on the way home

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the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. | lao tzu

from the beginning

committing to something as life-changing as becoming a full-time traveling family is scary. there are so many new things to process and learn.  i thought once we said it aloud that it would somehow become easier to wrap our minds around and we would suddenly have the nerve to do it. it has opened up so really exciting conversations about what a full-time life spent traveling might look like, but it has also welcomed in some uncomfortable fears about what such a different lifestyle might look like. there’s definitely a reason people stick with what they know! there is comfort in the ordinary in- &-outs of the familiar day-to-day. and this kind of radical travel life isn’t as commonplace as it was 200 years ago. we still have a lot to learn about how we are going to make this feasible for our little family!

looking ahead

when you think about the fact that in two years from this month, we want to be traveling abroad full-time with a 2 year old and a 6 year old – that timeline just seems so small.

since we committed to this goal in january of this year, we have worked tirelessly to make progress on the goals we have in mind before we leave and committed to prioritizing any kind of travel we can.  we’ve started selling items around our home,  gotten everleigh’s passport,  and purchased a vehicle better suited for road-tripping,  aaralyn carries her “adventure backpack” most places to get her used to the responsibility of caring for her own items on the go. we’ve been experimenting with walking long distances together and have tried to bike and exercise even more as a family.

we want to ease into the new rhythm of this lifestyle in the next two years so that it’s not such a huge shock when we finally take off. overall, the girls seem to be more resilient than the adults, because well like I said before, sometimes a lifetime of rigorous routine makes it hard to see that the pieces of the puzzle can line up differently to make an even better picture.

|maci|

Disney Dinner Series featuring “Frozen” (Norway)

Velkommen!

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Our first EVER blog series is entitled “Disney Dinners” and it is a 12 month exploration of 12 Disney princess films through an immersive journey into the cultures represented in the films. We chose this project to help expose our four year old to some very different traditions and cuisines that typically children don’t experience until much later in life… if at all. We felt that the family friendly content that the Disney films has to offer paired with some intentional culture exposure would be a perfect age appropriate immersion to a more conscientious and accepting worldview for our child down the road when we do set out to travel in 2020. You can read more about what our specific dinner plans are here. We intend to pair each blog post with specific video entailing the cuisine cooked and the Disney film experience our family shared.

January in eastern Kansas is notoriously frigid so when planning dinners for the year, Disney’s FROZEN just seemed like the obvious choice for our first dinner! FROZEN takes place in a country very similar to Norway so we choose Norway for our first cuisine pairing!

For the meal, I selected nearly every Norwegian dish I could to steer us away from Lutefisk. There was just no way I was convinced I could choke that down (let alone convince my four year old to do it). 

We presented the idea to oldest daughter with the surprise presentation of her very own Elsa dress for the occasion and once she assumed her “role,” she was open to all the fun experiences we had planned to accompany our movie showing!

Our Menu

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Norwegian meals aren’t typically formal affairs but we chose some more “formal” menu items that are typically prepared during holiday seasons just to get a better taste of authentic cuisine. We put the menu together ourselves so if you’re actually Norwegian and these pairings make no sense – we totally get it!

IMG_4860 copyFor the above menu, there were only two specialty grocery items required in addition to our regular groceries: the cloudberry preserves and the “gjetost” aka brunost cheese. Cloudberries are a tart orange berry similar to the raspberry that is native to the alpine region. When a quick Amazon search proved fruitless ($15-$30 for 4oz of preserves for a one-time recipe, NO THANKS), a bit of googling led to the realization that IKEA often stocks a 16 oz jar of cloudberry jam in their limited European grocery selection for a mere $7.95. This was more than enough for the trollkrem to fill our krumkake and provide everyone with a sample of the preserves from a unique fruit we had never tried!

The “gjetost” was a lot easier to find as our local grocery store stocked it. It’s a pricier item at $8.95 for 4oz – but once you try this rich caramelized goat cheese, you will never long for Anna’s chocolate fountain again. It has a smooth almost peanut butter flavor to it and pairs well with a crisp fruit like apples. Beware though, it is extremely rich and a little goes a long way.

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The rest of our grocery list for this menu was fairly straight forward including items such as cabbage, ground beef potatoes, heavy cream, beef stock, panko bread crumbs and ground pork.

Our total spent on grocery items for this meal was $34.18/$60 or $8.55 per person.

Preparation

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Starting with the traditional Krumkake (pronounced kroom kaka) cookies, lacy thin waffle cones with a similar recipe base. These cookies require a special iron for their delicate detailed impressions and have to be rolled hot so they hold their cone shape. The recipe recommended setting aside extra time to perfect timing and technique. For only four people, we used half the ingredients in the recipe to produce 12 of our own krumkaker – a few to sample while cooking and eight to fill with trollkrem for dessert. Even with the introduction of a new appliance, these cookies are really easy to make and yield a tasty result with only a few minor finger burns achieved whilst rolling them.

