“Inshallah is Good for Everyone”

Last weekend I packed up all of Marc and I’s belongings and put them in a shipping truck – they are currently en route to our new home in Leysin, Switzerland.  The end of our Moroccan experience is officially upon us as I am finishing up my school year this week and preparing to say goodbye to Casablanca in just four days from today.

And when I write that “I” packed up our belongings, I do mean “I” as Marc was not alongside me.  It’s been about 4 months now that he left Casablanca to go to Paris for medical care.  He is sick and has been getting progressively more so each day for a while now.  And while our life together is in Casablanca, we knew that Marc needed to be in a place where he could access reliable health care.  Fortunately his parents’ home in Paris is a place where he could do that.  The decision for Marc to leave was difficult then and feels increasingly difficult now, especially as this move to Switzerland is approaching, but Marc has been able to access a strong medical team in Paris who have been taking his case seriously and his parents are there for the unconditional support that he needs.  Because of his and their determination, we are closer and closer to an official diagnosis and so we are doing our best to have patience and courage to wait until that diagnosis and treatment plan are made.

In the meantime, as a newly single girl navigating life in Casablanca, Morocco (that’s an image I never dreamed would come to life!), I am “getting comfortable with the uncomfortable” and doing my best to embrace this concept as a central theme of my life here!  Some days are more successful than others.  But I did get out and about to take some pictures of the city to remember this place Marc and I called home for nearly 2 years.

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These pictures were taken in the Habous, a souk market in one of the quartiers of Casablanca – and even though Casa does not have a reputation for being one of the more beautiful spots in Morocco, I think these pictures demonstrate that even in a big, dirty city like Casablanca, the light and colors of Morocco shine through in sight and in sound.

When Marc and I travel, we like to pick up on linguistics and everyday vernacular of the place we are in and then incorporate it into our own vocabulary.  We hang a driftwood sign from Hawaii that says “e komo mai,” or welcome in Hawaiian, in our home.  On our honeymoon in Greece we learned the word “agapimou,” which is “my love” in Greek, and we use this word to refer to each other.  In Morocco, the resounding term that will stick with us long after we leave this country is “inshallah,” meaning “God willing” in Arabic.   Take a look at this New York Times article to learn why “Inshallah is Good for Everyone” and why this Moroccan mentality is something that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

So “inshallah” I am successfully packed and ready to say goodbye to this country full of passion and vibrancy, color and light, modernity and tradition.  And while I am very much looking forward to moving to the mountains where the lifestyle is more suitable for me and I can feel more like myself (turns out this Ohio girl is NOT a city dweller), I know that Marc and I will likely not be snapping selfies like the one below with our apartment concierge in Switzerland.  We’ll probably be lucky just to get a simple “bonjour” from the neighbor!  And so I’m reminded to savor those bits and pieces of Morocco that I know I cannot pack up and take with me in my suitcase…

Like our concierge, Abdou, aka “Tom Hanks.”  He enjoys calling Marc Tom Hanks and broke down in tears when I told him we were moving!  It was a bit awkward, to be honest…and Marc especially is not quite sure if those tears were real or simply another Moroccan theatrical production which are frequently on display around here.  Either way, he’s a genuine, good-hearted man who always greeted us with a smile and a strange story in his broken French.  We will always remember him.

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And having the opportunity to wine and dine with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at Rick’s Café!  This restaurant is a total tourist destination in Casa created long after the movie was made to recreate the bar from the film.  Though its authenticity is questionable, the Moroccan decoration and ambiance of the restaurant is lovely – it’s a bit as if you’re in the movie yourself!

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Even though morning Barre3 sessions will soon be accompanied with a pretty fantastic view of the Swiss Alps, I won’t have a view of the Hassan II mosque like this nor hear the sounds of the call to prayer resonating in the background as I prepare myself for the day…

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Or witness these magical Moroccan sunsets in the evening…

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The joy and challenge of international living, then, is inevitably upon us – goodbye to people and a place that now hold a very special place in our heart, and making room for the new people, new experiences, and new memories that will be had in a new place to call home.

