Week 1 Home Makeover: The Kitchen

Hey guys! The Johnson-Karim (JK) crew has a new home and I am so excited to take you guys on our home makeover. I have owned my share of condos in Chicago for real estate investment but this is our first FAMILY HOME that we own as a family and we want to create a stylish, cozy, and family friendly home for Amirah (our crazy daughter). Get ready to get started on our home makeover journey! Week 1 has been exciting and productive in my opinion but I know you guys will be honest and tell me what you truly think.

Kitchen Organization

So the first week of moving in a new home is usually unpacking and organizing for most people. I have been doing both but I really wanted to get a head start on the interior design. I put a lot on my plate but my goal is to give design of each room in 2 weeks. So this week my task was the kitchen. The most important rooms in my mind when shopping for or designing a room is the kitchen and the bathroom. They both can take quite a bit of time, they are the most important rooms to me, and the design of both can be quite expensive.

Kitchen Organization

Kitchen containers

Our kitchen was already my favorite part of the house. My kitchen style is white, bright, and minimalistic. I took this week to unpack kitchenware, organize, and do a bit of sprucing up. I want to involve green and white florals, aluminum or steel as you can in the photos for that modern and industrial loft feel. You can also see we have exposed brick in the kitchen, which is definitely one of my favorite features. This exposed brick really puts together the modern, Italian bistro, trendy unfinished look I’m going for.

Exposed Brick Kitchen Makeover

 

The rest of the kitchen is white and bright as aforementioned with light sleek granite countertops. The hardwood floors in the whole home of our a light maple brown and I have considered refinishing them with a different stain. However, I think that in this kitchen the light maple brown works well and there is no better pairing that hardwood floors and exposed brick.

Kitchen fireplace

You tell me, but I think I have been pretty productive in Week 1. Some additions I would like to make in the next week are the design of the breakfast nook and coffee bar. I would also like to add some green and white florals as well as some blue hydrangeas for a pop of color. You will see in the following weeks I am very neutral in terms of interior design but I love a pop of color.

Kitchen Makeover Week 1

Can’t wait to show you guys my progress in these next weeks and I want you to comment and share what you would change or some ideas that you have as well. I can definitely use your help in making my home the most stylish, sophisticated, cozy, and family friendly home for the Johnson-Karim (JK) crew that one could imagine!

New Home
Welcome Home!

How to Maximize a Weekend in NYC

Have A Free Weekend And Want To See The Big Apple?

What to Eat | What to do | How to Enjoy

The crew and I ( Adham, baby Amirah, and I ) decided to take a family weekend trip to New York City and it was awesome! Of course the travel planner and Virgo (like Beyoncé) in me wanted everything to go by the itinerary, however, with a baby its just not that easy. I’ve been to NYC plenty of times but never had I been traveling with an infant and she showed me that I had been doing NYC wrong the whole time anyway! She has taught me that if you truly want to enjoy NYC have a light itinerary, I now believe it is incredibly advantageous to leave quite a bit of room in your itinerary to go with the flow. There are so many things to do in New York City and you can make yourself feel like you have to do everything in one weekend or even in a week. However, YOU WON’T and you shouldn’t.

 

For example, normally when I am in NYC I have so much that I want to do and see (so I can tell you all what to do when you get there), but also because people tend to make you feel like if you don’t do “this or that” in NYC then you missed out on something. However, we went to go have a picnic in Central Park, which I recommend you all do and baby Amirah just didn’t want to leave. I had a Michelin star restaurant I wanted to try for lunch but Amirah had her bottle, a blanket, the shade under the sun and she just wasn’t in the mood to leave. So of course, we stayed, Her and my husband both fell asleep and I ended up reading a book and people watching. When both of them woke up, I wasn’t disappointed at all that we skipped the restaurant! It was relaxing, it was peaceful, and even though it wasn’t a museum or a must-eat restaurant, it was still a very New York City thing to do.

Picnic in Central ParK

Adham and Amirah Asleep in Central Park

Later that night, we ended up going to a Midtown Michelin star restaurant, Cafe China, that was incredibly delicious and surpassed our expectations. Midtown’s Cafe China is unassuming, traditionally Sichuan, delicious and its the only Michelin star Chinese restaurant in NYC. The 1930’s Shanghai decor is sure to make you feel like you’ve taken a short journey to China. Our favorite dish their was the Chungking chicken which is only for someone with an appetite for spice, and by spice I mean an abundance of dried chilies.

At around midnight, while many people are out clubbing (I used to do this well) or grabbing drinks with friends. The foodie, parents, and Muslim in us decided to grab desserts instead. We continued to stay with our various Asian cuisine palette for the day and go to Grace Street Coffee and Desserts. Everything we ordered was nothing short of amazing so we ordered our first order twice. I recommend the Ho-Dduck Korean Donut (vegan option available), Apple Cider, Hong Kong French Toast, and he Mango Madness Shaved Snow.

The next day, the crew still wanted to take it easy, I obviously ignored their request because we ended up in Times Square. Walking around with a stroller and a baby in Times Square was not fun to me but my husband thought it was and seemed to think navigating with the baby in Times Square was a fun challenge as if he was in a video game. They ended up loving their navigation adventure and I throughly enjoyed taking pictures and people watching. Sponge-bob Squarepants on Broadway was showing at the Palace Theatre, if you are a Sponge-bob fan I would definitely see this. I preferred Aladdin, which was showing at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Times Square

After a great show, you must eat and we decided to go to Miss Lily’s. Miss Lily’s is one of my favorite places to eat in NYC. The food is incredible and I have never had a bad experience food or service wise. Everyone there is extremely sweet and accommodating and they want you to have a good meal. I actually found out about Miss Lily’s a couple of years ago while watching Chef Andre Fowler’s of Miss Lily’s win ’Chopped’ on the Food Network. He brings authentic, and vibrant Jamaican flavor to Manhattan and crowds do indeed flock to experience it.

