The Wonderful World of Purees

Spanish people eat with the seasons.  As the food comes from the fields it immediately appears in the pots and pans of Spanish homes.   I got schooled on this healthy soup from my roommate.  Often served as a “first” (appetizer) I had never gave it much thought.  But on this day, I was cold, low on dough, and the simple deliciousness of this soup blew me away.  Purees are super healthy and cheap and can be made in less than an hour.  This recipe is made with Zucchini, red and green pepper, onion, garlic, and potato.  The combinations are endless!  Just remember to add potato to make the puree have a thicker consistency.  Happy Cooking!

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Utrecht!

Utrecht is a fascinating city and definitely worth a visit if you’ve tired of the tourist gridlock and smoky haze of Amsterdam.  Located just 20 miles to the south and a 30 minute train ride, Utrecht can be visited for the day.  But, if you dig a slower pace stay for a bit longer.

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Dom Tower from below. Utrecht, Netherlands
Dom Tower from below. Utrecht, Netherlands

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Finished in 1382, Dom Tower is the symbol of Utrecht.  At one time, this Gothic style tower was actually connected to the Cathedral of Saint Martin, but after part of it collapsed in 1674, the tower stands alone.  Not only can you walk under the tower itself, but you can also explore the top and get a great view of the city. Every other hour the tower’s 50 bells serenade the city with its beautiful harmonies.

Utrecht Archive

Housed in the former Benedictine abbey of St. Paul the Utrecht Archive is the perfect place to discover the rich history of the city and province of Utrecht.  And for my budget travelers….its free!  Through historical sources, unique images, film, and documents you can learn about the city’s growth over the last 2000 years.

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City Center

Walk through the winding streets that have changed very little since the medieval times, and get a sense of how much time has passed in this old city.  The canals have an unique wharf-basement structures that create a two-level street along the canals.  The street level and then a lower level where you can find restaurants and cafes.

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Utrecht City Center
Utrecht City Center
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Walking Tour: León, España

I’m a big city girl by birth, and a small city girl by heart.  I took the big leap and left the booming Spanish capital of Madrid for the historic city of León.  Nesttled on the southern side of the Cantabrian Mountain range in the North of Spain, León is the capital city of the province of León.  It’s not usually on the tourist radar unless you are doing the Camino de Santiago, which passes right through the center of town.  I’ve been here just about 4 months, here are some of my favorite places around town.

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Self Reflection and My Travel Year in Review

I try to avoid too much self reflection at the end of the year, but a little bit always seems to creep in. Recent visits from friends and many discussions about what it means to be older.  Specifically 32, childless, unmarried, and at the moment not so goal driven. No home, no car, and just enough income to make the few ends I do have, meet.  When I talk to friends with plans, roots, and better halves to abuse they seem to possess a greater sense of purpose, admittedly in my weaker times, that I crave.  You always want what you don’t have.   What do you want to do with your life?  When the question was put to me about 5 years ago, I would have answered traveling the world, living in another country.  So how have I fared?   Am I living the life I wanted? I sat down and looked at where I’ve been in the last year.  This has been my year:

January 2015 Barcelona and Tarragona Solo

Just off a traveling high from the holidays, I finally found the courage to start solo traveling again.  This was my first solo trip since arriving in Spain and my first trip to Barcelona.

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The Catalan capital took my heart away with its big boulevards and astonishing architecture. Three days was not enough. I vowed to return.

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February 2015 Valencia and Denía Solo

Spain is broken up into communidades which are like states. There a total of 15 communidades on the Iberian peninsula and I decided to make it my goal to visit them all.  So Valencia was the natural next destination on my list.  It is most known for paella, beaches, and expats. I spent a night here and headed straight for a small beach town named Denía.

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Valencia, España
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Denía, España

After losing my grandmother in January, I needed to get away.  Most of the times I use travel to distance myself from tough times.  I hopped on the bike and let the sea nourish me.

