Monday, March 28, 2016

A Couple of Days in Cos Cob & Easter Brunch in Cleveland

We've had a whirlwind trip so far since we started our vacation in the U.S., and we've been having so much fun that I haven't had a chance to post an update until now. 

Our first stop began where my Uncle Peter, Aunt Laney, and cousins Alec and Emma live in the quiet suburb of Cos Cob, Connecticut. I grew up visiting my family in Connecticut each year, and I always enjoy my visits with them.

We arrived early in the morning at JFK after taking a 14 hour flight from Dubai. The weather was cold and crisp, but we enjoyed the change in temperature from the perpetual heat in Dubai. We took an Uber from JFK to Cos Cob, staring out the windows at the city around us as we drove North to Cos Cob, and I reminisced with my husband about my childhood vacations in Connecticut. We arrived at my Uncle and Aunt's house and we're greeted by my Aunt Laney. 

Venture & Roam: a backyard in Cos Cob Connecticut, early spring in Cos Cob Connecticut
My Uncle and Aunt's Backyard in Cos Cob 
Venture & Roam: cardinal and other birds eating bird food, ski boot bird house
Cardinals and other birds having an early morning breakfast

After settling in and having a delicious lunch of venison pasta made by my Aunt, renowned for her family cooking and avid Italian food fan (check out her blog all about Italy at Ortensia Blu), we spent some time catching up with my uncle and cousin Alec. Later that day, my uncle and aunt drove us to visit some family at a community park near Danbury, Connecticut. We soaked in the Spring air and enjoyed the sunshine before heading to a pizzeria for some delicious pepperoni pizza. 

The next day we drove to one of the best bagel shops in the Tri-State area, Upper Crust Bagel Co. in Greenwich, Connecticut. I have eaten countless bagels in my life, but the Upper Crust bagels are some of the best bagels I've ever had: they have a great crust with a chewy center, and the flavors are incredible. 

Venture & Roam: Everything and Onion bagels from Upper Crust Bagel Co, bagels,
Everything and Onion Bagels from Upper Crust Bagel Co.

It was a rainy day, so we drove around the beaches of Old Greenwich before heading to Greenwich Avenue for some lunch at Méli-Mélo. My husband and I each had a French onion soup and we shared a savory ham and cheese crepe. We did some light window shopping up and down the avenue, stopping at a store called Giggle to look at the Bugaboo stroller and other baby accessories. 

After Greenwich Avenue, we drove to my great Uncle Sy and great Aunt Hellie's house to have a nice visit. My Uncle Sy is my grandfather's first cousin, and he and Hellie may be two of the most kind and interesting people I have ever known. Having grown up in an era of effortless elegance on the Upper East side of Manhattan, and having traveled extensively all over the globe, Hellie and Sy have so many stories to tell. I wish we could have spent more time with them, but I cherish every visit with them.

We finished our last full day in Cos Cob by having dinner with Aunt Laney, Uncle Peter and Alec at an Asian fusion restaurant called Asiana. My husband and I have been craving General Tso's chicken, a truly American-Chinese dish that you can't get anywhere outside of the United States. We laughed, joked, and stuffed our faces full of delicious food before heading home for the evening to pack and prepare ourselves for the next leg of our trip. 

Venture & Roam: family picture at Asiana in Cos Cob near Greenwich Connecticut
Family Picture in Cos Cob

We were glad to have a quiet visit in Cos Cob. Our trip to Connecticut was short, but sweet, and we had a lovely time visiting our family. We left feeling grateful for such a wonderful visit, and we cannot wait to return.

We flew to my hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, to spend time with my family for the next week, and our first day here was busy. After arriving at my mother's house and settling in, we drove to visit my friend Alex and celebrate her birthday with some of our closest friends from Cleveland. We had a wonderful time chatting and reminiscing about our pasts, and we gobbled up some incredible pizza at Vero Pizza Napoletana (their pizza crust is crazy good). 

We celebrated Easter brunch the next morning at my mother's house, where almost my entire family on my mother's side gathered to enjoy delicious homemade quiche, bagels and lox, fruit salad, and an assortment of Easter candy. It was so nice to spend time with my family, and I savored every moment with them. Living so far away makes me truly appreciate any time I am able to spend with them. 

Venture & Roam: Easter Brunch dining table, pink dining table setting, chocolate bunnies, pink table setting
My Mother's Easter dining room table

We left my mother's house after brunch and drove to visit my father and his family on the other side of Cleveland. My husband and I relaxed at my dad's apartment, looking over old pictures and laughing at the fashion styles of the mid to late 80's. We had a delicious home cooked dinner made by my dad before visiting more relatives at my Aunt's house for some dessert. We had so much fun catching up and chatting, that we never actually ate dessert. 