Miss Lily’s Restaurant

The weekend wasn’t over yet and even though there are so many incredible museums to see and many people purchase the New York City Pass, which includes admission into NYC’s top attractions, if you are only there for a weekend all of the attractions can be a bit overwhelming and it might not be worth the money. One of the museums that the New York City Pass includes is the Guggenheim museum which is a must see but due to my tight schedule this time we went to the Brooklyn Museum as I like the Brooklyn museum a bit more. It is NYC’s second largest museum and it features electrifying art, inspiring and educational exhibitions, and right now a David Bowie tribute display.

Brooklyn Museum

Every time I come to NYC I find so much more do and so much more to eat and I recommend that you visit the following on your next visit:
* You can find many discounts to attractions on Groupon as well

Central Park
Such a great time as aforementioned with bike and pedestrian paths, jungle gyms, ball fields, a zoo, picnic areas, carousel, and awesome city views,

Times Square
In the heart of the Theatre district where you should find a good show, do some shopping, and people watch .

The Empire State Building
Sweeping city views, museum, and history.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
National Monument, museum, history, and guided tours.

Brooklyn. Museum (my favorite)
Incredible large art museum as aforementioned above

Grand Central Terminal
Iconic train station, shopping, dining, and feeling like you’re on the set of NYC romantic comedy as you can’t watch one that doesn’t feature a scene in this station.

Brooklyn Bridge
Picturesque bridge that connects Brooklyn and Manhattan

One Week Maui | Hawaii Itinerary

Your 7 Day Guide to Maui

There are so many different types of travelers and vacation styles and everyone knows someone who they “just can’t vacation with”. This could be because they don’t like the person entirely or they just don’t have the same travel style. The below itinerary is for someone like myself with an adventurous personality with a luxury budget who still needs R&R (rest and relaxation). If you don’t have a luxury budget, I have included alternative options as well. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what your budget is if you have an adventurous personality but still love to just lay out and soak up some sun at the beach (it is Maui after all)….this 1 week Maui Guide is for you!

I understand how overwhelming planning a vacation to Maui can be and each link provides additional information to help you further plan and experience all that Maui has to offer.

I recommend 2 weeks in Maui, however I understand most people don’t have 2 weeks time to take off. Check out Maui Must Do’s for more to add to your schedule for a 2 week Maui Vacation.

First Day: ARRIVAL
I recommend staying at the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort. If you don’t have a luxury budget, check out “How to go to Maui for free”. Check in and enjoy all this massive resort has in store and if you get in early, hang out at the beach.

What to eat: Mama’s Fish House Restaurant and Inn

Second Day: HALEAKALĀ CRATER
Hiking Haleakalā Crater is one of my top things to do in Maui. If you aren’t a hiker you still must go and at least see the incredible views and enjoy the ride up the mountain there. Not only that but, if you arrive at Haleakalā Visitor center 30-45 mins before sunrise, you can watch the beautiful colors of the sunrise and then follow the Hosmer Trail. You will not take a more scenic photo in Maui than on top of Haleakala Crater.

What to eat: Paia Fish Market

Take the rest of the day to enjoy the amenities of the Grand Wailea resort and lay out at the beach or one of the Grand Wailea’s 7 pools. I prefer the adult only Hibiscus pool, I have a small child and when my husband and I are on vacation together by ourselves we truly want it to be adults only. All of the pools either have a restaurant or bar right next to or inside the pool that you can swim up to or order from your pool lounge chair.

Third Day: ALI’I KULA LAVENDER FARM
Don’t let the name “lavender farm” fool you into thinking this farm is all about lavender. It is true there is a gorgeous lavender field with views out of this world overlooking mountains and sea cliffs. However, this farm also has many other species of plants as well. Forget the nurseries you’re used to, this lavender farm makes you feel as if you are Alice in Wonderland and all you are missing is a friendly rabbit.

If you have a green thumb and are really interested in gardening and different species of plants then you can take a guided tour. If you are like me and just want to enjoy the scenic views of Maui from the lavender field and surround yourself with the aromatic smells of plumeria and lavender then you can self-tour and leisurely enjoy the atmosphere.

What to eat: Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman

Fourth Day: SUNRISE and SNORKELING/BEACH HOP

What to eat: Plantation House

Fifth Day: ROAD TO HANA
For my adventurers and photographers, the Road To Hana is a long but incredibly fun and sometimes scary drive filled with stops that feature Maui’s most picturesque waterfalls, gorges, streams, caves, fresh fruit stops and cool food stops.

Major Highlights:
Twin Falls
, Bamboo Forest, 
Waikamoi Falls, 
Keanae
, Three Bears Falls
, Beaches (Black sand, red sand, Koki)
, Seven Sacred Pools, 
Pipiwai Trail, 
Alelele Falls

Bamboo Forest

What to eat: Bruddah Hutts BBQ truck or Huli Huli Chicken, and Auntie Sandy’s Banana Bread.

Sixth Day: SPA DAY at the GRAND WAILEA or BEACH/POOL DAY
The Grand Wailea is home to Spa Grande, one of the best spas in the US and once you experience it for yourself there is no doubt about it. We did the “Tropical Paradise For Two” which includes the “healing waters”, sauna, steam room, exfoliation, scrub, lunch, 50 minute massage, and pedicure. This treatment lasts 4 hours and will run you $$$$ (699). However, afterwards my husband and I looked at each other and he said it was “worth every penny” and I concur! If you are not on a luxury budget then I would enjoy some more of Maui’s beaches or have a pool day at the Grand Wailea. One of the things about being an adventurous traveler is sometimes you forget to rest on your vacations but you are in Maui for heaven’s sake, get to a beach or enjoy what the Grand Wailea has to offer!

