2013: A Year in Review

Boston, Culture, Photography, Travel

 I am fully aware that it is February and that I am a full month behind on this post. I was hesitant to post anything at all at this point, but 2013 was too good  to not look back on. Better late than never, right?

Here’s a summary of our 2013 in handful of words and a plethora of pictures:

We experienced a blizzard and dealt with the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath.  We celebrated milestones, accomplishments, a graduation and a wedding. We traveled from Boston to the Cape, to Maine, Vermont, and everywhere in between.  We said farewell to our first home, a favorite city, and so many people that we love. 

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We spent a month in Europe with only a backpack on our back. We saw Big Ben in London and the Louvre in France. We drank beer at the Hofbrahaus in Germany, and wine on the Rhine. We hiked miles and miles in Chacos and marveled over the majestic Swiss Alps. We splashed in the refreshing waters of the Mediterranean and rode vaporettos through the Venetian canals. We ate truffles with Fabricio in Umbria and drank wine in the warm Tuscan hills. We explored Roman ruins and played hours of Go Fish in an empty Italian square. I cried when we boarded our flight home and have spent every day thinking about our trip since.

unnamed1385359_620398167079_1124592443_n76114_619012808349_5578899_nunnamed-1970653_611471206779_267726798_nScreen shot 2014-02-03 at 1.25.43 PM1424291_624703559039_1224241147_n548334_622403358659_350101081_n63702_622887628179_124582956_n1017560_635034954839_657219007_n 1002037_630231196609_208284773_nWe took a road trip back to Arkansas and settled into our second little home.We started new jobs and Jacob spent hours upon hours working on PhD applications.We ended the year with a bang at 10,000 feet feeling grateful for each memory made the year before. My 2014 is already off to a happy start and I look forward to all that is yet to come. 

IMG_6501 IMG_6583IMG_7411photo-3I’m a month overdo, but here’s to wishing you all a happy and blessed 2014! May your year bring you lots of peace, joy, and happiness!

Until next time!

Hello From Germany

Culture, Food, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

It’s hard to believe that 10 days have passed since we left the states. Our days have been filled with museums, monuments, and lots of great food. We’ve seen some of the world’s best artwork and architecture, and have dined on some of the most delicious cuisines. We are becoming professional picnickers, and our settings never disappoint. We are getting this whole train travel thing down, and are in awe everywhere we go.

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London was grand, and felt much like home. We adapted very quickly, and were sad to leave so soon. We spent time with friends, old and new. We enjoyed the pub culture, and we even didn’t mind the warm, flat beer. London was great, but it’s Paris that stole my heart.

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There’s really just too much to say when it comes to Paris. Best saved for another day. The architecture had me at first glance. The people were not at all what I expected. And the food! The way the French appreciate their food is admirable and respectable. I long to live a bit more like the French in my eating…
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After an exhausting week in the city, we are now relaxing in the countryside of Germany. We’ve explored castle ruins, drank fine wines, cruised a mighty river, and walked town walls. I feel like we’ve left the real world and entered a fairytale.

Tomorrow we are off to Munich, and on Monday, we will be sleeping 4,500 feet high in the Swiss Alps. Three days after that, and our two week journey in Italy begins. Our trip has been a dream thus far. I’ll hate to see it end. Updates soon!

Shepherd’s Pie with Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Food, Food Photography, Recipes, Travel

Backpacking through Europe has long been a dream of mine. When I was 13 I had a hot pink, Parisian themed room, complete with photographs of the Eiffel Tower, paintings of the Arc de Triomphe, and various other Parisian trinkets adorning my walls. Even at a young age I longed to live in Paris. Then, growing up a little, and very much growing out of having a hot pink bedroom, I decided to paint my room red.  It was a beautiful deep shade of red, color washed with gold. I loved that version of my room. I replaced the black and white Eiffel Tower photographs with an enormous National Geographic world map. I would stand on my bed nightly studying that map and dreaming of where I would one day go. Then came college; a whole new world of learning to fuel my desires. After several architecture, art history, and anthropology courses, I knew that the desire to travel was just part of who I am.

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I deeply wanted to be a foreign exchange student in Paris as a high schooler, but truth be told, I was too afraid. In college I long talked about studying abroad in Rome, but never followed through. Jacob and and I fantasized over backpacking together  during college, but it never happened. But now, finally, the talking is over. We purchased our tickets to hop the pond! Come July, we will set off on our first European excursion, backpacking for one month from London to Rome.

Purchasing our plane tickets was a big moment for me. There were even tears. We’ve been planning this trip for months, but it just didn’t feel like it would really happen until we finalized our order. Even adding them to the cart didn’t feel real enough for me. But let me tell you, once that confirmation email came through, the water works started flowing. I’ve anticipated this trip for a long time, and just knowing that it is actually going to happen was a lot for me to take in.

To celebrate, and in honor of our first stop, we cracked open a couple of English Porters, dug into some Shepherd’s Pie, and watched a bit of our favorite travel guide, Rick Steves.

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The English tradition of eating Shepherd’s Pie dates back to the 18th century when potatoes were first introduced to England.  Made with ground beef or lamb, vegetables, and topped with a crust of potatoes, Shepherd’s Pie has traditionally been made as a way to use up left over meat and vegetables.

While still keeping things traditional, I strayed from the basic roots of this recipe a bit. Using sweet potatoes instead of white gave this dish a bit of sweetness and a healthy dose of vitamins, while using ground turkey helped cut back on the fat a tad.

Hearty and delicious, this meal is perfect for frosty winter nights.

Shepherd’s Pie with Whipped Sweet Potatoes

1 lb ground turkey

1 tbsp fat of choice

1 medium onion, sliced

1 lb sliced mushrooms

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup beef broth

16 oz can diced tomatoes

1 tbsp fresh thyme

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

s&p

1 cup mixed vegetables (I used peas, carrots, corn, and green beans)

6 cups peeled, cubed sweet potatoes

pat of butter

splash of cream (or milk)

dash of cinnamon

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

shredded Parmesan (optional)

sliced green onion (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large oven proof skillet cook turkey over medium-high heat, breaking up with back of a wooden spoon until no longer pink. Add Worcestershire sauce,  a few pinches of salt and pepper,  and about one tablespoon of fresh thyme.

Once your meat has finished cooking, spoon it into a colander with a slotted spoon. Drain off all but one tablespoon of excess fat from your skillet. If you use a lean meat like ground turkey, you may not have any fat to drain. If this is the case, add a pat of butter or drizzle of oil to your skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, onions, and mixed vegetables and cook for 5 minutes more.

Stir in broth and tomatoes and simmer until thickened. Once your liquid has reduced by about a 1/3, add in your meat and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, bring a large stock pot full of water to a boil. Once at a boil, add potatoes and cook until tender. Once cooked,  drain potatoes and rinse with cold water. Then, with a hand or stand mixer, whip potatoes with a splash of cream, a pat of butter, a pinch of salt, and a dash of cinnamon until creamy and smooth.

Lather meat and vegetable mixture with your whipped potatoes and sprinkle with about 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Alternatively, you could broil your dish for the last 3-5 minutes to blister your cheese.

Once your dish has finished cooking, let settle for 10 minutes or so before serving. Garnish with extra cheese and green onion if desired.

What’s your dream travel destination? Is there one place that you’ve always longed to go? Or maybe you’ve already been? Stay posted for more European-inspired dishes!