November 27, 2015

10 ways you can give back this holiday season

’Tis the season of goodwill – the time for family and friends to come together and celebrate all that they are thankful for. 'Tis also the season for giving and the holidays are a great time to focus on compassion and selflessness.

Sometimes you may not find the time to give back in the way that you would like to over the holiday season because of all of the social, family and corporate events that you have to attend, the food that you need to prepare, the presents that need to be bought and wrapped, etc. On top of that, not everyone has the money or the resources to donate or contribute to charities and charitable causes during the holidays, so here are a few different ways that you can support your favourite charity/ties in Barbados:

(1) Donate everyday items

Not all charities need the same items and simply giving your favourite charity a call to see what they may need can save unwanted and unnecessary stuff, whilst also clearing out your cupboards for the holidays. Women’s toiletries are also especially lovely to give to those struggling at this time of year and sanitary products and nappies are very helpful too.

The Barbados RSPCA for example, always needs old towels and sheets for the animals.

(2) Charity Cards and Calendars

When wrapping your gifts and sending out business cards this season, why not support your favourite charity by buying their seasonal card packs? A few local charities also print annual calendars, so be sure to snatch those up (They make great Christmas gifts!)

The children at Ellerton Primary School made gift tags this year and all proceeds are going back to the school. Help support these budding entrepreneurs by buying a pack of 4 cards for Bds$10. They're available at ArtSplash Centre on the South Coast and at the O.P.I. in Limegrove on the West Coast. You can also order them directly at 421 8188.

(3) Volunteer

You can become a general volunteer at one of the charities, offer transport or your skills in a particular area – hairdressing, healthcare or catering, for example. Keep your eyes peeled for a volunteer centre being launched in the new year to help with this!

(4) Give Blood

Many blood donors miss their appointments over the busy festive season, proving that taking the time to stop and donate blood is all the more essential.

(5) Give small

You will be surprised how a small donation from me, added to a small donation from you, can make a big difference to someone or something. Why not start a donation pot with a group of friends, or at a family event? That way everyone can add what they wish to the pot.

(6) Attend Charity supported events this season

You can try to find out about events that support charities over the holiday season. For example, Carols by Candlelight is a family favourite over the Christmas season in Barbados. Not only do the funds raised at the event support various Rotary International approved community projects but people are also invited to bring a wrapped gift (marked for a girl or boy) which are then distributed to the local children's homes, churches and charities)

(7) Don't waste food

There are a surprising number of people who would go hungry every day without the support of charities such as The Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society and Streetlamp Ministries. If you have a surplus of food from a family dinner or a catered business event, why not give either of these charities a call to see if you can donate any excess food after the event? Please note that this is referring to untouched food that is in a presentable, hygienic condition.

(8) Spread the word!

Many nonprofits provide their followers with opportunities to give back through social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you love what a charity is doing you can help raise awareness and share their posts/page/updates with your friends. You never know who may be passionate about the same causes.

#GivingTuesday is a new global movement dedicated to giving back (it comes after Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday) On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centres, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organisation to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Share the love on social media using #GivingTuesday.

(9) Support local

Helping out your neighbours becomes even easier, and more important, during the holiday season, when there's a spirit of community and giving. Shopping locally helps your community in a number of ways; It puts money back in to the economy, helps maintain local jobs and keeps non-chain ventures thriving. Shopping locally for your gifts and specialty holiday items also allows you to be sure of the quality of the items you buy. I recommend Brighton Farmer's Market, Hastings Farmer's Market and Holders House Farmer's Market. The Providence Christmas Gift Show is an upcoming event where you can find local gifts and items.

Local singers, musicians, painters, craftsmen and other artists are the people who bring culture and creativity to their communities. Support your local artistic community during the holiday season by attending their special concerts and events, buying the things they make and donating to them financially.

(10) Spread the love

The holidays are the biggest giving time of the year, but it can be overwhelming to respond to all the requests for contributions while your budgets are stretched thin for the holidays. Why not aim to support your favourite charities throughout the year, little bits at a time? That way the charities can get the support that they need during their slower seasons and you can more likely achieve your philanthropic goals. The needs of many charities are there year-round, not just at the holidays.


