Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mini Travel Guide: Tanzania

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which expats and locals share their favorite things with us. And then we all rush out and buy plane tickets.


Hey, my name is Abigail and I currently live in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where I teach English Literature at Haven of Peace Academy, a Christian international school. Choosing to move here two years ago was one of the best decision I have ever made, and I won’t ever regret the time I’ve spent in this incredibly gorgeous country.

Must Go
Tanzania is a beautiful country and is well known for the vast plains of the Serengeti, the teeming wildlife of the Ngorongoro Crater, and the towering Kilimanjaro. These are just the tip of the iceberg of Tanzania’s natural treasures. About 14% of the entire land area of Tanzania is protected land, a larger percentage than any other country (TANAPA). What you choose to see is largely dependent on your budget and timetable, but there are a few special treats that every traveler should see.

Mafia Island is a part of the Zanzibar archipelago of islands and is a half hour flight southeast of Dar es Salaam. There are only a handful of resorts on the island, and a large part of the surrounding ocean is protected by the Mafia Island Marine Park, meaning that the breathtaking coral reefs beneath the surface are undamaged from the pervasive dynamite fishing, offering spectacular snorkeling and diving. Mafia Island is also the home for a large aggregation of whale sharks, some of which are believed to spend the entire year in the Mafia channel. Whale shark sightings are almost guaranteed from September through March and is a must-do while you are on the island. There are also a number of other cultural and historical tours on the island, which played a prominent part in the history of Africa’s east coast.

While the Northern Safari Circuit including Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are world-famous and certainly worth visiting, Ruaha National Park is Tanzania’s largest national park and offers a glimpse of an untouched sliver of Africa in all its glory. Most visitors to Ruaha are able to spend entire days viewing elephants, antelopes, buffalos, lions, leopards, and even the rare and endangered wild dogs without ever running into another safari group. The Great Rift Valley intersects the park and the landscape is varied and beautiful with natural springs, wetlands, rolling hills, mountains, and the Great Ruaha River.

Zanzibar is Mafia Island’s larger, more popular cousin, easily accessible via international flights, domestic flights from Dar es Salaam or Arusha, and ferries from Dar es Salaam or Bagamoyo. Like Mafia, there are opportunities for incredible diving and snorkeling, as well as hundreds of pristine beaches. If you ever wanted to visit a tropical paradise, Zanzibar is it, but don’t forget to explore Stonetown. 

The capital of Zanzibar, Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the only functioning historical town in East Africa. The magical narrow streets and classic Arab architecture are enchanting. Spend some time wandering through the city and admiring the coral stone buildings and intricately carved wooden doors, and be sure to check out the Old Fort, which is home to many cultural events throughout the year, including Sauti za Busara, a music festival of artists from all over Africa that takes place every February. 

Zanzibar’s history is fascinating, with a number of museums and tours exploring its romantic affair as the home and capital of the Sultanate of Oman, Said bin Sultan, a once prosperous slave trade, the spice markets, and its eventual joining with Tanganyika and Pemba to form the United Republic of Tanzania.

Sadaani & Pangani
Sadaani National Park is one of the easiest parks to access from Dar es Salaam, as it is only a three hour drive along the newly paved Tanga Road. Yet, it is in many ways a hidden treasure, undervalued by many. Sadaani is where the safari meets the beach, and is one of the few coastal rainforests in Tanzania, and the only national park bordering the Indian Ocean. It is home to four of the “Big Five,” and due to the park’s 1989 ban on walking safaris, features animals that are largely unpoached and unafraid of tourist vehicles. 

You can take a boat safari on the Wami River, or venture into the largely untouched wilderness by 4x4. However, due to Sadaani’s location as a natural wetland, the roads can often become extremely muddy, even impassable. An experienced guide with a 4x4 is recommended, and the park is best visited during the dry season (June-December). There are a number of lodges in and around the park, include a campsite on the beach inside the park itself, however I would recommend the eco-lodge where I stayed in October. 

Located just a half hour from the northern gate of Sadaani National Park, Tembo Kijani is situated on a breathtaking strip of beach. Large salt plains are within walking distance, and the lodge offers a walking safari where you can see age-old process of refining salt from the plains in action, visit a local village, and see a number of birds and the occasional larger wildlife.

