Bringing the Tropics Home

Once your trip ends and you trade the lush, tropical paradise of Cozumel or mornings on your cruise ship balcony for a snowy city or a messy home, things can feel a little bit depressing. You’re back to the grind, you have a pile of dishes to do, and you’re craving that feeling of relaxation and calm, and sunshine in the Caribbean.

Though you can’t fully replicate the relaxation, and slowed-down pace of a cruise, you can bring some of that Caribbean goodness home. It’s amazing how much our surroundings can impact our mood, so why not spend a few hours bringing some of that tropical wonder back home. With just a few quick adjustments, you’ll be back on island time right in your very own home.

Surround Yourself with Plants and Lush Greenery 

I firmly believe that you can never have too many plants in your home, and most people definitely don’t have enough! In the winter time, plants and greenery bring so much life to my 700 square foot apartment, and in the summer, they really bring the outside in. I loved seeing all of the beautiful, tropical plants at the ports I visited in the Caribbean, and made it a point to set up my own after coming back home to a dreary, wintery city. More than anything else, they can really help your space feel lush, and more like a vacation spot.

Though certain tropical plants don’t thrive indoors or without proper sunlight, there are plenty of low maintenance plants that give you a tropical vibe without needing a tropical climate. Most palms are a great pick along with Snake Plants and Bromeliads. I have a few set up in each room, and alternate on sizes and heights to give them more depth. Think about spots like the bathroom or kitchen where you wouldn’t think of adding in plants, and tuck a few in there too! It’s nice to pick up an extra arrangement of tropical flowers from the grocery store here and there too for added Caribbean vibes.

Have Your Favorite Memories on Display

Remember when we talked about creatively displaying your vacation photos? Having a beautiful image from your cruise up will really help bring the tropics back home. Remember, you don’t have to be a photographer or an artist to take and display a beautiful, meaningful image. Other great options are larger scale palm or leaf prints that you can get for relatively cheap.

This doesn’t just limit you to your walls though! I love storing desk supplies like paperclips or thumbtacks in the sea shells I found while on my cruise. I try to find a vintage market or two while on trips, and always make it a point to bring back a little trinket I can display in my home. An old, refinished jewelry box from St. John or a some vintage plates snagged on a trip to the Dominican Republic will give your home a global look, and remind you of your time on your trip.

Sneak in a Surprising Detail 

You’ll notice that in hotels or on cruise ships, there’s often a surprising, quirky statement piece in each room. It could be an interesting vase or a chandelier made of sea glass, but it’s that little touch that makes the area feel special and different. So often with busy lives, we make our homes functional above anything else, but adding in something a bit different and bold can really give your home that extra touch. To give your home more of a Caribbean, tropical vibe, aim towards getting pieces that contain natural elements (shells, agate, driftwood, stone, etc.), and remember, just one accessory or fixture can really change up a space. The details don’t have to be large or expensive either. A new woven tray on your coffee table that was woven in the Caribbean or a jute rug in your bedroom can go a long way.

I found this flamingo sculpture (it doubles as a jewelry holder!) a few months after my cruise, and it reminded me of my travels right away. Sure, it’s a bit silly, but it’s a fun touch that people always love and comment on. It was under $30, and though it’s a small detail, it goes such a long way.

Remember Your Other Senses

Though the most obvious thing you think of when trying to bring a touch of the Caribbean to your own home is changing up what you see, remember your other senses, and the factor they can play in how you feel in your home.

For example, I always loved waking up on the ship, opening my balcony door, and immediately getting that scent of salty ocean air. To bring that feeling back home, I added in a few ocean-scented candles to my home. I also got an oil diffuser that really helps transform my apartment into a tropical oasis. There’s something pretty amazing about smelling grapefruit and tropical scents after walking into your place after a long day. Pour yourself a cold drink, and you’ll be feeling like you’re right back on a ship!

Another option is to pick up some of the music you heard while on your trip, and play it around your house while you’re cooking or reading. I find I tie certain music to specific trip memories so it’s always a good way to relax and reflect.


This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

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Caribbean Style Grilled Fish

Firstly, I’ve got to admit that cooking a whole fish can be a daunting task for even a skilled home cook. Will there be more prep? Will it be flavorful enough? What about the bones? While the dish itself can look impressive, preparing a whole fish could not have been simpler.

Back in St. Thomas last year on our Carnival cruise, a local food vendor came by to chat with us during our stay on Coki Beach, and when we asked about a lunch menu, he recommended the catch of the day. 20 minutes later, we were presented with a beautiful, whole fried fish, a side of rice and peas, and stewed vegetables. One of my fondest memories from the trip was eating this delicious, fresh fish right on the beach, and thought it was time to replicate it.

