I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve seen every U.S. Bachelor season with the exception of Season 1 and Colton’s season (because I couldn’t stand that guy). I mean, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of my closest friends and I had our first “dates” at a Bachelor screening. She is the same friend that now runs our Bachelor fantasy league. 😉 We’ve recruited other girls and now have our weekly Monday viewing parties. With that comes great responsibility to make Bachelor-themed foods! We’ve experimented a lot and below are my favorites! I’m not going to try to pretend that I created any of these recipes, so I’ve provided the links and some time lapses so you get the general idea.
I’m going to start this post by saying that my method of curing my ulnar nerve was not scientific at all. I tried so many different things and pinpointed what was working for me so this may not work for you, but I wanted to share in case this could help someone else with Ulnar Nerve Neuropathy.
For those of you who do not know what ulnar nerve neuropathy is, I explain it by saying it’s “carpal tunnel for the elbow”. You know that feeling when you hit your funny bone? I had that feeling in my pinky and ring finger on my left hand all the way up to my elbow, FOR A YEAR. I’m pretty sure the reason I got it in the first place was because I was working 12-15 hour days for 21 days straight so I’ve definitely taken a step back from doing that, but below are the other methods I tried that I think worked for me.
Wearing an arm brace while sleeping
When I first went to the doctor to get diagnosed, it was very discouraging. The doctor recommended that I sleep with an arm brace (because I’m a side sleeper, I was sleeping on my elbow every night) and said not to bend my elbows or do any strenuous exercise as much as I could. This is not sustainable. I like to work out so this felt debilitating to me but I tried it for a couple of months, but saw no improvement. The doctor next suggested surgery, which I simply did not accept as my only other option. This is when I turned to acupuncture.
I received acupuncture for about 12 weeks straight on a weekly basis. My acupuncturist would focus on the SI channel to target the fingers and elbow. My nerve pain was at an 8 out of 10 before trying acupuncture and after the 12 weeks, I was down to a 2 out of 10. However, we hit sort of a plateau. We could not seem to get rid of the tingling feeling completely. So this is when I turned to Dr. Sebastian Gonzales.
Dr. Gonzales is the one who told me that I didn’t need to be immobile because I had this ulnar nerve neuropathy. He actually encouraged for me to work out, but just to make sure my form was good. He taught me several exercises geared around my mid back and neck to strengthen the areas around my nerves. This was the first time I felt the tingling feeling from my fingers go away, even if it was just for a minute. I live in Los Angeles and drove all the way to Huntington Beach (about an hour drive) to see him every other week. It was starting to get a little time consuming and we also had hit a wall (my nerve pain was fluctuating between a 1 and 2 out of 10 with rare glorious moments of 0 at times) so I stopped seeing him.
At this point, I had just accepted that my nerve pain would remain at this 1 or 2 for the rest of my life. It wasn’t bad enough for me to want to get surgery and plus, I had gotten used to it now having had it for a year. At least I was able to still work out. But then something happened. I take this running class about once a week where you run for about 30 minutes and do strength training for about 30 minutes. And one class, the instructor really pushed me on my sprints to sprint at a 10.0 speed, which I had never done before. I did several of these that day and then the rest of the day, my numbness was down at like a 0.5 out of 10. It was incredible. Then the next day when I woke up, my numbness was gone.
This felt too good to be true and in fact it was, my numbness came back in two days. So I went back to my running class and did my sprints and it went away again. I did this every two days for about 2 weeks. Then I went on vacation, worried that the numbness would come back since I wouldn’t be running, but now it’s been 2 weeks since then and it hasn’t come back! I will keep my fingers crossed, but wanted to share this in case others were having similar issues to me. I don’t quite get what the running may have done, but some theories are that it strengthens my back to support the nerve or it gets my circulation going. Regardless, I’m so happy it did what it did.
To note, I ended up going to an orthopedic hand doctor again to see if they had other suggestions and tell him my running theory. The doctor looked at me like I was an absolute nutjob and said that surgery really was the only option to get the nerve pain to go away.
