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Chelsea

Jul 282017
 

Hi friends!

As I mentioned, I’m in Fire Island today with my friends, but I wanted to stop in with a quick work update!

As you know, I work for the American Diabetes Association on their Strategic Communications/PR team, and recently I’ve been spending a lot of time working on a joint campaign with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Medical Association (AMA), and the Ad Council to help raise awareness of prediabetes.

What is prediabetes, you ask? It’s when someone is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes but they’re not quite there yet. So maybe they are overweight, don’t exercise, and have a family history of diabetes. That will put you a risk! Sadly, there are 84 million Americans at risk for type 2 diabetes, which comes out to about 1 in 3. Wow!

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in to share some fun PSA videos I helped to create as part of the campaign. They’re really fun and feature hedgehogs, baby goats, and puppies, while also helping people learn if they’re at risk!

The videos are below – feel free to share them! For more information about the campaign, you can visit DoIHavePrediabetes.org. Enjoy!

Hedgehogs

 

Baby Goats

 

Puppies

Question of the day: Do you know someone who might be at risk for type 2 diabetes? If so, please send them these videos!

 Posted by on July 28, 2017
Jul 272017
 

Hey friends! How was your week? I’m sorry I didn’t get my act together to get a real post up this week (other than my weekend recap). I started pulling together another honeymoon post that I wanted to schedule for Wednesday, but it took me a long time just to get the photos together, and by the time I was done with that I ran out of time and energy to write anything. Next week!

Work should also be much slower next week – two of the big projects that have been stressing me out and keeping me in the office late wrapped up this week – so I should have more time and energy to sit down and blog in the evenings. Woohoo!

As for today, I am heading off to Fire Island this evening for a weekend with my college girlfriends!

This is a trip my friends (aka, sloppytown) plan every year, but I haven’t been able to go for the last couple of years due to weddings and being out of town. I’m so excited to get out there again this year!

And even though I can’t wait to relax on the beach (and am praying for good weather — it looks kinda crappy right now…), what I’m most looking forward to is sitting around with my friends and just catching up. I feel like I barely got to talk to them during the wedding!

I’ll be arriving back into town late on Sunday night, so we’ll have to see how much energy I have for posting right away. You know I’ll get to it eventually, and I thank you for your patience! 🙂

Question of the day: Do you have any kind of annual trips with your friends?

 Posted by on July 27, 2017
Jul 242017
 

Hey there! How was your weekend? Do anything fun?

After work on Friday, Fabio and I packed up the car and headed over to my grandparents’ house on the Chesapeake Bay! When we got there we dove right into dinner, which included steak, corn, potato salad, deviled eggs, and more. Plus chocolate cake for dessert!

I think you all know by now how I feel about chocolate cake. 🙂

And I am not the only one!

P.S. When did my sister get so big??

After sitting around at the dining room table for a while chatting after dinner, we all called it a night. I was asleep immediately after closing my eyes!

Saturday

On Saturday morning we were up relatively early and spent some time out back enjoying the morning before the heat of the day set in.

We spent some time watching the dogs run around and then made our way over to the dock.

My sister and I were both wearing pajamas that I got us for the wedding! 🙂

After a quick breakfast at the house, my dad, grandparents, and Fabio and headed out for a round of golf. Meanwhile, my stepmom, sister, and I headed out to get our nails done!

So fun!

I chose a fun red/orange color and my sister got teal on all her fingers except her ring finger, which was sparkly silver.

Fun!

After getting our nails done, my sister and I headed over to the pool in my grandparents’ community. It was hot, and we had the whole place to ourselves.

We spent some time frolicking in the water and chatting before the rest of the gang returned from golf. (When they were at the last two holes we could spot them from the pool, so I was a big creep and snapped a picture. 🙂 Ha!)

After golf we grabbed some food at the club house before coming back to the house to relax for a bit. The doggies were happy when we returned! And yes, between Jack, my dad’s two dogs, and my grandparents’ dog, there were four black labs at the house.

Clearly our family is a little obsessed.

My dad, stepmom, and sister had to make their way home shortly after this, but Fabio and I hung out for a while longer with my grandparents. We took some drinks and snacks out to the back deck for an al fresco happy hour, and it was lovely.

A big storm rolled in around dinnertime, so we moved our little party inside and enjoyed some burgers on the grill alongside some of the leftover side dishes from the night before.

After dinner we said goodbye to my grandparents and drove home!

When we arrived we quickly changed and headed out to the bars in Arlington with Fabio’s cousin Ligia who was in town from Connecticut. It was so fun spending some time with her and meeting her boyfriend, who also lives in Arlington. Maybe she will move down here?? A girl can hope. 🙂

Sunday

We slept in a bit on Sunday and then met up with Ligia and her boyfriend for brunch at Northside Social. After that Fabio and I ran a bunch of errands, and when we got home we made some smoothies and fresh juice to have for this week!

I know I’m not a bride to be anymore, but I love this glass!

Yum!

And now we are relaxing at home and waiting for Game of Thrones to start! Can’t wait!

Question of the day: Would you rather spend a Saturday night out at the bars or a Saturday night going to bed early?

Things sure have changed for me – on Saturday night I was wishing I was heading into bed instead of heading out to the bar!

 Posted by on July 24, 2017
Jul 212017
 

Helloooo! How’s everyone doing today? Did you have a good week?

Mine was really crazy – work is incredibly busy right now and I’ve been trying to do too many things at once and wind up doing none of them very well. I can feel myself making stupid mistakes because I’m trying to juggle too many projects, and for the first time in possibly my whole life I’m not meeting all my deadlines. Hellpppppp!

