San Diego Sunset

Happy Thursday!  I thought that I would share this magical sunset photo that I took in San Diego a couple of weeks ago. It looks like the sky is made out of cotton candy! This picture makes me all warm and happy on the inside, while I sit and stare at this view…

NYC Snow Storm

I swear that I am not complaining, because the snowmageddon that we were originally supposed to get only dumped 11″ on the city, instead of the 24″ that they were originally predicting. The snow is so pretty and I love having snow days, but I do miss seeing amazing sunsets like the one above every now and again.

I also cannot believe that it is already the end of January, and that this is my first This & That Thursday post. Where is the time going!? I thought that I would just quickly share a few things that I have been using to stay on track with my New Year Resolutions, and just a few other things that I am obsessing over right now.

 

  • Derika got me this a couple of months ago. It has been giving me some extra support in the cold winter months, and I love how the beads are made out of roses! It is also made by a local NYC artist, who we have met 🙂

 

  • I have added this amazing beverage to my water, coconut water, tea and kombucha rotation. I am obsessed. It is not available in a lot of places right now, so get yours on Amazon. This just means that I have to buy it in bulk…darn. 🙂

 

  • I have been playing around with veganism a little bit lately, just to see how if feels in my body. This little guide has been a great resource for keeping me on track. Whole30 isn’t just for meat eaters anymore.

 

  • Santa got me this and I can now make fizzy water ALL of the days! I also don’t have to worry about hauling heavy water bottles back from the grocery store anymore and I am saving on plastic…winning!

 

  • The winters in NYC are super dry. To save my poor skin, I have been obsessing over this oil. I have been lubing up my hands, body, hair and face with this stuff nonstop. It is also made in Brooklyn…Yay, for local things!

 

  • Holy Crap the Super Bowl is this weekend! If you are looking for some great heathy-ish snack ideas check out this.

 

I hope you have an amazing 2015 and hopefully it started off better than Julia the Mystical Traveling Unicorn’s year did…

 

 

Stay Warm!

 

 

Roasted Brazil Nuts
I was reading a Well and Good article the other day and it mentioned that Brazil nuts are the new almonds. I have not had a Brazil nut in forever, but I don’t remember liking them when I was younger. I am a huge fan of almonds though. I eat a handful for a healthy snack, and I make the heck out of almond milk to go with my green smoothies; and who doesn’t I love a good almond milk latte?

According to the article, the Brazil nut can go head to head with the almond when it comes to making nut milk, pesto and vegan cheeses. This nut is packed with Vitamin E, which is a great antioxidant and helps to keep you bee-ewe-tee-full. It also contains a lot of selenium, which is hard to find in other nuts and is essential for you immune and thyroid function.

WOW, who knew!?

This got me to thinking that I should give this Brazil nut another chance. So on my way home from yoga, I picked up a small container to snack on. At first taste, I realized that I was no longer a hater of the taste and their peculiar size, which kind of resembles a half-moon. They were surprisingly creamy and had a great taste. I have yet to experiment on a Brazil nut milk, but I did take what I did not eat and played around with roasting them. Who knew that with a little Vermont maple syrup and a light sprinkle of Himalayan Sea Salt, you could turn this half-moon nut into a very addictive and healthy snack?

Check out my recipe below to see for yourself.

Sweet and Salty Brazil Nut Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup of Brazil Nuts
  • 1/2 – 1 Tsp. of Himalayan Sea Salt, or to taste
  • 1.5 TBS of Maple Syrup

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Put 1 cup of brazil nuts into a small bowl.

3. Add 1.5 TBS of maple syrup and mix nuts and syrup until nuts are covered.

4. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and spread out the maple syrup covered nuts onto the cookie sheet so that they are not touching.

5. Sprinkle the nuts with 1/2 Tsp. of salt and add more if needed to lightly cover all of the nuts. You can taste one at this point to help adjust the salt to your liking.

6. Roast the nuts for 7 minutes then flip, add more salt if you like, and roast the nuts for an additional 7 more minutes. Since every oven is different, start to watch them after you flip them so that they don’t burn.

7. Remove the nuts from oven and allow to cool, then eat the heck out of them.

Note:  These nuts would also be amazing with some bacon salt (which is vegetarian) in place of the Himalayan Sea Salt or add some smoked paprika or cayenne in addition to the salt to add a little sass.

Happy Snacking!

Julia and Gummi Bears

I am a little behind on this post, because honestly I have no idea how it is already 2015! I feel like I just moved to NYC, but that was over a year and a half ago. As I take a moment to look back, I realized that 2014 has been a really great year with tons of adventures, some growing pains, new friends and off the wall experiences.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • We took a ton of east coast road trips to MaineVermontCape Cod and New Hampshire.
  • I went to my first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, and got ALL of the beads!
  • I took a solo adventure trip to Chicago to attend the Blogcademy.
  • I became a Manhattan Yoga Instructor!
  • We checked off a bucket list item and spent our 10-year anniversary in Santorini.
  • We took a culinary adventure trip to BangkokChiang Mai and Krabi.
  • We hosted oodles of houseguests and got to play tour guide in a super fun city.
  • I learned how to crochet, and I have been a scarf-making machine!
  • I have cooked more than ever. Whipping up tons of homemade meals, experiments and bloopers in our tiny Glitter Spice test kitchen (special shout out to Derika, my professional taste tester and biggest fan).
  • To finish off the year we took a last minute, totally unplanned road trip to Florida, to chase the sun and to ring in the New Year with family.

