Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Trying to stay healthy while vacationing in Belize, or while living here? Low carb dieting and yoga discoveries in Placencia!

There are a lot of arguments over the "best" and healthiest way to lose weight. Personally, I find that yoga 3-4x a week, and eating a relatively low-carb diet keeps my weight low enough to feel ok in a bathing suit, but we all have our own body chemistry and what works for us!

For those that move here, or are just here on vacation, and are low-carb fans, I have some ideas about how I've maintained a low carb diet while here (And feel free to say to h*ll with dieting, I'm on vacation....however, you may not feel like you are dieting with these ideas!!)

Some ideas for low-carb menu items around the village! 
***also note, I have researched the lowest carb alcohol drinks one can get here - I drink these two exclusively - Pinot Grigio or other white wine, or a Vodka (Hyper is the local brand but watch the hangover) with club soda and a lime. Most of the mixed drinks are just filled with sugar here. For beer, I'd probably stick to Lighthouse Lager. No info on the carb count of the beer here...and only Bowen and Bowen beers are available in the country. 

Dolce Vita - They have the best wine list in town, and many of their menu items are paired with either a salad or pasta, so it was no big deal to order low carb here. The portions are HUGE and this is highly recommended for dinner!
Rick's Cafe- YUM....lots of healthy, organic, vegan options. My favorite is the Vegan salad, to which I non-vegan-ly add chicken, but it is so filling and delicious. Totally recommended and there are plenty of carb-y options for your spouse.
Rick's, off the sidewalk, about halfway between pier and northern edge of village
Wende's Creole Cafe or Cozy Corner - Sit on the porch/deck, these are seriously fun local places...I always order one of the fish entrees which are straight off the boats. I order double veggies and it is a huge portion. 
Rumfish, Mojo, or Secret Garden - these are three of most popular places to eat in the village, they all have great atmospheres, unique & vacation-ey - and very easy to order the fresh fish of the day with just veggies on the side and maybe add a salad. You will NOT feel you are missing out. However, at Rumfish and Mojo you WILL feel you are missing out on the awesome drinks they offer, but their wine is good and you'll live.

Something more casual - Barefoot Bar or Tipsy Tuna - easy to order dry rub wings, a burger with no bun, or a salad at either place. You'll be happy! 
**The sleepers!! EnE Chinese restaurant....no facebook page, you will see it as you enter the village on Main Street from CBC. You have to try their egg drop soup and egg fu yung, sooo good. You can order it to go. Another place that just reopened - Dragonfly on Main Street - I had their egg drop soup and it was filled with chicken and veggies....it was the best soup I have had in a long time, a huge bowl, for $4US!!! This has a fun patio to sit at and watch the village go by.
Also - at the street food stands, Mim's, etc - order stewed chicken, double portion, maybe with cole slaw- yes a bit of sugar in the cole slaw but things could be worse. Hot Chicks Deli also has rotisserie chicken.
Brewed Awakenings - Espresso madness drink - this is better than the best thing at Starbucks and it has seaweed, that you will never know is in there. Although it tastes a bit sweet, it is the cacao you taste and there is no added sugar. SUCH a treat.  
Me and Sticks grabbing a seaweed shake.
Breakfast - I usually order a veggie omelette with a side of sausage or bacon, most places have it - I just ordered this at The Shak and it was AMAZING.
Finally, if you are curious what low-carb options are available at the grocery stores, vs. what you should plan on improvising or bringing from home....

