Ethiopia on My Mind

October 7, 2016

Addis, 2012

Four years ago today, B and I were in Ethiopia getting ready to take S and H home with us. It was an unforgettable trip, and many moments are seared into my heart and mind forever.

There’s been a lot of troubling news coming out of Ethiopia in recent weeks. Mainstream U.S. news isn’t carrying it much (no surprise), but some foreign media and independent journalists are talking about it, as well as people on the ground. The unrest began to  erupt when the government began trying to seize land from the Oromo people to expand the nation’s capital, as part of their economic progress plan. This has enflamed deeper ethnic tensions between groups in Ethiopia and citizens are dying as government troops face off with protestors. (That’s my over-simplified explanation of the situation.)

Just this past week, hundreds of people were killed at a religious festival in the town my daughters were born in. The official reports say it was due to a stampede, but many witnesses on the ground, as well as journalists, say this was not the primary reason for the death toll. On Tuesday, an American UC Davis post-doctorate student was killed by a rock thrown by a protestor while traveling by van in Ethiopia. I know of many adoptive families and frequent visitors canceling their travel plans to the country right now because things have become so destabilized.

I saw a tagline on a news story the other day that said, when it comes to what’s happening in Ethiopia: This is Africa, and nobody cares how many protesters the dictatorial government kills. Not the UN, not the State Department, not Black Lives Matter, and not CNN.

Sadly, this is true. Ethiopia is not exactly on anybody’s radar of concern. (Even the U.S. Embassy over there doesn’t seem to get high marks for being very communicative or forthcoming — at least according to people to try to reach them.) Granted, Ethiopia is certainly not the only place worthy of attention right now. But I try to stay updated on what’s going on in my daughters’ native country, and I believe that the entire continent of Africa generally deserves a lot more consideration than it gets.

I don’t know about you, but the end of this week finds me tired. If you’re at all near Hurricane Matthew’s path, please stay safe. In the meantime, I invite you to grab a glass of your favorite beverage – whatever it may be – and catch whatever break you can this weekend. See you back here soon!

Image: Road in Addis Ababa, Zoe Saint-Paul





I must say, my kids are good travelers. Of course, one of the first things we ever did together as a family was take a very long flight across the globe. These days we find ourselves flying once or twice a year and each time I get a little better about how best to help them pack for plane travel. Here’s what was in their backpacks this time:

  • Two activity books of their choice
  • Small sketch pad
  • Tiny note pad
  • Small bag of crayons and two pencils
  • Small stuffed animal of their choice
  • Small toy (S chose a rubber lizard and H chose a turtle — they wanted them to be waterproof for ocean play)
  • Water bottle
  • 2 gallon ziplock bag with: bathing suit, flip flops, and full change of clothes. (This was incase our bags didn’t make it and we were stuck in a hotel somewhere. A change of clothes also comes in handy if your little one gets motion sick because the flight is so turbulent, ahem)
  • In their small front pocket: lip balm, package of tissues, and snack bar (In my own backpack, I had a larger bag of snacks to hand out, too, since my girls get hungry a lot.)

This was exactly the right mix for my 8 year-olds. If we had longer flights, we would have added a few more things for them to occupy themselves with, but as it was, they enjoyed watching kids’ movies on the longer leg (our shorter flight had no screens).

Any tips for carry-on essentials for kids when flying? I’d love to hear!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul




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H and S

The photo above pretty much sums up how S and H felt on our 8 day trip to Nova Scotia last week. They are generally happy girls, but I don’t know that I’ver ever seen them having more fun — endless playing with cousins, swimming and beach time, and running around outside without supervision. They didn’t want to come back and proposed we stay so that “all the cousins can live together.”

While I always like to come home to my own life, I can’t say I was entirely opposed to the idea. If you want to get away from a hot and humid city, work deadlines, stressful news stories, American politics, and anything that makes you weary, the north shore of Nova Scotia is a pretty great place for that. We happened to choose a week of perfect weather — high 70s and 80s with little humidity and lots of sun. One small thunder storm came through which filled the sky with amazing clouds and light and produced a fantastic fully-arched rainbow over the woods.

