Friday, February 28, 2014

Dear Zahara: 8 Months

Dear Zahara,

Happy 8 month birthday! What a great month this was. I know I keep saying it, but each month you are getting to be more fun! I think this is my favorite age so far now that we can really interact. You love clapping along to music, though you haven't quite perfected the technique. We also play peek-a-boo. You pull the scarf off your head or mine, and your expression of pure delight is often the highlight of my day.

You are a crawling wiz now. You especially love crawling to the cat bed, though we keep telling you that's not for you. You understand the word "no," even if you don't always listen. Not only are you crawling, but you can pull up to stand. So far, you've only used my hands to pull up, but it's only a matter of time before you're using the couch and table. Once you're standing, you take a few steps, making mummy and daddy worried that you'll be walking soon!

You talk non-stop now. No real words yet, but daddy was extra excited to hear you say dada. You sure have a lot to say! I guess you take after your mummy :)

Mealtimes are fun. We eat breakfast and lunch together most days. You definitely prefer big pieces of food to purees. We regularly eat egg whites; carrot sticks; cheese; and bread and butter. You absolutely loved chicken and salmon. You basically eat anything that mummy and daddy eat too. So far you haven't shown a strong disliking to anything. That's our girl!

This month we also tried our first babysitting experience. It was not successful. Our friend Lena generously agreed to watch you one evening so we could go to our friend Deanna's birthday party. Deanna lives just around the corner and we only planned on staying out for a couple of hours at most. You were already asleep when Lena came, so we thought it would be easy. Unfortunately, you had other ideas. Ten minutes after we left, you were up and very unhappy. Lena couldn't get you to calm back down, so after an hour we came back. It turns out that you were teething and had a cold. No wonder you were so unhappy!

Luckily, you are generally happy, even when you're not feeling well. You get cuter and cuter by the minute. Thanks for being such a joy! We love you!

Friday, February 21, 2014

400th Post!

I can't believe it, but we've reached another blog milestone--400 posts! To say that my life has changed since the 300th post would be a huge understatement. I can't even remember what life was like before Zahara! Now, more than ever, I'm so happy to have a place of my own to document what's happening in my life. With our time in England winding down and Zahara growing up at lightening speed, this blog is a memory time capsule. Who knows what the future of this blog holds, but for now, I love it and I hope you do too.

As we always do on these milestone posts, let's look at some of my blog stats.
  • Number of posts: 400!
  • Total page hits: 43,444 (as of February 20, 2014)
  • Number of labels: 27--"Travels" has the most posts with 100
  • Number of pages: 3: HomeTravel ArchivesMy Pregnancy
  • Most popular post: Shabby Chic Nightstands with 1,284 page views
  • Most comments:  Baby Pool with 23 comments
  • Top referal sites: Google, Facebook; Pinterest, and Young House Love
  • Countries visited/blogged about: 24, plus Scotland and Wales

Once again, I want to know more about you. Can you check a few boxes for me? I'll love you forever.

Seriously, thanks so much for reading. Here's to the next 400 posts!

See my other blog milestones:
100 Posts
200 Posts
300 Posts

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day Trip to Manchester

Though we've lived here for more than two years, we haven't really spent any time in Manchester. I'm not sure why. It's a big city with a vibrant Jewish population (second largest in the UK), a ton of culture, and is less than two hours away. This weekend, we finally took a day trip to explore the city.

Our first stop on our cultural tour of Manchester was to Rare Grill--a kosher steakhouse. Of course our first stop involves food, right? Here, we had some of the most delicious BBQ chicken wings I've ever had. I also had a "bacon cheeseburger," which was amazing. The cheese was soy and I have no idea what the "bacon" was other than some type of crispy, slightly fatty, OMG delicious beef. The sweet potato fries were icing on the cake.

Next we checked out the Manchester Art Gallery. This free museum was really worth the visit. The building itself is gorgeous, and I really liked several of the exhibits. The museum is very child-friendly; Zoey enjoyed the children's zone where she crawled around and put various things in her mouth.

We also visited the John Rylands Library where we saw books from the 1500s! The collection was incredible. To see so many leather books pre-dating the founding of my country was really incredible.

Another great find was the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). This museum, also free, is enormous. We didn't have enough time to explore all of it, but Dan really enjoyed the Power Hall-- a building full of giant machines. There was even a real steam train that ran in South Africa until the 1970s.

