21 October 2014

Our Favorite Fall Snack: Popped Pumpkin Seeds

Popped Pumpkin Seeds

I can't help but share. This is our absolute favorite fall snack lately...

Popped Pumpkin Seeds

Instructions:

Place them on a hot pan with a bit of olive oil. 

Cover the top so you don't get fly aways. 

Pop, pop, pop!

Sprinkle with sea salt. 

Dive in with a spoon. They won't last long! 

Every time we make them we are surprised that something so simple is SO GOOD.
I think I'll go make some right now. :)

---

P.S. There is some hope for this blogger girl to get her act together here. :) I've been working on some posts lately. Stay tuned. 

Something fun

Our nephew comes TONIGHT from Utah. He'll be with us for a couple of months. We're super excited to host him. Danny's parents will also join us in about a week. We have one huge adventure planned.

15 October 2014

Get Your Scaredy Cat Buns to Sleepy Hollow, NY

Ohhhhhhhooooohhhhhooooo.........


Do you guys like to get freaked out? In a really classy and family friendly way?

You absolutely MUST visit the little town of Sleepy Hollow, NY!! It is one of our favorite places to visit this time of year.

Here are some pics from a year past.





We drove there with many Brooklyn friends and even spent the night.

The families with little ones went to the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor where no less than 5,000 carved pumpkins are on display!

Danny and I went to the haunted Horseman's Hollow. OH MY. An old 17th Century Manor gets turned into a town driven mad by the Headless Horsemen. That place is really creepy scary. They have you walk along a swampy path, past grave yards and knights and old men and women who have gone insane. You end up in Ichabod Crane's school house. And then the headless horsemen will be waiting for you at the end and roaming around in the parking lot. EEEEKS!!! GO THERE!!! And take a sweetie pie someone with you so you can grab their arm and SCREAM!  :) :) :) It's so fun. And I think it would really fun for a first date or two (with someone you like, of course. :)





Then go hear a master storyteller tell Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at the Old Dutch Church in town.

Then go to a late, late night Lantern Tour of the very historic Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. FREAKY.

Or, go back to your hotel room and cozy up to watch Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hollow or Sleepy Hollow (the movie with Johnny Depp). We did this very thing and it was so fun.


The next day go apple picking and pumpkin picking while you see the most gorgeous leaves of your life in the Hudson Valley, one of my favorite places on earth.











(those are four of my favorite Brooklynites.)

K, now please brag about your favorite kind of Halloween. I have to live Halloween vicariously through all of you because Halloween isn't quite celebrated the same in Ecuador. 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!!

Mara

P.S. I will admit I've been dreaming of candy corns. But I'm making due with this delicious pumpkin bread (I used raw honey instead of coconut sugar and omitted the stevia. It was delicious!) I can't get canned pumpkin down here so I made my own pumpkin puree and it was so easy I'll never turn back.

A big surprise: Remember how I was wistfully dreaming of Christmas in NY? Well, my dream will come true. My sister in Brooklyn just had a baby and it turns out that her husband will be in Colombia for work for the entire month of December. Soooo....off we will go to NY!!! I cannot believe it. I've been working on planning the best New York Christmas ever. And I cannot wait to meet my beautiful baby niece, Nadine.

14 October 2014

My Best Attempt at Writing About the Retreat



It is hard to even explain how unbelievably beautiful, healing, amazing, and life changing the retreat was.

Seriously. It was unreal. It took everybody to a place of complete vulnerability; healing and progress began in ways that we all needed; the face to face human connections were out of this world; and there was such a ridiculously beautiful true love and acceptance for each other (and most importantly, I think we all felt more love and acceptance for ourselves.)



We had hopes that the retreat would be meaningful to people; that they would feel it was worth it to come; that they would experience things they had never experienced before; that they would feel loved and supported in whatever it was they were working on. And well, it's safe to say that people were so, SOOO happy they came. One woman said she could have left after Day 1 and it would have been worth the trip. The group even begged us to do a reunion retreat a year from now so that we could do a repeat of the experience. And people told us it would be a CRIME to not offer the retreat again and again to others. Honestly, Danny and I looked at each other each night like...holy crap $#*@(!!! We took a risk. We put ourselves out there to host this thing. It was scary to do it. But it came together better than we ever could have imagined. It was a massive relief. And mostly, a massive feeling of satisfaction to know that some dear people got to come and experience something beautiful for their souls.



So, here's how it all went down...


13 October 2014

Our Dog Adoption at Hacienda Cusin


Here's the story of our dog adoption aka one of our greatest little blessings.

---

I never thought I'd ever have a dog.

Danny loves them to pieces (which started to rub off on me a bit, I'll admit.)

But in New York, a dog just wasn't an option we were willing to consider without a yard.

But down here in Ecuador, there are so many dogs on the street (many who are starving or sick) that you can't help but think about adopting them. My heart really had been feeling pretty big for these animals.