We also had more sugar, dairy, and refined flour in one week than we did all year. But it was vacation time and we were in the land of delicious homemade baked goods so how could we resist? Not only that, many of my siblings are great cooks so we were the happy recipients of many delicious meals, including an authentic outdoor-made Spanish paella and the best smoked fish chowder I’ve ever tasted. And then there’s just all those crazy Canadian potato chip flavors like ketchup, smokey bacon, “all-dressed,” etc. — and cookouts with smores. I’m more motivated than ever to start a new exercise routine, I tell you.

Mostly, it was just so good to be with family, by the ocean, away from everything for a little while. Towards the end of the trip I found myself thinking up new projects and feeling inspired to do things I’d lost motivation for — all because I had a break from my daily deadlines and commitments. Each of us needs such breaks — they’re so important to our well-being.

Re-entry is proving hard, but while I make attempts, here are a few photos from our trip. (Check out more on Instagram: @slowzoe):

Baked goods My mother’s cinnamon rolls and my sisters chocolate-filled croissants.

See, you wouldn’t have been able to resist either!


Paella Spanish paella in the making

Honestly, I think my brother’s paella was better than the one I had in Spain! He had all the authentic ingredients thanks to my Spanish sister-in-law and did it right.

On the sandbar Sandbar races

These cousins like to run and they’re fast!

Roasting marshmallows Roasting marshmallows

A few smores may have been had right before bedtime…

Sunset One of many gorgeous evening skies

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul


Post-trip Musings

June 21, 2016

Colonel's Creamery

I didn’t mean to be so silent last week; it just kind of happened that way. We were in Kentucky for two weeks and while I posted on Instagram more than usual, blogging ended up falling by the wayside. Sometimes it’s also good to just get a break from the computer!

We had a great trip — the girls first to visit their grandmother at her place and they had a wonderful time… a sweet little dog to play with, a pool to swim in, a grandma to hang out with, and various little excursions. When the kids are happy and occupied it sure makes life easier for mama.

When we got back, I told B that I felt like we came home to camping in a storage room.

If you recall, our fridge broke a few days before we left and after paying someone $150 to fix it, it wasn’t any better. So before we even unpacked our things, we began defrosting our refrigerator as a last-step measure to see if we could avoid spending Father’s Day at an appliance store. And it worked — whew.

I won’t bother saying more about our house being like a storage room these days — suffice it to say, it doesn’t take much to make an eight-foot wide row home feel like a warehouse. And when you try to declutter, things look much worse before they look better.

Getting away has many benefits — even though this trip wasn’t a vacation per se — and one of the best things is how it can change your perspective. It can provide a fresh look at things, and help you come to new realizations. I came home with two resolutions: One is to start taking concrete steps to move. The other is to figure out a way to get back to some kind of regular exercise again. Neither of these things can happen immediately, but now I have more of a fire under my butt to do so. Of course, I’ll be sure to keep you posted on both fronts.

Oh, and that ice cream we’re eating up there? Maybe some of the best I’ve ever had. If you’re ever in northern Kentucky, be sure to stop by Friendly’s Market in Mt. Zion for some Colonel’s Creamery ice cream. (And lest you think I downed two ice cream cones and a bubble tea and that’s why I need to start exercising, I really only ate the chocolate one!)

Image: B



Tavarua Island

June 8, 2016

Surfing by deli de la Rua

Do you ever wish you could escape to a beautiful island where the people are warm and hospitable, the water is a perfect shade of blue, and there’s nothing to do but relax, unwind, and enjoy the wonders of nature? Well, my sister and her family lived that dream a few months ago when they spent 10 days on the island of Tavarua in Fiji. It doesn’t even look big enough for an airplane to be able to land so I keep forgetting to ask them how they even got the actual island. Maybe by whale?

They were there over Easter (my nieces’ spring break) and during an egg hunt one of them found the ‘golden egg’ in a palm tree. Naturally! The highlight for my sister was when staff woke them up before sunrise on Easter morning singing hymns outside their hut.

They also took a boat out to see “Cloud Break” — a world famous wave that people come from all around the world to surf. It’s huge and dangerous and scary to even look at — and that’s coming from my sister who’s not afraid of much (unlike yours truly). She said the snorkeling was gorgeous, the coral colorful, and the seafood delicious. They loved the fruit bats and even saw the poisonous sea snakes which are very tame (though they kept their distance).

