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Mantra #1: Go, Do

Mantra #1: Go, Do

Mike and I have two mantras that we say to each other on a near-daily basis. I was never much of a mantra kind of person, but what started out as little jokes or reminders have somewhere along the way turned into very deeply-held beliefs that we possess today.

Mantra #1: Go, Do.

Go, Do started out just as the lyrics from one of my favorite songs from Icelandic singer, Jonsí. It’s a very catchy and uplifting song that inspires us whenever we hear it. It also spurred us on to start making plans for a trip to Iceland (more on that later!), but that’s beside the point.

The jist of the song is that we can go anywhere, do anything and that we should live life to it’s fullest. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff for a song, but inspiring, nonetheless. And the song found its way into my iTunes downloads just in time for our wild journey in Spain to begin.

“I’m not sure if I like anchovies or octopus. Should I try this?”
“Go, Do.”

Now anytime we’re stuck wondering if we should make the effort to go out or do something even if we’re tired, hungry, grumpy or anything inbetween, we tell each other “go, do.” It is a very effective way of saying that we will never regret the risks and efforts needed to experience something new and different.

And it is always, ALWAYS true. There has never been an instance where we didn’t learn something or experience something amazing by making the decision to step out the door rather than stay in. I don’t remember all of the nights that we may have had a pizza and played cards (though those days are a necessary part of life too), but I do remember when we wondered if we should really go out to that one tapas bar even though we weren’t too hungry but then had an incredibly interesting conversation with a Belgian doctor who spoke four languages. Or that time that we decided to check out some bonfires on the beach for a Spanish holiday and it turned out looking like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.

The San Xoan Bonfires in La Coruña

Go, Do is a way of telling each other that our experiences are what makes life memorable and exciting. Go, Do is a way of not letting ourselves be homebodies and couch potatoes because there is just too much to see.

Should we go to that crowded bar during the playoffs where the atmosphere will be electric even though I hate crowds? Go, Do. Should we go see that museum exhibit even though it’s crappy weather and parking will be a bitch? Go, Do. Should we go to New York to see a show even though we need to find a walker for the dogs? Go, Do.

We hope to live our lives by the Go, Do mantra as there is rarely an experience that we regret just by getting out of the house and experiencing something new, fun and different. Go, Do doesn’t make excuses. Go, Do makes memories.

Are you a Go, Do kind of person? Do you want to be?

Recent Adventures Around the House

Recent Adventures Around the House

I haven’t been updating much on day-to-day life around here since it doesn’t seem quite as glamorous as traveling, but I thought I’d do a lump post of a few adventures we’ve had in the past few months that have stuck out in my mind, as well as a couple of pictures I like. 🙂

European Spiny Crab

These crabs are fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I was afraid to buy them at the market, but I know that there are only so many opportunities in my life to cook European Spiny Crab for myself, so I eventually grew a pair and then bought a pair. They were good crabs, but the bodies didn’t have quite as much meat in them as I anticipated, and surprisingly enough I like the blue claw crabs easily found in NJ better.

The dogs were THRILLED though and thought that they were special treats for them. Sorry, guys.

We didn’t put that poor crab through too much torture, but the dogs were intensely hungry for curious about it.

Lagavulin Scotch

If you’re a Parks & Recreation fan, you might recognize this bottle of scotch. Ron Swanson loves his Lagavulin with his steak.

Mike wanted to learn a little bit more about scotch, and so he bought a bottle of Lagavulin. It has an incredibly strong, smoky flavor and it was very interesting. Mike drinks his neat (without water or ice) and I just had a little splash to try. I can’t say that I’ll be a regular scotch drinker, but I could appreciate it for what it was.

Spanish Sidra

First of all, I know my husband looks like Where’s Waldo. Second of all, stop being so jealous. 😉

Dry Spanish cider is not very commonly found in the States. Cider found in the States is usually cloyingly sweet with carbonation. Dry Spanish cider, or Sidra, is not sweet and only has slight carbonation when you pour it from up high.

Mike has stated to me on multiple occasions that he wants us to make our own Spanish-style cider one day when we have a farm and orchards of our own. I’m having a bit of a hard time picturing it at the moment, but whatever makes you happy, Waldo honey.

