Zebra Crossing

I know, I know, I JUST wrote about American stereotypes about Kenya and yes, I still want to post pictures of sights and scenes in Kenya that go beyond the safari brochure snapshots people automatically think of.

But here are two zebras along the side of a highway, near Nakuru. I just couldn’t resist. Because zebras are awesome and who doesn’t want to see more pictures of zebras? (Picture a bit blurry because I snapped it from a bus window.)

I once saw two tourists in Harvard Yard taking picture after picture of some squirrels and looking so excited and captivated by the little animals. I wondered what in the world was so interesting about a squirrel, a common ordinary squirrel that I see thirty of in a day. This is probably how the other passengers on the bus felt when they saw me taking pictures of those zebras.



18 travel hacks to ensure you get off your next long-haul flight relaxed, refreshed, and looking like a babe!

Ok, I lied. Lies, lies, all of the lies.

I’ve seen so many articles with titles like this one, and I’ve tried most of their recommendations, and I’m here to break some news to you: They’re all bonkers. They’re full of it.

I’ve learned the trick of wearing leggings and a loose, comfy knit dress that looks cute and feels like pajamas, with comfy shoes that easily slip on and off.

I’ve learned to drink water like there’s no tomorrow and apply moisturizer and lip balm regularly. Sometimes I’ve even done those awesome hydrating sheet face masks on planes.

I’ve learned to get an aisle seat so I can stretch out my legs, and I’ve learned to walk up and down the aisles at least once every hour or two.

I’ve learned to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, mascara and a small bottle of face wash in my carry-on to freshen up right after landing at my layover airport. I’ve learned to make layovers something fun and exciting to look forward to, whether that’s going into the city for some quick tourism, or getting a manicure at the airport spa and finding the best airport coffee shop.

And here’s the thing: These tips can help make the first part of my flight- from the states to Europe or the Middle East- really quite bearable. I always get excited boarding that first flight, like a little kid, checking out the movie and TV shows offered on my awesome little plane TV (woohoo!) and watching the plane inch along the route on that flight map and looking out the windows at the clouds that look like fields of puffy snow. I get off the plane in Zurich or Istanbul or Dubai or wherever, sleep-deprived but feeling hydrated and not too uncomfortable and looking relatively cute in that well-planned outfit. I freshen up in the airport bathroom and make the most of my layover.

And then.

And then.

I board my next flight, the 8 to 10 hour second leg of my trip, and I’ll tell you I have never EVER managed to emerge from that second flight feeling at all more alive than a zombie. Wait, no, zombies chase people and eat their brains. That requires energy. I don’t have that kind of energy after a long haul flight. I stumble out the plane door and down the stairs and into the bus and into the terminal and into the visa line, a shadow of my twenty-hours-earlier self. I do not feel comfortable, no matter what they promised me those leggings and those walks up and down the plane aisle and all that water and that face mask would do for me. I do not look cute. I look like death.

Those upbeat listicles promising to make economy feel like first class, promising to make stepping off a twenty-hour flight feel like like stepping off a two-hour flight, look, they have some helpful hints that are worth trying out, and they may be able to make your flight to Europe pleasant and comfortable. But if you’re flying to Asia or Africa? Just face it, you will get off that last flight uncomfortable and zombie-faced, there is no way around it, it’s just a thing you have to deal with and there’s no listicle on earth that can save you. Unless maybe you fly first class which let’s be real is not usually a feasible reality for us ninety-nine percent.

Here’s the plain, honest, no-BS truth:

Traveling the world is fun. But long-haul flights are terrible.

