Sunday, November 17, 2013

the month of october, part 2

i still feel like i should be getting ready for halloween and people are already putting up christmas lights! 

we started the month off with a visit from my family and then hopped on a plane to the uk. after 4 days in london (living my dream!) we took the train north to edinburgh, scotland, where we met up with joel's parents. 

scotland was a total gear shift from london. whereas in london, i was marking things off my bucket list and trying to do as much in each day that i could, in scotland, we were able to kind of relax. 

on our first day, we walked around edinburgh for a bit, taking it all in. joel's parents had been there a couple of days already and were able to act as our guides, showing us what they had already found. 

one thing that i found kind of fascinating were the thrift stores in edinburgh. each one was named for a different charity, and profits from the shop went to that charity. but this wasn't your goodwill or salvation army. they were pretty fancy. some even carried designers and higher end stuff. if i had known, i would have totally brought an empty suitcase. 

on our second day, we took the car we rented up the coast to aberdeen to see some beautiful countryside. 

first stop was loch leven. it wasn't ness, but it was absolutely gorgeous. we got there shortly after sun rise and there was fog hanging around the shoreline. 

we weren't able to get across the loch to the castle where mary, queen of scots was held, because we were there on a sunday. somehow we haven't learned that sunday is not a good travel day in europe.....

cemetery on loch leven
next, we headed further north to scone palace. this one wasn't planned, but as we were driving along, we saw a turn off and went with it. i'm super glad we did, because it was a pretty awesome stop. there were peacocks wandering all over the grounds and horses and bulls, and there was, of course, tons of cool history. 

"Alexander II and Alexander III, both crowned at Scone, ruled from 1214 to 1286. For centuries the greatest treasure at Scone was the Stone of Scone upon which the early Kings of Scotland were crowned. When Edward I of England carried off the Stone of Scone to Westminster Abbey in 1296, the Coronation Chair that still stands in the abbey was specially made to fit over it. Robert the Bruce was crowned at Scone in 1306 and the last coronation was of Charles II, when he accepted the Scottish crown in 1651. The Stone of Scone is now in Edinburgh Castle (Historic Scotland) along with the Scottish regalia."

our next stop was glamis castle, but we didn't really spend any substantial amount of time  there. because we were working our way to.....

this place. 

dunnottar castle. 

ruins, actually. this was what i wanted to see while we were in scotland. ruins on cliffs and the ocean. oh the ocean. 

i felt like we could have left at this point. i was so happy. 

we spent a few hours walking around and just breathing the sea air. it was incredible.

day 3, we decided, there wasn't much that could top the previous day. so we decided to take it easy, and we headed to the town of portabello. which is by the sea. ooooh the sea....

yes, bella. i agree.

the rest of the day was spent doing the tourist thing-we checked out edinburgh castle, shopped at some shops, ate some good food and took some pictures.

and then we ran against this:

the cafe where j.k. rowling wrote the first harry potter. yeah. it was no diagon alley, but it was still pretty cool. 

day 4, we took a car, to a train, to a train, to a plane, to a train, to a train, to a car to our home sweet bed. it was an amazing 9 days of travel. 

joel's family came back with us to spend the next 4 days hanging out and loving on my babies. it all went too fast. 

finally, we hit halloween, and only just got to experience it!  

cora was a precious little sully wazowski. no, i am not confused. i got this random monster costume at the exchange, and all the dads around the neighborhood were like, "what an awesome monster. monster, inc. right?" 

yep. sully wazowski. 

and then there was bella. this year marks the second year where bella has had a costume and at the 11th hour, i made her something completely different. this year, i was worried she would freeze to death in the little cat costume we picked out. especially considering the fur was falling off and it wasn't even out of the package yet.

so she became the (warmest) cutest little lady bug i could whip up in 2 hours the night before halloween. 

scary little babies.

happy october. merry christmas. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

(paleo friendly) crockpot fajitas

i like to eat. like, a lot. and i really like food that is yummy. 

unfortunately, eating lots of yummy food often does not equal a flattering pant size. 

now that cora is one, (wait, cora is one?!?!) i feel like i can no longer use the "i just had a baby" bit. 

so last week, feeling overly bloated and like i never wanted to wear pants that didn't have an elastic waistband, i decided enough was enough. we eat pretty cleanly, for the record. but it isn't always belly friendly. 

also, a lot of my cooking happens to be in the form of crockpot cooking. mostly because 5pm is prime meltdown time, and if i throw a bunch of healthy stuff in a crock pot, then i'm less likely to make a bad choice for dinner, grabbing something fast. 

i've done some crockpot freezer meals in the past, and i love them. but lately i have even gotten too lazy to prepare ahead. so, out of necessity (read: laziness) i have devised some meals that are so ridiculously easy and healthy, that it should be a crime. they also happen to be well loved by my 2 little people, so yay me!

