29 April 2011

Interview With an Expat: Jordan

John overlooking Amman, Jordan

Today, I present my next installment of "Interview with an Expat." Last month I interviewed my friend Becky who lived in Japan for three years about her time living overseas and her experiences with the culture. (Read here.) This month I interviewed my husband, John, who lived in Amman, Jordan in the summer of 2009. I've divided the interview into two parts- culture and travel.

 Understanding Culture

Why Jordan?
I went there to work with a fair trade organization for the summer.

What was the biggest cultural shock? 
 There are two. The first was getting used to hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day. I was expecting it, but if you aren't used to it the beautiful sound can be a bit unnerving. Second was realizing, once we made friends, that we ran on different timetables. We were bound by the clock and my Arab friends seemed to have no concept of time. People could show up hours past the time you set to meet.

King Abdullah's Mosque, Amman, Jordan

What is your favorite thing about Jordanian culture?
The overwhelming hospitality. When you meet a new friend you are invited over for tea, hookah, and meeting their family the same day.

How did living in Amman for the summer challenge or change your worldview?
I was under the impression that all the women suffered under the thumb of men. This was not the case in Jordan. Though some women had difficult lives, many women chose not to wear a hijab, they held jobs and even owned businesses. Some women had the opportunity to be very successful in Jordan, where they might not in other areas of the Middle East.

Also,my politics changed in many ways. I was awakened to the Palestinian plight. So many people I met weren't angry, they were just so sad that they couldn't live in the land their forefathers had worked for generations. All they wanted was to go home. I also grew a distrust for the way American media portrays the Arab world.

Sign in the desert of Petra

What is your most memorable experience?
After many failed attempts to make friends my co-worker and I were walking downtown at night and got pulled into an alleyway by some local guys. "Are you Americans?" they asked. Being that we were they led us down the alley to group of 50 men, huddled around a small T.V. They were watching the FIFA Confederations cup- Egypt vs. USA. They cheered for Egypt and we cheered for the US. By the end of the game America had won the game and all 50 men were shouting, "America! America!" Hands down, the best night.

Travel Tips for Jordan

Knafeh from Habiba

Where are the best eats in Amman?

1. Reem. Tell a taxi driver "d'war ithnane" (second circle). Once there, look for Reem directly across the roundabout from the big hotel. They serve up the best shwarma in Amman.

2. Hashem's. Many places serve falafel and hummus, but rumor says this place is the best. Supposedly the king eats here. It is downtown in "the ballad" off Al-Amir Mohammed St.

3. Habiba. They serve up the finest knafeh. Don't be fooled...there are Habibas all over Amman, but the best one is downtown in the ballad in a food cart in an alley. Go at night and look for a million people packed in a alley. That's it.

John covered in dead sea mud.

What are a few things you can't leave Jordan without doing?
1. Petra. It's located about1.5 hours south of Amman. For a premium experience hire a donkey up to the monastery. Caution- Bedouin try and rip you off for camel rides...so haggle hard.

2.The Dead Sea. Go float around and rejuvinate your skin in the mud. *Do not put your face underwater.*

3.Wadi Mujib. It's near the dead sea. Hike up a canyon to a huge waterfall. You will get very wet, so don't bring a camera unless it is waterproof and be sure to buy watershoes.

4. Camp with Bedouin in the Wadi Rum desert.

5.Aqaba. The southernmost point of Jordan has the best snorkeling in the world. I hear the coral is even more beautiful than the great barrier reef.

John with his camel at Petra.

Anything else travelers should be aware of?
1. Only shake hands with people of the same sex. I got rejected many a time trying to shake a woman's hand.

2. Greetings are very important in Arab culture. You always ask how they are doing and how is their health. Only ask how someone's family is doing if you know them well. Otherwise this common greeting is considered rude.

3. If Arab coffee is served after some time visiting at someone's home this is a sign that they are ready for you to go. When the coffee comes out, drink it up, wrap up the conversation and say goodbye.

Have you ever been to Jordan? What are your culture and travel tips?

