28 September 2010

Pumpkin & Homemade Creamer!

September 28, 2010 8
I know jealousy isn't a good thing.  Ha!  But I'll say it,  I have been jealous of my American friends who have pumpkins, canned or the real thing!!  I had not seen hide nor hair of a pumpkin......until yesterday!!  I had to examine.  Go back and examine some more.  Then have Jerry punch a Spanish word into his trusty IPhone to see if it was really pumpkin.  And it was!!  It isn't the cute little sugar pumpkins and they had hacked them up a bit, but it was pumpkin!!  They were small so I took two.  Of course, Jerry said "You're getting 2?!"  Why yes, of course!  Who knows if or when I'll see this stuff again.  And even if it doesn't taste the same, we're not out that much money!!

I got home and as soon as I had a chance I popped them in the oven!!  Actually, I took the wrap off and dug my finger in it a bit to get a little taste.  Sure enough!  It was sweet and tasted like pumpkin!!  I tried to google it to find out what kind it was, but had no luck.  Oh well!  It works for me!!

Here is my pumpkin puree process!!

 Cut it up!  Scoop at the seeds and stringy stuff.

Place insides facing down on a foiled and greased pan.  Cover with another piece of foil and bake at 350 until it is tender when pierced with a fork.

Place in a food processor until smooth and there you have pumpkin puree!

I was ecstatic when a friend share that she had found a blog with several different coffee creamer recipes.  From cinnamon strudel to chocolate almond to Peppermint Mocha, which I need to try for Jerry as that's his preferred holiday drink.  I was like a little kid on Christmas morning!!  Finally I could have flavored coffee creamer again!  One of those things on my "I Miss About America" list!!  And it's easy too!!
Here is the blog where I found the recipes.  I've searched around a bit for other recipe ideas, but most I have found use sweetened condensed milk.  I'm not a big fan of the flavor of sweetened condensed milk, but I might try it sometime to see if the other ingredients would tone the flavor down a bit.

Here are the 2 creamer recipes I tried.

Cinnamon Strudel Creamer

1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons maple syrup (Any form of syrup is hard to come by here....or expensive, so I used a homemade version using Mapelene flavoring)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Whisk together milk, cream, maple syrup and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture begins to steam, remove from the heat. Stir in extracts. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pour into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator.


Pumpkin Spice

1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
4 tablespoons maple syrup (used my faux syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together milk, cream, pumpkin, pumpkin spice, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When mixture begins to steam, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pour into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator.
The creamers will last up to 10 days in the fridge.

They were both yummy!!  I noticed that the flavor got better after a day or two.  Also, I was talking on the phone while making the pumpkin spice and it started boiling.  Oops!  It just made it thicker, but the flavor is still good.  Also, I don't have a fine mesh sieve (I am now on the hunt for one) and tried cheese cloth, but it really didn't work that well.  My creamer was running down the outsides of the jar!  Don't want to waste the good stuff!

 I didn't strain the pumpkin, but I think it needed it if you like a smooth coffee texture.
And voila!  There you have homemade flavored coffee creamer!!  Give it a try!  And enjoy!

