Visit Morocco: Essaouira

This post is somewhat different from previous posts in this series. Essaouira is a special place, and I’d like to share it through the lense of my cousin’s camera. Thank you, Afaf, for sharing your photos and experiences on this trip with me, and thank you for allowing me to share them with others.

Photo credit: Afaf Miri

West of Marrakesh, on the Atlantic Coast, is a port city called Essaouira. The medina (old city) is guarded by ramparts built in the 18th century. They call it the Skala de la Kasbah. The brass cannons that once provided protection now attract tourists for stunning ocean views and beautiful photo opportunities.

Essaouira is a Moroccan gem. Unlike Marrakech or Casablanca, Essaouira is less about the hustle and bustle and more about the feel of the ocean breeze and the preservation of architectural history. It’s special for many reasons, but, like most of the cities in Morocco, the shopping is top quality.

The souks of essaouira

For a tourist that loves to shop, Essaouira does not disappoint. You’ll find colorful carpets, handmade jewelry and clothing, handwoven baskets and bags, tapestries, and stunning artwork.

The pace is slower in Essaouira, and you’ll find that the vendors are kind and little more patient than those of Marrakech. The streets are less crowded, and the shops are slightly bigger.

There’s a tranquility about the marketplace in Essaouira that adds to all that makes it special.

Experience dining

Mega Loft by OthmanChic
Photo Cred: Afaf Miri

Like everything in this beautiful city, the restaurants are full of color and artistic expression. Mega Loft is a cafe with a modern aesthetic. The art installations create a memorable dining experience.

The Mega Loft brand did not originate in Morocco. However, they are known to merge the cafe experience elegantly with the local culture. Mega Loft Essaouira does just that.

Mega Loft by OthmanChic
Photo Cred: Afaf Miri

The wall of vibrantly decorated baskets you see displayed on the wall are all made and designed in traditional Berber style.

At night, they have live music. The atmosphere is laidback with a hippie feel. It’s comfortable and has something for everyone.

Blessings of the ocean: The fishing ports

You should expect nothing short of an impressive seafront from a port city, and you can always expect nothing less that dynamic colors and style from Morocco. That’s exactly how I would describe the boat docks in Essaouira.

In a port city, you can expect a feast of seafood; the markets of Essaouira have everything you could ask for and more. Local restaurants and dives serve fresh catch. This is a city for foodies as much as it is for shoppers and history buffs.

Join Me for Part 6: rabat…

Mausoleum of Mohammed V

Rabat is the home of the King and the capitol city of Morocco. It’s metropolitan and full of history. Subscribe to read the next installment of this series…

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Visit Morocco: Casablanca

My last trip to Morocco was the first time I stayed in Casablanca. It was a short, but memorable stay. My husband’s aunt has a beautiful home in Casa, and we were fortunate enough to sleep there. Just beside us in the city was a small, neighborhood masjid (mosque), and we woke to the beautiful sound of the adhan (call for prayer played over the loud speaker of the mosque’s minaret).

This is a special post

For this installment in the “Visit Morocco” series, I’m doing something special. Nearly all imagery in this post will come from my favorite social media page… @inmorocco on Instagram. The creators have curated an incredible display of Morocco’s breathtaking culture on their page from some amazing photographers and videographers, and this post will testify to that. Enjoy…

Masjid hassan II

I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life on a perfect autumn night in Casablanca. I prayed inside the incredible Masjid Hassan II, the seventh largest mosque in the world. Words cannot do it justice; photos cannot mimic the experience, but I’ll do my best to describe it to you.

Photo credit: @drstone.ma found on @inmorocco Instagram page

Hassan II Mosque was built as tribute to the former King of Morocco. It isn’t the largest mosque in the world, but it does have the tallest minaret. At a 700 feet, it towers over everything in the rest of the city and is equipped with a light that shines toward Mecca.

In person, it’s breathtaking. It’s so tall and so big that it almost doesn’t appear to be real. The stillness makes it look almost like a painting or a picture.

Another special and meaningful feature of this mosque is its foundation. Masjid Hassan II was built directly on the Atlantic Ocean with intention. The architect referenced a verse in the Quran:

“And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days and His Throne had been upon water.”

Sura Hud, Verse 7
Photo Credit: @inmorocco on Instagram

The sound of the waves from the courtyard just adds awe to the experience. It’s so impressive to see in person, and the doors are open for all. You do not have to be a muslim to step inside and take photos. Tours are even given in multiple languages. Everyone is asked to cover their knees and elbows, but non-muslim women do not have to cover their hair.

stunning detail inside and outside

Photo credit: @curly.beard found on @inmorocco Instagram page

Over the course of seven years, 10,000 craftsman built this structure from the ground up. From the arches of the courtyard surrounding the mosque to the intricate details of the ceilings inside, every column, every wall, every arch is so detailed that your eye hardly knows where to focus.

Photo credit: @eyeschipha found on @inmorocco Instagram page

The red walls you see here provide privacy for the women as they pray. When there, you’ll notice that the men and women pray in separate parts of the mosque. This is a strategy to keep minds and hearts pure as they pray. You may also notice that the women’s area is smaller. This is simply because women are not required to pray in the mosque. They are just as welcome to pray there, but it is not required of them like it is of the men.

Ornately designed fountains are placed along the walls of the exterior. These are there to give people the opportunity to wash their face, hands, and feet before entering the building. It’s customary to clean before entering a holy structure like this in Islam.

Visiting this mosque is an unforgettable experience for anyone, not just muslims. Its a place of peace and stillness in a city full of energy. I dedicated so much of this post to it simply because it’s a must-see for anyone planning a trip to Morocco.

