[Guest Post] Fitness, Food & Fun in Costa Rica

Thank you to Ali Swank at aligoesthedistance.com for this great post and pictures about her recent trip to Costa Rica! Ali is one of my friends I met in college and she is very much into living a healthy and active lifestyle and helping others do the same. Now she has her own personal training business and teaches fitness classes in the Tampa area. If you are interested in running, workout tips, healthy recipes, or personal training definitely check out her website & blog.

Fitness, Food, Fun in Costa Rica. Read more on thetravelinggals.com

Fitness, Food, & Fun in Costa Rica!

I recently just took a vacation with my family on our first trip international trip to Costa Rica! Among a few other similar destinations, we chose Costa Rica for the many activities it offers such as hiking, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), the diverse wildlife, and their beaches and laid-back lifestyle.  The food was fresh and healthy yet simplified, and very tasty. We ate at local “sodas” known as diners. Sodas and most restaurants are known for serving rice and beans with a choice of meat or a Casada, which includes rice and beans, meat, small salad or coleslaw, plantains, and a vegetable. These sodas were found through the country so we definitely got our fill of these!

 Fitness, Food, Fun in Costa Rica. Read more on thetravelinggals.com

We started our trip driving to La Fortuna, a small kind of touristy town near the Arenal Volcano. The area has a lot of history and culture, being settled near the Volcano, of which one of the peaks is still active. We did a self-tour in the Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, a park with six hanging suspended bridges among the rainforest canopy. It was also a botanical park with a variety of plants, flowers, and trees as well as birds and insects. They had beautiful walking trails throughout for a self-guided walk or the option to take a tour.

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Ringling Museum of Art

Guide to the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL

Guide to the Ringling Museum
Post by Kary 
Welcome to one of the many very pleasant surprises of Sarasota. For those of you who have traveled the world and visited museums in Europe and Asia, you are probably thinking, what could a museum in Sarasota have to offer? As it turns out, it has a lot to offer and is definitely worth a trip!
Set on 20 acres of waterfront property, the museum is the culmination of John and Mable Ringling’s love of Sarasota, art and Italy. There are several sections to the Ringling; The Museum of Art, the Ca’d’Zan, the Historic Asolo Theater and the Circus Museum.
Ringling Museum of Art
The Museum of Art
The 31 gallery Museum of Art is modeled after the Uffizi in Florence, Italy. It is an amazing slice of Italy in the heart of Sarasota. Leading up to the Museum building is a perfectly manicured landscape with the Lygia and the Bull sculpture. As you enter, the galleries are on either side of the building and the middle is a huge courtyard with a view of the gulf in the distance.
The courtyard is adorned with replicas of Greek and Italian sculpture with the highlight of a large bronze cast of Michelangelo’s, David. The galleries are a treasure of original paintings and objects largely by the Old Masters, Velazquez, VanDyke, Rubens and Poussin. As John Ringling was amassing his collection, he began educating himself on art and collecting. To this end, he accumulated many art books which became the foundation for the Ringling Art Library. The West Wing was added in the 1960’s to house special exhibitions. It is a modern building emphasized by Joseph’s Coat. Joseph’s Coat is a skyspace by James Turrell that allows visitors to gaze at the sky through a 24 foot opening in the ceiling designed in contemplation of light and perception. There is a continuous calendar of impressive exhibits. The current, Samurai: The Way of the Warrior is a rich and wide-ranging collection of exquisite objects from when Japan was ruled by the samurai military
class organized by Contemporanea Progetti in Florence, Italy. The Center for Asian Art is scheduled to open late February, 2016. It is an exciting expansion that will support teaching and research on Asian history and society through education, exhibitions and programs.
Traveling Gals Tip: The Museum of Art offers free admission every Monday throughout the year!

