PINLast month we moved out of our home here in England in preparation for our family adventure: five months traveling in our caravan around Europe with our three kids. On the night of February 12th, we went to bed with our caravan fully loaded for our departure the following morning. When we woke up on the 13th, ready to take off for our trip, our caravan was gone – it had been stolen in the night by three men, all caught on security cameras. It took them less than five minutes to break the locks and drive away with our caravan, nearly everything we owned, and our dream of this special adventure we’d poured our time, energy, money, and love into over the past two years while living abroad.
The caravan was recovered by police, damaged and missing all of our personal belongings – all of our clothing, the children’s toys and treasures, our bedding, our books – all things of little value to the thieves, but things that meant the world to us as they were going to accompany us as we took our kids to see a little slice of the world.
We made the hard decision to sell the damaged caravan back to the dealer. It would have taken too long to fix, too much money to rebuild exactly what we’d lost, and we had moved out of our home in order to take the trip and no longer had a place to live while the repairs took place. Besides that, the caravan didn’t feel like ours anymore. It had lost it’s sweet, cozy feeling that had comforted us and been our base on other wonderful adventures. We didn’t want to go into this special time as a family feeling anxious that something like this could happen again.
PINWe’ve spent the last two weeks trying to grieve the loss of our original dream, navigate insurance, come up with a new plan, and rebuild the basic necessities for a family of five. With our meticulously planned dream trip changed, we now simply hold a ferry ticket that will get us to France, and no other plans of where, how, or what exactly we’re going to do. But we’re together, we’re healthy, and we’re determined not to let the actions of a few terrible people deter us from fulfilling a new – if yet unknown – dream.
Many friends and family have extended support to us in the form of clothing, donations, and an endless flow of love and encouragement. We decided, after careful consideration, to set up this Go Fund Me, as there are so many of you who still want to help. Please know that your cheering us on, your love, and your words of consolation and support are more than enough, and that every small contribution is humbly and gratefully received.
For months now the first line of my Nana’s favorite Irish blessing has been with me, and they were with me on my birthday morning when we woke up to discover our caravan was gone: “May the road rise up to meet you.” Our family trusts in these words, and we know that everything is going to be okay. Thank you for being a part of our community, for extending your hands to help us up, and for being a part of getting us back on the road.
I’m sitting here, curled up on our couch next to our borrowed artificial Christmas tree that’s peppered with cheap baubles from IKEA, and a few handmade ornaments made by the kids with their grandparents when they came to visit in the fall. The tree is looped with a string of borrowed lights, and topped with a gold star that the girls took home after the Christmas Fayre we attended a couple weeks ago at Chawton House Library. We have our stockings hung on the window latches, and in our closet upstairs is a pile of poorly wrapped gifts (I’m a terrible gift wrapper) that are taped up with packing tape because we ran out of Scotch tape but we’ve got plenty of packing tape.
Across from me in the living room is a big stack of boxes, 14 in total, also sealed up with packing tape, ready to make the trip back to America. We won’t be joining our boxes until mid-summer, but we are moving out of this rental house in just a couple of weeks. We’re moving into my friend Jo’s house near Hampton Court Palace to live for a while – we house sat for her once before, back in the spring, and cared for Bette, her then kitten. From her house we’ll take off on our travels which will consist of three months in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France, and then another six weeks in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and then we’ll come back here before we move back to America.
When viewed through the lens of missing family and friends it feels like our time here has gone so slowly, but then of course through the lens of passport stamps and adventures and time as gone by quickly. We feel ready to head home this summer, ready for family and friends, ready for Mexican food, ready for hugs, ready for time with our cat who has been so well cared for by friends why we’ve been away, ready to be back in our community.
When we moved here the homesickness was so intense, we sort of had to stop thinking about “home” so much. We had to put both our feet down here and be here. But now, with the end of our time abroad in sight, we’ve begun to let ourselves thing about home again, and what that really means.
So that’s our future, and for now I’m sitting here among the boxes and the borrowed tree getting ready for Roux’s 2nd birthday this weekend, a quiet Christmas with just us, and then Gigi’s 8th birthday – and then we move out and on. Once we’re settled at Jo’s house I will post more often, sharing photos from the last couple of seasons, and plans for things to come.
