Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal River, Fl

Swimming with the Manatees for Relaxation

I don’t create a lot of travel posts on Ria Lives Well because, well, I don’t do a lot of travelling these days. But travel is in my bones! When I studied at Oregon State University, I went on not one, but two study abroad programs in order to soak up culture and get out of the United States. But let’s be real: the good old U.S. has many wonderful attractions worth noting. Travel is all about exploring something new, and my trip to Crystal River, Florida to swim with manatees in November was definitely something new.

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I’m writing this post because I love to travel and see and try new things. I want to connect with people who yearn for exploration and new adventures in the same spirit as mine, so I hope you’ll enjoy this little post about my time swimming with the manatees. If this is on your bucket list, I’ll provide information for when you get to cross it off your list.

When is the best time of year to swim with manatees in Crystal River? 

The best time to go is November-April. When I went with my sister and her fiance in November, we saw a good amount of manatee action both underwater and at the surface. Manatees are curious creatures, so quite a few swam close enough for us to touch. My best experience with one of the manatees came unexpected. While I was messing with my snorkels, a little guy bumped into me and slowly swam past me as if tempting me to give his back a rub. I didn’t. I was too shocked to do more than watch him glide past me. But if this happens to you, definitely reach out and glide your hand along his back! If he likes the touch, he’ll stick around.

How should I prepare for swimming with the manatees? 

Preparation may depend on what tour you choose. We went with Birds Underwater, and they supplied us with a snorkel, a wet suit and noodle so we wouldn’t have to swim the whole time.

I suggest you bring a water proof camera, or purchase a waterproof case for your cell phone so you can get some good pictures. Your tour guides will most likely have a store where you can buy all of these things, but at a higher price.

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What should I expect at Crystal River? 

The water is pretty freakin’ cold. They said the waters stay at about 70 degrees, and when I read this, I thought to myself: Not bad. Pretty warm. But no, it’s actually pretty chilly. I was able to withstand it because my body grew accustomed to the chill, but both my sister and her fiance went back to the boat to “warm up.”

The water is absolutely clear. This gives you a great opportunity to float over a sleeping manatee and simply enjoy its presence. If that doesn’t fit your fancy, then just follow the tour guide who goes in the water with you and your group, and you’ll be able to see some action. (In my opinion, the manatees seem to do what they want. My best encounter with a manatee was when I was drifting all alone.)

The best thing for you to do is relax and explore the water by yourself for a little while. You will see manatees in their environment, and that alone is exciting.

What Manatee Tour should I choose in Crystal River? 

This answer depends on your preferences. Some tour guides have activities like paddle boarding and kayaking to the manatees rather than opting for the boat ride. If that’s your style, do some research and find the best one for you. Below are some links to tour guides in Crystal River that I browsed through before I picked Birds Underwater. Check them out!

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Helpful Manatee Tour Guide Links:

  1. River Ventures
  2. Florida Manatee Adventures
  3. Florida Kayak Company
  4. Snorkel with Manatees

I hope you go someday, and when you do, you will definitely enjoy this wonderful experience! I plan on doing it again.

~Live Well!



Easy Beet & Bean Vegan Burger Recipe

Easy Beet & Bean Vegan Burger Recipe

Hi and welcome back to Ria Lives Well!

Easy Beet & Bean Vegan Burger

Let me apologize in advance for these crummy photos 🙂

I’ve been experimenting with vegan burger recipes a lot these days. I actually think I’m getting the hang of it. I love a good burger {big sandwiches in general}, but now that I’m vegan, I can no longer enjoy my favorite meatless burgers. They’re vegetarian. But they definitely aren’t vegan.

So I headed to the kitchen and started cooking.

I’m pleased with my first foray into vegan burgers, pictured above. All I wanted was a simple beet and black been burger with a firm, hearty texture. I wanted it to be simple, with the inclusion of herbs, beans and grains.

It tasted great, and I’m sharing the recipe for this beet and bean burger today. Recipe below. But this is NOT the finished product. I want to improve the flavor. The burger only tasted good when sandwiched between delicious Cobblestone Mill buns and topped with flavorful ingredients. When eaten alone, I wasn’t impressed.

Easy Beet & Bean Burger

Before I get into this recipe, let me mention my second attempt at vegan burgers.

I made these mushroom and black bean burgers, using vegetables like carrots and celery, grains such as oatmeal and flavored it with sauteed garlic and onions. In the end, this mushroom burger had what the beet and bean recipe was missing: fantastic flavor.

Easy Beet & Been Began Burger

Unfortunately, it lacked in form. Majorly.

It fell apart during my first batch, and when I added more oatmeal flour to bind them, the inside was way too soft. I plan to tweak this recipe and share it later on. Trust me, it’s a killer.

For now, enjoy this vegan burger that tastes perfect both fried and baked {I prefer it fried}.

Easy Beet & Bean Vegan Burger Recipe


  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can beets
  • 1 cup oatmeal (blended into flour)
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Blend oatmeal into a flour. Prep vegetables: roughly chop onions, and mince fresh parsley.

