Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February Recap & Gratitude

Can you believe that its the end of February?  I can't believe how fast 2013 is flying by.  February has been busy for me, yet I've felt bored and uninspired.  How does that work?  Mixed emotions I tell you.  As a pick me up to myself, I've decided to list some things that I'm feeling especially grateful for this month.

Being involved in lots of activities.  I take 2 yoga classes a week and I'm also enrolled in a salsa class, since "learning how to dance" was my new years resolution for 2013.  This Saturday is the last class, and if I don't enroll in more than Belly Dancing class (really!) is looking up..

My health and feeling strong.  I don't exactly feel fit all the time, but I'm proud of all the running fiancé and I have been doing and I'm so happy to be feeling "ready" for our half marathon next month!

Holidays and celebrations.  Today is Independence Day in the Dominican Republic which means no work!  This month there was Valentines Day and 2 birthdays in A's family.  Speaking of which, I'm also grateful for this homemade strawberry cake from a few weeks back.

Beautiful, natural scenery.  I was in awe when I saw these two colorful trees pop up out of nowhere on our hike last weekend.  I've never seen flowers like these before!  Although I often feel frustrated within the chaotic, congested city of Santo Domingo, leaving the city makes me feel fortunate that I live where I live - many people spend their whole lives without ever seeing a beach like this one, which is often times a casual Saturday for me!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Weekend in the Mountains

On Friday night, A's younger sister (the one who got married), her husband, A, and I spontaneously decided to spend the weekend in Jarabacoa, repeating nearly our exact same weekend trip that we had last year.  So on Saturday morning we packed up all our stuff and headed out to the mountains, a little under 2 hours away. 

Morning view
Local sweet potato & coco ice cream
It wasn't nearly as cold as it was last year; the days were hot, but we had to sleep in all the layers we could find to keep warm through the night.  Since we are used to heat and humidity, we nearly froze!  The sound of the rushing river nearby helped me fall asleep, but I didn't sleep for long because of the early rising roosters just a few feet from us.

With questionable plumbing in our little house, we took baths in the river.  We barbecued, listened to music, played Phase 10, and generally relaxed.  We breathed in fresh air and looked at the stars.  Getting out of Santo Domingo always makes me appreciate the beauty of the Dominican Republic a little bit more.


I'm lucky to live in such a beautiful place.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Valentine's Day, a Week and a Day Later

Just like our very first Valentine's Day together, we celebrated with Italian for dinner.  
This was what our night looked like. 

La Scarpetta; my favorite Italian place in town.  I feel like its a secret of ours because its cozy, truly authentic, and not very well known, but very delicious.

Our appetizer.  Served with warm bread.

My Valentine.

His dish: Pesto covered fish & potatoes.

Me..  Not looking very glamorous.  Eeek.

The dessert that I STILL can't stop daydreaming about,
A simple mascarpone pudding with strawberries.

Hope your day was just as sweet.
I'm totally cheesy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Liebster Blog Award

Casey from the True Colours blog nominated me for this award ( thanks! :) ).  Since most of the blogs I follow have more than 200 followers, I'm breaking the rules by not passing it along, buuut I thought it would be a fun little survey to complete anyway (and a nice way to fill my afternoon in the office where I'm pretending to work.. ;)

11 things about myself: 
1. I am not a morning person at all and I love/need/want at least 8 hours of sleep a night!

2. I could live off cheese, wine, and dark chocolate.

3. I'm happiest when traveling to a new place.

Spontaneous day trip to Tossa de Mar, Spain
4. Routine bores me and I love spontaneity.

5. My current addiction?  INSTAGRAM!

6. I speak English and Spanish.  I fluently understand Greek but never speak it.

7. I love the sun and have always wanted to live on a yacht in the middle of the ocean.  A girl can dream, right?

Compression socks: My best friends
8. Yesterday I hit my personal record for distance running: 10 miles!  I'm planning to run my first half marathon this April.

9. I'm dying to visit South America.

10. I'm terrified of jellyfish; I once did a snorkeling excursion in Mexico and never got off the boat because of a jellyfish warning.

11. Last but definitely not least..  I'm engaged!!

Questions from Casey: 
1. If I could be anything, what would I be? 
Some sort of behind the scenes worker for a travel show or a food critic, so that I could be paid to do the things I love - traveling and trying new foods :D

2. If I could live anywhere, where would it be? 
Barcelona or San Francisco.  I have a thing for big, lively coastal cities.

World cup, Barcelona 2010
3. Where was I born? 
Libertyville, IL (about 45 minutes north of Chicago)

4. What is one of my hobbies? 
"Beachy" reads (AKA chic lit).  Check out my GoodReads profile here.

5. What is my favorite season?
Late spring/early summer

6. Why do I blog? 
To have a journal filled with memories and pictures to look back upon in years to come.

7. Where is my favorite place that I've been? 
Morocco, probably because I have never been to any place quite like it.

8. What is one major goal I have for myself this year? 
My new years resolution was to learn how to dance, so I'm currently enrolled in a month's worth of salsa lessons.

9. Is there one thing I wish I had done as a kid that I never did? 
Break more rules.

10. What is my favorite month of the year? 
May; my birthday month.

11: What is the most important thing you hope to accomplish in my lifetime? 
Tough question, Casey!..  To find work in something I'm passionate about, to never stop learning, and to grow a family.

