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travel: Paris, France

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

When your best friend/soul sister asks you to go see Beyonce and Jay Z, you do it.

After we moved to Scotland, I needed a familiar face and some much needed girl time. Megan was in England studying abroad for university.  I was job searching and adjusting to new life in Scotland. Beyonce and Jay Z were on tour in Europe. So, we made it happen, obviously.

It was the ultimate girls trip and every time I think of it, my grin goes ear to ear.

If I were a scrap-booker this trip would have its very own album. It would have a bright pink cover with a little leopard print, covered with glittery stickers and have all our tickets, receipts, and random momentos tucked inside the pages.

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Paris is a magical place.

Paris, France was on my travel ‘bucket list’. Like the movies, I pictured myself strolling the streets, gawking over the Eiffel Tower, getting sick from too many macaroons and trying my best to pronounce “merci” and “bonjour”. 

As first time visitors, we were super touristy and not ashamed. I definitely had the camera out all day (may or may not have hung around my neck), I probably clogged up the sidewalk as we marvelled at all the famous landmarks, and of course, we did not hold back with the food, indulging in all of the Parisian cuisine possible.

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What we did: We hit all the tourist spots. A walk through Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre Museum, walked to Pont Alexandre III bridge, viewed the Arc de Triomphe, the home of Victor Hugo, a picnic in Jardin de Luxembourg, a morning at The Eiffel Tower and … danced the night away at Beyonce! [crepes + coffee weaving throughout]

 

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Where we stayed: We chose to stay in an Airbnb in the Bastille neighborhood. Bastille represents Parisian romance—a very stylish + historical neighbourhood. Its streets are lined with with theatres, cafes, antiques, green spaces + gardens. A great location and easy to navigate.

What we ate: Most people know that France puts out more Michelin starred restaurants and chefs than anywhere in the world. Although we were not able to wine and dine on the five-star cuisine we did have some delicious grub. I was over the moon, taste-buds dancing, the entire trip. No gluten-free croissants, but we DID find the most glorious crepe shop. The BEST red wines, and Megan was thrilled to have a fresh baked baguette and traditional French onion soup. A stop (or two) in LADURÉE proved to be a good choice with their wild selection of macaroons. And we routinely picked up fresh fruit + cheese from outdoor markets and followed the example of Parisians around us: picnic time!

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Trip of a lifetime and September proved to be a lovely time to visit Paris. Have you ever visited? Where have you spent time with your dearest friends?

 

Traveling mercies, friends!

x

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healthy pumpkin spice latte

food & drink, snacks, treats

Hi friends, it is the first day of fall! Yay!

Leaves. The clock rolls back. Scarves. Sweaters. Boots. Scented candles. And all things pumpkin!

This week I have been experimenting with a homemade, healthy version of the classic Pumpkin Spice latte from Starbucks. There is nothing wrong with a little treat yo’self, especially if you look forward to this fall treat year-round. But I would like to drink them all fall (and winter for that matter), so I had to find a healthier way to do that without a growing waistline or dwindling checking account. I will definitely be sipping on this as the mornings are darker and the weather just a bit cooler.

Serves 1- 2

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk (or your dairy preference)
  • 2 tbs pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbs maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee or espresso
  • ground cinnamon

 

Directions 

  1. Combine all ingredients (minus the coffee) in a small pan over low heat on stovetop. Stir slowly until the milk is hot.
  2. Whisk the mixture to get a frothy texture for 30-45 seconds.
  3. Pour coffee or espresso in a mug and top with coconut milk mixture. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon
  4. Sip and savour fall in a mug!

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Notes 

  • Extra mixture will keep in glass jar up to two days
  • You can freeze any leftover mixture in ice trays for another day or to blend in a morning smoothie or cook into your oatmeal

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Let me know if you give this recipe a try, as always! What are the fall recipes that you look forward to most?

Happy autumn! x

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endless summer fruit + nut crumble

breakfast, dessert, recipes, treats

Summer officially ends this week. Slow teardrop down my cheek… 

Here in Edinburgh, we have been experiencing unseasonably warm weather leading up to autumn. All of August we enjoyed the seasons best berries, peaches + plums. We had a big bowl on the table and it felt a bit more summery around here. We are topping off our oatmeals, yogurt bowls and leafy salads with delicious additions like grilled peaches and figs and we will continue to do so through the fall with some stewed apples and pears.

For this particular recipe, I was unsure whether to call it a cobbler, a crisp or a crumble because it fits the bill for all. What I love about this recipe is the versatility. You can add whatever fruit you have on hand or is in season.

