Travel Month: October 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

First off, Happy Halloween! We are celebrating with a flight home from Amsterdam, but hopefully we'll be at least enjoying a bit of Dutch candy! Will you celebrate at all? Does your home or expat home celebrate Halloween? Lithuania really doesn't, but Halloween isn't my favorite holiday, so I guess I don't mind at all (I do like the candy though).



I spent the majority of this month glued to my computer during childcare hours and playing in the park with Baby ISO the rest of the time. The busy month of work was in anticipation to our big trip to The Netherlands, which we should be on the way home from now (I'm writing this in advance). All month I was very excited for our trip, and I can't wait to share photos and articles about our trip soon!



As the months go by and it gets closer and closer to the new year, J and I are assessing our options for living abroad vs. back in the US. Who knows, we may have an exciting announcement to share in a few month's time.

Because it got pretty cold in October, I've been all about snuggling up in with a good book after Baby ISO has gone to sleep for the night. I blew through a few Agatha Christie novels that I borrowed from the library. Now I'm reading a mystery by P. D. James. I've never read her work before, but I'm enjoying this book (The Lighthouse*).



This month was kept busy with editing for my own academic services as well as with Trip101 travel articles. Additionally, I had the opportunity to write a few articles (and have another in the pipeline) for the trekking website Inside Himalayas. The articles I've written have focused on plants and Tibetans, and they really make me miss my time spent in China.

You can find the articles that I wrote this month at the links below:

Trek Among Blooming Rhododendrons in Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan for Inside Himalayas
Enjoying Christmas In Vilnius, LT for Trip101
The Origin Of The Decorated Christmas Tree: Riga, Latvia for Trip101
Five Fun Things To Do In Riga, Latvia for Trip101
Destination Profile: The Curonian Spit, Lithuania for Trip101
Day Trip From Riga: Jurmala, Latvia   for Trip101

Coming Next Month


 In November, we'll mostly stick around Vilnius and hopefully get to enjoy a few tasty meals out at favorite restaurants as well as enjoy the lit candles of All Saints Day. We are also contemplating a quick visit to Tallinn, Estonia to marvel at their Christmas Market.

On the blog, expect to a couple of posts about our trip to The Netherlands. I also think things will get a bit Christmasy around here, so stay tuned for that :)

Recent Posts


My favorite post that I wrote this month was about Lithuanian names and how they relate to plants. It was a really fun article to write -- I hope you liked it as well! I also shared some trip planning resources for The Netherlands and a video of Vilnius.

How was your month? What are your plans for November?

Video Tour of 11 Things To Do In Vilnius, Lithuania

Monday, October 24, 2016

With the recent updates around In Search Of, I'm finally able to have the time to produce some exciting content that I've been mulling over for quite a while. The first of which was the ultra-nerdy post about Lithuanian naming and botany. The next is a little video tour showing you 11 things I enjoy doing in Vilnius' city center.

I felt incredibly awkward filming around the city I live in. Does anyone else have this problem? Luckily, I filmed anyways, but really attempted to be discreet (although that is hard using a camera!).


I hope you enjoy! And if you'd like to see more video content, please let me know in the comments below :)

Places mentioned or shown in the video: 

1) Town Hall Square

 Town Hall Square (Rotuse) is one of the several nice squares in Vilnius and is a great place to hang out. It is especially nice in the summer, as you can grab a seat and have a drink or a meal. You also can join the free walking tour from the steps of the Town Hall Square, which I really recommend.

2) Vokieciu g.

Vokieciu gatve is a tree-lined walking street flanked with numerous cafes, bakeries, and high-end shops. I'm pretty sure there are around 10 cafes on this one short street, so if you are looking for a coffee, head to Vokieciu for an abundance of choices. My top picks on Vokieciu are Holy Donuts (great doughnuts), Second Cup Coffee (large cups of black coffee), Huricane Coffee (opens early on the weekends!), and Theobromine Chocolatier, which technically on a side street, but close enough.

3) Literatu g.

Literatu gatve is a nice, tiny street with plaques commemorating Lithuanian authors. The plaques are all very creative, making it a nice street to meander.

4) Senamiesco Kratuve

On Literatu g. you'll find the natural food store, Senamiesco Kratuve. Along with organic, locally grown produce, you can purchase food-based gifts including honey and jam teas, chocolate, and cakes.

5) Bernardine Park

I spend a lot of time in Bernardine Park. It is just a really great park to play with kids, read a book, or stroll with a coffee in hand.

6) St. Anne's Church

In my opinion, St. Anne and Bernardine's Church Complex is the prettiest church in Vilnius. The red brick exterior is intricate and the vaulted ceilings inside the church are stunning. I think it is a must-see.

7) Hill of Three Crosses

I sometimes forget it, but Vilnius is prettiest from above. The terracotta roof tiles are a really different sight compared to what I'd see in the US. The Hill of Three Crosses is a great little hike that will reward you with views of both the old town and the new town.

