Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What's for lunch today?

Spiced Broccoli and Red Quinoa is 350 calories, 16g of protein, 10g of fiber
morning snack - Cashews and strawberries
afternoon snack - Shakeology with honeydew melon (my new favorite recipe!)

I make this recipe quite often because it's so delicious! It's a great way to flavor broccoli without butter.
Nutritional Yeast is not the type of yeast you bake bread with, it's a living micro-organism grown on sugarcane and beet molasses. It has 7 grams of protein in just two tablespoons! It's high in riboflavin, Vitamin B- 12 and full of amino acids. It has a cheesy taste and I sprinkle it over kale chips and put it in my scrambled tofu.

Quinoa is a great alternative to rice because it's high in protein and a slow releasing carb, which means it delays the release of sugar into your blood stream so it keeps you full longer. It's also one of the ingredients in shakeology that gives the shake protein.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Who wants ice cream?!

I do! I was in the mood for some peach ice cream, but Ben & Jerry's 1/2 cup (106g) serving size is 220 calories, 100 calories of fat, 26 grams of sugar!

So instead I reached for these two boxes to do a comparison. Their ingredient lists start off the same: skim milk, sugar, peaches, egg yolks....except the Weight Watchers also has whey protein in it and the yoplait has apricot juice in it. The difference is the yoplait bar is half the size of the weight watchers bar, but they say a serving is 2 bars, but realistically you're only going eat one bar at a time so you can just cut the calories in half!

                              Weight Watchers                               Yoplait
                              $5.99  on sale for $3.68                       $4.99 on sale for $2.99
                              6 bars, 1 bar is a serving (65g)             10 bars, 2 bars is a serving (79g)
                              80 cal per serving, 5 cal from fat           120 cal per serving, 20 cal from fat
                              13g sugar                                            19g sugar

How do they taste?
The Yoplait bar was light orange in color and tasted like blended artificially flavored peach yogurt with a weird maple syrup after taste to it. The Weight Watchers bar was white and tasted like delicious creamy vanilla ice cream with a very light hint of peach flavor.

Last summer the Today Show did an interesting segment titled "Can you believe diet frozen dessert labels? Tests show that some products have up to 68 percent more calories than labels promise." Turns out Weight Watchers bars and Arctic Zero (protein) ice cream had more calories than their labels advertised, but Skinny Cow bars had less. They can get away with this because the industry allows a percentage of error and the companies do their measurements based on averages of containers.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

a History Lesson from Panama

I'm a bit of a history buff and it was my major in college. While in Panama I learned about Captain Morgan and Manuel Noriega.

I’m sure you've heard of Captain Morgan Rum, but do you know where the name comes from? Captain Morgan was a Welch privateer who  left his farm in Jamaica to attack Panama in 1671. A  privateer is a sort of legal pirate who had permission from the English government to attack Spanish ships and ports when England and Spain were at war. Morgan had the well-earned reputation of a man who took big risks and offered big rewards for his men. He chose to attack Panama because it was considered the center of Spanish trade in the Americas, as its warehouses contained the goods and valuables of many wealthy merchants. Captain Morgan destroyed the city of Panama, made off with its entire treasure and arrived back on the Caribbean coast with 200 mules loaded with loot. They recently found Captain Morgan's ship! And on an unrelated (super cute) note, here's another Captain Morgan.

You might recognize the name Manuel Noriega, or just remember the rapper with the same name. He was a Panamanian politician and soldier, committed voter fraud stealing a Presidential elections in Panama, manipulated US foreign policy towards Panama, CIA informer, a player in the illegal drug industry by taking payments from Colombian drug traffickers to allow cocaine to pass through Panama to the United States. In 1989 former President Jimmy Carter was an observer to the Panamian Presidential elections which resulted in voter fraud by Noriega and a coup. In response the US imposed economic sanctions and there were a number of hostilities between Noriega’s troops and American military forces stationed in Panama. President George H. W. Bush authorized a military invasion of Panama, of more than 27,000 troops, then the largest American military action since the Vietnam War, with the sole purpose of deposing of the dictator. The United Nations condemned the invasion as a flagrant violation of international law, however according to a CBS poll, 92% of Panamanian adults supported the U.S. incursion, but a documentary said  that the Panamanian surveys were completed in wealthy English-speaking neighborhoods in Panama City.

