Thursday, March 29, 2012

Waiting For Me When I Got Home:

How did I get so lucky to find a man who is thoughtful and understanding, will rescue me when my shoes are hurting me too much to drive me home, who surprises me with endless kindness and patience and makes me feel so loved every day? Seriously thank you to the ex-manager who hired him back at Valanni, I am way too lucky and I would move anywhere in the world to be with him.

Also many thanks to the amazing piece of advice I read over at the fabulous blog Sometimes Sweet, "Don't marry a man unless you would be proud to have a son exactly like him."

As wedding stresses threaten to get the best of me, I'm thankful for T being the greatest guy absolutely ever and reminding me to relax, sometimes take the night off if I need it, and letting me know that everything's gonna be alright.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Traffic in Croatia

Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia, the biggest and busiest city in this beautiful country. I've been driving a lot more lately so I have a couple notes to make on traffic in Zagreb.
Let me start by saying that coming from Philadelphia, I'm an experienced city driver. I'm not afraid to be aggressive (thanks to my time living in Cairo, I really got to learn what aggressive driving is all about). So many times, there is ridiculous, crowded traffic for no reason except that a car decided to stop in it's lane before a stop light forcing the other cars to merge into the other lane to drive around it. These stopped cars are either stopping to pick or drop someone off (in the stupidest place possible) or simply because they feel like it, or (unfortunately) their car breaks down. Usually, it's for a stupid reason though and more often than not, it's someone who is not from Zagreb who doesn't know how to drive in a city. The traffic is nowhere near as bad as on Broad Street in Philly during rush hour, or at any time of the day in Cairo, but it still gets pretty bad. Don't even get me started on when it's raining. I know people tend to forget how to drive almost everywhere when it's raining but in Croatia, it seems to go to a new level.

One of my favorite streets to drive on in the city is called Zeleni Val which means the Green Wave. If you drive at a steady pace straight down the road (very close to center city), you will catch all green lights along the way! Fantastic!

This kind of "wave" would be very useful in Philly!

The other thing to mention is the combination of old and new roads throughout Croatia. Highways and bridges are still being built all over Croatia. The tolls on the highways are ridiculously expensive. Even the shortest trip on a highway passing through one exit can be a cost of about $5 and the tolls start at that price and go all the way up to 240 Kuna which is about $43! Although the highway can be a HUGE time saver, the cost for the tolls alone (forget the rising cost of gas) can cause a serious dent in your vacation spending fund. The old roads in Croatia take longer, but often times the view along the way can be very beautiful.

When Tomislav and I drive from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, we take the highway for as long as we can take it and then take the old roads the rest of the way. The road follows the coast so it's windy and hugs the Adriatic sea along the way. It's absolutely gorgeous! If you get the chance to visit Croatia, I would recommend driving down the coast and stopping along the way, whenever your heart fancies it! The great thing about Croatia is that the Adriatic Sea is open to swimmers all over the place. Taking a break from driving for a dip in the Jadransko More...ahh what could be more refreshing?!

You can see from the look of us here, taking a break to swim in the sea was a great way to break up our long drive!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Meatless Monday!

This is an incredibly delicious alternative to a classic beef (or turkey) burger. It's meaty and filling and totally gratifying! These are my Bean and 'Bello Burgers! They were inspired by this recipe, also where the clever name comes from. ;)

Here's what I used:
2 diced portobellos
6 diced button mushrooms
1/2 onion
1 can of black beans
2 eggs (or egg whites if you prefer)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
About 4 saltines (crushed into powder)
4 Kaiser Rolls
1/2 cup of BBQ sauce (mine was homemade)

This recipe is definitely versatile, if you want to add different veggies to it you definitely can, or other seasonings. It's harder to get these to stick together so keep that in mind. I didnt mind that mine fell apart a bit, they were so good! Next time I make these, I will put lettuce and tomato on them too, maybe even a pickle! I just didn't have them on hand an I wasn't about to go to the store.

