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HEY LOOK, KIDS, THERE’S BIG BEN, AND THERE’S PARLIAMENT

National Lampoon’s European Vacation is one of my favorite movies. I had it in the back of my mind during my recent trip to Europe. My sister and I always compare our family to the Griswold’s. Every time we take a family trip, anywhere, something silly happens. Although this trip was for work, I carried on the tradition. The week was packed. We were in London, Geneva, Zurich, Milan, and Munich.

London was great, after I got through the anxiety of having no sleep and finding out my son had got the stomach bug. It felt like literally everything I was worried about happening that week, happened. It was my first time away from my son for so long. I have to admit I was dreading that part the most. I’m anxious when I’m hone and he gets sick, but being so far away, was terrible. But, he was fine, my husband did great. The day was full of meetings, but the best part was the last meeting of the day. We were in Shepherd’s Market at L’ETO. I got what was literally the best iced tea I’ve ever had. The café was the perfect vibe and I was totally in my element. If I could have spent all day there, I would have.

We left for Geneva that evening and arrived late. I will say, the hotel situation on Sunday night was not great. I was absolutely exhausted, but Geneva did not disappoint. The hotel was beautiful and if you are ever in Geneva and are looking for a great place to stay. I loved Switzerland. It was so beautiful. Our time in Geneva was short, but I loved being there. Even if it was just for a day.

That afternoon we traveled to Zurich. We stay at Motel One, which is super funky.  We found an awesome spot to grab dinner and I would highly recommend. Di Gioia Cafe is a small spot with amazing food. An absolute must while you are there is Sprungli. Literally the best chocolate. Zurich is absolutely stunning. It’s so picturesque and lovely. Absolutely lovely. I could have stayed there the rest of the week. But, you know, heading to Milan next was an “ok you twisted my arm, I’ll leave” moment. We took a train from Zurich to Milan. The view, some of which is pictured below, is breathtaking. I wish I could have gotten better shots, but it’s so hard from the train. If you are ever traveling to Italy, definitely go for the train.

Milan, I mean what can I even say about Milan. It was certainly a highlight of the trip. The landscape is so beautiful and the food. It’s every foodies dream. Sometimes when I travel I like to play it safe and eat things that are normal for me, but this trip I let go a bit. I had venison in Geneva, a lot of raw fish in Milan, and a traditional meal in Oktoberfest. All of which did not disappoint. But back to Milan. There are so many things to take pictures of while you’re there. I was fairly isolated to the inner circle of the city, but even that was plenty to keep me occupied for the short time I had. I would love to go back and visit again.

The last stop of the trip was Munich. We attended Oktoberfest which I have to admit I Was nervous about yet pleasantly surprised. I was out of my element, for sure, but I was ok with that. With the week starting out so stressful, I just sort of let myself let go of that for a bit and just relax and take it all in. We got to wear the traditional dress, and get the full experience. Honestly, I think it’s something you would want to experience at least once. I’m glad it’s checked off the bucket list. The trip was great but I’m so happy to be home and get back into the normal groove. I will be posting some fun recipes this week so be sure to stop back!

The Morales Family Takes Over Cape Cod

You may have noticed, I gave myself a week off of blogging. For a very good reason…vacation! I intended to share some thing throughout the week, but we were having so much fun it was difficult to get everything posted. Quite honestly, unplugging (mostly) for the week was much needed. I wish I could have unplugged more, but such is life, right? Regardless, we had some much needed rest and bonus, we came home to an updated kitchen! While we were gone we completed the final step to the kitchen upgrade. Our cabinets are now white (dove white to be exact). It looks much brighter and happier, and I have to admit, so do I! Back to the vacation. We head to the Cape every year. We’ve been doing this for a few years now. We have family that lives out there, so it’s always great to take the trip and spend time with them. Anthony loves being out there and I look forward to it every single year. This year, I did some research and took some recommendations and we had a blast. The weather was perfect. IT was cool, sunny, and absolutely perfect. It rained in the morning the day we left, so we had to leave a bit later than we planned…..darn.

The first day we went to the Cape Cod Lavender Farm. It was something I found last year, and for whatever reason we didn’t make it out. This year, it was the perfect weekend activity. It’s a great outdoor activity. I kick myself because we wore sandals, so there was only so much we could check out. We wanted to visit the Chatham Pier on Saturday, but weekends. There was so much traffic after driving by the lot what felt like a million times, we changed plans. But, it worked out because the Lavender farm is basically hidden in this little paradise in the woods and not many people are there at once. It’s so peaceful. If we had sneakers, we would have walked more paths. There are some great hiking spots surrounding the farm.

