USA

Coconut Oil and Green Clay Facial Cleanser: A Fresh Take on an Old Favorite

I'm a serial reinventor!

Every year or so I feel compelled to reinvent my favorite face wash recipe.

There's nothing wrong with the tried and true recipe. It's amazing!

But the more I study and learn about natural products, I inevitably develop a crush on a new ingredient and feel the need to work it into my pre-existing repertoire. Sometimes these experiments turn out great! And other times, I have to set my creations aside.

This coconut oil and green clay facial cleanser was one of the success stories!

I am all about vegetable glycerine!

I can't believe I functioned for so long, oblivious to it's magnificience!

Anyhow, the star of my new and improved facial cleanser is vegetable glycerine.

Vegetable glycerine is derived from plant oils (typically palm or coconut). The magic of glycerine is that it's a humectant and it attracts moisture to the skin. Your skin will feel so soft to the touch! Making this an even softer and moisturizing version of the original.

If vegetable glycerine is to receive a spotlight, then tea tree essential oil which I use often, but never in a facial cleanser deserves one as well.

Tea tree it turns out, with its invigorating tingle was meant for face wash. Antimicrobal, antiseptic, antiviral and stimulating, not only does it give your face a refreshing burst of energy, but it deep cleans in the most gentle of ways.

This moisturizing, soothing, blemish fighting, wrinkle relaxing, coconut oil and green clay facial cleanser is so easy to make.

image.jpg

Here's what you'll need:

1 tablespoon French Green Clay powder

1 tablespoon Coconut Oil

1 teaspoon Vegetable Glycerine

10 drops Tea Tree essential oil

1/4 teaspoon Vitamin E oil

Here's what to do:

image.jpg

In your container of choice (I always recommend glass because plastic can leach toxins into your product) mix the French Green Clay and Coconut Oil until an almost toothpaste like consistency is formed. Add your tea tree, vegetable glycerine and vitamin E oil and stir with a spoon until smooth.

image.jpg

This will last three months easily, but because the batch size is relatively small, you'll probably need to make this every month. I like to keep my batches small just in case. It takes minutes to whip up.

Directions for use:

Rub a dime sized amount of cleanser onto moist skin.

You'll find the green clay will act as a milk exfoliant.

Rub into your skin in a circular motion avoiding the eyes.

image.jpg

Rinse with warm water and pat your face dry.

If you're into facial toners, this one is a must try and is the ideal next step!

 

Chesapeake Bay Beach: A Day Well Spent!

image.jpg

The water was conspicuously brown truth be told. A little murky for my liking, but it was warm and gentle so I allowed myself to overlook the fact I couldn't see where I was wading.

After all the Chesapeake is bound to be a bit muddy, it's a bay after all. Right?

The air was blithe and breezy. Thin and cool despite patches of humidity.

It was seaside air. The air of ease and hope. The air of tranquility.

In the distance kayaks dotted the water, drifting towards the rainbow brushed horizon. Children played and splashed in the shallow water as couples lounged on towels, or walked the seashell studded beach holding hands.

image.jpg

Wearing a dress and sandals, having stumbled upon the beach completely by accident, I found a seat on an overturned tree trunk as my boys splashed in the water and ran through the sea grass.

image.jpg

It's been about a year since we moved to Maryland.

I'm still exploring, but I wasn't ready for this particular find.

I had been so busy getting to know the neighborhoods in Washington DC and Alexandria, Virginia, the Baltimore Harbor, and the gorgeous seaside stretches of quaint cobblestone studded Annapolis that I failed to realize I lived a mere twenty minutes from the Chesapeake Bay.

Literally, door to sand, twenty minutes!

I hadn't thought much about the Chesapeake.

I knew it was around here somewhere, but where exactly I wasn't sure. As far as beaches were concerned, I had my sights set on Ocean City and Virginia Beach. I looked forward to Chincoteague and Rehoboth, but the Chesapeake?

I had honestly written it off as a polluted has been.

I had no idea!

image.jpg

Dotted with public and private beaches, the Chesapeake, despite having its very real and unfortunate issues with pollution is truly stunning.

Chesapeake Bay Beach was no exception.

