Logan’s Friday Favorite

I thought I would put a quick post in honor of my favorite little boy and his new favorite snack.  It is a popular Colombian sweet bread.

This is Piñita.

Col-Sweet-Rolls

I am going to include the recipe for a certain Nana who I know is wonderful at making breads.

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast or 1 envelope
  • 7 oz., plus 4 tablespoons of warm water
  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 cup of sugar, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 beaten egg for the glaze
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter for the glaze
  1. Pour 4 tablespoons of warm water into a small mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can’t bear to put your fingers in it. Add 1/2 of the sugar and yeast, and stir to dissolve.
  2. Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to grow.
  3. In a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt, remaining sugar and the water and yeast mixture and begin mixing. Use your hands for this, as you really get the perfect feel for the consistency of the dough. Add the butter, vanilla and eggs. Mix well.
  4. Knead the dough on a clean, dry, flat surface. Sprinkle your work surface with a handful of flour, put your dough on top, and start kneading. Add bits of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, or surface.
  5. Keep kneading until the dough is ready. This may take 8 to 10 minutes. It will be quite elastic. It should not be too dry, however, it should still give and stretch easily without tearing.
  6. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 30 seconds. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.  Punch the dough down and divide into 9 equal size pieces.
  8. Shape each piece into a smooth ball and place into a square 8 x 8 or 9 or 10 inch round baking dish lightly greased, spacing evenly.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 20-30 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Brush the tops of the rolls with the beaten egg and melted butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the rolls are baked through. Sprinkle with sugar on top and let them cool slightly before serving.

Enjoy it warm!

Mojicon-Col

Botanical Garden of Cartagena “Guillermo Piñeres”

Easter Sunday we found some time to take the 30 minute drive out-of-town to the Jardin Botanica, and I’m so glad we did.  It far exceeded my expectations.   We arrived late afternoon and nearly had the place to ourselves.  A groomed trail and a friendly tour guide and we were on our way exploring the jungle.  Much more lush than our coaster flora, it was so nice to be surrounded my giant trees and the sound of a flowing creek.

There was a school on this property at one time, so we were able to see the remnants of those buildings.  They also have a cafe and very clean restrooms available, always nice to see.

IMG_3687

We kept on the trail and our guide explained he had been there 40 years, and which trees he had watched grow so tall.  We smelled Eucalyptus, admired all the flowers and the kids went nuts when we spotted some poison frogs.

As we wound our way back around to the manicured lawns, we got a special treat.  A sleeping sloth in a tree above our heads.  He finally woke up and did the sloth walk up the tree, it was the highlight of our day!  We finished our time by trying out a tropical Apricot, called a Zapote, and it was delish.

IMG_3669

So glad we got to spend a day together with friends enjoying this beautiful place.  We take a chance exploring new places, knowing that sometimes they will exceed our expectations and sometimes they are a dud.  Well, no question we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon in nature, learning and laughing along the way.  We will be back again.

 

Growing Up Expat: What you Sacrifice

I wanted to write a post that analyzes both what you give up to be an expat and what you hopefully gain.  I’m first going to discuss sacrifices, not because I want to highlight the negative but because these were my thoughts before we ever agreed to come to Colombia.  Moving overseas with young children did bring up a lot of thought-provoking questions for me, what will we sacrifice? And is it worth the gain?  Obviously, we are here so that answers the question but I thought I would talk a little about what went through my head.

We left our families behind.  Always and forever, this will be the number 1 sacrifice.   I include our friends who are like family in this category.    We have some wonderful people in our lives, and moving a continent away was and still is the hardest thing about living abroad.    We have shed many tears over missing the people we love.  I try to talk a lot about why we moved, and how we will always try to visit often, but it doesn’t in any way come close to the daily involvement with the people you love and need.  Thank goodness for FaceTime.   We spend a lot of energy keeping these relationships alive and well.

We gave up “normal” suburban life, for a little while.  This has upsides and down, but for a few years, we gave up our “American dream.”  No cul-de-sac, no t-ball, no small town street festivals or neighborhood Halloween’s.   Now we do have versions of normal life here that are not so far off and a community of families looking to give their children all those wonderful experiences, but we are living in a high-rise in the middle of the City, so it looks a little different.

Our pets.  This makes the list because I am obviously an animal lover, but I have seen how leaving behind our pets has affected my children.  (Don’t worry, they are happy and safe with grandparents and still very much a part of our family)  It is as if we left part of our family members behind, and truthfully, that was a very difficult decision.  We see animals on the street here and other families with pets and it stings.  We are a pet kind of family.

School and Extracurriculars.  We cannot participate in the same way.  I came to Colombia speaking no spanish, so learning my way around the schooling system has been difficult.  Many of the teachers speak English but many of the parents and administrators do not.  Therefore, communication isn’t as open.  Where at home, I may volunteer or be a part of a parent group that organizes activities, here, I am unable to build many of those relationships.   I do see this improving drastically each year we stay and as we learn more Spanish and continue to build relationships with other parents.

