Passion Fruit Lemongrass Bird Nest Summer Sipper


Yes, you read that correctly. Bird nest; and I’m not talking about twigs and feathers here….this is a nest made from the magical saliva of the swiftlet bird found in Indonesia and South East Asia. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. And no, it doesn’t taste like the saliva you are thinking about. I would describe it as gelatinous glass noodles with a hint of sugarcane. It’s fantastic! These nests are highly prized in Chinese medicine – fit for the emperor of China with a long list of healthy benefits.

“These bird nests are rich in several amino acids, proteins and minerals and are believed to stimulate the regeneration of cells, enhance skin complexion and support your immune and respiratory system.” – Blessing Birdnest

Blessing Birdnest is a family business that originated in the 1980’s in Cepu, Central Java, Indonesia. A few years ago they developed a unique process for making bird nest drinks, using only the finest grade nests, water and sugarcane. A delicious taste with no added preservatives. This fountain-of-youth drink is available for people in the US! It is FDA approved and imported to southern California.

Blessings Birdnest practices responsible harvesting, ensuring the safety of their employees as well as the birds. They harvest each bird nest after the eggs hatch and the baby birds mature, to promote natural regeneration. They are deeply committed to maintaining a sustainable environment for the birds.

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It’s been a hot summer here in California, so I was eager to experiment with a refreshing summer recipe that complimented its eastern Asian origin.

Passion Fruit Lemongrass Bird Nest Summer Sipper
2 cups (16oz) water
1 stalk of lemongrass
1 passion fruit
Ice

Directions
-In a small pot, boil 2 cups (16oz) water
-Cut lemongrass stalk into thin strips and place in boiling water. Boil until fragrant and water turns a light amber color.
-Strain water into 2 glasses over ice and discard the lemongrass stalks
-Add half a bottle of Blessing Birdnest drink to each glass
-Top with a spoonfull of passion fruit pulp and an extra stalk of lemongrass
-Add more ice if needed

Blessing Birdnest


We are going to India! {2 Week Packing List}

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Oh lordy! I’m so excited! OK 90% thrilled and 10% nervous…Dan and I are going to INDIA! From what I’ve heard, it’s the land of sensory overload and contrast, loud and chaotic but quiet and peaceful, poor and wealthy, corrupt and honest — heartbreaking and beautiful in all that life has to offer. I’m excited to learn and see new things. I’m ready for you India!
The 3 week countdown begins! We bought our tickets a few weeks ago and the visas are pending! We’re planning on spending 2 weeks. The first week we arrive in Delhi, explore the city, drive or travel by train to Argra, see the Taj Mahal (of course) and then catch a plane to Kerala in the south. I’m crossing our fingers that we can snag a houseboat and explore the backwaters of Alleppey — see some remote villages, elephants and tea plantations in Munnar. Then we fly to Kolkata for John and Avantika’s wedding; a week long celebration! I was invited to take part in a Sangeet dance competition (so it’s bound to be hilarious/I can’t dance) and decorating the bridal suite! We are so excited to celebrate John and Avantika, spend time with the Grams and Jalan family and experience India for the first time!

I’ve been researching like crazy…what to bring and not to bring, how to reserve train tickets, what to expect etc.

Here is a list of items that I have found helpful. If you’ve been to India and have any recommendations, please feel free to add to the list! I also have a carry-on for international travel list if you’re interested. And a recipe for that tasty masala veggie wrap pictured above ^.

india list

1. Playing cards. It’s a looooong flight. D and I like to play cards to pass the time.

2. Colloidal Silver. A natural anti-viral. Spray it under your tongue to ward off viruses that might be lurking in the plane or while traveling in India. It’s also great for spraying cuts and scrapes. Always check with your doctor before using natural remedies. It’s not a cure-all; just something that might help.

3. Rx medications. Get your vaccinations and medication for traveling to India. Check the CDC website for up to date recommendations. Don’t forget Imodium and an Rx for ciprofloxacin ugggggghhh… apparently we are doomed for the Delhi Belly. Always remember – Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it. Only drink bottled water and skip the ice and juices.

4. Echinacea for natural immune support. I also recommend taking probiotics, such as acidophilus for a month before your trip. You’ll need your belly to be in tip-top shape. As with any natural remedies, please consult with your doctor.

