Wednesday, July 31, 2013

San Pedro Beach

Ambergris Caye beaches aren't really anything to rave about. Most hotels and restaurants along the beach are built quite close to the water so you only have a 20 foot width of sand on which to lay your towel and catch some sun. The water is clean and beautiful but there's a lot of seagrass, which I'm not a huge fan of, because the barrier reef makes the waters calm enough for it to grow.

However, the water is v. warm, which is lovely, and our neighboring hotel, Ramon's, had a little circle buoyed where there was no seagrass which made for a lovely swim spot.

Our hotel actually had sand all around its grounds so it felt like a private beach, which was lovely when we wanted to tan in peace and quiet. There are a lot of vendors that walk around the beach trying to sell you stuff, so we appreciated the privacy.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ambergris Caye Supermarkets

Before heading to Belize, I did a bit of detective work trying to figure out if there were any grocery stores near our hotel. It was difficult because Google Maps doesn't have too many San Pedro businesses marked up so I had to rely on forums and hotel reviews.

Luckily, there are markets sprinkled throughout town so you're bound to be near at least one. We went to five markets while in San Pedro and I'll let you know which ones I preferred. Here's a map for reference:

I didn't take a photo of the first market we went to, Save On, so I'm just showing you what some Belize money looks like. Save On is located across from the Tropic Air terminal. It's a tiny convenience store-sized grocery that has all of the basics for a reasonable price. However, the thing that turned me off were the sheer number of flies swarming around the un-refrigerated produce section as well as the spoiled fruits and vegetables in dirty bins. I had to rifle through a pile of onions to find one that wasn't damaged or rotting. By the end of the week I was less princess-y about flies but my visit to Save On took place just 30 minutes after landing in San Pedro and I had just flown in from America, the land where people are spoiled and where we take things for granted.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Girly Post: Beauty in Belize

Traveling definitely takes a toll on your skin. For our trip to Belize, I was prepared with two different face masks to nurture our skin.

This first one is made by 'When' and it's one specifically meant to pamper your skin whenever you travel. I bought mine from Sephora on sale for $20 but normally, it's $28 for four masks. A little bit pricey, but this mask definitely works. It's a sheet mask that you leave on for 30 minutes and it plumps and hydrates your skin, which is something you need after hours spent in the dry air of a plane. I quite liked these masks, though the price point makes it a 'splurge' item and not a necessity.
This second mask is much more affordable ($2). It's a chocolate mask that smells amazing and also hydrates your skin. They look ridiculous, as you can see in the photo below, but it works well and makes your skin feel great. We got two uses (each) out of this small packet, so it's really worth your money.
I definitely recommend treating yourself to some beauty regimens when you're on vacation. Pampering myself is part of my holiday relaxation requirement and it should be part of yours too.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DIY Floral Headband

You might've already seen this headband in my biking post. I wore it in Belize and I promised I would share the DIY (even though no one asked for it) so here it is, complete with unnecessary backstory and a few narcissistic photos.
Months ago, I saw a floral headband with giant poppies from Topshop (sold out now so I can't link to it) and I wanted it so badly but I couldn't justify the $40 price tag. So, what did I do? I did what I always do - I decided to make one. It took me a while to actually make it because I had a hard time finding the right faux flowers to use. I visited a few stores but couldn't find ones that looked great but also fit my budget because believe it or not, faux flowers can be quite expensive - especially the well-made silk ones.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Biking Ambergris Caye Part 1

Our first full day on the island, we didn't have anything planned so we decided to borrow bikes from our hotel and just explore the town. I always like to spend the first day in a location getting to know the neighborhood surrounding my hotel and seeking out cool stores and yummy-looking restaurants. And, because it was an amazingly beautiful day, we quite enjoyed the experience.

Here's my baby sister with her purple bike. She packed water bottles for us (which are hidden in that fish-print tote bag)
Here's a shot of a bunch of golf carts in town. I love how festive the street looks with the square bunting.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Palms Oceanfront Suites

We stayed at The Palms Oceanfront Suites in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. When I was actually booking this trip, I did quite a bit of research to make sure we were staying at a decent place. And I chose The Palms for a few reasons: price, ratings, and location. It's located close to the main part of San Pedro Town and it's a 3 minute walk from the airport. It's a condo-style hotel with fully equipped kitchens and in the low season, it's about $150 per night. It's clean, well-maintained, and the staff is amazing. And if you pop over to Trip Advisor you'll see that it has great reviews.

