Family

Family. A word with many different meanings. It could mean passion, heartbreak, love, or sorrow. It all depends on your personal meaning. For some it might mean parents and siblings, while other times it is the people who accept you as who you are, and anything in between. I myself, have found a few families, all ranging from blood relation, to friends, to people who help me embrace who I am.

These last few weeks I have been able to more of my blood related family than ever before. One night we got together to celebrate my aunt’s (once removed) 10th anniversary of her marriage. Before then, I had met her maybe once, but not the rest of her family. Most of the people there I did not know, but I was told they were family.

Because of the way that we live, my family is separated in all different countries. Me, my parents and Alex live in the U.S., while my mom’s sister lives in London. One of my mother’s cousins lives in Poland, while the other lives in Norway. One of my father’s uncles lives in Austria while the other lives in Poland. All of my grandparents live in Poland. Since I was young, that was my blood related family.

My parents have always had very close friends whom were always our “aunts/uncles” and “cousins”. Although these people are in no way actually related to us, I’ve always felt like they were family. With us all being so spread out around the world, it is hard to maintain contact, but as I think I have mentioned, we try to fly to Poland almost every other year. My parents grew up here, so it only makes sense.

At home, I have a group of friends that are like my family. Most are like my sisters. It’s not that we spend so much time together that we are practically living with each other, it’s that we all understand each other. We all feel like someone has our back if something happens, good or bad. We all have each others support, no matter what. It’s like my second family.

To everyone out there, your family is always different. I am very fortunate to have such a caring and supporting family in my life. But family is so much more. Family means you still love them, even after accidentally breaking your favorite mug. Family means you support them, even though you think them piling mattresses to make a makeshift trampoline is crazy.Family means you know they won’t be mad at you forever if you do go do that thing they  specifically told you not to do. And when you find those people, you will truly be happy. Because they will forever be your family.

Easy slow rising bread recipe

My family loves bread. We eat probably almost 2 loafs a week. One of those loafs is ezekiel brand, grain sprouted and flourless. It is just better for you then any other type of bread.

The other I used to get at the public market every Saturday from my favorite French bakery. I used the past tense because I got tired of hunting for it and even at $6 a loaf it was already gone by the time I got there.

I was always petrified of making bread. Let me refraze that- I am petrified of baking in general. It was never my thing. You have to watch the temperature, obide by the recipe, measure the exact amounts etc…..things that I usually don’t do in the kitchen.

Every time my mother visited she baked this awesome bread but it was soooooo much work that I never wanted to make it myself. Too much work involved.

This recipe is easy. If you count the active time it is probably less then 10 minutes. It is slow rising dough so it needs at least 12 hours to rise. I usually make it in the evening so that it can raise during the night and I bake it the following morning.

The ingredients for one loaf are:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of yeast
  • 3 or 4 cups of water
  • oval baking dish with a lid

It has to be sticky, so it really depends on the flour that you are using. I use a combo of unbleached white and wheat (3 cups of white/ 2 cups whole wheat).

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. I leave it overnight on the kitchen counter next to my stove because it seems to be worm and less drafty.

The next day the dough has probably doubled in size. It is time to bake. Dump the dough out on a clean, floured counter. Kneed few times and cover with a towel again. In an hour or so start preheating the oven on 425 with the baking dish inside.

When it beeps dump the ball into the dish and bake for 40 min, the last 10 without the lid. When you take it out of the oven you will have to resist the temptation to eat it right away. It smells amazing. You need to let it cool before you cut into it.

I have made some variations like sprinkling with sunflower seeds or folding in some raisins….it comes out great every time. Play with it, make it your own.

When you make it few times the process becomes a habbit. And the best thing is that the cost is not even 90 c a loaf. Can’t beat that!

