vacationing in a scottish castle

Posted by pamela on Apr. 14, 14 | 0 COMMENTS

Sometimes a girl dreams up something crazy like spending her 33rd birthday in a castle in Scotland. And then, sometimes, dreams come true and the whole family decides it sounds like a good vacation as well. They day after my birthday, I jumped on a plane, hopped over the pond, and made my way to what remains of Rosslyn Castle, just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland.

What, you wonder, do you do in a castle for a week? You ignore the world and revel in the history that took place where you are living and eating and sleeping. You take your nephew on adventures with mud and rain and ruins. You drink cups of tea (and coffee) while eating crumpets with jam and scones with clotted cream. You explore Rosslyn chapel (where the Da Vinci Code was filmed), have drinks at the exclusive Scottish Malt Whiskey Society, and walk to the local pub for fish & chips, vegetarian haggis and pints of cider. You discover what ‘castle cold’ really means and learn to close shutters and doors to keep the heat in. You eat meals and laugh and play games with your family. All while living in a castle.

It was a lovely week and I am grateful for these shared memories. As I sit writing this, it seems to me that stories like these are beautiful and precious reminders to keep dreaming. To be audacious in our dreaming. If we do not dream, our dreams can never come true. This is not a fairy tale—I think we normally have to work for our dreams and that they rarely happen on their own. But, if we do not dream, a dream can never come true. May we all choose to keep dreaming audacious and crazy dreams. Sometimes they come true.

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The ‘great room,’ now a courtyard.

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Our living room for the week. rosslyn chapel

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Adventuring with Thumper.

a surfing weekend

Posted by pamela on Mar. 16, 14 | 0 COMMENTS

 

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Moving to the Central Coast of California means that surfing, a sport I had never considered doing, has suddenly been an easy and obvious hobby. I have not been on the water for months. In the fall the waves were mostly just beating me up and, when combined with cooler air temperatures, I lacked the motivation to make it happen. Then yesterday was a surfing day with friends, and it was absolutely perfect. Not only did I get to surf and play in the water for a couple of hours (where the waves were perfect for a beginner), I got to help a special friend, Silas, surf. What a perfect way to kick off a birthday weekend. And now I am off to Scotland for a week in a castle with my family. Hard to beat this. I hope your spring is filled with fun and laughter.silas surfing

let’s go fly a kite

Posted by pamela on Feb. 24, 14 | 0 COMMENTS

On Saturday I hiked one of the peaks along the coast here in California. For my mountain climbing friends, let me put this in perspective: 4 miles round trip, peak at 1,347 feet, a beautiful ocean view waiting for you at the top. A perfect hike for a late afternoon, and if you time it right, you can watch the sunset over the ocean on the hike down. This is one of the joys of the area – beautiful hikes not far from home that are easily indulged in with friends.

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To add to the fun, I have a little kite I bought a number of years ago on a day when I needed a smile and thought surely this little kite would bring a smile to my face. Well, it has brought a smile many times since, and Saturday was no exception. The winds were a little too strong and swirling for my little kite, and so it dove around like a drunken sailor. Oh the laughter as it pitched and rolled and danced above my head with a mind completely of its own.

My nephew, Thumper, has recently fallen in love with some of my favorite childhood musicals, including Mary Poppins. And so as I think about a kite and a carefree afternoon over the weekend, I could not help but think of a song from the Mary Poppins:

With tuppence for paper and strings
You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You’re a bird in a flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh!
Let’s go fly a kite 
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

Afternoons like this bring such joy and sunshine to everyday life.

split pea soup & welcoming 2014

Posted by pamela on Jan. 02, 14 | 2 COMMENTS

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When I was a child, and really, well into my 20’s, lentils tasted like dirt. It was not that I did not like them and was trying to find an excuse to not eat them, but they honestly tasted like dirt – like the earth beneath our feet. Make a 20 bean soup and I could tell you that it contained lentils because it would taste as if a spoonful of dirt was tossed into the pot to cook alongside the beans and spices. My taste buds were simply wired a little incorrectly when it came to this bean.

This was more than a little tragic given that I spent much of my childhood in the Middle East where lentils were a normal part of the local diet. Thankfully, it was not the most common food and I could generally avoid them and instead eat the wide array of food that I found to be truly fantastic. Every few years I would try (by choice or necessity) lentils again, each time disappointed.

