Saturday, July 11, 2020

Watercolors - Travels in Spain

These are some of my watercolors from my many travels in Spain.

While Ronda, one of Spain’s Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) has always been a tourist focal point, I found plenty of serenity by hiking down to the bottom of the narrow gorge that defines the city’s geography.

Another of my daydreams: a village in Spain as seen through a rain-streaked window. Though I always prefer sun streaming through glass, in Spain even dreary weather is atmospheric and fills me with wonder and optimism.

Another pastoral village in Spain that gives me joy and instills me with a sense of tranquility and calm.

I spent many summers in this petite, isolated hamlet that’s snuggled in a deep, verdant valley three hours north of Madrid. Being enveloped by nature as I was there is what I crave right now.

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Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Luxe, Activity-Laden Resort in Rhode Island

After months of sheltering at home, most people in the Northeast are craving a getaway that safe. Ideally — at least for me — that means staying at a resort with myriad outdoor activities where it’s easy to socially distance with your partner, family or by yourself; where you don’t have to forsake delectable cuisine and fine wines; where you can order a multi-course picnic served on your private deck overlooking a pond; where you can put your pandemic worries on hold as you luxuriate in a jacuzzi tub in your two-story contemporary villa. The 3,500-acre Preserve Sporting Club and Residences in Rhode Island is just a short drive from New York City. This is my latest for Forbes on The Preserve Sporting Club and Residences.

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Watercolors Park 3 - Landscapes

Until it’s safe to travel widely, I’m spending time painting. This is part 3 of my landscape watercolor series based on my domestic and international travels. Each image reflects a scene inspired by one or more of my journeys. (All of my paintings are available as prints.)

Sometimes forests have colors that only I can see.

For me, the sky and sea are one.

Even though the only forests I see now are in my dreams, they still snuggle me with comfort.

In my dreams, the colors of the sky, clouds, and trees can be unusual but no less beautiful and inspiring.

Entering each and every forest is a magical and transformative experience for me.

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Sunday, June 21, 2020

Watercolors Part 2 - Landscapes

With my round-the-world travels on pause for now, I’m finding great comfort in the myriad creative endeavors I’m involved with, and that includes my artistic pursuits. This is Part 2 of my watercolor series. Each image reflects a scene inspired by one or more of my journeys. (All of my paintings are available as prints.)

When I walk through forests, especially those that have existed for centuries, I feel a great sense of hope, peace, wonder and vitality.

The sun rising above natural landscapes gives me hope that the day holds promise and opportunities.

It seems like nowadays even the trees are now crying.

I never tire of the varieties of colors, shapes, sizes and textures in nature.

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Watercolors: Trees, Trees and More Trees

I had always considered myself a city girl who adores the country - especially forest lands. But with the pandemic that has me trapped in a distant neighborhood of NYC with no access to woodland, I feel like my love of the urban environment has plummeted while my need for nature grows with each passing day. This is part one of a series of blog posts featuring my pastoral watercolors. (Prints are all available for purchase. Contact me for more information.) For those who are sheltering or in some sort of lockdown in these pandemic days, perhaps these scenes will satisfy your wanderlust or act as a much needed stress reducer.

Trees have always been one of my favorite subjects, whether in my photography or paintings. But, now, I’m missing forests and woodland more than anything else.

These scenes are all inspired by my round-the-world travels.

I’m longing for the day when I can again walk through dense forests dappled with sun

I never tire of trees. Each has a distinctive personality. And each radiates a sense of calm. If I could transport myself somewhere right now, it would definitely be a forest, specifically the woodlands along the Camino dos Faros in Galicia, Spain that I had hiked. This painting of mine (below) reminds me of those forests.

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Saturday, June 6, 2020

Items for the Home - Sensory Delights

In this time of the lockdown, it’s the little things that count, whether that means a frothy cup of cappuccino or a heavenly scented shower. Focusing in on and being mindful of the sights, sounds, tastes, textures and aromas of different items in your home can take you away from this world that’s in dissarray, even for a little bit. The four items below are ones I highly recommend for their sensory delights. 

