Cocktail Parlours and Honey Bears

I had been dying to head over to Bitter and Twisted in Phoenix, AZ. More specifically, I wanted to try their most popular drink of the month, Bear Witness. This aesthetically pleasing drink is a mix of Kikori Whiskey, fresh grapefruit, lemon, yuzu marmalade, pink peppercorn honey syrup, garnished with Dill. Super refreshing and cute! However, I totally found myself dying with how strong the whiskey flavor was despite having such amazing, fresh ingredients. Bitter & Twisted has an impeccable ambiance. A giant red drape at the entrance, concrete walls, and huge Bitter & Twisted poster of a pin up type girl. We sat on red leather upholstered couches and enjoyed our drinks next to a candlelight table. Bear Witness will run you about $10, which is descent when comparing to LA drink prices. I would recommend this bar if you’re looking for a chill night out with some interesting drinks.


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It’s funny how graduation always seems to land on or near my birthday. This year I got to celebrate my achievements, earning a Masters of Science in Justice Studies, and also my 24th birthday.

First, I am very thankful. Thankful for my parents who continue to support my dreams and who deal with my attitude problem and my lack of emotional intelligence. I am also thankful for friends and family who show their support. I was fortunate enough to have five close friends attend my celebration festivities. From ceremonies to my party, they were all there for these special moments. It is important to acknowledge those who support us, and those who are willing to be there for us for special moments like these.

My graduation ceremony was anti-climatic. My morning jitters quickly faded away as I took my seat at the Wells Fargo arena without any of my classmates. I opted for Hispanic Convocation, foregoing the “traditional” ceremonies hosted by predominantly White administrators. I get my traditional sash, Mexican woven patterns like everyone else and feel comforted by the familiar sea of skin tones surrounding me at the staidum. I sit, listen to the speakers, and awkwardly wave at my family. I’m really just waiting to walk the stage to quickly get out of there. I’m texting my friends the whole time. Graduate students go first, so I didn’t have to wait a long time for the moment to be over. I walk up the ramp, one of the staff members checking every graduate to make sure our hair is placed just right, and made my way up the path. A girl scans my card so that the hosts can read my speech, which says nothing personal besides “Natalie Santizo, Masters of Science in Justice Studies). My family is already yelling at me for that one. But in all honesty, I’ve never enjoyed graduation ceremonies. I understand it is a symbolic experience for the years of cultivating success. This ceremony represents the two years of hard work, sacrifice, sleepless nights of finals, and all the intellectual work I developed. I know its value to working parents and immigrant parents, to see their hard work and sacrifices be acknowledged in an established institution, in a special moment where they see their child walk across the stage, and officially be an MBA, MS, MSW, etc… But at the same time, it is these institutions that hurt people of color, that create barriers for people of color…

I guess I’ve never really liked graduations for many reasons. I dislike formalities. I dislike having to prove a point in a symbolic, overly exaggerated fashion. Wearing cap and gown reminds me of another formality I must adjust to, another way I should dress, according to White patriarchy. Graduations remind me once again about segregation, about racism, about the thousands of people who did not have the opportunity to walk across the stage with me. I sometimes question my work in academia because how does one really, truly create work within a system that wasn’t build for people of color? That give less opportunity to economically disadvantaged students of color? Is it fair to claim you are a justice seeker when you work within these institutional spaces? Should our work be community driven, and socially activist rich? These thoughts are the same thoughts that pound through my mind several times a day and that keep me awake at night. These thoughts add to my questioning of institutions and the unhappiness I feel when graduation ceremonies approach.

Trying to not let my thoughts control my emotions, I decided to enjoy my party. After the ceremony I spent a couple of hours getting everything ready for my party. Champagne and pizza balloons, golden everything, small photo booth, bottles of champagne later, my party was set up and ready for all my guests. All my L.A friends were there with me during set up, so we only waited for a few people to arrive. Everyone started drinking and we waited for the pizza bar to be set up. The pizzas were HUGE! I had never seen such big slices in my life! It was great. My family ended up leaving the party a little later in the evening, which left the young group to party. We went out in Old Town and continued the celebrations, waiting for midnight so that I could officially celebrate my birthday. We ended up getting home rather early and woke up late.

