Weekend Update – Happy Thanksgiving!

Good news: Joe and I got most, if not all of the parts and pieces for our Winter Mickey wreath! Super excited to start putting it together this week. Fingers crossed that it comes together as nicely as the fall one.

Bad news: I have completely failed the “drinking 5 bottles of water” thing since being home. Sorry, plant. I’ll get back on that tomorrow.

Our Thanksgiving/weekend was super lovely all around. We spent lots of quality time with friends and family (with more to come – stopping on our way back to the Zoo to see the newest Hunger Games movie with one of my bridesmaids) which definitely made both of us feel a little “home”sick, but we’re also looking forward to getting back to our home to start decorating for Christmas, celebrating Joe’s birthday, sending (adorable) Christmas cards, and of course, packing for Disney! (Plus my butt got kicked at Pure Barre, we got to ride the K-Line trolley for one last time this year, we looked for Christmas trees…I could go on and on.)

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We found some nickels in the basement, which of course meant we had to play with the slot machine at 1am. So many elementary/middle school sleepover memories.

Like I think I mentioned in my last post, this was my family’s first time hosting Thanksgiving, and of course we went all out. A pretty table, homemade stuffing, turkey on the grill (with a spice rub from the spice market in Turkey, of course) champagne we bought for our wedding weekend and failed to consume until Thanksgiving dinner, and our traditional poppers/paper crowns! Doesn’t get much better than that!  IMG_4185

I hope everyone else has had a fantastic Thanksgiving/post-Thanksgiving weekend, and that you’re coming up with lots of creative ways to use up all of that leftover turkey! 😉

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Black Friday!

No early Black Friday shopping here – just a trip to JoAnn’s to get wreath parts (it’s gonna be cuuuute!) and Staples for clear sticker paper. Online shopping though? That’s a different story. Sorry, bank account.

In other news, a year ago today we got our engagement photos back! In retrospect I suppose I wish I had worn something a little different – but hey, it was COLD! I didn’t want to take off my vest:)

I didn’t think I’d be that person that is going through wedding photos and gushing about them months later, yet here I am, gushing about year old engagement photos. Oh well 🙂

Yesterday was the first time my family hosted Thanksgiving, and it was quite a success – full post on that later – for now, let’s just admire this: 

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Photo A Day – “Around Me”

Continue reading “Photo A Day – “Around Me””

honeymoon part 5

On our last night in Morgan’s Rock we began thinking of what we would do on our last night in Nicaragua (back at Hotel con Corazon,) and I remembered reading about one last tour that had piqued our interest when I was planning everything back in January. Ten minutes later (hooray for wifi in the bungalows) we were all set for an evening trip to Masaya Volcano on Monday night, complete with a trek into a bat cave at dusk!

Once we got back to Granada on Monday afternoon, we had to get ready for our excursion almost immediately since the sun sets so early. Joe donned his Sperrys, and I wore what essentially are glorified crocs. This is important, I promise.

Masaya Volcano is actually comprised of 3 different craters, one of which erupted in 2012 (causing a few trails to permanently close, and a few with huge warning signs that we walked right past, oops) I believe the other two are now considered to be dormant. We arrived just as the sun was beginning to set, which made for some amazing photos.

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After walking around the active volcano, we began a trek up to another crater. As we were heading towards the beginning of this trail, we saw a tour bus full of rowdy, loud, large American women. We had a chuckle with our guide and promised him that not all Americans are like that. Some stayed on the bus, unable (or unwilling?) to make the hike, but many were in the process of making their way down from the peak. On their butts. It should be noted that these trails are all made up of broken down volcanic rock, which for those that aren’t particularly steady on their feet is relatively precarious.

Steep incline + rubble + general clumsiness = bad news bears.