Again, I want to reiterate that this is simply what worked for me. I know doctors will not agree but if you’re looking for options outside of surgery, why not give them a try!
This travel guide is more of a restaurant guide. I have a few attractions that I liked, but Portland was really all about the food for me. I’ve been to Portland three times and I will definitely be going back again in the future sometime. I wish I had pictures from each of the places, but most of them are on my old phone that I lost, so you will just have to trust me! Below are the places you must go:
Multnomah Falls – hike with a beautiful waterfall
International Rose Test Garden – beautiful rose garden
Toro Bravo – Spanish tapas
Nong’s Khao Man Gai – Thai food with the best chicken
Multnomah falls is an hour outside of the city and absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, when we had gone, there had recently been fires to the areas around the falls so we weren’t able to hike the full thing. We hiked 0.2 miles, viewed the waterfall then went back to Portland, exactly my type of hike. 😉
The International Rose Test Garden was so much more interesting than I expected. This huge garden is used as a testing space to breed new types of roses. Is breed the right word? You know what I mean. The garden is free entrance and beautiful during the summertime.
Toro Bravo is my favorite restaurant in Portland. I’ve gone every time I’ve visited Portland. I even bought their cookbook to try to make some of their dishes at home, but they ended up being too difficult to make. Go figure. Everything they serve is fantastic, but the one thing you MUST order is the Spanish kiss. They encapsulate the essence of an olive into this burst of flavor, pictured below.
Nong’s is not your average Thai restaurant. They are known for their chicken and rice, which is just slow poached chicken and rice. Slow poaching it makes it super tender, but what makes this dish for me is the sauce they give with the chicken. It’s tangy, it’s salty, it’s sweet, it’s delicious.
Grassa changes up their menu, so most of the items (other than the Rigatoni) are not even on the menu anymore today. However, I know whatever you order will be good. We were super satisfied with everything and loved that it was quick and easy to grab our lunch here as we had things to see. I wish they had this franchise in Los Angeles.
Voodoo Doughnuts was a pleasant surprise. Some may say it’s a tourist trap, but I think it’s the real thing. They actually opened up a location in Los Angeles and I didn’t think it was as good though. The donuts are super soft and taste very fresh. The lines get pretty long late at night because this is what you crave while drunk in Portland. I totally get it.
Han Oak was a pleasant surprise. It’s an elevated and inventive Korean restaurant. You absolutely must get the fried chicken. In talking to the chef, he was trying to mirror the essence of the soup packet from a ramen package and somehow nailed it on the head. The fried chicken is so crispy and packs that flavor othat you didn’t even know you needed. The restaurant has a super cute ambience as well, perfect for a date.
Tin Shed is a fun brunch place. They do not take reservations so you will have to try to get there early. I’m not sure if they have it still, but when I was there, they sold their homemade habanero hot sauce. It was so good that I was willing to pay the extra money to check my bag so that I could take it home with me. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT. I used that hot sauce for months on my eggs, veggies, meat whatever.
My husband, my dog and I did a 6-day road trip through Nevada, Utah and Arizona and I think it was one of my favorite trips to date. I am by no means one of those people who want to go out into nature on a consistent basis; I mean, I live in Los Angeles. How much nature is there even to see? So I was surprised at how much I appreciated all of the nature. These national parks are just so breath-taking and I’m sad that the photos do not do them justice at all. Below are all of the parks that we visited:
Here is the route that we went from Los Angeles, but I will give you tips on what I might have done differently. Since we had Cooper with us, it made things difficult as most hotels/airbnbs did not allow dogs.
Los Angeles to Las Vegas – 4.5 hours
I love Las Vegas, so any excuse there is to go there, I will take it. We left after work on a Wednesday and were in Vegas by 11pm and stayed the night there. If we didn’t have our dog, I definitely would have gone and gambled a little bit. 😉
Las Vegas to Grand Canyon – 4 hours
The next morning, we got SUPER unlucky since my husband’s car started making a rattling noise. We had to go to an auto shop and wait for 4 hours to get it fixed, which means we lost precious sunlight as it’s a long drive to the Grand Canyon. We had made it just in time to watch the sunset though and it was beautiful. I can’t even describe how big Grand Canyon is. We are so lucky to be able to witness this natural formation.