Then, one day in my mid-20’s, I was served lentils by an unknowing friend. I could not imagine being rude and rejecting the home cooked meal, and so prepared to eat a meal I assumed would taste like earth. But it did not. For the first time, I tasted a lentil without dirt, a bean that was actually quite good. It was as if my taste buds had been rewired. Unfortunately, I found out (not that much later) that this did not apply to split peas. In the same moment I tasted them for the first time, I found out that I was wired to find them a little too earth-like to be enjoyable. Oh body, really, what is the point?

I see no reason to go out of my way to eat (or cook) things that taste like dirt. So, no split pea soup was being prepared or ordered by me. Then, on Sunday, I was served split pea soup by another unknowing friend. It was wonderful! I had a second bowl and then was given some to take home, which I promptly had for lunch the next day. Once again, my taste buds had been rewired.

As I say hello to 2014, I wonder how many other things in life are like this? I was content in my lentil and split pea free existence, and never would have gone out of my way to try them. But over time our tastes do change and develop; intentionally or unintentionally, they change. I would like to say that I always curate my tastes in life to be for good things, the things that are rich and fill the soul, but that is not always true. And I would like to say that I am always up for trying new things, but that is also not always true.

When I turned 30, I was coming out of a hard season of life, and as I was picking myself up and looking around, I decided that there was only one way to go: forward. Life did not look like what I thought it would, and so I declared it that my 30’s would be a decade of adventure. What better way was there to welcome the unknown and take a step forward then to declare the unknown to be good, life yet to be discovered full of fun? Adventures are grand but they are also often small, created by finding joy in life. They are found in the adrenaline of rappelling off of cliffs and the freedom of skinny dipping in a lake under the stars. They are found in books read on the beach and conversations with new friends by a fire. Adventures are found by choosing to find magic in the everyday.

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I am just shy of three years into this decade of adventure, and I love looking forward and wondering what the rest of this decade will hold. I have an inkling it will be rich. And I as I look forward, I am thankful for the reminder found in my split pea soup that tastes really do change, and I have a choice to help them along and keep trying, or to sit in what ‘I know to be true.’ I am thankful that I have friends who are on this journey with me, ones who share a sense of adventure, a deep-seeded joy, and a love of laughter. Thank you dear friends for making my life rich. Here is to a 2014 filled with adventures, magic in the everyday.

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Getting ready to do a polar bear swim today, January 1, 2014 (in costume, of course).

how i pack

Posted by pamela on Nov. 21, 13 | 2 COMMENTS

I am often asked about how I pack for my travel — about what to bring, my favorite odds and ends, and, my favorite, how it all fits into a carry-on. For some of you this is normal, for others, shocking. But, here is the simple, practical reality: When I travel, I rarely stay near the airport for even 24 hours, so when luggage gets lost, it either causes a major kink in the schedule or I go without my luggage. The simple solution is to not check luggage. Besides, why carry more than needed through airports, stuff it into taxis, or up airport stairs? It’s not fancy, but it normally works. So, here are my thoughts and tips.

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Basic principles: 

  • Figure out what you are doing and pack minimum that you need. That is mostly what this is about, plus a few extra gadgets to keep life fun.
  • Remember that you can always do laundry – even if it’s in a sink. You just need enough time for it to air dry.
  • For clothes, pack things that are flexible and can be worn with each other. Layers are your friend.
  • In most places people wear their nice clothes. So, think about leaving your safari-worthy clothes behind. Unless of course you are actually going on a safari.
  • Remove any extra packaging you can. For example, I often put medicines in smaller plastic bags and leave the bottles behind.
  • Never forget your headlamp. More often than not, it will be a good friend: when the bedside table is missing a lamp or when the power goes out.

Some of my favorite travel gadgets and where you can find them: 

  • GoToob Travel Bottles. these are super easy to fill with your own shampoo. Made a painful task easy. I use 1.5 oz bottles, which I do not see online. This lasts me for a two week trip without problems, so think before you pack 3 oz of shampoo.
  • Sea to Summit Dry Bag. I have the 4L one – it fits my journal, Kindle and camera with room to spare. It takes up almost no space, but has saved them from the middle of a surprise rain storm.
  • Kindle. I love the feel and the smell of books. I love used books. What I love more is being able to have a bunch of books in my bag all the time without devoting a lot of my bag to books. I still love paper books when I’m home.
  • Therm-a-Rest Stuff Sack Pillow. With my fleece inside it is far from a perfect pillow but has made up for more than one horrible pillow.
  • 2XU Compression Socks: Apparently I’m getting old because I love these on my long flights. I feel so much better after a trans-Atlantic flight when using these.
  • Sleeping bag liner. I only carry this when I am going back-country. But, when needed, this is great and I love that it is mosquito repellent.
  • Reusable Gear Ties. These keep the wires orderly and keep me sane. Definitely worth a couple of bucks.
  • Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes: I use the Quarter Cubes for my first aid kit and for my electronics. I use the Half Cubes when I am traveling to two different climates or regions to keep clothes separated. They keep my packing easy and use space well.
  • GSI Collapsable Coffee Drip. In much of rural Africa the only coffee available is instant coffee. But, I can normally get hot water. This silicon collapsable coffee drip has made many a happy morning for me and my travel companions.