We’ve seasoned the fish with several of the spices that make up jerk seasoning (cumin, cinnamon, etc.), but you could easily purchase a jerk seasoning mix if you want to make the process even more streamlined! We decided to serve our fish with veggies, rice and coleslaw but you can easily change that up depending on what you have on hand.

Ingredients (for fish):

  • 2-3 lbs of any whole fish (tilapia, porgy, snapper, etc.)
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (or 1 inch piece freshly grated ginger)
  • 1/2 habanero pepper, seeds removed (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion

Ingredients (for coleslaw):

  • 1⁄2 of a small cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1⁄2 of a mango or 1⁄4 of a pineapple, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1⁄2 of a red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1⁄2 habanero pepper, seeds removed (optional)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1⁄2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions for fish:

  1. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat, add oil to the pan until it is about 1⁄2 inch deep (oil should be about 350 degrees). Note: you won’t fully submerge the fish in oil. Instead, it will be flipped halfway through cooking.
  2. Rinse the fish under cold water, make sure to remove any remaining scales. Split the fish down the middle to create a cavity between the filets.
  3. Mix together the allspice, cinnamon, sugar, cumin, ginger, habanero pepper, garlic, black pepper, salt, and vegetable oil into a food processor and blend to combine.
  4. Use a brush to thoroughly coat the entire fish with the blended spice mixture inside and out.
  5. Place the flour on a plate and coat the outside of the fish in the flour.
  6. Stuff the inside of the fish with 5-6 lemon slices and a healthy portion of fresh thyme.
  7. Place the fish into the oil and cook on one side for roughly 7-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Flip the fish and continue cooking for an additional 7-10 minutes on the other side.
  9. Remove the fish from the pan and set onto paper towels to dry.
  10. Add the chopped tomatoes, red pepper and onions and saute for 2-3 minutes, just enough to get them to pick up the leftover spices from the pan.
  11. Serve the fish surrounded by the cooked vegetables, squeeze lemon over top if desired.

Directions for coleslaw:

  1. Combine the cabbage, carrot, mango, red bell pepper and habanero pepper (optional) into a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the honey, vinegar, and salt and pour the mixture over the vegetables.
  3. Cover bowl and marinate for at least one hour in the refrigerator.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

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For me, there are few other dishes that evoke the feeling of summer, dining al fresco, and a lazy vacation day quite like coconut shrimp. Back when we sailed on the Carnival Breeze last year, we ate tons of amazing seafood and all the shrimp we possibly could, but the coconut shrimp at RedFrog Pub was a favorite. When we returned back from our trip, I figured it was time that I learned to make the dish at home.

Though it’s one of my favorite ways to prepare and eat shrimp, coconut shrimp can be a bit unhealthy in its traditional fried form. Here, I’ve opted to bake the shrimp instead. You get the same great crunch and
coconut flavor, but it’s a lot healthier and in my opinion, a lot easier to cook as well!

I’ve found that this is a great dish to serve as an appetizer while entertaining. It ends up looking a lot more impressive and difficult than it actually is (preparing it really could not be easier), and it’s been a crowd pleaser every time I’ve made it for guests. I like to prep it with two different sauces: a tangier one and a creamier one, but you could experiment with other flavors and sauces to your liking. It’s a really versatile dish so the options are pretty limitless!

Baked Coconut Shrimp Recipe:

Ingredients (for shrimp):

  • 1 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup
    shredded sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1⁄2 tsp
    powdered ginger
  • 1⁄2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • Olive oil

Ingredients (for tangy dipping sauce):

  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp marmalade (we used guava jelly but
    orange or lemon marmalade would work nicely too)
  • 1⁄2 tsp crushed red pepper

Ingredients (for creamy Sriracha mayo sauce):

  • 1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha (you could add more if you want the
    sauce to be spicier)
  • Juice from 1⁄4 lime

Directions for shrimp:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Rinse and devein the shrimp, and lightly salt after deveining. You can
remove the tails at this point if you prefer.
3. Combine coconut flakes, panko bread
crumbs, powdered ginger, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and remaining salt in a bowl.
4. Whisk egg into the second bowl.
5. Place flour into separate bowl.
6. Spray or spread olive oil onto a baking pan. This is where you’ll be placing your full coated

7. Start the battering process by dipping the shrimp into the flour to coat it evenly. Then, drop the floured shrimp into the egg; dip one last time into the panko and coconut flake mixture. Lay the breaded shrimp out onto your baking pan.

8. Once all of your shrimp are breaded, place them into the oven, and bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until the tops start to turn golden brown.
9. Turn the shrimp over after they’ve cooked 8-10 minutes. Place them back into the oven for 6-8
minutes or until browned and cooked thoroughly.
10. Combine your ingredients for sauces, and serve the shrimp immediately with lime wedges.