24 September 2010

22 September 2010

Altea, Spain

September 22, 2010 3
I was determined after our trip down south, having spent a day (and a couple of hours another day) at the beach that we needed a vacation.
We had not had one since the kids came along.  We are only about 5 hours from the beach and since we had already been down south, we thought we would trying going somewhere near Valencia on the east coast of Spain.  I started researching online for places to stay.  I was really wanting to find something right on the water so we could have sea views, but knowing our budget I knew that might be difficult.  We enjoy finding apartments instead of hotels so that we can still cook our own food and keep from going out as much.  But after our last experience I was not sure I wanted to do that.  
I started out by looking at hotels.  Finding a hotel that suits the size of our family was another issue.  So I went back to looking at apartments.  Wow, was I pleasantly surprised when I found a 4 bedroom apartment with ocean views in Altea (pronounced al-tay-ya).  There was a cancellation so we were given a good price.  I double checked to see if there was a coffee pot (you know, the very important and necessary items, ha!!) and it had one, so I figured we were good to go!
We could not believe it when we walked in and saw the views and amenities.  Not only were there basics for cooking (like spices and sugar) the owner had purchased a few items like milk, cheese slices, ham slices, some bread, and butter.  After our last experience this was a huge improvement!
And what a view!!  Here are the kids on the terrace our first evening. 
Directly below the apartment is a sidewalk, a small street with a promenade and a rock beach.  But being on the third floor, when sitting down all you could see was water!  We left the sliding glass doors open at all times to hear the water rolling over the rocks!  It was glorious!  We didn't realize it was a rock beach before arriving.  We would have preferred a nice sandy beach but that's ok.  We went to some local Chinese stores and found us some cheap water shoes to help with walking on the rocks.
We spent the first 2 days at the rock beach in front of our apartment.  I really wanted to find a sandy beach in the area, so our second evening there we took a drive to the big touristy town just south of Altea called Benidorm.  I had looked there for a place to stay, but upon arriving I was so glad we weren't staying there.  It was busy and fast paced.  Not what we were looking for.  It reminded me of something like Las Vegas.  
The traffic was awful and we never even made it to the beach we were looking for because of it.  Plus we would have to pay for parking.  So, we turned around and headed back to our place.
I got to looking through the tourist brochures at the apartment and decided to check out the town just north of Altea called Calpe.  It looked like they had some sandy beaches, so the next morning we loaded everyone and everything into the car and headed there.  We found a gorgeous sandy beach!  Of course, so did everyone else in the area.  It was packed!!!  We spent a few hours and then decided to leave.  Too much action for us.  We decided we liked the quiet, less crowded rocky beaches and slow paced feel of Altea.
We truly wanted a slow vacation.  Jerry was not interested in doing any touristy things.  All he wanted to do was play at the beach.  Me and the kids were ok with that!!  Each day we would take our time in the mornings, have a nice breakfast.  Then head to the beach to play in the water.  After that we would head home, clean up and would go out to eat.  After eating we would usually walk the promenade and one evening we went to look at the boats in the harbor and watch the little crabs on the rocks.  That was our kind of vacation!

Here are a few pictures of our time!

On our way to Altea.  All across Spain you will find these huge billboard bulls.

First glimpses of the sea!!

View from the apartment

Sunrise!!  I got up early every morning at about 7:30 just to see this!!

There were times I was in the water more than the kids!!

Mr Rock Monster!!

Me and my girl!

 Jerry captured this shot and I just love it!

On our way back from Calpe we saw this guy in the sky!

The apartment

We were sad that our beach vacation was quickly over, but we had a great time and made some sweet memories!

20 September 2010


September 20, 2010 1

The nice thing about Spain is the people love to spend the summer months outdoors by the pool.  In our area almost every apartment complex that we have seen has a pool.  Ours included.  We live in a suburb north of Madrid, close to the airport called Alcobendas.  It's actually where the actress, Penelope Cruz is from...who was recently in town.  No sightings here!
The first few weeks after we moved in we didn't get to take advantage of the pool much as we were busy unpacking, getting registered in the city of Alcobendas, taking our little trip down south as well as working on our visas for Spain.  Once those things died down we were able to enjoy the pool.  I knew I wanted to before summer ended.  We went down a couple of times, then Jerry went on a trip to London for 6 days.  We had gotten most of our unpacking and cleaning done and I thought it would be nice for us to spend our days by the pool.  So we did!  
Before this time I could count on one hand how many times our kids had been swimming.  We just never had much access to a pool, but I learned very quickly what little fishies I have!  Karis especially.  She is jumping in, swimming around in the shallow end without a float, and doing somersaults in the water.  For some reason these two are the only pool pictures I have and they are not all that good.  
Pitiful, I know!  I completely slacked this summer on carrying a camera.  
Karis with her cute little goggles & swim cap.  I had to do something to help tame that hair!

