Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Your Twenties: A Time to Learn, Grow and Explore

This is a post that I'd written a few years ago for a good friend of mine. Unfortunately, she has now closed her blog - so I thought it would be fun to share here!

Try as they might, your younger years do little to prepare you for the physical and intellectual freedom that you will have in your twenties. Sure, there are certain things that we learn better when we are younger, like languages and maths and other such 'traditionally' educational pursuits. Luckily (or so I've found), our twenties give us ample opportunity to learn, grow and explore in other ways!

1) Yes, it's not glamorous... but this is the best time to learn how to cook, clean and 'look after a household'. Being an adult comes with a lot of responsibility, and soon enough most of us will have to juggle this responsibility ourselves. Most of the time, learning to do everyday tasks is not at all exciting, but you'll thank yourself for it later on. Who wants to be a 30 year old who needs help from their mothers, fathers and significant others to do simple chores around their house? (This is important for men AND women. Thankfully we don't live in a historic society where the burden of looking after a house fell to the women. I know plenty of men, old and young, who are more than capable around the house, and they are no less masculine for it.) 

2) Appreciate reading. In our twenties, we are still in an in-between stage where we are learning how and where we like to spend our time. While you still have the time and energy to make reading a habit, go ahead and do so. You won't be disappointed because you'll find that there are COUNTLESS worlds and ideas to explore. Learning is a never ending journey, and grabbing a few good books is a sure guarantee that you'll stay on this path! 

3) I've said it before, and I'll say it again; learn to be alone in a healthy way! It's crazy how much this can help your confidence, self-awareness and ability to have great relationships with others. 

4) Try and make contribution to community a higher priority than it has been. For many of us, a primary aspect of our twenties is change. Change from education to being employed, change of location, change of status, other kinds of change. Learning to be aware of and compassionate to the people around us will go a long way. While this can mean contribution in the sense that charity and community service are taken to mean, it can also be as simple as learning to REALLY listen to what the people around us are saying. They'll thank you for it, and sooner or later, you'll thank you for it. 

5) Make activity a priority. Laziness is unfortunately rampant, and there are so many of us, myself included, who have extremely sedentary lifestyles. Much to the regret of our older selves, we choose to ignore all the evidence that tells us how important physical activity is. Luckily, there is time to learn and choose to be active. Apart from making us physically healthier, it'll help make us happier too!

6) Make happiness an EXTREMELY important priority. Too often, people our age look to the future for happiness. We plan and hope and fail to recognise and take advantage of the ample opportunities life gives us to be happy right now. 

7) Travel. Travel now, travel often. Travel far, and travel near. This speaks for itself I hope!

8) Finally, but certainly not least importantly, know yourself. Learn more who you already are, and explore the kind of person you want to be. Appreciate yourself more than you have in the past. Soon enough, you'll see positive impacts of this on all other parts of your life!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Madafu Moxie: Kenyan Brand Spotlight

The more time I spend in Kenya, the more cool brands, places and events I stumble across. Madafu Moxie is one of those brands, and when you see their stuff, you'll realise why I needed to feature them! And for those lucky readers who're based in Nairobi and its environs - you have the chance to win Ksh. 2,500 worth of Madafu Moxie items! Read on to meet Heer Raja, Madafu Moxie's founder, and to find out more...

When did you start Madafu Moxie?
Around 5 years ago

How did Madafu Moxie start?

A few years ago, three girls were sitting at home and looking for ways to add character to our wardrobes – wardrobes that were filled with the same generic garb that everyone wore. We decided to revamp our existing wardrobe using bits and pieces of material lying around the house. Soon enough, we started receiving boxes of waste material from clothing stores and tailors – bits and pieces of African and Indian prints. It was fun to rummage through bags and bags of materials to pick out matching pieces.

And voila…!

The end result is naturally a creation or piece that is one-of-a-kind, handmade and beautiful.
At the same time, this practice of recycling is what formed some of the core values of Madafu Moxie as a business and fashion label:

To be an eco-friendly, environmentally conscious label that makes un-imitable one-of-a-kind pieces.
We wanted to stand for something that would make a difference, not just be another ordinary fashion company. Our motive was not just clothing, but to be a bigger cause that would somehow benefit our world environmentally and create the right footprint in the fashion industry.

Mrembo Halter Dress and Michezo Pants
Cut-offs for upcycling

What were you doing before that?
I was part of the management team at a Montessori kindergarten for seven years

What is the main inspiration behind the brand?
1) Comfort, while still looking fabulous. A general belief is that to look good, you have to wear something formal and fitted, or tight and uncomfortable. We challenged that by creating beautiful clothing that is versatile, flowy and easy to move in - so even though you are fancy and dressed up, you are completely comfortable. And because you know you look good and you're in something that drapes around you perfectly, you automatically exude confidence wherever you go!

