Saturday, February 28

Visiting Halong Bay, Vietnam

If you're in the business of bucketlist check offs then a trip to Vietnam would be insufficient without a junk boat cruise through Halong Bay.  Sanctioned by UNESCO as a world heritage site, the over 1600 limestone islands jutting up from crystal waters are a preserved homage to mother nature.   

Indochina junk boats will have all you need to know and more. Book a private charter boat (4-10 people) or the 24 suite luxury Dragon Legend (more info below).  I know it seems like a whole lot of travel time just for one night at Halong Bay, but believe me, one night is plenty. Make sure you prebook your boat in advance, as they can fill up quickly.

Monday, February 23

Why you need to spend a weekend in Hanoi, Vietnam

I'm lucky to be able to say that I am well traveled.  I've navigated the narrow alleyways in Marrakech and floated through the islands of Greece.  I've been paragliding in Colombia and scuba diving in Hawaii.  And while I haven't seen it all, I feel relatively unfazed by culture shock.  Yet here I found myself on the other side of the world, covering my head, saying a prayer, and screaming bloody murder while I made a run for it across the bustling streets and I was... well, shocked.

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, yet it is far more traditional than the larger, and more cosmopolitan, southern city of Ho Chi Minh. The run down and relaxed Hanoi is often overlooked by tourists as simply a transit to the rice paddies of Sapa or the gorgeous waters of Halong Bay.  And while I'm sure Sapa is great and Halong Bay is stunning, Hanoi's got it's own splendor if you give it a chance.

Hanoi, Vietnam 
Hanoi is magical in a way that only a true nomad can appreciate. The sights, the smells, the food, the absolute chaos, the tranquility... it's all at once miserably overwhelming and perfectly beautiful.  I fell in love with the people and their quickness to laughter. I was enthralled by the history and religion.  And the food? Nothing will ever compare. Hanoi was a city I wanted to return to before I had even left.

Where to Stay
I recommend staying at the Hanoi Elegance in the old quarter.  It is a chain of boutique hotels that offer impeccable service and accommodations for an affordable rate.  Great locations, wonderful staff and an impressive complimentary breakfast spread had me hooked. 

For a five star hotel experience I recommend the Sofitel in the French quarter.  You will not feel any Vietnamese culture here, but you will find this hotel to be a French colonial sanctuary. 

What to Do
I recommend setting up a local tour guide (cost will be around $35/day) with the front desk when you arrive.  Without one, you will not be able to cross the street and therefore stuck exploring only the block that your hotel is located on.  No really, you need to be taught how to cross the street here.  It's pandemonium.  Picture 1 vespa with a family of five clutching on zipping through hundreds of other vespas carrying an equal load of people/random objects (saw someone on the freeway with a 8 foot rug on the back of her bike).  

Start at the Ngoc Son Temple to pay your respects to Confucius and lost loved ones. From here walk along the tranquil Hoan Kiem Lake, keeping your eyes peeled for rare turtle sitings.  
Ngoc Son Temple

Thursday, February 12

Pumpkin Peanut and Almond Butter

Today we are making: PUMPKIN NUT BUTTER

Why mixed nut butter?  Because for me it's more satiating than peanut butter... and thus it lasts 3-4 days in my pantry, instead of 1.  Also, each nut delivers it's own particular makeup of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

Why pumpkin?  Because it's delicious.  Plus a can of low calorie, high fiber, NO fat pumpkin can help break up the calorie dense nut butter.  (= less guilt about scraping the jar clean).

What you will need:

-1/2 cup of unsalted peanuts
-1 cup mixed nuts, roasted in sea salt 
        (rich in fiber, magnesium and zinc!)
-1 can of pumpkin puree 
         (low in calories, high in fiber, great for skin and eye sight)
-1tsp coconut oil
       (helps you burn more fat, medicinal properties)
-1 tsp chia seeds
      (loaded with antioxidants, fiber and protein. High in omega 3s!)
-1 tsp flax seeds
       (high in fiber, b vitamins and omega 3s)
-1 tsp cinnamon 
       (can lower the negative impact of ingestion a high fat meal)
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
       (aids in indigestion relief)
-5 drops of stevia, 1 stevia packet
-1 tsp of agave or honey (more to taste)
- sea salt to taste
        (contains minerals and electrolytes that help you stay hydrated and aid in digestion)

Now What:
Put all ingredients in a high power food processor and puree for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape sides. Move contents to mason jar and enjoy!

