food

International Goodies: Shopping at New Grand Mart

In my hometown, there is an international grocer named New Grand Mart. New Grand has a couple of locations, and, prior to me visiting one of the stores, I usually got my international foods from a different seller in town. However, that seller tended to focus solely on East Asian foods (specifically Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese items). New Grand, however, is a truly international store, with foods hailing from East Asia, India, the Middle East and even Mexico and Central America!

My latest trip to the store resulted in me getting lots of tasty items, but these four were my favorites.

Vegetarian ramen noodles

I love ramen noodles, especially since it’s easy to add additional ingredients and make a a hearty meal. These noodles are the perfect base for my ramen creations.

Frozen sticky rice with mango

I have a review that I’m planning for this frozen sticky rice with mango, so stay tuned for that!

Vegetable mushroom buns (please ignore my nutrition supplements in the background!)

I am a HUGE fan of Chinese buns, and these are by far the tastiest that I’ve ever gotten from a grocery store. So yummy.

Strawberry KitKat candy

I love KitKat candy, especially the limited edition specialty flavors. Strawberry flavored KitKats were available stateside for a short time, but they are very difficult to find. Imagine my excitement when I saw that these are regularly offered at New Grand Mart! I’m delighted that I will always be able to get the strawberry flavored ones, so long as New Grand carries them.

Those are my favorite international goodies! Do you have any favorite items that you like to purchase from international grocers? Let me know all about it in the comments!

travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: China Pt 3

My final installment of the Throwback Thursday Travel series takes me back to China. This time, I’m reflecting on Shanghai, the last city I visited in China. I’ll always remember SH as a dynamic city with a vibrant nightlife and fantastic shopping. Here are some of my photos from my trip. Enjoy!

Stopping at Gucheng Park
Shopping in SH
The hotel where I stayed
Interior chandeliers
Mini fountain display at the hotel
The larger hotel fountain
Sightseeing
More sightseeing
At Meters/Bonwe
Going to see the acrobats

art · culture · travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: China, Part 2

Happy Thursday, friends! I first posted about my trip to China several years ago, and then I shared a Throwback Thursday Travel post highlighting my time in Beijing. But my trip to China didn’t end with Beijing: I also traveled to Hangzhou and Shanghai. Today, I’m sharing some pictures from Hangzhou, my favorite city in China. I loved West Lake, and I learned that many Chinese citizens love Hangzhou for weekend getaways. It’s such a picturesque city: I can’t wait to return!

At The Ramada in Hangzhou: such a beautiful lobby!

Touring the Dream Town Incubator

At beautiful West Lake

Shopping at Hefang Old Street

Riding around in Hangzhou

Visit to a tea plantation

culture · food · international

Snack Review: Mama Wu Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls

While quarantined, I haven’t been enjoying takeout as much as I used to. However, I still enjoy trying new foods, especially snacks. So when I saw this food that combines two of my favorite snacks – spring rolls and Thai mango and sticky rice – I couldn’t resist. I had to try it!

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Mama Wu Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls were easy to prepare. The rolls had a crispy exterior after baking, and I was excited at how the texture of the baked spring roll was similar to a fried roll. I was concerned that the roll would be a tad bit soggy, but it was crispy, crunchy and delicious.

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A perfectly crisp spring roll

Now, when it comes to the filling . . . Let me qualify this by saying I’ve had many different mango and sticky rice desserts. I’ve eaten at over a dozen different Thai restaurants in different cities and I usually have my mango and sticky rice at each one. So, I feel really comfortable saying that I know what the dessert should taste like. This interior was not as tasty as I’d hoped. It was especially chewy, and the mango flavoring wasn’t as prominent as I’d like. So the filling wasn’t as delightful as the exterior, unfortunately.