Things I often buy at the grocery store, that are almost always available....(grocery stores here are kind of....inconsistent, in what is available :) )
---85% local dark chocolate from Goss -often kept in the coolers (this has a little bit of sugar but not much at all, and I usually get 4 servings out of one bar, so this is negligible sugar - it is RICH)
---Plenty of nuts (but the imported ones are expensive!), local cashews, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, lunch meat, eggs, breakfast meats, local pumpkin seeds, & sunflower seeds are available.
---Splenda is available, but no Stevia. There is plenty of diet coke, called "coke light" here (Ming's has the best selection of diet colas.) Almond milk with no sugar added is almost always available, along with cream, cool whip (only has 2 carbs per serving!), plain yogurt - the local kind called Mr. Natural is the BEST. Top Value often has nitrate-free hot dogs, and all places carry tons of chicken and meat. Salad stuff and veggies can be found at the farmer's markets all through town.  
--When I come down I will sometimes bring down low carb wraps, liquid Stevia, maple extract, and protein bars/powder. This really depends on how you cook and what you really think you'll miss.
 Make sure yours has a sticker that says "85%" (quora.com)
One of many markets you'll see throughout the village
Which brings me to my last point. I have figured out a pretty solid list for cooking down here based on what I know will be available. Anyone who has done a low-carb diet knows that preparation is the key to sticking with this diet, as when you are hungry, it is too easy to grab whatever is easy, and that bit of preparation can stop you from blowing it. 

Some easy recipes if you live here, are staying a while, or are just super dedicated to low carb :): 
---Here is my Pinterest Board called "Belize Low Carb Recipes" - feel free to follow as I will always be updating this. This has recipes that I can assure you, you will usually be able to find all of the ingredients here. 
Here are some of my favorites:
Low carb tortillas
Egg drop soup (no spinach, add fresh ginger!)
Taco salad - so simple. Just lettuce, with tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, then brown up some ground chicken or beef and add a taco seasoning packet (or your own spices.) Top it with sour cream, cheese, and avocado. I make this like once a week. Sometimes I'll also sautee onion and green pepper with the meat.
Hard boiled eggs - self explanatory and easy :)
Chicken or beef patties with a fried egg on top, also self explanatory.
Here are my two favorite low carb recipe sites:

***Also, for those who do yoga, you will be a happy camper here :). You have two great yoga instructors in the village. 
---Stephanie from Eucalipto - her classes are right in the village, next to Brewed Awakenings. You can walk there from CBC, and her little studio is a tropical dream come true with a bamboo ceiling and floor, and curtains for walls so you can see tropical foliage all around you during class. Her classes are M-W 6:30am for Vinyasa (ok for beginners, you can sit out/improvise more advanced poses - moderate and advanced can definitely get a sweat on), F at 7am relaxed Vinyasa for all levels, and T-Th 8am for all levels Hatha. 
Check out that floor!! (yogatrail.com)
---Agnes from BB Yoga Flow - you can take a short bike ride up the main road, past Chabil Mar and Turtle Inn, and you'll see her little studio on the right hand side of the road. Agnes is awesome, you'll love her classes -- 6am M-W (Moderate) Vinyasa, also fine for beginners, M-W also at 9am, Basic and Gentle Flow - nice for those on vacation!!, also F she has 6am Gentle and 9am Basic. T-Th there is 9am classes as well - Vinyasa on T and Ashtanga on Th.  
Love her place...BB Yoga...(yogatrail.com)
---Note - for those you want a regular gym, two options -  Evolution Beach in the village, and up in Maya Beach, the Maya Beach Heath & Wellness Center.  Note also that a great way to stay in shape here is to just walk the beach - the beach here is a workout to walk on, and the beach is ALL public, so you can walk your butt up 14 miles if you care to. You can also take your bike 14 miles up the peninsula, but don't forget that you have to ride it back too :). For an easier but fun walk, just do the loop of the sidewalk to the pier and back on the street. It is about a half hour walk and you will always have an experience.  

***If you like doing DIY yoga, a couple thoughts. Stay somewhere where there is a semi-private and/or large enough veranda for you to spread your mat - bring your own, or find a quiet part of the beach and spread a towel. (The yoga studios provide mats here.) You can always YouTube yoga, my favorite is Adrienne, she is too cute. 
Her positive attitude makes you want to exercise. (youtube.com)
***Also, if you are coming down with a significant other who is less than interested in healthy eating/moderate portions, and yoga --- check out THIS link for my husband Dave's recommendations for where to get the largest, man-liest, tastiest portions of food in the village!!