28 April 2011

Rolette- An Iranian Dessert

I am blessed with many Iranian friends. There our many benefits to our friendship- laughter, learning, understanding, love, and most of all, the food. They feed me well. They feed me until my pants won't button and all I can do is lay still on the couch like a beached whale. By far, my most favorite dish is this rolette. My friend, Viyan, taught me to make it about a year ago and it is now a favorite in our household.

Rolette is basically a sponge cake rolled up in cream and topped with chocolate or pistachios.  When you eat it you are taken away in your minds eye, not to Iran, but to France. Persian desserts are heavily influenced by French pastry and you will find many Persians that are fluent not only in Farsi and English, but French as well.

Take a look at this one here. It is rolled to perfection. I have not mastered this art. You will find my roll cracked at the edges- a disgrace to my cooking teacher, to be sure. What can I say? I'm an American! Rolette is in their blood and I just started making it one year ago!

Exhibit A

Iranian Rolette

Cake Ingredients: 
6 eggs (whites and yolks seperated)
6 heaping tablespoons of all purpose flour
7 and 1/2 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
1 and 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Butter (to grease pan)

Creme Ingredients: 
1 pint heavy whipping creme
2 and 1/2 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 or 2 pieces of dove dark chocolate (for garnish)

Exhibit B

* heaping tablespoons is not a measurement.  Rather, take a big soup spoon and scoop a heaping helping. That's one. A lot of this is eyeballing it, and I've done my best to adapt it into an accurate recipe.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crack 6 egg whites into a large bowl and place the yolks in a bowl. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add egg yolks one at a time, keeping the mixer on high speed until all the yolks have been incorporated.

2. Mix in flour one spoonful at a time until smooth and fluffy. Mix in powdered sugar one spoonful at a time. Add baking powder and vanilla and mix well.

3. Butter a 9x13 cookie sheet and pour in batter. Make sure it sits evenly. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Once cooked, roll the cake straight out of the oven being careful not to crack  the edges (if possible). Roll the roll loosely in a paper towel and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

4. Whip creme with a beaters until frothy. Add powdered sugar and continue mixing until stiff. Chop nuts and stir into creme. Carefully unroll the cake once cooled, supporting it where needed to avoid cracking. Fill with creme and roll as you go (see exhibit A).

5. Once the cake it filled, cover the rolette with the extra creme, and fill in the end holes with creme (exhibit B). Grate dark chocolate (or chopped nuts) on top for garnish. Serve cold, and keep refrigerated.

What is your favorite ethnic dessert?

 Also, don't forget to enter the Emile Henry Ruffled Pie Dish Giveaway if you haven't already!

27 April 2011

GIVEAWAY- Emile Henry Ruffled Pie Dish


I mentioned yesterday that I'd be doing a giveaway as soon as I hit 100 followers. I woke up this morning to 103 and I'm a lady who keeps her promises! I'm happy to announce that today kicks off my very first giveaway- a lovely Emile Henry Artisan Ruffled Pie Dish from Williams-Sonoma. (Pictured above.)

I have the same dish in red. And it is a red one I plan on giving to one of you lucky ladies or gents. It's a beautiful piece of bakeware, hand-crafted in France. Check out the video here.

I want to thank you all for your friendship and encouragement these last couple months. Your comments make me laugh and offer tons of support, and I enjoy reading about your lives as you continue to write all across the internet.

Who Can Enter?
Anyone who follows this blog is eligible but you must complete at least one (or more) of the steps below to enter.Click the follow button to the right if you have not already. 

How Can I Enter? 
There are three ways you can enter this giveaway...
1) Follow me on Twitter @myeclecticlife and leave a comment below that you did or already do. 
2) Tweet about this giveaway and comment below that you did. 
(Include: Just entered a #giveaway @myeclecticlife for an Emile Henry Pie Dish! http://tinyurl.com/3pb9pzf)
3) Blog about this giveaway and comment below that you did.

When Can I Enter?
This giveaway is open until Wednesday, May 4th @ 11:59pm.
The winner will be announced Thursday, May 5th.