The streets of the white city

Photo credit: @sleepybird found on @inmorocco Instagram page

Just as Marrakech is called the Red City and Chefchaouen is called the Blue City, Casablanca has a color as well. The White City is named for its white buildings, quite obviously. It’s a wealthy city, full of life and the perfect mixture of modern and timeless.

To a tourist like me, Casa felt like a melting pot of different places. In some areas, it felt very much like Morocco, with small shops on crowded streets, full of movement and energy. Some neighborhoods reminded me of my time in Lisbon, with the modern trains and railways juxtaposed against a backdrop of old buildings of European influence, remnants of Morocco’s colonial past.

Photo credit: @manssouri_amine found on @inmorocco Instagram page

Something you see everywhere in Morocco, including cities, is palm trees. Casa is full of beautiful neighborhoods with streets lined with the markings of a beachfront city.

You might be surprised to know that Moroccans do not romanticize Casablanca in the way that foreigners do. My brother-in-law is from Casa; my husband has several family members that live there currently, and when asked what they think of Casa, the typical response is… “crowded.”

It’s certainly true. Casa is a city of movement, much like NYC. It’s a business center full of opportunity. For me, that’s part of what made it so exciting.

Stop and smell the tea (with a view)

Lastly, we cannot talk about any city in Morocco without talking about the food, atay (tea), and the abundance of stunning views. There are several beautiful hotels along the coast, and the grand presence of the mosque is positioned perfectly to provide stunning views. It truly is the Eiffel Tower of Morocco.

In all, Casablanca is a place for sensory excitement. It has all the sounds a bustling city with the food and architectural of a modern Moroccan metropolis. You can indulge in sweets and mint tea before heading to a traditional souk (marketplace) for unique items and souvenirs, or you can have lunch in an upscale bistro before hitting the mall for some luxury shopping.

There truly is something for everyone in Morocco.

Join me for part 5: essaouira…

Join me in the next installment of “Visit Morocco.” This time I’m going to show you the beautiful port city of Essaouira and all its colorful, artistic sights…

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Fed is Best: A Personal Story

If you, as a parent, have spent any time on social media, you’ve heard “fed is best.” The phrase originated in response to “breast is best,” a movement designed to encourage new mom’s to ditch the formula and try breastfeeding.

Photo by Dave Clubb on Unsplash

“Breast is best,” was not meant to undermine mothers who choose to formula feed. It started in response to the decline in breastfeeding that peaked mid-1900s. Breast milk really is liquid gold and great for baby, but after years of formula feeding becoming increasingly popular, by the 1950s, breastfeeding had developed a stigma relating it to lower socio-economic status.

In recent years, medical professionals wanted to put breastfeeding back on the radar in a good way.

the fed is best foundation

A common misconception about “fed is best” is that it argues for formula as a perfect substitution for breast milk. In reality, the phrase was developed to address an issue that originated from the “breast is best” movement…the immense pressure it was putting on mothers to breastfeed, even when it wasn’t working for them.

The Fed is Best Foundation does not encourage women to chose formula over breast milk. What it does is offer support to all parents, whether they chose one or the other. The pressure to breastfeed has, in some cases, had adverse effects on both parent and child.

What happens when a new parent has been told that breast is best and formula cannot compare? Parents who take to social media for support are inundated with misinformation:

  • “don’t supplement with formula, the baby will get confused,”
  • “don’t let them give your baby a bottle, the baby will get confused,”
  • “don’t just pump, you won’t make enough milk…”

Shaming has become an unfortunate normal for new parents. The reality is that birthers are under a tremendous amount of pressure in an incredibly vulnerable state. The Fed is Best Foundation simply wants to bring awareness to the struggle and provide support.

Fed had to be best for me

I gave birth to my son in November 2020. They ask you if you plan to “breast or bottle feed,” and I had every intention to breastfeed. I spent hundreds of dollars on all the gear and mentally prepared myself for the journey. When I said “breast,” the nurses smiled and praised me. I read the ID card on my son’s bassinet….the box for breast was checked, and the nurse drew a heart next to it with a smiley face. They approved.

Within 36 hours after my son was born, three different lactation consultants came to my room at different times. My son wasn’t getting enough to eat. I was exhausted. I had labored for 32 hours, and within that time I developed preeclampsia with severe effects. I was on a magnesium drip for two days, which makes you feel like death.

Just moments after the birth, I lost one fourth of my body’s blood at once. I was holding the baby, trying to breastfeed for the first time, when my face went white and I started to lose consciousness. Fifteen minutes later I had a blood transfusion.

At the time I didn’t even realize how much my body had been through. When the consultant came in and said “we need to talk about supplementing with formula,” I honestly didn’t feel anything. She approached the conversation as if she was preparing for me to burst into a rage. She even looked surprised when I said “yeah, that’s fine.” I just wanted to make sure my kid was fed, and I couldn’t do it.

formula can sometimes be the only option

The first three weeks of my son’s life were extremely difficult for me. I pumped every two hours. I tried feeding him directly, but he would get frustrated and give up. I googled “can breast milk come in late” at least 10 times a day looking for reassuring answers.

I called my hospital and rented the strongest pump they had. I spoke with consultants on the phone, stayed hydrated, and ate every lactation cookie available. When my son was three weeks old, we were finally able to get an appointment with a doctor who had decades of experience as a lactation specialist.

She talked to me for a few minutes, took one look at my chest, and said:

“You have mammary hypoplasia. Basically, puberty failed you. You do not have enough milk ducts to produce the milk you need. That, coupled with the hemorrhage you experienced during birth, set up a perfect storm to stop you from producing milk. ”

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

In the first three weeks, I never pumped more than 1 mL/day. If you’re not aware…that’s basically nothing. In addition to the mammary hypoplasia, which is extremely rare by the way, the blood loss I experienced stopped me from producing what little I would have produced anyway. Milk production is all about blood, according to the doctor.

