Monday, December 21, 2015

The Cost of Adventure

©Art by ZoĆ© De Las Cases. Colored by Crystaline.

In two weeks, we will pack up our suitcases, fly two solid days, and land in Kathmandu, Nepal. This is our fifth tour and I find myself wondering what I will miss over the next two years.  I will miss weddings, funerals, birthdays, holidays, births, and deaths. My friends and I will pass into new stages of life as we reach new milestones. I worry that the distance alone means that I am not the friend or family member that I should be. I worry that when I come back the differences in our life might be too different.

Many years ago, I met the National Geographic photographer, Sam Abell. He told me the story of how his wife got cancer. They had traveled their whole life but when his wife got sick he felt he had little support due to his lifestyle choices. He told me that his brother who was a school teacher had a better quality of life then he had. I have to remind myself that this was likely a very difficult time for him but I have kept hold of his words and strive to upkeep the relationships I hold dear.

I diligently track holidays and my close friends birthdays. I send Christmas cards and try to be good about calling those I love. But occasionally, I get that niggling fear that it's just not the same as being in the same space with the people that you love.

I love my life. I love this feeling of adventure. The unknown spreading out before me with infinite possibilities. I like the challenge of learning to find grocery stores and restaurants that I will ultimately count as "my" special spots in each country. I will take thousands of pictures and meet people with stories that will broaden the way I see the world. I will seek out new relationships with people I don't know. They will become my family away from home. They will see me through the hard bits of life and the joys that are inevitably in front of me.

I will change. And so will the people I love. And I hope that the time that we've had and the time we continue to make for each other is enough. I am so grateful for the friends and family who have seen me through every stage of my life.

May you all have a wonderful holiday season and know that where ever you may be in life or the world, you are loved.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Rwanda

Well it's officially over. A few weeks ago a truck pulled away with 4200 lbs of stuff. And today our shipment went off with the final 450 lbs. that will meet us in D.C. Another tour wrapped.

This week I've spent some time thinking about Rwanda and all the things I will miss about living here. This is the first post where I was able to make my career work. The first post where Dom and I had amazing work life balance. We are leave some amazing memories and incredible friendships in our wake.

I always feel like it is my responsibility to any future FS couple or visitors to Rwanda to create our "must-do activities". So here you go.

1. Gorilla Trekking. This was truly one of the most amazing things that we have ever done. You can see my previous post for more details. Seriously people. Put this on your bucket list! It's worth every penny.

2. Nyungwe Forest Lodge wins a the best lodge we stayed at in Rwanda and maybe anywhere. It is located in the middle of a gorgeous tea planation and a short drive away from the canopy walk and waterfall hike. Go here and enjoy!

3. Imbabazi- We never expected to walk into the middle of an English garden in the middle of Rwanda. And yet here it was! A former orphanage run by an extraordinary woman named Ros Carr (read her book!), this farm is simply breathtaking and it'll give you an interesting history lesson. One Sunday a month they do a tea with intore dancers. Really spectacular!

4. Brachetto- This is without a doubt our favorite restaurant in Kigali. We spent many an evening here so Dom could get his pasta and Crystal could have the chocolate mouse.

5. Diner en Blanc Kigali- By far our favorite "Kigali" event. Preparing for it by shopping in the used clothing market is almost as fun as going!

6. Inzora- We coffee lovers must have a favorite coffee shop and this is it. It's also the location of one of the only book stores in Kigali.

7. Bbrood- Carb lovers unite! I've lived in many cities where it's difficult to get good bread. We hit up this place once a week for their delicious multgrain loaf.

8. Nyamirambo Women's Center- By far my favorite place to purchase crafts in Kigali. The quality is just superb. They also do neighborhood tours! All their programs support women's education/training in the Nyamirambo neighborhood.

9. Akagera- A nice mini safari with elephants, giraffes, and as of this week---lions!

10. Rwanda Clothing Company- Want some custom made clothing? This is the place! Amazing quality and fabric choice.

Farewell Rwanda! Thanks for the ride!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Minimalist Makeup

I have a confession to make. I've become an all natural, juice loving, granola hippie. And it's all minimalism's fault. What started out as a journey for simplicity has turned into all natural products and incense. I hope you all are ready for this.

