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Thursday, February 21, 2013

How to make rice stick noodle soup

Everyone loves eating something warm during the cold winter days. Soup is probably the best way to warm you up and fulfill your food cravings. For me, pho, rice stick noodle soup, is a dish for everyday.

This is also a great meal to make when you are expecting guests. It's fairly easy to prepare and make a large amount of. Plus everyone can make their soup taste as they please with the ingredients they choose to put in it. The recipe below is just for about 2-3 people.


20 cups water
4-6 beef ribs
1 package of rice stick noodles
1 bundle of cilantro
1 bundle of green onion
1 package of instant beef broth for Vietnamese Noodle Soup
1 dehydrated galangal
2-3 star aniseed
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of sriracha sauce
1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon of beef flavor
1 lime
1 green leaf
3 stalks of celery

1. If you are planning using the rice stick noodles that are thick and wide like the one in the picture below.

It's best to soak it the night before in a large container of water. If do not soak it, the noodles will be too hard. 

2. Prepare the broth. In a large pot, add about 10 cups of water and the beef ribs. Also, add the dehydrated galangal and star aniseeds.

3. Let the meat cook for about 15 minutes. Be sure to scoop out the film/froth on top. Stir in the instant beef broth. Let this boil and cook for about 30 minutes. When the beef ribs are cooked, you can take off the meat from the ribs put it aside to be added into your soup later on.

4. While  you are waiting for  your meat to finish cooking. You can start rinsing off and chopping your veggies.

From left to right: Green leaf, Celery, Cilantro, and green onions
Not pictured: Limes

5. I like to also boil another pot of water (10 cups) to cook additional meat in. This water is used to soak the noodles in also.

6.Once the water has started boiling and the meat is cooked. Take a strainer and put the rice stick noodles (about 1/4 of a package) in the hot water without the broth. Let the noodles soak in the water for about 15-30 seconds until it is nice and soft. Drain the water from the noodles.

7. Put the noodles in a soup bowl and add the beef broth to it.
Don't worry if your is not this dark.
If you taste it and it's too salty, just add more water.

8. Now your soup is ready for the ingredients.

9. Put a little bit of each ingredient (can be found at your local Asian grocery store) in to your liking. Sometimes people also like to add roasted peanuts or peanut butter as well as sugar and hoisin sauce. Some people like this without adding the ingredients as well. It's really optional, but I personally prefer adding it.

10. Be sure to squeeze in some limes and add the veggies to your soup.

If you'd like to make this dish but you can't find all the right ingredients. Don't worry. There's another way to make this that is faster and healthier.

You can just boil the water, soak your noodles to make it soft and add ingredients and your choice of meat and veggies. For noodles that you don't need to soak the night before, you can use this type.

Enjoy! Feel free to comment below if you have any questions or other ingredients you like to add.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Single and Occasionally Lonely

Dear Amy,
I'm single and occasionally lonely. What should I do?

Single and Occasionally Lonely

Dear Single and Occasionally Lonely,

I'm going to address "single" and "lonely" as separate issues. 

In order to solve your issue of loneliness, it starts with figuring out "Why you feel lonely?"

1. Has there been significant change in your life?
2. Are you unhappy with your life?
3. Are you uncomfortable being alone with yourself

4. Do you lack a social life?

There may be other reasons why you feel lonely. 
Below are a few articles you can read to better understand loneliness and how to get yourself out of the rut:

Being single and lacking a social life are a little easier to address. :)
It starts with initiative and confidence. If you don't have confidence, you need to focus on how to make yourself more confident. People are only allowed to belittle you and make you feel insignificant if you allow them to.

If you want to get out and meet people, you need to make the effort to put yourself out there. Yes, it would be great if everyone approached you and invited you to events, but most people are too lazy, comfortable with their current situation, and self-absorbed to do that.

What are you interested in? There are bound to be people who are interested in the same thing you are. You just need to figure out how to find them. If you are interested in a sport, find a league to join.