2) Cultural history and experiences play a big part too. One inspiration is the land of my birth, Kenya, and the other is my Indian heritage. Both cultures inspire me through their warm, friendly people, and their beautiful landscapes. I am humbled by the opportunity to create pieces that hopefully truly represent both these cultures.

3) The need to refresh my OWN wardrobe was a big inspiration too!

Bahari Pants

Where did the name 'Madafu Moxie' come from?
After weeks of not being able to agree on a name, my business partner and I decided to pick one symbolic word each, and then put them together. Coincidentally, both words began with the letter 'M' and their meanings resonated with us.

'Moxie' is slang for daring, courageous and spirited. 'Madafu' is Swahili for coconut and identifies our Kenyan origin and brings to mind beaches, cocktails and a fresh vibe. Together, these two words represent who we are and what we want to convey to the consumer.

Who are the rest of your team members? How did you find them, and what do they do?
Our team consists of four, including my tailors and my sister. One of our co-founders, Ash Pinero, has gone back home to Argentina - and she is definitely missed. My sister, Deesha Raja and I design the pieces. She is also the stylist, and is great at creating looks, especially combining clothing and accessories for our photo shoots. I handle the business aspects, social media, and I enjoy the one-to-one client consultations and designing custom-made pieces and collections.

Co-Founders and Designers

Tell us a little bit more about the ethical fashion aspect of your brand.
We are ‘slow fashion’ and believe in ‘pro waste reductionWe therefore try to re-use or incorporate cut-offs as much as possible into our sustainable designsFor example, the hand-embroidered flower motifs on the Bliss Pants are made with pieces of material that would otherwise have been thrown away or burnt (releasing chemicals into the air and polluting air, water, or land). Another benefit of this is that no two pieces will ever look alike making them un-imitable and one of a kind - meaning - no one else will EVER own another pair of pants like yours!

Our tailors have their own independent workshop. In line with our ethical and social values, our
tailors continue their own businesses, while Madafu Moxie is their main source of income. We believe in empowering local women to be independent and work according to their own flexible timings so as to maintain their work-family balance.

Madafu Moxie’s conscientious nature also supports causes such as ‘Nairobi Greenline’.

Maasai Pants with Recycled Kanga Detail (1)

Maasai Pants with Recycled Kanga Detail (2)
What is your personal favourite Madafu Moxie piece, and why?It's hard to pick just one favourite... but if I had to, I'd go for my olive green tie-dye Bliss Pants because I've worn them everywhere! They are super wide palazzo pants and they blend perfectly into every setting, from beach parties to brunches to conferences to meetings. Yes, even serious affairs!

Tie-dye Bliss Pants

If you could dress ANY 3 celebrities in pieces from Madafu Moxie, who would those celebrities be, and what would you dress them in?
I have already had the pleasure of dressing Kenyan Business Personality, MD, and Co-Founder of Marini Naturals, Niyati Patel, my friend and mentor.

I can picture Lupita Nyong'o in the Bliss Pants with bold embroidery detail. She would carry them beautifully!

Bliss Pants

Sonam Kapoor would look great in the Porini Pans - as a style icon, and 'best-dressed' female, I would love to see what top, jewellery and shoes she would pair them with! Her dress sense is on POINT.

Porini Pants

Muthoni the Drummer Queen would be a stunner in the Kidwe Dress or the Jua Playsuit - I love the energy she exudes, and her style is bold, distinctive and colourful.

Kidwe Dress
Nusu Pants and Jua Playsuit

What is the best feedback you've received about your brand and your work?
I absolutely love the thank-you calls and messages from happy clients, but what REALLY rocks my boat are the repeat orders! People like that we custom make pieces exactly to their body type and specifications, and they come to us regularly for their daily wear as well as special-occasion wear.

What is the toughest feedback you've received about your brand and your work?
That Madafu Moxie needs to be more widely available ;)

If you could sum up your brand in 3 words, they'd be...
Fun, fresh, funky

Michezo Pants with Recycled Detail

Who has been your biggest supporter along the Madafu Moxie journey?
My sister-in-law, coincidentally also named Roshni, has shown me the ropes from the very beginning - we wouldn't be where we are without her.