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Meditations by the sea

March /April 2015 Asturias: Ribadesella, Nueva Llanes, and Llanes Half Time Solo

Spent the time walking trails through tiny mountainous villages of Asturias. Did some biking and relaxing. The most beautiful communidad of Spain, hands down, when its not raining.

La ruta los caleros Asturias, España
La ruta los caleros Asturias, España
Biking near Nueva Llanes
Biking near Nueva Llanes
Asturias, España
Asturias, España

May 2015 Nothing…did I need to?

June 2015 Amsterdam, Edam

This was the most anticipated trip for me this year.  Life abroad can get lonely and there is nothing like reconnecting with those that know and love you most.  This trip was right on time!  Holland is one country that  I can return to and love every second of. Best of all I got explore it with my best friend and that was priceless.

 

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Amsterdam, Holland, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Holland, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Holland, Netherlands

July 2015 Working at a camp recharging the money source.

August 2015 Freedom and movements. I moved to Leon!

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León, España

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September 2015 Chicago, Colorado, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Dublin, Ireland

I finally made it home. Chilled out with my people and took in the beautiful USA.

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Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park, Colorado

 

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Dublin, Ireland

 

 

October 2015 Asturias

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Las Ubiñas, Asturias
Las Ubiñas, Asturias

 

November 2015 Asturias

Cangas de Onís, Asturias
Cangas de Onís, Asturias
Oviedo, Asturias
Oviedo, Asturias

December 2015 Bilbao (Pais Vasco), Barcelona, Madrid, Amsterdam, Utrecht Solo and with Good Company

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Bilbao, España
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Bilbao España
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Barcelona, España
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Utrecht, Holland
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Amsterdam, Holland

Right now I’m traveling more than I ever have.  This has been my year.  I didn’t realize I was already where I wanted to be. This little self reflection has jilted me out of “there’s something wrong with my life” pattern of thinking. My life is just what I asked for.  Its funny how you can get just what you asked for, and still not be happy or thankful.  Well I’m thankful to be doing what I said I wanted to do, even though its got me broke and with little to show besides fumbling proficiency of a foreign language and tons of experiences.

 

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How to Survive Christmas Abroad

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All you want for Christmas is for everyone to shut the f**K up? Are you dreaming of a year without this soul sucking magnifying glass on your life, showing just how far you are away from home? How broke you are to be here? And how little family you have now that you are thousands of miles away from your least annoying cousin? Oh wait…that’s just me (just kidding cuzos…you know I love ya’ll!) I am not a fan of Christmas. Not simply because I’m away from everyone I love, but because I find the holiday commercial and magnifies just how much I am sacrificing to live abroad. So this is what I am doing this year to unfreeze my frozen heart and bring some ho don’t fuck with me cheer to the world.

1. TRAVEL far and wide. Nothing like experiencing the culture of Christmas in another country. Through your unbiased eyes you will be a witness to that country on its best behavior when every one is cold and in good spirits. It will surely put you in a good spirit too.

2. Spend Christmas with someone else’s family. Nothing like popping in for one day and one day only to see the ‘good’ and wholesome traditions of a family that you are in no way tied to. As you stuff Christmas goodies down your throat, take advantage of watching all the Christmas cheer…and shade.

3. Give back and volunteer! Under the desire to buy this cheaply made item, or that, more expensive, cheaply made item, is the true meaning of Christmas. Being thankful for what you have, and sharing what you have with others. When I get caught up in my own first world problems, I try to remember that there are people walking across Europe in the freezing cold. People in my own city of Chicago in below 0 temperatures, sleeping outside. My ability to even take a vacation or write this blog without persecution speaks to the many gifts I have already received this year. If you can share your gifts with someone else. Give back. Even if its a couple coins in a cup, a little can go a long way.

3. YOU are all the Christmas gifts you’ll ever need. Seriously, you are the most special gift you can give yourself. Take time this season to take care of yourself, love yourself and those around you.

