Rico & Melo: Puerto Rican Pups Adoption Story

Ricus, Melus, Ricks, Melito, Riquito, Meloncito, Riquibiris, Meluskis, Bubu.

Those are just some of the ways I address my two little furballs Rico and Melo. I hear no complaints from them… yet. They also have their own Instagram because look at them.

I’ve always wanted a dog. Always. I was (and still am) that person that would drool over cute dogs on the streets and had to fight the need to pet them. A lot of my friends growing up had dogs and I would make sure I visited often to solidify my spot as their dog’s number one favorite. Whether it was my mom saying “no” (I love you still, ma) or life circumstances (college, etc.) I was never able to make my dreams come true. It sounds tragic because it was, don’t judge me.

I always knew my time would come, I just never quite expected it to be this way. As you may or may not know, Hurricane Maria battered my island of Puerto Rico this past September 2017. It destroyed crops, shattered homes and basically turned everything upside down. Little did I know that while I was completely focused on my family’s well-being during the storm, my two little pups were somewhere out there on the streets fighting the storm on their own. This thought still breaks my heart.

Our pups Rico & Melo were rescued from the streets the day after the hurricane hit. No collars, no home but hundreds of tics and two little empty stomachs. My good friends took them in and gave them everything they needed to survive and be well. One thing led to another, and somehow, me and Brian agreed to adopt not one, but two dogs.

Two. What were we thinking? As I type this, I glance over and see little Rico napping on top of Melo and I know that we did the right thing. These two wouldn’t have survived a minute without each other. They may fight and lick each other inappropriately, but they adore each other.

And us? We are officially obsessed.

Like, actually obsessed. It’s impressive how much you can love a non-human, little ball of fur. They are sweet, hilarious, cuddly and loving (watch out, Brian!). They are definitely an undertaking though, and God forbid something happens to them, all hell will break loose. They are worth it though, every cold walk in the morning and every dollar spent buying them toys I know they will destroy in seconds. Not to mention the phone chargers and shoes lost in the process…

Even before they got to us here in Hoboken, they were already teaching us about compassion. In the midst of hurricane relief, strangers to me partnered up to ensure these two could find a safe way to our home. My friend’s family fostered them and provided them with everything they needed, my other friend brought carriers with her all the way from Miami, a couple who didn’t even know us volunteered to fly the pups with them in the cabin during their already scheduled flight. It took a village.

I look at these two and although I know they don’t understand everything I say and feel, I know that at some level they have to know how loved they are. I hope they know because otherwise, I feel like they hate us for having brought them to this bitter cold. They have to know that they are family now and we will protect them forever.

I may never know their past and everything they have endured, but they are home now and our lives will never be the same.

Follow @ricoandmelo on Instagram for more of these two little goof balls!

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2017 Musings, Let The Light Shine On

How can one year be charged with so many different emotions? For the past couple of days, I have been thinking about this past year and how crazy it was. Here’s my brain dump fueled by freezing temperatures and memories of warmer days.

Let’s start with the hardest part. Hurricane Maria knocked Puerto Rico down, but our resilience and strength as a country have shone through. Difficult times make us react in ways that surprise us, allowing you to see strength you didn’t even think you had. A crisis, big or small, allows you to grow in painful, yet beautiful ways.

Still, 2017 was so incredibly good to me, I can’t honestly complain. Not only did I get to marry my best friend, but I got to celebrate all wedding-related activities with so many people I love. The fact that people came from near and far to join us means the world, and as we start our new chapter as a family, we love knowing that they will be with us through this crazy journey.

After the hurricane, we adopted two little pups that changed us forever. After the storm, literally came out the sunshine because those two fill us with joy every single day. It’s absurd. I could honestly write about them forever, but I will not bother you with that here (go follow them on Insta, how about that?).

We are thankful for what we have, but still, we are not where we need to be. Challenges and risks come in all shapes and sizes. Some hit us harder than others, but we muster up the courage and keep going because, what else is there to do?

How do you deal with all the bad in the world without letting it overwhelm you? How do you enjoy all the great things without letting them distract you?

Life can be many things, in waves, or all at once. That will never change, life will always spin you in crazy ways but what matters is how we handle it and who we share it with. Everything is better when you share it with those you love, yes, even food. Everybody says you need to live life to the fullest like it is a breezy task. It may not always be that way, but it will always be worth it.