Grand Canyon to Flagstaff, AZ – 1.5 hours
Flagstaff is the cutest little town and here is where I wish we had more time during the day to hang out. Flagstaff is a college town with a lot of fun bars but since we had the dog, we couldn’t go have a drink. Instead, we grabbed amazing pizza from NiMarco’s, then stayed in our airbnb to watch a movie since it was a long day of driving.
Flagstaff to Horseshoe Bend – 2 hours
We grabbed breakfast in Flagstaff so finally got a chance to check out the town a little more. We went to FireCreek Coffee Company, which had excellent coffee and wandered around for a little while before heading to our next destination. Horseshoe Bend was probably Cooper’s favorite because we had a lot of sun that day and he was able to run around. There are rocks you can climb and tons of areas you can explore.
Horseshoe Bend to Antelope Canyon – 15 min
Antelope Canyon is a short drive from the Horseshoe Bend and was nothing like I had expected. It was formed through erosion of sandstone from tons of flash floods and rain, which is pretty crazy.
You need to have tickets to attend, but there are a ton of 3rd parties that have licenses to get in. I really liked who we used because our tour guide took tons of photos and was also really funny. Antelope Canyon does not allow dogs so we had to drop him off at a doggy daycare nearby for a few hours. Below is the link we used for Antelope Canyon and the doggy daycare.
I’d recommend to stay in Page if you can after seeing Horseshoe Bend and Antelope. There are a lot of hotels in the area, but they did not allow dogs so we could not stay there. Another attraction near Page is called The Wave. You have to sign up for the lottery to be able to go and we weren’t able to, but I hope you can!
Kanab to Bryce Canyon – 1.5 hours
Bryce Canyon was my absolute favorite, although this may be a little biased as I had never seen a photo so it was a complete surprise at how beautiful it was. My only regret here was not being able to hike down at the bottom as dogs were not allowed. I can’t even imagine what it would look like while looking up at the peaks. I hope I can make another trip out there to do this.
Bryce Canyon to Zion – 1.5 hours
I don’t think we gave Zion enough time as we had gotten there a little late and it was just so large. We ended up stopping over on a random side of the road and hiking up. What’s cool is we saw a bunch of mountain goats! After we gotten back to Los Angeles, we had heard that Angel’s Landing was the best hike to do, so that is now on my bucket list.
Zion to Vegas – 2.5 hours
This is where we got to have a proper night out in Vegas. We found a dogsitter and enjoyed Vegas as it’s supposed to be enjoyed. Went shopping, gambling and drinking.
Vegas to Los Angeles – 5 hours
I was so sad for this trip to be over, but ultimately was happy that we were able to take this road trip with our dog. Cooper loved being outdoors way more than I had expected him too considering how big of a city dog he is. He was constantly trotting around with happiness more than normal and I’m sure he loved being with his mom and dad 24/7 for a couple of days.
My grandma has a lemon tree and on New Year’s day, she gave me 14 lemons. What on earth can I do with 14 lemons before they go bad? I started researching and below were all of the options, so I did the ones in bold. My mouth just got sour thinking about this. Did yours? :
my mom’s advice was to slice them up, freeze them, then defrost them to rub all over my face as bleach
make lemon preserves
make lemon desserts (tart, curd, meringue…)
make lemon sauces (with cream, with white wine etc.)
make salad dressing
I can’t believe the only thing I didn’t make was lemonade. I sort of regret it now, but I’ll just go visit my grandma again to get more and make that another exciting post! Anyway, even after making all of the 5 items above, I had to give 6 lemons to my brother-in-law because there was just no way I could use them all.