Pangani is just a short drive from Sadaani (and on the way, depending on how you go), and is still an unspoiled paradise. It was once a main center of commerce along the Swahili coast, as evidenced by the remaining Arab and colonial-influenced buildings along the river and coastline. Several resorts dot the coast and offer windsurfing, snorkeling, diving, sea turtle viewing, kayaking, and dhow rides. Beautiful coral reefs sit just offshore along with Maziwe Island and Marine Reserve, where Kasa Divers operates a sea turtle conservation/relocation program called Friends of Maziwe on this small unvegetated island, home to three species of marine turtles.

Must Do
Go on safari
This is fairly self-explanatory. You are in Tanzania, the home of the Serengeti and “Big Five.” Go on safari. See unspoiled Africa in all its glory. Stare in breathless awe at lions, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, zebra, and antelopes in their natural habitats.

Road trip (or train, if you’re patient)
Tanzania is beautiful, but most visitors see very little of its diversity when they fly from city to city. Not only is road travel often cheaper, it also allows you to see what life in Tanzania looks like outside of Dar es Salaam and the tourist hot spots. The TAZARA train between Dar es Salaam and Mbeya or Mwanza is also a fantastic way to see the country, but be prepared for the train to run late—by a day or more.

Climb a mountain
If you have time and money, climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Summiting the “roof of Africa,” at over 18,000 feet is an incredible experience, but it is quite expensive. Though not known for its mountains, Tanzania boasts a number of other mountain ranges, including the Usambara Mountains, Uluguru Mountains, and Udzungwa Mountains, all offering diverse rainforests, beautiful forests, and gorgeous waterfalls. More serious trekkers may also enjoy Mount Meru, the active volcano Ol Donyo Lengai, and Mount Hanang. Hire a local guide and go exploring off of the beaten path—you will be amazed at the beauty that awaits!

Scuba dive
Getting my Open Water and Advanced diving certifications was my birthday gift to myself my first year here in Tanzania, and again, it was a decision I will never regret. There are coral reefs along the entire Tanzanian coast, the more popular diving destinations being off of Pemba, Zanzibar, and Mafia islands. Pangani and Kilwa also have several dive companies offering access to lesser known reefs. Even if you never leave Dar es Salaam, the warm waters of the Indian Ocean are welcoming and a ten minute dhow ride to either Bongoyo or Mbudya Island makes the closest reefs accessible to snorkelers. Finally, Lake Tanganyika’s crystal blue waters allow for freshwater diving and the chance to see a number of endemic cichlid species.

Must Eat
This is essentially rice and meat (usually goat) cooked with ginger and other spices. It is not like any other rice you’ve ever tasted—and so much better!

Tea Masala (chai)

Tanzanians love their ginger. Traditional Tanzanian tea, usually known as “chai,” but also occasionally listed as Tea Masala in restaurant menus, is a black tea with ginger, cinnamon, and liberal doses of sugar and milk. It is often served for breakfast with chipati, which is a bit like a thick flour tortilla.

Mishkaki are essentially kebabs, but somehow better. You can get them as chicken, fish, beef, or goat. The beef or goat mishkaki are my favorites, and typically come deliciously marinated. They are available everywhere—restaurants, bars, and along the side of the road.

Chips Mayai
Another traditional meal, chips mayai, literally translated is french fries and eggs, and that’s exactly what this is. Several eggs are cooked over a pile of french fries, then served with kachumbari, chopped tomatoes and onions with vinegar.

Fresh fruit
It would be ridiculous to visit a tropical country like Tanzania and not enjoy the fresh fruit. Mangoes, pineapples, passion fruit, avocadoes, and bananas are sold beside the road and oh, so delicious!

Cultural Tips
Dress Modestly
Especially in rural areas and the islands in the Zanzibar archipelego. Women, keep your shorts or skirts at knee length, as the thigh is traditionally considered a very sexual part of the body for many Tanzanians, and there is a significant Muslim influence throughout the country.

Greet People & Be Friendly
Tanzanians are generally extremely friendly and willing to help. It is, however, considered rude to jump directly into a request for help or topic of conversation. Greetings are very important culturally, so most conversations begin with a friendly “Mambo” (What’s up?) to be followed by “poa” (Cool) or “Habari?” (How’s life?) with the reply “nzuri” (Good).

Don’t Make Eye Contact With Beggars / Sellers
This is mostly applicable to Dar es Salaam and reveals the darker side of the city, but you will often see people selling a variety of goods along the streets (anything from flowers and fishtanks to dishrags and live rabbits), or beggars asking for money. Though it might at first seem rude, it is best to not make eye contact. Many of the beggars (especially children), are not there of their own volition and are only pawns for others using the “income” for drugs or alcohol.