Sad, but Beautiful Sunset

Remember the Fragas do Eume adventure we went on in the woods? Well, someone set fire to part of the woods not too long ago and since it had been so dry here, the fire spread quickly. The whole sky was filled with smoke and it was so heavy that we could smell the burning from inside the house.

As the sun set that evening, it looked like the Apocolypse. The sky burned bright orange-red, and while it was very beautiful, it was sad to know that someone had set out to destroy a pristine piece of nature. I believe the Fragas is open again and it will recover, but many people in this region are still very sad about the incident since they had all grown up around the Fragas and all have very dear memories there.

But, so I don’t end this post on a sad note…

The Dogs’ Favorite Spot

It isn’t often that our dogs can get a good look at the top of our heads, so they love to stand on the landing of the stairs right above our kitchen table and look down on us while we eat dinner. There is also a window right next to them that they can look out of, so it’s really an ideal spot for two dogs that need to be “in the know” about everything in the house.

So those are a few of our recent little adventures! Are you a scotch drinker? Have you tried Spanish Cider? What did you think?

A Sea Feast

A Sea Feast

I’m getting very close to finishing up our Portugal video, so hopefully I’ll have that for you guys this week.

This past Friday, Mike and I decided to cook two new things: squid and gooseneck barnacles. We also decided to include two of our favorite standbys, mussels and oysters, in case of an inept disaster.

The squid could have turned out to be a disaster. I bought little ones and thought that in order to play it safe, I’d batter and fry them. Instead of doing any research whatsoever on what I was doing, I decided to dunk the whole squid in the egg, (head, eyes, insides, skin, “backbone” and all) then the flour, and lo and behold, the flour didn’t stick. And Mike was giving me the side-eye while asking if we’re really supposed to eat the whole thing.

So he had the brilliant plan to look up how to actually prepare squid. This video is short and helpful if you’re interested.

Here’s what we did.

The squid was delicious. And really, it was nice because I learned something new about cleaning and preparing seafood, which is always a good thing. No, scooping goo out of the squid wasn’t pleasant, but the feeling was immediately replaced with, “Wow, this is really cool that I can do this myself.” There’s really nothing like the feeling of learning something new.

Besides the squid, we also tried a new creature in the kitchen that was also new to our tastebuds: Gooseneck Barnacles.

Gooseneck barnacles are teeny tiny little things that grow in clusters. In my opinion, the taste is very similar to crab with the texture of a clam. The flesh is sweet and very delicious, but they definitely took some work to get to. Since we boiled them in a little bit of saltwater (enough to steam, not enough to cover), they were filled with steaming hot liquid that would squirt out everywhere if we weren’t careful. I thought they were very very good, but I think that we’ll really only buy them again if we have guests since they’re a bit of a novelty.

Mike shucked our oysters. We had nice, cold Leinenkugel beers. I made garlic bread. And as always, the mussels here are absolutely divine.

The mussels here in Galicia are unlike any other mussels I’ve had. They are so, so, SO good and probably the cheapest thing you can buy at the market. A win-win all around. The oysters are also very good, but difficult to find. The small oysters are a very decent size though (I wouldn’t call them small) and are about €0.50 each.

Overall, our sea feast was a success. We’ve been slowly making our way though all sorts of new and fun creatures, and it’s been very rewarding (and delicious) to try all of them.

I think the one type of sea creature that I simply do not like very much is shrimp. Even though they are good here and Mike loves them, I’ve just never been a big fan. I’ll still eat them when we’re out if Mike wants them, but don’t cook them very often at home. I keep eating shrimp in hopes that one day I’ll *get* it. Hasn’t happened yet, which is odd to me because I can recognize “oh, this is a very good shrimp” and still just not really like it. I don’t think I feel that way about any other foods, and it bothers me that I am like that with shrimp!! I just want to like it, for goodness sakes!

What’s your favorite type of seafood? What can you just NOT get into?

A New Toy & A New Video

A New Toy & A New Video

Before my sister’s wedding in 2010, I bought a flip cam on a whim. Mike thought it was silly and we’d never use it. The video I made for our honeymoon changed his mind and he LOVED taking video from then on.

