No Coca-Cola, please…

healthy fruit

Photo from pixabay

So, there comes a time in your life when you REALLY … I mean really have to reevaluate what goes in your mouth because it does not all come out on the other side.

In fact, where once it would magically disappear, it now finds your thighs.  And your arms.  And your belly.  It even finds your neck and your cheeks.  Heck, it finds BOTH sets of cheeks.

Yes.  Where once you could eat whatever you wanted, the time will always come where that is no more.

Mine didn’t hit at 30.  It didn’t hit at 35.  Or 36 when I had Max.  In fact, after Max, I had only about 10 pounds left to lose when I got pregnant with Josephine (10 months after Max).  So, I was pretty sure it would be okay with Josephine.

And then 40 hit.  And it didn’t matter if I ate 1 potato chip or the entire bag, it all seemed to find a place .

For me, it’s pretty much on what Max and Jo literally, lovingly call my “squishy belly…”  In fact, they are so cute about it as they proclaim daily, “MOMMA, we LOVE your squishy belly!  It’s like a squishy pillow!  Oh, you’re so squishy…”

And they go on and on and on and on…I could so “SQUISHY” them after awhile, eh?!  (smile and wink)

Anyhow, all of this to say that I have officially decided to not drink “as much” soda as before.  Try not to eat as many cookies as before.  Avoid chips, when possible (smile smile wink wink again).

Therefore, when my husband was leaving to go grocery shopping, I told him to not bring me a Coke.

Proud moment, right?!

Too short, unfortunately, because then I followed it by saying, “But don’t forget the whipped cream for my coffee!”



I did.

And, with that, I have come to the deep conclusion…

What is life, anyway, without a little whipped cream?

Go, whipped cream, find my thighs.  They are waiting for you.

Bring on my coffee!

(insert whipped cream can aerosol-like spray and a happily sighing, coffee-slurping momma)


Mombie Apocalypse 

You’ve all seen them.

You know they’re coming.

It’s not if.  It’s when.

There’s no stopping them. 


It’s the Mombies!!!!


But wait.  

You have time.  

First, they must: “Insert Coffee To Begin”

Next:  finish taking horrible Mombie selfies

In the end, these two things will give you a chance to flee. 

But not really.  

At your next recital or game or award ceremony or concert — or just even when you walk in the door from school with friends, these Mombies will be there.  Yes, perhaps, slightly better dressed and maybe even hair and makeup done — but plain ol’ embarrassing Mombies they will always be.

Well, basically it’s the #truth until you become a Mombie yourself.  And then we Mombies will buy you your very own T (shirt, that is).Welcome to the club!  

DISCLAIMER:  My children did not approve this picture or message.  Both mortify them (smile and wink).  Just doing my job, folks.  Doing my job. #mombievictory

What’s it like living in Europe? Here are 10 things I’d like to share with you.


That’s a great question.  I am sure that every Expat American that lives in Europe has an opinion, how about I share mine?

I should start by sharing some information that will give you background information about me.

1.  I am from the desert of Arizona. Hot.  Dry.  Beautiful.  3rd Generation born in Arizona.  For Europe, 3rd generation born in one area could be a small joke===but, in the States, that’s quite the accomplishment!

2.  We moved to Poland in 2001.  That’s 12 years after the Berlin Wall was opened.  When we first arrived in Poland, we did not get to travel freely within Europe even though the Wall had fallen.  There were still two border crossings to go West.  We had to stop at the Polish border and allow for Polish border guards to rifle through all of our luggage.  Then we had to do the same thing as we entered Germany.  Sometimes border crossing took 3 hours.  And, yes, we saw many people escorted off of the trains with their passports.

Another fact:  American or other Western European Countries’ Passports were very hot commodities often stolen or sold.  If you had a passport that allowed easier travel, then you had more opportunities for work.  We have known people that have bought illegal passports, been caught using them in varying countries to try and find work, and have found themselves in prison because of this.

You should know the majority of the people that participated in these crimes were people with the best intentions—people looking to work.  Work hard.  And save so that they could send money to their families.    It doesn’t make it right—but after living in what was once a country with unemployment raging in some cities at the extremes of 20-40% (in the days when we first arrived), I did have great compassion on those that simply wanted to find work.

