TRAVEL BLOG: Budapest in Two Days (Winter)

Photo taken at the Museum of Sweets and Selfies, a pop-up museum, similar to the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco.

This is the second part of my Europe trip recap. Budapest was our second destination! We decided to go to Budapest just a couple of days before I left for Vienna. It was simple to plan. We bought our tickets on OBB and booked our Airbnb in the heart of the city, near Gozsdu, a lively area with eateries and bars.

360 Bar has heated igloos that you can reserve. We were too late to reserve one, but we arrived early and were able to enjoy it on the rooftop before their dinner rush.
360 Bar has one of the best cheese fondue sets I’ve had. I wanted to eat it all myself! Kevin and I fought over the pickles and bread. The cheese was delish.

We didn’t get to do much research on Budapest, but we made a list of the places we wanted to visit:

  • Gozsdu Udvar
  • Miniversum Budapest
  • New York Cafe
  • 360 Bar
  • Museum of Sweets and Selfies
  • Szcheyeni Thermal Bath

Obviously we couldn’t make it to all of them because of our limited time there. We didn’t realize distance from the train station to our Airbnb was going to be so far, so we narrowed down our choices to just a few that were nearby.

Gozsdu was great. At night, it’s full of life. There were so many eateries to choose from: Italian, Hungarian, Mexican, Thai, American, etc. We ate at a Hungarian restaurant and ordered their goulash. It was so tasty! We also grabbed a few drinks at one of the bars and enjoyed the atmosphere.

This is a typical Hungarian breakfast, says the server at one of the Gozsdu eateries (I can’t remember the name of the place). I had no idea the sausage under neat the toast was made of horse meat. Cheers to new experiences!
Goulash at the New York Cafe.

We passed up the thermal bath because the weather was horrendously cold for us islanders. I couldn’t take walking on the street for longer than 10 minutes. I was a popsicle! One of our last stops was at the New York Cafe, a “cafe” that many claim is the most beautiful cafe in the world. The ceilings were painted in the similar style of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting. I ordered the goulash and Kevin ordered some cakes. We loved the goulash above all. I have dreams to stay at the New York Hotel one day and spending more time learning more about the history behind Budapest. A two-day trip just wasn’t enough!

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Travel Blog: Vienna, Austria

It’s January. Kevin is in the middle of his deployment in Kosovo and I’m missing him lots, especially after the lonely holidays. He has a little over a week’s worth of PTO so to make the most of his time, I’m flying to Europe to see him.

We decided on Vienna, Austria for our vacation because it’s a couple of hours away from Kosovo and we heard winter is a beautiful time to visit the country. I wanted to see history and art. Kevin wanted adventure and schnitzel. Vienna seemed like the place to do it all in a limited amount of time and my airfare? $500 rt.

Seeing Kevin after a few months of deployment made my heart leap. He arrived first and greeted me in the baggage claim area of the airport. After hugging for minutes, we scurried off to grab my luggage and grabbed a fresh orange juice and snack before we made the trip to our Airbnb.

I underestimated the temps in Vienna during January. I’ve never been so cold! We caught the train to the Airbnb and I almost cried walking three blocks to our door. I stopped complaining when we walked into our warm and quaint loft. It was beautiful and cozy. Just enough for the both of us. I loved the design and the cleanliness of it all. Glad we chose this one. It was just a few minutes from the city center with clean streets, Weinerschnitzel stands and horse carriages!

Once we settled in, got our weinerschnitzel and chicken schnitzel with lemon, we set off to tour the sights. Here are the Vienna musts we could fit in a few days:

  • Schönbrunn Palace
  • Palmenhaus – the palace greenhouse
  • National Library – a bit small, but very beautiful
  • Albertina Museum Wein – super fancy and beautiful
  • Naschmarkt – literally the “the eating market,” an open air market with eateries and small food shops.
  • Cafe Sacher – best known for their sacher tort cake, wasn’t a fan in the end

Palmenhaus was gorgeous and made us feel a bit at home. The humid climate they maintain in there brought back memories of home for Kevin. He missed the islands so much. The Albertina Museum was outstanding, there’s a cafe inside with a wonderful menu and we loved the gift shop with Klimt notebooks and merchandise. The architecture of the museum alone was stunning. Inside was warm and toasty and we enjoyed exploring each exhibit.