Found some awesome people you want to hang out with? Invite them out to events. Don't wait for someone to invite you. You should make the active effort. It is exhausting to always be planning, but in the beginning you need to make the effort. Most people already have their own group of friends that they hang out with. They don't feel a need to make new friends.

Still out of ideas:
Still can't find a group that is interesting on there? Create your own group.
Start volunteering or join a community committee. 

The more you meet and interact with people, the better chance you have of meeting someone who could potentially grow to be more than just a friend. 

Want to take a more active approach to finding someone to date?
Join a paid online dating site. Chances are if you are on a paid site, that the other users are serious about finding a significant other as well. Also, ask your friends if they know of anyone who you might be interested in that is single.

If you are looking for love, make sure you are ready for love and not trying to use that as a solution to your loneliness or distraction from other problems. It's selfish to be doing that and unfair to the other person. Love is about being unselfish and for a happy and healthy relationship both parties should be happy on their own first.

Best of luck to you!


Barelo Maya Palace Deluxe Review

During these cold weather conditions, your mind probably is thinking about a warm escape. All-inclusive resorts are a great options for a quick winter getaway. They are reasonably priced and a safe and stress-free vacation. There really isn't too much planning involved.

I went to my first all-inclusive resort at the beautiful Barelo Maya Palace Deluxe. It was about $1500 which included air fare, 7 days, shuttle transportation, food, and access to activities on the resort. The resort is located in Riviera Maya, Mexico. I also exchanged a $200 into pesos beforehand for tipping and to buy other things. Exchanging your money really isn't necessary American dollars are accepted on the resort.

When we arrived to the airport, it was such a simple process to find the shuttle service of the men in the "blue shirt" past all the people trying to sell time shares. Our names were on a list, and we were waiting in the beautiful weather for about 10-15 minutes for our shuttle. Since, it was just the two of us traveling to our resort, the trip took a little longer as we made frequent stops to drop off other passengers. It was nice to get to see the Mexico outside of the extremely touristy resort.

We were dropped off at our resort, and our luggage was taken out of the vehicle as we checked in and were given two glasses of a tasty drink. At the front desk, we received our bracelets that we needed to wear throughout our trip to receive our free meals, drinks, and be allowed to join the activities. Someone then brought our luggage and escorted us to our room. We were told that our mini-bar was included and refilled daily! There was also a complimentary bottle of tequila and grapes for us. It was very exciting and perfect way to start our trip.

Room: Entering our hotel room was really refreshing with the air conditioning as the entire hotel is open so it can get a bit warm wandering the halls. There is both a shower and a separate bathtub. You are given two bathrobes and slippers as well. I thought the sheets and pillow cases where dirty. There was so spare pillows and blankets though. My friend and others with us on the trip mentioned that their beds felt lumpy and their was a clear indentation from where others have slept on the mattress. Another group in our party had a room that smelled very musty as well, causing them to have a hard time sleeping. Our TV had somewhat sketchy connection, but it wasn't too much of an issues as we tried to get out as much as possibly.  

Food: On the resort, they have a snack buffet, and then various restaurants for you to eat at for dinner. In order to eat at the restaurants, reservations did need to be made, and you were expected to dress nicer for dinner. Some of the restaurant choices were a Brazilian steak house, seafood restaurant, steak and pasta, and a french restaurant. The dinner selections were of higher quality than the morning breakfast buffet which had a lot of variety, but tasted like bland cafeteria food which was understandable keeping in mind the quantity that had to be made daily. Near the pool was another buffet you could go for lunch which had more grilled foods such as burgers and hotdogs. Sadly, I felt like I was in Mexico and didn't even eat any Mexican food. That you'd have to get off the resort to do, if you were feeling more adventurous.

View: Amazing. We were right by the ocean. The water as so blue and gorgeous. Their were so many pools and even a sectioned off adult pool. For those of you with kids, there was also a kiddie pool as well as a fun activities for kids to participate in. Unfortunately, the pools closed at 7 pm as well as the bars by the pool. There was also no hot tub that we found.