So we say goodbye to Morocco, our temporary home – you forced us to get comfortable in some of the most uncomfortable moments and circumstances of our life, and we leave you with a beautiful story of love, life, and identity challenged, but not lost, and open hearts for what the future will hold.  Switzerland, what do you have in store?  Who knows, but we’re on our way to find out!  Get ready, because this time we plan to stick around for a while. 🙂


Recipes:

Sweet Potato Brownies – These are awesome, rich and chocolatey, and made primarily of sweet potatoes – let’s just say they definitely make a frequent appearance in our kitchen!

Happy Spring!

My photography has been lacking lately, but a recent trip to Ohio to see family before moving to Switzerland presented an opportunity to capture shots of my sweet nieces and nephew.  These heart-happy pictures of cousins Micah and Ava I simply had to share.  Happy spring from these beauties!

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Recipes

My recent recipe exploration has been based in the newly released Dishing Up the Dirt Cookbook and Naturally Nourished (cookbook from My New Roots blogger Sarah Britton).  Here are the spring inspired recipes I tried out on my family for Easter:

  • Avocado Cream
  • Strawberry Salsa
  • Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt
  • Roasted Asparagus with Romesco Sauce
  • Spicy Tomato Bisque with Pan-Fried Chickpeas
  • Strawberry Mint Smoothie

If any of these sound good to you, check out the cookbooks!  My personal favorites were the avocado cream, strawberry salsa, and spicy tomato bisque.  These will be joining my regular repertoire of recipes – whew, that’s a tongue twister!

I’ll also be reinventing Barefoot Contessa recipes (where my love for cooking began), putting a healthy spin on those with whole foods, plant-based potential.  Will see how it goes!

Next chapter…

Life has thrown Marc and I some twists and turns lately, and proven to us that just when you think you have things figured out, better plans may already be in the works.  But as the intent of this blog is to journal our story, our real story,  here’s the bittersweet truth behind our next chapter…

The bitter: For a few years now Marc has had some health issues, and trying to resolve them since moving to Morocco has not exactly been easy.  We’ve been back and forth to the United States trying to find an answer, and in the midst of this feeling the stress and reality that the best place for Marc and I both to be right now is probably not Morocco, but rather a place where we can access consistent, quality health care and a calmer lifestyle.

The sweet: Just as we recognized this need for change, I was offered and have accepted a job teaching at a Japanese boarding school in Leysin, Switzerland, a small ski resort village in the Swiss Alps.  We will be moving late June to live and work in the mountains of Switzerland!

To say that we are thankful for this move and opportunity is an understatement.  Our goal all along has been to live a small-town, simple life in Europe (not an easy goal to realize), and it seems to actually be happening.  And while I don’t think I will truly believe it is happening until we actually pack up our things and move, a trip to Switzerland for work last weekend made it come to life.

Here is the view (a rainy day view) from what will be my new office…

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And some pictures of the western, French region of Switzerland where we will live.  First, Lac Léman (Lake Geneva)…

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And Geneva…

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Another move means work, preparation, and stress over the next few months.  Watch as we say goodbye to Morocco and prepare for the next chapter of our lives, a more permanent chapter, in Leysin, Switzerland.


Recipes:

Pretty excited that Dishing Up the Dirt has a new cookbook out!  Here are more recipes from her blog that I’ve liked…

Blueberry Almond Flour Muffins

Coconut Curry Pork Meatballs – I made parsnip noodles for this dish.  I’ve discovered they are much less watery than zucchini noodles, so they’re my new go-to, grain-free noodle.