Sunday rolled by and we got up to have late breakfast at Lolos, a local fried chicken spot. Almost like Roscoes, but with better decor and ambiance. We ate, went back to Willie’s apartment, and from there my family hit the road back to CA. My friends and I hung out for a couple of hours, some napped, some tanned, and then we all hopped in the car to go play soccer at the Scottsdale Community College field. We worked out, had fun, and Schmitty was exercising with everyone. We ended the night getting wine at the grocery store and ordering pizza in, falling asleep to a scary movie. Before I woke up, my friends were already gone. They took an uber to the airport.

Graduation and birthday celebrations reminded me how I am surrounded by some amazing human beings. I have a network of supportive, fun, loving, and ambitious friends who are there for me and will always be there for me 🙂 Sometimes I get caught up with the bits and pieces that life throws at me and I forget all the good I have in my life. Don’t let the negative things get to you and remember who you are, and appreciate the small memories you make with loved ones.




What is your purpose in life?

Growing up, children and teens are often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As I continued to think about this question throughout my teen years and into college, I realized this question has so much more to do with status than with children choosing a career path. This question is embedded in status, hierarchy, class, race, and gender roles… A mere “What do you want to be” is a simple gesture rooted in judgment. It is through this question and through this process that parents criticize other children and begin to emphasize performance, status, and elitism. Parents attempt to sway children and teens into certain careers and fields, typically the ones that make more money. And rightfully, we want our children and teens to succeed. But how are we measuring success?

We want each and every generation to be brighter, to learn more, to better understand and obtain what their parents did not have. But with what ideals? Or better yet whom’s ideals? As a student and researcher, I have constantly struggled with the judgments, ideas, and misconceptions of adults and even peers on my “career choice.” From the questions on how many years of school, to what do you do, I have learned to respond in a certain way that leaves me with less questions and more respect. But on the same note, why do I need to answer to people anyway and why does it seem to bother people?

As I continue to reflect, I realize that it isn’t so much about my goal of being a professor, but my perspective on school, academia, and my future. I have never seen my career goal as a job. I have never tried to speak on what my goals are in a way where what I do is objectified and classified as a certain occupation. Because, well, it is so much more than that. It is my purpose. We all try to seek happiness. The question millennials are often faced with is, How do I find happiness? But we’re asking the wrong questions. We should be asking: what are you going to do to find happiness within yourself? Similarly, we shouldn’t ask our children and teens what they want to be when they grow up, but what their purpose will be in this life, in this world. I mention happiness because it is closely tied to purpose. When I discovered my purpose, I felt a genuine happiness in my body. But it wasn’t easy getting there. I had to break down and unlearn thoughts, classifications, ideals, and social rules that barred me from seeing my own success and worth that I now have begun to develop. My craft, research, is difficult. At times, I feel like giving up. But because I know my purpose in life: To help students of color create their own research, engage with academia, and give people of color a voice by any means possible, I know I can succeed. My purpose involves a lot of time, effort, and belief, but the biggest barrier I had to overcome was my own mind… The way my mind conceptualized success, purpose, careers, money, and growth at a young age. When I began challenging these ideals instilled to me throughout school, via institutions, I realized that I could do anything.

The youth of our generation need to learn this while they are still young. Don’t ask them what they want to be, ask them what their purpose will be. Let their purpose, their mind, freely guide them to success. Don’t ask them a question that is secretly loaded with plaguing notions of elitism, money, and status. People who have purpose and know their purpose, will find their path. With hard work, they will find a career and craft that they will love and prosper through. It’s time for us to re-envision careers, and begin to value purpose.

