Thursday, February 18, 2016

Banana Peanut Butter Protein Bars

I'm not a fan of bananas. True story: a friend once chased me around the dorm lounge trying to make me touch the mushy fruit inside. Totally freaked me out.

Now that I'm miles away from that silly college girl, I love to use them in my homemade protein bars.

Making the protein bars was an excellent follow up to a morning climb up Nanshan mountain. It's been cold and cloudy in Shenzhen since I got back from the Maldives (yes, I love saying that!), but we made it to the top without getting rained on.

Banana Peanut Butter Protein Bars are one of my favorite homemade snacks. I haven't been making the best food choices lately, so I checked the ingredients for my recipe and figured I could still make them here in China. And they're still gluten free.

Here's my recipe:

2 cups quick cooking gluten free oats
1 cup protein powder (I use vanilla)
1/4 cup organic buckwheat flour
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 cup nut butter (I use almond butter)
1/4 cup honey
2 mashed ripe bananas 
1 tbsp cinnamon

Mix together. Spread about 1/2" inch thick onto cookie sheet lined with cooking-sprayed wax paper. 
Bake 350 degrees 15 min. 
Remove from wax paper. Let cool and cut.

I always have a couple right away. 

After the hike, I met mrC at the salon. He got a haircut and I got my nails done. They were seriously overdue. 

On our walk back to the apartment, I saw this scooter and now I think I want one. Except it would put a dent in my Fitbit stats. 

We didn't do the souvenir thing on our trip. We bought some incidentals: post cards, a disposable underwater camera, sunscreen. It was enough to earn a free gift and tonight we put it to use while making dinner. I love it!

Do you make your own snacks?
Souvenirs or no souvenirs when you travel?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Great Birthday Escape: Bandos Island, Maldives

When mrC gets a good layover, we've learned to take advantage of it. This trip was perfectly timed too. It was my birthday, Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year (a great time to escape the never-ending fireworks). 

Bandos Island Resort is beautiful. White sand. Tropical flowers. Pink sunsets. Blue waters. Paradise.

The Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean and spread across the equator, is made up of 1190 atolls (an atoll is basically a clump of islands). About 200 atolls are inhabited and half of those are resorts. At The Bandos Island Resort we were among approximately 450 guests. Transport to the island is by boat only from the airport (which is its own island) and takes about 15 minutes. 

Right away it was obvious that people come to the island to unwind. It's not like other destinations where you fill your days sight-seeing (although you can by signing up for the island hopping excursion). The island itself is only a half mile loop to walk around. Even though it was small in comparison to other places we've been recently, there was plenty to do and all of it was relaxing. 

My body's disregard for local time made it easy to catch the sunrise and it was worth it. 

The resort usually offered morning yoga, but since the yogi was off the island I did my own yoga on the beach.

Two laps around the island was a mile and running was a popular activity for many. mrC and I squeezed in one short run while we were there.

Snorkeling was the main attraction. Boats filled with people came from surrounding islands to explore the coral reef. We spent every morning after breakfast in the water and a couple of afternoons too.

The crystal clear water was filled with an abundance of colorful and friendly sea life. The most exciting was to see the Black Tip Reef Shark. We used a disposable underwater camera to take pictures (which may be awhile to develop here in China), but mrC's co-pilot caught this picture with his Go-Pro and shared it with us. We saw these sharks several times while snorkeling and one swam  right by us when we were sitting in the lagoon!

When we weren't at the beach snorkeling, we enjoyed the beauty of the island on several walks.

Every time we went for a walk we discovered something new: the Valentine tree, crushed glass mulch, an island nursery. 

When we tired from walking and playing in the golden sunshine, we relished the ocean breeze and crashing waves from any of a dozen cozy resting spots.

Breathtaking sunsets were the appetizer or the dessert depending on when we made it to dinner. Either way, the pinks and oranges did not disappoint.

In addition to the main Gallery Restaurant, where pre-paid buffet style meals were served (and where we had breakfast each day), guests could also choose from three dining experiences.

Huvan Restaurant located on the west side of island (and most frequented by us) gave diners the choice between land or deck seating. We only ate on land once, opting instead to enjoy being surrounded by layers of blue water and cooled by the constant breeze.

We had lunch at the Sea Breeze, located on the east side of the island. The food and views were very nice, but this part of island, ironically, seemed void of breezes. We wanted to spend more time on the loungers watching the boats come and go, but it was just too warm.

No need to worry about the lack of air since it was only evening dining at Koon Thai Restaurant. Also located on the east side of island and next door to Sea Breeze, it was a great spot for dinner.

The resort offered specific excursions each day of the week and we signed up for the Sunset Dolphin Cruise. The two hour boat ride had us chasing dolphins while flying fish chased us! It was exciting to see the dolphins jumping and swimming.

The island offered a wide range of accommodations, from classic rooms in the center of the island to elite water villas floating over the sea. We were quite happy with the beachfront standard room located on the northwest side of the island and a mere 20 steps from the water.