Specific packing list (designed for a trip to Uganda & Ethiopia – vary based on your trip specific location and activities: 

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Clothes: 

  • Women: 2 skirts, 2 pairs trousers
  • Men: 3 pairs trousers
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 3 button down shirts or blouses
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 1-2 long sleeved shirts / 1 light cardigan
  • 1 pair pajamas
  • 5-7 pairs underwear (women: bras and slips)
  • 2-3 pairs socks
  • 1 pair compression socks
  • 1 fleece / outer layer
  • 1 rainy coat (if rainy season)
  • 1 bandana
  • 1 pair of chaos / walking shoes
  • 1 pair close-toed shoes
  • 1 pair flip flops
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat (for sun)

 Gear: 

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  • rolling, carry-on sized bag
  • day pack / shoulder bag (airlines call this a ‘personal bag’)
  • purse (that is packed inside backpack or luggage)
  • headlamp or small flashlight
  • alarm clock (or watch in addition to phone for when phone looses battery)
  • camera, charger
  • universal electricity plugs
  • passport & driver’s license (and a photocopy in different location of both)
  • journal or notebook
  • roll of electrical tape (best if you have a half roll lying around the house) – this has gotten me out of several binds
  • small sewing kit (needle, thread, safety pins)
  • thin, small tea towel – when traveling to the remote areas this has served as a bath towel, a bandage, and a wash cloth (all separate times)
  • ATM card
  • Airplane blow-up pillow: helps the long flights be manageable
  • for coffee lovers going to bad coffee locations: coffee drip, paper filters, coffee

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Toiletries: 

Remember that all liquids must be in 3 oz (100 mL) or less containers all packed in a 1 quart (1 liter) zip lock bag.

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  • 1 pack travel size hand wipes
  • 1 small hand sanitizer
  • 1 hair brush or cob
  • 1 soap / body wash
  • 1 deodorant
  • 1 lotion
  • 1 shampoo & conditioner
  • 1 toothpaste & toothbrush
  • nail clippers and file
  • 1 sunblock
  • 1 insect repellant

Medicine: 

These are the basics. Bring what you need and what your travel doctor recommends. 

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  • Malarone (anti-malarial pills)
  • Chewable Pepto Bismol
  • Imodium
  • Neosporen and bandaids
  • Ibuprofen or preferred pain killers
  • Allergy medicine as needed

How to pack: 

Some people like to roll their clothes, and I often resort to this on my way home. But, when on the road, I like to be able to see my clothes and easily work out of my suitcase. I fold my shirts and trousers so that I can see them all without unpacking. I like packing cubes (quarters) for first aid kits and wires. Also, I have a bad habit of forgetting things when I am tired and jet legged, which ends up being more often than I care to admit. So, whenever I can, I get bags and cases (iPhone cases, kindle covers, camera cases, etc.) that are bright colors, colors that do not blend in with bed spreads or disappear in airplane pockets. You can laugh, but this has saved me more than once. I hope these pictures help — all of that really can fit together. And yes, because of the specific itinerary on this trip, I packed more than normal – normally there is room to spare.

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Notes for other regions: 

As I said above, this was a packing job for Uganda / Ethiopia. It was the end of rainy season, so I needed a rain coat. I was moving frequently so had less time to wash clothes, and I needed some layers for Addis Ababa, where the weather is cooler. When I am in major cities, I pack clothes appropriate for cafes and evenings out. When I am in Asia, I pack fewer layers and more thin cottons. When I have space, I always toss in a pair of yoga pants or shorts to lounge in. When I go to a cold climate, I work with undershirts and a versatile sweater or two. Sometimes, these plans do not work and I have to check luggage, but, thankfully, it is rare. (Extra camera gear and cold climates present the biggest challenges and the most frequent checked luggage.) Most of the time, this is how I travel.

