Travel – Flash Back Friday – Flor og Fjaere

Last September my best friend had a baby, SAMSUNG CSCwhich provided me with the perfect excuse to visit Norway for a couple of weeks… to see the baby (and Norway)! Best friend and her little family live in a port city called Stavanger which is a short 45 minute flight from Oslo.
Seeing as I was hanging out with a new mommy and a 3 month old baby our adventures had to be conducive to a stroller and not too crazy/loud/exhausting for the little one. We decided on a day trip to Flor go Fjaere.

SAM_1065.jpgOur morning started a little soggy with a bit of rain, but our 20 minute boat ride to the island had seating inside, so we stayed nice and dry.go Fjaere and hoped for good weather (since Stavanger is known for being notoriously rainy). Our tour of the island began by splitting into a few smaller groups of 6-8 and touring around the garden island with a guide. The guide tells all about the history of the island, and about the different plants and happenings on the island. As it turns out the island is mainly annual plants so the gardens are replanted each year (after the Norwegian winter), and so the island is always different year to year.

After the tour around the island we were brought inside for lunch created by the chef. The food was delicious and included traditional Norwegian dishes as well as dishes your average American (me) recognized as well. After lunch we were left to our own devices for a few hours which we split between a drizzly walk around the garden and warming up by the fire in the lodge.

While it would have been nice to have 75 and sunshine to enjoy the ‘beach’ of the island, a great time was had by all even on a rainy day. Next time I find myself in Stavanger I will most likely be back to this beautiful little island since its always changing and it is such a beauty!

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Travel – Stage Fort Park – Gloucester, MA

Now this may not be much ‘traveling’ for me as I walk here with the dog every single day, but the fact that this place gets SO busy on nice days, weekends, and all summer long makes it a travel ‘spot’ in my book!

Stage Fort Park is a nice size park right on the ocean in Gloucester, MA. The sign in the middle of the park will tell you that it was the site of some of the first establishments in Gloucester in the 1600’s. Today within the park you will find an information center, a snack stand, a playground, basketball courts, a baseball field, tennis courts, bocce ball courts (?), two beaches, a dog park, and a bunch of open space with grass and trees. Sound like your kind of place? How could it not… it literally has something for everyone!

My personal favorites are the dog park, the beaches, and the open space… can you tell I’m one for the outdoors, and not so much the whole idea of organized sports? On a summer day you can find me with our dog Moose at the dog park, he will be the squeaking/barking, or on a blanket in the open space near the ocean reading a book while convincing the dog to take a nap in the sunshine. Its truly a great place to spend a few hours in the summer months!

 

Cook – Zucchini Boat Pizza’s

I go through phases with some foods… one of my current phases *read: obsessions* is zucchini. I’ve made it into bread, noodles, and now pizza. If you hang out with my husband he will likely tell you about how much zucchini he has been eating… yes it is that extreme over here. Ha!

These zucchini boats are a great healthy substitution for the usual thick crusted, high calorie pizza one might order from Dominos. These are also great because how easy and fast they are to make!

Now for the instructions…

  1. Pre heat oven to 350 f
  2. Wash and cut zucchini’s… cut off the ends and slice in half length wise
  3. Use a spoon and scoop out middle of each zucchini half
  4. Spread sauce (I used spaghetti because thats what I had) but actual pizza sauce would be really good too.
  5. Next add any toppings (cheese and pepperoni for me) and any spices to add some flavor (I used Italian spice and garlic salt)
  6. Place on baking sheet (I lined mine with foil for extra easy clean up)
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender
  8. Can easily be saved for leftovers and reheated in the oven

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Happy healthy pizza night!

 

Travel – Flash Back Friday – Aitutaki, Cook Islands

SAMSUNG CSCOur flight from Rarotonga to Aitutaki was short and sweet, although the size of the plane was shockingly small (read: 16 seats total). Once we began to land, we understood why the need for such a small plane. The island we were landing on was TINY.

The hotel we stayed at on Aitutaki, Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa, was actually on its own sandy island! So once we landed we took a bus to a boat to get to the hotel. Have you ever been on a plane, a bus, and a boat in one day? I hadn’t! When new guests arrive to the island you are
greeted by a man sounding a conch shell… such a coo touch to the island vibe! And yes I went back and took a picture the next day with other guests arrived… it was that cool!SAMSUNG CSC

Our own little island resort consisted of mini bungalows for each room. Most of them were on the beach, however there were a few that were over the water (i.e. the kind you see in all of the travel magazines). Every room had its own deck, outdoor shower, and beach front access a dozen steps from your front door. If you want simplicity and relaxation THIS is the place to go!

Everything here is on what the locals call ‘island time’, meaning show up relatively close to the time listed and it will be happening. Meaning breakfast says 7-9 but if you show up at 10 you can still get breakfast.

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Some of the resort features (besides the welcome man playing the conch shell) included crab races (our crab Stanly lost), beach front breakfast including coconut pancakes, fresh coconuts and fresh passion fruit), an island spa in a tiki hut, a tiny gym (I think we were the only people that used it), and nightly sunsets that were nothing short of amazing!