Pasta con sarde

When I first met with a naturopathic doctor she told me that if I wanted my kids to thrive I have to give them 3 things: omega 3s, coconut oil and probiotics. I had no reason not to belive her since I as a kid remember eating these things in one form or another. Every day before school I had to drink my tablespoon of fish oil. It was not a pleasant experience but well, if it is healthy you do it. My diet was rich in sourkrout and other fermented veggies which are nothing less then probiotics. Coconut oil was unknown….probably because palm trees are not a common view in Poland.
In this article I would like to focus on omega 3s which are mostly found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackrel.
Wild cought are much better then farmed because they have higher content of the good fatty acids and are fed natural diet. Farmed fish, on a contrary are fed corn and soy.
Unfortunately wild cought fish is hard to find and expensive. The cheapest way to get a load of omega 3s from food is eating sardines. We eat sardines very often usually just the way they come in a can with a piece of multigrain bread. Try mixing them with cream cheese and use as a spread on a piece of toast, put them on a cracker or make the following recipe.

This recipe serves family of 4

2 cans of sardines in olive oil- if it tastes too fishy try 1 can
1 box of short multigrain pasta
1 can of diced tomatoes or 4 fresh , diced, tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 of diced, large onion
2 cups of baby spinach
1 tbs of olive oil
olives if you like
capers if you like
parmezan cheese if you like

Cook pasta acording to the instructions on the box. While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce.
In a frying pan heat up the oil and fry the onion and garlic until translucent. Add sardines with the oil and break them up with a wooden spatula. Add tomatoes and cook for few minutes. In the end put spinach, olives and/ or capers in. Mix pasta with the sauce and dinner is ready. There is everything your body needs in this dish. Lots of protein (every can is 13%) to counterpart those carbs and lots of fibre. It is a great pantry dinner and „budget saver because all the ingredients are under $10. Bon apetit!

Whole Foods or… Whole Paycheck?

We recently visited Phoenix, AZ. I will remember it forever, not because its beauty, but dry heat frying you from dusk to dawn and a visit to local Whole Foods store. It was the first time for me. I heard a lot about them, but since they are mostly on the West Coast and in the central states, I had no chance of ever visiting their stores.

For someone that likes real food as much as me, it was like going to Disneyland for a kid – excitement all the way. I knew that I was going to find everything that I needed, all those things that drew a blank on peoples faces in most regular grocery stores.

I could not wait to get out of the car, we were not even in a full stop yet… not a good example for the kids. Anyway, I rushed inside like it was going to close in five minutes. Passing all the studs that were checking themselves out in the windows I was finally in the fruit and veg aisle. Wow, I thought, fresh young coconuts, what a treat! I walked further to find that almost ALL was organic and locally grown. Now, the prices were a little high. Lets not judge yet, I thought and moved to the seafood section. Sooooo much variety! Wild caught, natural diet, clear water, omega 3 the tags read… but the one particular fish that I was interested in lacked price/ lb information. Well, that is very important info for most of us, right? I looked at other packages, some had it some did not. I walked away since I want to be able to compare prices before I make my decision and a “package” is not a sufficient unit of measure for me:-)

Next I headed to the dairy isle hoping to find kefir for my kids. They prefer it to regular milk, unless we have access to raw, whole fat milk. Anyways, I almost fainted when I saw the prices… $5 for a quart bottle of lifeway kefir?!?!?!?At Wegmans I used to pay just little over $3 or $2.99 when on sale! I walked away again.

Passing by the meat section I noticed a ½ lbs bags of sauerkraut for $3.99 a package. Let’s analyze it little further. In order to make sourkrout you need to shred the cabbage, sprinkle it with salt and beat it until it releases its juices. Put it all in a dish and weigh it down… in few days its is ready. Pretty simple process, don’t you think? As far as organic goes, cabbage is very minimally sprayed with pesticides, so you do not really have to buy it organic. That is the most expensive sauerkraut that I have seen in my life!!!! In this case I will agree with my husband, it was a rip-off.

In quest of a good sourdough bread I wonder to the bakery isle. I am sure it varies from one store to another, but their bakery was very small and had hardly any freshly baked breads available. The ones that were there would probably feed only my kids for breakfast at a price of $4.99 per small loaf. I will not even mention the Ezekiel bread for $5.50 a loaf!!!