Whew!

When I look back at this year, I can totally see why it has flown by. I am really looking forward to all of the adventures that 2015 holds. We don’t have anything planned yet, but I find that being spontaneous is part of the fun. Last year I did a year in review post that highlighted my top posts from that year. Since I got such a great response from it, I decided to stick with that theme. Once again, I managed to post something every month this year, and below you will see my top posts from each month in 2014.

January

Super Bowl Snack Guide

Super Bowl Snack Guide

 February

Bourbon Infused Cherries

Bourbon Infused Cherries

March

Air Freshener

Bathroom Air Freshener

 April

Julia

Let Loose!

May

Glittery Kitty Ears

Glittery Kitty Ears

June

Veggie Chopped Salad - DF,GF,V,P

Veggie Chopped Salad

July

Spicy Manhattan

Spicy Manhattan

August

Homemade Sriracha

Homemade Sriracha

September

Veggie Mac n' Cheese - GF, V

Veggie Mac n’ Cheese

October

GlitterSpice 2 yr

This and That Thursday

November

24 Hours in Beijing

24 Hours in Beijing

December

9 Must Do Travel Adventures in Bangkok

9 Must Do Travel Adventures in Bangkok

One of the greatest things about blogging is that you can go back at the end of the year and read about all of the stuff that you managed to get into. One of the things that I am most proud of this year is how well my blog had done. My little space on the interwebs has been viewed over 60,000 times by people from 139 different countries! My most popular post, which was featured on Buzzfeed, was my Noodle Free Lasagna. Other top posts were my Baked Spaghetti Squash, Homemade Sriracha, Bourbon Infused Cherries, and my Crock Pot French Onion Soup. I hope you enjoyed the ride just as much as I did. Thank you for taking the time to visit my teeny space on the interwebs. Your encouragement and support makes me ALL of the HAPPY!

Wishing you an adventurous and beautiful 2015!

Derika in Chiang Mai

In addition to spending some time in Bangkok during our two-week Thailand adventure, we spent 3 action packed days in Chiang Mai. To get to Chaing Mai we took a teeny airline called Nok Air. The airline’s logo is a cute bird beak and they give you snacks even if you are taking a puddle jumper!

Nok Airlines Snacks

As soon as we landed we headed to the Four Season Resort just outside of Chiang Mai, where we would be spending the next few days.

Four Seasons Infinity Pool

As soon as we got to the hotel the staff took our bags to our rooms, they placed a lei around our neck and we were whisked off to the Four Seasons Cooking School where we would be spending our afternoon whipping up local Chiang Mai dishes for our lunch. The school was on the hotel’s property in a beautiful open-air kitchen.

This leads us to our first Chiang Mai Adventure.

 

Take a Chiang Mai Cooking Class

Four Seasons Chiang Mai Cooking School

Like I said in my Bangkok post, I love to cook so of our course the cooking classes are going to make the top of my adventure list. Also similar to the BaiPai Cooking School in Bangkok, the Chef would demo all of the dishes first, which left room for questions and made learning and cooking the dish so much easier.

Chef Demo

After the demo we would head back to our amazing cooking stations, where we would whip up our own version.

Dani Cooking

Over the course of the afternoon we whipped up a veggie and meat platter with a green chili dipping sauce and a Chiang Mai curry, which was the most amazing curry dish that I have ever had!

After we enjoyed our culinary creations for lunch, the cute cooking school staff awarded everyone with a cooking diploma, a packet with all of the recipes from the dishes we made and told us that we got to keep our aprons. We are basically professional Thai chefs at this point! 😉

Diploma

 

Visit the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

The Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple (well that is a mouth full) is often referred to as Doi Suthep, even though this is the name of the mountain that this temple lives on. You have to take a winding car ride up the mountain and then you take the tram or the stairs up to the top of the mountain to get to the temple. It is said to have amazing views of Chiang Mai, but unfortunately the day that we were there it was a tad bit rainy, which made it too foggy to see anything beyond the temple.

Getting wet at the temple

We did manage to get some great rainy temple toe photos though 🙂

Temple Toes

The temple was beautiful and I would love to go back on a sunny day so that I could enjoy the views of Chiang Mai from the mountain.

 

Visit the Chiang Mai Night Market!

Chiang Mai Night Market

I love shopping at any type of crafty local market, and the Chiang Mai Night Market was probably my favorite market that we went to the whole trip. It is located right in downtown Chiang Mai, it has everything that you could possibly want in regards to souvenirs and it is so so cheap. I ended up buying way to many flowy pants with elephants on them, but I could not control myself and you can never have too many elephant flowy pants.

In addition to a ton of shopping, we also took the time to oggle some mystery meats.

Night Market Meats

We got to hang out with a Thai Ronald McDonald!