We have another five days in Cleveland, so I'll have plenty of time to spend with my family before we head to Boston and New York City. I cannot wait to see what adventures we have in store here in Cleveland, and I will be sure to write about them as they happen this week.

Until next time: Life is short, share in the adventure!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Top 14 Things You Should Never Say To a Pregnant Woman

Having a baby may be the most exciting event in a woman's life, but it also marks a time in her life when other people's social boundaries dissolve and conversational decorum flies out of the window. Family, friends, and even (or rather especially) strangers engage in an odd behavior of verbal diarrhoea, a barrage of questions, comments and friendly advice that all too often misses the mark in kindness and helpfulness. What may be intended as a compliment or helpful advice all too often sounds nosey, or worse, an insult. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and pregnancy is no exception.  

So here are some things you should never say to a pregnant woman:

1. "You don't look pregnant."

Now, I'm sure that the man who said this to me on the elevator meant to flatter me. But, I'm almost 23 weeks into my pregnancy and I have a solid bump on my belly. I'm proud to have my baby bump, but with one swift comment from a stranger, I suddenly began to feel self-conscious about wearing a tight shirt over my bulging belly. Perhaps he thought he was being kind, or maybe he genuinely thought that I didn't look pregnant. Either way, I was left feeling like I look like I've eaten a box of Girl Scout's cookies, or sat on the couch for five years. No matter the size of our baby bumps, we're proud to carry our little ones. 

2. "You shouldn't be eating that (insert various food items)."

Ok, sure. This would be a really valid statement if I were eating sushi and rare steak, stuffing my face with tons of junk food, or drinking a glass of wine. But if I decide to give into my cravings and have one cup of instant spicy Shin noodles loaded with an entire day's worth of sodium, by all means I'm going to eat that cup of noodles. Period. The end. 

3. "You need to eat for two."

Yes, nutrition is super important during pregnancy, and making sure your baby gets enough energy to grow tops the list of to-do's. However, I don't need to stuff my face full of food in order to provide my growing baby with proper nutrition. In the first trimester, you only need about 100 extra calories a day in order to support your growing fetus, and by the third trimester that daily caloric intake increases to roughly 300 calories. That's the equivalent of a small snack. So no, I do not need to eat those extra slices of pizza or indulge every night in an ice cream sundae. I'll eat when I'm hungry, and I will stop when I'm full. 

4. "Can I touch your belly?"

Not one of my favorite questions from acquaintances and strangers. Or worse yet, having someone touch my belly without asking. I know that it is really exciting to see a big pregnant belly, and we all want to share in the joy of pregnancy. But for the love of God, please do not touch my belly without my permission. After all, you're not actually touching the baby, you're fondling my expanding ab muscles and growing belly fat. Remind me to touch your belly the next time you have a big meal and have a food baby inside you. You won't enjoy it, I promise. If I offer you to touch my belly, by all means rub it to your heart's content. But please let me prompt you to touch me. 

5. "You have gained so much weight." 

Just don't. Ever. 

6. "Why don't you have any morning sickness?" Or, "Why are you always sick?"

We may think that all pregnancies are created equally, but I assure you, no two pregnancies are alike. While I sailed through my first trimester with the occasional nausea in the evening, my friend experienced non-stop vomiting for three months straight. Now, she's cruising easy in her second trimester while I'm suffering from leg cramps and never-ending heartburn. So please don't question why we are feeling the way we're feeling. Just ask us how we're doing today, and give us a nice smile.

7. "Let me help you with (insert an easy task)."

While we appreciate that so many people, from family to strangers, jump at the chance to help a pregnant lady (and really, we do appreciate it!), please wait to until you're asked to help with an easy task. What do I mean by an easy task? Walking down the sidewalk, reaching for a pencil to jot something down, opening a door, carrying something light. We appreciate your sentiment and kindness; but the constant help makes us feel, well, like you view us as helpless creatures. Help us with things that are difficult for us to do, like carrying heavy items, flipping loads of laundry, and packing groceries. We'll likely ask you for help when we truly can't do something for ourselves. 

8. "I had a terrible experience with giving birth and having an epidural. But don't worry, you'll be fine."

Please keep your horror stories to yourself. We're nervous enough about giving birth to a watermelon. Adding to our anxiety is not helpful. If you have a great inspirational story, please share it. Otherwise just give us a nice word of encouragement, like "You're going to be ok." 

9. "Have you picked a name yet?" Or, "Really, that's the name you picked?"

