My #DTour of a Lifetime to Asia!

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Disclosure: I am one of the official #DTourist assigned to scour the continent of Asia to inspire travel there. Each of us is assigned a continent. To read more about #DTOUR with DoubleTree by Hilton

In Wanzhou, China - climbed up and down a beautiful mountain!
A couple months has passed since I got back from Asia from my whirlwind #DTour trip but not a day has gone by without me thinking and referencing back to what I've learned and absorbed from my trip. If someone had told me that I will be seeing 7 countries, over 15 cities, 14 flights, and over 28,000 miles (that's like 73 time of flights from NY to LA) within 31 nights in Asia. 31 nights! - I would probably think that it's not possible to do. But I did! That's truly insane. That's not even counting the many hours spent traveling on land and on foot! There were times when I had about 3-4 hours ride to my next destination and oh, how can I forget? There were countless hours spent walking and climbing mountains!

Here are a couple of VERY QUICK videos that will play right after another:

As you can imagine, my schedules were packed. I was guided by a DoubleTree by Hilton employee from breakfast at 7am up to as late as 1am. I spent about 3-4 days in each DoubleTree property scouring everything around it and the I moved on to another property destination. Yes, I was exhausted - but who has time for that when I have the world to see! While I was there to work and document via social media along the way, it didn't even feel like work at all. I was transported to lands I've always just imagined in my head. I've seen them in the news, movies, and read many Asian books romanticizing and it all and I have to say, every single moment was even better than I imagined. In the end, I captured over 4000 photos and of course, took a lot for my Instagram, too. Check them all out below.

My Top 10 Moments with #DTOUR Asia

  1. Visiting two Seven Wonders of The World within my 31 Nights of #DTour to Asia: The Great Wall of China and Taj Mahal.
  2. Walking up the Great Wall of China and realizing the many battles fought on that very spot between the Mongols & the Hans.
  3. Seeing and walking in the Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok made me re-watch the Anna and the King movie. Imagined ancient Siam everywhere in Wat Phrakaew.
  4. The mystical sort of emotion that I felt walking thru the Great Falls in Wanzhou and in to the QuanYin Temple and seeing 31 huge buddhas in a row with monks chanting.
  5. Eating in Malaysia! The many culinary choices from the multiple ethnic cultures that makes Malaysia is really exciting. I could live to eat there!
  6. Visiting the Ancient Village of Ciqikou in Chongqing and stepping in a Royal Servant's old courtyard made me feel like I was in some movie set.
  7. Imagining the life inside the Forbidden City while touring it and now planning in re-watching The Last Emperor movie.
  8. Eating (Peking Duck where it all began - Beijing) in a 100 year old restaurant in Beijing.
  9. Seeing and learning more about the old glamour and beauty of Shanghai at a museum inside the Pearl Oriental Tower.
  10. Prayed for my family's health and blessed in a Buddhist Temple, Hindu Temples, and an ancient Catholic Church throughout 4 Asian countries. 

Couple things I learned about myself:

  1. I'd rather not exactly know how we're getting there. If I had known that we will be climbing mountains for a couple of hours, I would've probably said NO - thank you. But glad I didn't get a chance to decide on many things in Asia and just went to do it.
  2. I really love all sorts of food. Unless something is moving on my plate I am bound to try and taste it. I don't have to like it but that's the adventurous part of me thinking I'd miss out if I don't at least give it a chance.
  3. I love hearing locals talk about what they really love about their own city and like a sponge, I notice how much I can absorb and submerge myself in what they see/feel.
  4. I cringe when I hear Americans act like they are the center of the universe when visiting other countries. Those folks do not represent us well in US. 
  5. I don't hate airports! Best place to people watch in different countries.
All the posts I wrote for Chicagonista.com: (Lots of other pics & videos there)

Kuala Lumpur: An Unforgettable Experience in Malaysia 



The Mountain City of Wanzhou, China
Chongqing, China: A Peek in a Royal Servant’s Home During the Qing Dynasty


Summer Perfect Spiced Rum Sangria - EASY & FAST

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It's finally starting to warm up a bit here in Chicago and so I thought I'd whip out one of my favorite summer perfect drink - Spiced Rum Sangria.

Spiced Rum Sangria Recipe
Makes 6 servings
  • 1 apple
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 (750 ml) dry red wine
  • 1.5 cup Spiced Rum
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
Dice the apple and slice the lemon, lime, and orange into thin rounds. Place in a large pitcher and pour rum and sugar. Stir and chill for about 2 hours. This will help develop the delicious flavor. When ready to serve, crush the fruit lightly with a wooden spoon and stir in the wine and orange juice. Then serve it on the rocks!