Free and open to the public, the beach is almost hidden. Slightly forested until a small pine needle studded sandy trail opens up revealing an expanse of sea and sand, Chesapeake Bay Beach is the perfect way to spend a summer day.

Steps from the historic boardwalk, you can stroll the wooden planks in the direction of the many restaurants boasting the best crab along the east coast or you can simply retreat to the sand or water.

Relatively shallow, surprisingly warm and calm, the water is easy to swim and wade.

image.jpg

And bonus, you don't have to worry about jelly fish or....sharks (gasp!)

There are fish though, tiny little things that weave this way and that in small schools.

And there are crabs. Lots of crabs.

So, perhaps maybe, you should watch your toes.

I know I will. You can't see where you're stepping after all.

When I go back, I'm going prepared and will make a full day of it. Beach bucket, Haviannas, swimming suit, fishing rod and an appetite for crab cakes.

Have you ever been to the Chesapeake?

 

 

image.jpg

Harlem Tea Break at Serengeti Teas and Spices

Sometimes in the middle of the roaring chaos of the city you need to do something quiet, cool and restorative.

Sometimes you just want tea- a good cup of tea and a peaceful space to duck into. An inspired space that is aesthetically pleasing and a delight to the senses.

Sometimes you simply need a sanctuary, and if you're in Harlem on a hot summer day or a cold winter evening... for that matter, there's no better escape than Serengeti Teas and Spices.

Aromatic African, tea, coffee and chocolate blends made with love.
— Serengeti Teas and Spices Tasting Room

In the heart of central Harlem amidst the typical clamor and bravado of any given New York day, lies a most unassuming refuge. The art is astounding, the service friendly, the baked goods delectable and the tea (the main reason you're here) worthy of praise.

Serengeti Teas and Spices features a finely curated collection of African teas and spice blends.

image.jpg

And if you didn't think there were teas specific to the continent of Africa...think again!

The continent boasts a vast array of teas and spices, like Rooibos tea (known for its powerful curative and antioxidant properties) and Sorrel. Conjure up images of Zanzibar (aka Spice Island) right off the coast of Tanzania and the famed trade routes positioning Africa smack dab in the middle of all of the action. African tea contains a host of influences from east to west and at Seregeti Teas and Spices one can enjoy long languid sips of the continent's finest masterpieces.

 Enjoy your tea iced or hot! 

Enjoy your tea iced or hot! 

It. is. so. GOOD!

With over 100 teas to try, there is something for everyone!

But, if tea is not your thing, there's coffee. The coffee is good, but the tea (in my opinion) steals the show.

I can't get enough of their Hibiscus blends.

In addition to beverages, you can buy cafe breads and pastries.

A specialty cafe of sorts, you can come for tastings, you can bring your laptop and set-up shop, or meet a friend and grab a seat at the tea bar.

In fact, the entire shop is like a museum. Art is everywhere, much of it is on sale as well.

image.jpg

And bring a little shopping bag, because you can buy tea, spice blends, coffee, chocolate and tea related gifts. The entire experience is a whimsical delight.

So if you're in New York City and you're looking for a unique place to visit or bring guests in and or around Harlem, Seregenti Teas is the place to go.

Location: 2292 Frederick Douglass Blvd, NewYork, NY 10027 (Harlem/NYC)

Family Friendly: Absolutely! (I bring my two and five year old and there is never a problem)

Hours: 10am-7:30pm

 

 

 

That Time Louis Armstrong Invited me Over for Dinner!

Something amazing happened the last time we were in New York!

Louis Armstrong invited us over for dinner!!!!

image.jpg

No, I'm not delusional.

No, I'm not making it up.

It happened and I've got the photos to prove it!

You see, Louis Armstrong's home in Corona, Queens has been preserved as a museum- The Louis Armstrong House Museum. Which means, dinner with Satchmo can be a reality.

I'll explain...

The museum, Louis Armstrong's former home, has been left virtually untouched after the death of his wife Lucille.

A brilliant gem of history, the Louis Armstrong House Museum features artifacts from his life including his extensive collection of audio recordings which chronicle moments from his life.

