Thursday, May 25, 2017

Travel Tips {Favorite Travel Gear}

Just a quick note -- I would say these products are best for kids aged about six months to two and a half or so.  The pack n play does have a bassinet so you could easily use it from day one.  The stroller has the ability to use a car seat adapter if needed and Tula makes carriers you can use from newborn to toddler!

Pack N Play -- we had a great pack n play that we used when the Peanut was a newborn and again when we moved here (for 8 weeks our sweet gal slept in it) -- that bad boy got a lot of use!  However, it is pretty big and bulky and we wanted a better one to travel with (that also didn't break the bank -- we were looking for under $100).  We found this amazing one that has now been all over with us!  And sadly, on our way back from Ireland, somehow the zipper was broken on the backpack/case so I emailed Graco and they sent two new cases for free!  Plus most airlines let you check baby gear for free, so we stuff our pack n play full to free up room in our other luggage!

Stroller -- pretty sure you all know about my love for our city mini stroller (definitely not paid to say that) but it has been so great to have a stroller that folds up really easily (and fairly small), is light, yet also has amazing wheels to get us all over the cobble stones and old European streets.  And coming back from Ireland, the clips were broken making the stroller unsafe so I emailed BabyJogger and we have since received not one, not two but FOUR extra buckle pieces for free (and I should mention that we have an old old version and they still sent us the buckles).  And an added bonus, it has fit through most airport security x-ray machines (which yes, you have to do in Europe).

Soft Structured Carrier -- I borrowed our friends toddler Tula for Paris and I am obsessed.  Seriously the best carrier ever invented.  It was soft, comfortable and most important for traveling -- it can fold up fairly small (compared to our Ergo 360).  We primarily use the carrier for airports and train travel (getting on and off the trains/airplanes).  So far in Europe, we have had to take Serafina out of the carrier more often than not going through security -- I think the only place we didn't have to take her out was Ireland -- but it has been a big help for the long walks to the airplanes and each of us having two hands to carry bags and whatnot.

Hiking Carrier -- we bought a used hiking carrier when we first got here so that we didn't have to use a stroller in some places.  We got this one and really like it -- however, Serafina isn't the biggest fan.  We used it in Portugal when she was younger and she did much better.  She hated it in Germany, but I think that was more the cold rather than anything.  While we haven't used it much, I still highly recommend one -- it can be a lot easier in crowded places and bigger cities (but be warned -- it can be bulky and difficult to travel with).

Lightweight Car Seat -- we ended up with a slight car seat dilemma when we were set to move here: Serafina still fit in her infant seat but we knew traveling with the car seat and base Seattle to Spain would be a pain.  We didn't want to lug our huge (nice, new, expensive) convertible car seat across the world either.... so we ended up getting a very inexpensive car seat -- we went with this one.  It does not have all the bells and whistles, however, it meets all the safety requirements and is insanely lightweight (about 9 pounds) making it very easy to carry through an airport.  Now, I would not use this as my everyday car seat, but for travel it works great -- it doesn't work as well as a rear-facing car seat since it sits a little too upright for it to be comfortable, but works great as a forward-facing travel car seat!
*I should note that all the airlines we have flown (and our friends have flown) check a car seat for free.  We use a specific car seat bag (so we can shove some other things in there) -- but many airlines just put the car seat in a plastic bag and that works great too.  We've used this bag in the past but it is a little difficult to carry and I worry about it staying shut, so we recently got this bag and will be trying it out on our next trip -- and I will be loading it up with diapers and such so it doesn't take up space in our luggage)!

UPDATE on the bag (July 2018) 00 we have carted this bag all over Europe (only when we will be renting a car as our Peanut doesn't use a car seat on the airplane) and we love it!  It keeps our car seat safe and we can load it up with lighter weight items (clothes, diapers, etc.) and check it for free and no one has said anything!  I usually keep the whole bag under 15kg -- but so far so good with our luck of checking it for free!

We are still on the hunt for the best day pack.  We have found that we really don't need too much stuff with us each day, but a backpack works best and keeps our stuff in one place.  So if anyone has a great day pack that they love let me know!

Let me know if you have any good travel gear -- we are always adding to our collection!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Feria 2017

After Easter, here in Andalucia -- the feria season starts and it is just plain amazing.  We experienced our first feria last year and it was so much fun, I couldn't wait to experience it again this year.  Last year we had only been in Spain for about 3 months, so everything was still so new -- but I felt like we all realized what an amazing place it is to live after experiencing feria.