The random.  We miss bathtubs, backyards, and buying last-minute Holiday supplies at Target.   These are no more.   I had to purchase a blow up tub for Brynn because she hates the shower, and I have to think ahead and order any speciality items I need a month in advance from Amazon.

Independence.  Not only did I move to a country in which I didn’t speak the language, but where I also knew there would be some physical boundaries as well.    We have travel and driving restrictions and while I have never felt unsafe, I am not free to roam.   I am unable to have most in-depth discussions with just about everyone so I have to rely on my husband or google translate(not so great) to get the job done.  I am used to handling the contractors, utilities or extra curricular needs for the family.

I think it’s important to note both sides of this coin.  Moving here was a great opportunity both physically and financially, but it has caused us some emotional growing pains.  It is easy to showcase the travel, the exciting new places and activities, but we must also recognize the difficulties we experience, especially on our kids who didn’t make this choice.  Next, I am going to talk about what we have gained and what I still hope to gain from this experience.

 

Isla del Encanto

…and that’s just what it was.  Enchanted.  A little sleepy and just what I needed for 36 hours with the girls.  That’s right, we slipped away for some beach lounging, drink sipping, nap-taking enjoyment.

IMG_3355

Just one hour by boat, and you can be sitting pretty just feet from the water.  Fair warning: I am about to photo dump some beautiful island goodness, but I have to note that some of the lovely ladies I was with took many of these photos during the morning sunrise, while I was still sleeping! Bless them.

We  were greeted on the island with fresh juice and friendly staff ready to make our vacation wonderful.   It didn’t take long to locate our seats and get right to the important stuff.  My kindle, an ice-cold margarita and lots of chatting in between.

The grounds were gorgeous, with so many nooks where you could find a quiet space to enjoy the view.  Nothing was too far away and yet everything felt very private and secluded.

We even took a little walk around the island and met some locals.

Why are Colombian dogs just the best?!  Seriously, they are.   And because Sunrise and Sunset never cease to amaze.  I am so very grateful for these experiences and for the excitement that is traveling somewhere new with good friends.

I always come home from these trips ready to plan my next adventure.  Seeing a place for the first time leaves me wanting more.  As for Isla del Encanto, I will be back for sure.

6 Months In…

In a way it seems much longer, but really, I am so grateful to feel that we have had a productive 6 months.  In a place where change is constant and being “settled” is still outside your comfort zone, I can confidently say we are happy.   We have found our routines, our favorite cafes, and our confidence to try new things despite not always understanding cultural or lingual differences.

I wanted to look back at our journey and appreciate the struggles, the fear of the unknown, the waiting, the feelings of discovery and home-sickness, new friends, new food, mail day like Christmas morning, and everything in between.

This was the first day of our journey, I remember not being nervous because we had done our research, but I was anxious to see if our new reality was anything like our expectations.  I always said that we were not running away from a bad life, we had a wonderful life in Portland, we were going toward a new adventure.  We just had to give up being close to everyone we love and that was the biggest sacrifice of all.

Flying into Cartagena from Bogotá and seeing our “home” for the first time, knowing one day this place would be so special to us.   We have changed a lot since those first days, and all I can say is we took it one day at a time.  We dealt with one challenge and then the next.  We have tried to take advantage of opportunities but also acknowledge is it okay to say no sometimes.   In the middle of all the craziness, some beautiful changes took place.  Our time is spent together, doing things we love, learning to “explore” the new and laugh at things gone wrong.  Trying has become the most important element.  We have slowed our pace and learned to live without some of our previous “needs” (i.e. a DVR, a bathtub, Target and Mexican food – just to name a few).

Here we are now, a little more sun-tanned and a lot more comfortable being foreign.  There are some days I wonder if we are better off or just different off.   Part of being successful as an expat is knowing and understanding the trade-offs.  Some elements of life will be much better and some will be worse.  We had to prioritize areas of our life to make sure that the pros outweighed the cons and I still believe they do.   I hope and pray that many of the experiences we leave with will positively affect us for the rest of our lives.  We got off the hamster wheel and set sail on a road less traveled.  We will always have good days and bad, but 6 months in and we are doing alright.

 

A Quick Trip to LaLaLand

When we had the opportunity to fly to LA for my college roommates wedding, there were just too many good reasons to say yes.  I know these trips home can be expensive and a hassle but I also knew that I would regret not going, so I booked 2 flights and took my boy home to meet some very special ladies, hang with his grandparents for a bit and have some good ‘ol mother/son adventuring!

We landed in LA and didn’t waste anytime getting a hot ride with my fav gal in the world.   It was a beautiful drive up PCH through Malibu and enjoying all the wonderful feelings of coming home.  Starbucks in hand, driving while chatting and knowing an amazing couple of days are in the works!

Next, we married off one of our own in a beautiful wedding on the beach. I will forever love these ladies and the wonderful memories we share and continue to make.