I ended up getting few things like coconut oil, olive oil, some fruits and vegetables, icecream… most were their store brand called „365”.

Walking out I realized that there is nothing to be jealous of, we have Wegmans with the same selection of products with much better prices:-)

I never thought I would say this because I hardly ever shop at WalMart (for various reasons), however now being on the road, I have to. WalMart saved my butt so many times on that trip – it is everywhere, even in the middle of nowhere and even thou their organic section is very limited, you can pretty much always find organic eggs, hormone/antibiotic free harvestland chicken, organic carrots, spinach, apples. organic peanut butter and vegetable stock. I can live with that, that is a survival kit that allows me to prepare a nutritious meal for my family.

Having said that I once more realized how I miss Bonnie’s milk, Olde Silo Farm, Seven Bridges Farm and Wegmans of course… Whole Foods has nothing on us!:-)

Around The World in Soccer Mom Mobile

Following our emergency evacuation from San Blas, in the middle of Semana Santa, we headed north along the coast of Sea of Cortez. About four hours later, we arrived in Celestino, a small fishing village right off route 15D. Quite surprisingly, there were several campgrounds, right on the beach and we were lucky enough not to settle in the first one we’ve came across. Celestino RV park, owned and operated by Chris and Marissa is a US style gravel campground, offering all hookups, electric service, clean bathrooms with hot water showers at the lowest price we’ve seen so far. We decided to stay for three nights, especially as we only needed to pay for two…

Celestino RV Park doesn’t have much to offer in terms of tourist attractions. It’s just a gravel beach front lot with amazing sunsets and very decent star gazing opportunities. Doesn’t have a pool, not even an Internet connection, just the bare necessities for motorized campers. What it does provide is peace and quiet. Even in the midst of Semana Santa, all park guests are in their coaches right after sunset, all you can hear at night is just the sound of waves crushing on shore and you wake up in the morning to the singing concerto of exotic birds flying all over colorful bushes and palm trees bordering the campground.

When we arrived Chris, the owner welcomed us at the entrance. Hearing that we are from Poland, he mentioned that a couple from the Czech Republic pulled in the day before. We found them without problem and parked right next to their shiny, fully armored Toyota Land Cruiser, covered in maps of the World and hand written marks showing the route they’ve covered. Our neighbors started in Europe and after conquering the African off roads shipped the car to Southern America, where starting from Cape Horn were already more than half way to Alaska. From there, they plan to continue their trek through Russia back home. Their vehicle, rather plain in terms of modern day technology, looked quite impressive with weld-on aluminium containers, roof-top spare tires, stainless steel plates covering the hood and countless devices mounted all over the car. Our dusty, soccer-mom mobile wasn’t quite a match.

That made me think how ill equipped we really were for this journey. We did fairly well in the States where the National and State Parks provide all amenities to weekend camping warriors like us. Every camp site has a fire place, a picnic table, water and electric hookups, sometimes a grill and even wi-fi internet coverage. There are laundry facilities, clean bathrooms, hot showers and camp stores if you run out of supplies. In Mexico, most campgrounds offer just the basics: mostly run down, incomplete and not very clean toilets, showers with occasionally warm’ish water and… that’s about it. Those handy propane bottles fueling our camp lights and portable stove are not available in Mexico, so our cooking abilities are severely impaired. Even a morning cup of coffee becomes quite a challenge and turns into an hour long hunt for a nearby coffee shop (usually ends up on a gas station). Our portable cooler doubles as a picnic table, even though it really gets messy when we forget to pull something out of it ahead of time.

Despite being on the road for quite a while now and spending considerable amounts of time putting up and folding down the tent, we still didn’t quite figure out the routine. Somehow, on the travel days, we can’t seem to get our act together quickly enough to cover some distance in the daylight. Usually we can’t leave the campground before noon. True to our motto, we sleep longer, then struggle for a shot of caffeine, mess around with breakfast, clean after ourselves, dress up and eventually start packing. And even though we’ve done it hundreds of times already, some of us are still standing clueless faced with the complexity of few poles and a piece of fabric.