PowerLix Milk Frother Pro — There are so many things many of us who have been living under lockdown for 2+ months miss, including a cup of espresso with frothy milk. (And that’s especially the case if you don’t live anywhere near a coffee shop, and you don’t have an espresso machine at home.) One way to get a similar taste and texture sensation is to brew your coffee using a moka pot and then then foam the milk — including non-dairy such as almond or soy — using the Powerlix Milk Frother Pro. This relatively inexpensive device looks very delicate but it foams almond milk to a cloud-like texture in just 30 seconds. 

Rituals - Energizing Shower Scrub, Sweet Orange and Cedar Wood — Why not bring a bit of a spa experience into your home? This shower scrub, which is made of almond and avocado oils along with essence of orange flowers and cedar can be part of your morning mindfulness routine in the bathroom. The sugar in the product makes for a light skin exfoliant while the fragrance of orange flowers and cedar offers an invigorating aroma to luxuriate in. 

L’Occitane - Citrus Verbena shampoo — With all the time sheltering at home, I find it’s important to be mindful of pleasant scents, something that can bring a hint of pleasure to an otherwise boring day. This shampoo is made with extracts of lemon, orange and grapefruit, citrus fruits that offer refreshing scents that are reminiscent of summer. The shampoo is gentle, leaving your hair clean but not damaged even when used daily. 

Ginger Lily Farms - Apple Pear Hand Soap — With all the hand washing that needs to be done in the era of the pandemic, I needed a hand soap that was not going to irritate or dry out my hands. During the first month of lockdown, my hands became so dry, the skin began to crack and bleed. Luckily I heard about this vegan liquid hand soap that’s made with fruit extracts. Curiously, despite all the hand washing, my skin never felt so soft and the fragrance is pleasant but light. It only comes in a one gallon but it’s worth it. No need to search for liquid hand soap for quite some time. 

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Faroe Islands - Photos

I’m dreaming of the Faroe Islands, a windswept archipelago of 18 islands that’s snuggled in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Norway. It thrives on its main claim to fame: a reputation for a pristine environment, and awe-inspiring scenery. 

The weather can be dramatic with high winds and drenching rains. In fact, the Faroese have 40 words for “fog.” But no matter whether it’s foggy, cloudy, blustery, whether I was pelted with rain or sleet, or whether the sun was blazing, this is a land with an absolute peaceful beauty that I long to return to.

I visited four of the 18 islands and found that around every bend in the road is an idyllic scene of tumbling waterfalls, rushing streams, jagged peaks with birds soaring about, and expansive pastures where sheep placidly graze. 

A bucolic trail that takes about two hours to hike leads from the capital city of Torshavn to Kirkjubour, a waterfront village of turf-roof dwellings, cathedral ruins and Saint Olav's Church. It's here where Trondur Patursson, a Faroese sculptor, painter and glass artist, created the colorful gate in the photo below. 

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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Resorts in Fiji - Photos

I’m daydreaming of Fiji, specifically Castaway Island, a resort on a private island, as well as the Nanuku Auberge Resort, which is set on the rainy side of the main island of Viti Levu.

At Castaway island, the North Beach is perfect for an early morning walk. Every morning, I walked out of my beach bure — a traditional Fijian bungalow — and jogged along the golden sands, or hiked a trail along the coastline, being mindful of the sensation of the breeze on my face, and the soft sound of the tide lapping on volcanic rocks.

Some days, at low-tide, I strolled around a rocky point to a more desolate strip of sand. Some people enjoy kayaking there as well. I dream of getting a massage at a portable table that’s occasionally set up along North Beach in a secluded area, far from the myriad water-based activities

Even a type A person (like myself) can easily get into a Zen state of mind at the Nanuku Auberge Resort where a sustainability and eco ethic prevails, including learning how to plant mangrove forests. This property is idyllic, whether it’s the accommodations that have private plunge pools, the creative cuisine in the al fresco restaurant, or the daily opportunities to learn first-hand about Fijian culture.

