St. Croix, USVI: Activities

This is part two of three focusing on my Caribbean vacation. Read about St. Croix food and my layover in Puerto Rico.

Cane Bay St. Croix | KaleAndAle

Cane Bay, the local beach where we snorkeled and hung out for the day.

St. Croix is made for outdoor activities. As is typical in the tropics, the one day it rained it was still sunny and would pass quickly, but with the tan burn I was sporting, I spent the day at the beach under a large palm frond, so it all worked out.

Aside from lots of time laying on the beach and reading (which was the main point of the vacation), Aaron and I took in some activities since I can’t sit still forever.

Hiking

St. Croix hike | KaleAndAle

The start of the unknown.

We stayed next to the start of the trail into the rainforest and hills to the Annaly Bay tide pools. The trail was much more dense and narrow than I anticipated, so I was thankful for my hiking shoes and time to walk carefully. The course offered some good views but we couldn’t fully explore the tide pools since the sea was angry that day. But it was worth it and a fun adventure since I didn’t know what to expect.

Annaly Bay St. Croix hike | KaleAndAle

View while on the trail in the thick of it all.

Snorkeling

This was my third time snorkeling and each time was unique. You enter the water from the beach, swim a little ways, and the sandy floor quickly becomes coral reefs full of life. The clear water makes it visible for a while, where you can see all kinds of fish and plants. It was so calm and beautiful. My favorite part was just floating, looking around and taking it all in.

We snorkeled at our resort, where we rented our gear for 24 hours, which they let us have for 27 (hashtag island time! Thanks Sweet Bottom Dive Shop!), so we took advantage by hitting up the neighboring beach, Cane Bay, the following morning.

Annaly Bay tide pools St. Croix | KaleAndAle

View from Annaly Bay tide pools, where we hiked.

While there we took in a local beach, but on the north side where we were located there isn’t a bad spot to be had!

We really lucked out in a beautiful, undeveloped island with great weather and wonderful activities. Have you been to St. Croix or another Caribbean island? What was your experience like—please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Friday links

Hey folks, haven’t done a Friday links for a while (seemed like too much of “what to eat now” and “summer this and that” anyway). Have you missed this segment? Well I was in Iowa and posted in-depth information about community supported agriculture programs, which is featured heavily on this blog, while I was gone.

Trip recap: Iowa

Edge of Cedar Rapids seen on a run.

Edge of Cedar Rapids seen on a run.

Last week I got back from a wonderfully relaxing eight-day trip to my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was just what I needed to recharge, relax and see family before I start a new (exciting and challenging, hopefully) job at my current workplace. So I took this opportunity while the weather was (mostly) nice to catch up with friends, family, sleep and eating. (Wait, scratch eating, I”m always caught up on that!)

Having always loved the Fourth of July and having a job where I work most holidays, I decided to visit home over the Fourth and take a chance that the weather would be great. Clearly many other friends had this same hope or thought, as many hometown friends who also live far also came home. What a special treat to get to spend time with some of my favorite people I don’t often see. And I met some friends children for the first time. I felt loved and blessed to be surrounded by so many people. And because I was home for so long, as opposed to my usual long weekend trips, I got to see my grandparents more than usual as well.

I didn’t really have plans other than hanging out, catching up and relaxing. I did, however, run my hometown Fourth of July 8k, a big tradition. That was exciting as I have never done a race in the Midwest or an 8k. I’ve decided 8k to 10k is about the right distance to push me a little and keep me running more than just a couple of miles at a time. The weather was 66° and I started in a park I’m very familiar with, Green Square Park. This park is across from the church I grew up in and next to where I had my first job out of college. I was really happy with my time, as it was just slightly slower than my best 5k time, and was a longer run with slight hills. The run is from one park to another and back, through an older neighborhood with big homes and big shade trees. And I think this is so cool,  a video of everyone finishing. I’m on the left in light gray shorts and a teal tank top.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYZxX3yktO8&t=30m19s

And what have you learned about me comes after a run? Breakfast! I headed down to the pancake breakfast (a family tradition) full of Quaker Oats food (they are a big employer in Cedar Rapids) and had pancakes, cereal, granola bars and lots of coffee.

Happy after a nice 8k time, run and pancake breakfast.

Happy after a nice 8k time, run and pancake breakfast.

The running plan for the rest of the summer is pretty nonexistent. It’s crazy hot in South Florida so the goal is just to run as far and often as I can without making myself crazy, and then hope to pump up the distance and days in a few months when the heat and humidity drop.