About halfway up I started feeling a little winded, and by the time we got to the top Joe and I were both definitely huffing and puffing – but we made it! This peak was significantly higher than the active crater/peak, with a great view looking over Nicaragua. I wouldn’t be able to point it out in a photo, but we apparently could see mountainous regions of Costa Rica from where we were standing, as well as the “White Towns” named for the pottery produced there. 

We took some photos and our guide told us some local myths/legends before making our way back to the car. Here is where our shoe choice comes into play (aka lack of traction.) As we were heading down, I gained some momentum and ended up practically (unintentionally) running down the side of the volcano, unable to stop. It probably only lasted 3 seconds or so before I was hurtling past our guide who grabbed my arm, stopping me from probably hurting myself pretty badly (or maybe launching myself into a crater?) I was actually a little surprised I didn’t end up with a bruise on my arm (I bruise like a peach) – he had to grab on to my arm pretty hard/tightly to stop me, but I’m quite glad he did. I think I scared him (and Joe) more than myself, my bad. Needless to say, I spent the majority of the rest of the way down on my rear – any judgements I had about the others I saw going down that way went right out the window.

The last part of this tour/excursion was the bat cave. By this point the sun had gone almost all the way down – perfect timing for the hundreds of thousands of bats to start coming out for the night. Before donning our hard hats and flashlights, our guide confirmed with me that I wasn’t scared of bats…I told him we would find out shortly. I guess he assumed Joe could handle it 😛 

As we made our way through the jungle towards the cave (created by flowing and cooling lava/magma,) we passed by one huge bat cave that tourists aren’t allowed to explore – the air quality is poor due to guano from tens of thousands of bats living in that cave alone. The cave we did go into was actually quite cool, and the dark scared me more than the bats.

It was so dark – without flashlights you couldn’t see an inch in front of your face, so feeling bats fly by, grazing your helmet or arm was a little startling. It was also relatively hard to see where we were going, despite flashlights being aimed at the ground the whole time, but we survived, and weren’t turned into vampires in the process 🙂 

We had some packing to do when we got back to our hotel, but first went out to the “main drag” of Granada to eat street corn for dinner and buy a couple of souvenirs from a small line-up of vendors for friends and family back home.

Our honeymoon definitely wasn’t what we would call relaxing (though we did do a bit of that!) – but we made so many memories that will last a lifetime, and it doesn’t get better than that! ‘Til next time, Central America!

honeymoon part 4

Saturday through Monday mid-afternoon was spent at Morgan’s Rock, the definite splurge of our honeymoon. We paid for the all-inclusive package: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, 2 beers and 1 bottle of rum per person per day, and a tour/excursion each day. Our bungalow, situated in the jungle, looked over the ocean, and despite the 15 minute trek up from the lobby/restaurant, it was amazing and beautiful and everything we could have asked for – at least until it got dark.Bungalow View

After getting picked up from Hotel con Corazon Saturday morning, we arrived at Morgan’s Rock in the early afternoon…and after the first 15 minute trek up to our bungalow (the farthest away – oh well, we could use the exercise), we got lunch (complete with our first 2 (smallish) bottles of rum) and went down to the beach, fresh juice (and a bottle of rum) in hand. There were SO many hermit crabs on the beach, I can confidently say there were tens of thousands – as well as larger crabs that began coming out of their holes around dusk. After one of the most beautiful sunsets ever, we began the trek back up to our bungalow to get ready for dinner, and it was at this point that I began to understand why we were given so much alcohol for the duration of our stay. Me!Nicaragua Sunset

The crabs all over the pathways and stairs on our way up to the room didn’t bother me too much. The cute leaf bugs on the suspension bridge were pretty cute, actually. I read plenty of reviews that made note of the wildlife you would run into, and would maybe make its way into your bungalow. Whatever, I’ve been camping, I got this. Or so I thought. Crab