Travel on the Cheap
Though there are plenty of luxury resorts, private safari tours, and chartered flights to be had in Tanzania, it is easy to travel inexpensively, so long as you travel like a Tanzanian. In the city, take public transportation (the dala-dala / bus system) instead of taxis, and for cross-country travel, take the larger buses. The driving is often sketchy, but it is by far the cheapest way to travel if you don’t mind sitting for ten or more hours at a time. 

Eat local foods, such as rice and beans, pilau, mishkaki, samosas, etc. available along the streets and in small restaurants (often called “mamalishas,” literally meaning “mama feeds”), and stay in the number of backpacking hostels and local bed and breakfasts scattered across the country.

When doing so, do be aware that food poisoning can be a risk (only eat food that you have seen being cooked thoroughly), and you should carry mosquito repellent (in case mosquito nets are not provided) and toilet paper (not all of the bus stops are well-equipped). But be prepared to see and experience Tanzanian culture and hospitality at its best!

Are any of you guys from Tanzania? Have you spent time there? I'd love to hear your travel tips!

photos by Abigail // Andiwa Dixon

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Good Idea: Fancy Breakfast Foods As Hostess Gift

This is an occasional post series I'm trying out! Short and sweet, just sharing clever ideas I've picked up from my ridiculously smart and well-mannered friends.

hostess gift ideas

My friend Kate is one of those humans who's so put together and on top of it you'd resent her if she wasn't so awesome. Like, why do you have the answer to almost every question, Kate?! And why is your hair always so shiny? And how did you find the world's most perfect winter coat while the rest of us are toddling around in sleeping bags with arms?!

Annnnnyway, Kate recently introduced me to The Sweetest Hostess Gift Idea and I'm passing it along to you guys so we can all 'win' at dinner party guest-ing.

Next time you attend a Friday or Saturday night dinner party, instead of more wine or flowers, bring your hosts fancy breakfast treats! They'll think fondly of you the next morning when they're nibbling on your treats among the dirty dishes and empty wine bottles that mark any successful dinner party. 

If you're a DIY-er you could make some Oatmeal Cookie Granola or a Spicy Zucchini Frittata. If you're more of a pick-something-up-at-the-store type, you could gift them some amazing donuts, mimosa-makings, a loaf of artisan bread and some ripe avocados, or just some berries and nice Greek yogurt!

What's your go-to hostess gift? I like to give these as house warming presents!
photo by jules // cc

Monday, March 30, 2015

True Story: I’m a woman who plays on a men’s sports team

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Amanda and how she came to be part of an all male rowing team.

Tell us a bit about yourself! 
My name is Amanda Dillon, and I'm from Palo Alto, California! I'm currently a senior and full-time student at a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts, which is how I got started with crew in the first place. For fun, I write and design for my blog, Ex Vitae, which I launched at the beginning of this academic year. I'm also writing a senior honors thesis, so it's safe to say that I'm pretty busy most of the time :)

For those of us who don't know, what does Crew consist of?
I like to describe crew as the quintessential team sport. Crew, also known as rowing, is basically the sport of rowing boats. At my college, we row boats of either 8 or 4 rowers with a coxswain, who steers the boat and commands the crew. The coxswain - that's me! - doesn't actually row; we drive the boat and execute race strategy. In the fall, races are between 4-6 kilometers in length, and are usually done against the clock with different heats starting at different times. In the spring, however, the races are 2K and done head-to-head. Very exciting!

How long have you been rowing crew?
I've been rowing crew for three years now. When I was a freshman in my first few weeks of college, I was approached by a very tall man in my dining hall who looked down at me and said "Hey you! Want to be a coxswain?" And the rest is history!

Does your university have a women's crew team? 
Yep. I was actually on the women's team for a semester in my freshman year after being on the men's team, but decided after that experience that my coxing style was probably better suited to the guys. Coxswain placement is about fit with the crew and weight. Right now, I weigh around 123 pounds, which is right around the men's weight minimum (the women's minimum is 110 pounds). Any less, and I would have to carry sand with me in the boat to level out. Coaches generally like their coxswains to be right at the weight minimum, so I'm pretty well-suited for the men's team at this point. 

