Monday, November 28, 2011

If I Didn't Travel, I Would Have No Home Decor

I do love pretty design and great living spaces. I get my daily fill at Sugar and Spice Living and Bien Living Design, but I thought I would do a little design post myself with a bit of a travel twist.

I present to you, the TAO living room.

Please don't focus on the deformed sofa pillows. :(

I guess I would call our living room "modern ethnic," if I was going to categorize it in any way. The ethnic part really comes through in many of the accessories we've used to decorate our living room. The majority of those have come from traveling. I wish I could say that we have these museum worthy "pieces," but they're just things that we've picked up throughout the years.

Our ledge of stuff: Zulu basket, a berimbau, a little Buddha, another basket, calabash instrument

I bought this basket below in South Africa. It's called a ukhamba or a Zulu beer basket, and it's traditionally used to serve sorghum beer at Zulu ceremonies. I have yet to try to put any beer in here. :)

I also bought an mbenge, another example of Zulu basket weaving, and they hang on one of our walls. I thought they were bowls, but they are actually covers. I hang them convex side to show off the designs.

For years, I had these sitting in a box because I lived in apartments where I couldn't hammer anything into the walls. :)

I bought these baskets at Ilala Weavers, which is a craft and curio collective in the small town of Hluhluwe in the ZwaZulu Natal province of South Africa. They hope to keep Zulu craft traditions alive while allowing the residents of the village and surrounding areas to have a viable income. I'm glad I was able to support such a worthy cause.

Shifting gears, my berimbau from Brazil now lives on the ledge too.

Here I am learning how to play it in Salvador, Brazil. It kills your fingers. What you're expected to do with your pinky alone is enough to make me cringe while playing. If I take up capoeira like I want to, at least I know I'll have strong fingers.

The last piece on the ledge worth mentioning was this little Buddha we bought in Bali. I really wanted to get a nice one from one of the many art galleries in the center of Ubud. Husband J wasn't on board. We stopped into a small shop on Jalan (jalan means "street") Hanoman, one street over from the main commercial strip of Jalan Monkey Forest. Crafts and really anything were so much cheaper just one block off the main strip, in case you're shopping some time soon in Ubud.

The last item in our living room is also our most recent purchase. I think I may have talked a little about Turkish carpets before, but what I failed to mention was that we bought one. Mental note: If you want Husband J to buy something, put him in a room, whip out some raki (licorice tasting Turkish liqueur) and start taking out carpets of different shapes and sizes. We had a really educational tour at Bazaar 54 in Avanos, Turkey where all of the carpets are handmade by local women (they showed us how to recognize ones that were not handmade).

Our carpet. This is a traditional Ottoman design from the 18th century

We actually needed this carpet. We have been arguing about carpets since we began living in the same space. Either Husband J doesn't like the one I pick or vice versa. This is the only carpet we don't fuss about.

I really appreciate all of these items because they help make my our living room look great, and they are reminders of some of the places we've been.

Do you have souvenirs or special objects in your home from your various travels or life experiences?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I shouldn't be blogging right now. I should actually be cooking, but I wanted to make sure that I whipped out a post to say "Happy Thanksgiving" to those of you celebrating today.

I was thinking about the idea of passing the baton this week. My mother-in-law and godmother will both be here today. I know that they have both put a lot of blood, sweat and tears over the course of the last 30 years to make sure that Husband J and I had nice Thanksgivings. I'd say that some of the first things that I am thankful for are FAMILY and happy holiday memories. I let one bring a dessert and one is bringing a side dish, but that's it. They've done their time, and I am forever grateful to them. It's now time for them to rest ('cause I ain't. I am sooo tired) and enjoy their later holiday years. I'm happy to accept the baton and the opportunity and the ability to be able to create new holiday memories for my still very new family in its various forms. Thanks to my Mom (who is still baking. I'm not there yet completely), my godmother and my mother-in-law for their hard work. I got this now (I think. Y'all need to pray for me that Fred II, my turkey, comes out okay).

