A 15th Century Farmhouse in Italy... Turned Bed & Breakfast


Monday, July 25, 2016

As soon as we arrived, I couldn't stop pointing out all of the beautiful furniture to Cam. Especially this gorgeous wooden farm table!

I like to share the places that we've stayed at and loved for anyone else that may be traveling to the same area. The gems are not always easy to find! Ca Cinello is a bed and breakfast just outside of Asolo, Italy in a beautifully restored 15th century farmhouse. The owners have worked hard to retain the history of the house and you can see that in every detail from the original stone pavers and wood beams to all of the antique furniture they've carefully found. There's only two bedrooms on a large gated property (with horses and a couple sweet dogs!) so it's quiet and peaceful and it was the perfect place to let our kids run around and explore. We brought John Shea's strider bike and he was off riding at every chance with all of the dogs by his side. He was in heaven! What really made this place special though is the family who runs it. Frederico and Kata could not have been more warm, gracious or hospitable. Alberto, (who restored the house!) thank you for the bottles of prosecco and for staying up all night outside around the table, sharing your wisdom and humor with us!

I loved the fresh hydrangeas everywhere!

And the gravel drive lined with citrus trees in terra cotta pots.

How beautiful is this work table? It's the number one thing I hope to find at the antique market while we're here!

Villa Barbaro, just a ten minute drive down the road from Ca Cinello.

The Best Wine & Food Shop on Hvar


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Our first night on Hvar, I ran out to grab us a few dishes to try for dinner. After ordering, I asked the owner of the restaurant if there were any local wines he'd recommend? He immediately poured me a glass from an unmarked jug of white wine. In Croatia, this usually means it's homemade and going to be something special. It was. The wine was made by his neighbor and sold in the next square over. I walked over and found the shop, but it was closed. Womp, womp. As I was turning around, I literally ran into a Croatian couple we had befriended a couple months ago but had forgotten to exchange numbers and hadn't seen each other since. They are wonderful people and I was so happy to see them again! It turned out that they were also on a wine shop search, a little store owned by a French couple that they'd found in one of the cobblestone side streets last summer. It sold some of the best bottles of wine on island. They hoped it hadn't closed, and after hearing about it, I hoped it hadn't either and went with them to find out.

Za Pod Zub was not only still open, but thriving, and owned by the nicest and friendliest couple! We have a few friends who work for themselves in Zagreb and they often express that the survival and success of a small business feels like beating all the odds. I am so happy our friends introduced us to this shop and the kind owners - Cam and I stopped in every day we were on the island and could have bought everything in it! We also admired how the owners have created jobs and partnerships through their lovely shop for local producers and farmers.

All of the products they sell are locally made in Croatia. Some of the things I had my eye on were the beautiful olive boards, herb & truffle cheeses, lavender cookies, jams, olive serving spoons (which I bought!), dried herbs, deli sandwiches and of course...  the wine!

Each wine in Za Pod Zub is carefully chosen so you can't go wrong with any that you choose. Cam and I tried these made on Hvar, and were just blown away: Duboković 2718 Sati Sunca u Boci (meaning "2718 hours of sun in a bottle"), Duboković Medvic and Carić Rosé Marino. If you come to Croatia and can get your hands on any of these, it will be a happy day!

We wholeheartedly recommend visiting Za Pod Zub tucked in the beautiful cobblestone streets of Stari Grad... and trying as many Croatian wines as possible:)

Favorite Summer Dresses


Monday, July 18, 2016

I've been meaning to share some of the comfortable, affordable and feminine dresses that Gracie & I have been living in this summer for my fellow dress lovers!  If we set aside comfy running clothes (for me) and onesies or just a diaper (for Grace, of course) then we are dresses and bubbles type of women, through and through. Here are the ones that have been on rotation the most this summer...

1. (In Grozjan) Linen striped Old Navy dress for $7. I can't find it online right now but I like this one, too! I also love wearing these slip-on canvas boat shoes that were $15.