12. In one word, what word best describes who I am? 

Thanks for the nomination, Casey!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My First Trail Run

Early morning drive outside the city
I've been running "seriously" for about a year now, and can you believe that I've never, EVER, ran on a trail?!  Where we live {a-hem, 3rd world country} there aren't any trails that are considering safe enough, so our runs are always on asphalt.  After hearing about an organized trail run just outside Santo Domingo, we signed up right away.


Named the "Endurance" run, it offered 2 distances: 7km and 16km.  We can currently do about 16km since we're training for a half marathon, but we were told that both distances would feel much, much longer, as there would be strenuous hills and lots of mud.  We did the 7km (4.35 miles) and boy was I sure we chose that one!

We ran up and down steep hills and through lots and lots of muck, and we even crossed a river twice!  I saw some people remove their shoes to run across it, but I ran straight through; the water reaching my shins.

Post Race
Running the trail was a bit tedious and stressful, as I felt like I always had to be looking down to avoid an ankle sprain, but at the same time it was exciting and invigorating to run at full speed through a new setting.  The quick changes in scenery prevented the run from ever feeling monotonous; I loved it!

One of my favorite metals so far!
Fiancé and his big sis
When we crossed the finish line we were handed Miller64 (a race sponsor), so I guzzled that instead of water (probably not the smartest thing to do!).  Besides the beer, we had bananas, coconut ice cream bars, Goldfish, rice, and I decided to give my free hot dog to my new friend, this guy:

Looking at our results online I realized that I made excellent time, finishing in the top third of the racers!  I can't wait to do another one.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Saturday of Sun & Salsa {the Dancing Kind}

I feel blessed on this dreary Monday for having spent a good portion of the weekend outside!  On Saturday, fiancé and I headed to Boca Chica beach, the closest beach town to the capital, about 30 minutes from where we live.  We arrived early, around 11 AM, and the beach was full of Europeaners!  Who knew February was the time to travel to the DR?!

Happily soaking in some Vitamin D!
These are some pictures I took with my iPhone.  I was trying to explain to A that the water just looked so "juicy" to me, so tempting..  It makes me want to just jump right in!  The look on his face told me he simply did not get it.  Clearly this Caribbean boy does not appreciate where he comes from. ;)

On Saturday night, A & I took our first salsa class.  I am not a dancer, not a dancer AT ALL, but it was my new years resolution to learn how to dance "Dominican," so when his sister told me about the offer on a local version of Groupon, I signed us both up.  He, of course, already knows how to dance, but I was a wuss and didn't want to do it alone!  

I was dreading it the whole day.  I was not ready to watch myself dance in front of a mirror and other people, but miraculously I did not fail!  I left feeling so proud that I wasn't the worst person in the class!  Hehehe.  I'll probably have "Uno, dos tres..  Cinco, seis, siete.." stuck in my head until our class next Saturday.  I'm so happy that I finally pushed myself into learning.  It seems like it will actually be fun when I know what I'm doing!

Post-Salsa Dinner

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Diet & Weight Loss on a Tropical Island

Chicago-style pizza at Due's
Where I live is something that has always majorly affected my diet.  When I lived in Chicago, I would eat out all the time (Chicago has great restaurants with even greater portions), but I also bought organic items at Whole Foods and would attempt to offset my eating out with low fat or sugar free "snack" foods - AKA "food" filled with tons of chemicals.

Spain: where beer is cheaper than water
Living in Barcelona for two years, I didn't eat more per say, but my diet became richer with denser, high calorie foods.  Tapas of jamon & manchego cheese, yummy patatas bravas with a spicy mayo sauce, gelato in the street, sangria pitchers, and sharing delicious bottles of 4 euro wine with myself was probably not the best for my waistline, but who could resist!?  I did walk A LOT though, which I feel prevented me from gaining even more extra pounds.

Afternoon cava with friends
One thing I love about being in the Dominican Republic now is my diet.  My fiancé and I do not eat Dominican food very often, but we incorporate a lot of the staple ingredients into our meals.  For example, instead of having rice & beans as a heavy side dish each day, we buy brown rice and eat beans as protein in salads.  Here, stocking up on fruits and vegetables is much cheaper than stocking up on packaged and canned goods, so healthy, clean eating actually costs less than eating junk!  This is one of the ways I wish that the US was more like the DR!

See my "country" eating post here
When I first moved here I avoided drinking fruit juice and eating more than one piece of fruit a day, because I was afraid of the sugar.  Now I think, was I crazy?!  Had I been so brainwashed in the US to believe that too much fruit would make me fat?!  I have slowly let go of this misconception, and as a result of eating less "healthy" packaged goods and replacing them with LOTS of fruits and vegetables (sugar and all), I have lost 13 pounds!  Coming from someone who has PCOS, and had been unable to change her body's "set weight" for 10 whole years, this is huge for me!  Yes, its been very gradual (over the course of an entire year), but I'm a believer in slow and steady wins the race.

Last Sunday's ice-cream
I am a total foodie and I love sweets; anyone who follows me on Instagram knows how much I love to eat!  I never count my calories, I still indulge, I sometimes order pasta when eating out, and I eat ice cream, but I eat more fruits and veggies than ever before.

Its true what they say - eating more plant based foods works best when trying to maintain a healthy weight.  Of course, exercising also helps, but thats for another post. ;)

Sipping on a fresh coconut in the car