Our mission at Go Eat Give is to tie travel with giving back to the community. While volunteering is one of the ways to do so, here is another great opportunity to make a small difference wherever you go. Posada Amazonas Lodge, one of three accommodations under the directive of Peru’s visionary leader in sustainable tourism, Rainforest Expeditions, has partnered with Pack for a Purpose that encourages travelers to carry with them five pounds of school or medical supplies that can make a difference to communities they’re visiting. Continue reading “Adding Charity to the Vacation Packing List”
It’s summer time already. The temperature is rising, the economy is still tight and the kids are out of school. It’s time to go to the pool, watch movies and have sleep-overs. But after a few days, you will get tired of all that. If you are scratching your heads on how to keep yourself and your kids entertained this summer without breaking your budget, I have a few ideas for you that involve food, travel and volunteerism.
Plan a road trip to a nearby destination. Pack everyone into your car and head to a lake or beach. Rent a summer home for the week where you can cook your own food and play games. Even if you don’t have anything planned, here are some ideas for last minute trips.
Travel exchange programs are also a great way to stay for free in another city, or even country. Families can exchange homes, stay on farms, or be guests at no charge.
If you have decided to stay put this summer, you are in for a staycation. Which means you can be a tourist in your city and plan to do activities that you would otherwise do while travelling. Lodging and travel costs excluded of course.
Take a break from the regular summer camps and enrolls in a cooking camp. Learn to be a Food Network star or improve your awareness of food and nutrition. Kids and teens would also learn to work in teams and cooperate with one another.
Cooking with family at home can also be a lot of fun. Get the kids together for a fun day of making pasta, gelato, sushi or chocolate from scratch. It can be a rewarding learning experience that will bring the family together.
There is no shortage of volunteering opportunities in every city. Enroll in a project or associate yourself with a cause. Make it a daily/ weekly schedule to visit an old home, children’s hospital or women’s shelter. Some of these can be quite entertaining as well, such as leading arts and crafts, sporting activities for other kids. Many charities are looking for interns during the summer who can help them with day-to-day administrative things, organizing events, etc.
By the end of summer, you would have used your time effectively to impact the lives of people and feel good about yourself.
If you have any ideas of your own to share, please leave a comment below.
Instead of going out with friends for dinner, this Saturday night, I decided to host a pizza party at home. It wasn’t your typical order delivery and drink beer, rather a more mature and sophisticated pizza party for refined adults.
I bought fresh ingredients including pizza dough and toppings to make two different kinds of pizzas. The guests got a hands-on lesson in pizza making and were in the kitchen making pizza. We talked and cooking over a bottle of Chianti, making the evening more enjoyable and relaxed.
The first one we made was an eggplant goat cheese and pesto pizza. First, we sliced 1 medium eggplant into ¼ inch slices and lightly fried them in olive oil, until brown on both sides. Meanwhile, we finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic and rolled out our pizza dough onto a pizza stone. We first coated the sides of the pizza dough with olive oil, and then sprinkled the chopped garlic on top. The fried eggplant slices were arranged in a circle so that the entire surface was covered. This went in a 375F oven for 15 minutes. While we waited, we made a quick pesto using Knorr pesto sauce mix. Just followed the directions on the package. We then sprinkled the sauce over the pizza and added about 3 oz crumbled goat cheese. Now it was time to let it bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the crust was golden brown.
The second pizza was relatively simple as you didn’t need to cook the toppings. We used multi-grain dough to make the base. This time we used Knorr’s four cheese sauce mix and spread it evenly on the rolled out dough. We first baked the pizza throughout for 30-40 minutes until golden brown on the edges. For the toppings, we sprinkles ½ cups finely chopped purple onions, 2 tablespoon capers and 6 oz sliced smoked salmon. (You could even add fresh arugula leaves to it if you like.) This was our smoked salmon pizza.
Both pizzas were significantly different from each other and what you traditionally eat at pizzerias, but were delicious! The guests enjoyed it, learned something new and had a memorable dinner experience. It’s another example of how you can makeover a regular family meal into something with more pizzazz.