I never had a chance. My child is alive because of formula. Period.

Moral of the story is…

If you find yourself in the presence of someone pouring formula into a bottle, and you feel a little judgy, keep in mind that you don’t know that person’s story. The day the doctor told me I would never be able to breastfeed, I cried tears of sadness and relief simultaneously.

I no longer had to coach myself through self-loathing every time the bottle was empty after 30 minutes of pumping at two o’clock in the morning. I put it behind me, told myself I did everything I could, and stopped at Target to buy a couple of 36oz cans of Similac.

I went home and packed up the breastfeeding supplies and put them in the closet. I never looked back. My son is happy and healthy, and I’m grateful.

What’s important to remember is that I’ve scrolled through TikTok and seen mothers on there shaming other moms for formula feeding. I’ve heard it all:

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com
  • “Why would you give your baby formula when you have liquid gold that your body produced for your child?” “
  • “Honestly, it should be considered child abuse.” (Seriously, people say nonsense like that.)
  • “You’re selfish if you don’t breastfeed.”
  • “So lazy.”

First and foremost, it’s no one else’s business how you chose to feed your child as long as your child is fed. Second, I’d be willing to bet that the type of people that say these things have never heard of mammary hypoplasia.

I almost feel lucky that I was diagnosed when I was. I wish it had been sooner. I could have saved myself a lot of time spent feeling guilty and broken. I HATED trying to breastfeed, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Not everyone enjoys it. It doesn’t always come easily. Not every baby is naturally good at it.

With that said, the moral of the story is that it takes the same amount of energy to support someone as it does to tear them down, and it costs nothing to be nice. Parents out there abandoning the breastfeeding journey because it was hard or causing you mental distress…I get it. You’re doing great. Give yourself a break.

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7 Bizarre Things Aristocrats Did, And Got Away With

When boundless wealth and power meets little to no consequence for actions, you can imagine the sort of bizarre behavior that might emerge. That’s why it’s not entirely surprising that nearly every royal dynasty has a history of odd behavior. Here are just a few examples of aristocrats participating in behavior that they average person could never do, at least not without consequence.

King louis xIV’s fetish

If you’ve ever wondered why women give birth lying down, look no further than King Louis XIV. Before Louis, it was common practice for women to give birth standing, squatting, or kneeling. Gravity would naturally assist in these positions, and squatting actually opens the pelvis, allowing more room for the baby to exit. King Louis forced his wives to give birth lying down. Why? Because he liked to watch. He had a birthing fetish that ultimately led to a common practice in obstetrics. Today, although it is still standard to lie down in the hospital, we have the right to chose how we give birth, who is there, and who assists. You can opt to exclude the perverse gaze of creepy aristocrats.2

The end of the habsburgs

King Charles II of Spain was the final member of the Habsburg dynasty. He was said to be so ugly that his wife couldn’t bare to look at him. Most royal families have a history of inbreeding, but the Habsburgs took it to unprecedented levels. Uncles married nieces, and close cousins married each other. No one married outside the family. By the time Charles was born, his genetic makeup resembled that of a child born from brother and sister. One fourth of his genes were identical. His underbite was so severe that his teeth never touched, causing issues with eating and speech. His official portraits portray the Habsburg jaw, but painters were instructed to make him look healthier and younger. He was constantly plagued with illnesses and had a very frail form. Neither he nor his sister were ever able to produce an heir, for obvious reasons, and the Habsburg Dynasty died with him in 1700.4

The mad marquis

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “paint the town red,” but you may not know where it originated. Between 1837-1838, Londoners suffered a series of attacks by what they described as a fire-breathing boogeyman. While some blamed it on ghosts and other paranormal phenomena, others took a more rational approach and placed the blame on young aristocrats known for their wild behavior. Henry Beresford, 3rd Marquis of Waterford, was known to be an unruly partier, the modern equivalent of the obnoxious frat boy. One night, he and his friends (all drunk) harassed the people and police of a small town just for fun. Before leaving, they stole red paint and literally painted the town red. It is said that the boogeyman attacks stopped around the same time Beresford married and left London a changed man. Whether or not it was him remains unknown.6

Sources:

  1. Biography.com. “Elizabeth Bathory”
  2. IFL Science. “There’s a Really Creepy Reason Why Women Mainly Give Birth Lying Down.”
  3. Zippy Facts. “Why Did Francis Henry Egerton Throw Dinner Parties for His Dogs?”
  4. History Collection. “40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain.”
  5. The Vintage News. “The Eccentric Duke Who Adored Misanthropy, Built 15 Miles of Tunnels.”
  6. History Collection. “The Leaping Boogeyman Who Terrorized Victorian England.”
  7. Cornwall Live. “Eccentric Mermaid Priest Who Wrote Cornwall Anthem Trelawny and Hanged a Mouse.”

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8 Nasty Historical Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

The study of history is often limited to the writings and actions of larger-than-life men. What we often forget is that there were centuries of societies before us that lived everyday lives, just as we do, and did weird, gross things, just as others in the centuries after us will say we did. You’ll find that a lot of the gross things in social history revolve around hygiene. Before the advent of flushable toilets, laundry machines, and a basic understanding of the importance of clean water, a lot of nasty things happened. Here are just a few…

#1 The Great Stink

Victorian London, 1858. From the beginning, London used the Thames as a dump for all waste, including human waste. As the population grew, so did the waste. Most homes did not have flush toilets, and even the ones that did simply sent the waste into the same waterways that led to the Thames. As you might imagine, disease spread rapidly. Waterborne diseases like Cholera plagued the city for years, and then, in 1858 during a particularly hot summer, the problem became airborne. As the heat began to rise, the waste in the river fermented, creating an overwhelming smell. All attempts to cover it failed, and officials began to worry about the health of the city’s population. A plan to build a new sewage system that would divert contaminated water from the river resulted in more disease. Many streets and wharfs were cut off during construction, and affected citizens lost access to their neighborhood water supply. With pails in hands, they walked to the closest water source, the waste water of the Thames. Cholrea spread quickly. Ultimately, the new sewage problem was solved and waste was successfully diverted from the river, but “The Great Stink” of 1858 will forever be known as the catalyst for London’s modern sewage system.