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The interior wasn’t as tasty as I hoped

Here’s the rub: I was looking forward to the filling more than the outside, yet the outside was the best part of the snack. But, I don’t think that this product is a complete fail: in fact, I can think of a few ways that it can be improved. First, the company should tinker with the rice recipe to see how to prevent the rice from getting too “tough” when baking. Also, a little more mango would be wonderful. Finally, this needs COCONUT SAUCE! These rolls practically begged to be dipped into a creamy, sweetened coconut sauce to amp up the flavor and to add a contrast to the crisp exterior.

Would I try this again? Sure, especially if I had my own coconut sauce (or if the company started including sauce with the rolls). I’d be sure to have some additional mango to accompany these rolls, too.

Have any of you tried these before? Or, do you have another Thai dessert that you prefer? Let me know all about it in the comments below!

art · culture · travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: Kenya, Part 1

Nairobi remains one of my favorite places on Earth. I wrote a while ago about my Kenyan adventures. Here are some few more pictures from that trip that I hadn’t shared before. I’m breaking this into two parts, because one day of my trip involved a trip outside of Nairobi (to my friend’s family farm) and there are pics from the Nairobi National Museum that weren’t shared in this post. Today’s post features pics from the farm. Enjoy!

This particular cow was my friend’s favorite on her family’s farm

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Just a turkey, minding his (or her) business

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Adorable piglets and their momma!

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Because the climate in Nairobi and the surrounding areas is favorable for gardening during most of the year, my friend’s family farm basically produced food year round.

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Lush views surrounding the farmland

art · culture · international · travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: China, Part 1

I shared some photos of my trip to China almost two years ago (to the date!) on this blog. I remember this trip fondly and I can’t wait to return when international travel is an option again. Until then, here are some photos that I haven’t shared before. These are all from Beijing: I’ll add pictures from Hangzhou and Shanghai in a separate post. Enjoy!

Meal I enjoyed at a local mall: one of the best veggie curries I’ve ever had!

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A quick snap at The Forbidden City

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The Great Wall

Local shopping district: I visited Plastered8 t-shirt shop and found some cool stuff

Yum!

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Spots of beauty everywhere

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Cute bib from Haidilao restaurant (their hotpot was superb!)

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A philosophy for life

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international · travel

Cruise 2018: Ports of Call

Happy Monday friends! If you reside anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic region, you may be digging yourself out of the snow that fell over the weekend. Here in central Virginia, we didn’t get that much snow: we did however get a good amount of slushy rain. We are expecting some more snow and ice in the upcoming days, so stay warm and dry if you can!

With all of this cold, wintry weather, it’s only natural that I might look back on some warmer days. Specifically, I’m thinking about my last vacation to the Caribbean. If you all recall, I went on a Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbean. I posted about the ship itself, and I also wrote about the exquisite cuisine that I enjoyed on board. The ports of call for this cruise were Nassau, Bahamas; Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Costa Maya, Mexico. I’ve been to most of these ports before ( Honduras being the only exception), so I was already familiar with the locations. That being said, I still enjoyed being somewhere warm and sunny for a change.

I don’t have much to say about the locations: because I only spent a few hours at each port of call, it’s hard to distinguish between them. As a result, this post will be mostly pictures. I always get so excited to see the beauty of the Caribbean. The crystal clear water, the striking buildings, the unrelenting sunshine … There’s nothing quite like an

island vacation. Enjoy!

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Ship in Nassau

Views from Cozumel

Sights in Roatan

Costa Maya views

More Costa Maya

food

Food Review: Tsubi Soup

Hi everyone! It’s Friday, so let’s have a little fun and do a food review.

I recently ordered some vegan miso soup from Amazon because so many of the instant miso options available in stores contain bonito (a type of fish that is a traditional miso ingredient). Previously, I tried Miyasaka miso soup, which was tasty but lacked the flavorful “punch” I craved.

While searching through the miso mixes, I came across Tsubi Soup, a soup company that prides itself on using simple, fresh, authentic ingredients to create superbly flavored soups. I was really impressed by the fact that the company has such high standards for its ingredients, so I decided to give it a try.