You can have it for breakfast paired with coffee or topped with a protein-rich Greek yogurt. As a leftover, it can serve as a great on-the-go option as school and work schedules get a bit busier this time of year.

It also makes for a fantastic, and not-too-sweet dessert option. We consistently bring this over to friends with vanilla ice-cream and it is always a hit!

After two rounds of strict AIP since February, I have successfully re-introduced a couple of key foods like eggs, various nuts + gluten-free oats. Win! It makes baking a bit easier and enjoyable. I can have these foods in moderation without feeling crummy. And one tasty way to keep from feeling crummy, is to make this crumble… [nice segue there, eh?]

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Serves: 4-5 Servings

Ingredients

For the topping:
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or dairy alternative)
  • 1 tbs maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • sliced almonds
For the filling:
  • 3 ripe peaches, cut into slices
  • 2 ripe plums, cut into slices
  • 2 ripe greengage, cut into slices (or extra peach/plum)
  • 1 cup berries of choice (blackberries and blueberries are nice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
  • lemon juice
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Directions

Prep Time:  10 Mins/ Cook Time:  35 Mins / Total Time:  45 Mins

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 170 C.
  2. To prepare the filling, toss the fruit, sweetener, vanilla, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle the mixture with lemon juice.
  3. Transfer the fruit filling to a lightly oiled 8 x 8 square baking dish or a glass pie plate.
  4. To make the topping, add all ingredients to a medium sized mixing bowl and mix them together, until you have a clumpy, well-mixed topping.
  5. Dollop (I love that word) all of the topping over the fruit.
  6. If you fancy, sprinkle sliced almonds and/or extra gluten-free on top of crumble.
  7. Bake the crisp for 35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling + the crumble topping is golden.
  8. Serve with yogurt, coconut whipped cream, vanilla ice-cream, or anything you like!

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Notes

  • Leftovers will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge
  • Short on time? Easy to prep ahead of time. Cover in the fridge and pop in the oven before serving

 

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This month, I am looking forward to a similar version with some apple, pears + figs. It is also my favourite time of year to get those pumpkin recipes out! Tell me, what are your fall favourites?
Have a delicious week, x!
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travel: Dubrovnik, Croatia

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

Have you visited a place that makes your jaw drop? Dubrovnik was this place for us.

Dubrovnik was the final destination on our train trip this summer. We started in Munich, Germany and traveled through Austria, Slovenia and worked our way to the very southern tip of Croatia. It was a grande finale and the perfect way to end the journey. It has taken me a few months to put this post together for a few reasons. Wrapping my mind around it, figuring out how to document it and what to write here is no small task!

We were in awe of the marble streets, baroque buildings, endless shimmer of the Adriatic Sea, and totally inspired as we walked the ancient city walls. We ate. We drank. And our pale Scottish skin got a long awaited sunburn. It. Was. Awesome.

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Do + See

Relax and swim in the Adriatic: When we booked our accommodation, we wanted to stay on a section of beach, or close to it. Swimming in the Adriatic is its own reward. On our first morning in Dubrovnik, Ryan and I woke up at 7am to swim at Banje Beach. Ryan grew up visiting his grandma on the New Jersey shore and is his happiest when he is by the water, or in the water. It was a completely refreshing way to start the day as this beach gets really crowded on a hot summer afternoon.

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Get on the water: Go kayaking or take a boat trip. Lots of people seemed to be enjoying a kayak trip around Lycrum Island. We opted for a boat tour, which is a really great way to spend a morning or afternoon and see the old city from a different perspective.

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We had some lunch at a nearby lagoon and then chose a boat tour at the pier. Oma chose the ‘Pirate-theme’ ship, which was hilarious. But it really was lovely, it took us on a loop around Lycrum Island. There were pockets of white rock cliffs and caverns. People in kayaks, swimmers and sunbathers at a nude beach  (don’t say we didn’t warn ya). I was happy to get off the boat with a sunburn on my shoulders and salty skin.

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Get some views: If you are staying anywhere near the Old City it is only a short walk to the base of the cable car going up Mount Srd. You might want to get up early for sunrise or get up there later for sunset. Round-trip tickets for adults cost 100 kuna ($15 bucks). From the top, we took in the shining sun on red rooftops and the deep blue waters of the Adriatic. The panoramic views from the deck of the cafe were top notch.