I can't even BEGIN to express how grateful I am to my hubby, family and friends who have given me their time, their knowledge, and who have supported me in every way possible! Even my kid sister can be quite useful from time to time ;)

What are some challenges you've faced as a female entrepreneur?
People do take me seriously, so I can't say I've had challenges specifically as a 'female' entrepreneur. But as an entrepreneur, the whole process can be daunting - raising capital, gaining credibility, and turning my business into a stable form of income.

How have you overcome these challenges?
Grit. Never ending perseverance. And a strong support system.

Any advice to (female) entrepreneurs who may be embarking on similar journeys?
"If it's both terrifying and amazing then you should definitely pursue it" –Anonymous

If you are passionate about it and do it for the sake of passion, then you will make money. If you do it only for money, don’t expect to see much.

Build healthy relationships with your clients, suppliers, etc.

Make a plan. Have clearly defined goals, timelines and set a detailed budget.

Create a network with people in the same field as you, support and learn from each other, instead of putting each other down.

Are there any books you recommend to fellow female entrepreneurs?
Whatever You Think Think The Opposite, Paul Arden. This book has more pictures than words! That’s what sets it apart, and every time I experience a thinking block I flip through this.

The Momentum Effect, Jean-Claude Larréché - powerful

The River Between and The Alchemist, Paulo Coehlo – teaches you to think outside the box and to turn the curve balls life throws at you into opportunities.

Also, I devour as many autobiographies as I can!

If you could go back and give yourself some advice as you were starting out, what would it be?
To have more confidence and faith in myself. And I wish I had taken it more seriously as a business, and not just as a hobby.

However, taking my time gave me a good opportunity to test the market and gauge the demand for Madafu Moxie clothing - it was definitely positive!

Where do you see your brand in 5 years?
Worn by people from every walk of life, in every corner of the globe.

Yoga Mat Bags and Porini Pants

Where does one go if they want to buy some Madafu Moxie pieces?

Currently, you can purchase or make an order over the phone or through email, our social media pages, or you can visit our workshop. In the near future we will be stocking our products at a few outlets around Nairobi – Wasp & Sprout, Spinners Web, The Arbor and Republi.ke stores. Keep an eye out for our stockist updates on social media.

Kai Pants with Recycled Kanga Detail

(As mentioned before, a lucky reader based in Nairobi or its environs has the opportunity to win a Madafu Moxie piece worth Ksh. 2,500! All you have to do is comment on this post with your name, your email address and your impression of the brand, and one lucky winner will be chosen at random within 2 weeks. If you do not wish to leave your email address, please comment anyway, bookmark this post, and check back within 2 weeks to find our if you've won! We will then let you know how to go about claiming your prize.)

A big thanks to Heer for sitting down with me and answering my many questions! Credits also go to

Photographer - Isaac Kaigi of Zuraj Studios
Head wraps - Goddess Wraps - Nyamwathi Gichau
Bikini Tops - FOA Swim - Lister Agumba

You can follow Madafu Moxie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hashmi Barbeque Center: Restaurant Review

Do you really even live in Nairobi if you've never been to Hashmi and raved about its food to all you know? Yes, I'm being (mostly) serious.

I can't remember the first time I went to Hashmi - only that I've been a regular customer for more than half of my life. Nowadays, we order in more than we actually visit, just because they're always so busy. 

However, I took some days off earlier this month, and decided to take my mum on a mummy-daughter lunch date to the restaurant - I knew the food is amazing, but I wanted to see if the rest of the place lived up to the hype. 

Location wise, Hashmi is in the Nakumatt Ukay complex - convenient, but depending on the time you go, potentially tricky to get parking. 

Side note: If you're reading this, I REALLY hope you're not one of those people who parks ON THE ROAD instead of the designated parking that's just a short walk away. 

Anyway, back to Hashmi. Ambience wise - including interior and music, unfortunately, the place isn't great - but the food does MORE THAN make up for it. 

This particular Tuesday, Mum and I headed there a little early to beat the lunch rush, which turned out to be a great decision! By the time we were leaving, there was near-to-full occupancy. 

The waiter came to take our order pretty quickly, but I was a little confused as to why he hovered around at our table as he waited for our orders. Perhaps he's used to people who know what they want right away? I asked him to give us two minutes, which is when he stepped away. For those of you wondering - yes, I do know the Hashmi menu pretty well, and yes, I did order one of the two things that I usually do, but still, I always like reading the menu!

Mum ordered the pili pili fish, I got the poussin chicken, we got a butter naan to share, and we both ordered cokes (which were, unfortunately, nowhere near cold enough). 

When the waiter brought the cutlery, he unfortunately placed them face down on the table - not the most hygienic, so we asked for a fresh set, and luckily, this time they were brought in a plate. 