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Spain on a Budget: Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Cheap Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Broke life ain’t no joke, but its half way worth it when you spend most of your money living and traveling abroad. Making ends meet is a must when balancing a basic needs teaching salary, with a life style of the rich and the famous traveling appetite. Luckily, living abroad in Spain doesn’t mean you have to skimp out on delicious healthy cheap meals. This dish I make on the regular. Its easy, healthy, takes minimal work, and its cheap. I buy my chicken at my local mercado where they dice up a whole chicken, including fileting my breast for around 5 euros. Then I head to the local frutería (any in Lavapiés or La Latina for the cheapest freshest non organic (pipe dreams) veg in the center) where I pick up a bag of potatoes and onions. So here is what you need to make this dish, but its versatile. Put in your favorite veggies and optional side of rice for a full meal.

Prep chicken in advance the more days the better

1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces (breast filet optional)

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 or more of fresh Rosemary

1/4 cup of Parsley

1/2 lemon squeezed

1/4 cup of olive oil

Sea Salt and fresh pepper to taste

Clean chicken. Coat in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In separate bowl mix 3 tbls of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, herbs, together. Coat chicken with mixture making sure every piece is coated with garlic and herbs. Put in container to marinate in fridge for as long as you can. This chicken marinated from Friday afternoon until Monday evening.

On cook day

Rustic chop whatever vegetable you want. I used

2 Turnips (peeled)

4 Carrots (peeled)

1 Green pepper

1 clove of garlic

1/4 Rosemary and Parley

Coated with olive oil and seasoned to taste.

Put veggies in pot( I used a pyrex) and stir to make sure they are coated. Place chicken on top of veggies and bake (375) with aluminum foil on top. Once chicken is done and visibly falling off the bone, remove foil and broil until browned. I coat the skin with a tiny bit of butter for crisping.

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Cafes of Madrid: Acquolina

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On Saturday I was walking through Malasaña looking for a place to set up shop blogging and getting my socializing via the internet while avoiding the mass of crazy rebaja shopping madridleños. Feeling a bit goldie locks and the three little bears, I was looking for a cafe in Malasaña not too crowded, not too empty, but with just the right amount of people with just the right amount of deliciousness to choose from. After scoffing at 3 or 4 of the regular cafe spots I happened on Acquolina.

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Acquolina is a cute little cafe located across from the historic plaza de Segundo Mayo. At first I have to admit I was skeptical, but as I walked around the outside I became transfixed on their window of cakes and pies. 3 shelves of deliciousness, my eyes scanned each and every one trying to discern which piece was most likely to satisfy my life long journey of true happiness. Ok, a bit deep for cake, but you have no idea how much i love a well made baked good. Truth be told I was more so in search for a good piece of cake rather than a cup of coffee, so I decided to go in.

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With about 6 tables its the perfect place to crack open a book and relax or bring some friends to unwind after a day full of explaining the delicate nuances of the English language. I grabbed a spot and ordered a cafe con leche  ( half espresso and half steamed milk) and I weighed the pros and cons of the chocolate and carrot cakes, and then in the last minute being completely thrown for a loop by the chocolate with strawberry frosting. I mean where they do that at! In the end I settled with tried and true carrot. And it was on point! Moist, nutty, and not too sweet, it was served with a side of whipped cream. The range of cakes is a bit out of the ordinary by Madrid standards (shitty ranging from dry and disgusting to just dry..your choice) . They have Chocolate Truffle, Carrot, Riocotta, Mango and Chocolate Mouse, Apple Pie, Banana Dulce de Leche, coffee and Cream of Vanilla, and Bizcochos. They also have about 20 different types of gelato, juices, teas.

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Acquolina has just the right vibe, good coffee, great desserts and fresh smoothies and juices, with out the pretentious hipster vibe you can find in some Malasaña spots. Not too pricy, a cafe con leche was 1.50 euros with large portions of cake running between 2.50 to 3.00 euros. I spent a few hours there sometimes working, sometimes listening in on Spanish conversations, and sometimes watching people go about their day in the plaza.  Out of a possible 10 points I give Acquolina a score of 9.  Grab a book or some friends and check it out.

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