Ljubljana Dragon

Ljubljana is the cutest European city that you’ve never heard of (and cannot pronounce). Situated right in the middle of Slovenia, Ljubljana (which is pronounced lyoo-BLYAH-nah) means love in Slovenian, and there is a lot to love about this city. Beautiful colorful buildings on either side of a winding river crossed by unique bridges, winding cobblestone streets, and an ice cream stand every few feet make this a place no one could resist. Plus it is small enough that it can easily be covered in a few days, making it a perfect weekend trip.

TRAVEL

Although we usually favor traveling by train, we decided to drive to Ljubljana since none of the trains are very direct. It is an easy and absolutely beautiful 4 hour drive from Vienna. We even took a quick stop at Lake Bled on the way home, and we will definitely be planning a trip there during the summer months!

EAT

Gostilna Na Gradu  |  Time your visit to Ljubljana castle so that you are there during lunch time, and sit down at this great little restaurant right in the courtyard of the castle to try some classic Slovenian dishes prepared with the finest organic and locally grown ingredients. If it is warm, sit outside to soak in the grandeur of the castle and enjoy some great people watching.

Špajza  |  Featured in the book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, this restaurant is a very popular spot, and reservations are a must. The lobby of the restaurant is filled with unique vintage finds, and the food is delicious.

Julija  |  As you are walking through Old Town, there is no shortage of cute little cafes and restaurants. Luckily, my good friend recommended Julija, known for Italian/Slovenian food, and it has become our favorite place in Ljubljana. There is no kid’s menu, but our server gave us a bunch of ideas for meals that the chef could make for our kids, such as roasted chicken with potatoes, pasta or sandwiches. The fact that they are willing to specially make something to ensure the kids are happy wins all kinds of points in my book.

SLEEP

Hotel Cubo  |  A hip, modern little boutique hotel just on the edge of old town, with a great breakfast and a free mini bar! The rooms are beautifully decorated, clean and modern, and we even had an amazing view of the castle from our window. We have stayed in a few other places in Ljubljana, and were really disappointed because they just cannot compare with Hotel Cubo.

Hostel Celica  |  If you are a little more adventurous or are planning on spending a lot of time at Metelkova Mesto, this prior jail turned hostel would be awesome. Each cell has been completely renovated by local artists to be a comfortable and completely unique room.

SEE & DO

Metelkova Mesto  |  Located at the site of the former Yogoslav military barracks, this is now a collection of buildings that house live music venues, art galleries, bars, artists studios and offices for various cultural organizations. Things don’t really get going here until after 11pm, so needless to say we visited during the “off hours” in the morning. This is definitely a site to see!

Ljubljana Castle  |  Up on a wooded hill above Old Town lies Ljubljana Castle, which dates back to the 1500’s (although this location has been occupied since at least 1200BC). Over the last 500 years, this castle has served as both a royal residence and a prison and barracks, and is now a cultural center. The tower offers and impressive 360° view of Ljubljana and the surrounding countryside.

The Ljubljanica River & Bridges  |  The Ljubljanica River winds right through the middle of Old Town, and is a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists alike. Crossing the river are various bridges, including Cobbler’s Bridge, the Triple Bridge, the Butcher’s Bridge (or Lover’s Bridge) where countless couples have placed padlocks, and Dragon Bridge, with 4 large and 16 small statues of dragons, the symbol of Ljubljana. All along the river are cafes, restaurants, ice cream stands, shops and bars, giving you ample opportunity to enjoy the river and all its beauty. You could easily spend an afternoon just hanging out by the river.

SHOP

Smile Concept Store  |  If you are looking for unique little gifts, this is the place to go. It is colorful and happy and really lives up to it’s name, as it makes you smile just being in there. I could have spent at least an hour just looking at everything.

Gud Shop  |  A mix of Scandinavian and Slovenian designers are featured in this beautifully curated shop, and many of the items are handmade. I can never walk out the door empty handed.

Piranske Soline  |  My absolute favorite shop! Half of the store is dedicated to edible products, and the other to body products, all made from salt produced in the salt pans just south of Piran, Slovenia.
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Now that you have the basics of making baby food purées down, it is time to get creative! Start combining different tastes. Add herbs and spices. Look for combinations that sound tasty to you, and chances are, your baby will feel the same. Here are some ideas to get you started with some of our favorite fruits.