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Walking the city walls — A must for every Dubrovnik visitor! Walking the walls costs 100 kuna ($15 USD) and close at 7:00 PM. Our Airbnb host recommended we go at 6:00PM to avoid the crowds and the hot sun.  He was right, this is Dubrovnik’s ‘Golden Hour’. The light was golden, hitting the rooftops and the walls. The city was less crowded as most of the cruise ship visitors were back on the ships. This allowed us to walk at a nice pace and really take in the views. Oma had her knee replaced 8-weeks before the trip, and she walked the entire length of the city walls. She is incredible.

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After 4pm: Dubrovnik is growing in popularity and it will never be tourist-free. Most cruise ships dock for a single day and have the same routine: arrive in the old town in the morning and stay until the afternoon. However, in the evening, Dubrovnik becomes a bit quieter. We walked the city walls, ate nice dinners, found charming places for a drink and enjoyed the scene from inviting benches at the pier.

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Eats + Drinks 

A vacation is basically just eating food in new places, am I right? Our favourite part of travel is trying local cuisine and drinks, and Dubrovnik provided that and more! One reason that Croatia is gaining popularity among tourists is that it is considered to be a more affordable alternative to its neighbor, Italy. Croatia and Italy are separated only by the Adriatic Sea and this has created a robust tradition of Italian cuisine and influence in Croatia.

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Gelato— There are loads of places to choose from. But some of our favourite flavours were lavender (very common in this region) and vegan espresso!

Seafood—Fish and seafood is an important part of the Croatian culinary world, particularly along the coast. Although there were plenty of non-fishy options, fresh seafood was everywhere!  We ate seafood everyday. Delicious dinners of grilled sea bass was my highlight and Oma sampled a few seafood risottos.

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Pasta– Pasta is one of the most popular food items in Croatian cuisine, especially in the region of Dalmatia. The other popular sauces include creamy mushroom sauce with truffle and minced meat sauce. Also, potato dough is popular, not only for making njoki (gnocchi), but also for making plum or cheese dumplings which are boiled, and then fried in breadcrumbs and butter. I had gluten envy but Ryan got his fill of delicious pastas.

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Wine— My favourite. Croatia has two main wine regions: Continental (Kontinetalna) and Coastal (Primorska), which includes the islands. We learned that there are more than 300 geographically-defined wine-producing areas in Croatia!  The D’vino Wine Bar had a fabulous selection of Croatian wines and they were really happy to help you find the right local wine.

Burek – Ryan indulged in some homemade burek (spinach + gooey feta cheese pastry puff), lovingly made by our host family.

Karbona Nava– We had a very special dinner at Karbona Nava, our AirBnb host made us a reservation. We ate: shrimp risotto, spaghetti carbonara, grilled sea bass and drank local wines and indulged in blueberry cheesecake. The cook came to our table to check on us and even served us with three glasses of Rajika – a traditional Croatian plum brandy, a gift from the restaurant owner. It was the best authentic dining experience we had on the trip.

The Soul Caffe.– A charming cafe we spent time our last night and I loved the outdoor seating tucked between the old stone walls.There was candlelight, a guitarist playing soft music, a screen showing clips from old black and white films and we sipped on mint and chamomile tea. This vintage-chic cafe and Rajika bar is hidden within the backstreets of the Old City. The musically inspired dim atmosphere offers a great environment for a low-key night out on the town.

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Part of my inspiration for starting a blog when we moved was to document trips. I guess it has become an online journal of sorts for us. If you stuck with me for the entirety of this post, well done, it was a long one. It is just impossible to narrow down the amount of pictures or things to say about a place as wonderful as Dubrovnik.

I would love to hear where you have been in this world and the places you love!

Peace, grace and happy travels!

x

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where to sip: Cairngorm Coffee Co

coffee, food & drink, lifestyle, travel

 

I still remember the first time I walked into a coffee shop as a complete newbie. I remember feeling totally dumbfounded as to what to order.

I was a senior in high-school, coffee seemed intimidating, so I ordered hot chocolate and tucked myself into a leathery corner with my latest copy of Seventeen magazine. I continued to order hot-chocolate until my college roommate introduced me to coffeeeeeeeee.

Enter: my love for delicious coffee and aesthetically pleasing spaces: a new series about where to sip in Edinburgh.

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Cairngorm is the least pretentious coffee shop around and you will not feel like 17-year old me. The concept at Cairngorm is simple.

We LOVE this shop because it is:

  • Bright + Airy
  • Scandi-decor
  • Friendly
  • Fun menu
  • Bold in flavour
  • You can count on a fab playlist
  • Seriously delicious

We cannot get enough of their coffee, treats, perfect work spaces and natural light. This shop has everything to love, including avocado toast and their famous grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

Popular menu picks:

  • Guest filter coffee
  • Craft espresso
  • V60
  • Iced brew
  • Homemade granola
  • Grilled Cheese – [I.J. Mellis cheese + chilli jam]
  • Avocado Toast

The space is versatile. It can be a place for boss-lady business or a coffee date with someone dear. The set up makes for a productive environment to spread out that morning paper or linger with a novel. It is our special weekend retreat and really any moment we are not at work.