When picking up my race packet at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (also next to the park), I noticed admission is free this summer. If you are in the area, I suggest a trip. It took my mom and me about 90 minutes to walk through, as neither of us had been there for 15 or 20 years. It was a great way to spend some time, and I was in love with the Grant Wood room right inside the first floor. Grant Wood grew up in Cedar Rapids and painted his largest murals at the Iowa State University Parks Library.

Grant Wood's Woman with Plants

Grant Wood’s Woman with Plants

Grant Wood's Corn Cob Chandelier

Grant Wood’s Corn Cob Chandelier

In addition to running, visiting people and relaxing, I ate and drank! I finally made it to NewBo City Market, where I looked at the vendors, buying fresh produce and getting a Wisconsin cheese I had never heard of, “bread cheese.” Bake it for a few minutes and the texture is like cheese bread. With the pizza flavor, it was a nice side to summer salads.

NewBo City Market scenes

NewBo City Market scenes

I also stopped at Benz Beverage Depot for some Midwest beer (my favorite was the Madhouse Belgian Golden Ale) and Red’s Ale House and Cobble Hill, both huge hits with everyone who went and highly recommended.

All in all it was a really great trip home.

Where are your summer plans taking you?

Friday links

I don’t care what the calendar says, it is SUMMER! My running training has been a struggle from the sun, heat and humidity. I don’t want to cook or eat anything warm. And all I want to do on my day off is grab a drink with an umbrella and sit by the pool (because the sand at the beach is already too hot!). In honor of the warmer months, this Friday links is dedicated to summer and vacations.

This week I took a staycation to Miami Beach and watch the Miami Marlins at their new stadium. While on the beach I went to Yardbird, an amazing Southern restaurant named one of the best new restaurants by the James Beard Foundation.

Amazing food and drink from Yardbird, all made from scratch (including condiments and pickling food!). Clockwise from top: “Porkchop” drink, po’ boy, mac ‘n’ cheese, blackberry bourbon lemonade, vegetarian salads and melon soup, biscuits.

  • While on vacation, 24 tips for a fitter, happier time. I know I love walking a lot on vacation to take it all in and end up eating a lot of small meals to try as much food as I can.
  • Tips on eating vegetarian while traveling. My tricks are packing snacks and the HappyCow.net app on my phone.
  • I always swoon over the New York Times interactive food features. Mix the perfect summer drink by picking a drink modifier, a liquor and a garnish. Check it out, it’s fun to play!
  • If you find yourself around a campfire (something I love but don’t do in Florida), learn how to get the perfectly toasted marshmallow.
  • If you are planning a vacation to Disney (you know I’m always up for one!), here are great places to grab a beer at Disney.
  • And the next time you grab a keg cup: I can honestly say I didn’t know this was a thing. Did you?

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

Post-vacation detox

Bill and I just got back from a great vacation visiting his family. We left the hustle and humidity of South Florida behind, along with our normal eating routine. Now we are home and it’s time to get back on track with food and drink.

Since I don’t eat meat and I have an unusual work and sleep schedule, I normally eat three small meals throughout the day. I usually have an apple and maybe a banana or smoothie thrown in. I have coffee when I wake up and mid-afternoon, and I drink water throughout the day. I am a creature of habit, and have found what works for me.

This schedule is usually thrown off while on vacation because of all the activity. Maybe I want a coffee/water/apple but am in the middle of something where it’s not available, you get the idea. (More on what I ate in an upcoming post.)

This vacation was no exception. I was up earlier, we were always on the go and many meals were grab-and-go. The easiest thing for a vegetarian wanting a quick meal is a cheese and vegetable sandwich (often my vacation standby). I also had Chipotle and pizza once each. To start the day I often had eggs or an egg sandwich. This resulted in more carbs and dairy and eggs than usual. When I got home I decided to take a few days and go vegan to get on track.

I went to the grocery store and grabbed a ton of veggies for salads, steamed veggies and rice, smoothies, that sort of thing. My first meal back in Florida was a no-cook kale salad with avocado, tomato, onion, jalapeno and corn. (I forgot black beans but it really needed that protein.) I made a dressing with the juice from one each orange and lime and a little olive oil and agave for sweetness. I tossed and ate. The raw, fresh ingredients really hit the spot. Though my salad was great, I sure miss my vacation.

How do you tackle vacation eating habits when you get back to reality?