Anyway, while they were there, a film company was shooting a promotional video for visitors and my beautiful nieces and brother-in-law are featured in it. I wanted to post it above but privacy settings won’t let me. Still, you can see it here on vimeo. My nieces are running through the trees at the beginning, as well as snorkeling and surfing, and my brother-in-law is the guy looking proud about the big 45+ lbs yellow fin tuna he caught.

When you can’t go to a place like Tavarua yourself, you can always live vicariously through others, right?

Image: delfi de la Rua at unsplash


Kentucky Sign

We made it to Kentucky after a two day trek. On the first day we had some crazy weather in the West Virginia mountains. We’d come around a bend and hit torrential rain with almost no visibility; then 15 minutes later we’d come over another mountain and it would be so bright and sunny we’d need our sunglasses. And it went on like that. Thankfully, we seemed to skirt the worst of it and now we’re safely ensconced at my mother-in-law’s. It’s the first time S and H have made the trek to their Nana’s house.

I was so busy last week that I didn’t put much thought into how to pace the trip for them, but they did well — except for the last two hours when they were ready to be there already and exasperated with sitting.

We had already decided to break the drive up into two days. The girls aren’t used to a lot of car time and a 10 hour drive straight would have been too long. So we stopped half way at a hotel with a pool. Beforehand, I tried to prepare them psychologically for the fact that it was going to take a long time to get to Nana’s. I also helped them stock their backpacks with art supplies, a couple of small toys, a few favorite stuffed animals, water — and we brought snacks, of course. B downloaded the audio books for a number of The Magic Treehouse stories, which H and S like — and that helped get us all through the last bit of the trip.

Although this will probably be our only long road trip this summer, it makes me wonder about how parents keep their kids occupied when they make long treks. I’d love to hear what’s worked for you!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul





Vacation Snapshots

August 4, 2015

Me and My Girls

This may look like a photo for a car ad, but it’s the only picture I have of the girls and me from our trip, taken outside one of our favorite places — Sugar Moon Farm. Since I’m usually the one behind the camera, I rarely have photos that include myself.

So we’re home, and as predicted, it’s tough getting back into the swing of things (including blogging). In light of that, I’m going to let some photos from our trip do the talking today instead…

With a new friend:

H and Mischa

B and his favorite girls:

B and Girls

About 10 minutes after arriving in Nova Scotia:


Happy S:


Mermaid H:


B getting busy with the fresh snow crab my brother’s friend caught:

Snow Crab

Cousins on a scavenger hunt:


The croissants my chef-extraordinaire sister made:


Oh, and the homemade breakfast pizza she also made:

Breakfast pizza

Around the fire pit:

Girls in Canadian Chairs

Sigh. Next year I hope we can make it an even longer visit.

I’d love to know: Are you taking any breaks or vacation before fall begins?

Images: me — and B


Since I’m in Nova Scotia this week, I thought this post about treating mosquito bites would be a good one to resurrect. I really need to write about preventing the little critters from biting in the first place, but I’m still trying to figure that one out

Angel Point

After B and I began dating, he came home with me to eastern Canada for my sister Olga’s wedding and met the family. He not only loved them (which is hard not to do), he loved everything about Nova Scotia. Except for one thing: the mosquitoes.

Our family cottage sits on the Northumberland Strait. There are fields and woods everywhere, as well as marshlands, which are home to many lovely birds, funky-sounding frogs…and plenty of mosquitoes. And boy, do those critters love fresh meat. I’ll never forget when B and I attempted a hike during part of our honeymoon in Cape Breton (the northern part of the province). B decided he wasn’t going to let the mosquitoes ruin everything, so he pulled on thick jeans, socks, boots, long sleeves, and a baseball hat; then he slathered himself with poisonous DEET from head to toe. He was the first one out of the car, and he headed confidently for the trail. When I looked up, all I could see was a large grey cloud around him, following him into the woods. The next thing I knew, he was running back to the car, arms flailing, spewing curses left and right…and off we went to find some fish chowder and tea to make him feel better about the defeat.