*Again—I do not condone illegal measures, I am just sharing facts*

3.  We came without knowing anything but “Byc or not byc.” Which is the funny way to say in half Polish/half English the phrase “To be or not to be…” I think you probably need to speak Polish to giggle at this one.

Anyhow, since we came to Poland without any Polish during a time when hardly anyone spoke English, we lived a life of loud words with lots of hand gesturing and crazy facial expressions or animal sounds to get what we wanted.

For example, if we wanted some beef but didn’t see any behind the butcher counter, we would say, “Czy Pani ma MOO?” (Do you, Ma’am, have any MOO?)

You would think we would attract a whole lot more smiles, but we did move to an Eastern European country, so we mostly just got blank stares 😉

Figuring out everything from how to ride a tram, to buy a train ticket, to shop for milk—everything was extreme amounts of work. We are so thankful we had friends to help lead us along the way. The rest of the time we just suffered humiliation at attempts on our own.

Well, without further can’t hardly sit still in anticipation, ready to read it…Here is my Top 10 List of What It’s Like to Live in Europe as an Expat American:

I will go backwards from 10 to 1.  But please know that I do not succeed at all 10 of these.

10.  Grocery Shopping.

Bring extra money to buy your grocery bag!

Oh, and don’t forget to pack your own groceries, QUICKLY!  As fast as the grocer is throwing them at you, separate and shove into the bags you just bought (unless you are amazingly fantastic at always having extra plastic shopping bags with you).

And never forget your coin for the use of the shopping cart.  Otherwise your arms spilleth over or fall to the floor.  Depending on whether the grocery store HAS a spare basket for you to use (a carry one) or not (some don’t).  So NEVER…and I repeat NEVER…forget your coin to use the grocery cart.

Okay—shopping ALL around is quite the experience.  It’s not for the faint of heart.

Funny labels, different foods, small stores, personal packing, plastic bag buying, grocery cart renting experience.  When I got to the States and started to pack my own groceries the “bagger” was a little upset that I was taking over his job.  Oops.  Habits are hard to hand over.

In the end, I am a rather fast separator, packer, and general bag buyer (I guess I have only accomplished 2 of the 3 needed grocery skills in Europe—I still end up buying a bag EVERY SINGLE TIME).

But, in the end, I have mastered grocery shopping and, therefore, my family eats in Europe.  Phew.

9.  Know how and make your own jam, pickles, pickled items, fresh bread, sausage, and borscht!

You will learn to love cabbage, mushrooms, beets, and repeat.  On top of that, sweet pickles will be considered an unhealthy treat while salted pickles will be what’s good for you!

In other words, your bread will only last a day, you will eat loads of cheese, and your palette will greatly change yet increase!

Bring on the snails, please!  And pickled herring.  Oh, and where is the blood sausage?  Yes!  Put it on top of bulgar wheat.  And, no, not that white cheese—the blah blah blah fancy one over there.

In fact, as long as there are potatoes, wheat, and cabbage in Europe, everyone on this continent will survive.  Oh, along with dill.

It’s a continent of culinary genius!  For sure.  And I L.O.V.E. eating here.


8.  Dress like you meant to wear it!  And then walk like you mean it.

Seriously, Europeans are so fashionable.  But, and here’s the secret.  They have stockings, funky shoes, scarves, sometimes hats, skinny jeans, and second-hand skirts and throw it all together with a little bit of mascara and a few accessories, looking like fashionistas.

My husband and daughter are amazing Europeans.  Disclaimer—neither are European.  But they put on clothes daily (So now you know that they are REALLY not European.  Smile and wink kind of joke) and voile!  They look amazing.

My daughter wears whatever shoes she wants with short skirts and leggings and then a sweater and allows for her hair to blow in the breeze.  Then she boldly walks to school and smiles.  She is gorgeous and natural and looks like she belongs.

My husband accessorizes his outfits with a fitted sports coat and the right belt, throwing a scarf around his neck and grabbing his leather work satchel when he leaves.  It’s as if GQ dressed him for a photo shoot.

Then there’s me.  For some reason, my love affair with my flip flops prevent me from accessorizing properly.  Therefore, I will remain the staunchly proud American and take gorgeous photos of the European fashionistas that reside under my same roof.

Even my 2 and 1 year olds are already rocking the right shoes, hair, and fedora hats.

I’m glad that when we’re out in public, there only appears to be one tourist in the group—that’s ME!