November 18, 2015

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

As most of my friends know, I'm not much of a hiker, walker or climber, so when Jus suggested we include Pfeiffer State Park at the end of our Big Sur road trip, I was more excited about the prospect of taking some fun photos of Redwood trees more than anything else. 

Well, our drive along the coast took longer than expected, and we ended up racing against the clock to make it to the Park before it closed. 

When researching and planning our trip, I read endless travel blogs and sites that warned against rushing to do too many things when exploring Big Sur. I didn't really take this seriously and we tried to fit it all in to one afternoon (We had the next day as 'back up' but figured we could see it all in one day) We were wrong. Oh so wrong!

After getting lost (Google Maps isn't great when it comes to Park entrances), followed by a typical lover's quarrel in a car (I still stand by the fact that it wasn't my fault for getting lost) we finally made it to the park and had a leisurely stroll along one of the more basic trails.

Some of you reading this post may be disappointed to see that we only saw one 10th of Pfeifer State Park and to those of you I say, I hear ya. We did miss out on quite a lot by trying to do too much. The irony is too real and we learned our lesson! 

So what do you do with an afternoon in a park when you're not really a 'nature' kinda gal?

You pretend you're a fairy and play around in foliage of course. 

Spot the Bajan....

After our 'hike' we drove back to Monterey for dinner on Fisherman's Wharf. Our meal was pretty incredible and after eating enough crab to satisfy the crabbiest of cravings, we decided to head back to our motel and call it a night. 

One of the things I struggle with when visiting the States is the food portions; and even as someone who can eat (a lot) I couldn't touch my main meal after eating an enormous appetizer. I couldn't face wasting perfectly good, untouched food, so we asked for a doggie bag. We saw a homeless guy on the street on the way to the restaurant so we planned to offer our meal to him. When we got outside, we couldn't find him, but I was sure that we would see someone else who may need a free meal. We were about to give up hope as we neared our car and didn't see anyone in sight. Out of nowhere, a group of teenagers appeared, walking a dog. They saw J standing there with his container in a plastic bag and asked:
"Hey mister,  can you spare any leftovers?"
"Of course! Here, enjoy!"
They giggled and I heard one of them mumble "score" as we happily handed over the food and watched the group of 4 sit down at a nearby picnic bench. They all began to tuck in and even gave some to the dog.
I don't know whether they were genuinely needy or not, but I wish more restaurants could offer to redistribute leftovers to local soup kitchens, food pantries, and homeless shelters. A lot of people argue that you can't give away food or donate it for a number of reasons, but I have personally seen so many people accept food (decent, cooked and cold food) that I can't stand the thought of wasting it.
If food and/or food wastage is your thing, check out this video by John Oliver for some food for thought ;) 


November 17, 2015

California Dreamin': Big Sur & the 17 mile drive

After months of planning, prepping and researching, we were finally in California!

This trip was on our bucket list since J's sister & my bestie relocated to San Francisco at the beginning of this year; we were SO excited to explore a new city and to get a taste of their new lives on the West Coast!

We had just over three weeks to fit in as much as possible and as soon as we touched down in San Francisco we picked up our rental and drove down to Monterey Bay. The plan was to stay along the coast for 2 nights and then head into the city for the weekend. We checked into a decent motel located in Old Monterey and crashed as soon as we made it into our room after our 18 hour journey.

This guy thought my 'sunroof selfie' was hilarious
The next morning we woke to the news that our house in Barbados had been broken in to and quite a few of our things were stolen. For anyone who's ever had this happen to them, you'll know the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach; a mixture of vulnerability and rage. It royally sucks knowing that someone has been in your personal space and rummaged through your stuff and we also felt so helpless being in San Francisco. J's parents stepped in and dealt with it all for us and we're so grateful. Waking up to this was not the best way to start a vacation but once we finished doing what we needed to do, we tried to shake it off and enjoy the day ahead of us.

Coffee and yummy food helped, and we were pretty impressed by The Wild Plum Bakery, a cute organic, eco friendly cafe across the street from our motel.

