In and Out of Canada {Take 2}

Another year, another jaunt to Canada for the weekend.

Toronto, Canada. The land in which I undoubtedly consume an inordinate amount of carbohydrates and sodium. But goodness gracious, how can you say no to the fried rice and crispy noodles?

The food wasn’t nearly as important as the occasion and the company of course. My family took a little trek to Toronto this weekend to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th anniversary! How beautiful, eh? (← had to)

Friday

Early wakeup to leave the house at 6AM! I definitely should not have stayed up until midnight to watch gymnastics/procrastinated laundry the night before. But Simone and Aly were worth it.

Nectarine banana overnight oats as per travel tradition.

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I was also nearly half deaf on Friday because my right ear has issues (I was born with two ear holes instead of one in that ear), so I’m prone to infection and having too much stuff in my ear. One of the more gross facts that you didn’t need to know about me. But not being able to hear that well out of even one ear really made me appreciate the gift of hearing!

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some morning double rainbow action

Madre had been up in Toronto since Tuesday, since she was the executive party planner. Pop, Ben and I took Friday off of work to drive up, and it took wayyyy too long. A road trip that usually takes 9 hours took almost 12 hours. But we made it safe and sound, which matters most.

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Salad dipped in guac. All I can hear is Rachel saying to me, “Be better. Or at least be less weird.”

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so much of this

We rolled into our cousins’ place at around 6pm. We were staying with the fit family again 🙂 Obviously that meant doing handstands and cartwheels in the basement with my cousin Amy upon arrival.

My family took off again soon after for dinner with other relatives at Congee Queen.

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congee = rice porridge with lots of good stuff inside

Pro: it’s cheap, delicious food. Con: it’s cheap, delicious food.

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best fried rice ever with [fake] crab, roe, and eel!

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I am positive that I ate more at this dinner than I do at Thanksgiving.

Back at home, I showered, and my cousin and I stretched while watching the Olympics with our parents. Only at their house can I enjoy a big stretching mat and foam rollers in front of the television!

Saturday

I slept in until 8ish and headed to the basement to warmup and do Jen’s 1000 Rep Workout.

My legs were insanely tight from sitting all day Friday, so this workout was great for loosening them up, but I could feel that there was lots of lactic acid in my body (not soreness but all around fatigue/tightness/heaviness). All I wanted was to foam roll and drink water until the cows came home.

After showering (and getting my right ear to hear again!), I helped Amy make avocado egg toast for her and her dad. She saw on my blog that I ate it once 25793 times before and bought the ingredients to make it while I was visiting.

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I’m always a proponent of spreading the avo-egg toast love, and I’m happy that they love it!

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For myself, I ate some quick banana oatmeal with protein powder and almond butter.

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While Madre, Pop and Ben were setting up the hall for the anniversary party the next day, I got to hang out with Amy. We played “Just Dance” and a Mario Party “board game” on the Wii after breakfast.

Working out + Just Dance made me pretty hungry again in no time. I ate leftovers for lunch with my cousin’s family before they left for Kung Fu practice (NBD). As for me, I laid horizontally on their couch (I had a stomachache for a bit), foam rolled, and caught up on blogs and reading.

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I did some handstands too. Amy believed that I could do a one-armed handstand facing the wall (after seeing my failure last week), and I could! The power of encouragement, man.

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When my family got back home, we headed to 5pm Mass. This parish we visited had the most beautiful-sounding music ministry. I cried.

Then for my favorite meal of the trip at my favorite restaurant in Toronto— Ten Ren’s Tea House! Everything here is cooked with tea, and they obviously sell a million kinds of tea beverages.

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p.s. More often than not in Toronto, we share everything family style. #justAsianthings

I actually skipped a tea beverage this time because I wanted a tea dessert, and I’m not really a dessert-sharer, so…. I ordered a green tea soft serve in a waffle cone for myself, which was fantastic.

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I also had a couple bites of “brick toast” for the first time ever. It’s what it sounds like— toast the size of a brick that’s caramelized and topped with something yummy. Our table shared a sweet milk custard one and a peanut butter (!) one.

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We’re pretty sure it was natural peanut butter because LOOK AT THE WAY IT MELTS. It also wasn’t too sweet. The sweet milk custard one was even better though, honestly. Imagine creme brûlée on top of toast….Yeah.

