptions being lunch and the Musee d Orsay.  We stopped at Paradis de Fruits st Michel between Notre Dame and the Louvre.  This is a great option if you’re craving something healthy, I ordered a “detox salad” and carrot, ginger, apple pressed juice.  It was such a refreshing meal after having eaten mostly airport and bready meals the past couple days.  


The museum had an intimidating line, but it moved pretty quickly totaling about 45 minutes of waiting.  2 adult tickets cost 28,00 Euros.  We were on the hunt to find a clock window that made for a beautiful silhouette photo that even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have taken advantage of!  However, once we were inside we were able to appreciate so much more than just the clock.  There were two levels of sculptures, my favorite being the Ernest Barrias’s Les Chasseurs d’alligators ou Les Nubiens, Monet paintings, a temporary Van Gogh exhibit that featured his famous self portrait, along with many other beautiful works of art.  To find the clock you have to go to the top level and past the first clock located in the cafe area, the one accessible for photos is in the last exhibit wing of that floor.  We spent 45 minutes inside because we were getting tired, but we estimated you could do the whole museum in 3-4 hours. 


On our way home we couldn’t resist stopping in to Ladurée to taste the famous macarons in the actual place where they originated.  There was a short 4 person line to eat in the cafe, versus a 15 person line to buy the macarons to-go.  I had been on the hunt for lemon sorbet since I read that it was very good in Paris so I jumped at the opportunity to have it here, along with a lemon macaron of course. 

DAY 3–
The first two days were very exhausting, with day 2 totaling up about 25,000 steps according to my health app!! So the third day we opted to take the metro rather than walk.  We took metro 2 from Port Dauphine at Charles de Gaule Eteloie to Blanche station.  One-way tickets cost 1,90 Euros each, this machine was much like the machine for “Le Bus” and was super easy to use.  

In total it took about 30 minutes and we arrived just a few steps from the famous Moulin Rouge in the red light district of Paris.  We thought we might check out one of the shows, but sadly tickets were around 150,00-200,00 Euros each!  I think it would definitely be a fun experience and something worth budgeting for next time.  

Since we had made it all the way to this area we decided to walk over to Montemarte, a neighborhood well known for the Sacre Couer Basilica.  It’s an easy walk through town to the bottom of Montemarte, but a bit of a trek up multiple flights of steps to the top.  This being are rest day we chose the tram ride up for 1,90 Euros each.  This Basilica completely exceeded my expectations, yes there were a lot of tourists around but it rivals Notre Dame in beauty.  

They offer an option to walk up 300 steps to the very top of the building for panoramic views of the city.  Us always being on the hunt for the best photos thought this was a great idea!  I will be very honest; this was not a great idea for me whatsoever.  You walk all the way to the basement area of the building, walk through a ticket booth, and enter a small (think 1 person wide) staircase with small rectangular windows only every 10 steps.  


This is just the first half of stairs.  I made it this far with some deep breathing, then we came out to an open walkway and stunning views.  I was thinking okay if this is halfway then it’s definitely going to be worth it at the top!  

So we embark on the second half and about 10 steps in I realize there’s no window.  Looking up and seeing only walls and concrete and looking down to see only walls and concrete was too much for me.  I immediately told my mom to turn around and basically had a panic attack in the open walkway.  I wouldn’t normally consider myself claustrophobic but in this situation I think the lack of windows and distance in the that tiny stairwell was just too much for me.  You might be thinking okay cool you don’t want to go up, just go back, right?  Well, the fun part about that is the stairs are one way up and one way down on the other side of the viewing area.  I knew there was a 0% chance of me not only making it up the last half, but also back down the whole thing, so we started back down the wrong direction.  With the exception of one guide telling us it was one way, people were very nice and let us go through.  Once back at the ticket booth we had to get across the gate and finally I was back in open air.  I googled the view from the top and it did look spectacular, but I definitely would caution you if small spaces aren’t your friend this might not be the view to go for.  

