Sticking to a fitness routine is challenging especially with the constant distractions and obligations of everyday life. With increasing access to technology, your work can be at the touch of your fingertips. The primary way most Americans relax is by watching TV, on average 2.8 hours a day. Focusing some of that time instead on a quick workout or a nourishing meal can keep you on track for whatever fitness success looks like for you.
Record and track your goals
Photo by Andrey_Popov
Researchers at Dominican University found that people are 42% more likely to achieve their goals when they take the time to write them down. So record your fitness goals to hold yourself accountable on a sheet a paper or in a note on your phone, wherever it will serve as a reminder that you’re striving for more. A well-rounded workout routine builds strength, energy, flexibility, and endurance. In addition to recording your goals, track your progress and log your workouts, writing down what you did in your planner or in your digital calendar. That will show you that even on a busy day you had time for a quick yoga flow, bodyweight exercises, a run, or a cycling class.
Build a support system
Photo by Jacob Lund
Research shows that individuals are much more likely to achieve their goal and one study found that 95% of those who started a weight-loss program with friends completed the program. Accountability group texts can make all the difference. Share your goals and updates to stay motivated like inspirational quotes, swapping recipes and workouts, can be a fun way to keep the energy alive. You’re less likely to misstep and skip a workout if you know others will be waiting to hear how it went.
Don’t have a squad yet? Group exercise classes are a great way to meet like-minded people dedicated to fitness. Additionally, trying a new class at the gym and changing things up can help you to create new healthy habits.
Nourish your body
Photo by Antonina Vlasova
We all love food. It’s the way we bond with others, show love, and fuel our bodies. And it’s critical to your fitness plan. What you’re eating and drinking throughout the day will have an impact on that habit-building you’re trying to do and if you can stick to your goals. If you eat too much at lunch or not enough, your body won’t be able to perform the workout with the results you desire.
Just as you’re writing down your workout goals, you might consider also creating a menu for the week and packing your lunch the night before with a balance of protein, carbs, and veggies. This will help you avoid going out to lunch and that afternoon food-coma from the large pasta dish that leaves you feeling lethargic. Bring your own lunch and snacks to work to keep you on track with your goals and your workout.
Ultimately, you have to commit to goals, feel supported, and get the right nourishment to get the most out of a fitness plan. That doesn’t mean ditching the foods you love or overworking yourself, it just means you have to build healthy habits and reap the benefits.
This tofu soba noodle salad is seriously a tasty plate of noodle goodness. It is dressed with a fantastic dressing reminiscent of the traditional Chinese sauce using Chinese black vinegar and sesame oil. Chinese black vinegar is somewhat similar to a balsamic, but it has a darker texture with a lingering smoky sweetness. It is the type of vinegar that you would usually get with your dumplings at the Chinese restaurant. Pairing it with sesame oil, tamari, lemon, fresh chilli, and coriander really accentuate the freshness of the salad as a whole. And the best thing about this? It will only take 20 minutes to make!
The Philippines is a pork-loving country. One of the most iconic Filipino dishes would have to be the lechon, a whole pig slow-roasted to perfection. But lechon is usually reserved for very special occasions because of its price and size. It’s traditionally made outdoors on a rotating spit over embers, ensuring that the meat inside stays moist and juicy while the skin crisps up.
While I’d give anything to have this set-up at home, I know it’s not something most Filipinos have! But that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own and enjoy lechon at home. My recipe makes use of pork belly, which is a reasonable size for a family or group of friends. Using similar methods to cook lechon on a smaller cut of pork means you can have lechon any time you like!
Watch my video below:
LECHON PORK BELLY RECIPE - YouTube
Here’s the recipe:
1 kg block/slab of pork belly
1 red onion, chopped into large chunks
8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
3 stalks of lemongrass, ends crushed
3 stalks of leeks, cut at a diagonal
2-3 pieces Red bird’s eye chili
Salt and pepper
Stuff the pork belly with the onion, garlic, lemongrass, leeks, and chili. Make sure to spread out the ingredients to infuse flavor into the whole slab. Roll the slab forming a tight cylinder. Secure the roll with kitchen twine. Snip off the excess lemongrass and leeks that may be sticking out from the sides of the roll. Place the pork belly onto a raised roasting rack to make sure all sides get crispy. Baste the pork belly with canola oil using a brush or the leaves of the lemongrass. Bake in the oven for 2 hours at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the oven after 2 hours and baste the pork belly with milk. Return to the oven to roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool for a bit before slicing and serving.
