Breakfast at Estel's San Pedro

The Best Thing(s) I’ve Ever Eaten: Belize

When I think of my recent trip to Belize (with 6 other women, most of them family) I think of laughter, adventure and sunshine. But I also think of the food.

Our 9 day adventure led us from the jungle in San Ignacio to the ocean breeze and sunshine of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that none of us expected the food to be as consistently good and beautiful as it was. While I have many more photos to share and stories to tell, I figured it made sense to first share the most important aspect of our travels: all of the delicious and beautiful things we ate.

Breakfast at Vanilla Hills Lodge

Everything Claudia cooked at Vanilla Hills Lodge – San Ignacio
No really, everything. During our stay with Claudia and Franklin at Vanilla Hills Lodge, (a small yet gorgeous eco-lodge/B&B outside of San Ignacio – please go there now) we ate every single meal with them (with the exception of lunches, and one dinner). We only went out because we were gently encouraged to explore.

Claudia is passionate about cooking, immediately evident in her careful choice of dishware (an extensive and jealousy-inducing collection) and natural ability to make food look as beautiful as it is delicious.

Banana Pancakes and Chocolate Mousse Vanilla Hills Lodge
The breakfast view at Vanilla Hills Lodge Belize

Breakfast included homemade breads, jams, brie, banana pancakes, farm fresh eggs and local fruits. For dinner, there was no menu. It was more a game of sit down and be surprised/amazed at what Claudia cooked up for the evening. This is a fun game and I highly encourage you to play it someday.

The food here was art. Delicious art. I am still dreaming about it. If you have any interest in staying here, I highly recommend it. The TripAdvisor reviews speak for themselves.

Fry Jacks and more at Estel’s Dine by the Sea – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
I’d read about Estel’s (and pretty much every other place we visited/ate/drank) from San Pedro Scoop, which is an AMAZING guide to Ambergris Caye (and beyond) should you ever decide to visit Belize. Really, I don’t know how I would have planned this trip without that website – it’s perfect.

Breakfast at Estel's San Pedro

Anyway, the fry jacks at Estel’s just came off as one of those specialty items you need to try in San Pedro, so we all did.

To put it simply: fry jacks do not disappoint. I appreciate that I can go into a restaurant for breakfast, order not one but TWO giant pieces of fried dough and nobody judges me. It’s also really fun and mature to put them in front of your mouth and pretend they are your mouth. They also taste really good when you are hungover and need comfort.

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Fry jacks stole the spotlight here, but the fresh juices (Grapefruit and Limeade) and my lobster omelette were equally amazing. If lobster is in season when you visit, that omelette will make you very, very happy.

Breakfast view at Estel's San Pedro

It’s worth mentioning that Estel’s also has one of the most fantastic breakfast views. Sitting in sand, looking out over the Caribbean sea while palm trees sway and rustle gently in the wind, stuffing your face with fried dough and fresh lobster…it’s the stuff of dreams.

Ceviche at Wild Mango’s – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
As much as I love food, I’m sheltered. There are so many things I tried on this trip that I’d never tasted prior (lobster and ceviche to name a few). Yet I found myself ordering ceviche with confidence, like I’d tasted it a million times before.

Ceviche Wild Mango's San Pedro Belize

When I took my first bite, I wished I could taste it one million times more. I taste tested everyone else’s ceviche, and then ordered ceviche again when we returned here for our last dinner in San Pedro. Not quite a million times, but hey, I did my best.

Drinks and a view at Wild Mango's San Pedro Belize

Should you find yourself at Wild Mango’s, there’s not a ceviche there I wouldn’t recommend. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself going back for more. Don’t forget a panty ripper – they are ridiculously good here.

The Belize Chocolate Company – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
The Belize Chocolate Company should actually be called Heaven on Earth, or My Favorite Place Ever, or if I Could Control My Dreams I’d Go Here and Eat This Every Single Night or maybe The Place Where Chocolate Dreams Come True.

Belize Chocolate Company

At first, I tried to be practical. We were on our way to an early dinner, so I figured I would just try one. Then I really wanted 3. Then I lost all willpower and just decided screw it, it’s economical to just buy a box of 6. And then eat them all. With a milkshake on the side. (Isn’t being a grown up awesome? Nobody can tell me not to have dessert first.)

