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.

Nomadic Friends

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In a way I was born to be a nomad. I’m a second generation military brat and we moved every two to three years. Like other military brats, I never knew how to answer the question, “where are you from?” That is until about 5 few years ago when I moved from Virginia to Kuwait.

After a stint of almost 8 years in Virginia, (literally the longest I have ever lived in one place), where I graduated from college, met my husband, and had my babies; our little family of four left home and moved to Kuwait. I was confident that we would love this adventurous life and that raising citizens of the world would be amazing, but I had forgotten one lesson I had been taught all those years as a military brat: how to “bloom where I was planted.” I convinced myself that it was about this family I was building and that I didn’t need any new friends. I had “my people” back home. I could make it on my own until our next trip home.

Who was I kidding? I’m an extrovert! Within a week of settling in I dropped my proverbial basket and had a complete meltdown about how lonely I was. Life in a foreign country is hard enough. You need people who understand  just how foreign and often times frustrating a place/people can be, to support you and help you laugh your way through it.

A few weeks later, at pickup from Montessori school, I saw this mom and thought, “I’m going to be her friend.” It took a few more chit chats at pickup to find my way in, and I pretty much forced a coffee/play date on her. Love you Liz!

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Although she was my first real friend in Kuwait, she was just the beginning of our crew that we now call the ABCDGs. Five families (including Lindy-Ann’s) that became each other’s village. Our kids grew up together for a time, our husbands teased each other endlessly (still do), and we kept each other sane living the desert life. Even though a couple of us have moved away, we’re still connected and share our lives with each other thanks to technology. However, the best thing is when we get the chance to travel together or to visit each other. It’s in those times that we continue making memories, laughing, and bonding.

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Over this past spring break, the ABCDGs ladies met up in London, prompting my family’s latest adventure to the UK. Sadly, Lindy-Ann couldn’t join us, but she was definitely there in spirit! It was such a fab time to be with 3 of my 4 buddies and I will cherish those moments until we are together again!

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No matter where you are in your journey, whether an expat or in the same town for decades, don’t close your heart to new people. You never know how they may change you forever. Thank you, Kate, Lindy-Ann, Liz, and Michelle for being a part of my life – you and your families mean so much to us! Until the next ABCDG adventure…

With Love,

kdg

Advent-ures in 2017

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When I was reflecting on what to write about this last Tuesday of 2017, I could hardly believe the year has flown by so fast! My dad used to tell me that time would fly as we got older and I never believed him. But I definitely do now.

This past year I focused on being more joy-filled and joyful {#morejoy}, as well as being intentional with “all the things.” It was a growing experience for sure, as I pushed myself to focus on the little things that bring joy, surrounded myself with positivity, and tried to find balance in my planner. Time management is still a struggle for me. However, most of the time I made it through the crushing deadlines and early morning design sessions, in the midst of and in-between parenting and adulting, with a joyful heart and a cup of coffee. Let’s just say being intentional will still be a goal in 2018.

Although I may not have mastered time management this year, I have been intentional in other areas, especially in my faith walk. I host a weekly Bible study and, together with some amazing women, we dove deep and really basked in the richness of living in the Holy Land. My co-leaders and I knew we wanted to help our ladies establish their hearts during the Christmas season with an Advent study, but we couldn’t find one that fit our needs as a group. I did, however, find one for my family. Two things resulted from our collective searching. First, I committed my family to doing the She/He/Kid Reads Truth 2017 Advent study. Second, we co-leaders decided to create our own tailored Advent study.

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If you are not familiar with the She Reads Truth community, you should definitely check them out! Their goal is to simply bring people to the Bible daily and everything they do is designed intentionally and beautifully. I highly recommend their Open Your Bible study and the SRT Bible, both have encouraged and taught me so much about the Bible and how to read it.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled to see their Advent Study on Instagram and to find that they had something for the whole family! The materials truly helped us to focus and find peace at a time that has been especially busy and chaotic for us. I just love that our mealtimes were filled with discussions about the true reason for the season!

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A true Advent-ture 

Back to our group Advent conundrum:  In all honesty, the advent-ure of creating a study was an amazing experience! We specifically needed a study that would connect the overall narrative of the Bible from Eden to the manager in a concise, but meaningful, 3 weeks. At some point in 2018 I will share more about my mentor and co-leader, Anita, but for now I will tell you that the Lord has called her to write – and write she did for us. She compiled the text, scriptures, and questions while I designed the first draft layout of the book and the accompanying Advent ornaments. It was a true labor of love for us and we were blessed by the response we received from our group.

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Needless to say, it has been a busy, but abundantly blessed season of anticipation for sure! I hope as you are coming down from the highs of Christmas and preparing for 2018 that you may find moments of peace and reflection.

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Join us again in 2018 for more tutorials, inspiration, adventures, and travel.  We invite you to let us know how we can encourage you and walk through this colourful world with you!

Cheers,

kdg

 

Fall in Israel – Rosh Hashanah

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The weather, the holidays, and the spirit of Fall in Israel are all definitely different from our beloved Virginia, but we are enjoying the adventure. This was a big weekend for us and the country as we celebrated the New Year, also known as Rosh Hashanah. Until last year, I used to be unfamiliar with the Jewish/Israeli holidays, aside from their dates pre-labeled in my calendar over the years. For all of you like me, living in Israel means three days off of school, celebrations and toasts, religious observances, lots of new traditions, and it is a great time to travel or explore for us non-observant expats.