Now for the food...

The fish was fresh - could've been crispier, but the flavour was perfect. I remember a time about 12-13 years ago (yikes I feel old) where this dish would be ALL I'd ever order at Hashmi. One of the things I like best about Hashmi is their consistency. Eating their food is like a trip down a comfortable memory lane, because it's been there as I grew up.

The chicken, as usual, was great. I absolutely LOVE their poussin sauce - it goes on everything, including my chips and my naan (sometimes I like just the naan and the sauce), and I have NO clue what they put in it. The chicken was soft and cooked well, but perhaps could have had a tad bit more flavour permeation. If you haven't yet tried their poussin sauce, please do! It's a perfect explosion of flavour in your mouth, and you'll be left wanting more.

Now, as everyone knows, Hashmi makes the best naans in Nairobi, hands down. Just LOOK at all that soft, buttery goodness! Literally yummy enough to eat on it's own, its melt-in-your-mouth goodness should be proclaimed one of the wonders of the world.

Hashmi is one of the only places we've found that also delivers naans in great condition - more often than I'd like, I've had naans delivered that seem to want to give chewing gum companies a run for their money. It's so good - as I write this, I've just eaten lunch, and I'm pretty full, but I'm still craving their naan...

Overall? Their food is fantastic, and you absolutely NEED to try it out! However, if you were to order in as opposed to actually going to the venue, you may not miss out on too much - and then you can pop open a bottle of something good and not have to worry about driving/parking!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Spring Valley Artisan Coffee: Restaurant Review

It's a cold winter here - for Nairobians, at least. Stormy weather, cloudy skies, the occasional downpour - you get the picture. I took a few days off work, and thought that it'd be perfect weather to head to one of my favourite coffee & waffle joints for breakfast with my sister - and finally get a review in. The place is owned by two friends - but don't worry, I made sure to make this review as unbiased as possible!

Tucked away in a little corner at the Spring Valley Petrol Station on Lower Kabete Road in Nairobi, you may be forgiven for not realising that there's a cafe in there. In fact, the location may be one of the only complaints I have - not because of the way it looks, but because of the difficulty in finding parking. (Luckily for all of us, they'll be opening up another branch soon, so that should take care of vehicular woes!) Their coffee is already quite popular in Kenya, with the cafe almost being a 'side' to that.

The decor is chic and eclectic, perfectly suited to a rainy day - and with the opportunity to actually buy some of the pieces! 

Their menu is heavily focused on coffee and waffles (as you can see below). Lots sounded tempting, but alas - we had to choose. Sitting down to breakfast, I noticed that the only savoury item on the menu is the cheese pie, so perhaps adding more savoury for those among us who don't eat as many sweet things may be a good idea. 

My sister chose a cappuccino while I went for the latte - and to eat, she chose a cheese pie, while I went for a waffle (no surprises here) with strawberries and maple syrup.

My sister loved her coffee, and said that it had a perfect aroma! I felt similarly about mine, and honestly think that it's one of the best lattes I've had in (or around) Nairobi. Weirdly enough, while drinking that coffee, I got that 'comfort food' feeling - coupled with the cold weather and the jazz playing in the background, this meant that I went righhhht back to bed for a lovely nap after this breakfast!

Now for the food...

Their cheese pie is so good that it should be illegal. The pastry was just right, the flavour of cheese was perfect (but not overwhelming), and it didn't drip with fat which can be such a turn off. I tried a bite of my sister's - and immediately craved my own. Luckily, I had a chance to get one because she tried a bite of my waffle and decided she wanted half, so we got the best of both worlds :)

Now for their waffle. Oh. My. Goodness. Crispy but still fluffy enough, sweet but not sickeningly so, flavoured with the goodness of cinnamon - this waffle had it all. I'm salivating just writing about it! I honestly think that their waffles are the second best in Nairobi - and the best for vegans! Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that their waffles are vegan? 

Overall verdict? If you haven't been here yet, you're definitely missing out! If you have, you probably have a smug smile on your face right now because you're in on the secret. Despite parking woes, the location is extremely convenient, the service is fast and friendly (if a little shy :) ), the food is great, the coffee is even better.... do I need to go on?

Liked this post? Let me know! Feel free to comment, like and share below!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Let's Talk About Mental Health

You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realise this and you will find strength.
-Marcus Aurelius
When I was 14 years old, I dislocated my patella while playing basketball. Naturally, it took a while to recover, and I was in a full leg cast for about 5-7 weeks, and crutches for a while after that. I remember finding it very easy talking about the incident whenever anyone asked - I naturally (and correctly) assumed that they would understand.

