Monday, December 1, 2014

Vegan Split Pea Soup

I think Mark and I both have the idea that one day we will blog more regularly. We have exciting events going on in our lives all the time so it would be nice to have a bit of an online journal.... But, it's not a priority yet apparently. I think both of us have the crazy notion that we need to finish writing about our epic year abroad before we can carry on writing about our day to day lives.

Sooooo, we've been thinking it would be fun to catalog the types of foods we eat. Partly for ourselves, to remember good recipes, and partly for our friends and family who are always asking, "What do you eat?" Seriously though, we work off the cuff so often that when we create something really delightful in the kitchen we want to remember how to make it again. Mark is always asking me to write down exactly how we made something, and I always say, "Oh, I'll remember..." Do I?? No.

Tonight we made some split pea soup in the pressure cooker inspired by Susan Voisin at Fat Free Vegan. She became one of our favorite food writers during a period when we were cooking without oils and fats, and we still enjoy her recipes today. I had a fever last night and most of the day today and really felt like having a homemade soup. This ended up hitting the spot; it was very healing. So, this is an approximation of what we created:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Grandma's Kitchenware & Vegan Shepherd's Pie

My grandma no longer lives at home and I recently had the opportunity to select a few special items from her kitchen. I found the most colorful and retro casserole pan and a stainless steel gravy boat that inspired us to make a shepherd's pie with gravy. It was so wonderful to use some previously loved kitchen tools that each had a history of serving up food for my grandparents and their guests. I am so proud to give these tools a home in my kitchen. It means so much...

Mark was inspired to make vegan gravy from Oh She Glows. The recipe was made with no adaptations, because Mark wanted to measure everything out perfectly. He said he wanted to know exactly how the recipe would taste the first time, and it was phenomenal! It was so good we will probably put it on everything in the future, including salads and dessert!

For the shepherd's pie, I wanted to find a vegan recipe that used spaghetti squash, because we'd had one taunting us on our counter for awhile, but I couldn't find a single recipe. So I cut the ends off of our huge spaghetti squash, split it down the middle, seeded it (saving the seeds to roast), and microwaved it until soft.

I'm going to try to recreate the recipe as much as possible... I actually didn't spice this up very much. The seasonings were very simple but it was really tasty, especially with the gravy.

To make the shepherd's pie filling, in a large electric steamer or rice cooker, cook:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mark's Survivor Video

We haven't updated our blog in a very long time and so much has occurred.  The very, very latest thing to happen is that Mark sent in his video application to our favorite show Survivor on CBS.  The video is less than three minutes long, as required, and it gives a brief update on what has been keeping us so busy.
As always we hope to update the blog more regularly, but in the meantime here are some highlights of the year in brief.

Yes, we got married! (See previous entry). Michelle was in school all year for her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and graduated in December. Yay! Chris visited his Mom last spring break and Mark and Michelle took a natural hot springs camping vacation. We found some beautiful hot springs throughout southern Oregon and northern Nevada and it was the best vacation on the planet. Maybe we'll get some photos up one day

We stayed busy throughout the summer and finally found our perfect home where we moved in the fall.  We love it! Our current project involves

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our Wedding

We got married! It was so beautiful. We hiked to the top of a ridge and were wed by our close friend Valerie at sunset. Thank you to our closest friends and family who came despite the short notice. What a lovely surprise! Check out the title link for some photos.

Monday, February 15, 2010

One step back

This photo really epitomizes a greater part our trip, and the kinds of things which we saw and experienced. It's not an exaggeration to say that we saw a lot of waterfalls, and I mean......a lot! By this point, we had seen so many that I remember almost thinking to myself that I had seen enough waterfalls to fill a lifetime. Even still, you can't deny the beauty and grandeur in this photo, and it was just as spectacular to be there in person.

Since we're still in Ecuador on the blogging of our trip, I am going to take the time to post a few photo's that got missed in previous I hope you like them.

This photo of Michelle and a beautiful Quechua girl
was taken above the Quilatoa Crater during our time there in the Ecuadorian Highlands. The Quechua culture is rich in its language and traditional dress. Each area will typically have certain colors and/or patterns of fabric which the women share collectively. An area might be the size of a typical County in California for example. Once outside of that area, you would see different

Saturday, February 13, 2010


February in Baños. Decadent.

We took a lovely hike alongside a canyon on a trail called "La Contrabandista." The main trail was one of many in a network of trails and caves in which the old-time bootleggers and moonshiners would move their wares and hide them when necessary. Today only small portions of the trail see much use from "los gringos" and we didn't see a soul.

At the end of the hike we found ourselves once again at the waterfall called "El Manto de la Novia" or Bridal Veil Falls (see 1-1-10 post). Near the top of the falls in the small community of Chinchin we met a family who was building a hotel with pristine views of the creek and, of course, we played with some puppies. We also relaxed in the courtyard of a lovely family who cooks up treats for the scattered people who ride the cable car over to the top of the falls.