Cold Brew Chocolate & Cinnamon Shake with Coconut Whipped Cream

Kale Caesar Salad with Garlicky Chickpea Croutons

Spiced Zucchini & Honey Muffins

2016 Miller Family Christmas

Marc and I are back in Morocco after spending our holidays in Ohio!  One of this year’s Christmas highlights was a visit to Stan Hywet Hall in Akron with my mom, sister, and niece – it was a real treat and a highly recommended visit if you live in NE Ohio!

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Gingerbread Land!

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Ava Faith had had enough…

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Next was our 2016 Miller Family Christmas!

This year’s holiday season was special as it marks 5 years since Marc and I were married on December 23, 2011.  It’s remarkable to see how much our extended family has changed since then and the twists and turns that our life has taken!

Here we are, Christmas 2011:

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And now, Christmas 2016:

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(Bailey taking a break from being Santa’s reindeer…)

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In 5 years, we have celebrated the addition of two nieces and a nephew to the Miller family, Marc and I have moved from Washington to London to Casablanca, we’ve changed our careers, my parents are entering a new stage in life with my mom’s retirement, and in the midst of all of this my sweet Bailey is still hanging on and is as joyful as ever at almost 13 years old.  I love how the comparison of old and new in these pictures capture the subtle, yet significant changes that have taken place in our family, but are also a reminder of how much does not change, how many things really do stay solid and consistent, the most important of which is family…this trip was definitely a celebration of the wonderful family we have both in the US and in Europe!  We are thankful for each and every one of you.  🙂

And last but not least, this year’s New Year for Marc and I was spent on the plane in transit from the US to Morocco over the Atlantic Ocean!  In upholding our Spanish traditions, we ate our 12 grapes, we’re just not quite sure if we ate them in the last 12 seconds of 2016 – it was a little difficult to know what time it was as we were flying across time zones.  What a way to ring in the new year!  Wishing you a wonderful 2017, everyone!


Recipes

Farm Stand Meatballs with Collard Greens & Apricots – I used dried cherries instead of apricots, and spinach instead of collard greens as it’s what I had on hand.  I also added caramelized onions!  You could use either or even omit the dried fruit, whichever way I really liked this flavorful twist on serving those dark greens that are so important in our diet!

Miso Chicken with Cauliflower & Carrot Mash – Again, used spinach instead of collard greens and added carrots to the cauliflower mash – both good additions/substitutions.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – I used butternut squash instead of kabocha squash, and added some apple and a bit of fontina cheese to this basic soup recipe…

Lemon Poppyseed Zucchini Muffins – Not necessarily seasonal, but I will be keeping this recipe around for the spring/summertime!

Kombucha – My brother gifted me a SCOBY (yay!!!) and I am now brewing my first batch of kombucha.  We’ll see how it turns out!  Don’t know what kombucha is?  Or want to try out brewing it yourself?  Check out the link for a beginner’s tutorial from My New Roots.

30 Years of Marc

This year Marc turned 30.  Over the years, we’ve celebrated him with:

a homemade chocolate cake at 21 years of age…

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champagne and presents at year 22…

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more chocolate cake when he turned 24…

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he hits a milestone, 25 years old…

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and when he turned 27, oh look, more cake!

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It’s been fun celebrating 12 years of birthdays together and this year while the chocolate cake, champagne, and presents were still in order, we were lucky enough to add a trip to Barcelona to the mix.  It was a great Barcelona birthday, complete with the comforts of home at Marc’s grandparent’s house, drinks with old friends, and dinner and a stop at our favorite waffle spot in the Gothic District. 🙂

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Feliz cumpleaños, Marc!

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And since Spain is on my mind, my niece’s interpretation of speaking Spanish has been a real inspiration in my current pursuit of learning the language.  Tio Marc is so proud. 🙂


Recipes:

Gnocchi with Chanterelle Mushrooms & White Wine & Garlic-Cashew Cream Sauce – I made this omitting the white wine, simply because I didn’t have any (buying wine in Morocco is not exactly cheap nor readily available!).  Was delicious even so!