This is a question we get asked non-stop every day. Its nice that people are so curious and invested in the name of our future child, but for some parents this is a very private matter. I'm also not likely to share the name(s) I've picked out for my baby just in case you react negatively to it. A better way to ask this question is "Have you thought about names yet?". Give it a try next time, and you might get a  friendlier answer. 

10. "Really? Cloth diapers, natural birth, breastfeeding, and hypnobirthing? Just stick with Huggies, formula, and a c-section." 

To the lady at the store who felt the need to tell me that I should just use disposable diapers when I asked if the store carried cloth diapers: Thank you for your unsolicited advice. But next time, keep it to yourself please. I'm not interested in your opinion, I'm interested in whether your store carries cloth diapers. Refraining from unsolicited advice also applies to family and friends too. Its not that I don't appreciate how much you care about helping guide me through the journey of motherhood (because it really means a lot to me that you care so much about my wellbeing and the future of my child), but please allow me to ask for your advice on a subject first without passing judgement on the choices I'm considering making. 

11. "You will have a girl because your skin isn't clear." Or, "You'll definitely be having a boy because your belly is hanging low." 

Funny? Yes. Insulting? Maybe.... especially if you're referring to the sudden onset of acne due to my pregnancy. Any truth to it? Not even a little bit. There's no scientific basis for these old wive's tales.

12. "It all gets worse from here."

Well, there goes the positivity right out of the window. I'd rather focus on all of the wonderful things that will be happening rather than the future sleepless nights, poopy diapers, and baby vomit. It is better to be happily optimistic rather than woefully negative.  

13. "Do you know if you're having a girl or a boy?" 

This is a very sweet question that we're happy to answer, until its the 20th time we've been asked that in one day. But don't worry, we won't get upset if you ask this a million more times. Just bear with us if we're feeling a bit moody after a long day!

14. "Are you pregnant?"

Whatever you do, please do NOT ask this question. I repeat, DO NOT ask this question. Why? Well, we probably are pregnant. But if we're carrying a food baby rather than a real baby, you won't be the only one whose face is on fire due to deadly embarrassment. 

Are there any other things that you think should never be said to a pregnant woman? Share your thoughts below!

Life is short, share in the adventure. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday Mantra: St. Augustine and Traveling

As our big trip to the U.S. quickly approaches (only a few more days!!!), my husband and I have begun preparing for our journey. We bought some sweet treats to bring home to our friends and family, and we will soon be packing our suitcases and carry-ons with warm clothes appropriate for this time of year in Cleveland, New York City, and Boston. 

Today's mantra post is short and simple for two reasons. 1. I have a to-do list a mile long. 2. Sometimes it takes few words to really have an impact on you. If you want to get the big picture in life and experience the whole story, travel far and travel often. If you never experience a place or culture different from your own, you will have missed out on an a narrative of the human experience. Life is short, share in the adventure. 

Venture & Roam: Monday Mantra - St. Augustine on traveling, "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."
St. Augustine on Travel

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Recipe Review: Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals

My husband and I are big fans of Jamie Oliver, and we use his recipes as our go-to meals for dinner parties, weeknight cooking, and even sweet treats. His recipes are simple and clean, but the flavors are strong and sophisticated. Even the most novice cook can manage to prepare his recipes and produce an incredible meal. 

Venture & Roam: Recipe Review of Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals
Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's 30 Minute Meals"

I bought my husband Jamie Oliver's cookbook "Jamie's 30-Minute Meals: A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast" for Christmas in an attempt to encourage us to cook more at home. When we lived in Switzerland, I cooked almost every night of the week. But since moving to Dubai, where fast food and delivery is a-plenty and takeout is a main part of any diet, I haven't cooked as much. It is difficult to turn down takeout in a city where the takeout is authentic, delicious, and cheaper than buying groceries. 

But alas, the Dubai culture of weekly takeout food is not so friendly on the waistline. Nor is it the best nutrition for growing a baby. So we made a promise to cook more. Enter my husband's Christmas gift.

Jamie Oliver's "30-Minute Meals" cookbook offers about 50 meals designed to help you cook an entire meal for four in 30 minutes. Yes, that's right. An entree, salad, side dish, and sometimes a dessert, all within 30 minutes. Impossible, you say? I said the same thing. So I invited some friends over for dinner last night and attempted to make one of his meals in 30 minutes. 

Considering that I'm expecting, I thought it was fitting to make Jamie Oliver's "Pregnant Jools's Pasta" meal, complete with a pasta dish, chicory & watercress salad, and frangipane tartlets. I also made Paula Deen's Creamy Artichoke and Spinach Dip as an appetizer, but I did not include that into my final cook time as it was not part of Jamie Oliver's meal, and I made it before I began cooking "Pregnant Jools's Pasta". 