Do you have any special travel gadgets or packing tricks? I would love to hear them!

a small piece of magic

Posted by pamela on Nov. 06, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

I walked to yoga class in the dark, and as I walked home the stars shone bright. O’Ryan and the Big Dipper overhead, I could not help but smile. I was still warm from yoga, the air was cool, and a fire was waiting for me at home. A small piece of magic, a burst of beauty.

a smart shower? worth the investment.

Posted by pamela on Nov. 05, 13 | 2 COMMENTS

You know I love water and nearly everything to do with it. And so, today, I introduce a new idea – taking a minute to seriously think about how long you spend in the shower.

How long are your showers? How many gallons of water flow down the drain while you simply enjoy the warmth? How much does it cost you? I bet if you had any idea how much water, and how much money, you were spending, you might change your habits. There is a new little device being made that would tell you exactly that information with an instant feedback loop. It would snap on to your shower, and turn orange and then red when you were in the shower for too long. Paying attention to that little red light would save gallons of water and lots of dollars every month. Take a minute and check out the details HERE

These guys are still in college, but they have a great team and a great idea. My geeky, water conserving brothers are confident they can pull this together (and know the professors supporting this team). I want to believe that innovations like these really do make a difference, and that is why I am telling you about this.

I rarely plug products here, but this one is worth checking out. They have 10 more days to fund this project, and I think it is awesome. I live in a region that is constantly short on water, and my water bill is my most expensive utility bill every month. I am supporting this project. I hope this project is wildly successful and that one day these smart showers will be commonplace. Will you join me and help make that a reality? Let’s conserve a little water together.

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ps – The kickstarted page shows some of the quotes of others who think it is cool…. like Fast Company!

being thankful & learning new rhythms

Posted by pamela on Sep. 30, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

It has been a few months since I wrote here, and even longer since it was a regular habit. For me, that is what happens sometimes when life gets tossed upside down. In the last six months life took several turns that I did not anticipate: I took a job months earlier than I intended to, moved to California, added Asia to my work travel schedule, bought a condo, and am in the midst of a small remodel. Pause and take a deep breath: the nomad, who two years ago downsized and moved to Africa, then moved back and was preparing for months of travel, photography, cooking, exploring and seeing friends, instead took a job and bought a house (and has done very little photography, cooking, or seeing of old friends). These twists and turns were both unanticipated and beautiful; I am thankful for this journey.

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I feel like when you accept a job, you step into the unknown. It does not matter how much research you have done, how many conversations you have had, or how many details you  have worked out – it is an unknown. There are hopes and dreams and you want to pretend that you know what you are stepping into, but it will be different than you anticipate. The hope is that it will be better in its own way, but it is the gamble taken. I have just completed six months at my job — and I am thankful to say that it is has been better than I hoped for and I am excited about the future. There is so much work to do, so many lives to impact, but I am in a place where I can work and can grow, I am with a team that is strong. We are far from perfect, but  we embrace the challenges and believe in excellence. Trust me, you will be hearing more about my journey at Lifewater and the lives we impact. It is good and I hope you join me in the work we are doing. I am thankful for this work.

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Then there is the condo. There is a part of me that never wanted to make such a purchase and a commitment to upkeep of a property, but then there was another part of me that wanted a place that was my home – my own place of peace that I could share with others. Well, I am in the midst of creating the latter: my very own place of peace. When you buy a 1979 condo that had never been updated and had downsized your possessions (or left them trailed behind you in other countries), this is a not small labor of love, but a worthy one. I am thankful for this home.

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This is where I find myself: on a most unexpected adventure, but thankful it is where I am. My world has been flipping around, and I am starting to find my new normal, and for that I am thankful as well. I can honestly say that I am excited by where I am and what I am doing. I am excited by this challenge and this journey, and I look forward to sharing more of it with you as I settle into the new rhythms of my life.

i love coming home

Posted by pamela on May. 09, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

a photo a day: week 17

location: San Luis Obispo, CA

As much as I love to travel, I love to come home. I love familiar feelings of places that I know, that share a piece of my story and a part of my history. I intuitively knew that this is different than nostalgia, but I could not make that thought tangible, so I looked nostalgia up in the dictionary.

Nostalgia is “a sentimental longing or a wistful affection for the past, typically a period or place with happy personal association.” (New Oxford American Dictionary)

This love of coming home is not a longing of the past. Instead it is a sense of belonging and a placement within history. My home is my haven where I am free to create and to simply breathe. It is my place of peace that I share with loved ones. Every time I move, I work to make my new house my home as quick as possible, and I am glad to say that as I fill the pores of this house with the smells of cooking and her walls with my photos it is becoming a home, a place I love to come home to.