There is good news for people like me though!  Our last sight planned for the day was the Arc de Triomphe, my mom wanted to see the view from the top (we just hadn’t learned our less had we?). We took the metro back to our station and walked the few blocks to the underground tunnel below the street to the Arc de Triomphe.  This tunnel was huge and well lit, not a concern for me at all.  Then we bought our tickets for 12,00 Euros each and I convinced myself that this staircase wouldn’t be as traumatizing.  

I’m glad my mom pushed that we go because it wasn’t nearly as bad to climb up!  The stairwell area is open, the stairs are metal, and there are 2 areas to stop in and walk around  along the way.  A few times I still had to just look straight ahead and follow my mom or the group ahead of us, but it was a significantly better experience.  I would say that getting up to the top, even with stopping on both floors between, took only about 15 minutes.  

At the top you can see all of Paris in every direction; the Eiffel Tower, Montemarte, the business area, everything!  At the beginning and end of the stairs outside you can see the underneath of the Arc and all the details up close, plus there is an eternal flame burning in remembrance of the unknown soldier that we had no idea was there.  If you’re hesitant about going into these stairwells now, I would highly recommend starting with this one!  The view is very worth it and if I can do it right after my Sacre Couer experience, you totally can too!  

To celebrate the fact I made it up to the top we got French crepes from one of the carts on the corner of Champs Elysees, they seem to always be there in the evenings.  I ordered Nutella with strawberries, my mom got Nutella with bananas.  It was so cool because he actually makes them right in front of you and they tasted incredible!  

Since this was our last night in Paris we wanted o have a glass of champagne to end the trip.  We chose Le Balzac on Champs Elysees and also ordered French onion soup to share.  The soup was delicious with big pieces of bread and so much melted cheese.  

The one thing we couldn’t seem to make happen was staying up long enough to see the sights lit up.  We snuck out at a time we thought was late to snap some pictures at the Arc de Triomphe in a dress I brought with me, but it still wasn't even close to sunset!  It got dark at around 10pm and we were already so tired by 8pm every night.  I think it would be worth it next trip to take a mid day nap and go back out later in the evening.  

Skirt (similar) | Shoes | Top

I don’t have much to say about our trip home since it was much less exciting, but I’ll give you the basics.  We asked the hotel the night before to call us a car in the morning so we didn’t have to drag our bags around to the bus or metro that early.  It cost 60,00 Euros and took about 1 hour.  We arrived around 7am and there were literally no lines anyway which was fantastic!  If you have the chance, book a morning flight!  The one downside is we had no idea about there rule for liquids in carryons since we have TSA Precheck and never have to really pay attention to bag requirements.  In Charles de Gaule airport you are allowed only one 1 quart bag filled with travel size liquids per person.  To put this into perspective I had about one a half bags worth of stuff since all my makeup and toiletries were in my carryon.  They are not lenient with this rule, so between my mom and I we had to throw away about 5 items.  If you take one thing away from this whole post, remember to pay attention to your liquids because we all know most of that stuff is way too pricey to just be throwing away!  

Have any of you been to Paris?  Let me know anything we might have missed to add to our list for next time!
XOXO, Cierra 


How to Get the Perfect Manicure at Home

How does the saying go? "New Year, New Me".  A very popular motto for this time of year and I'll admit, I too am a sucker for it.  This year, however, I'm going more with "New Year, New Nails".  In undergrad I began my love affair with gel manicures and growing my nails out.  I thought this was the best option out there because they didn't chip that quickly, but even with strong nails and gel on them I still struggled with breaking one or two a month.  It was such a bummer to have these beautiful nails and then one stubby, chipped one that broke.  Or even worse, for the gel to peel up.   