I’m not going to post about the lemon curd I ended up making because I didn’t like the recipe. It was not tart enough and too sweet. Then, I can’t post the recipe for the lemon cream sauce I made because I just threw it together, but boy it was good. I used cream, lemon juice, lemon zest and dill. PERFECTION.
PUT LEMONS ON YOUR FACE
So let’s start with putting lemon on your face. I have to be frank because I haven’t actually tried this yet. My mom is the queen of finding skin concoctions within your groceries and if you’ve met her, you will know that she has the best skin. We pretty much always get mistaken for sisters. She puts cucumber slices that have been soaked in lemon juice on her face every other night for a minute or two. She does it to brighten age spots, but as I was researching, it helps with acne as well. The acidity of the juice starts breaking down dead skin cells that would eventually turn into blackheads and while doing that acts as an exfoliant. Applying lemon juice also increases the collagen in your skin, which helps with fine lines and wrinkles. I’m super excited to start trying it out.
However, before you start dumping your head in lemon juice everyday, make sure to test it out because the acidity might be too much for sensitive skin, so start small to see if you have any side effects. Also, you’re essentially bleaching your skin, so make sure to wear sunscreen before going outside.
MAKE SALAD DRESSING
Below is the lemon vinaigrette dressing recipe that I LOVE. It’s the perfect amount of tart and sweet and feels really healthy. I’m notorious for buying an absurd amount of lettuce, making salad dressing, then never actually making salad, but I’m feeling that 2020 will be different. 😉
1/4 cup lemon juice
1tsp whole grain dijon mustard
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup champagne vinegar
1 garlic clove grated
MAKE LEMON PRESERVES
Lastly, I made lemon preserves. I honestly didn’t even know what these were until my brother-in-law suggested it. Apparently putting lemon with a bunch of salt and its own lemon juice helps preserve the lemon, changes the taste of the rind so that it isn’t bitter and reduces the sourness of the juice. I made it and the results are quite tasty. It’s lemon juice that is not too sour but has depth of salty goodness that I will definitely be using to enhance some of my sauces. Below is the super easy recipe.
Quarter 5 lemons but don’t cut all the way to the bottom. Add a 1/2 tbsp of salt, then put each lemon in a quart mason jar.
Muddle each lemon after dropping into the jar.
Once all 5 lemons are in the jar, if the juice does not fill to the top, add lemon juice from a 6th lemon to fill the jar.
Add 2 bay leaves then close
Turn the jar upside down everyday for one week before opening the jar
Once open you do not need to put it in the fridge (but I did); and you can use them for up to a year!
I had always heard about the benefits of buying luxury bags in Europe, but hadn’t experienced it myself until last year and wanted to share what I had learned to others who might not know.
First off, buying something expensive in Europe is much more affordable now than it was say 10 years ago. The exchange rate between the dollar and the euro has highly improved, for Americans at least. As a reference point, 1 Euro was worth $1.44 on January 1, 2010 and that same Euro on January 1, 2020 is $1.12. Now, a $0.32 difference doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but when you’re buying $1,000 purse, that difference is $320.
Second, the European Union issues a tax that tourists are entitled to get refunded since they are not residents. It is called the VAT Tax. This is a tax that all Europeans have to pay; call it a sales tax, but since tourists are leaving with the goods, it is essentially an export which should not be taxed. Here is how it works: You buy a €1000 euro bag in Europe. The VAT Tax is already included in the €1000 price tag so you don’t have to add that pesky 9.5% to the price tag like you do in Los Angeles. But as you’re leaving a country within the European Union, you can submit a form to get that vat tax back, which comes out to about 12% of your purchase.
Lastly, I’m not entirely sure why prices differ between the US and the EU, but for some reason, once you factor in the exchange rate, the bag is actually cheaper in Europe even without the VAT tax refund.
Here’s a real life example of the bag that I want and am considering getting when I next go to Europe. Check it out, what a BEAUT.