Kericho Tea Fields

I have a theory that the world can be divided into tea countries and coffee countries. Tea drinkers and coffee drinkers. Americans, bet you know which one the U.S. is! Anyway, back before I knew much about Kenya, I thought Kenya was more of a coffee country than a tea country. I suppose those signs in American coffee shops gave me this idea – “Try our new medium roast from Kenya!” – and Kenya definitely does have a coffee industry. But tea is actually a bigger cash crop there, as well as most people’s hot beverage of choice. Go to someone’s house and you can guarantee that you will be offered a hot cup of tea. It’s hospitality 101. Black tea with milk and sugar is the usual go-to. Sometimes masala spice is added, giving a delicious chai sort of flavor. On our most recent Kenya trip, we stopped in Kericho, a town famous for its many surrounding tea fields. To be honest, I’d actually never seen tea in its pre-made-into-tea-bags state. (The hubs laughed at my city-girl self about that one!) The tea fields are expansive, lush, and green. When you look around, you just see tea, tea, tea for miles around, and clusters of little reddish-roofed houses, home to those who work in these fields. The air smells so fresh and clear.

I’m sharing these photos mainly because I like sharing pictures of scenes you might not automatically think of when you think of Kenya. Someone told me recently that they pictured dry, almost desert-like landscapes when they thought of Kenya. Personally I know I used to think of zebras and giraffes! The reality is that Kenya is a gorgeous, geographically diverse country that doesn’t fit in a box. So here are some lovely tea fields.



Barbados Highlights

Here are our “Barbados Top 7”: Our favorite memories from our stay there and our top recommendations to anyone going there. We had an amazing time on this charming, beautiful, welcoming island, and we definitely see ourselves returning some day.

(1) Snorkeling with sea turtles and jet skiing

We snorkeled with sea turtles: Such an uber touristy thing to do in Barbados, but we really loved it! We took a ride in a glass bottomed boat, which sounds cooler than it is because the glass part is pretty small and you can’t actually see much through it, BUT the boat stopped twice to let us off to snorkel, once with a shipwreck and once with sea turtles. We had a blast and I got to check snorkeling off my 30 before 30 list. We also went jet skiing for the first time ever!

Protips: No advanced reservations necessary, just show up at Pebbles Beach and someone will find you within five minutes and ask you if you want to take a glass bottomed boat out to snorkel with sea turtles. The price they’ll suggest is negotiable: You can and should bargain it down! Snorkel gear is provided. Jet skis can be rented from the same people, for 15 minutes at a time.



(2) Swimming in the most beautiful turquoise water

Does it get any better than that? It was hot in July, and the water was so, so perfect. Accra Beach and Pebbles Beach were our favorites.



(3) Exploring Harrison’s Cave

I’d never seen a cave before, and it was somewhat different from what I expected. I don’t know why, but I expected stalactites shimmering in blues and purples and greens. There were stalactites alright, but they weren’t colorful. I guess my image of caves came from cartoons maybe? Anyway, I was thrilled to get to see my first cave, because I love doing things I’ve never done before.

Protips: You can get here from the south or west coast very cheap by public transportation, but it will take a while! We didn’t mind because we enjoyed getting to see some parts of the island other than the beaches. Some water will drip on you during the cave tour, so wear clothing you don’t mind getting a bit wet. But don’t expect a hard core adventure trek or anything: You’ll be riding through the cave in a small open train with a guide. It’s totally safe. You do get a few chances to step out of the train and walk around.



(4) Eating lots and lots of fish

From beachside “cutters” at Cuz’s fish shack to late-night fried marlin at Baxter’s Road, we ate a lot of delicious fish in Barbados. Foods we sampled for the first time ever included marlin, dolphin, and flying fish, as well as breadfruit, macaroni pie, salt bread, ackee, and coucou. More yummy Barbados food photos and recommendations right here.



(5) Strolling through St. Lawrence Gap

With its lovely views, fun hip vibes, and plenty of food and drink options, St. Lawrence Gap was the perfect place to spend a warm summer evening.

Protips: Don’t miss the two for one happy hour specials or the famous “gap burger,” and check out Scoopie’s for live music!



(6) Enjoying coffee and dessert with some friendly ducks at Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary

We stumbled into this lovely little nature sanctuary by accident when we got caught in a sudden rainstorm on our way to St. Lawrence Gap. We ended up spending at least an hour here. There’s a little cafe, indoor and outdoor seating, beautiful lush green scenery, and interesting wildlife, including ducks that waddled right up to us hoping we might share our food.