 

There is a little enchanted garden where we spent a bit of time. Anthony had so many questions about the fairy castle and all the little decorations people have left over time. We added a few of our own, like pine cones and rocks. There were also a few painted rocks with fun little messages. It could have been all the lavender surrounding, but my god it was peaceful there. The cottage is cute, there sell some oil and other awesome things. I wanted to buy pretty much everything, but I didn’t. It’s absolutely free to visit too! The walking paths were a bit sandy, it is the Cape after all. Sneakers are highly recommended if you want to do some walking and I regret not bringing ours along just in case. Lesson learned! But, nevertheless, it was a super fun little spot to visit.

 

 

That evening we went to see some fireworks in West Dennis. I mean fireworks on the beach, who could say no to that? We weren’t able to hit the beach where the actual fireworks were held, which ended up working out beautifully for us! Because my husband is literally the best navigator in the world, he suggested another spot that we should check out to set up camp and watch the fireworks. We were not the only ones with this brilliant idea. We set up camp and waited for the show. It was so relaxing sitting there, literally in the sand, waiting for dusk. It was chilly, so no mosquitoes! We missed the July 4th fireworks this year, so this was a great substitute. It was also Anthony’s first fireworks. It was the perfect first time experience. We were close enough to see them, but far enough away where the sound was muted. He loved it! Despite the anticipation (aka complaining) before they started he had a great time and fell asleep immediately once we got in the car. When we got home a neighbor happened to have a rather large fireworks display that we got to watch from our deck. Anthony was yelling “I love this!” so I’d consider that a successful experience.

 

The next day we hit the beach for a bit. It was sunny, but cool. Literally perfect for someone like me who hates hot hot weather. When I Say Anthony loved it, it is a complete understatement. He did not want to leave. Literally he was so happy to lay directly in the sand and cover himself in it. Skaket Beach is the perfect beach for a little one who is unsure of the water. Also, there were no sharks (yay!). Basically when the tide is out, you can walk for what appears to be an eternity in water that is ankle deep, mid calf at times. We found some hermit crabs and snails, we visited the oyster cages, and took a nice long walk. We obviously had to make a sand castle and play some beach games. We swam a bit. Anthony preferred the spots where he could lay in the sand and let the waves come up. We tried to go a little deeper but he was scared. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan myself, so I was happy to oblige and stay in the shallower spots.

 

We hit the Chatham Pier and Fish Market early in the week. We figured a weekday would be less crowded….. but not so much. The pier itself is not crowded, but the parking lot is crazy. We found a spot on a side street which was perfect. The pier was a recommendation and I’m so glad we made it. It’s really cool to see the fishing boats drive by. Also, the seals there waiting for fresh fish is the coolest thing. They basically perform for the visitors to the pier doing flips and being adorable. They come up close and almost beg for fish. Unfortunately we didn’t see any boats come in with fish they caught, but apparently it’s quite a sight. We also tried out the fish market. I mean trying fish that is literally caught right there was a no brainer. We shared a main dish so we could get some soup. I would HIGHLY recommend the lobster bisque if you ever visit.

 

On our last full day, we had to hit the beach one more time. This time we went there looking for shells and cool rocks. Anthony insisted on making another sand castle, so we did that too. It was a perfectly overcast, breezy day. There was no one really there because it was so cold, but perfect for us! We explored treasures and made a really cool castle. I literally had to carry Anthony away from the because because he did not want to leave. Thankfully his aunt had the genius idea to race him to the car, which helped, until we got in the car and he let us know how sad he was about leaving the because the entire…ride…..home.

 

 

So it’s safe to say this was one great trip. We all had a fantastic time and were pretty sad to leave. But coming home to an updated kitchen was worth pulling ourselves away from the beach. If you are not following me on social media, be sure to check out my Instagram page. I’ll be sharing some photos of the kitchen, before and after transformations. We did this in phases, so I’ll have to dig up some of those earlier pictures to share the full picture. Starting Wednesday, I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled food posts. The benefit of visiting family is getting to eat in and talking about great recipes. I mean vacationing with not one but two chefs…. there is inspiration to be had. But as the summer’s end nears, we are shifting focus on eating more at home and making things a bit healthier. We’ve had some successes this week and I’m so excited to share some of the best recipes with you!

