Making A Rafiki In Zanzibar

Wanderlust Photo Wednesday! Images that inspire us to travel- Zanzibar!

Happy Wanderlust Photo Wednesday! Today, I'm featuring photos from the Island of Zanzibar (just off the coast of Tanzania in Eastern Africa).

This little lady was more than a monkey, she became a rafiki or friend (in Swahili, the language spoken in Zanzibar).

My little monkey friend, was a domesticated pet belonging to a friend of a friend, who owned an enormous house right on the beach where we were invited to stay.

It's easy to make a rafikis in Zanzibar! One is not limited to humans. The landscape, flora and fauna will welcome you with open arms.

The Three Things You Must Do When Visiting Newport, Rhode Island!

Newport, RI

Newport, RI

Every once in a while along my travels, I step into a place that just fits. A space that speaks to me in the way I need to be spoken to, one that nourishes my senses, appeals to my love of art and culture while offering breathtaking landscapes. Rhode Island, Newport in particular is one such place.

Newport was our little vacation spot last summer and I can't wait to go back!

The Three Things You Must Do When Visiting Newport, Rhode Island!

Rhode Island is perhaps the number one, supremo uno, most beautiful, stunning and awe inspiring state in the union. Aesthetically speaking, Rhode Island, with it's lush floral green contrasted by boulder studded azure, from the funky sidewalk cafes of Providence to the palatial seaside mansions of Newport and Kingston, may be one of the best kept secrets in New England.

Be it tiny, the oft forgotten state of Rhode Island leads the way when it comes to natural beauty!

The tiny ocean side town of Newport is one of Rhode Island's shining gems!

On our latest mini-break (I consider anything less than three nights to be just that), we visited the tranquil ocean side town of Newport.

Newport is a nautical pleasure!

More down to earth than her cousins (The Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard), Newport has something for everyone, from families with small children, to couples, to a group of girlfriends and retirees. Under whatever guise you may arrive, here are three simple things that I recommend doing if you've got a day or a weekend to spend in this breezy azure wonderland.

The Three Things You Must Do When Visiting Newport, Rhode Island!

1. Drive Along Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive is a historic, ten mile strip that snakes along the sparkling ocean coast. Don't rush through it! The views are spectacular. Lighthouses, parks, gardens, historic mansions all vie for attention. This is a wonderful picnic destination and provides the perfect backdrop for a romantic stroll or photo shoot. The area is also known for kite flying.

2. Explore Downtown Newport

Downtown Newport is small but charming. Completely walkable, Ocean Drive lets out in Downtown where you can walk the piers, shop for nautical treasures at local boutiques or dine at one of the many seafood restaurants.

3. Eat Lobster

Lobster of Newport, RI

Lobster of Newport, RI

Need I say more! If you love lobster, Newport serves it up to perfection.

Newport is one of the most scenic seaside cities along the east coast!

If you're planning a stay in Newport, you'll want to book ahead. Hotels and properties for rent, especially during the busy summer season fill up fast and come at a steep price.

 

Walking With Dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History

What did we do during our last visit to New York? Well, we spent a lot of time walking with dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History!

I first encountered the Museum of Natural History in 2002 during my first year as a New York City public school teacher.

I was hired to teach sixth grade English and Drama but two days before the school year began, I was summoned to the principals office. The science teacher had just quit and I was being asked to step in. In addition to teaching English and Drama, I was to teach science as well (and we wonder why the USA is far behind other countries when it comes to STEM education). I panicked. A Theatre and English major, my last science class had been taken in high school and I had passed Physics by the skin of my teeth. I was not qualified in any way to add science to my roster. Luckily, I was teaching in New York City and had one of the finest resources in the world at my fingertips- The Museum of Natural History. Summoning my best Ms. Frizzle (remember her!), my students and I visited the museum twice weekly and worked directly with scientists and curators. We all learned something that year!

Fast forward 14 years, and I found myself walking the expansive marble corridors of the museum once more. This time with my children in search of dinosaurs or "dinersers" if you ask my four year old.

Falling right into step with my former middle school teacher self, I grinned- I still had every turn and permanent exhibit memorized.

museum of natural history

The Museum of Natural History overlooks Central Park on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Founded in 1869, the Museum of Natural History is world renowned for it's scientific collections and masterful exhibitions.

We came for the dinosaurs!

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We were also intrigued by the mammals! img_2676.jpeg

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We left feeling inspired. It was a good day!

The Museum of Natural History is easy to find. It sits opposite the park at roughly 79th street through 81st streets and Central Park West. The C train to 81st will get you there seamlessly!

Admission to the museum is accepted on a donation basis making it wonderfully affordable for anyone who desires the experience. Pay two dollars, twenty or two hundred...

A trip to the Museum of Natural History can stand alone or can be combined with a visit to Central Park which is literally across the street. From there, you can let your feet guide you, or you can grab a nice meal.