(7) Riding in ZR vans

We used ZR vans to get around the island, rather than taxis. We loved this means of transportation because it reminded us SO MUCH of Kenya’s matatus! The van arrives at a gallop, tooting its fun, goofy-sounding horn, windows open, reggae music blaring, and you climb in with ten or so other passengers. Such fun.

Protip: Just jump in a van going the direction you want to go (toward the East or West coast?) and tell the driver or a passenger where you’re going. They’ll let you know when to get off.

Barbados was our first visit to the Caribbean (another first!) and we absolutely loved it. We can’t wait to go back!

Dreaming of palm trees, sand, and sunsets…


What to eat in Barbados?!

The hubs and I took a trip to Barbados this summer, thanks to an incredibly cheap ticket (shoutout, secretflying.com) and the fact that neither of us needed a visa to go there. More pictures coming soon, but for starters, I absolutely have to do a food post. We ate very well in Barbados, and managed to keep most of our meals in the $5-$10 per person range. Food can be surprisingly expensive in Barbados, so if you’re traveling on a budget, definitely check out these places! And let me know if you’re planning a trip there and looking for a place to stay, because I would 1000% recommend our airbnb host. The majority of these food recs came from him. Foods we tried for the first time on this trip included marlin, dolphin, flying fish, breadfruit, macaroni pie, ackee, and coucou.

Tender, savory ribs at a rum shop called Kermitt’s Bar, where everything is painted green, from the walls to the tables to the pickup truck:



Ackee fruit from a roadside vendor:


Fresh fried marlin and breadfruit near Bridgetown at Baxter’s Road, which used to be the hot fish fry spot before Oistins. The fish here was cheaper and in my opinion possibly even better than Oistins!



For a mid-afternoon coffee and dessert pick-me-up, Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary has a cafe with lovely outdoor seating, boasting beautiful views and some overly friendly ducks.



Cuz’s Fish Shack on Pebbles Beach is the place to go for delicious fish cutters (sandwiches). The perfect beach lunch! We went back for seconds!


In St. Lawrence Gap, we found opportunities to take in gorgeous ocean views while sampling Barbados’ own Mount Gay rum in the form of drinks you can really only ever order at the beach.


And around sunset in St. Lawrence Gap, grills and red umbrellas suddenly appear, and you can get an amazingly delicious “gap burger” for $5, grilled for you right there. We’ve since tried to recreate this burger on our own grill back home!


While strolling around St. Lawrence Gap in the evening, we wandered into this jazz bar, Scoopie’s, drawn in by the sound of live music. We loved it! Definitely recommend.


The fish shacks at Oistins are of course a must. We had dolphin at Mo’s. Sadly, we left on a Friday morning and missed the famous Friday night fish fry, when Oistins gets much more crowded and lively, so I hear. I guess we’ll just have to come back!


Sharing the Bajan herb chicken, a salad, and macaroni pie at BBQ Barn in Rockley:


We started our mornings with egg cutters on Bajan salt bread, followed by walks to The Coffee Bean, a coffee shop with this lovely view just outside:


And finally, coucou and stew just before heading to the airport:


We had flying fish cutters at the airport before boarding our flight. Not the best flying fish I’m sure, but they were yummy and we couldn’t leave Barbados without trying flying fish at least once, even if it was out of season!

Wandering Venice

The hubs and I spent a lovely weekend in Venice celebrating a friend’s wedding. Afterwards, we had some extra time to spend sightseeing. I originally had a whole itinerary planned, with every minute accounted for, but a last minute visa problem cut our trip shorter than we had planned. As I flipped through the guidebook trying to figure out a new itinerary, I suddenly remembered the way I used to travel: Show up and wander. Get lost. Take in all the sights and sounds and smells of the city. And so, aside from an obligatory Saint Mark’s Basilica visit, because you can’t really go to Venice for the first time and not do that, wander is what we did. We meandered though narrow streets and across bridges, no deadlines or specific destinations, just exploring Venice. And it was lovely. Here are a few snapshots. Venice is a destination we definitely plan to return to with more time to spend, but this weekend was a lovely introduction to a gorgeous city!