So basically, heat up 2 tbs sunflower oil on a large pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion and any other veggies in the pan. Cook, stir occasionally about 5-6 minutes.

Add the beans to the pan along with all the spices and seasonings. Cook, smashing beans with the back of the spoon for two more minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl an allow it to cool a bit. Once it's slightly cooled down, add te eggs and cracker crumbs. I used my hands to mix it (hence the cool down) and then formed it into 4 (large!!) patties. Put 2 tbs oil in a skillet on medium and cook the burgers until firm (6-7 minutes on each side). Put them on the buns with anything else you like on your burger and top with barbecue sauce. Mmmm delicious!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Warm Weather Days

The weather is finally getting warmer (I say finally only because I know it's basically been spring and summer all winter long in PA) and wow, that makes me so happy! Poor Tomislav is sick now so we're still not able to both really bask in the sun (since he's resting a lot). This weather just makes me want to go to Jarun and throw a frisbee around. During the week, it's hard to find time to do things like that so I've been enjoying going out for recess duty and playing basketball with the kids. I've also been helping with the 5th grade musical which is adorable (albeit a lot of work) but the kids are so talented, I'm sure the show will be great.

So happy that it's almost the weekend. I'm ready to spend a lot of time outdoors and hopefully we'll get some more wedding plans done! It's that time to start planning the trips for after we are married with our family and friends (to the coast...yay!). This warm weather is really getting me ready for everyone to come visit. I'm thinking and planning everything I'd like to show everyone while they're here. I know that time will really start to fly now and wedding weekend will be here before we know it!

 A happy photo from a warm day last Spring in PA!

Can anyone guess where this photo was taken?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Soup for when You're Feeling Sicky

Since I've been under the weather, I've been eating a lot of soup. I haven't had the energy to make my own so I've (or Tomislav!) been making soup from a bag. This is one of the best packaged soups I've ever had. It is truly homemade tasting. Better than any canned soups, it's just so so good, and it's vegetarian!

It's from Podravka (the brand that makes like everything in Croatia) and it's their Proljetna Juha or Spring Vegetable Soup. You can truly taste all the different vegetable flavors and there are small pieces of red bell peppers, cauliflower, leeks, and potatoes inside and with every bite it actually tastes like those veggies! Yum! I definitely recommend this one if you're not up for making your own soup (which lucky for me, Tomislav's Mom did make me some) but when soup is all you're eating, this is such a flavorful and delicious one that you should definitely try!

Monday, March 19, 2012

They Say it's your Birthday...We're Gonna Have a Good Time!

Saturday was Tomislav's Birthday! Unfortunately, I've been sick as a dog the past few days and it's been really awful but it was still wonderful to be with Tomislav on his birthday.  I wish I could have celebrated it a bit more but we'll just have to celebrate it some more later. He's the absolute greatest, happy birthday babe :)

 Our great friend Ivana (see below, in the middle!) made this AWESOME cake for Tomislav! It was soooooooo nice of her and was so beautiful! It even had a (more enhanced ;)) version of me popping out of the cake! Thank you Ivana!

 Sarah, Ivana, and red-nosed me :)

 The cake :) Complete with clovers and everything!

 My St. Patrick's Day baby cutting his cake :)

I think they like it!

Onto other birthday news, I am so excited to say welcome baby Filip to the world!!!! I am so proud and excited because Tomislav's wonderful cousin, Dubravka and her husband Nikola welcomed their beautiful baby boy this morning. The whole family is doing great and I couldn't be happier for the new addition to the family. I like to consider myself Teta Nikki already :)

So for Tomislav and baby Filip, this one is for you!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Falling in Love on a Budget in Zagreb!

