Kauai

Top Things to do in Kauai, According to my Friends

The Significant Other and I loved Kauai. We had grand plans to do ALL THE THINGS, but (partially due to mudslides and partially due to our own exhaustion) we wound up doing nothing. And, you know what? It was AMAZING.

I’d highly recommend doing nothing. Maybe snorkel at Lawaii Beach or take a short hike to Secret Beach to watch the sunrise. Definitely eat Mexican food at Da Crack, Thai food at Craving Thai and grab some Kombucha at Kauai Juice Company (recycle your bottles for 50 cents off!). For coffee, check out Lappert’s. For açaí bowls and poke, go to Kukuiula Market. Other than that, relax, and enjoy the Garden Island.

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Best Free iPhone Games for Calming Anxiety and Relaxing

Stress and anxiety suck, big time, and they always seem to strike hardest when you need to be at your best. While it’s usually smart to address the issues at the root of your stress/anxiety, sometimes we all just need a quick way to relax and calm down. These are all free game apps that I find helpful when in a pinch. My research comes from personal experience and sites like Gizmodo and Mic.

Calm

OK, so Calm is not really a game—it’s a meditation app. The premium content comes at a cost, but there are lots of shorter meditation practices (10 minutes) that are free. The app will walk you through meditation specifically for stress, and there’s no experience required. I love this app more than others like Headspace because I swear it can read my mind. Every time I catch myself thinking “jeeze, I’m SO awful at meditating,” the app will reply “and if you think you’re bad at meditating, there’s no such thing.” How’s THAT for an awesome way to combat stress AND self-criticism?

Neko Atsume

This game is absolutely wonderful because it involves CATS! Everyone starts out with a yard that you can then fill with toys and treats. Cats will wander in and out of the yard as they please (because cats). You can read up on each cat and take pictures of them being pixelatedly adorable. Up your game by “purchasing” the coolest gadgets and highest-quality chow!

Rise Up

Keep a balloon from running into obstacles as it makes its way toward what I can only assume is space. This game is challenging, but in a way that you really don’t care if you win or lose so there’s no pressure. Instead, it’s just mind-numbingly calming.

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How to Host a Friend Speed Dating Event

Friendship is hard. Once you’re out of the friendship-incubator that is college, it’s tough to meet new people outside your own little bubble. I’m here to help! Friend speed dating is for awesome women who are interested in platonic friendships with other, similarly badass, ladies! It’s a speed-dating format without any of the awkwardness. I’ll be serving up huge helpings of coffee, tea, cookies, doughnuts*—and friendship!

How To

As I planned this event, I relied heavily upon this librarian’s site. She had a GREAT explanation of how the event should flow, and it was really helpful as I planned my own meetup. I made some alterations, like each “couple” got to talk for five minutes. In retrospect, if I’d had a smaller group (we had 16), it would’ve been great to let people chat for even longer!

I printed and cut out groups of ice breaker questions and placed one chunk of questions in front of each seat. I found the questions here and here.

I used yellow sticky notes with arrows to direct people on where to go after their time was up. Then I printed out this star and this arrow for the trickier moves. (See the librarians site above for details on movements!) Overall, the sticky notes and the arrows didn’t help so it’s best if you stand by at the end of each chat to direct people until they get the hang of it.

In case of an odd number of people, I had a “craft station” where folks could either draw or write letters. We ended up not using it. I just filled in to make it an even number until the latecomers showed up. (Note: If you do decide to fill in, make sure you rotate like everyone else! I didn’t rotate for a couple rounds, and it made things a little tricky toward the end of the meetup!)

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How to Make Homemade Fondant

I love baking quirky cakes, and I make all my fondant in my kitchen. Using store-bought fondant may be easier, but it’s more expensive, and it tastes, well, BLAH. Homemade fondant is delicious and pretty easy to make en-mass once you get the hang of it.

There are two ways to go about making the fondant. You can use fresh marshmallows or stale marshmallows (they’re kind of tough and hard). Fresh marshmallows are less likely to get burnt and easier to turn into fondant, BUT the fondant they produce can tear more easily. Stale marshmallows are more likely to burn (which can mean you have to throw the whole batch out, depending on the color you’re going for), but the resulting fondant is easier to work with.