No, seriously.  If you want my advice:  throw it on and wear it boldly and proudly!  Wear less makeup!  And allow your hair to flow naturally.

Pair that with leather shoes and just the right hat, and there you have it!

You’ll do really well in Europe.

7.  Be Quiet.

No, seriously.  Be quiet.  Unless there is a football game on television, a festival going on in town, or a really drunk singing German nearby (no offense, Germans), be quiet.

This day to day life of walking and shopping and talking and playing is VERY quiet.

I walk outside and the birds fly away.  I am pretty sure that I scare most every European on the continent the minute I walk out the door.

My American voice soars the clouds.

My daughter hides.  My husband shushes me.  My small ones are the only ones that smile.  They still don’t know any better.

Perhaps it’s because Europe is considered the civilized people while we Americans are the wild outlaws.  Who knows?

But my daughter tells me often that I am too boisterous for this nation.

She is right.  But as long as they accept my volume I’ll try and overlook their staring.

So, shall we call it a tie?

Europeans chime in with a probable “No!”  But, if you are American, you hold your ground.  Because if there is one thing America has taught you, it’s how to stay strong.

Actually, that’s a fantastic trait of both countries/continents.  I just voice my strength in a louder volume, causing my daughter and husband to run for the forest where they will then find everyone in Poland on a peaceful family walk.  In silence.

It’s true.

But don’t worry—I’m used to it.  I’m just not sure it is mutual.

6.  Appreciate the old.

There is nothing more beautiful than the old.  When I was in the States, I walked or drove in awe at all of the shiny and new.  It was beautiful.  And I loved every moment.  But there were times when I was looking for the cobblestones or the old homes or the buildings with ivy crawling.

I was looking for the chimneys blowing smoke and the cracks in the walls.

There is nothing wrong with shiny America, but there is something surreally stunning about lovely and lived in.  Quaint.  And peaceful.

And the castles.  Now, mind you, there is a palace or a castle like every 15 minutes, so my daughter told me in the car the other day, “WHY do you have to point out the window ALL THE TIME?!”  Apparently the thrill of a castle or palace does not resonant as strongly when a child grows up in this culture.  But to the never-ending foreigner—ME—I LOVE the turrets I see around every bend!

In the end, America will always be the far younger and shinier cousin country.  And Europe the elegant, older family member.

My vote will always be:  Arizona Deserts 1; Polish architecture 1.  TIE!

The weather, of course, sends it from a draw to an Arizona win.  But that’s just my opinion.

And, since we are mostly talking about architecture, I would have to ultimately say that Europe and its history of brilliant places and buildings takes the cake.

So, who wins?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s up to each individual to judge that one.

5.  Shop Europe!

My daughter got so frustrated when we were in the United States.  She began looking at EVERY item and would proclaim, “WHY IS EVERYTHING FROM CHINA?”

She was proud to be in America but very sad that she could hardly find anything at all that was truly American.

In Europe, however, even though products from China are slowly creeping into stores, you will overall find most items proudly made in Europe.

America, take a hint!

4.  Drink REAL Coffee.  Not brown water!

My husband and I were in the United States when we asked for some coffee at a restaurant.  The server brought us brown water.  We tasted it and thought, “What did we do to deserve such torture?!”

It was disgusting.

To be fair, we had not been in the States for many years at that point, so we had forgotten that brown water in the States is what they refer to as “Coffee”.

Coffee my foot!

You get better coffee at the gas station in Italy then you get at most places in the United States.

Just saying—weak, cheap, and flavorless brown water is not coffee.  America, take this lesson from Europe.  Stronger is better.

And it will definitely MAKE YOUR DAY!

3.  Prepare for the onslaught of Tourists.  And, no, they are NOT all Americans.

Europeans are GREAT European travelers.  But, if you think about it, it makes SENSE!  Europe is geographically not the largest continent.  Yet is has a million and one countries.  Therefore, to go on vacation, you can cross two borders in one day.

I think that we often believe as Americans that we are the only tourists in Europe.  We’re not.

And, don’t let the Europeans give you a hard time about speaking English.  Because, guess what.  When they cross the borders for their vacations, they generally have to speak English in their country destinations, too.

But—and these are what I wouldn’t mind most American tourists hearing loud and clear—don’t be rude and obnoxious and demanding.  And DON’T put down America at every conversation with a foreigner.