I recently read Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr. I was stunned to learn that most women use 12 beauty products daily and each of those products have 168 ingredients. No premarket safety testing is required for the industrial chemicals that go into personal care products or the chemical industry as a whole. According to the Office of Cosmetics and Colors at the federal Food and Drug Administration, “…a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA.”  (FDA 2012) The FDA does no systematic reviews of safety, instead authorizing the cosmetics industry to self-police ingredient safety through its Cosmetics Ingredient Review panel. 

I really had no idea. I had been buying products stateside and shipping them in mass to whatever country I live in because I believed that the U.S. safety standards were higher. But then I used EWG Skindeep cosmetics database to check my products and learned that almost every product I used was between 5-6 (moderately toxic). Even scarier, I learned that cosmetic companies are not required to list all of their ingredients on the bottle so it's possible there were other chemical ingredients that I'd never even know about.  There was almost zero correlation between the price of the product I was using and it's safety. In fact, many of the more expensive products I used were MORE toxic. 

It was depressing. I'd spent years hunting down the perfect products and had quite a few that I really liked. But I've slowly gotten rid of everything that was 4 or above and eventually I hope to use products between 0-2.

Here are a few of my favorite (all natural) new things:

Vegan, Gluten Free Lipstick from Red Apple Lipstick. Currently using Naughty, Ralleye Balm, and Paris. I also love their lip exfoliant that isn't pictured here. I sort of hate the websites branding but they have great lipstick. 

I can't get enough of the RMS "Un" Cover-Up (EWG Score 1) and have been using it daily . Just a bit under the eyes an on any blemishes and off I go. It's amazing! I also like the 100% Pure Brand foundation (EWG Score 1) but I just don't use much with the amazing-ness of RMS. I only use this when I'm going out or for a work meeting. Or if I have more blemishes then normal. 

Oldies but Goodies (A few of my old products made the cut!):

The products that made the cut were my 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented in Black Tea (EWG Score 2), The Body Shop Shimmer Cube eye shadow, and the Naked Urban Decay Basics palette (EWG Score 2). 

Probably the funniest part of all of this is that while I am minimizing, I actually bought a whole pile of new beauty products. I don't really know what to think about that. But you win some, you loose some. 

Well that's all for now! Do you guys have any all natural product favorites? I'd love to know about them! 

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Adventure

 Dom and I have been talking about going gorilla trekking since we first arrived in Rwanda. This weekend we did it, and it was so much cooler than I thought it would be. I've seen dozens of photos of our friends trekking, and I knew you got close to the gorillas. But the truth is I had no idea how close we'd be.

We will be getting even closer!

We visited the Sabyinyo group led by the oldest living male gorilla, Guhonda.  Our trek was very easy, and it only took us about 45 minutes to reach the family. The gorillas decided to come down the mountain for the weekend holiday or maybe because they were so excited to see us! It was pouring rain for most of the trek up, but we piled on a few extra fleece layers under our rain jackets and slogged through the mud. The weather gods smiled down on us because the rain let up and we got some amazing photos during the hour we were allowed to spend with the gorilla group.

So in each group there is one male leader. The females align themselves with the big boss. And it is the his job to keep the group safe from outsiders. The other males in the group are supposed to stay away from the females even though they are fully mature and have natural urges. The first gorilla we saw was the third in command of the Sabyinyo group. Our guide kept calling him the prime minister and explained that he had a ear injury from a few days before.  The prime minister got the royal smackdown from Guhonda for doing the "jiggy jiggy" with one of the females in the group and was doing his best to avoid the big boss. He spent most of his time eating, but suddenly he got up. Our guide said, "He's going to charge, don't move and take a photo."  Yeah right! If I am going to get charged by a gorilla then I am not going to document it for the world to see. He stopped right before he got to us since no one moved. Then he brushed passed me to move onto better feeding grounds. I've officially been touched by a silverback!