I also had a few bites of this snow ice dessert.

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It’s shaved ice topped with coconut milk and four toppings. We got tapioca, taro, lychee jelly, and red beans. Tasty and refreshing!

I think the rest of the night involved more stretching and Just Dance. We didn’t throw knives this time around, darn it.

Sunday

The big day! My family headed to the hall to prep for the anniversary party all morning.

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Sidenote: I was tweezing my brows in the car (I was NOT driving) on the way to the hall, which I do not recommend for effectiveness, accuracy, or safety.

We did some rehearsing, some decorating, and LOTS of food scooping into trays. As we were transferring all the food (that Congee Queen catered) into smaller trays, all I could think was, “these noodles are perpetual…this fried rice could feed an army and a half…this is all the General Tso’s chicken in Canada.”

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Needless to say, many people had many meals to take home at the end of the party.

There were several heartfelt speeches, many songs, lots of laughs, a couple baby screams, and almost three hundred people celebrating my grandparents’ inspiring 50 years of marriage. I sang “La Vie en Rose” for them with my brother accompanying on the piano!

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DSC_2657Pop and his bros singing + Ben on the keys + pad thai 
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twins!

I wore spiky, pointy-toed heels for 3 minutes before calling it quits and switching to sandals.

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So many people worked very hard to plan, set up, and attend this celebration. Special shoutout to my mom and her family and friends, who were indispensable contributors to the setup and cleanup of the party. They’re amazing! Everyone on both sides of the family who helped and came out to the celebration are just remarkable.

Cheers to everyone and to my Mah Mah and Yeh Yeh!

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We were utterly exhausted after running around all day. To think that Pop, Ben and I had originally planned on driving home to New York overnight immediately after the party makes me want to die inside. Thank God we were all able to get Monday off work.

I did go on a walk with my cousin, aunt and uncle after dinner because the weather outside was perfect and the sky looked like cotton candy!

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homemade jello made by Amy, naturally sweetened with honey and lemon — so refreshing!

But after watching the 100m men’s track final at night, I went to bed at 10 and passed. out.

Monday

Pop took one of our cars to go back home early with his aunt, and the rest of us slept in a little bit before we hit the road with our other car. I ate some breakfast cookie dough cereal before saying goodbyes, and then we were off!

First though, some road trip snacks from the Asian supermarket.

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cart-basket contraption

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“meat floss” seems neither appealing nor helpful in any way

Lunch on the road:

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pork bun

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cold Taiwanese noodles

Also, we bought ketchup chips in unhealthy and healthier form.

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A Canada classic that makes ketchup lovers rejoice and ketchup haters question humanity.

The trip home was a lot better than the trip to Toronto, thankfully. We even got some good views of Niagara Falls at the border!

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Our last hurrah was dinner at a Japanese restaurant with my dad’s aunt. I shared an eel avocado roll with my mom and ordered steamed chicken and vegetables with brown rice for myself. I was honestly craving as little salt and oil as possible. I love those two things, but Toronto serves it on a whole ‘nother level.

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It was a fun mini vacation with my beloved family, but I’m excited to go back to work and not have as much acne on my face 😀

So tell me:

What did you do this weekend?

Have you ever tried brick toast or Taiwanese snow ice?

How has someone encouraged you recently? 

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Thoughts On “Getting Back On Track” After Vacation

It’s only been a week since we got back home from vacation, and we’ve gone through two bunches of bananas already.

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I didn’t ask a question, but thanks for the answer anyway, Madre 🙂

Last week was as great a week of work as any could have been after vacation. I am so grateful for wonderful coworkers and mentors who make my job so enjoyable.

Let’s talk about “getting back on track” after a vacation.

After having three (or five) course meals for dinner every night on the cruise and heavier-than-normal breakfasts every morning, I was looking forward to a little bit of a break from endless food (although, I definitely chose to indulge in more food on the cruise). You could say that I was looking forward to “getting back on track”.