The province of Ifugao is a lush, mountainous land that is rich in culture, history, and natural resources. Situated in the Cordillera mountain range, Ifugao is home to the UNESCO recognized Banaue Rice Terraces. But these rice terraces aren’t the only thing special about Ifugao. There’s much more to see and do, which is why you should add this amazing province to your travel bucket list.
I made my way to Hungduan to catch the rituals that the locals do in honor of the end of the harvest season. Check out my experience in the province below:
RITUAL IN IFUGAO RICE TERRACES Philippines - YouTube
What else does Ifugao have in store for visitors to the region? It’s a province that’s best for travelers who are in love with nature and culture. Ifugao is one of the few areas untouched by colonization, so many of the locals were able to retain their traditions and rituals. If you want to immerse yourself in how Filipinos lived before colonization, then you definitely have to visit this place. There are no 5-star or luxury hotels and facilities, but Ifugao is still a rich province. It’s rich in age-old tradition, beautiful culture, and fascinating history.
There are several villages in Ifugao to visit if you’re looking to see how the people practice their traditions and rituals. Bokiawan Village is located 12km from Banaue. They also have their own rice terraces so you can learn about how the traditional Ifugao people cultivate their land. The Pula and Cambulo Native Village features the ancient craft of bark cloth weaving. They also offer homestays if you want to spend a truly immersive night or two in the village.
Ifugao Women in Banaue by Kobby Dagan
As much as the Ifugao celebrate and cultivate life in all forms, they also have a very spiritual relationship with death. You can check out their burial techniques that have been passed down for generations in the Apfo Tombs, or in the Makaliwagha and Lebhong Burial caves.
When visiting Ifugao, be sure to pack clothes for outdoor activities. There are a lot of spots for caving, hiking, waterfall chasing, and swimming in Ifugao. Lagawe is home to two caves: Bintakan and Nah-toban. Be sure to get a knowledgeable guide who can lead you through these caves, which are full of stalactites, stalagmites, and unexplored depths.
De-stress and unwind in the hot springs of Tocucan in the Tinoc region. These sulfuric hot springs help relieve you from internal problems like arthritic pain, digestive issues, and menopausal symptoms. The springs are at the end of a two-hour hike from Benguet, a relaxing reward after a tough journey!
If you’d like to stay in the Banaue area, visit the Guihob natural swimming pool for a quick dip or the Tappiya Waterfalls in Batad. There is also the Ducligan hot springs that is connected to a deep pool just 20 km away from the Poblacion.
Hungduan rewards those who can endure a challenging three-hour hike with the Buyukan Waterfalls. Other places to visit to see cascading falls with some age-old legend behind them are O’phaw Mahencha falls, Tenogtog, Bagnit and Numbungug waterfalls.
If you like to trek and hike through the lush forests and mountains, Ifugao is the place for you. There are three mountains in the area that you can hike, but they may be for more advanced hikers. Mt. Amuyao is the 8th highest peak in the Philippines that overlooks the Mountain Province, Isabela, Ifugao, and Nueva Viscaya. Mt. Napulawan is home to rare flora in its luscious forest. In the center of Ifugao lies Mt. Anapawon, one of the best places to go camping with a view of the Hingyon rice terraces.
What’s your favorite thing about Ifugao? Let me know in the comments!
People from around the world dream of visiting one of the most beautiful pieces of land in North America; Yosemite National Park. However, this Californian park unfortunately has recently turned into a smokey, ashy, disaster. California summers have become more and more susceptible to fires due to increasing climate change conditions. Starting on July 13, 2018, the fire known as the “Ferguson Fire” began to flare up in the central valley of California that caused Yosemite National Park to be closed indefinitely (August 7, 2018) in order to fight one of the worst fires in California history. One of America’s golden children, Yosemite and the surrounding area hosts a wide variety of outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, boating, RV-ing, and much more that anyone and everyone can enjoy as this is a bucket list destination for many travellers and outdoor lovers alike. However, as of late, due to the fires and poor air quality, people are unable to enjoy this lovely North American landscape.
This is not a natural sunset. The red and orange colors are coming from the smoke and fires.