Crockpot Fajitas

(edit** i definitely had this as chicken fajitas. they are not. though you could make them with chicken!)

(I didn't make this up, really. but i have made it my own.)

1 package of beef for fajitas (i used about 1 1/2 pounds, but that wasn't really enough for us)
taco mix*
~1/4 cup water
1-2 red peppers, sliced
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 bunch romaine lettuce
cheese (optional as a topping)

-put beef in the bottom of the crockpot.
-sprinkle taco mix* over beef
- add water
-add red pepper and onions
-cover and cook on low 6-8 hours

once it's dinner time, cut the end off the bunch of lettuce, and use each leaf as a shell. 

*taco mix: I make my own. part of that whole, "not using processed/packaged" stuff, and honestly, i like it way better than any store bought one anyway, and it's cheaper. so win win win!

1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayanne pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp sea salt
mix it all together. if you make double (or triple) you can store in a shaker or airtight container. 

**guacamole: i also make my own guacamole. i don't claim that it is authentic or even the best tasting, but i love it and it's easy. 

1 (or 2, if you are making a lot) avocado
1 tomato, diced
1/2 an onion, chopped (i usually use half an onion here and put the other half in the meat mixture, so i use 1 whole onion instead of having any left over)
lime juice
chopped cilantro (you can use fresh or the seasoning kind)
sea salt

-roll avocado around on the counter (this helps separate the flesh from the meat). slice it open, remove the core and scrape out the meat. 
-add chopped tomato and onion.
-stir until well incorporated and to desired consistency. 
-add salt, lime juice and cilantro, to taste. 

ta da! 

bella ate 4 small lettuce leafs filled with fajitas, and asked for more (i would have let her eat more but it was all gone!) and cora ate a bit and asked for more too! so, this is going to become a meal we prepare more often. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

the month of october. part 1

we have been busy. life has been rushing around us and things have not slowed down. sometimes, i like that. right now, i have a rare quiet moment.

joel has taken both girls to church, and left me home to rest. he said, "church is a place of healing. you should go. we can pray for you. or you can keep your sickness to yourself and we can still pray for you." i thought that was a good idea. 

october completely disappeared off of my radar, and i feel like i almost missed halloween. october is usually my favorite month of all, and this one was no exception, just not exactly the way i generally like to spend it-making things out of pumpkin, make pumpkin crafts, pumpkinpumpkinpumpkin. for the record, it is not punkin. and watching cheesy halloween movies. like halloweentown 1-4 and hocus pocus and burnign pumpkin and apple candles and covering my house in leaves. that kind of stuff. 

this october, we were hardly home and when we were we weren't really, because we had visitors. so a quick recap of our manic october....and go....

my grandma and my cousin came to visit! 

on their first night here, we took them to volksfest, which is the second largest beer festival in the world, behind munich's oktoberfest. 

that whole week was a whirlwind of going and seeing and doing! we saw the largest cuckoo clock in germany and went to daschau, a former concentration camp, and hung out in munich until a crazy lady followed us around screaming about how cora was going to freeze to death. that was....interesting, to say the very least. especially since it was like 60 degrees, and she was wearing 3 layers of clothes. but that's a story for another time.

a day after my family left, we hopped a plane for LONDON!! i have been wanting to go to london for as long as i can remember, so this was basically a trip of a lifetime for me. 

i'll try to contain myself to 5 points on why this trip was amazeballs.