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Mauritius - SALT of Palmar resort - Photos

Memories of SALT of Palmar that’s set along the languid east coast of Mauritius. A stay at this placid property is all about embracing life, love and learning: love for the environment and the eco- and sustainability-focused ethic cultivated on the property that provides guests with super soft bathrobes made with 100% organic cotton and material from coffee beans, and flip flops constructed of sedge; living a day that begins with sunrise yoga and mindful meditation on the white sand beach; and learning a new skill, such as pottery taught by the same artisan who created all the creative ceramic dishware in their al fresco restaurant.

SALT of Palmar enwraps guests in a tranquil vibe that’s also full of whimsy and playfulness, especially in terms of its architecture. The basic structure is a riad-style complex with nooks and crannies and oculus windows and plant-filled courtyards. But the designers also imbued the resort with some strikingly wild hues and seemingly disparate patterns. This diversity reflects the country itself that’s a melting pot of cultures and cuisine.

One of my many fond memories: An oculus window reveals the peace that’s found in every nook and cranny at this property.

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Sunday, May 10, 2020

Iceland - Reykjanes Peninsula - Photos

At this time, calming travel photos are welcome. Whenever I visit Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, I’m filled with peace and joy, surrounded by dramatic and pastoral landscapes — something I especially crave now.

Though the Reykjanes Peninsula is most noted for bustling Keflavik Airport, I roamed the landscape windswept seascapes and volcanic reminders. It’s  chock full of curious geological features. The second photo below shows off Gunnhver, a geothermal area where I strolled a boardwalk, surrounded by plumes of steam that pour from cracks in the earth. This area is named for Gunna, a female ghost that was said to plague the peninsula until she was thrown into a roiling hot spring. The thick clouds obscure much along the boardwalks, including any apparitions. .

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Any-Occasion Greeting Cards As We Self-Isolate

As we continue to self-isolate, many of us crave connections with others more than ever, to recapture some of the intimacies we had in the “before time” or maybe to reconnect with those we’ve lost touch with. Sure, we no long send cards and letters to friends and family whether to commemorate a special event or just to say “hi hi.” But at this time, receiving a handwritten card emblazoned with a landscape image that provides travel inspiration and satisfies some of our wanderlust might be especially appreciated. Each of my any-occasion greeting cards features one of my landscape, nature and travel photos from my around-the-world travels, including India, Corsica, Nicaragua and Israel.  Some of the cards are vertical and others are horizontal. (This montage represents a sample of the many photo images available.) They can be purchased singly or as a set of 5 or 12 or more different images. (When purchased, you’ll receive a random sampling of the number of cards desired.)

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Friday, April 17, 2020

Healthy + Flavorful Food Items While Sheltering At Home

As we in New York continue to socially distance and remain in our homes, going out (wearing masks) only when necessary for vital groceries or medication, it’s become more and more difficult to order groceries online, whether from Amazon, Pea Pod, Fresh Direct, to name a few, that require scheduling at odd hours or making scheduling attempts over and over again, often to no avail. Yet, as we are sheltered at home for what seems like forever, we crave healthy and flavorful food and beverages. Below are some small companies that take the frustration out of ordering specific items while also offering plenty of sensory stimulation.

Angelic Bakehouse  produces a variety of wholesome breads, including the Sprouted 7-grain with 3 grams of fiber per slice. The ingredients include sprouted red wheat berries, quinoa, oat groats and rye berries.

Elmhurst 1925 is noted for their plant milks, such as unsweetened almond milk that, unlike most every other almond milk on the market, contains only two ingredients: almonds and water. Among their myriad plant milks are: cashew, oat and hazelnut.

Devocion Coffee works with farmers in Colombia where the beans are dried and then shipped to the roasting facility in Brooklyn, NY. Their network is so efficient that just 10 days or so elapses from the point of origin to the cup. The result: a flavorful brew.

La Tienda is a source of tasty Spain-sourced marcona almonds, including the no-salt, oven roasted product that contains 3 grams of fiber per 1 ounce serving. For anyone not familiar with marcona almonds, they have a different flavor, texture and shape compared with traditional almonds. Anyone who has traveled to Spain will delight in these nuts and, for those who haven’t, they’ll get an introduction to a healthy, tasty nut.

