Traveling with Airbnb

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Planning our trip for this spring/summer is like a part-time job! We have to figure out flights, lodging, transportation (trains--which is a lot more confusing than I thought it would be!) activities, etc. Sometimes it starts to feel a little more like work than fun. Planning all of this on a budget makes it that much more time consuming. While I have had some frustrations in this process, one thing has always been a pick-me-up and remained fun: Airbnb. 
Oh, thank goodness for Airbnb. They make it possible for us to stay in the heart of Madrid for less than $70 a night! Music to my ears. They make is so effortless to find a place wherever (they reach over 192 countries) and still keep it within our budget. You just simply search for the city you are traveling to and enter in your price range. You can also add filters to make your search more specific to your needs, such as 'cable', 'wifi', 'kichen', etc.

Staying in someone else's apartment in another country might seem risky, but we feel very confident with all of the apartments that we have booked so far because we can read previous customer reviews and make a more informed decision that way. Airbnb also monitors any suspicious activity in their marketplace, so we feel safe booking through them. The only place we booked a 'private room' rather than an 'entire apartment' is in Paris. We found a gorgeous apartment about a 15 minute drive or 25 minute bike ride from the Eiffel tower! Our room will have a fireplace and a balcony with an amazing view. And the best part? It's $84 a night! We are also so excited to stay with a Parisian who can give us an insider's perspective on sights and things to do. One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting new people and this is such a great way to do it!
It's also fun to check out Airbnb for some incredible and unique apartments closer to home, such as:

I could seriously spend hours perusing their site! 
Thank you, Airbnb, for making my trip planning a little less stressful!

*Also, keep an eye out for follow-up posts as I review our experience once we stay in these places.


Monday, January 27, 2014

On Friday Derek and I went to a Gatsby-themed dinner party for all of the MBA students and their spouses. I was so impressed at how everyone dressed up and looked fantastic! Almost every lady was wearing a headpiece, flapper style dress and even faux fur. I threw on an old dress and a headband from Claires (which is not the place to be unless you are 12 and under, by the way) that I got 30 minutes before. Derek wore his nice suit, parted his hair, and ditched the glasses. No one could recognize him without his glasses! It was hilarious watching people do double takes of him throughout the night. He is my very own Clark Kent.

I wish I would have taken more pictures, but it was nice to just eat, dance and hang out with friends.

Thank you to the MBA activities committee for putting this together. It was so much fun!

On Being Vegetarian

Thursday, January 23, 2014

This post is NOT intended to try and convince anyone to become vegetarian. People tend to ask me similar questions when they find out that I'm vegetarian (technically pescatarian since I eat fish) so I thought it would be nice to address it here. These are the questions I usually get:

1. How long have you been vegetarian?
About 4 years (since 2010). I can't believe it's been that long already!

2. What made you decide to become vegetarian?
I usually keep my answer to this question short and sweet because I don't think people really want to hear about why I stopped eating something that they might still eat. My quick answer is that I watched Food, Inc (don't worry, the link takes you to the wikipedia page, not the actual film! Although it is on Netflix if you're interested). Food, Inc is a documentary about corporate farming in the US and particularly highlights meat production. Watching the film and doing some research on my own was enough for me to say bye bye to meat for good. 

3. Isn't it difficult?
Is was easy for me to stop eating red meat because I didn't eat it very often anyway. Chicken was a lot harder. Chicken was my biggest source of protein at that point and I used it in many of my lunch and dinner recipes. After doing a little research I was excited to find out that there are many other high-protein foods that are not meat. It was fun to try new recipes that I probably would have never tried before. One of the greatest benefits I've noticed since becoming vegetarian is that I enjoy foods that I used to hate. Don't know how it happened, but I'm not complaining! 
Also, people sometimes think that we can only go to certain restaurants that accommodate my vegetarianism. This may have been the case a long time ago, but nowadays almost every restaurant has a vegetarian option. It also makes it easier that I eat fish because there is usually some kind of seafood option on the menu. 

4. How do you get enough protein in your diet?
Like I mentioned, there are other high-protein sources besides meat. It is definitely something that I have to be conscious about though. I ate a lot of tofu when I first became vegetarian but I eventually got tired of it. Fish is a good source of protein and I try to eat it 2 times a week. I try to snack on things like greek yogurt or fruit with peanut butter. Quinoa is amazing! It is higher in protein than any other grain and it is very versatile to cook with. I also like adding beans to a salad, burrito or just with rice. 