This year, 2018, is on pace to be the 4th hottest year on record which is due to human activity such as fossil fuel use, overpopulation, and poor waste management. It could not be more clear that now more than ever, climate change is an eminent global issue that must be tackled head on; but with the removal of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) from the United States Government, steps are being taken in the wrong direction. In order to enjoy the park to the fullest extent we must ensure that places such as Yosemite remain in good condition. As ash rains down on Yosemite and the surrounding areas, air quality continues to decrease causing less and less people to visit this pristine wildlife sanctuary. This could potentially seem like a good thing but in reality it is very detrimental to the local economy which thrives off tourists. Each year, the tourism industry brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to Yosemite, which is put back into the community and keeping the park beautiful. If these fires are not controlled then families, homes, livelihoods, and more could be destroyed.
If this is a reality you wish to see change then I encourage you to make that change. Without the efforts of individual people like yourselves, these catastrophic events restrict people from doing what they love (traveling & being outdoors). The Ferguson Fire, and other fires blazing around the United States put National Parks at risk. The reason these National Parks exist in the United States is to preserve the natural beauty that our land offers. National Parks are public land and there are laws put in place in order to keep them available to the American people to enjoy. Climate change affects us in multiple ways, but the destruction of homes, families and the things we love may be the most impactful of them all.
Earlier this year, I travelled to Indonesia to attend a yoga teacher training. It was my first time to study and practice yoga outside of the Philippines, and I was looking forward to the experience. But more than that, it was also my first time in Indonesia—a country so close to home, not only in proximity, but also in history, language, and culture. Having been to other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore—I feel as no other country mirrors our experience of colonization, liberation and healing, and creating beauty in the seemingly chaotic present.
As I was preparing for my trip, I was quickly drawn to Yogyakarta—a small province of Java, known for its vibrant art and literary and community, and the majestic Borobudur.
I took a domestic flight from Soekarno Hatta International Airport, and it was only a very brief, one-hour trip. For my first day at the province, I had hired a very accommodating airport driver who had offered to drive me around the sites for a very modest price. For my second day, I had pre-booked my temple tour with Klook—and was very happy about the experience.
Taman Sari Water Castle
My first stop was the Taman Sari Water Castle. In the mid-18th century, this served as the royal grounds of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. My guide, a local grandfather who had been giving tours of the water castle for over thirteen years, explained that the castle grounds were once large and sprawling, filled with gardens, meditation areas, and secret hideouts only known to the sultan. Regrettably, these were mostly destroyed during the Dutch occupation, and after the royal family were eventually driven out.
Nonetheless, the grounds remained serene, and held in the stillness of the bathwaters was that same, mystical aura it must have had for centuries. I also had the privilege of visiting the underground mosque, which was truly a dense maze. I was amazed at how such an intricate structure could have been built during the early days. My guide explained that the river waters would fill the mosque, especially during the monsoon season. It was believed that water would aid in purification, healing, and in the transport of prayers from earth to heaven. At times, the sultan and his family would have to be taken around the mosque in a small boat.
My guide was curious to know that I was Filipino, and mentioned that he thought I was Indonesian until he realized I sounded different. I told him that the Philippine was also colonized, except by the Spanish. We exchanged similar words, such as anak, kambing, and sa/selamat—which means “thank you,” in our language, and “good” or “safe” in theirs. Different, but the same.
After touring the water castle, I visited Kotagede—a nearby neighborhood known for its craftsmen and artisans. I had signed up for a silver-making workshop with Backstreet Academy, a travel platform that organizes workshops and activities with local communities. Kotagede, after all, is known for its homegrown silversmiths, and for its silver trade. I had never attempted to make my own jewelry before, and learned that making the simplest silver ring was already so complex in technique.
Clad in a simple vest and bandana, sixty-one year old silversmith Pak Sumedi greeted me cheerfully and welcomed me to his home workshop. I was a bit embarrassed throughout the class, watching him smoothly demonstrate the silver-making process, and then clumsily trying to imitate the hammering, shaping, polishing, and carving. I felt a deep respect for Sumedi, who had dedicated his whole life to silver. As a teacher myself, I have only been teaching yoga for two years—a feat so shrunken and miniscule compared to his lifetime of practice!
Hands down, this was definitely my favorite part of my trip. I had booked my tour with Klook, and was really happy with how they coordinated with me. Prior to the tour, their team messaged me via WhatsApp and let me know that I could contact them for any questions or concerns, and that they would be sending my driver to my Airbnb. I found them very friendly and responsive, and my driver was also very helpful and accommodating.