26 April 2011

Banana Bread

I'm full of energy this morning; energy and pizazz. I got a solid 8 hours of sleep last night and I'm ready to go this morning. Sleeping down in Vero Beach over the weekend took a toll on me. The house is so quiet at night, something I used to love about it until I married John who can't fall asleep without a fan blaring. Friday and Saturday night I was restless, but these last few nights at home with the box fan have been rejuvenating.

I'm full of pizazz because....Culture Connoisseur is 3 people away from 100 followers. It's not the "100" I'm excited about, it's the giveaway that I'm doing when I hit it that's got me grinning! I won't say what it is yet, but I will say it has a little something to do with Williams-Sonoma and it is going to be an awesome way for me to say thank you to all of you who encourage me so much and treat one lucky reader with a new goody for your kitchen!

This recipe is really delicious and can be cooked in muffin form or in a loaf pan (makes 3 mini-loaves). My family has been making it for years and I will surely pass it on to my kids as well. It's a pretty healthy recipe and is best when you use brown bananas that have been frozen for a while and thawed. These bananas have a slight fermented flavor that really adds to the sweetness of the bread. Enjoy!

Banana Bread

2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 1/4 cup mashed ripe bananas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roughly mix the first 6 ingredients and then add the bananas and nuts to help the mix come together. Grease 12 muffin pans, one loaf pan, or 3 mini-loaf pans and fill with batter. Cook for 55+ minutes for large loaf,  25 minutes for  muffins, or 30-35 for mini loaves.

What are some things that you just can't sleep without?


25 April 2011

Weekend Update| April 25, 2011

Easter flowers...

 Good morning, everyone! Did you guys have a good Easter weekend? If you had kids around I have no doubts that you are still recovering from the sugar-induced high that plagued your Sunday. We didn't have Easter candy laying around, but we did have three very capable women cooking in the kitchen all weekend so... I'm still plump with my food baby.

John and I had a really wonderful time hanging out with family and friends down on the coast of Florida. It is rare to have us all together and we ate up every moment of it. Even my grandma was in town! She just moved down to Vero Beach from North Carolina so she was able to celebrate with  us too. Any of you who have followed this blog for some time know that my grandma is one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world.

Located on 14th Ave. in Downtown Vero Beach, FL.

Saturday morning my mom, grandma, and I went out for a girly breakfast and some shopping around local consignment stores. This little bistro was quite fun. It's an Italian place with yummy dishes like mascarpone and ricotta crepes. The inside was very pretty with antique chandeliers and pretty juice glasses. Here's a couple pictures of the meal...

Natalie's Orange Juice

Blueberry Waffles...cooked to perfection.

Ok, so they served fun things like mascarpone crepes, but sometimes a waffle just hits the spot! When I go back I promise to report on something more unique and conducive to a post on fine Italian breakfasts. The orange juice is amazing and a Vero Beach classic. They grow, squeeze, and sell from our town and is a must have if you are ever in the area. I think we can find the brand at selective stores here in Orlando, but I feel like the Vero version is fresher.

Little J enjoying her mini-beach chair.

Ok, so I know I'm partial because she's my niece, but isn't she they cutest thing ever?! I had so much fun hanging out with little jujubee, as we call her. She is such a sweet natured baby and barely fusses at all. The last time we saw her she was about 6 months old. It's so cool to see her at 11 months and watch as she holds herself up and tries to take a couple steps on her own. Her mother, my sister, is also doing well. I hope I can be at least half the mom she is. Brittney, if you're reading, know that you are a wonderful mother!

Millie giving kisses.

Saturday afternoon we had some killer pool time! I got so many great pictures...far too many to post here. The water was freezing but she didn't seem to notice and splashed around with us for about 30 minutes. When we got out, our water-loving lab dove in to show us her dock-dog tricks. Jujubee was enamored with the dog, watching her like a hawk as she dove in and retrieved. Millie was enamored with her also, stopping by frequently for kisses.

Saturday night we had a big fish fry! My brother had gone fishing last week and caught a ton of fish in the river. So, my family did what any other family from the south would do, host a huge fish fry! I don't want to give away too much at this point. I have a "Southern Fish Fry" post coming soon! :)

David- The grill-master general.