Fred II is supposed to look something like this by early afternoon. No pomegranates though.

This year has been an odd one, but even with all of the weird, annoying, stressful things that have happened, I am so very thankful for all of it. I love the concept of being refined through our trials. I already see some better things about myself having gone through some of the things I have (vague alert!).

I am super thankful for Husband J 'cause he keeps me going even if I was soo jealous that he got to sit on the couch and watch his DVR'ed shows last night. Marry a partner who can cook, everyone. ;) Just kidding, sweetie!! Love you!

Lastly, I am thankful for you all. I have to admit that there was a moment a few months ago, when I wanted to stop blogging. I think it was the same day that someone said something over e-mail (or was it a tweet?). They said that I had inspired them in some way to get out there, to see something new, to experience something different. As much as I do this 'cause I enjoy it, I do it so that people will dream a little bigger, even if it's just by seeing some pretty pictures on a screen about some faraway place. I just want to say that I am thankful for you all, my little community here on the interwebs. Thanks for keeping me going.

Anyhoo, this is way too long, way too much stream of consciousness and probably because I am waaay too tired. :)


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Back Trackin', Ireland Edition - Downtown Galway

I can't leave a bland plain blog up with no pictures this week!

Galway is Ireland's fifth largest city and sits on its western coast. Husband J and I had enjoyed our drive across country even with a not so auspicious beginning (let's just say that I threatened to get out of the car multiple times while it was moving. True story. Not one of our better travel moments together). Driving from Dublin to Galway only took us about four hours even with a stop for lunch, and I enjoyed the picturesque country drive.

Galway's downtown is small, but it makes for a nice afternoon of exploring. Also if you are there in July, the Galway Arts Festival is one of the largest in Ireland. Here are some of the more notable places we meandered through over the course of the day and half we were there.

We started out in Eyre Square, which was undergoing somewhat of a makeover when we went. It's a nice spot for people watching, but I think that's it. I liked this rusted metal statue below. It's supposed to mimic the sails of hooker ships, which are commonly found in Galway Bay.

Do you see me?

At one point, we found ourselves in front of Lynch's Window. It's named for the Lynch family. Apparently, Walter Lynch, the son of then mayor, James Lynch, stabbed and killed a Spanish guest of the family after said guest was flirting a little too much with Walter's girlfriend. The younger Lynch was sentenced to death, but everyone in the town wanted him to be pardoned. Even the town executioner didn't want to perform the hanging (at least this is what the guidebook says). Who did instead? His own father from this window. Hence the name, Lynch's Window. Not a really heartwarming backstory, is it? :( People from Galway claim that this is how the term "lynching" was coined. Who knows?

Lynch's Window

My face after I read the story above in the guidebook.

Husband J after I read the story in the guidebook.

Lynch's Window is right next door to the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, the largest functioning medieval church in Ireland. It's Anglican/Episcopal.

We proceeded over this scenic bridge to the Galway Cathedral. I know it looks nice and old, but this church was built in 1965. It's not much older than me. It is the most recently built stone cathedral in Europe.
Galway Cathedral

The River Corrib runs through the city, and Husband J and I stopped to take a pic while walking along its banks. Now look at how we're dressed. Husband J is even wearing a fleece. I had a sweater on underneath that raincoat. We went to Ireland in JULY. Don't know if I could live somewhere that rarely gets hot in the summer.

If you like any kind of Claddagh jewelry, Galway is where you get it. Dillons Jewelers is the originator of the ring, which is used as everything from a promise ring to a wedding band. I thought it was sweet that Husband J wanted to buy me one (he wasn't even Fiance J at the time). I still have it in my jewelry box. Maybe I should whip it out one day?

I also made some new friends while walking through the old centre.
Yes, I am the weirdo speaking to statues.

If you've been to Galway, what was your favorite part of the city? Have you ever had any "heated discussions" with your travel partner(s)?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest Post on Glitter & Ganache

I guess I've been busier with guest posts than I thought.