IMG_5136

The fun wasn’t about to end there, Disneyland was on the horizon.  If I ever loved it as a kid, taking your own kid is every bit as exciting and more.  His face when it’s about to be our turn on a ride, trying to decide what his favorite ride is, tasting Disney churros and dancing with a pirate band in New Orleans Square, the magic of nighttime as all the lights come on, seeing Buzz Lightyear, Mickey and so much more.

There is no value on the memories we make, especially with friends who are more like family and family that we miss dearly.  Part of Expat life meant being physically far away from our loved ones and making these long journeys is something I will try to always say yes to.  We flew home tired but full in spirit.  Thank you to all who made it a wonderful trip for us.

IMG_3187

 

Blue Apple Beach House

A few weeks back, we had some good friends in town and decided to take a day trip out to the Blue Apple Beach Club.   Just a quick 20 minute boat ride from Bocagrande and we were toes-in-sand on a beautiful quiet beach.  Going mid-week seemed to make perfect sense, it was a very relaxed setting, people sipping mixed drinks, lounging on cabanas and reading books.

With hammocks hung from every tree, an on-site restaurant serving amazing food and the Blue Apple Margarita that kept me company, we could have stayed much longer.   Both my kids enjoyed the pool just steps away from the lounging area, and the friendly resort dog didn’t hurt either.

It was so nice to enjoy the serenity of Colombia without the craziness of city life and beaches full of vendors.  To just be surrounded by nature was all the break my brain needed to feel rejuvenated.

I literally cannot wait to get back here.  I feel like this may have to be a regular activity for our family!

 

 

 

Tres Anos

My baby is three.  It seemed so far away, until it was here.  And now she wants to be a big girl all the time.

DSC_0345

She is a smart, talented and beautiful. She loves twirling, painting, reading, nail polish, sprinkles, cats & dogs, swimming, music and her brother.  She can name all the Avengers and loves playing dress up.  She still has the best cheeks I have ever seen and the biggest smile to go with them.  We waited a LONG time for this birthday and we’ve been talking about it for even longer, so no surprise, it was the best day ever.  As seen by going face first into your cupcake with Brother cheering you on.

She chose a Shimmer and Shine theme to have at her school party where all her best little friends could attend.  Last year, we couldn’t even light her candles because the fire scared her, but this year, blowing out the candles took center stage!  Her first Colombian birthday and she celebrated like a local!  She has been through a lot this year and I was so happy to give this girl a day of her own!  Happiest Birthday my littlest love.

Castillo San Felipe

One of the destinations we have been waiting to visit is Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the extra-large Fortress that looms over Cartagena on the Hill of San Lazaro.  With a nearing Sunset and the perfect breeze, we took a cab over to check it out.   To be honest, I didn’t read much about it before we went and I wished I had.  We had lots of questions along the way.

img_2908

Now considered a World Heritage site, the Fortress is well maintained and easy to navigate.  We made a new feline friend and checked out all the nooks and crannies.  There was plenty of secret spaces to explore, old canons to check out, and a maze of tunnels to get lost in.

And when you have your Auntie and Uncle in town it makes the day that much better.

I know I can’t say it enough but everywhere I turn is another gorgeous view.  With a Colombian flag sitting high at the top, this felt particularly fitting to end our fun week with friends!

img_2910

Beauty Routines to Beat the Carribbean Heat

I never thought I would say this, because it goes against years of what the beauty world told me to be true, but the answer to fighting frizz, keeping my sensitive skin in check and fighting off new germs comes in the form of…. Oils.

Essential Oils –  I am not a rep selling oils, just a newly informed consumer who has seen the positive effects on my family.  We use a lot of Lemon, Lavender, Peppermint, Melaleuca, and DoTerra’s OnGuard, which is an immune booster.  I bought a few diffuser’s to put around the house and (knocking on wood) we have a pretty healthy bunch.  This is wonderful because the first few months, we shared every weird germ that Cartagena had to offer.  We even pop a few drops in our water bottles for flavor and immune boosts.

dsc_0218

Face Oil – I knew the extra harsh sun and humidity would do its number to my skin. Shaking up my routine, it took me a while to figure out how to keep it happy again in a new climate.  I ordered a trial packet of True Botanicals.  I have learned that instead of constantly trying to rid my face of oil, thus forcing it into overdrive, I give it what it needs to be hydrated and protect itself from incoming bacteria that would otherwise throw it in to a tailspin.  It smells amazing, it feels great and best of all, my skin is feeling fresh and loved.  I plan on continuing using their items.

dsc_0220

Hair Oil – Alterna Bamboo Kendi Dry Oil –   I have never never lived somewhere with this much humidity.  It took a lot of trial size sprays and creams to find something that would fight the frizz but didn’t weigh my hair down or make it look like straw.   I have seen what months of sun exposure will do, and all I can say it moisturize, moisturize, and then some more.  I have recently tried Kendi Dry Oil and have seen it work wonders for my frizzy situation.  I spray it on damp and it leaves my hair soft and shiny.

On top of these things, I don’t forget about the basics.  Drinking lots of water, exercising, and sunscreen…. lots of sunscreen.   I use this one, Elta Clear, and it gets the job done without causing a lot of fuss.