London Eats: Koshari Street

Koshari Street London by Natalie Parker

The first and only time I had eaten koshari was on our second day in Cairo.

Koshari, also spelled koshary, is a true blue collar Cairene food.  We had to get an American tour guide to take us there because most local guides want to serve multi course lunches to tourists.

It’s a bowl of rice, macaroni noodles, lentils, chickpeas, and some broken spaghetti noodles.  A spicy tomato sauce is poured on top, you mix everything up, then add crispy onions.

I’ve never attempted to make it at home because with just two of us under one roof, it doesn’t make sense to cook all the rice, lentils, etc. for two tiny meals.  Call me back in a few years if I have boys.  Moving on.

So, four years later in London, I was amazed to find Koshari Street!  Koshari Street has a storefront in Soho but also a food cart (I saw them one Saturday in Old Spitalfields Market).

Koshari Street London by Natalie Parker

I hopped over there after work and hoped that their koshari would be as good as I remembered.  It’s always a tough thing trying to replicate travel memories.

At Koshari Street, you choose the size of your cup and what type of sauce (I went with a small, medium spicy).

It was bliss — it did not disappoint in any way.  Every component was perfect.  I kind of wanted to grab a handful of crispy onions for the ride home.  Koshari Street is definitely going to be a stop every time I’m in London.

What if you don’t have any Cairo memories to relive?  You should still go!  Koshari is the perfect food for a long day of sightseeing.  Located right in the middle of the action in Soho, you can get in, get fed, and get out without worrying about being hungry for the rest of the day.  Win!

IF YOU GO

Click here for a map of all the locations I visited.

Click here to see a photo index for all my posts on London

I traveled solo to London for the month of April on a business trip and kept myself entertained on the weekends exploring new places.  

Vacation Photobook

Vacation Photobook

It’s getting time for vacation season!

We like to have pictures ready to show people when we get home from vacation.  Doesn’t everyone?  I don’t scrapbook with 4×6″ prints, so printing a bunch would be a waste.

Enter the MyPublisher Hardcover Pocketbook.  It starts at $19.99.  They have a soft-cover version starting at $9.99 but I like the feel of the hardcover.  The book is a little over 5×7.”

Vacation PhotobookThis gives us a durable, pretty album that we can take to grandparents’ houses and leave on our coffee table.

Vacation PhotobookI’ve been a MyPublisher customer for years because I love the quality and I can get great sales.

I plan the photobook as soon as we get home from the vacation.  I decide about how much I want to spend, how many pages that will give me and then divide up the pages to cover parts of our trip.

I know, I’m methodical.

Vacation PhotobookI put the book together and wait for MyPublisher to run a sale (which they do often).

Vacation PhotobookI made this one to showcase pictures from our trip to Egypt and Jordan last year.  I used the basic templates available on MyPublisher.  Since then, they’ve updated their software to be even more awesome and give you more template options.

Vacation PhotobookThis doesn’t replace the scrapbook.  I have tons of travel keepsakes that will go in a scrapbook with these pictures.  This is a compliment that conveniently shows a ton of pictures in portable form.

Vacation PhotobookAny products endorsed on this blog are products I actually use and like.  I have not accepted any freebies or payments in exchange for promotions.

This Little Camel Came Home with Us

Camel bone Christmas ornament from Egypt

Meet the little camel.  He’s one of our newest Christmas ornaments.

Several months ago, I talked about our trip to the Middle East and our tradition of buying a piece of street art on big trips.  We also buy a Christmas ornament on all of our travels, dating back to 2005 when we picked up a New York ornament on the top of the Empire State Building.

The hunt for an ornament is always really fun.  Sometimes we don’t buy a traditional ornament.  On a trip to Philadelphia, we bought a keychain and turned it into an ornament because all the Christmas ornaments we saw were too big and bulky.

Our little camel is actually a figurine carved out of camel bone.  Camel bone figurines are a popular tourist purchase in Egypt.  The store we went to also had angels, stars and other traditional Christmas ornaments carved out of camel bone.

We had to have the camel, it was too cute to pass up.  Do you have any Christmas ornament traditions?

Postcards as Notecards

Do you ever travel somewhere and end up with more postcards than you need?

Oh, I’m the only one that buys a ton of postcards.

Well, if you do have postcards lying around, consider using them as notecards!  Maybe you have a couple of postcards leftover from a vacation.  Maybe you bought a stack and didn’t get a chance to send them.

I had a big stack of postcards from our trip to the Middle East.  Instead of leaving them in a box, I started using them as notecards whenever I was sending something.  If they don’t fit in an envelope, just trim them down.  They worked especially well when I was sending people gifts we picked up on the trip.

Hey, you can even try this by grabbing pretty postcards from your own town!

Looking for more Tips & Ideas?  Check out my Tips page here!

The World’s Oldest Paper

Roll of Papyrus

I now have a small supply of the world’s oldest paper:  papyrus.  Of course, the papyrus I have isn’t old itself but the method of making it originated five thousand years ago.

Buying painted papyrus is a must-do on any trip to Egypt.  Papyrus shops have walls covered with papyrus paintings and drawings at every size and price imaginable.  When we were planning our trip, I thought sure a painting would be nice but I really want some blank papyrus.

Once the husband and I picked out our papyrus painting in the shop, we went to pay for it.  I politely asked if they had any blank papyrus sheets I could buy.

They looked at me like I was nuts.  Why would any tourist want to buy blank papyrus?

In my head: You don’t understand.  I’m a paper crafter.  I love the painting, but I can’t be this close to special paper that I can’t get anywhere else without taking something home.  I have to have some.  What am I going to use it for?  Good question.  I have no idea.