Parsnip Fries with Rosemary-Garlic Cashew Aioli

Parsnip Fries with Tahini Herb Dip

Mustard Greens & Gruyere Quiche with Almond Crust

Banana Almond Meal Muffins

Marc’s 30th birthday cake was accompanied with vegan ice cream sundaes this year!

And here’s some new recipes that made it to our 2016 Thanksgiving table:

Jambo Kenya!

That’s hello in Swahili – jambo – so jambo everyone!

First and foremost, I cannot write this October/November post without mentioning that Marc has now officially voted for the first time as an American citizen!  He sure chose a dramatic year to make his voting debut.  Either way, our absentee ballots are in…

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And onto the bulk of this blog update, Kenya!  An education conference for work sent me to Nairobi, Kenya a few weeks back, hence the Jambo Kenya! title.  We simply couldn’t miss the opportunity to make a family trip of it, so Marc joined me for some sight seeing and safari in Kenya before the conference.  Two yellow fever vaccines, some malaria pills, and a 16-hour flight through Cairo, Egypt later, we found ourselves in Nairobi, Kenya, arriving at 3:30 in the morning.  It was quite a day of travel.  Here we are on our Egypt Air flight thankful that all went well.

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And with a safe arrival began our African adventure…

The video says it all, really, but here are some of the highlights of our trip:

  • Visiting the African Endangered Wildlife Fund where we fed and kissed the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe!

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  • Marc spotting lions (his favorite!) on safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve

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  • Andrea spotting elephants on safari (her favorite…)

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  • Picnic lunch under savannah trees in the Masai Mara – Lion King brought to life!

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  • Visiting a local Masai village

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  • Ending our trip with a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Fund where we played with and adopted a baby, orphaned elephant and met a blind rhino

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We got to do some pretty amazing things on this trip, and for that we are both thankful beyond measure.  Our visit of the Masai village, in particular, was quite humbling, reminding us of how fortunate we are to not only live the way that we do, but also to have the ability and opportunity to take trips like this around the world.  But somehow at the end of all of it – Kenya, safari, the Masai villagers, the giraffes, the elephants, everyone and everything we encountered – we were taken away from our usual travel high, and, instead, brought back to earth, to a more grounded, raw, simple version of ourselves.

Travel is wonderful and we are certainly advocates for and have benefitted from the growth, flexibility, and open-mindedness that it uniquely teaches.  That being said, Marc and I seem to have reached our travel capacity and this trip quickly became the last “hurrah” of our traveling selves (at least as a couple), and man oh man were we keenly aware of how fortunate we were to get to end that chapter with a real “bang” on a Kenyan safari.

So, to Kenya, we came, we traveled, we learned, we saw and we left different people than we were before.  And while we certainly would have benefitted from a more relaxing vacation (and are both still recovering!), we’ve come to appreciate the fatigue, the challenge, the discomfort that you offered on this trip.  Our first 5 years of marriage (to be celebrated in December…!) we searched and struggled to find ourselves and filled the gaps in that time with moves, different jobs, travel, and “adventure,” all of that having culminated and led to our current African existence.  It’s time, now, to slow things down and focus on a more grounded approach to our life.  We might actually be ready to “settle down,” at least in a Marc and Andrea version, and believe it or not, Kenya, you’ve given us the green light to do just that.  So, thanks for being part of our story, for celebrating a bittersweet, beautifully demanding 5 years of marriage with us, and for welcoming a new chapter into our lives filled with adventure of a different kind.  What will this chapter bring?  Who knows.  Stay tuned, there are still many more stories to tell…


Recipes:

30-Minute Coconut Curry – Super rich, but super delicious.  I especially like the coconut quinoa.  Not an everyday-of-the-week kind of dish (because for us it was very filling), but definitely a quick and easy recipe when you have a curry craving.

Got extra quinoa?  Make this!  Dark Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas – Love these as an everyday snack option.