It was a beautiful day and it was nice to reacquaint ourselves with some of the small communities around Baños.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

From the Jungle to the Andes

You know where you are?
You're in the JUNGLE baby!!!!

We left Baños and headed to a sleepy town called Misahuallí. It was very tranquil after the holiday festivities in Baños.

Mark played beach soccer in the sand with the locals. One side of the field was the luscious tree line and the other side was the lazy river.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Thanksgiving through New Year 2010

We celebrated Thanksgiving in San Gil, Colombia at our favorite vegetarian restaurant (no turkey that night folks). It was wonderful to share a delicious meal and reminisce about our amazing family and friends and this trip that we have been on for almost almost 9 months.

Enjoying Colombia as much as we did, we decided that it was time to GET OUT before it was too late because.... "the only risk in coming to Colombia is wanting to stay!" One night over dinner in San Gil, we reviewed our goals and how much more time we had with our trip, and with that (after a month of living in the area), we decided to leave the next morning.

We headed straight for Bogotá, skipping some very interesting parts of the country.....kicking ourselves along the way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beautiful Columbia

After arriving from Venezuela, we decided to stop in Bucaramanga, which is partway along our journey to San Gil, so that we could see the stretch of road during the daylight (we were told that it was dramatic and not to be missed). To our surprise, the following morning I (Mark) woke up with serious nausea and vertigo. The whole room was spinning and I couldn't make any one single item stop. I wasn't sure if I had just been dreaming about being on a bus, or what had caused it. Being the great nurse that she is, Michelle took good care of me and handled the running of errands that morning. We stayed in the room until it was time to check out or stay, and we decided to go for it. Even though things were still spinning, I didn't want to waste a day of travelling.

Slowly the nausea went away as the sights of the drive became more and more dramatic. We followed a river into what became

Thursday, November 12, 2009

To the land of Coca Cola

Ahhh.....Columbia... sun... sand.... Colonial architecture and Coca Cola, lots of Coca Cola to drink here....... One might say that it's snowing in Colombia. There is a loose analogy here for certain, and one in which we would not participate, but in reality, it is a fact that Columbia provides 80% of the world's Cocaine. An impressive fact considering the size of the country. We have been here for several weeks now, and haven't seen any evidence of this trade, but aparently it goes on, and in a big way. When we were in Nicaragua, there was an ad campaign running for Columbian Tourism that said, "the only risk you have in coming to Columbia is wanting to stay." We thought is was catchy, and maybe it struck a cord with us and that's why we came, who knows. Compared to other Central American countries however, there are fewer tourists and maybe it's because of the stigma that Columbia has. Apparently Farc does still exist, but they have been relinquished to the rural areas, mostly in the jungle between Colombia and Panama, an area infamously known as

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Our Trip Back to Costa Rica For a Spell

We haven't been around computers in a long while so here's an update from mid-October.

While we were in Boquete, Panama we learned that Michelle's brother and sister-in-law were heading to Costa Rica for a 10th anniversary celebration. It turns out that they were going to be only a few hours from us so we decided to crash the party. First, however, several factors came together at once to make Mark decide to cut his hair.

1. Michelle's brother Kevin asked Mark if he was going to be joining Al Qaeda;
2. Mark kept noticing 1-3 year old little girls with the same hairstyle as himself: Namely, a pony-tail directly on top of the head;
3. Finally, Mark was fed up with his longish hair and wanted to look more presentable when meeting people for the first time.

It was a great experiment.

After the haircut we headed back to Costa Rica where

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Boquete, Panama

We headed inland to Boquete, Panama mid-November and landed at the Pension Marilos after a full day of travel. We ended up taking the one room they had left which was a single with a shared bathroom, thinking we would move the next day when a double opened up. Well, we found the twin bed cozy and we loved the room and the price ($6/night), so we ended up moving in and staying for a month. It's like home. There is a female parrot named Ricki who has fallen in love with Mark and has sworn off Michelle as her mortal enemy. It's pretty funny watching Ricki alternate between making sweet love purring noises to Mark, and chasing after Michelle to bite her toes--cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West when Michelle dances out of reach.

As soon as we arrived we met a gal named Lorie from Oregon who had the same problem with Ricki dating back years to when she and her husband and son stayed at the pension while they built their home in Boquete. Ricki fell for the husband and son and to this day remains an enemy of Lorie, even though she hasn't been back to Boquete for years! Lorie invited us up to their lovely home on a small coffee plantation in the hills above Boquete.

We´ve made a lot of great friends here because the word has gotten out about

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Adios Bocas del Drago

We said goodbye to Bocas del Drago and headed to Boquete, Panama. Boquete is a tad bit higher in elevation so we are looking forward to busting out our fleece jackets again.