In a food processor {or blender}, blend 1 can of black beans and 1 can of beets until roughly blended {not runny, like a dip}. Pour “meat” into a medium sized bowl and add oatmeal. Mix until fully incorporated.

Add the final ingredients: onions, parsley, smoked paprika, sea salt and black pepper.

Shape into patties and pop in the oven at 350 deg. F. for 30 minutes, or place on a skillet and fry until each side is crisp and well-cooked.

You can can double the batch and store half in the freezer for a “lazy day.”

Enjoy Even More Easy, Vegan Recipes!

Easy Vegan Beet & Been Burger Recipe

If you want more quick, delicious vegan recipes, make sure to follow me on Instagram where I post DAILY, including recipes I don’t add to my blog!

~Live Well!

4 Morning Habits for a Better Day

4 Morning Habits for a Better Day

Hi and welcome back to Ria Lives Well!

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What’s in a morning? The tone of a day, for starters.

Morning habits are so routine, you may not realize you have any. Because of this, it’s easy to include bad habits into your routine-completely unbeknownst to you. So take a moment to evaluate your morning routine, and if you think it needs improvement, apply these four morning habits to improve your day.



Everybody knows that a morning stretch is a morning delicacy! Do you ever wake up feeling soar after a long rest? Maybe your mattress is like mine {old and squeaky}. You’ll end up carrying the pain of a bad bed all day, and that’s a heavy burden to keep. But even if you your mattress is perfect, stretching a a great morning habit to include for mental and physical strength.

When I wake up, I whip out my yoga mat and do this total body stretch. It only lasts a few minutes, but it works like a charm. It removes my aches and increases my flexibility.

Juicing in the Morning 

Don't have a juicer? Try this blended fruit smoothie!
Don’t have a juicer? Try this blended fruit smoothie!

It is said that one of the best times to eat fruits is in the morning. When eaten alone, your body absorbs the nutrients within fruits much better than when paired with other foods. Esma of Cosmo Verde applies this habit every morning.

“I first started making juice because it is healthy and it gives me more energy,” Esma said. “I really like the taste of freshly squeezed fruit and vegetables. My husband and son have even caught on to juicing. They find it fun mixing different fruits and making new flavors.”

What’s the worst time to eat fruits? At night. Fruits are high in sugar, so avoid them hours before bed time. And if you’re like me and don’t have a juicer, blend your fruits instead! Enjoy this fruity tea smoothie recipe to get enough fruits in your morning.

Also Read: Improve your Mood with Aromatherapy Perfumes

Warm Water Mixed with Honey

Did you know that Olympic athletes would use honey to soothe their aching muscles, boost their energy and improve performance?

Over at Herbolution, Sasha and Veronika follow in mighty footsteps.

“Currently, one habit that we practice is to drink a cup of water with some raw local honey,” Veronika said. “This helps to tone bowel muscles and regulate bowel movement quite effectively for Sasha and Volen, our three year old son.”

Most honey has 17 grams of carbohydrates in one tablespoon. Carbohydrates are known to recover soar muscles, which makes honey an ideal ingredient in a pre-workout snack. This massive carb factor is also good to improve muscles after a long night sleep.

A Morning Jog 

You may not like the idea of waking up first thing in the morning for a brisk jog, but it creates a perfect balance of mental and physical activity. It improves your memory throughout the day and sets positive thinking into motion by increasing endorphins. You may not realize it now, but a short morning jog is exactly what you need to kick-start your day.

During my hey-day, I would wake up every morning for a ten minute jog. Yup, ten minutes. That’s all it takes. I still do my daily jog, but it has become a midday act in the gym.

Easy Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Broccoli * Vegetarian

Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Broccoli * Vegetarian 

Hi and welcome back to Ria Lives Well!

I have a large bowl of cheesy deliciousness for you guys!


It is 100% vegetarian, and can be made vegan by switching from vegetarian cheese to vegan cheese, such as Daiya cheddar.

It came out so well. It was full of flavor and exploded with cheese from my cheddar sauce. I was truly taken by surprise. You see, I winged this mac and cheese recipe. All I wanted was a less expensive, but highly superior version of Amy´s Broccoli and Cheddar Mac and Cheese.

While grocery shopping, I took Amy´s box and purchased all of the ingredients I knew and trusted that were listed on their broccoli cheddar mac. With no ingredient measurements or directions, it was sort of dash as you please in the seasoning department, with full reign on how cheesy, salty or peppery I wanted to make my sauce.

Now, seeing as I am an amateur cook, it could have gone either way, favoring the way of the Epic Fail.

Yet it did not. With a few choice ingredients, this dish was an easy prep, and an epic success.


  • 6 oz Fusilli pasta
  • 1 broccoli stem (broken up into small pieces)
  • Half of 1 white onion (minced)
  • Dash of smoked paprika
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • Splash of olive oil (for frying)
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil

For the Cheddar Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 cup non dairy milk (I used cashew milk)
  • 9 oz extra sharp cheddar, vegetarian (Microbial Enzymes), grated
  • Dash of salt
  • Generous dash of pepper


In a pot, cook pasta until al dente, adding salt for flavor. For 6 ounces of pasta, use roughly 2 quarts of water. Once cooked, set pasta aside.

