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Thermal Pool Therapy at Refuge Spa – Carmel, CA

*Featured photo courtesy of SFGATE

I’ve been to many different spas in the last few years, but nothing quite like “The Refuge” in Carmel, CA. Tucked away in the beautiful mountains and lush greenery of Northern California is a therapeutic silent oasis. My husband and I were graciously given gift certificates as a wedding gift  to experience the healing powers of this unique spa.


Here’s what you can expect when visiting “The Refuge”

To make the most out of your trip, arrive early and book a treatment. Our gift certificates included entry and a massage. When you first arrive, you’ll check-in at the front desk where the spa staff will greet you with your locker key, tip envelope (if you’re getting massage service) and a brochure on the spa. If it is your first time, you’ll be given the option to have an orientation of the spa and how the thermal cycles work best to maximize health benefits during your stay. Since the spa is “silent,” it’s encouraged to leave all of your electronics in your locker. This message was clearly directed towards my husband, who showed up with laptop in tow ready to ask for the wifi password.

The spa is co-ed which makes it a perfect couples get-away or it can equally be a really relaxing retreat with close friends. Before entering the facilities, you can slip into your swimsuit in the locker room and also retrieve your robe, towel and complimentary bottle of water. One thing to remember is to bring your own sandals or else you’ll be walking barefoot (like I did -__-). The locker room isn’t anything too lavish, but comes equipped with the basics to shower off and get ready afterwards. After placing your stuff in your locker, you’ll walk out to the thermal pool area and have a brief consultation on how to effectively complete the cycle for maximum results (it is also printed handy on your water bottle).

Basically, the goal is to get your body to it’s highest heat tolerance and then to the lowest cool temperature you can withstand. It sounds painful and it can be at first, but like most things it’s mind-over-matter and the benefit outweighs the temporary discomfort. The purpose for this you may be asking yourself (as I did) is to: eliminate toxins from your body, improve blood circulation, reduce stress, alleviate pain and inflammation among many other healing benefits. It is the same reason that athletes take ice baths to heal muscles soreness and wounds. It also has  similar effects to cryotherapy. If you’ve ever been to a Korean spa (my favorite), you’ve probably noticed that they also practice “contrast bath therapy” also known as “hot/cold immersion therapy”.


Photo Refuge Facebook

The 1st stop in the cycle is a choice between the eucalyptus steam room or the dry cedar sauna. I prefer dry saunas, but it’s nice to try both while you’re there. After sitting in the sauna for 10-15 minutes, you’ll go immediately into 1 of 2 cold water options: “cool” (Pacific ocean water temperature) or “cold” (ice water temperature). The goal is to stay submerged for at least 10-60 seconds or as long as your body can handle. The longer you can stay in the cold, the greater the healing effects. I was convinced from the beginning that I would not make it in the cold pool by the end of our trip, but I couldn’t resist the dare from my husband!


*Photo Refuge Facebook

Although it was extremely hard to handle, there was power in my self-control and endurance to overcome the chilling temperatures. I eventually got the hang of out it and learned that the key is once you get in, not to move around too much. After emerging from the cold pools, you have an option to relax by the group fire pits, hammocks or in 1 out of 3 rooms that have anti-gravity lounge chairs. The suggested time in these areas is 15 minutes. Many people take time to read or fall asleep in these areas.

After relaxation, you’ll enjoy warm or hot thermal pools with jets and natural looking waterfalls. This was by far my favorite part of the cycle. Again, you can spend as much time here as you’d like. After you’ve finished enjoying your time in the thermal pools, you’ve officially completed 1 cycle. The average time per cycle varies based on your pace. It is recommended you complete 3-5 cycles in your visit at the spa and to drink 1 full bottle of water per cycle (yes, you’ll probably be using the bathroom frequently which is why you should definitely bring sandals). The average stay at the spa is around 2-3 hours. I think we were there about 3 hours including our massage treatments and it was plenty of time to get 4-5 cycles in at our leisure.


