Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Note about Expat Life

I've written about homesickness before and yesterday was one of those days when it randomly hit me. It was actually rather embarrassing because it was after work and I was in center city and just started crying and couldn't really stop. I don't know if that ever happens to anyone else but anyway, the mix of feeling overwhelmed by wedding plans and lack of my immediate family around me just made me break down for a while. 

People usually only see one side to my life and I thought to myself, should they see the other? The answer is yes. It's not all adventures and romance and excitement all the time. It's just...real life, with the added cultural differences (and the fact that you're away from all your family, friends, and comforts of home) of living in Europe. My day to day life is actually pretty boring and routine. Don't get me wrong, I love my life but I just want people to know that I have habits and daily routines just like I did in Philly. I get up early and go to work everyday, I cook, clean, do laundry (no, wash dishes (no, read books on my my favorite American shows online. Just normal, everyday life! 

Instead of Septa subways, I ride Zet trams

Sometimes I think people assume my life is a lot more "glamourous" than it actually is, but it's quite normal most of the time! Sure, things are different because instead of going to NJ (for cheaper gas), we go to Austria (for cheaper shopping)! My life is filled with so much happiness since I've come here because before, I felt lonely often from missing Tomislav all the time. Now, it's different because I'm with Tomislav and that makes me feel so much happiness but now I'm missing other people, like my family and friends.

Me and my other half
 It's important to me to live in the moment, enjoy each day for what it is and try not to look back or forward too much but just be in the present. People often say to take one thing at a time, which really is good advice. It's just hard to follow sometimes. So this is also a reminder to myself to take a deep breath, relax, it'll all work out. Appreciate everything you have, chances are, you have a lot to be grateful for. Just be present and aware of what is happening right now and what needs to happen. 

Enjoy that croissant while you're eating it. Take that moment and just l-i-v-e...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Meatless Monday Meal

When Oprah challenged her entire staff to go vegan for an entire week, some people were extremely hesitant about it. It was around this time last year that they all went a week without any animal products. By the end of the week, the consensus was that it was actually easier than they had orginally anticipated (perhaps also because all of the lunch options in the cafeteria were made vegan for the week) and everyone felt better inside and out during their week off meat. Many people continued with a vegan/vegetarian diet following that challenge!

During Lent, Tomislav and I have decided to give up meat. Meat is a huge part of Croatian diet (and really, lifestyle). There are a lot of customs and traditions based on making, cooking, and eating meat so it definitely is a challenge for us and we'll be tempted in many ways. I love a good challenge though! I made this absolutely delicious vegetarian soup, which could be a great starter or light meal for lunch or dinner.

The color is so beautiful! This is a carrot-ginger soup inspired by a recipe I saw in Bon Appetit magazine. So simple, I knew it would be good so I really wanted to try it! Here's the page I ripped out of the magazine with the recipe-


The recipe calls for roasted peanuts and chili butter on top of the soup. I didn't have peanuts on hand when I first made it so I skipped them but I did make the chili butter (so good!). Of course, if you'd like to make this vegan, omit the butter.

Ok, so for the chili butter you mix butter with green onion and dried crushed red pepper (if you do make it, it makes the soup so luxurious then and the red pepper gives it a little heat that melts in beautifully with the soup). Put the butter mixture in the fridge to harden up.

For the soup:
1.5 lb carrots cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 big onion -chopped
1 white skinned potato - chopped
2 tbsp minced ginger
5 cups (or more if you want it thinner) of vegetable broth
6 tbsp roasted peanuts (again, I didn't have this when we had the first bowls of soup and it was still so yummy but later we did buy some and the crunch was just awesome!

Sauté all the veggies for ten minutes until they are a bit softened:
Then, add the broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Cool a bit and then purée in batches until smooth. (I had to do it 4 batches because I only have the Magic Bullet but it worked great!) Add salt and pepper at the end. If you want to add the chili butter (or maybe just a bit of chili flakes) and the peanuts, do it right at the end. We squeezed a bit of lime into our soups one time and that was nice too.


After Oprah and her staff did the week long vegan challenge, they decided to continue having meatless meals one day a week at their office cafeteria, hence, meatless Monday! It's a great idea to reduce the amount of animal products you eat, even if it is just for one day a week. Or if not for a whole day, try having just one meat meal a day and the rest vegetarian, and definitely try the carrot-ginger soup!