What to eat: Try Kimo’s

Seventh Day: HELICOPTER TOUR
A helicopter tour is a great way to close out your time in beautiful Maui, Hawaii. Honestly, words cannot describe how incredible the experience is, the lush 3000 ft sea cliffs (highest sea cliffs in US according to our guide) and the many, many waterfalls cascading down the mountains are some of the most beautiful things you will ever see your life.  Sunshine, Air Maui, and Maverick are some of the most common and trusted helicopter tour companies in Maui. My favorite route was the West Maui/Molokai tour. In all of my travels I haven’t seen anything like it, if you love Jurassic Park this is your chance to see it. Feels like a dinosaur could start swinging at your helicopter at any moment.

If you do not have a luxury budget,  parasailing will also give you an opportunity to see Maui from a completely different perspective, flying above the sea and by the mountains.

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Pumpkin Patch

Fall Bucket List

Fall is my favorite time of the year! My mood in Autumn could not be better and I think it’s also a very fun and festive time to be pregnant! A lot of things I love to do during fall are things that I can’t wait to do with my new baby as well next year! Here are my top 5 bucket list fall activities, I’ve already checked off #1.

1. Orchard
I have gone either apple, pumpkin, corn, or peach picking since I was a kid every fall and I wasn’t going to miss out just because I moved to a different city and am expecting this year. I found Patterson’s Fruit Farm in Chesterfield, OH that has some of the best apple cider I’ve ever tasted and desserts galore just 30 minutes outside of Cleveland, OH. During the fall season they have Fun Fest and they offer hay rides, nature hikes, corn mazes, and more! Kids will have a great time and adult kids like me can enjoy picking fresh fruits and vegetables and eating their heart out!!

Patterson Fruit Farm

Pumpkin Patch

Fall Orchard Food

Apple Picking

Fall Pumpkin Patch Farm

2. Haunted House

3. Escape Room

Escape Room Puzzle

4. Cedar Point

Roller coasters

5. Bonfire
I did this right after apple picking with a few of my friends and it was a great time at Chesterfield County park in OH. It’s a great place to have a bonfire and go stargazing by the large ponds.

Bonfire

6. Scary Movie Night

Honestly, I hate scary movies. So this is more like a “close my eyes while we cuddle for 2 hours watching a movie” night.

Scary Movie Night

7. Hiking at a Forest Preserve

Brandywine Falls

8. Attend a Fall Harvest Festival

9. Learn how to cook a new stew or chili

Chili Stew

10. Bake a pie (apple or sweet potato is my favorite).
Or discover a new kind that you like if you’re not the cooking type.

 

Instagram.com/jordansta

The Best & Worst of My Pregnancy

| The Best and Worst of My Pregnancy|

Favorites

Feeling the baby’s small kicks

The SMALL ones! Not the big ones, those are painful and could be added to least favorite things during my pregnancy. When I felt the first kicks is when it truly hit me I was going to be a mama bear and boy am I in love already. Even more exciting, is getting to see my friends and familys’ reactions and expressions to seeing the baby move from the outside.

Baby Kicks

The Anticipation 

I can’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy and I can’t wait to be called mama. Imagine every holiday wrapped into one? That’s still not as exciting as my baby coming!

Baby anticipation

Getting to do mom stuff with my momma

I am incredibly close with my parents and my mom is one of those “I’m your mom, not your little friend” type mommas. To be able to relate to her in a way that truly defines who she is and be able to do “mommy” stuff together has been so much fun. I already did call her everyday (I’m a clingy daughter) and now I call her about three times a day just for advice and to vent about my pregnancy. I already thought she was a superhero but now being a soon to be momma myself, she’s more than a superhero, there is no word for it! Her baby is having a baby and seeing how excited she is and how much she loves US makes me even more excited that I get to experience that one day too!

Gilmore girls

No waiting in line or for ANYTHING

Once your bump gets bigger, people offer you everything from taken seats, spots to skip, and food. VIP all the time.

Beyonce

Bigger assets

As an extremely petite woman, I appreciate a little bit of “extra extra” in some places (mainly my boobs). I love these things!

Bigger boobs

No Period

I mean do I have to say more…..

Least Favorites

Sleeping

Basically, I can’t sleep. Any position I sleep in is extremely uncomfortable and I need to sleep all the time. I legitimately feel narcoleptic but I just can’t fall asleep properly and I end up keeping my husband up. If you haven’t experienced this yet, just wait until your bump gets bigger.  I’m completely exhausted and my baby seems to be most active at night which unfortunately means that is likely to be the babies sleeping pattern in a few months. Great, not!

Can't sleep

Hormones

If you thought you were moody while on your period, pregnancy hormones are 100X worse. I am already a crazy individual and can literally hear myself acting a fool and being a meanie face to my husband but I still can’t stop. One minute your angry, the next you’re sad, then extremely happy, ups and downs all around!

Hormones

Having to Pee and Puke at Work

All of the symptoms are rough while at work but who wants to puke at work? No Bueno. I transferred locations due to my aforementioned move to another state so I have a brand new boss, and as much as I want to be extremely productive and show him I’m the best, because I am, it can be rough.

Working while pregnant

Feeling Incompetent and Lazy

Pregnancy brain is a real thing and exhaustion, stress, and building a baby is taxing on your brain on top of the fact that’s it’s rewiring itself for motherhood. Also, washing dishes, laundry, etc…..what is that? Just kidding! I keep up, but the last thing my new waddling self wants to do after coming home from a full day of work is cook, wash dishes, and do laundry. Sometimes I avoid going in my bedroom so I don’t pass out.  It’s safe assume that has already happened more than a few times in the first trimester.

Lazy

Looking Like A Bum

I’ve been looking as comfortable as can be in terms of clothing during my pregnancy. A Kim K pregnancy, heels, etc just isn’t me but I must admit I hate that I feel like it’s not me because I used to dress up regularly. The second trimester has been much better but the first trimester.