We continued along and got to see several mothers and babies. And Big Ben, a balding trouble maker, kept stirring up the mothers. He couldn't help but make problems, apparently none of the ladies will pay him any attention due to his balding head. Poor Big Ben!

Then just as we were going around the bend Gahonda showed up right smack dab in the middle of our group. He is forty-two and the largest gorilla I've ever seen. He brushed back a few people in our group and then turned back towards us on a very skinny path. You can catch a glimpse of him pushing past Dom and heading on his way. Did I mention that we were really, really close to him?


Yep. This is about s close as you can get to a gorilla! 

Can you tell that we think this is awesome?!

Our final stop was to see the most adorable one-month-old baby gorilla. Seriously, look at that face.  Too ridiculously cute.

Socks outside of Pants = Safari fashion

We originally went to see the gorillas because it seemed like something you should do if you live in Rwanda. It is one of the most amazing things we have done to date. Put it on your bucket list people! I promise that you will be amazed. Your dollars go to support tourism and conservation in Rwanda. Get more info here!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Randazzos' European Christmas Adventure

This year, Dom and I threw caution to the wind and decided to use one of our home leave tickets to go to Rome, Prague, and Barcelona. We attended a friends wedding in Rome and then traveled with the couple to Prague for Christmas, and Barcelona for new years. Our friends must think we're good company if they are willing to bring us along on their honeymoon!

Here are a few of our favorite things from our travels. Per usual, most our choices revolve around food and art!

Sant'Eustachio Il Cafe (Rome)- The most amazing coffee place in the world. No seriously. After our fourth trip to the coffee shop, I told Dom that he would be looking for his second wife if the barista proposed marriage. The coffee was that good! Here's a fun little post about this place in the New York Times.

Le Mani Pasta (Rome)- This place came highly recommended by a local. And we were not disappointed, even after having to wait for a while to get in on a Tuesday night. The clam appetiser is to die for. This place is such authentic Rome. Go there!

Bellevue (Prague)- Bellevue was such an amazing meal! We were blown away! Add it to your list.

St. Agnes of Bohemia (Prague)- This convent turned art museum is such a beautiful space. I left with romantic visions of St. Agnes who left royal life and an arranged marriage to serve in the convent. It was a collection of some of the most beautiful religious artifacts that I've ever seen probably because it revolved around women. Add this to your next Prague visit!

Field Restaurant (Prague)- I cannot say that Prague was the place to eat, but this place was the exception to the rule. It was fantastic. Do not miss the Espresso mousse with brown butter and smoked almonds. I am pretty sure I was all cracked out for the rest of the night at this meal. Simply incredible!

Sagrada Familia (Barcelona)- The Sagrada Familia church is to date the most beautiful and awe inspiring man-made place that I have ever been to. The foresight of Gaudi in building the church is simply astounding. As is his careful attention to light, sound, and replicating nature. Photos and videos simple cannot do justice to this astounding space.  It is a must see on any visitor's list in Barcelona.

Canete (Barcelona)- This tapas restaurant was one of the best meals of the trip. We sat at the bar which allows you to see the chefs in action. We asked our waiter to choose 3-4 dishes per person that we simply could not miss. It was a foodie adventure as we had no idea what was coming next. Our favorite was the beef filet with foie gras.

Picasso Museum (Barcelona)- This is a museum that should not be missed if you are in Barcelona. My disclaimer is that I have read too much about him being a horrible person to be really enthused. But I felt like I should go and see this museum and you cannot deny the creative genius. So whether you love him or hate him, you should check it out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The End of Project 333 and the Beginning of the Capsule Wardrobe

Well today marks the end of my first round of Project 333. That's three months with only thirty-three items in my closet. I struggled with committing to this project. But I found that once I committed it made my life easier. I no longer stand in front on my closet wondering what I should wear. Minimizing my choices has maximized my time.