#2 Before the Laundromat

We take for granted how easy it is for us to wash our clothes. Today we have machines that do all the hard work for us; we simply have to wait. The ole fashioned washboard, which was used to scrub clothes clean by hand in a bucket of soap and water, wasn’t invented until the Industrial Revolution. So, what did people do before when they needed to wash their clothes? The answer is diverse, but I found a few commonalities. Some people just simply didn’t. It wasn’t a priority. To my surprise there was one solution used across centuries in different parts of the world, from the Roman Empire to the United States during the homesteading years. That solution was urine. They washed their clothing in human urine. Why? Urine has ammonia, which has bleaching properties. Would we call that clean today? Definitely, not, but they didn’t have the power of Tide, and to be honest, proper hygiene has undergone a slow evolution.

#3 Henry VIIi’s ulcers

Henry the Eighth is best known in the context of Anne Boleyn, the wife he beaded, but he also suffered from several health issues, many were likely caused by diabetes and poor hygiene. The varicose ulcers on his legs caused him a great deal of pain and worsened over the years. Today, we know the cause of this condition is a lack of proper circulation resulting in pooled blood in the veins; it can be treated with compression and elevation. However, Henry’s ulcers were left open to drain, and without proper wound care, infection settled in them. The result was a horrendous smell. After a jousting accident, Henry’s condition slowly worsened until he could barely walk. No longer able to participate in the sport and exercise he loved, he spent his time eating a high-caloric diet of wine, bread and meat, causing more strain on his heart and worsening the ulcers. Once a strong athlete with a robust personality, his legacy became that of an obese king with a nasty attitude.

#4 the stench of versailles

Today, Versailles is standing proof of French architectural achievement. In the 18th Century, we may have marveled at its beauty but scoffed at its smell. King Louis XIV boosted that he had only bathed twice in his lifetime, and there was a common belief at that time that bathing caused disease. Despite the availability of baths, his courtiers followed his lead and rarely bathed. Hygiene in the palace was abysmal at best. The famous white wigs we associate with French aristocratic fashion served a greater purpose. Lice thrived in the court, and syphilis, a side effect of which is hair loss, spread rapidly and affected many. While they kept their clothes as clean as possible, the palace was filthy. Courtiers regularly used chamber pots to do their business and often emptied them directly out the window. During lavish parties, when everyone was heavily intoxicated, they would abandon all civility and use any available corner to do their business. Yes, those beautiful halls of ornate design and remarkable chandeliers were once covered in feces and urine.

#5 Roman mouthwash

In a time before fluoride and toothpaste, the Roman’s reverted to some interesting dental hygiene practices. Believe it or not, mouthwash was actually invented centuries ago and well-documented for the first time in Rome. They weren’t using Listerine, so what was this so-called mouthwash? Urine. Yes, they believed that the ammonia found in pee could whiten their teeth and kill germs. Even weirder…the stronger the urine, the better it was. For whatever reason, they designated Portuguese urine as the best quality mouthwash, making it so popular that Nero placed a high tax on it. They didn’t stop there. They clearly found beauty in a nice white smile and went to great lengths to try and accomplish it. Powdered mouse brains became a popular whitening toothpaste, whether it worked is unknown. Hopefully, it remains so.

#6 No swimming in the moat

Depending on the time period, we often think of castles as a home for royalty or, in modern times, a relic of the past. We romanticize them and their beautiful architectural features, often with little understanding of their purpose. Medieval castles were rarely permanent residences, and they were used effectively as a line of defense. The towers (or turrets as they are sometimes called) functioned as a place for archers to keep a watchful eye, and the moat made it difficult for enemies to attack the castle. What we rarely read about in history books is the condition of the moat. There were not flushing toilets in the Middle Ages, and chamber pots were typically emptied by simply dumping them in the moat. Another thing castles didn’t have…window panes. After a few weeks and a substantial build up in the moat, the smell would seep into the castle. This is why they were rarely used a permanent residence.

#7 roman bathroom of nightmares

The Romans made porta potties look like the bathroom at the Four Seasons. Privacy was not a concern when designing a place to get rid of your waste. Imagine this…you’re stepping into a traditional restroom during the height of the Roman Empire. You sit down on a long marble slab with several strategically placed holes, wave at your friends sharing the experience next to you, and do your business. When you finish, you grab the sponge on a stick laying beside you, dip it in the water running below your feet, wash yourself, and dip in back in the water for a quick clean before leaving it for the next guest. That was a normal restroom experience in ancient Rome.

#8 King Louis’s Fistula

King Louis XIV of France is famous for many reasons and infamous for many more, but you may not have heard of his contribution to surgical medicine. In 1686, King Louis developed a perianal abscess that wouldn’t heal after physicians tried, to no avail, to treat it with some questionable tactics. Among the treatments were burning with a hot iron, which caused it to crater, and covering it with rags soaked in the extract of leaves and flowers. All it did was fester, and Louis found himself changing his clothes several times during the day when the pus would stain them. Eventually, the abscess became an anal fistula that caused him a great deal of pain. When Louis had enough, he resolved to allowing surgeons to take their shot at fixing it. While lying on his stomach, with his legs held down, Louis underwent three hours of surgery with absolutely no anesthesia. Surprisingly, it worked. Louis was so pleased that he lifted the rank of surgeons, who were previously below physicians in the medical hierarchy, and granted them titles and great wealth. One surgeon created a tool just for the surgery; today, it sits in a medical history museum in Paris.