 

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Locations: The first location is a cosy, basement level shop in New Town located at 41A Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 1EP. The second shop is in Edinburgh’s West End at 1 Melville Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7PR.

Hours: Monday – Friday [8am – 6pm] Saturday + Sunday [9am -6pm]

If you are staying in or visiting Edinburgh, visit this gem. You won’t regret it.

Have a great weekend!

x

 

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month in review: july

devotionals, lifestyle

Summer is the best. Ryan being home from Tubingen is the best.

We’ve been making up our lost time in cafes, hill walking, playing tennis and going for bike rides. If the weather is dry in Scotland, we better take advantage of it and get outside. The dark/windy/rainy days are ahead.

We are approaching our two year mark in Edinburgh.

Hard to believe. I talk about it a lot, but I remember leaving Colorado and it was heartbreaking but really dang exciting to do something new. And again, we find ourselves in a similar situation.  As we start our third year here, there is a cloud of sadness already setting in as we think of approaching the ‘end’. But we are also met with great anticipation for what lies ahead.

The challenges of moving half-way around the world–visas, jobs, a place to live, not knowing anyone, away from all things familiar–were all stacked against us. At the time, there were three solid options on the table:  freak out, ignore it or pray for it. Well, those are generally my three reactions, and maybe you can relate. Most of the time I do not know what to ask for in prayer. But the beauty of it is that God knows. He knows what we need before we ask.

He knows what we need better than we ever could. The Holy Spirit comforts us in our weakness.  Our prayers are not powerful because we ourselves are powerful. The power of prayer lies in the power of God.

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

Our flat. Our jobs. Our community. Our friends. Our new familiar. God surprised us (and continues to do so) because He provides for us in ways that we did not even know were possible.

He provided us with a flat that is a retreat. We find comfort, rest and healing under its roof. He turned the faces of strangers into a reliable community. We break bread, we pray, we let our guard down with our friends.  He transformed our ‘foreignness’ into quiet confidence. We started off lonely but now we find solidarity with other New College students and families. Our joy in Edinburgh now has deeper roots than the day we moved.

I pray that we can be intentional about the way we do this year, as it could be our last. We want to wholeheartedly invest in the people, the spaces and the communities that have made our time here so full and encouraging. To travel and experience places and cultures that will be soon too far away to see. To finish our work strong, to be diligent and do well.

But for now, August is here. Here’s to enjoying the long daylight, fresh fruit and all the many festivals + street performers here this month! I hope your summer is all you hoped it would be.

Love to you. Peace in your heart. And the grace to live fully, today.

x

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superfood blueberry + quinoa salad

mains, salads, sides

Blueberries and summer – they just go together.

This time of year we all seem a bit more interested in fresh salads and light meals. This recipe is one I tried last summer from The Minimalist Baker (before going AIP) but I absolutely loved it and think it is worth passing along! This salad is perfect for summer and will give you an excuse to pick up some fresh blueberries at a farmer’s market near you. This salad is in season, full of flavour and packed with superfoods!

The dressing really brings all the flavours alive and dancing on your tastebuds: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little sweetener and a good amount of pureed blueberries! It is a perfect vegetarian option, packed with plant-strong goodness. It is sweet yet subtle. It is quick but well constructed. A perfect option for a summery, crunchy lunch or dinner!

 

Serves: 2 entries / 4 sides 

Ingredients

SALAD
DRESSING
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup (honey or date syrup)
  • 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) olive oil
  • Pinch each salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup (approx 50 g) blueberries
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Instructions

  1. Prepare quinoa (easy guide here) or use ready-to-go version.
  2. In a food processor or small blender, add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, blueberries, maple syrup, and a pinch each salt and pepper. Blend until pureed, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  3. On a plate, or low large bowl, arrange mixed greens and top with cooked quinoa blueberries, nuts and avocado. Serve with dressing. It’s that easy!

 Notes

  • If you are following the AIP lifestyle, toasted coconut chips make a great substitution for the grain and nuts.
  • I used pre-cooked quinoa for convenience, by all the means cook your own, read here for easy instructions.
  • I have used hazelnuts and sliced almonds in the recipe but my favourite is pistachio and pecan mix. Use your favourite!
  • A crumbled goat cheese or feta would be a nice addition if you tolerate dairy

 

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What are you favourite recipes that use seasonal fruits or ingredients? I hope you have a delicious weekend!

x

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travel: Split, Croatia

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

Croatia is the place to vacation in Europe these days.