How did we make it so far…?

The Journey Isn’t Over Until It’s Over

We are out of San Miguel de Allende and on our way back to reality, looking for a job, exploring different options. That however, does not mean the adventure is over. The way I look at it, we are starting yet another episode of this Family Sabbatical Road Trip. Tonight I’m sitting at a picnic table at Los Cocos, a campsite in San Blas, small coastal town in Riviera Nayarit. In the rare and very short moments of truce, between treacherous attacks of some kind of midget mosquitoes, I find just enough clarity in my mind to realize that excluding our European episode, this surfer’s paradise is probably the most distant from Rochester during our trek. We are far from home and it took us nine months to get here. Granted, five of them we’ve spent grounded in the most picturesque of Mexico’s colonial towns, but it means it will still take another four before we truly get back. And we don’t plan on taking the shortest route either…

As much as I liked it in San Miguel de Allende, I think I’m also the most content that finally we are moving (…and we’re grooving) again. We started to feel very comfortable there, so before we got too attached, we decided to hit the road.  We left on Friday heading south towards Ixtapa and the first stop was… Roca Azul, a little dated resort in the town of Jocotepec, on the west coast of Lake Chapala, about 20 miles south from the outskirts of Guadalajara. Because of a failed arrangement, at the last moment we decided to skip the beach resort town and head directly West instead. Well, I guess this blog isn’t called Wanderlust for no reason…

We stayed in Jocotepec for three nights, enjoying the pools, getting re-adjusted to sleeping in a tent and making friends with a very nice family from Puebla. We liked it there and despite fairly low temperatures at night, got some decent rest – must be the fresh air, coupled with the tranquility of the neighborhood. That’s a welcome change from the constant fiestas of San Miguel.

From there we kept on pushing West, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. We arrived in San Blas on Monday afternoon, planning to stay for two nights and escape the Semana Santa (Easter Week) craziness using a ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz on Baja California. The plan backfired, when we tried to make a reservation for the Sea of Cortez crossing. There are two companies (that we know of) that offer the service – Baja Ferries and Ferry TMC. The first one is an overpriced tourist carrier, the second is a freight shipping company that can accommodate some tourists at significantly lower rates. Unfortunately Ferry TMC doesn’t allow young children on board, and Baja Ferries is booked until mid next week anyway. Since we need to leave Mexico in about two weeks, it means that we’ll have to skip Baja and instead head north towards US border in Nogales.

A little disappointing, for us who already failed once, 12 years ago trying to get from Baja to mainland Mexico, and for the kids who were thrilled about the idea of a sea passage. But that isn’t necessarily all bad news. After traversing Baja we were planning on a “side trip” back East to Grand Canyon, Zion, Brice, Las Vegas, etc… before returning to California and continuing north to Oregon before turning east on the final descent to Rochester. Skipping Baja means going straight up to Arizona, saving a fair amount of money on gas and the ferry tolls. Money which converts to additional weeks in Yosemite or Yellowstone. Baja can wait – maybe when the kids get a bit older we will do the peninsula on motorcycles…. and maybe we’ll finally get to cross the Sea of Cortez on a ferry…

That’s why today, we decided to extend our stay in Riviera Nayarit for a few extra days. We don’t need to hurry anymore, there is no “train” to catch, we will be beach bums again. We can relax on the beach, take a few surfing lessons, eat marlins, langustas and other seafood treasures at bargain prices. The beach is much nicer then Costa Esmeralda, although nowhere near as beatiful as Riviera Maya. Los Cocos has free WiFi Internet, so I can spend nights drawing maps of our future adventures (or these boring updates). Agnieszka and kids are sound asleep, only midget mosquitoes, giant iguanas and chihuahua size cockroaches keep me company. From a distance I can hear that San Blas has officially kicked off Semana Santa festivities. The whole town is singing aloud (and not necessarily clear)…