For us Hawaii folk, we’re all about the food when we travel. We quickly grew tired of the schnitzels and started searching for Asian food, any place with rice or spice. Google led us to Ivy’s Pho, just a minute from our place.

The pho was piping hot, noodles were thin like I like them and the basil was fresh. This was a great break in between fresh breads and pastries. Vienna is all about the pastries and apfelstrudels, which can get a bit bland for those who fancy salty and savory flavors.

The second great place we ate at was Bao Bar. Pork belly baos and kimchee fries gave me that savory, spicy kick I was missing (yes, even just in a few days, I need something spicy).

The last place I must mention for drinks is Miranda Bar. This place was a few blocks from our Airbnb and the bartender spoke English and was very kind to us. She modified their drinks to my liking. Kevin, on the other hand, wanted to try the entire menu. This was the cutest bar I’ve ever been to! All the drinks on the menu were illustrated and the vibe was very girly and chill.

We loved these places in Vienna and I’d go back in a heartbeat. Kevin and I found the city very easy to get around. We took Uber to places we couldn’t walk or when the weather got too cold. Even the grocery stores had such wonderful snacks and food to take back to the Airbnb.

We took a two-day trip to another city…to be continued in an upcoming post…

Breakfast Bowls

IBbreakfastbowlsWhile I’m no stranger to fancy açaí or blended fruit bowls, I never used to put any effort into the bowls I make at home until recently. Honolulu’s açaí bowls are pretty, but expensive, clocking in at $10 and up and if you’re lucky, your granola will still be super crunchy.

I’ve been trying to replicate what I see on Pinterest and it’s quite fun. The ingredients I’ve used for this bowl are spirulina powder, plain greek yogurt, raw chia, grain-free granola, frozen bananas and strawberries (I’ve frozen them myself), a bit of blueberries, macnut milk (I buy the Milkadamia brand, unsweetened plain) and a bit of cara cara orange. I think it’s best to use whatever is in season so you don’t get tired of them.

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Because these bowls contain a ton of sugar, I try not to eat these as much. However, when I do get to enjoy them, I’ll savor every bite. Once in a while, I’ll sneak in a dollop of almond butter to make it a bit creamier.

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When I do feel like buying an acai bowl or a blended fruit bowl, there are three places I’ll go to on Oahu:

Well + Proper

Not the most accessible, but if you follow her on Instagram @well_n_proper, she’ll let her customers know when she’s in. I set a notification for her posts. Her macnut butter is amazing and her acai isn’t so sweet. I love it. She also sells fresh squeezed juices and elixirs.

Jewel or Juice

If I want really good, fresh and crunchy granola, this is the place to go! They make their own granola and sell it on the side if you want to take some home. Their bowls are consistent and very good.

Banán

This place has been around for a while. I used to go to their small truck in Diamond Head to order their soft serve in a papaya with granola and macnut butter. Now they have a convenient location in the walkways of Kahala Mall. Their kiosk is well stocked and they usually have a line and a long wait. Still great, nonetheless.

 

Fantasy vs. Authenticity

Tell me about yourself.

I hate that sentence. But here’s what I’d usually do: I’m going to tell you five personal facts, followed by a bunch of counteractive statements in fear of you herding my likes and dislikes into a pen. My fear of being pigeonholed already tells you a lot about my insecurities.

Can I just show you my Instagram account? It’s everything I want someone to know about me: a person with a fascination with art by female illustrators, a weakness for Asian food and disorganized tablescapes, a tendency to overshare about my loved ones and friends and a gravitation towards the color of sunsets and sunrises. It’s a reflection of my fantasy self and authentic self.

Who is my fantasy self, you ask?

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Let’s define the fantasy self, first. It’s who you want to be. It could be Astrid from Crazy Rich Asians or Samantha from Sex and the City. It could be someone who wears high heels for all occasions or a self-proclaimed life coach with tons of credibility. Either way, there’s something a little false about what you put forward.

My fantasy self isn’t tooooo far from my authentic self. She’s a writer and a creative. She blends visuals and words to convey something meaningful. She’s a sometimes-Catholic with an unconventional, bohemian outlook on life. A smart, funny and loveable person whose life at home revolves around her plant babies and photographing homemade brunches. She reads, travels often, and has funny, sarcastic exchanges with bae on social media.  What’s the fake part, you ask? Keep reading…

What is my authentic self like?

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You’re authentic self is simple. It’s who are when no one is around.