What did you have to do to get a spot on this team? 
Crew is a classic college walk-on sport, so I didn't have to try out to gain a spot on the team. However, right after I joined, my coach pulled me aside and asked me to jump right on the men's varsity team due to a shortage of varsity coxswains. This is pretty unusual, as most freshman row exclusively with other freshman on the novice team for their first year with the sport. I was skeptical and extremely nervous, but I decided to challenge myself and take the plunge.

How did your teammates react when they discovered there would be a woman on their all-male team?
It was certainly peculiar for the guys to have a freshman girl (who didn't know anything about crew!) bossing them around, and they were understandably a bit rough with me at first. My first week on the water, I cried every single day in the boat because I had no idea what I was doing and the guys had a tendency to get vocally frustrated with me. However, after we all got used to each other, we ended up having a fairly successful season.

My family didn't understand what I was doing at first - it took a whole semester to convince my sister that I was actually on the team, considering that I didn't actually row! After explaining about the weight and fit components of being a coxswain, I think they started to understand how I could be a girl on the guys' team...although they probably still think I'm crazy!

When your team competes, how do the your competitors react to you?
Crew is definitely a gentleman's sport - I've never been treated with anything other than respect by my competitors. It's harder, though, to explain my position to my friends and family. For the first season I was on the team, a number of friends asked me if I was on the men's team because I wanted to date the rowers. Nothing could be farther from the truth - that would be like dating a brother! - but it's a question I still get asked fairly frequently. It's too bad, because I feel that this assumption devalues my position in the boat and completely ignores the dedication and hard work that I put in every day for my sport.

Tell us what an average day at practice looks like.
For my team, practice consists of a 2.5 hour row, 6 days per week, either in the morning or in the afternoon. Our boathouse is located 7 miles off campus on the Connecticut River, so we generally load up vans a half an hour before practice actually starts and head over together. From there, we offload the boats, launch from the dock, and go through a series of technique drills and power pieces.

Rowing is considered to be a complete exercise - almost every muscle in your body is worked in the course of one stroke - and it requires strict attention to both muscular and cardio strength. Some days are spent working solely on particular technique, and others are made up of mock races to get the rowers into shape.

What have you learned from this that you can apply to other parts of your life?
Being a coxswain has definitely provided me with valuable assertiveness training that I wouldn't have received otherwise. As a freshman girl, I struggled with voicing my opinion and standing up for myself. Being a coxswain, especially on the men's team, essentially forces you to be strong and decisive. Otherwise, you degrade the trust between you and your rowers, and the results are not nearly as strong.

Being on the crew team has also been a lesson in collaboration. To make a successful boat, you have to have 5 or 9 people who are willing to put their differences aside and work together toward the common goal of speed. It can be difficult to reconcile the personalities of 4 other people! However, the natural leadership ability that you gain from coxing is incredibly beneficial in situations where two rowers don't see eye to eye. I wouldn't trade the hours I've spent with my team for anything, and I am grateful every day for this motley crew of a family I've cultivated at school. Almost nothing could be better!

Thanks so much for sharing, Amanda!  Do you guys have any questions for her? Have you ever played a non-traditional role on a sports team? 

P.S. Two more sporty interviews: I'm a professional athlete and I broke a world record - I was the youngest woman to run a marathon in every state

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Web Time Wasters

How was your week, guys? I had some friends over for dinner (I made this and it was amaaaazing), experienced The Blue Door's make-your-own grilled cheese menu, and attended a friend's Wrestlemania party which obviously had themed food.

Links for you!

I've got space for a few more hookup offers and hookup requests in April's Network of Nice! Send 100ish words about your non-Google-able, non-promotional hookup and I'll include you. I'm sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org.

I see people called out on social media and blogs constantly. I've been called out myself (for justifiable reasons) on several occasions. Some thoughts on that.
What makes call-out culture so toxic is not necessarily its frequency so much as the nature and performance of the call-out itself. Especially in online venues like Twitter and Facebook, calling someone out isn’t just a private interaction between two individuals: it’s a public performance where people can demonstrate their wit or how pure their politics are. Indeed, sometimes it can feel like the performance itself is more significant than the content of the call-out. This is why “calling in” has been proposed as an alternative to calling out: calling in means speaking privately with an individual who has done some wrong, in order to address the behaviour without making a spectacle of the address itself.

My favorite Instagram of late.

Have you ever wondered why photographers charge so much? Here's why.