The recipes in the meal plan are laid out in a creative way that allows you to manage your cooking. The directions and steps guide you into simultaneously cooking all of the different elements of the meal, prepping one dish while another is cooking, and it prepares you to have everything ready roughly at the same time. 

The Cooking Begins

I began the "Pregnant Jools's Pasta" meal by preparing the vegetables and sausage mixture for the main base of the pasta sauce. I had forgotten to prep the vegetables beforehand, so I took some time to wash them. I only had to roughly chop the veggies before putting the mixture in the food processor to do the rest of the work for me. This step took a surprising amount of time, but I think its because I didn't have the ingredients prepped before I began cooking. Once I finished this vegetables and placed the mixture in the frying pan, I began working on the tart. 

I couldn't find individual tartlet shells at the grocery store, so I used a large pre-made pie crust instead. The tart took almost no time at all to prepare. I simply spread jam on the bottom of the pie shell, and then mixed the almond powder, egg, sugar, butter, and vanilla together. I poured it into the pie crust and set it in the oven. 

At this point, the pot of boiling water was ready for my pasta, so I tossed the whole bag in and seasoned the water with salt. I tended to the vegetable and sausage mixture in the frying pan, adding the final ingredients, including diced canned tomatoes, to pan. Once I was finished with this, it was almost time to strain the pasta. By the time the pasta was finished, the sauce was also ready. I only needed to garnish the dish with freshly shaved parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

I found that I was running out of time, and my guests had already finished the majority of the Spinach and Artichoke dip, so I skipped the chicory and watercress salad. But since we had more than enough pasta for 5 people, I'm sure that they didn't mind missing some leafy greens. 

The Verdict

All in all, it took me about 45 minutes to cook this meal. I suspect that it would have taken less time if I had properly prepared all of the ingredients before I began to cook. I spent a lot of time on prep, but I am sure that if I hadn't been a bit distracted in the kitchen and if I had prepped my ingredients before, I could have made the entire meal (including the chicory salad) within 30-35 minutes. 

Venture & Roam: Jamie Oliver's Pregnant Jools's Pasta - Penne Pasta with Sausage Tomato Sauce from 30 Minute Meals
Pregnant Jools's Pasta - Penne Pasta with Sausage Tomato Sauce

The pasta was absolutely delicious, and there was hardly any left over. It had a great hint of spice from the chili peppers, and the sausage and spices reminded me of a great Italian sausage. I even helped myself to seconds, it was that good!

Venture & Roam: Jamie Oliver's Frangipane Tartlet on Gien Bagatelle China with Jacques Piccard linen and Vieri silverware, Recipe Review Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals
Jamie Oliver's Frangipane Tartlet

The frangipane tartlet was ready about 5 minutes after we began eating the pasta, and was the perfect temperature by the time we were ready for a sweet dessert after an intense round of Mario Party. It was sweet, with a hint of orange zest. I'm not sure if the center was supposed to set as it was a bit runny when we cut into it, but looks don't matter when something tastes so good!
I will definitely try to challenge myself to completing more of Jamie Oliver's meals in 30 minutes. I already have my eyes set on a roast beef meal with mini Yorkshire puddings. 

Have you tried any of Jamie Oliver's 30-minute meals? Tell me about it below!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day - What Saint Patrick's Day Means to Me

Venture & Roam - Old Irish Blessing, Ireland, Irish Sheep, Irish Field
Old Irish Blessing

Normally I would spend this holiday celebrating my Irish heritage with a nice pint of Guinness at the nearest Irish pub, but this year I will have to celebrate St. Patrick's Day watching everyone get silly while my baby does a a little jig in my belly. 

I have always felt connected to my Irish roots. My grandmother comes from a strong lineage of Irish from a town near Galway on the west coast of Ireland. Each time I have traveled to Ireland, I have felt a sense of 'home'. Each time I have left Ireland, I've felt like I was leaving behind a part of my soul. 

Venture & Roam - Bahamas wedding, bride and grandmother, wedding photography, taken by Heather Carey Photography
My Grandmother and Me - Taken by Heather Carey Photography

This holiday means more to me than having fun, drinking lots of Guinness and whiskey, wearing green, eating green foods, and wishing everyone the "Luck of the Irish". Don't get me wrong, those are all a recipe for having a great time, and I have always thoroughly enjoyed participating in the fun. 