Monday, February 9

Avocado Egg Bake

Cut an avocado in half and remove the pit. Deepen the hole with a spoon and crack an egg into the middle. Optional: top with cotija cheese. 

Bake in the oven for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Top with pepper and garlic. Serve with a side of salsa. Boom. 

carb free, easy yet elegant and delicious.  These avocado egg bakes deliver a healthy dose of protein, MUFAS, minerals and vitamins - making them the perfect diet friendly way to start your day!

A Weekend in Tokyo


Sensoji Temple
   Let's come to terms with one thing before we plan our Tokyo vacation, shall we?  Tokyo is not one of those cities that will ever feel conquerable.  In much the same way that you can't 'do NYC', Tokyo is just too expansive and too innovative to ever feel like you can really cross it off your bucket list just from a short trip.  Bummer, I know, but at least now you can enjoy the land of sushi sans outrageous expectations.  Moving on. 

   Where you stay will depend entirely on what type of traveler you are.  Since traffic is absurd, cabs cost a fortune… and you could suffocate to death on the subway during rush hour…  I suggest choosing a region of the city you prefer first and planning your lodging from there.

Thursday, February 5

Lessons Learned from 1 Month Sober

The day before my 27th birthday I suggested to my budweiser-before-noon, bottle-o'-wine-for-dinner, Vietnam vet dad that we try a month sober.  Never imagining he would actually agree, I found myself near panic when we ended the call.  Could I really survive 30 long, lonely wine-less nights?  And even if I do make it, what's the point in torturing myself in such a horrific manner?

Now, it is not like I am some kind of beer slugger at a regulars' bar or a fiend who hides her vodka addiction.  Simply put, I just itch for a glass of wine after a stressful day... and it just so happen all of my days are stressful.  It is not an addiction, I just identify with the European notion that life is not worth living without vino. or du vin. 

Wednesday, February 4

Coconut Peanut Butter

On the North shore of Oahu there are a few little shops that sell a big piece of heaven: North Shore Goodies coconut peanut butter. 

Now, I will never be able to recreate their magic.  Even if I could - it wouldn't taste the same to enjoy it on toast in West Hollywood.   The North Shore Goodie's coconut peanut butter is an experience to enjoy with a spoon with your soulmate while you watch the sun set from Turtle Bay.  

This peanut butter recipe won't give you that.  But it comes as close as my food processor will take me. 

-a bag of unsalted peanuts 
-1/2 cup coconut butter (or 3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut flakes)
-1 tsp coconut oil
-1 tsp honey
-1 tsp sea salt 
-1/2 tsp cinnamon 
(optional) -drop of liquid stevia or 1/2 packet stevia or 1 tsp agave 

put in the food processor and pulse until you can't pulse anymore.  Really, you'll be pulsing forEVER. But eventually the nuts will turn to a smooth creamy consistency.

If you don't have coconut butter then start with just the coconut flakes until they become a whipped butter. (you'll have to pulse for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides)

Tuesday, February 3

Baked Cinnamon Apple Chips

An apple a day keeps your waist whittling away ...if you ask me.   But for some reason you can't replace the crunch of your cape cod salt and vinegar chips with the crunch of a jazz apple.  I get it.  And I'm here to help.

1. preheat oven to 250 degrees.

2. cut off the top and bottom of a red apple and discard.  Slice apple into thin pieces using a knife or a mandoline. 

3. Mix 2 tsp cinnamon with 1/2 tsp nutmeg.  Dip both sides of the apple slices into the spice mix and lay evenly on greased cookie tray or parchment paper.  Optional toppings: sugar, coconut oil, cranberries.

4.  Bake for 1 hour or when the apple slices have begun to curl up on the sides.  Use spatula to transfer chips to a cooling wrack.  Let cool for 20 minutes or until crispy.

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