My authentic self is a woman who travels when she can, but in the meantime, she’s out eating ramen or staying at home because she’s not as sociable in her 30s as she was in her 20s. She travels deep into her mind, revisiting memories that conjure feelings of happiness and occasionally stumble into memories of experiences that she never had the chance to digest and heal when she was living through it at the time. She finds it difficult to focus on a task like laundry, vacuuming or responding to texts about mundane things like how many eggs to purchase tomorrow or explain why she’s been tinkering around all day. She entertains herself by taking photos of meals she cooks, reading self-growth books, watching horror films and going to crossfit primarily to hang out with the people there. Although her favorite color is sunset, she wears black most days because it makes her look slimmer and she’s so lazy to do laundry, it’s easier to throw everything into the same washload. She lives to please her family, which can be a good and bad thing.

You must think I’m a fake, lazy, depressed hag right? You’re half right.

{Cue self-affirmation-esque inspirational music} I actually do experience lots of joy. I feel joy when I’m able to save more than $300 from each paycheck, get invited to get-togethers, give someone a gift or a hug and during the few times I actually make Sunday mass. I love art and I spend hours searching for female illustrators that depict real bodied, brown women like me. I love my job and what I do for work, it’s a place where I feel powerful and confident in my ability to produce good things and strengthen my skills. I love when I make my family happy with something I did or cooked on my own. I try my best to be the good child. I try to surround myself with compassionate individuals who treat people like people.

I value my selective choices in friends and I know when to be level-headed just as much as I know when I can allow myself to be an emotional mess.

The reality is…it’s a struggle to live between both worlds. So I try to blur the line as much as I can and allow my authenticity to take over as much as possible, no matter how ugly she looks.

Balancing fantasy and authenticity

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said “bae” lol

In dating, I realized that my fantasy self only took my relationships so far. I was quick to put F self on and hooked quite a few good-looking ones that would only boost F self’s ego. I tried my best to be skinnier and outgoing, wear nice clothes and make as many surface level friends As I could…all to trap a God-fearing Latin man-unicorn with money. It wasn’t until I started dating a guy that didn’t care about social media, saw through my F self, slept through my snoring and reminded me how beautiful I was bare-faced, wearing a stained Saipan t-shirt, stuffing Takis and hot Cheetos into my mouth. He didn’t add value to my social clout, impress others with his multiple jobs or have a manly truck to overcompensate for anything. He’s real, deep and one-dimensional all at the same time, completely devoid of a fantasy self. His honesty and realness is the best thing to come home to.

My single friends often talk about losing weight before they find Mr. Right. I tell them that first of all, you don’t need a man to feel complete (something they already know, but I repeat anyway). Second, you’re better off finding Mr. Right in your current state, because you’re not stressing you’re A self out trying to live up to your F self. You deserve to be loved at your skinniest AND fattest. I can’t even tell you the freedom I felt the day my A self started to become beautiful to ME and started to let a little A bleed into the F.

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@hawaiibusinessmagazine

In my career, surprisingly, I was quite the opposite for years. I was too focused on proving I could do something that I never really conjured up the F self often enough. I was known in the office as the girl who wears black and doesn’t even bother to wear makeup most days. I believed that my brain was enough for the job and then get upset when board members and sales reps forget my name. I just wasn’t memorable and I chalked it up to not being good enough to be noticed. I still struggle with this to be honest. Today I try my best to put on a light, natural face-full of makeup, do my hair a little nicer and incorporate some of my artistic and colorful personality into what I do at work. Now people are slowly remembering my name and what I do. I’m still invisible but not as invisible as I used to be. This month, I magically made it onto the cover of a business magazine, so I suppose it’s progress.

Change the fantasy, develop your authenticity

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@islandbohemian

One thing is for sure. The fantasy will always change. One day, I’ll tire of being the “islandbohemian” and maybe switch to the “wordygypsy” or the “artsychamorrita.” You never know what I’ll be into next. However, my authenticity will never change as dynamically as my fantasy. I’ll always be myself whether I like it or not. I may improve upon a few things like being healthier (not necessarily skinnier) or being more responsible with money, but I will never, ever give up my food-stained Saipan shirts, snoring (it’s like, not that easy to control, quite honestly) or quality time spent with family.