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Roasted Corn Salad Recipe

Roasted Corn Salad Recipe Inspired by Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
Post by Kary
Florida’s corn season is just around the corner. I am always on the lookout for dishes that can be turned into healthy, plant based recipes. Disney is not always the best place for healthy food ideas, but they are getting better!
Roasted Corn Salad Recipe - thetravelinggals.com
Roasted Corn Salad
Serves 4-6
  • 8 ears corn or 1 28 oz bag of frozen corn
  • 2-3 roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • Optional 1/2 cup plant based mayonnaise *
  • Ground black pepper and sea salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place red peppers on sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Roast for 20 minutes then turn peppers to other side and roast another 20 minutes or so until the peppers are softened and slightly charred. After cooling, slice each pepper in half, remove the seeds, cut into strips and peel the pepper.
Heat pan to medium and roast corn for 10-12 minutes until tender.
In a bowl whisk together plant based mayonnaise and lime juice. If you prefer to make your own plant based mayonnaise, please see the instructions below.
Add roasted corn, red peppers, green onion, green pepper and stir well. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Roasted Corn Salad Recipe - thetravelinggals.com
* Quick Plant Based Mayonnaise
Combine 12 ounces of silken firm tofu, 1 ½ tbsp. lemon
juice, 1½ tsp apple cider vinegar, 1½ tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp stevia in a blender. Blend for approximately 1 minute until smooth. If mayo is too thick, add 1 tsp of nut milk until desired consistency.
The Traveling Gals


Review: Class at Flower and Garden Festival

What is it like to take a class at Epcot Flower and Garden Festival?
Post by Kary 
Have you ever walked through the festival center and seen the people sitting in the gardening class or wondered about the people walking through the park with plant projects and fun festival bags? Full disclosure: I do not garden and every plant to enter my home has died pretty quickly. However, I really enjoy taking the gardening classes at the fest. Each class is themed around Disney and the parks. I have learned a lot and been able to try my hand at potting a plant and trying to keep it alive!
The classes I have attended over the years follow a similar format. There are Disney horticulturists who lead the discussion. They are long-time Disney professionals with interesting stories and impressive careers. They discuss a topic and then provide a plant. It used to be a project in that you had the opportunity to pot your own plant, but the last few years you are provided the plant already potted with instructions on how to care for it at home.
EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival Class
This weekend I attended the Disney’s Horticultural Heritage class conducted by Lewis Brehm. His storied career was mostly based in Walt Disney World, but he also branched out to Hong Kong and Tokyo. His love of Disney and horticulture were evident in his presentation. The presentation began with the early history in Disneyland when Bill and Jack Evans were tasked by Walt Disney to bring the park alive with foliage. Together they thought the flowers, foliage and landscaping were an extremely important part of the storytelling experience. Topiaries were the forefront of Disney imagineering and horticulture. The first topiary of Dumbo was created in 1963 at Disneyland and placed outside of It’s a Small World. It was so popular for the 1971 opening of Magic Kingdom, Walt commissioned 25 topiaries for the grand opening. 50 (2 of each kind)
were erected at a cost of $10,000. Several of those still exist today.
It takes 5-7 years to grow a topiary from scratch. Since that is not always possible, moss is used to move along the process quicker and bobby pins are used to control the growth and help with shape. They are boxed for easy moving of the
root systems and irrigation systems. When Walt was surveying his land to build WDW in Orlando, the long standing tradition of moving trees to preserve meaning and obtaining the perfect tree began. The oak tree in Liberty Square was moved from a different location, the tree that anchors the island in Port Orleans was a transplant and the Hero Tree installed in the new Harambe Marketplace at Animal Kingdom was also moved. When the perfect tree is found, Disney is not afraid to move it to the perfect place and it is a huge undertaking!
EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival
Over the years, Disney Horticulture has grown and grown. The nursery consists of 40 acres and 12 greenhouses. Over 3 million colorful flowers are planted each year. Flower and Garden alone utilizes 210 floaters and 41 flower towers among many, many others. Disney has its own weather centers around the World for water management and uses 80% reclaimed water for irrigation. They have their own Pest Management technicians who answer over 27,000 service calls per year on property. These are just a few of the interesting facts discussed during this particular class. It only lasted about 40
minutes and we were given the beautiful parting gift of a Dwarf Peace Lily. It is from South America, should be kept in low light and evenly moist soil. Only time will tell if I can utilize my new gardening knowledge!
The Traveling Gals


