Back to School

I’ve been enamored with nutrition, food, cooking for quite some time now. Cooking healthy meals, that actually taste good, out of whole ingredients. I’ll be honest, there were times when it wasn’t so much about the whole foods as it was about tasting absolutely delicious. Well, that’s changed a bit over time.

 

Almost two years ago I gave up land animals. I’ve written quite a bit about that. Once you start reading, watching, learning not only how they treat mass produced for consumption animals, but what they’re pumping into them, feeding them and what they do to the human body….well, it’s definitely a personal choice to not eat meat, but one I couldn’t have felt more secure in making.

Veggies
Veggies

So, where to get my protein!? That seems to be the most commonly asked question as a veggie-eating gal. Being a pescatarian (I do eat fish occasionally) helps cool the heals of protein-crazed people, but a whole diet started becoming more and more nutritionally important. Mike is a contractor, check out his blog MAS Quality Construction, so someone in his worker-shoes needs to be extra careful, as the energy he’s putting out during the day needs to be properly replenished.

The quest to learn began and for anyone who’s curious about food, diet, nutrition, the resources are endless. Overwhelming even. And the studies are plentiful. Why not go back to school, to really learn about this stuff? OK!

I started researching programs, for fun at first, that taught nutrition. Did I want to be a nurse? No. A dietician? No (there’s a lot of school involved in that!) I wanted to mostly learn about the science behind what happens to the food we put into our bodies, what happens to our bodies from the food that’s put there. Scientifically, what the hell is going on!? What nutrients (or combination) of foods works best. Open up Pandoras box!

We moved to Colorado late December 30th 2013, demoed our house, Mike started his company up again, I continued my Marketing gig from my home office…..a year later, we were settled. Time to dive into the next chapter: Back to School!

 

Studying my Anatomy & Physiology
Studying my Anatomy & Physiology

I enrolled in the Nutrition Therapy Institute (NTI) January 6th, 2015. Their philosophy struck a cord with me: Better Health Through Nutrition. So simple, yet such a foreign concept. Traditional Western Medicine doesn’t incorporate nutrition into the bigger picture, which boggles the mind considering most of the chronic diseases in this country are preventative and can be proactively managed, hell even avoided, with proper nutrition. I digress….

My first class is Anatomy & Physiology – fascinating, hard, mind-boggling stuff! I can’t believe we’re all still alive with the damage our body takes, the amount of energy and cell repair and organ functioning that takes place under our integumentary system (skin, look at that, I’m so scientific!!).

Spring Rolls in a coconut dipping sauce
Spring Rolls in a coconut dipping sauce

I hope this program enlightens me beyond my current state of nutrition, so I understand the options out there, the whole foods that could work for someone suffering from allergies, celiac, asthma, hypertension. I truly believe health starts with what you put (or omit from putting) into your body. And so my nutritional journey begins….I’ll try to share my knowledge here, as it’s so absolutely fascinating.

Let food be thy medicine – Hippocrates

Happy eating!

Happy Friday from Vieques

Rise and shine!!! Alarm went off at 5:45 and we actually got up!! Out the door by 6:15 we headed North east (although we really wanted to be east) to watch the sunrise. While the sun was rising in the direct east, being awake early in this gorgeous spot made the jaunt completely worth it. The tide was out, so walking along the beach was magical in the early morning.

Sunrise in Vieques
Sunrise in Vieques

Our corner bakery was open so dos cafés y creole omelets were ordered and consumed and we set off for the Punta Arenas Green beach. Being out and about in the early morning really has it’s benefits. No one on the road, wild horses are still absolutely everywhere, and no one around to ask you why you’re driving up a dirt hill.

 

Wild horses of Vieques
Wild horses of Vieques

Yes, Mike wanted to check out where this dirt access road led to. Proved to be some amazing views (and led to a telephone pole, very exciting stuff!)

Off-roading in Vieques
Off-roading in Vieques

The green beach was completely empty, except a small yacht down at the north end of the beach. We set up shop and hit the calm, warm water. The reef closest to the shore had amazing fish, Mike even saw a green eel! I caught a glimpse of a huge puffer fish (huge!!), trumpet fish, and a ton of other schools…too many to name! An hour or so after our arrival, locals from the big island came to share the beach…awesome crew with two beautiful golden retrievers (Hans Solo & Chewbacca). They gave us a great tip on a company that can take us out to an off-shore snorkeling tour-we’ll have to give them a call!

Bilis Restaurant, Esperanza
Bilis Restaurant, Esperanza

After several hours at the beach, we grew hungry so headed into Esperanza for some almurezo (lunch). First we made a stop at the islands oldest ceiba tree…375 years! Here I am doing my best tree pose. Doesn’t really compare.

375 year old ceiba tree!
375 year old ceiba tree!

Now we were hungry! I had heard good things about Bili’s restaurant and boy, it didn’t disappoint! Mahi bites, avocado salad and a Mahi wrap with fresh mint mojitos. Oh wow, it was all so good!

We chatted with a couple from Virginia and another from Mephis….the island is full of English speaking folks, all loving the island life. Everyone (locals especially!) has been ridiculously friendly, such a pleasant touch to being away from home and has truly mad our experience here awesome!