So, first things first -- a little refresher on what is feria (and also read more about it all here).  Technically, it translates to fair.  And our town does a Feria de Primavera which translates to spring fair.  But this is no ordinary fair like you picture in the states.  There are casetas (large tents specifically for eating, drinking and dancing), carnival rides, parade of horses and carriage rides and most importantly -- the clothing!  Majority of the women wear feria dresses (flamenco dress or traje gitana) and men are dressed to the nines in gorgeous suits (and many men wear hats).  Each town in Andalucia has a fair and everyone in the town goes to their own fair and many go to others in neighboring towns as well.  It is very much a go, walk around and be seen event.  Eat, drink (rebujitos -- sherry and sprite -- and it is the only time these drinks are served and they are amazingly delicious) and have a good time.  

I didn't really touch too much on the dresses last year so I want to explain them -- it is quite a sight to see almost every single woman (old, young, any age) in these gorgeous dresses.  First, almost every dress is the same style (similar to mermaid style with massive amounts of ruffles at the bottom) but the fabric and colors are all different, making it seem as if you see many different kinds of dresses -- most common patterns are floral or polka dots.  Most women wear a long dress, but tops/skirts and shorter dresses are becoming more popular -- same with sleeveless dresses, traditional feria dresses have 3/4 or long sleeves (all with large ruffles at the end, of course).  And the dresses are skin tight!  I had mine altered and kept asking my Spanish seamstress to loosen it just a little ("I have a toddler" I kept trying to tell her) -- but nope, it had to be skin tight! (I actually had a friend loosen it just a tad so I could at least sit down!).  The dresses are specifically made to be altered as well, with inches and inches of extra fabric in various places.  And while they are skin tight, they look good on everyone.  But the dress is not complete without the accessories -- huge earrings and a huge flower placed right on top of your head.  Some women wear shawls or also add a decorative comb in their hair.  The BEST part about the dresses is that ALL of them have pockets built into them, tucked under all the ruffles -- so no one carries a purse.  And Serafina's dress even had a pocket!  It is genius and I have decided that all fancy dresses need pockets built into them!
Trevor's coworkers (Spanish and American) have a big lunch event the first day of feria in Rota -- everyone gets dressed up, we have lunch and watch a flamenco show in one of the casetas.  It was so much fun last year and this year was even better!  I knew people this time around so it was a lot of fun drinking, eating and hanging out with our friends -- while letting the kids run wild and no one said anything!  It is an ALL afternoon/evening event so once our lunch was over we just continued the party outside the caseta and moved on to another one -- eating and drinking more!

Because we are now a part of the Rota community, both the base and town, we saw so many people we knew and it just made everything that much more fun!  We saw families from our swim class, we ran into Serafina's classmates and their families, we saw neighbors and more -- it was so much fun basically being a part of a very large street party!

But then our poor sweet Peanut got sick -- like insanely sick, walking pneumonia sick.  So we didn't really get to spend the weekend as we had originally planned.  Trevor and I both took turns going out with friends, and we were able to take my mom out to enjoy feria the last afternoon (she also got super sick but right before feria).... 
at least my mom got to enjoy a rebujito
But we really wanted our Peanut to experience the rides and see the horse parade, so this past weekend for Mother's Day we went to the feria in Jerez (a larger neighboring city) with another family.  It was INSANE!  We knew it would be large but it was HUGE -- easily five times the size of our town's feria.  They even had a map of all the casetas and it was needed!  Jerez celebrates horses for their feria and the horse parade was just something else -- gorgeously decorated horses and carriages parading up and down the main streets of the fair grounds.  Serafina loves horses and thought it was the best thing ever to just sit and watch them -- she would've stayed there forever if we let her!  But we moved on to the rides and OH MAN -- girlfriend is a dare devil in the making!  She went on her first mini roller coaster and had the biggest grin on her face the whole time.  My friend and I went on a crazy upside down, super high and scary ride and Serafina wanted on so so badly -- she kept trying to run up in line saying "go on big ride pease" -- it was adorable but also a little frightening that she seems to have no fear!

the ride the Peanut wanted to go on (and is still talking about)

So far we have enjoyed our feria season and hopefully we can attend a few more before season is over.....