There are a host of delicious restaurant options on the Upper East Side that are within walking distance. My favorites are:

Good Enough to Eat (520 Columbus Avenue- walk North and West for amazing comfort food with a farmhouse feel) Cafe Lalo (201 W. 83rd street- walk North and West for to die for pastries, coffee and sandwiches. This restaurant was featured in the movie You've Got Mail) Vai (429 Amsterdam Avenue- walk North and West for delicious Mediterranean food and wine galore...)

On this day, we went to Vai!

It was so good...

A day in the city, well spent!

Pickled Beets! This Recipe is Simple and Unfailingly Delicious!

Picked Beets! This Recipe is Simple and Unfailingly Delicious! I promise you! Pickled Beets I I think beets are beautiful!

There's something so grounding and appealing about that deep purple bulbous base, the way the greens sprout lavishly, red veined and glossy, brandishing nutrients and vitality.

Beets are spring and renewal and rebirth and sunshine!

Beets my friends, are simply divine!

Beets are also ridiculously healthy!

Considered to be a super food, every inch of the beet is edible. The greens make a great salad or can be sauteed like spinach. When it comes to the beet itself... there's no end to its uses.

Beets are full of potassium, magnesium, fiber, iron, phosphorus, vitamins A, B and C.

Consuming beets regularly results in a natural liver and blood cleanse.

Beets were even considered to be a powerful aphrodisiac by the ancient Romans...(wink, wink....)

One of my favorite ways to eat beets is to pickle them!

Here's what you'll need:

Beets

Himalayan Sea Salt

Raw Honey

Here's what to do:

Place your beets in a pot of boiling water. Use as many beets as you think will fit inside your jar of choice. I usually use three beets to fill my 6 ounce mason jar.

After ten minutes, reduce your boil to a simmer. Simmer for fifteen minutes.

Rinse your beets in a bowl of ice cold water. The skin will rub off easily at this point.

Once you've removed the skin, chop your beets into cubes. I always include some of the greens and the stalks.

Place your beets into your mason jar or jars (depending upon how many batches you intend to make). You'll want to fill the glass about 75% to the top.

For a 6 ounce jar, I add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of raw honey before pouring my apple cider vinegar over the beets until I've reached the top of the jar. Affixing my metal lid and ring, I shake the beet concoction vigorously  to combine all of the ingredients and I store in the refrigerator.

The beets will last about ten days in the refrigerator.

Pickled beets go well with:

salad (makes a great topper)

hot dogs (pile on top like sauerkraut)

quinoa or rice

Pickled beets also make an amazing stand alone dish. Consume them prior to eating your meal to stimulate digestion. Think chutney or kimchi.

Don't throw away your beet tips!

growing beets

Place those tips in water and you can regrow the delicious stalks of greens for future salads. Or if you have a green thumb, you can plant the beet tip and grow some more beets!

See, beets really are gifts that keep on giving!

How do you like your beets?

Drink Your Nutrients With Ambronite!

Disclosure: I was given a package of Ambronite in exchange for an honest review. All opinions as always are my own.

Recently I've been on a bit of a smoothie/juice kick.

I mean, can you blame me? Drinking your nutrients is such an easy and enjoyable way to make sure your day gets off on the right foot.

So you can imagine how excited I was when Ambronite contacted me to see if I would be interested in a sample of their new and improved Ambronite formula. I did a happy dance.

If you're a long time reader of my blog the name Ambronite may sound familiar. I wrote a review of the product last Spring.

I was a fan then and I'm still loving the super smooth, new and improved, Ambronite Drinkable Supermeal formula.

Billed as a drinkable supermeal, Ambronite just might be the finest nutrition supplement drink out there.

Ambronite, a powdered drink blend that contains all the nutrients necessary to fuel the body and mind for the day is organic, preservative free, non GMO, vegan and contains no sweeteners.

So what's in it?

Organic gluten-free oats for minerals, energy and B -group vitamins

Organic rice protein for amino acids, iron and Vitamin E

Flax Seeds for fiber, antioxidants and omega 3's

Almonds for essential fatty acids, protein, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, copper, biotin and manganese

Lucuma for B vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorus and beta carotene

Brazil Nuts for selenium, niacin, vitamin E and magnesium

Organic coconut flour for magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron and calcium

Apples for vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients

Stinging Nettle Leaf for calcium, vitamins A, C and K

Mineral Salt for potassium and iodine

Spinach for folate, iron, calcium and vitamins A and K

Spirulina for protein, amino acids, micronutrients, B vitamins, choline, and vitamins C, E and K

Rice Bran for vitamin E, protein, B Vitamins, selenium and coenzyme Q10

Chlorella for vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K along with calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, and iodine

Nutritional Yeast for B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron

Sea buckthorn for vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, calcium , phosphorus and vitamin K

Bilberrys for vitamins A and C, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants

Blackcurrants for vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, iron and calcium.