That being said, ALWAYS use brand-name marshmallows. Yup, the more expensive ones just work better. Store brand is a no-no unless you’ve got mad skills, in which case, write to me and let me know how you did it! (Usually one bag of powdered sugar and one of marshmallows is fine for a cake, but I always have at least three of each on hand in case something goes wrong! You can always return what you don’t use—or bake extra!)

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Top Things to Do in South Africa

This is the list I used when planning my trip to South Africa. Scroll through it and see what jumps out at you. Enjoy your trip, and ping me with any questions!

Johannesburg 

Two days is plenty of time to see all that Joburg has to offer. Tack on an extra day to do quirkier trips and explore the city. Uber is the best (and cheapest) way to get around if you’re new to the city and unaware of its good/bad areas, especially since there aren’t that many sidewalks for walking. Make sure your cell phone works overseas without crazy fees because there’s very little free wifi in this city!

  • Soweto
    • “For real insight into post-apartheid South Africa – a visit to the township of Soweto, home to an estimated 3.5 million people – you need to hire a guide. Besides providing a glimpse into how millions of black South Africans live today, Soweto is historically fascinating. Nobel Peace Prize-winners Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both lived on tree-lined Vilakazi Street and Mandela’s former home is open to visitors. Left as it once was, Winnie’s military boots stand next to a bed with a jackal-skin throw, and old photos line the walls. Just down the road, the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, named after the 13-year-old whose murder by police sparked an uprising in 1976, is another hard-hitting reminder of the horrors of apartheid.” –Condé Nast Traveller
    • The guided tour of Mandela’s home is simply a memorized speech of significant dates. It’s interesting, but don’t expect it to take more than 20 minutes at the maximum.
    • The Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum was fantastic. It did a great job of explaining the uprising and its aftermath. All the feels.
    • I was skeptical of paying $70 to take a tour of Soweto, especially when I’d been told that it’s fine to walk around in the daytime. But I’m really glad we went with Township Travel (Siphiwe Kumalo info@township-travel.co.za sowetour98@gmail.com). The tour offers perspectives, not only from the tour guide, but from residents in their early 20s who take you around their neighborhood and answer all your questions. I highly recommend it!

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Packing for Winter in Iceland

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Waking Up Katie

*I found this gem on an old computer while I was looking for a different file. I wrote it almost a decade ago during an early-morning creative writing class. (Resemblances to my actual little sister are pretty far off as she’s a gorgeous woman!)

Waking Up Katie

Two red-rimmed eyes peer through the semi-darkness, their blurred pupils suddenly coming to focus on me. Caked in gunk and watering slightly at the edges, these orbs of irritated flesh stare expectantly. A lone finger, its nail bitten to the quick, revealing the raw pink inside, interrupts this questioning gaze and proceeds to methodically explore the grimy crevices, smearing yellow goop across an eyebrow and down a cheek. The remnants of Barbie magenta nail polish dip in and out of the two small pockets and finally come to rest on one of the pale blue irises, causing the globes of color to cross and uncross rapidly.

With her hair sticking up at odd angles and her arms and legs entangled rather dangerously in summer sheets sticky with sweat, she resembles a mad contortionist, a science experiment gone awry. The being in the bed next to mine sniffs twice and, after casting another, pleading glance at me, rolls over in a convulsion of flailing arms and knotted curls. Soon, her breathing slows and she begins to snore, loudly.

My little sister can sneeze up to 25 times in a row. It’s a world record; we’ve checked. She has asthma, severe allergies, scoliosis, weight issues and chronic colds. When you look at her porcelain fair complexion, knobby knees and stooping way of carrying herself, you’d think she was about to drop dead any second. But the child has an impish smile that confirms it—ignorance is bliss. She still hasn’t gotten her head around her own physical limitations enough to recognize them. My mother hopes she never will.

The alarm clock goes off, its scream beginning the day in a manner as tranquil as a punch in the face.

My sister’s posture tenses subtly as she instinctively clutches tighter, her tiny fingers wrapping securely around a post in the headboard. She feigns sleep but sneezes five times and utters a word she probably shouldn’t know under her breath.

My sister is a weakling, but she’s a fighter, and it’s my turn to wake her up.

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