2016: A Year of Awareness

The ringing in of a new year often brings new desires, goals, dedications, and hobbies. These tend to include gym goals, picking up a de-stressing activity… simply improving our current state. What better time to start than the beginning of a new year? I often see posts and comments belittling people who want to try going to the gym, or who start new hobbies or begin with new outlooks. But why belittle someone who is trying to work on themselves? As humans we share the common experience of living, of aspiring to be better, do better, and live better. It does not matter if that means creating a new year’s resolution. It does not matter when it takes place. We should support one another and encourage self development. On that note, I encourage you to start your new year with an intention and a mantra.

I am calling 2016 my year of awareness. In order to achieve happiness, we must understand true awareness and our true self. Happiness is not something that we should aspire to, but something we come to understand is within ourselves. Constantly searching for happiness already instills the idea that happiness is outside of ourselves. In reality, happiness is contained in each of our bodies, each of our souls… We radiate happiness within us and to the outside world. Sometimes, it just gets lost within ourselves.

Awareness is knowing this. Awareness is understanding that happiness is real, it exists, and it exists within ourselves. Do not look to material things, to others, and to outside elements to bring you happiness. Remember, we carry happiness within ourselves, it just may take us a while to find it within us.

I want to focus on awareness this year because it will help me discover the inner light of happiness that sometimes dims within me. I want to be aware of my actions, attitudes, and perspectives. I want to reflect on my actions in order to treat people better. I want to reflect on my actions in order to be better. I want to reflect on my actions in order to better understand myself. By being aware, I am close to understanding and accepting the happiness within myself. When I understand my happiness, I can help others understand their happiness as well. We must be okay with ourselves in order to help others.

Ring in the new year with a positive intention, and follow through with a mantra. My mantra is: I am truly alive when I am truly aware. First, develop your 2016 intention. What do you want to accomplish? Is there something in particular you want to work on? What do you want to improve on? You can choose a specific goal, or think about something more broad, such as understanding happiness. Once you decide your intention, follow through with a mantra. This will help you reinforce your goal and reflect on it. If your goal is understanding happiness, your mantra might be: I radiate light, happiness is within me. Use this mantra for meditation and daily reflection. Use it as a guide for daily journal reflection. I hope this helps!

Traveling in Small Doses: 5 Steps to Achieve Weekend Getaways


We yearn for stability, but for spontaneity

For calmness, but for excitement

For stability, but for flexibility

Travel fulfills our need for new experiences, thrill, adrenaline, adventure, exploration, etc. But how do you escape a hectic, busy schedule for some travel time? But how do we balance flexibility and stability when our jobs demand so much of us? Think about traveling in small doses. You don’t have to plan a week long, international excursion. Sometimes, all we need is a three day reset. Learn to balance a hectic schedule with weekend getaways.

  1. Make a wish list- Select 3 places you have always wanted to explore. Miami? NYC? Hawaii? Make a short list of doable trips for the year, and plan them out! I would schedule a trip every 4 months, that way you’ll always have something to look forward to.
  2. Book in advance– Use apps such as Hipmunk, Travelocity, Kayak, to find weekend getaways for future travel. Flights are sometimes as low as $59 rountrip (plus taxes). Your goal here is to book 3 months in advance for each trip.
  3. Find a travel companion(s)– There’s nothing like traveling with people you love. Call up your college best friends, or your significant other, and make sure you are well accompanied!
  4. Plan ahead– Make a list of 5 excursions you want to accomplish in your travel destination. Want to hangglide? Rock climb? Visit a museum? Attend a basketball game? Make sure to plan these out in advance, and make an itinerary for the weekend
  5. Enjoy the weekend- The weekend is here! Make sure you make it to the sights and activities you planned on doing. But most importantly, relax. Vacations are meant for relaxation. If this means spending 3 hours at the beach doing nothing, then do it! This is your trip. Live freely. Live happy.

Natural Face and Skin Products

The Balm & Co

Alex Elle is probably my favorite writer. She has two independently published books, about love of course. She started her projects after dealing with heartache and depression, eventually growing a successful entrepreneurship venture in jewelry making, journal making, and now natural facial and skin products. What I find inspiring about her is that everything she does, she does with purpose. Her books expose us to the realities of love and heartache, but also encourage us to look beyond that moment. She pushes people to believe in themselves through the power of words. Further developing that push, she recently launched a set of journals that encourage reflection and well being in our lives, closely relating to love. She connects the daily journal entries to the lunar calendar, which is dope as hell. But today I want to talk about her face & skin products.