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Since we have missed our Fall traditions from back home, we took the long week and went camping at Horshat Tal in the Golan Heights with a few of our favorite outdoorsy friends.  We also toasted the new year at our favorite Israeli winery, Pelter Winery and one of our favorite Israeli craft breweries, Galil Brewery (they have pumpkin ale!). It was a wonderful time to be removed from the pressures of school and work and just be together and laugh a lot. Plus, I checked a few things off our Fall bucket list!

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I know I say it all the time, but experiencing the cultures of the country we live in (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and those of the people we befriend is truly one of my favorite things about living abroad. It makes me so happy to listen to the boys sing holiday songs, share the salutations in the language, and try traditional eats and treats. Their favorite Rosh Hashanah treat is apples dipped in honey, eaten to symbolize a sweet new year.

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It is especially fun to experience each of the holidays through our youngest at a local Hebrew gan (pre-school). On the Friday before the holiday the parents were invited to join a toast to the new year. The littles all wore white, the traditional color worn on Shabbat (the Sabbath) and for holy days. There was a rabbi who talked (in Hebrew of course) about the holiday and blew the shofar for us. We sat and watched the children sing and clap to songs they had clearly been learning leading up to it. I couldn’t help but smile at the tiny hands holding up glasses of tirosh (children’s wine) toasting and shouting “Shana Tova”!

Our big kid had his own Rosh Hashanah celebration at the international school and learned about the holiday in Israeli Culture class, which is one of his favorite classes. He just loves the teacher too! She has them singing fun songs, speaking in Hebrew, and excited to share it all at home with us. Let me tell you, we have learned a lot because of it! Fun fact, similar to our beloved Greeks, the Israelis see the pomegranate as a symbol of prosperity, health, fertility and happiness and they are particularly important and given as gifts at Rosh Hashanah.

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To learn more about the holiday check out this fun video. I can really get behind the heart of starting fresh and walking into the new year on a sweet note!

Here’s to a sweet (and intentional) new year!

Shana Tova!

kdg

Origami birds courtesy of fellow gan mom, Noa, check out her blog post: I’m on Leave

Travel: Petra, Jordan

“As much as we like to think we can go it alone, we need friends.” – Emily Ley

When I arrived at our first posting abroad in Kuwait I was convinced I didn’t need to make any friends, I had people back home that cared about me and that was a enough. Wrong. So very wrong. When I opened myself up to the beautiful women around me, they changed my life. Although it is bittersweet to be a nomad and meet amazing people and then have to say goodbye to them, you end up making friends you just know you will see again.

This weekend after a year and a half of planning and strategizing, we met one of those cherished families from Kuwait for an adventure in Petra, Jordan. It has been amazing, if not surreal at times. We have literally picked up where we left off, especially two older children. The memories we are making now will be perfect for those bitter days when we are missing them again.

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Here is a little recap of our adventure and some thoughts to help you, if ever get the opportunity to take the trip.

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Named one of the new 7 wonders of the world a decade ago and an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Petra is an awe-inspiring place to explore, and photograph. It is commonly remembered from the scenes in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (definitely a classic), but to see it close up is just incredible. (wikipedia)

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The main entrance to Petra, where you can buy your entry tickets, souvenirs, water bottles and use the bathroom; was packed. My suggestion here is to pre-order your tickets, bypass all of the chaos and head straight to the ticketed entry gate. Once through the gate we still had a bit of a walk before the actual entrance to the Siq. The Siq “the shaft” is a 1.2 kilometers (0.75 mi) long gorge that winds it way to the famous Treasury carved into the sandstone. (wikipedia) It is simply unbelievable to think that someone climbed to those heights to carve such perfectly symmetrical and intricate lentils, columns, and sculptures. You can still make out what looks like carved ladders of foot and hand-holds on either side of the Treasury facade.

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Along the way be prepared to be bombarded by bedouin children selling postcards, jewelry, and the rides on horses, donkeys, and camels. I recommend you decide in advance whether or not you want to ride the animals, prep your kids for that decision, and have cash ready, we paid 5JD per donkey and horse one way each, plus tip. We did decide that the kids would walk to the end of the city, just before the hike up to the Monastery, and ride a donkey back, but that did not stop the begging or complaining, ha! The older ones did great walking for the most part, but my little guy rode on daddy’s shoulders for the majority of the trek. Another note for those with little ones: the Siq narrows down to 3 meters (9 feet) at times and, with the crowds of tour groups and horse drawn carts, keep them close so you can grab them if necessary.

At the end of the city we split up and the dads went on to hike to the Monastery and the moms returned with our little adventurers to the hotel for a relaxing late lunch. Friends that had gone before us had shared that the steep incline was a little scary with kids on donkeys and that there were no railings or guards at the top, so we were not going risk it. The dads returned sweaty, but happy, about two hours later with some fantastic photos of the incredible views from the top. Check out their awesome shots!

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Overall, I think we all appreciated the wonder of Petra and the fun excursion. Experiencing it with our long-distance friends made it all the more special. I even overheard the older ones telling each other that it was “the best day ever” and the other said it was “one of the best days of my life.” See we all need friends, if nothing else but to share our lives with them. {We love you, Drennans!}

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Wishing you a wonder-filled day!

kdg

PS – What a happy coincidence that the hues of Petra continued month’s study of the color orange! #itsanorangeworld