Today I have a recipe for you: Sweet and Sour Tofu and Mushrooms. This has become a regular lunch for me in these past winter weeks. It’s simple to make and so satisfying this time of year. Best enjoyed with a steady rain and a good book – which for me are mostly travel guides these days.
CRISPY SWEET AND SOUR TOFU and MUSHROOMS
Ingredients. 1/2 cup Chinese vinegar 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 2 tablespoons soy sauce 10-12 medium crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced 4 cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger 14 oz firm tofu, cubed to about the size of dice 1 cup corn starch vegetable oil toasted sesame seeds thinly sliced scallions 4 cups cooked Jasmine rice Sriracha (optional)
Directions. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the Chinese vinegar, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Stirring until it’s combined and the sugar has mostly dissolved. Set it aside.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat a couple tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Sauté the mushrooms until they are golden brown. Reduce the heat and add in the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant – about one minute. Don’t let the garlic or ginger brown or burn. Set aside in a medium bowl.
Place the corn starch in a separate large bowl, toss the cubed tofu in the corn starch to coat.
Heat about three tablespoons of oil in the skillet over high heat. Working with about half of the tofu at a time, shake the excess corn starch from the cubes and add them to the hot skillet. Fry until all the sides are light-medium brown and crispy. Using tongs transfer the tofu to the same bowl with the mushrooms. Cook the second batch of tofu the same way. Carefully drain any remaining liquid from the skillet and wipe clean.
Replace the skillet over medium high heat, add back in the mushrooms and tofu along with the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce mixture. Sauté, stirring pretty constantly until the mixture reduces and the mushrooms and tofu are coated with a thick, caramel-like sauce.
Pour the tofu over rice, sprinkle with lots of toasted sesame seeds, scallions, and a bit of hot sauce. Enjoy while piping hot.
This post is overdue, but as we dive deeper into planning our five month trip that will take us through Europe and Great Britain and the United States, I felt drawn to share our (extensive) photos from our trip to Norway this summer. We bought our caravan, which we promptly named Brexit, in May and took off immediately on a three week trip to Norway.
We spent our the following couple of nights at a magical campsite just a couple hours into Sweden. We woke to sunshine, the clanging of sheep bells, and our Lulu’s fifth birthday which was spent splashing in the water beyond the campground, roasting “s’mores”, doing laundry, and taking much needed showers…
The following day we drove up into Hardangerfjord, settled ourselves in at a stunning campground where we ended up spending a week. We’d only planned to stay there a couple of nights, but our car had other plans. It’s a long story, but in short: a simple seal that needed replacing proved impossible to diagnose in rural Norway – so we were “stranded”. In the end, I’m glad we were. There were parts of Norway and friends in Sweden we didn’t get to see, but we had a lot of wonderful, quiet family time in this beautiful place…
We got a rental car and spent some time adventuring by ferry, but each night we’d come “home” to the campground where we’d draw, and read Harry Potter, and cook dinner, and sleep to the sounds of the water.PINPINPINPINPINPINPINPINPIN
We took an unexpected detour to Bergen, where we spent five days walking the hills, beating the heat with ice cream and leaping into the water (okay, that was just me), and meeting new friends before flying home (our car and caravan followed by boat thanks to recovery insurance), and the seal was fixed in twenty minutes at a garage in England. Not ideal, but honestly, the trip was (nearly) perfect just the way it happened…
My amazing friend, Ashley Rodriguez, writer and curator of Not Without Salt blog, and shop, has a new cookbook out today!! To say I’m proud of her is a massive understatement. Ashley and I became friends just before the publishing of her first book Date Night In, and since then have become friends who talk almost daily. In spite of the physical distance between us (I’m here in England, she’s in Seattle), we’ve grown closer than ever. I read over the beautiful essays she wrote for this book, and tested dozens of the incredible recipes. I watched her work and cook and chop and photograph and edit and retest, her passion constantly on display. Now, so many months later, she’s releasing her second cookbook, Let’s Stay In – More than 120 Recipes to Nourish People You Love! I want to jump for joy, or attend one of her book release dinners or events, but mostly I want to give Ashley a big, huge hug… and sit down at the table with her.