As soon as I heard she would be launching this project along with her daughter, I knew I had to make a purchase. It’s comforting knowing that she is a vegan, and is very in tune with using all natural products and consuming conscious food. I have tried the following products:

  • Citrus ginger lip balm (orange butter, GMO free soy wax, sweet almond oil, ginger essential oil)
    • The citrus ginger lip balm is my favorite of all the lip balms! It smells great. Don’t be scared when you hear “ginger.” It is by no means strong, more of a subtle hint of ginger. I love this lip balm because its so soothing. It really feels like the most moisturizing lip balm I have every tried. It’s most likely due to the fact that she doesn’t use petroleum jelly to create the balm, but actual butter.

lip balm

  • Tea oil (jasmine green tea peals, chamomile, black pepper, lemon)
    • This tea oil smells very earthly. You can definitely sense the subtle black pepper combined with the green tea, chamomile, and lemon. I love using it on my face after showers. It serves as a moisturizer replacement. But you can use it for massages, back pain, joint pain, and muscle relaxation.

tea tree

I would definitely recommend this product line. She has an array of products and selection 🙂

Working on Your Happiness: Understanding the Law of Attraction

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I stumbled along this chart on Pinterest, via

You are in control of your life.

Something we all struggle with is letting negative things affect our thoughts, actions, and decisions. Not only does it affect our inner psyche, but it also affects our body. Do you start jerking your leg nervously, do you start feeling sick, does the stress give you a headache? Whatever the situation is, whether its relationship problems, work problems, or an argument with a friend, we have to step back and understand where these feelings come from.

I’m sure you have heard of Newton’s Law of Attraction. In congruence with that, the third law of motion states “for every action there is a reaction.” What does that tell us? The way you behave and act after a negative situation has a consequence. So what? Is that person gonna do something horrible to me?! NO. What I interpret that law to tell us, is that you should heed with warning. If you are going to act negative, sad, or angry because of the situation, it will affect your body. It will affect your state of mind. It is hard to separate a negative experience from your emotions, but I challenge you today to rethink your anger and sadness.

As this chart states, “I am 100% responsible for my life. Everything I experience is a reflection of me. I attract the good, the bad, and the indifferent through my subconscious positive and negative thoughts.”

We need to rethink feelings and experiences, placing responsibility on ourselves. I know we hate placing responsibility on ourselves. I get it. But think about how that can help you realign your body, mind, and soul with positive energy. I attract the energy that surrounds me. If someone wants to get in an argument, do not entertain it. Put out positivity, understanding, and care into the world. Show them that you do not want to argue. It’s hard to separate pride, the desire to be right. But we need to realize that it isn’t so much about who is right and wrong, but what energy we want to reflect and give to the world. Let’s make this world better.

Realign how you think about situations, arguments, sadness. As this image says, “Are you attracting the life you want, or a life of worry and frustration?”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Boundaries

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Boundaries.”


The image above was taken by my roommate, Zoey, at Butterly Wonderland in Arizona. The word “Boundaries” tends to have a negative connotation. When I hear the word “boundaries” I think about several things: relationships, the U.S-Mexico border, concrete fences separating prisoners from a free world. But, “boundaries” can also be a good thing… Sometimes, boundaries protect us from the bad, danger, and from things that aren’t meant to be in our lives.

Miniature cones are placed on the ground next to butterflies who decide to land on the floor. This seemingly simple boundary (orange cone) is placed between a delicate, beautiful creature and humans. However, the orange cone also symbolizes captivity, and the inability for this butterfly to be free.

Sometimes they will make you feel safe, loved, and protected. Sometimes, you will be left yearning for freedom, wanting release. Boundaries, however you interpret them, are engrained in our life experiences. It’s really all about how you look at them, and how you learn to navigate the world of barriers.

