Celebrating Family


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cam and I had been planning all along to host a big Thanksgiving. We love having people over, but as it got closer, what we really wanted was a good ol' relaxing family day, just us, which will be the first time we've ever done that on Thanksgiving. I'm so excited to stay in comfies, cook without a set schedule, play Christmas music, just enjoy time together, and celebrate how our little family has grown with baby Grace!

One of my favorite things to do is set the table, and even though we're not having any guests over, I still wanted to make it special. Simple, natural and with lots of candles. You don't need much or even to spend money, to make a pretty table. John Shea helped me pick these branches while Grace napped in the stroller on our way home from the playground this morning until our hands couldn't take the cold anymore (it was in the 30's, ah!) and the pumpkins were already hanging out on our table from the market.

I know that my kids are still small but even at their young ages, the time is going by at lightning speed. It's been on my heart over the past weeks to keep my phone out of sight, be more intentional with our time together throughout the day and in creating new family traditions together to keep and enjoy over the coming years as our kids grow up. An easy and fun place to do just that is around the table.  I found an idea for DIY Thanksgiving books on Pinterest (here's a free and pretty printable if you don't want to make your own!) and quickly made four out of card stock, so that we can write what we're most grateful for and be able to look back on those pages each year. And chuckle at Mommy's lack of crafting skills.

I hope you have a wonderful day with delicious food celebrating the family and blessings we've each been given! Happy, happy Thanksgiving from Croatia!

Farewell to Autumn in Maksamir Park, Zagreb


Monday, November 23, 2015

Autumn in Zagreb was everything I hoped it would be. We enjoyed it as a family in the many parks throughout the city, in the hills and hiking trails, we crunched and played and kicked through the leaves blanketed everywhere, brought home a ridiculous amount of pumpkins from the market on more than one occasion, watched John Shea collect handfuls of leaves about a thousand times and wave them around like they were the greatest thing he'd ever seen, and spent all of the beautifully warm days and evenings outside. It was a lovely season in Zagreb!

And with that... it's officially winter here. On the last warm evening we had, Cam and I moved dinner outside on the patio for a romantic twist to a Monday night.  Riiight. The kids lasted about five minutes, but it was a nice thought. We'll get back to our al fresco family dinners when it's summer again.

Happy start to Thanksgiving week of good food, fellowship and so much to be grateful for!

Rosemary & Sea Salt Focaccia


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Homemade focaccia was one of the first recipes I ever posted, and I'm reposting the recipe with a few new photos because it's a delicious one to bring back to life. And because kneading and making your own bread is therapeutic. Like gardening. How great is it to get your hands dirty in the soil, plant seeds and watch them grow into something you can walk outside, pick, and eat!? The rosemary in this focaccia came from our backyard that Cam planted this summer and the tomatoes from our neighbor's garden. Making bread takes longer than buying it at the store or bakery, but like most things that take a little extra work and time... it's so worth it.

My sweet girl kept me company while I kneaded and we enjoyed every second of the unseasonably beautiful weather. This was the same night I made Crispy Mozzarella Salad with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette. It was perfect together!

One thing about kneading.. There is no "exact" way to do it. The couple of times I have made bread or dough with others, it was done a little differently. So if you've never made dough from scratch before, don't let that intimidate you! There's a lot of videos online you can watch but I think the main thing you want to go for is to use the heel of your palm to work the yeast into all of the dough, and as my Mika says, "work, work, keep working the dough," until it is a nice, smooth consistency. It may take some trial and error like it did (and still does sometimes!) for me, but stick with it and soon enough you'll have fresh bread baking in the oven.

I love watching Cam's face when he walks in the house and smells that amazing aroma. I wish I made my own bread more often. If you make yours, please share your tips with the rest of us!

Simple Rosemary & Sea Salt Focaccia with Tomatoes on the Vine
(my original post and recipe)

1/4 oz active dry yeast
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
extra virgin olive oil
cherry tomatoes on the vine
2 C flour
course sea salt
raw sugar

Dissolve the yeast (1/4 oz envelope) & a handful of sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water. The sugar will help the yeast to rise. Let stand until it becomes creamy about 5-10 minutes.