On the ground floor, you have what feels like a traditional museum- pictures, instruments, memorabilia, a short film.

But once you round the corner and head upstairs an entirely different experience awaits you. Led by a tour guide, you're brought from room to room in the Armstrong's home.

In each room of the house, audio recordings are played and images are shown of the Armstrong's in that room.

The tour (no photos allowed) was so vivid. His clothes were still hung in the closet, the bed had the same duvet and pillows from when the couple was alive. Lucille's hairbrush remained as always on her vanity and Louis' liquor cabinet in the corner of his study remained half-full.

The recordings ranged from a practice session in Louis Armstrong's study to my favorite...

The recording in the kitchen during a dinner party the Armstrong's hosted. Here Louis himself, invited us to have a seat at the dinner table to try some of Lucille's famous baked beans.

It felt incredibly intimate.

You see, Louis Armstrong always had a vision of his home being a place where people gathered. When he and his wife were alive, they welcomed neighborhood children and expanded their backyard into something of a park-like oasis for entertaining.

In death, it was his wish for his home to continue to welcome folks, to be a place where people could gather, listen to good music and feel a sense of community.

After all, it was through being so open and in having a true desire to connect with people that he came up with the celebrated lyrics to "Wonderful World."

Seems to me it ain’t the world that’s so bad but what we’re doing to it, and all I’m saying is: see what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance. Love, baby- love. That’s the secret.
— Louis Armstrong
image.jpg

The magic is still there!

One feels Louis' warmth and presence the moment they enter.

And when I walked away, I was grateful to have had the experience of being invited to Louis Armstrong's house for dinner. It was once in a lifetime!

Thanks Satch!

Louis Armstrong House Museum

34-56 107th Street

Corona (Queens), NY

718.478.8274

Celebrating Memorial Day and Fleet Week in NYC on the Intrepid!

Memorial Day weekend  is a big deal in New York City!

image.jpg

Not only is it a time to celebrate those who we've lost who have served, but it's also a time to give thanks to those currently serving. 

This year the boys and I celebrated aboard New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum! 

image.jpg

It was awesome!

The USS Intrepid, a famed aircraft carrier is docked along Manhattan's west side and is a National Historic Landmark and museum/event space.

The intrepid was the perfect place for a Memorial Day event, especially since it was also Fleet Week!

There was live music, dancing, food and games in honor of our servicemen.

image.jpg

Being Fleet Week, their were uniformed sailors, Air Force men and Marines all over the streets of New York.

image.jpg
image.jpg

So grateful for everyone who has served!

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!

img_2671-1.jpeg

img_2675.jpeg

img_2684.jpeg img_2683.jpeg

We were also intrigued by the mammals! img_2676.jpeg

img_2678.jpeg

img_2681.jpeg

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!

Honolulu Is Where I Want To Be Today!

img_2300-1.jpeg

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.

 

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.

IMG_1693

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.

IMG_1673

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.

 

 

Looking for Indian Food in Washington, D.C.? Look No Further Than Rasoi Indian Kitchen 

IMG_1296.jpg

It's no secret that I love to cook. My husband Mark and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating meals. We don't tend to shy away from many things. There was that time we roasted a rabbit , there was the great flambé experiment of 2012 (not my finest moment in the kitchen), and that one time we came home with a paper bag full of angry wriggling lobsters.

But sometimes things are best left to the professionals (ahem- flambe). As much as I adore being barefoot in the kitchen, I equally adore wearing earrings and dining out.

When it comes to the aromatic, layered flavors of good Indian food, I prefer to eat out.

Indian food is a family favorite. In New York, we had our go to spots and now here in D.C. we have found a spot as well.

Looking for Indian Food in Washington, D.C.? Look No Further Than Rasoi Indian Kitchen!

Our food came out plated to perfection in lovely little dish sets. IMG_1291.JPG IMG_1290.JPG The flavors were all distinct and amazing! Aside from needing to order more rice, the serving size was perfect.

Rasoi is decorated beautifully and provides the perfect elegantly casual backdrop for a delicious meal. IMG_1297.JPG

We'll be back!

Here's how you can get there too.