Anyway, we had already gotten to know the lifeguard a bit who was from Romania and spoke some English.  I was really excited when a couple approached to introduce themselves.  The husband spoke English and the wife a little.  Their daughter is attending a private bilingual school and also spoke some English.  It was nice to be able to converse with them because right now my Spanish is very limited.
But the wife immediately suggested we get together to help each other with Spanish & English.  I was ecstatic!  They in turn introduced us to some other neighbors.  Each day we seemed to meet someone new.  A 17 year old girl who has studied English all through school, another family with kids our kid's age.  It was so nice to walk through the complex and be able to wave hello.  I was so excited for Jerry to get home and meet all these neighbors.
Then we saw an announcement that they were having a pool closing party.  A colleague had mentioned having one at her complex, so we weren't surprised.  It was going to be on Sunday afternoon.  We had time to get to church, come home for some lunch and head to the pool for one last time of the season (which I was a little sad about, I wasn't quite ready for the summer to end).
There were a few people we had seen before, but got to know several other families.  One family that's traveled to the US, another that the wife is an English school teacher, and yet others that spoke a bit of English.  All of them offering their help any time we needed it.  I am so thankful!!  I needed to find Spanish helpers, I just had no idea it would be offered to me so easily!
I am so looking forward to getting to know these families even more!!

15 September 2010

Third & Fourth Day - To the Beach & Morocco

September 15, 2010 1
To the beach we went!!  We were staying in the town of Benalmadena just south of the town of Malaga,  a city that attracts lots of British tourists and those looking to relocate.  It was a beautiful, glorious day in the midst of craziness!!  I had gotten away from home without packing Jerry’s or my beach towels, but we thought we could all just share.  We hit the beach and instantly came upon a kind of cabana area.  It was an umbrella with 2 chairs.  Beach towels could be requested as well as sand toys. The ladies' sign said “Let Maria take care of you!”  We thought we’d look into it expecting the price to be out of our range only to be pleasantly surprised that it was only €4.50 (just under $6) per chair (we rented 2) for the whole day.  That we could do!  I’m so glad we did!  Maria was so nice and sweet to our kids!  The beach was just a short walk in front of us where we played in the surf ALL day!  A great way to spend our 16th wedding anniversary!!  There were several restaurants set back further on the beach.  We enjoyed a nice, decently priced lunch without having to take our stuff with us or go far at all.  The Lord gave us a calm in the midst of our storm.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day!  Except for the sunburn I got on my back, ouch!!  It was worth it though!We got back to our holiday apartment that evening and learned that Jerry’s dad had woken up and was doing better.  Praise God!!  Things were going a bit better!