This soup is silky and so flavorful. Next time, I will make a much bigger batch because we gobbled it all up quickly. But the point is, I will definitely be making this one again!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


My favorite Croatian word is Lavanda. It means lavender. I'm absolutely obsessed with lavender, I just love the way it smells, I love the way the Croatian word is pronounced, and I love the wonders it does with my skin! If I was ever to become a pop singer or rock star, my stage name would definitely be Lavanda!

It's perfect because Croatia is one of the largest producers of lavender! Due to the ideal climate and good soil it mostly grows on the hills and rocky slopes of the mid-Dalmatian island of Hvar. Luckily, one of Tomislav's best friends comes from the island of Hvar so we have had the hook up of some fantastic lavender. You can buy it in little satchels all over the country but the lavender from Hvar is the real deal.

 A lavender bush at a rest stop along the drive to Dubrovnik - amazing!
 Fresh lavender smells sooooooooooo good

 Ah, driving along the Croatian coast is gorgeous!

I'm holding a sprig of lavender :)

Tomislav's friend got us lavender (which T brought to the States then!) so we could throw lavender (instead of rice or seeds) at my sister and her husband after they got married last year!

So, my sister, (the inspiration behind all good things) makes these amazing face cleansers and toners using all natural ingredients that she found on Crunchy Betty, this fantastic blog about healthy and natural living. I read about the benefits of cleansing your skin with lavender oil so I've been trying it out for the last week and I already see and feel an amazing difference! Now, it may not be winter over on the East Coast but here in Zagreb, it's winter, so my skin gets really dry. The lavender oil leaves it so smooth and soft and it smells amazing! Even hours later, T still notices how nice my skin smells :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Just one thing...

I've been sick the last few days so maybe that's why I feel the need for a small rant. (You've been warned!) It's this unspoken nuisance that I refuse to let go unnoticed anymore because actually, it's something I have to consider every time I go anywhere in Zagreb.

I'm so over the smoking! It's not something that people bring up a lot here because it's so normal to everyone. Although smoking has been banned in Zagreb, it's still widely accepted to smoke in bars and cafes. True, some places have truly banned smoking or they have make specially "vented" areas for smoking which naturally, doesn't help since the entire place is smoked up anyway. You have to carefully consider what you're going to wear and when you're going to wash your hair when you go out anywhere.

I feel like this relaxed attitude towards the smoking ban law (and the rather low prices of cigarettes) makes so many more people smoke than normally would. I know in Philly sometimes it would be a drag because half of the group of friends would have to leave the bar to go smoke outside and that might dent the party atmosphere for a bit if most of a group is missing, but in Zagreb, you don't even have to face the outdoor cold to light up. I know it's something that won't change so it's something to adjust to and I really think that I have gotten used to it. I just needed to acknowledge how much I dislike the stale leftover cigarette odor on me and my (non-smoking) fiance's jackets (and clothes!).

So in conclusion, my dear smoker friends, I really do care about your health (and mine) and I hope that you'll decide to quit smoking for good! Since tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent, I think it's a great time for any smokers out there to give up cigarettes for the next 40 days (which will hopefully motivate you to quit for life!).

Friday, February 17, 2012

In case you missed it...

I did an interview for Secret Zagreb for Valentine's Day!
It's about my life and moving to Zagreb to be with my love.

Check it out here if you haven't seen it yet and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Нови Сад, Novi Sad

Last summer marked my first ever trip to Serbia. Tomislav and I were about to embark on our 2 week Eastern European Road Trip which began in Zagreb and the goal was to get to Albania. We ended up visiting Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, then went back through Croatia (with a bit of Bosnia along the way!) It was an amazing trip! My first stop ever in Serbia was the second largest city, called Novi Sad.

 My first Serbian experience was at Tomislav's Aunt's house where she fed us so many delicious things!

 Behind us you can see the Petrovaradin Fortress overlooking the Danube River. Up there is where the world famous Exit Festival is held every summer!

Up at the Fortress with Tomislav's Aunt - Can you see what's wrong with that clock?

Loved seeing this reminder of the Jugo or "Yugo" car which EVERYONE used to drive back in the day ;)

 We went for a hike through the National Park Fruska Gora (which was beautiful!) but I had to take a picture of this smart summer refrigeration system the Serbs came up with for their picnic!

  The party scene in Novi Sad is FANTASTIC. Not only is it affordable to go out in Novi Sad, the people really know how to party! It's a great city to bar hop in because there are an incredible amount of cafes, bars, and clubs all within walking distance of one another. Even the most diverse group of friends will be able to find a place they like in Novi Sad!