"Oh yeah, I dislocated my knee. Should be fine soon, though! I just need to take some time to recover."

Fast forward a few years later - I found that it wasn't that easy to talk about my experience with depression. In the spirit of being open, and vulnerable (and let me tell you that I'm not too fond of being vulnerable), because of some conversations I've been having recently, and given that it's been more than 4 years since, I decided that it was about time to share.

It was my junior year of college that this happened. We all have downward spirals sometimes - it's just that this one time, I kept spiralling, and had no idea how to get out of it. Fuelled by a fear of what the future would hold (or not hold), things seemed to get harder, not easier.

Luckily for me, my experience was on the milder side, I had the support of an amazing counsellor at Sewanee, and friends who made sure I was okay - and eventually, I was.

However, the experience was (and still is) hard to talk about. I remember waiting to tell close family and my best friend up until the summer I was back in Kenya. Sometimes, when I did talk about it, the conversations went something like this:

"Oh, we've had hard experiences too! Maybe we have more of a reason than you to be depressed, right?"

"But you're always so happy and positive! You can't have been depressed."

"Yes, that's all very well - let me tell you about the hard times in MY life now."

Nowadays, even if I feel a 'normal' downward spiral coming on, I take care to push my mental health at the top of my priority list. There are certain things that I need to do, including regular exercise and sleep among others, to ensure that I'm emotionally healthy. Partially because I know that I have no active desire to experience again what I did those years ago - and also because I know that it's important to look after mental health, no matter who you are and what you do or do not suffer from.

We're in the 21st century, and prioritising, taking care of, or even talking about mental health is still a taboo. This is especially true in the culture and country that I come from, where vulnerability is frowned upon.

Two weeks ago, I had a conversation with a colleague about the importance of everyone looking after their mental health, and reasons why people didn't, and I also read a great article online about a CEO who went out of his way to commend a colleague for taking a mental health day at work - and in doing so, sparked conversations across the globe about what we can do to make work environments more mental health friendly. I highly recommend that ALL of you read what the CEO had to say.

I especially loved this quote:
It’s 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance. When an athlete is injured they sit on the bench and recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different.
What do I hope we'll take away from this? There is nothing wrong with taking care of your mental health. There is no stigma in talking about mental health. Sometimes, people suffer with mental health issues - instead of stigmatising their experiences and alienating them, we should support them to the best of our capacity.

Let's start up conversations with our friends, in our workplaces, in our homes, to remind those around us that mental health IS important and should NOT be neglected, and let's be sure to support those who are already championing this vital cause.

Leaders especially have the power and the responsibility to role model this behaviour, and to encourage their peers, networks and organisations to carry on this conversation. A HUGE kudos to Ben Congleton of Olark, for doing exactly that.

Do you have stories of colleagues and leaders who have encouraged the prioritisation of mental health, or a time when you yourself felt empowered to do so? I'd love to hear from you! Please feel free to share in the comments below (anonymously if you so wish), or on the Facebook post below:

Monday, July 10, 2017

Personal Financial Management: Follow Up

About a year ago, I had written a post about personal financial management, and thought that it'd be a good idea to do a follow up - let you know how well these tips have actually worked for me, and reflect on them a little bit.

We'd discussed some common money mistakes that we make:
  • Not prioritising savings
  • Having a very vague idea of where your money goes
  • Forgetting non-monthly expenses in monthly budgets
  • Spending more than we need to
  • Living paycheque to paycheque
  • Getting into unnecessary debt

And we also discussed some tips to help us avoid these mistakes:

1) Prioritise savings: I think this is one of the tips that has worked best for me, and one that I've been able to follow religiously. How did I do it? I set a savings target that is a percentage of my income, and whenever any money comes in, the first thing I do is transfer the target into savings, and treat that as an expense. The savings target will obviously depend on you - some people do 5%, some 10%, some can probably do 50%!

It's also been very helpful to me to set up a separate savings account at another bank - this way, I've made it harder to be able to withdraw from this particular account! 

I'm interested to hear - what are some systems you've set up to make sure you prioritise saving?

2) Know where your money is going: I've been amazed at how helpful this has been! Just being able to track where and when I spend has enabled me to save much more than I had before. I highly, highly recommend Toshl. I use both the app, and the desktop version, and add all my expenses as soon as is possible. 

3) Create a budget: Going beyond just knowing where you're spending to actually planning your spending, a budget is the important next step in personal financial management. I haven't been able to use this for all my expenses, but using Toshl, I'm able to track where I spend the most, and have created budgets for these categories. 