Sources:

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Making Space for Baby: The Diaper Caddy

In September 2019, my husband and I moved into a relatively small one bedroom apartment. We planned to stay briefly. It was just the two of us, and we were in those blissful days, pre-pandemic, when you could travel anywhere. That’s all we wanted, just to work and save so we could travel. That life seems so happy and simple in retrospect.

Five months later, I came home from work, took a pregnancy test, and hopped in the shower. When I got out, I was pregnant. Three days after that, my company laid off thousands of employees, myself included. Covid hit the U.S. with no mercy, and March 2020 wrapped me up in a tornado and spun me around for what seemed like a lifetime.

Ultimately, the original plan was derailed. We were tasked with revamping our entire lives in what felt like the blink of an eye. The small one bedroom that was meant to be a place to rest and refuel between adventures became a nest for quarantine and place to bring home our first child.

New Baby, No Room

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

I then faced a new challenge…I had to find a way to fit a baby and all the gear that comes with a baby into this small space.

What could I downsize? What was ideal but unnecessary? If you’re about to be a parent for the first time, scour the internet for those “do’s and don’ts” of buying baby stuff. You find some strong opinions on what is worth it and what’s not. Some of them are conflicting, but typically there’s some consensus.

The first thing I tackled, was the good old-fashioned changing table. It’s a staple. Typically, it comes with a matching crib as a set, but honestly, who needs it? I certainly didn’t have room for it. So, I decided to go with something more compact.

The Diaper Caddy

In reality, I can’t imagine getting up every time I needed to change a diaper and carrying my son to another room. That sounds lazy, especially since I just said I live in a small space, but, honestly, I have no excuse. As a new mom, I decided I would make convenience a priority, and it has been a blessing.

I had a choice, I could give up my king-size bed (never going to happen) to make room or I could eliminate the unnecessary. I went with the later and never looked back.

First things first, I 86’d the changing table and got myself a portable version. A diaper caddy is just that, a caddy for diaper changing supplies. You put everything you need in it to change diapers throughout a normal day. You can carry from room to room and have it on hand wherever you are.

What’s in My Small Diaper Caddy?

Smaller caddy found here on Amazon

What do you keep in it? First, what are the things that you will be reaching for all day? There are a few obvious answers:

  • For the bum: Diapers, wipes, powder, your cream of choice
  • For the tears: pacifiers (plural because at least 2 will disappear at random), small toy

Before my son was born, I bought a small caddy. A few months in, I got a bigger one. I started to use it not just to keep necessities nearby but to keep them organized. Pockets are everything!

Here are a couple of my favorite Caddys from amazon…

What’s in My Large Diaper Caddy?

Upgrading to the bigger caddy helped me stay organized. There were a few things I needed to keep more readily available:

  • Medicine bag: I learned quickly to keep all the baby meds in one small bag (gripe water, gas drops, teething tablets, pain reliever, nose suckers, med droppers, thermometer, etc.). I put it all in one small bag. At home it’s in the caddy; when we leave, it goes in the diaper bag.
  • Grooming tools: nail clippers, comb, brush
  • Changing pad: This one is important. A changing pad is what protects your couch/bed/floor from the dirty diaper changes. Parents of boys: get a big one! They can really get some impressive distance with the pee stream when they catch you off guard.
  • Whatever else you like: I keep hand sanitizer and lotion for me.

Convenience is Key

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…convenience is so important to make parent life less stressful. If I know where everything is and can grab it as soon as I need it, I have one less thing clogging my brain, which is typically at capacity most of the time.

Subscribe for more tips and let me know what items and techniques work for you. Here are a few links for some diaper caddy and changing pad options below.

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Baby Led Weaning and Purees: What Works for You?

If you are a parent, by now you have likely heard of baby led weaning. It’s the most popular of the “baby vs solids” trends. Like any new parent, as my baby approached the appropriate age, I started thinking about how I wanted to start the weaning process.

I was surprised when his pediatrician told me at his four month checkup that I could start him on solids at his age. So, I decided I was going to make his food myself…be the “all organic” mom and break out the fruits, veggies, blenders, and containers. I tried. It sucked. I quit.

To be totally honest, every new milestone gives me anxiety. Introducing a baby to solids means figuring out if your baby has allergies. My husband is self-employed, so I made him stay home every time we tried a new food. I hated the process.

In truth, I didn’t start at four months. I googled it, saw a consensus that anywhere from 4-6 months was fine, and procrastinated (in true ADHD fashion) until he was six months. By then, I decided I wasn’t going to spend all that time cooking and preparing purees just for him to not like something. Then who’s going to eat the blended broccoli? Not me. Enter baby led weaning…

I did my research and learned all the techniques. Then we tried it. Let me tell you why it didn’t work for me. More importantly, let me tell you why it’s okay not to push yourself to do what doesn’t work for you just because every “supermom” fishing for someone to criticize on social media says you should.

What Is Baby Led Weaning

Photo by Harry Grout on Unsplash

The short of it is that your baby learns to feed himself/herself from the time you start to wean them off strictly liquids. The recommended age for baby led weaning is six months, and that’s because babis typically start reaching for food at that age.

If you visit babyledweaning.com you’ll find that it seems so simple. What a great idea! Skip the mushy food, and have your baby eating like a toddler before the first year! Let’s be honest, we all want to think our babies are ahead of the curve.

However, keep in mind, this method takes patience and persistence. Motor skills as six months are lacking. Very little hits the mouth. Most of it ends up on the floor or in the lap.