Vietnam in Photos

Vietnam in Photos

Post by Ashley

In 2013 we took a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia on a river cruise down the Mekong River and land tour. This trip was really interesting seeing both the developed cities and poorer rural areas. We started in southern Vietnam in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City and traveled around and ended in Northern Vietnam in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay. The food, history, people, and culture all made for an excellent trip. We had a wonderful time and wanted to share some of our favorite pictures. Keep your eye out for our post on Cambodia!

Saigon: Vietnam in Photos

Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City


Sofitel Saigon Plaza: Vietnam in Photos

Rooftop pool at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza

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5 Ways to Inspire Your Wanderlust Today

5 Ways to Inspire Your Wanderlust Today

5 Ways to Inspire Wanderlust Today! - Read more on thetravelinggals.com

A Walk Across France By: Miles Morland
Be instantly transported to a wonderful place of travel adventure and want to hop on a plane and walk across France.

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
We have been reading and researching India with both excitement and trepidation. This movie definitely made us more excited to hopefully go one day.

Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas
Just watching this quick video of the new Ovation of the Seas will make you want to hop on board immediately and plan a cruise to an exotic location. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtrNsPpLhrY

Download a podcast of a walking tour of Rome. Just listening to this guide brought back such wonderful
memories of visiting Rome.

Mock plan a trip around the world. When we have a spare moment, we often research different itineraries and luxurious cruises around the world. Even though a trip around the world seems like it could only happen in a dream, research and education on the different options brings it into the realm of possibility!

How do you stay inspired even when you’re not traveling? Let us know in the comments!

The Traveling Gals

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5 Ways to Inspire Wanderlust Today!


Quick and Easy Enchilada Casserole

  • 6-8 whole grain tortillas
  • 1 jar (14 oz.) salsa
  • 2 cans (15 oz.) black beans
  • 1 can (15 oz.) corn
  • 1½ teaspoons soy sauce
  • Taco Seasoning to taste
  • 1 package (12 oz.) firm tofu
  • 3 cups chopped baby spinach
  • ½ bunch green onion, chopped
  • 6-8 vegan shredded cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mash in medium bowl or pulse in food processor, beans, ½ teaspoon soy sauce,
1-2 teaspoons taco seasoning. Then add green onion and corn. Mash in medium bowl or pulse in food processor, tofu, ½ teaspoon soy sauce, 1-2 teaspoons taco seasoning.
In a 9×12 casserole dish, put 2-3 tablespoons of salsa on the bottom and spread evenly.
Place a layer of tortillas over the salsa. Spread ½ the black bean layer over the tortillas. Add another layer of tortilla.
Spread the tofu layer over the tortilla layer and spread 2/3 cup of salsa evenly over the tofu layer. Add a layer of tortilla.
Spread ½ the black bean layer over the tortillas.
Add another layer of tortillas and top with baby spinach.
Add another layer of tortillas and top with the rest of the salsa.
Bake for 45 minutes with tin foil over the dish. Add the vegan cheese to the top and bake another 10 minutes or so without tin foil until the cheese bubbles and serve. This is especially good served over or accompanied by brown rice.
Quick and Easy Enchilada Casserole
Comer Bien!
The Traveling Gals


Explore the Cayman Islands

Post by Kary

Kiss a Sting Ray and have Seven Years Good Luck!