(In Grozjan) I wish Grace's pretty dress came in my size! ( it was from a BabyGap online sale)

2. (In MotovunThis midi skirt in pink floral

3. (Island of HvarAnd this same midi in blue & white are my all-time favorites this summer! They are light and flowy, stay cool in the heat and have pockets. This one was around $25 in store.

4.  (In Dubrovnik) This sweet bubble that I bought during a winter sale for $14. Bella Bliss is out of our budget, but I love when they have a sale. I'm waiting for this little number to go on sale next!

5. (In Istria) Sweet blue & white seersucker dress for $8 - I also like this floral bubble & this floral dress.  My pink cami dress for under $10. I also bought this black maxi skirt for around the same price and it is light and comfortable!

6. (In DubrovnikThis strapless high-low dress that was on sale for around $20. I wait until Plum Pretty Sugar has a good sale, and when they do, happy day! Gracie's pretty backless dress is from Smockingbird and again, I wish it came in my size.

I'm sure you'll see all of these again since we get as much wear out of everything as we can:) I'd love to hear any good finds/dresses/sales that you have. Happy Monday!

Grilled Teriyaki Salmon with Peach Cucumber Salsa (Inspired by Dubrovnik)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

You can find fresh fish throughout Croatia, but it was the highlight of every menu we saw in Dubrovnik. We had the freshest sushi since living in Okinawa at Oyster and Sushi Bar Bota, and a few delicious dishes at the more affordable Lokanda Peskarija in the harbor. Ever since we were in Dubrovnik, I've had grilled fish on my mind. At some point I imagined salmon with a teriyaki sauce and fresh salsa made from seasonal fruits at the market and basil from our yard. It came out even better than I hoped - the flavors are simple but perfect together. Our whole family loved it!

Happy summertime from Croatia!

Grilled Teriyaki Salmon with Peach Cucumber Salsa

about 1.5 lb salmon filet, skin on
1/2 lemon, squeezed (about 2 TBS)
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS high quality soy sauce
2 TBS honey
1 very ripe peach, rinsed & finely diced
1 very ripe nectarine, rinsed & finely diced
1 cucumber, skinned & finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 lemon, squeezed (about 2 TBS)
handful of fresh basil, chopped

Note: When picking out peaches and nectarines, choose only yellow varieties; white peaches and nectarines have more sugar but they also have more water and will be mushy and make the dish runny. Yellow fruit holds much better. The fruit that is soft on the top around the stem hole (your finger can leave a slight indent) is ripe. These are the ones you want! I actually left mine sitting on our table for a couple extra days to the point of almost spoiling. They were the sweetest and most juicy peaches and nectarines we'd ever tasted.

Preheat the grill. We have a wood fire oven so it takes nearly an hour to preheat but creates a really nice smokey flavor.

Rinse and pat dry the salmon. Sprinkle a dash (1/16 TBS) of fine sea salt over the salmon and set aside. Combine the lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, soy sauce and honey together in a small bowl. It's important to use fresh garlic instead of canned! Spoon 1/3 of the sauce over the salmon so the whole filet is covered. Set aside the rest.

Combine the peach, nectarine, cucumber, red onion, lemon juice and fresh basil in another bowl. Set aside to let the flavors marinate.  Grill the salmon until it is just cooked through (usually 5-10 minutes). Be careful not to overcook it - you know it's done when it easily flakes when pressed with a fork. Drizzle another 1/3 of the teriyaki sauce over the salmon as soon as it's off the grill. Serve the rest of the sauce on the table to individually spoon over the salmon once plated. Top with the fresh salsa and serve with a good white wine. We drank a Fakin 2010 Malvazija from the region of Istria.