Faux taxidermy. Cute!

A food magazine for gluttons.

What advice would your 80-year-old self give you?

Celebrating my friend Ellen's new workbook series- The Unlocked Academy— lessons in grit, nerve, courage and creating a career that you love. The first Workbook is free!
Cute t-shirts that benefit charities. Into it!

Now that it's nearly Memorial Day we can wear these, right?

Let's make fermented berries.

A great interview with our collective girlfriends, Abbi and Ilana of Broad City fame. (And in case you were wondering, no. They don't want to get stoned with you.)

I CANNOT EVEN STAND HOW SEXY THESE SHOES ARE. (I don't know how to walk in them but that's beside the point.)

Yes. On the importance of Leslie Knope, friendship, and feminism.
Leslie Knope is the traditionally “difficult” woman, where “difficult” means that misogynist jerks don’t want to deal with women like her. She is outspoken and passionate and she doesn’t want to take no for an answer when a “yes” can mean that people’s lives get better. Ben doesn’t just accept those things about Leslie — he loves her for them. Ben is a nerdy male feminist, one of the few I’ve ever seen portrayed in popular media, and he loves his wife and supports her no matter what. It’s not just that they have a love of politics in common — they are a team and he’s just as willing to give up something for her as she is for him.

Fascinating! 1 person, 2 sets of DNA!

My 19-year-old self is totally into these. Are they cute? Or weird? Or both?

I love the idea of outfit formulas (mine's sundress + boots or bright skinnies + loose top + ballet flats)

Oscar outfits as illustrated with ... Q-tips?

For those of us who care about cat scratching posts that match our decor.

If you've got a kiddo's birthday coming up: Science Party Favors: Expanding Soap Experiment.

And if you appreciate my taste in links I'm always sharing new things on Twitter; each day I share at least two 'Fave Reads Of The Day.' Let's be friends!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

How to talk about yourself/business/work in a non-awkward, non-smarmy way

This post is brought to you by confidence, non-gross networking, the number 1,000, and Alexa Fischer.

If you've ever met me out and about in the Real World, you've probably discovered that I'm not shy. 

Like, at all. 

I'm the chattiest introvert you'll ever meet. I'll make friends with your mom, your dog, and probably your throw pillow if you'll let me. I even went to state for both speech and one-act play in high school! 

So I imagined that my conversational abilities would carry over into my professional life. If I can chat up a party full of strangers, surely I can talk about writing and interneting with professional contacts, right? 

No, friends. I could not. For the first few years of my business, it took me seven awkward minutes to explain my work, punctuated with lots of "ums" and "you knows?" I'd deflect compliments and a friend once joked that my business card should just say "don't talk to me." 

Alexa's stuff really helped me. Her 1,000 Watt course isn't super cheap (it's $300) but it includes so, so much helpful information. 

You learn to:
* build your confidence
* make casual conversation with anyone (even super important, potential big-deal clients) 
* sell without feeling gross
* present with passion
* look great on camera

And you get tons of great extras - weekly group calls, email check ins, a downloadable workbook, and lifetime access. Think of it as an investment in your business and a down payment on a future that includes better conversations and networking events you actually enjoy!

If you're curious, check out Alexa's free three-video training, have a peek through some of her other videos, or follow along on Facebook! But hustle - doors close tomorrow!

I write two sponsored posts each month. If you'd like five images and 150ish words dedicated to you and only you, check out my rates and info here or drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org and we'll get started!

Friday, March 27, 2015

8 blogger approved + endorsed articles just for you

When I searched Etsy for internet-related items, the above print showed up, which I think is apropos.

Guys! I rounded up the best, most helpful posts about writing/blogging/social media/business for you. They're all over here

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kitchen Globetrotter: German Haselnusstorte (Hazelnut Torte)

Claire Suellentrop believes eating well + having a really good time need not be mutually exclusive, and helps creative people juggle both at Eat Well. Party Hard. Say hello on Instagram & Twitter!

hazelnut torte

“When are you going to make that cake again?”

This question has been asked of me approximately six times since arriving at a party last night with this German torte in tow.

I knew before I’d even finished decorating it that this was going to be something incredible. Light, spongy hazelnut cake, layered with creamy vanilla filling, then wrapped in a luxurious layer of almond paste and glazed with a citrusy frosting? Swoon.