More and more families are choosing to cook at home due to health and cost factors. It is no surprise that home cooked food is comparatively healthier because you know exactly what you put in it (hopefully not preserved and canned items.) Also, it’s much cheaper than ordering in, especially for 2+ people households. The challenge families’ face is how to keep the same homemade recipes interesting and appealing to the entire family, young and old.
1. Make it healthier by using substitutes like olive oil instead of butter or vegetable oil, wheat flour instead of white, low fat cheeses, etc. Always use fresh herbs, garlic and spices to make the dish more flavorful. Avoid recipes that are deep fried. You know what’s not food for you!
2. Create the interest by blending flavors across cuisines. Grab a starch from one country and add a sauce from another. Try a thai red curry with penne pasta, then add shrimp or chicken depending on what your family prefers. Top chicken tikka masala on a flat bread or pizza. Serve a gazpacho with shells or macaroni pasta for a delicious & healthy meal. Read more on fusion cooking.
3. Presentation is key. We tend to judge a book by its cover and perceive the flavor of the food by its looks. Try to plate the food like you would see in an expensive restaurant. It doesn’t take much, just a garnish of cheese or parsley for most dishes would do. You can also control the portions your family is eating by pre plating them.
The way you go about doing this each night is by being conscious and creative. Try to diversity with what you know rather than trying new complicated recipes. For example, you need not serve the same old spaghetti with marinara. Add some fresh tomatoes, green onions, olives, feta and make your own instant sauce. Have the kids pitch in while cooking and make something using some of the ingredients they prefer to eat. These are simple makeovers to do and the whole family can enjoy the process.
Spring break is around the corner and you may be thinking of what to do for fun with your family. A lot of people are also tight on budgets this year. The economy is improving slowly, but not everyone has extra cash to go on a trip. Here’s an idea – Why not have a staycation? The term didn’t exist until 2009 so let me first explain to you what it means.
Wikipedia says – A staycation (also spelled stay-cation, stacation, or staykation; known in the United Kingdom as a stoliday or holistay) is a neologism for a period of time in which an individual or family stays and relaxes at home, or vacations in their own country, possibly taking day trips to area attractions. Staycations achieved popularity in the US during the financial crisis of 2007–2010. Staycations also became a popular phenomenon in the UK in 2009 as a weak pound made overseas holidays significantly more expensive.
While the usual activities during a staycation may include backyard camping, pool parties, visit to local festivals, I am urging you to think outside the box.
Be a tourist in your own city without breaking the budget – Go out and see those attractions that you don’t get to when caught in the everyday life. You can buy a city pass and cover the highlights without having to rent a hotel or car. Read reviews about your own city online (on sites such as TripAdvisor, Frommers, etc.) and find out where the tourists go to dine and view. A lot of museums offer discounts (or free) passed if you enter during the weekdays. You can also arrange for group discounts if you take a group of neighbors or friends. Now may also be the time to check out those nearby waterfalls you have been meaning to see someday.
Create a resort at your own home – Who says you need to spend thousands of dollars and fly a few hours to relax? You can create a resort-like environment in the comfort of your own home too! Pack the kids, the cooler, the beach ball and head out to the pool (river, lake or ocean) if you have one nearby. Put on your “vacation-only” bathing suit, an umbrella in your drink and the sun tan on.
A cruise on land – A cruising vacation involves non-stop fun all day long. But you can get the same experience on land if you plan it out in advance. Fill up the day with activities for the whole family. Go to a local Caribbean restaurant for lunch. Book a dance lesson or a cooking class, a massage at your local spa for the adults and a few hours at the game arcade or bowling alley for the kids. End the day with a family poker night where you have your very own casino.
Some rules of staycation are:
- Plan ahead
- Make a schedule
- Avoid routine
- Have fun!
Do you have any rules for your family staycation that you would like to share?
I was interviewed by the online magazine Do It While You’re Young in August 2010. They asked me about my passion for volunteering & where I was headed next. You can read the interview by visiting their web site.