Buddha McDonald

We also just spent the evening strolling around enjoying the city and all of the festival decorations.

lanterns

 

Go to Chiang Mai During the Loi Krathong Festival

The Loi Krathong Festival happens in Chiang Mai in mid to late November and the dates change yearly, so plan ahead. We just so happened to get lucky and we were in Chiang Mai during this festival. Loi Krathong means decorative floats in Thai, and the term is used for this festival only. This was my favorite thing that we did in Chiang Mai. The festival was something that was so amazing, that if I had known about it before I went to Thailand, it would have been on my bucket list. The coolest part about this festival was the two different types of lanterns you can choose to light at the festivities. Since this was our first time at the festival, we decided to do both.

The first type of lantern is a floating lantern.

Double D's with Floating Lantern

You purchase your floating lantern from one of the many street vendors. They have all different types, so half of the fun is picking out your own super special lantern. Once you have your lantern you light it, make a wish or release a negative thought onto the lantern, place your lantern into the river so that it can float away with your wish or negative thought. If you look closely at the photo above you can see all of the hundreds of lanterns floating down the river behind us. The tricky part to the floating lantern is actually getting your lantern into the river. There is about a 3-foot drop from the ledge of the river, and where the river actually is. Derika had to hold onto the back of my pants and I had to use my yogi squatting skills as I placed our lanterns into the river, so that I would not fall in.

Dani putting lanter in River 2

The second kind of lantern is a huge paper lantern that you light the base of. While the lantern fills with hot air you make a wish. Once it is filled with enough hot air you gently let it go right in the middle of the city and it floats away with your wish. At the beginning of the festival thousands of these floating lanterns are lit and let go. What looks like stars in the sky are actually lanterns. Here is a quick video of our friend Danielle releasing her lantern. You can get a great visual of all of the other lanterns that were in the sky.

Derika and I did not get a video of our lantern release, but we did get some great photos.

 

Go Visit an Elephant Camp in Mae Taman Valley

Elephant Selfie

I was a little torn about this adventure, because I was not sure how the elephants were treated at the camps. However, I do have to admit  that I love elephants so so much, and I was excited to see one up close. We ended up visiting the Maetaeng Elephant Park.

As soon as we got to the park we were escorted to the elephants, so that we could meet them and take a ride through the forest. It was a crazy experience and they even went in the water while we were on them!

During our trip we got to buy some sugar cane and bananas for the elephant to snack on along the way. Derika was super sweet and let me feed the elephant ALL of the things. It was all fun and games, until our elephant got too excited while I was feeding it and Derika ended up getting elephant spit in her eye. I was so excited; I didn’t even notice while it was happening…Whoops! 😉

After our ride we got to meet the elephants and one of the babies took a liking to me and got a bit frisky!

After the elephants were done getting frisky, they got to go take a bath. Sooooo, cute!

Elephant Bath

My favorite part about the elephant camp was the bamboo raft ride along the river!

Along the way we got so see happy Elephants!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetDerika and I even got to drive the raft for a spell.  We were basically rafting naturals.

All in all the elephants seemed like they were taken care of really well at the camp that we went too. I would for sure recommend the raft ride and make your own judgment call on what elephant park you choose to go to and how you choose to interact with them.

Elephant Foot Selfie

One last elephant foot selfie.

 

Visit the Doi Inthanon National Park and visit the Vachiratharn Waterfall

Highest Point Sign

Doi Inthanon National Park is the highest point in Thailand. This is a great place to sneak in some awesome hiking into your trip. There are trails all throughout the forest. It was a bit chilly there, so I was forced to wear tennis shoes with my flowy elephant pants…not the best way to make a fashion statement in Thailand. Derika also decided to buy the most amazing hat that I have ever seen. She looks so happy in it! Scroll though photos below to see the awesomeness.

After you hike around the national park go check out the Vachiratharn Waterfall, which is also in the national park.

After all of those adventures, our three days went by in a flash! I could not believe that it was already time to leave. In addition to running all over Chiang Mai we did get a chance to enjoy the Four Seasons Resort a bit.

They had a lovely infinity pool, that if you hung out at it long enough you could see the hotel’s water buffalo strolling around just beyond the pool! Yes you read that correctly….THE HOTEL HAD WATER BUFFALO!! I got too excited and forgot to take a photo, so here is a picture of the pool.  🙂

Four Seasons Pool

Also while we were hanging out at the pool, we of course had to sample some of the tasty beverages that were served with some amazing spiced nut and squash chips.

Pool Snacks

I loved, loved, loved the breakfast at this hotel, because I could get noodle soup ALL of the days!

Four Seasons Breakfast!

While I was slurping on my soup breakfast I got to enjoy this ‘terrible’ view.

Four Season's Breakfast View

The last morning that we were at the resort we had the opportunity to see some cute Thai women redoing one of the floating flower vases that we saw all over the hotel property. If I ever move to Thailand, this is what I want my next job to be. It seems so so relaxing and I would get to be crafty at the same time. 🙂 Look how cute they are!!!

Chiang Mai was so much more low-key than Bangkok, and it was way more my speed. For great shopping, amazing curry, super happy people and an epic lantern festival, check out Chiang Mai on your Thailand adventure.