Monochromatic Picture

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Monochromatic.”FullSizeRender

The Daily Post challenges people to submit an image everyday, with a different style everyday. Today’s post calls for monochromatic images. Basically, images that incorporate one color. But don’t take this too literal. The color should transcend across the whole image, and shade shifting is highly encouraged. I selected this image from a Cuban restaurant called Habana in the OC. Dark in nature, this image transcends hues of a faint yellow via the candles. Although it isn’t a professional shot, I thought it would be interesting to give it a shot.

How to create partnerships in your work environment


Creating partnerships with people is a crucial part of the human experience. You might be thinking, “but I don’t own a business why do I need a partnership with someone?” Well, partnerships transcend across all aspects of life. From social interactions to the workspace, creating partnerships provide platforms for our success. Here’s an example on how I have been creating partnerships at work:

-As an Assistant Manager at an apartment complex, I have several roles. From auditing files, to creating leases, to simple mathematical calculations, I really do it all. And as we all do, sometimes I feel complacent with my job. One day I sat down and really thought about my role in property management. I do my job, and I do it well. Even though this isn’t my dream job, I thought, “How can I positively affect change within this environment?” If you are going to do something, do it with all your passion. Give it 100. Put your full efforts into everything you do and see how you are rewarded. Because this apartment complex is geared towards college students, I knew there was a lack of community present in our complex. I began with small steps such as updating the bulletin board every month with a calendar of events. I included cool instagrams to follow, including local eats, shopping, and farmers markets. But I also want residents’ time here to be fun and vibrant. I realized we needed something bigger. So I created weekly contests that the residents can participate in to win prizes. How was I gonna get prizes to align with our budget? Well, I decided I was going to ask local businesses to donate prizes.

As I have posted in a previous blog, the one thing that stops us from pursuing careers, dreams, or even simple tasks is vulnerability: more specifically the fear of rejection. As weird as it sounds, I was nervous to ask for prizes. But I realized that I wanted to do some proactive things in order to influence change in my work environment. I contacted Salut Kitchen, Hungry Howies, Jimmy Johns, Hazelrock Cafe, Noodles & Co, and Infusion Tea & Coffee to see what they could do for me. The conversation started something like “Hi my name is Natalie, I’m the Assistant Manager at The Mark Apartment Homes. We are looking to build new partnerships with local eateries and were hoping to include you in that. We are hosting weekly contests for prizes and would love to feature you a couple of weeks in the semester. We will feature you on our instragram and facebook pages, tag you, and tell residents about the contest. You guys would be the featured prize for that week, so whether its providing a free _________ or giftcard, the winner of the week will receive that as a prize.” Most places were super receptive to that. They were more than welcome to participate. Some said they would get back to me but didn’t 😦 But that’s okay! Rejection is part of the experience. Well after a couple of conversations, visits, and emails, I ended up with 4 free pizza coupons, 4 $25 giftcards, 4 noodles for a year giftcards, discounts on coffees and teas, coupons for free appetizers and entrees, and many other small victories. At over $500 in value, I just upped our resident game up by 100%. But it wasn’t just about getting these free items, but about creating partnerships with these businesses. They can now put a face to an apartment complex and build a relationship with local businesses. I help them out with marketing and they help me build a better office-resident relationship at The Mark. Now I know not everyone is in the realm of property management. But how do you create partnerships in other careers? I’ll give you a map and some general examples:

  1. Goal – What is your goal? What do you want to accomplish? i.e Resident-management relationships and a fun environment
  2. Tools- What tools will you need? i.e prizes, stronger presence at the complex, etc.
  3. Interaction- What is your move? How can you attain #2? i.e ask local businesses to sponsor prizes
  4. Results- What did you receive from your interactions? i.e prizes
  5. Reflection- What could you change up to keep ideas/actions fresh? What could you improve? Cast a wider net and also find clothing shops or spas that will offer gifts or discounts. Build stronger relationships w/ my partnerships like “meet the staff” etc.

If you need help or advice on creating partnerships, let me know. I’m here for you 🙂

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