*Photo CopyCatChic

The best way to break up the cycles is to arrive early and book a massage in between. My recommendation is that you don’t come when it’s too hot. You’ll really crave being in cooler weather with all of the heat you’ll be putting your body through. If you choose not to book a massage, you can have access to the facility for $44. Massage treatments start around $119 for a 50-minute massage which include access to the facility and a robe. The spa offers three different types of aroma therapy massages: swedish (the relaxing one), deep tissue and sports. If you want complete and deep relaxation while falling asleep drooling — go for the Swedish!

*Important things to know before you visit (which are also available on the website’s FAQ’s):

  • Spa is open from 10am – 10pm daily — rain or shine
  • Complimentary water bottles are provided (or you can bring your own)
  • No glass water bottles
  • There’s a station to refill your water bottle between cycles
  • Bring your own sandals
  • 2 towels are provided in your locker, robe is available for $12 rental or you can bring your own white one
  • Swimsuits are required
  • Must book your massage treatments in advanced

To read more FAQ’s and visit the spa website click here.

Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel. (831) 620-7360

Santorini Travel Guide

This post has been a long time coming and is the last part of our honeymoon. As always, I like to plan all of our trips with the best for last and of course in Greece, that means Santorini! It is one of the most beautiful and picturesque landscapes of the 70+  islands. About an hour flight from Athens and a 2-hour ferry ride from Mykonos, it’s a stop you simply can’t miss.

My husband and I chose to take the ferry and were not disappointed. Our hotel (Sophia Luxury Suites), arranged transportation for us at the port upon arrival. It was a 20-minute drive up the rocky crescent shaped caldera through Fira (the capital) into Imerovigli, the highest village on the island.

We debated whether we wanted to stay in Oia, another popular town for vacationers or Imerovigli, which is quieter and has more boutique hotels. We ultimately ended up choosing Imerovigli because it was central and gave us a fantastic 90% view of the unique crescent shaped island. It was also a peaceful area for honeymooners!

We loved our stay at the Sophia Luxury Suites! The staff was super friendly and the chef made fresh breakfast delivered right to the room every morning. This is common at the nicer hotels in Santorini. If complete privacy is very important to you, make sure you do your research on the hotel or place you book beforehand. Since all of the hotels in Santorini are on a cliff, it’s almost impossible to achieve this. However, that’s part of the beauty of the island so I suggest embracing it!

Aside from how relaxing Santorini may look from pictures online, there are actually many things to do on the island to keep you busy!

Things you MUST do in Santorini:

  • Rent an ATV and drive around the island ($40 for 24 hours)
  • Try a Greek Gyro in Fira ($3)
  • Take a Yacht Tour around the island (they have several ones at different prices, around $150 per person)
  • Fish pedicures ($20)
  • Dinner with a view of the caldera (varies)
  • Hike Imerovigli to Oia (free)
  • Shopping at the markets in Oia (free)
  • Watch the sunset in Oia (free)
  • Visit the white, red and black sand beaches (free)
  • Wine tasting at the vineyards (varies)
  • Endless photo taking on beautiful rooftops (free)

With all of the activities plus R&R, I would recommend staying a minimum of 4 nights up until however long you can. There’s no question that Santorini was our favorite stop!

Here are some additional tools to help you plan your trip! 

Hotel recommendations site:

Santorini Yacht Club:


Ferry (from Mykonos to Santorini:




Creating Your 2016 Vision Board

I started the beginning of the year with a 21-day “Daniel Fast,” a spiritual fast based on scripture Daniel 10:13 (and Daniel 1:8). The goal and purpose of the fast is to seek a closer relationship with God by detoxing your physical body from self-gratifying food and drinks. No meat, dairy, white flour carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine or unnatural sugar can be consumed during the fast. It’s a great way to begin the new year in prayer and strengthen your faith as you set focus for the year ahead. I am on Day 19 in this fast as I write this post and I’ve felt so much change in my heart and outlook toward 2016. I’ve gotten to a point where I feel like I can live in “my moments” instead of worrying about what’s ahead — which has always been something I’ve struggled with.