Come Friday we'll really be in the swing of the holiday season. Fashionista foodie extraordinaire Tabitha of Glitter & Ganache (I very rarely use the word fashionista, and she definitely deserves the designation) approached me about doing a short food gift guide for New York City as a part of a series of posts to encourage folks to shop at small, local businesses this holiday season. I came up with a few ideas including some personal favorites, so please check it out here.

For those of you in the U.S., this weekend is Small Business Saturday. Go out and shop at your local, small businesses, and give them your support!


What is your favorite local small business?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Guest Post on Geek in Heels

Hey, all!

Happy Monday! There's no post here today, but please, please check out my guest post on Geek in Heels. I love Jenny's (she's the blog's founder) mix of tech, sci-fi, and other fun ideas. I never knew that my love of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and some other fantasy movies made me an honorary geek, but that excites me. I usually have a chuckle once per week reading Jenny's blog, and I enjoy hearing about her life as a mother. I answered her call for guest posts, so please head on over and read some of my thoughts on the Thanksgiving holiday.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Fantasy Travel Friday - Luxury in Chiang Mai

I want to go back to Southeast Asia. Bali wasn't enough. Who knows when I'll get back there, but I think about it. Perhaps when I do go back, I can splurge on some luxurious accomodations. Yes, another hotel for Fantasy Travel Friday. :)

The Mandarin Oriental hotel chain is known for luxury, and they didn't spare any expense when creating the Dhara Devi hotel in Thailand's northern city of Chaing Mai. Many people go to Thailand for its southern beaches, but I've heard that you go to the north to really experience its culture.

If anything this hotel is a beautiful mix of traditional Thai architecture with modern comfort.

After seeing these grounds, I was wondering if they want you to leave. Would you want to leave this? I'm not sure I would.

I know that I'd be thinking about sleeping somewhere opulent...

but I would end up wanting to rest somewhere more calming and simple.

This sitting room makes me think of tea and sitting up straight (don't ask).

The weather is getting cold here in New York City, so I am already thinking about next summer and pools. Lots of pool pics coming up.

A pool in my room? Thank you very much.

Forget about this being a hotel. Can I just live here?

Has anyone been to Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai? What's it like? Do these pictures bring back memories?

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Coming...

Yup. We're a week away from one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, food holiday of the year, Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a huge holiday here in the U.S. (if you didn't know), and it is THE time to get busy/jiggy with it in the kitchen.

Last year, I hosted my first Thanksgiving, and everything came out well, if I do say so myself. ;) My own mother, one of the best home cooks and bakers I know, was moved to call me the next day to tell me how much she enjoyed the meal. I was beyond flattered (more like floored. That is major props in my book), and I felt like I'd arrived. You can take a look at some parts of the meal from last year here.

Last night I took some time to get my menu together. Here it is below. I feel like I'm missing something though. I need one more side. What would you include? What's one of your best go-to Thanksgiving recipes or favorite dishes? I have to warn you that I'm not really into green bean casserole or pearl onions, so anything else is welcome. :)

TAO Thanksgiving Menu


Roasted Fall Vegetables with Fresh Herbs

Greens of some sort (TBD)

Mac & Cheese

Sweet Potato Casserole

Fig & Almond Stuffing (may change to another stuffing)

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Dessert (my Mom is in charge of desserts)

Sweet Potato Pie

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pecan Pie

What am I missing? I can't wait to see what you suggest! Thanks in advance for the suggestions!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Travel ABCs

I got called out on Twitter the other day. Naomi of Kansan Girl Chronicles threw down the gauntlet and asked some of her favorite travel bloggers to write about their ABCs of travel. I couldn't resist since she wrote that I'm one of her favorite travel bloggers. Aww shucks, Naomi! :) Since I don't back down from a challenge, I present to you my ABCs of travel.

A: Age you went on your first international trip - Well, that would be the age of three when I moved here to the U.S., so I am just going to say that my first real trip was when I was 15 and went to Italy on a high school trip. I also went to Mexico later that year for a summer abroad program.