The Borobudur is one of the largest Buddhist monuments in the entire world; it is thought to be a stupa (a shrine) instead of a temple, because of its pyramid-mandala shape. Built in the 9th century, the temple consists of 72 Buddha statues, nine platforms, and is topped by a central dome. Each platform is intricately carved with different scenes and stories recounting life in Ancient Java—from lavish palace life to exile and meditation in the forest. As I climbed up the stupa, I learned that the platforms ascend according to the levels of human experience in the context of Buddhist cosmology (from desire and bodily pleasure, all the way up to formlessness).
The park grounds were very clean and well-maintained, and my guide happily showed me around the many trees that grew in the grounds: cinnamon, eucalyptus, teak, and of course, there was the Bodhi tree. I absolutely loved every moment spent in the Borobudur, and suddenly felt very connected and free, remembering that every moment I’ve ever lived has led to where you find yourself today.
Malioboro Street Sign by Jaya Tri Hartono/Shutterstock
Malioboro is also known as the 24 Hour Street, and is the most vibrant part of Yogyakarta at night. Walking through the street was quite daunting, as it’s teeming with vendors, store halls and booths, horse-drawn carts (known as andong), and becaks (pedicab). Anyone who visits Yogyakarta knows that Jalan Malioboro is the heart of the city, where you can buy crafts, batik, sarongs, and rattan.
Old Woman Selling on Malioboro Road by findracadabra/Shutterstock
It was already dark and the street was quite hectic; I didn’t get to take a proper picture because everything was so chaotic. The street is named after an English duke, “Marlborough,” who lived there from 1811-1816. However, in Sanskrit, “Malioboro” means bouquet or wreath. It is interesting how a name could be understood in both ways, completely foreign to one another—but after all, is this not what travel is: learning something new, and making the experience your own?
This meatballs in gravy recipe is bound to be a family favorite. Hefty meatballs and flavor-packed gravy over hot, steaming rice? Yes, please! This is also a great recipe to try if you’re a beginner at home cooking—it’s straightforward, fuss-free, and low maintenance.
The Land of Smiles: one of the world’s top destinations for travellers young and old alike. Thailand hosts a wide variety of activities, sights, dream destinations, and fun for all audiences. However, if you’re looking to get something specific out of your holiday, you could end up in the wrong part of the country. This is especially true if you’re more inclined to one type of trip as opposed to others. In a way, Thailand is a one stop shop for all types of travellers. Whether you’re a young, solo traveler looking to meet others from around the world, someone that is seeking a wholesome big city experience in a foreign country or a family trying searching for activities that are suitable for everyone, there is something for you around every corner.
Traveler #1 : Young, Solo Traveler; Phuket
If you’re a recent college graduate, taking a year off from work, or just having a week to get away from your responsibilities, then Thailand has you covered. The sheer amount of tourists that flock here from around the world put Thailand in the top 10 countries visited by travellers. There are plenty of friendly people to meet and mingle with.
If your interests include beautiful scenery, late-night parties, craziness, water activities, and more, then Phuket and the surrounding smaller islands, also known as “The Islands”, are the areas of the country that may be suitable for your needs. Places such as Koh Phi Phi Island and Patong Beach in Phuket are a microcosm of the party scene in Thailand. Blanco Beach Bar/Hostel is where the party takes place all night long then for just a small fee you can go straight from the party to your bed without having to navigate the dark streets of Koh Phi Phi. It’s a small beach town on an island that is catered to tourists, so if you can stand the crowds the views are very much worth the trouble.
However, if partying isn’t what you’re looking for then the southern part of Thailand can still provide for you. There is plenty to do such as going on a boat tour (highly recommended) around some of the smaller islands and/or beaches. Diving is hit or miss, it really depends on the beach and/or island you plan on diving at so do your research beforehand. All in all, The Islands is a great place to get out of your comfort zone and meet others from around the globe while having the time of your life.