Sunday morning we all went to church and then came home for a big grill out with family friends. David, my step-dad, was the grill-master and cooked up some great "burgs" to go with all the goodies the ladies cooked up...potato salad, fruit salad, salsa, deviled eggs, and sweet and sour wings. John, on his own, prepared the "Oh, I really shouldn't" Ice Cream Pie for dessert. My man is becoming a chef! It won't be long before I don't have to lift a finger at home. ;-)

The "kids"
Here's all us "kids." It's crazy to think that not long ago our table needed supervision and sippy cups. Now we're grown and bringing home spouses and talking about our jobs. It's weird. From left: CJ, my brother; Maggie and Trevor, Chinese students from UCF that moved to Vero and were "adopted" by my family; John and I; Nate, our "brother from another mother" that we grew up with since we were babies.

All in all, I'd say it was the best Easter I've had in years! And I can't wait for the next excuse to get everyone together over a meal. I hope that you all had a great weekend also...I'm sure I'll be reading about them as I stalk around the blog world today.  :)

What was the highlight of your Easter weekend?


24 April 2011

Happy Easter, Friends!

My niece exploring Easter eggs.

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope you all are having a wonderful day full of family and friends. We're having a great time down here in Vero Beach, FL with my family. It is little J's (above) first Easter! And it is so fun to watch her explore all the flowers and Easter eggs and bunnies. We're about to head off to church to celebrate the day and then come back home for a big cook out to celebrate the day!

Have a Happy Easter!

21 April 2011

Homegrown Tomaters

Ready for pickin'.

Guess what?! We harvested our first homegrown tomater last night! I can't begin to tell you how great it felt to eat something you grew with a little water and sunshine. It tasted like a rainbow (but not at all like skittles.)

We have two other tomatoes starting to turn and about 10 green ones that are still growing. The plant will have paid for itself once we eat two more! We are so excited about saving money, eating healthy (they are all organic) and getting in touch with our agricultural ancestry!

My red bell pepper is finally starting to turn red which means I'll be frying that up in a fajita before I know it. Seriously, if you haven't ever considered doing a little container veggie garden I highly recommend doing so. It's fun and helps save money! And you know exactly what you putting in your body...no chemicals here, just that which mother nature intended! (For start up ideas check out Urban Organic Gardener.)

Juicy and flavorful.


Also, sweet sweet Selma at Crazy Little World of Mine awarded me the Stylish blogger award. My response is the same as hers, "I'm stylish?" I propose that my blog is definitely stylish, but its blogger, not so much. Either way, I sincerely appreciate you thinking of me, Selma, and think you are wildly stylish as well! If you haven't checked out her blog be sure too, it's great! (And it will make you giggle.)

Link back, tell 7 things, pass it on!

I have already mentioned 7 things about me in this post, but am happy to dig around my brain for 7 more. I'm trying to go real deep this time around...

1. Two things I will never understand or accept about the world and the people in it is racism and the need for war.

2. I failed the 2nd grade and was held back a year. I graduated high school at age 19...a good two years older than most my peers.

3. My biggest struggle in my faith is how a good God can let bad things happen. But through the years I've watched him turn every heartache I've had into strength and song. The more heartache the less I struggle with the issue.

4. I have re-occurring dreams that I try to speak and I can't because my mouth is full of cement. I've been told that this could be my subconscious dealing with the frustration of not being heard or being talked over. (I have a small voice that just doesn't reach very far.)

5. In the midst of crisis my first instinct is fight not flight. When I go into fight mode the most obscene things come out of my mouth without thinking so that I can be domineering despite my small physical stature.

6. When I'm in my home I don't like to wear a whole lot of clothing. My roommates would find me walking through the house naked, or almost, a number of times...this always resulted in a lot of laughter and a code that we would scream when bringing guests home so none of us would be caught in our skivvies.  "Peacocks, put on your feathers!"

7. My favorite past-time is people watching.

Check out these stylish bloggers... 

