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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Driving in Ireland

Sometimes the road less traveled by really does make all the difference. Driving around Ireland had its shares of challenges, but it made up for it with its charm, stirring beauty and rugged wildness. 

xx take risks

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Galway Girl

Galway, we only had you for one night, but the memory of you lingers still.  We began our recent jaunt in Ireland with landing in Dublin, and then driving 2.5 hours, on the opposite side of the road, on the opposite side of the car, to Galway. It was most certainly worth it.

We stayed at the  Park House Hotel right kind of in the middle of everything in Galway city. The hotel was great, the staff was nice and the rooms were HUGE by European standards. Which wasn't a big deal to the Nolandians, because we like being sandwiched together, but it was a nice surprise nonetheless.

We quickly rinsed off in the shower to get off that travel yuck, and then changed our clothes and headed out. We knew we had super limited time, so we were on a mission.

I think we did well. We started out at McDonagh's for fish and chips, and were not disappointed. We strut on over to Naughton's which is praised again and again all over the internet for being one of the finest pubs in Ireland. Not very touristy at all, a fair price for a pint and great music to boot.

After that, honestly, things get fuzzy. We bought claddagh rings, since Claddagh is not a place anymore, and Galway claims to have been the first to make them anyway. We had...more pints? Maybe? Then we had smoked salmon? A lot of delirious laughter? I'm not sure. But, we did wander around the streets, my favorite exploradora pastime, and got a feel for the Spanish arches and the Latin Quarter and the fishing past of this delightful little place.

We awoke the next morning with only time to grab a bite of breakfast before we started our drive down the wild coast of Ireland, but we were sad to go.
And, we can't wait to come back.

xx See you back for our drive down the coast, and our life-altering experience at the Cliffs of Moher.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Strawberries and Cream Kickstarter

Hello darlings! My lovely friend Madeline at Popbasic (remember when I raved about the company?)
is launching a kickstarter to fund the creation of these beautiful print and plain blouses. High quality basics like these are wardrobe essentials, and in order to get the shirts just right and up to the exacting standards of Popbasic, they decided to go the Kickstarter route so they wouldn't have to cut corners or compromise on quality. 

Take a peek at the gorgeous designs and support in any way you can. (I mean, support enough and you GET ONE) So, win-win, right?

Have a sweet, fancy, lovely, relaxing weekend and we will see you back on the blog next week for some more awe-inspiring images of Ireland, and my tips for your trip there. 
xx lovies. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cliffs of Moher

If ever there was a place that was magic, it is here. If ever there was a place that made you believe in fairytale creatures, and rainbows that end in treasure and color so brilliant it is almost is truly in this beautiful place. 

The staggering wind, the brutality of the hewn rock, and the crashing of the sea combined with the rainbows rising from the water much light and darkness in one. 

To see my account of our time at the Cliffs of Moher, click the link to read on at Coast to Coast Central:The Cliffs of Moher

Stay wild, keep exploring and as ever,

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Treasure Hunting

A few weekends ago, on a sunny Sunday morning, Terrence and I were sipping coffee on the couch and glancing through travel websites. We are constantly planning our next adventures and trying to find that next "gotta go" kind of place.

This time, we found it a little closer to home than we expected.

After searching through an article entitled, Best Oyster Bars in America from Travel + Leisure, our jaws opened to find San Leon, Texas within said list. We were even more surprised to find that it was only about a 50 minute drive down toward Galveston. 

One of the things that initially made me fall for Terrence was his impulsiveness. I mean, we said "I love you" the day we met. Seconds after laying eyes on each other, he pulled me into a kiss. We moved in together a week later. I mean, this guy was impulsive, right? Wrong. It seems the only thing Mr. Nolandia has ever been impulsive about is me, and everything else is a planned out, choreographed exercise. 

With that in mind, when I suggested that we shower that minute and get on the road to San Leon, the hesitation on his face was immediate, but I was happy to see it easily slip away. We were off within 45 minutes and on our way to oyster heaven. 