Now let’s go check out the beaches…Off to Krabi we go!

Dani in the 80s

It is one week before Christmas and I can hardly believe it!!  In addition to it being This & That Thursday, I thought that I would share a Throwback Thursday photo that I shared last week of myself.  How can you look at this photo and not smile. I am hoping it will take your mind off of the last-minute holiday stress.  🙂

I have been crafting up a storm lately, and I know that I am not going to get everything done before the holidays…oh well! Instead of stressing out about it, I wanted to squeeze in one last holiday themed This & That Thursday post before the holiday. Just in case you need a pick me up or any last-minute Xmas gifts ideas.

 

  • If you are procrastinating and haven’t yet finished sending out your holiday cards, consider adding this guy to your list this year. I sent him one last week and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy. The Detroit News just posted this follow-up today. 🙂

 

  • Make some of these for your favorite buddy.

 

  • A good friend of mine owns this company, everything is handmade and they make your house smell so so wonderful!

 

  • Looking for a great Fair Trade gift for your eco-friendly friends, check out this place for amazing wrap bracelets, ornaments and scarves from Thailand.

 

  • Take a moment to peek at this, it has been making me smile all day.

 

  • Feeling crafty and still don’t know what to get your favorite person? Think about whipping up one of these, they are super easy to make and a crowd pleaser. 🙂

 

Let the countdown until Xmas begin! I hope you have an amazing holiday and stay tuned for a possible vegan Baileys recipe coming your way soon!

Warmth and Glitter,

Bangkok

Derika and I just got back from a 2-week adventure in Thailand. We went with a friend who is a chef and is originally from Thailand. Chef T owns a cooking school in California called Tspoons, if you love to cook and you live in SoCal you should for sure check it out.

We have wanted to go to Thailand for years now and when we found out that Chef T was planning a trip, we knew that we had to make it happen. I mean… it is basically my dream come true. To go to a country that I have been obsessing over with a native, who loves food just as much as I do. This is the first organized trip that Derika and I have ever been on, and I have to say that it did not disappoint. As a result, I think that this next set of blog posts will also probably be one of the more challenging ones to write. Between Derika and I, we took over 600 photos and ran non-stop through Thailand for 9 action packed days. That is a whole lot of photos and information to weed though. I apologize in advance for the number of photos in this post, but we just saw and did so much awesomeness that it is hard not to share. In hopes of making these posts a bit smaller, I am going to break them down, by the three cities that we visited, and I will probably throw in a food post for good measure.  I hope you enjoy the ride!

Now, let’s go to Bangkok!

Bangkok

We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, which was a little oasis on the river in a very busy city. The photo above is the view from our room. We did not get to spend much time at the hotel. However, we did manage to check out the hotel restaurant right off the river, which had an adorable boat that would take you to the other part of the hotel across the river.

Mandarin Boat

Their breakfast buffet was amazing and had one of the most epic mimosa bars that I have ever seen!

Our room also came equipped with some cozy slippers and a different fresh fruit to snack on every day.

The room also had more light switches than we knew what to do with.

Room Buttons

So this would only happen to me, so I need to go off on an embarrassing tangent about the one million light switches in our room. The first night in out hotel room, I came running into the bedroom squealing at Derika that the room offered a make-up button! She looked at me dumbfounded. So I proceed to ask her a hundred questions as to what kind of make-up services the hotel provided us with, if I pushed the button. Immediately she started rolling around the bed laughing, and informed me that the hotel did not deliver make-up to the room when you pressed the button, but rather that someone came to your room and made up your bed. FAIL! Only I would think that this cute little Thai person would come to my room and do my hair and make-up if I pushed this magical button.  Moving on…

 

Visit The Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple

I wasn’t able to take a picture of the Emerald Buddha at the Emerald Buddha Temple, but you can see a bunch of photos of him here. Make sure that you wear you long pants, closed toes shoes and cover your shoulders for your temple and Grand Palace adventure.

Shoes OK here

In the temples you are required to take off your shoes so you can get great photos like this…

Fancy feet in temple

We spent the afternoon zipping around the temples and learning about the palace. All I can really say for sure is that this something that you need to see for yourself. It is filled with gold, more gold, statues and some more gold and the attention to detail is mind-blowing!

 

Cross the River and Visit the Temple of the Dawn

Temple of Dawn from River

So you will notice a theme here. Thailand loves their temples and each one is more breathtaking than the next. I particularly loved the Temple of the Dawn, because we got to ride a cute little water taxi across the river to get to it. Below you will see Derika and Srinipa hanging out on the taxi as we crossed the river.  Srinipa was our amazing tour guide in addition to Chef T, who accompanied us on all of our Bangkok adventures. She is one of the most adorable and sweetest people, that I have ever met and she knows ALL of the things about Bangkok!

Derika and Srinipa

I also loved the Temple of the Dawn because it had a giant Buddha that you could rub its belly and wish on upon arrival.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

It was also one of the few temples that you could climb up to the top of. Most of the folks in our group who climbed to the top were dealing with sore legs the rest of the trip, but it was worth it!