Every year, I create a “Vision Board” for myself for the year ahead. I have practiced writing down my goals each year since high school. I have seen MANY of the goals that were written down come to fruition. In fact, I just came across this note that I wrote when I was 21! And I’m happy to say…I’m doing these things!


For 2016, I’ve decided to create my vision board a little differently based on a Daniel Fast journal I was given at church. At first, I didn’t understand the idea of writing down my goals in 4 different categories as I thought they were all one. But I realized, having the categories helped me break down my goals into a meaningful and achievable plan. Here’s what I mean:

Targets: Targets are the things that are attainable that YOU are in control of and aiming for. They require precision and expertise on your part and through hard work, determination and skill, can be hit (or accomplished). Your targets can be “hit” precisely based on your personal efforts.

Goals: Goals are the things that you achieve by hitting all of your “targets.” I see goals as long- term, big picture in the near or far future. The things we condition ourselves to do everyday help us reach our goals.

Dreams: Dreams are the things we desire or wish to happen. They can be idealistic, they can be wild but they’re important because they keep us motivated in hitting our targets and reaching our goals. I am proud to be a DREAMER!


Prayers: Prayers are the most important part of this! It’s acknowledging that without GOD you can’t achieve any of these three categories on your own. For me personally, my goals and dreams are big and without my quiet time and prayer, I think I might drive myself crazy. My faith and God’s grace comfort me in those times of doubt and unassurance and remind me to keep moving forward (Hebrews 11:1).

I hope this post helps and encourages you to create a Vision Board for 2016 if you haven’t already!

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about the Daniel Fast, click here.

Mykonos Travel Guide

Our second stop on our Greece honeymoon destination was Mykonos! It is known as the “party island” and “Greece’s answer to Ibiza.” Their high season is May – August, with July being the most popular month for partygoers. Clubs stay open until 7am and some even 10am. Since we came in early October, we avoided much of the touristy crowded streets and bars. However it was just enough to appreciate the liveliness and beauty of the island. Here are the details from our trip!


Airline: Aegean Airlines (30 minute flight from Athens)

Transportation: Taxi to the hotel and our hotel provided transportation to the city each night (5 minute ride from our hotel).

Hotel: Cavo Tagoo Mykonos (Gorgeous! I would definitely stay here again and highly recommend this hotel). The hotel is seasonal and only open May – October.


Trip  length: 2 nights (but definitely stay 3 – at least!)


Chora (Mykonos Town): Much of Mykonos sightseeing can be done in or close to the “Chora” which is Mykonos Town. It is where all of the restaurants, shops, cafe, bars and clubs are located. When looking up hotels, try and find one close to here. During the day it is quiet and beautiful to stroll through the pathways of white washed buildings and stone streets. Restaurants are open late here too!


Island of Delos Tour (20 Euro per person): Known as the birthplace of Apollo. You can catch the ferry from downtown Mykonos to the island that is about 2 miles away. It’s a beautiful 20 minute boat ride. When you get to the island, it will look like nothing but piles of rocks everywhere! I highly suggest hiring one of the local tour guides on the island for 10 Euros if you want to appreciate the history of the island. The stories are quite fascinating! There is also a museum in the middle of the tiny island. The boat stops here for about an hour and a half.


Kato Milli (The Windmills): A beautiful photo stop and a great place to watch the sunset during the evening. It is easy to get here by walking through Mykonos town.


Old Venice: This is on the edge of the Chora on your way to the beautiful Windmills. It is the area the houses the old fishermen’s homes along the water.

What we missed….spending time at the local beaches! We enjoyed our hotel so much that it was hard for us to leave, but from what we looked up, they are beautiful and definitely worth seeing. At least now we have a reason to go back!

More photos from our trip below…




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Athens Travel Guide

I’m so excited to be blogging about my honeymoon adventure! Greece has been on my travel bucket list for a very long time. The beautiful pictures I saw online beforehand of the high cliffs and gorgeous sunsets were truly breathtaking and highly persuasive! When my fiancé and I first started planning our honeymoon, I was set on Bora Bora (French Polynesia). The over-water bungalows and white sands had been my dream for years! What prompted our decision to go to Greece was the amazing trip we took to Europe last year (France and Italy)!  I loved that we had the mixture of both adventure and relaxation. It was the exact adventure I was up for after marrying my best friend.