We normally don't eat very much seafood. Only once or twice a month, as we are pretty strict about our vegetarian/vegan diet. But, this was oysters...and they are my favorite. Like tasting the ocean and I wasn't going to miss out on that. 
We drove through... well, basically the boondocks. Cows, horses, fields, old gas stations and arrived at the cash only Gilhooly's Raw Bar. We sat at the old wooden tables, paint peeling and half-working colored light above our heads under the trees. The game was on at the outdoor bar, and locals were sipping Coronas while slurping oysters from their shells. We ordered Oysters Gilhooly: grilled oysters with garlic butter and parmesan, and Oysters Picante: grilled oysters with salsa and cheddar. We also threw in some jalapeño hushpuppies and seafood cakes for good measure, along with dos Dos Equis. Because we don't always eat fried food, but when we do, we eat enough to make us vomit. 

Anyway, we were in heaven. Already planning the next times we'd come out here, and who we'd bring. Probably sticking out like a sore thumb out there where life is slower and because we were the only people in the parking lot with a Volkswagen instead of a chevy truck. 

It was fun. It was spontaneous and exciting and new. And the best part? The brightest and biggest pearl we found? It was from Terrence, turning to me when we were driving back to the city and saying, "Thank you for today. You make everything more fun."

Go on adventures! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lunching + Lounging and Getting Around Abroad

Psssst! Want the secret? The code? The inside information? Do you want to be 'in the know' for all the travel tips + tricks that frequent adventurers to Europe might have? 

If you are looking for this treasure, the insider’s trick of finding the local hang-outs, the most authentic restaurants and easiest way of getting around, I’ve gotta tell you… there isn’t one. 

There isn’t one website, or a code word or a handshake. Sorry. 

 Fortunately, I do have some sound advice, gathered from time exploring and some incredible experiences. And while there is no one way to have a culturally hip + authentic time, there is one word that can help. That word? Talk. 

Yes, speak up. Chat up your waiter at the restaurant, gab with the bartender, lean in and babble with the people at the next table at the café. If there is one thing more than any other that can make a trip, it’s meeting other tourists, or better yet, locals, that will give you advice on where to go + what to do.

Case in point, an exhausted dinner of fish and chips in Amsterdam became a raucous night of drinks and music with a group of locals after I asked our waiter if he would be our friend. Gossiping with the front desk girl at a hotel in Italy led us to some unbelievable private beach clubs, a tour of a villa and free lunch at the most amazing Italian restaurant (in the world, IMO). Not to mention the stray comment to a group of Italian businessmen that led to dinner at the top of the Atomium in Brussels and an underground music club in Antwerp. 

So the key to the best restaurants? Asking a local. The best bars? Ask a local. How to navigate the metros and trams with ease? Ask a local. Don’t be a tourist, don’t just act…interact! So often we spend time trying to follow a pre-set regimen of things to do + places to see, and somehow we deaden the experience. I mean, going out for authentic food is fun, but going out with locals who tell you what to order, and who know the waitstaff? Even better. Grabbing a drink at a swanky bar makes you feel fancy, but getting a hug from the bartender and drink recommendations? Now that’s VIP. 

All this to say, don’t have a rigid plan. Don’t have an inflexible list of must-sees. Make room for adventure. Make yourself available for spontaneity and most of the time you will find that the people you meet make better plans for you than you even could have imagined. The best experiences we’ve ever had on adventures, whether it be lunch, dinner, drinks, excursions…they have all been suggestions from the friends we have met on the trip. A day that we might have planned to see a museum becomes a day picnicking in the park with people we met the night before. A night where we would have gone to sleep early, becomes a night where we talk until dawn about our dreams for the future with the couple who happened to be sitting next to us at the café.  

The secret is out. Be yourself. Be interesting, be someone other people all over the world would want to know and call friend. Be bold, ask for friendship when you need it, and be up for an adventure when it presents itself. You never know when one is coming, or what friend yet-to-be-made is going to show it to you. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Eeeek! The New Novel is HERE!