So, to paraphrase Yogi Berra’s words: The journey isn’t over until it’s over! Take it with a grin of salt..;-)

Las Puertas de San Miguel

Architecture of San Miguel de Allende is stunning. There are several gems that form the ambiance of this beautiful town. Amongst them libraries, government buildings, restaurantes, hotels, houses and churches of course. Most are colonial style with neoclassical and neo-gothic details. Combining all that with cobblestone streets an achitectual jewel was born, loved by tourists but impossible to walk on in high hills:-)

When I got to San Miguel de Allende, the focus of my camera was on doors. Some old, labouriosly carved of wood, others simple made of metal or intricately decorated, all very beautiful, eye catching and tempting setting the tone for what’s inside. This gallery is 5 moths old, patiently waiting to be published, I finally decided it is the right time. To say goodbye to georgeus San Miguel that will stay in my heart forever:-)

Spring is officially here!!!!

Yes, to confirm that all the Jacaranda trees are in full bloom with gorgeous purple flowers. They are all over SMA just in time to start Semana Santa, very important time for all the catholics here in Mexico. The view is just breathtaking, see for yourself.

The monarc butterflies are waking up to start their long journey up North pretty soon. Hummingbird nests are popping up here and there but due to their size visible only to the most observant.

Our tree, that was once a Christmas Tree got transformed to welcome new season. It became a home for owels that were made of… Yes, you guessed it, from toilet paper rolls.

With help from my beautiful children, we painted the rolls different colors, then we shaped the roll and used black marker to draw the features of these gorgeus birds. Very easy, cute and fun even for the youngest ones. The shape is also great to make kitties, but we do not want any of them in our tree, especially with the eggs just about to hatch:-)

This is a great recyclable project because all you need is a tree branch, old paint bucket and some paint. This could easily be a permanent exposition in your house or a daycare, the docorations would just be changed to reflect changing seasons. Let me know what you think:-)

 

Hit the Road Again

In Poland, people often say, that everything’s good ends quick. We have been living in San Miguel de Allende for the past five months, almost half a year. The kids went to school, the adults worked on their own little projects. We all learned a bit of Spanish (some more then others) and made a lot of good friends. On Friday we will hit the road again. Our Mexican visa expires by the end of April. In order to see a bit more of the country we got to love so much, we’ll set off three weeks before that deadline and head towards the US border using roads less traveled. That is, hopefully less traveled by the drug and people traffickers…

Some time ago we visited Morelia, where we stayed with a wonderful family we’ve met early January in Los Azufres. They showed us their beautiful town, took us to Patzcuaro and offered a free stay at their summer house in Ixtapa. Taking advantage of that offer, we’ll leave San Miguel at the end of the month, just when the kids would have started their two weeks spring break. Through Morelia, we’ll head south to Ixtapa, where we plan to stay for about a week of “well deserved” vacations. Then, along the Pacific coast, we’ll travel north to Puerto Vallarta and on to Matzatlan, where we plan to embark on a ferry, that will take us across the Gulf of California to La Paz. On the Baja, we’ll make a little loop to visit Cabo at the Southern tip of the peninsula, then turn North and through a little village called Guerrero Negro (very dear to our memories), head towards Ensenada and Tijuana. I’m not sure exactly when we’ll cross the border, or what we will do on the West Coast, but that’s not important right now.

What matters, is to prepare for the trek and to tie a few loose ends. It’s end of March, which means even homeless, jobless souls like us have to get their act together and file their US tax returns. That’s priority number one. Second thing is to decide what we are going to do comes August. That’s when the lease on our house expires and our travel fund dries out. That means finding a new job, and a place to live. Time to update that resume and send out a few letters. And finally, we also need to prepare for the next part of our trek. It will be definitely longer than the first part. Both, in terms of time and distance. For that, I’d like to spend some time in the library and prepare an interesting route.