If this list of nutrients reads like a multivitamin, know that that's a good thing. It's always best to get your nutrients from food and Ambronite makes it easy!

Ambronite is packed full of everything you need for a full days worth of nutrients.

So who is Ambronite for?

-athletes

-soccer moms

-busy commuters

-travelers

- the elderly

- kids

-dieters

-immune compromised individuals

-pregnant and nursing moms Vegan friendly and gluten free as far as I can see, Ambronite is for almost everybody unless you have nut allergies!

Making Ambronite is simple, add your powder pack and water, shake and go! They supply the bottle and powder, all you need to do is add cold water (or coconut water) and shake. It's so easy which is why this is so fantastic for people on the go!

Ambronite goes down smooth. It tastes almost like oatmeal only its not thick and clumpy. The taste is pleasant, slightly nutty. Even my four and one year-olds drink it without flinching. If you want to get fancy and add fruit or milk to your Ambronite drink, power to you.  However you take it, Ambronite is a great way to shake up your morning or afternoon smoothie habit.

Ambronite is so much better than Ensure and all of those processed nutritional drinks full of chemicals and preservatives.

Ambronite gives you a nice natural jolt of energy, making it a better choice than coffee and energy drinks as well.

So what are you waiting for? Drink your nutrients with Ambronite!

Interested in giving Ambronite a try? Well, you're in luck, because one of my lucky readers will receive a free Ambronite sample. If you're on my mailing list, you're already entered. If not, hurry up and sign up. I'm drawing a name at random on Monday afternoon (1/25).

And if you're ready to dive in and place an order, you can contact the fine folks at Ambronite in one of the following ways:

hello@ambronite.com

facebook.com/ambronite

instagram.con/getambronite

twitter.com/ambronite

 

Honolulu Is Where I Want To Be Today!

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Honolulu is where I want to be today! I had grown smug.

75 degrees on Christmas ...

53 degrees on New Years Eve...

I had convinced myself that I lived in a warm climate. A tender, serene, forgiving place. Not the east coast.

Now that the snow has begun to fall and the temperature steadily plummets, I find myself slipping into a state of shock.

Is it too late to book a flight to Honolulu before the storm hits tomorrow?

Oh Hawaii.

Oh Honolulu.

By the ocean, palm trees swaying in the breeze, the mountains behind me...

Honolulu Is Where I Want To Be Today! As the most western and southernmost major American city, Honolulu, which translates into "calm port" (how lovely), is the largest city in and state capital of Hawaii.

With its stretches of warm aquamarine water and tropical volcanic mountains in the distance, Honolulu is an emerald paradise.

On a day like this, when I'm frozen and snowed in. I can hear Honolulu calling to me in the frozen breeze.

Long live wanderlust and long live wonder. Honolulu is where I'd like to be today!

La Vie Boheme in Adam's Morgan

Adam's Morgan just might be my favorite DC neighborhood. It's where I feel most at home in DC. Perhaps because it reminds me so much of my beloved Brooklyn.

Adam's Morgan is eclectic, it's international, it's intelligent, it's cheeky, it's bohemian, it's artsy, and it's grounded.

La Vie Boheme in Adam's Morgan!

Along Adam's Morgan's main drag- 18th street, you'll find coffee shops, independent bookshops, yoga studios, bars, boutiques, and independent shops of all sorts.

It's a fun stroll.

La Vie Boheme in Adam's Morgan

 

Adam's Morgan is an international food lovers dream. You can find restaurants boasting food from nations across the globe from Ethiopian, Japanese and Vietnamese, to Korean, Ghanaian, Moroccan, French, Indian, Irish and Italian, the result is a creative melting pot of culture and art.

A lot less stuffy and irreverent than its upscale and stiff lipped neighbors, Adam's Morgan is hip, culturally diverse, family friendly and literate without the pretentiousness commonly seen around these parts.

Easy to walk, there's no need to stick to the main drag. Venture down side streets and take in the colorful row homes.

The National Zoo is nearby as are a handful of lovely parks and green spaces- my favorite is the gorgeous and historic Meridian Hill Park.

If you're planning a trip to the DC area, Adam's Morgan is a great neighborhood with a bohemian soul. If the rest of DC is too stuffy for your tastes, laid back Adam's Morgan is perfect for dinner, drinks, local shopping or a quick yoga class.

 

The Perfect Smoothie for Vegetarians!

The Perfect Smoothie for Vegetarians! A new year is here again!

I love the energy and excitement brought forth by a new start.

January 1st, is one of my favorite times to pause, reflect and start new.

With the start of this new year, I am continuing with my quest to be as clean, green and natural as possible, both inside and out. Instead of beginning each day with a breakfast meal, I've started drinking breakfast smoothies.