  Tomislav's cousins Tea, David, me, and Tomislav at a British themed pub!

 Tomislav and I got really good at Cyrillic on this trip. In Serbia they write in both Cyrillic and Latin letters on their road signs so we thought we had really gotten a handle of it. Once we crossed the border into Macedonia and the Latin letters disappeared, we knew we were in for it!

 Close to the Serbian/Macedonian border - Tomislav's cousin told us about this unbelievable cevapi place. Here I am enjoying a "Niks" beer (ok, ok, it's actually Nikšićko)

It is literally the best Ćevapi (spicy, grilled minced meat sausages) with Kajmak (delicious creamy, cheesy dairy spread) I have ever had. The bread (lepinje) is so incredible, it really makes cevapi even better! I would LOVE to visit this unassuming roadside spot again. Oh yeah, and you HAVE TO eat onions with ćevapčići, it's practically a law.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm so happy to be celebrating my first Valentine's Day (in person!) with Tomislav today! It's also my first Valentine's Day in Croatia. Although it may not be as popular here as it is in the States, I've definitely been feeling the love at school. The students have all been so sweet and I've gotten so many beautiful (homemade!) Valentine's Cards!

Here are a few of them:

 My 3rd graders are so sweet! One of these cards was not from a student, but was actually inspired by this blogpost!


 This one is from a day we were making them in class last week. There was glitter glue all over the room!
 So creative!

 Makes me so happy :)

How awesome and unique is this card?! From my super creative sister and her husband <3

I hope you all have a wonderful day, whether you're celebrating Valentine's Day or not, I'm sending you all a lot of love! if you didn't get any Valentine's Cards and you're feeling lonely or blue, leave me a comment and I'll send you something ;)

Monday, February 13, 2012

What I Want, You've Got

I always wanted someone to pick me up from work.

Back during my sophomore year of college, when I was working as a hostess at Valanni, I would trek back up to North Philly on the BSL late at night after my shifts ended. I daydreamed about what it would be like to have a boyfriend who would pick me up from work so I couldn't have to go home alone on the stanky subway. 4 years later, my amazing fiance, who I met at Valanni, wakes up early to drive me to work in the morning and almost every day rearranges his schedule so he can come pick me up from work too.

Things are very different now, because we're in Zagreb, not Philly. But even back then, he would do little things that would really make my day. When I would drive to work in Old City, he would run out of his own job to put quarters in my meter (back when there were still meters in Old City!).

It is so sweet of him to drive me, especially during these snowy, freezing cold days, I'm so thankful for him and so happy he is so thoughtful to me. It's things like this that separates Tomislav from the rest of the men in the world! He is wonderful and that's why I don't mind making delicious meals and baking yummy treats for him all the time.

 A little trip down memory lane - one of the first nights Tomislav and I went out after we first met. Tomislav is to the right of me, with Lovro to the left of him! Of course, Peter is right next to me and Kendall is also in this picture!

I feel like we look so young here! Our first trip to NYC together :) 

 One of those nights where I went to Tomislav's apartment after work. I can tell because I'm wearing black and I wore so much black back in the Valanni days!

Together at Philly Fish Co. (Now BBQ Tequila's) where T also worked! We had so many great summer nights there.

This was in March, 2010. We went back to Valanni, where it all began, to have dinner at our favorite table. Tomislav could still recite everything that was on the Medi-Latin plate! What a good food runner he was ;)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Listen Closely Hear the Music Playing, Let it Take You to Places Far Away

Nothing takes you back to a certain place or time like music does. Scents come in at a close second but hearing even the first few chords of a song can take you right back to that exact point in your life. Just as a I feel like I am a citizen of the world, I am a fan of all types of music.

Recently, I remembered an old password for an old YouTube account and had a blast looking back at my "Favorites" from 2008. Although that might not be that long ago, it is the year that I met Tomislav, the summer that he arrived in Philadelphia, when I worked at Continental and had an ex-manager playing me romantic songs over the phone to the hostess stand. (Like Landon Pigg - Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop)

Hearing Built to Spill - Big Dipper will forever remind me of Germantown and Sean and Jimmy's (much better in my opinion) version of the song!