 It is gaining popularity because…

  1. It is beautiful/amazing/warm/ and full of history 
  2. Affordable alternative to Italy: the Adriatic Sea, islands + strong exchange rate
  3. For all of you fans, Game of Thrones is filmed here  
  4. The list goes on and on 

The train ride into Split was very scenic. I spent time reading about the 1991 Yugoslavia War and independence of Croatia. Evidence of the war still lingers in the tiny villages along the train tracks but it is easy to see how resilient the people are here, how communities have been restored and that the area is thriving. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking in parts- rivers that we could see from the train going through Plitvice Lakes National Park  were absolutely crystal clear and bright turquoise. Green, lush, jungly trees. White cliffs. Stone bridges. Rolling hills. Tree covered mountains.

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Arriving into Split, we were ready to explore and indulge. Old town is full of romantic outdoor cafes. We found a beautiful garden restaurant in an old white building, with ivy growing up the walls, garden lights and green shutters on the windows. The currency exchange is almost 9:1 [Croatian Kuna to British Pound]. This made it affordable for us to eat out and treat ourselves to wines, seafood, and I even splurged on trying mussels for the first time!

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Our first morning in Split, we woke up extra early and went for a walk along the promenade (the ‘Riva’) curious to check out a hill on the other side of old town. We walked to the top of Marajan Hill  where we stood in awe for quite some time. What struck me was the change of scenery from the dear UK. The leaves of the palm trees, looking up and seeing them on a backdrop of clear blue, bright skies. Not a cloud to be seen.

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The morning sun was shining on the Roman ruins walking back through Old Town. Split is lovely with all its alleyways, hidden courtyards and ivy covered walls. It was early yet, so the streets were quiet. On our way back to the flat, we picked up coffees (note: coffee and cream is coffee and ice-cream, fun little surprise) and fresh juices. Ryan picked up a delicious smelling apple-baklava-filo-pastry goodie from a street vendor called, strudel od jakuba. Most places in this region have their own variation of a strudel, and Ryan was happy to try each one in search of ‘the best.’

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We enjoyed our goodies on the steps of Diocletian’s Palace, definitely the number one thing to see in Split. The ruins of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, date back to the late 3rd to early 4th century A.D. I love history and this was making my head spin a little because I think it is the oldest place that I have physically been in. There is a sphinx here that Diocletian himself had built and is part of the original palace, 2,000 years old! 
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The outdoor open market was another highlight for me – it was full of fruit, cheese, antiques, dried fruits, nuts, fresh lavender and flower vendors. Such a cultural experience! We bought some fresh goat cheese, dried apricots, almonds and juicy peaches. 
We finished our day in good style – enjoying life’s simple pleasures (gelato and coffee) in a city that does such a wonder job of  weaving the past and present.
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If we had a bit more time it would have been fun to swim at the beach or take a boat trip out to one of the nearby islands. Our time was lovely in Split and we eagerly boarded our bus for the our next stop, Dubrovnik!

Currently, there is also no train line between Split and Dubrovnik so this meant the end of our Eurail pass. This might change as Dubrovnik is becoming such a popular travel destination. For now, buses are the best way to get there. The journey to Dubrovnik is 4 hours with some fun along the way. We saw an incredible place called Fortress of Klis, baby donkeys (yes, baby donkeys!), more turquoise rivers and even made a rest stop in Bosnia – one of my favourite stamps in the passport because it is so random.

 

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 Up next: Dubrovnik, Croatia 

 

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travel: Zagreb, Croatia

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

 

The landlocked capital of Croatia is, quite possibly, the country’s most underrated destination.

According to Rick Steves, you cannot get a complete picture of modern Croatia without a visit here. Zagreb is away from the coastal villages and touristy resorts. Off the map a bit but a great way to experience some culture, in the “lively and livable” city that is home to one out of every six Croatians.

Our afternoon layover in Zagreb was a nice opportunity to stretch our legs, take in the city and get a bite to eat. We were sure to see the Zagreb Cathedral, Jelačić Square and Tkalciceva Road, such a thriving cafe culture and streets lined with rows and rows of places to sip and eat.

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We had a delicious lunch at ‘Trattoria Leonardo’s’. There is a big Italian influence in the cuisine here, which is good for Ryan because pizza is his favorite food group.  Oma and Ryan also indulged in their favorite beer, Radler lemon (lemon beer) and I had plenty of chilled white wine!