Check out the trip recap from our honeymoon vacation in Athens below…


Airline: Delta/Atalia

My favorite airline booking website to compare airlines prices is We’ve booked many international flights using this site. However, this time we booked through Delta (due to points) which tends to be a bit pricier. However, we had a TERRIBLE experience with Alitalia, one of Delta’s international partners. None of our seats were together and they lost our luggage on the way back from Greece (BEWARE).

Flight time (from San Francisco International airport): 19 hours total trip time

Traveling to Greece from the states takes an entire day! The journey in total from San Francisco took a long 19-hours (San Francisco> Los Angeles> Rome> Athens).

Transportation: Small rental car

We decided to rent a car from the airport so we could drive around and explore. Most of the rental cars are standard (stick-shift). If you don’t know how to drive one, there’s always public transportation (taxi and train). They do have a FEW automatic cars available, but they’re pricey to rent! Also, driving in Athens is crazy compared to the US (scooters flying everywhere)! Street parking is difficult to find, but there are parking garages available.

Trip Length: 2 nights (but should’ve stayed 1)

RECOMMENDATION: If you’re a quick and efficient traveler or are pressed for traveling time, I recommend staying in Athens one night only. There’s not much to see other than the Acropolis in comparison to most of the other Greek islands. Plan a morning arrival and a late flight out the next day…

Hotel: 360 Degrees (View of the Acropolis, nice rooftop bar) $$

This hotel is centerally located in Monastiraki square.  The hotel has fantastic views of the Acropolis of Athens at night and during the day. It is moderately priced for it’s location and the rooftop bar at night is a trendy hot-spot for visitors and locals. The hotel does not have valet, so it’s best to take the train to the station close by or get dropped off by taxi. The Acropolis entrance is 5 minutes walking distance to the hotel.


The Acropolis of Athens (5 Euro entrance price)

This is by far the most famous site in Athens. It is home to the Parthenon structure which began construction in 447bc. It is quite an experience to be in the presence of ancient architecture that was  built so long ago and is rich in history. It’s best to come here in the morning right when they open around 8AM. You can get through this whole area by lunchtime and have more time to see other parts of the city.

Monastiraki Square

This is the main hub of Athens with all of the shops, markets and restaurants. It’s also close to a metro station if you choose to take public transportation from the airport. I highly recommend staying in this area, because it’s walking distance to many things and the most lively part of the city.

Plaka (Old historical neighborhood)

This part of Athens (close to Monastiraki Square) was inhabited by the first immigrants and reflects the “island style” building designs of Greece (white buildings with blue doors). It’s quaint and nice to take a stroll through.

Astir Beach in Voulagemini 

We found this beautiful beach thanks to There are many free beaches in Athens and some you pay for. The ones you pay for are nice because they include lounging chairs and shade umbrellas. This beach specifically also had nice restrooms, changing rooms, showers and a cafe.

Photos from the trip below…

Room at Hotel 360 Degrees




View from the rooftop restaurant at Hotel 360 DegreesIMG_8231

View during the day


Look out point halfway point to the ParthenonIMG_8260


Theater of Dionysus (within the Acropolis grounds)IMG_8273


Old Temple of Athena (next to the Parthenon)IMG_8290




I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh juice shops in the Athens markets! IMG_8318

Plaka – an old neighborhood close to the Acropolis
IMG_8321Vouliagmeni (free beach, 20 minute drive from Monastiraki square)

Astir Beach in Vouliagmeni (20 Euro per person entrance)
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Food was delicious in Athens! My favorite app to use abroad is If you don’t have wi-fi, the next best option is to ask the hotel concierge. They can point you to the local spots so you avoid the high-priced tourists traps.IMG_8409 IMG_8414 IMG_8416

For more photos from my trip, follow me on Instagram @anastacia.kasmer and on Facebook

Australian Travel Guide

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit Sydney, Australia! It has been on my travel list for a long time. The city is rich and diverse in topography. I spent a total of 4 days in the country, but wish I could’ve stayed longer. Although it was Australia’s winter time (70 degrees Fahrenheiht with the sun out), it did not stop me from enjoying my time and exploring as much as I could. As a bonus, it was their annual light festival called “VIVID” in which prominent buildings around the city are lit up with colorful light show displays (including the famous Darling Harbor and Sydney Opera House).