I felt compelled to write this because I see a lot of women my age and younger fighting a battle between their fantasy and authentic selves. It’s totally okay to have both, but don’t ever be ashamed of your A self, she’s in there and the longer you repress her, the more she forgets what truly makes her happy and next thing you know, she’s a full-blown seeker of validation. Maintain that balance, know yourself and what brings you so much joy that you can’t help but smile. Be authentically you.

(Note: I am not a certified life coach nor do I have a background in psychology. I share my own thoughts based on my experiences in hopes that I have the pleasure of meeting more authentic beings out there.)

Top 10 Places to Eat on Guam

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While I was vacationing in Guam last month, a Hawaii friend stationed on the Navy base had asked if I could provide a list of my fave places to eat on the island. I couldn’t possibly list all my go-to’s, so I’ve compiled a list of my top places. You’ll find good food anywhere on the island, really. But I tried to list all the places that locals frequent because of the food quality, excellent dishes or authenticity.

CROWN BAKERY – Located in Mangilao. I usually don’t eat donuts, but I LOVE their plain glazed donuts! They’re better than Krispy Kreme. I promise. Go early in the morning after the kids go to school or in the afternoon. They make a fresh batch around 5 a.m. and at 4 p.m. daily. You won’t regret it.

MESKLA – a bit pricey (for Guam), but it’s authentic Chamorro cooking with a nice dining atmosphere. Order the tinala katne (it’s just like pipikaula) with red rice and chicken kelaguen (like ceviche). Don’t be afraid to order the “fiesta platter” because it comes with a lot of authentic Chamorro dishes (fried parrotfish, chicken kelaguen, bbq ribs and tinala katne). Explore the menu when you can. Don’t waste your time on the desserts unless the staff recommends a special dessert. $$

IZAKAYA KATSU / GREEN DOOR (locally known as Green Door – because, well, the entrance is a green door) – this is one of my fave hole in the wall restaurants on the island. Mostly locals go there because it’s hidden on the third floor of a parking garage in the Central Plaza building next to the Tumon Police Station. It’s a Japanese restaurant known for their tofu steak (you wouldn’t believe how tasty it is, it’s such a unique dish), chicken katsu, grilled saba and curry. $$

PROA – this is a friendlier, more American approach to island food. I like all the dishes on the menu. I can’t pick just one. You’ll find this in Tumon. $$

CHAMORRO VILLAGE – Best time to go is around 5:30 p.m. when the Wednesday Night Market begins. There are all sorts of food vendors (thai, Vietnamese, Chamorro, filipino, etc.). They’re all great, but I prefer to dine in at the little Chamorro restaurant with A/C. They have the best bbq ribs and chicken. Spacing is tight so try to get there early. $

LEMAI CAFE RESTAURANTI just found out this place has closed! I’ll still include it since it deserves some recognition for being one of my fave places to eat on the island. Lemai Cafe is a mom and pop restaurant located on a breadfruit farm. I order their fried porkchops (I just realized this list has a lot of heavy, comfort dishes, but that’s really, the best part of Guam – comfort food!). I felt most at home in this restaurant. Only locals really go here, so enjoy the good, authentic food. It’s in between Barrigada and Tiyan. $

SAKURA KITCHEN – This is the cheapest place to get good Japanese food. They have so many yummy dishes. I love their fried garlic appetizer served with lemon and miso, miso salmon, shrimp tempura, sushi, udon, curry, chicken or pork katsu, and sashimi). Located in Tamuning. $

BAN THAI– Best thai food on the island. Best to go for lunch, since it’s only $13 per person all you can eat thai buffet. I love their tom yum soup, pad thai, fried chicken and fried banana lumpia (call ahead for banana lumpia – they only make it on certain days). Located in Tumon. $

PIKA’S CAFÉ – This café/restaurant is perfect if you’re craving something lighter but still maintaining a local flair. They have typical deli style sandwiches and salads but you can order some great unique and affordable local-ish dishes. Definitely one of my fave lunch spots. Located in Tamuning. $

PALM CAFÉ – Located in Tumon at the Outrigger Hotel. This is a higher-end place to go for Sunday brunch. Locals compete with tourists for a table on Sundays because the food is worth your money. My family comes here for special occasions. $$$

MICHELLE’S COFFEE SHOP – This is where I took my boyfriend for a local breakfast the first day he arrived in Guam. You’ll only see locals around here. It’s near a high school and just down the road from the university. It’s also in the heart of Guam, so residents stop by to read the paper while they chomp away at their Chamorro sausage scramble with garlic fried rice. It’s far from fancy, yet so comforting. $

I’m pretty sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the great things Guam has to offer. But definitely pay attention to the events listing in the local paper or online. They have great events like the Mango Festival in Agat and other local festivals with various food vendors and activities for families.