Maternity and Pregnancy clothes

Follow me for more of my journey on IG:

instagram.com/jordansta

5 Things You Must Do in Bangkok

|The Best of Bangkok |

I recommend if only in Bangkok for a short while you at least experience the following for an guaranteed incredible time

1. Stay At Lebua State Tower

THE VIEW from the balcony in the state tower rooms is INSANE! You can stay in a 5 star hotel and indulge yourself with fine dining and every need you need attended to in a luxury suite with my favorite rooftop bar on the premise for only ~ $150 a night in the “Tower Club” suites

Lebua State Tower
Balcony Views at Lebua State Tower

2. Visit All of The Temples

  • Visit Wat Arun Temple
  • See Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha
  • The Grand Palace: One of the most famous attractions is Bangkok
Grand Palace Temple
Grand Palace

 

3. Experience the Rooftop Bar Scene

  • Sky Bar At Lebua: The Worlds Highest Rooftop bar and MY FAVORITE
    • The view, drinks, and food are incredible
  • Vertigo: Indulge in great food and drinks 61 floors above the streets of Bangkok
  • Three Sixty: Jazz Lounge with a 360 view of Bangkok
  • Octave Rooftop Bar: Here you also get a 360 view of Bangkok but people are DANCING! I don’t think you’ve ever danced this high in the sky!
Lebua Sky Bar
Lebua Sky Bar

4. Shop Til You Drop

Get a custom made suit, dress, whatever you’d like for ⅓ of what you would pay in America, Europe, or Australia. Go to a night market and experience the culture while shopping as well. And when I say shopping I mean, BARGAINING! Don’t be shy!

  • MBK Center
  • Khao San Road Market
  • Central World
  • Siam Paragon
  • Chatachuck Weekend Market

5. Thai Massage

Get as many massages as your heart desires, they even offer massages at some of the temples. Worried about how expensive massages and spas can be? Don’t! You can get as many Thai massages as you’d like for about ~ $7 an hour

Basically, you need to get to Bangkok! It’s a great starting point before you explore the Thailand beaches and islands (Phi Phi Island is my favorite). Don’t miss out!

Click Here For More of My Bangkok Adventure

 

Reasons Why Tanzania is a great destination for a Honeymoon AND a Family Vacation

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Looking for an adventure to a destination with idyllic beaches, a captivating culture, wildlife, and friendly people? Tanzania should be your next travel destination for your honeymoon and even your family vacation. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Tanzania and can’t wait to go back. You won’t find anywhere else that you can experience volcanoes, one of the world’s tallest mountains, stunning white sand beaches, and an island with pivotal history surrounded by the Indian Ocean, incredibly friendly people, and also happens to be known as the land of safaris.

———- The Safaris ————–
A safari is a perfect adventure for a honeymoon or a family vacation. If you’re looking for a honeymoon destination, I can’t recommend a romantic hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti or an overnight stay in a luxury camp in the Ngronogoro Crater where you can have dinner by a campfire in the middle of true wildlife underneath the stars. Both the Ngronogoro Crater and the Serengeti are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are home to the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth-The Great Migration where you can see the “Big Five”:
Lions, Leopards, Buffalo, Elephants, and Rhinos.

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I loved experiencing the Serengeti and the Ngronogoro Crater with my family. It was absolutely incredible and something that we will never forget. Whether you are an adult or a child, most people love animals! We used Good Earth Tours for our safari experience and our tour guide was incredible and everyone we encountered was incredibly hospitable. We did a 3 day safari and stayed at Ngronogoro Farmhouse and Mbugani Ndutu Camp. We even saw the Big Five and were able to watch a lion catch a wildebeest in its natural habitat! The accommodations were great at Mbugani Ndutu Camp and it was the most luxurious Camp experience I’ve ever had and the food was great. Ngronogoro Farmhouse is also a great accommodation for kids as well, at the resort you can go on a coffee tour and learn how to make coffee with the coffee grown on the farm. There is a nice pool and an interactive dance performance during dinner. Kids can learn and check about the farm which is full of diverse fruits and vegetables, some you’ve probably even heard of. The rooms are spacious and comfortable at the Farmhouse and it was incredibly peaceful.

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Glamping in the Serengetti

I’ve never encountered anything as truly beautiful as the Ngronogoro Crater and the Serengeti and being able to be in that breathtaking ecosystem was truly and experience of a lifetime. Any picture you take on your 4 X 4 safari journey there is Instagram worthy. You will not find a wildlife sanctuary with better scenery.

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——- Zanzibar Island ———

Zanzibar is an idyllic island off of the coast of Tanzania and could very well be the best honeymoon or family vacation decision you can make. On Zanzibar Island you can experience endless stretches of white powdered sand, water sports galore, a sail on a traditional dhow to explore and snorkel at sandbanks, incredible food made with world famous spices, and insight into infamous cultural highlights and historical remnants in Stone Town. Essque Zalu Zanzibar is a Resort on Nungwi Beach that exudes romance and luxury. It’s right on the beach and the architecture of the resort is captivating. The resort is known for its Swahili and Arabic architecture and has 40 suites and 8 villas overlooking the Indian Ocean. The Spa is absolutely incredible and if you’re hungry you have your choice of amazing food from one of the two restaurants and three bars. My family stayed in one of the huge 8 villas that had 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a private spa room, a family room, and dining room, a large porch with cool contemporary seating, a kitchen, a private pool, and an awesome rooftop patio! Most of the villas also come with a butler and ours was so friendly, hospitable, and one of the best parts of our experience there. I can’t say enough how friendly the people of Tanzania are, the staff was incredible. They also set up jet skiing and windsurfing as well for our family and that was a great time as well.