Rasoi Indian Kitchen International Square 1810 K St.NW Washington, DC

Let me know what you think! Do you have a favorite restaurant in DC?

A New Ben's Chili Bowl, A Bit of Go-Go, and A Whole Lot of D.C. Soul!

A New Ben's Chili Bowl, A Bit of Go-Go, and A Whole Lot of D.C. Soul! IMG_4733

Ben's Chili Bowl H Street

Go-go, so named because the music just goes and goes, is a love child of the blues, funk, salsa, gospel, and soul that emerged in the '70s- Abdul Ali in How Washington, D.C. ,Turned its Back on Go-Go, the Music It Invented

Go-Go music is quintessentially D.C.!

It tells the story of a vibrant and resilient people. It carries hope drenched in raw, at times raunchy humor. It's syncopated soliloquies and tribal beats stir within the most conservative among us, a primal urge to dance.

Go-Go is a D.C. cultural mainstay that speaks to the soul.

Another cultural mainstay, dating back to 1958, is Ben's Chilli Bowl. A D.C. local favorite, Ben's Chili Bowl speaks through the stomach to the soul.

It makes sense then, that one complimented the other during the highly anticipated grand opening of the second H Street location of this classic D.C. eatery.

Loved by locals.

Visited by presidents and dignitaries, tourists and celebrities.

Featured on the travel channel: Man Versus Food, No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, and Bizarre Foods America, Ben's Chilli Bowl has been delighting palettes for generations.

A form of R&B founded in D.C. by Chuck Brown with roots in Africa -call and response, congas. It has jazz improvisation, it utilizes arrangements, it's instrumental, it reminds me of a drum circle, it's tribal at its core. - Mark Williams, Former Trombonist with Chuck Brown

We found our way, to the grand opening of the second Ben's Chili Bowl on H street by way of my husband Mark, a former D.C. resident and trombonist with the late but legendary Chuck Brown.

The afternoon was blazing. The sky broke apart into an abyss of blinding white light which cascaded acutely off of any and every metal surface. The pavement was so hot it was sticky. The notoriously humid D.C. air was almost drinkable, but somehow it didn't matter,  a crowd was gathering. A crowd that was growing by the minute.

Out the door of the new Ben's Chili Bowl, a line, snaked for a block and a half. In front of the bandstand, revelers gathered, dancing despite the heat, despite the sweat, to the intoxicating rythms of the Chuck Brown Tribute Band.

I wanted to run for shade, (eventually I did, sneaking into the pristine new Ben's Chilli Bowl before the rest of the public was let in- we were the first to be served!) but I found myself dancing, my one year old bouncing joyously in his carrier, my three year old bending his knees, swaying his hips to the rythms.

To the left of me, secret servicemen ushered the mayor and senators through the crowd. To the right, people of every age, race and social economic demographic effectively broke it down to the music.

For decades, the D.C. community has rallied behind Ben's Chili Bowl, it survived the race riots of the 60's, like a giant oak, it has stood the test of time.

They say it's the chili- soulful, spicy, sweet.

Some swear it's all about the chili bowl half smoke.

Whatever your flavor, whatever your fashion, Ben's is simple, sloppy, soulful, stick to your ribs food. They even have turkey options for those who don't eat red meat.

Since we ducked into the restaurant early, before the public was allowed in, to escape the heat, we were among the first to be served. Ohm even made it on the evening news as he sampled some chili fries.

http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/29498700/bens-chili-bowl

No visit to Washington, D.C., is complete without a visit to Ben's Chili Bowl and while you're there, find some Go-Go music to listen to. It's just as unique to D.C. as Brass Band is to New Orleans, though much less popular across the country which means, it's kind of like a well kept secret, one you need to discover for yourself.

Coney Island is a Great Place for Family Fun!

Coney Island is a Great Place for Family Fun! IMG_5032.JPG

Enter, the infamous Cony Island-

It's overstimulating, yet surprisingly compact.

It has cleaned up its act, yet it's still a bit gritty.

Coney Island is many things- it's loud, it's fun, it's classic, it's busy and it's a great place for a good old fashioned family outing.