Back to School Haul

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I’m so excited to share this haul with you. I can’t help but feel that excitement/nervousness as we are in the back to school season. Thankfully, Anthony is still in daycare, but we are getting ready for a new classroom. It’s also a busier time of year. While I’m a food blogger and I do enjoy cooking/baking, there are times when you just need something simple. I love the Annie’s Homegrown products. If I can’t make it myself, this is definitely a product that I do not feel bad about giving my son. While this post is not sponsored, we simply love the product, I’d love to do a sponsored post about this. We love them that much!
Now we’ve been a bit under the weather here. My son got a cold a couple weeks ago, which mu husband got…..then me. Now it appears the little one is getting it again, or perhaps this thing is just lingering, but we needed a treat this weekend. Like seriously needed a treat. I’ve been taking vitamin D, drinking my spa water, taking Elderberry, ginger turmeric tea, you name it. But, I needed a comfort that was quick and tasty. So these cookies were it. So easy and my son got to help so win win!
Check out our video to see the rest of the goodies we got last week!

Spa Water

 

As my son always says: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. This water is something else. I love infused water. I’ve experienced a few that seriously look like someone took frozen fruit cocktail and dumped it into water. It just did not look appealing.  I was talking with a colleague last week about an event we did in Dallas. We stayed at the Crescent Hotel, which is absolutely beautiful. I was a nursing mom at the time I traveled, so of course when we arrived at the hotel, our rooms were not ready. I had to pump somewhere, so they sent me to the spa! There were no tears coming from this girls eyes…..well maybe happy tears… While I was trying to get situated a wonderful staff member offered my some spa water. Let me tell you, pumping never felt so luxurious. That water was basically the highlight of my trip. It was so darn tasty! So naturally, when this summer cold that’s been making it’s rounds hit our entire house, I needed something to cure my sore throat. Seriously, it feels like I swallowed fire ants. What better than a water that not only tastes refreshing, but provides some serious vitamin C. The hint of mint really makes this water refreshing. It’s so easy to put together and just let it sit. I let mine sit for about an hour before I started to drink it. I used still water, but you could definitely add some sparkling if you wanted to add something fun.

For this super simple water I added a handful of mint, 1/4 cucumber (sliced), lemon, lime, orange, and about 8 strawberries (sliced). First I added the mint to the pitcher and crushed with a wooden spoon. I added in the fruit and then filled the pitcher with water. I mixed it around a bit and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour before I started to drink it.

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Garlic Rice Pilaf

Before I jump into today’s post, I wanted to share a great offer. Even as a food blogger, I need some inspiration every now and then.

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Now onto today’s post!

Rice pilaf is such an easy yummy side that goes with pretty much anything you are serving. The boxed variety is a great/quick option, but it’s just as easy to make homemade. We make this a lot because it’s literally my husbands favorite thing that I make. Also, being Greek, it feels like a requirement to have a good rice pilaf recipe under your belt. I have to be honest, cooking rice was a challenge for me. I always find a way to make the rice just as crunchy as it was when it came out of the box. Even minute rice was an issue. When I found this recipe I was determined to make it and it came out fantastic. I shocked myself. I was amazed that I pulled it off. Apparently baking rice was just what I needed to do. I am happy to share, that I have now successfully cooked rice on the stove top and it has come out delicious. I think I just needed this confidence boost. What I love is the nice garlic flavor without overpowering the dish. Bonus, if you love garlic like I do, you can add a bit more. Also, you can substitute the fat and opt for olive oil to make it a tad healthier. I have also made this with brown rice, which for me tasted just as good. My husband does not like brown rice, so we typically use white rice instead. If you did want to substitute you may have to adjust the liquid/cooking time just a bit to accommodate for the denser texture of brown rice.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In an oven safe pot (with a lid) melt the butter, on the stove top, over medium heat. Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add in the rice and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until the rice is golden brown. Add in 1 cup of chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover the pot and place in the oven. Bake covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and add in remaining chicken broth and stir. Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 25 minutes. The rice should be done cooking. If not, place back in the oven for 10 minutes. The original recipe calls for longer cooking times, but I have had better results with the shorter times. Remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and stir to combine.

Notes

Adapted from Annie’s Eats.