My Madeira

As summer rolls around and I hear of people’s plans for grand summer vacations, I can’t help but think back to our “best ever family holiday” – Madeira, Portugal – 2016.

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During July/August two years ago our family travelled to Lisbon and Madeira. It felt like a ‘right of passage’ kind of trip. It simply HAD to be done. My children are Portuguese, as is my husband. For me growing up in a little town called Boksburg in South Africa, most of my childhood friends were Portuguese. I have always felt really close to this ‘family first’ community. As a young adult, one of my dearest friends was Portuguese and I was maid-of-honour at her wedding, it was at this wedding that I met John. He was the cousin to the young man who married my friend.

Needless to say I have always had a heart to explore Portugal. I think out of all of us in my little family, I was the most excited. I had just finished a Portuguese language course before this trip as well and I found that to be highly valuable. While most people in Lisbon speak some level of English, most of the family and locals in Madeira do not. While I still feel somewhat clumsy speaking Portuguese, my reading and comprehension, I think, is really pretty good.

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My kids at the time were 5y 10m, 4y, 2y 6m. My gosh looking back at it like this I think they were true travel stars! It is, without a doubt, the most amazing family holiday we have ever had. The weather was spot on. The perfect amount of summer heat! We were out everyday doing new things, exploring, soaking in new traditions and culture, tasting new foods, making memories. So yes, while everyone here is making their plans for this coming summer holiday, my heart goes back fondly to our time there. If you ever have the opportunity to go, please make a plan and get there. It really is one of the worlds greatest treasures! This time of year, my heart truly aches to go back.

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And as an added bonus this photograph below of, the worlds best Poncha, was featured on @ilovemadeira Instagram page.

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Above all though, wherever your summer holidays may take you, please stay safe and make beautiful family memories.

Cheers

la

Black Isle Brewery – Scotland

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It wouldn’t be a DG family adventure without us checking out the local brew scene. We discovered a stellar brewery just outside Inverness, Scotland. The Black Isle Brewery started as a Homebrew operation 20 years ago and now ships all around Europe and as far as Canada and Japan. They haven’t broken into the USA market yet, but I’m certain they will at some point. They are that good!

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In 2011 they moved to their current facility located north of Inverness and 2 years ago opened their first brewpub in the city itself.

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We visited the brewpub first for some delicious pizzas and to sample a few brews before making the 20 minute trek to the brewery the following day. At the pub, the atmosphere is light and funky, combining the classic wood and industrial look of the brew world with pops of tangerine and painted murals of the local landscape (pictured behind our sleepy kid below, ha). In addition to the food and beverages, you can also rent a room and stay for the night as you romp around the highlands or if you’ve just one too many Migrator DIPA’s to continue on.

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Having had a lovely evening the night before, we were happy to visit the brewery itself. Kate, our brew guide, met us at the door and invited us on a tour of the facility to learn about their process and their space. She was so kind to our boys and didn’t mind their silly questions and odd comments like “yum it smells like pasta!” What?! Not like this is their first brewery, ha! Boiling wort does not smell like pasta, I promise!

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We learned that they are committed to a totally organic process and grow most of their malts on the farm next to the facility. Once the mash is finished, they feed the spent grain to the black sheep in their pastures. Since Scotland is too cold to grow their own hops, they source organic hops from California and New Zealand, depending on the recipes.

I really dig their logo as well, design geek that I am. It features the flower of Scotland, the thistle, and each brew has a designated color for the bloom of the thistle. The creative behind the labels and logo is the brewer’s wife. She recently started to develop variations on the their original labels to differentiate between their flagship brews and their special ones like their barrel aged oatmeal stout and collaboration brews. Oh, and we learned that each of the brews is named after a bird in from the area too, pretty cool.

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We had the honor of interacting with the master brewer himself. He overheard us and recognized that the hubs is a true brew lover, so he stopped and chatted for a minute. He demanded that we take home two bottles of the newest brews literally fresh off the label line! He was correct in his suspicion that we love us some hops!

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Another great note about Black Isle Brewery that makes them stand out from other local UK brews are their higher ABVs (alcohol by volume). Although they do have sessions ales at about 3%-4.5%, good for a few rounds at the pub, they also have some heavy hitters at 8-10.4% (specifically of interest to my beer guy!). We found it rather interesting how low the average ABV is here, but it makes sense if you plan to be watching a rugby match for hours. Interestingly, I did recently learn from some British friends that if you go outside the main cities to the small towns, the pubs have taps with higher ABVs. It’s good to be “staggering distance” from your lodgings though!