Flash forward to December and I finally gave in and tried out dip manicures.  I was shocked by the whole process; there's no drying time, they literally roughly buff the top of your nails after all the work of perfecting them, and my nails felt SO strong at the end.  The manicure lasted about two weeks and I took it off to change the color, not because it was flawed.  I was obsessed immediately because I didn't have to worry about breaking my nails for the first time ever.  At this point you may be asking yourself why I'm sharing a good mani with you, well it's not just about that.  There was one huge downside to my new obsession: the cost.  I'm on a student's budget at ~$45 every 2-3 weeks to have my nails done was just not feasible.  

Luckily, this story has a happy ending!  My mom fell in love with dip manicures at the same time as me so she did some research and found Revel Nail Dip Powders allowing people to do their own dip manicures at home.  I know what you're thinking, "there's no way I can do that as good as a nail salon".  We thought the same thing, but figured it was worth a shot.

With some inspiration from a Revel Nail Facebook group, we ordered starter kits.  There were two options; one with 4 small color jars ($33) and one with a single large color jar ($69.99).  Both of them came with all the liquid polishes needed (probase, activator & finish gel).  I ordered the second kit and my mom ordered the first.  They came relatively quickly and we went ahead and started our first attempt.

Attempt 1: Color is Revel Nail Hush 

The first step was to remove our current dip manicures.  I'll be honest, this is the worst step by far.  We've tried two different methods now and one seems to work fairly well.  Before both of them it's necessary to use a nail drill or rough file to break through the top layer of each nail.  The first, which did not work great, was just putting acetone soaked cotton pads into nail clips and leaving them on for 10-20 minutes.  The second method was to put acetone soaked cotton pads on the nails, then rubber tips over the pads on each finger, then putting your hands into a ziploc bag and putting the bag into a container with hot water for 10-20 minutes.  I did this for 18 minutes then just pushed off the residue with a wooden cuticle stick.  

If you can endure the removal and figure out a method that works for you, the rest is really easy!  We watched a demo video Revel posted and took notes of the steps they followed, but the kits do come with instructions.  I'll share what we've been doing, but everyone's nails are different so definitely read the instructions before starting!  

We keep the jars in cupcake liners so when we take our fingers out of the dip and tap off the extra we can save any that misses the jar

1. Shake the powder jars & wipes nails with alcohol pads
2. Do a thin/light layer of probase not all the way to cuticle then dip your nail into the clear dip if you purchased it or just the color dip, tap excess off nail over jar, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before putting back in bottle, gently brush off excess powder
3. Do a thin probase layer almost to cuticle, dip nail into color dip, tap excess off nail over jar, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before putting back in bottle, gently brush off excess powder
4. Do a thin probase layer all the way to cuticle, cap edges, dip nail in color dip, tap excess off nail over jar, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before putting back in bottle, gently brush off excess powder
5. If doing glitter: Do a thin probase layer then dip nail in glitter dip, tap excess off nail over jar, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle, gently brush off excess powder
6. If doing glitter: Add a thin probase layer then dip nail in clear dip, tap excess off nail over jar, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle, gently brush off excess powder 
7. Do a layer of activator all over, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle 
8. File edges and tops, buff, clean cuticle area, gently brush off dust
8. Do a layer of activator all over, cap tips, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle, let dry 10-15 seconds
9. Wipe each nail with a lint-free paper towel or wipe alcohol pads over all nails 
10. Do a thin layer of finish gel (1-2 strokes), WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle
11. Do a final, detailed layer of finish gel, cap tips, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle
12. Apply cuticle oil & lotion after finishing both hands   
***It is super important to wipe the liquid brushes before putting it back into the bottle every time because if the chemicals mix the brushes can harden. 

Attempt 2: Color is Anne with Phoebe accents

That's it and I swear it's so easy to get the hang of.  In total it took about 2 hours, including removing my old dip color.  I was very satisfied with my first attempt and with each attempt you get better and better!  Investing in a kit may seem daunting but it is totally worth it.  I now can do my nails whenever I want and with the huge availability of over 280 colors and samples I can get any color I want without breaking the bank.  If you're interested in giving it a try, check out Revel's website to order your kit!

XOXO, Cierra
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