B. Best (foreign) beer you've had and when: I guess I'm going to have to say the pint of Guinness I had at the Guinness Storehouse. While not necessarily my favorite, it is definitely the most flavorful.

C. Cuisine (favorite): Oy. Not again. :( I'm going to just say Korean for now. This was hard the first time around when I had to talk about this during the Travel Challenge.

D. Destinations - Favorite and least favorite and why:
Ooohh...favorite. Well, you can consult my favorites post for that. Least favorite? Wow! I hadn't thought about that. This will be hard to say, but I guess I am going to say Las Vegas. I happened to have some fabulous company on the trip, but I was a little underwhelmed overall. Perhaps if I had gone during my fun, single girl 20s, then I would have appreciated it a little more? Internationally, I guess it would be Ireland. Gasp! But Terri, you write about Ireland all the time?! I do. While I thought it was a beautiful place, I just wasn't into it as much as other places I've visited. I wasn't a fan of much of the food, and at times, it felt like I hadn't left the U.S. (does that make sense?)

E. Event that you experienced that made you say "Wow" : The cofradias, or public marches during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Spain. Eeery, beautiful and thought provoking.

A cofradia

F. Favorite mode of transportation: Trains and subways. I like taking trains when I can because they take you through parts of the country that you might not usually see. Also I like rapid underground transit because I like to see how people go about their everyday commutes. It makes for great people watching.

G. Greatest Feeling While Traveling: Experiencing a gorgeous setting; connecting with people that I would not meet otherwise.

H. Hottest place you've traveled to: Namibia. The dessert in Namibia. Also, my first day in Paris was the end of the heatwave there in 2003. That was HOT!

I. Incredible Service Experience and Where: I have to shout out the Samaya Seminyak in Bali. I don't know if it's just that the Balinese are nice or if the staff at the Samaya are trained so well. They would do little things that just made you think that they were completely and totally interested in your comfort at whatever moment. I have yet to experience such attentive service at a hotel as I did there.

Beach chairs at the Samaya. We would get complimentary water and fresh fruit here every day.

J. Journey that took the longest. Another Bali mention. Getting to Southeast Asia from the East Coast of the U.S. is a major trek. Having never been to Asia before, I knew that it would take a long time, but YIKES! About 5 hours to Vancouver with a short stop there, 12 1/2 hours to Hong Kong with a two hour layover there, then another 4 1/2 hours to Bali. It took more than a day to get there.

K. Keepsakes from your travels: Postcards. I can't leave without them. I try to send one, but I usually keep the majority of them for myself. I'm a postcard hoarder.

L. Let down sight, why and where: I guess that would be "Hollywood"? Having spent most of my life until my early 20's on the U.S. East Coast, when I finally made it to Los Angeles, California, I was hoping to see the "Hollywood" that's portrayed in TV and movies. I went to Hollywood Boulevard, and I didn't really understand what the big deal was. Don't let TV ever substitute for visiting the real place. :)

M. Moment where you fell in love with travel: At age 15, somewhere on a pyramid in Chichen Itza in Mexico.

I actually climbed up this pyramid. It's a lot harder to do than it looks.

N. Nicest hotel you've stayed in:'s not like I've stayed at the Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton, but I will add another shout out for Bali and say that I really loved the Komaneka Bisma. You can read about our time there here.

O. Obsession -- what are you obsessed with taking pictures of when you travel? These days? I would say it's food. If it's not food, then I will say that it's striking architecture of some sort.

A lamb dish at Imbat in Sultanhamet, Istanbul, Turkey.

P. Passport Stamps - How many and from where? Oh my! I don't think I have my oldest passport, so I can't give an accurate number. If you want to see how many countries, I've visited you can check out the travel map section. I guess I would say a minimum of 30 (not countries! Just stamps! We get return stamps when reentering the U.S., so I'm including those).