Honest Note: I don't suggest swimming in the water. I mean, people do (and I guess some of those people are still around to talk about it ?!?), but...er....it's kind of gross.

But Coney Island has her virtues. If you've got children, the fun park is small, the lines are short, the rides are charming and a good time will be had.

The short boardwalk offers the best of quick carnival fun, from funnel cakes, to the famed Nathan's to performers wearing snakes or dancing on stilts.

The beach (again, reference the above note)...well, it's lovely to look at from the boardwalk and it's fantastic for toe dipping. Swim at your own discretion, but either way, the sea breeze from the ocean is blissfully cooling especially in the midst of the notoriously humid New York summer.

Coney Island is not that tranquil beach escape you've been waiting all year to take, it is however, a well spent, two or three hours of bustling seaside fun.

It's definitely an ideal destination for families and multi-generational travelers.

And if you're lucky, if you stay long enough, you may get the pleasure of catching a display like this!

IMG_5067.JPG

 

The Brooklyn Children's Museum Celebrates Caribbean Culture with a Festive Family Extravaganza!

The Brooklyn Children's Museum Celebrates Caribbean Culture with a Festive Family Extravaganza! IMG_4917.JPG

Disclaimer: I was given complementary passes to write this review. All opinions and thoughts expressed are my own and are reflective of my honest impressions.

Warning: This post contains pictures and videos of the most adorable Brooklyn tots ever. Seriously, EVER! If after this post you decide to expand your family, please don't hold me accountable!

Last Saturday, my two little Wild Things and I were invited to the Brooklyn Children's Museum's- Celebrate the Caribbean Islands Day!

IMG_4923.JPG

The Brooklyn Children's Museum regularly hosts events for children and families throughout the year and this was one of them in honor of Caribbean Heritage Month.

In past posts, I've raved about how fortunate I am to have this amazing resource within walking distance, but let me take a moment again to say that the Brooklyn Children's Museum makes me so happy. As a parent, being able to take my little ones to one place where I know they can run, interact, learn, explore and play is just magic. The Brooklyn Children's Museum inspires imaginative creative play which I love! Without video games and flashing lights, my children are fully engaged and learning for hours.

Okay, back to Celebrate the Caribbean Islands Day!

The day was so fun!

There were cultural performances and educational workshops such as:

Totally Tots Studio: Where children learned about wearable art made for Carnival season and were able to make their own masks.

Touch Tank: Caribbean Seas: In this interactive workshop, children learned about underwater animals in the Caribbean Sea.

Family Art Lab: Moko Jumbie: Here were learned the story of Moko Jumbie, a stilt walking tradition that traveled from Africa to the Caribbean. Children had the opportunity to dance on can-stilts to fun Caribbean beats.

IMG_4931.JPG

Nature Explorers: Three Little Birds: In the greenhouse, we listened to Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds," and learned to identify three different local birds in Brooklyn.

Something Positive INC Performance: A multi-media performance that blended poetry, storytelling, theater, music and dance dedicated to the art and culture of the African Diaspora.

I looked away for a second and Ohm had rushed the stage. Luckily the drummer was very kind and allowed him to play.

Father Goose: King of the Dance Party: Jamaican born entertainer Rankin Don performed as "Father Goose" in the most exciting nursery sing-along I've ever participated in. Every tot was up and dancing!!!

Animal Adventure: Caribbean Critters: Children learned about the reptiles that live in Caribbean countries and had the opportunity to pet and interact with them.

And now for some video footage- I hope you're ready!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/ks2L9h45FHs[/youtube]

[youtube]http://youtu.be/qxMHHDyK7Xo[/youtube]

[youtube]http://youtu.be/H65RgI8vsgk[/youtube]

[youtube]http://youtu.be/pPc9lq_77ck[/youtube]

[youtube]http://youtu.be/8sZkHQlwGll[/youtube]

[youtube]http://youtu.be/l_UCbkiQCfY[/youtube]

It was a long day in the hot sun, but we left energized and excited.

The Brooklyn Children's Museum hosted an incredible event that my three year old is still talking about!