We found out the air date of our episode of House Hunters International! It will premiere on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 at 10:30 PM. I'm so excited to see it! Here's a little sneak peak of what happened behind the scenes:

Taking a much needed coffee break with our teeny tiny to-go cups (and you all know how I feel about those!)
Goofing off with our awesome cameraman Gordon

Tomislav's getting interviewed, I'm trying not to be distracting ;)

I can't wait to see how it turns out! We really had so much fun filming (both in the States with my fam and here in Zagreb!) Now the question is, will we be able to get up at 4:30 AM our time to watch it live via Skype (with someone's computer facing the TV for us!)? I think so :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meatless Monday!

Omg - Guilty pleasure alert! I am a HUGE fan of Mac & Cheese. I mean, absolutely huge fan. As a kid, you know, we ate only Polish foods at home so whenever we had the chance to eat macaroni and cheese (from the box!) I was extremely excited about it. So, I didn't grow up on the homemade stuff but of course now in Croatia you can't get boxed mac and cheese so I decided to make this broccoli and cauliflower macaroni and cheese. It is so delicious, even the leftovers are amazing. I will be making this one again and again! Comfort food at it's absolute finest!

Here's what I used:
500g Whole Wheat (Integralne in Croatian) Macaroni
500g of Mixed Cauliflower and Broccoli Florets
50g Butter
50g Flour
750ml Milk
100g Grated Cheese
4 Tbs cracker crumbs
4 Tbs grated cheese, your choice (Parmesan, Cheddar, etc.)

First, preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water for 8 minutes until just tender. I tossed in the cauliflower and broccoli in with the pasta for the last 5 minutes until almost tender. Drain the pasta and place in a lightly buttered 1.75 litre ovenproof baking dish with the vegetables, mixing them together.

Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. I added the nutmeg to the milk at this point. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Keep whisking (even if your arm hurts!). It should look like wet sand. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. (Seriously, do this slowly because it is HOT! And you do not want a burnt sauce, yuck.) Stir constantly until the sauce is thickened, a good 8-10 minutes. (It's worth it to take your time!) Then simmer for 2 minutes and remove from the heat.

Stir in the cheese, any seasonings you like, and pour over the pasta and vegetables. I used gouda (because that's one of the only options here. Gouda is the answer to everything! I miss cheddar but it was still really amazing)

Crush crackers into crumbs and sprinkle the extra grated cheese and crushed crackers evenly over top of the macaroni mixture. Bake in the heated oven for 20–25 minutes until the top is crisp and golden.


Aww yeah!

Ooey gooey AND crispy - yummy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Dominika!

Wish I could be there to celebrate with you today!
Instead, I'm thinking of you and am teaching my students how to write/spell/say your name ♥

Thank you to my awesome parents for giving life to my best fwiend in the whole world!

Hope you and your hubby have a wonderful day!

Celebrate as much as we did this past New Year's Eve!

I love you sissy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Teacher Talk

Working in a school is great for adults to learn things everyday too. There are always new strategies to be learned and there are a few new things that have been working really well in our classrooms that I wanted to share with my fellow education enthusiasts!

Since I work at an international school, most of our students are English language learners. We, the teachers, as well as the students try to be very mindful of our speech so that students are learning proper English and not too much slang. The biggest thing we have noticed lately is the use of the words "gonna" and "wanna." In an effort to eliminate or decrease our usage of these slang words in our speech, we started brainstorming on how we could stop it. We thought about having a jar and putting a coin in every time we said it but then the students actually came up with a great idea! Every time we hear someone say "gonna" or "wanna," everyone snaps their fingers. When anyone says, "going to" or "want to" correctly, everyone claps their hands. Not only is it a nice way to feel happy and proud of your accomplishment for remembering to say "going to" instead of "gonna" by hearing a class of students giving you a round of applause, it is really not that disruptive for the classroom and it has improved everyone's speech and learning of the language! I love it!