Feeding Baby Apples - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

APPLES

  • apples with cinnamon
  • apples with butternut squash & sage
  • apples with prunes, oats & cinnamon
  • apples with blueberries & vanilla
  • apples with spinach, broccoli & peas
  • apples with raspberries & vanilla

Feeding Baby Bananas - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

BANANAS

  • bananas with peaches & mango
  • bananas with papaya
  • bananas with coconut milk & chia seeds
  • bananas with avocado
  • bananas with cantaloupe and strawberries
  • bananas with nectarines & blueberries

Feeding Baby Berries - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

BERRIES

  • raspberries with peaches
  • raspberries with bananas & oats
  • raspberries with pears & yogurt
  • blueberries with carrots
  • blueberries with bananas
  • blueberries with pears & beets
  • blueberries with spinach & apricots

Feeding Baby Peaches, Plums, Nectarines, Pluots, Apricots, Cherries - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

STONE FRUIT (peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, pluots, cherries)

  • peaches with nectarines
  • peaches with pears
  • peaches with quinoa & basil
  • peaches with mango
  • plums with pluots & cardamom
  • plums with apples & cinnamon
  • apricots with yogurt
  • apricots with coconut milk & rice
  • cherries with blueberries
  • cherries with ricotta cheese & vanilla

Feeding Baby Pears - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

PEARS

  • asian pears with vanilla
  • asian pears with kale
  • pears with apricots
  • pears with prunes & oats
  • pears with blueberries & beets
  • pears with papaya & mango
  • pears with plums, cinnamon & vanilla
  • pears with parsnips

MELON (not pictured, but still one of our favorites!)

  • cantaloupe with cucumber
  • honeydew melon with peaches
  • watermelon with mint & feta
  • cantaloupe with mango

*There are tons of fruits that I didn’t feature here. This is just what I came home with from a farmer’s market run, and these are some of the most common fruits in our house.

*There are no exact amounts listed, because everything is to taste. Yes, you should actually be tasting your baby’s food.

* Mix & Match! These are just ideas to get you started, but the fun is finding combinations that you and your baby enjoy.

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Now that you have the basics of making baby food purées down, it is time to get creative! Start combining different tastes. Add herbs and spices. Look for combinations that sound tasty to you, and chances are, your baby will feel the same. Here are some ideas to get you started with some of our favorite vegetables.

Feeding Baby Kale - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

KALE

  • kale with peaches & yogurt
  • kale with asian pears
  • kale with japanese sweet potatoes & thyme

Sweet Potato Baby Food

SWEET POTATO

  • japanese sweet potato with baby bok choy & thyme
  • japanese sweet potato with kohlrabi and chinese 5 spice
  • sweet potato with carrots, parsnips & rosemary
  • sweet potato with rosemary
  • sweet potato with apples & blueberries
  • sweet potato with red peppers & lentils

Feeding Baby Spinach - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

SPINACH

  • spinach with mango
  • spinach with cauliflower & nutmeg
  • spinach with broccoli, apples & peas
  • spinach with blueberries & apricots

Feeding Baby Peas - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

SWEET PEAS

  • sweet peas with cauliflower & mint
  • sweet peas with zucchini
  • sweet peas with spinach & pears
  • sweet peas with pumpkin & leeks

Feeding Baby Carrots - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

CARROTS

  • carrots with blueberries & ginger
  • carrots with potato & corn
  • carrots with onion and farro
  • carrots with turnips & rosemary
  • carrots with apples & parsnips
  • carrots with apricots, lentils & cumin

Feeding Baby Broccoli & Cauliflower - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

BROCCOLI & CAULIFLOWER

  • broccoli with cauliflower & cheddar cheese
  • broccoli with pears and sweet peas
  • broccoli with apples
  • cauliflower with sweet peas & mint
  • cauliflower with apples
  • cauliflower with sweet potato & leeks
  • cauliflower with brown rice, nutmeg & parmesan cheese

Feeding Baby Green Beans - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

GREEN BEANS

  • green beans with caramelized shallots & nutmeg
  • green beans with mango
  • green beans with leeks & thyme
  • green beans with pears and peas

Feeding Baby Avocadoes - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

AVOCADO

  • avocado with banana
  • avocado with mango & cilantro
  • avocado with lime juice & cumin
  • avocado with blueberries & mango

Feeding Baby Squash - lots of unique homemade baby food recipes and ideas

SUMMER SQUASH

  • yellow squash with lentils & cumin
  • zucchini with potato & leeks
  • zucchini with onions & brown rice
  • zucchini with basil & parmesan cheese
  • zucchini with asparagus, peas & brown rice

*There are tons of vegetables that I didn’t feature here. This is just what I came home with from a farmer’s market run, and these are the most common vegetables in our house.