Monday, May 15, 2017

Spanish Recipe: Torrijas

The week before Semana Santa, Serafina's class made torrijas which surprisingly I had never heard of before.... then during Semana Santa in my Spanish class, torrijas were brought up again -- I decided we should probably experience this Spanish dish, especially since they are traditionally eaten during Semana Santa.

I obviously turned to Google to help me find a recipe and I was surprised by the very different variations for something that is fairly simple -- so I decided to go with what I learned from Serafina's school, my Spanish class and Google and make up my own recipe (which isn't too out of the ordinary since I am not one to follow recipes anyways)!

So here you go -- my version of Spanish Torrijas

1 loaf of slightly stale sliced bread -- so here in Spain, they make specific torrijas bread that is only sold during Semana Santa, but a good sliced loaf will do
4 cups of milk
1/2 cup sugar
1-2 cinnamon sticks
zest of one large orange
4 eggs
oil for frying -- here in Spain people use sunflower or olive oil, but I used canola oil
extra sugar (and cinnamon if you want) [optional]

1) combine milk, sugar, cinnamon sticks and orange zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil -- remove the pan from the heat once it it boiling for a few minutes and let it cool and the flavors infuse
2) beat the eggs in a plate or bowl (large enough to hold one slice of bread)
3) dip bread slices into the milk then place into a pan to let them rest for about 5-15 minutes
4) heat your frying oil in a large pan to medium heat
5) dip the bread into the egg then transfer to the oil -- I used tongs and a spatula since the bread was soft
6) fry on each side until crispy (about 2-3 minutes per side)
7) transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil
8) sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar if you want then ENJOY!

As you can see, it is basically fried French Toast and it is AMAZING!  While a little time intensive, this dish has been added to our Easter traditions for sure!  I have no pictures of our amazingly lazy Easter breakfast, but I do have an adorable picture of the Peanut making torrijas at school:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Day Trip {Tangier, Morocco #2}

So I went back to Tangier -- and it was just as amazing as the first time around!  My mom came to visit and another friend had her niece visiting so the four of us ladies took a day trip to Morocco.  And oh man was it an adventure -- and I think the best way to describe our day is to do a little time line, so here it goes!

6:00am -- my mom and I are up and out the door to go pick up my friend (C) and her niece (L) and it is POURING rain, like can barely see, step outside for one second and get soaking wet -- pouring rain.  But we haven't heard anything about the ferries not running, so off we head towards Tarifa.

8:00am(ish) -- we make it to Tarifa in one piece but it was a slow drive with all the rain and wind.  We are shocked to find out our ferry is actually crossing but we are happy and figure we can handle a little rain!
A little note: so the crossing between Tarifa and Tangier is only 8 miles, but because of where these two countries are -- between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the winds and crossing can get pretty bad.... (remember this) 

9:00am -- our ferry leaves and the ride is pretty smooth, but in true Spanish fashion we left late.  We were all talking and having fun so I don't have any idea what time we actually left!
Always remember to get your passport stamped ON THE FERRY or you won't be allowed into Morocco and it'll create a big mess!

10:00am(ish) -- Morocco is a hour behind Spain so once we finally made it to Tangier, we met with our guide, Jamal (who we used last time too and again, he was amazing).  The first part of the day is the driving tour so off we went as we made our way out of the harbor area and through the city.  We saw the Grand Mosque and went up into the hills where all the government officials and those wealthy enough to afford massive mansions live.... we then drove towards the lighthouse where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic (and on a clear day you can see Spain and Gibraltar).  There is also a lighthouse, but you can't access it so it just makes for some fun pictures!
tiles on the Grand Mosque (gorgeous)

11:00am(ish) -- At the lighthouse lookout area there is a restaurant and so we had a traditional Moroccan snack -- mint tea and some thicker crepe thing covered in almonds.... so I enjoyed my mint tea!
Thus far we had been super lucky with the rain -- the only time it seemed to rain was when we were in the van, but we did have a few thunder crashes while we were driving towards the lighthouse so we were happy to take a snack break and wait out the rain!

