I spent about a week in Quito, Ecuador in May. It was a work trip, so we only had a little time to explore the city, but I loved what I saw. At an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level, it may be a surprise to some that much of the city is in a valley, nearly surrounded by volcanoes and mountains. The photos below are from my hotel and near my work site.
We had a chance to explore Old Town Quito one night. The beautiful historic center of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with some buildings dating back to the 16th century!
We also had a brief stop at a tourist market. As we left Quito for our next adventure, we got a great overview of the sprawling city.
I had some concerns about finding vegan, gluten-free food I could eat in Ecuador, but I ended up really enjoying most of my food options. Below are photos from my lunches at work, and I also really enjoyed a Korean restaurant near the hotel for dinner one night.
There were also many unique fruits and juices available. Apparently, because of the many microclimates in Ecuador, you can find a huge variety of produce from different locations. We found the tamarillo, or tree tomato, served in different ways in a number of our meals.
To ease us through the doldrums of January, we hosted a Trolls themed party for eight four-year-olds. The highlights of the party were a make-your-own troll hair headband craft, strawberry cupcakes, and dancing to music from the Trolls movie.
For the troll hair headbands, I mostly followed the instructions I found here. I figured it would be more fun – and less work for me – for the kids to make their own headband (with help from a parent) during the party. So I just did a little preparation by cutting lots of strips of the tulle (roughly 5″x22″) in advance. Then I laid out the tulle, headbands, ribbon, and decorations on a table so everyone could make their troll hair headbands whenever they wanted to. Pretty soon there were a lot of Poppy-inspired trolls running around our house, and a few more unique trolls as well!
We also printed out some Trolls coloring sheets to provide another party activity for the kids, and handed out Trolls goody bags as the guests headed home.
We had a tea party for several four-year-olds in early September. This was a really easy, but fun, party to host.
We served two kinds of (caffeine-free) tea, sparkling pink lemonade, grapes, and lemon cupcakes with vanilla frosting, sprinkles, and maraschino cherries on top. The kids enjoyed their late-morning snack time on the deck, which was also a practical location in the likely event of spilled tea or lemonade. After they were done with the tea and snacks, the kids blew bubbles and played in the yard.
Here’s a brief summary of the Halloween party we had last year, for a crowd of mostly three-year-olds (with a few older and younger siblings joining as well). We had a number of activities for the kids set up around the house:
- drawing and Halloween stickers
- silly monster craft (see below)
- stick the nose on the monster game (see below)
- spider web game
- monster bowling
And for fun, yet relatively healthy, party snacks we had:
- pumpkin mini muffins
- orange and black fruit (cantaloupe and blackberries)
- cheese slices cut into pumpkin and ghost shapes (see below)
- apple cider
This easy and delicious apple pie was adapted from this recipe.
I made my life easier by using a store-bought gluten-free crust. While pre-heating the oven to 350°F, I mixed up the filling (ingredients listed below) and spread it around the pie crust. Then I mixed up the crumble topping (ingredients listed below) and sprinkled it over the filling. I baked the pie until the crust and crumble began to brown and the apples were tender (about an hour).
- 4 cups apple, sliced thin (I used a mixture of Granny Smith and Gala apples)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose gluten-free flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon Earth Balance
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 8 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Yogurt bark is a light, refreshing, and potentially healthy treat (depending on your toppings). I found this idea here, and there are so many ways you can tweak this simple idea for your mood or occasion.
I started with some plain soy yogurt, mixed in agave nectar to taste, and then spread the yogurt on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Then I topped the yogurt with sliced strawberries, blueberries, and mini chocolate chips, and put the baking sheet in the freezer. After a few hours, the yogurt bark was frozen and ready to be eaten.
The frozen soy yogurt is pretty hard, so you’ll need to allow it to thaw for a few minutes before trying to cut pieces for serving.
This lemon ice cream was so easy to make and delicious!
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 frozen banana
- 3 tablespoons agave
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- pinch of salt
- lemon oil to taste
Blenderize the above ingredients, transfer the mixture to your ice cream maker, and serve with sprinkles if you’re feeling fancy!
A chocolate peanut butter smoothie is one of those things that is so delicious, but so hard to look appetizing in a photo.
I had gum graft surgery in November, so for two weeks I was on a mushy-food-only diet while my mouth healed. This smoothie was great for liquid nutrition for those two weeks, but I like it so much that I still have it for breakfast a few times a week. It’s super simple: a banana broken into a few pieces, enough nut milk to cover the banana in the blender, a big glob of peanut butter, and a spoonful of cacao powder. Bonus: if you use a frozen banana, this smoothie tastes like a chocolate peanut butter milkshake!
The internet seems to be full of people hosting over-the-top Pinterest-perfect Halloween parties for their kiddos. I just don’t have that kind of time or motivation, but we hosted a lovely little party for a bunch of two-year-olds just the same. Here’s how it went down.
We scheduled the party for mid-morning since toddlers are generally least prone to melt-downs at that time of day. We also roll with a pretty healthy-eating group of families (and I didn’t want a house full of sugared up toddlers), so we kept the party food Halloween-appropriate yet simple and healthyish. I made pumpkin mini muffins, orange and black fruit (cantaloupe chunks and blackberries), and ghost toast!
The ghost toast was just bread cut into ghost shapes with my trusty ghost-shaped cookie cutter, topped with cream cheese and flax seeds for the eyes and mouths.
For drinks we had apple cider and water.
The kids weren’t old enough for complicated games and activities, so we spread out paper, Halloween stickers, crayons, and some Halloween pictures to color on a coffee table. At another table we set up a foam pumpkin decorating area.
And perhaps the most fun activity was provided by Mother Nature – a sunny day and leaf piles to play in!
I made a batch of delicious and beautifully purple grape ice cream one summer weekend. The only ingredients were a can of coconut milk and a can of frozen grape juice concentrate (and a pinch of salt), so this ice cream was incredibly easy and inexpensive to make!
After eating our yummy ice cream dessert, we had enough ice cream leftover to make popsicles from the batch as well!
You can find the recipe here.