Needless to say, this weekend couldn’t come soon enough.

At least my boys made me smile a lot this week when I finally got to head home and relax!

I especially love this picture from bed time the other night. 🙂

That face!

Anyway, let’s take a look at my workouts this week!

Saturday, July 15 – As I mentioned, on Saturday morning I took a very slow, easy-going yoga class with my friend Jojo at Lincoln Park in D.C.

Although it barely felt like a workout, it was nice to get outside and relax my mind a bit!

Sunday, July 16 – Rest day! We spent Sunday helping Diane and Alex prepare for the baby, who will be here before we know it! (Still no sign of him yet though..)

Monday, July 17 – On Monday, I took Jack for a steamy three-mile run. This week has been super hot, and both of us were feeling the heat. By the end of the run, Jack was lagging behind me a bit, which almost never happens. Poor guy! We definitely took it easy on our speed and will continue to do so until the weather cools down a bit.

Tuesday, July 18 – Tuesday morning kicked off with a bootcamp class with Anne at Next Phase Studio via ClassPass (<– affiliate link for $40 off!).

This time we had Emily as our instructor, and she was great! Our workout included lots of unique and challenging exercises, and she was very efficient when telling us which stations to go to and what moves to do at each. There wasn’t a ton of time spent standing around listening to instructions, which I loved!

Here I am post-workout demonstrating one of the moves we did – kettlebell squats!

The hardest move she had us do though was pull-ups on the TRX straps. For this, she had us sit on the floor with our legs out in front of us and then we had to pull ourselves up using the TRX straps. It was so, so hard (much harder than a pull-up with bands) and my arms were sore for days afterword. Awesome workout!

Wednesday, July 19 – On Wednesday, I joined Anne again and our buddy Kathleen for a bootcamp class at our favorite spot, Urban Athletic Club. We had Graham for our teacher, and his workouts are always really hard (in the best way).

At one point he had me doing hanging knee raises, and he then he came over and put a 10-pound medicine ball in my lap. As if hanging knee raises weren’t hard enough!

Thursday, July 20 – Thursday was a rest day, and I enjoyed sleeping in and snuggling with Jack and Fabio for an extra hour and 45 minutes. 🙂

Friday, July 21 – It’s Thursday night as I’m typing this up, but tomorrow morning I’m planning to take Jack for a one-mile run and then complete an interval workout at the track. It should be a good one!

As for other highlights this week, I had a fun happy hour/dinner with my old coworkers – Jojo, Claire, Shriya, and Brittany – on Wednesday night at Farmers Fishers Bakers on the Georgetown waterfront.

I started off with a delicious cucumber cocktail and then ordered the crunchy tuna roll for my meal. We also got tableside guacamole and chips!

Yum! It was a really fun night with my girl friends, but it was also super hot! We sat outside thinking there might be a breeze since we were by the water, but no dice. Ordering cold sushi and sipping an icy cocktail helped though!

We also enjoyed a bunch of Blue Apron meals this week.

On Tuesday evening, our neighbor knocked on our door and offered us a free Blue Apron box. Apparently Blue Apron made a mistake and sent him two boxes of the same thing (he only ordered one), so he offered the extra to us. YES!!

We hadn’t had Blue Apron in ages, and it was really nice to have a bunch of meals ready to make without me having to think too much. So far we’ve enjoyed pasta with basil, zucchini, tomatoes, and Parmesan, and steak with potatoes, homemade pickles, and more zucchini. And we have a corn and chicken dish still to make! Woohoo! Best neighbor ever. Haha!

Alright friends, that’s all I have for you today. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Question of the day: How hot is it where you are?

 Posted by on July 21, 2017
Jul 192017
 

Hello there! Today I’m popping in with another recap of our amazing honeymoon in Thailand, this time with the details of our quick trip to Pai! If you missed my previous recaps, you might want to read those first.

After spending a few very fun days in Chiang Mai, Fabio and I checked out of our hotel (for now) and hopped on a van to Pai. Pai is a smaller town north of Chiang Mai and is known for its natural attractions like waterfalls and hot springs, and also for being a popular spot for backpacking tourists.

The ride from Chiang Mai took us only three hours, but unfortunately the winding roads were very hard on people who get car-sick easily, which is usually me. Luckily I bought some motion sickness medicine at a 7-11 in Chiang Mai and took some before we got into the van, but one passenger got sick on the way to Pai and then another (different) passenger got sick on our way back from Pai. One was outside the van after the driver pulled over, but one was…not. And she didn’t have a bag. Gross. But anyway, just a word of warning for anyone looking to travel to Pai!

Once we arrived, we saw cute little streets with lots of shops and restaurants.

We also saw lots of dogs in Pai, and most of them were really friendly. Fabio fell in love with this little lady, who followed us around during our whole time in Pai even though we never fed her any food. If she didn’t have a collar on we definitely would have looked into adopting her!

After getting our bearings, we walked over to our hotel, Pai River Corner. Although there are tons of incredibly cheap accommodations in Pai (you can find places for $6 per night), we decided to go with a nicer hotel option – it was our honeymoon, after all. We had the top floor of this bungalo all to ourselves!

(Please excuse the candidness of that one!)

The room was nice enough, with clean bathrooms and wifi. Plus it was still a steal compared to hotel prices in the U.S.!

And our balcony had a nice view of the lush greenery and the pool. Beautiful!

Pai River Corner is also located – you guessed it – right along the river. The restaurant and bar had a great view of the mountains and the river!

