Monday, November 30, 2015

Winter Travel Ideas

The winter months aren't usually associated with travel due to the holidays, the cold, the snow, etc. but they can be some of the best months to take a trip, especially if you go to the right place. Here are four travel ideas for winter that we've loved:

1. Go skiing - Ski vacations are obviously the most popular kind of winter trip, but see if you can take one in January; the crowds will be less and so will the prices, especially after Christmas and New Years which are usually the most popular times for winter vacations. We were lucky enough to live in Cortina for four years which is one of the best winter resort towns around (our winter tips for Cortina are here) but there is great skiing all over Europe, especially in Italy, Austria and Switzerland. Ischgl is at the top of our list for another trip....and don't be put off by the lack of English - if it's a large and popular ski resort, there will be plenty.

2. Rifugio hop -  Not a big skier? The rifugio culture is big, especially in Northern Italy and Tyrol. Rifugios are typically cabins in the mountains or woods that serve food and drinks and often have beds where you can sleep for the night and cozy fires that you can lounge by. One of our favorite things to do in the winter is to go to a rifugio for lunch or dinner - the food is all homemade and very typical of whatever region you're in and the atmosphere is so cozy. You can get to the rifugios on foot often, or you can ski or snowshoe to them. And if winter sports really aren't your thing, someone from the rifugio can come pick you up in a snowmobile.

3. Hit the Christmas markets - There are Christmas markets all over Europe throughout the month of December and they're perfect for anyone and everyone. You can pick out ornaments and stocking stuffers, eat delicious regional food like warm baked potatoes and sausages, listen to Christmas carols and drink mulled wine or hot chocolate. A few of our favorites: Bolzano, Italy; Salzburg, Austria and Munich, Germany.

4. Sleep in an igloo - We did this last winter and it was so exciting (and exotic!). The igloo was at the Hochjochferner Glacier in Val Senales (very Northern Italy) at the Bella Vista Mountain Rifugio. You can ski to the rifugio (or they'll pick you up on a snowmobile) and you spend the afternoon in the hot tub and sauna - or by the fire drinking local beer and playing games like checkers. You eat dinner with other travelers in the rifugio and afterwards, you go out to your igloo and sleep in the warmest sleeping bags. The igloos have strands of lights inside so you can see - we played a few games of Backgammon before we went to sleep - and they truly aren't as cold as you would think. In the morning, someone wakes you up at 7 for breakfast and then you ski down the glacier. It felt very adventurous and was such an experience!

{Image via}

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving has been much easier this year now that we're in Scotland instead of Italy - we didn't have to order a turkey a month in advance and the one that we got didn't have to be sawed in half to fit in the oven, for one. We found canned cranberry sauce - still no canned pumpkin though! - so I opted for a pecan pie (pecans - another non-Italian delicacy). The Thanksgiving process hasn't been quite as adventurous as it usually is, but we're enjoying the change of pace. Hope everyone has a wonderful day! xo

PS - Trying to plan for Thanksgiving in Italy and how we always pulled it off.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Thanksgiving Contest!

Thanksgiving is this week, and to kick off the celebrations a bit early, we're going to start a little contest today! Keep Calling, an international calling company that we love, is giving three readers a $10 credit to call overseas this Thanksgiving and chat with friends and family at home, wherever that may be.

To win, please leave a comment below saying who you would call this Thanksgiving. Alternatively, you can email me at Please make sure to leave your email address in the comment so that I can contact you if you've won. I'll pick three winners at random on Wednesday so that on Thanksgiving day, you can call away!

This Thanksgiving is the first in five years that we've been able to celebrate on the actual day (in Italy, Ryan always had games on Thursday) so we're looking forward to spending the morning chopping, cooking, worrying that the turkey won't cook in time AND calling all of our parents to check in and say hi and tell them how much we love them.

What about you?! What will you be doing this Thanksgiving morning and who will you call?

The contest will run until Wednesday, November 25 at 7 pm GMT - winners will be contacted Wednesday night and provided with the calling credit by Thursday, November 26.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Green Bean Casserole

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to share one of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes - green bean casserole. But! This isn't the green bean casserole that's made with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup and French's Fried Onions! It's a homemade version that Ryan created and perfected during the four years we lived in Italy when we didn't have access to ingredients like Campbell's and French's. We've never written down a recipe, so everything is very approximate, but I love this dish so much, mostly because of the great story behind it...