Some of the highlights of my trip included:

City Center and Queen Victoria Building – We stayed at The Westin hotel in the center of downtown Sydney. It was a great location because it was walking distance to most of the main attractions in the city (The Harbor, Opera House, Capitol Theater, Queen Victoria Building and Hyde Park). On our first day there, I explored all of downtown. There are a lot of high end malls and shopping centers filled with charming outdoor cafes.


Hyde Park – On the second day there, I walked through Hyde Park which can in some ways be compared to New York’s Central Park on a much much smaller scale. However, it is beautiful to grab a coffee or tea and stroll through the park on a warm afternoon.

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Bondi Beach and Bondi to Coogee Trail – This was listed as the #1 activity to do when visiting Sydney on and it’s reviewers were spot on. This was my favorite day on our trip. Bondi Beach is about 20 minutes by train and another 5 minutes by bus from downtown Sydney. The bus will drop you off right at Bondi Beach and the trail will start from there. Reviewers say it takes 1 hour, but if it’s your first time, you’ll probably want to stop at all of the scenic locations and take pictures. It ended up taking us a leisurely and relaxing two hours.

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Blue Mountains – We decided to book a day tour to the Blue Mountains which was recommended to us by friends. The day tour included a trip to the Sydney Olympic center, the Blue Mountains, Featherdale Wildlife Park and a trip on the ferry back to the harbor at night. Not to mention we had a phenomenal tour guide! Usually, I’m not one to book tours because I prefer to explore myself, however when you’re on a time crunch, it truly is one of the best ways to see everything and not worry about transportation and time.

The Blue Mountains are considered the “Grand Canyon” of Australia and are filled with many Eucalyptus trees which is what the Koala’s love to munch on.

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Featherdale Wildlife Park – A visit to the wildlife park was a part of our tour and I was not disappointed. Since we were unable to make the famous Sydney Zoo, this was a nice alternative to see the wildlife that Australia is known for. Also, you get up close and personal interaction with the Koalas and Kangaroos.

IMG_7425 IMG_7404 IMG_7412Contemporary Museum Art – The museum is located in “The Rocks” area of Circular Quay. The museum is modern, quick and worth passing through! Oh and did I mention it’s free?! It also has one of the best views of the Sydney Opera house at the cafe on the top floor.

The Food and Nightlife – Australia is known for it’s beef, hence “Outback” steakhouse so it was one thing we definitely had to try while we were out there. I love a good steak and have had my fair share of contenders while living in LA (STK, Mastros, Capital City Grill, etc.).  We ordered one of the best cuts on the menu (ribeye) and unfortunately, the Aussie steaks didn’t live up to their hype!


One Aussie meal that did meet my expectations was the Aussie pie! It’s basically their version of a chicken pot pie. I’m actually craving one right now…We went to a local bakery and tried a pie with mashed potatoes and minced beef and one with curried lamb. Both were delicious and filling!

IMG_7379Ivy Night Club – A beautiful tri-level nightclub in city center. It’s no-cover on Thursdays and has a mixed crowd. Most of the music they played was house and Top 40. It was a fun way to experience the young crowd in the city and see what they like to do for fun on the weekends. PS. Everyone dresses REALLY nice! 

Les Miserables at the Capitol Theater – At night, we enjoyed the show Les Miserablés at the Capitol Theater. **Traveler tip, if you purchase tickets AT the venue after 5:30pm on the day of the show, you can get your tickets for almost 1/3 of the online price on Ticketmaster IF there are extra seats available (which you can check online). Example, my fiancé and I got tickets for $45 each instead of the $165 price they were showing online. The best thing to do, is to purchase the ticket, find a restaurant close by and grab dinner before the show!