Jeebus. I was way wrong. I had a full on anxiety attack about 10 minutes after getting back to our bungalow. Joe went to use the restroom, and while I was beginning to get ready for dinner I saw something bright orange out of the corner of my eye, and watched a large crab scuttle under our bed. NOPE. “Uhhhh…I need help…” is what Joe heard as I clambered into the middle of the bed…only to be greeted by a giant grasshopper. NOPE. Joe, being the good new hubby he is, got rid of the crab and smushed the grasshopper quickly – I thought at that point I’d be safe to take a shower to get all of the sand off of me. Hahahahahahaha. Wrong. Thankfully a minute or two later, Joe had gotten rid of the spider crab, spider, and grasshopper that had decided to make the shower their home. I rinsed off, and lo and behold, there was a stupid praying mantis on my towel. And on the sink faucet. And another grasshopper on the floor. (Note: I allowed the praying mantises and green leaf bugs to live. They’re cool.)

Praying Mantis IMG_0903

I had been trying hard to keep my composure. I had to keep reminding myself: This is the special part of our honeymoon, everything was so beautiful during the day, they’re just bugs. Buuuut it got to be too much and I completely lost it. I was miserable. Bawling my eyes out, on our honeymoon, at the place I was most excited to visit. Ugh.

After a good cry session, a reassuring pep talk from Joe, and slathering myself in the provided natural bug repellent lotion (it smelled quite good,) we finished getting dressed to head down to dinner (it helped that he gave me his super powerful flashlight to take along. I was gripping that thing like my life depended on it.) Dinner was good (all of the meals at Morgan’s Rock were beyond delicious,) I ordered 2 glasses of wine even though they weren’t included in our plan, and had my second beer with dessert (I had the first with lunch) – and as I went to grab my drink, I noticed that there was a grasshopper on the glass. Sigh. By this point I was slowly coming to terms with all of the bugs, and was able to chuckle a little before flicking it off.  I also made friends with a stray cat at dinner, and tried to bribe him with pieces of my steak to come back to our bungalow to protect us from the bugs. He didn’t follow us. Bugs

Despite the bed being incredibly comfortable, I couldn’t sleep for the life of me the first night. What if bugs crawled in my ears? (I ended up getting my headphones out and putting them in my ears) What if a crab manages to crawl in through the door and onto our bed? (At this point we realized there was a huge gap between the wall of our bungalow and the sliding door – how the crab got in earlier. I switched sides of the bed with Joe.) Soon enough, it was morning and all was right with the world again. We were woken up by Howler Monkeys (so cool) and the ocean waves crashing on to the beach, and we were ready to enjoy the day, complete with a horseback ride on the beach, through the jungle, and up to a lookout point. Everything about the day was perfect, and I handled the nighttime a lot better too (still gripping tightly to the flashlight at night for the sake of my sanity.)CabanaHorseback

Monday morning we were up bright and early for breakfast on the farm (Morgan’s Rock is an ecolodge and is completely self-sufficient.) We milked a cow, using the milk in our coffee, picked our eggs from the chicken coop, and made tortillas to eat with our meal. On our ride back to the hotel part of the property, we saw howler monkeys, a scarlet macaw, spider monkeys, a black iguana, a few different hawks, and super cute squirrels.

We arranged to be brought back to Granada around 1:30pm, so spent the rest of the day enjoying the beach! Joe saw a marlin, I caught (?) a sand dollar, and almost stepped on both a manta ray and large crab before heading in for one last lunch, which of course was delicious. Sand DollarMe!

I probably just made Morgan’s Rock sound entirely miserable, but I promise it wasn’t! We had an amazing time and would definitely consider going back should we ever find ourselves back in Nicaragua (which definitely isn’t out of the question.)