I like smoothies. There are so many different varieties. I've been drinking them for breakfast on and off since college. Smoothies are a great way to squeeze in extra nutrients. They're easy to transport for days when you need a quick breakfast on the go and they're pretty darn delicious. Smoothies, pretty much rock in my opinion, which is why I'm so excited to share this particular recipe. This particular vegetarian friendly smoothie goes above and beyond as far as nutrients, minerals and taste are concerned.

Wait- a vegetarian friendly smoothie? What are you talking about? Aren't all smoothies vegetarian?!?

Good point my perceptive reader, and to answer that, yes- usually. Your typical smoothie does not call for meat (although I have seen recipes that call for bacon).

What makes this smoothie stand out, aside from the fact that it tastes like a chocolate milkshake, is the fact that it provides a super boost of both protein and iron, nutrients that can be lacking in a vegetarian diet. Hence the title- The Perfect Smoothie for Vegetarians!

Thanks to the following cast of power players:

Blackstrap molasses- iron, minerals, calcium

Chia- omega 3's, antioxidants, calcium

Cocoa powder- antioxidants

Almond butter- protein

Almond milk- protein

Baobab powder- antioxidants, iron, vitamin C

This smoothie is quite literally the perfect smoothie for vegetarians!

So here's what you need:

2 bananas

4 tablespoons blackstrap molasses

2 tablespoons chia seed

1 cup chopped kale

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons pure cocoa powder

4 tablespoons almond butter

2 cups almond milk

1 tablespoon baobob powder

 

The directions are simple. Combine the  ingredients in a blender and press blend.

The result is a deliciously hearty iron rich, chocolatey, protein rich, get your day started right -breakfast smoothie.

This recipe makes two 8 ounce servings, which means share it with someone you love. In fact it's very child friendly. My four year old drinks it like a treat and my one year old eats it from a bowl like cereal.

Little do they know that mommy is stuffing them full of the nutrients that tend to be absent from our vegetarian and soy-free diet.

And that makes me do a happy dance...

Do you drink smoothies? What do you like to put in your breakfast smoothies?

12 Gifts for Women Who Love to Travel

A version of this post was originally published on 12/6/15 by SheKnows Media

12 Gifts for Women Who Love to Travel

Ah, the holidays! The warmth, the togetherness, the food, the good cheer, and the quest to find the perfect gifts to give the special people in our lives.

With only a few weeks left, it's time to intensify the search and make your final purchases.

If one of those special people in your life is an independent wanderluster who seems to have been everywhere and done everything, boy do I have some great gift ideas for you!

What do you get the wanderlust-smitten woman who lives to travel the world?

How about an Encircled Chrysalis Cardi! This soft, eco-friendly garment, ethically made in Canada can be worn EIGHT different ways (without the need of pins and straps), making it a top choice for anyone on the go. You can dress your cardi up or down without weighing your suitcase down. It's ingenious, comfortable and classic!

Below are some examples of how you can wear the chrysalis cardi. I packed mine for an autumn weekend getaway. I had so much extra room in my single carry-on purse and getting dressed couldn't have been easier or more fun!

For more details, inspiration and access to their amazing look book click on the Encircled ad below.

12 Gifts  Women Who Love Travel

For other great gift ideas-

Here are 12 Gifts for Women Who Love to Travel!

(photos from Amazon.com)

Whichever wonderful winter holiday you are celebrating this year, I hope the season is filled with love and peace!

*Disclosure- this post contains affiliate links :)

How to Melt Wax to Make Bath and Beauty Products!

How to Melt Wax to Make Bath and Beauty Products!  

Apparently I've been on a tutorial kick.

Last week, after getting a ton of emails from people asking me to clarify how to melt shea butter properly I posted a super thorough and simplified tutorial for melting shea butter.

Today, I'm going to extend that tutorial to demonstrate an effective way to melt wax.

Waxes are used often in bath and beauty products, particularly body butters and lip balms because they're fantastic emulsifiers and contribute to a lovely texture.

When I make my products, I prefer to use carnauba wax and beeswax although there are many forms of wax safe for cosmetic use.

Wax can be purchased in many forms from large solid bars to tiny pellets. I prefer to buy pellets whenever possible because they're easy to measure and melt.

If you don't have pellets, grating a large bar of wax and measuring the portions can be extremely labor intensive. Pellets are definitely easiest to work with though bars are usually cheaper.

How to Melt Wax to Make Bath and Beauty Products!

When you're melting wax, you want to place the pellets (or shavings from a block) into your oil base.

For the purposes of this post, I'm going to ask you to refer to my shea butter base. This could of course be any base your recipe calls for from olive oil to jojoba.

Steps Simplified:

Once my oil base, in this case (shea butter) is melted, I'm ready to add my wax pellets. You want to do this while your oil is still hot even though it is no longer on the stove. (This step picks up exactly where the shea butter tutorial left off!)