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There were not many tourist here which was a nice way to see the local culture and artistic enthusiasm of residents. The central park, located across from the train station, was hosting a large festival. There were food vendors, games for kids, live music and street artists that were covering the sidewalks in beautiful-vibrant chalk murals.

Ryan found some Croatian-donut ball-treasures, Najbolje Fritule, drizzled with Nutella and powdered sugar! I talk about gluten-envy a lot but that was over the top. So, before getting on the train,  I bought a small crate of strawberries from a sweet vendor outside of the train station and imagined they were donut balls. A girl can dream.

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We feel like we made the most of our afternoon in Zagreb and would definitely recommend putting it on your Croatia itinerary. If we had more time I would have liked to check out some of their museums and art galleries.
Up next: Split, Croatia
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travel : Ljubljana, Slovenia

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

We got off our train in Slovenia and did not have access to wifi.

I thought this might happen. We had to go old-school and use the travel books that I checked out from the library in Edinburgh. We played the tourist part well. Picture us and our huge fold out map trying to read street signs and all three of us pointing in different directions. ☝🏼👇🏼👉🏼

Ljubljana (pronounce it how you wish, here is some assistance… [ljuˈbljàːna]…. ) is a very walkable city and I was confident that we would find our listing.  With the help of a sweet old woman, she looked at our address and led us to our straight to our apartment. We dedicated a couple of days to Ljubljana and I am so grateful that we did. Slovenia, and it’s capital city, is a gem. After arriving, we walked along the Ljubljanica River, a river that winds through the middle of old town. The clouds were radiant. All different colours and it was the first sign of warmer weather since leaving the UK.  The bridges were lit up at sunset and people sipped on their drinks or licked their gelato along the waterfront.

One of my favorite activites in Ljubljana was walking the central open-air market. Row after row of of vendors selling fruit, vegetables, street food and flowers. The berries and cherries were so sweet and juicy and there was table after table of bright flowers and fresh herbs. 

 

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Ryan, excited to get some street food, found a HUGE sausage pita meal. It was honestly the most sausage I have seen in one sitting. I lucked out as the market was closing and scored a huge bag of… sauerkraut! A very kind lady insisted that I take it at no cost as she was getting ready to leave. So delicious. So obviously, we paired with the huge sausage platter.

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One of the many unique architectural wonders in Ljubljana is ‘Triple Bridge’, it connects new town with the old and is quite the feat for being constructed in 1931. Another bridge worth seeing a few blocks down is called the ‘Cobblers Bridge’, the oldest bridge in Ljubljana.

We spent the afternoon strolling through the old town as there are so many cool cafes with outdoor tables and shops. Keep your eye out for dragons. I had too much fun counting them and laughing at all the random nooks and crannies they hide in. True story, Ljubljana has a long history of dragons (read more here).

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Want to read more about this diamond city? Read 11 reasons to visit LjubljanaWhat cities have you been to that exceeded your expectations? 

Up next: Zagreb, Croatia 

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travel: Munich, Germany

budget trips, lifestyle, travel
Our taxi picked us up for the airport at 4.30am.

I would usually need some caffeine pumped straight into my veins at this hour, but the adrenaline, the excitement of meeting up with Ryan and this train trip in Europe with Oma had me well jazzed.

It was Oma’s maiden voyage in a British black cabbie and the driver tried every pick up line that he could muster up (she is a thing of beauty though, let’s be honest). We laughed and quickly grabbed a coffee before the terminal. The last time we were on a plane together, I was in high-school. I was filled with giddy excitement reminiscent of my teenager years as we walked the tarmac to our plane.

We kept ourselves entertained on the flight with Rick Steve’s guide to Croatia and playing  21 Questions. Her answers made me laugh, tear up, and see her a little differently as she shared her heart and told me stories of her childhood and past. Things I had to note down that I just don’t want to forget. Side note: She once dreamed of joining a traveling circus from Peru, Indiana. It’s never too late, Oma.

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After landing in Stuttgart, Germany we met up with Ryan. Being happy to see him is an understatement. We could not stop holding hands. I held him tight. Kissed him every 3 minutes. Talked his ear off. And my joy meter was off the charts. My normal was back.

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The first train leg of our big adventure was Munich but the Scottish weather followed us. We were shocked to get off the train and be hit with wind and rain , 42F / 5C.
Munich is chic and elegant even in crummy weather. I will remember: copper and turquoise rooftops. Rathaus tower views in Munich city centre.  Strolling the main street with wind in our faces. Oma warming my hand in her pocket.  Devouring sausage + sauerkraut rolls. And of course, Ryan’s pretzel, the size of his face.