Q. Quirkiest attraction and where: Elvis Presley's Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. It's a lot smaller than you'd expect. :)

R. Recommended sight, event or experience: Hmmm...I'm going to mention something new and say the Hermanus Whale Festival in Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa. You don't need to get out on a boat to see the whales jump. You can stand on the shoreline. There were moments where I felt the whales were showing off for us humans. Plus, there are kitschy parades and lots of entertainment.

There's no need for binoculars to see the whales!

S. Splurge; something you have no problem forking money over for while traveling: Yes, that would be food (Are you noticing a pattern here?). No doubt. I try to go to at least one high end restaurant while away these days. I like to see how people splurge on food in other countries. :)

T. Touristy thing you've done: I like touristy stuff! Visiting the museums in Paris would be my answer. I was one of those people craning my neck to see the Mona Lisa over the crowds standing in front of it at the Louvre.

V. Visas; how many and for where? Okay, this is a little easier to remember. I'll say six. Before even leaving, I had to get a visa for Brazil. This was also the case with Italy and Mexico because I was not a U.S. citizen yet and traveling on my Antiguan passport then (It's much easier to travel on a U.S. passport than an Antiguan one. Just sayin'.). There are also visas you can get on arrival at the airport or at the border. I've gotten those in Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and Zimbabwe. I had to obtain a special U.S. Treasury Department license for Cuba.

W. Wine; best glass of wine while traveling and where: Napa Valley, California. It's hard to get a bad glass of wine there. Husband J and I fell in love with Arger-Martucci, a small boutique winery. We also liked Robert Sinskey.

X. eXcellent view and from where? From the top of a balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey for sure.

Y. Years spent traveling - Let's say almost 20. :)

Z. Zealous sports fans and where? I could not believe the fans at the Flamengo soccer game I attended in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They went crazy for at least an hour before the game even started. I wish I could have videotaped it.

Thanks for the challenge, Naomi!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Passport Party Project

Hey, all!

I thought I would do a vlog since I haven't done one in awhile. Video on two posts in one week. Oh my! :)

As mentioned in the video, here's the link for the Passport Party Project so that you can learn more about it. I'll be helping with the Passport Party Project events next summer in New York City and will be sure to blog about it.

When did you get your first passport? Where did you go after you received it? What has having a passport meant to you?

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I had been hearing about the restaurant James for some time, and I hadn't made my way over to Prospect Heights, one neighborhood over from us, in a while. There has been so much opening in Prospect Heights lately, and I feel like I've got to get over there more often.

I had also read that James was rather small and that was definitely the case when I got there. Is this place any bigger than my apartment? I'm not so sure. A small restaurant like this means you need to get there early or hope you get lucky with a table (Although 2 person seatings were empty for much of the time we were there). Husband J's parents were in town, they prefer an early dinner, and so James was a perfect choice.

The interior of James. I want their chandelier for my apartment.

We shared a few appetizers.
Carolina Shrimp with Roasted Garlic Polenta & Harissa Jus

The jus reminded me of a seafood-based soup that you would find somewhere in the south of France (or at least I imagine you would as I've never been to the South of France..le sigh...). I was happy to get perfect, soft polenta after having a bad experience with some a few months back. Polenta should be smooth and airy like this.

My mother-in-law and I were both smitten by the description of the special of the night, which was rabbit.
Sorry, Bugs!

If you're wondering what rabbit is like, it tastes and has a texture just like chicken. :) This dish also had Mediterranean flavors with olives and tomatoes featuring pretty prominently in the sauce. I can say that the rabbit was well-cooked and that perhaps I'll have rabbit again as a dish.

My father-in-law had fish.
Roasted artic char, farro, roasted beets, celery leaves

I only tried a smidgen of this, but again, great cooking technique. Artic char is in the salmon family, and I loved how the chef was able to take advantage of the crispy skin and thick flesh. If you like salmon, then you'll like artic char. I want to cook and eat more with farro, which is essentially a whole grain. The farro here was prepared simply.