When I think about Brand New, I'm reminded of riding my bike through Gütersloh, Germany. Back when I had basically, fogotten how to ride a bike, crashed several times along my (at least) 5km one-way route to school. I used to switch over to "Jude Law and a Semester Abroad" once I got to the point which I called the "homestrech" of my journey. Tom Petty's "American Girl" is another one that brings me back to those bike rides.

I have made, cultivated, and sustained several amazing friendships thanks to a little song called "Cute Without the 'E' (Cut from the Team)" by Taking Back Sunday. It takes you right back to high school, college, Kentucky Derby parties etc.

Exhibit 1: A Friendship in the Making

Another great one that was favorited on my old YouTube account was Pitbull ft. Trina: Go Girl. Remember that one? It starts like..
I party like a Rock Star
Look like a Movie Star
Play like an All Star...

Then goes on to talk about someone being on his top 8 because he met her on MySpace. Love it ;)

There are so many more songs I could write about but these few that were on this old YouTube profile really surprised me and brought me back. I highly recommend you try to login with an old e-mail address and see what you were listening to back then.

What songs bring you back to a special time in your life?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Word of Advice for the Day

"Fear less, hope more
 eat less, chew more
 whine less, breathe more
 talk less, say more

 hate less, love more
and good things will be yours."

- Swedish Proverb

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guest Post: Homemade Valentine's Day Cards!

This Valentine's Day I decided to get a little inspiration from the queen of crafting, Martha Stewart, and make my own Valentine's Day cards. My husband and I just got married last May, and we were recently trying to think back to our favorite memories while living in New York City. Over the years we've been saving movie stubs and concert tickets, so after looking through the box, I thought that Martha's Valentine's Day Accordian Envelope was the perfect way to look back at all our memories.

All you need is several envelopes, double sided tape or a glue stick, and any mementos that you've collected.

Begin sticking your envelopes together by putting double sided tape on the inside of the flap and sticking the bottom back of another envelope on top of that. Do this until you have an accordian of envelopes. I used 10 envelopes which made for a very long card.

All that's left to do is to add in your mementos into each envelope!

Check out more of Martha's Valentine's Day card ideas here,

Hope you all have a happy Valentine's Day!

This is Dominika's first (hopefully of many!) guest posts on Dream of Home Tonight. She is a very beautiful, talented, and creative newlywed living outside of NYC. She is also my amazing sister.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The OTHER Big Holiday in February

Do you know what it is? In Croatia, it's, surprisingly, very widely celebrated! It's Bob Marley's Birthday! February 6th, 1945 was the day this reggae poet was born. During this snowed in weekend, I read his biography by Calvin Craig Miller. Not only was Marley a singer/songwriter, musician, husband, father, and political activist, he was also a supremely religious being. He is credited for helping to spread the Rastafari movement to a worldwide audience.

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” -Bob Marley

Marley’s music was heavily influenced by the social issues of his homeland, Jamaica, and he is considered to have given voice to the specific political and cultural nexus of his country.

I found his biography very interesting, especially reading about his views on his children and many girlfriends he had (although he was married). I love reggae music and there's nothing better to me then relaxing to some of Marley's tunes. It's amazing to listen behind the music and see how heavily influenced he was in enforcing peace among the Jamaican people. I love the way he described when he first recorded music (with his good friends Bunny and Peter, who made up the original Wailers) and it was played through the loudspeakers of a car driving around, or from a shop's windows. His music literally stopped gang violence because a sense of peace and calm came over the people in the streets when they heard his melodies.

I absolutely loved seeing and being reminded of how big it was back in the 1970's to have great album artwork for the large vinyl records. I love the clever cover art for the Wailers' first major label release for "Catch a Fire" (which had hits like "Stir it Up," "Rock it Baby," and "Stop that Train" on it)

The first 20,000 copies of the original 1973 vinyl release, designed by graphical artists Rod Dyer and Bob Weiner, were encased in a sleeve depicting a Zippo lighter. The sleeve functioned like a real Zippo lighter case, opening at a side hinge to reveal the record within.

So, Happy Birthday to Mr. Nesta Robert Marley! Thanks to him and the Wailers for so much great music and positive inspiration around the world. Leaving me with this great motto (which I definitely have been applying to our wedding planning):

"Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

"Wedding Planning" Winter Wonderland Weekend!

It's been freezing cold as of late in Zagreb but now that it's been steadily snowing since yesterday, I don't mind the cold so much anymore! It's fun to play in the snow and it looks so pretty (before it gets all mushy/dirty/city looking!).

It made our weekend plans change a bit but we're loving it!


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