And finally....
Stay away from Tutti Frutti if you are a determined low-carber. If you go, you will then know what you are missing, so just don't do it!! (No sugar free gelato there at this time:) )
Who could resist??? (chabilmarvillas.com)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What is there to do, smack in the middle of low season in Placencia, Belize? Plenty!!

Many guests will write me asking if it is worth it to come to Belize in low season - low season being defined as (arguably) anywhere from May-end of June, through end of Oct or even into November.

I have lived here through a couple low seasons and I can confidently say there is PLENTY to do during a visit. In fact, you can't possibly do it all in one trip - there will be plenty left on the table when you leave for your next trip! Throughout the blog I am posting pictures from Placencia What's Happening to give you an idea of what's actually happening this week! (link at the bottom if you want to join this group!)
You might see this from time to time.....but only for the day!!
What is shut down?? OK right now in the village, Barefoot Bar is closed for about 2-3 weeks as they are renovating. Yes, everyone is grieving this as this is one of the most popular spots. But, last weekend we just went next door to Tipsy Tuna where there was live music and plenty of fun! And, right down the street, Yoli's was having music, and Fusion Beach was having a party. One of the most wonderful things about vacationing here - you KNOW where to go to have fun - you will have a handful of choices, always, but not such an overwhelming matrix of events that you feel a bit flooded and feel like no matter what you pick, you are missing out. Plus, in the village at least, you can walk everywhere, so you don't need to zip across town in a cab (unless you are staying way north of the village!) -- just follow the music and you will find the people :)
What else is closed? BB Yoga Flow was closed, just reopened, but Stephanie from Eucalipto right in the village had awesome yoga going 5 days a week....https://www.facebook.com/Eucaliptoplacencia/

Detatch is closed until Nov 1st (yes, everyone is missing this!), Tranquilo is closed for the season, Dawn's Grill n Go is closed for a little bit, Tutti Frutti is closed for a bit as they replenish their stock for next season, straight from Italy :), Hot Chicks Deli and Maya Beach Bistro reopen Oct 1st. Cozy Corner is closed until October.
So what is open??? Well Dragonfly just reopened with a different menu, and I recommend going there as we had an awesome dinner the other night! The Casino, all the excursions, Rumfish, Secret Garden, Dolce Vita, Rick's, Wende's, Fusion Beach and Mojo (under AWESOME new management!!!), Tipsy Tuna, almost all the grocery stores and souvenir shops, the Farmhouse Deli made a stop in Placencia this week https://www.facebook.com/TheFarmHouseDeliBelize/?hc_ref=SEARCH, Habeneros just advertised a 2 for 1 Mexican buffet at Robert's Grove, and I haven't touched on all the other north of the village places, like Turtle Inn, Belize Ocean Club, the Flying Pig, and many more!
So, no one can tell me they can do all this in a week's vacation :). What about rainy season you ask???
In the last 3 weeks, it has rained a handful of times - and 90% of those times were at night. It rained for about an hour this morning and is now sunny. Rainy season usually means some thunderstorms, usually at night, and the rain rarely lasts for longer than that. It isn't going to stop anyone from having an awesome time!
Plus you get low season prices for rooms and airfare, so come on down!!! You can see for yourself what is happening in Placencia by joining the public group Placencia What's Happening; I highly recommend this while you are here so you can know all that is going on!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/plawhatshappening/

Oh, and I am not the only one writing about this, check out San Pedro Scoop's take on Ambergris Caye in October!
http://www.sanpedroscoop.com/2011/10/reasons-that-you-should-be-in-belize-in-october.html


Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Placencia vacation through the eyes of other guests this week....since we don't don't have any right now!!

We are missing our guests here!! If you are looking forward to your trip here, I always suggest to search Instagram and Facebook for #placencia image tags, because you can see what people are doing each day around the peninsula. I do this all the time to see what others are seeing....and thought I might put together a little photo shoot of what guests are seeing and doing around here! (these are some latest Instagram photos!)

The flight into the village from Caitlin Furio....
Some great beach shots from Lucy Brown...