Once we dropped off our bags, Fabio and I decided to do a little exploring via scooter! We had read that Pai is a great place to rent scooters since it’s a lot smaller of a city than Bangkok or Chiang Mai, and the roads are pretty tourist-friendly. The scooters themselves are also really cheap, so you can rent them for 24 hours for just a few dollars.

Then again, I had also read about how dangerous the scooters could be, and we saw plenty of tourists walking around with bandages from scooter accidents. I do think most of these were from people driving the scooters after having too many drinks at the bar, but it made me nervous regardless. In fact, I was pretty much dreading climbing onto that thing, and was really regretting my decision at this point.

In the end, Fabio and I decided to take the scooter over to Pai Canyon, a cool lookout spot that was, most importantly, not too far away. I’m pretty sure I gripped Fabio and the scooter for dear life the entire way there, and I was so relieved when we arrived safely just about 15 minutes later.

Pai Canyon featured lots of narrow, winding peaks, and we could see other tourists who were climbing around on top of them. I walked to a relatively easy area of the canyon before realizing I’d have to get down on my hands and knees/crawl on my butt to go any farther, and I decided that was enough for me. There was a huge drop on the side of the peaks, and it seemed like one misstep could leave you very badly hurt. No thanks!

We did see some dare devils who rode motor bikes all along the cliffs, and Fabio and I agreed they were crazy. Again, no thanks!

Once we were done exploring Pai Canyon, Fabio and I scootered (safely) back to the hotel and then enjoyed some happy hour cocktails by the river. I think I earned it for facing my scooter fears!

There was also a cool bamboo bridge near the restaurant, so of course we had to check that out.

It was really rickety, but cool!

While we waited for our cocktails to arrive, it started drizzling and then we saw the most beautiful rainbow!

It was actually a double rainbow and if you look closely you can see the second one above the brighter one. It was so beautiful, and Fabio and I took it as a honeymoon gift from our grandparents who are no longer with us. 🙂

After happy hour, we walked into town for some dinner (we went to the Witching Well per some recommendations I had read online – it was pretty good but not amazing) and then waintod in to Boom Bar since it seemed like one of the more lively bars on the street.

Any place that serves up its cocktails with a slice of water melon is a-ok in my book!

Boom Bar had all kinds of lounge areas, a dance floor area, a pool table, and a couple of tables for beer pong! Fabio and I watched a couple of games of beer pong, but ultimately decided not to play. Instead, we hung out at the bar and made friends with some other travelers, two of whom were from Colombia!

They were so, so nice and we had a great time talking to them throughout the evening.

Oh and just a quick side note: When we got back from the trip I had a hard time explaining to my friends and family what the people in Pai were like, and would usually just say they were mostly Western hippies. Then I saw this drawing in the bathroom at the bar, and thought it described the average Westerner in Pai perfectly:

Precicely!

The next morning, Fabio and I set out for a full day of tours around the Pai area! We opted to do a private tour instead of one of the big group ones, mostly because we wanted to set our own schedule for the day. We had planned to see a water fall, a hot spring, and a cave, but we really wanted to go to the cave in the evening because I had read that’s when all the bats come out. None of the big tour groups went to the cave at that time of day, so we hired our own tour guide to take us. It was a little more expensive than the group tours, but still relatively cheap and definitely worth it.

Our first stop was Mo Paeng waterfall.

This was a really lovely waterfall for swimming in, and we slid down the wet rock next to the waterfall and splashed into the pool. We also met a couple of other nice tourists here, and spent some time talking to them while splashing in the chilly water.

Up next was Sai Ngam hot springs – aka Pai’s “secret” hot springs – which featured a couple of pools of warm water. It wasn’t as hot as hot tob water (and pretty different from the hot springs we swam in at Yellowstone) but it was the most perfect temperature for relaxing and I’m pretty sure we could have staying in the hot spring all day. Plus, our tourist friends from the waterfall joined us, so we got to talk to them some more!

Our last stop of the day was Lod Cave, which was probably the coolest thing we did in Pai.

When we arrived, we bought some food to feed the fish and were amazed at the swarm of them that jumped up to get the food. This water was teeming with them, and some of the fish were huge!

Then we wandered into the cave while following a woman who spoke no English and was carrying the cave’s only source of light, which came from a wind-up lantern. I’m pretty sure Fabio and I were sprinting to catch up with her at some points – if she walked away, we would have been completely in the dark.

We spent some time climbing up into the caves and observing all the interesting shapes in the stalactites and stalagmites.

Then when we had seen two of the caves, we climbed onto a narrow bamboo raft that would take us over to another cave.

It was so narrow and flimsy, and all I could think about was that all those giant fish that we had seen were swimming right below us. Eek!

While we were going down the stream, we kept noticing drops in the water. Fabio and I both assumed it was condensation dripping down until our guide shined her flashlight up to the huge ceiling of the cave, and we saw hundreds of thousands of bats above us. Ok then, those drops are clearly bat poop.

Soon we emerged near the mouth of the other cave, and we saw thousands and thousands of bats swarming around the entrance. It was just about sunset, so it was time for the bats to go eat their dinner, I suppose. It was really, really cool, and definitely worth hiring the private tour guide to see. It was incredible!

You can see our raft in the background here – it really was tiny!

All in all, it was a really fun day exploring the sites around Pai!

When we got back to our hotel, we cleaned ourselves up and then got some dinner from the street vendors. I started with a mango smoothie, and then got green curry and brown rice for my meal.

(Yes, I joined the crowds of tourists and bought myself a pair of elephant pants.)

This was probably my favorite Thai dish that I had during the whole trip, and it came from a food truck!

Fabio got stir fried noodles with hot basil and chicken, and his was equally delicious.

The street food in Pai did not disappoint!