Assortment of Chocolates Belize Chocolate Company
Chocolates from Belize Chocolate Company San Pedro

I love chocolate, so it’s no surprise I loved this place. Do not miss it.

Stew Chicken, Rice & Beans & Plantains at Ko-Ox Han nah – San Ignacio
This is a meal that made my ex-vegetarian sister proud to be an ex-vegetarian. It prompted her to exclaim how much she loves chicken. It made her want chicken…for breakfast. Actually, I think it made everyone want chicken for breakfast.

Stew Chicken, Rice & Beans at Ko-Ox Han nah

The service here was friendly and warm. The restaurant is incredibly small and open air, but colorful and inviting. Stray dogs ran by the open door and peeked in while we ate, trying to appear curious but really just trying to pick out who the biggest dog lover in the group was. (It was Karen. She abandoned her meal for dog pets outside.) I loved this restaurant and meal so much that I had to go home and learn how to make stew chicken for myself.

In the end, Belize pushed me out of my culinary comfort zone. It taught me about all of the delicious things that can happen when you just say yes. It also taught me that taking an extra 5 minutes to present your food beautifully can magically make it taste better. And that there is truly no better thing than lingering over a meal, surrounded by people you love, laughing and eating something delicious in a beautiful place.

The Bubble is my Struggle.

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(Image Source)

The bubble is my struggle.

We all have our own struggles – those things we make ourselves believe that aren’t true. The voices in our heads telling us not to do what scares us. In her memoir, Amy Poehler calls them demons. Our demons tell us that we’re not enough. You can’t do “x” because you aren’t “z.”

My demon is my comfort zone. My bubble.

My bubble prevents me from doing things that make me afraid. It’s the voice in my head that tells me NO when all my heart tells me is to say yes. And it also advises me to say yes, when saying no is too difficult or scary.

Yet a life of perpetual comfort in my bubble isn’t a life at all, is it? Snorkeling with sharks and stingrays in Belize wasn’t comfortable. Going into a cave, swimming and climbing my way through with nothing but a dim headlamp wasn’t comfortable. Being in a room full of people speaking a language I don’t speak – you guessed it, not comfortable. But when I did all of those things, I felt so alive.

My bubble may sustain me when the going gets tough, after all it does bring me comfort when it’s not busy limiting me. Yet I must remember, and so should you, that I am NOT my bubble. My bubble doesn’t control my life – I control my life. The life of adventure, risks, being alive that I’ve glimpsed those few times I’ve stepped outside of my bubble? They made me feel more fulfilled and alive than a comfortable and predictable existence ever has or ever will. And that’s the true lesson.

Being 26 is scary.
Being in a job market that doesn’t always feel secure is scary.
The realization of my true passions and desires in life? Terrifying.

But is it worth ignoring my heart and giving up the opportunity to live the full life I desire simply because the bubble is an easy, safe place to be? Hell no.

I’m not my bubble – and neither are you. The only thing keeping me there, is me.

Time to burst.

-twenty-something

Keeping it real, yo.

Hi, friends. I cannot believe it has been so long since my last blog post – more than a year. And while I have been kicking myself for not keeping this blog updated, I look back and see that it was important to distance myself from this blog for awhile as well as what I was writing. I started this blog as an outlet for myself, personally. I got really into fashion blogs and tried to think how I could implement something similar into my own life. I’ve always loved writing and connecting with other people all over the world through the internet, so I quickly got my blog up and running and began writing.

Then I ran out of ideas.

I looked to what others were doing. Honestly, sometimes it was easier to show you guys what type of outfits I was wearing instead of telling you how I was really feeling. I was feeling bored. And you know what? I still feel bored some days.

I’m in my mid twenties, working at a steady job, have an amazing boyfriend, and am SO settled in to a place that feels just like home. All of these positive, amazing things in my life and what do I dwell on? The fact that I don’t deem those things suitable to write about, or express on this blog. So, I blogged about my outfits and random recipes I was trying and totally lost sight of the entire reason I started this blog.

I started this blog to write about my experience in my 20s, after making a huge life decision to move 1,000 miles away from home and embark on what has been a total adventure for me in love and life, and still is everyday. For some reason, I felt like that was less exciting that others my age who are jet setting around the world, having huge career advancements, etc. I fell prey to the cycle of comparison to my peers and let it make me feel like my own life is somehow inadequate and not worthy of writing about. So, I distanced myself from writing and gave myself space, and lately have realized how much I’ve missed it.