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Essque Zalu Resort

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You can’t go to Zanzibar Island without also going to Stone Town. I recommend staying at the Double Tree Hilton Stone Town during your stay in the town. Stone Town is where you will get to experience a ton of cultural highlights and if you are a history buff you will enjoy going on a Stone Town History Tour and to Prison Island. Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was an infamous trading hub between Asia and Africa where spices, goods, and people were traded. The island has a dark past but it’s extremely fascinating to learn about. The history is apparent and is illustrated by the diverse groups of people, from the mosques, the churches, Omani palaces, and Hindu temples. It is truly a harmony of diverse cultural regions. The architecture in the city is incredibly distinctive and features Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and African influences.

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Other things to do in Stone Town are:
– spice tour
– City tour
– Sandbank picnic: LOVED THIS
– Prison island: LOVED THIS
– Dolphin Tour

I really enjoyed the staff and experience doing the Sandbank picnic and Prison Island Tour with *“Nakupenda Isles Safari.” From families (there was even the most well behaved infant ever on our sailing tour) to honeymooners, everyone on the tour had a great time and it was so much fun. The staff was hilarious and they made sure we all enjoyed ourselves and were full during the Sandbank picnic. If you like seafood, you will love the picnic!

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*You can also do the tour privately as well.

——- Mt. Kilimanjaro ———

Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano and is the highest the peak in Africa. If you are honeymooners who are active adventures you can tackle Mt. Kilimanjaro and experience hiking through lush rainforests, alpine deserts, glaciers, and sleeping closer to the stars than you ever dreamed possible by night. However, if you not an incredibly active adventurer but still want to experience Kilimanjaro there a many different routes and you can still try the climb without your goal being the top! If you are on a family vacation and are bringing children, they too can experience climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and climb the base. Mt. Kilimanjaro takes several days to climb but if you don’t have time for that you can do a day tour as aforementioned and trek through the rainforest and catch a view of a variety of animals including blue monkeys, birds, Columbus monkeys, and exotic variations of plant life.

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There is so much to do in Tanzania and so much to offer no matter what age or trip type. Whether you are on a honeymoon or on a family vacation, there are so many places and activities to choose from. It is as equally a relaxing vacation destination as it is an adventurous one. And it is also truly a perfect destination to create family memories. Would you like to add Tanzania to your honeymoon or family vacation bucket list??

15 Things to Do In Koh Samui Thailand

15 Things to Do In Koh Samui Thailand

| Digital Travel Guru Guest Post|

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Koh Samui, an island in Thailand, also known as the coconut island. Travel time is only1 hour by flight from Bangkok. This is the ultimate tropical beach paradise island. Koh Samui has everything you could ever dream of all on one island to cater for all your requirements, from partying all night to having a romantic getaway, exploring historical and cultural sights, endless places to eat and things to do, this is one place that you will find hard to get bored in. There are many parts to the islands depending on what type of holiday you want and it has a huge range of places to stay ranging from £10 a night up to £6000 a night for the exclusive villas. We wrote a post on the history of Koh Samui which you can read here: History of Koh Samui:

History of Koh Samui Island – Thailand

Here are 15 things we have put together for you to do and see when you visit Koh Samui.

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Big Buddha

Big Buddha temple is the biggest landmark on Koh Samui and can be seen from the sky as you fly into the island. It sits north of the island and is 12 meters high it was built in 1972. The area is known as Big Buddha. The locals call this temple Wat Phra Yai. The temple itself is reached by a small road over the sea which connects the Big Buddha temple with main land Samui. There are a lot of small stalls and shops and places to eat on this site and you can receive a blessing from the monks that live there for a small donation to the temple. Please ensure you adhere to temple rules of covering your shoulders and legs. To climb the steeps to Big Buddha you have to take off your shoes so take some anti slip socks as the ground can get very hot. From the top you will see views across parts of Samui and the sea, which is a great place for photography.

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Entry Free:

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Wat Plai Laem

Wat Plan Laem Temple is about 5 minutes drive from Big Buddha, it is a Buddhist temple with the 18 arm Guanyin goddess. There is also a huge Buddha statue on the same site, which has a beautiful compound with a small lake with fish with walkways A lovely place to have a picnic under the trees whilst seeing the temples. There are also beautiful murals and temple arts to see. Please ensure you are dressed appropriately to enter the temple, covering shoulders and legs.

Entrance is free, hover you can make donations to the temple.

 

Hin Ta and Hin Yai

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Located 5 minutes from Lamai beach towards the south of the island, Hin Ta and Hin Ya re also known as the grandfather and grandmother rocks. The rocks are famous for resembling genitalia. There is parking nearby and it’s easily accessible by local transport. The amazing rock formations are a popular attraction on the island. You can easily spend 1/2 a day here looking at the various stalls and shops and there are lots of dining options also including a reggae rock bar. Be sure to try out the famous coconut ice-cream, If you bring your swimwear there is a small cove for swimming.

Entrance Free

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Secret Buddha Garden

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Located high up on the hills above Koh Samui, Secret Buddha Garden was built by Nim Thongsuk, who started building the garden in 1976. The site is full of statues and a little templs. Nim passed way at the age of 91. The garden are a beautiful place to visit, with a waterfall and small stream running through it, surrounded by jungle. The road can be difficult to navigate and if going on motorbike you need to be extra careful as the path can be very steep in places. The trip is best taken in a 4×4 car. There are many tour operators on the island that can bring you here. Khun Nim was a farmer. When he retired he began sculpting these figures that represent Buddhist folklore. The are lots of stop off points on the way here to take in the scenery and views.