After dinner we walked around for a while to do some shopping and then called it a night as we had to hop on the van back to Chiang Mai early the next morning.

All in all, I would recommend a visit to Pai for anyone who’s interested in seeing a smaller, unique Thai city with all the creature comforts that we tourists enjoy. It was wonderful!

Question(s) of the day: Have you ever been in a cave? Would you ride on a scooter?

 Posted by on July 19, 2017
Jul 172017
 

Hello there, and happy Monday! I hope you had a nice weekend filled with lots of fun – I know we sure did!

Friday

Our good friend from college (and Fabio’s groomsman) Jason just moved to D.C. from New York City, and we could NOT be more excited to have him in our city. He’s only been in town for a week, so after work on Friday we headed over to check out his new digs. His apartment is located right in the heart of Dupont, and it’s massive! What a great place!

We spent some time drinking beers and catching up with Jason before we all got hungry and decided to walk over to Mission for dinner. I’d only ever been there once for happy hour, but I remembered the atmosphere was a lot of fun and the food was delicious. I wound up getting three tacos: one salmon, one shrimp, and one fried plantain. They were all delicious, but the shrimp one was especially tasty. A little on the spicy side too!

When dinner was done we sat around catching up for a little while longer before Fabio and I headed back home. We are so happy to have one of our best friends living close by!

Saturday

On Saturday morning, I drove into Southeast D.C. for a yoga date with my friend Jojo! Jojo and I both went to college together, but we didn’t become good friends until we worked together after graduation. It’s been years since we’ve worked at the same job, but I love that we still get together all the time! In fact, I have a happy hour this week with Jojo and a couple of the other gals we used to work with, and I can’t wait to see them! But anyway, back to Saturday.

Jojo and her boyfriend Jadd just bought a row home in Southeast, so I had to check it out! Jojo and Jadd have a sweet pup named Tilly, and I brought Jack with me so they could have a play date with Jadd while we ladies went to yoga. Jadd said they had a blast together, like always. 🙂

Then it was time to walk over to yoga, which was an outdoor class with Be Here Now Yoga at Lincoln Park!

We both signed up for the class via ClassPass (<–affiliate link for $40 off) but it was also donation-based, so you could drop into the class and pay the instructor however much you wanted. The class wasn’t our favorite – it was a little slow-going and had lots of stretching and calming breathing – but it was nice and relaxing! Plus being outside on such a pretty summer morning was glorious.

After yoga, Jojo and I walked over to Mia’s Coffehouse for some breakfast! We both got iced coffee and beef barbacoa bowls, and everything was delicious. We both got full after eating less than half of our bowls though, so we took the rest home for our respective boys. (They were both quite happy about this, naturally.)

It was such a nice morning catching up with a good friend!

After saying goodbye to Jojo and Jadd, I spent the rest of the afternoon doing laundry and straightening up around the house (plus sneaking in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy) while Fabio was out golfing with Jason. Once they were done, Fabio and I got cleaned up and drove to Rockville for our third housewarming event of the weekend: a dinner at my stepsister Maggie’s and her boyfriend Nick’s new apartment!

Their place was also super cute, and they welcomed us with margaritas. I’m pretty sure all the best dinner parties start with margs. 🙂

While we sipped our drinks, we munched on chips and homemade guacamole and watched the Yankee/Red Sox game.

In case you’re wondering, Fabio was only half listening to any of our conversations and he almost spilled my drink a few times when the Yankees scored and he jumped up in the air. Insert eye-roll emoji.

Anyway, eventually it was time to eat and we enjoyed a delicious beef taco bar!

Tacos for the win! I wound up having one soft flour taco, one soft corn taco, and one hard-shell taco. De-lish.

For dessert, we had mango and prickly pear sorbet with fresh strawberries. Hello, summer!

After dinner we walked around Maggie and Nick’s neighborhood a bit, and even stopped for drinks at a bar near them. It was a really fun night, and we didn’t get home until after midnight. We were pooped!

Sunday

On Sunday morning, we decided to drive over to my brother and sister-in-law’s house (it still sounds super weird to say that, BTW). Diane is expecting her baby any day now, and unfortunately last weekend Alex had to have surgery on his foot due to an older injury that was getting worse and worse. The poor things definitely needed our help – Diane can’t bend over at all and Alex was hobbling around on my old peg-leg (my dad was nice enough to bring it by for them earlier on). They were in rough shape!

To help them out, we stopped by the grocery store to pick up some essentials and then spent a while helping them get the nursery ready. That baby is going to be here before we know it!

Hey, no photo-bombing peg-legs allowed! 🙂

That’s better. 🙂

And now it’s Sunday night as I am typing this up, and we are looking forward to watching the new season of Game of Thrones in a little bit! Except it’s been so long since last season that I sort of forget what was happening…I guess it’s time to go watch some of last season’s episodes to remind myself. 🙂

I hope you all have a lovely Monday!

Question(s) of the day: Do you watch Game of Thrones? What’s your favorite kind of taco?

Fish tacos – either fried or fresh – with cole slaw are my absolute favorite!!

 Posted by on July 17, 2017
Jul 142017
 

Hey friends! How was your week? I hope it went by quickly for you!

My workouts this week were just kind of meh – I took a bootcamp class, a spin class, and went for a couple of runs with Jack – but it was nothing too exciting and I didn’t feel super energized about them this week so I didn’t feel like dedicating a whole post to recapping them today.

Instead, I thought maybe we could casually catch up over a virtual coffee date! It’s been a while since I just blogged about whatever random thought crossed my mind, and I’ve missed chatting with you all!