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We definitely enjoyed our unseasonably cold time in Munich but found ourselves daydreaming of our final destination along the Adriatic Sea. I would love to see more of Germany, but this quick layover was a nice connection option before boarding our next train.

We found the Eurail passes easy to order and train timetables easy to navigate with their smart app for iPhone and Android. Have you ever planned a trip with Eurail? I would love to hear your stories or suggestions for smooth train travel in Europe.

Up next: Salzburg, Austria

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menu plan monday

breakfast, food, mains, recipes, salads

It has been awhile since I created a Meal Plan Monday post! 

I guess there are few reasons – while Ryan is away, I am only cooking for one,  and I have been doing a lot more experiential cooking with the things I have on hand or finding random inspiration on a Wednesday night via Pinterest. I am also getting through items in our freezer + pantry and picking up seasonal produce on my walks home from work. Although the actual planning process has been a little unpredictable, I have still been putting together delicious, healthy and affordable AIP meals.

This week will be slowing down a bit, which helps with planning and returning to my well-planned grocery shop haul. The plan… is to plan when I can, not stress when I can’t, and to be reminded of why I love to cook. Having any kind of chronic illness related to diet and nutrition has the potential of causing added stress in the kitchen. But this healing journey through AIP has truly made it more enjoyable.

BREAKFAST

Does anyone else feel like you might be breaking the law if you opt for vegetables for breakfast? It definitely feels like some rule is being broken if you get out of the sweet-baked-smoothie, egg-box, doesn’t it? Growing up, I would watch my granddad eat green peppers, tomatoes, sauerkraut and rye bread every morning. I though he was crazy and reached for my Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Veggies are a great way to start the day. I have been experimenting with this and I actually feel fuller longer, and I have noticed that my body handles a warm savoury breakfast much better than a sweet or cold breakfast. Don’t know why but if anyone does… enlighten me! Although I do love a good pancake or creamy fruit smoothie bowl, I have enjoyed this new routine. For the recipes below, I will be adding shredded chicken or homemade turkey sausage,egg yolks and a heaping cup of probiotic-full sauerkraut (thanks Grandpa) to really maximise my first meal of the day with nutrient density.

AIP Veggie Hash

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AIP Spring Vegetable Breakfast Soup

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Fennel, Apple + Pomegranate Salad

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LUNCH + DINNERS

Interesting side note… this week I read that a third of office workers eat exactly the same lunch, every day, for an average of four and a half years! Whoa! I am definitely guilty of weeks like this, but I am learning that it is so SO important for our gut-health to provide variety and not rely too heavily on the same foods over and over. I typically bring huge amounts of dark leafy greens and lettuce and to put together a massive salad at work. The toppings depend on what I have on hand, but it’s usually shredded chicken, cucumbers, beets, avocados, celery, shredded carrot, … really any vegetable. If I have leftovers from dinner, I dollop that on top of my salad. These selections feature a recipes that would be easy to batch-cook for dinners at the beginning of the week and top up my lunch bowls.

AIP Turmeric Chicken Salad

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Cucumber, Carrot + Avocado Salad

Carrot Mash

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Mayo-free Chicken Salad

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Roasted Beet, Pear + Walnut Salad

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Roasted Spring Vegetables 

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Sweet Potato Picnic Salad

sweet potato aip recipe

Wha-la. Here is to a week of nutrient-dense and low stress cooking! 

I am really interested in seasonal eating and buy as much local/seasonal produce + meat/seafood as we can. There is a great website, Eat the Seasons, where you can look up what is in season every week of the year. The recipes that I will be trying out this week include many ‘July’ produce items – which keeps the diet varied, but also means you save a bit a money, invest in the local economy and eat fresh food. Win!

I would love to know how you prepare for the week and what meal planning tips you have. 

Have a delicious Monday.

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lemon + coconut cake

dessert, recipes, treats

[This recipe has been edited since it was originally posted. I appreciate your feedback about my initial recommendation of coconut flour. I have reworked a few ingredients and hope this variation proves to be more successful for you as it requires less coconut flour! Keep the feedback coming y’all]

Grain-free and sugar-free baking can be intimidating, crumbly and expensive. But it can also be easy, delicious, affordable and make a restrictive diet fun again. Yep, I love fun that you can eat.

When it comes to basic GF/DF/SF/Paleo baking, we do not have to reinvent the wheel. Thanks to all the wonderful blogs, cookbook authors, Pinterest and friends with Celiac and Hashimoto’s, or individuals following the auto-immune protocol, it is easier than ever to modify and experiment with any recipe imaginable.

