Back in the Swing of Things
School year, Dutch chocolate birthday cake recipe, and a travel recap
We’ve been traveling and “world schooling” all summer—in fact, all year. I started this experience sticking tightly to a homeschool curriculum, and quickly gave up the structure for an education in culture and the things that come with traveling with family: learning patience, negotiation, open-mindedness, flexibility, curiosity, and making adjustments…
We started in Washington, DC and adventured to Costa Rica in the spring. From there, we headed to the beaches of North Carolina. We left Carolina for Switzerland and spent the remainder of our summer there (5 weeks—which I’ve documented in previous posts). Everything about Switzerland was a total highlight reel (except for a blip in my health, but silver linings—hospitals are incredible). I wanted to leave you with a review of my favorite cultural takeaways from our travels this year, so far:
Costa Rica allows you to connect with the earth in different ways for different ages: Through food, healing of simply being in nature, discovering wildlife. Things felt much slower or more present here. The sunsets required pausing for. We (ok, just me, not surprisingly) left saying, “Let’s sell it all and move here.”
Wrightsville Beach, NC is our sweet little American gem. It’s modern, but it still has this feeling that you’re living on the beach in the 1950’s. We sailed, fished, swam in the ocean, and spent days on boats, hanging around eating hot dogs, burgers, and ice cream with sweet, sweet friends.
Switzerland is a majestic place that never leaves you. I first think of the cleanliness of the country (recycling and composting pros!), stunning mountains, and straightforward and punctual culture. We made great friends in this country—friends we’ll keep for a lifetime. We hiked a lot, swam in clear blue lakes, ate lots of artisanal picnic sandwiches, and hung lots of laundry to dry. This will be a country we plan to go back to, hopefully every summer, if our wanderlust doesn’t get the best of us.
We’re back at home now, just outside Washington DC, and getting back into a fall routine. Our son is in a traditional school this year, which we love. (The staff and teachers listen to parents and encourage their involvement and input.) We will use holidays and long weekends to continue worldschooling.
In general, what I’ve found to be true about culture in the US, especially the Washington, DC area, is that it tends to be a “melting pot.” What I mean by this is, we all come from our own cultures and diverse immigrant backgrounds, but rich traditions can sometimes become diluted in modern America. We all seem to adopt similar-ish ways of American living and lifestyle desires.
What I’ve found when we travel, is many of those rich traditions and culturally important customs become even more apparent. That’s where a lot of the life learning happens for us. I love noticing how the art changes, the food, the daily routines, personalities... Without our travels, I would have less appreciation of the sweetness of the good things in life. Murano glass is not your catalog object d’art. A good sandwich is layered with different textures and flavors—not overstuffed or underdressed. Eating is art. Walking is a lifestyle. Friendships and community are seeds to be watered and tended to. Earth is to be taken care of—leave no trace. To me, there is no better way to learn how to live than this.
This week is my son’s birthday (5!), and I’ve promised I’d send out the Dutch Chocolate Cake recipe I made. This cake recipe is made from sweet potato and truly, you’d never know. I will include two modifications here: I swapped real eggs for the egg replacer. And if you are not a dark chocolate fan, I suggest you switch out the Dutch cocoa powder with a traditional cocoa powder. I am going to work on a Swiss Chocolate Cake recipe—maybe for his birthday next year. ;)
I deeply believe in homemade cakes for birthdays. There’s arguably nothing more loving you can do for your loved one. Baking is a process and takes days to shop for, prepare, and then serve. No matter how your cake turns out, if it’s made with love and tastes like it, the recipient will surely feel it. I always serve ice cream with cake. There are few better combinations. Enjoy!