Stir the yeast mixture into a large bowl of 2 cups all-purpose flour mixed with a generous handful of sea salt, 1/2 C of raw sugar and separated fresh rosemary leaves. The sugar is optional, but I think it adds extra flavor. Mix altogether until all of the flour is fully absorbed. You may need to add a dash of warm water if there is any flour left to absorb. Knead it on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes until it becomes a smooth, elastic ball. It helps to have your hands clean and slightly damp to keep the dough from sticking.

Once the dough is smooth, lightly cover the bowl in olive oil and place the ball of dough in it, coating it well in the olive oil. Cover the bowl with a warm, damp cloth and let the dough rise for about 30 minutes. It should double in size.

With a rolling pin or your hands, form the dough to a baking sheet that has been drizzled in olive oil (no, you can never use enough olive oil, or haha -- atleast that's how I cook!) as thin or thick as you like. Using your knuckle or thumb, create indentations 1/2 inch apart on top of the dough. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil on top and use your fingers to cover the entire top of the dough. Sprinkle on fresh rosemary leaves and course sea salt and push the tomatoes into the dough with the vine on. Bake at 500 degrees for 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven. Watch it carefully so it doesn't over bake or burn. The olive oil and salt will collect in the indentations and add a burst of flavor.

Once out of the oven, drizzle on a little more olive oil (!) and serve piping hot... ideally with salad, roast chicken, pesto, wine & cheese...

Late Autumn at the Market


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My sweet Mika! Going to the morning market in Zagreb is easily one of my favorite things to do in this city, and I'm loving getting to see the produce and atmosphere change with the seasons.  I know I've said it a hundred times before, but Spring is my favorite time of year, then summer. I'm already so excited to see Zagreb in the Spring! I have to say though that this city has been stunning lit up in Autumn colors. There is wonder in watching trees and hillsides all over Zagreb turn from bright green in the summer to blazing reds, oranges and yellows.  The last leaves are starting to fall off and soon enough, it's going to be time to share the market during winter. There are already Christmas lights being strung in the main streets and the pumpkins in the markets and in my kitchen are slowly being replaced by lemons, clementines and limes.

There are three main daily markets within the old part of Zagreb. Dolac is the biggest across from the Cathedral, with a meat and fish market just below it.  Kvatric and Britanski Trg markets are wonderful, too. Each one is lined with outdoor cafes and usually full with Zagrebians drinking a cup of kava. It's a good place to get a taste of the local market life.

If you go to a pekarna (bakery) first thing in the morning, the chocolate filled pastries are incredible hot out of the oven.

Mushroom season! We keep running into neighbors on the hiking trail behind us mushroom hunting and collecting chestnuts. You really have to know what you're doing to hunt for mushrooms so you don't pick ones that will kill you! but while my cousin was here, we collected a bunch of chestnuts to roast.

240th Marine Corps Birthday Ball


Monday, November 16, 2015

They were super excited to be in a photo with us.

I wasn't sure the Ball was still going to happen one night after the horrible terrorist attacks in Paris.
But it did, and I'm glad that we could go on as planned, unafraid. We all stood together in silence, and prayed for the lives lost and families left behind. The Ball commemorates the birth of the USMC, and celebrates all that it and Marines stand for... which is in stark contrast to the evil that sadly permeated the streets of Paris. It felt fitting this weekend to honor and celebrate something so deeply committed to destroying that evil.

The US Ambassador and The President of Croatia (she is lovely!) both came to the Ball, so I think we were in the most armored place in the whole country. President Grabar-Kitarovic is Croatia's first female president and arguably the most pro-western, free market capitalist in it's history.

Happy 240th birthday, Marines! I'm so proud of my husband and of all of you!

Marshalls Abroad All rights reserved © Blog Milk - Powered by Blogger