Entrance: 80bhat approx

 

Dusit DhewaSamui Cultural and Fine Arts Centre

Located about 35 minutes from the centre of Koh Samui (Chaweng area) the cultural centre, was built and opened by Khun Chart who was born and raised in Samui. His idea behind building the cultural was for people to learn about culture and heritage of Thailand and it’s heritage. Khun says the centre will never be completed as he states he will never stop collecting items that are of historical or cultural significance. In the grounds you can take lots of beautiful photos of statutes, and with the peacocks that live there. The land back onto a jungle and has a lovely stream and bridge on the grounds. There is a pagoda with numerous buddha ornaments and other buildings wit artefacts. If you pay a small fee you can dress up in Thai traditional wear and have photos taken. The site is popular with photographers and for wedding photos. It is a truly stunning location with a stunning collection of ornaments and sculptures.

Entrance 150 Bhat approx

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Fisherman’s Village Walking Street

Located north of the island in an area called Bophut, Fishermans village is a very narrow road that looks over the beach area, it is full of little boutique shops and many famous resturants and beach open air bars. The area used to be a traditional fishing village. There is market here on certain days of the week. The area usually becomes busy in the evening and there is also a newly opened area at the end of Fisherman’s village called the Wharf (which is a shopping mall and market). This is a great place to spend the afternoon / evening or night, it has a chilled relaxed atmosphere and is away from he party area’s of Chaweng and Lamai.

Entrance free

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Buddha Footprints

A great place to see an interesting engraved foot print of Buddha. From this location you will see some specular views of Koh Samui island. It can be a difficult place to find , however you can book a tour guide to take you or even find it yourself if you have your own transport and have a tourist map of the island. Please remember to wear appropriate clothing as it has the same rules as visiting a temple Also be warned there are 163 steps to climb. The grounds have a beautiful temple of course the magnificent 4 Buddha footprints with engravings.

Entrance Free (when I last visited)

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Hainan Temple (Chinese)
Is a Chinese Temple in Nathon the main town of the island.
It was built on 1862, by the many Chinese who moved to Koh Samui island. A lovely temple with two golden lions that guard the gate. Nathon is also a great area for shopping and for places to eat, you can see lots of the old Samui architectural buildings here and Nathon is also a main port area of the island and has lovely views of the coast line. Buy things and shopping here is cheaper than the other areas on the island.

Entrance was free when I visited

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Laem Sor Pagoda

Located on the south of the island, on Bang Kao Beach. This a tranquil spot to visit to see the golden pagoda, with 360 views of the ocean. The entrance has two warrior statues. And you can see the Pagoda and Buddha – a great area to explore and find off the beaten track beaches and small secluded restaurants.

Entrance Free

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Wat Khunaram

Located about about 25 minutes from Koh Samui, Wat Khunaram, is a Buddhist temple site. The mummified monk is of Luong Pordaeng who died in 1973, his body is seated in the sitting position in a case in the temple. The site has lots of information about the temple and the history of the monk that lived there. Entrance Free
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Wat Sila Ngu Wat Sila Ngu also known as Wat Ratcha Thammaram

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Known as the snake temple – Was Sila Ngu is located about 10 mutes from Lamai. Sila Ngu translates into “stone snake” in English. There is a huge red clay temple with carvings of snakes and a pagaoda. The walls inside the temple are spectacular to see as the carvings tell you a story of Buddhas life. On the temple grounds you can also see beautiful sweeping views of the ocean.

Entrance is free.

Jungle Club

Located high in the hills about 5 minutes from Chaweng Not beach is Jungle Club, which initially started as a small off the beaten track accommodation for backpackers. Throughout the years the site has had a lot of refurbishments and it is now a mid range property to stay in, which has luxury bungalows you can book.
The buildings are built out of bamboo and other natural products and has some of the best views on the island. The Jungle club is famous for it’s bar, lounge and swimming pool, which are built on the edge the huge mountain. The views from here are breathtaking on a clear day you can see most of the western and northern part of Koh Samui island as well as the ocean. This is a top spot to have a drink or two whilst taking in the views whilst relaxing on the comfy beanbags and hammocks.
Free entrance

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Guan Yu Koh Samui Shrine

The Chinese were one of the first expats to arrive on Koh Samui in the 1800’s. In 2008 the design for the temple and shrine were completed and building work commenced. It was opened officially in 2016. The shire and temple was built to celebrate Chinese history and heritage on the island. Guan Yu is a Chinese warrior that died 2000 years ago. The shire and temple when you visit has the history of the warrior inscribed under its magnificent statue. There are a few shops on the site selling Chinese food, other products and souvenirs.

Entrance was free when I visited.

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Five Islands:
An amazing half day trip by long tail boat from the southwest of Koh Samui, which you can do from a area called Taling Ngam. You can see the five islands from the beach and taking a long tail over is a fabulous experience. The islands are habitat to protected birds and the only people that are allowed to live there are the sea gypsies. You can visit by boat and see the caves of the islands and huge rocks which are in the middle of the ocean as well as the hidden cove beaches. Some trips allow you to snorkel the waters around the islands. A great time to take the trip is late afternoon just before sunset. Most of the local beach side restaurants in the area can arrange a boat trip for you.

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Cost: 4000 to 6000 Thai Baht for two people

Island Hopping:

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Koh Samui is located very close to many islands and Ang Thong National Park.
You can book various tours as day trips to visit neighbouring islands such as Koh Tao, Koh Phangan

Ang Thong National Park is home to 42 islands wth a spectacular emerald lagoon, you can snorkelling at various beaches and do sea canoeing and of course exploring the various islands the tour boat stops at.

Cost approx: £25-30 for a full day tour with lunch and drinks included

Koh Tao is located approx once and half hours from Koh Samui. It is a
Popular diving location and known for it’s stunning beach areas and diving sites.
Cost Approx £25-30 for a full day tour including lunch and drinks.