5. Do you cook meat for your husband?
My husband is from Texas and he is most definitely not vegetarian. He has really cut back on his meat intake since we got married but it's not because I wont cook it for him. About 80% of our meals at home are vegetarian. Sometimes I add meat to his half of whatever I am making (such as enchiladas or pasta) but most of the time he is happy eating it without the meat. He cooks a good amount too and will make things with or without meat. He usually orders meat when we go out to eat and that doesn't bother me at all.

6. Are you going to raise your kids on a vegetarian diet?
This is a tricky one and it is something that Derek and I have talked about several times. I feel strongly about not eating meat, but I try not to force that upon anyone else. My children, however, will not be just anyone else. They are my kids and I want to raise them the best way I know how, which to me would be on a vegetarian diet. However, I also believe that what you eat is very much a personal decision. One that I want my future children to be free to make for themselves when they are old enough. Thus, Derek and I plan to feed our children as we currently feed ourselves: mostly vegetarian but with some organic free-range meat. This is what we plan on doing. "Plan" being the keyword. We don't currently have kids so I wont even pretend to know what it is like to feed a picky toddler. 

 And there you have it.
The word "vegetarian" has kind of a snobby connotation. I don't bother calling myself a "pescatarian" because it sounds even more pretentious. I usually don't like telling people I am vegetarian because I think they will automatically assume I think I am above them in some way. This is not the case at all. Like I said before, I try not to force my views on anyone else just as I hope they will not force their views on me. I do, however, believe that what you eat is so important and people should educate themselves to know what is the best way for them (and their family) to nourish their body to live a healthy and happy life. 

Healthy Whole Wheat Zucchini Muffins

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Derek and I usually pack our lunches to school/work so we are always on the look out for good snack options. We've cycled through fruit leathers, Annie's Bunny Grahams, granola bars, etc. After a while they start to get old and we are ready for a new snack option. It can be hard finding good healthy snacks, so we started making our own!  One of our favorites are these Healthy Whole Wheat Zucchini Muffins. They are easy to make and they freeze well if you want to make a large batch and save them for later.
Serving Size: 12 medium muffins
Size: 1 muffin
Calories: 190
Total Fat: 8.3 g


1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
2 large zucchini, grated
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine all of the dry ingredient in a medium bowl and mix. 
  • Combine all wet ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a hand mixer on low or with a whisk.
  • Slowly add dry ingredient mix into the wet ingredients, in 2-3 batches, and continue to mix until well combined. 
  • Add the grated zucchini, chopped walnuts and mini chocolate chips and mix well. 
  • Place muffin liners in a muffin tin then spray with Pam to prevent from sticking.
  • Divide about 1/3 cup of mixture into each muffin liner. 
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

* I doubled the recipe in these pics.


Sundance Film Festival 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We got to check another thing off of our Utah bucket list on Monday: Sundance Film Festival in Park City. We didn't buy tickets in advance, so we decided to opt for an early showing and get on the waiting list. Luckily you can get on a waiting list online now so you don't have to stand in line hours beforehand. We checked in online 2 hours before the movie and showed up 30 minutes before to line up. We were so excited to make it in! We watched Fishing Without Nets, a film about Somalian piracy. If you liked Captain Phillips you will definitely like this one. What I really enjoyed about this film is that it's through the perspective of the Somalian pirates. It gives you more of an understanding of the dilemma the Somalian people face and their desperate desire to survive and feed their families. We stayed for the Q&A after and got to meet the director and some of the actors. Many of them came all the way from Africa and didn't even speak English. The actors were incredible in the film and it was so cool to see them in person! 

After the movie we headed to Main St to eat some delicious pizza at Vinto. We eat at Vinto every time we come to Park City. We tried it the first time we came together because it was the only restaurant we could find on Main St that wasn't super expensive. We haven't bothered trying any other restaurant there because we love it! 

I love Main St in Park City. It is so romantic and cozy. There were lots of people out and about for the festival and we even spotted Kurt Russell! We didn't snap a pic because he already had a crowd around him. 
There are so many cute and unique shops up and down that street. We like going into Mountain Town Olive Oil Co and trying all of the different varieties of olive oil. They also have a cute book store (Dolly's Bookstore) right next to a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory! 

I highly recommend attending the Sundance Film Festival at some point. It is such a different experience than seeing a movie in theaters and being able to hear the insights from the director and actors is awesome! 