 

Visit Ayutthaya City (Old Siam)

Ayutthaya City

Ok, so we also got to climb up the temple in Ayutthaya City, but it was not as high up as the Temple of the Dawn.

Dani and Derika climbing Ayutthaya

What I really liked about this temple is all of the neat rituals that you got to partake in before you went into the temple. Upon arrival we were asked if we would like to purchase a flower, some incense and a piece of paper that has a gold leaf in it (Ignore the sweaty girl in this photo below and just look at what I have in my hand).

Dani at Ayutthaya

Once you get your supplies you head to the entrance of the temple, where you get on your knees and place the flower in a bucket and say a little prayer or wish, then you get up and light the incense and put it behind the flowers in the sand, then you will take the gold leaf out of the paper and placed it on the teeny Buddha to solidify everything (notice Chef T placing her gold leaf on the tiny Buddha below).

Temple Wish

After you do all of this you get to see an epic giant golden Buddha!

Giant Gold Buddha in Ayutthaya

This picture does not do it justice, but the Buddha is about as big as a 2-story house. While you are hanging out with this Buddha, you will notice a lot of people kneeling before him shaking a cup full of sticks. I like to think of it as the lucky stick game. You grab a cup that is stuffed with sticks that are numbered. Gently shake the cup until one of the sticks falls out of the cup and onto the rug. Look at the number and take that number to the fortune lady, pay her some money and she will give you a piece of paper with your fortune. We got too excited about the sticks and forgot to take a photo, but here is my fortune…

Ayutthaya Fortune

Apparently, I am going to be healthy, debt free, delight and happy! Oh yeah, if I get pregnant I am apparently having a boy!?

 

Take a Cooking Class at BaiPai Thai Cooking School

BaiPai Sign

The BaiPai Cooking School was one of my most favorite things that we did while we were in Bangkok, but I love to cook so of course it was going to make the top of my list.

The school was located in an open air building in Bangkok…I basically want to live in the building that the school is in!

BaiPai Building

The chefs that taught us were really friendly and funny. They basically cooked a dish first while we watched, we got to taste it and then we headed to our own cooking stations, where we made our own version. They even accommodated the vegetarian on the trip with plenty of veggie options, so I was a happy camper. We grilled, simmered and seasoned our hearts out!

Basically, a good time was had by all and we left with some new Thai cooking skills and a full belly! More details about what we cooked in my upcoming Thailand food post!

 

Shop your way through the Asiatique Night Market

Asiatique Market

Asiatique Night Market is a fancy version of the many markets in Thailand. More of the locals shop here and it feels a little less touristy. They have a bazillion shops, so you can shop till you drop. They also have a huge ferris wheel.

Asiatique Ferris Wheel

And an outdoor area where you can visit some street food vendors, if you are feeling a little munchie.

 

Visit the Damnoensaduk Floating Market

Double D's on a boat

They Floating Market is tied with the cooking school for amazing things to do in Bangkok! Ok, so it is far away from the heart of Bangkok and a bit touristy. But look at how happy this cute little Thai lady is below!!  How can you not want to go and hang out with her!?

Happy Vendor at Floating Market

So basically you wave down a boat, negotiate a fee and off you go!

Floating Market

Our group was big enough that we needed to split up into two boats.

Chef T and Friends

This is such a unique way to shop! You are on a boat with shopping stalls on either side of you and all of the snacks you could possibly imagine. All of the snacks are also on boats, and come right along side of your boat as they prepare whatever you ordered. You could also buy your honey and garden plants if you wanted too.

Garden plants on the canal

They even had beverage boats with beer….

DnD with beer on boat

and coconuts!

Danielle and Banana on Boat

I started to shoot video of the market, but then the beer boat distracted me…

So now that we got our beer, here is a quick video so you can get the idea of how amazing it is to shop by boat. However, I still managed to mess it up! I don’t know why I called it the ‘video’ market in the video!? I think that I was just so excited to take some video…Fail!  At least I can laugh at my ridiculous self.

We only got off the boat once to stop at a walk in market and to see this cute little man make palm sugar.  Palm sugar is what is used in Thai food such as curries to add a bit of sweetness to dishes.

This man was so adorable and was super excited to give us the opportunity to try out our palm sugar skills. I think he made 30 mounds of palm sugar to our one, but we had fun. 🙂

 

Visit the Chatuchak Market aka the JJ Market

Market

Due to a flight delay Derika and I were not able to get to Thailand a day early to visit the Chatuchak Market on the weekend like we had planned. Instead we spent that time in Beijing. I am not jaded…

Anyway, this market is open during the week and on the weekend. If you are lucky enough to go to the market on the weekend you will have the opportunity to visit over 8,000 vendors and have the most epic shopping extravaganza of your life. If you are not in Bangkok on the weekend you should still check out the market. Each day has a different theme and we just so happened to be there on plant and garden day.

In addition to seeing a sea of unique Thailand plants, we had the opportunity to check out the fresh food market. This was awesome, because we got to see the fruits and vegetables that we have been eating all week and see and try them before they were cut and carved up.

We checked out some Thailand apples that looked like they came straight out of a zombie movie, they tasted a bit like a pear.

Thailand apples

We saw and tried some mung beans that were molded into imitation fruits and vegetables.