Another thing we have been trying to make more adults aware of is the improper use of the word "there's." If you pay attention, you'll notice that people are often saying things like, "There's a lot of students in this classroom!" Think about it - There's is a contraction for There is. Would you say, "There is a lot of students in this classroom"? No! You would say, "There are a lot of students in this classroom." This is a big pet peeve of one of my colleagues so I've been trying to be more aware of it lately. 

My big speech pet peeve which one of my students does constantly is shortening "Can I" to sound like "Cay" (rhymes with Tie). It drives me crazy to hear someone say, "Cay go get this out of my backpack?"

Anyway, another colleague sent out this great blog post about 20 Teacher Tips for Beating Fatigue which you can read here. It's good not only for teachers but it's good for any job you have and basically for anyone who feels tired! (Who doesn't?) 

Happy Tuesday to all my Teachers out there!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Meatless Monday!

Last week I made so many delicious meals, I could hardly decide which one to write about. I decided to go with the one that was so hearty, you really don't miss the meat at all! Honestly, I think it's better without the meat! These are my bean enchiladas inspired by this BBC recipe- yummy!

Simple, delicious ingredients, baked to ooey gooey goodness

Here's what I used:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion , chopped
  • 2-3 carrots , grated
  • 2-3 tsp chilli powder (mild or hot, according to your taste)
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 x 400g cans beans (red, black, pinto, lentils - whatever you've got!)
  • 1 x 400g can corn
  • 6 small whole grain tortillas
  • 200g natural yogurt (I used one of the small cups of Greek variety)
  • 50g cheese (or veg alternative), finely grated

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Cook the onions and carrots for 5-8 mins until soft - add a splash of water if they start to stick. Sprinkle in the chilli powder and cook for 1 min more. Pour in the tomatoes and beans and bring to the boil. Add the corn. Turn down the heat and simmer for 5-10 mins, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Remove from the heat and season well. 


Heat the oven to 180 degrees C (350F). Spread a spoonful of the bean chilli over a large ovenproof dish. I layered the tortillas so they overlapped one another and then spooned the chili mixture over the tortillas followed by yogurt and cheese. Next, I added another layer of tortillas followed by the chili mixture, yogurt and cheese until I used it all. Spoon the remaining chilli on top.

 It may look messy but it's oh-so-good!

 Bake for a few minutes until the top is golden and bubbling. Mine ended up looking like a tortilla/enchilada lasagna!

This recipe will seriously satisfy even the biggest carnivores!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Polish Parties

 Kto ty jesteś? Polak mały! - A very early Polish Party in NJ ;)

Growing up, my parents got together with their friends every weekend for what I liked to call, "Polish Parties." All of our family friends (who are Polish, of course) would get together to drink, dance, be merry, perhaps watch a boxing match on Pay Per View, things like that. All of us kids would have a really fun time because we'd play games (which we would mostly invent, from "Don't Let the Parents See Us," to "Army," to our own version of the then popular MTV show, "Singled Out," to "Church" (we're Catholic, what can we say?). 

My two favorite party girls! At me and D's combined HS/College grad party in 2006

We would create, direct, and star in our own home movies and it really was always so fun for us too. There was also a period of time where, much like most other young girls around the world, we pretended we were the Spice Girls. We took things to a new level though, with full costumes and make-up, our own "tour bus" (the basement of one friends' house), a manager, a movie, complete choreography - WSZYSTKO!

Anyway, on a recent trip Tomislav and I took, I heard a song that brought me right back to those days. There are so much great, fun music that my parents and their friends would listen to and I just love hearing it again! It brings me right back to my childhood and makes me feel so happy. Whether it's Queen, Boney M, Abba, or some lesser known hits; I love them all! Anyone remember any of these?

Comment ça va
Comme ci, comme ci, comme ci, comme ça!

Sun of Jamaica, the Dreams of Malaika...

This is one of my all time favs! (T and I actually saw them in concert in Zagreb in 2009!) 
Boney M - Daddy Cool

Happy Weekend Everyone!


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