Sweet Potato Recipe from Kimberly Snyder – Yum!

Dreaming of Sweet Potatoes

Can’t wait to try this delicious-sounding Sweet Potato Red Onion and Jalapeno hash recipe from nutritionist Kimberly Snyder. Love the combination of healthy and delicious…this might be my new go-to lunch.

Anyone know where I can get real sweet potatoes in Hanoi?!

Shine on!

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Fare You Well, Fitbit

Those of you who follow my blog might recall that I’ve become something of a Fitbit Fanatic. (As addictions go, it’s a positive one, but an addiction nevertheless.) So you can imagine my despair when — gasp! — I lost my beloved Fitbit last weekend.

I had traveled south to lovely Hoi An, Vietnam, a UNESCO World Heritage site full of ancient pagodas, lanterns, rice paddies, and beautiful river and ocean views, to enjoy a few days of R& R with my brother. It was one of my favorite kind of vacations – family, fitness, food, and frolicking – and the Fitbit was seeing lots of action.

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Our last hurrah. On Cua Dai beach in Hoi An, Vietnam (Fitbit attached to my shoe)

After a long day that included running, walking (11,000 steps by 9:00 am!), and biking (16,000 steps at lunch!), I decided to relax with a massage. I “forgot” to remove my Fitbit (can’t miss that extra step or two!) so halfway through, the masseuse removed it from my arm and left in on the table. I thought nothing of it, until I returned to my room and realized I had the bracelet, but no Fitbit. After a rather unpleasant ten minutes searching through used towels and sheets in the therapy room, I realized the Fitbit was gone. I nearly started crying – how could I lose my Fitbit? And on a banner steps day?!

But after a few days of reflection I’ve realized it’s merely a thing and it doesn’t matter if I can’t track my steps, I still know I’m active. Plus, I just ordered the new Fitbit Charge (an upgrade from my previous Fitbit Flex)…

As Jerry might have said, Fare You Well, Fitbit!

Shine on!

Living it Up in Luang Prabang: Part I, Setting the Scene

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The Laos flag, flying high

Just got back from four days in lovely Luang Prabang, Laos. I loved it just as much the second time around. Highlights? Beautiful wats (temples) and saffron robes, peaceful Mekong breezes, the best night market I’ve visited in Southeast Asia, fabulous food, elephant rides, local artwork and handicrafts, and an exceptional hotel.

Luang Prabang’s town is a UNESCO world heritage site and boasts a delightful mix of historical buildings, quaint shops and cafes, traditional houses (many now guesthouses), and – of course – dozens of temples. As UNESCO explains: “Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.”

Luang Prabang Monks almsgiving

Early morning almsgiving, February 2014

Again, this trip was a combination of my favorite things: family, fitness, and frolicking, (with Lao Dark beers sprinkled throughout). To be honest, there was a bit less straight-up fitness than I would have liked, but I figure when you’re carrying/pushing two young children all over town in 90 degree, humid heat, that’s equivalent to a workout (or four).

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Getting there

Luang Prabang as an easy one-hour flight from Hanoi. We flew there on Laos Airlines on a packed prop plane and back home on a similar plane operated by Vietnam airlines. Not the most spacious airline experience but thankfully the flights were quick and on time. (I recommend dressing for warm weather, as it took half the flight for the aircon to get kicking.) The best part is that, not only is Luang Prabang a quick flight from Hanoi, but once you arrive at the small airport tucked among the hills, the car ride to town is ten minutes tops.

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    “We’re getting on this little plane?!”

Where to Lay Your Head

Our first time in Luang Prabang we stayed in a quaint riverside boutique hotel, The Belle Rive Boutique Hotel – a quintessential French colonial style set of buildings. The lobby feels like stepping back in time to a much earlier Indochine experience. The location can’t be beat. Right in town and only a block away from almsgiving (more on that later). Our room was simple but comfortable, the food was delicious, the hosts were warm, and the room rate included a cocktail cruise. We loved it and would recommend it enthusiastically.

Belle Rive Luang Prabang Door         Belle Rive Luang Prabang

The beautiful Belle Rive

This time, we opted for a hotel with a pool (it’s HOT in Laos in April). In Luang Prabang, this means you have to stay a bit outside of town, as pools aren’t permitted in the historic district. We stayed at Hotel de La Paix, a boutique hotel managed by Accor (soon to become a Sofitel property). A fabulous decision, it turns out. Thanks to our Accor Advantage Plus card, they upgraded us to a large, open poolside room, complete with a huge bathroom, an outdoor garden with lounge chairs, a stocked (complimentary) mini bar, an iPod with local music, and a ridiculously comfortable bed.

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View of our room from the breakfast table

Bonus? A free baby crib and a small sofa perfect for a four-year-old’s temporary “bed” with no extra charges!

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Getting Around

Most hotels include round-trip airport transportation. Once you unpack your bags, take a stroll along the Mekong and Luang Prabang’s main street. Most hotels offer free bikes and tuk tuks are plentiful, cheap, and fun!

Luang Prabang Bike

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Elephants are another great option (more on that later!).