And another from Lucy Brown, of a typical scene in the village of the supermarkets here.....
Fusion Beach pool, from Donnie Tejani, who just moved here with his awesome family!
A typical Belize lunch of stewed pork from Sunny Mui...
Love this shot of one of the last few remaining beach lots near the village, just a couple properties North of CBC....by Brienne Gabathuler
Silk Caye from underneath! by Thetwoweektraveler
Beautiful sunrise by Jimmie Walker...
Typical beach scene, seen all over the village, by Danni Coyote
A very popular shot/spot at Tipsy Tuna's beachfront.....by Terrifictina11
And another by Donnie Tejani, of the typical walk to the planes you do here at the airports :)
And finally, an updated shot from 2 weeks in on our construction - it is still going faster than expected and we are thrilled to see the pool (left) and the villas (right) taking shape!




Monday, September 5, 2016

Beautiful Belize scenery...and ugly construction pics!!! :)

I was thankful last weekend to get a last minute invite to join some friends on a boat trip to Ranguana and Silk Cayes...one of the great joys of living here - it isn't long before you get these invites from new friends, as so many have access to boats!

We had heard that there was perhaps some damage to Silk Caye from Hurricane Earl, so we were all anxious to see it, as this is a HUGE draw for guests here. THANKFULLY.....it was absolute paradise. We had a laugh as the word "paradise" tends to be overused here.....but, check out the pics below....if this isn't paradise than I truly do not know what is, we all agreed that this is it!

Also, if you want to take these excursions while you are here - Silk Caye is very easy. From about $75-115us you can go with almost any tour operator. There are booths all throughout the village and this couldn't be easier to set up. The higher end prices would be if you went through Splash, where you can go out there on a bigger boat (in rough waves this can be a lot more pleasant.) Ranguana Caye - contact these guys:
http://www.ranguanacaye.com/
They will pick you up in the village and take you for a day on a private island adventure, with kayaking, a beach bar, and one of the prettiest places you will ever see :)
The scenery on the way out, from the boat:




Pulling up to Silk Caye...
Lunch at the best spot (in the universe)
A very famous photo op on Silk Caye...

Pulling up to Ranguana Caye....

This bird will sit on your hand.
If you want more, do a search on facebook or Instagram for #placencia, #silkcaye, or #ranguanacaye.....this will get you even more excited :) Oh, and we saw dolphins, and swam (kind of close) with them (and also about 3 dozen sharks at Silk Caye!)....
video
And finally, here are some lovely sunrise pics from our own CBC....the wind really settled down this week and we had some spectacular sunrises this week.
OK after all that paradise, back to reality.....we broke ground on the new pool this week! The guys are working so hard and we are AHEAD of schedule (said no one building in Belize, ever!) The rain has held off so that has really helped...fingers crossed it stays this way :) It looks ugly now, but it is coming together even better than we hoped!!
WOW.....new pool on the left and the Villa foundations on the right!!!
 A total and complete mess!!!
Poor Sol!! I promise it won't look this way for long :) Sol and Luna Cabanas are getting brand new baths, new tile throughout, new paint inside and out, a general overhaul of the little details, like new curtain rods, new appliances, all new kitchenware, new cabinet shelves, new exterior doors, removing some of those old bars from the windows, new roofs, new cushions, and more!!
 Luna isn't looking any prettier. 
We will keep the updates coming and can't wait to reopen!!


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What is it like to try and build in Belize? (and, first full week of the CBC build/reno!)

My husband Dave and I have been through several builds/renovation in Belize, and it is not quite like the US! People often ask us what it is like, what do we wish we would have known, etc.  When we first moved here almost 3 years ago, we pretty much expected to do the dirty work ourselves, as we didn't have any contacts or knowledge of who we could trust and work with. One valuable tool was talking with our neighbors and new acquaintances as people are generally happy to share contractors that they trust, as it is a win-win - people are usually happy to get more work to good people.

You can get equally negative and positive things said about the same contractor either here or anywhere, so one thing that we highly recommend is to be ON SITE as much as possible. You are MUCH more likely to have a good outcome if you can be here.