1. they speaka my language. yes, i said it. my favorite thing about london was quite possibly that i knew what everyone was saying! i didn't realize how much my brain ached constantly living here until it didn't all of a sudden. i think i was probably more pleasant over the week we were in the UK than i have been in the last year+. don't get me wrong, i LOVE germany. but it was like watching a 3d movie for a year and then taking off the glasses. my brain just got a chance to rest. i understood street signs without having to think too hard, i could communicate EXACTLY what i was trying to say, and could even hang out and talk to other parents at the playground without feeling like i was going to say "your child looks like a donkey" instead of "what a cute kid". 

2. two words. harry potter. i am a little embarrassed to admit that. i mean, london is so full of history and all that amazing stuff (which will be my next point!), but seeing all of the harry potter sights made me giddy like a little girl. 

which may be why this picture almost made me cry. bless my sweet husband for taking it. but seriously, take like 500 pictures. and zoom in! and call bella! i had to stand in line for this! i almost bought the picture in the gift shop but for £8 (which is about $12!) i hoped seriously that the free picture on my ipad would suffice. that's ok. when their official photographer took the picture, that other guy threw the scarf in the air and we jumped and it looked like we were.....well...jumping in the air holding onto a cart halfway in the wall. it was still fun. 

also, if you are a HP fan and going to london and don't want to pay for a tour, 

Send an email to 

write something in the body and the subject (like, i want the free tour please!) and they will auto reply back with a download of a self guided walking tour pdf that you can print and highlight, laminate and hole punch, then carry around and force your family to follow you. i'm not saying that happened. 

3. HISTORY!!! this is the common thread of all the things i love about europe. the history is so rich and full. and disturbing. seriously. some strange crap happened in europe...beheadings and torture and something called "hung, drawn and quartered" which i did not need to hear about....3 times. england had a sick sense of entertainment, and honestly, people who think our reality tv show addiction is sick need to take a history class. it could be much worse. 

but every cobblestone and every corner has a million stories. and i just loved it. in each city we have visited, one of the first things we do is take a free walking tour, given by this company. it is free, they just ask that you tip the amount you felt it was worth. they are thorough and entertaining, and honestly, better than any paid tour we have been on. on our london tour, we hit westminster abbey, parliament and big ben (where we learned how the bell got it's name and that big ben does not refer to the tower, but the bell!), and buckingham palace, among other really cool places.

4. double decker buses and red phone booths! why? i don't know. maybe because they SCREAM london (apparently, they scream "the uk!" because they are also in scotland....) and i am totally a nerd who got my picture with both! 

5. the arts! (that are in a language i understand!) from Shakespeare to sherlock holmes, to all of the theatres (we stayed in the west end, behind The Old Vic-where james earl jones and venessa redgrave were starring in much ado about nothing, and across the street from a pub called The Stage Door), i was pleasantly surprised how steeped in the arts london was. that may sound like i have been living on another planet my whole life. i mean, i knew london had a big art scene, i just didn't realize how big. it was like walking through a small NYC. 
Shakespears's Globe Theatre

i know i said i would stop at 5, but.....well....i just loved it too much. but i will keep it simple! pictures! yay! 

The walkability of the city is GREATLY enhanced by these. everywhere. it tells you where you are, what is within a 5 minute walk and is oriented to the things around it. and they are EVERYWHERE. they are brilliant. we were never lost (we don't get lost a lot, but will occasionally miss things or go the long way) and i think we we able to see more because we would be standing next to something really awesome, and could look on the map and figure out what it was (aka the back side of westminster abbey!) 
at the end of a particularly crazy day (both girls were in tears for the majority of the morning, and it rained big fat rain drops for 3 hours, during our walking tour), we were walking back home (2 blocks from the london eye, mind you!) and passed this. we had been telling bella she couldn't ride it because we had places to go, but we were going home, so we stopped and we all got on. as the sun set over the thames, we rode round and round, giggling partly at the absurdity of the day and partly at the fact that we all looked like we had just been rescued from a sewer. it was a magical moment that was completely unplanned. 

this was way cooler than i even thought it would be. on our last day, we did the "queen's walk" from the eye to the tower bridge, then crossed it, to the tower of london, and then took a water taxi back to the eye. it was all just fun. 

very easily bella's favorite thing. every time we walked passed it (every day) bella would say, "can we do the eye again!?!?!"

we were in the UK for 9 days total, and spent 4 in London. on the 5th day of our trip, we hopped on a train to Edinburgh. this post is long enough for now, so i think it has just become a 2 parter. stay tuned!