Why in the library, you ask? Well, some time ago, I came to the realization that we spend way too much time in front of our computers. Don’t get me wrong, they proved useful at times. Even often. But that doesn’t change the fact they’re mostly evil… You turn them on to find a campground near Ixtapa. It only takes Google a fraction of a nanosecond to return three billion, highly relevant ads, and a few loosely related results… That’s impressive and makes you feel highly efficient. You start browsing through them, and suddenly – three hours later – you know what all of your friends back home had for dinner, but you still don’t know where you are going to sleep next week. You start over and another three hours pass, while you read irrelevant nonsense, that leaked into your “highly efficient” workflow. The library on the other hand, is about 10 minutes from our apartment. It takes roughly 5 minutes to find the right guide book and about 30 to do an in depth research. An hour later, I’m back home with a (hand written) trek plan in my hands, and… plenty more time to kill!

For we have designated Thursdays computer free days! I have to admit, I’ve been the biggest offender. Even though not addicted to following other people’s lifes on Facebook, I’ve been constantly tinkering with yet another programming project or another “great” idea. Last two computerless Thursdays helped me realize, that except for the few important matters I need to attend, there isn’t much stuff we need computers for anyway… First there was anxiety, almost fear and panic attack. How can I put the computer away? There’s so many things I need to do! But then, after a few computerless days, a certain calmness and clarity started to take it’s place. Matters got prioritized, life simplified and somehow the days became longer and more enjoyable. Our kids are thrilled! They love the idea, and when I first proposed it, they immediately countered with Saturdays and Sundays be computerless as well. Since recently I’ve managed to fry my computers’ hard drive, I’m seriously considering institutionalizing a few more analogue weekdays in our schedule. I only wish I fried that hard drive much earlier!

For the past five months we’ve been living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We’ve met wonderful people, made friendships and learned a few things. On one side, I wish we could spend more time here – the weather is great, the town magnificent, almost magic. On the other though, we realize that although rare, such places are all over the World. And if we want to see them all, it’s time to hit the road again…

What to do when you have a sore throat?

Last week I found myslef lying in bed, not even able to go to the bathroom. I was sick. It wacked me out of a sudden, without any warning whatsoever, no prior signal. It was Friday. My husband had to take the kids to school since I was afraid I might just fall on the ground and not be able to get up. My children were petryfied, they have never seen their mother so incapable.

I had a fever 104 F and a sore throat. Not a good feeling at all. Shivering fully clothed under the covers in my bed I could not even sleep. When Robert got back I asked for aspirin, just to get a break from the fever for a while so that I could take a nap. I slept most of that day. Later on I decided not to fight the fever anymore. Fever is actually a good thing, the high temeperature helps your body fight off all the microbes. So I continued to rest in my bed with a wet towel on my head.

The next day I officially won the battle, the fever was gone but……my throat was milion times worse!!!!I could not eat, drink, swallow, talk….even breathing hurts.

So I made myself salty water to gargle my throat with. My mother tought me that trick long time ago, when I was a kid. She knew it from her mother of course:-) I mixed 1 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of salt and gargled my throat 3 times that day. I swear, it must be as salty as the water at the bottom of the saltiest ocean. Who cares, right, I am not swallowing it and I would do anything to feel better:-) I also took oregano oil just in case the infection was moving down from my throat.

The next day it was considerably better. I could feel my energy coming back.

Salt gargle works because it sucks moisture out and promotes osmosis. This is why salting eggplant or tomatoes makes them give up their liquid so they’re easier to cook with. In your throat, it draws moisture out of any bacteria who have „just moved in”, and it draws moisture out of your own swollen tissues, relieving inflammation.

Salt also cleanses out post-nasal drip and other bacterial material, a salty environment prevents bacteria from growing. That is how the meat was kept from going rancid in the medival ages, salt is a bacteria-fighter.

Next time when you are coming down with a cold try it and there is high probability that you will feel better afterward. For some, it might be too ancient but for me it is worth trying especially in today’s antibiotic resistant world.