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the start of a new adventure

Posted by pamela on Mar. 28, 13 | 3 COMMENTS

Right now I am on the road west. I am on a long road trip with my dad, my car, and trailer filled with my belongings. Approximately 2,400 miles from start to finish, this trip from Georgia to California will close the door to several beautiful months off with family and friends and swing open the door to my new adventure: life and work in California.

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Next week I will be joining the team at Lifewater International as their Director of International Programs. This is a nonprofit I have known and respected for many years and consider myself incredibly blessed to have this as my next adventure. My work will continue to focus on water and sanitation around the world, so get ready to hear more about that and be introduced to new places as I both make my home in San Luis Obispo and travel the globe to meet with new partners.

This is the start of a another beautiful adventure.

 

hiking the cumberland river trail

Posted by pamela on Mar. 21, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

That particular weekend in January we were hoping to go camping, which took some serious commitment for me because I don’t love the cold. But, I believe in seizing the day, and this was the weekend available. Then it got all rainy and muddy on Thursday and Friday. Muddy and cold and a chance of rain. We decided sleeping indoors was a wise move. Someday maybe I will fall in love with cold weather camping. Maybe you will be the one to make that possible. For now, this is this the story of that weekend.

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Camping nixed, the goal was to find a place to be outside. Breathing in nature is good for my soul, and even if I was not camping, there was to be an adventure. We flipped through a book I highly recommend called 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Nashville. There are different editions of this book for different cities, and I think they are brilliant. I am writing this particular trip up here because it is a place I wish I had known about when I was living in Nashville. We went to the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail near Ashland City and did about an eight mile walk on an old railroad path that was paved over. It was flat and easy walk, but the sky was blue, it was warmer than anticipated, and it was a new area. The trail continues for another segment just as long (though I am not sure if it is all paved). For much of the walk we felt like we had it to ourselves. It would be perfect for a bike ride, a hike, taking a stroller, just something different that is close and easy and not muddy when it rains like crazy. Besides, if you do the first part of the trail, there is this random bike welded on top of a pole. Random and odd and made us smile that day.

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I often find that adventures end well with a hunt for a local diner or restaurant. It is now becoming a tradition – sometimes something grand is found, sometimes greasy locations where it is rather clear I am not a local. This time we found a Vuocolo’s Italian Pizzeria, a restaurant in what looks like a house. Inside it feels like a house and there are really only two tables. Would it be good? We had our questions, but that is part of the adventure, part of the game. It was outstanding. The owner will happily divide the pizza in half or quarters so that you can each get what you want. I think it was the best pizza in the Nashville region. Why don’t you take a trip up there this spring or summer? Go for a long walk and get some pizza, then let me know what you think. 

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a pizza taste-off

Posted by pamela on Mar. 15, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

Four pizza places within four blocks. There are stories behind some of these places – one started after disgruntled employees left. One is legendary because of its cheese. What do I do when I hear about all of this? I decide that we need a taste-off. And of course we can do this in an affordable (and at least semi-non-indulgent) way: one slice of plain pizza with red sauce and cheese. All in all, four slices of the classic, basic pizza. Line them up and start tasting. The three of us would take a bite move on, take another bite, swap locations, shuffle around.

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We were looking for the total package: crust, sauce, cheese, price, and location. The one with legendary cheese? A horrible crust and the sauce was only so-so. I love brick-oven pizza, but the one with a brick-oven styled crust did not have the right sauce or cheese to go with. One cost $2.50 while the others were all less than $2.00; it was also the furthest away. Our decisions made, we each headed back for one more slice. We laughed, we chatted, we analyzed together. And for less than $15 we had lunch for three and made a memory.

Where did this happen and which pizza joint was the winner? Irrelevant. The point is that we created fun in the middle of the week when we needed some laughter. Go, grab some friends and make a memory.

 

a few weeks of quiet

Posted by pamela on Mar. 07, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

After a few days in Atlanta, I hopped in my car and drove north, to spend a couple of weeks stepping away from the business of life and changes that are fast approaching. I have spent the time enjoying community, slowing down, stepping away from the media and social media. I have spent time putting words to pages, reading fun books, and playing many new games. It has been good and seems perfect that this is during the season of lent. This slowing down has given my brain time to think and to be, both things that are precious when life seems to fly by at lightening speeds. Next week I will be back online with new blog posts and some exiting news about where I am headed next, so stay tuned.

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