What are some tips you use when creating and managing budgets?

4) Cut out unnecessary expenses: Important note - this is NOT advocating misery! However, it's definitely an important part of the journey toward financial freedom, and it's a function of being able to execute tip number 2 properly. 

Personally, at the end of the month, when I sit down and look at my month's activities on Toshl, I'm able to challenge myself on certain expenses - preventing me from making similar mistakes the next month

5) Do not live paycheque to paycheque: It may seem like this is a luxury not many of us can afford, but think of it this way- would you be willing to afford it if you were not getting any income for the next three months and had to live on what you already have

Again, being able to successfully implement tips 1 -4 will make it much, much easier to stop depending on the next paycheque.

6) Avoid unnecessary debt: I'm no debt expert, but someone once told me that the golden rule of debt is this - if you're taking debt to buy something that loses value (like a car) as opposed to something that gains value/adds to your value (like education), then that's bad debt. 

I'd love to hear if any of you have tips for avoiding and managing debt!

Personal financial independence may seem like a distant goal - but these tips have helped me significantly, and I hope they do so for you too!

Monday, June 26, 2017

God, Death and the Meaning of Life: Excerpt from an Essay

I don't know if any of the rest of you do this, but occasionally I find it interesting to go back and look at work I did in school. I was reading an essay I did for an introductory Philosophy class (God, Death and the Meaning of Life), and thought it may be interesting to share some snippets. Some of my thinking has changed - evolved - since I wrote this, but it's interesting to see what I still hold to be true. And the question is always a fascinating one - what makes our lives meaningful?

What are we living for? What makes our lives meaningful? Have we lived good lives if we were “happy” throughout but made no significant achievements? Or have we lived better lives if we were miserable throughout but dedicated them to a worthy cause?

I believe that in order for my own life to be meaningful, I need to be self-reliant and have self-love. I need to be happy with who I am, and have the love of the people important to me. I also need to be able to live for more than just myself. Learning to successfully overcome obstacles and appreciating the simple things in life are important too. Most importantly however, I believe that one needs to be able to accept, love, and rely on oneself before life can have any meaning at all.

According to David Swenson, much of what contributes meaning to life is happiness. However, this must not be unjustifiable happiness; there must be a reason for this happiness, a motive for its existence.  He believes that as human beings who make mistakes, there is always the danger that we can go wrong with our pursuit of happiness. While we may appear happy, leading everyone to believe that we are so, we might be pursuing empty happiness, in materialistic things. I beg to differ with this particular view. While the pursuit of empty things may not be the right thing to do in order to obtain happiness, there is no denying that the pursuit of such things in many cases does lead to our happiness. While this is not necessarily correct, and indeed does leave me feeling uneasy as to what we as human beings have come to, such happiness does give meaning to life; albeit maybe not substantial meaning.

Swenson also stresses on the importance of happiness being based on something that is intrinsically good, which I do agree with. Wealth, power and the like do have the potential to do good, but are not intrinsically so. These things give a sort of privileged status to the few individuals that possess them, and this is not always fair. They “rest upon differential capabilities and exceptionally fortunate circumstances.

Some people may argue that people will be able to find happiness in hurting others. If we think of serial killers who kill for the pleasure of it, they technically lead happy lives. They are doing what they enjoy; does that not mean that they have meaningful lives? In my opinion, absolutely not. While what they are doing does make them happy, it makes other people very miserable. The happiness that these killers obtain is completely selfish, and thus does not contribute to a meaningful life. Swenson goes on to say, “as the fundamental source of inspiration in my life, I need something that is not exclusive and differential, but inclusive and universal.” It is important to find happiness in something that will not take away happiness from other people, but preferably, add to it. This is true, selfless happiness, and I dare to say that we have all experienced it. How many times have we done something for someone whom we love that we did not necessarily enjoy doing? How many times have we experienced that specific feeling of happiness that comes from making this someone happy?

There are people who would rather live their lives believing that there is no higher power to judge us, like E. D. Klemke. He says that there are many cases of human beings who have led meaningful lives without faith in God. According to him, even if life had no meaning without faith in God, he would rather find some other meaning, as opposed to one that has “illusory hopes and incredulous beliefs and aspirations.” This is also the view held by Ricky Gervais, a comedian. He sums it up by saying “Do unto others… is a good rule of thumb". I try to live by that. Kindness is probably one of the greatest virtues there is. But that is exactly what a virtue is. Not just a religious virtue. No one owns being good. If am good, I do not believe I will necessarily be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It is knowing that I try to do the right thing and that I lived a good life. And that is where spirituality really lost its way; when it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you will burn in hell.”

