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Barclay and Ali Martin

Hey friends ♡

I hope that this finds you well and warm today, wherever life may have you this January.  We have been snuggled up inside here in Barcelona this past week, while Storm Gloria has slowly been making its way across the country.  And while the weather outside has been downright wild — I’ve never seen wind and thunderstorms this strong here! — I have to say that the Kansas girl in me has been loving it.  I’ve sooo missed the cozy comfort of a good stormy day living here, and love nothing more than going to sleep and waking up to the sounds of rain and thunder.  So I have been soaking it up this week, and enjoying the excuse to stay in and snuggle up with my pups, endless cups of hot tea, a few good books, binged seasons of “Cheer” and “Project Runway” — and it’s been great.

Anyway, I’m overdue for a life update on here.  So today I thought I would take a break from recipes and share a few of the things happening behind the scenes around here in the new year — some highs, some lows, some fun new adventures, plus a new little section at the bottom listing out some random things I’m loving right now.

As always, thank you for reading.  And I’m sending you big hugs and the warmest wishes for a good new year ahead!

Infertility | Negative Pregnancy Test

Infertility

An excerpt from a post I shared on my personal Instagram last week.  All my love to those of you who have been down this road before, or are currently making your way through a season of infertility too.

Translation: (still) not pregnant. ♡

Barclay and I had really hoped that 2019 might be the year that a little one would finally join our family.  But instead, it ended up being the year when the fun and excitement of “trying” transitioned into the complicated medical world of infertility.  When our calendars became filled with doctors’ appointments and tracking apps galore. When we had to learn a whole new set of Spanish vocab words about infertilidad, and got used to discussing the most intimate details of our lives in stark clinical settings. When I went on a strict fertility/candida diet and faced my needle fears to do regular acupuncture and got poked/prodded/wanded/analyzed by doctors on the reg. When the roller coaster of cautiously getting our hopes up every 28 days ended with a negative pregnancy test every. single. time.⁣

That said, 2019 was also the year when our friends and family said, “hey, we’re right here with you”— with long hugs and loving check-ins and fun distractions and ongoing prayers and lots and lots of chips and salsa. It was the year we learned that we had unknowingly moved to one of the top cities in the world for fertility clinics, where tests and treatments and medications all stunningly cost just a small fraction (even smaller with our insurance) of the price that they would for us in the States. It was the year when I came to realize just how deeply I hope to be a mom someday…and also saw more clearly than ever what an incredible father Barclay will be.⁣

2019 was many things — deeply good at times, hard and exhausting at others. But while I had originally decided awhile back not to mention anything about this side of our lives online, I have to say it has felt increasingly odd to be posting about every other random thing when this is really what’s been at the forefront of our minds and hearts.⁣

So for what it’s worth, I just wanted to take a moment today to say hey…this is us right now. 👋🏻 ⁣

We don’t have any big news to share.  Just currently figuring our next treatment steps, which has us feeling all the feels about the year ahead. But today is one of those days when I’m feeling hopeful about it all. So…I’ll take it.

Montepellier France

Mini-Retirements

On a lighter note, Barclay and I both got inspired last year while rereading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss’ idea of “mini-retirements” — basically, traveling somewhere to intensively study a new skill (versus spending the majority of your time sightseeing). We had already been craving a deeper dive into some of the places we travel, and of course, loved the idea of a focused window of time to study a new skill. So we did some dreaming together about what might sound fun (and nearby!) in this season of life, and each came up with a mini-retirement of our own to try in 2020.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Barclay has really been wanting to study French so that he can better communicate with his work partners in Mali, so he’s currently kicking the year off with a trip to Montpellier to stay with a host family and do a 2-week language intensive this month.  (I’ve been posting a few updates from his trip on Instagram stories if you want to follow along — he’s absolutely loving it, and bonus, his sweet host mom is teaching him all of her favorite French recipes!  I’m going to go visit him there this weekend and can’t wait to have him show me around.)