1. Although it’s been super hot this week, I’ve still been drinking hot coffee instead of iced. Although I love iced coffee, I don’t love freezing in my office’s air conditioning and drinking iced coffee makes me ten times colder. Every day this week the temperatures have been around 90 degrees or more with humidity, but I’m always SO cold in my office! The other day I put two sweaters on and then put a blanket scarf over my legs. Ugh!! Anyone else freezing to death during the day?

2. I’ve been drinking a bit more wine that I usually do in the evenings, and although a daily glass of wine is not a good habit to slip into, it’s just so refreshing on a hot summer night, especially when we are sitting outside grilling! I don’t think I had a glass every night this week, but it was probably three or four nights. Oh well. Cheers to summer!

3. When meal planning this week, I relied heavily on the recipes I found in Giant’s Savory Magazine, and they were all awesome! I know I’ve mentioned this magazine on the blog a time ro two before, but it really is so great that it’s worth another mention. Giant, our local grocery store chain (I think Stop N Shop is the same company), issues its Savory magazine every month or two, and each issue is filled with seasonal, mostly healthy recipe ideas, and tons of coupons.

So for example, there will be a recipe for something like tacos, and then usually it will include a coupon for the tortillas. Amazing! The magazine is free with a Giant card, but I usually just grab one from the stand on my way out the door and don’t have to show my card or enter my phone number.

Here’s a peek at some of the meals we cooked up from the magazine this week…

Grilled chicken thighs with watermelon salsa (Fabio also grilled us some zucchini wedges on the side)

Seared tuna with cabbage fried rice

Turkey and feta burgers with peach salsa (we had this with grilled corn on the side)

Pssst – I spy Jack’s nose!

All of the recipes were really tasty, and I especially enjoyed the cucumber sauce on the turkey burgers and the spice rub for the chicken thighs. Yum! I can’t wait to see what recipes come in next month’s issue of the magazine. 🙂

4. Now that the wedding is over, I’m feeling like there’s a slight void in my life since I am no longer spending so much time on wedding planning. I’m thinking about trying to earn some money through a new venture – either something like getting a fitness certification and teaching classes or (more likely) doing some freelance writing and editing in my spare time since that’s mostly what I do at work. I’m looking into sites like Fiverr for this, but would love to hear some recommendations from anyone else who dabbles in freelance work!

I also think it would be cool to be a freelance writer for a magazine, but I’m not sure how I would get started with that. Or maybe one day I’ll look into writing a book? That one seems far-fetched for now, but it’s something that’s crossed my mind. (What it would be about, however, I have no idea.)

5. I have a couple of fun weekend trips on the agenda, starting with some time spent at my grandparents’ house on the bay, then a trip to Fire Island with my girlfriends, and then later this summer another weekend trip to Otis with a couple of friends. I’m getting so excited for all of that, and am really trying to soak up these summer days while they last.

Alright friends, that’s all I have for you today. I hope your day passes quickly so you can jump into your weekend! Woohoo!

Question of the day: What’s the best weeknight meal you’ve cooked lately?

 Posted by on July 14, 2017
Jul 122017
 

Well friends, it’s time for another recap of our amazing honeymoon in Thailand, and this time we’re talking about my favorite part of the whole trip: visiting Elephant Nature Park! If you missed my first two honeymoon recaps you can read about our day in Bangkok here and our Chiang Mai hike and wat tours here.

When Fabio and I first started researching where we wanted to go for our honeymoon, we knew we wanted to go somewhere where we could see animals (we are huge animal lovers, if you couldn’t tell that by now). We thought about the Galapagos because of its amazing marine life (I’ve heard the sea lions are incredibly friendly!) and we thought about an African safari (how cool would it be to see lions and giraffes in the wild?). But after reading this review about Elephant Nature Park and hearing lots of other great things about Thailand, our decision was made and we booked our trip!

I did a lot of research before booking any activities for our vacation, and I learned that while riding elephants is an extremely common tourist attraction in Thailand, it’s actually really bad for the elephants. And the crazy thing is that everyone does it! In fact, there are so many tour companies offering elephant rides that most tourists have no idea that it’s not good for the animals. In the U.S. something like this would absolutely be regulated, but every country is not like the U.S., and Thailand relies heavily on its tourism industry so they let this practice continue. Tourists ride the elephants all the time (so don’t feel bad if you’re reading this and you’ve done it!), but more and more elephant sanctuaries are starting to pop up in Thailand to educate people about the right way to interact with elephants.

Elephant Nature Park is one of these places, and they rescue and rehabilitate elephants that have been abused through the tourism industry, kept as pets, or hurt during the nearby Burmese civil war. The park is housed on 250 lush, hilly acres (it looks a lot like Jurassic Park!) and serves as a home to elephants, dogs, cats, water buffalo, and other animals. It’s enormous!

On the morning we were scheduled to visit the park, we were picked up from our Chiang Mai hotel and then rode in a comfortable van for the 60-kilometer (37-mile) drive north to the park. (Warning: If you’re ever getting picked up from a Thailand hotel for an excursion, make sure it’s for the right excursion. We had a language mix-up that could have ended with us driving ATVs around instead of seeing the elephants, which I would not have been happy about. Luckily it worked out fine in the end.)

On the way to the park, we watched a horrifying video showing what trainers do to elephants who are used for things like trekking with tourists and performing in the circus. It was really terrible, and I had to look away at certain times. I understand why they make us watch this video though; it reaffirms our commitment to supporting elephant sanctuaries instead!

When we arrived, we entered a large, open-air building. And we instantly saw elephants!