They actually did ask what I was going to use it for as they tried to figure out how much to charge me for it.  I honestly have no idea.  I figure an idea will come to me eventually.  I got my papyrus and hopped out of the store pleased as punch.

What would you do with it?  I have a very large sheet and one small sheet.  It could be made into stationary.  I could use it in my scrapbook.  The surface is fairly fibrous because it’s made out of strips of the papyrus plant rather than pulp like most other papers.  As you may know, I can’t draw a straight line.  I would love to hear your ideas!

The Travel Tradition

Papyrus Drawing

Summer has finally reached my neck of the woods and I’m enjoying the blog posts everywhere about vacations near and far.

Since I’ve already taken my big trip for the year, I want to share one of my favorite travel traditions.

We always bring back a piece of art, usually inexpensive street art. We like having something on our wall that reminds us of where we’ve been and there’s usually a story around the hunt for the right piece.

In Paris, we bought from an artist on the right bank of the Seine near the Louvre.  We couldn’t agree on which drawing we wanted.  The artist thought we were trying to haggle and kept dropping the price while the husband and I continued our disagreement.  We ended up with two!

During this last trip in Cairo, we found ourselves in a giant papyrus shop pouring over stacks of drawings.  The drawing we loved was framed in a display.  The shopkeeper pulled out piles of drawings, thumbing through them, saying he had one exactly like it ready to go.  Each one he pulled out was just slightly different, the geese were a different color, the lotus flowers looked different, etc.  He finally pulled the one out of the display, wrapped it for us and we skipped out of the store.

Did I mention our place is tiny?  We may run out of walls.

Want to see more pictures of the papyrus shop and the drawings we bought in Paris?  Head over to my Facebook page to see a special photo album.  Don’t have a Facebook account?  You can still click the link and see the pictures!

Little Albums for Little Hands

How do you share your pictures with little kids?

I have an adorable niece and nephew and I wanted a fun way to show them pictures of our travels without boring them through a slide show.

The objective: find something easy to make and inexpensive.  This way if they destroyed it, no big deal.

My Mini by MyPublisher

Enter the My Mini book.  It was perfect!  Here’s why:

  • Price: only $2.49!
  • Simplicity: 20 pages, 1 picture per page plus 1 picture for the cover.
  • Size: 2.75×3.75 inches, perfect for small hands!
  • Fonts: you can use any font on your computer for the cover!

Why MyPublisher?  There certainly are other similar products out there.  I used MyPublisher to make wedding album gifts and was really pleased with their products.  Plus, you don’t have to upload every single picture from your trip like you have to do with other systems.  MyPublisher lets me cruise around my hard drive for the photos I want to use, lets me change my mind a thousand times, and I only have to upload the finished book.

The verdict?  The kids loved them.  My six-year-old niece is trying to convince us to take her to Paris.

These albums are so darn cute that I’m trying to come up with more reasons why I need to order more!

Note:  I was not paid by MyPublisher to endorse this item just as I am not paid to endorse anything.  I only feature items that I love and actually use.

Saving Travel Keepsakes

Still recovering from jet lag over here but I’m glad to be home. Thanks again to Jessika for keeping my blog alive!

We had an absolutely unforgettable trip. Naturally, when you have a two-week adventure, you are bound to pick up some keepsakes. How do I keep track of everything and not lose an important ticket stub along the way? I’m still traumatized that I lost my Price is Right pricetag name badge in college.

Yup, you guessed it: I have a system. I came up with this idea after the husband and I took our very first trip together.

Meet the Master Envelope


Take a large manila envelope with you on your next trip. They are really cheap and can be found in drugstores and office supply stores.

The Master Envelope has three very important functions.

One: Itineraries and Confirmations

Before the trip, I print out all of our transportation and lodging confirmations and put them in the envelope.

Yes, most of these things can be accessed online these days but you never know when you’ll need to produce a hard copy. I was thankful I did this when I found out that airports in the Middle East require a printed itinerary before they even let you inside to the ticket counter!

Print all confirmations/itineraries and put them in the envelope.

Two: Receipts

From hotels to lunches and shopping, we generate a surprising amount of receipts during our trips. We never know when we will need to refer to something. At the end of each day, all receipts get deposited into the envelope.

All receipts during the trip go in the envelope.

Three: Keepsakes

Most importantly, the envelope is the master repository for all of our keepsakes. At the end of the day, we both empty our pockets and I empty my purse. Every ticket stub, map, boarding pass or similar item is put in the envelope. This way we don’t drop something or let something get crumpled up in my purse.

I err on the side of over-inclusiveness and save purging for when I get home.

Organizing and Purging

Within a couple of days of getting home, I empty the envelope and organize it.

First, we take all the receipts and check them against our online accounts (for ATM and credit card transactions). This is especially important if you are traveling internationally.

Next, I take “big receipts” and file them away. These are things such as hotel our travel agency bills. Other receipts that I checked against our accounts online or were for cash purchases get shredded along with our confirmation pages that I printed at the beginning of the trip.

Finally, I go through our keepsakes and do some light purging. For example, I don’t need two copies of the Air France dinner menu. I’ll keep one and give my niece the other one. Maybe I won’t end up using it in my scrapbook, but I’ll keep it until I actually work on the layouts.

Left: stuff to keep. Right: stuff for the shredder.

I end up with a “keep” and “shred” pile. The “keep” pile goes back into the envelope and is labeled and saved for when it’s time to scrapbook.

Speaking of scrapbooking, what am I going to do with all of these ticket stubs? We quickly found out on our trip that all tourist sites in Egypt are centrally regulated and you get a neat ticket stub/keepsake from each site. I have two of each, it’s a HUGE stack!

These are going to make an interesting layout at some point.

I bet by now you want to see pictures. At least, I hope you want to see pictures. Stay tuned Thursday!