If you’re visiting Scotland and like a well crafted, organic brew, we highly recommend tasting one of the many Black Isle ales they offer. They even have a tasty Gluten Free brew called the Gold Finch. This brewery truly was a standout for us. Try it and let us know your thoughts!

Cheers!

kdg

Follow along with our brew adventures with #dgbrewphotos on Instagram.

An Outlander’s Adventure in Scotland

“I had been in a number of cold places in my life, but there’s something remarkably penetrating about the Scottish cold.”  – Diana Gabaldon, Outlander 

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I have Irish blood, but it is paired with some tropic and humidity-loving Puerto Rican blood, so I was flipping freezing in Scotland in March! Meanwhile, my beloved husband breathed it in like the cold was refreshing his soul. The cool 40 degree temps went well with all his Scot and Viking blood. Our tiny one was with Dad on this one, he kept pointing to the snow capped mountains of the Highlands saying he wanted to go there! Apparently, his Celt blood is stronger than the few drops of islander blood in this particular case. Meanwhile, our older one was wearing layers like his momma ready to run indoors!

That said, I do love it there too. In addition to my husband’s obvious connection through his heritage (which was so fun to teach the boys about), the landscape is breathtaking and the people are down right lovely and hospitable!

This was our second trip to bonnie old Scotland. The first time was in May 2013 with just one wee laddie in tow and my brother-in-law. That was an awesome adventure and our first travel abroad experience with kids. Needless to say, we have learned a lot since, ha!

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When we arrived in Scotland from our London adventure we made Inverness our home for a few days. We particularly love the city of Inverness, which means mouth of the River Ness in Gaelic. The city is split with the River Ness running through it with multiple bridges connecting it along the way. There are several churches and steeples dotting the skyline, as well as Inverness Castle on the hill overlooking the bustle of the capital of the Highlands.

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Fun fact: Scotland is home to the largest dolphins in the world, they can grow to be as long 4M (12FT)! Inverness is located near the North Sea where these clever giants call home, so you can even take a dolphin cruise to search of them. Sadly we didn’t see any this time, but the boat ride was a fun addition to our trip and our tour guide was super informative.

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We stayed at the Westoburne Guest House overlooking the river. It was fantastic and the owners went over an beyond to take care of us. Kirsteen, one of the owners, even packed this prego a bag of her amazing homemade shortbread for the road! It is seriously the best I have ever tasted! We highly recommend the Westbourne, but wherever you stay, include visit the infamous Culloden battlefield and ancient standing stones at Clava Cairns, both of which are points of interest for fans of Outlander books and Starz series, which we are. Funnily enough, visiting these two sites began our spontaneous Outlander tour.

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Even when we visited Beauly Priory we overheard a kilted guide discussing the real dynamics between the MacKenzie and Fraser clans.

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Then on the way from Stirling (a post all it’s own) to Edinburgh, saw signs for Blackness Castle where they filmed the scenes of Ft. William, so we took the chilly detour. However, the highlight to our little tour was visiting the dilapidated Midhope Castle – the fictional home of James Fraser – Lallybroch.

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Needless to say, it was such a fun adventure finding our way into the imaginary world of Outlander and exploring the areas around the River Ness and Highlands. It was especially special to share it all with our laddies. If you plan your trip to Scotland we hope you will not miss out on these beautiful areas.

Cheers,

kdg

 

My Favourite Turkish Restaurant

My husband and I are simply loving our new place and it’s more central location. About a week ago we got a babysitter and went out for dinner to a wonderful little Turkish place that we stumbled upon. Bazaar Gurme – Kuwait.

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I just fell in love with this little restaurant. The design and decor has been so wonderfully thought through and deeply considered. They take attention to detail to a new level, and the best way for me to sum up my experience there would be to say that they absolutely took me into the heart of Turkey, into someone’s house, and their sweet grandmother cooked me an authentic Turkish meal.

They are located in The Arabella Complex just off the Gulf road facing street side. They offer a gorgeous outdoor area as well which we didn’t get to enjoy due to dusty weather, but clearly just as magical as inside.

One stand out feature for me was the roof. It’s not often that people look up and consider the roof of a place, but I did, and so did they. They carefully placed the vents to fit in with the designs as well. Then of course there is the beautiful coloured lanterns that hang proudly. You see, extra attention to details. It is a beautifully put together Turkish experience and I highly recommend it.