So first, here's a shot of the hotel from the beach side. We were in the unit on the ground floor (#14), which I loved because it was easy access to the beach.
We stayed in a two-bedroom unit; one room had two twin beds and one room had a giant king-size bed. Each bedroom had its own air conditioning unit and television.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Maya Island Air BZE to SPR

To get from Belize mainland to Ambergris Caye, we took Maya Island Air. It was an amazing experience because the plane was so small and the views were spectacular. It was a bit more expensive than going by ferry but it was less time consuming and more convenient and that made it worthwhile for me. The ferry is only cheaper if you think your time isn't worth anything.

When we landed at Philip Goldson International (Airport Code: BZE) we first had to go through immigration, where we they were blasting some reggaeton music while verifying our passports. Then we grabbed our bags (we checked a cooler full of sunscreen and bugspray) and then waited in a queue to hand in our customs forms. FYI, we did bring some food with us, but it was all packaged dry goods (like nori - a.k.a. seaweed, breakfast bars, ramen). We didn't bring any fresh fruit or meat.

Once we got out to the main part of the airport, we checked in at the Maya Island Air desk. I had to show them my printed confirmation form and then they gave us our boarding passes. We had to check our larger bags - anything that can't fit on your lap - and then we waited to go through security.
The boarding passes were just forms that were filled out by hand. They stapled all three of our passes along with our baggage claim tickets to a little envelope so that we wouldn't lose anything. Once we got through security, we had to check in at our gate where they snipped off the bottoms of our boarding passes.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Plane Snacks (Belize)

I used to love Continental Airlines. They always gave out free food (snacks for shorter flights, full meals for longer flights) and the on flight entertainment was free too. But, since their merger with United, now we have to pay for food and movies. This just means I bring my iPad and make my own snacks instead of spending money on mediocre food and lame movies.

For our trip to Belize, we made kimbap (Korean-style sushi rolls without the raw fish). It's basically the perfect snack because it's cut into bite-sized pieces, it travels well, and it's healthy and customizable. You can use ingredients you like; we used carrots, cucumbers, pickled radish, spam, and egg.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Packing 101 (Belize)

Organizing the photos from my Belize trip has been a lot of work; and I'm still not done! It's also a bit of work figuring out how I want to organize my blog posts but I thought I'd start with something easy: photos of how we packed our luggage.

My technique is to roll everything up. Obviously smaller items, like swimwear, can just be folded as best as you can, but seriously, roll what you can. Rolling your clothes is so much more space efficient and it also helps to minimize wrinkling.
Here's what our shared luggage looked like after all of our clothes were packed. There were over 50 pieces in our bag - impressive, no? Keep in mind that this is a roller carry-on that fits in the overhead luggage compartment with no problems. Are you impressed now? We put the non-squishy items (e.g. shoes and snorkels) on top of everything else.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mo Money, Mo Problems

Recently, a friend asked me, "How the heck can you afford to take a million vacations?" I was a little put off by the question because I haven't been on "a million" vacations. I think I take a normal amount of vacation time and if anything, it feels like not enough. And I didn't know if this friend was looking for some magical answer like, "Oh, I won the lottery, didn't I tell you?" or "I'm friends with Jay-Z and he lets me use his private jet" because of the way he phrased the question. However, my initial "WTF" response blossomed into a conversation and I thought it would be somewhat relevant to put the information up on my blog.
  1. I earn money. Seriously, this is the dumbest and most obvious response but there are a few people in my life who still have yet to get their sh-tuff together and all they do is play Candy Crush on their phones all day, everyday and complain about the economy. I have a job which means there's a steady inflow of money into my bank account that I earn. I use some of that money to pay bills, some of it to buy groceries, a bit of it goes into my 401K, some of it pays for my health insurance, a little goes towards feeding and grooming my dog, a bunch goes into my savings account, and then the rest goes towards leisure, e.g. vacations, clothes, fun electronics, trashy magazines, etc. It's that simple, at least in my world. I earn money and I spend money though I won't spend more than I have (#1 rule). I don't have a trust fund; my parents came to America before I was born to give their children "a better life" and I've taken that opportunity to do well in school, go to college and graduate, and earn a steady living as an engineer (which is a nice and sensible job).
    {a big red education}
  2. I prioritize travel. I've wanted a Chanel bag since I was a tween but I still don't own one. Why? Because in the case of overpriced fashion-related material possessions vs. life experiences, I choose the latter. Last year, I went to Hawaii, Istanbul, Turks & Caicos, and Puerto Rico instead of buying myself a Chanel bag and I stand by that decision. So far this year, I've only taken one trip (which I'll be sharing soon) and Belize was so affordable that I didn't even use half of the spending money I'd allotted for myself. The money I saved will go towards another trip.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