But with the last big video I made for our Spain/Andorra/France Vacation, we were at times less than thrilled with the quality of the flip cam. It didn’t “walk” well with us, meaning while I held it and walked, it just wasn’t very steady and bounced everywhere. Annoying. Also, the battery life was pretty short and took a ridiculous amount of time to charge.

So we were ready to upgrade. After a bunch of research and looking at a million and a half reviews of cameras, we settled on the Panasonic HDC-TM900 HD camera.

via amazon

On Panasonic’s website, it retailed for $1099, but the price was knocked down to $989. On Amazon, it was $758. BUT, I decided to look at slightly used cameras to see if there were any practically new ones listed for less. There were. There were a TON of cameras with “slight cosmetic imperfections” listed for only $468. I scooped one up with one of those listed cosmetic imperfections and sent it to the parents of one of Mike’s coworkers in California. That coworker was going home the next week, so he picked up the camera for us and brought it back in his luggage…yay for no ridiculous shipping fees! It felt like a risky purchase since we wouldn’t be able to return the camera if there was something wrong with it, but we took the chance.

This camera with the “slight cosmetic imperfection” is BRAND NEW. I can’t find a single cosmetic imperfection on it. It was wrapped up in all of the original packaging and all of the parts were still sealed in little baggies. Great. Deal. I can’t even TELL you how happy we were to save so much money on such a high-quality camera.

To supplement this awesome new toy, I also bought Final Cut Pro X and a Vimeo Plus membership. It’s interesting to feel like I’m actually putting my film major to some use at this point…I had forgotten how much I truly enjoy film. I don’t think I’ll be ready to go pro any time soon though 😉

So, since we’re mainly using this for our travels and trips and other adventures, we thought we’d give it a test run when we gave the dogs a bath yesterday. They never fail to crack us up when we give them a bath because they have such extreme emotions–complete misery at being in the bath, and then elation at getting to run around outside to dry themselves off.

We found it funny enough to document, anyway. So enjoy the short video of Wrigley and Zoe getting a bath!

Bath Time from Mandy Weger on Vimeo.

Wire Fox Terriers Wrigley and Zoe hate taking baths, but love running outside to dry themselves afterward! Shot with the Panasonic HDC-TM900. Music by Yonderboi.

Have you ever bought something used and gotten such a great deal? Would you have taken the risk to buy a used model?

Making Sea Salt

Making Sea Salt

The first time I heard of making your own sea salt was from a wonderful blog called Not Without Salt. Her post had beautiful photos of gathering sea water in glass jugs. I pinned it, thinking that it might be something to try when we moved closer to the ocean.

Then after I came across an article from Simple Organic posting about the benefits of natural sea salt versus highly refined table salt, you really didn’t have to convince me any further to give this a try. Natural sea salt has so many more nutrients and is much more flavorful than table salt, which sounds like a win-win to me!

Now that I live right down the road from a few beaches, making my own salt is suddenly very possible, very easy, and free! We didn’t have beautiful glass jugs, but we did have empty milk liters.

(Stay tuned for a post about Wrigley & Zoe’s day at the beach)

When we first made salt, we brought three liters of water home with us and it yielded about 3/4 cup of salt.

What I wasn’t anticipating was how absolutely fascinated my husband would be with the process. The same day that we finished our first pot of salt, we went back to the ocean for EIGHT more liters of water.

Mike stood in the kitchen most of the day literally watching the water boil.

Late last night, the salt finally dried up enough and this morning, we have…a lot more salt!

Also, I guess Mike was in the 3rd grade science mood because he put an egg in a cup of vinegar just to watch it strip the shell from the egg. I think he was meant to be a mad scientist, not an engineer.

Mike was absolutely giddy over the whole process, so if you have kids, hopefully they will be too. It might be a cool thing to do the next time you’re on vacation (if you’re renting a condo with a stove).

I definitely don’t think we’ll be buying salt while we live in Spain!

Have you made sea salt before? Do you ever like to do elementary school science projects in your kitchen too, or is it just my husband?

101 in 1001: Eating Sea Urchin from the Sea

101 in 1001: Eating Sea Urchin from the Sea

Mike and I have watched a LOT of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. We love Bourdain’s snarky yet insightful commentary on all of the incredible places he visits. Since moving to Spain, we’ve tried to adopt his do-anything attitude, which includes trying everything we can and going on adventures to find the best, the freshest, and the most notable foods of this area.