Directions for tangy dipping sauce:

1. Combine rice wine vinegar, marmalade of your choice and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and stir.

Directions for Sriracha mayo sauce:

1. Combine mayonnaise, Sriracha and lime juice in a small bowl and stir.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway
state of mind. Head on over.

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5 Creative Things to Do With Travel Photos

After a vacation, it’s pretty inevitable that I’ll end up with hundreds of travel snaps on my phone’s camera roll (in addition to the hundreds on my camera’s memory card!), and for a long time, a lot of them would stay there. Now that most of us take a majority of our travel snaps on a smartphone, it seems like less and less of our travel photos actually get printed (or even seen) after vacations end. Last year on the Carnival Breeze, we stopped at four major ports, and I found myself pretty overwhelmed with the amount of photos I came back with. Because each port was so different, I took a lot of photos on my regular camera and on my phone (not to mention the snaps I got while on the actual boat).

From the plane’s landing at Maho Beach in St. Maarten to the peaceful turquoise waters of Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic, I had a lot of digital files to work with. Rather than let these memories stay on the screen and be forgotten, I decided to make it a point to figure out how to make sure that didn’t happen. High-quality prints and framing can get expensive quickly though, and the last thing most people want to do after a vacation is spend hundreds more just on photos.

To combat this, and to get photos off your screen and into your hands quickly and easily, I’ve come up with five ways to creatively integrate your travel photos in your home and life.

Go Big (and Bold) With An Engineering Print

While phone snaps can be great, they aren’t always the highest of resolution which means they can look blurry or pixelated if you print them too largely. Lean into the pixelation, and create a large-scale, black and white engineering print. Engineering prints are large, gray scale prints that are more commonly used for engineering or architectural projects (think architectural blueprints, etc.), but they make for amazing, unique photography prints.

These prints are inexpensive (I recently purchased a huge engineering print of some palm trees for about $7.00), and can be ordered from most printing companies. Remember, these prints are meant to be in black and white, and are going to appear imperfect and grainy. This is part of the charm! You can easily get one framed or even clip them up with oversized binder clips as pictured for a relaxed look. There are lots of creative ways you can hang these (washi tape, wooden dowels, decorative tacks, etc.) depending on your existing decor, and since they’re so inexpensive, it’s easy to update and swap them as you take new travel snaps.

Go Old School with Instant Prints 

On a recent trip, I brought along my instant camera, and noticed that more and more people around me were doing the same thing. Now, I make it a point to take my instant camera with a few packs of film along with me on all my trips. It’s so great to come back with physical, printed photographs from trips, and they have a fun vintage feel to them. Collect a stack of your favorites, and corral them in a pretty dish or bowl on your coffee table. I rotate mine out periodically, and friends who come over always comment and leaf through them.

Create a Grid of Images 

As we all know, frames, printing large, high-quality prints, and getting custom artwork put together in general can be very expensive. If you’re on a budget, you can still get the large scale impact by creating a grid (or another shape) with your favorite snaps. A little mounting putty or tape (just make sure not to damage your wall paint!), a stack of prints, and a half hour, and you’ve got yourself an easy DIY photo wall. You could easily add to this after each trip, and end up with a wall full of travel snaps.

Frame Your Favorite Gram 

We’re all so used to viewing images in square format these days (thanks, Instagram!). Why not get your favorite Insta shot from your travels printed and framed for your home? It’s a great way to force yourself to really hone in on your favorite, most special shot from your trip, and the square frame is a fun, modern touch.

Lots of retailers and printing companies have become savvy to this trend and as result, you can get great square mats and frames for relatively cheap. Several printing companies are now even allowing you to connect your Instagram straight to their order system meaning you can get your photo, printed, framed and sent to your doorstep with about five minutes of effort!

Send a Postcard 

It might be a bit old school, but I still love sending postcards to friends and family either during or after a trip. The problem is, most postcards are a bit cheesy looking, and though the sentiment is still there, a lot of people may not want to keep a tacky looking postcard on their fridge for very long.

Instead of buying postcards, I decided to start getting some of my travel images printed on cards to send to loved ones right after the trip. People still love receiving them, and love that they get a custom photo of my actual trip versus a standard, old school stock image. Lots of printers allow you to get custom postcards made or if you have a good printer at home along with some cardstock, you could even DIY the project! For an extra touch, I love using vintage stamps on these.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

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Recently, my friends at Artifact Uprising asked me to put together a photo guide to LA complete with tips for each location. It was so fun to put together, and definitely has me dreaming of another trip back west. Until then, you can read the guide here: 

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