Is there a good Guam restaurant or eatery I’ve missed? Feel free to share it in the comments.

My 2018 Goal: A Book Per Month

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One of my goals this year is to read at least one book every month. I realized I haven’t read anything great in a while and I’ve been out of touch with what’s new and profound in the literary realm. Knowing I’d be really indecisive on selecting books, I reached out to my Facebook friends for recommended titles. Naturally, everyone responded with titles close to their heart! I specifically asked for some diversity, everything from science fiction to self help. My network of old friends, colleagues, past professors, and relatives served up a very diverse list. I’ve combed through the titles that seemed interesting and are somewhat relevant to me.

Here are the top 12 that made my list:

  1. La Sombra del Viento / The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – This is the first one that I bought. Recommended by my grad school professor, this is really great so far. I bought the Spanish version, thinking I’m up for a challenge, but it’s taking me longer than usual to get through a book. I highly recommend this book (it was suggested to me three times) because I’m only on page 50 and I feel like I’m in a magical world.
  2. Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco – I’m not going to lie, I peeked through the first ten pages of this once I received it in the mail. The writing style is honest and witty, but I’m forcing myself to finish La Sombra del Viento before I finish this.
  3. Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller – Naturally, my boss gifted me an awesome book that would help me develop my branding and message strategy at work. This was an easy read and Donald puts things into perspective.
  4. Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown – A crossfit friend recommended this to me. We’re on the same level. I need to learn how to adult!
  5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – A former classmate recommended this one and I saw that it was highly rated on Amazon. It’s on my list of next books to purchase (or find a copy of at the library).
  6. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – This title was recommended to me three times! The synopsis and eager recommendations sealed it’s place on my list.
  7. Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline – I asked for diversity and my crossfit friend served it up. This isn’t a title I’d pick up immediately, but I hear the movie comes out sometime next year. Plus, it looks exciting!
  8. A Tale for the Time Being: A Novel by Ruth Ozeki – I read the reviews on this one and they are phenomenal. I can tell every person was affected by this book, even the poor ratings have quality feedback. On the list it goes…
  9. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō – Ali Wong was onto something. A fellow AIGA board member recommended this title and I remembered Ali’s standup.
  10. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – A former grad school classmate warned me this is a sad read, but it makes you think about life and death.
  11. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey – Recommended by a former colleague who is always trying to be better at what he does. Such an appropriate title.
  12. Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health by Dr. Caroline Leaf – My younger cousin recommended this, which I am in complete shock that she did. She’s a wildly bold free-thinker and to see her recommend a book that helps center your thoughts and incorporates a spiritual or biblical element shows me how much she’s grown. Perhaps it will help me grow as well.

This list is definitely a great start. I think my Facebook post helped some folks discover new genres and books. A couple of old classmates have even reached out saying they wanted to start a book club. We’ll see how it goes. Feel free to leave your fave titles (and why you recommend them) in the comments!

Tropical Tuesday

I’m a bit late in admitting I’m on the Fabletics train. I wanted to try out their clothes and see how they held up after months of wearing. The verdict? The workout pants/legging quality is meh, but the sports bras…they’re amazing! I first subscribed earlier this year and of course I gravitated towards everything BLACK. Black leggings. Black sports bras. Black is safe and matches with everything and it hides all of my vulnerabilities.

Well I’m over that. Not that I don’t have vulnerabilities anymore, but I’m tired of sifting through a mass of black on laundry days. So two months ago, I ordered my first real funky colored and printed workout clothes. They had tropical prints! Green on pink has been trending and I’m so glad they had something that matched the one trend I’ve been fangirling about. When my order arrived, the pigment on the fabric was decent, you can tell it was digitally printed or something. I washed it about five times because it’s so comfy and the print hasn’t faded…yet. It’s a perfect pop of color when you are wearing a low-cut button-down shirt or a flowy workout top.

I’m officially a fan and regret all those times I settled for black. The print makes me happy and I look forward to buying more fun prints and brighter colors. Take a chance this week! Wear something out of the ordinary.