Then in either February or March, I am planning to head down to Valencia for a few weeks to study all things rice (since it’s the home of paella!) and do an advanced Spanish intensive while I’m there too.  We’ve already been to Valencia twice before — it’s just a 3-hour train ride from Barcelona — and I completely fell in love with the city while we were there.  So I’m excited to head back to spend some extended time there.  And of course, share everything I learn about Spanish rice dishes with you guys!

So anyway, we’ll see how it all goes. It’s definitely a different style of travel than we’re used to, but we’re both really excited about our plans. And grateful, as always, for this season of life with flexible jobs and schedules that make travel possible.

Kuishi the Elephant

Elephant

This January, we also adopted an elephant!! ♡♡♡

After having watched, oh, a thousand elephant vids together over the years, Barclay and I agreed that we wanted to research new ways to better support our favorite animals in 2020. We ended up stumbling across a cool project in Kenya that invites people to “adopt” (sponsor) elephant orphans as they are being rehabilitated. So for our Christmas/Reyes gift to one another this year, Barclay and I sponsored Kuishi!

She’s 3-yrs-old and as cute as could be, and she’s currently being reintegrated into the wild after being rescued as an orphan when her mother passed away. (You can learn a bit about her story here — just have Kleenex ready.) We think she’s extraordinary, and are excited to be able to support and cheer her on for many years to come.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Anyway, if you need an extra smile this weekend, just click on the #elephant hashtag on Instagram.  It’s our favorite rabbit (er, elephant) hole. ;)

Homemade Kimchi

My 2020 Resolution

I’m one of those people who typically loves to make NY’s resolutions and thrives on the adrenaline of starting a fresh year with a bang.  But with an unusual number of Big Life Questions looming that could take our year in any number of extremely different directions — especially with regards to our family, work, health, where we live, etc. — I’ve been feeling zero desire to hustle and make lots of big goals the new year.  Which, any of my friends will tell you, is a bit unusual for me (especially as an Enneagram 3).   Instead, I have been journaling and reflecting these past few weeks about this year ahead, I’ve found myself returning to the same word again and again:

CARE. ♡

More than anything this year, I want to take better care of myself and those around me.  I want to prioritize better care of my body and the food and exercise and sleep that go into it.  I want to take more gentle care of my heart and spirit, especially in the moments right now that feel particularly vulnerable and hard.  I want to take good care of my mind, and feed it things that are good and expansive and fascinating.  And I want to create more margin in my life to have the time to better care for dear friends and family around me.

Nearly one month in, this word has already been re-shaping my life in some profound ways.  And it feels like the right place for me to be dwelling right now, and I’m curious to see how it unfolds over the next eleven months too.

All that said though — I couldn’t resist starting the year without at least ONE official resolution.  So on a lighter note, I’ve decided to make 2020 the year that I finally learn how to make (really really good) homemade kimchi!  Like, you know those friends who always have an extra batch of cookies, or bread, or kombucha on hand to share?  I have this little dream of becoming “that friend” who’s always giving away kimchi. ♡♡♡  So if any of you have experience in this specific world of fermentation, pretty please, I would love for you to send any good tips or recipes my way!  I’m a few batches in at this point, and learning a lot about what flavors/processes I like along the way, and for sure promise to share more once I get more confident and actually feel like I know what I’m doing.  But so far, I’m really enjoying it.