Depending on the needs of your recipe, add the pellets by the teaspoon, whisking briskly to encourage dissolving without clumping. If you don't whisk your wax, it can clump.

IMG_1952.JPGOnce the first teaspoon has dissolved down to a cloud of foam, I add the next until I've added all I will need.

IMG_1953-0.jpgFinally, I take a hand blender and blend the mixture on the highest speed. This ensures that my wax dissolves fully and results in a smooth texture for my balms and butters.

Ta-Da!

Practice makes perfect. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to melt wax in your sleep.

Have you ever made your own bath and beauty products?

 

One of My Favorite DC Neighborhoods: Georgetown Neighborhood Walk

I'd like to introduce you to Georgetown! One of My Favorite DC Neighborhoods: Georgetown Neighborhood Walk

Georgetown Historic Georgetown in Washington DC is one of those neighborhoods one can easily slip into.

Pristine, elegant, delicious, the shopping won't disappoint, the dining is sure to satisfy, and the smooth cobblestone streets will transport you in time.

Georgetown DC

Dating back to 1751, the neighborhood of Georgetown in northwest DC is one of the oldest in the area and is home to some of the most splendid and preserved architecture in the district.

Georgetown, DC

Single family stone homes from the late 1700's share the streets with colonial row homes. From gas lamps to louvered shutters no detail is spared.

 

   I often feel as though I'm walking through a Thomas Kinkade cityscape, especially during the holidays when the neighborhood is alight with amber flames, bells, wreaths and bows.

Easily accessible via the DC Metro, Georgetown is a pedestrian neighborhood. If you're driving, note that DC has neighborhood specific designated parking areas, which means parking can be tricky if you don't live in the neighborhood you're trying to park in. Read signs carefully!

So, what should you do now that you're there? Here are some shops and stops that are a must in Georgetown:

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Georgetown Cupcake (3301 M St NW, Washington, DC)

If you have a sweet tooth, Georgetown Cupcake will not disappoint. These are the best cupcakes in DC!

Relish (3312 Cady’s Alley, NW Washington, DC)

This classic Georgetown boutique will have you looking as good as Olivia Pope.

1789 Restaurant (1226 36th Street, NW Washington, DC)

It's like stepping back in time. The restaurant hidden inside a brownstone, is cozy, romantic and out of this world delicious.

Natural UV Protection Using Tamanu Oil: My Favorite Find at the Farmer's Market in Winter Garden

Natural UV Protection Using Tamanu Oil: My Favorite Find at the Farmer's Market in Winter Garden Whenever I travel to a new place, I make an effort to slow down and try to experience my new environment like a local. Typically in the beginning, I avoid anything chain and seek out experiences that will help me get a good sense of where I am. I like to start local and then do whatever touristy things I find myself attracted to. This looks differently depending upon where I am. When I was in rural Mozambique, I simply had to sit back and enjoy the ride. Everything I did, everywhere I went was local and unique to where I was. In Buffalo, New York, I shopped at the local boutiques along the Elmwood strip, went to small hole in the wall food and drink establishments, took in the cafe culture, small theatres and parks before going to the mall and doing things that were identical to the things I could do at home.

There are places where this is easy and there are places where this is quite hard.

Orlando, Florida with its incessant chain stores, incurable Disney mania and at first glimpse monotone matte buildings identical in shape and size, appeared to me, completely devoid of character, until recently.

We visit Orlando at least once a year. My in-laws live there. My husband's siblings live there. We have two small Disney smitten children. It is a part of our narrative and our relationship with the city isn't fizzling anytime in the near future.

Every year, when it's time to trek southward I let out an "ugh (insert disgusted face)- Central Florida- blech (insert another disgusted face)...." groan.

Orlando has made me cringe for as long as I could remember. Even as a small child visiting Disney World, I couldn't get past the inferno of heat, the oddly timed monsoon rains, the long lines, the blah, blah, blah, short brown buildings everywhere. I wasn't a Central Florida enthusiast.

I planned to avoid the region entirely until the husband, with the in-laws and the Central Florida dwelling siblings set into motion my annual kicking and screaming match.

At first I was prepared to give Orlando another chance. Maybe it had changed since the 90's when I had visited the Magic Kingdom as a child.

Nope. Trips to see my husband's family were full of chain stores and malls, sweltering swampy heat, relatively bad restaurants and inexplicable traffic. Sure, I had pockets of fun, but getting to see Orlando as a unique city with character and culture was not happening!

Until this last visit that is.

Note: This is not an Orlando bashing post.

I actually had an amazing time! I had an amazing time outside of the time spent at Disney, getting to know some of the neighborhoods that make up the perplexing city of Orlando.

The two neighborhoods of Celebration and Winter Garden helped me see Orlando's light!