Starlight Symphonies of Oak and Glass is OUT! Today, snag it on Kindle AND  in paperback from Amazon.

A little something for all your tastes. Adventure. Action. Murder. Betrayal. Secrets. History. Love. Friendship. Redemption. Each character takes turns telling the story, sharing their deepest doubts and fondest hopes. All the while, wondering if the ship they are sailing on can possibly make it back to harbor safely. 

Thank you for your love + support + reading my books!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cauliflower Hot Wings

The question we get asked most about our diet is, "Don't you miss eating meat?"

The answer is a resounding, NO.
Not only because it's difficult for us not think of it now as a rotting animal corpse decomposing in our stomach, but also because of the many moral + health + ecological problems associated with ingesting meat. 

All of that aside though, one of the perks of our diet is the creativity one can find when meat is no longer the center of attention in the meal. 
For Terrence, this has been an interesting and tasty adjustment.
 For myself, it really hasn't been that big of a deal. My family has always indulged in vegetables, always filling plates with salads and baked sweet potatoes, seasoned fresh tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms. So, for me, it's just permission to eat my favorite things en masse. 

Recently, we got the idea to toss our roasted cauliflower with hot wing sauce, and we both agreed that the result was way better than the original. No bones to pick, no messy fingers from trying to get the minuscule amounts of meat off the bone. Instead, more flavor, more vitamins and minerals, AND...we get to eat like two cauliflower heads with no worry about calories. Winner, winner, hot-wing dinner. 

2 heads of washed cauliflower, torn into little drummette size pieces. (Little white trees)
1 or 2 tbsps of olive oil (optional)
salt + pepper to season
hot wing sauce of choice. We like Wing Time Sauce in Medium

-Pre-heat oven to 375F
-Spread cauliflower pieces on a foil lined baking sheet. Dust with salt and pepper and mix olive oil. The olive oil is entirely optional. We often roast veggies without it. 
-When the cauliflower has just begun to get little blackened pieces on the ends, and can be stabbed through with a fork, it's done. It should should be soft, but still firm. If that makes any sense. 
-Pour cauliflower into a mixing bowl with wing sauce and toss until coated. The amount of wing sauce will depend on preference. I like it to be evenly coated, but still recognizable as cauliflower and not just hot wing spoons. 

Enjoy served with green beans, roasted potatoes or sweet potato fries. 


Monday, October 27, 2014

Dublin Night Out

Dublin Night Out

Ever since I purchased this amazing dress from Dorothy Perkins, I have been itching to wear it. Along with my Alice Collection from Popbasic, I thought it would be perfect for some fancy nights out in Galway and Dublin. Especially after mucking about in our wellies and cable knit sweaters all day and being rained on.

As much as I like adventure, I'm not the most daring of fashion wearers. ( I abhor the word fashionista. YUCK) So, as you can probably tell, I prefer to stick with classics and neutrals and let a well-fitting piece do the talking. Anyway, as you are reading these words I bet  I'll be wearing a variation of this on the streets of Dublin, and probably spilling a pint all over it. 


Dublin Night Out by alexnolandia featuring an elbow length sleeve dress

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pumpkin Oatmeal

It's October, so I'm into the whole Autumn thing right now along with everyone else. Couples Costume? Check. Cinnamon flavored everything? Check. Crockpot Chili? Check.

New unnecessary Pumpkin recipe? Double check. 

I found this recipe for Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal online, and after reading "Add ingredients, combine, and turn on slow cooker." I was like, "I can do that!" The recipe is really delicious (after you add honey and a smidgen of butter or coconut oil) it has fiber from the oats and pumpkin, and I added quinoa and chia seeds, so my version is a million jillion times better than the one I found.

Here in Houston, it still doesn't feel like fall, and that's a major bummer. I need 65 degree days like a bum needs a bologna sandwich, and Texas just isn't cutting it. Which is why this pumpkin porridge, eaten inside my over-airconditioned apartment is a gift from the heavens.