On the fifth day of the invasion, Noriega took refuge in the Papal Embassy in Panama for 10 days. Since the US was not allowed to invade the embassy, they used  psychological warfare by blasting rock music around the clock. After ten days of Operation Nifty Package, Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990 wearing a nun's outfit. The U.S. saw Noriega as a double agent and the state Department nicknamed him "rent-a-colonel" and believed that he gave information not only to the U.S. and U.S. allies, Taiwan and Israel, but also to communist Cuba.  He also sold weapons to the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the late 1970’s.  He was a close ally of the United States and pledged to help the Reagan administration in their efforts to destabilize the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. After the Iran-Contra Affair, Noriega became a liability to the United States.  Once captured he was taken to the US where he stood trial for drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering but during trial  he was forbidden from discussing the nature of his 30 years of work for the CIA or the amount they paid him (he claimed $10M).   This was a landmark trial which marked the first time that a former head of a foreign government had ever faced criminal charges in an American court of law. He served 17 years in an American prison before being extradited to France for trial on money laundering, then later to Panama where he is in prison today.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Panama Rainforest

Panama's lush rainforest is a hidden treasure because tourism hasn't really exploded in the country. A third of the country is set aside as protected areas and national parks, and indigenous groups live on it with pretty much the same as they did hundreds of years ago. I visited an Embra Indian village next to the river which still maintains a traditional lifestyle (with no electricity or phone) and have not assimilated into Panamian society, so it was just like what you would imagine seeing in National Geographic magazine! Survivor filmed three seasons on Panama's Pearl Islands, which by the way have an interesting history. In 1513 the Spaniards discovered the islands inhabited with Indians who presented them with a gift basket of pearls. This only made them want to loot the island more so they killed off all the Indians and imported African slaves to harvest the pearls and their descendants now inhabit the islands. In 1979 the Shah of Iran retreated to the Pearl Islands. Today the islands are known for its beach resort and houses owned by the wealthy.  The Smithsonian operates Barro Colorado Island in Panama because it was untouched by modern civilization and many of the most important groundbreaking scientific and biological discoveries of the tropical animal and plant kingdom have come from their research here.

My visit to the rainforest was along the Chagres River.The day started off with lunch at this beautiful restaurant by the river (pictured above) which had a view of all the huge ships traveling to pass through Panama Canal. We took a small motorboat to the Embra village along the river. I carried my plastic rain poncho, plastic rain hair cover and umbrella with me everywhere I went in case of a sudden downpour that never came (can't get the hair wet! lol). With sunny blue skies didn't have a cloud in sight so I could feel the 96F temperature and was glad to be getting a breeze by traveling via motorboat taking the road less traveled yet with modern technology. lol Being in a small motorboat gave us the chance to see exotic wildlife up close and very personal! lol I saw baby crocodiles, the big ones were shy and dipped underwater as soon as anyone spotted them. I saw lots of birds, iguanas, sea turtles and various types of monkeys. Oh and did you know that Panama has a National Frog?! The Golden Frog.

We stopped our boat in a few spots for our boat operator to throw fruit into the trees hoping to attract a monkey, and in each case the monkeys jumped onto our boat to grab it! But they were shy and quickly ran away to eat the mango or grapes in the trees! However we encountered one cheeky monkey who ran all through the boat and jumped on my shoulder and made quite the threatening noise! I stayed pretty calm through this, but the woman next to me did the screaming for the both of us! lol He just moved around my shoulders like I was a tree. We were told not to laugh around monkeys because they saw that has a threatening noise and not to wear bright colors, well guess what our life vests were neon orange!  And the monkey took a bite out of my life vest! Fortunately he got bored and moved on eventually, since I couldn't see this happening to me I don't think I was afraid as everyone else on the boat who stared at me frozen with a frightened look on all of their faces. Someone told me she'll never forget me and my spontaneous encounter with a wild monkeyAs we were leaving the boat operator revved up the boat's engine and the monkeys thought that was some kind of call to them and responded in kind with a loud growl!

Next we visited the Embra village where the whole village came out to greet us! We were welcomed with song and music from local instruments, one including a turtle shell. They live in large one room huts built on stilts. The small village had a banana/plantain plantation which was the staple of their diet and a cash crop. The government of Panama does require them to send their children to school (in uniform). The women had long shiny black hair and traditionally do not cover their chests. The men wore just loin cloths or beaded short skirts and no one wore shoes. They covered their bodies with a natural black dye that repels insects.

musical instrument made out of turtle shell

Everyone in the village was very friendly! Once we all gathered around they performed a dance for us! Since hunting and agriculture is now restricted the Embera rely on selling their basket weaving and wood carvings to earn some money to barter with. Did you that Neil Armstrong and other astronauts trained in jungle survival skills with the Embera Indians!  In the event the spaceship made an emergency landing in a tropical jungle they would have survival skills. If you turn on a lantern at night in waters populated by crocodiles, you will see pairs of shiny red dots. These are the crocodiles' eyes which have a layer behind their retina, containing crystals that reflect light and make possible the night vision.