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Riding in Style

Avec Les Enfants

Luang Prabang is one of the more child-friendly cities I’ve visited in Southeast Asia. There are plenty of fairly wide and obstruction-free sidewalks, making it (relatively) stroller friendly. Most of the restaurants we visited (more on this to come!) had high chairs and were kid-friendly. Additionally, the tourist activities – riverboat cruise, night market, elephant rides (more on these to come too!) – welcomed kids, (although if you’re safety–minded, I recommend bringing life jackets from home).

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Stay tuned for Living it Up in Luang Prabang: Part 2, Frolicking!!!!

On a side note, this is my go-to travel highchair. It’s light and folds flat so I can keep it under the stroller with no problem.

Fitbit Fanatic (Who Me?)

My boss recently sent me a link to this Bustle article called “19 Very Real and Emotional Struggles of Having a Fitbit (Or Does Your Fitbit Have You?).

Uh-oh. Does that mean my boss noticed that I have an unnatural emotional attachment to my Fitbit? Because I do. It’s a problem.

IMG_1280Earning my steps in Bali.

Inspired by Bustle’s article, I’ve compiled some evidence indicating I might, in fact, have emotional struggles directly to related to my Fitbit…

Exhibit 1: Last week I realized on my walk to work that my battery was dead and I hadn’t brought my charger. I nearly burst into tears – especially because I was in the middle of a Work Week Hustle challenge and realized I was going to be short 4,000 steps.

Exhibit 2: On numerous occasions, my husband has caught me doing jumping jacks at bizarre times, like just before bed, in an effort to get my steps count up.

Exhibit 3: I often debate leaving my Fitbit on in the shower…just to get those few extra steps.

Exhibit 4: I compulsively tap my wrist throughout the day, just to see if I’ve moved on to a new blinking light.

Exhibit 5: When my Fitbit buzzes, announcing I’ve hit 10,000 steps, you can hear me scream gleefully “I hit my goal!”

Exhibit 6: I find myself justifying the need for this new Tory Burch Fitbit bracelet, saying things like, “Well, it’s for fitness.” Or, “I will wear it every day.”

Truth is, I might just be a tad bit competitive. Against this silly little machine.

Shine on!

Let the sun shine (but not on you!)

Remember the days when you used to lay out with tanning oil? I used to think SPF 15 was way too high as I poured on the Banana Boat oil. And my skin has paid the price (see freckles below).

Bali Boat

Now? I wear at least 30 SPF daily. It’s hard avoiding the sun living in Southeast Asia but I try, even if it means looking like a tourist. Vietnamese women fear the sun, but instead of sunscreen, they opt for long-sleeved, floral zip-up, hooded dresses called Áo chống nắng (“sunscreen shirt”) . Since I’m not ready to adopt this fashion/beauty trend, I instead choose good sunscreen, hats, and sunscreen-enhanced clothing.

Here are some of my favorite products to protecting skin and avoiding the sun (while still looking moderately cool). Please share your favorites in comments!

SPF for Face, Lips, and Body – These Rodan + Fields Broad Spectrum SPF products are my favorites. They’re lightweight, go on easily (not sticky), have a subtle scent, and do their job. Body: SPF 30 Body Sunscreen. Face: REVERSE 50+ Lips: Lip Shield

SPF Yourself

Self-Tanner – To get a nice tan without the dangerous sun exposure, I recommend the Rodan + Fields Foaming Sunless Tan This product is amazing. No streaks, no offensive smell, and a natural looking tan.

Sun protective clothing – Every Coolibar product I own is amazing. All their products are SPF 50+ and block 98% of UVA/UVB rays. The best part? The fabrics. They’re light, cool, comfortable, and come in a variety of colors and prints. I love this hat – reversible, comfortable, and folds up small so I can keep it in my purse. This tunic was a great gift from my mom (although mine is a different print). And my husband wore this shirt every day in Bali (his Irish skin really can’t handle the sun!).

Kids’ sun hats – Can’t go wrong with Coolibar! Unfortunately, we lost this one on the beach in Bali. iPlay has some cute, affordable options like this one on Amazon.

Rash guards – I’m an Old Navy addict, especially for kids’ clothes. Their stuff is affordable, well made, and always lasts longer than I expect (if you subscribe to emails there’s a 30% sale every other week and free shipping). I love these rashguard swim sets for kids but wish they came in SPF fabric. These Coolibar ones are made with SPF 50 fabric.

And if –like me — you still have sun damage despite your best efforts, you can always reverse the damage with this amazing duo!

REVERSE Lightening Accelerator Before and AfterMy REVERSE results after less than two months

Shine on (with SPF)!

Kicking the cold (even when it’s warm outside)

Even though the sun is finally shining in Hanoi, everyone around me is sick. Husband, kids, co-workers: coughing, feverish, and contagious. And here’s me, Doña Purell, using antibiotic hand gel like it’s going out of style.

In an effort to stay healthy, I’m chugging vitamin C like it’s my job. Watermelon and apple smoothie for breakfast, lemon ginger tea, and apple/ginger/carrot juice for lunch. Which got me thinking, maybe y’all could use some Vitamin C and comforting recipes in your life.

Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite cold-fighting potions. Achoo!

  • Fresh ginger tea – slice fresh ginger, add fresh lemons and local organic honey. Steep. Enjoy!
  • Emergen-C – chug this stuff the minute you start feeling sick.

pho gaHanoi style phở gà

Feel better soon. Shine on!