Celebration, where we spent our final four days is beautiful! Pastel colored Victorian styled multi level homes grace perfectly manicured lawns. Colorful bikes zipped along main street past the local shops, restaurants and boutiques that lined expansive palm tree studded streets. The stunning variety of green hues and textures make one feel vibrant and alive. Celebration is close to Disney, but thankfully removed. I will gladly return to Celebration.

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Winter Garden made me smile. Another neighborhood in the Orlando area, Winter Garden had stretches of small shops, quirky local restaurants and cafes. Pedestrian friendly and extremely family friendly, people strolled the narrow sidewalks with their dogs, holding hands, pushing baby strollers. Winter Garden has character and so much charm.

Winter Garden is also home to a piece of gold! The Saturday afternoon farmer's market is superb!

The farmer's market at Winter Garden is less produce and artisanal food as it is local artisans and shops. There is a distinct holistic and metaphysical vibe as you stroll by white tents encircled by plumes of white sage and incense smoke, pink Himalayan salt lamps and crystals on celestial display. The aroma of herbs and spices waft everywhere.

There's a place for kids to run free. A small stage by the food trucks where you can enjoy live music and refreshment.

Toddler free and excited, I was walking with my sister-in-law Lori who recently relocated to the neighborhood when something caught my eye....

It was a sign that read "Ask me about Tamanu Oil!"  The sign was on a table surrounded by lotions, oils and scrubs.

I like lotions, oils and scrubs!

I was intrigued. I hadn't heard of Tamanu oil. So I asked.

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The thing I love most about farmer's markets is that you get to speak directly to farmers and artisans. Andrea, the woman behind the table was the creator of Barnse Bath Co. a line of body care products with the slogan "Take the natural bath." She and her husband developed and worked on the line together. Tamanu oil was the main ingredient in the products in her line and for good reason. Tamanu oil it turns out, is nature's sunscreen. Undiluted, it provides a person with an spf of around 20. I was sold!

I purchased a lovely bottle which came in handy later when we visited Disney World. The oil was infused with rose essential oil and smelled wonderful. Best of all, it absorbed directly into our skin and never left an oily trace on the surface. It dried perfectly matte.

This was a natural sunscreen I didn't feel hesitant about applying to my two toddlers. Have you ever read the ingredients on the back of a bottle of sunscreen? Yikes!

Tamanu oil I learned, originates in Malaysia and is known to be much more than a natural protector against the sun.

Tamanu is reported to:

-heal minor abrasions and burns on the skin

-heal acne and eczema

-seal moisture into the hair shaft

-have cellular regenerative properties making it great for aging skin

-protect against hyper-pigmentation

-heal nail fungus and foot odor due to its anti-fungal and anti microbial properties

-protect against stretch marks

-soothe diaper rash

-soothe insect bites and itching

In short, tamanu oil which can be applied directly to the skin is pretty darn miraculous.

I'm so happy I came upon the farmer's market in Winter Garden.

Not only do I plan to return, but I plan to pick up some more great products from Barnse Bath Co.

Have you tried Tamanu Oil?

 

Safari in Disney World on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom!

I have always wanted to go on a safari! I came close in South Africa. I almost made it to Kruger National Park. At the last moment, it didn't happen. I was living in Mozambique at the time and told myself I had nothing but time to go on a safari- no rush. Before I knew it, my work contract was up, I was headed back home to the states and I hadn't taken my safari.

A year later, I was on vacation in Tanzania with some friends. I knew this would be my chance to finally take that safari. I made tentative plans to go to Ngorongoro, only I became distracted, very distracted by a little island off the coast, you know- Zanzibar. The moment my toes touched the crystal clear water it was over. I stayed put. Another safari opportunity missed.

I'll just go back I told myself. I'd made over eight trips to Africa, what was one more.

Then I got pregnant. Two years later I was pregnant again. Time went by and needless to say I have yet to return to the continent. I did however manage to make my safari dreams come true- well sort of.

Safari in Disney World on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom!

animal kingdom

Thanks to the visionary folks at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park, I was able to finally experience a safari.

It's called the Kilimanjaro Safari and it felt astonishingly realistic.

Well, for the most part...

From the baobab trees to the pseudo Savannah, squinting past the palm trees and in places short fences, one could convince themselves that they were in a Southern African country.

Aside from the lions who were in an enclosed area, the animals roamed freely along acres of open land modeled to perfection after their home habitats.

It was a sight to see.

Disney's attention to detail needs to be applauded.

Our guide pointed out animals as we chugged along in our jeep. We stopped here and there for photos or for a closer look.

The Kilimanjaro Safari was the highlight of my trip to Animal Kingdom.

My quest to experience an African safari has been rekindled. I can hear Botswana calling my name!

Within the next two years, once my youngest is a bit heartier and able to get medical clearance to travel to a malaria zone- we plan to head to beautiful Botswana in the south of the African continent to take our dream family safari vacation.

In the meantime, I have my lovely Disney safari memories!