If you have children, no trip to Brooklyn or New York City is complete without a visit to the Brooklyn Children's Museum! You will be so glad that you did.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Summer Day Trip

4 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Summer Day Trip This is has been a busy summer for us. We're in the middle of a pretty epic move (saying goodbye to NYC is never easy!), Mark has been touring non-stop, my private practice has picked up (yay!) leading to a very busy summer.

Originally, we had intended to take a big trip, but with everything going on, that has to be pushed back until the fall. Instead, we've gone on a series of mini-trips (overnights and weekends) that have left us rejuvenated and feeling summery.

When taking mini-trips. it's easy to do something predictable and safe, but you can get so much more out of a quick trip if you throw in a new or exciting experience or two. It makes all the difference. Your mini adventures instantly go from- "that was nice!" to "SOOOO AWESOME!"

If you're ready to make the most out your your mini break, here are 4 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Summer Day Trip:

1) Seek out an experience you can't find where you live!

Don't just remove yourself from your environment, seek out unique experiences you don't have access to at home.

If you call the city home, head to the country or to the ocean, but don't stop there, do something you can't do while at home in the city. This is the key to a truly memorable experience.

On a recent trip upstate to Westchester to visit some friends for a relaxing pool side barbeque, we stopped to visit a horse farm. It was so lovely to interact with horses up close. We hardly ever get to see horses in Brooklyn. Even though we only spent an hour or so with the horses, it added a wonderful memorable layer to our day trip.

2) Interact with nature in a way you can't at home!

We live in Northern Brooklyn and are lucky enough to have access to parks and beautiful green spaces. Whereas we see plenty of green, we don't see mountain vistas or hear the lull of waves. When I plan day trips, I make sure to leave space to experience the nature in a way I can't at home. Being so acutely present is invigorating.

On a recent trip to the beach, I made time to dig in the sand, collect shells, listen to and splash in the waves. Things I don't have the opportunity to do at home. I could have simply laid on the beach with a novel and my earplugs, but I would have been robbing myself of the chance to really connect with the experience.

On a trip to Roanoke, we found ourselves in a maze of breathtaking mountains. The point was not to over-schedule ourselves (not really a problem in Roanoke) and to take the time to simply be silent and look. We went to the top of the mountains, ventured close to the winding edges, sat in stillness, the kids collected sticks. It was in many ways uneventful, but it was exactly the opposite of our experience as Brooklynites and as such, it was one of the most eventful and dynamic experiences we've had in a while.

3) Seek out destinations that appeal to multiple generations!

Even if you're not a traveling family  like we are, there's nothing like engaging your inner child or your inner old lady (or man) while on a day trip. Give yourself permission to step outside of yourself.

If you are a traveling family, a destination that appeals to both children, parents and even grandparents is a win. Parents are of course all smiles when they see their kids happy, but we're all smiles and relaxed and energized when we find or connect to something in a location that makes us happy too.

We recently visited the National Harbor in Maryland with some extended family and friends of all ages. There was something for everyone! My one year old was happy on the carousel, my three year old loved exploring the playground and the carousel, my husband and his friends got a kick out of the live music, I loved walking the boardwalk and taking in the scenic views, the grand-parents loved the world class restaurants. Actually, we all did, dinner was such a win!

4) Visit a historic landmark and learn something new!

We escaped to Montauk on Long Island for a few hours one afternoon. We could easily have spent the entire day shopping and laying on the beach, but in addition to doing that, we took the time to visit the historic lighthouse and learned so much!

I was fascinated by the stories of haunted apparitions and the fact that the slave ship Amastad once docked there.

My toddler, was captivated by the idea that there was a brilliant light at the top of the lighthouse and to this day, delights in drawing light houses with crayons and paper.

It was a small act, visiting the Montauk Lighthouse and Museum but it was such a memorable one. I was so much more connected to my experience there than if I would have skipped over it and spent that hour laying in the sand.

What do you do to get the most out of your mini-trips?     

National Harbor MD

There's a certain stillness, the transition, when tree branches no longer clank together, brown and bony, the chill replaced by bursts of warmth. Buds, delicate green wisps turn to petals, pastel flowering bulbs, the aroma of hyacinths and tulips, honeybees. Spring, is one of my favorite times of the year. The slow anticipation of the transition is thrilling. It takes so much patience. There's always a tease first. One fifty degree day, then back to thirty-  two fifty degree days and a sixty, then back to forty.