Plus, Mr. Nolandia and I have gotta start eating our porridge...we're leaving for Ireland in just a few days! 

Anyway, here's in the ingredients, and a link to the recipe:

  1. 1 cup steel cut oats
  2. 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  3. 3 cups water
  4. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  5. 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  6. 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ground
  7. 1 tsp stevia (to taste), optional
  8. 1 pinch salt
  10.  I added:
  11. 1/4 cup chia seeds
  12. 1/3 cup quinoa
  13. 1 more cup of water ( and a little extra oats...I wanted to ref. and eat the next day too.)
Head on over to the Peanut Butter and Peppers Blog for the recipe and enjoy! 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From the Inside, Looking Out

I live in one of the largest cities in America. A hub of energy, finance, sales and new restaurants and shops. 

And yet, I yearn for another place. 

Don't get me wrong, Houston has its charms. Lots of vegetarian restaurants, infused drinks, swanky wine bars. Good art museums, art fairs and farmer's markets. But, to me, it feels like it is missing a soul. Or, maybe I'm just not tapped into it. 

In either case, when I'm trapped here too long, my heart starts to beat a little harder. There's a painful, trapped feeling that starts to swell in my chest. I bring up our photos of Amsterdam, Antwerp, Paris, Amalfi, Naples, Barcelona...all of our trips. All of the discoveries and stomachaches and squabbles and too many glasses of wine nights that we had. And I wonder why we even came back?

Which leads me right back into gratitude. For now, this city and our jobs here are what enable us to travel how we do. We have health, we have healthy fruits and vegetables to eat, we have a safe place to live, and we have each other and our memories of all of the adventures we've had. 

And there's so many more to come. (Ireland tomorrow! And Don't FORGET Starlight Symphonies of Oak and Glass the new book, is out in paperback and kindle on October 31st! Pre-Order on Kindle today for $2.99)

It's corny and sappy and overused, but that doesn't make gratitude unimportant. Thank your lucky stars for what you have, do it often...and soon, what you have will be enough. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Surprise in the Mail

Raise your hand if you like mail. 
Me too. I love getting mail, even crap mail like bed, bath and beyond coupons. Can you imagine my excitement when my box full o' goodies arrived one Thursday afternoon a few weeks ago? Ecstatic. I was peeling apart the tape on the elevator, stupid smile on my face.

I had just received my first PopBasic box.

The concept of the company is really compelling. As a traveler and basic clothing aficionado, I was immediately hooked. Every month or thereabouts, they release a new clothing collection. There's always two to three items, and always under $100. It could be a shawl cardigan and a striped tee with a statement necklace, or a basic tee with a scarf and a leather clutch. 

The purpose is to build your wardrobe with high quality basics that can be mixed and matched and styled. For me, this was a great way to marry clothes with accessories for upcoming trips. 

When I opened the box, I found a knee-grazing slinky black dress, a gold bangle, and a golden key necklace. Along with the main goods, there was also a bright red lipstick and a purple/mauvey chubby eye pencil. Cloud 9 people. I'm a always a sucker for a black dress. 

They ship worldwide for free, and the micro-collections are well curated and high quality. The only drawback? I did say, micro-collection. Meaning that the clothes and accessories are such a good price because they are bought in bulk (I assume) one time, and when they're out, they're out. So, you'd need to sign up to figure out when the next drop is, in order not to miss it. (And I will fight you to the death for a small or xs!)

So, cool company, clothes get the nod for travel basics, and if you'd like to squeal like a newborn piglet when you get your box in the mail, check the following link. If you sign up, you get $15 to spend. You're welcome. 

xx and see you back here Tuesday!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Packing for Europe

Need a perfect packing list for Europe? You're in luck because I've got my favorite tips + tricks for packing the perfect bag on Coast to Coast Central. 

So read on, take note, and start've got places to go!