 

Post lunch, we thought we’d head to the Conde de mirasol fortress for some history. Plus, the weather has been 85+ degrees, an amazing temp, just have to limit the sun exposure for fear of burning! Unfortunately, the fort was closed, so headed back for some yoga (I did a 30 min flow) and a siesta (Mike rested his weary snorkeling bones).

Sunset on the pier
Sunset on the pier

Fresh from yoga & rest, we struck out for the sunset at 5:15, racing to get to the pier before the sun slipped away for the day. We made it and it was spectacular! With our Madellas, lawn chairs and front row seats, it was the best happy hour in town.

Coqui Hot Sauce
Coqui Hot Sauce

Dinner this evening was at the Coqui Fire restaurant. Amazing! Fresh seafood (tuna ceviche for an app) and amazing margaritas. The hot sauces were plenty, all having unique flavors and strong habanero taste. Mike got the red snapper tacos, while I ordered the blackened shrimp in a coconut mole sauce. Oh. Oh yes!!! With a sweet mango, coconut hot sauce to toss on, it was heavenly. And of course, we couldn’t pass up on the coconut cream cheese cake (homemade and most definitely the best cheese cake I’ve ever had!)

Our third full day in Vieques did not disappoint and we are heading to bed happy, full of amazing food, and ready for tomorrow’s adventure!

Happy Friday!!

Happy Thanksgiving from Vieques!!!

Happy Thanksgiving from the island of Vieques! No turkey for us this year (although we’re pescatarians anyway!) or catching up with the family. We spent our day in paradise!

Blue Beach
Blue Beach

All of our good intentions set the alarm for 5:45 am to watch the sunrise. All of our vacation intentions shut the alarm off and went back to sleep until 7:30. Doh! Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. At 7:45, we headed down to grab cafe from the only open place (convenient store in the middle of town) and picked up our rental. A red jeep!!! Oh, the memories of Mike and I back in high school, cruising in his red jeep…..

After a short wait (island time means they’re not open exactly at 8) we were off to blue beach in La Chiva. Heading down 997, straight into the Refufugio Nacional de Vidal Silvestre de Vieques (the islands protected park that actually used to be a bombing ground for the US) we found amazingly groomed roads (two years ago we headed to Coasta Rica and talk about bumpy!) and a pristine, private beach with white sand as far as the eye could see and blue skies overhead. Gorgeous!

Post Snorkeling selfie!
Post Snorkeling selfie!

Throwing our chairs in the shade of a palm, our bag in the back of a bush (we’d been warned about petty crime) and hit the turquoise water. It was so much calmer on the Caribbean side of the island, so we could see clear or the bottom. Although we swam and swam and didn’t see much. So, Mike suggested we swim to the small island about a 1/2 mile, give or take, from the shore. Wow, are we glad we ventured out!!! Quite a big reef surrounded the small island so we saw plenty! Small little fish darted in and put of the rocks, while brilliantly colored bigger four eyed butterfly fish glided around and then…..Mike saw a green sea turtle!!! The guy was just chillin among the coral watching us point at him. So cool!

Having not eaten breakfast (too much to see and do for that!) we swam in from an awesome snorkeling adventure and chatted about where to eat over a few Modellas. Esperanza was uncharted territory, so we packed up our beach goods and headed out. Along the way we saw a ton of wild horses, which is so cool to see!

Belly Buttons in Esperanza!
Belly Buttons in Esperanza!

About 15 minutes later, we arrived in the town. The main drag sat right on the ocean and the beaches here….well think I know this side of the island’s claim to fame! Absolutely stunning. I had read decent things about Belly Buttons, so we found it easily, ordered some boat drinks, and sat and relaxed. Turns out, the owner Tom is from Philly and we chatted about the Birds and the Phils. Such a small world!

Our bellies full, we headed towards the ocean to explore and wandered down a haphazard pier that lead out to quite a beautiful spot. Why not jump off!? So, we did! Dives, flips, splashes….and a spotted ray was spotted! An awesome, playful afternoon. Next on the list: more snorleking!

Drinks & view at the W resort
Drinks & view at the W resort

Rompeolas Mosquito pier, just passed the airport, proved to be a warm, fun, popular snorkeling spot. Many black sea urchins, trumpet fish, fairy basslets, a whole slew of tiny fish were seen! A slight rain shower sprung up just as we were calling it quits. A perfect afternoon. One stop at the W resort on Vieques for glorious drinks on the veranda (a banana daiquiri for me, a monitor for Mike). Among the hotel guests, who all lounged in the lobby for some reason, we chatted amongst ourselves about the fiscal comparison between the setup we went with (rented a car for $75 a day, apartment for $75) and the beautiful W resort (rooms run from $275+). Makes one wonder….

Ceviche!
Ceviche!

The night tapped out with a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner below our apartment stairs on the main drag at a place called Bieke’s Bistro. Amazing ceviche, seafood, and service! Mike and I spoke of how thankful we were for our wonderful life, our families and what the future holds. Being grateful for our vacation and the good fortune we have had in our new Colorado home. A perfect nightcap to a busy, busy island day and a Thanksgiving for the books!

Happy & Thankful on Thanksgiving
Happy & Thankful on Thanksgiving

 

Hope everyone had a healthy & Happy Thanksgiving!