There are a whole lotta countries in the world.  No one knows them all.  So no need to apologize for your desire to travel the world and yet LEARN about it while you travel.

That’s okay.  And, when all is said and done, after you are home, you will know more because you were there.

Come and enjoy Europe.  You’ll leave with a new zeal and zest for life after you do.

And definitely come to Poland.  It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest countries you could ever experience!  No joke.  And see you here soon.

2.  Kissing is Good!

Just come prepared to kiss.  Many and multiple times.  Do not be shy.  And carry breath mints.

I have not met a European yet that does not greet with lovely kisses.  On the cheeks.  1, 2, 3 times or more!

Some, depending on the celebration, on the lips!


So, come to Europe and pucker up, for you will get kissed.

1. Climb the Stairs!

As much as they are constantly renovating and revamping, Europe is one big castle.  Lots of cobblestone.  Lots of small streets.  Lots of stairs.

And very tall buildings.  Without elevators or escalators.

But with stairs.

Our office is on the 3rd floor.  I think nothing of it when I grab my bag, my lunch, my coffee and hike the stairs.

But, when I am in the States, to even go to the 2nd floor of a building, I head over to the elevator and wait.

And while I wait for the elevator, I could have walked up and down the stairs a couple of times.  Yet I still wait.  And wait.  And wait.  And wait.

Yep!  As active as America is, we are still, in the day in and day out activities, still rather inactive.

Like driving to school or the grocery store.  When, technically, they are but a 10-20 minute walk away.

What’s it like living in Europe?

It’s one big walk.

And we like it that way!

How about you?  Are you an expat American living in Europe or perhaps another country?  What do you agree with?  Disagree with?  Please share!

Pumpkin-Pie Milkshake.


Last year, I posted about making your own pumpkin latte. Well, I already have all of my pumpkin cooked and ready for all of the fall goodness called divine recipes. So, this year my challenge is for you to try this one out.

I’ll let you know how mine goes, too!

Can’t wait to hear all about it. And please let me know in the comments of your favorite fall recipes. I’m always looking for something new and delicious to try.


Click the link below to get the recipe from Martha Stewart:

Pumpkin-Pie Milkshake

Click the link below to get the Pumpkin latte from last autumn’s blog:

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Doing that Something Special…


We had been married 5 years, 4 of those years being in Europe.  And at this point of our marriage I had fallen in love.  Not with my husband.

Well.  Okay.

So, I was still in love with my husband.  But I was also in love with…


European style.

You know.  Coffee that can best be described as syrup.  Not water.

Yep.  That’s the coffee I fell in love with.  Truly.  It had my heart.

And, apparently, my wallet.  Because one day my husband looked deep into my blue eyes and said, “Brooke, if I make you coffee every day will you stop going to the coffee shop every day?!”

I am still not sure if it was a question or a request.  Regardless of what it was, it was a BIG one.

Give up my daily coffee shop run?

Would he REALLY make me coffee every day?

Should I agree to this?

Finally I decided to give him, my husband, the green light of “Go for it.  Daily coffee, please!”

NINE years later, he is still handing me a cup of fantastic coffee EVERY morning.  That’s right, friends.  You heard me correctly.  Every morning.  Coffee.

And, you know what, Starbucks has nothing on him!

Iced, hot, black, white, latte, or cappuccino, frozen frappe, or even frozen chai with a shot of coffee…My husband has learned to make them all.

Now, I’m going to share with you the secret to such goodness (Am I talking about my husband or the coffee?  Both, I tell you!)

Key ingredients:

1.  Devotion.  It truly takes devotion to do something each and every day.  Kind-of like making sure your kids have food every morning, eh?  Maybe there are days when he doesn’t feel like it, but he does it.  Why?  Because he is a man honoring his word.

2.  Good coffee.  If I was going to “give up” good coffee, I wanted to make sure that I still got good coffee.  So we make sure to buy coffee that smells like paradise and, even if you drink it black, tastes like a slice of heaven.

3.  Love.  Have you heard the story of the mom that every day with every meal took a pinch of her secret ingredient from her tin on top of her fridge and put it her family’s meals?  Every meal.  Every day. And just before she, the mom, served the food, she reached into the tin and sprinkled the secret ingredient on the meal.  And every bite of every meal was scrumptious.  The secret ingredient also never seemed to run out.  It was amazing.  But this particular mom had one command, “Don’t ever, ever, ever look in the can!”