The last part of my honeymoon recap will come soon – and be much shorter! We added a last minute trip to Masaya Volcano 🙂

Honeymoon – Part 3

Our second full day in Nicaragua (Wednesday) was spent on Mombacho Volcano, which started with an incredibly bumpy, jarring truck ride to the top! But, as with most touristy type things, we weren’t able to get to the top without a ‘sponsored’ stop at a coffee plantation (in Turkey it was rugs…) halfway up where we were semi-expected to buy some coffee/coffee beans. Luckily Joe and I had no need for coffee, and are pretty good at saying “no thank you” when we need to. The biggest plus though? The plantation had a restroom (the first half of the bumpy truck ride made me have to pee quite badly.)

Bumpy ride to the top of Mombacho
Bumpy ride to the top of Mombacho

Once we got to the top of the volcano, we were up in the clouds (which makes sense, being in a Cloud Forest/rainforest and all) it was a bit windy, and the temperature had dropped significantly. Far cry from the 90 degree 90% humidity bike ride from the day before, but it was manageable. Rather than going into the visitor center, our guide suggested that we start hiking the trail around the crater first so we didn’t have to hike with any other groups. We immediately started hearing howler monkeys, and although we didn’t see any, we did see a sloth’s butt (!!), lots of bugs, birds, and pretty flowers 😀 The actual crater was full of clouds 99% of the time we could see it, but it was awesome regardless. Apparently most of the animals live in the crater, including Pumas. Eep!

Parts of the hike didn't look like the 'typical' rainforest
Parts of the hike didn’t look like the ‘typical’ rainforest
A 'tunnel' created by the most recent volcanic eruption - in 1570.
A ‘tunnel’ created by the most recent volcanic eruption – in 1570.

After the hike, while we waited for a truck to take us back down (the road to the top of the volcano is one way) the employees of the visitor center started a game of baseball! It was apparently a slow day. We were invited to join, but declined – opting for snacks and spectating instead. We learned quickly that Nicaraguans love baseball, and although saying “we’re from Michigan” essentially meant nothing, “we love the Detroit Tigers” immediately cleared up any question of where we were from.

About 3/4 of the way down the volcano was our 2nd stop of the day – ziplining! Sidenote: Every local we met was beyond excited (almost honored?) to hear that we chose to honeymoon in Nicaragua. I suppose it’s not the most typical of choices, but it was definitely the perfect choice for us. Our ‘crew’ of 3 zipline employees (including one that used my phone to thoroughly document our zipping) were just as enthusiastic as everyone else about our trip, and apparently I was giving off some strong Disney vibes, because the our main ziplining guide sang ‘Let It Go’ at least 3 times during the hour or so we spent in the rainforest. No complaints. We heard more howler monkeys as we worked our way through the ziplining course, but still didn’t see any.

Going down the zip line upside down was fun, but a little bit painful on our hips.
Going down the zip line upside down was fun, but a little bit painful on our hips.

We got back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit before heading out to dinner, where we discovered the beauty of Nicaraguan Happy Hour. Buy one drink, get one free. Reminder: these drinks already only cost about $2 each to start with. And we didn’t have to drive. We also enjoyed an appetizer of tostones and queso…the best cheese in the world. We were SO happy to be able to find it back in the states at Earth Fare (very similar to Whole Foods) – it’s called Cotija. Go find it, fry it, and enjoy a taste of heaven. You’re welcome.

We learned we enjoy Mai Tais. Thank you happy hour.
We learned we enjoy Mai Tais. Thank you happy hour.
The most delicious thing in the world.
The most delicious thing in the world.

Day 3 – Friday – we decided to spend the day at Laguna de Apoyo, a crater lake, and the warmest in Nicaragua. We blindly chose a hostel to spend the day at – El Paradiso – mostly because for $10 a person, not only were we able to enjoy all of the amenities of the hostel, but we also got picked up and dropped back off at our hotel. We stayed relatively quiet on the van ride to El Paradiso as it picked up more day-trippers, but did a lot of eavesdropping. We were the only people picked up from a hotel, the rest were from various hostels around Granada. There was a group of (teenage?) Irish girls that were finishing up a month-long Central American trip, two sisters from Canada that flew into Mexico City, took a night bus into Guatemala, and had finally made their way to Nicaragua before finishing their trip in Costa Rica. There were also some surf bums, and another couple.