Monday, November 16, 2015

An Update

There are a few questions we always get asked now that we live in Scotland so I thought I'd take a minute to answer them today, if you'd like to hear....

Thursday, November 12, 2015

5 Free Things to do in Edinburgh

We're very close to Edinburgh this year so we've been into the city a few times to explore. I noticed that Edinburgh has tons of free activities which is great because free is usually harder to find in larger cities. Here are five - a few that we've enjoyed and a few we want to try:

1. Walk the Royal Mile. This is the main street in Edinburgh which got its name back in the 16th century when the king used to travel between the castle (at the top of the street) and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (at the bottom of the street). Now, it's filled with restaurants and pubs, all sorts of shops and many of the city's main sights are just off this street. It's great for a stroll, to get a feel for the city, for listening to bagpipes and for people watching.

2. Arthur's Seat. This hill is perfect for climbing (it's a 30-45 minute hike to the top) and the views of the city (and sea) below are stunning.

3. Galleries and Museums. I was looking for Edinburgh tips in my guidebook one day when I realized that many of the major museums and galleries offer free entrance! My mom and I checked out the Writer's Museum a few weekends ago where we learned about Scotland's three most famous writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson whose poems I used to love as a child. Other free ones include the National Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Fruitmarket Gallery and the Museum of Edinburgh.

4. Calton Hill. Providing another great view of the city (some say even better than Arthur's Seat), this is Edinburgh's acropolis with several memorials dating from the first half of the 19th century.

5. Have a picnic in the park. On a nice day, the Princes Street Gardens are a lovely place to sit. There are plenty of benches and it would be fun to bring a picnic and eat in the park while enjoying the sun. After being in Scotland for three months, I've noticed that when the sun is out, you have to take full advantage of it and soak it up - this would be a great spot to do that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Feta Dip

We're starting to think about Thanksgiving over here, so this month I'll be posting two recipes that we're incorporating into our Thanksgiving menu in two weeks. First up: this lemony, garlicky feta dip which I usually make as an appetizer.

Image via
 I first made this dip several years ago and I originally used this recipe, which I've now adapted slightly.

8 oz package of feta. Use good feta! I always buy a nice block of it and never the pre-crumbled kind
1 lemon - zest the whole lemon and juice half of it
1 clove of garlic, minced
6 tbsp olive oil + extra for drizzling
1 tbsp thyme (I always use dried)
Crackers, carrots and celery for serving

What to do:
In a blender combine the feta, lemon juice, half the lemon zest, garlic and olive oil. Blend for a few seconds until combined and then transfer to a bowl. Drizzle some more olive oil on top and sprinkle with thyme and the remaining lemon zest. I usually serve this with pita chips or crackers as well as carrots and celery.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


The highlight of last week's trip, by far, was our stop in Paris for a long weekend where we met up with my aunt and cousin for a girl's trip...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Here are just a few pictures from three days in Cortina last week - my mom and I went back to sort and pack and ship the things that Ryan and I left there last season, which was slightly overwhelming (the post office didn't have boxes, first they couldn't ship to the US and then suddenly they could, we had to use loads of tape to cover the writing on the boxes because no writing was allowed.....etc.) But! In the end, everything got shipped off.

It was really nice to be back in Cortina, and as you can see from the picture above, the weather was insanely beautiful. We took lots of packing breaks to sit in the sun. Ryan unfortunately couldn't go with me this time, but it was so much fun to see our Italian friends from the past four years - and to be able to eat delicious Italian food again! The first night we went straight to our old stand-by, Cinque Torri, for spaghetti carbonara with zucchini....

....and we also got into the casunziei which is a regional specialty.

Every lunch and dinner we had was so good. When we weren't packing or at the post office (which we were most of the time) we were able to spend some time visiting with friends and walking around town. I love living by the sea now that we're in Scotland, but those mountains!!! I never get sick of that view.

Then we were off to Paris! More on that tomorrow!