Most of our days were spent with early morning coffee on our deck watching the palm trees sway in the wind, a leisurely island breakfast with more substantial coffee from the restaurants’ espresso machine. Then relaxing and reading on the beach and our morning adventure of either snorkeling or paddle boarding or kayaking (depending on the tide that day), then back to more relaxing and reading on the beach.

14313_10154845457840319_6227096544748990453_nMost afternoons we adventured off our tiny island to Koru Cafe down the road that had the most amazing sandwiches with the freshest ingredients I think I’ve ever had! They have some of the best coffee we had in the Cook Islands (why are we such coffee-a-holics?) and the mahi- mani sandwich is the best sandwich I’ve ever had!

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Because it was just my mom and I on the trip, our nights were nothing wild or crazy. After an afternoon adventure, kayaking, paddle boarding, or bike riding, and more reading and lounging on the beach we would often have our own happy hour on our deck. After getting ready and having a glass or two of wine (extended happy hour?) we would head to the other side of the island for sunset, followed by dinner (and sometimes a show) at the hotel. We may have been 😉 in bed 63987_10154845451520319_7632023855786853026_n‘recovering’ from our oh so strenuous days by 9 pm nearly every night. Hey its allowed when your up before 6 am while on vacation!

All and all it was an amazing relaxing vacation at a unbelievably beautiful and remote place. Given the opportunity, I would go back in a heartbeat!!

Bake – Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies

If you are a chocolate lover as much as I am, you must make these cookies as soon as possible! They turn out moist and chewy, and are some of the easiest cookies I’ve ever made! I’m all for home made cookies from scratch but sometimes there isn’t the time or the energy to accomplish such a task.

These cookies are made with six ingredients… simple as pie! Now for the directions

IMG_7199Ingredients:

  • 1 Box Brownie Mix
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 3 Tbs Water
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Chocolate Chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees
  2. Combine Brownie Mix and Flour
  3. Mix in Olive Oil, Water, and Eggs
  4. Stir in Chocolate Chips
  5. Drop Tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper
  6. Bake for 9 minutes

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If you have a chocolate lover in your life these are the perfect baked treat for them!

Dine – Jalapeños – Gloucester, MA

IMG_7003Moving from California to Massachusetts is hard, mainly because of the lack of good Mexican food. It took the boyfriend and I many less than amazing Mexican meals to not only discover this but then also to eventually find a couple good Mexican restaurants near us. A perk of living in a town supported heavily by tourism in the summer months, is that it forces the majority of restaurants to have good food and decent service, which it unfortunately not always the norm these days.

IMG_4153The restaurant can easily be found driving down main street Gloucester, as it takes up nearly half a block of store front. Once inside you realize how large it actually is, with an entire bar area and two different dining rooms. On occasion they will have a live band playing lively mariachi music in the bar, which easily travels throughout the restaurant.

Usually when we visit, we start off with margaritas, because why not? The husband likes their house marg on the rocks, while I mix it up with either a strawberry or IMG_7018mango marg. They do have entire list of specialty margaritas and drinks (in addition to a full bar), but we never get too fancy. My sister in law did try one that had banana liquor, and said it was good, although you’d have to really like banana liquor (I wasn’t sure anyone on earth did?).  They always bring delicious chips and salsa, which is more like pico de gallo, while you are deciding what to order.

Because we have been here so many times, we have tried a good majority of their menu, in addition to their ever changing specials. Some of our favorites include the tortilla soup, the fish tacos, and the enchiladas (chicken or cheese). To be honest the majority of the time we get enchiladas because we are creatures of habit and both happen to be obsessed with enchiladas. Whenever we go out we never order dessert, half because we’re stuffed and half because my husband hates sweets, so I have no idea what they are like. So, if your looking for some decently good Mexican on the North Shore make your way to Jalapeños!

Bake – Blueberry Pecan Muffins

IMG_7131After the husband and I got married, we ended up with a bunch of gift cards to a bunch of stores that sold home and kitchen things. I knew right away that I wanted to get muffin pans, because the only one I had was awkwardly shallow and only made 12 muffins at a time… aka any muffin making took FOREVER and ended with strongly shaped flat-ish muffins. So I finally made the trip to the store and found the perfect muffin pans, so of course I had to test them out right away. And what better way to do so than making blueberry muffins!

Now for ingredients…

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen work)
  • 1/2 cup pecans

Additional ingredients for crumble topping (optional)…

  • 2 tablespoons butter (cold)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecans

I like this recipe because it is fairly simple and the finished products is delicious and seems more fancy than it is.

Now for the directions…

  1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees and prepare pan with  muffin liners
  2. In a large bowl, gently toss together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and mix
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until combined.
  4. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla.
  5. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix everything together by hand as to avoid over mixing.
  6. The batter will be VERY thick and somewhat lumpy. Fold in the blueberries and chopped pecans.
  7. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling 3/4’s of the way to the top.
  8. In a mini food processor (or by hand) chop together cold butter, brown sugar, and pecans until well combined
  9. Top with crumble topping, if preferred.
  10. Bake at 375 and continue to bake for 18-19 minutes until tops are lightly golden and centers appear set.
  11. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan before enjoying.
  12. Muffins taste best fresh the same day, or store muffins at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

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