#CousinsTakeEurope...castles, castles and more castles


Our second day in Scotland was spent adjusting to the time change and hanging at the Chino house while the kids finished up school. Campbell also had a stomach problem that kept us close to home and enjoying a lazy day, but I was itching to get out of the house and so that evening we hit the ground running. Starting our tour of castles and gardens. Scotland is the land of castles and gardens...AMAZING!!!
And days 3-7 were pretty much spent exploring the amazing Scottish landscape with the Chinos. The boys felt that each castle (and garden) was set up just for them and their sword fighting pleasures. They were in heaven! An ongoing battle began at the first castle and carried us through Scotland, London, Paris and Switzerland.



And while they battled we took time to stop and smell the roses, literally. THe most amazing garden that took me back to my love of Alice and Wonderland and the Secret Garden. I walked around in total amazement and came home with an unbelievable amount of flower photos.


Crathes Castle, Scotland




Crathes Castle, Scotland

Crathes Castle, Scotland



Crathes Castle, Scotland

Drum Castle
I think in all we saw 8 castles and many gardens. I am sharing 7 here and saving 1 other for it's own post. The boys favored the castle ruins because they gave so much room for their imagination and freedom to explore. I really loved them all for different reasons, each with it's own highlights.

Haddo House


Tolquhon Castle, Scotland, Aberdeen


Tolquhon Castle, Scotland, Aberdeen

Tolquhon Castle, Scotland, Aberdeen






Auchindoun Castle Ruins
This is Auchindoun Castle Ruins which was for sure a highlight. We didn't see another person on the way to or in this ruin and the boys loved having the run of the place. That mixed with the beautiful hilltop location, green rolling hills all around, and peeks of blue sky. Perfect!
Auchindoun Castle Ruins


Castles Visited:
Crathes Castle
Tolquhon Castle Ruins
Auchindoun Castle Ruins
Drum Castle
Haddo House
Balvenie Castle Ruins


#CousinsTakeEurope...Aberdeen Day 1



It was just over a year ago when we got the news that the Chino family would be heading to Scotland. They were plans that we knew were in the works, but could pretend might never happen and go on with our life together. It was exciting, dream fulfilling news for Alison & Taido and while we celebrated along we also began to prepare our hearts. See we are family and not in the holiday visits kind of way. We were almost daily a part of each others lives and I knew that there would be an ache and longing as an ocean came between us. 
As a girl who loves to travel I soon began to put my longing into planning a visit. With leaving being even harder than I imagined I had my sights on a Christmas visit and then a longer trip for summer 2014. Eventually the reality of total cost with flying a family of four to Europe set in and I set my full sights on an extended trip for this summer. Because of saved vacation of Peter's and my flexible schedule we decided we could swing three weeks. Alison and I talked and planned frequently and in January we bought tickets that would put us in Aberdeen on July 2 just as the Chino kids headed into summer break.
We wrote the date on all of our calendars, got countdown apps, obsessively researched the cities we were to visit, pinned things to do in Europe & how to do it with kids. There was much excitement in the planning, but it all boiled down to how excited we all were to sit in a room together, give big hugs and listen to our kiddos play hard.
It is honestly hard for me to look at these photos because of how sweet these moments were. These are people I love so very dearly and miss with my whole heart. These photos are from our first day in Aberdeen. We arrived at 11am and were greeted by big hugs from Alison. We kept looking at each other and talking about how hard it was to believe that this was actually happening, a year in the making. We got to see the Chinos home, share tea, nap and then take the short walk to pick Simon up from school. I had lived this moment out in my head so many times, the second my boys saw Simon who they miss like crazy. We walked into the school yard and in an almost painful twist of fate Simon was sitting by a window. We could see him and not get to him!!! The moments took an eternity, but soon he was the first one out the doors. He was attacked (and slightly embarrassed) by my boys, but the best part was how they fell directly into a conversation...picking up like they had been together only a day before. It was so good for my heart.
We had equally sweet greetings as the older three Chinos came in from school and big hugs were exchanged.
After dinner we loaded up and began taking in the sights around Aberdeen. We hit the beach. It was the beginning of me falling in love with Scotland, it is seriously beautiful! And to make it even better I think these photos were taken around 9pm. I love sunlight so that was such a treat and fun to take in the crisp to us temperatures.
#CousinsTakeEurope had officially begun and we were in for many adventures.



corn dip


A couple of weeks ago, in a search for something new to do with leftover corn on the cob, I came upon a few corn dip recipes online. I combined a few in order to play to what I like and what I had available. It was a hit with the framily and since I have made it a few more times and work to perfect it to my taste. When you read the ingredients you will understand why there is nothing to not love about this warm and creamy dip, it is comfort food at its finest. The best part might be that I think you could omit or add as you like and it would taste just as good because truth be told if you start with bacon and end with cheese it is pretty hard to go wrong in the middle. Happy dipping!
Corn dip:
6-8 pieces of bacon (I prefer Petit Jean and a thicker slice)
4-6 cups of corn (best if cut straight from the cob, but I also have made it with frozen)
1 bell pepper chopped fine
1/2 purple onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
I also added a couple of fresh banana peppers
2 jalepenos seeded and chopped
1 brick of cream cheese
4 green onions chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Cook bacon in cast iron skillet until crisp and remove. Depending on how much grease is left you might need to remove some, but leave enough to generously cover the bottom of the pan. Add onions, peppers, garlic and corn to the pan and sauté for 5-10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add cream cheese and stir to melt. Top with cheddar, green onion and chopped bacon. Serve with fritos or eat with a spoon. 
Enjoy.



Chinos in Switzerland

Two weeks ago we returned home from a three week adventure with the Chino family. While their faces were certainly my favorite thing to see we also enjoyed the views as we traveled around Europe. I got to combine my love for both and grab a few pictures before we said our tearful goodbyes.
I have millions of photos to share from our trip, but since I know I'm not the only one who misses these faces I thought I would start my Europe sharing with these.
Cole celebrated his 17th birthday while we were in Switzerland. He is a man. I was struck by the ways he seemed so much older. He still holds pieces of the little boy I fell in love with as Peter and I began dating 16 years ago, but has also grown into a leader, a hard worker and pretty amazing quesadilla maker.
Ben is a TEENAGER! 13. He has grown what feels like an inch for every month they have been gone.  As always he has a smile that is contagious and a spirit to match. I love the way Ben approaches life with complete abandon, he is all in and up for adventure.
Simon turned 8 just before we got to Scotland. I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday and in these 8 years we have made many memories with Simon and our boys. They picked up playing and fell into conversation as if they were together yesterday. The sound of Simon's voice is so missed in our home. He is loving.
My girl MP is a week away from her 15th birthday. I heart her. Mary Polly seems so grown. She is bright and quick and makes me laugh. It was such a treat to hear about her life in Scotland, see her excelling in school and watch the part she plays among her brothers.

I miss and love each of these people with my whole heart, but was so glad to see them happy and experience a little piece of this amazing journey they are on.


In case you aren't already....follow  along with the Chino family adventures HERE!
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