If you click on the links below, you can see that the US version of the bag is $2,230 ($2,441.85 if you add a 9.5% sales tax) and when you click on the second link, the European version is €1,650 which converts to $1,848.
Then, once you get to the airport, submit your forms, and wait 5-7 business days, you will get 12% back credited back to your credit card. So a bag that is $2,441.85 in the US comes out to be $1,626.24 if you purchase it in Europe, that’s a 33.4% discount on a LOUIS VUITTON item. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.
Below is how you logistically get the vat tax refund on goods (it does not apply to food or hotels, mostly just retail goods).
When you make your purchase and qualify for the minimum spend, ask the store for a vat tax form. They will need your passport and you will have to fill out your address. Keep this form when you go to the airport! You will need to submit it in your departing European country. I tried to submit it in Italy, but since my next place to visit was in Budapest, they would not let me so I had to hold onto it until I left Budapest to come home. I can only attest to a few places and their processes, but hopefully the below helps.
Paris – I would say Paris is the easiest place to submit for your vat tax refund. Minimum spend is €180 at one store. Once you get to the airport, before you go into security, you have to go to the “Tax refund self serve kiosks”. Bring your forms with you and they stamp it for you, there’s a quick 5 minute questionnaire, then you’re done.
Spain (Madrid) – Go to the self serve kiosks and fill out the forms which is before security. What’s weird is that to get your forms stamped, you need to go through security You have to get your vat tax stamped by customs. There was no minimum spend for Spain!
Italy (Venice Airport) – you get it stamped before security and drop off an envelope near there.
Budapest – this was the least convenient. You need to get it stamped before security, but then the mailbox to mail the forms are far away from the customs desk. For me, it was in a red mailbox post near the entrance.
I had never thought to ask WHY the EU even gives this tax back because I was just happy that it was even an option, but I did some research. When the European Union was first created, apparently there were different forms of indirect taxation on exports which made it difficult to audit between the countries. This unified and Value-Added Tax formation was created for all countries within the EU. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to cite this, so here’s the link.😉
I’ve now been to San Sebastian, Spain twice and that gives me the right to say that this city is truly a safe haven for all foodies. 😉 The amount of thought that the restaurants put into their food is incredible. The cover photo is of anchovies because they had the freshest, shiniest, fattest anchovies I’ve ever seen. The restaurants in San Sebastian focus on highlighting the ingredient and in doing so, everything tastes amazing.
Aside from the delicious taste of the food, I’ve always been a fan of being able to have a variety of food within a meal and San Sebastian pintxos embody that. Pintxo means “spike” which originated from Basque people serving foods on skewers, but this eventually evolved into small bites. Pintxos are the perfect way to try several different types of food and not get too full.
I have 4 places you must go to when in San Sebastian. The first 2 are restaurants for lunch/dinner, the 3rd is a gin & tonic place and the last is for Basque cheesecake.
La Cuchara – amazing for lunch/dinner, but doesn’t take reservations
I’ve been to La Cuchara twice now 4 years apart and they had a different menu each time. This past time in November of 2019, the favorite dishes were the piquillo peppers, razor clams, foie gras and suckling pig. As a note, this restaurant is tiny and you will basically have to eat while standing but it is SO worth it. Also, they do not take reservations.
Piquillo Peppers – these piquillo peppers were one of the sweetest peppers I’ve had. I’m almost certain that the only thing they did to them was char/roast them then put some olive oil and salt on it because that is all that was needed.
Foie Gras – if there is foie gras on the menu, I have to order it and La Cuchara did not disappoint. First of all, look at the size of this foie gras! I can’t remember exactly the price but it was under 20 euros for this brick of foie gras. That would easily go for at least double the price in the US. Secondly, the way it was cooked was just amazing. It was so buttery and comforting with layers of flavor within the foie and in the surrounding sauce.
Razor Clams – I haven’t had razor clams much, but I presume this is the way it’s supposed to be cooked. The clams were so tender and soft with a light sauce that brought out the sweetness of the clams.