Cook Unity is a company delivering healthy, nutritious, flavorful meals prepared by private chefs. You tell them what you like — such as fish — and what you are trying to avoid — such as sodium. Each week you’ll an aesthetically pleasant set of meals arrives at your door in a zippered, insulated and chilled shopping bag. You’ll even be able to track the delivery vehicle as it approaches your neighborhood and leaves it at your door.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Quebec Maritime Photo - 4

In Quebec Maritime in the village of Sainte-Flavie, some 100 wooden human-like sculptures pepper the shore of the Saint Lawrence River. The sculptures traverse the landscape from the water to the land, with some appearing and disappearing with the tide.

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Friday, April 3, 2020

Quebec Maritime Photo - 3

In Quebec Maritime, art appears in some unlikely places. This contemporary sculpture, Le Cheval Noir, can be found in the town of Trois-Pistoles. And there’s an interesting tale associated with a horse and the adjacent church that, of course, involves the devil.  
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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Quebec Maritime Photo - 2

Quebec Maritime’s Parc Beauséjour that’s set along the Saint Lawrence River is idyllic for an urban cross-country skiing adventure. Numerous outdoor sculptures pepper the riverfront landscape. This scenic, placid park is located in the city of Rimouski. I wish I were there now. 

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Quebec Maritime: Photo

When the thaw started, several colorful ice fishing huts had been pulled off the ice of the Saint Lawrence River in the city of Rimouski in Quebec Maritime. 

As I’m self-isolating and self-distancing, I continue to create by posting photos from my previous travels. Each image inspires and calms me, helping me re-experience all the wonders the Earth offers us. And when this pandemic passes, each of these photos can provide all of us with ideas for future travels.
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Saturday, March 14, 2020

Protecting Myself From Coronavirus

Many people are asking me what I’m doing during this
coronavirus pandemic. I’m certainly overly cautious,
especially given my background in microbiology, physiology
and epidemiology. Now, in New York City, we have to social-distance, and notgo out of the house, except for necessities. Given that I live in a distant NYC suburb without a car, I have to venture out on foot to buy groceries. Here’s 
what I do.

Whenever I have access to soap and water, I thoroughly
wash all the surfaces of my hands.

I carry Purell in my pocket and use it liberally when soap and
water is not available.

I don’t touch my hands to my mouth, eyes or nose.

I also carry Lysol wipes and use this on any surface I will be

I don’t get within six feet of anyone. 

Whenever I have to open a door or touch a handrail, I do
so with a Lysol wipe in my hand or I wear one cloth glove.
But the glove, of course, becomes contaminated and, once
I get home, I disinfect it by rinsing in chlorine. (I don’t let
the glove touch my bare hands or anything else I will be

I use a diluted solution of alcohol on my iPhone if it was
somehow set on a surface that I neglected to wipe down with Lysol.

While I’ve seen people reusing N-95 masks or surgical masks
-- the latter are not effective against the coronovirus -- most
are single-use masks and are not to be reused. In addition,
if you are wearing a mask and you take it off, you have to properly
clean your hands that touched the mask.
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Sunday, March 8, 2020

Dispelling Myths on Coronavirus

I've been traveling recently. And, whether I was on NJ Transit to Newark Airport or catching up with friends and colleagues on Facebook, I sadly have been confronted with a lack of understanding of science and infectious disease, in this case the coronavirus epidemic (pandemic). Here are some of the myths and facts related to the coronavirus outbreak:

Myth: If you got a flu shot and maybe the pneumonia vaccine, you're ok.

Fact: Not true. Though getting both the flu and pneumonia vaccines (if you are over 65) would reduce the likelihood of you getting either disease that would compound your problems, they do not protect you from the coronavirus.

Myth: Scientists will have a coronavirus vaccine in a couple of months.

Fact: Not true. The development of a vaccine that will be used in humans requires a number of steps that require clinical trials, first with a small number of subjects and then with a much larger sample size. That being said, it's likely we will not see a vaccine for at least a year or more.