Our first activity of the day was feeding the elephants some watermelon. Apparently this is just their appetizer, as they eat 10% of their body weight each day. That’s a lot of food! We stood behind some protective bars to feed the elephants since some of them can be unpredictable around food.

I watched a couple of other people from our group feed the elephant, and then it was my turn! The elephant gripped the watermelon in its trunk and then easily transferred it to its mouth.

Then it was Fabio’s turn!

We were both a little hesitant the first time around, but got more comfortable once we got to the second and third pieces of watermelon.

Here you go, big guy!

After the watermelon was gone, the elephant hung around for about 30 seconds to make sure he got all the food, and then he walked away. Clearly he wasn’t hanging around for our company! Ha!

Then we walked over to a hospital area where our guide explained the elephant rehabilitation process. When the owner of Elephant Nature Park hears about an elephant that’s injured, old, or just needs help, he will buy it off of other tour companies or owners.

The elephant then goes into the park’s vet center for all kinds of testing, and if needed they have a hospital where elephants can stay. Our guide told us about two elephants who stepped on land mines after their owners made them climb over the mountains from Burma to escape the civil war there. Those elephants had to be in the hospital for two years because they kept stepping on their injured legs and breaking their plaster casts. Poor things! It’s so nice to know there’s a place like Elephant Nature Park to take care of them.

Once the elephants are deemed healthy, they are matched with a trainer who will take care of them and help them find their herd. Some elephants match up with a herd right away, and others take years to find their new “family.” It has to be a mutual acceptance all around, and it was nice to realize that all of the elephant families we saw throughout our stay were really adoptive ones.

After learning about this process, we walked over to a female elephant with an injured foot. Sadly, her foot will never be able to heal fully and she will have to live in the enclosed vet area for the rest of her life so she doesn’t injure it more. She didn’t seem to mind though, as she was super friendly and got lots of food to herself.

This was the first elephant we got to interact with up close, and I think we were all a little nervous at first. These creatures are just so big!

Our guide reassured us that she was a gentle and friendly elephant, and encouraged us to get really close to her and pet her. Ok then!

Her skin had course prickly hairs all over it, which was surprising to me. She was really sweet and didn’t mind having us there at all!

FYI – those cement cylinders are there so the elephants can scratch up against them, like cats!

After we were done visiting the sweet injured lady, we walked over to another area of the park where an elephant family (remember, they’re not actually related) was enjoying another snack. This time we got to see an adorable baby!!

The family was really cute, and I loved hearing that there was a grandmother, mom, and big sister elephant that all stayed close to the baby. (Meanwhile the dad was way off in the distance…apparently they’re more like dogs and don’t stick around to take care of their offspring.) You can tell which ones are the older ones based on how deep their temples are – cool!

These elephants were also friendly, and we got to get up close to them.

We even got to pet the baby, which might have been the highlight of my whole trip.

Here’s a screenshot of the video Fabio took of the interaction. It was so amazing! The baby was small compared to the other elephants, but was still really big and strong next to me.

At one point when I was walking away from him, he decided he wasn’t quite done with me and reached out his trunk for me. He almost grabbed my leg and I would have gone flying! These creatures are pretty funny and I don’t think this little guy even knew his own strength.

Amazing!

As I mentioned, there were also tons of dogs at Elephant Nature Park–more than 400!–most of which were rescued after the 2004 Thailand tsunami. They get along with the elephants pretty well, and it was cool to see them hanging around together.

There were also lots of water buffalo, which was both cool and scary. I was happy keeping my distance from these guys. 🙂

After we were done petting the elephant family, we walked them down to the river to watch them swim and spray each other with water sucked up through their trunks.

And after they were clean from the river, they rolled around in the mud!

We learned that elephants have sensitive skin, and they use mud as both their sunscreen and insect repellent. Interesting!

After the mud bath it was time for us to eat lunch, and we headed back up to the building to enjoy a delicious vegetarian Thai buffet-style lunch. We got to know the rest of the people in our group much better during this time, and we had a nice time talking to them!

After lunch we spent some time with another elephant family, which had another baby.

Right when Fabio and I squatted down for a photo, the little guy turned around so we got more than just his butt in the picture. What a little ham!

At this point we could see another elephant tour group (a riding kind by the looks of it) making their way down to the nearby public river. As soon as the elephants near us smelled them, they got really nervous and protective. The mom elephant made the baby go with her into their enclosure where they knew they would be safe if anything were to happen. The elephants from the other group were still pretty far away, but it was amazing to see how protective this group got as soon as they smelled them.

Once everything settled down, we said goodbye to this group of elephants and then headed down to another section of the river. It was elephant bathing time!

Each elephant got another basket of fruit (watermelon and bananas this time) and they contentedly ate their snack while we splashed them with buckets of water from the river.

They seemed to really enjoy this, and used their ears as fans to blow cool air on their damp skin.

This was a perfect way for us to wrap up our amazing day with the elephants!

Soon it was time for us to say goodbye to the park, and we climbed back in the van for the drive back to our hotel in Chiang Mai. It was such an incredible experience that I will never forget, and I’m so glad we were able to support such an amazing organization. If you ever go to Chiang Mai, you absolutely have to visit Elephant Nature Park, and please don’t ride any elephants!

Question of the day: Would you enjoy this or be scared?

One guy in our group discovered that he was afraid of elephants (something he didn’t know until he got close to one!) and decided to skip out on most of the activities for the day. Poor guy!

 Posted by on July 12, 2017
Jul 102017
 

Hello there! Did you have a nice weekend? Fabio was out of town for his grandfather’s funeral all weekend, so I decided it was the perfect opportunity to take Jack with me for some quality time with my family.