Suckling Pig – The crispy skin is what makes this dish… and I guess maybe the amazing tenderness of the pork; oh and also the delicious sauce that goes with this pig. Ok, this dish is perfect and I highly recommend.
Zazpi was a hidden gem that my husband found through google and since it was a block from our airbnb, we decided to check it out. The pintxos were getting better and better with each course. We were super bummed as they were out of their market vegetables for the day, but all of the dishes we got were to die for. Everything here are items that I’ve heard of before, but the difference in flavor of these dishes blew me away. Below is the list of items we had in order of my favorites:
Burnt bread pudding – This has got to be hands down one of the best desserts I’ve had. It was a mix between creme brûlée and tres leches which are basically my two favorite desserts.
Risotto with squid ink – This was a big surprise. The flavor was sweet and savory and delicious and too small, so we ordered 2 more dishes of it. 😉 (pictured on the right covered in foam)
Egg with jamon and truffle – This dish was delicate yet scrumptious. The truffle was definitely apparent but not overpowering then the jamon added just the right amount of salt to the dish. (pictured on the bottom)
Oxtail ravioli – Now, I’ve had oxtail ravioli before, but the way Zazpi did it was so yummy. It was very rich. (pictured on the bottom)
Atari changed my whole view on gin and tonics. Something about gin and tonics in Spain make them taste so refreshing and light. It is a must try! This place is also known for their bread pudding which we had 4 years ago, but they were sold out this past time so I don’t have a picture of it.
La Vina Cheesecake
A colleague had recommended this to me as when him and his girlfriend went to San Sebastian, his girlfriend went to this place 5 times during their visit because she loved it so much. We almost didn’t even make it to this place because they were closed on the night we were planning to go. Then on our last night, we had maybe had a few too many glasses of wines so were fast asleep by dinner time. However, our friend, May, like a champ, walked a whole mile by herself in the rain at 11:00PM (they close at 11:30pm) to pick up cheesecake for all of us and I will never forget her dedication to making me fat on vacay.😉 This cheesecake was so light and fluffy with that burnt outside that gave it a creme brûlée feel. This flavor bomb woke me up from my sleep and gave me enough life to go to a club later that night. Thank you May and thank you La Vina.
Welcome to my blog! I’ll be honest, this is probably the 10th blog I’ve started in my lifetime…my favorite domain name I had was thenexttopchef.wordpress.com (deleted now) where I would cook random things although that did not last very long. But I have a good feeling that this one will last for the year of 2020, which would be a huge record for me.
I thought about creating my normal list of resolutions this year: the same ole’ save money, lose weight, cook more etc., but let’s be real, I’ve mastered these 😉 jk. However, the reality is that I do try to do all of those things all of the time, so I wanted to switch it up this year and have ONE goal and do other small things to help me achieve that one goal. Now are you ready to hear the resolution? Drum roll please…My New years resolution is to BECOME A BETTER WRITER. This has always been an insecurity of mine and something I have not put any focus on until now, so this is where the blog comes in.
Growing up, I’ve always been more of a math person than a reading person, I mean, my best friend pretty much turned my college AND MBA essays from a B- paper into admission into the schools of my choice. But it’s never too late to learn right?? I’m hoping this blog can keep me practicing on my writing (i plan on looking up writing techniques to help each week) and in the meantime, I can write about random thoughts of mine. My goal here will be to write one post a week, which seems pretty daunting to me right now, but I’m going to try my best.
Another thing I noticed when I was younger was that when I was reading more, my everyday vocabulary would improve. I think this will be crucial to become a better writer considering I don’t read books at all today. My goal will be to read one book a month so if you have any good book suggestions, please send them my way!
Now, I’ve put a laundry list of blog post ideas together and let me warn you, it is not cohesive at all, thus my tagline of “Putting my ADD in writing”. Maybe with time, it will lead me to an area that I really like to write about but in the meantime, I am here to share the little knowledge I have and word vomit random thoughts (oh crap, this feels like a run-on sentence). So here’s to 2020! Feedback always welcome!