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Yes, I’m slightly obsessed with this roof and it’s glorious lanterns.

To anyone living in Kuwait or visiting this Arab country soon, I really hope you get to try out Bazaar Gurme. Seriously though, even their Instagram account is pretty to look at!

Cheers.

la

 

A morning at Egaila Beach

I must have jinxed myself in my New Years resolution post where I set a goal to be super healthy and reduce my medication. I have had a really tough 6 weeks with my health and it overflows into other areas of the life. I’m tired. So very tired.

As I find my way back to good health, I am so thankful for the encouragement of friends. Jillian suggested that we head out to Egaila beach, here in Kuwait, for an early morning photography exploration walkabout and it was just what the doctor ordered.

Here is a little video clip and a few photos of the morning out. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me, and I encourage you to get out and explore your surroundings too. Sometimes all we need to get us up and on our feet again is a little love and encouragement and I hope this post can be that for you.

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Cheers.

la

There’s no place like home

House – ‘a building for human habitation, especially one that consists of a ground floor and one or more upper storeys.’

Home – ‘a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.’

I think as an expat this is something we need to process a little more deeply, especially an expat living in a country where you cannot legally own property. You need to be able to make a house a home yet mentally somehow stay detached as you know it will never be yours. And this adds to the confusion when house hunting in a foreign land.

But house hunting here has been an interesting experience. I have always been taken back by the variety of architectural influences one finds in this travellers region. This makes sense given that most of the country, Kuwaitis included, go on vacation to other countries over the summer months, so naturally they would bring back ideas, shapes, colours, lines, materials, art work, etc from these other countries and incorporate them into their Kuwaiti lives and homes. Just take a look at my photos below and you will see immediately what I mean by this. Now please go easy on my very basic surveillance photography skills! Its not my strength, I was not meant to spy on people and secretly photograph their houses. I was way too shy to get out the car and do these buildings justice and what you get now is my very best ‘drive by shooting’. But it’s simply wonderful to be witness to this amount of diversity. It does make house hunting interesting. My heart looks and longs for lots of natural light, bright open living areas with outdoor space for the kids to run and play. A tough ask in a desert land, but I know it’s out there.

This just adds to our colour world after all!

Cheers,

la

For the Love of Israeli Food

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Last month, while my folks were visiting, we took them to all of our favorite restaurants and introduced them to some fantastic Israeli cuisine. My mom was overwhelmed by the combinations of spices and flavors, so much so, that she was determined we should take an Israeli cooking class. Now I love to eat, but cooking is definitely not my love language, that said any new experience I can photograph is a WIN for me.

One of our lovely Israeli friends, Shani, offered to look into an instructor for us and came up with the best solution ever…her husband, Shai.

Shai is an amazing chef with several years of experience in the restaurant industry, however he had only done cooking classes for his close friends before our group. We were honored that he was willing to plan and execute such an amazing event! For three hours he awed us with his skillZ in the kitchen. Seriously, in three hours he prepared 16 different menu items to serve 8-10 people! Ah-mazing!

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He had purchased all the groceries at his favorite local markets and shops, each item was fresh including fish, beef, lamb, fruit, veggies, and spices. Shai even said he could offer classes at the markets and teach people how to shop the markets, especially for spices.

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Speaking of spices, Shai had prepared a packet describing each spice we would be using. The biggest surprise for me was sumac, this beautiful garnet colored spice can be sprinkled on anything from meat to focaccia bread. Shani told us her boys request it on everything, ha!

We learned a lot about food, Israeli culture, and where they intersect. When we all sat down to eat it was quiet with the exception of the sound of “mmmmms” from around the table. It was truly a perfect and memorable day.

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Of course, the entrepeur in me couldn’t help but suggest Shai do this more often. I know the expat community is literally hungry (pun intended) for great experiences like this. He agreed to think about it, so if you are in the Tel Aviv area and you’d be interested let me know!

L’chaim {cheers in Hebrew},

kdg

Special thanks to Shai for teaching & feeding us, to Shani for setting it up, to Vienna for hosting, and to my clever momma for the fabulous idea!!


PS – Don’t forget to join us for the L O V E Photo Challenge this month!

#IACWLOVE2018 – Shot 4 – Pink or Red….RED, of course!