Spring teaches us to appreciate the moment, to embrace the warmth and the flowers for the short time they are present because tomorrow there may be rain, or the temperature may dip below again or the stifling humidity of summer may take over- anything is possible.

Spring happens too quickly here in the northeast, but perhaps its ephemeral nature is what makes it so spectacular.

We've spent the last two months going back and forth between Brooklyn and the Maryland/D.C. area. I love Brooklyn, I love New York, but when it comes to beauty in the spring Washington D.C. and Maryland win. I think the cherry blossoms on the mall are what really do it for me. When a strong wind comes through, it rains pink and white petals. It's a truly magical sight.

One of my favorite places to enjoy the spring weather is the National Harbor MD. Technically in Maryland, the National Harbor offers stunning views of D.C., miles of sunny waterfront, an assortment of local boutiques and specialty shops, walkways and trails, delicious restaurants and green spaces.

As the weather continues to transition and people begin to transition outdoors, the National Harbor MD will open itself to a slew of festivals and outdoor events. From yoga on the waterfront, to live music and movie nights, the National Harbor is a beautiful spring and summer destination to experience when visiting the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area.

 

6 Apps for Tourists in New York City

IMG_0302.jpg

New York is fast, it's vibrant, it's brassy, it's gritty, it's glamorous and it's artistic, but let's face it, if you're a visitor, it can be downright intimidating.IMG_0640 How to navigate, where to park, what to tip, to walk or try the subway? A visitor's list can scroll for miles.

Luckily, the following apps have come to the rescue. They've done the dirty work for you, so you can focus on living it up in New York!

6 Apps for Tourists in New York City:

1) HopStop: Need directions from your hotel to the Museum of Natural History and then down to the 9/11 Memorial? No problem, Hopstop has got you covered and will have you navigating the city like a local. Simply type in the address of your departing location and the address of your destination to receive step by step, easy to follow directions either by car, subway, bus or on foot. If you choose the subway option, you'll get a full report that takes into account track work, delays and the latest train schedule.

2) ParkWhiz: So you've decided to drive into the city, but you're nervous about street parking. Park whiz to the rescue! Find discounted parking garages in your desired neighborhood or in close proximity to a specific location. Whether you're looking to park your car for the weekend near your hotel, or simply need to have a secure parking spot by Rockefeller Center for three hours, Park Whiz will find a lot close to your destination and will conjure up a discounted price. No worries about feeding meters, getting towed, or getting dents or scrapes.

3) Uber: There are certain times where it's impossible to hail a taxi. Certain neighborhoods (ahem, Greenpoint, Brooklyn) tend to have fewer cabs and hailing one can be a time consuming fight. Let's not even get into the misery of hailing a cab in the rain, or howling wind, or freezing snow. With Uber, you can relax and summon a cab through your phone at your convenience. Be prepared for quick and easy door to door service. Call your cab the same moment you ask your waiter for the check, by the time you're finished paying, your cab should be outside waiting. Time spent awkwardly pacing the sidewalk with your arm outstretched- none.

4) Seamless: So you've spent the day walking through crowds, you're too exhausted and hungry to wait for a reservation to open up and you're tired of the same old room service from the restaurant in your hotel...time to order from Seamless. Simply type in your hotel's address and a list of participating restaurants will pop up. You can browse hundreds of fabulous, ethnically diverse menus and place an order from some of the most delicious restaurants in the city. Within 45 minutes (max) your food will arrive and yes, they deliver to hotels and hostels. Just because your opting for a night in, doesn't mean you need to settle. One of the greatest joys of New York is taking full advantage of the city's many culinary options. If you can crave it, someone will make it.

5) Exploration Dining: Not sure how to score last minute reservations or even where to eat, Exploration Dining is a mobile concierge service designed to solve that problem. Browse hundreds of dishes from local restaurants, find what inspires you and make reservations (if needed) directly from your phone. Just like that, you're in! Bon Appetit.