*There are no exact amounts listed, because everything is to taste. Yes, you should actually be tasting your baby’s food. After making a purée, I actually reserve some to serve to the whole family with dinner. Like a little soup appetizer. Our favorites are sweet peas with cauliflower & mint, butternut squash & apples, or japanese sweet potato with baby bok choy & thyme.

*Feel free to add meat to any of these purées. Since I don’t like to purée meat, I add finely chopped chicken, fish, pork or beef to the prepared vegetable purée immediately before serving.*

* Mix & Match! These are just ideas, but the fun is finding combinations that you and your baby enjoy.

Have fun with your baby’s food!

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How to download Audiobooks from the library and listen to them on your phone

For a few years after my first daughter was born, I didn’t read a single book outside of non-fiction parenting books. I just didn’t have time to read anything for pleasure.

Then I discovered eAudiobooks, and my life was changed. I started looking forward to mundane tasks like washing the dishes and folding laundry, because it would give me more time to listen to my books. I even started listening during my long morning runs, because listening to a good book can really make the time go by so much faster. In the last few years, since I started listening to audiobooks on my phone, I have been able to read hundreds of books without doing anything different. I love it!

I get all of my audiobooks from the library. I know a lot of people who have subscriptions to Audible and really enjoy the service, but considering that I go through a few books a week, it would cost me a small fortune. And I have been able to find about 95% of all books that I have wanted to read, from the library, for free. It is almost too good to be true.

One night at bookclub, I mentioned that I had listened to the book instead of reading it, and everyone wanted to know how they could do the same. So I wrote up a quick tutorial on how to listen to audiobooks from your library on your phone.

You will be amazed at how easy it is! All you need is a library card and a smart phone.

Ask at your local library, or check the website to see what eBook and eAudiobook databases your library offers. Within each database, you can check out any titles that your library has purchased. All of the libraries that I use have a very decent selection, but the bigger libraries will always have access to more titles.

Overdrive is the most common database of eAudiobooks (all of the libraries I use have access to it) and it is the most user-friendly by far. Your library may also use Axis 360 or Hoopla. Axis 360 has a great selection of books, but I despise the app. Hoopla doesn’t have as large of a selection, but the books are always available, which is nice when everything else that you want has a long waitlist.

Since Overdrive is the most common, and my favorite, this is what I will use for the tutorial. I am also using iPhone screenshots, since that is what I use, but I’m sure it is similar on other devices.

How to Download an Audiobook from your library to your iPhone

1. Download the free Overdrive app to your phone or device.

2. Tap the top left button to bring up the menu, then tap on Add a Library.

3. Type in the name of your local library.

How to Download an Audiobook from your library to your iPhone

4. Look for your library in the list of options.

5. Once you find it, click on your library and it will take you to the library’s overdrive page.

6. Sign in to your library account.

You can repeat these steps for as many libraries as you have cards for. Sometimes different libraries will have access to different books, so it is nice to have options. Of all of the libraries that I use, I like the San Francisco Public Library best. It has the largest selection of books, and they own enough copies that waitlists are usually not very long. But if I can’t find a title at SFPL, I will always check the other libraries, and sometimes I can find it elsewhere.

How to Download an Audiobook from your library to your iPhone

7. Tap the search key and type in the book that you want to read.

8. If your library owns the book, it will come up in the results. The book icon on the top right of the cover signifies that it is an ebook, the headphones icon signifies that it is an audiobook. (If the book you want is not available, you can place a hold on it and you will get an email once it is available to download.)

9. Tap the book that you want, then tap on the blue Borrow button.

How to Download an Audiobook from your library to your iPhone

10. Tap the button that says Download.

11. Wait a few minutes for your book to download.

12. Tap on the top left button to bring up the menu again, then tap on Bookshelf.

How to Download an Audiobook from your library to your iPhone

13. When you get to your bookshelf, it will show all of the titles you have downloaded to your phone. Tap on the title that you would like to listen to. Or tap Add a Title and go back to step 7 to download more books.

14. Once your book comes up, tap the play button to start listening. From this screen, you can change the speed at which you are listening to your book by tapping the speed dial icon, third from the left at the top of the control panel. This is one of my favorite features, and the reason why I am able to get through so many books so quickly. I always listen at 1.75x speed, and I encourage you to try it. At first, it will sound crazy fast, but you will be amazed at how quickly your ears (and brain!) adjust to the faster speed. After a while, you won’t even realize that anything is different, and if you try to go back to normal speed, you won’t be able to stand how slow it is. You can also set a sleep timer, by tapping the alarm clock icon second from the left.