Prepare your vegetables. Chop half a white onion. Rinse broccoli and remove one stem. Break small pieces of the broccoli florets into a large bowl. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, mixing the flakes thoroughly into the broccoli.

Set a skillet to medium heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil. Once heated, add your onions. Cook for a few minutes, and then add broccoli, followed by smoked paprika. Cook until broccoli florets soften. Add pasta. Mix until everything is combined. Remove from heat.

Grate cheddar. Set aside.

In a small pot (or use the same pot in which you cooked your pasta), add one tablespoon of olive oil. Set the heat to medium. Once the oil crackles, add one tablespoon of all purpose flour. Mix until flour dissolves smoothly into the olive oil. Add 1 cup of milk, and stir.

Add cheese in small portions, making sure that it melts into the sauce before adding another portion. Stir the sauce and pour it over your broccoli pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.


You can eat this cheesy dish as is, or you can turn it into a bake. If I had thought about it, I would have bought panko, sprinkled it over my mac and turned this into an easy mac and cheese bake. I didn´t try it myself, but I would recommend it.


Broccoli in your face. Enjoy!

But I have no complaints. It turned out cheesy and delicious, and it was easy to make. This recipe is a winner in my house.

For those who follow my Instagram and expected to see this bad boy as my next recipe…it´s coming. I promise. I want to tweak the recipe a bit and make it better. But it will be the next recipe on the blog, so if you are a sandwich guru like me, keep your eyes peeled.

Live Well!

Henna + Castile Protein Shampoo – DIY

Henna + Castile Protein Shampoo – DIY 

Hi and welcome back to Ria Lives Well!

You may now call me a mixologist.


I’m not what you’d call a DIY person…I think I’ve said this before, but it rings so much truth, it’s worth repeating.

Most of my creations come out whack, or I never use them.

But I do enjoy being crafty in all areas of my life. Making friendship bracelets, vegan protein conditioners, or painting seashells are all things I have done and have enjoyed immensely. I like the idea of throwing myself into a project and seeing it through to the end. I love that feeling of self accomplishment and pride that comes afterward. The pride of creation, completion, success–all that glory good stuff. It’s healthy for the soul.

So if you think about it…DIY projects are good for the soul….

Therefor, instrumental in living well….? Hmm? Maybe?

So the other day, while searching for DIY flee treatments for my cats, I got way off track and googled “homemade shampoo recipes” for myself.


32 ounces of pure castile peppermint soap!

I used to be that girl who spent tons of money on hair products…but not these days.

These days, I only need a few natural products to get the job done: water, oils, my fave conditioner and {some kind of} shampoo.

The “shampoo” part of my hair regimen varies.

Sometimes I make a cleanser consisting of apple cider vinegar, sometimes I use baking soda-based shampoos, and other times I get lazy and use the chemical crap that’s lying around the house. But when I saw this beautiful recipe of the “Perfect Shampoo” on Pretty Smart Girl, I knew it was a Must-Make recipe, even if it wouldn’t become a staple.

Read Also: ACV Rinse for Hair and Scalp Health!

I liked the original version, but I tweaked it to add a few nutritional benefits to strengthen the hair. So henna happened.


2.5 year old henna bricks that I stored in the freezer…and it’s still good 😉

Henna + Castile Protein Shampoo


  • 1 cup liquid castile soap (pure, unscented)
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tablespoon of 100% pure body art henna*


Prepare your henna*.

Pour all ingredients into a bowl and mix until fully combined. Pour into a shampoo bottle.

Apply to hair and scalp. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Rinse. Apply your favorite conditioner.

Store this protein rich castile shampoo in a cool, dry place…not in your shower, or on top of the sink….preferably in the bathroom cabinet.

I made a large batch {doubling the ingredients above} and poured the ‘poo into a large jar. I then poured a small amount into a travel size shampoo/lotion bottle, and stored the larger batch in the freezer.

And that’s pretty much it. How great is that?

Even though this shampoo contains natural ingredients, you should follow up with conditioner. The henna acts as a protein treatment, which gives you strength, but it can also dry out your your hair.

I didn’t follow up with conditioner, because my hair is processed and needs that extra strength. It didn’t dry out my hair. Oh, the contrary. My hair was as soft as when I pay for it to be treated by a pro.

Note: For the light-haired ladies or ladies who have begun to grey, henna will change the color of your hair by darkening it. For ladies who have very dark hair, like me, it may lighten your hair. Lightening changes will not be noticeable unless standing in the sunlight. You can find out more about the color changes at Henna for Hair.

Tip: You can release the dye in henna by storing in the freezer for long periods of time.

I hope you all try this shampoo and enjoy it. If you do, post before and after pictures! I would love to see the results if your color changed.

~Live Well!