So many beautiful bridges and canals everywhere!
A gondola! No cars in Venice. Walking and boating are how you get around.


Saint Mark’s Square: Eternally packed with tourists, but if you want an empty plaza for picture-taking, try going before eight or nine in the morning: it’ll be surprisingly calm and empty.


Charming little courtyard where our hotel was located. Breakfast on the terrace was a lovely way to start the day.
Canal-side dining on the Fondamenta della Misericordia. Spaghetti al nero di seppia, spaghetti with cuttlefish and a sauce made from cuttlefish ink, is a Venetian culinary specialty. Although it may sound strange, I promise you it’s delicious! Try it!
Brightly colored glass dishes, jewelry, and decor, made on the Venetian island of Murano, are on display in countless shop windows in Venice. Glass earrings and coffee were the two souvenirs I chose to bring home. (Mmm… the coffee… don’t even get me started on the coffee.)


Cooking and Booking II

Woohoo! I can check Goal #10 off my “30 before 30” list, and I’m two thirds of the way to Goal #9! Since making the list last summer, I’ve cooked 30 new recipes and read 20 books. For the first 10 recipes and books, see this post. And here are the latest!

Recipes #11-30

* = yuck, ** = meh, *** = okay but nothing special, **** = pretty good, will probably make again, ***** = yum, yum, delish, will definitely make again

11. Couscous with spiced zucchini, from Epicurious ****

12. Cheddar Chive Drop Biscuits, from The Pioneer Woman ****

13. Mussels in White Wine and Garlic Sauce, from food.com *****

14. Red Lentil Curry, from allrecipes ****

15. Tomato Herb Rice with White Beans and Spinach, from Budget Bytes *****

16. Classic Beef Stroganoff, from Betty Crocker ****

17. Chocolate Hazelnut Spirals, from my grandmother, similar to this recipe *****

18. Baked Brie in Puff Pastry, from food.com. I used apple butter instead of raspberry preserves. *****

19. Chicken Tikka Masala, from food.com. I reduced the pepper and used half and half instead of heavy cream. *****

20. Chana Masala, from Minimalist Baker. I used fewer peppers and replaced the coconut sugar with regular sugar. *****

21. Lobster Risotto, from NYT Cooking *****

22. Spicy Roasted Chicken Thighs, from NYT Cooking *****

23. Salmon Burgers, from NYT Cooking *** (Flavorful but fell apart)

24. Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Lemon Pasta, from Smitten Kitchen ***

25. Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia Child, from food.com *****

26. Picadillo, from NYT Cooking.*****

27. Falafel, from Epicurious ****

28. Hummus, from NYT Cooking *****

29. Mushroom Risotto with Peas, from NYT Cooking *****

30. Monterrey Chicken Skillet, from Budget Bytes ****


Books #11-20

11. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun. (Nigeria. Biafra War. Love affairs. Impossible to put down.)

12. Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages. (Really wise marriage advice.)

13. Haruki Murakami, What I Think About When I Think About Running. (Will inspire you to get out there and finish those distance runs.)

13. Mai Al-Nakib, The Hidden Light of Objects. (Kuwait. Short stories. Heart-wrenchingly beautiful.)

14. Pam Munoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising. (Kid lit. History. Mexico and California. Immigration story. Coming of age.)

15. Binyavanga Wainaina, One Day I Will Write About This Place. (Memoir. Kenya. Occasional stream of consciousness.)

16. Janet Wallach, Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell. (History. Herstory.  The Middle East.)

17. Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem. (Lebanese Civil War. Israeli-Palestinian conflict. History book meets journalist’s memoir.)

18. Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis. (Graphic novel. Autobiography. Young girl growing up in Iran in the 1980s.)

19. Atul Gawande, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science. (Inside the mind of a surgical resident. Doctors as humans. Challenges and difficult decisions in medicine.)

20. John Grisham, The Whistler. (You think you’re too sophisticated for this one, but you secretly know you’re not.)