One thing that really caught our attention was Bourdain’s Naples episode where he ate sea urchin STRAIGHT from the ocean and raved about it. Well…we wanted to do that too, so I put it on my 101 in 1001 list.

Yesterday, we went to one of the beaches within walking distance from our home and went hunting for some sea urchin!

We went during low tide so we would have a better chance of finding the creatures in one of the many tide pools, and we were successful! I was the first to spot a pool with many sea urchins who looked ripe for the picking.

Of course, when I hunt for sea urchin, I must look stylish.

Victory!! I was so proud of myself for plucking my first one out of the water! The glove definitely helped so I could get a better grip without puncturing myself. I only plucked 5 out of the tide pool so I wouldn’t decimate the population in that particular neighborhood.

While we didn’t eat the sea urchin right then and there, we brought them back home and dove right into preparing them so they would be as fresh as possible. If you find yourself in possession of a sea urchin, follow these steps. I used help from this video on youtube so I kinda knew what I was doing.

As for the taste, it was creamier than other roes that I’ve had. It definitely tasted fresh from the sea–a little briny, but not overwhelmingly fishy. Was it as awesome as I was expecting? Not really, because my expectations were probably unattainably high. But the satisfaction of capturing, cutting open and preparing something completely foreign to me was amazing.

Would we eat uni again? Absolutely! I think I’d try making it into a sauce next time, since I once had something similar at a local restaurant and it was delicious.

Besides our scavenge for sea urchin, we also picked up quite a few mussels.

While they were smaller than we’re used to getting at the market here, they were just as delicious.

Overall, we were really slap-happy over how fun and simple (and free) our meal was. It is always exhilarating to try new things, and we got some seriously good, seriously fresh food out of it. It’ll definitely be experiences like this that we’ll remember the most from living here, and it’ll be opportunities like this this that we’ll miss the most when we’re back home.

Have you ever scavenged and prepared your own seafood? Would you give sea urchin a try straight from the ocean?

My Big Important Dreams in 2012

My Big Important Dreams in 2012

As I lay in bed last night thinking about the new year, I realized that I want to look back on 2012 as a time of growth & achievement.

I’m 25 years old and I’m starting to realize that all of the Big Important Dreams I’ve had will only come true if I work really, really hard at them. And honestly? I haven’t been doing such a great job at that. I always assumed that “things would work out” in my favor, but unless I work at it, that may not be the case.

My Big Important Dreams have been changing dramatically over the last few years. Instead of a luxurious home with fame, fortune, designer labels and summer homes, my Big Important Dreams have actually become Modest Important Dreams. I’ve grown up and realized what’s really, truly important to me.

My Big Important Dreams:

  1. Be my own boss
  2. If I can’t be my own boss, work for a company with ideals and philosophies that match my own
  3. Do something creative and inspire others
  4. Have the ability to stay/work at home with my children in their early years, work around their schedule as they grow
  5. Despite working around my children’s schedule, have a satisfying and personally fulfilling career
  6. Live near a city I love
  7. Bring extra money into the household that will allow us more comfort and stability
  8. Travel and appreciate the world around me

Now that I’m in Spain and have no career, I have a lot of self-reflection time. I know that the perfect career for me won’t just drop into my lap, and if I ever want to be my own boss, I will have to make that happen for myself. If I want the freedom and flexibility to raise a family the way I want, then I have to start working toward that now, before I even have children. If I want to have it all, I have to work at it myself. I have to act.

I don’t want to be one of those people with Big Important Dreams but don’t have the Big Important Work Ethic to achieve them. I don’t want to blame circumstances or other people or anything for not going for what I want in life. Here I am with all of the time in the world to pursue my Big Important Dreams, and so 2012 will be the year that I lay the groundwork.

I have some projects that I’m working on that have excited me and made me happy. I have both long and short-term goals. I have a plan A and a plan B, both of which I think are realistic to achieve if I work hard. I have a supportive husband, I have the time, and I (think) I have the money to try.

So here’s to 2012. I hope that it is an inspiring year. I hope that it’s a year that I try a lot harder than I did in 2011. I hope that it’s a year that I can look back on and be proud of myself.