Tips for the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom:

  • Use your fast pass if you can. You might have to book ahead. This ride is popular.
  • If you can't use your fast pass, hit the line early as soon as the park opens or try the line during lunchtime when most people are heading to the restaurants.
  • Best time to visit the park is late October/ early November. The weather is not as hot and the park is not very crowded.

 

 

Easy Spaghetti Squash Bowls

Disclaimer: This was my first time working with spaghetti squash! Truth: I loved it!

Last week, I went to the farmer's market in search of squash to display in my fruit and veggie basket.

I was just looking for pretty colors, interesting shapes and a variety of textures. This was supposed to be a simple fall display. One I'd eventually get around to eating (like our Halloween porch pumpkins...eventually).

When I got home, I filled my basket and took a moment to browse Pinterest.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I must have been hit with about thirty spaghetti squash recipes.

It was a sign.

So the cogs and wheels in my head began to churn. I looked over a few of the recipes, then consulted my trusty Kripalu Vegetarian Cookbook. I had a plan.

I've never been very good at following recipes. I think that's why I can't make a successful batch of croissants despite numerous attempts. I'm an improviser, an embellisher, I need space to make something mine. Which is great when you're talking spaghetti squash bowls and not so great when you're talking croissants (one day...).

There were quite a few steps. This wasn't the quickest recipe.

But it was delicious and healthy and very worth it!

Here's what I did:

Ingredients:

1 Medium sized spaghetti squash

1 Medium red potato

2 stalks of Tuscan kale

1medium yellow onion

2 tablespoons grated ginger

1/2 cup French lentils

1 small yellow squash

1/2 cup couscous

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

4 cups vegetable broth

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dill

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt

2 tablespoons ground flax

Spaghetti Squash Prep:

Being careful not to cut all of my fingers off (much easier said than done!), I took the biggest and sharpest knife from my knife drawer and cut the squash in half lengthwise.

Once open, I placed the halves face down in a cake pan, filled halfway to the top with water and placed in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

I set the halves out to cool for thirty minutes before scooping out the contents of the center with a spoon. The seeds I laid out to dry for roasting (another project for another day).

The pulp, I set aside for the filling.

Filling:

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This was a crock pot dish. If you have sturdy ceramic cookware, you can use that in lieu of a crock pot.

I love crock pot cooking because it's so easy and you can just dump everything in at once and be on with your day.

I cubed the potato, the onion and squash.

I cut the kale into thin strips.

I added the spaghetti squash spaghetti pulp.

Everything went in together. I gave the mixture a good faith stir before placing on the lid and giving it three and  a half hours to cook.

Three and a half hours later, for  the final step, I scooped the filling into the spaghetti squash halves which were set at room temperature to cool.

I popped the boats in the oven at 350 for ten minutes to give everything a nice overall brown.

Once out of the oven, I drizzled a little olive oil, sea salt and pepper over the top and....ta-da!

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Dinner is served!

spaghetti squash bowl

This is a delicious, hearty, savory, vegetarian dish that can be used as a main or a side.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie- The Best of Summer on a Fork!

I don't know where the time has gone. It is no longer summer. In fact, we've just had our first frost. But, when I originally made this delicious pie and wrote this post, it was.

strawberry rhubarb pie

I've been in the kitchen a lot since we made the move to Maryland. The food options in our immediate neighborhood are mostly chains (nothing particularly exciting) cooking at home (unless we make the trek to DC, Alexandria or Baltimore) is the preferable option.

I am smitten by my new spacious kitchen. Making food from scratch gives me endless gratification. It is no exaggeration to say that I spent the latter part of August and all of September in the kitchen.

I experimented with new dishes, soups and deserts.

I harvested herbs from my garden, explored new seasonal gems (ahem rhubarb).

My strawberry rhubarb pie, 100% in season when I made it, turned out wonderfully!

I used fresh herbs from my front yard to give it an aromatic twist and swapped out regular sugar for the coconut palm variety (low glycemic index but just as delicious).

The pie lasted only a few hours in our house and now, at long last, I'm getting around to posting it.

The strawberry and rhubarb are not in season right now, but that's okay, give it time. After the excitement of holiday season, the chill of winter and the optimism of spring, strawberry season will be upon us once more and you'll have the perfect summer recipe.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie- The Best of Summer on a Fork!

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Here's what you'll need for the crust:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons coconut palm sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary

1 cup of very cold sliced unsalted butter

Directions:

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, combine your flour, sugar and salt. Once this mixture is uniform add your fresh rosemary which you can choose to chop or not depending upon your preference.

Add to this mixture your sliced butter and get your hands in there to mix it all together. With your fingertips, knead the butter into the flour mixture.

Form two balls from your dough.

On a flat floured surface, roll your dough with a rolling pin until it's about 1/4 of an inch thick.