I can’t promise anyone anything at this point except myself. Writing is such a good release for me, and there is so much that has been going on in my life that I want to put out there and express because I think – no I know – I am not the only 20something out there feeling lost, or questioning my place in the world, or wondering how to start making career advancements and voicing my thoughts in the workplace. I know I’m not the only one shocked at the fact I actually CARE about where my money is going and am wondering about Roth IRAs and retirement and emergency funds. I know I’m not the only one struggling with how to get from point A to point B when it comes to my dreams and personal goals. And part of the magic of putting these things out there in the past was hearing YOUR stories and experiences. That’s exactly what I want this blog to be – me being candid about my experiences and sharing them with you, and in turn having a sense of community where we can all share our thoughts and experiences on this totally crazy time in our lives.

So here’s what I can promise: from here on out, I’m keeping it real. 100%. I’ll write about my life and my feelings, if nothing else just to look back at this blog at 30 and laugh at myself. I will not try and glamourize my life when I am in fact getting COMPLETE enjoyment from eating a package of oreos while binge watching Netflix in bed for an entire weekend instead of serving some greater life purpose from time to time. I hope I can reconnect with many of you whom I’ve missed so much (seriously, I still read your blogs weekly) and hope you’ll come back to read more. I can’t promise a set posting schedule, but I’ll do my best to write as much as possible.

Here’s hoping you’ll stick with me on this journey. Can’t wait to get talking with you again.

Dorothy, we’re not in college anymore

roadtripIt was 2 1/2 years ago that my college years ended and my adult life began. I had to bid farewell to spring break (and fall break, and winter break, and summer break too), say goodbye to the local bar around the corner where I’d vent to friends about how stressful class was over cheap beer and cranberry vodka cocktails, and say hello to the thing I so very dreaded: figuring out how to grow up and be an adult. In those first few months after graduation when the bliss of realizing I never had to do any homework again in my life faded out and the reality of adulthood started creeping in, I couldn’t help but wish I was back in school slaving over the same essays and projects I’d just been complaining about months before. It’s days like today where I remember those feelings of uncertainty and fear (mixed with a bit of excitement) and wish I could go have a conversation with my 18 year old college graduate self to tell her to suck it up because there are a lot of awesome things in her future.

2 1/2 years ago, I never would have been able to foresee where I am now. I may not be working my dream career, but I’m working to get there, and along the way I’ve developed countless skills and even got a promotion to my first full time salaried position at work (yay!) I’ve already lived in 3 states yet it is in Florida with John that I finally feel I’ve found “home” (mom, if you’re reading, you know Columbus will always be my #1 home). Even better, I’ve finally found the courage to give my photography business a try and I’ve surprised myself with all of the confidence I’ve gained in myself as a result.

As I reflect on all of my major life accomplishments in the past 2 1/2 years alone, I realize how much time I wasted being upset and anxious about the future. And I think that’s one of our biggest struggles as twenty-somethings: somewhere along the way we get so caught up in the transition to adulthood that we forget what our twenties are for. They’re a time for growth, learning and personal development, yet we put tremendous pressure on ourselves to have things all figured out as soon as we get out of college. Instead of taking life day by day and celebrating the small stuff we accomplish along the way, we fixate on the future and get frustrated because we aren’t there yet.

So, I’m making a vow to myself to celebrate the small stuff from now on. As far as I’m concerned, baking a batch of cupcakes without burning them is just as much of a cause for celebration as that great promotion at work.

I want to hear your thoughts:
Have you ever found yourself frustrated or feeling like you aren’t where you want to be in life?
How do you deal with it and remind yourself to appreciate the small stuff?
What was your own transition from college grad to adult like?
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Image found here.

Life through my Lens #2

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The past few weeks have totally flown by, and I can’t believe it’s almost March already. I’ve had plenty of things to keep me busy, from seeing my favorite band Muse live in concert in Tampa, to having a romantic candlelit Valentine’s Day dinner at home. All of the moments captured in the pictures above are great reminders of how beautiful and wonderful life can be. Sometimes all it takes to put a smile on my face is some beautiful sunlight or a kiss on the cheek from the man I love so much. I’m learning to pick up on these things and appreciate them much more, especially when I’m having a rough day. I’m hoping that I can look back on these posts someday and remember all of the great things that were going on in my life at that time, both big and small.

What’s been going on in your corner of the world?
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