It was a struggle, trying not to eat too much of any one component as I pieced them all together, but the effort proved completely worth it: the party crowd finished off the final product in under 15 minutes! Next time, I’ll make a double batch to ensure I get a full slice to myself.

If you love “winning” the potluck or holiday party, show up with this torte--and then be prepared for your friends to bug you until it makes a repeat appearance.

Hazelnut Torte

German Hazelnut Torte
Adapted from this recipe

Serves 8-9 (depending on the size of your cake pan and slices)

5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup ground hazelnuts
3 tbsp flour, all-purpose
1/4 tsp almond flavoring

2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla flavoring

7 oz almond paste
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
3 - 5 tbsp lemon juice (I used lime juice instead and highly recommend it)
nuts and/or whipped cream to decorate

To bake the cake:
Preheat oven to 375° F and grease 8-inch springform pan (If not available, use 2 8-inch cake pans and grease and flour them).

Beat egg yolks and sugar in large mixer bowl until pale and creamy.

Fold in hazelnuts, flour, and almond flavoring.

Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into egg yolk mixture.

Spread batter gently in prepared pan(s).

Bake springform pan about 40 minutes, (bake 2 8-inch cake pans about 20 minutes), or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool thoroughly on rack.

To prepare the filling:
Blend cornstarch, sugar, a little milk and egg yolks. Bring remaining milk to boil. Stir hot milk and vanilla into cornstarch mixture.

Return to heat and bring back to boil. Cook a few seconds, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Cool, stirring frequently.

To assemble the cake:
If springform was used, cut cake into 2 layers. (If used 8-inch cake pans, use both layers.)

Spread 1 layer with filling. Top with second layer.

Knead almond paste to soften. On a surface sprinkled with icing sugar, roll out almond paste to a round large enough to cover top and sides of cake (about 14-inch diameter). Press onto cake.

Blend icing sugar with enough lemon juice to give a coating consistency, Then spread over cake and decorate as desired (the original recipe called for whipped cream and whole walnuts; I took the “rustic” [lazy] route and sprinkled almond slivers all over + around the cake).

More international desserts: Brazilian Pave de Limao + Samoan Pineapple Hand pies

photos by claire // Daniel H // Christian Beyer // cc

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A mullet-y, fanny-pack-y song video I love + April ad space

Yes x 1,000.

My new go-to dance move is going to be "rubbing the sides of my thighs in time to the beat."

But we're not just here to talk about Euro-pop. We're hear to talk about growing your readership, selling more products, and generally getting more eyeballs pointed in your direction.

Last month, Jess advertised on Yes & Yes.

My traffic more than doubled the weekend my blog mention appeared on Yes & Yes, as compared to a normal weekend. Those who visited my blog from Yes & Yes spent 2 minutes and 10 seconds on my site, as compared to 1 minute with traffic from Twitter. From February-March, while my ad was on Yes & Yes, 11% of my overall traffic came from the sponsorship.

Who advertises here?  Life coaches. Etsy shops. Indie fashion labels. Travel websites.  Artists.  Designers of all types.  Who reads Yes and Yes?  Smart, funny, awesome women.  Mostly 18-35 English speakers - though there are plenty of teenagers and above-35s who stop by as well.  If you're a Big Deal Brand and you're interested in working together, check out my past partnerships with Blowfish ShoesShutterfly, among others.

Sidebar ad space is available in one, two and three month packages with pricing discounts at two and three months. All 220 x 100 sponsors will be included in the mid-month sponsor introduction post.


$80 and $200 sponsors also have the option of offering discount codes to Yes and Yes newsletter subscribers (4,300+ people!) at no additional charge.

Some facts about Yes and Yes?
Daily unique visitors: 3,200 - 3,500 a day
Page views: 240,000+ per month
Facebook fans: 4,620+
Blogspot followers: 3,290+
Google Page Rank: 4
RSS feed subscribers (between Feedburner, Bloglovin', Feedly)12,000+
Newsletter subscribers: 4,300+

Drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org and I'll help you get started!

Forget Reducing Stress - Just Add More Joy

Learn how to stop worrying by adding a little more joy in your life.

If you were to rank the humans of the world by their stress levels, I'd probably rank somewhere in the bottom third.

I'd be well, well below pilots or event planners and well below mothers. I'm more stressed than a house cat or yoga instructor, but stressed out enough that I've completely given up caffeine and I keep trying (and failing) to meditate. I just sit with my legs crossed and mentally compile lists of all the things I need to do.