A Few Things You Need to Know About Baby Led Weaning…

First, I want to say that this is not a BLW bashing post. I actually think it is a great way to start your kid on solids. I just want to offer as much information about the process as possible because I tried it and have the experience. Here a just a few things I learned along the way:

  • The bites. It might sound like you just cut up some food and give it to your baby, but the size of the bite is important. Long pieces make it easy for the baby to hold on, and small bites are more likely to cause choking. Slice everything into narrow rectangles.
  • The mess. This one should have been obvious, but what can I say, I’m a new mom. It’s a baby, so who really cares, but just keep in mind that they will get food everywhere. In BLW, they skip the sippy cup phase as well, and they start drinking water. They make cute tiny cups for them to pick up with their cute hands (and spill everywhere).
  • The gagging. This is the one that got me. Anxious parents, this one will freak you out. Keep in mind that they don’t have teeth, and they are learning to move food from the front of their mouths to the back to swallow. It’s new, and they are not great at it in the beginning, so they gag a lot. It sounds like choking and might freak you out.

All in all, this is a great way to start your baby on solids. The key is to make sure it works FOR YOU, too.

Why It Didn’t Work for Me and Why That’s Okay

I started the BLW journey because I love the idea of teaching my child to be independent. I think every parent does. That’s the appeal of it, and that’s what made it hard for me to accept that it was not right for me.

I may have mentioned this approximately 50 times, but I’m not exactly a laid-back person. For someone like me, the gagging was too much. I worried constantly that my son would choke, and even though I know how to do the baby Heimlich, my mind always went to the worse case scenario.

With all that being said, the moral of this story is that every parent has their own personal limitations. I don’t feel bad that I couldn’t handle diving right into baby led weaning.

Photo by Suzi Kim on Unsplash

My son drinks water from a transition sippy cup. At nine months, he eats cold pressed, pureed baby food (a blend of organic fruits and veggies), and he loves eggs, salmon, and chicken, which I feed to him in tiny bites now that he has six teeth.

I did what was right for me, and he is happy, healthy, and thriving. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we have to take care of ourselves as well. “Mom guilt” is not a myth! However, I’ve learned to find balance and try to keep in mind that worrying about being a good parent is what makes me a good parent.

The Food That Works for Me

FYI, if you do want to go the puree route, I went on a journey to find the best baby food. All organic. Free of toxic metals and ingredients. Click here if you’d like to read my post about Once Upon a Farm, cold-pressed baby food.

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Visit Morocco: Marrakech

We stepped off of the train in Marrakech, carried our luggage through the station and out the front doors where a kind man named Abul Qadir, who knew every stretch of road in the city, greeted us with a smile and said “mrehba” (welcome). My husband’s brother had asked him to chauffeur us around during our stay.

In his minivan, which I think came off the assembly line the same year I was born, we flew through the narrow streets of the medina (the old part of the city). The realization that a 1985 minivan was speeding down brick roads built nearly 1000 years ago didn’t really hit me at the time. We were just trying to get to our riad (traditional Moroccan house).

Marrakech is special. They call it the Red City because it is just that. The medina is built out of red clay and looks something like the streets of Agrabah. We go back every time we’re in Morocco, and I think you’ll see why…

Jemaa el-Fnaa and the Medina

If you’ve considered traveling to Marrakech, Jemaa el-Fnaa is probably the reason. In essence, it is a marketplace, but in reality, it’s so much more.

Snake charmers, live percussionists, friendly monkeys in red vests (think Abu from Aladdin), handmade leather bags, traditional kaftans and shoes, ornate lamps, and so much more. You can catch a horse and buggy ride around the square and stop to buy jewelry made by local women.

There’s food and fresh juice and candy and spices….anything you could imagine. The sights and smells of the square are magical.

The market square is on the edge of the medina, where the streets are narrow and made of brick. That’s where you find most of the shops. They’re lined up, one after another, along the windy streets, branching out for miles like tributaries, all leading to the square.

You’ve likely seen the photos from influencers on social media: a beautiful woman in a flowing dress and a large hat stands in the middle of a small shop, surrounded by glowing Moroccan lamps. That’s Marrakech.

Fun fact: The vendors hate it. Many of them have posted signs prohibiting cameras in their shops. It makes for a fantastic photo op, though.

If You Don’t Stay in a Riad, You Don’t Experience Marrakech

In Marrakech, where you stay should be just as important as your sightseeing plans. There are hotels, but absolutely nothing beats the riad experience. Each time that I’ve booked a stay in Marrakech, I’ve stayed in the medina, but there are benefits to staying in the seclusion outside the city as well.

Blue Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech

Airbnb has everything you need. Whether your group is big or small, there is not only a riad for you but a chance to chose from options.

What makes riads so special is the architectural design. They all have an open patio in the center of the space, typically with an open roof and a water feature. The bedrooms are on the second floor, where a 360° terrace overlooks the patio. Natural light fills the entire space, and weather is not a concern because Marrakech is beautiful year round.

Don’t worry, every room has air conditioning, and everything is made of traditional tile and clay to keep cool in the warmer months. Here a couple of my favorite riads in the old medina (click the links to see the posts on Airbnb):

Riad Moor

In 2018, my husband and I stayed in Riad Moor with a group of nine people. It’s perfectly located in the traditional streets of the medina and just a short walk to the Jemaa el-Fnaa square. Every bedroom, and there were five, had an en-suite bathroom. One bedroom was even located on the beautiful rooftop.

Stepping out the front door put you directly on the streets of medina. We walked around the corner to get snacks at the shops and bakeries. We had pizza and sandwiches at a small restaurant around the corner. It was a perfect stay.

Giuliano’s Riad

I laid my head in Giuliano’s riad the first time I went to Marrakech in 2017. This time we were in a small group of three, and this was the perfect place to stay. We were there in June, and the dark clay room was the perfect temperature.

At night, by the light of the lanterns, we sat on the patio, listened to the water moving through the fountain, had kefta made in a tajine and listened to the sounds of the streets outside. Located in the medina, it has all the benefits of being in the heart of Marrakech.