Koh Phangan about 45 minutes to 1 hour from Koh Samui.
Home to the full moon party and jungle parties, as well as the beautiful beaches all around the island. Cost approx £6.00 return

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8 Tips For Moving/Living In A New City While Pregnant

| 8 Tips for Living in a New City While Pregnant | 

Moving to a new city can be extremely difficult. However, moving to a new city and being an expectant mother at the same time is arduous X 100 and a completely different experience. Shortly after getting married, my husband and I moved to Cleveland for his residency (add that on top living in a new city while pregnant) and became expectant parents. Obviously, he doesn’t waste any time. If I could describe the experience in 3 words it would be tasking, emotional, and lonely. Now, this article isn’t supposed to depress you, in fact I hope it’s helpful. For all of my expectant mothers in a new city I have some tips that can better prepare you for what will truly be an enlightening experience.

1. Find A Doctor

I know that you might have a whole bunch of moving headaches to tackle, but finding a doctor is more important. It can take weeks, sometimes months to get through to a doctor and find an OBGYN that meets your criteria. My husband and I moved to Cleveland, which has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in America so I was extremely picky about finding the right OBGYN. Even though, in many cases there is no way to prevent SIDS or certain cases of infant mortality and it involves the mother more than the physician, I was still nervous and picky about picking a physician. Ask for recommendations and make sure you have your medical records.

2. Find Friends

I moved to a city where I knew absolutely no one. On top of that my husband is a resident physician so I barely see him as well and that has been difficult as a newlywed too. I recommend finding a group of friends and socializing with them to get your mind off of the stressful move. A lot of ways to do this as an expectant mother are yoga, pilates, and expectant mother classes. You can go to the classes specifically for pregnant women and build you a group of friends in your new city. Some may even become lifelong friends and how cool would it be to have your kids grow up together?!

3. Stay Active

When I say “stay active”, I simply mean making time for a bit of exercise to get your mind off of your anxieties. You don’t have to compare yourself to the pregnant fitness Instagram models in the gym all of the time with perfect photo shopped pictures. Walking daily, pilates, cycling, or whatever exercise you like best will be helpful. Whenever you think about binge eating to get rid of your anxiety, go for a walk instead, you aren’t supposed to eat for 2. And yes, I know this is easier said than done!

 4. Wait on baby shopping

You are already trying to unpack and get settled; the last thing you need is MORE stuff immediately and if you haven’t quite moved yet, remember, relocation will be cheaper. Once, all of your original belongings are settled then you can begin NESTING! You will also be able to better assess what you really need for your new baby!

5. Don’t Be a Hero

Please! Please! Please hire professional movers unless your husband is already a professional mover and you trust him to move even your most fragile of belongings by himself. I wish somebody would have told me this before I thought it would be a good idea to do any heavy lifting. I ended up getting a hernia and now have the worst back pain ever even in my early months. On top of, nausea, headaches, fatigue, and more, the last thing you need is a hernia or more back pain.

 6. Listen To Your What Your Body Wants

As much as we think we can do anything, and we can, sometimes it’s best if we don’t. Don’t over exert yourself, listen to your body. If you are feeling tired, go to sleep! You should sleep at least 8 hours a day, you are growing another human inside of you. And that’s not just my recommendation that is the Mayo Clinics too paraphrased in my more enthused words. In a brand new city, you probably have even more tasks to do and things on your plate but you have to avoid pushing yourself to much. I promise, some things can wait.

7. Be Realistic and Communicate

Being in a brand new city and expecting a baby are not going to be easy and you don’t have to carry the difficulties alone. I know that we all want to be independent and for everyone to know it too but it is okay to ask for help and know your limitations. I am still having a really hard time with this as I hate asking for help. I pride myself on being able to do everything on my own but honestly sometimes you don’t have to. If you are one of those people who do have family and friends that would help if you asked, please do as some people are not as fortunate. Communication is also key, it’s important to communicate with your family and your spouse about your emotions, what’s going on, and things you may need help with. Communication with your significant other I believe is the most important because you will need to come up with plans to prepare for your new baby and you might have different expectations that you need to discuss and get on one accord. My husband isn’t a talker and I could debate, talk, and plan for hours on end (I’m a Virgo), but honestly it helps to hash everything out and prepare yourselves for what’s to come. I mean c’mon, you have to get used to a new city and you’re expecting a new baby. It’s not going to be all peaches and cream.

 8. Make Time For Romance

One of the things I learned about that I had no idea existed was a BABYMOON! I know you are probably thinking, I have so many things to do and so much to pay for already for this move, I can’t take a vacation. However, a babymoon can be for a short weekend and it doesn’t have to be expensive. My husband is a resident for heaven’s sake and he’s made time to take a weekend road trip to our hometown Chicago to see Hamilton on Broadway. A babymoon is basically just you or you and a significant other taking time out for yourselves to relax and enjoy the expectancy of the baby and not the stress of the baby. And when you have just moved to a new city, any break helps. It’s also great for the guys too because they also need a break, they aren’t necessarily carrying the baby, but they worry about you and the baby too. Not only that, but pregnancy can be lonely and dull for men sometimes too because they don’t get the “oo’s” and “aah’s” from family and strangers and they aren’t as close to the experience as you with your baby literally growing inside of you. Men are babies, okay.


I hope that the aforementioned is valuable and that you did not read all of this to be even more stressed! Relax, you truly have a miracle on the way, but prepare. You can move while pregnant and not go crazy and you can live in a brand new city and not feel horribly homesick. Personally, pregnancy has been tasking, emotional, and sometimes a bit lonely but it’s also been beautiful and exhilarating. Honestly, I love it, expecting this miracle to come is fun within itself. Once you finally get settled, trust me it gets better and the NESTING isn’t a chore, it’s exciting.