Mung Bean Fruit and Veggies

We ogled the mystery meats.

Meats

My favorite part of the market visit is when Derika got to try durian for the first time. Even though the photo does not look like it, she actually liked it!

Derika Eating Durian

Durian is (I pulled this right from Wikipedia) a fruit whose “edible flesh emits a distinctive odor that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage. The persistence of its odor has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.”  I think it has a bad rap, but I think that you get the point. 🙂

 

Get a Thai Massage!

Thai Massage Toes

Our whole group went and got a Thai massage at Health Land Spa in Bangkok. I was kind of nervous, because I did not know what to expect. However when I found out that some people in our group had never had a massage before, I relaxed a bit more. Also this is a little weird, but accidentally the location booked our group of 12 into two big rooms, which was ridiculous, but in some weird way it turned a potential awkward situation into a comical one. For starters, you get to wear outfits like this…

Thai Massage Outfits

After you get into your amazing outfits, you cozy up on a mattress on the floor and wait for your tiny Thai massage therapist. Instead of it just being one person in a room there were 6 of us in each room giggling uncontrollably at first. They do the massage though your awesome massage clothes and pretty much, bend, adjust and manipulate you into putty.  It cost us each about $20 for a 2 hours massage, I wish I had the time to do one every day while I was in Thailand!

 

Go Have a Cocktail at the Sky Bar

Sky Bar Bangkok

Our last night in Bangkok a few of us from our group decided to head out on the town and have a farewell cocktail at the Sky Bar, which is said to have one of the best skyline views of Bangkok and to be the worlds highest open air bar! All I can say is that if you have some free time in the evening you should definitely check it out. The cocktails are a bit pricey, but the view was something that a photo could never capture!

Sky Bar View
If you look closely you can see the Asiatique ferris wheel in the distance.

Bangkok was a city that I will remember traveling to forever. Sure it seemed to have more traffic than New York and was a bit dirty in some areas, but the locals were super nice and so very happy, the sights and temples were even better in person, and the food was so amazing that I was still craving curry even after my trip! I highly recommend a stop in Bangkok on your Thailand adventure.

Next stop…. Chiang Mai!

 

 

 

Julia the Mystical Traveling Unicorn at the beach.
Happy December everyone! Where in the heck has 2014 gone? I feel like it was only a couple of months ago that I was making my New Year’s resolutions for 2014, and now I am getting ready to make them all over again for 2015. This year has been action packed, but it still bums me out that time is going by so fast!

We just got back from a lovely Thanksgiving in Florida, where we got to twinkle our toes in the sand a bit. The weather was just warm enough so that we could spend one day at the beach and the rest with the family. It was nice to thaw out a bit, but it makes coming back to the NYC winter so much harder.

I was freezing my bum off as I zipped home from yoga this morning and was feeling a little down and Scrooge like about the weather; when I stumbled across another protect your magic sighting.

Toes and Protect Your Magic

There is an artist in NYC that randomly leaves these markings around the city. I don’t know why, but I get so excited when I find one. It was just the pick me up that I needed to kick-start my day! My plan for the weekend is to finish up my holiday shopping, go see some festive window displays and to set up my Christmas tree. I am hoping that all of this holiday cheer will help me to start acting less like the Grinch and more like my normal holiday loving self.

I am STILL working on my Thailand posts. Digging through all of the photos has been a bit more challenging for this trip, so thank you for your patience. I hope to have the first Thailand post up next week. In the mean time, I thought that I would share a few little things that have been making me smile…besides Derika of course. 😉 I hope that this post inspires you to find the small things in you daily routine that makes you smile.

 

  • I have been trying to desperately fight off the cold and flu season, so I have been using the heck out of this to make my green smoothies. Check out my green smoothie recipe if you need some ideas.

 

  • I love using this when cooking, but I have also fallen in love with all of its other magical uses. Who knew it had a bazillion uses!

 

  • I only bought one thing on cyber Monday and it was for myself.  Whoops, it is good to buy yourself a prize every once in a while!  I am obsessed with these. I love the prints and the fact that they are made from recycled water bottles make them even more amazing!

 

  • I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but around the holidays I cannot get enough of the dark chocolate version of these. They are the perfect size, so I don’t feel guilty if I have one every night :)!

 

  • I’ve made a couple of batches of this to add to our festive cocktails this winter. It is the perfect addition to a hot apple cider.

 

Lastly but not least, I am going to leave you with a sweet picture of Nolan and I. The largest and sweetest cat I have ever gotten the opportunity to snuggle. How can this face of this 26 pound turkey not make you ALL of the happy!

Nolan

 

Happy Festivus!

 

Beijing

So what do you do when you find yourself stuck in Beijing for 24 hours?

Be a SUPER  tourist and make the most of your situation!

Below are some tips on how to have ALL of the fun on an unexpected 24-hour adventure in Beijing.

Fun China Tip #1 – Don’t use Air China to Get to Beijing.

Even though our flight took off 2 hours late and I am pretty certain that we will miss our connecting flight to Thailand. We leave NYC looking like this…

Why, because we are ooooooooon VACATION!