Terri at Try Anything Once
Elizabeth at Orange and Cloves
Brissa at Half and Half
Laura at Taylor Tales
Ruth at Cafe au Lait + Honey

20 April 2011

Tales of My Wedding Day

Back in October of 2010 my husband John and I took the plunge. He proposed on February 13th of the same year and 8 months later our wedding had been planned and I was walking down the aisle. Life happens fast folks. 

I feel ashamed that it has taken me over 6 months to post our wedding pictures online. I honestly haven't had the time, or the energy to sift through 500 images to pick the best ones. Especially considering we weren't very happy with our photographer so looking at said pictures only frustrated me further. I managed to dig up a couple of the ones I felt do well at showing the culture of our event and some of the DIY aspects of our quaint little wedding.

The groom and ring bearer, Jin Tao

We had a very strict budget for our wedding so that we could spend the majority of the overall marriage budget on a 2 week honeymoon to Spain and Morocco. Those don't come cheap so we had to do all we could to cut corners where possible but spend on what mattered. We spent on the photographer, the dress (David's Bridal) and the cake and did everything else ourselves...right down to the invitations. 

Getting ready for my big day.

We had our wedding in my hometown about an hour and a half away from Orlando. It was at my mom's church and it was free. The auditorium of the church was set up, reception style, with a little aisle in the middle for me to walk down to the stage. It was great not having to rent out a place for reception elsewhere and kept the whole thing low key. It also cut down on time since as soon as the vows were done we walked right off the stage and into our reception. From start to finish our wedding lasted all of about 3.5 hours.

Me and my dads.

Another really cool aspect of my day was that I was walked down the aisle by not one, but two dads! The dad on my left is my biological dad and on the right is my step-dad. Both have played such huge roles in making me into the woman I am today that I just couldn't leave anyone out. Instead of a bouquet I had a weeping man on each arm, and that was very nice.

Prayer time with my ladies.

I had 3 beautiful bridesmaids- two of my good friends and John's sister. Each had a different color. Emerald, fushia, and plum which corresponded to the ties of the groomsmen. My color was red (red shoes) and John and the kids matched. 

I can't begin to tell how privileged I felt to be surrounded by three amazing women of God on my wedding day. They cried with me, laughed with me, celebrated with me, and praised the Lord with me. It was truly the most wonderful experience to have these women walk down the aisle before me, beautiful examples of what it means to be a God-fearing female. We're a force to be reckoned with I tell you.

Hooman and Viyan

My Iranian friends (who just had the baby) did a scripture reading for us. They aren't Christians but the were gracious in doing a special reading from the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. Love is universal, you know.  This was my favorite aspect of our wedding. Hooman would read a line or two of the chapter, and then Viyan would repeat in Farsi. Not only was it beautiful to hear, but it struck the heart to hear such lovely words in another language. One foreign to so many. God speaks all languages, and His love can be understood without words. It's beautiful really.

The vows.

John's dad is a preacher and facilitated our ceremony. He did a wonderful job exploring the meaning of Biblical love, the foundation of marriage and the seriousness of the vows we were about to take. We got through the vows gracefully, though with some tears and then did a unity candle and prayed. It was such a meaningful time and before we knew it, we were hitched!  We left the stage to "Bleed to Love Her" by Fleetwood Mac.


For the centerpieces we wanted to bring in a lot of culture and keep it eclectic (my blog isn't "adventures in eclectic living" for nothing!). Over 8 months of planning we scoured TJ Maxx, Pier 1, Ross, and HomeGoods for interesting Moroccan lanterns and candle holders that were dirt cheap on clearance. The idea was to keep it mix and matchy and be able to use the pieces in our home after the wedding was over. Our party favors were M&Ms (thankfully those actually are our initials) and I made little thank you tags out of scrap booking paper.

My beautiful cake.

I loved our cake. Isn't it beautiful? Perfect for a fall wedding. We went with a local cake maker, a southern good-ole-boy with a thick accent and rough hands from chopping trees. When I first met him I was shocked this tough guy baked cakes for a living but he is something else! Best cake I've ever tasted. We wanted something classic, and that looked homemade so instead of fondant we went with a plain vanilla cake with spackled buttercream.  The only taste of the cake I got at the wedding was the one John fed me. It is true that you don't get to eat at your own wedding. John and I are having him make us a cake for our anniversary so we can have it to ourselves.