Other amenities on the island (not used by us) include: Paradise Club (fitness center), Orchid Spa, Water Sports Center (we almost rented SUP boards), Diving Center, Medical Center, and Swimming Pool.

Bandos Island Resort was magical. Most trips that we take have me planning and plotting where we will go and what we will see each day to make the most of our time. This place was different. It was as if the urge to rush about from habit was diminished by the tranquil setting. I've never been anywhere like this before and feel very lucky to have been able to join mrC on his layover.

Have you been to the Maldives or some place like it?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday Movers & Shakers {not really}

After the fireworks party (aka Lunar New Year's Eve) that literally went on all night long, we were slow movers today, but we did move.

To save time running errands, mrC and I hopped on the bikes and rode off to pay the rent and buy me a ferry ticket to the airport for Wednesday. I have a serious adventure coming up! Stay tuned!

After lunch we headed back out for a walk to the park. I took mrC on the same loop around the lake that I did the other day. It feels good to stick to my goal of taking more walks. The park was much more crowded with people enjoying their holiday off work and the views were as stunning as always. I love how you can see Nanshan Mountain in the distance. Yep, I climb that!

Our evening with friends was a blast and we even shook things up a little with some fireworks in their garden. Fireworks are a big part of the Chinese New Year celebration. I learned this from a friend: "The practice of setting off fireworks comes from an ancient myth about a monster named Nian, the same word for year. He came once a year and attacked and killed villagers and their livestock as the New Lunar year arrived. An old man supposedly figured out that Nian was afraid of loud noises, lights and the color red. So, each year, houses are decorated with red, and fireworks are set off to scare away the evil spirits." From what I heard last night, I think they were successful at scaring Nian away.

How are you moving and shaking things up today?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Yoga Sunday on Lunar New Year's Eve

Happy Lunar New Year! (aka Chinese New Year but celebrated all over Asia)

Today I spent the day unexpectedly entertaining myself after mrC was called into work to start the plane and came back 7 hours later! A lot of things happen quickly in China (plumbing repairs, water delivery), but sometimes airplane parts get hung up in customs.

Sunday has become my rest day. I try to give my 45 (almost) year old body a break. Something I am just accepting and learning to do.

Today it was Yoga Sunday!

I have to admit that I feel pretty darn good after a session of yoga.

Tonight we are off to celebrate the Lunar New Year with friends. I expect to see lots of decorations and even more fireworks.

I know my US friends will be spending Sunday watching the Super Bowl. That's our plan for Monday morning!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Friday 5 {a little late}

Whew! What a busy week. I love when the week is full of activity and wears me out, but I miss checking in on the blog and sharing my adventures.

So since I'm a little behind (with zero posts) this week, I thought I would pick my top 5 moments to share:

Nanshan Hike - Mountain Monday was rained out and became Massage Monday for me (and oh my muscles needed that massage!). On Tuesday a couple of us made up the rain out and headed up the mountain. It was cold and gray, but we had a good time chatting and climbing. Nanshan Mountain peak has had a bit of a trim, so the views are now unobstructed and will be nice on a clear day.

Interval Runs - I did two 30 minute interval runs this week, giving myself more non-running days in-between. The first one was on the treadmill using my phone with the Nike app. The goal is time with a slow and easy pace. It was a good workout.

For my second run, I felt it was time to run outside again. I've been nervous about my knee "giving out" again, but the runs on the treadmill have boosted my confidence. This time I used my Nike watch. I kept the same routine: 5 minute WU, 3:2 run/walk, and 5 minute CD. It was another good interval run. I think the longer break between runs was a good idea.

Booya Skinny Jean Workout - I'm constantly looking for leg workouts because I still need to re-build the strength in my left quad, but I've also noticed that my pants are fitting a little snug lately. This was a GREAT workout. There's still time to enter the Booya Fitness Valentine's Day Challenge and win prizes for doing this workout. You can't lose! (sign up here)

Yoga Camp - I'm still enjoying my 30 days of yoga and it's because of how good the poses make me feel. I'm also loving the variety and when practice matches up with Instagram challenges.

Flower Market - Some friends asked me to join them on a trip to the Dutch Flower Market in Shenzhen on Friday. It worked out perfectly for me since YogaLife is closed for the Chinese New Year and it was a perfectly gorgeous day. We enjoyed a couple of hours of walking through the rows and rows of vendors selling flowers (obvs.), Chinese New Year decorations, and animals of varying kinds (birds, hamsters, bunnies, cats, fish, turtles).

A couple more things worth sharing:

A great article about facing the struggles of workout blahs: When workouts go bad: How I knew it was time to breakup with my workout.

Good tips for all us (ahem) over-40 runners and those who are close: 4 Things Over-40 Runners Do

I love quick little killer workouts that are fun too --> like this one: Cardio Dance Party

How was your week?