On Friday after work, I packed up our stuff and drove over to my mom’s house. She and my stepdad have been working really hard on their garden this year, and it really is coming along nicely! Apparently they hardly ever need to go to the grocery store anymore. #LifeGoals

This also means they’ve been cooking up lots of delicious veggie-based meals, one of which is the always delicious squash blossoms! I first tried squash blossoms on a trip with my mom and stepdad to Italy, and I think we’ve all been hooked ever since.

This time my mom showed me how to make the blossoms in case I ever want to try making them myself. Not likely, but hey, I like learning to cook new things! To start, you first have to pick the blossoms from the squash plant early in the morning (they close up if you pick them later in the afternoon).

You also have to make sure to pick the male flowers instead of the female ones, since the female ones produce the squash.

Once you have the flowers, you stuff them with about a tablespoon of cheese. (Oh yes.) I know my mom uses ricotta and I think some mozzarella, but you could get creative with it. Then you make a batter that’s equal parts flower and seltzer water, batter them up, and fry them!

Again, this is probably more work than I would ever feel like doing (and deep frying is not really my thing anyway) but I will definitely not complain whenever my mom feels like making these – they’re delicious! We had the squash blossoms with a salad made with other produce fresh from the garden. 🙂

My mom also made my favorite cake for dessert – hot milk cake with the most decadent, amazing chocolate icing. Ahhh!! It was worth going over to my mom’s just for this. 🙂

On Saturday, I slept in a little and then parked myself pool-side for the day! My mom and I spent hours soaking up the sun with a mix of chatting, book-reading (I’m reading Beneath A Scarlet Sky and it’s really good!), and lounging on the pool floaties. In other words, all my favorite summer activities!

Eventually we broke for lunch, and my mom made us another delicious meal: fried green tomatoes with homemade basil mayo (the mayo was even homemade!) and corn salad. YUM! Having all these fresh veggies is such a luxury for me.

Later in the afternoon, my stepdad made me a refreshingly cold mint julep cocktail. 🙂

Eventually I hopped in the shower, said goodbye to my mom and stepdad, and headed over to my dad’s house for a cookout. We sat outside enjoying the perfect evening and enjoyed a meal of burgers, salad, macaroni, and baked beans. Plus some of my dad’s sangria!

I sat around talking with my family for a while, before heading home around 10:00 p.m. I made it home 45 minutes later and instantly fell asleep. A fun day in the sun will do that to you!

Sunday was a much more productive day: I meal-planned, went to the grocery store, cleaned the whole house, did a ton of laundry, and put away lots of wedding-related decorations and gifts. I hadn’t done a big house cleaning since before the wedding, and it definitely needed it. I was happy to see a full fridge again too!

At around 8:00 p.m. I was debating whether or not to head upstairs to watch TV in bed and fall asleep early, but I decided it was too nice out and I wanted to get outside. I wound up leashing up Jack and taking him for an extra evening walk, and we had a fun time hanging out in the park and playing with a big stick he found. I guess neither one of us was ready to say goodbye to such a beautiful summer weekend!

And now I’m typing up this post and looking forward to midnight tonight when Fabio will get home! I’m sure I’ll be fast asleep by then, but I can’t wait to see him!

Question of the day: What’s your favorite kind of cake?

 Posted by on July 10, 2017
Jul 072017
 

Hi friends! Today I’m back with part 2 of my honeymoon recap, which included visiting lots of beautiful wats (temples) in Chiang Mai! We even hiked up a really cool monk’s trail to get to two of the temples, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, if you missed my Bangkok recap you can find that here! And, just a warning, this is a looooong post, so get comfy. Here we go!

After spending just over a day in Bangkok, Fabio and I hopped on a flight north to the second largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai. We flew through Nok Air and it was very comfortable and quick!

When we arrived at around 10:30 a.m., we got in a cab to take us to our hotel which was inside the old city near the East Gate (Tha Phae Gate). We were staying at The 3 Sis, a boutique hotel/bed and breakfast right in the heart of the city. When we pulled up, we were in awe of the massive mango tree out front. Wow!

The lobby was peaceful and inviting, and we were greeted with the most amazing Thai iced tea. Ahh! I could use a glass of that right now.

Our room was comfortable and spacious (we stayed for four nights total), but my favorite part of the hotel was the view of Wat Phan Tao (one of the temples) right across the street. This was what we saw when we ate breakfast every day!

Amazing!

After we checked in and dropped off our bags (our room was ready early, thank goodness), we decided to walk around the old city of Chiang Mai. On our maps this part of the city had appeared to be pretty small, but we soon found out it was much bigger than we thought. We spent quite a while walking around the streets and still didn’t cover everything.

The first thing I saw that piqued my interest was all the monks! They were everywhere, much more so than in Bangkok. We knew there were lots of wats in Chiang Mai so this wasn’t surprising, but it was still really cool to see. There were even lots of monks shopping in our local 7-11!

After getting our bearings, Fabio and I decided it was time to see some of the wats! The dress code for these was definitely enforced more than in Bangkok, and I made sure to wear pants and a top with sleeves whenever we were exploring the temples. It was super hot, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful!

There were ornate decorations everywhere – on statues, walls, the roof, and even the ceiling – and everything had so many beautiful details.

Like with Christianity, Buddhists believe that making beautiful temples to worship God is a way to get into Heaven. It sure was beautiful!

It was cool seeing some of the older wats too – this one is part of Wat Phan Tao, which was the one that was just steps away from our hotel. Check out the monks! (Obsessed.)

As we were wandering around admiring the beautiful temples, we saw a sign in English that said “Come Meet a Monk.” We noticed a bunch of other Westerners sitting at tables talking to young monks, so we decided to see what it was all about.