May the new year be full of moments that matter, big and small. Full of unexpected joys shared with special people, old and new. Mostly, may your soul be content and at peace in the midst of all things crazy and if you lose your way, may the good vibes guide you home.

Here’s to 2018.

[Thailand] My Friends, The Elephants

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

I can’t remember who was the first person to tell me to watch where I was going to see elephants in Thailand, I just remember knowing that I needed to educate myself instead of just showing up somewhere random. I knew I wanted to see these beautiful animals, I just wanted to do it responsibly so that I wasn’t contributing to their pain.

Through research and personal accounts of people living in Thailand, I found The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. The elephants in the sanctuary have been rescued from riding camps or other places where they were treated unfairly and abused. There, they are provided with everything they need within a safe space. Some may argue that they are still not in ideal conditions, but it’s better than what they had before. Also, as one of the volunteers argued, they have been captive for so long, they are not fit to survive in the wild on their own. Elephants are not meant to be ridden, it’s not natural for them.

We arrived to the sanctuary on the back of a mini truck, well aware that we were in for adventure and that we were going to be in the throws with the elephants.

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We started by changing our shirts and wearing the traditional karen clothing so that the elephants would feel more familiar with us. In order to really win their friendship from the start, we fed them lots of bananas. Literally banana after banana, after banana… they can really eat!

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elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

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We walked around and brought them sugar canes for them to eat. Again, impressive to watch these beautiful beasts eat. This one even tried to eat my GoPro.

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I must admit I was a bit scared. They are beautiful, yet intimidating beasts. They were gentle and friendly and to me, it was scary to think they could be so friendly that they could hurt me without realizing so. For example, being together on the river, a quick playful roll could have basically killed me. Maybe it was just me being cautious, but those thoughts were always in the back of my mind.

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Still, I was able to enjoy and admire them up close and in their natural habitat. We literally got into the mud with them, I went in barefoot to a pile of God knows what. I legit probably stepped on their poop more than once but hey, I did not come all the way to Thailand to stay clean and watch from afar, right?

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The mud made jumping in to the river 10 times more amazing. Sure, the elephants still pooped on the water there, but hey, at least I could clean myself! It was really an experience like no other. The closeness with nature (think walking barefoot through the jungle) and the majesty of these animals (think huge elephant running around like a puppy) was just absolutely incredible.

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

This day really made me want to continue exploring ecotourism. It was interesting, yet not surprising, that the group was composed of people like me from around the world (mid/late twenties all the way to mid/late thirties) hungry for meaningful experiences that do not cause harm and help you learn about the awesome world we live in.

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[Thailand] Best Stay of My Life

There’s traveling. Then there’s traveling for your honeymoon.

Your heart is still full of wedding joy, eager to embrace whatever comes, thirsty for adventures. There are no limitations from the body, mind or even your wallet. With the excuse of “once in a lifetime” we say yes to everything that ignites a sense of passion for this amazing world we live in.

During our Thailand honeymoon, we decided to stay at the Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas during our stay in Phuket and let me tell you, we were absolutely blown away. Never in my sweet life had I stayed in a place like this. We had our own private villa with a private pool, outdoor shower, lagoon cabana and excellent service. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

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Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

I know Puerto Rico is my paradise, but this place was out of this world. Outside of our villa, the views were not that bad either, including sunset cocktails up on a tree house. Every detail here was taken care of, from lighting up torches before the sunset to welcome drinks by the water so you don’t even have to sweat your check-in process.

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

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Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Forget about work hard, play hard.

Work hard, relax harder.

[Puerto Rico] Sunset in Guánica and a Little Bit More

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If you are looking for a romantic and downright amazing getaway in Puerto Rico, you have to consider Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa in Guánica. It’s about 2 hours away from San Juan, but oh so worthy.

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They have their own beach, but what’s really cool about this place is that you can actually take a small boat out to Guilligan’s Island (official name is Cayo Aurora). This is a small island with white sand and beautiful, clear water.

Also in Guánica, you can find a beautiful sunflower farm. I still have not been, but it’s on my list. A less popular but still interesting visit is a stop at the Guánica State Forest, better know as the “Bosque Seco de Guánica” or dry forest. It does not sound appealing but it’s home to some really interesting plants and animals.

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Back in Copamarina, you have a nice selection of food, although it falls a little short compared to other restaurants in the south that serve delicious traditional Puerto Rican food. The main restaurant was also closed during my stay, so I can only speak for the more casual dining space.

copamarina puerto rico guanica

Although a day trip to Guilligan’s Island is amazing, you don’t even have to leave the resort to have a wonderful day since they have plenty of activities to choose from. I wanted to do paddle boarding but as you can see from the pictures in a kayak, I was not successful. In my defense, we tried to do two in one, didn’t work too well.