12:00pm -- we headed to the Hercules caves -- the wind created some cool waves and sounds within the caves, but made for dark pictures of the rock formation that looks like Africa (so go to my first post on Tangier to see better pictures).  The rain finally let up so it was now.....
from above the Hercules Caves
12:30pm -- time for our camel ride!  Once again we completely lucked out and it was not raining at all for our ride -- but ALL of our camels decided that they needed to take their weekly pee the minute we got up on them.  It was hilarious as one camel after another just started peeing and well, they sure pee for a long, long time.  We also went on a much longer ride than last time and all we did was laugh and laugh some more!

1:00pm(ish) -- we drove back into the main part of Tangier for the walking tour.  We managed to be in the main square when the call to prayer occurred and it was quite the cultural sight to see... almost every single person moving in one direction towards the nearest church.  People were putting out large carpets outside the church, removing their shoes and dropping to pray.  It was obviously not appropriate to take pictures or even stare, but it was such an experience to witness and so very different from my own culture that all I wanted to do was sit and stare in awe.

1:45pm -- after purchasing my massive (but extremely inexpensive) quantities of spices, we made our way to an insanely yummy lunch where we were served SEVEN courses (not counting more mint tea)!  We started with the most amazing farm bread dipped in various things (lentils, eggplant, harissa (amazing red pepper paste)), then we had soup, then pastilla (without almonds for me), a couscous/vegetable dish, chicken kababs, fruit and then finally dessert -- we were all so stuffed and practically had to be rolled out of the restaurant!  

3:15pm(ish) -- we continued our walking tour, walking through the area where people live (the medina and kasbah areas), seeing all the gorgeous doors and tile work.  We got to peek into a communal bakery which people use if they don't have a place in their own homes to bake -- it smelled so so good!  And I got to practice my French with the people baking their bread that day!  We continued to explore and shop -- making our way back to the market.
I love this part of Tangier, the small winding streets and very maze-like layout but man is it easy to get lost!  I was so happy to have a guide.  But once again, we never felt unsafe or in any danger.  Everyone was extremely nice and welcoming -- we didn't feel like we got harassed to buy things, but we sure had fun bartering for things we did want to buy!
view of the bay from a restaurant in town

5:00pm -- we made our way to the ferry after a long and fun day.  We were all so happy to sit in the terminal area before we loaded the boat -- we had so much fun laughing, reminiscing about the day and looking at all of our pictures!

So here is where things get REALLY interesting....

6:00pm -- our ferry was supposed to leave at 6:00, but it most certainly did not.  It soon became almost seven before we finally asked someone when we were actually leaving -- we left probably about 7/7:15-ish.

7:30pm(ish) -- we are all having a blast on the boat, laughing and talking (drinking wine -- no alcohol in Morocco) when the boat started rocking pretty good.  Big, huge, gentle rocking like a roller coaster so we were joking and putting our hands up and laughing -- I am pretty sure half the boat was videoing us acting like idiots.... when things quickly went sour.  All of a sudden the rocking was much more violent and fierce, waves were crashing up over the boat and people were screaming (us included).... and then EVERYONE started getting sea sick.  And I mean just about everyone -- a good 75% of the boat was sick and miraculously no one in our group of four got sick, which was good because we went into help-mode.  Right next to us was a mom and her two young sons, all of whom were sea sick.  I ended up with one of the boys on my lap while the mom and the other boy went to the bathroom to throw up.  My mom started handing out cold, wet paper towels to people who were sick.  L started helping clean up some of the mess created by all the sick people -- because when some of the workers are also throwing up, you know its bad.  C held down all of our stuff making sure nothing went flying or got broken, while I was still with the one little boy (who eventually fell asleep).  Everywhere you looked, someone was getting sick.... the bathrooms were full of people throwing up.  One poor mom was nursing her baby and throwing up at the same time.  It was insane.  It took us over an hour and a half just to go the 8 miles across the water.... we finally docked, we helped the mom and her sons off the ferry while our group of four were literally the last ones off the boat and through customs.
There are pictures and videos of this insanity but you don't want to see them :)

10:00pm -- we finally are back in Spain and made it to my car.  We still have a two hour drive home, again in the rain and dark... and thankfully everyone stayed awake!

12:00am(ish) -- my mom and I finally pull into our driveway after dropping off C and L -- we touch nothing as we walk into the house, and immediately jump into the shower!  Then fall into bed, still in awe of our crazy, insane, amazing and wonderful day!

Once again I had a wonderful time in Morocco and seriously need to go back for more -- but this time to a different area and for more days!

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