Tulum, Mexico

TL;DR: Tulum was awesome. You should definitely go for the food, adventure, and culture.

My motto has been “Might as well.” I’ve applied this to mostly every place that I’ve visited so far and it has always been an interesting journey. This phrase has definitely given me the courage to try new things and be a bit spontaneous.

When I told my parents that I was going to Mexico by myself, they freaked out. They obviously were worried for my safety since this was the first time I was going to Mexico, especially on a solo adventure. But I convinced them that I would be ok and that I’ll be back in a week.

So the adventure begins. I flew into Cancun International Airport and it was a dreary day. The rain was pouring like no other. I thought that this would dampen my time by the beach (pun intended lol). The best way to get around Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, is to utilize the public transportation. To get to Tulum, I took the ADO bus, which only costs about $8.00.

When I arrived to the Tulum bus station, my Airbnb host met me and we walked to where I was staying for the week. Once settled, I decided to explore downtown. The main street is one of the main highways, HWY 307. It’s lined with many gift shops and restaurants.


The vibe of the small city was relaxed and “chill” to say the least. I did make time to go to the beach before the sunset. It was picturesque. I’ve never seen whiter sand and bluer water than here.


Pretty sure there are other beaches that have better views than this, but it was outstanding.

The next day, I decided to go ziplining. There is an amusement park in Playa Del Carmen called Xplore. This had about 14 different zip lines throughout the park.


During this trip, I’ve learned that it’s easier to make friends while traveling solo. It’s pretty great.


I’m not able to post videos in this post, but the zip lines were exhilarating. There was a course that you went through a waterfall, which was definitely fun.

On the third day, I decided to go snorkeling with turtles and see the Mayan ruins. The turtles were so cute but we weren’t allowed to touch them because the oils on our skin affects them, negatively. Other than turtles, we were able to see stingrays and other fish. Enough of what I did. The most important thing is what I ate.

Turtles

The main street of Tulum was lined with many restaurants and bars wanting to grab your attention. I was somewhat on a budget so I opted for the take out/small plates that was cheap. Although these were cheap eats, the flavor was definitely there.

The best dish that I had in Tulum was the tacos, specifically Al Pastor tacos. There was a line out the door for these tacos and I had to check it out. Now I understand why people would wait for these tacos. It was cheap, like 7 cents per taco, and it was delicious.

I mean, look at that meat.

My last day, I wanted to just relax and take in the sun. I decided to go to the beach in the early morning and go for a walk. It was beautiful day and I couldn’t resist but take pics of the fishing boats.

All in all, Tulum was perfect. Perfect weather, perfect food, perfect vibes. Oh, the paletas were perfect as well.

Iceland

TL;DR: Iceland was amazing and anyone who tells you to go, you should take their advice.

Let me tell you about Iceland. It’s absolutely magical.

This was my first solo international trip. I was excited but also a bit nervous. Only because I was going to an unknown place that was an ocean away from home. It was exhilarating to think that I would be in Iceland. A place that I’ve been dreaming about visiting since college. A place that you can really lose yourself in because the landscape is awe inspiring.

As this was my first international trip, I decided to rent a car. Renting a car gave me the freedom to explore the island anyway I wanted to. I mostly stuck to the southern half of the island. 

One of the must see attractions that I would recommend are the different waterfalls that makes Iceland so magical. TLC would definitely be disappointed as I chased too many waterfalls on this trip. 

Day 1: But before exploring the many waterfalls, I had my eyes set on the Blue Lagoon. This geothermal hot spring lived up to my expectations. The milky blue hue of the pool mixed with the above 100 degree temperature made it a relaxing morning for me after a red eye flight. What’s more relaxing than a huge jacuzzi and sparkling wine at 9 am?