While I realise that some people might be able to find more meaning in life without belief in a supernatural entity, I also realise that there are a countless number of people who have been unable to find meaning in life unless they turn to God. If religion were to be completely removed from the picture, then I believe that it may actually give people an incentive to be more moral, and kinder to their fellow human beings. It would take away from having to be good so that you can answer to a higher power, which we can argue is a motivation for many; and encourage people to be good for their own sake. In fact, it could be argued that being moral for one’s own self is the highest form of morality attainable, as you are not doing it to please someone else, even if that someone else is a higher power.

To conclude, I would like to say that every individual’s meaning of life would depend upon their own personal view of the world, and of themselves. For me personally, for example, if I was not able to be happy in my own company, then I would feel as though I am not leading a happy and meaningful life. We are our own first lines of contact with the rest of the world and all of existence; if we do not love ourselves, then we may not be able to meaningfully connect with the world around us.

Swenson, David F. "The Dignity of Life" The Meaning of Life III (2008): 17-26.
Klemke, E. D. "Living without Appeal: An Affirmative Philosophy of Life" The Meaning of Life III (2008): 184-195.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Le Grenier à Pain: Restaurant Review

"Have you been to that new French place? I've heard it's amazing!"

Well, obviously, I hadn't been, and was dying to go, which is why when I planned to meet friends for brunch Saturday morning two weeks ago, I thought it'd be great to try Le Grenier à Pain.

I got there a little earlier than my friends, and this turned out to be a good and a bad thing. Good because, well, I got to check out the place and get a feel for the vibe - very laid back chic, a place that you could go to for a lot of different things including:

  • A first date
  • A tenth date!
  • Writing
  • Working
  • A (casual) interview
  • Brunch with the girls
  • Well... brunch with the guys too!
And that's just what I came up with in a minute.

Why my getting there early was a bad thing - I got to check out the entire menu, and realised I wanted EVERYTHING. I had gone in having casually scoped the menu online, and I'd decided what I wanted, but after having some time for a thorough perusal, the choice became more and more difficult!

To drink, I decided to go for the chai latte. I liked it a lot, and would say it's probably one of the top three you can get in Nairobi. In fact, by the time my friends came, I'd polished off my first and was ready for another! What I liked - it was spicy, sweet and steamy. What could be improved - the spice was slightly diluted, and a bit of a 'milky' flavour came through. 

I love that before we ordered anything, they gave us some bread. It was yummy, although a little on the tougher side - perhaps because I let it sit for a while!

After what seemed like HOURS of indecisiveness, I finally decided to go with my first choice - the pain perdu pomme-cannelle & sirop d'erable (I'm proud that I actually understood part of that!). For the rest of us, that's apple-cinammon French toast with fresh fruits, creme fraiche and maple syrup.

My friends decided to go with the raisin swirl and the pain au chocolat. The friend who ordered the former said that it was fresh, warm, with a great blend of flavours and it was easily in the top 5 she'd ever had. The pain au chocolat, on the other hand, was nice, but not the best she'd ever had.

On my part, I absolutely LOVED my French toast! 9.5/10 for sure. It was amazing - not too sweet, with the subtlety of flavours coming through perfectly. Even more perfection would have been achieved if there were more strawberries in the fresh fruit to go with it!

Overall verdict? I would highly recommend this place, and I can't wait to go back! In fact, as I sit here writing this, I made the mistake of looking at their menu (we never learn...) and now I'm hungry.

The ambience was great, and the service was amazing! Our server (Faith, I believe) checked in on us enough to be helpful, always had a smile on her face, and seemed like she genuinely loves her job.

For a place that's been around since Jan, with their grand opening 3 or 4 weeks ago - well done!!

Monday, May 29, 2017

12 TKN Wellness Rituals

When you ask someone how they're doing, or how life is going, or how they've been, 9 times out of ten the answer will be 'busy'. The world has gotten faster, and busier - and seemingly, unhappier. Many of us work 8-5 (if not more), to be able to afford to maintain a lifestyle that we don't even have time to enjoy.

Fortunately, there are numerous things we can do, on a regular basis, to ensure that we do invest in ourselves beyond just making sure we're professionally successful. I thought to write about a select few that I try and keep up with, and others that I am starting, and I hope to be able to feature others' at some point too.

1) Writing

No surprises here that I write, often. I write on this blog, I write (real) letters to friends (and yes, I do use a fountain pen similar to the one above), I write to myself. If I'm having a crappy day, or trying to make a difficult decision, it wouldn't be too uncommon to find me grabbing the nearest piece of paper, writing down what I'm thinking, and then more often than not, throwing it away.