5. Sunscreen. Wear it!

6. Pacsafe 55L Backpack and Bag Protector. AMAZING! Someone has finally invented a lock for your backpack! This will come in handy when traveling on the train or bus or locking your pack in a hotel while you’re out exploring. I still don’t recommend leaving your valuables alone (and ALWAYS take your passport and money with you), but this is the second best option. Here is an article on scams and theft problems and how to avoid them.

7. A good book. I highly recommend this one, about a wonderful woman I met in Egypt. An inspiring story about loving others and her work in the Mokattam slum that will give you an unabashed look at inequality and extreme poverty. It exists in India and everywhere else in the world to differing degrees. Remain open. Remain aware. Treat everyone with respect and compassion.

8. A journal. I like to jot down moments, words or locations that I’d like to remember.

9. Water color kit. I like to paint pictures in ^ my travel journal.

10. Hat. Sun Protection.

11. Beanie. Mostly for the airplane and layovers. It can get chilly. I like to find a corner of the airport, pull my beanie over my head and catch some Zzzzzz. Sleep with your arms around your carry-on.

12. Multi tool knife. Don’t pack this one in your carry-on! Leave it in your checked bag. Comes in handy while traveling…cutting food, ropes, getting out splinters, protection etc.

13. Travel Pillow. Great for the airplane and your lower-end hotels that don’t provide pillows.

14. Camera. I use the Canon Rebel T3. I take it everywhere! Super durable and easy to use (bring your charger too).

15. 32GB class 10 or more SD card for taking lots of pictures!

16. GoPro for capturing water pictures and videos (bring your charger too).

17. Jacket with hood. Semi-waterproof for staying dry and toasty at night.

18. Digital waterproof travel watch with multiple alarms for catching trains and waking early etc. This one has multiple time zones so you’ll know what time it is back at home. Pretty cheap too!

19. Rx glasses and sunglasses. Because I’m blind without them.

20 Rohto eyedrops. These are so soothing.

21. Anti-bacterial gel. Keep clean and healthy.

22. Nasal Spray. Great for the airplane or when visiting dryer desert areas of India, like Rajasthan.

23. Lavender spray…or any kind of yummy smelling spray. Fellow travelers have recommended bringing a tiny bottle of something nice for your room.

24. A good ole’ fallback for snacks. Kind bars are great, natural, tasty and easy on the belly.

25. Headlight or flashlight for navigating at night.

26. Batteries for backing up electronics

27. A scarf! My favorite…so useful! Use it as a blanket, a head cover, a towel or tie strap etc.

28. Loose fitting long sleeve light colored blouses. India is a very modest country. Cover up but stay cool. Mosquito’s are attracted to dark and black colors, so stay lighter.

29. Fun costume jewelry (for the wedding).

30. Long pants or jeans. Keep em comfy…not too skinny. Modesty first.

31. Dresses. Keep the shoulders and knees covered or wear them with leggings in the city.

32. Swimsuit for your hotel or when visiting a beach. Be aware of your surroundings and cultural cues…some beaches are meant for walks or family picnics. You don’t want to be the only person in a swimsuit on a beach with fully clothed people. I would opt for a one-piece over a 2-piece.

33. A shawl for those slightly breezy evenings or up in the mountains. A cover-up for a short sleeve top.

34. Lip balm!

35. Small hair brush, ponytail bands and hair pins

36. PASSPORT! <— keep it with you at all times.

37. Small bottle of essential oil…peppermint, lavender or clove etc. Great for putting under your nose or on your temples — helps you relax on a long train ride.

38. Bug repellent in addition to Malaria pills. Some mosquitos carry bacteria, malaria and dengue fever. Wear long sleeves and light colors to avoid bites.

39. Pen or pencil for writing, filling-out immigration papers, names, numbers, notes etc.

40. Shorts* I don’t recommend wearing these in cities, heavily populated or religious areas, but they can be worn in more westernized towns like Goa, your hotel room or by the pool. Be aware that you may get unwanted attention.

41. Sleeping case. Perfect for those cheap hotels with questionable/no blankets or on a sleeper train to discourage peeping-Tom passengers.