After she passed, her children took the can, with fond memories, and opened the lid.  They had no idea what the secret ingredient that completed every meal was, but they were about to find out.

And, what do you know.  When they opened the tin, it was empty, except for a piece of paper that lay at the bottom of it.

They picked it up and read the message, written in their mother’s handwriting.  It said, “Sprinkle everything with love.”

My encouragement for you today—Do something special.  And do it with love!

Just like my husband does when he makes me coffee.

Autumn requires one thing-Pumpkin Spice Lattes! Now make it yourself, from scratch.


Ada and Max, Autumn 2012, Poland

So, I am not a gourmet chef…nor will I ever claim to be.  But there are two things that I can definitely be gourmet at:

1.  Eating

2.  Drinking

Some of the finest foods I have ever eaten have come from Poland.

Some of the rest…Italy.

And, without a doubt, the best autumn foods come from the land of pumpkin.

Now, I know that each person in their pumpkin growing country around the world is chanting the name of your country for best-making pumpkin recipes.

But, for me, I’ll come back to the States for pumpkin…

Pumpkin pies, pumpkin breads, pumpkin muffins…pumpkin spice lattes!

Poland may have to take the blue ribbon for pumpkin soup, though…Oh, and pickled pumpkin.

But let’s come back to America.

And, right now, there is the GREAT phenomena that is called:  Pumpkin Spice Lattes.


Sipping a Pumpkin Spice surrounded by family

Currently, I live very close to many large supermarkets and to many small Starbucks.  So, grabbing a Pumpkin Spice Latte is easy.

But, when I live in Poland, an hour away from the nearest Starbucks, I resort to my kitchen…my store-bought pumpkins (did you think I was going to say homegrown?)…and my very own easy bake oven (well, that’s how my sister describes its size).

And I scour the internet, and we find amazing recipes that make us and our tummies oh so happy!

Therefore, today I want to share with you this…

Your own Pumpkin Spice Latte, made from  your own pumpkin puree.

If you try this at home, come on back and give us your thumbs—Up, Down, Sideways.

Give us your suggestions—Add this, take away that, just right!

And even share your photos.  Can’t wait to hear back from you.

In the meantime, here’s what you do to start it off:


Ada and our pumpkin named Puree

1.  Buy a small to small/medium-sized pumpkin. Hint:  You really don’t need a big pumpkin.  But if you do buy a bigger one, just be prepared to freeze a lot of puree.  Although, that is not a bad idea.  Pumpkin puree already made in the freezer begging to be used makes my stomach smile.

2.  Turn your oven on between 375-400F.

3.  Take out a cookie sheet with a lip and line it with wax paper

4.  Wash and cut your pumpkin into wedges.  You only need to remove your stem.  Don’t worry about removing your seeds.  That will easily be done after your pumpkin is baked.

5.  Now, put your pumpkin on your sheet and add water to the sheet, covering the bottom.  You don’t need to overload the water.  You can always add more later while your checking the tenderness of your very own pumpkins baking.


6.  Stick the pumpkins in and let them begin to bake.  Every 15-20 minutes or so, try piercing the pumpkin with a knife.  When it’s pierced easily and looks like the perfect squash, you’re done.  Anywhere between 20-60 minutes.  Probably depending on your oven.  So, plan on setting your timer for 20-minute intervals and find short activities to do in between (or curl up with an awesome book or blog—like And2MakesCrazy 😉 ).

7.  Once your pumpkin is easily pierced, remove it and let it begin to cool.

8.  Once it’s cooled a bit, scoop the seeds and the stringy part off the top.  Do what you wish with the seeds.  And then continue scooping the perfect pumpkin pulp into your blender, getting rid of the skin.  It’s super easy and takes no time at all.

9.  Try blending your pulp without water, but if it doesn’t blend well, then add a small amount of water at a time.  Soon you will have the perfect and beautifully orange puree.


10.  This is the last thing I do.  I use a 1-cup measuring cup to scoop each individual cup of puree and then put them in separate freezer bags.  That way I will only have to take out one cup at a time when a recipe calls for it.

Now that you’ve made your own beautiful puree…

Go crazy!  Perhaps get another to share this with so you’ll have 2 to Make Crazy...and make the following recipe found on Farmgirl Gourmet:

Curl up, get a good conversation going, sip, dream, and enjoy!

Autumn is here…