The Cayman Islands were first sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1503 when he named the islands Las Tortugas due to the large amount of sea turtles seen swimming nearby.  Sir Francis Drake, an English sea captain arrived in 1586 and named the islands Cayman (pronounced cay-MAN) after the indigenous word for crocodile.  This British claimed territory has a rich history and the English influence is everywhere.  It is one of the only British colonies in the Caribbean still in existence.  Today, the Caymans are a haven for water enthusiasts and probably best known as an international financial center with more registered businesses than the 40,000 inhabitants.


Grand Cayman - Seven Mile Beach

Seven Mile Beach


The Caymans are made up of three islands.  Grand Cayman is the largest island highlighted by the North Sound which is a shallow lagoon protected by a fabulous reef.  It is due to this reef that cruise ships must tender and cannot dock in Georgetown.    Cayman Brac is named for the Gaelic word for bluff as its central feature is a bluff that runs the length of the island into the sea.  The smallest island is Little Cayman and it is the least developed as it has no sources of natural freshwater. 

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Easter celebration in The Philippines - The Traveling Gals

Easter Celebrations Around the World

5 Easter Celebrations Around the World

Easter celebration in Seville, Spain - The Traveling Gals

Seville, Spain

Semana Santa is Holy Week in Spain.  Seville hosts the most remarkable processions of extravagant floats and masked Nazarenos.  Candelit floats illustrate the Easter story followed by the Nazarenos who are the penitents showing their sorrow and regret for their wrongs.   Semana Santa also marks the beginning of spring so the celebrations expand throughout the city to restaurants and bars.

 Easter celebration in Italy - The Traveling Gals

Prizzi, Italy

Just south of Palermo, The devil “Abbullu de Daivuli” is represented by locals running around with red robes and scary masks.  They run around on Easter Sunday to trap as many souls as possible by getting them to buy drinks until the afternoon when the Christ is resurrected and the devils are defeated.

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Is it okay to take your kids out of school to travel?

Is It OK to Take Your Kids Out of School to Travel?

Post by Kary

This is a question hotly debated by parents all over the country.  My answer to this question is YES!  You should absolutely allow your child to miss school for travel.  The only caveat being if they are truly struggling and even then you should still consider it.

Is it ok to take your kids out of school for travel? - The Traveling Gals

In my own experience, I have never hesitated at taking my daughter out of school to travel from pre-school throughout college.  I am sure this is why she is the main Traveling Gal, Ashley!  Education goes far beyond the classroom.  While the classroom is the foundation and largest part of studies, life experience is crucial to learning and overall education.  I have always stressed the importance of a solid, first-rate schooling and my daughter achieved that goal.  However, there is no substitute for experiencing culture, lifestyle, history and landscape for yourself.  To study World War I and II and then travel through Europe only strengthens your knowledge and deepens your understanding.  After learning about the Vietnam War and then traveling through Vietnam you gain perspective that can never be found in books.  The same can be said for the current world situation.  We are inundated with information regarding the global state or affairs.  To visit other places you only hear about, can completely reshape your mindset about issues and develop a more well-rounded viewpoint.   There is also unparalleled benefit in spending time as others live in other parts of the world or even our own country.  Firsthand exposure to other cultures and standards of living is an education unto itself.

It is up to you as the parent to make the most of travel.  You need to emphasize the educational aspects and teach your children how to appreciate learning while having fun.   Anticipation and planning are an important part of taking a big trip.  Here are some ideas on how to prepare in advance to make the most out of the academic side of travel:

  • Research important significant places in each city you visit and read so you are informed before you get there;
  • Download podcasts that correspond to places you are visiting.  Many museums and historical landmarks offer podcasts on-line.
  • Read travel essays or novels that take place in the countries you are visiting;
  • Educate yourself and your children on exciting events that have taken place where you are traveling;
  • Try a new sport or going to a sporting event from the country you will be in.

My daughter has been provided with a very well rounded education as well as a mature view of the world and her place in it through both the classroom and travel.  Although an excellent student, her journeys while growing up have proved equally important.  As a Mother, our travels together have been the best times of my life.  It is priceless bonding time and worth a few make-up tests and homework assignments.

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