For my next round, I decided to mix it up a bit a do a Capsule Wardrobe that has some pretty nifty wardrobe planning worksheets. There are some minor differences between the capsule wardrobe and Project 333, but they are similar ideas. When choosing my clothes last time, I don't think I was aware of the types of things that I wore most often. Casual tops, sundresses, etc. Instead, I choose things that I liked and ended up with a few too many dressy tops and a few to few pants and functional items.  I'm excited to use the capsule wardrobe planner worksheets as I remix my closet for the next three months.

This minimalist adventure has taken me on a journey. It's allowed me to start to hone my style and think about my fashion choices from an ethical viewpoint.

I am coming around to the idea of slow fashion and conscious consumerism. Perhaps this is a normal progression as I often work with people in other countries and spend time thinking about the inequality in the world. But I never considered the fact that clothing in my closet  is an active choice, and I am promoting unethical treatment with my consumerism.

I am also a pragmatic so I know that it will be quite difficult for me to stop purchasing unsustainable items entirely. But I hope to strike a balance between ethical considerations, budget, and access as I live overseas.  I decided to make a few guidelines for myself as I make purchases this year.

  • I will not purchase any more new, unsustainably made items from fast fashion stores. This week I removed all my favorite shopping apps and promotional emails. Goodbye Rue La La! Goodbye Hautelook! Goodbye Express!
  • I will try to replace items I need with used items first. 
  • I will repair/reuse items that I already own.
  • I will pay more attention to tags and purchase more natural fabrics (cotton, silk, linen,etc.). I found that the older items in my closet were mostly natural fabrics and endured time better. I will also make efforts to purchase more U.S. made items. That's just simple patriotism.   
  • If I have to buy a new item, I will purchase a sustainably made brand.

 If every American spent an extra $3.33 on U.S. made products it would create almost 10,000 new jobs. 

I truly don't know if this is a fad or a change I will carry through my lifetime. But I hope that I will continue to ask questions about the things I buy and the lives that my actions can affect. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Fall of Fashion and the Return of Self Satifaction

When I started exploring the idea of minimizing my closet, Dom got me this pretty little book loaded with beautiful illustrations and food for thought.

After I read it. I downloaded, “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline. I have been spent the last few weeks pouring over its pages and broadening my knowledge on something I knew nothing about.

I assumed by the title that I’d be reading about sweatshops and poor working conditions. But I also received a history lesson on the luxury fashion industry, the rise of American consumerism, and a behind the scenes look at how shops run their business.

In the book, the author meets Sarah Kate Beaumont who decides to start making all of her clothing and documenting her progress on a blog. This idea sent me back to my childhood. I come from a long line of women creators whose chosen medium was sewing. One of my only memories of my granny was learning to make a little-cross-stitched box. It was hunter green with a white lid and a little pink flower on the lid.  My mom patiently sat with me while I made my first dress on the sewing machine at fifteen---it was a light purple floral cotton sundress. And on one of my last trips home, my Aunt Dessie taught me to crochet.

I can remember the exact details of the items I created. I can't remember my favorite items of clothing from the last ten years. I haven’t done any sewing in years. But the lack of inspiration in my closet and the clothing in my price point could lead me to dust off the sewing machine in the back of my closet.

From 1810-1910, the Arts and Crafts movement flourished right after the industrial revolution. The Arts and Crafts style started as a search for aesthetic design and decoration and as a reaction against machine production.  Owen Wilson, one of the fathers of the movement, declared, “Ornament must be secondary to the thing decorated.” Form follows function.

I wonder whether we have an “Arts & Crafts Movement” in our future?  The quality of products continues to lesson, and the availability of cheap products broadens. How much more satisfaction would we feel if we created our style instead of wearing latest fad from H&M?

For most of my life, I’ve considered fashion a preferred form of self-expression. But when I turn a discerning eye on my closet, the items there seem to be almost identical. My self-identified expression has been taken over by cheaply made replicas of eras gone by and trends that move at the speed of light. There is very little creativity in what I see hanging there.

I am thirty-two years old and yet I vividly recall the texture of the yarn, the feel of the needle as I pushed it through the plastic squares, and the satisfaction I felt in creating something both functional and beautiful when I was just seven or eight years old. The memory alone is enough to really make really reconsider my choices.