Next, the kjøttkaker, or “meat cakes”. This was a familiar preparation with similar to that of the Italian meatball. One obvious difference was that the recipe recommended we shape the meatballs into more oval patties. Once the kjøttkaker were formed and seared, I simply put them in my crockpot on low and added the gravy over them about an hour prior to serving. Overall, this recipe felt like something we could add to our monthly dinner rotation because it was so easy to prepare and uniquely delicious.

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Finally, for the bread element of our meal, Norwegian lefse or “potato cakes”. About this time, we started to pick up the cake theme… and it didn’t include your usual Betty Crocker mix. Lefse was an incredibly interesting concept in that while the recipe calls for flour, the primary dough of this flat rolled bread consists of  cooled mashed potatoes. The final product results in a very thin, very flat and very bland bread that is used to aid in wiping the gravy from your plate. This was probably the least impressive element of our meal.

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I’ll admit I was a bit nervous about preparing our first “official” Disney Dinner… what if it was a complete disaster?! As it turned out though, everyone was so excited about the event itself though that when it was time for dinner, no one even hesitated to try everything!

We started meal preparation about 11 am on the day of our Disney Dinner. The plan was to serve dinner at 6pm each time and we wanted to leave ourselves enough time for any unforeseen hiccups. Luckily, everything came together pretty quickly and seamlessly and the meal was ready by 2pm… leaving lots of time for princess prep!

Decorations

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This was another incredibly fun element to approach because it really forced us to work together on something as a team to determine how we would decorate in a special way with things we already had!

Since we hadn’t allotted any money for formal decor for a one night family occasion, we were in for a real surprise when Meme was able to pull off some pretty neat Frozen themed decor based on winter items and some Frozen toys we already had! Enlisting the use of a blue Christmas strobe light, her house looked just like the Arctic Tundra the moment we pulled into the driveway.

The coolest element of all though was the handmade Olaf she had sketched on construction paper and put on her front door… in a mere 20 minutes that afternoon! 

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The Rest of the Fairytale Evening

Overall, this evening went exactly as we had hoped. We had a fun and interaction dive -off point to talk with our daughter about some “light” cultural differences between what she was used to in her American routine. We introduced her to some very basic Norwegian phrases such as “Hello” and “Goodbye” and got her excited about some Norwegian folklore involving trolls. She willingly tried everything on her plate and while she isn’t a picky eater in general,  this gave us the excuse to introduce some new items to her.

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It definitely gave us all something to look forward to and plan – forcing us a little outside of our comfort zone to stretch our imaginations and palates as adults as well.  And who doesn’t love a good excuse to watch a Disney movie as an adult?

Thanks for reading and be sure to leave any questions you might have in the comments!

Ha det!

Bonus Video!

Disney Dinner Series Introduction

­­­­­­FamPicHi! We’re the Yarsulik family!

We LOVE to travel, but with the addition of a new baby in 2017, traveling the world in 2018 seemed a little far-fetched. Thus the concept for Disney Dinners was born!

Here’s Our Idea

We came up with the concept of Disney dinners as a of way of marrying the ideas of learning about a new culture in a family setting with a popular animated Disney film. Ultimately that’s what I pictured in my head with our Disney Dinner theme nights — a really fun and cozy way to introduce our girls (and ourselves) to the food and culture of many of the different lands that some of the classic Disney movies transport us to.

Since this was the first time we’ve ever done something like this and we have two daughters, we strategically selected certain Disney princesses to match up with the months of the year.

We figured we could further immerse Aaralyn, our oldest Daughter, in the fairy tale aspect of the evening by allowing her to attend the Disney Dinner in the “actual” dress that each princess wore for that evening’s movie.

We felt that the family friendly content that the Disney films has to offer paired with some intentional culture exposure would be a perfect age appropriate immersion to a more conscientious and accepting worldview for our child down the road when we do set out to travel in 2020.

Looking “Abroad”

A quick internet scour is primarily how we “sourced” the countries to correspond with each Disney princess movie we selected so if the country isn’t overtly obvious in the theme of the movie, we went with our gut and the popular opinion of the public at large for what country matched which movie.

Devoting about 1-2 hours of research on each meal, resources included checking out library books, skimming Pinterest recipes and watching YouTube videos about certain techniques used in the cooking practices of each country.

Prep took anywhere from 4-6 hours just based on the complexity of the menu items chosen for that meal. I wanted to learn something from each experience myself so I tried to also choose dishes that challenged me to learn new techniques.

Magical Can Be Affordable

We set a budget of $60 per meal and did our best to make sure that popular dishes from each country were represented. Save for some pricey items such as regional cheeses, jams or meats, most of the recipes relied on pantry staples.

Our budget for each meal covered food cost ONLY. For the simple purposes of record keeping for this blog, we only recorded the cost of the speciality food items purchased — any other “typical” ingredients were considered pantry staples that most American families would keep on hand (i.e. – flour, butter, eggs, etc). Any decor or special tools we used were things we already owned or borrowed.

The ultimate goal of the Disney Dinners is to expose ourselves and our children to a variety of different cultures, while in the safe confines of our own home in way that is intentional and budget-friendly.

Make sure to follow us to keep up to date with what we are working on. We will be sharing with you the first Disney Dinner soon! Until then, we want to ask – what is your all-time favorite Disney movie, and why?