15. If you tap the top right button, it will bring up the Table of Contents, in case you want to go back and re-read (or re-listen to?) certain parts.

And that’s it! You are set to check out audiobooks from the library and listen to them on your phone. Your books will stay on your bookshelf for the entire lending period (3 weeks for all of the libraries I use). When your book is due back, it will automatically disappear from your bookshelf. If you finish the book, and would like to return it early, hold down on the book in your bookshelf, then tap Return.

If you prefer reading eBooks over listening to eAudiobooks, you can still follow the instructions above, just look for the book icon instead of the headphones icon in step 8.

Happy listening!

P.S. Here is what’s On My Bookshelf.

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Budapest Travel Guide

Budapest is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with the Danube running right down the center, and numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites within the city. A weekend was not nearly enough time to experience all that Budapest has to offer, but it was enough to scratch the surface, and to know that this is a city that we will definitely be returning to.

TRAVEL

Budapest is an easy 2 and a half hour train ride from Vienna. You arrive at Keleti railway station, which could be a destination in and of itself. As we walked out of the train station, we turned around to look at the building and were just in awe. And it was just the first of many times I would be blown away by Budapest’s beauty during the weekend.

EAT

Budapest Bistro  |  This was our favorite meal in Budapest, sitting outside with a view of the Parliament building. The staff was amazingly attentive to the children, bringing them little treats throughout dinner, and making sure they were comfortable. We ordered traditional Hungarian food, including Chicken Paprikash, which was so beautifully presented I almost didn’t want to eat it.

Karaván Street Food  |  For food truck lovers (San Francisco turned me into a connoisseur!) this is right next to Szimpla Kert and has plenty of options plus outdoor tables to sit and enjoy the yummy street food. This is a good choice for little ones who are done sitting still in restaurants.

Kürtőskalács  |  No trip to Budapest would be complete without a few Kürtőskalács! This Hungarian pastry is made of sweet yeast dough cut into strips and wrapped around a wooden cylinder, dipped in butter and sugar, then cooked over a BBQ until the outside is crispy, and then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. My idea of perfection.

SLEEP

Boscolo Budapest  |  We happened upon the Boscolo while searching the Marriott website, and it turned out to be one of the best parts of the entire trip. I often judge a hotel by their lobby, and this is one of the nicest I have ever seen. The entire ceiling is glass, allowing the most amazing natural light to flood the elegant room. Right off of the lobby is the famous New York Cafe, dating back to the 1890’s, where an exquisite breakfast is served every morning. My 5 year old is still talking about that breakfast, it was that good. But my favorite thing about the Boscolo was how amazing everyone was to my children. Every employee, from the concierge to the restaurant staff, went out of their way to cater to the children, and make us feel welcome. (Which is such a nice change from Vienna!)

SEE & DO

Hop On Hop Off  |  Budapest is split into two parts, The Buda hills to the west of the Danube and the Pest flats to the East. Because of the layout of the city, the main sights that we wanted to see (Castle Hill, Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes Square, etc.) were quite far apart. We used a Hop On Hop Off bus to get around and it ended up working out perfectly. I am usually so against tour buses or anything touristy, but this was definitely the best way for us to get around with the kids.

Capital Circus of Budapest  |  After all of the sightseeing, the Circus was a wonderful break, for both the kids and us. It is the only permanent big top circus in Europe, and super old school, but in a good way. This is no Cirque du Soleil, for sure, but for less than the price of a snack at Cirque, we were able to get ringside seats, plus a photo of the kids with the seals. Plus they had a flying trapeze act, which is more than I can say for a lot of the Cirque shows I have seen.

Szimpla Kert  |  Budapest is known for their trendy Ruin Pubs, bars that started popping up in old abandoned buildings in the early 2000’s. Szimpla Kert is the oldest Ruin Pub, and was a fun stop for a Saturday morning. Filled with everything from an old car used as a table and chairs, to a bathtub used as a lounge seat, there was plenty to look at and play on to keep the kids entertained while we relaxed for a while. Mornings are definitely not the hip time to go, but probably the only acceptable time for kids.

The Budapest Eye  |  Europe’s largest mobile ferris wheel is set up in Erzsébet Square during the spring and summer months, and is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the city.

The Baths  |  We unfortunately didn’t have time to visit the thermal baths, which are a quintessential Budapest experience. So we will definitely be back to check out both the Széchenyi Baths and the Gellért Baths.

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