5 Summertime Things We Love About Zagreb


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Last summer, we kept asking ourselves, where are all the tourists?? This summer we're hearing and meeting tourists every time we go out. Each summer more and more people discover this beautiful city, but one of the wonderful things about it is it has kept it's soul. You can get a really good feel for the natural city life in the summertime as much as you can the rest of the year. Once you step into the squares, many parks and cobblestone streets lined in centuries old trees and pastel colored buildings from the Hapsburg era, you'll see why it's one of the most beautiful, green and surprising cities in all of Europe.

Here are ten things we love about Zagreb in the summer!

1. If you want to really get to know Zagreb, pick a cafe (there are literally thousands all over the city, everywhere you look!) and spend a few hours drinking a latte, called kava s mljekom. Zagrebians can spend hours drinking a single cup of coffee, which is pretty amazing when you see just how small the cups are. By the way, the coffee here is really strong and really good! Zagreb's coffee culture is something special. You can't go anywhere without hearing little spoons and cups clanking accompanied by conversation. I love seeing people sitting together, actually talking and engaging each other, and not on their phones. One of our neighbors often jokes that everything in Zagreb happens over coffee -- marriage proposals, job interviews, divorces, and most of all, politics.

If you like fashion, spend Saturday morning at a cafe in Cvjetni Trg (Flower Square). This is the time when everyone from celebrities to students dress to the nines to see and be seen... and to sit and drink coffee!

2. The Markets! Without a doubt, this is my personal favorite. Dolac is the main market nicknamed the belly of Zagreb, inbetween Ban Jelačić Square and the Cathedral. I love the small Britanski Trg market, but Dolac is special because of it's size, location and because it has a meat, cheese and bread market beneath it, along with wine and homemade products. I buy all of our cheese there -- most often Croatia's most famous cheese from the island of Pag at the Gligora stand. Try their mediterranean herb hard cheese! There is also a fish market next to the produce and two flower markets. Look for the vendors who are selling produce that's in season, usually with just a couple different varieties. Here you will find the best produce and the best prices. Today I bought the juiciest local peaches -- 8 for the equivalent of $1 (!!) next to a man who was selling 2 for $1.50.

3.  Walk Gradac & Kaptol. Before Zagreb was unified, it was Gradac (Upper Town) and Kaptol (Lower Town). Both are gorgeous, and while there are so many spots to share, I think the best thing you can do is just walk and wander and get lost in the beautiful cobblestone streets. It's not big enough to actually get lost... at least for long!

4. The Sunday Antique Market in Britanski Trg. Saturday is the best market day in Britanac for produce and flowers, with stands of antiques as well, though nowhere near as many as Sunday morning. The antique market runs every Sunday of the year, but it is the very best during summer. Remember to barter and also enjoy the atmosphere with a coffee at one of the cafes in the square. Stop in at Pekarna Bašić for the best chocolate pastries in all of Zagreb! (Doesn't John Shea look so pleased to be back at the market for his thousandth time?!)

5. Eat al fresco and listen to live music. One of the most surprising things we've found living in Zagreb is how many beautiful concerts there are, and year round. Advent and Easter are holy, other-worldly experiences inside of St. Mark's Church, St. Catherine's and the Zagreb Cathedral with choirs, ensembles and orchestras. Summer is fun with concerts of all genres outside throughout the city. Have lunch or dinner by St. Mark's Church at Trilogija or Fajn Bistro - two of our favorite restaurants that regularly change their menus depending on what's fresh in the markets. The waiters at both know their Croatian wines - ask for their recommendation and prepare to have your mind blown:) If you have dinner on the terrace at Fajn Bistro, you'll get to hear music coming from just below it at Summer at the Stross with live bands each night. Go dance afterwards! Have coffee or a glass of Croatian wine on Tkalčića -- a lined with pastel colored cafes and restaurants. Here is also where you'll find the best and freshest burgers in all of Zagreb at Rocket Burger.

There are so many other things I could add to this list, and so much I could say about the culture and history of Zagreb! But part of the magic of this city is getting to discover it's hidden character and qualities when you come.

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