Little did we know we'd meet our little street dog after Vipassana...

After the meditation course, Danny and I felt so ridiculously lucky to be able to go on a get-away together. After 10 days of being a part, WE WERE DYING TO BE WITH EACH OTHER!!! All I could think about was being with my husband. It freaking felt like a honeymoon!!  :) :) And we were both even extra full of love after the cleansing/healing experience of Vipassana. (Can you see I'm trying to recommend Vipassana for husbands and wives?)

So off we went two hours by bus to Otavalo to stay in another one of Ecuador's oldest and most famous hotels...Hacienda Cusin. Every guide book says it's a "must visit."


The Imbabura Volcano is nearby and offers the perfect backdrop in one of our favorite areas in Ecuador
The grounds for Hacienda Cusin are massive, and full of old world charm
We kinda wanted to just be homebodies and be with each other every second. We reconnected, chatted like crazy about our individual experiences at Vipassana, slept in (instead of getting up at 4:00 am!!!), enjoyed the scenery in what is known as "volcano alley", ate a romantic dinner at the hotel (oh, that fish soup!), watched a movie in their cozy movie room (with a MASSIVE bowl of popcorn that they brought to us), and we fell asleep to a huge and extremely cozy fire in our room each night.


The Hacienda is located about 20 minutes from Otavalo in a quaint little town.  The cobblestone road lined with old stone walls reminded us of some of the old European towns we've visited
They grow all the produce used in the restaurant on the hotel grounds

But this was the best part of all...

We met a very, very cute little doggie that was hopping and playing around the gorgeous gardens of the hacienda.

Oh my. She was seriously adorable. Likely due to an injury, she had only one working eye which made us melt.

We started to wonder: did she live there at the hotel? I'm all about asking in situations like this. And so we did. And we discovered that this 3 or 4 month old puppy was a street dog who had just wandered onto the property. The kitchen had been feeding her scraps.

How could we not fall in love with that face?
Would she be available for adoption? We asked, just for fun. Though asking that question was a bit surreal to me as the idea of owning a dog was still very new. I couldn't believe we were actually asking about adopting a dog!! Oh my goodness!

And the answer was YES. The wonderful women at the front desk were GIDDY about the idea and said they would be delighted if we adopted her.

We kind of wanted to pee our pants after that. We looked at each other like - - Would we be crazy to adopt a dog down here? But how could we not do this? It seemed unreal that it could be happening. And it felt very exciting, too.



We let the hotel know that we would LOVE to adopt her, but we weren't able to take her with us just then as our home was 12 hours away and we knew we couldn't take her on the bus. So we returned home and later hired someone with a car to drive up there to get her for us. In the meantime, the amazing staff at the hotel took her to a vet to get her vaccinated and prepared for the trip. (They bent over backwards to be helpful through the entire process. I can't say enough good about the dear people working at that hotel.)

I will never forget the moment we received her.

Danny had to teach a class at church that day so I was waiting patiently at home for her to arrive.

I expected the same playful puppy. But it turns out she was scared to death (!) when the driver placed her in my arms. She was shaking terribly. She wouldn't walk and tried to hide against a wall so I carried her in my arms to the house. I felt this love just come over me for this little being as I carried her. I had never actually held a dog before. I had never even thought I'd ever own a dog. And yet here I was walking with her - just the two of us. And I felt this overwhelming desire to care for her.


Once home, she didn't want to go inside. After all, she likely had never been indoors. I carried her in and wanted to feed her right away. When I returned with the food I couldn't find her - she was hiding in a dark bathroom behind a toilet. She wouldn't eat or drink at all. In fact, she started to tip over as she was standing. I called Danny and told him to head home that second! I may have a had a little tear.

It turns out that our little girl was not only traumatized by the car ride but soooooo very tired. She had traveled all night to get to us and we figured she didn't sleep a wink the entire time.

Danny got home and we both loved on her and tried to gain her trust. She eventually ate a little bit (she probably had never eaten dog food and so instead of eating out of the bowl, she would take it with her to a "safer" more isolated spot). We were so happy she found comfort in laying on a folded up blanket. It became her favorite little spot for the next couple of days while she became more used to our home. 


Now she seems as happy and playful as ever. She is SOOO affectionate. Oh my goodness. Her favorite thing on earth is to get some affection with her head buried in our legs or arms. She just loves to follow us wherever we go and sits at our feet when we're on the couch. When we arrive home after being out, you just can't imagine how happy she is to see us. Her entire body wags back and forth. She's also an incredibly well behaved dog (I don't know how we got so lucky! I think street dogs have some extra smarts.) She comes when we call her name. She obeys us quickly if we ask her to stop doing something. She quickly learns anything we teach her. She instinctively knows to go to the bathroom outdoors. She is now looooving her daily walks (though it took many days to get her to budge while having that leash on.) 


We really are loving her to bits. 