It is well known that if you cannot be here, the work is likely to take MUCH longer. If you have very little knowledge or experience of construction, it is recommended that you either buy a home that is already built that you can get some history on it, or else buy in a development-type property (which might put you farther out of the village.)

If you are trying to build during rainy season, it is not dependable....you may have delays because it is just too wet to work in the sand (on the peninsula you are often trying to build on sand.)

One important thing to note is that materials are quite inconsistently available in the village. One should expect that there will be even basic 2x4's or such things that are simply out of stock. As far as lighting, doors, appliances, etc - there is VERY limited selection in most of the country. You will be able to find something - but you may end up with a white fridge, a bronze light, a silver faucet, a black microwave etc. It can be very frustrating if you had a visual expectation in mind and then what is actually available is visually painful when put together. It is well known here, that unfortunately, Belize often receives odds and ends and misfit items from other countries. Belize is not a country of manufacturing, and the duty to bring things in is quite high, so this really limits stock here. You will see that a "yard sale" here brings everyone out of the woodwork - simply putting a used crockpot out there for sale will bring a dozen calls in the first hour.

It really helps to have a truck available to make trips to Cayo, where there is a bit more stock, or even Chetumal in Mexico, where there is a Wal Mart (prices are not that cheap and you'll have to pay duty on the way back in), but it is still not even close to what is available in even a medium size town in the US. There are also limits on paint colors that are available - make sure you can get your hands on an adequate amount of the color of paint you need! It might require a lot of calls to stores throughout the country to get adequate stock. It is worthwhile to research how to ship things into the country - a container or even crates, as even if you have to pay the duty, you may pay the same for less quality items here, and you can pick out exactly what you want. It is expensive and complicated, but well worth it.

Also note that if you are anywhere close to the shore, and you haven't lived near salt water before - there is a learning curve here (we have had a lot of lessons on this!) You must use oil based paints, stainless steel screws for anything that might bleed through and show rust, it is never worth it to buy cheap fixtures that will end up looking rusty in NO time, outdoor lights have to be the highest grade if you want them to work past a few months!, drywall is almost worthless as it molds, wood will warp in an unbelievable way, and you may want to think about having closed up closets as things get moldy when they are shut up at all (open cabinets or at least cabinet doors with cut outs are recommended.)

Also, as unpleasant as this sounds, you can build with wood as it is more economical, but it must be treated wood as termites down here are unbelievable. Although concrete homes take more time to build, they are certainly more able to withstand hurricanes and make termites less of an issue.

We are so excited about the changes we are doing at CBC....we "broke ground" last week on a new pool, two new units, and we are renovating the casita porch to add lounge chairs and more space, and renovating the bathrooms and floors of the cabanas, along with all new paint and art throughout the property. We are upgrading and refreshing the furniture in the units, adding a lot of outdoor hang out space, and there will be a cute tiki-bar style area around the pool for guests to hang out in.

Our new units are already booking up for high season, and they are going to be super spectacular (if I do say so myself!) They will be Mexican-style villas with rooftop decks, and these decks will have lounge chairs, and a table/umbrella set. They will also have a lower veranda with hammocks overlooking the pool. Inside, they will have a modern-beach feel, here's a sample the style:
These are some pinterest images that are the feel and style of the art and furniture:







Here is the basic model we are using for the exterior, our details will be different but the feel will be similar:
Here is CBC before, and the after will have the pool on the left of the sidewalk, with the two new villas on the right, facing the pool:
Our workers already moving plants, staking out the ground, and moving fountains, digging, and moving Bonita's doghouse (sorry girl!), and bringing in the material!
First week:
This week:
Renovation in cabanas (new tile, new floors, new bathrooms!)
Renovation of Casita porch (to enlarge, new cushioned lounge chairs, more open feel to the sea!) All our buildings will be getting new paint inside and out as well - we are going to be going with a more neutral, natural shade that we think will look spectacular!
This will be a long, messy, complicated build, and TOTALLY worth it!!! We can't wait for our first guests to arrive on 11/1!!!