The Atlas Mountains

Credit Paul Macallan

Roughly 30-45 minutes outside of the city, you can visit the Atlas Mountains. You can ride camels along paths in the lower hills (not my thing…I’m afraid of heights). Clear streams flow through low valleys where you can stop to eat at tables set up in the water. That’s where we spent one afternoon in 2017.

The stream passed over our feet as we ate beef and potatoes cooked in a tajine over fire. Truthfully, it was the best meal I had there. Later we sipped coffee under a bedouin-style tent next to the water and even napped there for a moment.

Cooking with a Tajine
Photo by Mayeur Pascal on Unsplash

That’s Marrakech…beauty everywhere you look and a warmth coming from the people that you won’t experience anywhere else. Everyday was just a one brand new adventure after another. It’s another spot that should be on every bucket list…

Join Me for Part 4: Casablanca…

Masjid Hassan II

Yes, it’s that Casablanca…like the movie. One of the greatest experiences in my life was the night I stepped into the Masjid Hassan II, the largest mosque in Africa. Subscribe to follow along with this series and learn more about Morocco…

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Netflix Says I’m Depressed, TikTok Says It’s Just ADHD

These days, TikTok has become my source for all things at all times. Our short attention spans, need for instant gratification, and handheld super computers called, and TikTok answered with just the right dose of information overload.

In 2020, while pregnant and quarantining, Netflix and TikTok became my socialization, my only connection to the outside world. It’s so sad, honestly.

I went to TikTok to learn what was going on out there from through the people living it, and I turned to Netflix to escape the reality of it (shoutout to the Tiger King). Of course, 2020 eventually breached Netflix and now there’s hardly any escape (except old episodes of Real Housewives, a guilty pleasure).

I got a hard dose of reality when I watched Bo Burnham’s special, Inside, on Netflix.

Thanks Bo Burnham…

If you haven’t watched Inside yet, go do it, or, well, maybe don’t do it. Actually, evaluate your mental stability at the moment, and if you feel like you’re in a good, strong place, go watch it. If you are feeling particularly pessimistic about the future and angry about 2020, it’s probably not the right time for you.

No one knows how to use poignant lyrics added to a catchy melody to punch you right in the feels quite like Bo. “Look Who’s Inside Again,” “That Funny Feeling,” and “All Eyes on Me” really hit home. When the special ended, I found myself in tears, and thinking…”did 2020 break me? Am I depressed now? Do I need help?”

Then TikTok stepped in and said, “eh, maybe it’s just a little pandemic stress mixed with some ADHD.”

TikTok, How Did I Get Here?

For those who know nothing about TikTok, I’ll give you a quick overview of how you end up down the rabbit hole. Your FYP (For You Page) is a stream of videos curated just for you by an algorithm that monitors your likes, comments, and shares. The more you like videos of similar content, the more you will see them on your FYP.

Simply watching a video to the end or sharing it with a friend will trigger the algorithm. Beware: you can accidentally end up on some dark sides of Tiktok…paranormal-tok, for example, which can get a little dicey if you run into it late at night while scrolling in the dark, or worse, underwhelming dance trend-tok. It’s hard to get out once it’s gotten you.

Anyway, this is how I ended up on ADHD-tok. What I found actually surprised me. I’m a 35 year old woman. I grew up in an age when young boys were the only ones getting an ADD or ADHD diagnosis. My brother had ADD; my cousin had ADHD. Both were physically hyperactive.

I was a relatively quiet, self-reflective kid with a hypersensitivity to everything around me. As an adult, I’m still self-reflective and hypersensitive…not very quiet anymore. I started coming across videos with prompts like…”Feel mentally paralyzed when you have too much to do?”, “Wait until the last minute to do everything?”, “Get angry for no reason?”

Of course I answered yes to them all…hit the like button, but this isn’t something special. I’m an older millennial…over-educated, drowning in student debt, and underpaid. We’re all like this, a little depressed, moody, anxious.

Then the TikTok doctors and therapists weighed in. They said, “wait a minute…you might have ADHD.”

The Age of Self-Diagnosis

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “do I have ADHD? How do I know?” First of all, a lot of women have gone undiagnosed for a long time because ADHD manifests differently in us. We tend to internalize much more, making the hyperactivity more mental as opposed to external.

Here are just a few of the potential missed symptoms that I learned while surfing the waves of ADHD TikTok:

  • driving quickly and impatiently,
  • frequent thoughts about changing jobs,
  • lying to avoid shame or conflict,
  • impulsive spending,
  • extreme mood swings,
  • hypersensitivity to loud noises,
  • insomnia,
  • drifting in thought during conversation,
  • forgetting things you said,
  • interrupting others while they speak (I’m really bad about this one),
  • procrastination/struggling with time management,
  • frequent daydreaming,
  • trouble maintaining friendships,
  • feeling anxious/sad (very common in women), and
  • perfectionism.

Have you ever heard of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)? I hadn’t…but I have symptoms. People with DSPS have trouble falling asleep early, even when they try, and have a hard time waking up early. Apparently, it is a sign of ADHD.

So, What Now?

I will freely admit that I have ever sign of ADHD listed above, and I’ve had them for as long as I can remember. Doctors and therapists are catching this stuff daily now, and social media has actually been a great tool for helping people.

So, what’s the moral of this story? The lesson I learned is that awareness is everything! Providers with specialities who are on social media are creating amazing content and awareness. ADHD, for example, can be a superpower if you know what to do and how to operate in the world around you as a neurodivergent.

