A Tea-rific Birthday

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A brilliant time was had by all on the occasion of the esteemed Five of Heart’s birthday tea party on the 26th of December, 2015, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The guest list for this auspicious occasion included the revered Jack Camiliar Kirk, the captain of industry John Effery Numscott, Lady Martha Potts, and the dandy Eugene Onegin.

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Catering and decoration were provided by Five Spice Sweets. The impressive spread of homemade vegan pastries and sandwiches surely earned a place among the most lavish of society gatherings. Guest were enchanted to survey a Lego version of the entertaining room, including a miniature of a romantic excursion of Mister Harold Potter and Miss Virginia Weasley to Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop.

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Five of Hearts herself took on the menial job of table setting and yet brought dignity to the task in a manner befitting her station. Her detailed knowledge of arcane and hallowed table setting etiquette reflected well on the young lady as well as her governess. Equally impressive were her composed manner throughout the affair and her dainty comportment while cooling tea.

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Though one hesitates to provide a printed venue for gossip, there was murmured talk that Five of Heart’s birthday wish came true shortly after she extinguished the candles. Soon thereafter snowflakes blanketed the countryside, at which point the guest parted with convention and rushed therewith into the ether without their dinner jackets or overcoats. After some spirited tossing of snowy globes at one another’s torsos, the guests retired inside to warm themselves in the glow of the fire and of stimulating conversation. Burning warmer than the flames, however, was the affection all felt for the guest of honor on the occasion of her 9th birthday.

Star Valley Scuffins

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Scones or muffins? Sometimes on Sunday morning with a hungry family ready for brunch, it’s a hard choice. This past Sunday, the best choice was BOTH.

Ingredients
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (let sour for 5 minutes)
2/3 cup coconut oil
2 flax eggs (a total of 2 tablespoons flax seed meal mixed into 6 tablespoons water)
2 apples peeled and diced

Directions
Mix the flour, baking soda and spices.
In a separate bowl mix the milk, sugar, oil, and flax eggs.
Mix the dry ingredients into the wet.
Add in the apples.
Scoop the batter onto parchment paper or a greased pan (an ice cream scoop works well).
Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Makes 12-14 medium-sized scuffins

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Train Odyssey Day 12: Carnival Chaos

Our travels from Austria to Belgium ended up taking much longer than we had planned. When we went to reserve our tickets on the night train from Munich to Amsterdam, we were shocked that there were no regular seats left on the train. The kindly ticket agent explained that the Carnival Vacation had begun and that it was a very popular time to travel. Luckily we were able to reserve three bunks in a couchette, which allowed us to stretch out and lie down for the first time on an overnight train.

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We expected to have about 4.5 hours in Amsterdam before heading to our hotel in Bruges, but the Carnival complications continued. Our train ended up arriving almost 2 hours late, and booking our night train back from Amsterdam to Switzerland proved to be as time consuming as before. Combined with the high cost of storage lockers in Amsterdam, we decided to just head right to Bruges and see Amsterdam on our way back through in a few days. Once we came to terms with the the improvised plan, we were able to enjoy all the people dressed up in Carnival costumes, and we even followed along a parade route from the train.

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We had about a half hour to explore the Antwerp train station as we switched lines to head to Bruges, and the station is one of the most impressive we’ve seen. The main gate is richly decorated, and it is kind of mind boggling to see all the trains come and go on different levels of the station. We also took the opportunity to try some of Belgium’s famous frites.

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The rest of the trip to Bruges was fortunately uneventful. We were grateful to be able to relax in our hotel room and enjoy some wonderful Belgium dark chocolate as we rested ourselves for exploring the city the next day.
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Train Odyssey Day 9: Beautiful Budapest

There’s no doubt about it: Hungary’s capital is quite the charmer. From the first moment we stepped off the train in Budapest’s Keleti Station, we couldn’t help stopping to admire the the ornate columns and paintings surrounding us. And things only got better from there. Every block leading from the train station in Pest to the bridge crossing the Danube had fascinating buildings and lifelike stone sculptures to admire . Once over on the hilly Buda side of town, we marveled at Castle Hill, the views of the Hungarian Parlament building, and the breathtaking St. Matthias Church. Then to top off a wonderful day,we savored every bite of our meal at plant-based Napfenyes Etterem, which would have tasted amazing even if we hadn’t had several days of meals bought in grocery stores and eaten on trains or in city parks. No matter how the day had turned out Five String would have been smitten with Budapest (he has been talking up his Hungarian heritage and childhood dream to visit the city to anyone who would listen for years now), but in the end all the Fives were truly impressed by this Darling of the Danube.

Keleti Station

 

Pest

 

Castle Hill

 

Parliament

 

St. Matthias Church

 

Napfenyes Etterem

 

Train Odyssey Day 6: Best of Bulgaria

Five String was really excited to visit Bulgaria. He spent a month in college studying in Russia and was excited to return to a country where they use Cyrillic script. Unfortunately due to the crazy pace of this trip we knew that we wouldn’t have a huge amount of time to explore the country. Due to the frequency of trains running from Greece to Bulgaria we ended up with just 17 hours in which to explore Sophia, the country’s capitol city.

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Getting through the ice and snow to our hotel was no small feat, but Five of Hearts is a real trooper when it comes to pulling her own bag.

Our first stop was Hotel Favorit, which ended up being a gem of a hotel. The hotel is super close to the train station, and the amenities were fabulous. The room even had a bathtub, which is a rarity in Europe. Once inside the room the kids didn’t want to leave and we had a hard time getting them back out the door to venture into the city.

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After a very long train ride from Greece we were ready for a sit-down meal and headed to Restaurant & BBQ Niagara. We had not idea if we would be able to find any vegan options, but the restaurant had a wonderful atmosphere and great reviews, so we decided to give it a try. The gamble ended up paying off and we had a great meal thanks to the top notch staff. They really made us feel welcome and even though they couldn’t understand why we would order a pizza without cheese the chef prepared one of the most amazing vegetable pizzas that we have ever tasted. It had pickles on it, which we never would have thought of, but was amazingly delicious.

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Who knew that pickles on pizza tasted so good?

Who knew that pickles on pizza tasted so good?

From there were braved the cold winds and icy sidewalks to enjoy a quick walking tour of Sophia’s landmarks. In a short loop we viewed an Eastern Orthodox Church, a Mosque, and a Synagogue. Each building had wonderful architecture and the kids had fun picking out the different religious symbols.

Sofia Synagogue

Sofia Synagogue

Banya Bashi Mosque

Banya Bashi Mosque

While we were all anxious to return to our hotel and get out of the freezing temperatures, it was hard not to keep walking around Sophia admiring the lovely city. This is one city that is definitely at the top of our “To Return To” list, but next time during a warmer time of year.

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