How are you adjusting your dreams as you get older?

Happy Birthday, Mike!

Happy Birthday, Mike!

My poor honey is celebrating his 28th birthday with a bad head cold and a 12 hour work day today 🙁

Since I didn’t have a card for him this year, I decided to try my hand at Prezi, which is an online presentation builder I’ve been hearing buzz about. It’s much cooler than powerpoint in that it doesn’t restrict you to slides and it’s a much cleaner, more modern look. Mike loooves him some powerpoint, so I thought I’d introduce him to Prezi by giving him a birthday presentation!

Enjoy! (you need flash to enjoy)

I’m pretty happy with how it came out, but Prezi seemed pretty glitchy to work with, was pretty slow, and it seemed to freeze up my whole computer a few times. It also signed me out after about 20 minutes of working on it, which was frustrating. Their support team told me via twitter to allow cookies, which I thought I did, but I’m happy that they at least got back to me. Overall, I really love the way Prezi is structured and will use it again. Hopefully any kinks they currently have will be ironed out soon!

Sorry, this was kind of a happy birthday and a review of a product in the same post. Hope you don’t mind, honey 😉 I thought this might be a fun way to plan out our vacations in the future since we currently use powerpoint for our itineraries.

I love you, Mike! I hope you have a good birthday despite not feeling well and working late tonight. I’ll have a delicious dinner waiting for you when you get home!!

New Friends

New Friends

Yesterday, Mike and I went to our most local bar (a little less than a mile away) in hopes of getting a cup of coffee and maybe to see if we could converse with any of the locals. When we came through the doors, we were pretty intimidated since the owners were older and obviously spoke no English. Mike and I drank our cups of coffee and talked amongst ourselves. We were about to leave, but I prompted Mike to at least TRY to tell these people that we just moved in down the street.

Well, Mike tried. The owner (Miro) understood a bit of what Mike was saying, when his wife (Mari) came out and told us they have a woman who works there who speaks English. Mari promptly got on the phone and called this woman to come help us understand each other.

Guys. Never, ever, ever did I think that walking into a bar for a cup of coffee could change things so much for me. A few minutes after placing the call, a woman and man walk in the door, and the woman, Louisa, speaks perfect English with a British accent. Turns out, she was born in Spain, grew up in Britain, and moved back to Spain as an adult.

Mike and I stayed at the bar for hours last night. We were kind of a novelty to everyone since it is very very rare for a foreigner to stop at this little bar on the side of the road. All four of them would ask us questions about why we were here, and how we liked Spain so far. They also filled me in that I could get my local bread from their bar, as well as fresh produce.

Louisa then proposed the most amazing offer: she said she’d be happy to take me into the town of Miño any time she was going to get fresh fish. She also offered to come pick me up to bring me to the bar if I was lonely and it was raining too much for me to walk there. Never, ever, ever did I expect a real offer like this just by going out for some coffee.

I feel silly getting so excited over new friends, but meeting anyone who is so willing to talk to us and be patient with our halted Spanish is very valuable. Even more valuable is this woman who recognized that I might need help now and then getting around since I don’t have a car, and offered to take me shopping with her if she was ever heading out.

A part of me fears that this might have been an insincere offer…an empty promise like so many acquaintances I’ve known where we say in passing “we should definitely get together!” and never intend on doing so. I think the only thing that I can do to try to prevent this from happening is if Mike and I keep going back to that bar on a fairly regular basis and get to know the people there. I very much hope that the offer was sincere, as the prospect of having someone to help me navigate these foreign waters means so much to me.

Also, as a side note, we received a letter in our mailbox from our neighbors (in broken, Google Translate English) saying that they don’t speak English, but that if we need anything at all, please give them a call or send an email. I wrote back this morning (in broken, Google Translate Spanish) thanking them for their kindness and introduced ourselves.

So, nearly two weeks in, and we’re trying to reach out to people, and so far have had some success! I know that once we get a better grasp of the language, many many more doors will open up to us in terms of meeting new people. I gotta get cracking on Rosetta Stone!