8) Strange Love Cafe

Of course I had to mention another cafe; Vilnius is brilliant for cafes. Strange Love is a really cute cafe with great outdoor seating, coffee that they've roasted themselves, and nice cakes. They also open early for breakfast and serve a light lunch. They are also located right next to one of the entrances of Bernardine Park, so I like to stop here for a coffee before the park.

9) Tiny streets, delicious restaurants

The food scene has really changed over the around 3.5 years I've lived in Vilnius. Now, tucked away in neat little corners of the city, you can find great restaurants. In the video, I've showed a snippet of a new ramen place called Ramen and Sticks.

10) Waterfront

This past summer, Vilnius has really been working on improving their waterfront, and now it is very nice to go for a walk along the Neris River.

11) Palace of Sports and Concerts

From the walkways along the Neris River, you can see numerous sites including the derelict Palace of Sports and Concerts. This cool building is work a walk around.


  What are your favorite things to do where you live?

I'm linking up with WanderfulWednesday!

Credit for hand drawn icons in video: Freepik Flaticon --> really awesome, check it out!

Preparing for a trip to The Netherlands

Monday, October 17, 2016

This Saturday we leave for a trip to spend 10 days in The Netherlands and I cannot wait. Our trip starts off with five nights in Rotterdam, a day trip in The Hague, finishing off with four nights in Amsterdam. As usual before any trip, I like to share a bunch of resources that I've found helpful, and hopefully if you go to The Netherlands you'll find these resources helpful, too!


Foodhallen, which is a newly opened food hall housed in a former electric tram warehouse. Sounds right up our alley. I'm also interested in checking out Dignita for brunch if we happen to be in the area. Thanks, Travelettes for the tip!

Hortus Botanicus is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. It is easy to guess that I'll be visiting at least once. The botanical garden has kid's activities and some green houses, and I'm sure Baby ISO will enjoy some time to run around after being trapped in museums. ;)

I love Ai Weiwei's art, so we are planning to go see his exhibition "Safe Passage" at the Foam Museum. This exhibition is on until December 7, so plan a trip soon!

Another museum I'm interested in visiting is the Anne Frank Museum. It is worth it to note that they have just revamped their ticketing system, so be prepared to purchase tickets online in advance.  --> Bummer: just sat down to purchase tickets and they are sold out. If you plan to visit the Anne Frank Museum, I'd suggest booking your tickets about one month in advance. Don't wait until one week before like I did.

The website AmsterDo is jam packed with great restaurant recommendations and neighborhood information. I plan on using the website to search for recommended restaurants and things to do around our accommodation.

This post about 14 things to do in Amsterdam from Cultural Xplorer has some really unique suggestions. I'm going to look into the cheese tasting.

J's museum of choice is the Van Gogh Museum, so surely we will be making a visit.

Albert Cuypmarkt sounds like an awesome place to search for souvenirs. 

I love, love the blog Chapter Friday, and I think their Lattes and Laptops series is brilliant. During our few days in Amsterdam, I'll absolutely be trying a couple of their recommendations.



The number one thing J and I are excited about for Rotterdam is the Markthal. Wow, it looks absolutely amazing; J was even momentarily tempted to spend a ridiculous amount of money renting an AirBnb apartment in it.

In general, I've been reading a lot about how family friendly Rotterdam is -- this post by Travel with Bender is great -- which will be great for Baby ISO. I'm thinking we'll visit the Rotterdam Zoo since he is super into animals at the moment. The playgrounds everywhere will also be very helpful for entertaining my active toddler.

This post from Wandering Wings has some great budget suggestions for spending a day or two in Rotterdam. I'm sure we'll be using her tips!

As usual, I am in search of good, flavorful restaurants when traveling. We don't have many options for good Asian food or delicious Middle Eastern food, so that is what I'm hoping to indulge in while in The Netherlands (plus great coffee). For options so far, I've found Delibird Restaurant, which serves Thai food. De Pelgrim sounds like it serves great beers and stew.  Fenix Food Factory gets rave reviews and looks like an awesome food hall, and Bazar has Middle Eastern and North African food that looks amazing. There are some more tips on Expatica.

The Hague

A friend of ours recommended we visit The Hague and with it being only a 15 minute train ride away from Rotterdam, we jumped at the idea. This very comprehensive post about The Hague by the Travel Tester is absolutely something we will look into before our trip!

Somewhere along our trip in The Netherlands, I've got to remember to buy my mom some stroopwaffles. She loves them --> enjoy, mom!

Do you have any tips to share for our visit to The Netherlands? Anything we should be sure to do? What about local snacks we should try?

Baltics Bucket List

Monday, October 10, 2016

If you can believe it, I am on year four of living in Lithuania. Who knows where the next years will take me, so in order to take advantage of living in Eastern Europe, I've decided to make a list of remaining things I'd like to do and see. J did the same, and here I've combined our lists. I thought I'd share this because Vilnius is a great starting point for travel in the Baltics, and you may want to do your own extensive trip in the region.

Realistically, I know we won't be able to do everything on our combined list, so I've split the list into what we'll hopefully do and what we probably won't have the time (or money) to do.