42. Long skirt. Easy, breezy, modest.

43.  Comfortable bras and panties. Preferably cotton

44. Shoes for the cities

45. Small towel

46. Waterproof matches or lighter. Pack in your checked baggage

47. Wet Ones anti-bacterial wipes.

48. Mini speaker for playing tunes in your room or at a party (or to practice your sangeet dance)!

49. SD card adapter. I use this to transfer my pictures from my camera or GoPro to my iPad. Super cheap and useful!

50. Small folder for keeping important papers, copies of passports, itinerary, phone numbers and medical information in case of an emergency (and in case your electronics run out of juice/ are stollen/ break)

51. Calculator for those moments that you don’t want to use your phone –> calculating currency exchanges. Double check everything and learn how to haggle.

52. Naked eye shadow kit. Small/ compact and I use the darker shades as my eyeliner when traveling light.

53. Not completely necessary when backpacking, but a contour kit will be useful for a more polished look at the wedding.

54. Small concealer trio, great for tired eyes and blemish spots

55. Super yummy body cream. Smells wonderful without being overpowering. Woody Amber vanilla smell.

56. Rainbow sandals…because they go everywhere with me.

57. EARPLUGS will be your best friends!  The only way you’ll be able to sleep on those trains!

58. Earbuds for the plane and traveling between destinations.

59. An Indian adapter for all your electronics

60. An iPad or iPhone. Wifi is everywhere (although slow and spotty) it’ll be a life saver for booking hotels, train tickets, directions for your rickshaw driver etc.

61. Basic first aid kit, band aids, tape, scissors , alcohol swabs, iodine, gloves, medication, tweezers, extractors, tourniquet etc.

62. Dry bags. For your camera and important papers. Especially if you’ll be boating.

63. Money belt. Essential for keeping your money and passport safe. Wear it under your clothes and take out money as needed in a private area. Pickpockets are bold and many travelers have been frisked in crowds. Never leave your wallet in your pocket – it’s expected…

64. Kai body glow. Gardenia, jasmin, tropical flowers. Perfect for India.

65. Toilettries. Mini shampoo, conditioner, facial wipes, toothbrush and paste (use bottled water when brushing your teeth), feminine products (tampons are hard to find in India), small lotion, etc. any personal products you’ll be needing

66. Cords, cables and chargers for your electronics

67. Tissues (for your nose and…your bum). If carrying your own T.P. Roll is too big, then take a bunch of these tissue packets with you. T.P. is not available in most bathrooms so bring your own.

68. Day pack.  Canvas bag that is easy to roll up and stick inside your larger pack. Something smaller that you can use during the day while you leave your bigger pack locked up at the hotel.

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69. Mosquito net to keep the bugs away.

70.  Small travel umbrella for those rainy days.

+ here is a complete list for clothes that you’ll be needing in India (ladies). –>
For a 2 week trip I’m bringing 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of closed toed shoes or sneakers and socks, one pair of nice shoes/flats for the wedding, 1 jacket, 1 shawl, 5 tops, 2 dresses, 1 long skirt, 1 pair of shorts and 3 pants – jeans, harem pants and leggings. 7 days worth of panties and 2 bras. I’ll buy a few tops, kurtis and a saree for the wedding when we get there. Washing your clothes is cheap and fast (around 15 cents per item). Hire the local dhobi wallah, these guys take your clothes away and bring them back the next day freshly washed and ironed.

*Something I’ve learned…I always thought it would be rude or disrespectful for outsiders to wear traditional Indian clothing, but most Indian’s prefer/encourage visitors to wear their traditional clothing. Sounds fun to me! It’s not a big problem if you feel uncomfortable doing so, just adopt a modest fashion. Stay away from formfitting outfits and keep your shoulders and knees covered.

That’s about all I can think of for now…let me know if you come across other useful items and I’ll add them to the list!

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Thanksgiving

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I’m deeply thankful for this holiday that helps me pause and take notice of my blessings. To savor every moment and express gratitude for all the details in life – to all the pieces of this puzzle. I love that.

I’ve learned that one of the very best gifts I can give myself is finding gratitude and joy in what and who is around me. I’m thankful for my warm home, good health and my faith. For my freedom to write and create. But especially for my family, my loving husband and our friends. I look at these people every day, my people and I just wanna pinch myself. I’ve got the greatest crew. Life is all about relationships – being with them, listening, hugging, loving them.