Myth: Only old people get sick from the coronavirus.

Fact: Though we are not seeing very young children getting sick, one of the early cases of coronavirus on the west coast was a teenager. And now there are reports that large percentages (almost 40%) of hospitalized cases in the U.S. are in ages 20s to 50s. Though most of the deaths have been among older people. Anyone can get sick with the coronavirus, though most everyone will have mild symptoms. But anyone who is immunocompromised or has an underlying health condition (such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cardiac disease) -- especially if they are older -- has an increased risk of a more serious illness.

Myth: Coronavirus doesn't stay on surfaces for very long so there's no worries about touching a surface that hasn't been in use for awhile.

Fact: It's believed that the coronavirus can remain viable on surfaces for several hours up to a few days. But it depends on the surface and the amount of virus. For example, the virus may remain viable longer on metal than cloth surface. If you think a surface may be contaminated, use a disinfectant cloth (such as Lysol) to wipe it down and, of course, wash your hands with soap and water, or, if it's not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.

Myth: Taking vitamin C supplements, drinking green tea, eating garlic, or ingesting probiotics can help prevent coronavirus.

Fact: No. These natural remedies will neither protect you from this novel coronavirus nor can they treat the condition should you become sick. Neither will antibiotics work as a treatment since this is a viral infection, not a bacterial illness.

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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Protecting Yourself From The New Coronavirus

Most people don't have a background in microbiology or infectious diseases. So, it's understandable why many are either in a state of denial or a state of panic regarding the new (novel) coronavirus outbreak that started in China and now has spread to numerous countries, including the U.S.

This virus tends to lodge in the lungs. It typically presents with fever, coughing and fatigue. Most people may feel like they would when they get a bad flu. But if someone is immunocompromised, is older and not well because of another condition (such as respiratory or cardiac problems), the symptoms may worsen to shortness of breath and require hospitalization.

Here's what you need to know to protect yourself:

Wash your hands thoroughly and often whenever you touch a surface of any sort or if you touch another person, as in shaking hands (which you should avoid).

When washing your hands with soap and water, do so for at least 20 seconds.

When soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Do not use a non-alcohol-based sanitizer.

Don't touch your hands to your face, including your eyes, nose and mouth.

In your home or office, use a disinfectant wipe or spray to clean surfaces.

Though there's no vaccine for coronavirus as yet and probably won't be for at least a year or so, you should make sure that you've gotten a flu vaccine as well as the vaccinations for bacterial pneumonia (pneumococcal pneumonia). Though neither of these vaccines will have anything to do with preventing the new coronavirus infection, getting these vaccinations makes it less likely that you are not otherwise medically compromised and that you'll have the need to visit a hospital or doctor's office where you'd be in close proximity to other sick people.

If you become sick, stay at home so that you don't spread any infection to others.

When you sneeze or cough, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, for example, to prevent droplets with infectious organisms from spreading to others or to surfaces. Throw these tissues in the garbage rather than letting them touch a surface. Otherwise sneeze or cough in the crook of your elbow.

If you know people who are sick -- they have a fever or are coughing and/or sneezing -- don't get closer than six feet or so from them.

There is no need to buy any sort of face mask. The N-95 is what's used by health professionals who are treating sick people. And the Centers for Disease Control does not recommend these masks for the public. And the cotton-type surgical mask won't do much of anything in terms of protecting you should someone who coughs or sneezes near you. That's because it doesn't fit tightly to your face nor does it have small enough pores to prevent droplets from entering.

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Sunday, February 23, 2020

A Well-Stocked Traveler's First-Aid Kit

Most people skimp on first-aid supplies when traveling, thinking they'll find whatever they need once they're at their destination (should anything untoward occur). That's definitely not the case. Imagine if you're a woman in a country where you don't speak the language and, in the middle of the night, you realize you have a vaginal infection. Good luck finding treatment or relief. The same goes for going off the beaten track only to find that you've been stung by a jellyfish or you brushed against poison ivy. Or if you're sitting beside a campfire and an ash flies into your eye. What do you do?

