Travel Tuesday – Going to Kenya!

30 Elephants!
30 Elephants!

30 Elephants is a company that takes children under the age 17 on life changing, glob trotting trips.  The creator of the company Tashi Harrow sums up the company:

“We take groups of children no larger than 10 at a time to various cities and countries around the world. We explore the language, customs, foods, clothing, and people of these countries, as well as national landmarks. We only take 10 children at a time because it is a small enough group to give each child the proper amount of attention and answer any and all questions they may have. We group the trips with similar ages so there will not be 8 -9 yr olds on trips with 16-18 yr olds that way the activities can be structured around the particular group that is going. This will not be a random vacation for children, but an educational and inspirational journey. These kids learn that the word “different” is not a bad word.
Click to help Zemi get to Kenya through go fund me!
Click to help Zemi get to Kenya through go fund me!

We here at Thirty Elephants Ltd. find that this program provides an amazing opportunity for the youth of today. If you think about how upon graduating from high school at the age of 16 or 17 you are expected to then go on to a university and pick out subject that you want to be involved in for the remainder of your life. I am not sure about you but I don’t know many 16 yr olds capable of picking out what they want to do for the day let alone for the next 15 years of their life.”

The 30 Elephants kids in a school in Kenya
The 30 Elephants kids in a school in Kenya

The really great thing is that it is freeeeeeeeeeeeee for the kids!  The children fundraise each year for every trip, and this year they are going to Kenya!  Last year they went to Kenya and they helped to build a school, learn the ways of the Maasai people, and enjoy the animals!

30 Elephants has taken children to Japan, Malaysia, and this is their second trip to Kenya.  One of the sponsors who happens to be my youngest sister, is doing a fundraiser for her portion of the trip.  So we would like to help her out.  Here is her fundraising link: www.gofundme.com/30elephantchaperon

Now let’s learn a bit about Kenya!

Airfare: From Atlanta to Nairobi it is $952.73 round trip on a few different airlines such as Delta and KLM.  I did a 90 day advance fare.

Transportation:  To get around in Kenya you take a Lorry

The Lorry! I thought you would need a picture as most of us don't have a clue what a Lorry is
The Lorry! I thought you would need a picture as most of us don’t have a clue what a Lorry is

Currency: In Kenya the Shilling rules although in some rural villages goats and cows still get the job done.

Wilderbeast!
Wilderbeast!

Language: Most of the people in Kenya speak Swahili, some of the elders in the villages still speak tribal languages such as Maa

Hotel: There are several to choose from depending on the type of experience you want to have.  The 30 Elephants crew chooses to stay in tents in the Maasai Mara in South Narok with the Maasai people.  This enables them to take in the full experience of being present to absorb all that Kenya has to teach them.

Outside of the fairmont
Outside of the Fairmont

If you want to go an option is the Fairmont Mara hotel. It runs about $900 a night USD but on orbitz right now it is going for $263:-)

Fairmont rooms
Fairmont rooms
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Making bad food better – Pop Tarts

Finished product!
Finished product!

Yesterday while we were at church I saw my son harboring a pop tart with intent to ingest.  That type of thing really rots my cabbage.  My son is not allowed to eat food coloring laced processed foods.  He knows this but I don’t think we have every come across a pop tart so he probably didn’t know he couldn’t have one.  As soon as I saw him with it I gave him the eye and he knew to put it back. The disgruntlement is strong with that one, it is.

tops and bottoms
tops and bottoms

After church I explained to him why we don’t eat pop tarts and I told him I would make him some.  So I did.  I adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I had previously used a hand pie recipe but I wanted something a bit more sturdy, so I found this one.

Homemade Pop Tarts
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Pastry
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk

Jam Filling
3/4 cup (8 ounces) jam. I used Crofters strawberry jam and coconut spread:)
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

To make jam filling: Mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Use to fill the pastry tarts.

Glaze:

4 Tablespoons of powdered sugar and milk

Mix powdered sugar with milk until it just coats the spoon.  You shouldn’t need more than 1 tablespoon of milk.

filled with strawberry coconut jam
filled with strawberry coconut jam

Directions:

Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers, pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. If you’ve used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly on a well-floured counter if necessary.

Divide the dough in half (approximately 8 1/4 ounces each), shape each half into a smooth rectangle, about 3×5 inches. You can roll this out immediately (see Warm Kitchen note below) or wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Assemble the tarts: If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. [You can use a 9″ x 13″ pan, laid on top, as guidance.] Repeat with the second piece of dough. Set trimmings aside. Cut each piece of dough into thirds – you’ll form nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.

Beat the additional egg and brush it over the entire surface of the first dough. This will be the “inside” of the tart; the egg is to help glue the lid on. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, keeping a bare 1/2-inch perimeter around it. Place a second rectangle of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining tarts.

Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake the tarts: Remove the tarts from the fridge, and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Cool in pan on rack.

After the tarts cool for about 20 minutes, brush with glaze and sprinkle with sugar.  I used Maggie’s Naturals red sugar.

filled and ready for baking.
filled and ready for baking.

Win Jill Scott’s new album Woman!!

Cool mom Jill Scott
Cool mom Jill Scott
At The Cool Moms Table we like to highlight moms that are doing awesome and amazing things.  Jill Scott happens to be pretty freaking awesome!  She has 3 Grammy awards, she is an actress, a poet, and a philanthropist.  She is just as captivating in person as she is on film and in music.  She is an absolute pleasure to work with. Most importantly this awe-inspiring wonderfulness is mother to Jett, her 6 year old son.

I am a total Jill Scott lover so today is a happy day!  Today she releases her 5th studio album entitled Woman on Atlantic Records. Her first single from this album is Fools Gold, which is below for your extreme listening pleasure.

click me.
click me.
The release of Woman comes 15 years after her critically acclaimed album I am Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol 1. Which was certified platinum.  Jill has released timeless, classic, romantic, inspiration, thought provocative, and downright sensual music throughout these last 15 years.  Woman, is more of what we love and expect from Jill.  Her next single Back Together was written by herself and Aaron Pearce.  It is an ode to her son, which is yet another reason this mom is so cool!  She had this to say about her new single:

“For me this song is really about the one person who can look at you with a smile in their eyes. That person that can hug you. That person that can make you laugh when you feel like you are falling apart.  The person that can give you the will to continue whatever it is that you want to do in this life wholeheartedly.  For me that person is Jett. He’s my son and I’m very proud to be is Mommy.”

We have teamed up with Atlantic Records to give you a chance to win her album!  Click the graphic below, follow the instructions and you will be entered to win.  We will choose a winner a day starting Monday July 27th and ending July 31st.

Jill Scott - WOMAN - FINAL

Good Luck!

Inspirational Women – Ava Duvernay and Soledad O’Brien

While I was at the Blogher conference I had the pleasure of hearing Soledad O’Brien and Ava Duvernay speak.  I was blown away by both of them.  We often hear the tales of inspirational people and what they do to make Sometimes when we hear those stories on TV or magazines we are touched but it seems distant.  Being in the same personal space with these women their stores came to life.  You could feel the actual goodness move through the room.

Starfish foundation
Starfish foundation

First up was Soledad O’Brien, she is what we like to call a “cool mom”.  She is the type of mother that sets an example for not only her children but for children all over the world to look at, improve upon, follow, or just be proud of.  Today she sat down to talk about her Starfish foundation.  Her foundation pays for girls to go to college who do not have the means to fund their education.  She started her foundation right after Hurricane Katrina as her way of “doing something”.  She mentioned that her part was easy, all she had to do was write the check.  In actuality, if you have the money to do so then yes, that is the easy part. Deciding to be an agent for good is noble.  Actually being that agent for good is hard.  When you enter philanthropy you have to realize that so many request will come your way and you can’t honor them all.  The Starfish foundation will never be able to satisfy all the need for tuition around the US.  They will never be able to educate whole communities, and through their good raise leaders that will go and give back.  What Soledad did was focus on what she could do.  She could help one, and that one made a difference.  Then she would help another and that one made a difference.  She did the hard thing of focusing on what she could do, and not what she couldn’t.

Soledad O'Brien with her children.
Soledad O’Brien with her children.

The next day Ava Duvernay spoke.

The amazing Ava Duvernay
The amazing Ava Duvernay

Ms. Duvernay told us of the difficulties of being a woman in Hollywood and if you are a woman of color it’s almost better not to quit your day job.  She spoke about her struggles with her damn near perfect body of work that is Selma and how if it wasn’t for the belief in her of one of the actors she would have never, ever, gotten the call to direct.  Ava shared some wisdom from Oprah that helped her when she was struggling with her vision and the credit she received for Selma.  In a nutshell Oprah said, if you have achieved your end result, then you win.  You have accomplished your goal.  Everything else is small fries.  She believed that she was going to be a great director and she took that leap of faith to do so.  She is proof that if you believe strongly enough in something work for it, and you will get it.  She also spoke about not taking a huge job because it would take away from her being able to work on the projects that really stir her soul.  I don’t know how many of us no matter how much we believed in something, would turn down a lucrative, life changing deal to follow our conscious.  Now, that is inspirational!  I am also very happy to say that while she was talking I just smiled with pride to know that she is an Alpha Kappa Alpha woman.  She is my soror, and by the end of the interview I felt like we were homies.  Ava Duvernay is a very down to earth person who just happens to be really freaking special.