One thing we talked about a lot this year was the importance of sitting down at the table with our families, friends, and maybe even strangers. To share food, connect, and talk, to use servings of Sour Cream and Seedy Mustard Mashed Potatoes, peeled layers Garlic Miso Butter Flake Rolls, hearty and rich helpings Breakfast BLTs on bouncy Classic White Bread, offers of bold and fragrant Baked Camembert with Blackberries and Rosemary, sips of delightfully tart Cardamom Cream Soda, and scoops of Charred Scallion Dip to transmit love to those other souls at the table. Her passion for connection, for feeding others, and for serving a table full of people is inspiring and heartfelt – and so needed in this particular cultural season.
I tested and fell in love with at least 40 of the recipes in this book, I made everything I could given my access to kitchen appliances and groceries here in England. One of our very favorites is the Roasted Potato & Cauliflower Burrito. It sounds… not that exciting, but let me tell you, it’s delicious! The potatoes and cauliflower are sprinkled with cumin seeds, cider vinegar, and fish sauce and roasted to a caramelized, fragrant crisp. A tart and spicy cream sauce that includes lime juice, chipotle, garlic, cumin, Dijon, and more fish sauce is slathered over the tortillas. If that weren’t enough there’s also the corn and herb salsa (the recipe for which didn’t fit on the page of the book, but I have it here for you)!
I can’t wait to get my hands on Let’s Stay In, I already know it will become one of my oil spattered, dog-eared favorites.
2 large potatoes, cut into roughly 1/2-inch pieces
1 head cauliflower cut into small florets
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C apple cider vinegar
2 tsps cumin seeds
2 1/2 tsps sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 C sour cream
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp chipotle powder (use less if you don’t like heat)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Dijon
1 tsp ground cumin
Corn and Herb Salsa
2 cups corn kernels (thaw completely if using frozen)
1 jalapeño, finely diced
4 scallions, white and green parts sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Zest of 1 lime
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 can drained and rinsed black beans
6 to 8 large flour tortillas
For the vegetables:
Preheat the oven to 425°F
Combine the potatoes and cauliflower in a large bowl. Then add the olive oil, cider vinegar, cumin seeds, salt, pepper and fish sauce.
Toss everything to combine well.
Roast on a large sheet pan for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and deeply colored.
For the burrito sauce:
In a small bowl combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, chipotle powder, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, salt, Dijon, and cumin. Stir well to combine.
This sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
For the corn salsa:
In a medium bowl combine the corn, jalapeño, scallions, olive oil, lime zest and juice, cilantro, and sea salt.
Slather a couple of tablespoons of the burrito sauce on the tortilla then top with the roasted vegetables, a small scoop of black beans and the corn salsa. Roll it up then serve with extra burrito sauce.
You might remember a few years back I made a video “A Year with Solly Baby“, which was a compilation of videos of me wearing Lulu in her Solly Wrap from the time she was born until she turned one. I had such a wonderful time making that video that I teamed up with Solly Baby to make another video for them. The results of those compiled clips is below, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have them, and to share this video with you. Solly Baby asked me to write a few words about our time living abroad and this is what I told them…
“For the past two years we’ve been living abroad, having moved to a small town outside of London when I was pregnant with our third child. We were drawn to Europe from the Pacific Northwest by the lure of collecting passport stamps, and a desire to show our kids new food, art, scenery, and cultures. When our son was just a couple weeks old, we applied for his passport and soon started filling it, and ours, with those stamps. We’ve hiked around beautiful lakes and eaten Cornish pasties in England; climbed peaks and fortress steps in Salzburg; sipped beers in Belgium, and eaten ice cream in Amsterdam; wandered by Picasso and Gaudí in Barcelona; and splashed in Norwegian fjords. For much of that time with our baby happily observing, snoozing, or nursing in our Solly Wrap.
Traveling with our kids was always something we dreamed of, an idea that we valued, and with a lot of hard work we were able to make a reality. Traveling with children is not always easy, but it’s always worth it. I keep that in mind as a mantra as I plan our greatest adventure yet – a six month long journey that will take us through Europe, Great Britain, and across the United States back ‘home’ … though we’ve learned that home can have so many definitions and nuances: a cozy place to sleep, a fragrant baguette, a familiar book, or a wrap that holds your baby close and secure in an unfamiliar, exciting place.”