Activities: There are tons of fun activities to choose from if you were looking for it. We got a blast doing water aerobics with the fun and flamboyant instructor. They also had zumba, pool volleyball, mini golf, archery, free scuba diving lessons, free snorkeling rentals (with $50 deposit), paddle boating on large bicycles, and lots of stores to shop at. There were also a variety of shows you could attend later in the evening at 9:30 pm as well as a night club that opened at 10:30 pm. The club was a lot of fun with great music and even a few instructors teaching us dances.

Other features: Luckily with all of the food and alcohol you are consuming, it's easy to keep that weight off if you'd like too. They have a fitness room and sauna you can visit if you'd like. Down on the bottom floor, you can go talk to some tour guides to arrange trips to visit the Mayan Ruins or other adventures.

Mayan Ruins: For about $117, we took a trip to visit the Mayan Ruins, go zip lining, cave repelling, and canoeing as well as get a meal made my the Mayans of today. It was a great adventures. I would highly suggest it for everyone!

Access off of the resort: We took a day trip to visit Playa de Carmen which was about 30 minutes away by taking a shuttle for about $3 each for both ways. It has a lot of great shopping choices to buy souvenirs and get clothes. The beach their is also beautiful so be sure to bring a swim suit so you can jump in. There are a few pushy sales men but nothing too be worried about from what I experienced.

Wildlife: While walking to the mini golf area, we definitely got see a little bit of wild life which was too much for my friend and I. There are a lot of critters running around such as lizards and iguanas. They have signs educating you on the wildlife that you saw. It's interested and fun if you like that stuff, but a little too much for me. But don't worry, it can all be avoided as there is a bus that takes you around to the various locations of the resort. So no walking around in the "jungle" is necessary. 

Customer Service: For the most part, I thought the staff did a great job. They were friendly and very helpful. Our traveling mates had mix reviews on the staff at the front desk. The group who had the musty room were not switched into a different room right away. However, another couple who wanted one queen size bed instead of two bed was switched right away. Also, we were only given one key card to share with our roommates. Some were easily given additional room cards while others were not allowed any additional cards. Our rooms were either cleaned too frequently or not frequently enough.

Overall, I had a blast. It was my first all-inclusive trip and was extremely free of stress. There was nothing to worry about. Not everything was included though. The internet access you would still have to pay for as well as room service. There were also some drinks that weren't included as well. More of a side note, since when I travel I enjoy being immersed in the culture, I wish I would have actually eaten a truly authentic Mexican meal and seen more of Mexico. So, if you are looking to see Mexico and not paradise, all-inclusive is not for you. But if you want simple and stress-free definitely come here. However, keep in mind resorts are safe compared to other locations in Mexico. If you've been on a cruise and enjoyed it, you should definitely try a resort. They are essentially the same thing minus the ship.  

Let me know if you have any other questions or have any other suggestions for great resorts to visit.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Is a destination wedding for you?

You and your significant other have finally taken it another step further and decided to get married. Now for the planning. What kind of wedding do the both of you want? Should a destination wedding be an option?

Here a few things to consider:
1. Budget. Who said money and love shouldn't mix? Realisticly, this is probably the first thing that needs to be discussed. Who will be paying for the wedding and how much is your maximum budget? Keep in mind, everything is lumped together in a destination wedding package. You only deal with a few people in this planning process. This is also your honey moon if you'd like it to be. You can easily stay a few days later after the guests have left to enjoying being a newly wed couple in a romantic and beautiful location.

Here's more about the budget of a destination wedding budget:

2. Theme. Do you have a theme in mind? What's something that both you and your significant want out of a wedding? What colors did you have in mind? What type of scenery do you want for your wedding photos. Below are a few theme options for you to consider.

Theme options:
And more

3. Once you have decided a theme, the next thing to think about is your venue.  If you both have decided a beach wedding is what you want. A destination wedding is definitely a great option. Your ceremony could be right along the beach with an amazing resort right next door. Who wouldn't love the option of walking along the beach with the warm sun and umbrellas in their drinks?