“Let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

“Let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

Somehow, after 11 months of waiting for this day, it’s here. As romantic and wonderful as moving to Spain sounded to me eleven months ago, we now face the adventure we signed up for knowing that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. We went through hell and back to get what we wanted with this move, and we’re still fighting on a daily basis to get all of the moving parts that are involved in this kind of adventure working together. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t even been fun, most of the time. The only thing that pushed us forward was the ever-present thoughts of “when we get there…” and “it’ll be worth it.”

Mike and I are entering this new chapter of our lives hoping with all hopes that the risks we took to make this move will work out. We hope that the sacrifices we’ve made in our everyday lives will lead to greater opportunities for us down the road. We hope that the challenges we face will make us stronger individuals and a stronger couple.

We will arrive at our new home tomorrow afternoon, which will be the beginning of a very different year for us. We might not be able to speak with the locals and I might not be able to have the independence of a car to get myself around, but we’ll also have incredible opportunities to meet new people, immerse ourselves in a new culture, learn a new language, travel to many, many new places. This year will definitely be whatever we make of it, and knowing me and Mike, you can be sure that we’ll make an adventure out of everything.

I’m excited to garden with space I’ve never had before. I’m anxious to see if the dogs can swim or if they’ll just drink the pool’s saltwater until they puke. I can’t wait to see Mike’s face when we bring home our first cured ham leg to carve up in the kitchen. I’m looking forward to the day where I can go to the local market and ask for what I need without thinking twice about the language barrier. I’m nearly shaking with anticipation for all of the possibilities laying out before us that I haven’t even fathomed yet.

I’m also scared to leave what I have behind. Over the past three years, Mike and I have grown incredibly close to my parents, since they moved to New Jersey. They’ve been our best friends, the two people we could count on more than anyone else in our lives. They’ve been there for us when we ask advice, whether it’s financial advice, personal advice, health advice, clothing advice or what the hell to do with the groundhog we found trapped in our yard. The bond that I’ve shared as an adult with my parents has been invaluable, and I will so miss their physical presence in our lives. I am so grateful for their unconditional support as we take this huge step, though I know it’ll be hard for them too. We love you, Mom and Dad.

So, folks: here we go. I hope you’re ready to read about my adventures, mishaps, highs and lows when it comes to uprooting our lives and living in a foreign land. No matter what happens in the next year or so, Mike and I have the dogs, who will love us no matter where they are on this Earth; and we have each other, which…we feel pretty much the same as the dogs. 🙂

Title quote by the wonderful and prolific Albus Dumbledore.

SkillShare Philly

SkillShare Philly

Last night, Mike and I went to Philly and met up with Shannon from You Wanna Talk Jive (Candy Corn on Weddingbee), her boyfriend Pete, and Brooke from Claremont Road (Cupcake on Weddingbee) for an exciting event launch in Philadelphia.

It’s called SkillShare, where regular, everyday people can teach a class on a skill they’ve mastered or knowledge that they possess to other everyday people who want to learn! For example, Shannon is going to be teaching a class on how to hunt for and renovate thrift store items!

The launch of SkillShare last night started with everyone filling out a name tag with their name (obvs) and then what kind of class they might teach. Mike wrote that he would teach a class on Travel Planning since he’s the king of travel itineraries and research. I wrote that I could teach a class on Couples Cooking because I think I could teach couples how to work well in the kitchen together while being creative and having fun. I could probably also teach a class on DIY Wedding Planning, right? 😉

The event got me excited about all of the possibilities when it comes to what we could learn in short, cheap classes. I could learn photography basics without signing up for a ridiculously expensive course. I could pick up tips on how to engage a larger audience for my blog. I could take a course on how to get started in the freelance writing world. These are all things that I’ve been wanting to learn, but don’t really have the money or contacts to get the information from anywhere but Google.

SkillShare seems like a great way to build a stronger community. There’s something really wonderful about the thought that everyone has something to offer the world–everyone has something that they’re passionate about or knowledgeable about that they could share with others. It’s also a great way to meet people in your area who share the same interests as you while you expand your horizons and learn something new.

I really love the idea. Not sure yet if I’ll be teaching a class since we don’t have a lot of time left in the Philly area before we move, but I hope to take a few classes!

What would you want to learn if you had a SkillShare in your city? What would you want to teach?