And - - her name is Sila. (Or Si. Or Little Miss. Or Cutie Patootie.)

And her little Peruvian blanket is still her favorite place in the house. 

And Danny refers to me as "mama" when he's talking to her.
(Something I didn't see coming. But it pretty much makes me melt.)

Thanks for all your excitement. :) It has been exciting for us, too. 

Love,  

Mara


P.S. Truth be told, we thought she was a boy when we first met her. Oops! Back then, due to her one eye, Danny was brainstorming with cyclops - and that turned into Silas. Later we realized she was a girl and by then we couldn't bare to change her name much, since we'd been calling her Silas for two weeks before we got her. So Sila it is. It seems to suit her so well.

P.P.S - A big THANK YOU to Hacienda Cusin for providing accommodations and for going way past the call of duty in order to help us give Sila a loving home. Their staff was wonderful when we were just guests, and continued to be so helpful and accommodating when coordinating the care, vaccination, and transport of our puppy. Thank you!!!

06 October 2014

A Little Update...And A New Member Of Our Family

by Danny

So much has happened that we've been dying to write about.

Vipassana was both brutally difficult and wonderfully beautiful. I have a number of draft posts that I've been working on that I hope to post in the coming weeks. I was very inspired during the event and am still digesting what I learned and how the meditation tools apply to what we share on the blog.

On the bus to Olón, Ecuador to prepare for the retreat
Last week we finished our first retreat! It was a ton of work trying to put something like this on.  But we had the most wonderful group of attendees, and I think there was just as much learning going on as there was teaching. Every time we've been able to meet with readers we're blown away by their beautiful souls. It will be fun to share a few photos (and maybe a recipe or two) from the experience and talk about it in a little more detail.

Afterwards, we traveled a little bit with some new and old friends that attended the detox retreat. We visited Puerto Lopez and Isla de la Plata, which is also known as "poor man's Galapagos." It was the tail-end of the whale season and we were lucky enough to see humpback whales and about six blue whales swimming by the boat. The island was full of exotic birds, like blue-footed boobies, that didn't seem to care that you were two feet away from them.






You might think that being down here in Ecuador would mean that we have all the time in the world and that our blogging regularity should have improved by coming here. And in a sense, you'd be right...we certainly thought the same thing would happen.

But the reality is, things just take a lot longer down here. Every errand done without a car is a total production (in part because we often try to walk wherever we go instead of take the bus) and you can spend half a day in search of just the simplest things.

Plus, we're designing our own furniture and having it made by local craftsmen...that process is much more demanding that we would have thought. Doing it this way cheaper, but much more time consuming.

We also spend way more time then we've ever spent cooking. Which is awesome. We've cut just about every ounce of processed foods out of our diet. When we go to the farmer's market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, we spend a good portion of the day just washing and storing all the nutritious goods we bought.  Check out the kind of bounty that comes home with us each week.


But, of all the things that have taken up our time in the last few weeks, one thing in particular has been a major and delightful distraction. We have a new member of our family....can't wait to tell you how we found this adorable little dog.


28 August 2014

Our Loot From Ikea Brooklyn


When you move abroad, you desperately - with every ounce of your American self - want to go to Ikea as you get settled in your new home. haha. We have definitely felt that and I've heard the same sentiment from many expats here. I guess if you live in Europe, you're set. But for us, it took an unexpected trip to NYC to be able to stock up on all those glorious nesting must haves. 

First up, these two pillows (1 and 2) from our Great Pillow Hunt. Yes, we had to go to TWO Ikeas to get these. Sweet Danny was leading the way as he knew I wanted these. I just love them on our new sofa. 


Here's a 3rd pillow (Stockholm) that we got for the sofa. It's kind of a velvety fabric and super soft. I like the black and white leaf pattern. I still can't believe it has come together, but our sofa these days is the most comfortable place in the world to us. We actually found a good sofa here in Ecuador - I'll share pics soon!


I'm a huge fan of the Gaspa sheets. We got a set for our guest room. I just think for the price, they're perfectly soft (nearly silky) and comfortable! Our guest room in NYC had these sheets as well and many guests commented on how much they loved the sheets.

We also got some new towels. I didn't want to spend a ton of money. But surprisingly, these Åfjärden towels are a decent price and actually super soft, thick, and dare-I-say fluffy. I've been really pleased with them!

And lastly, some new pillows. These Gosa Pinje down pillows are priced really low to me yet they seem to be plenty comfortable. We like the back sleeper and side sleeper ones.

OK, there you have it: six Ikea items that I like well enough to tell the world about. And Danny's favorite is not pictured: soft serve ice cream cones. 

How about you? What Ikea items can you taunt me with between now and my next visit to the states? :)

P.S. We sure missed our cars while in NYC! On this visit, we took the train and bus to Ikea. But it turns out, we relished every single second of seeing the views we know so well (these are from Smith + 9th St.)



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