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Darling Harbor , The Rocks and Sydney Opera House in Circular Quay – Last, but not least…of course the Sydney Opera House! Before seeing it, I honestly expected to be underwhelmed as I was the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower. But somehow it was even more prominent than I pictured it to be. I couldn’t believe how easily accessible it was to get there. Although we did not see a performance here, it was so fun to be in the area and watch the beautiful light display.


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My “Big Hats and High Tea” Bridal Shower

This past weekend, my friends and family threw the cutest AND classiest bridal shower for me. The theme was “Big Hats and High Tea.” It was so fun and perfect for my personality because I love dressing up and have always wanted to pull out my inner Kate Middleton and rock a fabulous fascinator hat! Also, most people who know me know that I LOVE tea!

Take a look at the pictures from my shower below:

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IMG_0391 IMG_0370A BIG THANK YOU to all my friends and family members who helped in putting this together and also for attending. I had a blast!!!





GREENS (San Francisco)

If you’re looking for a delicious healthy restaurant and great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, you MUST try… Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. Located in Fort Mason, is one of the best vegetarian/vegan restaurants I have ever tried! It’s best to come in around lunchtime on a clear day so you can get a beautiful clear view of the bay. There is a $15 minimum but it’s easy to spend that amount here between an entrée and appetizer. The menu is seasonal and can change from week to week, but between the 6 dishes we tried, everything was good…really, really good! Our main dishes were all made-to-order and were very fresh.

Below are the items that we ordered on my recommendation list!

Fresh Spring Rolls (w/ carrots, jicama, daikon, cabbage, jalepeños, Hodo Soy tofu, rice noodles, Thai basil and mint). It’s served with peanut sauce and grilled beech mushroom-radish salad – $12

Yellow Split Pea and Butternut Squash Soup w/ kale and Arbequina olive oil – $8 cup $9 bowl. SO GOOD, go for the bowl!


For entrees we tried…

Mediterranean Salad – Grilled pita w/ hummous, Green Gulch lettuce, savoy spinach, artichokes, Mediterranean cucumbers, pickled red onions, picholine olives, feta, mint and meyer lemon vinaigrette. – $16


My mother-in-law ordered this! It was so delicious! This is DEFINITELY what I would order next time and highly recommended it for someone who wants something on the lighter side. It is still filling because it comes with pita bread and hummus to dip.

Black Bean Chili – w/ cheddar, crème fruit and cilantro.


Mesquite Grilled Brochettes – mushrooms, Mariquita Farm potatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, fennel, red onions and Hodo Soy tofu with chimichurri, brown and red rice with pumpkin seeds, Mexican cabbage slawIMG_5748To check out more about Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, visit their website here.

Protect Your Skin this Summer

One thing I’ve always been adamant about since high school is protecting my skin! I started seeing a dermatologist pretty young and wearing sunblock  everyday was the best advice she gave me. Sunscreen simply and effectively helps block your skin from the sun’s UV radiation that will otherwise increase its risk for melanoma (skin cancer), cause pre-mature aging and other general damage like (wrinkles, sunspots, etc.). In switching my products to more natural ones, I was happy to discover COOLA, an organic suncare line. The product is sold conveninetly at Target and also on

I am a huge fan of ‘user reviews’ and before I purchase any product online (or even in stores), I always check reviews from real people. It’s also another reason why I started my blog to give honest feedback and of course inspiration. COOLA, had great reviews on many of their products on Amazon. I decided to try the COOLA Sun Care Sport SPF 45 for my body.

This product is great because it’s protective, organic and safe for my skin. I also like that it’s unscented so I can layer my own fragrance and not smell like beach and coconuts the entire day. The only con to this sunscreen is that it’s very thick. It takes awhile to rub in for a normal daily moisturizing routine. However, they do offer the spray version soon which I will be trying to compare! I would recommend this product for extensive periods of being outdoors (going to the beach, sporting events, summer festivals, etc.)!  To check out the rest of their products online, click here.121744