Back on land after our river tour, we visited a butterfly and orchid farm, and saw trees growing almonds, avocados, mango, and cashews. Actually just driving through Panama I saw so many blooming fruit trees! I did a night tour of the area around my hotel base in the rainforest and saw a sloth in the trees and a capybara (largest rodent in the world, a cross between a rat and a pig), the size of a dog. As we drove by the river the guide shined his strobe light onto the water and told us what was  glowing in the dark on the river -  crocodile eyes
capybara and sloth, both had babies with them but I didn't get a photo of them
Next we visited El Valle, a volcano crater village, did you know that Panama has three active volcanoes but no earthquakes unlike their neighbor Costa Rica, just tremors. There I visited a zoo (where we had a police escort) and saw parrots who greeted us with the word hola hoping for a treat, various colored peacocks, beautiful toucans which are only up in the treetops,  and the highlight was seeing all the big cats of the Panamian jungle - Jaguars, pumas, ocelots, jaguarundis and margays

Back at the hotel I enjoyed my private balcony and just kicked back in the hammock. In the morning I had the most amazing view of the sunrise!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is such an interesting engineering marvel I had to do an entire post on it! They are building a new Canal that will open in 2015. The Canal was built on land slicing through rock, then connected through the largest (at the time) man made lake, Lake Gatun, to connect the two sets of locks. 

Brief history on the Canal
The French started the work in 1881 headed by the man who built the Suez Canal in Egypt. But after nine years of work, they quit because of engineering problems and high mortality due to disease (malaria). A few years later the United States took over the project. With new information on where malaria comes from (mosquitoes) and how its spread, the Americans were able to be more successful. They set forth a massive sanitation project by fumigating,  putting screens on windows, cutting down grass and paving roads, introduced mosquito nets and got rid of standing water. These are all obvious things we know today, but the French knew none of this and disease killed so many people, including all the nurses, that when the Americans came they knew attacking the disease needed to be dealt with first before they could bring any workers in to continue on with the Canal. The French completed the first third of the Canal and the Americans finished the rest in 10 years. The Panama Canal allowed ships to save 8 days of transit time by not having to sail around Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America. In 1999 the operation of the Canal was transferred from the US to Panama.

A ship does not "sail" through the Canal, it passes through a series of locks, twice (the Gatun locks and the Miraflores locks) and a ship must be “Panamax” size to fit through the Canal. If they can not then they can use a taxi system of sorts where their containers are removed from the ship and taxied across the Canal and picked up by another ship on the other side. A tug locomotive is used to help a ship stay centered within the Canal. I saw one ship pass through with only 22 inches between the ship and the wall of the locks! The Canal operates faster than your bathtub, 100 holes pump water into the lock with fresh water (salt water would erode the Canal) and the whole process only takes 8 minutes! The Canal has two-way traffic, on each side. 
Top: see how tight the ship fits into the canal; Below: the taxi system for larger ships

A ship has to wait 24-48 hours in queue to pass through the Canal so I saw tons of ships just sitting around the lake. They are now widening and modernizing the Canal (as container ships are getting larger) with two new sets of locks being built parallel to the old locks. The new Canal will double capacity to handle increasing demand of worldwide travel. The new Canal, which will operate in addition to the old one, will use water-saving basins at each new lock. The present Canal is almost 100 years old and the doors are removed every 3 years for maintenance by a crane but with the new Canal that won’t be necessary because it will use more efficient rolling gates, instead of the double gates needed for pressure in the current one. Each lock chamber in the new Canal will have three water-saving basins to diminish water loss and preserve freshwater resources along the waterway by reusing water from the basins into the locks. Lengthwise the Empire state building can fit in the new Canal. Presently the Canal uses rainwater from the Gatun Lake that accumulates during the rainy season, but that water is lost to the ocean through the locks. Gatun Lake also provides the drinking water for Panama City and Colón. Gatum Dam generates the electricity which is used to operate the locks at the Canal.
diagram of new canal with water saving basins adjacent to old canal
Ships pay a toll to pass through the Canal depending on either the size of the ship for passenger ships or the weight of cargo for container ships. So for instance a Norwegian Cruise Line ship with 300 pax pays $40K fare to pass through the Canal while a sailboat might only pay $800. The Panama Canal Locks are drained every 7 years to clear debris. No one can swim the Canal anymore because of crocodiles, hunting prohibited is in Panama.
Norwegian Cruiseline ship waiting to pass through canal

water was lowered and gates opened so catamaran can pass through

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Panama: 5 Awesome Facts from my Trip!