When something like DEET won’t even keep mosquitoes away, the only thing to do is move to phase two — treating the nasty bites once you’ve got them. Since the past winter was so mild in North America, many kinds of bug larvae did not die off in their usual numbers, so this summer has been unusually bad when it comes to critters, especially the blood-sucking kind.

You can blame mosquito saliva for itchy bites. Our bodies react to the saliva by producing histamine, so the redness and itchiness are actually a mild allergic reaction. Healing time depends on the person, since some of us are more susceptible and sensitive to mosquitoes. Here are a few remedies I know of to help soothe those bad bites when you get them:

Ice cubes. We used to do this frequently when I was a kid. You grab a small bowl of ice cubes and apply one to the bite, holding it there as long as you can stand it. Keep doing this until (a) the ice cube melts, (b) you can’t feel anything anymore, or (c) you’re bored and need to move on. Obviously, this little trick numbs the skin, taking away the itchiness and calming the redness and heat.

Baking soda. What can baking soda not do? For a bad bite, create a paste using baking soda and warm water and apply it to the itchy area. Keep it there for a bit and then wash it off.

Calamine lotion. This is an old-fashioned over-the-counter treatment that people swear by. I think we had some when I was young. Not a bad thing to keep in the cupboard if you live in or are visiting a bug-infested area.

Saliva. A friend was just telling me about this one. Sounds kind of gross, but what could be cheaper and easier to use? You just take some of your own saliva and apply it generously to the bite. Also, you can mix your saliva with baking soda to create a paste. Apparently this trick works, though I haven’t tried it.

Salt water. It was always soothing to hop in the ocean to soothe bad bites. It didn’t take all the itch and aggravation away, but salt water definitely helped decrease the itchiness and speed up the healing process.

Aloe. Aloe is an incredible healer and helps soothe skin irritation (from burns and the like), so a little dabbed straight on a bite would really make a difference.

There are a host of other remedies people swear by. Check out this list — sent by my friend Irene, who inspired me to write this post — which includes herbal tinctures, foods, and various items you probably have hanging around your house.

Got any effective or unique bite remedies you’d like to share?

P.S. Lest you never want to visit Nova Scotia now for fear of the mosquitoes, let me reassure you that they’re not always terrible, and they’re definitely an improvement over the type of mosquitoes we have in Maryland, which you never see but somehow manage to bite you 20 times before you have time to walk more than a few feet. Nova Scotia mosquitoes are not so evil and sneaky: They’re bigger (so they’re easier to see), and they buzz — both things that help you more easily dispatch them to mosquito heaven.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul 

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Hello from Maine!

July 22, 2015


Though we’ve had lots of rain and thunder storms since arriving, Maine is a beautiful place — especially at this time of year.

As soon as we arrived, I came down with a terrible sinus cold, which is kicking my butt. I’m throwing everything at it in hopes of being over it by the time we hit the road for Nova Scotia tomorrow morning. That doesn’t look so likely at this point, but so long as I’m going in the right direction, that’s fine with me. Hopefully I’ll be better by the weekend at least.

Each year I try to take at least one tech-free break in the summer and next week will be it. Mags will stop in with a post so be sure to come by for that, and there might be a throw-back post here as well.

In the meantime, how is your summer going so far? Are you getting some time to re-create, or are things are busy as ever?


Image: Zoe Saint-Paul



Summer Vacation

July 17, 2015

Boats of Colour

There’s a whole lot of packing going on at my house today. In the wee hours tomorrow morning, we’ll be flying the friendly skies to New Hampshire and making our way to Maine for five days to see family. Later next week, we’ll then drive up to Nova Scotia for a week to see more family and hang out at the beach.

I’m so looking forward to it. Not only has it been four years (!) since I’ve been able to get home, but it will be S’s and H’s first time in Nova Scotia. They will meet many aunts, uncles and cousins for the first time. To say everyone is excited about this visit is an understatement!

So, as you can imagine, it’s a crazy day trying to pull everything together for the trip, run last minute errands, and oh yeah, work. I’ll check in with you next week from the beautiful state of Maine. Hope you have a lovely and slow weekend where ever you may be!

Image: picography