Thursday, March 21, 2013


What shoes do you wear when you're circling the earth?

It was an innocent question our department intern recently asked me. She was getting ready to gallivant to Europe for more than a month, and her adventure made me wistful I didn't do much traveling during and right after college. But it also reinvigorates me for an adventure of my own.

Whereas most men likely don't give too much thought about what footwear is required at a far-flung destination, we ladies are torn over an ages-long debate.

What's more important: form or function?

In my 20s I would literally pack the kitchen sink to take a trip. I think the second time I went to London (my first adventure without help or escort by my parents) I packed five pairs of shoes. It was only a week-long trip, but I wasn't sure five pairs would be enough to get me through St. Paul's Cathedral, Abbey Road and Tower Bridge.

My, how things have changed.

Over time, most travelers experience a sort of epiphany: you never really need to bring as much stuff as you think you'll need.

I did my best to pack as light as I could when I went to India in 2011. I believed that traveling from New Delhi to Agra to Jaipur wouldn't be as fun if I was lugging a 50 lb. suitcase with me. I was right. Dead weight is the last thing you want to deal with after suffering through a 16-hour flight with Delhi Belly.

I have a new adventure on my travel itinerary and I am already mulling what will go in my suitcase. As much as I'd love to show up in the desert with nothing but a rucksack and some sunscreen, I will need a few extra items that will help me navigate "seven star" dining, camel rides and a Thai cooking class.

Flip-flops just won't cut it, methinks.

My packing list involves a few basic items:

  • Birkenstocks. Ugly as all get out, these sandals are the height of comfort when traveling internationally, and the ergonomic brand has come out with a few versions that amp up the style quotient. Mine look like glorified flip-flops made with a silvery material. I can dress them up, dress them down and wear them almost anywhere.
  • Flats with a "tennis shoe" sole. I have a couple pairs of the Cole-Haan shoes with Nike soles (I've heard rumors that partnership has dissolved) that are worth their weight in gold, or the retail price at the very least. These shoes are cute but super comfortable, and that's the name of the game when traveling.
  • Wedge heels. If you must tote along a pair of heels, make sure they're wedges. Traveling usually involves a lot of walking, and your stilettos likely won't even survive a trek down a third-world-country sidewalk. I plan on bringing some wedges with me but will stow them in my purse and wear my walking shoes as we make our way to a dinner reservation. Taxi/tuk tuk drivers typically don't mind if you change your shoes in transit. 

I typically don't pack sneakers because they take up a lot of space in the suitcase and I don't plan on exercising while trekking to Dubai and Bangkok. Unless you're a beach babe, you likely rack up a lot of walking miles when traveling, and your flats with athletic soles are just fine.

What shoes do you bring along when traveling? What are some other must-have packing items? I'm starting to make my list of travel essentials and I'd love to read your suggestions.

Twenty years from now you will be mores disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain

Creative Commons License
Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Palm Wednesday

Mother Nature must be going through the change.

Palm Wednesday

The calendar says we're two weeks away from spring, but this morning's snowfall would lead you to believe otherwise.

I couldn't help but think of Lent and Easter when coming across this palm in Washington Park. Its lemony leaves were a welcome departure from winter's contrast of dark and light. Charcoal shadows cast across the face of Washington Park and gleaming white snow dashed atop the park's open spaces.

My Lenten sacrifice has been a struggle, as it should be, and I wish I could stay I've held strong since Ash Wednesday, but I'd be fibbing.

But challenge is a good thing, yes?

Eager for for the return of spring and its promise of new opportunity.

Creative Commons License
Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Teasing Spring

The cooler months have brought me in touch with my inner Domestic Goddess.

The desire to nest and hibernate has revived a relationship with my kitchen. My stove, my pantry, my cluttered refrigerator, my Professional series KitchenAid mixer (the only really nice thing in my kitchen) - I've reacquainted with every nook and cranny.

And it feels damn good.

Methodically slicing, chopping, stirring and measuring helps remind me of stillness and a simpler time when our actions were examples of intentions, when kinder emotions ruled our motions.

The simple act of making a soup from scratch gives me time to think about where my food came from and where it's going - an extension of that old marketing slogan, "Put good in. Get good out."

I'd love to give my loved ones a million dollars and all their dreams served up on a silver platter, but sometimes a homemade something is even richer.

My latest culinary experiment was an effort in summoning a sunnier season. A dozen Meyer lemons waited patiently inside my Green Bean Delivery, promising tart, lip smacking acidic singe.

I winced at the thought of dredging my ragged, cracked cuticles through a bowl of biting lemon slices, but my taste buds knew the eminent stinging was just a means to an end.

After a good bit of peeling, scraping, slicing and squeezing, I have two large glass jars full of my hard work. Little science experiments that will pay off in several weeks. In one jar, a bunch of almost-quartered lemons coated in coarse sea salt. The result will be tangy, salty preserved lemons perfect for preparing vegetables, fish and other savory dishes.

Fingers crossed on that one.

I have more hope for the second, sweeter effort. I'm working on a homemade limoncello that needs four weeks of darkness to draw out the peel's essential oils. Beneath my kitchen sink, somewhere between the bucket full of dish towels and the dishwasher detergent, is a giant mason jar full of Meyer lemon peels and four cups of vodka.

Every once in a while the jar gets a good shake to move the peels around a bit. Otherwise, it will sit there in darkness, enjoying its own winter hibernation.

I intend to bring it back to the surface on Wednesday, March 20 - the first day of spring - to marry it with some simple syrup. The results will be utterly delicious.

Homemade Limoncello
8 Meyer lemons (or conventional lemons, mandarins, tangerines, grapefruit or kiwi)
4 cups of vodka or pure grain
3 cups sugar
3 cups water

Homemade Limoncello with Meyer lemons

Gently peel the lemons to ensure you scrape no pith with the peel. If you do, go back and scrape off the pith with a knife.

Put the citrus peels and alcohol in a mason jar and allow it to steep for four weeks.

After four weeks, strain the mixture into a funnel covered with cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

Meanwhile, stir together three cups of sugar and three cups of water in a sauce pan while on medium-high heat. Allow the solution to come to a boil and then turn down the heat for five minutes, bringing the mixture to a simmer. After another five minutes have passed, turn off the heat and allow simple syrup to cool.

Blend strained solution and syrup in a bottle and seal and chill.

Sip as needed.


Creative Commons License
Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.