For these and many other reasons, I always carry a well-stocked first-aid kit when I travel. Below are my recommendations. You'll notice that I've grouped the supplies into categories based on symptom or body organ/system, which makes it easier to determine what you need for what ails you.

Bites, Stings, Rashes, Burns

Benadryl cream - for itching
Aloe vera gel - for sunburn relief
IvyBlock - to prevents poison ivy rash
Calamine lotion -- for rash/itching
Antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine -- for allergies or rash/itching
Hydrocortisone cream - for rash/itching
Tecnu - poison ivy skin cleanser
After Bite -- for itching after a "bug" bite

Cuts, Blisters and Bruises

Betadine or other antiseptic wipes
Bacitracin topical antibiotic cream
Blister kit with moleskin
QuikClot - to stop bleeding fast
Spenco 2nd Skin squares/pads - for blister protection
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain and fever
Bandage strips (in a variety of sizes) as well as “butterfly”-type bandages
Nonstick gauze squares and gauze roll
Ace-type, elastic wrap bandages
Adhesive tape
Aquaphor ointment - for blisters 
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat, Teeth

Eye Wash
Lubricating Eye Drops
EarPlanes to unclog ears on the plane
Saline nasal spray

Stomach Issues

Bonine - for motion sickness
MiraLax - for constipation
Pepto Bismol chewable tabs - for diarrhea and to prevent traveler's diarrhea
Electrolyte replacement powder - for diarrhea
Peppermint Tummy drops - for stomach upset

Women's Needs

Diflucan (single oral dose) - prescription pill for vaginal infection
Monistat vaginal cream - for vaginal infection

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Packing With Only A Carry-On

I never check luggage. Even when I’m on the road for six plus weeks, I only travel with a carry-on bag and a small backpack, along with my 7-in-1 wallet. Checking luggage has no upside. It’s expensive and time consuming. I like to jump off the plane and hit the ground running. No waiting at the carousel for luggage. Here’s how I do it:

On the plane, I wear my heaviest items, including my bulkiest outer wear and shoes/boots. Aside from a dress, on the plane I wear black leggings, a merino wool hoodie, and a merino wool or fleece sweater/jacket, and a down vest that doubles as a pillow.

I choose clothing that in neutral or earth tones, often black, tan or grey -- so there's a lot of mix and matching -- with tees, tanks and a scarf providing bright accent colors.

Almost all the clothes I pack do not wrinkle and are made of wickable fabrics, which means they don't absorb moisture easily so you stay dry as you race about town, but they also dry relatively quickly when you wash them. (I hand wash my underwear, pants, shorts, dresses and shirts and they dry in no time.)

When packing my bag, I roll all the clothing. 

Here’s what I pack in my carry-on:
2 dresses
1 pair of pants (that convert to shorts)
2 t-shirts
2 long sleeve shirts
1 tank top
1 buff (that doubles as a scarf/hat)
1 rain jacket
1 pair of Mary Janes or sandals
3 pair of socks (Merino wool)
3 pairs of underwear (Merino wool)

Here’s what I pack in my small backpack:
iPhone plus bluetooth keyboard
First-aid kit
Vitamin supplements
Toiletries in travel sizes that fit in the TSA-recommended bag
Charging cords and international plug
Earplugs and eye mask

My 7-in-1 Wallet contains:
credit cards
drivers license
lip balm
cell phone
business cards

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Sunday, February 9, 2020

Culinary Delights in St. Kitts

Unlike Nevis, its tiny, placid sister island that’s a mere
seven minutes away by water taxi, St. Kitts buzzes with
an overabundance of large cruise ship activity, with
travelers gravitating to casinos, zip lines and ATV vehicles.
However, I sought out and found the serene side of this
island, including chill restaurants that satisfy all tastes,
whether vegan or confirmed meat eater. The photos (below)
reflect some of the scrumptious desserts served at the
MangoLand Cafe, an informal eatery where guests sit in
the placid backyard in the shade of, what else, but
mango trees. This is my latest article for Forbes on St. Kitts. 

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