I first made a version of this cake at the beginning of the year and what a difference a few months make in learning how to make vegan, grain-free, naturally-sweetened baked goods all that you want them to be. Patience wins again!

I started my ‘cake experiment’ with a very basic vanilla pound cake recipe from Elana’s Pantry.  I have used this recipe as a base to experiment with banana bread, blueberry morning loaf, cinnamon raisin pumpkin loaf and chunky zucchini bread. I am really excited about this batch of lemon cake because it is super moist, dense yet light, not too sweet, and this case, deliciously lemony! I have to omit eggs from baking and find that banana, applesauce and arrowroot flour bind nicely. This cake is good naked and can also be topped a layer of coconut creme.

Ingredients
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup arrowroot flour (can sub tapioca or almond flour)
2 ripe bananas
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 coconut milk (or dairy alternative of your choice)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
lemon juice from 2 lemons
zest of 2 lemons

Heartbeet Kitchen’s | Ingredients for whipped coconut cream 

1/2 can very cold full fat coconut milk (refrigerated overnight)

2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (omit for AIP)

½ cup unsweetened toasted coconut flakes

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 175C
  2. Coat a 9″ loaf pan with light layer of coconut oil and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flours, salt, and baking soda.
  4. In a mixer or a small processor, combine the bananas, milk, applesauce, vanilla + lemon juice
  5. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir to combine. Add lemon zest.  Then pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top into an even layer.
  6. Top with sliced almonds, omit for AIP. 
  7. Bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown, then tent with foil and bake for another 30-35 minutes until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.
  8. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before topping with coconut cream and serving your people!

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Coconut cream:

  1. Open the refrigerated coconut milk, being careful to keep it level. Scoop out all the hard cream that has come to the surface, until you hit the liquid. Leave the liquid in the can, do not add.
  2. Put the coconut cream in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a mixer or handheld mixer on high speed – whip the coconut cream for 3 to 5 minutes until it becomes fluffy and light, with soft peaks.
  3. Stir in the honey and frost cake. Best stored in refrigerator, then let it come to room temperature before serving.

 

 Notes

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days
  • I recommend Meyer lemons if you can find them
  • I recommend using a food processor to blend the batter nice and smooth, like an eggy consistency
  • Try letting the cake sit for a bit before eating – the texture improves a bit and the middle should firm up

Enjoy! x

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strawberry + mixed greens salad with toasted nuts

mains, recipes, salads, sides

The bright and beautiful strawberries used in this recipe were picked at Craigie’s Farm. This pick-your-own farm and cafe is one of Edinburgh’s treasures and it is easy to see why city folk like myself flock to the farm on weekends. We wandered up and down the greenhouses and fields filling our baskets with strawberries, raspberries and cherries. This proved to be highly addicting. My baskets were full but I just couldn’t stop looking for deep, red, ripe fruit. I would find one and say, “okay, this is the last one” but it would turn into another fifteen minutes of foraging. Needless to say, the entire experience made me rethink the times I have sat and plowed through a carton of raspberries in 1.5 minutes. This week when I looked at my berries, I thought more about the colors, the textures, the hands that picked them and the joy of finding them- but I still ate them rather quickly. 

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One of the best parts about summer? Salads! And tossing fruit into our salads! Hooray! I love salads because they are customizable and can be easily experimented with. Putting in the stuff you like and picking out the stuff you decide you are not crazy about is easy peasy. The idea of strawberries on salad is not a new concept. There are many wonderful strawberry salad recipes out there, two of my favorites that you can view here are from the wonderfully talented The Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows.

This strawberry salad is fresh, satisfying and super… super easy to make.  I always prefer a little crunch in my salad, so tossing in some unsweetened coconut flakes and toasted nuts are delightful additions. They also provide important healthy fats and a protein boost, win-win.
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INGREDIENTS
DRESSING

3 tbs olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1-2 tsp date syrup (or sweetener of choice)

Mix all ingredients in small jar, set aside

SALAD

1-2 c (150-200g) quartered strawberries

200g arugula + watercress mix

200g spinach

3 tbs unsweetened shredded coconut

3 tbs raw hazelnut + almond (or nuts of choice)

METHOD

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C) and place nuts on lined baking sheet. Toast for 5-8 minutes then set aside

Add mixed greens, strawberries, coconut and toasted nuts in a large mixing bowl

Drizzle 2-3 tbsp of balsamic dressing and toss gently

Notes
*Serve additional dressing, nuts and coconut on the side
*Best when fresh. Share it for 2 entrees or 4 small salads
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