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my first meal back at home was classic avocado egg toast

But when I think of “getting back on track”, the first things that I’m tempted to do are:

  • Cut out all desserts for the next month.
  • Eat “clean” (whatever the heck that means) 100% of the time for the next month.
  • Compensate for the amount I ate on vacation by cutting down the amount/density/volume of food I eat.
  • Be strict about exercising and doing the “right” kind of exercise to maximize calorie burn.

Hear me out: These are just the first things that pop into my mind when I get back home. However, I’ve learned that this kind of absolutist mindset does me a huge disservice, and it stresses me out more than anything, which I don’t need for my digestive health or overall health.

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Pop and I went out to dinner the night we got back because we didn’t have any groceries yet // vegetable bibimbap + Kalbi beef short ribs to share

I definitely did NOT eat “clean” 100% of the time before the vacation, so why do I need to change anything after vacation? I’m still working, exercising, doing my activities of daily living, etc. Those still require fuel. I also often like to eat something sweet after a long day of work, so I don’t really want to deprive myself of that.

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still lots of sweet breakfasts (that sometimes had ADDED sugars in them *gasp*)

This doesn’t mean that I still want a three course meal with a decadent dessert every night. All I wanted was dried figs (which have quite a lot of sugar in them, even if it’s natural sugar) with Greek yogurt for a few nights last week, so that’s what I had.

Other days, I did still have some not-as-natural sugars. Like a slice of homemade banana bread at work, a Reese’s egg…also from work, and this snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich for National Ice Cream Day.

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You might be thinking, “Sure, Alison. But what if I actually gained a lot of weight on vacation?”

Well, I am in agreement with many wise RDs (like Robyn!) and healthy living bloggers; without too much thought, our bodies tend to naturally shift back to our happy weight. You’re going to be hitting your regular workouts again, which I presume worked well for you before vacation. You’re going to be back to your own kitchen, and you’re not going to have access to as much food as on vacation anyway.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with consciously and deliberately eating healthier and/or lighter foods after vacation. I just don’t think it’s helpful to shift to any kind of extreme “cleanse” mode. 

You went on vacation to get away from everyday routine for a little bit. Let yourself enjoy that during the vacation, but don’t let it haunt you after the vacation.

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spicy honey chicken thighs (based on this recipe) + roasted green beans for a dinner last week ➔ this was SO GOOD!

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turkey quinoa taco bake with avocado and cilantro (and Greek yogurt added post-photo) based on this recipe for another night ➔ this was ALSO SO GOOD

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avocado egg toast + salad with homemade honey mustard dressing

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hunk o’ asiago sourdough

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quinoa with teriyaki chicken thighs + chicken spinach sausage + sautéed green beans a la Madre

It’s nice to be back in the kitchen to make our own nutritious food, but it was nice that none of us felt the need to eat oil-less, dry chicken breasts with steamed vegetables and brown rice every day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s kind of sad if you feel like you need to do that as “recompense”. I know I used to feel that way.

If you do want to “get back on track,” maybe focus more on the quality and nutrients of your food rather than the calories or amount. Eat what you know you need and what you know makes you feel genuinely good, whether that’s kale or chocolate cake. Treat Trust yoself.

Needless to say, I still indulged in some sweets and rich foods this week. For the most part though, I’ve been eating foods that I normally love, which are generally nutritious and delicious. As for workouts, those have also been the same (a post about my workouts is coming soon!).

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I got Ben on the overnight oats train *high fives*

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lots of perfect cado-avos

My family even decided to go out for a rather fancy dinner on Saturday night after Mass. We were planning on using a Groupon (of course) at a Thai restaurant, but it was closed. Thus, we were diverted to a nice Greek restaurant called MP Taverna that we had been wanting to try for a while.

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three dips to share // chickpea (with some extraordinary spices), eggplant, and cucumber yogurt

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“dumplings”: basically the fluffiest ricotta gnocchi you can imagine in a tomato-based sauce with spinach, lamb sausage, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, and feta #dead

Hooray for family time and outdoor lighting! 🙂

Yesterday I hung out with my good friend Joe from college in the city! We celebrated National Ice Cream Day with ice cream sandwiches from Melt Bakery on High Line.

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We ate lunch after dessert, which is extra acceptable on National Ice Cream Day. Joe actually suggested salads, which was shocking but welcomed.

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I think there were tomatoes, roasted red peppers, broccoli, beets and brussels sprouts in there with creamy sriracha dressing

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you literally asked for it, Joe

It was so good catching up with him and walking around, despite the fact that we were being slow-cooked by the NYC heat.

I hope you all have a fantastic week! Eat foods that are fluffy, cheesy, creamy, and spicy this week. Report back on Friday.

So tell me:

What are your thoughts on “getting back on track” after vacation?

Did you celebrate National Ice Cream Day?

Two things you did this weekend!

The Great NYC Food Tour {A Story}

Once upon a time {yesterday}, three diverse Boston University girls took on NYC…

The first {Asian} girl named Alison rolled out of bed early to prepare two banana bread breakfast bakes for herself and her {White} friend named Rachel, who was still snoozing. Once breakfast was ready, they dabbled and dolloped on the toppings.

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Rachel went for Nutella and almond butter

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Alison went for Greek yogurt and three different types of nut butter (Nuttzo Power Fuel, peanut butter, almond butter)

After watching the Today Show and thinking about how they were going to be right where the Today Show is filmed in just a couple hours, the two girls took a train down to Grand Central…

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Alison attempted to be a good tour guide by leading the way, but she ended up walking around the whole block in a circle. Eventually though, the two friends were on their way to lunch with a pit stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller…

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As they kept walking, their noses were able to follow the smell of THE famous Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th. They waited in line and happily devoured {most of} their chicken and rice bowls…

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With very happy bellies, Rachel and Alison meandered over to Times Square, where they were mega tourists, stopping by a couple of stores, M&M World, Hershey World, the Disney Store…

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The third {African American} girl named Jordan met up with them at the four-story Forever 21 in Times Square a little later. They shopped around and took another tourist photo before heading to Chobani SoHo

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As a fun afternoon snack, the three ladies each got a special Chobani creation, both sweet and savory…

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From top clockwise: {savory for Alison} Red Pepper Harissa, Feta, Mint, Black Pepper, Olive Oil with Simit Chips // {savory for Jordan} Avocado, Mango, Cilantro, Lime, Olive Oil with Blue Corn Tortilla Chips // {sweet for Rachel} Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, Orange, Mint, Honey

The experience was quite delightful for all three of them. With souvenir Chobani cups in tow, the girls walked around and explored SoHo, including the Samsung Galaxy Store, where they virtually traveled the world…

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After more walking through minor rainfall and a quest for a bathroom in NYC, the girls trekked to Il Laboratorio di Gelato (aka the cutest and coolest gelato place ever) for dessert before dinner. Oh, but a quick step into Rice to Riches was necessary, just for some sampling…

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Please note the toppings called “Jesus droppings”

Finally at the gelato lab…

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The flavor choices overwhelmed the three girls (flavors such as avocado, pink peppercorn, earl grey, pumpkin, turkish fig, kaffir lime, passionfruit sorbet, and dark chocolate orange) so they obnoxiously asked for samples of nearly everything before deciding on what to buy…

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Alison asked the employees for their flavor recommendations and decided on fresh mint, hazelnut amaretto crunch, and toasted almond. A fine choice indeed.

Jordan led the way to the Economy Candy Store just for nostalgia, since it has every candy you could ever imagine. If you thought we would be too full for dinner at this point, you are mistaken. Jordan continued to lead the way to Vanessa’s Dumplings, which had rave reviews on Yelp…

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The girls’ wallets were relieved that everything was $5 and under…

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8 handmade, boiled cabbage and pork dumplings dipped in sriracha for $3

Dinner hit the spot, and the girls made their way back to Grand Central, where Rachel and Alison parted ways from Jordan. All the eating, walking, standing, and smiling made Alison dead meat…

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But nothing a half-hour nap on the train can’t fix! She even ate more when she got home…

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simple salad and some brussels sprouts for some greens

Alison chatted with her family and Rachel for the rest of the evening as she typed up this story. She finished and took a shower, preparing for another adventure far, far away {NYC again}. After ten years of living in New York, she finally realized how amazing the Big Apple really is.

The end.

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Sharing this {true} tale on Armans blog!

So tell me: 

Once upon a time {yesterday}, I ate ______, and it was _______.

The most fun thing that happened yesterday!