Leaving NYC

Secretly, I am mildly panicking on the inside about the travel drama that we will have to deal with once we land in Beijing. To get my mind off of it, I get excited about the tasty beverage cart and the fun ethnic food that I will get to experience on the plane. Unfortunately, my dreams were immediately crushed, and I am told that my food options are duck or pork rice even though I ordered a vegetarian meal. So I ordered duck and gave it to Derika. That’s OK! I planned ahead and can eat Kind Bars for the next 14 hours. No big deal, and besides plane food is not that great anyway.

So I look on the bright side, there are still free tasty beverages to look forward too, even if it does make me use the restroom 376 times! Derika is the only one sitting next to me, so I can have ALL of the cocktails! Bam! Just like that I am winning again, but not for long. If you are used to free-flowing alcohol on international flights, don’t expect it when you fly with Air China. You get one glass of wine or beer with dinner, and then the cart goes into hiding. I think that it is probably hanging out with my vegetarian meal. About 12-13 hours into our flight and about an hour before we land, they toss me exactly 6 slices of white bread without the crust. Each slice has one random cucumber or tomato slice in between each piece of bread. Maybe this is the vegetarian option (ignore the incredibly sleepy looking girl in the photo below, and just look at all that white bread)?

Dani with Sandwich

Of course we arrive to Beijing late, where we find out that we have missed our connecting flight. No problem, right? We will just catch the next flight or jump on a partner airline flight. Not so easy when Air China refuses to book us on a partner flight, and the next flight that they can get us on isn’t until 24 hours later. If you are noticing any sarcasm here, it is in fact happening and I highly highly encourage you to never fly with Air China.

Thankfully, I wore my Compression Pants on the long flight, so now I can look super FAST next to all of the oversized statues around the airport.

Compression Pants

Seriously though, these pants have been a game changer for me when I am flying. Not only do I look fast ALL of the time, I do not get cankles or puffy toes when I am traveling…Winning!

Fun China Tip #2…Enjoy a Local Beer.

Tsingtao

Beer makes everything better and it also helped us to get over the Golden Phoenix…the creepy hotel in the middle of nowhere that Air China booked us into. We grabbed a local beer and started to hash out an adventure plan while we waited in line for the keys to your room. Oh yeah, I almost forgot! If you were traveling alone, you were asked to share a room with a stranger or you had to pay for your crappy room…Wait, what!? I wish I were joking about this one, and thank god I was traveling with Derika. There were about 10 people stuck in Beijing with us, and a few were traveling by themselves. Air China actually asked them to room together!! Most of them refused, and most of them ended up paying for their own rooms at a crappy hotel in a city they had not originally planned on spending the night in!?

Fun China Tip #3…Navigate the Subway!

Subway Adventure

Since we only had 24 hours in Beijing we did not have much time to coordinate how we were going to navigate our adventure, so the subway was our best bet. We made a new friend on this adventure named Regina, who was also stranded in Beijing courtesy of Air China. So we invited her to come along with us on our Beijing adventure. To my surprise, the Beijing subway was pretty easy to navigate, especially if you can navigate the NYC subway. There were many sardine packed train rides and some comical moments when I could not figure out how to buy a ticket through their automated machines, but all in all we were able to navigate the subway like pros in no time.

Fun China Tip #4…Visit the Forbidden City!

But first you have to get through this line!

If you have an issue with people getting into your personal space, then this is not the place for you. Actually, I don’t think that you would like China at all. We quickly realized that personal space does not exist in China, and it will always feel like the person standing behind you is hitching a ride in your backpack. They also like to push and cut, and pretty much walk right through you. So hold onto your valuables and enjoy the ride!

Fun China Tip #5…Visit Tiananmen Square!

We originally wanted to go to The Great Wall, but we weren’t 100% confident that we could make it there and back in time to catch our new flight to Thailand. There was no way in hell that I was taking a risk and missing our next flight. So we headed to the heart of Beijing, where we could go shopping, grab lunch and visit a couple of touristy things. This is how we ended up at Tiananmen Square. It was pretty cool, if you ask me. The square was huge with some of the most amazing flower displays that I have ever seen. It was also a great place for people watching, and the perfect opportunity for the locals to snap secret photos of the blonde girl as she walked by.

Fun China Tip #6…Eat at a Local Restaurant!

I love checking out the local cuisine when we travel, so we decided to be adventurous and try a Hot Pot for lunch. A hot pot is basically a boiling vat of water that sits in the middle of your table simmering with spices. You then order sauces and whatever your little heart desires to boil in the pot. We got a bunch of meat and seafood for Derika and Regina, and a bunch of veggies and tofu for me. We ended up ordering our meal by just pointing at the photos on the menu like 3-year-olds. It was a neat experience, and the staff was super patient with us.

While you are waiting for your meal to arrive make sure you run to the bathroom, because public restrooms are few and far between.

Chinese Vending Machine

Don’t forget to bring your own toilet paper and hopefully you are not wearing pants. If you are, good luck keeping them dry!

Fun China Tip #7…Eat Some Fried Rice.