I ordered the spicy red miso soup with mushrooms (the company offers several other flavors). The soup mix arrived in two days because I have Amazon Prime.

I made the soup by adding hot water and allowing the ingredients to re-hydrate. After about two minutes, it was ready to eat.

OMG, this was delicious! I didn’t miss the bonito flavor at all. This has to be one of the most delicious vegan miso soups I’ve ever tasted. I ended up each the entire box within 3 days LOL! The spice is abundant but not too hot. The mushrooms plumped up perfectly and give the soup great variety in texture.

Now, one major difference with this and the previously reviewed miso soup mix is the price. Tsubi Soups has 4 packets for $12.99, while Miyasaka Soups has 12 packets for nearly the same price ($14.28). But, you get what you pay for. Tsubi Soups are far tastier than Miyasaka Soups and, in my humble opinion, worth every penny.

I haven’t tried the other Tsubi Soup flavors but I intend to. If the spicy red miso with mushrooms is any indication, the other flavors are probably excellent, as well.

That’s my review for today. If you love Japanese foods or curious about them, let me know in the comments below. Thanks, and have a great Friday!

 

travel

2019 Travel Plans: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Well, as 2018 winds down, I can comfortably say that I’m done traveling for the year. I don’t anticipate going anywhere new until next calendar year, but boy, what a fun year this has been!

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From my trip to Kenya, to road trips to Philadelphia and North and South Carolinas, to my cruise last month, I’ve been a busy girl. And 2019 shows no signs of me slowing down!

I’m finalizing a few details on a late winter trip to San Juan, as well as a late spring/early summer trip to Paris. I was toying around with the notion of attending a very pricey and exclusive class next spring, but I’d rather spend my money on transformative or “bucket list” travel. The class can wait!

Next falls looks like it may include another family cruise and, if not, I’ll be in London for a few days to attend an event I’ve been eyeing. I’m also looking into some additional travel to the Pacific Rim: I haven’t decided on a country yet, but I feel like this region is calling me, so we’ll see where my hankering takes me.

I have to finish reviewing my cruise travel for you all, but once that’s done, I’ll be laser-focused on my 2019 plans. I’m so excited!!!

I hope you all are having a relaxing Monday and an easy transition into this post-Thanksgiving work week. Take care, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

 

international · travel

Cruise 2018: Dining on the Sea

If you all didn’t know, I love to dine out. I actually think I like eating out a bit too much, which is why I’ve cut down significantly over the past few months. That being said, I still got excited at the dining options available on my latest cruise.

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The Allure of the Seas (a Royal Caribbean ship) has multiple restaurants on board, as well as several cafes, wine bars, and snack bars. My family and I dined regularly at the main dining room at American Icon Grille. This restaurant  published a luxe menu every evening, featuring various appetizers, entrees and desserts. The restaurant changed up the menus every day, so there was always something new to try. There are also a few other themed restaurants, such as Silk (Asian foods) and The Grande (American foods).

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A typical breakfast that I’d order from room service

There is also a buffet located near the pools (the Windjammer Cafe), which has a few of the food items featured in American Icon Grille but also other dishes that aren’t available in any of the dining rooms. To be honest, I had the best time dining at the Windjammer in the evenings. The buffet had a different chilled fruit soup every night which were delicious and I could literally eat every day without getting tired of them (think the world’s smoothiest, most delicious smoothies . . . yes, it was as tasty as it sounds).

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A menu from one evening at American Icon Grille

Oooh, not to mention, there is a Sorrento’s pizza, which makes fresh pizza until 3 AM. Who doesn’t love pizza? And the room service has lots of delicious fresh options available all day long.

I won’t continue to talk about the foods: let’s see some pictures, shall we?

Lobster bisque and Tiger shrimp

Left: Shrimp ceviche; Top right: Shrimp and potato salad; Bottom right: Lobster

Desserts!!!

Enjoy your Friday, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!