Sometimes I add maraschino cherries and carbonated water for an extra splash. I suggest you try this too. Either way, they are both delicious and easy to make.

Enjoy!

Asia or Bust! #DTour Asia here I come!

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 OMG, it's really here. Someone pinch me! I am heading to a tour of a lifetime as one of the official #DTourist for DoubleTree by Hilton traveling the continent of Asia!

I just literally finished packing and I just remembered that I never got to share this on my personal blog. I will be hitting several countries starting with China and will be sharing lots of pictures and videos via Chicagonista.com and my social networks:

Twitter: Twitter.com/mjtam 
Facebook: Facebook.com/mjtam
Make sure you follow the hashtag #DTour 

You can read more about what exactly I'm doing in Asia here: http://chicagonista.com/category/dtour/ and check out my video below to show you all the other places I am hitting.

Cooped-Up & Souped-Up

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Today's weather news is more of a nuisance. Yes, yes - another snow storm will be hitting us again. Like always, temperatures are going to drop to extreme negatives after a few days of non-stop snow and we're back at it all over again. And like many Chicagoans, I'm SO done! At this point, more snow will not make things any harder than it already is. Roads are iced up and the snow that has been dropping since the start of this year has nowhere to go but look unsightly black on street banks.


There's a sunny side to this winter though. No, really - there is! I'm talking more about my disposition and not so much the warmth of the sun that we are badly needing. I'm thinking positive here because another subzero temp day is almost our normal here in Alaska. I mean...Chicago. Sigh. So while we're all cooped-up inside, we've also souped-up!

Ever since I've signed on to be a Campbell's Wisest Kid Ambassador I've found so many different ways in making some quick warm meals just like my favorite Campbell's®  Tomato Soup with a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.


Photo from the CampbellsKitchen.com
I've also tried a couple of recipes found in the CampbellsKitchen.com and a new recipe that I found recently is our new family favorite called Shortcut Alfredo Lasagna made with a Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. The recipe is easy, fast, and delicious!

Photo from the CampbellsKitchen.com

Another new family favorite is the Creamy Risotto-Style Chicken and Rice. This one is made with a can of
Campbell's® Healthy Request® Condensed Healthy Request® Cream of Chicken Soup. This recipe is also American Heart Association Certified. (Hey, it has rice! Said by my happy Asian family)

I have a feeling that we will not see the end of this Polar Vortex for quite some time so I will probably try a couple more of these recipes.

Wait, I know some of my friends reading this are laughing. Me, cooking more? This is normally a rare occurrence in my home and THAT my friend is what being cooped-up is like for me. So being souped-up is really the sunny side of winter that I've been talking about!

For the next few weeks my husband will be taking over the home. I am off to travel for 31 Night in Asia and so I will be leaving him with Campbell's Wisest Kid in the Whole World to help him along in planning the meals. Good luck husband, you're in good hands!

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador compensated by the Campbell Soup Company -The Wisest Kid in the Whole World. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

Shaking Up Breakfast

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It's been a couple of weeks now that I've been truly vigilant in getting the proper breakfast to start my day. While it is still quite a struggle most mornings, I have seen the difference in how I feel when getting my proper breakfast. I used to run out of the house without any breakfast and by 10 or 11am at work, I'm usually starving in the worst way. I easily lose focus and patience very easily. I'm quick to make rash decisions and in need of nourishment. So now I make the extra effort in making my breakfast that keeps me satisfied all the way to lunch time. Thanks to my Registered Dietitian partner +Victoria Shanta Retelny , I've learned to shake up my breakfast! Something different! For me, anyway. In fact, I'm finding that my kids enjoy doing this as much that they make an effort to get dressed and ready to make their own shake before heading to school. Heck, if I knew that this was the magic I needed in the morning to get things going - I would've done it a long time ago! One example Victoria shared was the:

One cup milk + frozen cherries + handful semi-sweet chocolate chips + a mint leaf

Sounds delicious, right? For more shake recipes - check out Victoria's blog here: http://victoriashantaretelny.com/blog/shake-up-your-breakfast/


Photo Credit: http://Instagram.com/vsrnutrition
Now if you knew that you can be more focused at work (or school) by maintaining in eating a proper breakfast with the protein that your body needs, would you make the changes too?

According to What America (Tw)eats, there are more than 1.6 million number of tweets on skipping breakfast. Just imagine 1.6 million grumpy office workers everywhere! This could mean budget miscalculations, poor judgement calls, etc. So, let's change the culture together and get your protein in the morning!

Free Milk Every Minute The Got Milk Got Protein campaign is also helping Americans win their own free gallon of milk every day. The promotion – at GotMilkGotProtein.com – is designed to encourage Americans to get into a healthy routine by starting each morning with milk’s high-quality protein. To instantly see if you’ve won a buy one get one free milk coupon go to GotMilkGotProtein.com.