I was kinda shocked that Husband J ordered roasted chicken. Like me, he usually goes for more complex dishes when eating somewhere new.
Pressed young chicken, squash, chanterelle mushrooms, wilted spinach

At the same time, this was such well-cooked chicken. Again, the chefs have found a way to make proteins the star without overcooking anything or pulling anything odd that ends up mistakenly masking its true flavors. If you can make your ingredients stand out without fancy cooking techniques, then that is a mark of good cooking. That's what's going on here with this chicken. I will say that my only criticism is that the skin may have been a little too salty, which is crazy since many of you know I loves me some salt. :)

We also got an order of herb fries. I can't resist fries. These were large and the herbs fresh.

I also wanted extra vegetables, and we had an order of roasted beets. I have been loving beets lately.

Honestly, this is probably one of the best meals I've had in Brooklyn all year. This is more than a neighborhood gem, and perhaps even worth a ride out to Brooklyn on the subway. We'll be back again (and we get to walk there :)).

605 Carlton Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

Monday, November 7, 2011

2011 ING NYC Marathon

"If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."
-Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to enter and run the Boston Marathon

I saw this quotation yesterday, and it really summed up why I love watching the NYC marathon as it goes through my neighborhood each year. It's a yearly reminder to not take my physical abilities for granted, and overall to keep thinking about how I can push myself both physically and mentally.

I blogged about my experience watching it last year, but I thought I would do something a little different this year. This time I'll let you experience the sights and sounds of the marathon from my perspective. If you don't mind my crudely edited video, here's a look at yesterday's marathon below. If you listen closely, you can hear me talking in the background.

My area was a major flashpoint in the marathon as it had an entertainment center, something new that the New York Road Runners, the marathon's organizers, added this year. Also the local news/marathon coverage had a strategic broadcasting position right there. Husband J says that he saw he me on TV at one point when he went back to our apartment. :)

Some things I learned yesterday:

-Most of the marathon goes through Brooklyn. About 10 of the 26.2 miles.

-The ING NYC Marathon is the largest marathon in the world with over 47,000 participants this year. Supposedly over a million (maybe two million) people actually come out to cheer on the runners.

-All of the top 3 male finishers set course records. Wow!

Are there any events out there that inspire you?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fantasy Travel Friday - Luxury Golf at Turnberry Resort

Husband J, this one's for you!

While I tend to dream about traveling for me (yeah, I admit I have a selfish streak), I do have travel dreams for other people. One of my biggest wishes is to send Husband J on a luxury golf vacation somewhere. I don't know how I'll do it, since golf tends to be a pretty pricey sport (I've seen the golf gear catalogs that Husband J salivates over. EX-PEN-SIVE!!). If you missed it, here's a look at a day that Husband J and I spent golfing earlier this year.

Anyway, these Fantasy Travel Friday posts are about dreaming, so when I stumbled on Turnberry Resort in Scotland, I thought that I may have found the perfect mix of luxury, old world charm and fantastic golf links. Husband J wants to go to Scotland, the birthplace of golf, some day, so this is right up his alley.

Whichever room we stay in at Turnberry, we must have a view of the ocean.
The Ailsa Crag in the distance

The Norman Suite (named after renowned golfer, Greg Norman)

I don't think I need to beat around the bush and say that I won't be playing golf with Husband J (sad face...well, not really). While I'd like to send him away with friends, should he ever go to Turnberry, I think I want to go with him. Maybe I'll find a way to sneak onto this course.

The Ailsa Golf Course

Golf takes all day, so I would need to find a way to occupy myself. I suspect that high tea with a good book will be just fine.

Of course, I feel like unlimited golfing during the day means that I get unlimited spa treatments. That's a fair trade, right?

Wait, they've got a falconry. They've got a falconry!! Knowing me, I'll be on a bad episode of "When Vacations Attack" because of a bird like this, but at least I'd give it a try. :)

What I'd love the most is the opportunity to explore the countryside. I love old castles even ones that are just remnants of their former selves.

So, that's my fantasy golf vacation for Husband J.

Do you have any special dreams to send or take someone you care about on a trip of a lifetime? Where would you go, and what would you do? I want to take my Mom to Paris. :)

Happy Weekend!


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