But for me, St. Patrick's Day is about reminding myself that I come from unique history and culture on my grandmother's side of the family. This holiday reminds me of the strength of my grandmother's grandmother, who left Ireland with little more than some change for a loaf of bread in her pocket, and came to the United States to seek a better life and better opportunities (not to mention love). It is a day for remembering that family means everything in life, and that family can be reunited after generations apart and still feel like we've known each other our entire lives. 

Venture & Roam - drinking to good health
A long lost cousin in London
Venture & Roam - a long lost cousin in Galway Ireland
Another long lost cousin in Galway, Ireland

So on this day, join in on the fun. Drink, tout your green clothes, and enjoy the lucky day. Raise your pint and remember that this day is also about celebrating a long history if the Irish people. Sláinte

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Designs: Making Jewelry with Leftover Beads

I had a burst of creativity a few weeks ago after cleaning out some of the cupboards in our apartment. I've been experiencing the proverbial nesting behavior that comes along with preparing for a new baby. In an effort to make room for baby things, I came across all of my jewelry-making supplies hidden in a rarely-opened cabinet. 

I haven't made jewelry in quite some time. In fact, I don't think that I've made any jewelry since we moved from Switzerland to Dubai almost a year ago. But I rediscovered my treasure trove of silver beads, pearls, stone beads, and suddenly a wave of creative thought burst into my head. 

The cabinet of jewelry supplies called out to me, but as I sifted through the beads and string, I realized that I had a lot of random materials stuffed in boxes and bags. I wasn't sure what I could make from the leftovers of past jewelry projects, but I was determined to use as much of the leftover supplies as possible. 

I began to play around with different bead combinations, and I certainly struggled during my first few attempts. But as I kept changing beads and redoing strands, I found that I enjoyed the challenge of using the leftovers. I paired Swarovski crystal beads with stone skulls and other charms, and I uses lampwork beads to make pretty earrings. 

Here are some sneak peeks of the jewelry I've made over the last couple of weeks. On my next to-do list: learn how to take better pictures of my jewelry! ;) 

Pearls, Pink Quartz, Swarovski crystal bead bracelets - Venture & Roam
Pearls, Pink Quartz, Swarovski beads

Pearls, Pink Quartz, Swarovski crystal bead bracelets, stacked bracelets - Venture & Roam
Stacked Bracelets

Lampwork beads, Swarovski Crystals, Thai Silver, earrings - Venture & Roam
Lampwork Beads with Swarovski Crystals and Thai Silver

Lampwork beads, Swarovski Crystals, Thai Silver, earrings - Venture & Roam
Lampwork Beads with Swarovski Crystals and Thai Silver

Peruvian Opal Earrings
Peruvian Opal Earrings

Peruvian Opal Earrings
Peruvian Opal Earrings

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Mantra: The Dalai Lama on Kindness

Venture and Roam: Dalai Lama "Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness"

Sometimes all we need is a positive pick-me-up on a Monday morning to help us get through the rest of the week. 

This morning, I needed a little reminder that a small act of kindness can make a big difference in the outcome of my day, and that sometimes kindness can be found in the most unlikely of places. 

It is easy to get frustrated during a morning commute to work, or become upset when something doesn't go exactly as planned. But it is important to take a deep breath, and remember that it is better to be kind towards others than take out our frustration on those around us. 

It is so important to live our lives with kindness. Reading a few positive words can brighten our day, and small acts of kindness can put a smile on a stranger's face. No matter where we come from, kindness is a universal truth. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Brushing off the Cobwebs


Consistency has never been my strongest attribute. 

I am a creative person. I love to dream and think of new ideas. I fall blindly into new hobbies with wild passion. I become whole-heartedly dedicated to my new hobby.

But sometimes those passions fizzle. But you know how it goes... life gets in the way, and so does procrastination. I could make up a million excuses for why I always stop, but at the end of the day it boils down to one thing. I struggle with consistency. 

I think it is time for me to admit that blogging is one of those passions. I get really excited to start blogging, and I plan to write new posts. But ultimately I lose my way. Delaying my post by a day becomes delaying my post for a week. That week turns into a month, and next thing you know, I've missed almost a year of writing. 

Perhaps one of the few things that I have been consistent with throughout my life is that I always tend to pick up my hobbies after I've set them aside to cool. I am not the kind of person who likes to admit defeat. So I pick up my old hobbies, and I always keep trying. Its time that I brush off the old cobwebs and start writing again. 

Life could not be more busy at the moment: living in Dubai, working full-time, traveling in the next few weeks, and preparing for a baby that is on the way. But its better late than never! And if I am to ever become consistent, it is time that I stop making excuses and start making progress. 

Here's to promising nothing, and reaching for the stars. Life is short, so live it well.