Writing is a way to deal with emotions, process your day, get some clarity. In case it wasn't clear enough already, I highly recommend trying it out!

2) Working out

The longer I go without working out, the grumpier I get, on average. It was a little later in life than I should have learnt this, but once I realised that working out regularly keeps me sane, happy and healthy, I've been trying to do it as often as I can.

And no, it's not just me! There are numerous studies out there that have proven the multiple benefits of exercise.

3) Attitude of gratitude

I was listening to a podcast the other day (yes, that's a thing I do nowadays) that talked about the importance of practicing gratitude. The speaker argued that without knowing how to be grateful for what we have, we'll never truly be happy. We'll keep wanting more, but when we get that 'more', we won't know how to appreciate it.

We look at happiness as something that's on the other side of a finish line - but when we get there, the finish line just gets further away. How did we forget that happiness is really found along the way?

I've been working on cultivating this attitude - and I'll admit, it's not as easy as I thought it would be! Two things have helped - meditation, and my '+ jar'. The latter is a glass jar that I've had for many months. When I remember to, I write down positive things that have happened to me, things I'm grateful for, and put them into the jar. These have ranged from 'I got the new job!' to 'I just had a great pizza!'. No surprises at the last one, I'm sure.

Anyone else tried other ways to cultivate this attitude? Please do share! And for those of you who're interested in starting +jars of your own, I'm happy to be an accountability partner.

4) Treating yourself

You know what? If no one's told you this before, I'm happy to be the first. It's okay to treat yourself every so often. Another podcast I was listening to talked about how we motivate ourselves. Sometimes, we tell ourselves 'I'll buy myself this and that once I've achieved this or the other' - a reward system. Sometimes, we say we'll buy ourselves what we want just because!

The speaker argues (and I agree) that it's okay to treat yourself once in a while without having the pressure of having to 'earn it'. 

Personally, massages are an indulgence I like to partake in regularly. In fact, I went for one just yesterday, just because - and it was great.

5) Time alone

I forget how many times I've preached about the benefits of time alone. Whether you're always working around people, you live with your family, you're married, you have kids - whoever you are, being able to spend meaningful time alone, and doing so, are beneficial to your growth, your happiness, and your independence. Whatever form this takes (see 12 below), I encourage you to try it.

6) Time with friends and family 

That being said, don't forget to spend time with friends and family too! Saturday night, my mum, my sister and I curled up in a room to watch a movie together - that same day, I'd spent some quality time with my pups. And tonight, I'm planning on having a wine date with my best friend.

Personally, after working a crazy week, I find it all too easy to spend the weekend in and around my bed, so getting time with my loved ones like this is always nice.

7) Time outdoors

Sunlight, fresh air, blah blah blah - turns out that all those things are actually good for you! I've made no secret of my frustration with how quickly Nairobi is developing upward, so I try and find at least a few minutes a day to step outside, away from the concrete (or as away as I can get...), and just breathe. Weird how just those few minutes can leave me feeling refreshed!

8) Drinking plenty of water

I'm not quite sure what it is about this one that makes me feel better - but I have noticed a marked difference in myself from the days I drink plenty of water to the days I don't. Anyone else?

9) Reading

Being able to be present where I am and appreciate all around me is great - but sometimes, so is being able to immerse myself in others' experiences and learn from them. 

The 'J' in me (MBTI for those of you who're wondering) has actually made two spreadsheets (fiction and non fiction) to keep up with books I've read and want to read. I recently finished all the Harry Potters again, and really enjoyed them!

10) Laughter

Funny YouTube videos. Friends being funny. Pets being silly. Little moments of joy. Laughter is such an important, yet underrated, part of our lives! Try it for yourself and see just how laughing (or smiling more) can do wonders.

11) A well deserved glass of wine

'Wait, doesn't this count as treating yourself?' I can almost hear some of you asking. Those of you who know me will know exactly why, for me, wine is in a category of its own!

There's nothing like sitting down at the end of a long week with a glass (or more) of wine that really signals to my brain that it's time to unwind.

I'm also always on the lookout for new wines to try - you can follow along on my personal Instagram account

12) Vacations

Sometimes, you just need to get away! Last year, my sister and I went to Diani in July. In December, I went to visit family in the U.S. 

Not sure what I'm planning before that, but this December, I decided it's finally time to visit my best friends after three years away! You can bet that I'm looking forward to that one desperately!

What are some wellness rituals you follow? I'd love to hear more!

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