Dr. Kojo Sarfo (@dr.kojosarfo on TikTok) is a mental health expert with over 1.4 million followers. He posts everyday about topics like ADHD, OCD, body dysmorphia, and depression. He’s helping people, many of whom can’t afford healthcare, let alone mental healthcare.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Lindsay Fleming, LPC (@lindsay.fleminglpc on Tiktok) is a licensed therapist with expertise in ADHD, specifically in women. She has nearly 500,000 followers. Women are overwhelmingly misdiagnosed with depression and anxiety when ADHD is overlooked, and the information she provides can help us speak up for ourselves.

Shoutout to the thousands of doctors and healthcare professionals that are taking their knowledge to the internet and sharing it, free of charge! The awareness they bring is saving lives and getting us through this pandemic.

In All Seriousness…

We often joke and minimize mental health struggles in order to power through. White-knuckling our way through life is autopilot for some. For many of us, mental health is very much a daily struggle. We all need a little help sometimes; the last 18 months have thrown curveball after curveball at us. Hang in there, friends; you’re not alone.

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Tania Head and the 9/11 Lie

In 2012, Angelo J. Gugliemo, Jr. released a shocking documentary called The Woman Who Wasn’t There, based on his book with Robin Gaby Fisher. Have you ever watched a movie that just “stayed” with you? This documentary did exactly that for me. I watched it several times on my own, showed it to several of my friends and family, and was pretty bummed when it left Hulu.

Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

The documentary follows the story of a woman named Tania Head, who survived the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. Angelo J. Gugliemo, Jr. knew Tania. He worked with her in the World Trade Center Survivor’s Network, an organization that she joined with other survivors. The sheer shock value of Tania’s story was enough to make her stand out, but it was her bravery that made her a spokeswoman for survivors.

Tania’s Story

Tania was in the south tower of the WTC on the morning of September 11, 2001. She worked for Merrill Lynch as an executive, and her husband, Dave, was in the north tower across from her.

Tania described, in charming detail, how she met her husband waiting for a taxi in New York City. It was a classic movie meet-cute. He did not survive the attack, and Tania memorialized him every year by putting a toy taxi on his name at ground zero. It was a beautiful, tragic love story.

Ground Zero Memorial
Photo by Magnus Olsson on Unsplash

When the second plane hit the south tower at 9:03 am, Tania was on the 78th floor. As the flames engulfed the second floor, Tania made her way down the stairs.

Her arm was badly injured, nearly severed near the elbow and badly burned. She described her harrowing descend as if she had been in a mental fog…likely shock. A young hero emerged and saved Tania’s life.

He wore a red bandana and guided her to safety before returning into the tower. His name was Welles Crowther, and you may have heard of him.

In September 2017, Man in Red Bandana, a documentary, told his incredible story. He saved the lives of at least ten people that day and lost his life when the tower collapsed.

Like so many others that survived, Tania battled guilt, depression, and flashbacks. She started to share her 9/11 story online with other survivors and found solace in the connections she made.

In 2003, Tania joined the WTC Survivor’s Network and quickly gained notoriety with her compelling story. She walked the perimeter of the memorial at Ground Zero with Mayor Bloomberg, told her story countless times, and became the celebrity face for survivor struggle awareness. She dedicated her life to helping other survivors and was dubbed a hero for it, which is what made the truth so much more shocking.

The New York Times Article

David Dunlap, a reporter for the New York Times, was the one to expose Tania. He was gathering information for an article on the anniversary of the attack. The Survivors’ Network was asked to recommend survivors to feature in the article, and naturally, Tania’s name came up. The controversy surfaced when Dunlap found inconsistencies in her story during background checks.

Tania was never married. The man she called her husband did exist, and he did die in the north tower on 9/11. However, he was never married to Tania Head. He had never even met her, or at least his family had never heard of her. She never met Welles Crowther either; according to his mother, her interaction with Tania was somewhat uncomfortable and not what she had expected.

The injury Tania claimed to sustain in the attack should have left a scar, right? According to Tania, she woke in a hospital burn unit with her arm, which had been burned and nearly severed, reattached.

Tania did have scars; we saw them in the documentary. She did not, however, get them from the attack. She got them when she was 18 from injuries she suffered in a terrible car accident.

Tania was not on the 78th floor of the south tower that day. She wasn’t in the tower at all. In fact, she wasn’t even in the city. She was in class at graduate school…in Barcelona.

Dunlap also found no record that she graduated from the ivy league schools she claimed to attend. He also noted that she never worked for Merrill Lynch. Much to everyone’s surprise, her name is not even Tania.

The Real Tania

Alicia Esteve Head was born into a wealthy Spanish family and had a history of compulsive lying. When she was younger, her father was convicted of embezzlement, and her family life began to crumble around her. According to friends, that’s when Alicia started to hide in worlds she created all her own.

You might be asking yourself, what did she get from doing this? I immediately thought that she must have somehow benefited financially from her involvement in the Survivor’s Network. In reality, she never took money from anyone; in fact, she gave money to the organization. For this reason, she never actually did anything illegal. Despite her lies, she did actually help some people.

Photo by Ben Lei on Unsplash

However, that does not mean that she didn’t cause destruction. She formed deep, meaningful connections with other survivors over the course of several years. In the documentary, one very close friend described the emotional struggle she faced after learning the truth about Alicia. This woman had found strength in Head’s fantastical story of recovery. She was distraught to learn that it was all a lie.

After she was exposed, Alicia basically disappeared. None of the friends she made in the survivor circles heard from her once she realized she could no longer deny the truth. In the documentary, she was spotted in NYC years later around the anniversary of the attack. We see her run from the cameras before the film ends, and that was it.

Head never offered her own explanation, and although we can make some solid conclusions about her…attention seeker, pathological liar…her friends never got the closure they deserved.

For the Full, Detailed Story…

You can read the book, The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception, by Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr.

You can also watch the documentary, The Woman Who Wasn’t There, on Apple TV, Youtube, and Amazon Prime.

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