Disclosure: I’m a paid spokesperson compensated by The National Milk Mustache "got milk?"Campaign. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

Polar Vortex Yummy: Crunchy French Toast

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One thing I realized is that I don't do well just hibernating (#Chibernating for Chicagoans) when Chicago shuts down for what we have learned here in Chicago as Polar Vortex dubbed as #Chiberia on Twitter. We all know that Chicago is not a stranger to extreme cold but this is something new. Crazy snow and winds brought in as low as -45F windchill! In fact, just in January alone, the city and schools closed down TWICE! Unbelievable.

So what do I do instead of taking advantage of the time off with the kids? Well - cook, of course! If you know me at all, you are probably laughing at this. Me? Cook? Well, well, well....look at my creation below.

Introducing my Crunchy French Toast! (and yes, that's my own picture)

I first had it at a local hotel restaurant for breakfast and I knew I had to get the kids get there to try it. Polar Vortex part deux came along and so I gave in and made it myself. No, for real! Check out the the recipe below to warm your tummy!


Crunchy French Toast
Ingredients:
  • 2 or 3 slices of bread, cut into quarters
  • 1 large cornflake cereal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 drops of vanilla
  • Butter and pancake syrup
To follow the step by step instructions here's where I found that recipe: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/crunchy_french_toast/

Oh, and here's my other Polar Vortex Chocolate Goodness - a microwave lava cake recipe

Let's Talk Soup!

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January is a National Soup Month, so let's talk soup!

I don't know about you but the thought of soup warms me up especially with the kind of winter we're experiencing here in Chicago. But truly in this household, winter or not - my kids are soup monsters! Yea, just like me.

Chinese HotPot
My kind of girlfriend outings lately are done over hotpot. There's nothing like sitting and gabbing with a group of my girlfriends over steaming Chinese hotpot that keeps our conversation going on for hours. HOURS!

Filipino Sinigang
When my kids visit my parents (gramps), they request that he makes Sinigang. A tamarind flavored soup that my kids love and enjoy.

Chinese Hot & Sour Soup
And my husband also always make Chinese tofu or winter melon soups for us.

All of which are quite an undertaking just to prep and make a pot of these soups. But cooking is simply not my cup of tea...or my BOWL of sugar. (Going with my blog name here). So when it's left to me to keep my family all souped up, I turn to their next favorite thing in the world. Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup! And did you know that Campbell's Condensed Chicken Soup turns 80?! Yes! Here's a quick fascinating fact that I learned about the Chicken Noodle Soup.
"Introduced in 1934, it was originally called "Chicken with Noodles" and enjoyed only moderate success. Later that same year, an innocent misstatement on a popular radio program caused sales to sky-rocket. One of the famous on-air personalities misread his copy and accidentally called the product "Chicken Noodle" soup. Suddenly, Campbell started receiving large orders for their "new" product. The soup was formally renamed "Chicken Noodle" after the erroneous turn of phrase caused high demand for the soup."
Happy Birthday! 


 Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador compensated by the Campbell Soup Company -The Wisest Kid in the Whole World. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

I Got Milk and a Game Plan!

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My Registered Dietitian +Victoria Shanta Retelny partner for the Milk Mustache campaign said,"Cut Back NOT Cut Out".

I was really happy to hear her say that because it meant that I don't have to go cold turkey on certain foods I enjoy. We were talking about my rice obsession and carving out some of the carbs (sugar) to get me back into feeling/getting healthy. I was on my own completely substituting Quinoa with my rice and although I'm not hating it, I certainly miss it. Now I'm glad to hear that I don't have to give up rice fully. I told Victoria that I just really want to feel comfortable wearing my clothes without having to wear a scarf or another layer to hide the mommy muffins and all that. I think some of you may know what I'm talking about here.

Watching my daily caloric intakes and making sure I'm meeting my protein needs was important and high on our game plan. She calculated with my weight (not gonna tell) and semi-active lifestyle that I should take in about 1200 calories with 60-65g of protein intake that on a daily basis.

Even better, she drew out a game plan I can easily get onboard with.

