Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hostess Trolley

I have to brag about a great find from Gumtree (UK's Craigslist). I found a hostess trolley, a.k.a. bar cart, for only £10!! It was originally listed for £20, but I managed to negotiate to this amazing price.

Isn't it adorable? It is the perfect spot for all of the Belgian beer that continues to taunt me during this pregnancy. 

Initially I thought about refinishing it by painting the frame and maybe mod-podging the shelves, but I think it's pretty charming as is.

What about you? Do you have any thrift store/Craigslist/Gumtree finds to brag about? Please share!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

23 Weeks!

This week was a lot of fun. The big news is that Dan and I saw the baby move! I was laying in bed and my stomach looked like an earthquake had gone off. There were lots of ripples all across my belly. I am so happy Dan got to see it too.

How far along? 23 weeks
Maternity clothes? Definitely
Stretch marks? No
Sleep? Not too bad, but I miss my Snoogle
Best moment of the week: Dan and I seeing the baby move
Miss anything? Wine
Movement: Lots. Her kicks are definitely getting stronger
Food cravings:  None
Anything making you queasy or sick: No
Have you started to show yet? Yes
Gender: Girl!!
Belly Button in or out? Even
Wedding rings on or off? On
Happy or Moody most of the time? Happy
Looking forward to: Seeing my family in a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

22 Weeks!

22 weeks...where is the time going? Baby Levin will be here before we know it! This week was baby's first trip to Israel. I think she loved it as much as I did. Her kicks are getting a lot stronger now, and are a reassuring sign that everything is going well.

How far along? 22 weeks
Maternity clothes? Definitely
Stretch marks? No
Sleep? Pretty good
Best moment of the week: Enjoying baby's first trip to Israel
Miss anything? Shisha*
Movement: She's kicking like crazy!
Food cravings:  None
Anything making you queasy or sick: No
Have you started to show yet? Yes
Gender: Girl!!
Belly Button in or out? Even
Wedding rings on or off? On
Happy or Moody most of the time? Happy
Looking forward to: Eating tons of kosher meat in Israel

*Shisha, a.k.a. hooka or nargilla, is a waterpipe used for smoking flavored tobacco. Last year in Egypt, I learned that shisha really is a way of life in Middle Eastern countries. We even bought our own shisha, though we rarely use it--and never while I'm pregnant. While in Israel and Jordan, the boys were able to enjoy this local pastime, while I sat out. It's obviously for the best, but I definitely missed the experience.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Homemade Salmon Jerky: Take 2

The adventure of dehydrating salmon continues! When we last spoke of salmon jerky, my friend Deanna and I attempted to make a batch using a modified Alton Brown recipe. The salmon tasted good, but it wasn't what I would call jerky. It was more of a salmon treat, and less of that distinctive sweet and chewy texture. After several tweaks, I think we have a winner!

First attempt at salmon jerky

My major complaints from the last batch was that the pieces were way too thick; it wasn't sweet enough and it needed more pepper. To fix these problems I made several changes. First, I bought two different kinds of salmon to see which would turn out better: fresh salmon and smoked salmon. I bought a small piece of fresh salmon and had Dan slice it sashimi-thin. I was incredibly impressed with his knife skills.

I also bought a small pack of smoked salmon and carefully separated the pieces.

The second change I made was in the marinade. I make a simple teriyaki sauce using this recipe. Then I added a whole lot of freshly ground pepper.

I let the fish marinate overnight. I kept the fresh and smoked salmon separate so I could see which turned out better in the end.

The next morning it was off to Deanna's and her wonderful dehydrator.

Fish in the dehydrator

This time, instead of the fish taking 13 hours (!!), it only took 3. Miracle of miracles. And, it was perfect! So sweet, peppery and chewy!

Both the fresh and smoked salmon turned out great, but I prefer the smoked version. It gives it an extra dimension that I really enjoyed. The bonus is that it already comes pre-sliced. This recipe will definitely be a keeper!

Salmon Jerky

  • 1 small package of smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 5 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  1. Separate salmon pieces and cut into chunky strips.
  2. Place all ingredients except for cornstarch and 1/4 cup water in a sauce pan and heat.
  3. Mix cornstarch and cold water and dissolve in a cup. Add to sauce in pan.
  4. Heat until sauce thickens. It does not need to be very thick.
  5. Place salmon in a tupperware container and pour marinade over salmon. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. Lay salmon slices on dehydrator tray in rows, making sure pieces are not touching.
  7. Place trays in dehydrator and cook 2-3 hours until salmon is dry and chewy but not crunchy.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Guest Post: View From On-High

I've been marinating on this blog post for a few days. Aside from the Northern Lights (save the best for last!) the rest of what I want to share about Iceland doesn't have a central theme.