USB Lighters

Things I’m Loving Right Now

Finally, I thought I would add a new section to these posts with all of the random stuff I’m loving right now (that doesn’t particularly fit into other categories!).  The first half are things I brought home from our trip to the States this Christmas

  • USB lighter: I ordered one of these for us on Black Friday from Anthropologie (along with, ahem, a few too many candles).  And it’s so cool!  As a family that burns multiple candles a day, I’m thrilled to no longer have to buy new lighters constantly.  All you do is plug this puppy in anytime it needs a recharge, and it holds 130 lights per charge.  (It looks like there are also some cheaper ones for sale on Amazon if you are interested.)
  • Blueberry acai face scrubSo this was a total impulse buy while I was at Trader Joe’s over Christmas, and may not be the most natural skincare product in the world.  But you guys — it smells exactly like blueberry muffin batter — and I am loving it so much.  Not sure if it was just a holiday item or whether it’s available year-round.  But if you happen to see it at TJ’s, I highly recommend picking some up.  (Btw, it’s considerably cheaper in the store, but I included the Amazon link in case you don’t have a TJ’s where you live.)
  • New yoga mat: For Christmas this year, my mom and dad gifted us some new yoga mats that we had been wanting from Lululemon.  And good grief, I cannot believe the difference that a good-quality mat can make!  Barclay and I do YogaGlo or Barre3 at home pretty much everyday, and have always just used those typical $15 yoga mats that you can buy wherever.  But I’ve always been frustrated with those mats because my feet slip around on them constantly.  Anyway, I happened to mention this to some yoga teacher friends a few months back, and they were like — “Girl, you need a better mat!”  So we brought these ones home from the States (Barclay got the extra-long mat, which is huge), and they have been game changers.  100% worth the investment — we love them so much!
  • New duvet coverI also Black Friday-ed a new duvet cover from West Elm to pick up while we were back in the States and am so happy with it.  The pattern is just lovely IRL and has really brightened up our bedroom (we had a navy duvet cover before), and looks great with these chambray sheets that I also picked up at Target.
  • Waterproof bootsI’ve logged literally hundreds of miles walking around Barcelona this winter in these boots (I bought the mushroom color) and they have held up impressively well.  Love how comfortable and waterproof they are.  Also, cute!
  • Cute donut cardsMy talented sister just added these adorable (blank) donut greeting cards to her Etsy store, and I think they are the cutest!  If you need to stock up on cards and want to support a local artist, check ’em out.  I ordered all four  donut designs, and now want to buy extras to frame too.
  • AirPodsI accidentally left my old earbuds on the plane coming back to Barcelona (womp), so I decided to take the opportunity to finally try out some AirPods…and now I see why everyone loves them so much.  They’re so much more comfortable than always having to fumble with a cord hanging around my neck (my hair was always getting snagged in that cord!) and the little charging case that comes with them is so slick.  I’m a fan.
  • “By The Book” podcastOk, where has this podcast been all my life?!  If you are someone who’s also into business-y/self-help books, I highly recommend giving it a listen.  The two hosts basically live their lives according to a popular book for two weeks and then come back to report on it, and their insights are gold.  I binged nearly all of their episodes this month and found it to be such a fun listen.
  • Seed cycling: Finally, are any of you women on the seed-cycling train?  I just heard about it for the first time about a year ago, and have been experimenting for awhile with adding the correct weekly seeds to my favorite energy bites recipe.  And while the jury’s still out for me on exactly how well the seeds are performing, I feel like it’s a “can’t hurt” kind of thing and have been enjoying the super-seedy energy bites.  If you’re interested in the recipe, let me know.  And if you’ve also tried seed cycling, I would be curious to hear how it’s been!
Barcelona Christmas Lights

Barcelona looked so magical during the holidays this year.

Spain New Year's Grapes

In Spain, it’s a tradition to try and cram one grape into your mouth during each of the twelve seconds leading up to midnight on New Year’s.  Lol, I have yet to fully succeed with all twelve grapes, but it’s always hilarious and so fun.

Barcelona Reyes Magos

One of my favorite nights of the year in Spain — the epic Reyes Magos (three kings) parade!

Calcotada Barcelona

It’s calçot season again!!

Barcelona Tapas

Tapas date night out with mi amor. :)

Henry Adventures

Henry got into some major mischief again last week — you can read about his latest adventures here.

Sweet Fiona

Sweet Fiona soaking up last week’s glorious 60-degree January sunshine.  She was in heaven.