When we sat down, we started talking to a 16-year-old monk who was interested in interviewing us for his English homework. Cool! He asked us where we were from, what our jobs were, and what we thought of Thailand so far, among other things.

In turn, we asked about his life and found out that he’s from a very small village in northern Thailand and that he decided to come to monk school to help out his family. He said his father passed away a few years ago, and he has many brothers and sisters. His mom works multiple jobs – all of which are about two hours from their home – and she can’t afford to pay for high school for all the kids (it’s not free in Thailand, apparently).

This monk (I forget his name!) was really dedicated to his studies and has a dream to go to college, so he decided to become a monk for a while so he can get his education for free. Though he doesn’t want to stay a monk forever, he said that once you learn the Buddhist monk values, you’re always a monk at heart. This was one of the highlights of our trip for me, and I loved hearing his story! Also, his English was great! What a smart kid.

Side note: He wasn’t allowed to sit or stand next to me since I’m a woman. Interesting. He also was amazed at how tall Fabio is. Ha!

After that, we checked out a few more wats inside the old city before calling it a day. (I’ll write another post highlighting all the other stuff we did in Chiang Mai like restaurants, bars, and massage places, but today’s post is about the wats!)

The next day, we had plans to hike up to see two more wats: the quiet, remote Wat Pha Lat and the busy, touristy Doi Suthep. This hike was recommended to me by a friend, and I was excited to get to the two wats by climbing up an old monk trail instead of riding in a car or tuk-tuk.

We relied heavily on this blog post with step-by-step instructions for following the hike, so if this is ever something you’re interested in doing, definitely check out that post!

Anyway, after taking a tuk-tuk out of the old city one morning and walking uphill a ways from our drop-off point, we arrived at the entrance to the trail.

There we met a fellow American (who took this picture), who has been living in Thailand for a few years. She warned us that the hike was not easy at all and asked how much water we had with us. *Gulp* What did we just get ourselves into?

We aren’t quitters though, so we forged ahead with her word of warning swarming in our heads.

The trail itself was made by monks who needed to climb up the mountains to get to the different wats. They still use it today, and do the whole climb in sandals! The path is marked by pieces of their customary orange cloth, which served as reminders that we were in a serene and sacred place.

Some areas of the trail were absolutely covered in cloth, and other times we would walk for a while without seeing any.

One tip for this hike is to put on lots of bug spray! The hike takes you through some really dense woods and there were lots and lots of bugs. Sometimes the bugs would also be super loud, and all you could hear were bug noises and the rushing water of some small waterfalls along the way.

After hiking for about 45 minutes and seeing a couple of other hikers along our path, we crossed a somewhat rickety bridge and then arrived at Wat Pha Lat.

Wat Pha Lat is a very quiet temple that was built next to a waterfall. Apparently it used to be a resting point for travelers on their way to Doi Suthep, but when they built the road to Doi Suthep this place became a quiet retreat accessed only by monks and hikers.

The only real way to get to Wat Pha Lat is by hiking to it since it’s located deep in the forest. This, of course, limits the number of tourists who go there which allows you to really soak up the beauty and serenity of the place.

Since it was pretty hot and humid during our hike, I packed some light-weight pants and a shirt in our backpack and just put them on as we walked around the temple. Again, I wanted to be respectful, but it was too hot to wear those kinds of clothes during the whole hike.

Wat Pha Lat was beautiful and so peaceful! Fabio and I really enjoyed our time walking around and taking in the calm atmosphere. It felt like we were in a movie!

Then it was on to part two of our hike, which was the much steeper and much longer climb up to Doi Suthep!

This is the part of the hike we were most worried about and although we were fine, it definitely was a little challenging at times. At one point it started to drizzle and the clay trail got wet, making it super slippery to walk up. We were able to find some walking sticks though which really helped us keep our balance! Better hiking shoes would have been helpful here, but we only had our sneakers.

We also met a really nice Swiss girl at this point and spent lots of time getting to know her during the hike. It made the time fly by, and before we knew it we were close to the top! (Not before we made a wrong turn and Fabio had to climb a waterfall in search of the trail. Oops. Wrong way!)

We also spotted this crazy blue Lion King-esque bug when we were almost at the top. Gross! Its body was probably four inches long.

Right after the giant bug sighting, we arrived at the end of the trail! Woohoo! The second half of the climb took us about an hour and fifteen minutes and was definitely more challenging than the first half, but not as impossible as that other American woman had made it sound. Thank goodness!

At the top, we rewarded ourselves with fresh mango smoothies and then headed in to visit the famous Doi Suthep. (There were lots of tourists and carts selling things here. Very different from Wat Pha Lat!)

Doi Suthep is pretty famous for its dragon stairs, which are intricately decorated all the way up to the top.

It was a pretty long climb to the top, but nothing compared to the hike we had just done!

The view from the top was definitely beautiful, but it was pretty crowded and made me appreciate the peacefulness at Wat Pha Lat all the more.

Still, it’s worth a visit when you’re in Chiang Mai!

Once we were done at the temple, we hopped in a songthaew (a red pick-up truck that acts much like Thailand’s version of Uber pool) back to the old city. During our ride, we met some interesting tourists from Los Angeles and the UK, and it was nice to hear about their respective trips.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we took some much-needed showers since we were coated in bug spray and mud. Yuck!

All in all, I would absolutely recommend checking out the wats in Chiang Mai, and would especially recommend doing the hike and trying out the “Meet a Monk” program!

Question of the day: What would you ask a monk?

 Posted by on July 7, 2017