On our last full day in Reykjavik, Blair and I went to Church at the Hallgrímskirkja (if the font looks different, it's because I copied-and-pasted it....these Icelandic names are killer). The building itself reminds me of a rocket ship.

The highlight was the view from the top. Since it was a beautiful, clear day, we could see all of Reykjavik below and the surrounding mountains.

It was a fantastic farewell to a city that we instantly loved upon arrival a few days earlier. After wandering through one last time, Blair and I made our way back to the Blue Lagoon for our final afternoon. What was hidden by darkness a few days earlier was fascinating! Not only were there lava fields, but green lava fields! It seems that lichen and moss have gotten a hold of the rock and give the illusion of rolling green hills.

The best part were the remaining hours we spent soaking in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon.

Have I convinced you to book your next vacation in Iceland? No? My next post well sell you for sure!  Next time, the Northern Lights!

Thanks for sharing Chelsea! Catch up on Chelsea's other Iceland posts:
I Came From the Land of Ice and Snow
Off to a Warmer Climate
And be sure to check out her blog, Chelsea's Air Force Life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Guest Post: Mush!

I can't explain why, but there it was on my bucket list, somewhere between "African photo safari" and "Dive the Great Reef" -- Go dog sledding. I'm a Texas girl, I don't particularly like the bitter cold, but there's something novel to me about transporting one's self via dogs. I have to thank Blair for finding this adventure. Going dog sledding is the kind of thing that made "the list" but I didn't ever talk about. It doesn't often make its way into conversation and there's no good segue. When she mentioned it as a possibility, I was thrilled!

That's how we found ourselves navigating Iceland in a rental car, with an old-school map since my GPS didn't feel like working. About an hour outside Reykjavik is a ski resort that also offers dog sledding for part of the year. It wasn't quite what I expected, but still fun all the same. 

First, the dogs are playful and love belly rubs. I kind of expected gruff, focused dogs, not cute fluffy ones. Second, there's lots and lots and lots and lots of peeing -- even when they're running (something about marking the trail). Third, the dogs speak English. Finally, sometimes, the lead dog goes off the path and you have to get off the sled and coax (or physically move) them back to the trail. It was an experience of a lifetime and I'm still amazed that five medium-sized dogs were able to pull 3 adults on a 10km (ahem 6ish mile) path. 

Here is picture proof of our second big adventure in Iceland, complete with mountain views.


Thanks for sharing Chelsea! Catch up on Chelsea's other Iceland posts:
View From On-High
I Came From the Land of Ice and Snow
Off to a Warmer Climate
And be sure to check out her blog, Chelsea's Air Force Life.

22 Weeks...Kind of

Hi everyone! I'm actually out of town right now, so I don't have an update for 22 weeks. Don't worry, I'm still taking a weekly picture and will be back next week with both 22 and 23 week updates.

In the meantime, since I know at least a few of you were wondering whether I only had one pregnancy outfit, here are a few pictures of me in something other than the black shirt. Ha!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Guest Post: I Come From the Land of the Ice and Snow

There aren't adequate English words to describe Iceland, so I'll use some of their own. One Icelandic proverb I came across, "Ilt er þeim er á ólandi er alinn" translates as "Things look bleak for the one who lives in a foreign country."

After spending 4 days in Iceland, I understand where they're coming from. My soul felt happy there. This is the sunrise that greeted us on our first day:

Our first day's adventure took us on a whirlwind tour of the natural beauty around Reykjavik. We drove in darkness to our Bed and Breakfast the night before and could only anticipate the scenery which awaited us on our trip to see Gullfoss (Golden falls).

Only an hour from Reykjavik is this amazing waterfall. It's not one drop-off, it's three! The name comes from the golden hue the waters have in the afternoon under the glow of the sun. Iceland is so far North that in the winter the sun never makes it all the way in the sky, casting a warm, ethereal light below. Just as soon as the waterfall appears, the water seems to fade into the gorge below.