Zahara enjoyed the experiments building where she found some new friends to play with. It is so fun watching her interact with others now.

We strolled back through the pedestrian center before heading home. I can't believe it's taken us so long to explore Manchester. It's a great city with so much to do! Have you been? What are your favorite parts?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Death By Chocolate

Last week I went to a social event called "Death By Chocolate." Can you think of a better way to spend an afternoon than with friends and desserts? Me either. It was glorious!

Attendees were asked to either pay £3 or bring a "killer" chocolate recipe. I decided to take it easy and just pay the few pounds. Around ten people brought in their treats though. At the end of the event, we all voted on which dessert was the best and awarded a prize to the winner. You know what that means, right? I had to sample all the desserts so that I could vote fairly. It was a real sacrifice.

My favorites, and the two winners, were the coconut macaroon that tasted just like a Mounds bar, and the strawberry Snickers trifle. So good!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fried Chicken and Waffles

Dan and I have the winter blues. It's getting a little bit better now that the flowers are showing signs of life, but we're both just ready for some sunshine. These doldrums are manifesting themselves in various small ways--we want to lounge around in comfy clothes; we find ourselves staying in more than usual; and when meal planning, we go for comfort food. I didn't realize that is what we were doing until I looked at last week's food: hamburgers; lasagna; and chicken and waffles. Definitely not our healthiest week. At least we also had salad and veggies every night. And you know what? I don't regret a thing.

I've mentioned chicken and waffles before. Now here are the recipes!

Fried Chicken
Original recipe from here

  • 1/2 cup milk (I used rice milk)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning (here's an easy recipe)
  • 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk (I used rice milk)
  • In a medium bowl, beat together 1/2 cup milk and egg. In a resealable plastic bag, mix together the flour, garlic powder, salt, paprika, pepper and poultry seasoning. Place chicken in bag, seal, and shake to coat. Dip chicken in milk and egg mixture, then once more in flour mixture. I did a few pieces at a time so as not to crowd the pan. Reserve any remaining flour.
  • In a large skillet, heat oil to 365F. Place a few pieces of coated chicken in the hot oil, and brown on all sides. Reduce heat to to medium-low, and continue cooking chicken until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet and drain on paper towels. Repeat for remaining pieces.
  • Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the frying oil. Over low heat, stir in 2 tablespoons of the reserved flour mixture. Stirring constantly, cook about 2 minutes. Whisk in chicken stock, scraping browned bits off the bottom of the skillet. Stir in 1 cup of milk, and bring all to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about five minutes. Serve immediately with chicken.

Original recipe from here

  • 2 eggs (separated)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups milk (I used rice milk)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used apple sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Preheat waffle iron. Beat egg yolk in a large bowl. Add in flour, milk, oil/apple sauce, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla. 
  • Beat egg whites in small bowl until frothy. Gently fold in whites to batter mixture. 
  • Spray preheated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray. Pour approximately 2/3 cup mix onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve hot.

Notes: The waffles reheat beautifully. Just stick them under the broiler for a minute and they crisp back up. Same with the chicken; don't microwave it to reheat. Put the chicken in the oven or under the broiler and it will stay crispy. The gravy can be microwaved.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

DIY Candles

It seems like it's been forever since I've posted about a project. Thankfully, my friend Adrienne got me back on the DIY bandwagon with a fun project--candles!

Adrienne had all the supplies: wax, wicks, scents and even votives. From start to finish, not including curing time, making my candle only took around 20 minutes. It's incredibly simple but so satisfying.

Making a candle is pretty simple. First, you heat wax (we used soy), stirring frequently until the temperature reaches about 170F. Adrienne made a double-boiler with a special pot for the wax and a regular pot underneath. You can also use microwavable wax, which can be found at Michael's.

Once the wax is at temperature, then pour in your oils, using either essential oils or the pre-made candle scent. Take the wax off the stove and continue to stir occasionally until the wax reaches around 130F. Pour the candle wax into a jar that has a wick glued into the bottom, and let it harden for at least 6 hours, or overnight before trimming the wick and burning it.

I chose the Vanilla Hazelnut scent. It's pretty strong, which is nice because it makes the room smell good even when the candle isn't burning.

Big thanks to Adrienne for putting this project together!