To Cairo with Love 🌹

| Cairo 🇪🇬 |

For my new readers, I am newly married to a handsome Egyptian-American man who has taken me on a roller coaster ride of new cultural experiences. I must tell you this beforehand because it truly impacts the way I travel now and during my trip to Cairo, Egypt visiting his family I truly got to experience Cairo as a tourist and as a local. Because of this I am going to take you on a journey and give you some insight on traveling to Cairo, Egypt.

Cairo is a city that never sleeps. We landed in Cairo at 11pm at night, don’t worry if you’re flight gets in late as there are still taxis and tuk tuks (a bike taxi) available as the city of Cairo stays alive well into the wee hours of the morning. If you’re still hungry, want to wind down at a Shisha Lounge (hookah), go to a Jazz Club, frequent a bar, or shop at the many nights markets, you can still do those things and more after your arrival. If you arrive in the late evening as opposed to the aforementioned wee hours of the morning, I would recommend the following:

-Nile Dinner Cruise
-Sound and Light Show at the Giza Pyramids
-Cairo Old Market: Khan Al-Khalili Souk
-Hang out at Almaz (nightclub lounge)

We stayed at the Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa. It has a beautiful view of the Pyramids and is extremely close by. It has 4 restaurants, a spa, and an outdoor pool. It is also very affordable with prices at around 60 USD a night.

In the morning we went to go see the most well-known and major highlight for travelers to Cairo: The Pyramids of Giza. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world and still remains preserved. If you do not arrange this excursion with your hotel or purchase beforehand with a touring company, here are the costs to get your ticket upon arrival: You can buy your ticket at the entrance security desk/kiosk. Beware of your taxi driver taking you elsewhere to purchase your ticket, don’t bargain with them, just have them take you directly to the entrance gate.

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Ticket to enter the Pyramid complex: Egyptian Pounds 80 ~ USD 9
Entrance Inside The Great Pyramid: Egyptian Pounds 200 ~ USD 11
Entrance into 2nd or 3rd Pyramid: Egyptian Pounds 40 ~ USD 2
Great Pyramid (Pyramid of Khufu): Egyptian Pounds100 ~ USD 9
Meresankh III tomb: Egyptian Pounds 50 ~ USD 6

I thoroughly enjoyed the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx, I had no idea what to really expect. We took a horse and carriage ride around the pyramids and then we rode a camel around the smaller pyramids. I found the archeological site to be fascinating and if you are into history and architecture, you will too. Nobody still knows how the pyramids were built and it is so interesting hearing all of the locals opinions on its construction. The question remains unanswered and it makes me even more curious and enchanted.

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The next stop was to visit some of my new family members and even though this is probably not something that would be on your itinerary, I learned quite a bit that would be useful for any traveler. Some of the phrases that the kids had me perfect that you should know upon arrival are:

No: la
Yes: naam
Please: min fadlak (m.) min fadlik (f.)
Thank you: shukran
Your Welcome: Ahlan beka
Sorry/Excuse Me: assef
Welcome: Marhaba
Goodbye: salam (peace)
My Name Is: esmi
What Is Your Name?: esmak eh? or Ma Esmok?
How Are You?: ez zayyak? (masc) ez zayyek? (fem)
Nice to Meet You Saadot belkak
I Don’t Understand: ana mish fahem
Do You Speak English?: int betetkalem inglizi?
Can You Help Me?: mumken tsaa’dni?
What Time Is It?: el-saa kam?

For my foodies, what is the point in traveling to a new destination and not trying the local cuisine? I was really excited about the opportunity to try Egyptian cuisine in Egypt at a family member’s house and I tried everything, even things I was skeptical about, like pigeon. Stuffed pigeon is a delicacy in Egypt and consists of whole pigeon stuff with rice and many different spices. Some other foods I had that I recommend you try upon your visit are:

-Kushari
– An assortment of grilled meats
– Sausage and liver sandwich
– Baladi Bread
-Fava beans and falafel

They also welcomed us with a delicious cake, celebrating my husband’s birthday and our new marriage. Egyptian birthday cakes are a little different than American cakes. You won’t find buttercream and whipped icing cakes, but more traditional cakes.

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Later that night we joined some more family members and went out for coffee, tea, and juice. If you are a fan of juicing, this is your time to have fresh juices galore. I was in juice heaven as I love juicing and fresh fruits and they had a plethora of smoothie and juice bars. Try quenching your thirst at Juice Me Up or City Drink!

For a full meal out on the town, try Sequoia for a diverse menu and shisha, they also serve alcohol in a place where many restaurants don’t. The views of the Nile are breathtaking and the setting is trendy and romantic. I am also a fan of Andrea, simply because I love chicken liver and the Kobeba and chicken liver are a must have there. Also, the atmosphere is laid back, colorful, and old school. Your kids can even take a donkey ride. Cool right?

I had a great time in Egypt’s sprawling capital, set on the Nile River and I look forward to going again. I have never experienced anything like it, the traffic the noise, the hustle & bustle, and the people will deluge you, so give yourself time to explore, relax, and wind down with a Shay bil na’na (mint tea) or a glass of sugarcane juice. I recommend on your visit you also do the following:
-Egyptian Museum
-Mosque of Muhammad Ali
-Al Azhar Park
-Tahrir Square

Remember, when you are ready to make your trip, Cairo is no Dubai, in fact, it can be dirty, it’s not glamorous, there are many pickpocketers and scammers waiting for a tourist to slip up, and the air quality is horrible. However, even with all of these unfavorable traits, it is still incredibly beautiful and one of my favorite places I’ve traveled to and if I were to recommend anything to you, it would be to give yourself time. You need time in Cairo for your visit to be efficient, productive, and somewhat foolproof.

Personally, having been able to enjoy a local and tourist experience was incredible. I loved meeting my new family members, eating authentic Egyptian cuisine in a real local Egyptian house, camel and horse riding at the Pyramids, and taking in all of that Vitamin D that the Egyptian heat and sun truly provide.

Do you love to travel and see yourself in Cairo?