Zucchini Basil Soup with Fried Shallots – In my version of this soup, I omitted the red pepper flakes (Marc does not enjoy spice) and added about a 1/2 cup of coconut milk as well just for added creaminess. 🙂

Spiced Parsnip Muffins with Maple-Cardamom Cashew Cream – Loved these muffins!

And I think Marc loved these muffins even more…Almond Spiced Honey Oatmeal Muffins.  I added shredded apple to these for a more seasonal muffin.

For lovers of coconut and a fun twist on almond butter…Almond Joy Butter

And, finally, I regularly make these raw brownies for snacks during the week.  They’re simple, easy, and freeze well… 5-Minute Espresso Walnut Brownies.  You can omit the espresso if you’re not a fan.

You might notice, and I think it’s safe to say, that my two favorite whole food, plant-based cooking blogs at the moment are Minimalist Baker and Dishing Up the Dirt.  Both my style of cooking, based out of Oregon, and offer simple, quick, and easy recipes for the home cook!  I post only some of their recipes that I’ve tried and that are preferred for my family, but check out their websites for even more if you like the recipes I’ve posted.

A Week in Portland, Oregon

Is it almost October already?!?!  Fall’s officially here, but this post on a trip I took in August to visit my cousin, Kate, and her husband, Hadrien, in Portland, Oregon is my final farewell to summer!  Thanks for having me, Kate. 🙂

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Explored downtown Portland’s awesome food scene, Pip’s Doughnuts (one of my favorite chai tea spots), Powell’s books, and the city’s rose garden…

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A food truck favorite…Wolf & Bear!

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Casablanca?  Only 5,643 miles away…

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Feel free to borrow a book and have a read on the streets of Portland.  Loved this “LittleFreeLibrary.”

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Ran into one of Marc’s best childhood friends from Barcelona.  Hola Marc y Eva!  Small world, no?!?!

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And met some of my favorite Barre3 instructors – Lisa Schale-Drake & Audrey Roloff!  Never heard of Barre3?  It’s my new favorite workout of choice, a combo of Pilates, yoga, and barre with an extensive online workout library.  Interested?  Try it out.  You’ll definitely feel the burn and those Barre3 shakes and quakes!

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Speaking of Audrey Roloff, had to make my way to see Roloff Farms – yes, I am a fan of TLC’s Little People, Big World!  Much to Marc’s dismay…

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Went on some heart-happy runs in the wildnerness.  🙂

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Was a treat to get to see this while driving down the highway – not exactly something you see in Ohio!

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Visited Columbia River Gorge & Multnomah Falls…

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And last, but certainly not least, spent a few days on the wild, magnificent Oregon Pacific coast at Cannon Beach.

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I made this trip out to Oregon on my own as it’s a place I’ve always thought would be a good fit for Marc and I to live.  I went, I saw, and while I loved it, I missed my family in Ohio and my Mediterranean life in Morocco.  I’m thankful to have had the opportunity, however, to go to Oregon and close that chapter in my heart that dreamt of a life there.  Maybe it would have, could have been right, but in another life – for now my heart is full with the life I’m living now and there’s no better feeling than to have confirmed that in my own heart…and reminded of it by this street art I came across walking around East London a few weeks ago (we were there for work and to visit Marc’s sister over our Eid break).

Do what you love, love what you do.  Do you???  Food for thought…

Happy fall, everyone!  🙂

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Recipes:

Thai Coconut Curry Hummus – A delicious spin on traditional hummus, Marc approved!

Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Shake – Replaced the peanut butter with almond butter, and added a scoop of espresso for a mocha twist.

Za’atar Grilled Chicken with Tahini Sauce – Try za’atar, and tahini sauce for that matter, for an easy flavor punch to just about any of your favorite vegetables or proteins.

Almond Butter No-Bake Cookies – Quick, easy, and sweet snack or dessert.

Spiced Carrot Coconut Soup – Used yellow curry powder instead of red curry paste and almond butter instead of peanut butter – I LOVE soup!