An overview...

Above is an overview of the auditorium. You can see how we arranged everything for a ceremony and reception. In the far left, not pictured, we had a buffet table of snacks and punch which we cooked and prepped ourselves. So I guess you could say that, in a way, I catered my own wedding by making hummus for the guests. :)

We really enjoyed our wedding and hope everyone else did too. We know it was low key and in a lot of ways nontraditional, and that's not everyone's cup of tea, but it worked for us! And we made it to our beachfront hotel well before nightfall to have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the night. Bonus!

Our wedding night was our first time making love, and it was perfect. Having the time and energy to relax instead of using all of it up for a 5 hour reception was the best decision I have ever made. Ever.

Here's some wedding party pics to wrap things up! Aren't they all pretty and shiny?

What was the favorite part of your wedding day or a wedding you've been to?


19 April 2011

Pita Pizzas

Pizza Toppings.

 Pita Pizzas. My adult variation of my most beloved "pizza nights" growing up. My family was frugal. When I was young I thought it was stingy, but frugal and stingy are two very different things. My parents didn't take us out to eat much, and ordering pizza for delivery counted as eating out. Healthy eating was also instilled in us as kids so a greasy Domino's pizza was a rarity. Instead my mom would pick up some bagels, pizza sauce, cheese and toppings and we would have a family game night where we would each get to build our own personal pizzas. This was so creative of my mother and made it feel like a privilege, just like eating out would have been. 

Building our pizzas.

There were a lot of things, like these pizzas, that I didn't understand until later. My brother and I remember them as the coolest projects, a real splurge! I remember being in my teens and reminiscing about the past with my mother. For a time after my parents divorce, when my brother and I were still very young, we were raised by single parents. At my moms house we ate lots of spaghetti and sauce with Jell-O jigglers for dessert, and at my dad's we had a standard meal of sloppy joe's, cheddar Pringles and canned peas. My brother and I thought these things were such treat! It wasn't until we started reminiscing that we discovered that these treats were the cheapest of the cheap and our parents effort to make due with little to no cash.

Warm, melty, veggie pizza!

Pita Pizza is my variation and I've substituted the bagels for whole wheat pitas. Also our version is vegetarian and has a lot more veggie varieties than you or your kids may like. But I'll tell you and your kids the same thing your momma always said, "you need to eat your veggies!!!" 

Pita Pizzas

Whole Wheat Pitas
1 jar of pizza sauce
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Baby Spinach
Thinly sliced tomatoes
Chopped veggies:
    Green and red bell pepper
    (any others you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with a silpat or foil. If you use foil you may want to brush the undersides of the pita with olive oil as they tend to stick.

Build your pizza to your desires and place them in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until melted and bubbly and the pitas are crisp on the edges.

What are some fun, inexpensive projects your parents did to make food fun?


15 April 2011

Let's Disco!

Ever since I talked about the Bee Gees in this post I've been on a disco craze. Disco isn't even my generation! But somehow I've developed a slight obsession for it. I find myself watching old Saturday Night Fever clips and listening to Donna Summer. And I may or may not do a little dancing in front of my stove, pointing my spatula up into the air. 

Don't judge me.

Actually, you should be thankful. Because in my online quest for great disco videos I came across this gem of a video. I watch it daily and think it is hilarious. If I had to pin down why it would probably have something to do with all the pelvic thrusting...

The Other Me

Copyright All rights reserved by Randy P. Martin

When I was younger there were two of me. There was the Hannah that everyone knew, and the Hannah that no one understood. The two always fought. The one that no one understood would get feisty and try and peak its head out into my daily life, shrinking back to the inside when it realized people wanted none of it.

Now there is only one.

Sometimes I can't figure out if the two merged into one, or if the one that no one understood died. I don't know whether to celebrate or mourn.  My memory of the "other" me is so hazy. The lines are so gray and covered with the suspicion that it was all so naive. All I can do is hope for celebration. Hope that that young idealist finally found a voice and a companion in the me everyone knows.