View from the steps of El Paradiso.
View from the steps of El Paradiso.

Laguna de Apoyo was beyond perfect, and we really enjoyed our time at El Paradiso. We had drinks on the beach, went swimming with old school inner tubes (one of which had a rusty inflation port(?) that gave my leg quite a good scrape…thank goodness for tetanus shots.) I got to catch up on a lot of reading, and we had a yummy lunch (I ordered bolognese pasta. In retrospect maybe not the best choice, but hey.) It was really amazing, and was nice to have a day of relaxing after so many adventures the previous two days. We slept like rocks every night – it was great.

I chose a drink with a cool name - never a good idea. It wasn't very good.
I chose a drink with a cool name – never a good idea. It wasn’t very good.
So pretty.
So pretty.

Whew! Two days in one post! Up next: my love/hate relationship with Morgan’s Rock (there really wasn’t much hate, just an epic anxiety attack.)

Target + Suja Juice Cleanse / 1 day renewal – Review

Since a bit before our wedding I’d been looking in to doing some sort of cleanse, not to lose weight (goodness, emphasis on this – multiple people texted me on Wednesday after an Instagram post, concerned that I was trying to lose weight), but my eating/drinking habits absolutely aren’t the greatest, so I wanted to kickstart a (slightly) healthier lifestyle. After googling my options over a spoonful (or two/three) of frosting, I realized I probably wasn’t cut out for a cleanse where you pay a crazy amount of money to drink 7 juices a day for 5 days, with no food (mad props to anyone that can handle that. I don’t have enough self control…and like snacks too much.) So, when I came across Suja’s 3 juice, 1 day ‘renewal’ at Target – $3.99 a bottle – and read that you were supposed to eat 3 smalls meals throughout the day alongside the juices, I decided it was the perfect option for me! (Also, I suppose I should note at this point that this post isn’t sponsored. I just did a cleanse thing and am writing about it, plain and simple.)

Suja 1 Day Renewal
Huh, just realized I didn’t photograph the juices in the right order. Red, green, purple is the correct order!

There is a meal plan on Suja’s website, with 4 options for each meal and corresponding recipes/directions for each. I chose apple pie bites for breakfast, veggie burger for lunch, and Mexican stuffed sweet potato for dinner. They seemed filling enough! But boy, was I wrong. I don’t know what particular nutrient I was missing throughout the day, but I had zero energy, and just felt so hungry – even 10 minutes after drinking a juice or eating a meal. If nothing else, this was an amazing exercise to practice self control (every time I opened the fridge my mind went something along the lines of: Oh, that hummus looks delicious. It’s still healthy! I could totally eat a spoonful. Ugh, no. It’s not on the meal plan. But I’m so hungry! But no, not today. I guess. Sigh.) 

Anyway, on to the juices! All of the ingredients are listed on the front of the bottle – I’ve never been a ‘green juice’ fan, but that one wasn’t horrid, especially after the first few sips – and honestly I didn’t really care what it tasted like because I was so dang hungry. The morning and evening juices were amazingly delicious…I could drink the evening one every night and be a happy camper. But hmmm, what made these juices taste so good, you ask? Alas, there was SO much sugar, especially in the morning and evening juices. Despite it being natural sugar vs. anything else…sugar is probably the worst offender in my current diet – and I definitely consumed more sugar via these juices than I do on a regular basis (except when I eat multiple spoonfuls of frosting, or eat half a pint of Talenti gelato…) Knowing that, I definitely get why people don’t necessarily think cleanses are a good thing. On the upside though, all of my meals were pretty darn good, even if I didn’t feel satiated all day.

Breakfast

Breakfast (apple pie bites) was the least satisfying ‘meal’ of my day, but they did taste good! Dried apples, dates, toasted pecans, honey, and what seemed like a metric TON of cinnamon and nutmeg, ingredients I usually use relatively sparingly in things like cookies. But yes, definitely edible.

Lunch

While I was in the midst of my second juice (the green one) Joe came home for lunch and ate a couple of chicken tenders with ranch…I don’t think a meal has ever smelled so good. Oof. I contemplated asking if I could lick a piece of his chicken, but refrained. My lunch was still an hour or so away, and it was definitely the most photogenic meal (veggie burger, a little mustard, 1/8 of an avocado, and baby greens…I nixed the tomato and onion, adding in a little extra avocado). By that time (about 45 minutes after finishing the green juice) I was pretty much the human equivalent of a vacuum cleaner. I hardly even tasted this food as I was eating it. I was so hungry, but thankfully it filled me up enough to be able to focus on some afternoon freelance work.

Dinner

I didn’t get to eat dinner until about 8:00pm, because Joe and I had a few errands to run…including spending 20 minutes at Lowes picking out house plants, only to change my mind and decide to get them at Eastern Market, since we were heading back to GP for the weekend. Once we got home, I basically chugged the juice (which, though a bit chalky, was absolutely my favorite of the three) and anxiously waited for my sweet potatoes to bake. Joe helped make this meal, and ate it too…in addition to a chunk of steak. It was good, even though I messed up by not saving the skins to re-stuff. Oh well – it was just as delicious, and I wouldn’t have eaten the skin anyway!

I did end up cheating on the cleanse at about 12:15am, I ate a bit of a butterscotch flapjack I had gotten from Graze – but technically that was on Thursday, so I decided it doesn’t count 😉

Overall, the ‘renewal’ (I don’t think this can quite be called a cleanse, idk) definitely made me more conscious of what I consume on a daily basis, and as much as I’d like to say I’ve stuck to healthy eating as I had planned, I had a bowl of Cocoa Puffs for breakfast Thursday morning, and a good portion of our Talenti gelato before bed. Fulfilling the wishes of my sweet tooth can’t change overnight, y’all! I’d definitely recommend the Suja 1 Day Renewal if you’ve been interested in cleanses but don’t want to dive in to a 5 day long/only juice cleanse – it really is a great way to test your self control and start thinking about how you can eat healthier. Buuuut if you’re looking for a way to lose weight, I’m not so sure a cleanse would do the job unless you kept up the super clean, healthy, low cal, low carb diet after the cleanse/renewal. Shrug. 

Honeymoon – Part 2

I know I can get a bit wordy, especially when I’m excited about something, but I’m going to try to keep this relatively brief…unlike Part 1 which hardly even got into our actual honeymoon adventures!

so, here it goes! We woke up Wednesday morning and went down to have a delicious breakfast before heading out on our first adventure of the day. One of my requirements for almost everywhere we travel is that breakfast is included (Disney being the exception) – if we’re traveling internationally, I think a breakfast is a great way to get a feel for how other meals will be…and if it’s a big enough meal, it gets rid of the requirement for lunch, saving us money in the long run 😉 Plus if we go anywhere even somewhat tropical, breakfast usually includes fresh fruit and juice!

Each morning at Hotel con Corazon, we were brought freshly squeezed juice (yesssss), homemade granola, a huge bowl of fresh fruit, honey, yogurt, a banana (smaller and sweeter than the bananas we’re used to in the US) and a roll with choices of butter, peanut butter, or gooseberry jam. We were also offered eggs each morning, but everything else was plenty for us – and kept us energized until dinnertime, so we never ordered eggs.

After breakfast we prepared for the first ‘tour’ we had signed up for: a 2 hour bike ride through Granada. We figured this would be a good way to get an understanding of how the city was laid out so we would be comfortable walking around on our own throughout the rest of the week. Our guide arrived, and suggested we grab some water…I’m not sure why we didn’t, but that was absolutely the worst mistake in the world. More on that shortly. We got on our (somewhat rickety) bikes, and began our tour! We were riding in the street next to cars, delivery trucks, horse + buggies, and motorcycles…all focused on where they were going, not on their surroundings (aka us on bikes), so it was a little intimidating, especially when crossing major streets.

I love hot weather. I love the humidity. However, 90 degrees + 90% humidity + riding bikes up and down hills for 2 hours straight with the sun beating down on you + no water….we were a little miserable. Regardless of our self-inflicted misery, we saw so many amazing sights, and learned a lot about the history of Granada (though the hundreds of steps up to the bell tower of an old church was a little rough) – so we definitely didn’t regret our decision to take the tour, the views were worth it!

We had also signed up to cook dinner with a local family that night, which included a trip to the local market. We ended up taking the market trip during our bike tour instead, and while I’ve had a handful of experiences in local markets (Hong Kong, Thailand, Istanbul) – it was a huge and somewhat overwhelming eye opener to Joe. We saw stray dogs, thousands of flies, and newborn babies hanging out by the fresh meat stalls (read: still bloody, or still living), stalls to buy fruit and veggies for that night’s dinner, and huge buckets of fish, but also stalls selling toilet paper, underwear, even tupperware containers. It was definitely an eye-opener – especially thinking about the fact that this market was really their equivalent of a Target back home, and other than a couple of drugstore type places, it was where everyone did their regular shopping.

After our bike ride, we took a much needed dip in the pool, and spent the afternoon reading, swinging in hammocks, and just enjoying each other’s company before heading back out to a local’s home to make dinner.

Making dinner with Carmen (a semi-retired nurse) and her family was such an amazing experience, and definitely one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. We made salpicon (minced, seasoned beef), dragonfruit (pitaya) juice, rice, beans, and tostones. The house we were cooking in wasn’t big or fancy, and for the 2 or 3 hours we were there, we saw at least 8-10 family members coming in and out, including an adorable toddler with a huge infection on her face 🙁  While we were there, we joked with Carmen (who spoke zero English, thank goodness our guide was with us to act as translator) about bringing our future children back to visit her, she gave us a hard time about not putting enough sugar (aka none) in our dragonfruit juice, and the family applauded Joe’s success at quickly mincing the beef (usually Carmen has to take over.) We were welcomed in to their home as if we had belonged there from the start, and it left us with happy hearts for the rest of our trip.

Before we left, one of the family members brought out a binder (complete with Grand Canyon panorama) with a single piece of blank lined paper inside, asking us (with translation assistance) to start a new tradition and write in their guest book. They regularly host tourists wanting to “cook with the locals” sent from Hotel con Corazon, so I’m not sure what about our visit was special (?) enough to warrant the start of a guest book – but it was the cherry on top of our already amazing night! We plan on sending the family some sort of care package in the near future if we can figure out how – as a thank you (and because seeing the toddler “coloring” with a ballpoint pen and Holiday Inn hotel notepad made me sad.)

Argh, this is getting much longer than I had planned, so I guess I’ll stop here and write more in the near future! I’m thinking it might end up in 5 or so parts. Oops.

Our bedroom furniture was delivered today, so it’s time to start organizing all of that!

PS. new signature, yay!

claire cooks: cauliflower white cheddar soup

Soup is my favorite. I’ve been known to order two different types of soup at a restaurant as my meal (most recently on the 4th of July.) I also love cheese and starchy vegetables…so when I came across a recipe for roasted cauliflower white cheddar soup I knew it had to be on the dinner schedule for the week! (Who am I kidding, we don’t have a dinner schedule. I just really wanted to make it!)