4. Date. When will your venue be available? Does that match when you'd like you have your wedding? Make sure it's not around any holidays. It may be ideal for you, but most people will not be thrilled about attending a wedding on New Year's eve or around the holidays. Will it be during the winter or summer time? Everyone will be eager to get out of the cold to go to a nice and warm destination wedding.

5. How many people do you want to attend your wedding? If you want something more intimate, a destination wedding would be a great idea. Destination weddings are a lot harder for people to attend, since it's more costly to attend one. But it's a lot of fun and you get to do a variety of activities with your guest while getting some alone time with your significant other.

Hope this has been helpful on deciding if a destination wedding was for you. Please share some of your stories about your destination wedding in the comments section.

Monday, February 4, 2013

10 Tips to Make Your Airport Experience Better

After returning from my seventh trip out of country, I can almost consider myself a pro at traveling, but I still make rookie mistakes. My most recent all-inclusive trip was to Maya Riviera, Mexico where my college friend's destination wedding was held at the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe.  It went flawlessly which left me still wanting.

For me, personally, the most stressful part about traveling is the actual travel. Airports are possibly the worst.

1. Always keep your passport and boarding pass in a place that is easily access. Always have it ready when needed as well. It makes the process faster for everyone.
2. Make sure you are wearing comfy clothes that is appropriate for both climates you will be encountering. For me I was leaving the cold snowy weather of Minnesota for the warm 80 degree weather of Mexico. I left my coat behind and just wore a nice thick zipped hoodie. My sister dropped my friend and I off, so when she returned to pick us up the car was already warm and she brought me my winter coat, hat, and mittens as well.
3. Wear shoes you can easily take off and walk in. Airport security is still making you take off your shoes. You don't want to waste time taking them off and putting them on when going through security.
4. Make sure you can run with your luggage if you have too. Life happens things rarely go according to plan. Your flight could arrive late to your next connection. This may mean you need to run to your next gate. You don't want to be the one slowing everyone else down. Also, if you don't think you can run with your luggage you may be carrying too much. Unless you are staying somewhere permanently, you really do not need more than one check in and one carry on.  
5. Bring a pen. You will need a pen to fill out your custom forms. If you want to get through customs fast, be sure to fill out the custom forms on the plane. Of course, you can ask surrounding passengers or the flight attendant for pens, but it's always nice to be prepared.
6. Take the stairs when you can. When we arrived from Mexico to the Houston airport, everyone who had gotten off of our flight where lined up on the escalators. Seriously? It's way faster to take the stairs that way you can pass everyone and get in the front of the line. Plus, most likely on your vacation you weren't eating the most healthy meals. You could probably use the exercise. :)

7. Bring snacks. No joke most of what I have in my carry on is food. Of course, I have a toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, extra underwear and an outfit in case my luggage is lost. But mostly I have snacks. Airport food is so expensive. Also, they may charge you for your food on the plane now. I usually pack: meat sticks, granola bars, chips/crackers, chocolate, and possibly a fruit. I love to munch and my eating schedule isn't always aligned to when they feed us, if they do. 
8. If possibly, don't put your carry on up in the overhead bins. It is so time consuming to wait for everyone to sit and unload your baggage out of the bin. I always bring a backpack. It's less intrusive and large enough to carry all I need. There's also more compartments for a variety of things. It's still small enough to squeeze under the seat in front of you. 
9. Exchange your currency beforehand. It's just always faster and easier to get foreign currency at your local bank. Be sure to call your bank ahead of time to make sure they have the foreign currency you need. When you arrive to your destination, the first thing you will want to do is get to your hotel and out of the airport.  
10. Listen! Most of the time, your pilot/flight attendant will let you know which gate your connection will be at or where you can pick up your luggage. Pay attention. It saves you time.

Some of these things might seem like no brainers to you, but a nice reminder is always helpful. I know I definitely have stuck with this. It makes going through security and everything else about the unpleasantness of traveling better. 

Did I miss anything? What are some of your tips?

Below are some additional articles to keep in mind about airports: