Sweet Sweet Santorini.

Pin It I have always wanted to go there.  You know, you see that photo with the white cliff side villages, blue dome churches, with a pink sunset and a clear blue sea backdrop, and you think someday I will go there.  Well, we just got back from there....
...and it was everything I dreamed of.  
 I was a little worried it wouldn't live up to the hype, but it did.  Santorini is my Favorite. Place. Ever. (besides White Lake).

Waking up to this view is easy to get used to.  The infinity pool was right outside our small apartment's door.  Perfect for travelling with Charlie!
Yes, we took our 8 week old son, Charlie, to Greece and I am pretty sure he loved it as much as I did.  Most people thought I was crazy when I told them, but we had a surprisingly relaxing vacation and Charlie did really well.  We figure the sooner he gets used to travelling, the easier it will be, and so far we are on the right track.
Thanks to the Phil and Ted's Traveller (which packs up to the size of a carry on), Charlie was able to hang pool side in the shade while we swam and relaxed in the loungers.  The housekeeper, Saba, loved little Charlie.  Greeks love babies and we felt welcome everywhere we went.
In fact, I think travelling with Charlie made our experience more exciting, because everywhere we went locals started conversations with us.  While shopping I learned so much about Greek culture from the locals (who would have thought?).  Did you know that Greeks spit on babies to bring them good luck?  No one actually spat on Charlie... but we got so many well wishes for him to have a happy and healthy life.  Even the men love babies.

My parents joined us on the trip, which made things a lot easier.  I don't think the trip would have been nearly as relaxing had it been just the three of us.  It helped that Charlie had four people to nap on.

We spent the first few days of our vacation in Perissa at the beach (see Charlie napping on Grandpa and Dad above). He brings relaxation to another level.  If only I could be as relaxed as that guy!

On our way to Oia (where we spent most of our time), we stopped at the Santorini Brewing Company, a micro brewery which just opened up in 2011.   On our way to the brewery we were a little lost, but ran into the Crazy Donkey Van. Follow that van!
Though there is no formal tour, they are happy to show you around the brewery and give you generous tastes of each of their beers (they were out of yellow donkey when we were there - but we did get to try it at a restaurant in Oia).  We tasted the Red Donkey and Crazy Donkey and both were pretty kick ass.  I think everyone's favorite was the Crazy.  Not surprising, since we are all a bunch of crazies! We bought some extra to enjoy at our hotel. We would have brought some back to Belgium- but the beer isn't pasteurized and needs to stay cold.
Thanks to Grammy and Grampy, Paul and I were able to get out sans bebe for a hike from Fira (the capital of Santorini) to Oia (the village we were staying in).  It was about a 3 hour hike along the caldera with incredible views.  At times there was sea on both sides of us.  This walk is a must do if going to Santorini.
We spent the rest of our days lounging poolside.....
...and enjoying Greek cuisine (which I have a new appreciation for!).  Tomato Balls recipe coming soon.
 Greek salads in Greece are amazing, but the most amazingly different tasting of all is the Greek Yogurt. So creamy and delicious, add a little honey and you have dessert.  I will forever dream of that Greek Yogurt...and Santorini.

Santorini we will miss you.

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Sweet Potato Falafel Ball Salad

Pin It For those of you who love sweet potatoes and love falafels, this is for you.  This here, is the good stuff.  It's funny, because a few years ago, I don't think you could have gotten me to eat a falafel. I wasn't a big fan of chickpeas (or trying new things) in general and I was pretty afraid of hummus.  In fact, I think the only sauces I would eat were ketchup and ranch.  Oh how my world has expanded and I have fallen in love with the chickpea and all its splendor (and lots of other things, too - I am still working on seafood though).

Every time I think of Falafels I think of Paris, and if you haven't been to L'As du Fallafel, put it on the bucket list.  It is that good.... and you can visit Paris on the side (bonus!)!  Well, this salad isn't quite L'As du Fallafel,  it is a delicious and healthy alternative (or you can try my Falafel Inspired Veggie Burger).
This salad was filling and a perfect way to spice up my post-baby salad a day plan.  I realized after a few days on the "regimen", I needed a salad with some oomph, or I would be snacking on chips an hour later (kind of defeats the whole purpose, hey?).  Breastfeeding makes a gal hungry and now is not the time to go on a diet.  Eat healthy, yes, but limit myself and feel famished (small exaggeration), no.  This salad will leave you full and satisfied.
I topped mine with a homemade tzatziki, but think tahini or hummus and tzatziki combined would be even better.  Yes, top falafels with hummus.  One can never have too many chickpeas.
Eat, Enjoy and brainstorm about what to do with 3/4 head of purple cabbage or plan a trip to L'As du Fallafel.  Ideas?

Falafel Ball Salad (as adapted from My New Roots)
Makes 15 balls

3 small sweet potatoes (mine were pretty small, if you have medium size, use 2, and large, use 1)
1 jar of chickpeas
1 egg
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions
2 t cumin
Juice of half a lemon
3/4 c whole wheat bread crumbs
salt and pepper
sesame seeds (for rolling balls in)

Pierce holes in sweet potatoes with a fork.  Bake at 400 for ~30 minutes or until softened.  Let cool.  Peel and put flesh in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Mix egg and chickpeas in a blender until fairly smooth with some small bits.  Combine in mixing bowl.  Add cilantro, yellow onion, green onion, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, bread crumbs and salt and pepper.  Mix.  Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes (this will make the ball forming process easier).  Form into balls.  If it is too mushy, you can add more bread crumbs but I found 3/4 cup was sufficient.  Roll in sesame seeds.  Bake for 30 minutes at 400.  Top them on a salad.


1/2 head lettuce ( your choice)
1/4 head purple cabbage, chopped
1-2 carrots, shredded
1 red pepper

Combine all ingredients.  Top with Falafel balls and Tzatziki or Tahini Sauce.  Serve immediately.

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Blueberry Peach Salad

Pin It Well, a lot has happened since my last post, namely Charlie was born.  He graced us with his presence one week and one day late, on July 22 and nothing has been the same since!

I have been pretty much AWOL this entire pregnancy.  Hey - I was growing a human, that's some tiring work.  Then after growing him, taking care of him happened and that is even more tiring.  Now that he is nearly 6 weeks old, I have decided to get back in the saddle and do some recipe blogging again (and soon travelling- WOO HOO!).  Hopefully I can get the creative juices flowing, because during pregnancy I didn't really have any (creative juices, or energy for that matter) and ate a lot of same old, easy dishes and Domino's Pizza and cake and ice cream and chips.  So my cravings weren't the most healthy (nor energizing).  I have to add that I ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, but this was in addition to lots of junk.  Now that I lost my excuse to eat like crap -I am a pregnant lady- give me what I want NOW (which actually sounds really bad), it is time to clean up my act.

To start, I am replacing one meal per day with a salad.  We generally eat a lot of salad, but as a side dish in addition to the pasta or frozen pizza.  But, now I am cutting out that pizza or pasta, at least for one meal per day.  It's not too bold, but it's a start.  To prevent boredom, I am going to have to mix up my salad eating a lot.  No more lettuce, cuc, and tomato only salads (I will still eat them, I just won't blog about it).  It's time to experiment with some new fruits and veggies and homemade dressing concoctions.
Onto the delicious salad creation we enjoyed this afternoon with the end of the season's blueberries and peaches.

Blueberry Peach Salad

1 head red leaf lettuce
1 c blueberries
1 peach
1/2 cucumber
1-2 T pumpkin seeds
Goat Cheese (as much as you desire)

2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 T Balsamic Vinegar
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 T Pure Maple Syrup
a dash of salt

Combine Viniagrette ingredients and refrigerate.  Combine salad ingredients.  Top with vinaigrette before serving.

Bon Appetit!

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Lisbon, Portugal: Babymoon Part I

Pin It To kick off our babymoon, Paul and I jumped on a plane to Faro, Portugal, where we then jumped in a car and headed to the oldest city in Western Europe, Lisbon, Portugal.  Lisbon is a beautiful city, which (in parts) still has that old town feel, something not a lot of big European cities still have....
Starting with the vintage trams that connect the city.  It is mandatory, when in Lisbon, to take the famous Tram 28.  Unfortunately, as this is not a little known secret the tram is pretty packed (like Portuguese sardines).  I suggest to take it later in the day, after the cruise ships have left and you might have better luck snagging a seat.  Fortunately for me, the Portuguese are very kind to pregnant woman, and the second I walked on a mother and child scooted together so I could share their seat with them (I have yet to see this kind of courtesy on the Brussels Metro).
As people cleared out, we got a chance to sit together.

Showing it's Moorish influence, its still common to see buildings covered in mosaic azulejos or tiles.  The ones shown below, are typical Moorish fashion, consisting of geometric shapes.  Some of the facades can get really fancy, as shown here in this post of Lisbon Lux Magazines most beautiful facades.  I think I prefer the geometric shapes.
No where in Lisbon feels as original as the typical Alfama district.  This is where the streets are still small enough that one needs to walk single file, where the houses could be too small to contain a shower and you will meet your neighbors in the public showers nearby (talk about getting to know your neighbors!), where people use laundry-mats from a different time (without washers and dryers, shown below), and where everyone knows your name.  Our guide José, from Lisbon Chill Out Tours, showed to us the real Alfama.  As we walked through the area, he greeted everyone, it seemed by name and explained to us the ins and outs of the area.  We even (well not me) got to try some homemade Ginja (a Portuguese licquor made of sour cherries) from Tina, a woman who sells her homemade concoction outside her living room window in the Alfama district for one euro.
We spent the afternoon walking around Lisbon with  José.  Not only did he show us the Alfama district, but he showed us the main non-tourist attractions Lisbon has to offer, sometimes taking us back in time, by having us close our eyes and painting a picture for us.  At one time, I felt like I was really at the Onion field market, being introduced to an onion for the first time as an adult, eyes watering, wondering what this strange item is (as this is how items from all over the world were introduced to the people of Lisbon hundreds of years ago).  If you are in Lisbon and want to see the sights from the perspective of a local, I highly recommend Lisbon Chill Out Tours!
Stay tuned for our day trips to Sintra & Cascais from Lisbon or check out how we spent the second half of our babymoon glamping in the South of Portugal at the Yurt!

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Life's Better at the Yurt - Glamping in the Algarve

Pin It I was never much of a camper.  Sure, I went camping once a year as a kid with my grandparents (and always had a blast), but after that I did my best to avoid it.  I am not sure why.  Maybe it's the fact that I hate waking up in a hot and sticky tent or sleeping on the hard cold ground.  Or maybe it's just that I am a true cottage girl.  A cozy bed, a beautiful lake, lounging in the hammock.  That, to me, is relaxation.  Well, I have to say my eyes have been opened to a new form of camping, Glamping.  Paul and I went glamping in the Algarve for our "baby moon" and let's just say we were two three happy glampers.

We have been doing our best to be more kind to Mother Nature, but one of our big downfalls is the amount of travelling we do.  Thankfully there are places like the Eco-Lodge Brejeira in Southern Portugal, where you can have a relaxing and eco-friendly holiday.  It's like having my cake and eating it, too (and lately I have been a big fan of cake).
How about waking up to this view right outside your yurt door?  Not another soul in sight.  Just you, your book, your coffee and the sunny blue skies of the Algarve.  Yes, it's that simple.  Life was better at the yurt.  And I am having trouble adjusting to reality.
This was our home for the three nights we spent in the Algarve.  The authentically decorated yurt (with a comfy bed!), an outdoor mini kitchen perfect for al fresco dining, a deck with a spectacular view of the hills and valleys, and an outdoor shower (also with a view) just for us.
Every morning our friendly hosts, Claire and Sander (who live in a yurt on the property), brought breakfast to our yurt. Breakfast consisted of fresh breads, homemade fig jam, honey from the region, yogurt, muesli, fresh fruit, special cheeses and ham, fresh squeezed OJ (which may have been the best I ever had) and fresh coffee.  You see why adjusting to reality is hard after a few nights at the Eco-Lodge?!  Not to mention the view we were dining with.  Please forgive me in advance if I mention the view one more time.
When we weren't hanging at the yurt, we were out exploring the rugged beaches of the Southwestern coast of Portugal. It was beach weather everyday. In. Love. With. Portugal. <3  (and the views!)
Paul took a surfing lesson.  Check out that mean up dog.  Yowza!   Who knew?!  I spent some time reading and walking on the beach.  Unfortunately, no surfing (or attempting to surf) for me and Charlie.

I am seriously considering living in a yurt, just not sure I can handle it in Wisconsin?  In the mean time, I will look for more yurts to stay in and glamp.  The Eco-Lodge Brejeira was truly glamping at it's finest.  A big thanks to our hosts, Claire and Sander!  We'll be back! Pin It


Istanbul - Not Constantinople

Pin It A few weeks ago we took a long weekend trip to Istanbul.  It's been on our list for a while, and we were in the mood for a different kind of travel experience.  We arrived to some rainy conditions but made the most of it and because of the rain, took in a lot of the sites (much more than usual, which was actually great because Istanbul is like no other place we have ever been before).  We started with the Blue Mosque.  I think it was the first time I have ever actually been in a mosque and this one was beautiful.  I was surprised at its beauty, maybe because I didn't do a whole lot of research and wasn't sure what to expect.
The detail was incredible and like usual, pictures don't do it justice.  The Blue Mosque is not just a tourist attraction, there were many people praying while we were there.
The only negative was visiting on a very wet day with soaking wet socks, as you must take your shoes off out of respect.  It smelled a little like wet feet, but its beauty made up for it.  I had some trouble getting my shoes back on in the rush of leaving the mosque - the big belly kind of gets in the way.....

Afterwards we enjoyed some amazing Turkish Moussaka.  And that tortilla thing... I don't know how they do it.  Light, fluffy, delicious.  Turkish cuisine is nommm nommmmmm.

The next day, we hoped for better weather, but had no such luck.  We started the day off by checking out the Basilica Cistern, which was also quite impressive.  The Cistern was built in the 6th century and was used to supply and store fresh water.  Walking through the Cistern, you realize what a marvel it was for its time (and still is!).
Here is where I made Paul dress up like a sultan so we could get a photo as sultan and sultana... normally I don't fall for this kind of stuff, but I couldn't resist!

It was still raining so we went to the Hagia Sophia.  This was also very interesting because at one point in time it was an Orthodox Church, then later converted into a Mosque and is now a museum.  You can see the influences of Christianity and Islam as you walk through the museum.  Many of the old frescoes from when it was an Orthodox Church were actually preserved when they were covered by plaster when it was turned into a Mosque.  You can see influences from both periods in the photo below.

See what I mean?  We did a lot of sight seeing.

Next stop was the Spice Market.  I had planned on buying some spices and tea......
 but only bought Turkish Delight (the special Turkish Candy).  Oops!
We headed over the Galata Bridge to the New part of town for some St. Patty's Celebrations.  Lots of fisherman were out on the bridge, waiting for their catch of the day.

Then we found on of the only Irish pubs in Istanbul that had a pretty awesome 12 piece band on a tiny stage.

The next day, the sun was shining and we took a boat cruise on the Bosphorus Strait, that connects European Istanbul to Asian Istanbul.

A view of the New Mosque (I think), the Galata Bridge and the European side:
A view of the bridge to Asia:

Finally, we made a stop at the Grand Bazaar.....
and bought nothing!  What kind of girl am I?

The next day before our flight we spent some time walking around some parks near our hotel and I got my boots shined!  First time they have been shined in a year and a half!
I think you can see the difference:
In front of the Hagia Sophia
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A Short Weekend in Berlin!

Pin It A couple weeks ago we took a little road trip to spend a short weekend in Berlin.  Let me just tell you straight out, a short weekend trip to Berlin will not cut it.  A long weekend trip to Berlin won't cut it either.  There is so much history, so much to do, so much to see, we needed more time.  But, we definitely enjoyed the time we spent while there.  It's not a beautiful historic old city as you typically see in Europe, due to the fact that most of it was destroyed in the War, which was then followed by an era of communism in half the city.  You definitely see the lasting effect.  However, the city is now booming with awesome places to go, a bounty of interesting museums, a cool culture and loads of history right in front of you.

When we got there we headed to the Museum of Topography of Terror.  Located at the actual Gestapo and SS headquarters site, which have since been destroyed mostly by Allied bombings in 1945.  The museum focuses on the timeline of the reign of the Nazi and SS through pictures and documented facts.  It shows you the effects of the Nazi reign all through out Europe.  The museum was so well set up and you could easily spend a few hours there (as we did).

The next day we had the best breakfast I have ever had in Europe.  So it is an American Style breakfast, but sometimes cold cuts and bread just won't cut it.  This hungry momma wanted some pancakes!  Enter Berlin's California Breakfast Slam.
Yes, in the right hand corner that says "Hugs are Free" and "Death to Hoity-Toities."  There is also a section on the menu which explains some unfortunate events if you are not respectful to your wait staff.  So, be nice. Oh and you see above, an Asian Tiger Mom Housewife is on the menu for 90 Euro, seems like a steal to me.

While an Asian Tiger Mom Housewife sounds interesting, I was in pancake mode, and pancakes I had.  Saturday and Sunday at the Breakfast Slam.
Now, this California Breakfast Slam comes highly recommended and even made CNN's list of Best American Restaurants in Europe.   Paul had an amazing Egg white omelette, stuffed with mushrooms, tomatoes and Parmesan and some mystery spices that made it one of the most exciting omelettes ever.  Try that with a side of home fried potatoes topped with fried goat cheese and we are in business.  Nom nom.
Now, the next day (Yes, we went back for round 2, it's not everywhere you can find a breakfast like this!), may have even been better, but I forgot to take photos.  This time our friend Bruce came with us.  I had Banana Walnut pancakes (this pregnancy has me all about anything cake related!), Paul had Huevos Rancheros, and Bruce, who is not so into breakfast had the Chilequiles... mmmmmm.

Just to note if you are planning on heading to the Breakfast Slam while you are in Berlin, it's a good idea to make reservations by email (check out their facebook page, link above).  While Saturday we were able to easily get a seat, Sunday they squeezed us in but you might not be so lucky.

Recommended for: Anyone craving a delicious home-style American breakfast
Not Recommended for: Hoity-Toities (you know who you are)

After we filled our bellies with fluffy pancakes and flavorful omelettes day 1 at the Breakfast Slam, we headed back downtown to jump on the  New Europe Free Tour.  Now, I have been on several of these tours throughout Europe and have never seen so many people.  Unfortunately they didn't have enough staff, and being so relaxed getting there we were a little late and ended up being turned away.  My advice to you, if you are planning on doing the New Europe Free Tour, get there early!  At least 15 minutes, so you ensure you get on the tour.

While I was pretty dissappointed, to not get on the general tour, there were a few other tours starting at the time and we decided to join the Red Berlin Tour with David.  This tour was absolutely fascinating, and if you have some extra time in Berlin, I would highly recommend it.  This tour obviously, focuses on communism in Berlin, the set up of the Berlin Wall, stories of Berliners still alive today who lived through it (after all, the wall only came down in 1989), and many tragic stories of how the wall effected the Berliners lives.  It gives you a glimpse of what Communism life was like in East Berlin.  Shown below is a Memorial to the people who lost their lives trying to escape from East Berlin to West Berlin.

One of the coolest parts of the tour was seeing the East Side Gallery, which turned the former Berlin Wall into a canvas for artists all around the world.
Known as My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love, or Fraternal Kiss, is one of the most famous paintings on the Berlin Wall.  

After we checked out the East Side Gallery it was time to catch a film at the International Film Festival, Side Effects, which pretty much sums up our awesome weekend in Berlin.

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