The falls is close to Langjökull Glacier (long glacier), the second largest in Iceland. To get there, you need to take a bad-ass vehicle off-roading. Only the roads in the cities and major areas are actually paved. Once you hit wilderness, the paths are marked by tall yellow poles and are only marginally leveled. 

Once we reached the glacier, Blair and I got to drive around on a snow-mobile and see Iceland from several thousand feet.

Convinced you to visit Iceland yet? The saga continues in my next post after I upload more pictures of Strokkur, and the Northern Lights. 

Thanks for sharing Chelsea! Catch up on Chelsea's other Iceland posts:
View from On-High
Off to a Warmer Climate
And be sure to check out her blog, Chelsea's Air Force Life.

50 Cent Art

Ok, technically it's 50 pence art, not 50 cents, but let's not quibble. The point is, I made some really cheap awesome art.

I have a great mud room in the front of my house, but other than a huge pile of wood and a shoe rack, it's completely empty. Since it's the first thing anyone sees when they come in my house, I think it should have a bit more personality and cheer.

My mud room

I channeled John and Sherry's "use-what-you've-got" philosophy to try and make some cheap art. Last year my friend Dani sent me a really cool vintage Washington, DC calendar. I lived in DC for 7 years and I loved having that little slice of home in my kitchen. Even though the calendar is now out-of-date, the pictures are still beautiful.

I picked out my favorite picture and found a 50 pence picture frame at a charity shop in which to frame it. The picture is an odd size so it needed some sort of matting, but I didn't have any paper that looked great with it. That's when I reached in to my stash of jeans leftover from my denim pouf. It's not the most obvious choice for matting a picture, but I really like how it looks.

This room still needs a ton of art that's more to-scale, but at least it's starting to look a bit cheerier.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Guest Post: Off to a Warmer Climate

Hi everyone! I'm out of town at the moment, but my friend and former co-worker, Chelsea, volunteered to write about her trip to Iceland. Prepare to be as jealous as I am. Iceland is definitely on my to-do list, so I can't wait to hear about Chelsea's adventures!  

This title could work for both me and Calli, and I just love the image it gives. While Calli is off in Israel, she graciously let me take over her blog for a few days. I love writing mine, and can't wait to share my adventures with even more people.

As you can probably guess, we're an Air Force family. My husband is active duty and has kept us pretty busy moving around the globe. Last year, we were stationed in Korea. Thankfully, we get to spend a bit more time in Germany, where we're currently stationed. On a personal note, I have a soft-spot for out-of-the-way destinations. France will always be there, but India or Turkey? Maybe not. While I've enjoyed my travels to Paris, London, and Edinburgh; it's the smaller places that have truly found a place in my heart.

Enter Iceland. My whole life, I've been fascinated by the Northern Lights, volcanoes, glaciers, dog-sleds, geysers, lava, and hot water. When I found out all these things existed in one place, I just had to visit. The more I researched Iceland, the more I fell in love with the idea of it. It's a land of hidden worlds, and old myths-- all with a climate that's no worse than the East Coast.

While I was looking through my guide book, I came across this passage:

" Once you've seen some of the lava fields, and eerie natural formations that characterize most of the Icelandic landscape, it probably comes as no surprise that Icelanders believe their country is populated by hidden races of wee people - gnomes, elves, fairies, dwarves, lovelings, mountain spirits, angels, and 'hidden people.' fact, construction on roads and homes in Hafnarffjordur is only permitted after is has been determined that the site in question is not already populated by wee people. " (Lonely Planet)

What a magical place! I can only imagine what it must be like to live somewhere so stately and serene that you could picture a fairy tale happening in your backyard. I haven't left yet, but it looks like I have a lot to look forward to! Check back in for updates as my friend, Blair, and I soak in geothermal pools, hunt the Northern lights, man (woman?) a dog-sled, hike a glacier, and eat delicious seafood!

Thanks for sharing, Chelsea! Like me, Chelsea is an American living in Europe and she's got some great stories to tell. Be sure to check out her blog, Chelsea's Air Force Life. 

21 Weeks!

We're having a little girl!! After Baby Levin decided not to cooperate during last week's ultrasound, Dan and I chose to get a private scan this weekend to find out the baby's gender. Forget what I said about patience being a virtue...I needed to know! :)

More than halfway into this pregnancy and I am still loving it. I feel great, but big. There's no question now about whether I'm pregnant; it's very obvious. I can still fit into some pre-pregnancy shirts, but I definitely feel best in fitted clothes. They accentuate my bump in a more flattering way.