Our time on the island was well spent. We reviewed all of the verb tenses and practiced Spanish as much as possible on our little beach.

We also tried to pick up a few chords on la guitarra.

Mark jammed with Enrique one of our last evenings while I hung out with Itzel.

See you in Boquete!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bocas Del Toro

We're in Panama right in the region of Bocas Del Toro on Isla Colòn (Columbus Island). The official name of the beach where we currently live is Bocas Del Drago, but most people associate this region in general with the "Del Toro" part of the name above. It's kind of confusing with all these different Bocas names, but so it goes. This island is part of a string of beautiful islands on the Caribbean side of Panama, directly off the coast. From most of the islands, you can see the mainland of Panama. Where we are living, in Bocas Del Drago, the ocean is literally only 22 "Michelle sized steps" away from our front door (that's our unit of measurement here). Neither of us can ever remember a time when we have stayed this close to the ocean and it's pretty nice. Every night we fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean....we have 4 large windows that we leave open to let the breeze in (they have screens). There are mosquitos here, so a bed net is imperative at night, but the days are so

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Viva Nicaragua!

The last 3 weeks have been well spent travelling and spending time with each other in different places. Michelle and I are slacking a little on our Spanish skills and have already begun losing much of what we learned in Xela! We'll get back on the ball here in a few days.

To the right is a photo of Chris and I pretending to use the "laundromat" in the town of Livingston on the Caribbean. This seemed like a great idea to us because it keeps people from laundering their clothes in freshwater streams, etc. Livingston was a really neat area and I wish we had more pictures to show for it.

We spent very little time in Honduras due to constraints with Cristóbal's return ticket (sorry Chris!). Instead, we made our way directly to Nicaragua and began our journey in the historic city of León. We learned much about

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hola Honduras!

We made it to Honduras via the coastal route. It's been a grand adventure and this post will not do it justice but I'll post our general whereabouts and where we've been. From Xela, we took a bus at 4:00 in the morning bound for the SE corner of Guatemala, where the land is jungle and the air is humid. We stayed 2 nights in the town of Rio Dulce and spent one of those nights with some new friends in a private house on the river. The house was owned by a very accomodating family from L.A. who we met at the local waterfall/hot spring.....Thanks again! Next we took a river boat down the Rio Dulce to the Carribean town of Livingston (a spectacular 1.5 hour ride). There the Garifuna people and culture (Google it) warmly greeted us into their world. It was quite the experience and such a change from the rest of Guatemala.....we loved it! We visited another crazy waterfall called the Seven Altars which we reached after an afternoon hike along the beach. The standard cliff jumping occurred at each of the pools and Chris and I found

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Adios Xela

We will be leaving Xela at 4:00 in the morning so hopefully our blogs will become frequent and exciting once again. Cristóbal joined us in Guatemala on the 10th and Mark will blog about their journey to Xela soon I´m sure. They have some great photos.

Meanwhile, goodbye to our teachers and new friends. Cristóbal took two days of intensive one-on-one Spanish classes with Oscar and learned an amazing amount. In fact, he says

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bienvenidos a Christopher!

Christopher arrived about a week and a half ago and during this time he has adapted incredibly fast (he hops on and off Chicken Buses like a pro) and has experienced so much including collaborating with me on this blog.

I picked Chris up on Friday the 10th, and we stayed in a compound of houses heavily guarded by guys with automatic rifles, etc. Guatemala City isn't known to be the safest place in the world so I opted for safety over being sorry.

In the morning we took a shuttle to Antigua which is a beautiful city but very different from the rest of the country. Antigua is dreamy and fairytale like. I wanted to start Chris' trip here because it is a good "soft landing" for Guatemala. In the shuttle, the driver spoke almost perfect English, and I told Chris this would be the last person he would meet in Guatemala who would speak English. Chris just now reminded me that

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We´re still in Xela

We are still enjoying life in Xela. Normally, this is the daily schedule:

7-7:15 am: We get up and get ready.
7:30 am: Breakfast--fruit, coffee, and sometimes bread.
8:00 am to 1:00 pm: Mark walks Michelle to her Spanish school Eureka and then heads to the library or other fine place to study until lunch.
1:30ish pm: Lunch. We also use this time to catch up with each other.
2:00 to 6:00 pm: Mark heads to private tutoring while Michelle studies.
6:00 to 7:00 pm: Errands.
7:00 pm: Dinner and catch up.
8:00 to 11:00 pm: Study some more.

This pretty much sums up the daily grind for the past six weeks or so. Between school and studying we spend

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I thought I´d supplement Mark´s amazing blog entries with some more photos. Here they are. We have all but stopped taking pictures because we are attending school and studying every day like mad... and... dare I say it... learning Spanish, finalmente!

Feliz Cumpleanos, Marcos! Some more photos of our