This week I'm turning my blog into the Travel Channel and everyday will share something about Panama.
The name Panama means "Abundance of Fishes." I spent one week visiting  Panama City, then cruised the Panama Canal, visited an Embera indigenous village in the rainforest (where I had an encounter with a wild monkey) and stayed at a beach resort. Since it was the start of the rainy season (yet they are in a drought) the beach was empty and I had the pool practically to myself! I also went to a guava plantation, a butterfly and orchid farm, and visited a zoo where I saw the many cats of the jungle.

You don't need a visa to visit Panama but they do randomly fingerprint Americans at the airport. If you're wondering about safety in Panama, I saw armed police everywhere, standing around in parks, entrances to hospitals, and at the zoo. We were warned about purse snatching and according to the State Department: "Panama remains relatively safe when compared to other Central American countries, yet crime rates are still higher than one would encounter in most of the United States."

Panama City reminded me Honolulu with lots of high rise buildings with palm trees, but tons unsightly power lines. They are building a new subway right now, and their new metro will open next year. The old city is pretty empty of inhabitants but it’s a world heritage site and private donors are renovating the buildings. Foodwise I mostly ate rice with pigeon peas and plantains which is their staple dish.   

1. People
Panama is a small country of only 3.6 million people and the people can best be described as a "Panamix" because they’re really quite diverse consisting of:
68% Amerindian-Mestizo
15% White
10% Black
6% Amerindian
1% Other
Jewish and Muslim communities with approximately 10,000 members each. The Chinese population  is 200,000, many having immigrated in the 19th century, then had to fight for their citizenship. Recently Panama has had immigration from working class Colombians who come to work in the service industry and upper class Venezuelans coming to protect their money from the political situation in their country. It's interesting to note that Panama buys it gas from the Caribbean island of Tobago, not Venezuela.

2. Panama Hat 
The Panama hat is actually made in Ecuador. In 1906 President Roosevelt was the first US President to travel outside of the US during office, he went to see the Canal and insisted on going during the rainy season. He was photographed wearing the hat and upon his return asked where he got it and said it was a Panama hat, hence the name stuck.

3. Carnival
During Carnival in February everyone has off work and school for the week. Carnival includes a "pollera" parade where Panamanian women wear the national costume, these handmade dresss costs starting at $7000. The dress is white and has elaborate embroidery and hand-sewn appliqué on it that can take months to make. It also has a lace petticoat and big pom poms on the chest and back. They wear an exquisite crown like headpiece made of pearls and a gold comb in their hair. Then they wear multiple necklaces around their neck to complete the look. 

4. Sports
Baseball is Panama's national sport and at least 140 Panamanian players have played professional  
baseball in the United States, more than any other Central American country. Pay per view is free  
when Panama is boxing. However Panama has never qualified to play in world cup for soccer.

5. Weather
Panama is tropical and hot, they have two seasons rainy and dry. Right now they are experiencing a
drought as it should be the start of the rainy season. Since they need the water to operate the canal
which in turn gives them electricity, they are making electricity cuts around the country. Starting
with government workers, their hours have been changed to 7:30am-1:30pm, no lunch break, and the
a/c is only on from 8:30-12:30.

Panama is going through an economic boom with construction cranes everywhere. These photos were all taken in downtown Panama City which has scores of highrises, the Trump Hotel looks like something that would belong in Dubai. Then the vacant old city has the beautiful historic churches. There was another side of town where the poorer people lived, that looked nothing like this.

John Hopkins hospital

Where else would you expect to find your well-bronzed blogger? Pretending to be a Bond girl by the pool enjoying my tropical getaway! Did you know that Quantum of Solace was filmed in Panama?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New and Improved Greenberry Shakeology is here!