George Michael's Haircut

So it's been three days since I got back from Belize. I'm still editing photos and organizing my thoughts into coherent blog posts (yes, it takes me that much effort to produce content for this blog) so I thought in the meantime, I'd share some photos of my dog being himself after a morning spent at the groomer's. Plus, I'm still suffering from post holiday blues and nothing cheers me up like my dog.
{hanging out in my room}
{yes, that's a yoga ball next to my closet}

Monday, July 08, 2013

Alstede Farms

If you follow my food blog, you might've seen that I went strawberry picking a few weekends ago. Well, I'm back from Belize and since I have a nasty case of the post holiday blues, I thought I'd share some photos of the animals we saw that day. You know, to lift my spirits.
{baa ram ewe}
{ducks and geese}
{cute little goat, smiling for the camera}
{how pretty and sleek does his goatee hair look? I need to find out what shampoo he uses}
{baby goats!}
{look at their tiny little horns. I thought their horns looked kind of like turnips}
{cow eating a carrot}
{baby goat hiding out}
{someone fed the goat a carrot and this hungry cow was chasing him all around}
{a brown spotty goat}
{snapped the camera just when this goat was bleating}
{brown spotty goat from another angle}
{little sister letting the black goat sniff her hand}
{I'm proud as a peacork, baby!}
[[Quick! Name that TV show!]]
{hideous turkeys}
{I hate the texture of their pink heads}
{I spy, with my little eye, a goat sitting on some rocks}
{this grandpa goat needed shade and rightly so, as it was a hot hot hot day}
I love animals! Though, I should clarify and say that I don't necessarily want to interact with them and invite them to my house but I care about their well-being. That being said, I love goats and I do want to interact with them and invite them to my house. I'd love to have some as pets! They're quite social and they supposedly get along with dogs so that's perfect in my eyes.

Anyway, when's the last time you went and saw cool animals? I say you plan a trip to a farm or a zoo ASAP. It's fun and it will make you feel like a kid again.


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Highline Park

Happy Independence Day! I'm still in Belize so this is a pre-scheduled post.

A couple weekends ago, I spent the afternoon in the city with my sister. We ate at an amazing restaurant, Scarpetta and got cupcakes at Molly's Cupcakes and then we went to The High Line. The High Line, if you don't know, is a park that's built on an old above-ground railroad. You can read more about it on their official website.
{here we are being silly on the train into the city}

Monday, July 01, 2013

Sunscreen 101

Greetings from Belize! Actually, at the moment, I'm still in the States because this is a pre-scheduled post but on the day that this post goes live, I'll be in Belize.

I thought that because it's summer and because I'm on a tropical getaway, it would be prudent to do a post about sunscreen and skincare. My skin is actually quite sensitive to the sun; I sunburn rather easily and if I am in extreme sunlight (re: outside in the summer sun) without any SPF protection, my skin breaks out into a rash, which I've self-diagnosed as photoallergy (thanks, WebMD for turning everyday people into medical experts and hypochondriacs). So, that is a huge motivation for me to slather on SPF, even in the autumn and winter months, as UV light still affects your skin in the falling leaves and the snow.

Let's start with the basics: what is SPF? You'd think that the higher the SPF, the more sun protection you're receiving, but that's not exactly true. It has more to do with time. Sun Protection Factor is a number that tells you the amount of UV radiation it would take to sunburn your skin with sunscreen vs. without sunscreen. Wait, what?