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11 years in the desert

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It was 11 years ago today that I landed in this desert land. It has been an absolute whirlwind of an experience. It has been the best and the hardest season of my life. I came here at the tender age of 25 years. I left my family, friends and my little dog Gizmo to take on, what I thought at the time to be, a two year adventure in the Middle East. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be sitting here 11 years later writing this post, on a blog that I started with my dear American friend who now lives in Tel Aviv. Wow, what a mouth full. I thought it would be fun to share some of my very first Kuwait memories with you, so here goes:

This was my first apartment –

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I will never forget the day that I came home from Ikea (my first experience with Ikea at that) and I started to build my very basic essential furniture. I was very proudly using my pink screwdriver that I had bought earlier from the local supermarket when I reached a point in assembling my wardrobe where I need to “get a friend to hold one side while you bla bla bla the other”. I remember the sense of helplessness that I felt when I fell to the floor in tears thinking “well, that would be great if only I had one!”

It’s tough adulting I tell you!

Those who know me will also know that I’m a little shy in nature. The fact that I jumped from my comfort zone of home and landed in this strange land to begin with is nothing short of a miraculous leap of Faith. But jump I did. I slowly grew braver and through the advertising agency I was working for at the time and a few good flat mates, I started to make some friends, got out and did things I that would ultimately change the very core of my being. I grew up, FAST!

My first trip out to the quad bikes in the desert –

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During my time here I lost my mom and more recently my grandfather, and I had to shelve my preconceived ideas of what the ‘right’ career path was for me. I got married, and had three very cool little people. And since then I have been able to reinvent myself, reignite my love for art and art history.  I explored my photography interests and became accredited through the NYIP (New York Institute of Photography) in the United States. I’m now also studying Interior Design. I have been Blessed with abundant travel opportunities. When I was working, I got to film TV commercials in Romania, Beirut, Dubai, Barcelona and Kuwait. I got to watch the Grand Prix in Bahrain. I went to Cannes, France for the Cannes Advertising Awards. I went to romantic Paris, and loved travelling the Rome and Florence with my better half.  I got diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (Google it – better yet, don’t Google it. Scary). I went vegan. We had our first family holiday to Portugal, Lisbon and Madeira. I learnt a new Language. I found God.

Top 11 things I have learned in these 11 year. 

1 – Life is short.

2 – If you can’t find the joy in life, BE the joy in life.

3 – Practise tolerance, the world is made up of so many different cultures and beliefs.

4 – If you’re not happy, make a change. If you stay in your unhappiness you will only bring people down with you.

5 – Tell people you love, that you love them. You never know when will be the last time you speak to them.

6 – If you’re toying with the idea of going from 2 kids to 3, go for 3.

7 – The food that you put inside your body REALLY does effect the way you feel.

8 – Listen to your body. It speaks to you.

9 – Love those who are difficult to love, that is when you can really make a difference.

10 – Write letters.

11 – Pray – there will always be an answer. It may not always be the answer you’re looking for, but there will be one nonetheless.

I have no idea where the next 11 years will take me. I may very well still be here and will report back then with another recap.

I have met so many very interesting people here, and from each person I have met, I have taken something, and learned something new about myself in the process. I have also learned to look back at my beloved home country with fresh perspective and new appreciation.

Cheers

la

Note: These photo were taken 11yrs ago on a very basic camera.

Manifesto 13

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Having an art brain child, I always wondered how best to nurture her interest and whether I was enough to guide her and help her grow in this field. I was so happy and relieved when I came across Manifesto 13. This is a beautiful art studio, here in Kuwait, that offers long term courses with in depth hands on tutoring of styles and subjects through fine art. It’s more than just an environment where someone gets to practise their hobby. It’s truly an art education for kids (and adults), a safe place where a self expression and critical thinking coming together.

To hear my 7yr old come home and talk about Piet Modrian with the same level of interest that I had when I was 17, is so exciting. I feel so thankful that I found this school for her.  Each course runs over a few weeks, usually similar in length to a school term, and at the end, we as parents get invited to an art exhibition where we get to ‘oooooo’ and ‘aaaahhh’ over art created by our precious little pumpkins.  And I love it.

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If you too have an art brain child and are within the desert walls of Kuwait, then I highly recommend Manifesto 13.

For more information – Tel: (+965) 226-50335 – Mob: (+965) 656-52524 info@manifesto13.com

Cheers,

la