  • BREAKFAST 6am (My Power Hour) 300 cal ( a glass milk about 86 calories on lowfat milk & 8 grams of protein, a banana, 100 cal, a hard boiled egg, 78 calories)
  • SNACK 9:30 - 10am 150 cals
  • LUNCH (by 1pm the latest) -  400- 500 cals
  • SNACK - 150 cals. (apples, oranges, grapes, veggies)
  • DINNER - 400-500 cals.
  • SNACK - 150 cals.
I really love the guideline she's given me and her @vsrnutrition Instagram shows many recipes and healthy tips in how I can keep score and live healthier! Below is a warm Brussels Sprouts salad and is just one of her many recipes on there.
Instagram by @vsrnutrition 

"Brussels sprout lovers unite! I am enjoying shaved Brussels sprouts in salads lately - they are popping up everywhere on restaurant menus, too. This one is a warm salad with a tbsp of olive oil, a diced shallot, a clove of minced garlic, a cup of shaved Brussels sprouts, 3 halved cherry tomatoes and 1/2 cup of black beans tossed in a skillet over medium heat. Cover to steam sprouts for 5 - 10 mins. Serve alone or wrap it "

Disclosure: I’m a paid spokesperson compensated by The National Milk Mustache "got milk?"Campaign. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

My Protein Fight Club - My Sanity Saver

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Busy! Busy! Busy! I don't know any mom who's not busy!

In my case, early morning breakfast is always a struggle. For myself and for my family. Just simply not enough time to prep, cook, serve, and clean up breakfast for my family of five. Even too much for a family of two! Adding that to the most important part of  my morning is getting my kids ready or more like dragging the kids off their beds and in to the shower, so forth and so on. And before I can do all that, I need including myself ready too. There's no other way. Every single morning! Yes, a struggle I tell ya!

Morning latte to start my day right! Just like what@vsrnutrition prescribed. #GotMilkGotProtein@milkmustache

What I really found helpful is that I grab myself a glass of water and then walk around carrying my cup of latte or glass of milk as I battle my morning routine. By the time I'm done getting all prepped up for myself then the madness continues with the kids. Kind of like in flight and the flight attendant instructing us in placing our own oxygen mask first before helping others. Thanks to my Registered Dietitian partner of VictoriaShantaReletny.com @vsrnutrition, she suggest that I do that with my own health.

This is why I love this commercial that speaks true to what I feel about taking the time to do breakfast! Why do all that when you can get your required protein intake in a jiffy! Check out all the other videos here: http://www.youtube.com/user/MilkMustacheCampaign/ProteinFightClub

Disclosure: I’m a paid spokesperson compensated by The National Milk Mustache "got milk?"Campaign. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

Who Got Milk? I do!

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I stay away from making any New Year resolution every year - partly because I don't like leading myself in to disappointments. But then, a great opportunity came along that fell along the lines of the "New Year, New Me" and didn't hesitate to happily say yes. And because good intentions are what New Year's resolutions are all about, so why not just go with it.

So to kick off my 2014 I just signed on as the new Milk Mustache Blogger Spokesperson and I couldn't be more excited. The program is to learn and promote healthier beginning of our days with balanced protein intake for a day long success. Yes, easier said than done, of course. Because if you are anything like me, and I suspect like all moms are, the mornings are the craziest part of the day. As much as we'd like to take that extra few minutes to get ourselves ready, moms like me usually bolt out of our beds running to get our kids and ourselves ready for school and work. Often times for me, breakfast is composed of a quick cup of coffee from Starbucks and an oatmeal if I can carve out that extra minute. Not too bad for breakfast choices but I'm not sure if I am getting enough of the nutrition that my body really needs.

Thankfully, the program also comes with some guidance from an assigned Registered Dietitian partner, Victoria Shanta Retelny (author of Healthy Healing Foods) who will help me figure out how I can meet the protein intake I should be getting.

According to Victoria, I should be consuming about 60-65 grams of protein per day. I learned that protein makes you full faster and longer and it also offers my muscles good fuel and will keep my blood sugar stable. Just to give you an idea, a cup of milk has about 8 grams of protein so we looked into how I can start with incorporating a portion of that in my breakfast and the rest on all of my meals and snacks.

To start me off, she has suggested the following ways to enjoy my milk for breakfast everyday.

A cup of low fat milk in/with:

  • a bowl of whole grain cereal + berries
  • a bowl of oatmeal or cream of wheat
  • a latte or cappuccino sprinkled with cinnamon
  • a fruit and/or veggie smoothie
  • a bowl of low-fat granola + berries
  • a whole grain english muffin + a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • a slice of whole grain toast + all-fruit spread
  • a bowl of berries and a tablespoon of flaxseed

This is an easy enough guideline to follow so I never have to worry about disappointing myself on my new great intention of a healthier me this 2014 and beyond. I really appreciate the time I spent with Victoria and all the new things I am learning from her. She will continue to work with my progress and will be able to share my experience on this program for the next few weeks.

So here's to the a healthier new year! I hope you will follow along for the next few weeks.

Disclosure: I’m a paid spokesperson compensated by The National Milk Mustache "got milk?" Campaign. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.