I set some time to wander around Reykjavik. First thing on the agenda was to get some food. Since Iceland is known for their fishing industry, I had to get some fish and chips. There’s a small fish and chips cart by the harbor that is known for this particular dish. From there, I ventured out to downtown Reykjavik and walked through the center that’s lined with shops. There were many gift/souvenir shops that filled the streets, so finding something to take home from Iceland.


Day 2: I woke up early to get a head start on chasing some waterfalls. From Reykjavik, I trekked south and the first waterfall that I visited was Seljandfoss. As this was the first waterfall, I was overtly excited. There were many tourists that had the same idea as I had. 


The next waterfall that I trekked to was Selfoss. This was the biggest waterfall in southern Iceland. You could hear the roaring water. You’re able to get up close as you want and feel the mist from when the water hits the rocks. 


As the day progressed, I headed towards Vik. Vik is known for the Black Sand Beach. This beach definitely matches the color of my soul. It was a bit cold and misty but it was definitely worth the view.

Day 3: This day was filled with adventure. I kind of wanted to live out the Justin Bieber music video he shot in Iceland. With that, I made it a goal to go to the glacier national park. As it was off season, there weren’t as many glaciers to photograph. 

Aside from the glacier national park, I had booked a tour/lesson on ice climbing. I was a bit nervous to do this activity as I have never done it and a bit anxious about my shoulder because it could potentially dislocate.


But to my surprise, I did ok. Ice climbing is a lot more intense than rock climbing.


During this tour, we were able to rapelle into the glacier through a small hole and see what the inside of the glacier looked like. This was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. The crystal blue color of the glacier is very prominent and beautiful. 


As we climbed back to the top of a glacier a rainbow was waiting for us. It was surreal.

 Btw, they always turn the rainbow on at the end of the tour.
Day 4: It was my last day in Iceland. I saw a picture on Instagram of a waterfall that I haven’t visited and knew it was in the Justin Bieber video. So I woke up early and left to find the last waterfall in southern Iceland. This was by far the best one that I’ve visited. 

​I had to walk through a crevice to get to the magic. 


Anyways, I was able to live out my college dream and it was everything and more than what I expected. 


All in all, I survived my first solo trip and I would definitely do it again. I’m going to leave you with some liquid nitrogen ice cream I got in downtown Reykjavik.

Pacific Northwest {Part 2: Seattle}

From Portland, we ventured to Seattle, WA. The place known for its Puget sounds and McDreamy (RIP Derek Shephard).

Although Seattle is where one of the greatest tv dramas takes places, it also houses amazing cuisine. I believe that throughout this trip, I gained about 10 lbs from just eating the local food and I have no regrets.


One of the main attractions of the city is Pike Place Market. This market is a food lover’s dream. There are many small shops and restaurants where you have the opportunity to try the local delicacy.

My favorite place at Pike Place was Piroshky Piroshky. A Piroshky is a Russian flaky pastry that is filled with either meat, cheese, fruit, or a combination of those. We followed our noses to the small bakery and had a Piroshky that was filled with mushroom and cheese. I definitely still dream of it to  this day. And you know it’s a go to place when the line gets longer and longer throughout the day.


We then trekked over to the first Starbucks that ever opened. I’m not much of a coffee drinker. *gasp!* Yeah…I just never got into coffee. Anyways, the Starbucks was pretty small but they had a very efficient way of moving customers in and out of the establishment. 


The Gum Wall is definitely an attraction that everyone should see and take a selfie at least once. As gross as this sounds, it smelled like mint more than saliva. Well that’s what I thought. And ironically, I got gum stuck on the bottom of my shoe. Guess you can call that a souvenir. Pike Place Market definitely has a lot to see. 


Another attraction of Seattle is the EMP museum. If you’re a music lover, gamer, or a movie buff, this place is for you. My favorite part of the museum was the indie video games section, specifically the game Tenya Wanya Teens. This is considered a traveling video game as it is only exhibited in various museums. 


The museum was conveniently located next to the Space Needle. 


It was only right to try out the local seafood. We checked out the Westward. This restaurant was designed after Wes Anderson’s movie “The Life Aquatic.” It definitely lived up to the nautical theme. The food was so fresh and delicious. So delicious that I forgot to photograph it.

All in all, Seattle lived up to be everything that I had imagined and more. 

Here’s a picture of an ice cream cone I got during my trip!

The Pacific Northwest {Part I}

This was a hard post to write and a bit overdue. It’s about to get real… Although this trip was an incredible one, I shared it with someone who was a definitely different person from the person I fell in love with. Life definitely introduces you to people who change your way of thinking and life. Anyways, enough about this stuff…onto writing about the PNW!

If there is one place that has impressed me, that is both Portland and Seattle. I’ll talk more about Seattle in another post. The PNW has a reputation for being the capital of hipsters. In essence, there are many types of people that make up this great part of the United States.

On my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I ventured out to Portland, Oregon, home of the most microbreweries per capita. This place is a beer buff’s and foodies’ dreams, and it definitely was a great trip.

If you’re ever in Portland, you have to at least go to one microbrewery. Over the years, I have learned to appreciate beer as a craft rather than just drinking it to get a buzz (i.e. college). Anyways, this brewery is well known for their innovative craft beers and spirits.

Aside from the beers and spirits, Rogue brewery has one of the best poutine. This poutine is made with french fries, cheese curds, and a gravy made with short ribs and and Shakespeare Stout. When you eat this dish, it is literally heaven in your mouth and is paired well will any of their beers on tap.

Moving on from Rogue Brewery is Widmer Brothers Brewery and Deschutes Brewery. These two breweries are known to have Oregon roots and great beer. The atmosphere of these two breweries are welcoming with a hint of the Oregonian nature feel. Each brewery is known for their owns beers, such as Widmer Brothers is known for their heffewiezen beer.IMG_0246

Enough about food and beer, let’s talk about the nature that surrounds the great Pacific Northwest. As much as there are microbreweries per capita, there are many natural destinations that you can explore. I decided to venture out to Cannon Beach. This beach is known for being part of the set of The Goonies. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Portland, but it is totally worth it. The drive to the coast is filled with rows and rows of lush green trees and shrubs. It was breathtaking.

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Being from a city that lacks a waterfront, I was kind of a kid around this area. It was gorgeous. There are no words to really describe this place. It was magical yet serene. We spent the day walking by the coast and exploring the city of Cannon Beach.

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The town of Cannon Beach is quaint and has a small town beach feel. The roads are lined with beach houses, small hotels, restaurants and gift shops. There’s plenty to see and do around the town.

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I couldn’t leave Portland without having some ice cream. The most popular ice cream shop in town is Salt & Straw. They had some eclectic flavors but knowing me, I kept it simple and went with the vanilla. Although it is a plain flavor, it was done right. Definitely recommend going to Salt & Straw if you’re in Portland.

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All in all, Portland has stolen my heart and I would not hesitate to go back. From here we trekked to Seattle.

P.S. Here’s a pic of me at Eastburn Restuarant with their swing seating. #YAASSS

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Portland, Maine

Being in the city for so long can make you go crazy sometimes. It’s nice to be in an area where you can just drive a few hours and you’re in a different state. For this year’s 4th of July weekend, I decided to drive up to Maine.

Going to Maine has been on my bucket list of places to visit. This trip was different as I had my mom join me and turned it into a girl’s weekend trip. The drive up to Portland, Maine was quite long. Granted it was only suppose to be a 5 hour drive, but then it turned into a 12 hour trip (including train time). Anyways, driving on just 5 hours of sleep was an interesting experience.

After 12 hours of traveling, we finally made it to Maine! The first thing on the list was to get lobster rolls. We ended up going to a cute place called Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth. The view was amazing from the restaurant but the weather was not playing around.

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Although the view was spectacular, the lobster rolls were the maine event (see what I did there??). There was more than enough lobster meat on it. Also, they served the lobster on a toasted, buttery flat top bun. It was incredible. Although the lobster roll was the star, the crinkle cut fries and coleslaw were a great addition to make it into a filling meal. I would definitely go back through the hassle of finding a parking spot to get these lobster rolls again.

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The next thing we did was pass out in our Airbnb. We stayed in Scarborough, which I believe is a suburb of Portland, ME. It was a great place to stay as it was only a 10 minute drive to downtown Portland. In addition, it had a quaint small town feeling, which you don’t get in the city often.

My mom and I decided to grab dinner in downtown Portland and walk around to experience the nightlife there. Portland had a pretty small downtown as there was a strip of restaurants and shops along the marina. We ended up at Portland Lobster Pound.

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This place was pretty packed as they had live music. Aside from the music, the atmosphere of Portland Lobster Co. was lively let alone the food was amazing.IMG_0123

As we had lunch at an abnormally late time, we opted for the fried clams. They were fried to perfection and pairing it with a local beer like an Alagash white is just heaven.IMG_0124

Other than eating our way through Portland, we did do some sightseeing. We ended up at a few lighthouses and a private beach.

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Ok so one more photo of food…

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These donuts were sent from heaven. They came from Holy Donuts and are made from potatoes. I didn’t even know that was possible! Anyways, we mostly ate it on the drive back home.

All in all, Portland, ME stole my heart and I would definitely consider retiring there one day. I was also able to teach my mom how to use Snapchat so I think that was an accomplishment in and of itself.

Ariel’s Bra (AKA Madeleines)

What to do when you’re bored and you have a lot of butter in the fridge? Make Madeleines of course.

Anyways, I’ve been wanting to make Madeleines for a long time so I decided to trek to the outlet mall and purchase a Madeleine baking pan. These Madeleines somewhat remind me of Princess Ariel’s bra. I’m renaming them Ariel’s bra rather than Madeleines.

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French pastries can be quite difficult at times but the results of it are amazing. Often times, it consists of a lot of butter. Madeleines are no exception to the buttery goodness. Surprisingly, Madeleines are not difficult to make and are fairly easy.

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These Madeleines will keep for days but around my family, it only lasted within hours. They are best paired with a cup of tea. The daintiness of the pastry is great for an afternoon snack or even eaten in the morning.

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For these Madeleines, I baked them with a Nutella filling as well as a cookie butter filling. The fillings make the madeleines moist (side note: like everyone else, I don’t like using this word) and is more tasteful. I sound like a complete snob about this, but you have to try it to believe it.

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Not only are these Madeleines great with tea, but it’s even better with ice cream and sometimes use the pastry to make an ice cream sandwich (Woah I’m getting way ahead of myself and might be going a bit crazy). Anyways, these are a great treat for yourself or for others, but mostly for yourself.

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Madeleines Recipe:

-2/3 cup granulated sugar

-3 large eggs

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1 cup of flour

-10 tablespoons of butter, melted

-powder sugar for garnish (optional)

-Nutella for filling (optional)

  1. Place the sugar, eggs, and salt in a mixing bowl and whip on medium-high speed until very pale and thick. Add the flour and melted butter alternately, folding gently so the batter loses as little volume as possible.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a madeleine pan generously, and lightly dust with flour, knocking off any excess.  Scoop the batter into the prepared pan (1 tablespoon per well for standard-sized madeleines, 1/2 teaspoon per well for mini-madeleines).  Bake standard-sized madeleines for 12-14 minutes, mini-madeleines for 8-9 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges.
  3. Cool in the pan for several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Dust with powdered sugar, for garnish (optional).

With Nutella Filling

  1. Follow steps 1. Then proceed to step 2 with only a half scoop of the madeleine batter. Then take a scoop of Nutella and place it in the middle of one madeleine. Repeat till all Madeleine molds have a dollop of Nutella. Then take a half scoop of the Madeleine batter and cover each Madeleine so that the Nutella is completely engulfed with the batter.
  2. Proceed with steps 2-3 for baking instructions.

 

These Madeleines will definitely be a hit at a small party or even just a night in. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

Dulce de Leche Apple Cake

There’s a stigma of announcing that you’re making your own birthday cake. As a person who likes to bake, I do enjoy making or attempting to make complicated cakes and pastries. This year, I decided to make my own birthday cake in honor of making it out of my quarter life crisis when really I should be entering it.

During the midst of busy season, (i.e. not having a life between the months of January – March because of my job), I was able to find time to make something with my hands. I tend to go by the book whenever it comes to new recipes, but with this particular cake I decided to improvise a bit.

Top of bday cake

The base of the cake is an apple cake that I found on Pinterest. This cake was able to hold up nicely when stacked together with the other layers. I layered the cake with a dulce de leche buttercream, dulce de leche sauce, and a pie crust crumble (taken from the Momofuku Milk Bar recipe book). The combination of these made eating the cake an adventure with all the different textures and flavors. But it was delicious to say the least.

To say the least, Happy Birthday to me! Wow, I just sound so conceited when saying, I guess in this case writing, it.

Bday cake

Cake:

You can find the recipe here: Cake

Pie Crust Crumble:

(Note: I used the Momofuku Milk bar recipe for this pie crust crumble)

-1 1/2 cup of flour

-2 tablespoons of sugar

-3/4 teaspoon of salt

-8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter, melted

-1 1/2 tablespoons of water

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and using a paddle attachment, mix well on low speed
  3. Add the butter and water and combine together
  4. Spread the clusters on parchment paper or silpat and bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Let the crumbs cool and store in an airtight container if using it for later.

Dulce de Leche:

-Crockpot

-4 cans of sweetened condensed milk

  1. Remove the labels of the cans
  2. Fill your crock pot with the sweetened condensed milk.
  3. Then slowly pour warm water into the crock pot. Make sure to fill the crock pot with water that is above the cans of condensed milk. This is important to prevent a possible mishap in the kitchen.
  4. Set the crock pot on high and let it sit for 2 to 3 hours. Check on it from time to time to ensure that the waterline is above the cans.
  5. Once done, let it cool off and serve as you wish.

Dulce de Leche Buttercream:

-3/4 can Dulce de Leche

-1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar

-1/3 cup of water

-5 large white eggs (room temperature)

-4 sticks of unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)

-pinch of cream of tartar

  1. In a small saucepan, boil the sugar and water to make a syrup.
  2. In a bowl of an electric mixer with a fitted whisk with a speed of 2-4, beat the egg whites until a foam forms. Add a pinch of cream of tartar to the egg whites and increase the speed of your mixer to 4-6 until stiff peaks form.
  3. With the mixer running, slowly pour the sugar water into the bowl and mix for about 3 minutes. Include the butter in the mixture, piece by piece, until the mixture turns into a smooth and spreadable mixture.

Cake Assembly:

Once everything has been prepared, it’s time to assemble the cake. I used a 6 inch cake ring to help with the assembling of the cake.

  1. Using acetate film, line the 6 inch cake ring.
  2. Take the first layer of cake and place it inside the cake ring
  3. With a spatula, spread a dollop of dulce de leche on top of the cake
  4. With a separate spatula, spread some of the dulce de leche buttercream
  5. Lightly sprinkle the pie crust crumble on top of the dulce de leche buttercream layer. Once layered, take the next cake layer and place on top of the pie crust crumble layer.
  6. Repeat until the last layer of cake has been laid and repeat steps 3-5 for the last layer.
  7. Once done, place the cake in the fridge for 2 hours and let it cool. After the cake has cooled, you  may take te

I decided to leave my cake “naked” (i.e not frost the outside of the cake). You may frost the outside of the cake with the dulce de leche buttercream frosting that was made. This cake can be stored in the fridge for a week before it goes bad.