14 April 2011

Travel Junkies Need Their Fix, Pt. 2

I've been looking forward to writing this post since I posted part one two weeks ago. Travel accessories are so much fun to purchase, not only because they are unique to your style, but also because it's much more fun spending under $50 on an accessory than it is to spend $100 on a piece of luggage. That is if you enjoy being frugal, like me. I have small panic attacks when I have to spend over $50 on an single item.

Now, as I mentioned before, I'm no glamour girl when it comes to traveling. I'm the back-packer type. I like to rough it, I like to hike it, and I like to get back to my hostel dirty and sweaty. It's just my idea of a good time! To start, here are some great sandals for the summer that still support your feet...

Chacos. Though I've yet to own a pair myself (I've never had the cash for it) every travel buddy I have ever had sported these and swore by them. These sandals will take you through anything and they are sturdy enough to handle some hiking and can go through water without getting worn. Are you going white water rafting? These are the sandals for you.

They leave hideous tan lines on your feet if you're going to be in the sun all day every day, but they also work well with long linen pants or jeans if you're not roughing it but want happy feet as you walk around a new town. You can purchase Chacos here.

Tevas. So you're not the "rough it" type, but you want sandals that are going to support your feet, and keep cool while you're running around Greek Islands all summer. Tevas are for you. I've had a pair of these for a year and I love them. They got me through two weeks in Spain and dusty Morocco and most of my grocery trips on the weekends. I get more compliments on these sandals than I know what to do with. When I first got them I thought the ankle wrap might annoy me, but they've designed the shoe to be very comfortable and not rub at your skin. Buy here.

Next up, scarves. This is a must have when traveling simply because you never know when you'll step into a cold cathedral, need to cover up in a mosque or temple, or need to get the sun off you. Scarves do all three plus help create a cute outfit! Here are a couple I found with a range of prices that would work great...

Fenced Garden Scarf via Anthropologie

Prayer Shawl via  World Market

Navajo Woven Scarf via Forever 21

Wrapping up, I wanted to mention two more items. One practical and one not so much. The practical item is the packing cube set from Rick Steves that I mentioned months ago in this post. If you were standing in front of me right now I would grab you by the shoulders and shake you saying "you need these cubes!" They will make packing so much easier and keep you organized throughout your journey. The other is a beautiful passport cover from StitchAddiction on Etsy. I've always wanted a passport cover and this one is on my radar.

Packing Cube Set via Rick Steves'
Geisha Passport Cover via StitchAddiction

  What are the accessories you won't board a plane without?

13 April 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

I don't know about you guys, but I slept great! I had the whole bed to myself because John is out of town on business. I sure do miss that guy, but I'm certainly not complaining about the rejuvinating effects of spending one night free of sheet-stealing and the occasional snore.

Rolling cookies.

He went on a kamikaze trip to NYC! And kind of wish I could have gone along for the ride.

Monday night, the night before he left, John had 2 (two!) desserts. Ice cream and 2 of these cookies. This is a no-no in our house, but I let him get away with because of the following excuse...

"But I'm leaving for a whole day! Which means you get more cookies than me! I'm eating mine now!"

Dough rolled in turbinado sugar.

Ok, ok. He's right. It's only fair that he gets his share of these cookies. After all, they're delicious! If I had to leave the cookie jar behind I would have done the same thing (and packed a few more "for the road").

This recipe is from an old Cooking Light magazine. They are very sweet and chewy, but small enough where you can get away with eating 2 or 3. I will say that they are a bit time sensitive. An extra minute or two in the oven result in hocky pucks instead of a warm chewy snack. I've done this many a time and just threw out the whole batch and had to start over.

Baked to perfection!

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

6 Tbsp butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup cake flour
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl until well blended. Add corn syrup, vanilla, and egg and beat 3 minutes or until well blended. Combine flour, salt, and cinnamon and mix into butter mixture. Stir until just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and cool for one hour.

2. Preheat oven to 375. Combine 1/2 cup turbinado sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl. Shape dough into small balls and toss in sugar mixture. Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes.

Question: Do you enjoy alone time when your significant other is away?