I wish you the most wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones and a magical start of this holiday season!
PS. Today was that last day in our little home. Dan and I are moving into one of the houses he’s been building. I’m thankful for those 3 amazing years in that tiny house…the coziness of that kitchen (you could only fit one person in it). And for our squeaky washer and dryer and the heater you had to kick to get working. At least it worked Ha-ha. I’m thankful for all that time spent with you in that little house. It was small, but it was all that we needed. It was perfect. I’m a little sad that we’re leaving our first place, but I’m excited for the next chapter… looking forward to the new memories we’ll make in our new home. One that you built.
A few more photos and a short video from our day…

What a fun chapter of life this is. It’s a good one.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, FOLKS!
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^^^My mom went all out with the table decorations. It’s fun watching her get so excited about throwing a party. She really enjoys making things special for everyone. I think she has a real talent for it, not to mention she’s the most hospitable and loving person I know. And my Dad is a whiz in the kitchen. He really loves cooking…together with their powers combined, my parents are the ultimate hosts. Mom even found these cute little plastic animals and transformed them into place cards/ thankful cards. She cut them in half and used a dremel tool to hollow out the inside of each figurine, then glued in a magnet on each side, painted them silver and mounted them on wood wafers. Whatttt!? Yes she is pretty amazing.
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Love my fam! We have a huge family and it’s only getting bigger! I can’t wait for all my cousins to get married and start having babies too! Oh lordy then it’ll be about 50+ at the table…
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What a beautiful day.


Vegan Vanilla Caramel Slice

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The most AMAZING vanilla caramel slices! They taste like caramelly cookie dough heaven! Vegan and refined sugar free. Made from wholesome ingredients with healthy benefits! I like to keep these in the freezer and have one for dessert…or breakfast 😉 with a cup of coffee. Awww perfection! 
Here’s what you’ll need:
Base:
1 cup soft pitted dates
1 cup almond flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. water
 
Blend ingredients in a food processor until combined. Press date mixture into a lined (wax paper) 9X9 glass dish.  Place in the freezer.
Middle Layer:
2 cups soft pitted dates
1 tbsp. peanut butter
3 tbsp.  tahini
1/2 cup hemp mylk
1 tbsp. mesquite powder (*see note below)
1 tsp. vanilla
 
Blend ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Pour on top of the base mixture and use a spatula to spread it evenly into the corners of the dish. Place back in the freezer.
Top Layer:
1/2 cup raw cocoa powder
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tbsp. pure maple syrup (optional sweetener)
Mix ingredients in a cup. Use a microwave if needed to melt the coconut oil.
Pour on top and spread chocolate sauce evenly over the caramel-date layer.
 
Sprinkle with topping of your choice or keep plain (I used chopped pistachios and Brazil nuts).
Place in the freezer for 8 hours (or over night). Cut into slices and serve!
*Note on Mesquite Powder

So when I first heard about Mesquite powder, I thought it would taste like smoky BBQ; not so… it has a sweet nutty caramel-like flavor, making it ideal for a natural sweetener in desserts. Mesquite powder is ground from the pods of the mesquite plant and is high in protein, low on the glycemic index and is a good source of soluble fiber, calcium, iron, lysine, manganese, zinc, and potassium. Nice…
 

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites

I’m obsessed with Laura Bars…my favorite is their chocolate peanut butter bar. At $1.79 a pop things can add up quickly, so I decided to make my own. It looked simple enough, right? It was! My version is refined sugar-free and packed with protein. They are the perfect treat!
VEGAN CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BITES
Ingredients:
15 soft pitted dates
2 tbsp. smooth peanut butter (raw or regular)
1 tsp. water
1/2 peanuts
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips or cacao nibs
1 cup shredded coconut
Instructions:
Blend pitted dates, peanut butter and water in a food processor until the mixture turns into a coarse paste. You may need to add more water depending on the brand of peanut butter you use (some pb’s are drier than others).Add peanuts, salt and chocolate chips to the food processor. Pulse a few times to incorporate the ingredients and break the peanuts into smaller pieces.Take spoonfuls of the mixer and roll into 2-inch balls. Roll each ball in finely shredded coconut and place on a plate.Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until ready to serve.

*I usually keep these in the refrigerator for the whole week and grab one whenever a sweet craving hits.