Barclay and Ali Martin

Excited to see this guy again tomorrow after having been apart these last two weeks! He’s going to show me around Montpellier and I can’t wait. :)

♡♡♡

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69 comments on “Currently”

  1. What a lovely couple! I have enjoyed reading your recipes and will soon try some out but half the fun is really ‘understanding’ all about the different ingredients and combinations that can be used as substitutions! A learning curve! I’m envious of you living in Spain. So beautiful and intriguing! I really enjoyed learning more about you also with this 2020 post. You’re a lovely, thoughtful person. I hope your wish to have a child/children comes true! I think your child would be very lucky and well loved by such a loving couple! Happy New Year! Sincerely, Debby

  2. Thank you for your honesty about your journey with infertility. I just think sharing our stories is something so powerful and brings freedom to so many individuals, including ourselves. Praying for your 2020 journey. Looking forward to many more yummy recipes.

    www.beautifulbravery.com

  3. I’m certain you feel the “lift” all of your e-besties and fans are giving you through prayers and virtual hugs. Time and again, I have witnessed friends going through the fertility trauma, exhaust their savings and, then, turn to adoption. With the beloved addition to their family, I can name 3 different families who became pregnant and successfully delivered a biological child. The stress of the process, gut-wrenching desire topped with heart-breaking news each month…. Once that is gone then the body often heals itself. Keep that amazing smile and hug everyone for me. (And, I could not live anywhere that a rowdy, raucous thunderstorm wasn’t a frequent occurrence. It’s such a release, isn’t it?)

  4. Thanks for sharing your story Ali – it is very brave. I don’t know about you but reading all these comments has me tearing up. The love and appreciation people have for you and what you bring to our lives is obvious. Good luck with the next steps of your journey. To echo what many have said here there are many paths to parenthood and I know you will find yours in due time. With love from Texas.

  5. My husband and I also dealt with infertility. After a year of Clomid with my ob/gyn and no pregnancy, he referred me to an RE. I did 6 months of injectibles with him and still no pregnancy so we moved on to IVF. After 3 unsuccessful attempts, we started looking into adoption. However, before we became fully immersed, I told the hubs that I just had to try IVF one last time. As I was in the midst of it, a coworker said something profound that changed my thinking. He told me “It was my divine right to become a mother.” I really wrapped my mind around that statement and it became my new mantra because what he said was true. Whether I became a mom from a pregnancy from IVF #4 or through adoption, one way or another, I was going to become a mom as it was my divine right! So, my message to you is to live and believe in this statement as it too is your divine right to become a mom! XOXO

  6. Thank you for sharing you heart in this post. I am praying for you. God knows the plans He has for you, and I am praying that a child is part of those plans.

  7. I love your recipes and several I make again and again. I love reading your blog as well. Sorry to hear about the infertility. May God hold you and your husband in the palm of His hand as you journey thru this.

  8. Hello!
    I am new to cooking despite me being 53. But now that I have time, it’s so fun and I’ve used your a website several times. I’m on it now for French onion soup and thought I wonder who this behind the scenes chef is. I googled your homepage and read the whole thing.
    You are so cool and I really like what you’ve said on everything! I might steal your Christmas idea and do the same for my husband and children. Way more meaningful than scrambling for something at the malls
    I light candles a lot at church(and at home, want to get the USB lighter:) and next Sunday I will do for you and your husband for your child to be! You will get pregnant!!