  • Tallinn Christmas markets and festivities 
  • See one or several of the forts near Kaunas (the 9th Fort is particularly interesting looking)
  • Visit the Vilnius University Botanical Garden during rhododendron flowering season
  • Learn to make gyrabai and kibinai (and buy the pan to make gyrabai)
  • Take a day or weekend trip to somewhere new in Lithuania
  • Visit the Bee-keeping Museum
  • Enjoy a long weekend in Riga

Unlikely, but Possible

  • Wander Parnu, Estonia
  • Take a Jewish tour
  • Visit Saaremaa Island, Estonia (we were meant to visit over the summer, but poor Baby ISO got very ill)
  • Go swimming in the Baltic Sea
  • Take a hot air balloon ride over Vilnius

Do you have a bucket list for where you live? Is it always growing like mine is?

On Making Connections

Friday, October 7, 2016

I wanted to write a quick shout-out to bloggers and blog-readers with a thank you! I initially started blogging as a way to remember my trips and share photos with my family while I was working in Yunnan, China. When I moved to Vilnius and became more active with blogging, I found a whole awesome community of bloggers, both professional and hobby, and blog readers who I've been able to connect with. Over the years, I've followed numerous blogs and connected with countless bloggers via email and over social media and this connection is one of the main reasons why I loving blogging so much. I've also connected with numerous blog-readers and now, some of these connections made through the blog are my closest friends. So I just wanted to give a shout-out to other bloggers and blog-readers who I've connected with over the years and who I may connect with someday.

With this in mind, I've decided to only post one article per week (instead of two), because my time is limited and I want to spend more time connecting, which is something I've really been neglecting. So, expect to see new posts from me every Monday, which should give me ample time to link up with City Tripping and Wanderful Wednesdays. If you have suggestions for other awesome travel linkups, Twitter Chats, or blogs you think I should check out, feel free to link them below!

Relating Plants And Common Lithuanian Names

Monday, October 3, 2016

If you've read my "Start Here" page or if you know me in real life, you may just know that I'm a super nerd. In fact, to solidify my super-nerd status, I completed a PhD in botany, focusing on ethnobotany, or how people use, interact with, and think about plants (both concrete and abstract). So, when I moved to the lovely country of Lithuania several years ago now, I had grand plans to study Lithuanian uses of and knowledge about plants. Life (both fortunately and unfortunately) intervened, so I was never able to complete what would be considered an "academic" study (for peer-review and publication, and blah, blah, blah). However, ethnobotany always stayed on my mind (as it would for any true super nerd, obviously), which actually wasn't so difficult as plants (and don't forget about fungus!) feature not so subtly in everyday life in Lithuania.

 So, what's all this about Lithuanian names and plants? 

If you've spent any time getting to know Lithuanians, even just to know their first name, you might be familiar with the name Ruta (or if you like chocolate, then you might know the name from the Lithuanian candy brand of the same name). Ruta, a popular female name, is also the name for the plant common rue (Ruta graveolens). Common rue is also the unofficial National Flower of Lithuania.

Ramune (female name) means chamomile (Asteraceae), which is a common plant used for tea -- a tea that is particularly popular in Lithuania.

Lina (female name), another popular Lithuanian name, means flax (Linum usitatissimum), which is a fiber crop used to weave linen. Linen is a common fabric in Lithuania; you'll see a huge number of stores selling linen goods in Vilnius.

Another botanical female name is Egle, which means spruce (a tree; Picea spp.). Moving to the abstract for a moment, let's look at the Lithuanian folk tale about Egle. Egle, the youngest daughter of a large family, was swimming with her sisters one day when she was forced by a serpent to become his bride. Fearing the famine and misfortune promised on her family if she tricked the serpent, she bravely married him, and in time, forgot her own family. Egle and the serpent eventually had their own children, three boys, Azuolas, Uosis, and Berzas, and one girl, Drebule. Many years later, after pleading with her serpent husband, Egle was allowed to bring her children to visit her former land and her family. Only Egle and her children knew how to return to the land of the serpents and were forbidden to share this information with anyone else. Drebule, however, told her uncles how to reach her father, and they killed him. Egle then cast a spell changing herself into a spruce tree, Azuolas into an oak tree (Quercus spp.), Uosis into an ash tree (Fraxinus spp.), Berzas into a birch tree (Betula spp.), and for punishment, Drebule into a aspen tree (Populus spp.) so she would forever remain trembling in the wind.

Moving onto another tree name that wasn't include in the story of Egle and the serpents, is Liepa, a female name that means linden tree (Tilia spp.). Additional ethnobotanical female names include Smilte (sandwort; Arenaria spp.), Roze (rose; Rosa spp.), Rugile (rye; Secale spp.), and Jolanta (violet flower; probably Viola spp.).

Other interesting but not botanical names include Ugne (fire; female name), Rasa (dew; female name), and Gelynes (flower garden; male name). See, it is actually pretty difficult to avoid ethnobotany in Lithuania!

Literature Cited

Today I'm linking up with Faraway Files and Wanderful Wednesday.