Ms. Ava & Oprah
Ms. Ava & Oprah

Meatless Monday’s – Happy baby edition


I have just returned home from the super awesome and very informative Blogher conference. While at the conference I had the pleasure of speaking to some really insightful entrepreneurs. I also got to try some new products, some were excellent, some were not so excellent. Over the next couple of days I’m going to share some of my experiences. Today I’m dedicating this Meatless Monday to Happy Baby.

I do my best to keep artificial flavors, colors, processed foods, and fast foods, out of my family’s diet. Chick-fil-A is an exception! It is like the Amalfi Coast of fast food. I won’t even call it fast food, I’m going to call it quickly prepared food. Anywho, we eat it! For my daughter I make all of her baby food. For almost the entire month of July we have been traveling so I needed something that traveled well. Happy Baby is what I went for. She is still on stage one and the Happy Baby stage 1 food is literally just the vegetable and water. It’s also organic. Wanna know something else? It doesn’t cost $64.99 per serving! It is actually the lowest priced (in my target) of all of the organic options.


While at Blogher I was invited to the Happy Baby informational session. We learned about the process, the products, and the benefit of organic food. I soaked it all up! I learned that cereal isn’t really necessary and if you are gong to give your baby rice it should always be brown rice. That, I didn’t know. I made all of my son’s food using brown rice but that is because a neighbor gave me a 10lb bag when he was about 5 months old. Yeah me by default!

 Happy Baby has a lot of great new things that they are coming out with. There will be a baby food maker similar to the cuisinart baby, which I use. They are coming out with a prenatal line of food pouches for the expectant mom on the go. They also just came out with a line called Shine which is an adult food pouch of fruit and veggie blends.

I got to spend some time talking to Shazi Visram and listening to her share her vision and passion for healthy food was prodigious. We talked about nursing, we talked about my daughter and her eating habits, we talked about her son and how he loves chia seeds.  This beautiful humble woman took her passion and made it a nationally recognized business.  Cheers to you!  Shazi Visram is an amazing entrepreneur and from one mom to another I would like to say thank you!  You are a very cool mom!

Real life travel……

As I get older and wiser in motherhood, I realize I can’t freestyle my travel like I used to. Before kids I would buy a ticket, maybe or maybe not have accommodations, and transportation was always a last minute thing. Those days are loooong gone!

I was preparing for our upcoming trip to New York and I figured we would stay with the bestie for 3 nights and do a hotel for two. Once I figured out all of the ubering and/or taxi rides that would be required, this accommodation set up was beginning to look less attractive. I also realized if I stayed in the hotel the whole time I could leave the car seats at home since we could walk or subway where we needed to go. No car seats??? No lugging a stroller, and 2 suitcases which my 7 year old may or may not help me carry depending on his mood? I called the hotel to extend my stay quicker than I could throw a Lego after stepping on it.  When traveling with children I will always spend the extra money on convenience.

The goal after all, is to have a great time which now takes planning. I don’t want to spend time fussing at my kids because they are tired, hungry, irritated, overstimulated, or any of the other 1000 grievances they could legitimately have because I did some 22 year old with perky titties planning.  I must now travel like an adult with responsibilities even if it cost more money.

Lessons I learned the hard way!

The digital divide is now annoying and nostalgic.

The beloved nintendo
The beloved nintendo

I have now come to realize that all things really do go in cycles.  If you look at your children and the things that they do, they are similar to things we did as children just more advanced.  My son is obsessed with his iPad, as soon as he wakes up in the morning that’s the first thing he asks for.  All day, all he wants to do is play on his iPad which is irritating.  Once he gets on his iPad he cannot function or hear or focus on anything else at all. There could be an epic Avengers vs X-men battle going on in front of him and he would be none the wiser.

bubble bobble
bubble bobble

We recently went on a family trip and in the car I would let him use his iPad.  While we were on the plane he literally almost had a melt down because I would not let him play on his iPad.  I made him read books which really choked his chicken.  My goal was to keep him off the iPad for the whole week.  He would be around his cousins and plenty of outdoor space so he should play and interact with people right?  Wrong.  All the kids wanted to do collectively is play on the damn iPad.  All the way down to the 18 month old!

subway surfer
subway surfer, my son’s game of choice.

One particular time he was literally begging me to feed his dragons and check on his village.  I let him and a light bulb went off.  What he is doing is no different from when my sister and I would sit in front of our Nintendo and play bubble bobble or super Mario for hours on end.  Like literally our mother would go to work and come back and we were still on the Nintendo.  Once I realized that I have eased up just a tad and I mean just a tad.  I think he is still to young to be glued to an electronic device if he can’t whiz through a book with ease.

Super Mario and Dragon City.  1990 vs 2015
Super Mario and Dragon City. 1990 vs 2015

dragon city

It is so funny how you will inevitably sound like your parents and your children will do as you once did.  This is the annoying part of parenting that I will never share with my parents because they will just gloat.  I’d rather share with strangers and my imaginary internet friends:)