I was still dreading the trip to Morocco, but at least we had some sweet memories of the day before.  The roads in this area of Spain are small little beach roads and highways or you can pay for the toll road.  To save time we decided to pay for the toll roads towards the town of Tarifa at the southern tip of Spain.  Tarifa is about 31 kilometers (about 19 miles) from Tangier, Morocco.  In reading through Rick Steve’s travel book on Spain I learned that Tarifa is the windsurfing capital of Europe!!  As soon as we stepped out of our vehicle I learned why!  Oh my goodness, the wind!!!  Oooff!!  I have never experienced such wind!!  Not even my days in college in Plainview (west), TX!  Ha!!  I couldn’t see a thing because my hair was in my face the entire time!!
We had tried to buy ferry tickets online but it didn’t seem to work (we learned later that it took our money but gave us no tickets!  Grr!  We’re still working on that!).  Luckily the ferries go frequently enough that we were able to get tickets with no problems.  It was only a 40 minute trip but partway through the trip we learned that we needed to go through passport control on the boat.  And the line was horrendous!  I was really trying to enjoy this trip, riding a boat, going to Africa but that was all lost at this one moment!!  We were wanting to hurry so we could turn around and get on the next boat, but it didn’t work out that way.  Because this was also a ferry that carries cars, all the people who had cars had to get through passport control first so they could get their cars off the boat.  It still didn’t make it any easier and was still so frustrating.  Once we got off the boat we'd hoped to turn around and get right back on, but learned that we had to get another stamp clearing us to get back on the boat and return to Spain.  We ran what seemed like a mile through the maze of docks to get the stamp only to be stopped quickly by the longest line ever possible!!  My heart sunk!  And we missed the boat.  That meant we had another 2 hours until the next boat left.  Not enough time to go look around (which we weren’t really interested in doing anyway), so we sat....and waited.  We went to a little cafe in the ferry port for some drinks and a snack and that was it.  The time passed SLOWLY of course, and finally our ferry came.  We were one of the first ones on.  We wanted to be in a prime location to do passport control and get a good seat.  This ferry was much fuller.  We sat by the passport window only to learn that on the way to Spain you don’t do passport control on  the boat.  Grr again!!  Instead of having a good seat to look out on the water we were sitting in the middle of the boat.  And on the way back we hit some rough waters.  In Alaska, I grew up going deep sea fishing for halibut every summer.  I am use to rough waters, but this was making even me feel sick!!  I had given the kids Dramamine just in case.  Karis can get motion sick in the car, but the boat didn’t seem to phase her or the other 2, go figure (maybe the Dramamine really did work).  We tried to take some strolls around the boat and even walking was a challenge.    We got a good laugh out of it though.  It wasn’t long and people were getting sick.  Not fun!!  And both girls had to go to the bathroom during all this.  Tight stalls, moving up and down.  I was feeling icky.  We finally saw land and the harbor come into view.  I decided we were going below deck to be one of the first ones off.  I practically ran off the boat dragging the kids with me towards passport control!!  I was so happy to be on Spanish soil!   I practically kissed our van when we got to it!  Ha!  We were on our way back to our accommodations and found a Burger King knowing the kids needed a little treat after our day.
Here are just a very few pics on our Tarifa/Tangier trip.  To say we weren't in the mood for taking pictures is an understatement!  Ha!
You can see just a glimpse of the wind in Tarifa.
Tangier, Morocco

Flag of Morocco
 The ferry we rode
Ruins in Tarifa as well as the line of cars to get on the next ferry.
This had been a whirlwind trip.  In some ways I was so ready to get home, but I dreaded getting back in the car the next day.  We decided to get up early and head to the beach for one last dip in the waves!!  We had another wonderful morning at the beach, but I was sad to go.  The beach was our one reprieve during this whole trip and I didn’t want it to end.  Neither did the kids.  I think they were all crying as we left.  I wanted to cry along with them!!  We had a good trip home and were glad to have this trip behind us!  We had a great time at the beach and I can now say that I have been to Africa!!
Here are several pictures of our morning at the beach.  Ah, what fun times!!

 This picture of Brennan just cracks me up...he's struttin' his stuff!

14 September 2010

Day 2 - Gibraltar

September 14, 2010 3
Most holiday apartments that we've rented over the years have a coffee pot with coffee and sugar and a few other things to get you by.  This one had NOTHING!!  Ok, well...it did have a microwave and a stove, but that was it!!  I was getting a little more livid as time went on.   First stop....McDonalds!  We needed coffee and a McMuffin is always an added bonus!
We then started our hour and a half journey to Gibraltar.  I was looking forward to it.  Jerry had taken a trip there when he worked in Seville at the World's Fair in the Summer of 1992.
A British colony tucked away in a very small corner of Spain.  Spain has wanted this prime piece of property for hundreds of years and England keeps fighting hard to keep it.

Gibraltar Rock

We parked in Spain and walked through passport control (we heard this was quicker and easier). There were hoards of people.  What a sight!  As soon as you cross over the border you then walk along the main road that goes smack dab through the middle of their airport runway!

Gibraltar Runway

 Gibraltar played a significant part in World War I & II.  A runway was build during the WWII and is maintained today with just a handful of flights coming and going each day. 
We decided to spend the day taking in the English speaking atmosphere (can I just say “Ahhh!”)  By this point it was time to get lunch.  We ventured to the main square trying to figure out where to eat when I spotted it!  “It” you ask was Pizza Hut!!  I was so excited and my mouth started to water!  We headed that way only to find that they were closed for remodeling! Phooey!  It just seemed to be the way this trip was going!!  We headed to Subway instead.  After eating we meandered through the very busy streets.

Gibraltar Street

 Then headed towards the cable car to take us to the top of the rock of Gibraltar.