Lift carefully and place into a pie tin that has been oiled with butter. Using a fork poke holes in the bottom layer of crust to vent.

Once you add the filling, you'll place the second layer of crust on top for a full covered pie.

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This crust is like a rosemary shortbread cookie- it just might make you swoon!

Here's what you'll need for the filling:

1 rhubarb stalk

1 1/4 cup of coconut palm sugar

dash of cinnamon

1 pint of strawberries

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

1 teaspoon of fresh torn basil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

Thinly slice your rhubarb stalk. Cut your strawberries in half. Combine the rhubarb and strawberries in a bowl. Add the grated lime zest and your basil. Toss together and set aside.

In a small bowl mix your sugar, cinnamon, sea salt and cornstarch together until uniform. Add this mixture to the strawberries and rhubarb.

Once combined, pour into your pie crust.

Place the top layer of pie crust over the filling.

You can use a fork or a knife (or both) to carve out fancy designs in the top layer of crust to vent.

Use whatever method makes you happy when it comes to the edge of the pie. I like to use my thumb to create a squiggly pattern to seal my pie crust. Many people swear by the old fold over method. Others simply cut and press. Either way will get you there.

It's now oven time!

Set your pie on the middle rack at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes until the pie crust turns golden and the aroma is irresistible!

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Cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

This pairs wonderfully with vanilla ice cream or fresh cream!

 

Autumn Agritourism: Support Your Local Farmers

Visiting a pumpkin patch every autumn has become something of a tradition in our family. I must say though, before I even thought about having kids, I was that person who would go pumpkin picking with a group of girlfriends. So it may just be that my obsession has spread by osmosis to everyone around me.

There's just something so magical about getting food directly from the source.

Of course you don't have to go to a pumpkin patch to do this, but a pumpkin patch is the perfect setting for rekindling and or establishing this connection.

Autumn is a time of re- connection on so many levels in the sense that we're called to apple orchards and pumpkin patches. We return to the great outdoors, no longer hiding behind air conditioning. The air is crisp and cool inspiring us to move and be active. It's a season of hearty flavorful foods. Deep earth toned colors. Sweaters!

It's favorite time of the year. My New Year. My reset.

Autumn Agritourism: Support Your Local Farmers-

Last weekend, Mark and I got together with some dear friends and their kiddos and hit the pumpkin patch. This year we went to Middleton's Cedar Hill Farm.

Oh, holy pumpkin! In addition to rolling acres of hearty autumn crops, there were hayrides, animals, two corn mazes (one for kids and one for adults) a general store and a several play areas for the kiddos.

Like many working farms, Middleton's Cedar Hill Farm, relies on agritourism for a great deal of their income.

I'm not sure when agritourism became a catch phrase, but I do know that I enjoy it. You can become as immersed as you want. Some farms offer week long stays, weekend stays or the more typical orchard or harvesting day experience.

Two years ago around this time, I spent an amazing weekend near Woodstock milking cows. I still remember the warmth of the cows utters, the sound of my bucket filling to the brim. It was a beautiful experience. Whatever your preference, don't be shy and give agritourism a try. It's a great way to support your local farmers. Without farmers there is no food!

And if you're in southern Maryland you must give Middleton's Cedar Hill Farm a try!

 

Cedarville State Forest: Breathe Deeply, You've Arrived!

The smell of cedar is instantly recognizable. Earthy, grounding and pacifying, it is an aroma that reminds me of autumn. What is a visit to Cedarville State Park like? Well, imagine an entire forest dense with cedar trees. The fragrant evergreens stand shoulder to shoulder- welcoming, the crisp air heavy with cedar. Your feet are carpeted by needles and soft earth with each step.

The rich green hues of the cedar evergreens- defiantly beautiful in the midst of the colorful autumn leaf spectacular.

We spent Columbus Day exploring one of the state parks in our area- Cedarville State Forest.

Southern Maryland is full of cedar trees. We have them all over our property, but I've never seen or smelled them like this.

A cedar forest, is an armomatic heaven!

Quiet, tucked away, with hiking trails, bike trails, riding trails, and fishing, Cedarville State Forest is a great city or suburban escape for visitors and residents of the Maryland, Virginia, DC area.

Walk, sit, meditate, have a picnic. Let the serenity work it's magic.

Home to six varieties of Hawks. Stomping ground of wild turkeys. Roving ground of copperhead snakes, opossum, fox, raccoon, deer, skunks, rabbits, and many more woodland friends, a hike through Cedarville's 35,000  acres is an adventure. If you're traveling with kids, the forest offers abundant learning activities for kids who can try to identify animal tracks and nests. Bring a basket, collect sticks, colorful leaves and beautiful stones and feathers.

Or, you can simply sit and take it all in.

For a historical, spiritual and or slightly spooky twist (depending upon your take), legend has it that an Indian burial ground exists on the property.

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Cedarville State Forest: breathe deeply, you've arrived!

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