Traveler #2: Wholesome Traveler; Bangkok
Your average, everyday traveler is the wholesome traveler. This is someone who is interested in seeing the big tourist attractions, staying in the big city and doing a little bit of everything on their excursion. Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city, is exactly what you’d expect from a large city in a country from Southeast Asia. The hustle and bustle of the streets are unlike any other city you will experience. With the combination of cars, both big and small, countless motorbikes, tuk tuks, and pedestrians crossing the street at any point, the only suitable description of Bangkok’s streets is “madness.” You either love the city or you hate it and although it may be daunting at first, once you become accustomed to the nature of Bangkok, it turns into one of the most amazing cities you will visit. Bangkok is filled with a wide variety of different types of ethnicities, but mostly Thai, which brings a bit of flavour from other Eastern cultures as well as a wave of Western culture flowing into the city.
In Bangkok there is no shortage of things to do, places to see, or food to eat. It’s even possible to knock out a number of things on your to-do list in just one day. Although it may be hard to get around sometimes due to traffic (tuk tuk and the metro system are great alternatives), everything is relatively close together which make for easy day trips. The wholesome traveler looks for all different types of outlets of how to spend their day; in Bangkok that could be anything from eating their famous street food, temple hopping, exploring one of their many markets or seeing a muay thai fight. There are countless activities all for a very affordable price. The nightlife is also very good in Bangkok if you know where to go such as Khao San Road or a wide range of great rooftop bars. Thailand’s capital city is the perfect place if you’re looking to cover as much as possible in a short amount of time.
Traveler #3: Family Traveler; Chiang Mai
The family traveler is someone who is either traveling with family members, young and old, or interested in doing activities that are suitable for a family. Usually they are looking for some good ole’ fashion fun, and in Thailand look no further than Chiang Mai; The Rose of the North. Rich with history and culture, Chiang Mai is a 10+ hour train ride north of Bangkok and offers a considerably different Thai experience than Bangkok and the Islands will offer you. Nestled at the base of a mountain and surrounded by farmland and wilderness, Chiang Mai has a unique opportunity to offer locals and tourists experiences like white water rafting, zip-lining, cave exploring, and of course up close encounters with elephants.
The wide variety of fun activities combined with the slower pace of life in Chiang Mai makes it the perfect place to experience Thailand with children or elders. It is fairly easy to get around the city with personal taxi pick ups at your hotel for day trips or using the Grab app. Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai specifically, is very beautiful all year due to its lush characteristics but it also hosts over 300 Buddhist temples, or “wat”, that are fairly close in proximity which can make for a great day of temple hopping. Getting to know some elephants is a common adventure in Chiang Mai and it is definitely something you will not want to miss out on; it is an activity that everyone in the family can do! A quick Google search and you will be overwhelmed by the amount of activities, both indoor and outdoor alike, that you can spend just a few hours, half a day or an entire day exploring Chiang Mai.
Aligue, otherwise known as crab fat, is a favourite among Filipinos to mix with either rice or pasta. Since it’s a bit pricey, crab fat fried rice or crab fat pasta has always had decadence written all over it.
This recipe is no exception, combining the richness of the crab fat with coconut milk, while enhancing the flavour with spicy tuyo, kesong puti, and sun-dried tomatoes. This is all balanced out with a splash of calamansi juice to help cut through the fat and then rounded out with some garlic breadcrumbs.
Banawe St. in Quezon City has the two C’s: Chinese food, and car parts. You can find both in abundance for cheap prices. The little Chinatown in QC is lined with restaurants to suit any foodie. Craving for fresh lumpia? How about some Taiwanese dumplings? It’s also in Banawe St. where I found some amazing noodles and the freshest seafood dishes. Check out my latest episode of Neighborhood Eats!
HUGE MUD CRAB WITH CREAMY NOODLES Banawe Street Metro Manila - YouTube
I only visited three places, but it’s safe to say that you should hit up every restaurant along Banawe.
Fresh Amoy Lumpia: P90
Pato Misua: P230
Cha Misua: P185
Fung Wei Wu
Maki pork noodles: P160
Cream Crab noodles: seasonal price
Buttered chicken: whole: P350, half: P180
Hot and Sour soup: 200
Oyster Omelet: P290
For Chinese or Taiwanese food, be sure to check out:
The Original Savory
Chinatown’s Best Food
Lam Tin Tea House
Hong Kong Eat Fresh
Causeway Seafood Restaurant
King Chef Seafood and King Chef Dimsum
Sincere Café and Restaurant
Tramway Tea House
Tempura Japanese Grill
For Filipino and other cuisines:
Where should I go for my next neighborhood eats? Let me know in the comments!