Greenberry was Beachbody's first flavor four years ago and they decided to give it a makeover to improve the taste! Its sweeter, fruitier and even better than before. There is no more weird after taste or wheat grass flavor! They reduced the calories, sugar, and carbs, then increased the protein and fiber. It's still has a Low Glycemic Index And they added three new ingredients that are already in the other flavors of Shakeology:

Luo Han Guo - Monkfruit which lends natural sweetness to the formulation

Moringa - The horseradish tree has been used medicinally the world over dating back the ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians. Moringa is known to promote energy, vitality, athletic performance and weight loss while also promoting a healthy immune system to keep you super healthy. Packed with vitamins A and C, as well as potassium, iron, and zinc. You'll also find 96 active phytochemicals and 35 active antioxidants, including superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme especially effective at combating damage done by superoxide, a common free radical. You'll also find 18 essential amino acids, including the 9 essential to human life.  Beachbody source ours primarily from Senegal and give them a higher wage than in the other commodities

Himalayan Salt Salt and sodium are necessary in our diets. Unfortunately, common table salt has been stripped of its natural minerals. Himalayan salt is completely natural, relatively untouched, and as a result, still contains over 70 trace minerals. All these natural minerals found in Himalayan salt actually make this salt healthier for you than regular table salt. Additionally, as most people who bake know, adding a pinch of salt contributes to the sweetness of a product.

Apple Mojito recipe
1 scoop Greenberry Shakeology
1/4 cup apple juice
1 cup sparkling water
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp agave nectar
Ice to taste


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Do you suffer from cronic fatigue?

Want to make your immune system stronger? Make your allergies more tolerable? Do you want to give yourself more energy for your workouts? Give Cordastra a try for free this month!

The ingredients: Cordyceps + Astragalus = Cordastra  are known to both help the immune system as well as aide in chronic fatigue. Don't take my word for it, Dr. Oz talked about cordyceps helping with chronic fatique and astragalus on his show.
Cordastra is a brand-new wellness nutrition supplement that's an exclusive potent blend of two ancient Chinese herbs, astragalus and cordyceps. Together they promote physical health and mental well-being. This new wellness nutrition supplement also contains the unique and proprietary Activessence®, which helps optimize your body's ability to use both powerful herbs.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Chocolate Shakeology Balls

These no bake balls are delicious! They're packed with nutrients and easy to make.


½ Cup PB2 (low fat powdered peanut butter)
3 Tablespoons Natural Peanut butter
½ Cup Shakeology Protein Powder
3 Tablespoons Raw Honey
½ Cup Rolled Oats


Mix PB2 with water until it’s a paste like consistency. Mix all ingredients, including the PB2 mixture together in a mixing bowl. It make take some time to blend all of the ingredients together. If it’s too sticky, sprinkle in additional protein powder so that it’s a pretty dry/crumbly texture. Next – Roll mixture into small individual balls and sprinkle with coconut if desired. Makes about 12 balls. Put in freezer until firm.

Nutrition: (serving size 1 ball)
Calories: 80
Carbs: 10g
Fat: 2g
Protein: 7g

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hip-Hop Abs

Shaun T, creater of the Insanity workout, also made Hip Hop Abs which is a totally fun, beginner workout that's more like a dance party than a workout. Right now it's on sale for only $20 for a 3 dvd set pack! And there's also a spanish version available. It's a 30-day, dance-based in-home fitness program designed to help you burn fat and sculpt your abs without doing crunches or sit-ups.

Shaun T teaches his easy-to-follow moves step by step, so you can do it even if you think you can’t dance. If you’re new to working out, you won’t need to buy any extra equipment, you just need room to move. It uses cardio to burn calories, with special focus on toning your abs.

Also included is a nutrition guide that helps you choose the right foods to support your weight loss goals. If you have to eat on the go, Shaun helps you make the best choices with his Results on the Run diet guide.

Join my 30 Day Healthy Eating and Shakeology closed online support group for nutrition tips, meal plans and recipes. Ask me how!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Yellow Chevron

I love the chevron pattern! My dining table actually has this same print in yellow. I bought this maxi dress last summer from ArdenB and a friend of mine said she had an identical one from Bebe. Last month I walked into ArdenB and they are once again selling this dress in the same color! I was surprised to see they bring back things from a previous season. I wore this dress to Panama so of course this look wouldn't be complete without a Panama hat!
Yellow Chevron

Target has some cute wall decor for nurseries in yellow chevron and quatrefoil prints.
target nursery

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