I'm stressed out enough that I've spent more time than I care to admit Googling "stress reduction tips" and "how to stress less" and "shouldn't I be more focused and zen now that I'm not drinking coffee?"

I took this question to my friend Jina and her answer immediately filled me with that glowing calm I imagine occurs when you actually figure out how to meditate. Her wisdom:

Stop worrying about reducing stress. Just add more joy. 

Subtracting the stressful things from our lives - the long commute, the ridiculous sister-in-law, the snarky co-worker, the loud neighbor - isn't always possible. Spending a lot of time and energy thinking about those things might just make us feel powerless and even more stressed.

And of course, there are stress-inducing things that can and should be changed. Like, you know, hypothetically, the engine light in my car or the fact that my clean clothes are down to cocktail dresses and swimsuit bottoms.

But what if we just add more joy to our daily lives? What if we make an active choice to do more of the things that fill us up and make us really, truly happy?

You can add more joy by:
* listening to your favorite podcasts during that long commute
* spending your lunch break outside or at a new cafe
* getting up early and having breakfast at a diner
* writing postcards and letters to your friends and family during your train commute
* making your office a pleasant place to be
* buying cleaning supplies that are pretty to look at and a pleasure to use (I love this almond-scented dish soap!)

When we add more joy to our lives, there's simply less room for stress. We all have limited space in our brains and hearts and it's hard to nurse a grudge at our colleagues when we're busy laughing into our pho with a friend during a workday lunch.

More space in your life for awesome means less space in your life for stress.

How can you add more joy to your life? I can't subtract client deadlines or the noisy toddler who lives in the apartment below mine, but I can add more joy. What can you add to your life that will push a bit of stress out of the picture? 

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photo (without text on top) by Sina & Robin // cc

Monday, March 23, 2015

True Story: I Have Narcolepsy

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of my friend Katie and her Narcolepsy diagnosis.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Katie G. Nelson and I’m a 28-year-old journalist, photographer and adventurer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Before finding my purpose in storytelling, I worked as a humanitarian aid coordinator in Kenya while also dabbling in human rights activism in the United States. I also have a master’s degree in public health, which I promptly abandoned for a career in journalism. Currently, I’m a political reporter in the Land of 10,000 Lakes but am attempting to break into the international reporting field focusing on aid transparency issues in East Africa. 

I also have narcolepsy. More on that below. 

For those of us who don't know, what is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that causes the inability to regulate one’s sleep/wake cycle. About 200,000 Americans have narcolepsy making it as common as Parkinson's disease or Multiple Sclerosis.

There are two main components of narcolepsy: 
* Extreme and unrelenting exhaustion that can’t be solved by more sleep; we’re constantly tired yet unable to get true, fulfilling rest. 

* Cataplexy: Sudden muscle weakness following a strong emotion such as sadness, surprise or fear. Cataplexy can range from a slight face droop to a complete collapse on the floor, all while being completely conscious. About 70 percent of people with Narcolepsy also have Cataplexy. I do not.

There are also several less prominent symptoms of narcolepsy such as:
* Sleep paralysis: an inability to talk or move before falling asleep or waking up, which creates a sensation of being trapped in your own body. 

* Hypnagogic hallucinations: vivid and oftentimes violent hallucinations before falling asleep or waking up. 

* Automatic behavior: performing normal behaviors (talking, eating, driving) but having no memory of such activities afterward. 

There is likely a genetic component to narcolepsy that, when coupled with an environmental trigger like an acute childhood illness, causes the neurological disorder. 

I should note that many people with narcolepsy, including myself, don’t suddenly fall asleep without warning. Rather, we’re always exhausted and never feel completely refreshed no matter how much sleep we get or how much medication we take. 

When did you realize that you weren't just ... really tired?
I was initially skeptical about having Narcolepsy – thinking more it was congruent with a movie plotline than my 25-year-old self. But three years later, I can clearly see the trail of breadcrumbs pointing toward a sleep disorder, though it took many years of missteps before I got to the end. 

As a child, I was always the first to fall asleep at my girlfriend’s slumber parties, always becoming the designated guinea pig to a plethora of late-night hand-in-water tricks. In middle school, I was the last to finish in the annual one-mile running exam because I was just too tired to keep up with the pack (I attempted to salvage my reputation by pretending I was just too cool to run.) Shortly before high school graduation, my sleepiness became so acute that I often escaped to a private restroom in-between classes to collapse in a stall and sleep for a few moments. 