Fried Rice

Well, you are in China aren’t you? Of course we got to the airport early, due to our mad subway navigating skills. I could not spend 24 hours in China, and not test out how authentic Chinese fried rice compares to the one you can get in the US. So to be fair, I got this fried rice at the airport while I was waiting for our connecting flight. It was good, but not epic. To my surprise, there wasn’t much difference between this fried rice and the fried rice that you can get in the US. Which I guess is a good thing.

Before you hop on your flight to Thailand, stop off at one of the many vending machines to stock up for your flight. Just in case your vegetarian meal is hanging out with the MIA tasty beverage cart again.

Vending Machine

The vending machines in China are amazing! You can grab a beer, buy some soup and even grab a new shirt if yours is dirty! I wish the vending machines in the US would get on this bandwagon!

All kidding aside, we had a good time in China and we even made a new friend that lives in Florida; Derika’s home state…go figure! In fact, China was not anywhere near the top of our list for places to visit. So to get a random opportunity to run around China for 24 hours on a one day visa was a pretty cool experience.

Happy Traveling and Here’s to Making the Most of Random Travel Adventures!

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Somehow we managed to skip right over the holiday season, and it basically feels like January in NYC right now. No snow, just bitter cold with a wind that cuts right through you. No joke, I think that the windows in our teeny NYC apartment are made of tissue paper. On a regular day with the windows closed, I can actually hear people talking outside in the courtyard while I am sitting in my kitchen. Right now, as I sit here typing, I can hear the wind gently serenading me as it hums through our windows, lovely!

Ohhhhhhh Hi! I am just Miss Optimistic over hear in this corner. If winter is just getting started and it is this cold in November, then I know that this winter is going to be awesomely frigid! I expect it to be worst than last winter, and I don’t even know how that is even possible! So to try to prevent myself from running around our apartment in my unicorn onesie all winter (see onesie below), I have finally broken down and ordered a space heater to help compensate for the paper-thin windows.

Unicorn Outfit

While I am waiting for the heater to arrive, I thought that it would button up my unicorn onesie and test drive some soup ideas that have been bouncing around my head.

It is squash season here and the markets are loaded with them. I was shocked by how cheap they are, nothing it cheap in NYC. As I was admiring all of the pretty squashes and their super cheap price tags, I realized that I have never made a butternut squash soup…how is that even possible!? I have no idea. So I scooped up one, roasted the heck out of it and made a Thai inspired savory butternut squash soup. I prefer savory to sweet, and even after being in Thailand for 2 weeks; I still can’t get enough curry. So I got my inspiration for this soup from my Thailand trip, I added a bucket of garlic and ginger to keep Derika and I healthy, and this is the magicness that came up with…Yay, Soup!

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Ingredients

  • 1 Butternut Squash, roasted
  • 1 Tsp. Ghee
  • 1 Small Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 3 Tsp. Red Curry Paste
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tsp. Fresh Ginger, minced
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Broth
  • 2 Tsp. Honey
  • 1 Can Light Coconut Milk
  • 1/4 Tsp. Truffle Salt, or salt of choice
  • Chopped Cilantro, for serving
  • Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds, for serving

Directions

  1. Roast your butternut squash; you can do this ahead of time.
  2. Add ghee to a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes, so they are cooked but not brown.
  3. Add red curry paste, garlic and ginger. Stir constantly for 1 minute.
  4. Add the vegetable broth, honey, coconut milk and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer 5-7 minutes.

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5. Place the roasted squash flesh in a blender. I used my Vitamix (add only half at a time if your blender is smaller).

6. Pour mixture from soup pot into the blender with squash. Blend until smooth.

7. Pour the blended mixture back into the soup pot.

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8. Taste and adjust the salt. Heat to a simmer on medium heat, stir to prevent burning. At this point it will play with your eyes and look like a big vat of queso. Mmmmmmm…cheeese!

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  1. Simmer for 10 minutes to meld everything together.
  2. Serve in bowls with chopped cilantro, some roasted butternut squash seeds, and a lime on the side if you are feeling sassy.

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Stay Warm!

How to Roast a Butternut Squash with Text

I was walking home from yoga the other day and I noticed a huge crate in front of the grocery store filled with squash for only $.68 a pound! I think that this is currently the most affordable thing in NYC! At that point I also realized that I have never cooked with butternut squash, so I scooped one up and decided to make some soup with it. I roasted it similarly to the way that I would roast a spaghetti squash and it turned out like a dream. I whipped up an amazing butternut squash soup, that will be making an appearance on the blog soon.

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But for now I thought that I would post this quick recipe, since I plan on making a bunch of other things with this lovely squash.

Ingredients

  • 1 Butternut Squash
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil or Grapeseed Oil

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Carefully cut the ends off of the butternut squash, and then cut it in half lengthwise.

3. Scoop out the seeds and set aside, so that you can roast them later.

4. Brush the olive oil on the cut side of the squash. You don’t have to be too careful here: just slather and it is ready.

5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the squash oil side down on the parchment paper.

Halved Squash

6. Roast for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until a fork punctures the flesh of the squash easily.

7. Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool.

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8. Once you are able handle the squash, scoop the squash out of its skin and into a bowl.

9. It is now ready to be added to any butternut squash recipe that your little heart desires.

Happy Roasting!