Welllllll, I made it for dinner last night, and oh my goodness it was so good! Me and my parents/sister really enjoy making/eating mashed cauliflower (if you’ve never made it, you absolutely should) – and my dad makes the best baked potato soup in the world…this soup was a glorious joining of the two. I got to use a lot of new wedding gifts too, which was a bonus! Also bonus-worthy? I didn’t chop off any fingers, didn’t almost burn the house down, and had everything cleaned up by the time Joe got home from work!

I basically followed the exact recipe I found on Cooking Classy (thank goodness for food blogs) but forgot to buy thyme, and was 4oz short on chicken broth. My solution? More garlic, and a lot more cheese! When Joe and I cook, we usually use each other as sous chefs, so when I was mid-soup making and read that I had to put in the garlic (on one side of the kitchen) while continuously stirring the pot of soup on the stove (on the other side of the kitchen) I got a little nervous, but everything went perfectly, and we ended up with quite a delicious dinner!



Roasted Cauliflower White Cheddar Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 large head cauliflower (2 – 2 1/2 lb), cored and chopped into small, bite size pieces
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 (14 oz) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp dried parsley or 1 Tbsp chopped fresh
  • 1/4 tsp (slightly heaping) dried thyme or 1 tsp chopped fresh
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
  • 4 oz shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup), plus more for serving if desired
  • 1 oz finely grated parmesan cheese (slightly packed 1/4 cup)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place cauliflower on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toss to evenly coat, then spread into an even layer and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven until golden, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  • In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add in onion and saute until tender, about 4 – 5 minutes. Add in flour and cook, stirring constantly 1 1/2 minutes, adding in garlic during last 30 seconds of cooking. While whisking, slowly pour in milk followed by chicken broth and cream. Add in parsley, thyme, bay leaf, sugar, roasted cauliflower and season soup with salt and pepper to taste (I used 1/2 tsp salt but this may vary depending on how much salt you added to your cauliflower and how much salt you prefer). Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to low. Puree 3 cups of the soup in a blender (being careful as your working with hot liquids) and return to soup in pot. Remove from heat and stir in sharp white cheddar and parmesan cheese. Serve warm, garnished with additional shredded white cheddar and serve with fresh bread or croutons if desired.

Recipe Source: Cooking Classy


Enjoy! We certainly did 🙂

happy thoughts for a monday

Hey look, I remembered that I started this last week! Here we go.

  1. Obviously #1 has to be the fact that Joe and I are going to Disney World in December! I know I said this yesterday, but I’m seriously so excited to share a place that is so special to me with my hubby – and it helps that he’s excited too:)
  2. I only have 15 more thank you notes to write! There’s a slight issue though – we’re out of envelopes and neither Target nor Meijer have any. Looks like I’ll be taking a trip down to French Paper (an hour and a half drive) sometime this week, because I really don’t want to pay the $15 for shipping.
  3. A new book to read! I’m currently finishing up Catch Me if You Can, the 5th (I think?) book I started reading during our honeymoon, but haven’t had time to finish it…getting there slowly but surely though! Next up: Geek LoveAnd I was able to convince Joe to start reading The Martian before the movie comes out. I read that on our honeymoon as well, and loved everything about it.
  4. Furniture! We went to Art Van this weekend to order a full bedroom set – what we currently have will move to the guest bedroom. We also got a corner TV stand/fireplace which is already fantastic, but will be even more fantastic once it gets a little chillier out.
  5. A lovely hubby 🙂 I woke up feeling incredibly sick on Saturday morning (before your mind jumps to any conclusions, no it was not morning sickness, y’all) and was puking from 8am-4pm. It was horrid. Lucky for me, Joe ran to Target to get Pepto Bismol (and popsicles), then back out to get blue Gatorade, then once I was pretty sure I could keep things down, he made soup, all while trying to make me feel better be reminding me we’re going to Disney! 🙂 I definitely won the hubby lotto.
Book full of gifts listed out, and a slowly dwindling pile of thank you notes waiting to be written.
Book full of gifts listed out, and a slowly dwindling pile of thank you notes waiting to be written.

xx
Claire