I'll give you an example to make it a bit easier to understand: let's say Jane's skin burns within 5 minutes of being in the sun without sunscreen. If Jane uses a sunscreen with SPF 30, she'd theoretically be able to stay out in the sun for 150 minutes before her skin starts to burn. If Jane uses an SPF 45 lotion, she'd theoretically be able to stay out in the sun for 225 minutes before she burns. Does that make sense? Knowing this, you can glean that two different people using the same SPF protection may experience sunburn at different times, depending on the "resilience" of their skin. Also, layering sunscreens won't necessarily up the SPF factor, e.g. slathering yourself in two layers of SPF 30 won't give you SPF 60 protection; it just doesn't work that way; there isn't any sunscreen out there that will offer 100% protection against UVB rays. SPF 15 offers about 94%, SPF 30 offers about 97%, SPF 45 offers about 98%, etc. The difference between the protection that SPF 55 provides and that 100+ provides is minimal.

The Rules:
  • Use a sunscreen that blocks against UVA and UVB rays with a minimum of SPF 30. If you want to go with something higher, like SPF 100+ (which I often do just for mental pleasure), that's your call.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you head out into the sun and apply generously. I like to use around 2 tablespoons for my body - 1 tbsp for torso and 1 tbsp for legs - and 1/2 a teaspoon for my face. And don't forget to get your feet, ears, back of the neck, and even your "bathing suit area," as you can still burn through your suit. And don't forget your lips! Get a lip balm with SPF and coat those lips.
  • Reapply! It's really important to reapply your sunscreen throughout the day, especially if you are doing water sports or an activity where you are sweating. A conservative rule of thumb: take your SPF #, divide it by two, and reapply your sunscreen after that many minutes. So if you're wearing SPF 40, you should reapply your sunscreen every 20 minutes. At the very least, reapply your sunscreen every 90 minutes.
  • If you plan on wearing makeup, use sunscreen prior to using foundation. You want the SPF to be right on your skin, not on top of your makeup.
  • Check the expiration date on your sunscreen because the active ingredients do lose their potency, especially when exposed to high temperatures (which often happens with bottles of sunscreen that are taken to the beach and left in the hot sand). However, it's my firm belief that you should be applying and reapplying generously so you shouldn't really have too many leftover bottles from year to year.
Here are some of my favorite products:
SPF 101

Hawaiian Tropic makes a great sunscreen for tanners. It's super moisturizing and smells really delicious. It also has swirls of bronzing lotion in it so you look tan even before you start sunning.

Neutrogena's Ultra Sheer Mist sunscreen is one of my favorites for active days. It's easy to apply, dries quickly, and doesn't feel sticky.

For my face, I prefer a whole separate product. Neutrogena has a dry-touch non-comedogenic (i.e. doesn't clog pores) sunscreen meant specifically for the face. It's smooth, unscented, and doesn't break me out.

After baking in the sun, I like to use some sort of after sun lotion with aloe. Hawaiian Tropic makes an awesome after sun lotion that smells like papaya and really soothes the skin and restores a lot of the moisture that was lost during the day outside spent in the sun.

If you're not really a lotion person, pure aloe is a perfect product. Aloe is really moisturizing, which is great for your skin in general and especially after a long day outdoors. And if you happened to get a bit of sunburn, aloe will help to heal it quicker.

A cool water spray also feels amazing on sun-baked skin. Usually, I like to take a cool shower after I've sunbathed just to stop the "cooking" process but if I can't shower for a while, I like to use Evian's Mineral Water Spray as a quick (and temporary) substitute.

For everyday use, like if I'm just headed to work or running errands, I just use this Aveeno moisturizer with SPF. It goes on nicely, like a regular lotion, and doesn't have that sunscreen-ish smell.

And, an honorable mention for the shades, cover up, and hat for some extra sun protection. Hats and sunglasses are especially useful since, unless you are bald, it's hard to get sunscreen on your scalp and of course, you can't slather sunscreen on your eyes either. Choose a pair of shades with polarized lenses that offer UV protection.

All year long, don't forget to protect your skin against sunburn, sun damage, skin cancer, wrinkles, sunspots, and all that terrible jazz.

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