With satisfied tummies and a buzz from our coffee, we set off to explore Big Sur, a rugged stretch of California’s central coast between Carmel and San Simeon, known for winding turns, seaside cliffs and views of the often-misty coastline. Fun fact: apparently the name "Big Sur" is derived from the original Spanish-language "el sur grande", meaning "the big south", or from "el paĆ­s grande del sur", "the big country of the south."

We started off with Carmel-by-the-Sea, an adorable, European-style village nestled above the coast. We popped into the local deli, grabbed some lunch and picked up some supplies for the afternoon. With that, we set off along the coast and cruised to our hearts content. I never thought that I would be as excited about a drive as I was that afternoon, but every single twist and turn on the road was met with another 'ooomygod' and 'look at that view!', often followed by 'omg these roads are so close to the edge' and 'I think I may be sick.'

Don't be fooled, Big Sur is NOT for those with a fear of heights. The road is inches away from the cliff face at some points (though guarded by a barrier) but it's still a trip to look down at the water hundreds of metres below from your car window...

Despite the heights, this was by far one of the most scenic drives of my life. J and I took our cool time to explore and stopped off at most 'corners', not realising that each one would be better and more breathtaking than the last! Even the cloudy weather added a cool mood to the whole afternoon and it was the perfect way to start off our trip.

The last thing on our 'Big Sur List' was Pfeiffer State National Park, but I'll save that for my next post :) 

Stay tuned! It's scheduled for tomorrow, so don't worry, I won't pull one of my notorious dry spells this time...


November 1, 2015

October Recap

It's been a month since I returned from India and these past weeks have been a blur of doctor's visits, meetings, missing dogs, coffee dates and lots of time spent at home cooking and playing catch up with work and life in general.

When I first got home, I was having issues with my back (thanks to my 50lb backpack) and it slowly worsened to the point where I couldn't really walk properly without excruciating pain. I spent weeks visiting chiropractors, physical therapists and finally an amazing acupuncturist who solved the problem. I went from being stuck at home to being able to jog and swim again (in little bursts) within the space of two weeks thanks to lots of tweaking and a pressure gun. I have a newfound respect for those who suffer from injuries and chronic pain; not only is it a daily battle to keep your restrictions in mind but the patience required to heal properly is something I struggled with.

To add to my back issues, I spent two weeks 'catching up' on all of the food I missed while I was away (Fish! Pie! Wine! Chocolate!) I was eating chocolate and drinking wine on a daily basis and kept fooling myself into thinking that I had lost enough weight in India to justify my gluttonous behaviour. Besides, my back hurt (a lot) and I wanted to distract myself with yummy food. I finally hit rock bottom when I sat through an entire take away meal of fried chicken, fries, mayo, coke, ice cream and a chocolate. Instead of feeling satisfied, I felt gross and realised I was using my excuse of 'catching up on my favourite foods' to fool myself into ignoring my cravings and lack of self control.

By mid October J and I had decided to give Whole30 a try. I first learnt about Whole30 through my friend Michelle, who blogs over on For Blog's Sake. Michelle's daily dose of inspiration, recipes and anecdotes chronicling her Whole30 journey during the month of September (while I was in India) really made me think about my relationship with food. She was honest about the challenge and her realistic and relatable posts convinced me to give this challenge a shot. I'm two weeks in and it's been a pretty cool experience, but I'll be blogging about it in more detail once it's over.

All of this down time has forced me to stop and re assess some of my goals for 2015. I feel like I talk about the struggles of maintaining a good blog more than I actually blog, but finding the time to blog properly is a constant battle for me. That said, I challenged myself to blog more consistently in November and December and to try my best to recap my summer travels before the end of the year. I'm taking a leaf out of my friend Setarra's book with her awesome travel recaps and hope that I can get my blogging skills up to that level!

Annnnnd finally, what's an October recap without any mention of Halloween? I loveeee Halloween! At last minute scramble for costumes and party tickets had some pretty hilarious results.

Jouvert wanted a piece of my heart - a sweet potato wrapped in tissue & a sandwich bag, covered in Siracha sauce
Queen of Hearts
Posing off with my creepy clown & Jonny Bravo

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