Thankfully the only symptoms I'm having are pretty minor, and very common. I'm experiencing a bit of round ligament pain, which feels kind of like a bruise on my lower left hip. I feel it most when I'm very active, and as long as I slow down and take it easy it goes away. Baby Levin is definitely setting her own pace.

As I mentioned, we decided to get a private ultrasound to find out the baby's sex. What really tipped me over the edge is that I found out our American insurance will cover it. A free chance to see my baby again? Yes, please!

This experience was very different than the NHS appointments. It was definitely a more spa-like atmosphere where they offer you coffee or tea while you wait on a nice leather couch. Then, they brought us into our own private room where not just one, but two big screen TVs displayed the ultrasound images. This was the first time I really got to see all the action. Previously, the technician was facing a small computer monitor to check baby. At the end of the appointment, she would turn the screen for me to see.

This was also the first time we heard the heartbeat while seeing the baby. It was really weird when I heard, saw and felt the baby all at once!

How far along? 21 weeks
Maternity clothes? Yes
Stretch marks? No
Sleep? Really good, actually
Best moment of the week: Finding out the baby's gender!
Miss anything? Nope
Movement: Tons!
Food cravings:  None
Anything making you queasy or sick: No
Have you started to show yet? Yes
Gender: Girl!!
Belly Button in or out? Still pretty even
Wedding rings on or off? On
Happy or Moody most of the time? Happy
Looking forward to: Bonding with my little girl

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sweet Tooth Traveler: Malta

I'm back on Trip Wolf chatting about my sweet tooth travels in Malta. Check it out!

The Sweet Tooth Traveler: Malta
For such a small country, Malta packs a culinary punch. While Malta’s proximity to Sicily means you can find tasty Italian sweets like cannoli and gelato, I was delighted to find many unique treats as well.

One sweet I found all over the island is called prinjolata. It looks like a mess, but it’s quite tasty. It is made from shortcrust, candied fruit, cream, nuts, chocolate and meringue. Apparently, when shops all over the island start making this dessert, it is a clear sign that the Carnival season has begun. My favorite version was at the Marsaxlokk market on a Sunday morning. The cake towered over a table full of pastries.

Click here to read the full post.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's A...

We're having a little girl! I know this violates my self-imposed rule of only posting pregnancy stuff once a week, but I just couldn't wait to share the news. Baby Levin finally decided to cooperate during a private ultrasound this weekend. I'll be back on Wednesday with pictures and more info.

I hope your weekend was as good as mine :)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Last Minute Trip to Bath

Last week Dan's boss asked if he would be available to leave for a work trip the next day. Since the meeting location was a four-hour drive, Dan asked if I wanted to keep him company. It actually worked out really well because it brought us four-hours closer to a city we've been wanting to see since we first moved to England: Bath.

At the Roman baths in Bath

Everyone raves about this city; after spending a weekend there, it's obvious why. The architecture is spectacular. As I learned from our free city tour, most buildings are done in the Palladian style, which focuses heavily on symmetry and balance with a nod to ancient Rome. Great examples of this style are the Circus and the Royal Crescent. They are gorgeous in person.

The Circus

The Royal Crescent

Pulteney Bridge

The Abbey is another stunning landmark.

My favorite part of the Abbey is the ceiling. It is such an intricate design that I haven't seen before.

Dan and I took a hike up to Prior Park. Tourist Information will tell you it's only a 25 minute walk from city center. Baloney! It took us around 45 minutes, mostly because it was completely uphill. Me being 5 months pregnant may also have had something to do with it. Either way, the hike was completely worth it! Even in the dead of winter, this park is beautiful.

Of course a main highlight are the baths themselves. Entrance to the museum includes a pretty fantastic audio guide that takes you through the whole complex. I am so impressed with the complexity of the baths. It is hard to believe that 2,000 years ago the Romans had saunas, jacuzzis, and cold plunge pools.

You know we couldn't leave Bath without trying some local food, right? We stopped at the famous Sally Lunn house. It's one of the oldest homes in Bath and the originator of the Bath bun. They serve both sweet and savory versions of this sweet brioche-like bun. We had a Welsh rarebit (my favorite!) and a cinnamon-sugar. They were DELICIOUS!

Rarebit bun

Though it all came together at the very last minute, it turned into a great weekend trip!