Friday, February 7, 2014

We Don't Celebrate Groundhog Day in England

Earlier this week was Groundhog Day in America. It's a day where the nation eagerly watches as
Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, peeks his head above ground and either sees or does not see his own shadow. If he doesn't see his own shadow, it means spring is on the way. This year though, Phil saw his shadow and forcast six more weeks of winter.


Thankfully, we don't celebrate Groundhog Day in England. I am already seeing signs of life! These may not mean much to you, but these tiny little flowers are a symbol that the dark, dreary days of winter may be coming to an end. Spring--my favorite time in England--is almost here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tenerife: Part 2

We spent the first part of our trip to Tenerife exploring Santa Cruz and the Teide volcano. Next on our agenda was Taganana Park. You can drive for hours just admiring the stunning scenery--I love landscapes that go from white sandy beaches to lush green mountains.

We stopped for lunch at a tiny restaurant, El Mirador, that looked like a run-down pub. They served some of the best fish I've ever eaten! We even gave Zoey her first taste of fish and she loved it too. Not only was the food delicious, but the view couldn't be beat.

After lunch we went to San Andres beach. It wasn't quite beach weather--the water was too cold to go in--but the sand was nice and warm. Zoey put her feet in the sand for the first time and didn't love it. I guess we'll just have to keep trying.

The next day we headed across the island to Garachico and the Masca Valley. The town was cute, and was the perfect spot for a nice cup of tea. The drive to and from the town is the main attraction though. The views are spectacular. It was pretty foggy again for part of the drive, but once it cleared up it was fantastic.

We stopped for lunch in Masca. The town is small, with only a few restaurants. This was the first day that felt a little touristy. The food wasn't great and was overpriced, but again, the views more than make up for it. And I got to try cactus fruit ice cream with palm honey. It was delicious!

We couldn't leave Tenerife without at least seeing what the fuss was all about down south. That's why on our way to the airport we made one last pit stop to Playa de las Americas. This is exactly what I thought it would be. Tons of fish and chip stands; nightclubs/strip clubs; and tourist shops. I certainly see the appeal for a weekend away with the girls, but I'm glad we stayed up north for this trip. That didn't stop us from enjoying one quick pina colada on the beach though!

It was such an unexpected, wonderful trip to Tenerife. Good food, beautiful scenery and a bit of sunshine--what more could I want?

Read part one of our trip to Tenerife:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tenerife: Island Full of Surprises

One thing I've noticed since living in England is that Brits love Tenerife. I'm not sure if it's the cheap flights, the sunny climate or the fantastic night-life, but they are crazy for this Spanish Canary island. I was a little weary of going to such a tourist hot-spot, but I couldn't resist the cheap flights I found. Plus, a little sunshine in the middle of winter sounded fabulous. Turns out, Tenerife is nothing like I imagined. It far exceeded my expectations.

We stayed in the north of the island in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Dan found a gorgeous resort that was far from all the stag parties and hen dos (bachelor/bachelorette parties) down south. The city was adorable, with tons of great local food and a beautiful park. It rained off-and-on most of the time we were there, but it was fun and relaxing just walking around.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

We also spent some time in La Laguna, a neighboring town. We went in the afternoon and most of the city was shut for siesta. I loved just walking down the streets though and seeing all the gorgeous pastry shops. As we were leaving we noticed the town really starting to pick up. It seems that this island follows the routine of mainland Spain.

One of the main attractions on the island is the Teide volcano. It's an active volcano that last erupted in 1903, and it is the highest point in Spain. You can take a cable car up to the top, but Zoey was sleeping, so we just took a nice scenic drive instead. It was incredibly foggy on the way up--to the point that we weren't sure we'd be able to see anything at all. All of the sudden, we went above the cloud line and it was absolutely gorgeous.

We drove down the mountain toward a town called Santa Ursula. We heard from a couple of people that that's the place to go for good, local food. I got a recommendation for a place called Guachinche El Primero that was supposed to be just past the highway underpass near a gas station. At least that's what I think they said. All of these conversations were happening in Spanish. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see how little English there was up north. It didn't feel touristy at all. Fortunately, my high school Spanish carried us through and we made it to the "restaurant." It was definitely a local place--just a few tables and a grill. Maybe not the best spot for vegetarians, but the grilled local cheese and potatoes and eggs were amazing!

More to come from this beautiful, surprising island tomorrow!