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Let’s face it, he was doing all the work. I was busy holding on tight to the GoPro.

Now, let’s get real. Copamarina is now one of the most special places in Puerto Rico to me because right at the beginning of the year, during the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, my boyfriend proposed. It was a freaking dream and writing about it makes everything feel even more surreal. As I type, I can’t help to notice the ring on my finger shining back at me as a confirmation that everything did happen and I am indeed marrying my partner in crime and love of my life. Permission to gag. Still, not apologizing for being cheesy. 🙂

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Here I am thinking what a beautiful day, how can it get any better? Little did I know…

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Then, this happened…

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So yeah, I’m getting married! I promise I won’t turn into bridezilla… as long as I am well fed. Also MAJOR thanks to the couple that took the picture right in the moment. I don’t know your names but I will be literally forever thankful.

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I’m still learning the ropes on this whole “being engaged” thing so feel free to comment with advice, warnings or recommendations! 🙂

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Here’s To Love

  
Happy Valentine’s Day from Atlanta, here’s to all kinds of love! 

When you call your mom to ask what kind of wash is better for your new shirt, shrink it anyways but know you are still accepted. When you send your friends the perfect funny meme and you feel all warm inside. When you send your friends excessive Snapchats of your own face just to let them know you are thinking about them. When your dad sends you pictures of puppies on a regular basis because he knows they make you happy. When your boyfriend knows to wait before he starts eating so you can snap a picture of the food. When your boyfriend applauds you after you break into random dancing and singing, even though you may have disturbed the neighbors just a little bit.

Here’s to everyone that makes us feel loved and appreciated in the most special, weird and unexpected ways.

Forget the Flowers, Here are Five Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Foodies

I don’t need to tell you Valentine’s Day is coming, a simple visit to your nearest pharmacy will suffice. Whether you are in a relationship or not, this holiday is capitalistically designed so that you are probably thinking of getting someone something, whether they are a significant other or your best friend.

On my end, I like to take Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to be creative and encourage you to gift beyond the classics which are expected. I’ve compiled five top choices below to spark some ideas.

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  1. Try The World Box ($198/year) – Have you ever been obsessed with something you have not even been able to try? That’s how I feel about Try The World. Still, I can tell it’s amazing and I can’t wait to try it. Try The World is basically the best option for when you want to travel the world and eat all the food, but you can’t afford a plane ticket. You get a box every two months and each box features gourmet foods from one new country. cast-iron-fondue-set
  2. Cast Iron Fondue Set ($39.95) – Melted cheese at home? Whenever you want it? Who doesn’t want that? There are a lot of fondue set options out there, it really depends on what you are really planning to do with it. If you are just looking for a one night thing, then don’t spend big. If you see yourself, however, using it for dinner parties or even chocolate fondue, there are some fancier options like this one from Sur La Table.
  3. cookie-mix-cornflake-chocolate-chip.df767b4b2e8a6d87e598bba426544134Baking Mix Tin – Cornflake Marshmallow-Chocolate-Chip Cookie from Milk Bar ($17) – This is baking made easy and delicious. Have you had anything from Milk Bar yet? You have to. This gift can be a good activity to do together or a nice surprise if you want to skip ahead and make them beforehand for quick enjoyment. You can look at more flavors here. The mix of marshmallows and cornflakes is a delicious combination of crunch and softness, highly recommend it! This is also a good option for a more low key gift.
  4. main_variation_Default_view_2_425x425Sur La Table Cast-Iron Oyster Pan ($39.95) – I’m not gonna lie, this one is tricky. I have never really cooked seafood on my own. Sure, I love eating it, cooking it is just not my specialty. Still, since Valentine’s Day merits something special, why not cook an aphrodisiac meal? Just looking at this image gets me excited… for food. Don’t ask me where to get the oysters, I have no clue, BUT here’s some wine to drink with them. clubW
  5. Club W ($ – Varies) – Speaking of wine! Here’s another aphrodisiac that doesn’t need much explanation. I don’t really think you can go wrong with wine. If you can, plan a wine tour or local wine tasting. If you can’t, there are a lot of wine clubs out there that will make great gifts. I’m currently trying out Club W and so far, so good!