6) RelayRides: Leaving your car behind while you take your New York vacation? Make money with your car by participating in RelayRides! Say what? Break even on that gorgeous handbag you saw at Macy's by using RelayRides. RelayRides is a car sharing service that will pay you, to rent your car while you're gone. They take care of insurance and the legalities, you get to make money while you travel. Since your car will just be sitting there, you might as well let it serve someone else and bring home some bacon.

IMG_4009 So there you have it, six apps that will help with the logistics of your next trip to New York, so you can focus on more pressing concerns such as which museums to visit, what shoes to buy and what shows to see. IMG_7781 Mmmmmm.... Concrete jungle where dreams are made!

Re-discovering Myrtle Beach or That one Spring Break or Don't Be a Victim of Winter Weather!

As I wade through the knee deep snow in search of my car, which I can't seem to find, my mind can't help but wander to warmer memories. One memory at the front of my stack of lovely moments, was the cool morning stroll I recently took in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Myrtle Beach SC A few weeks ago, we piled into our family van and took a ridiculously slow (thanks to our nursing six month old) road trip from Brooklyn, New York to Orlando, Florida where my in- laws live.

Since we had the time, and since gas prices are so wondrously low, we decided to drive and help ourselves to side trips since there is so much to do and see off of I-95.

In the past, we've visited Savannah and Charleston, Raleigh Durham and Atlanta, this time Mark made the case for Myrtle Beach. Palm Trees Myrtle Beach The first and last time I had been to Myrtle Beach it was 1999 and I was on Spring Break. As a nineteen year old, I even remember thinking - yuck!

Myrtle Beach was crowded, it was dirty, it was full of seedy bars and shady people. That Spring Break was a disappointment I was ready to forget.

The hubby however had other ideas. He had never been and wanted to go. Since Myrtle Beach made a reasonable second stopping point after our first break in Washington D.C., I gave in.

I'm kind of glad I did.

Myrtle Beach, during its off peak season, was nicer than I remembered. We found a beautiful hotel and were walking distance from some delicious seafood.

I'm not going to lie, the boardwalk/main drag is still dodgy at best, but the beach, in the still of the morning, with a gentle 60 degree winter breeze is lovely.

The sea grass rustled, the waves crashed, couples walked dogs, my three year old collected shells.

The beach was a surprisingly meditative oasis.

To be fair, the snow on Sunday as it was falling, and even on Monday as it lay shimmering and still, was also quite meditative and oasis- like. Today, as I dig my car out with a dustpan so I can take my little one to preschool, I see little more than a cold and inconvenient mess.

At least I can mentally escape to that morning stroll along Myrtle Beach.

Mother nature, you can freeze my fingers and toes, you can make me slip and slide, but you can't take my memories!

Model Trains and Botanicals: The Magic of the New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show

The holiday season feels so much richer now that I've got kids. Suddenly, I have the opportunity to experience the magic of the season all over again and through their brilliant, excited eyes. Yesterday, I took Ohm and Jai to the New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show. It was an outing to remember.

The New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show is wondrous!

The Holiday Train Show is a coveted annual event. Elaborate train tracks are constructed out of natural materials and botanicals.

Model trains chug down tracks that loop around New York's iconic landmarks that have been re-created using bark, leaves, flower petals, and sticks. It's an imaginative child's dream. It's a nature lovers dream. Who need leggos when you can build such extraordinary things using items you can forage on a walk through the park?

It was really astonishing to see what the imagination can do.

It was fantastic to see my little guy beam and light from within as he ran through the garden chasing trains and pointing out landmarks.

The New York Botanical Gardens never fail to inspire me. Regardless of the time of year, where else can you go, in New York to completely escape the hustle and bustle? Where else can you go and get lost in layers of green? Where else can you spy vibrant, tropical orchids, track numerous species of moss, and explore desert cacti and the flora of the tropical rain forest while never setting foot outside of the city? It really is an instant vacation.

Visiting the New York Botanical Gardens in the winter feels extra special because beneath the canopy of the greenhouse, the temperature is simply tropical. Dress in layers and be prepared to be comforted by the warmth of other suns.

The Holiday Train Show runs through January 19th. Don't miss it!