Whale Watching: That Time I Threw Up for 8 Hours Straight

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Two summers ago Derek got us a Groupon to go whale watching in San Francisco. I was so excited because I had never gone whale watching before and the boat would be taking us under the Golden Gate Bridge. The boat took us from Pier 39 to the gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (about 27 miles off shore). It was a beautiful and sunny day, but the water was a bit rough. Below is a picture of me before I knew what torture was about to ensue: 

Everything was fine and dandy until after we went under the bridge. Then the water started getting more choppy and I started feeling queasy. I remember the guide telling us to stay outside in the fresh air if we started feeling sick and to do our business (aka ralph) over the ledge of the boat if necessary. I tried sitting outside with my eyes closed and shuttered at the thought of throwing up in front of everyone. Before long I couldn't stand being outside anymore and went inside to sit down at one of the tables. Derek snapped a picture of me in my misery. Pretty cute, right?

I only lasted about 5 minutes indoors before I booked it to the bathroom. I wont go into detail because that's gross, but lets just say it was not pretty. And that was only the beginning. Did I mention this trip was 8 hours long and we were only 20 minutes in? I was in the bathroom for what seemed like hours contemplating how I could get off the boat without being eaten by sharks. When I finally felt somewhat better, I walked out to see at least 10 other people ralphing outside the boat. At least I wasn't the only one. The rest of the trip involved me wrapped in a blanket looking like I was going to punch someone in the face and running back and forth from the bathroom. I couldn't bring myself to puke in front of all those people so I continued to hog 1 of the 2 bathrooms on the boat; something I feel awful about now but didn't give a darn about at the time. Apparently it was a great day for whale watching though. I kept hearing Derek call out to me that he could see blue whales and gray whales but I couldn't even turn to look.

I finally started to feel better the last 20 minutes of the trip after we went under the bridge again. Look how happy I was to be so close to shore.

Overall, I had an absolutely terrible experience on this trip, but somehow I'm still glad we went. It's a memory we can look back on and laugh about. Would I ever go on an all-day boat ride again? Not without a Dramamine. But you live and you learn. And we got some pretty great pictures from it.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

If only I could spend every penny I own on traveling the world. That would be the best. I would much rather use my hard-earned money on flight tickets, excursions and new restaurants rather than, let's say...clothes, bills and rent. But alas, I would be naked and homeless, which doesn't sounds like the best life either.

Growing up I traveled to Mexico almost every summer to visit my dad and other relatives. I was very accustomed to flying at a young age and airports quickly became one of my favorite places. When I was 8, I went with my family to Lima, Peru to see where my mom grew up and to meet her side of the family. My mom tells me I cried at the airport on the way back because I didn't want to leave. My mom, sister and I went back to Peru in 2010 and visited Cusco, where my grandma grew up.  We also explored Machu Picchu which was a huge check off my bucket list. 

I am very fortunate to have married someone who loves to travel as much as I do! Derek and I are constantly planning trips and have made it a goal to go on one 'big' trip a year. We'll see how long we can keep that going.

I truly believe that "travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer." You learn so much about yourself and others when you visit a new place. Why is travel so important?

1. It takes you out of your comfort zone. 
Going to a new country can be intimidating, especially when you don't speak the language or don't know much about the culture. Traveling can take you out of your typical level of comfort and stretch you in ways that help you grow as a person. There is no quicker way to grow than to try something you've never done before. 

2. You discover new ways of living. 
It's easy to think that our way of living is the only/correct way if we don't know otherwise. Immersing yourself in a new culture can broaden your way of thinking and help you discover new ways of doing things that may bring greater joy into your life.

3. You wont regret it. 
When people are on their death bed, do you think they looking back on their life and think "I really shouldn't have bothered backpacking through Europe." I highly doubt it. If anything, they probably look back and wish they would have taken the time to experience more of what this world has to offer. The memories you make and the things you learn when you travel have lasting effects that you will most likely cherish for the rest of your life. 

Winter Wonderland

Monday, January 13, 2014

We got to visit the Ice Castles last Friday with some friends and family and it was amazing! We got there around 5pm while it was still light out and watched the lights turn on as the sun went down. We were shown how they build the castles by growing an "icicle farm" with thousands of icicles that they sculpt together one by one. They have a sprinkler system that they use to keep them frozen and in place. It was surreal to walk through tunnels and caves of ice. 

* This looks a little precarious...

*Brian decided to grab an ice ax and show the workers how it's done. 

It was an awesome experience and I'm so glad we went.
I highly recommend it if you are in Utah, Colorado or New Hampshire!