    Thank you for your delicious recipes and happiness that shines through your words and you and your husband’s smile:)
    All my best,
    Daminica McPhillips

  9. Seed cycling is great! I think just adding seeds to your energy bites is great, but there are also a few other recipes you can try (I have a handful on my blog as well!). It can take some time to notice a difference, but I think it’s such a good starting place! You’re also getting way more magnesium and zinc in your diet when you seed cycling – which is excellent for menstrual health and fertility. I recommend it to a lot of my PCOS and infertility clients. (PS GOOD LUCK – we’re rooting for you!) <3
    I also think your idea of mini retirements is EXCELLENT, and I'm going to add that to my goals. So fun! Why not? :)
    Be well!
    Caitlin
    https://www.frugalnutrition.com/spiced-flax-pumpkin-seed-bites-seed-cycling/

  10. Thank you for sharing your personal challenges with pregnancy. You’re not alone. There’s a sense to try anything that may work. With this in mind…

    Noticed a mention that you guys consume a lot of tofu. Not to be that person, but… reviewed scholarly reports have been written on the effects of tofu and male infertility (individually ruled out by ivf) as well as adult ovary functionality.

    Hope your wishes come your way. It only takes 1. Fingers crossed.

  11. Someone mentioned the book “Taking Charge of your Fertility”……Yes! This is the book I used 17 years ago and it was amazing. I second this recommendation.. good luck to you lovely people!

  12. Thank you for sharing. I love your blog and your recipes. (Your oven steak recipe was a game changer for all the steak love while it rains and pours all winter long in Seattle.) I haven’t spoken about it much online either but I’m in the same place as you are, fertility wise. And 2019 was also the year I leaned in to just how badly I want to be a mom! Got lots of clarity, and now I’m here in 2020 with clear intention that this is the year it happens. Sending prayers your way too!

  13. Thank you for sharing and wishing you all the very best, and of course, peace. Recently started seed cycling myself! I studied abroad in Barcelona almost 15 years ago and your blog keeps me connected and makes me yearn to return….vale!

  14. Hi Ali! I was searching for a recipe & your site popped up!! It is very interesting & of personal interest to me.
    I have became good friends of the wonderful Lowe family in the last few years, in fact met your amazing in laws on their trip back to Ohio Thanksgiving 2019!
    Your life story is incredible!! What an adventure!! And I love your recipes!
    Prayers for news of a pregnancy in 2020.
    I will continue to follow your site!!!
    Cheryl

  15. Re Kimchi, I used the recipe on Chowhound.com. This was the 3rd one I tried and by far the best. Very clear instructions.

  16. I’m so sorry to read about your infertility struggle but thank you for being open about it. I felt so alone when I went through it and I try to be open about my struggles too so maybe it can help someone else feel better. It’s great you have access to an affordable RE and maybe it can lead to success! I went that route and am now watching my year old daughter playing. I hate when people say just stop stressing or people got pregnant when they stopped trying. I know it does happen but I personally felt like I was failing (which, yes, I also reasonably knew that wasn’t true but in the lows it’s easy to be down on yourself) and saying that just makes me feel like it was more wrong with me. So I’ll just say be strong and you can handle whatever this crazy infertility journey throws your way!

  17. Hi I just stumbled across your recipes for coconut soup and read your blog all the way through. I hope all is well with you and your husband.Keep up the good work. Thank you

  18. Hi! I have been an avid fan of your recipes for years. To be honest, I never read anything about your personal life, or anything. My husband and I are both medical professionals, living in Pennsylvania (USA). We returned from a week long trip to Aruba on March 14, 2020. The week we were there, Italy and Spain was getting hit with the corona virus. Also, we had already purchased airline tickets to Barcelona from 6/5/20-6/20/20.
    ….that’s not happening (now).
    We are isolating in the Pocono Mountains, home schooling (new!) and all….I am searching more in depth for recipes, as my husband is “going to fight the war” in NY.
    Anyway, the main point of this letter to you is- don’t give up the faith and keep on trekking on (with IVF)!!!
    We struggled w/ infertility for 10 years, to include multiple IUI, etc. We had success with our first IVF, and we are forever grateful. When our daughter was still an infant (5-6 months of age), we attempted to retrieve our frozen embryos (2 total). As it turns out, I was pregnant already! Our girl (and boy) are 13 1/2 months apart.
    I will be thinking of you and your husband immensely. Please keep us/the world! -updated on your progress. This is a very difficult time. I just felt so drawn as we have a few things in common.