Gibraltar Cable Car

What breath-taking views!!!  It was gorgeous!!

View of Gibraltar




 Did you know that there are Barbary monkeys on the rock of Gibraltar?!  As soon as we got off the cable car we were coming up some stairs and a monkey came up over a railing and started rummaging through the bottom of a stroller.  The parents tried to keep the monkey from getting in, but it was not to be detoured. The monkey found a package of cookies and helped him/herself to the whole bag.

Gibraltar Monkey

 We took in the view and within a few minutes we saw the monkey going back for more in the same stroller!  This time it found 2 apples!!  What a stinker!

Gibraltar Monkey

 The monkeys roam all over the rock among the people.  It's a little too close for my liking.  Had it been just Jerry & me, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it.  We had a little bit of a scare when we were observing one of the baby monkeys.  The mama got a little too far from baby.  When the baby realized mama wasn't near it started screaming and the mama came running.  I only realized it when I heard someone yell “Watch out!”  very loudly.  I was thankful for their warning and held Reegan back a bit.  I was carrying her water bottle (it was on a strap) and I was ready to go swinging at a monkey if I needed to!  Luckily that wasn’t necessary.

Gibraltar Monkeys

My Gibraltar Monkeys


We came back down the cable car to find the streets were almost bare compared to earlier.  We wondered if we were suppose to cross back in to Spain at a certain time or something, but we didn’t think that made any sense.

When Jerry had visited Gibraltar he had quite a tale of arriving in town with no place to stay and some event going on in town making all the hotels full.  He decided to sleep in the great outdoors and figured it would be safe near a church.  So, we went looking for the church.  The area had changed a bit, but the church was still there.

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Gibraltar

We decided to get some dinner before getting back on the road and stopped at a British pub for some grub!  Our waitress took our order and I was very curious about her name.  It was obvious she was not British.  After we ate we got to talking to her and learned that she was from Czech Republic!!  I thought her name sounded Central European!!  We had a nice little chat with her about Czech Republic and Gibraltar and how she had lived in Scotland for a while.

It was getting late and we still needed to check about getting the stamp in our passport.  We walked back over the airport runway (I should have brought my pedometer....we walked a ton!).
Look at that line of cars to enter Spain!  Good thing we didn't have to sit in that!

Gibraltar Rock

 Once we crossed the border we stopped to speak with a Spanish border guard.  We explained what we needed and off she went to check on it.  We thought she’d be back any minute with a stamp.  We waited...and waited some more.  She then came out and after trying to explain to us in Spanish, which we didn’t understand, she grabbed one of the Gibraltar guards to translate that she did not have the right kind of stamp.  I felt defeated, kicked and stepped on!  Why was none of this trip going as we’d hoped?!  My dream of a nice little getaway in a nice little place by the beach and a quick trip for a stamp in our passport was not working out.  I know, God has a reason for everything but I just couldn’t understand it.

I was getting really teary eyed as we crossed back into Spain.  I was dreading the fact that we were going to have to take another road trip going further south and figure out how to take a ferry to Morocco.  I knew nothing about Morocco.  Only that it is a Muslim country and to be careful what you ate or drank because you could get sick.  Sounds like a really fun trip with 3 kids!!!

On the way home I told Jerry that we should take a break the next day, go to the beach, do some research on how to take the ferry and just enjoy the day.  It was also going to be our 16 year anniversary!!  We got back to our holiday apartment LATE!  The kids fell asleep in the car, they were exhausted!  It was a bit of work to get them out of the car and into bed with lots of whining and crying, but we made it!
We were a little concerned when we checked email to find that Jerry’s dad had still not woken up from surgery.  The doctors didn’t know why.  The surgery had gone well although they found that his right side was not responding.  When we heard this news I just lost it!  It had been a long couple of day with lots of disappointments and now this.  Jerry was about ready to drive to Seville (the closest airport) and get on a plane for home to be with his family!  It had been some high stress days and we knew we needed a break.
And the rest of the story to come soon!!


  Deeper - adj. 1. extending or situated relatively far down from a surface: a deep pool. It's been a long time since I've ...