But despite these hints and my marathon sleep sessions later in life, which at one point lasted 22 hours out of each day, it took over ten years to be diagnosed and treated for Narcolepsy.

How does your diagnosis affect your life on a day-to-day basis? 
Medication management and a strict sleep regime determine my day-to-day success. 

Generally, my day goes something like this: 
6am: I take a combination of three different stimulants, then wait until I’m awake enough to get out of bed (usually an hour later). 

7am: I head to the kitchen and drink a small glass of orange juice, which helps my body absorb the medication faster. I brew my coffee (quickly) and head to the couch to sleep for another 30 minutes. 

7:30am – 11am: This is my awake period when I’m most creative and able to process complex subjects. I try to do my heavy lifting during this time slot. 

11am: I take another stimulant that will last me the rest of the day. 

4pm: Find a place to take a short nap and clear my busy mind for 30 minutes. 

9pm: I take sedative to sleep (many people with Narcolepsy don’t sleep well at night) as well as other medications to deal with the side effects of my stimulant medications. 

On the weekends, I sleep. Period. If I’m feeling well enough, I’ll go out one of the nights but always end-up feeling like a pile of old bones the next morning. 

What would your life look like if you WEREN'T on medication?
What people don’t understand about Narcolepsy -- and sleep disorders in general -- is how sleep deprivation can impact someone’s mental health and emotional stability. 

Over the course of ten years, I was diagnosed with dozens of different medical conditions including depression and anxiety, which medications couldn’t seem to lift. I was profoundly and desperately depressed for many years and truly believed that my sadness, lethargy and detachment from the world were caused by some intangible and ever-present haze of despair. 

By the time I saw a neurologist, it was clear that I had a severe sleep disorder and he promise me that medication would help. He was right. Within one hour of starting my Narcolepsy treatment, I was an absolutely different person. I was awake, engaged and interested in the people around me – able of seeing a future outside of my bedroom and other than sleep. I literally got my life back. 

Obviously, it hasn’t been exactly a cakewalk since then. Some days my medications work well, some days they don’t at all. Sometimes I operate at 85 percent of my potential, sometimes at 40 percent. And on my really bad days, I sometimes grieve; ruminating over the moments I missed in the past and the ones I’ll miss in the future. Sometimes, I feel like everyone is living their lives around me and I’m still in bed, unable to move because my body aches with exhaustion. I can’t lie, those days are excruciating. 

I imagine one of the more challenging things about having a chronic disease is figuring out how/when to tell the people in your life about it. When you meet new friends, are on a date, or are starting a job - do you tell people? How long do you usually wait before you tell someone?
When I was first diagnosed three years ago, people would always tell me, “Narcolepsy doesn’t define you” like I shouldn’t put so much weight into this condition, like it shouldn’t be such a significant part of my life. 

But I refuse to deny that Narcolepsy hasn’t shaped me. It has. That’s why I believe my diagnosis merits a conversation with the people around me, despite the social faux pas of discussing such things with friends, dates or peers. 

I’ve also chosen a career has flexible hours so I can work when I’m most sharp and awake the need to tell my employers is mostly a non-issue these days. 

How have the people in your life reacted to your diagnosis?
Most people are inquisitive about my diagnoses, though some think I’m making an off-color joke about being really tired. I usually just deadpan those moments until people realize that I’m serious. 

What something you've learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives? 
I applaud people who say that their chronic illness has made them a better person or that they’re grateful for the experience but I am not one of those people. Narcolepsy has been the single most challenging and heartbreaking part of my life, and I wouldn’t wish this condition on anyone.

That said, I am profoundly grateful for finding a concrete diagnosis and for the ability to access and afford my medication. That is a privilege I will always be thankful for. 

And as a final token of appreciation, I want to thank all of the caregivers, the well-wishers and the people who have backed me and patients like me over the years. Despite all of our cancelled plans, vague excuses to stay home and painfully sleepy encounters, you have stood alongside us. Thank you. 

More information about narcolepsy:
Narcolepsy Network // Center for Narcolepsy, Stanford Medicine // Julie Flygare: Wide Awake and Dreaming

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Katie. Do you guys have any questions for her? Have any of you struggled with something similar? 

P.S. For an interview about the other side of the coin: True Story: My insomnia affects every aspect of my life.