Wednesday, December 14, 2011

'Tis the season for buying!

By Liv

If you have any last-minute gifts looming in your near-buying future, I highly recommend buying them from Not just because my husband works there, but also because they have super fast shipping and usually the best prices found online.

And, if you plan on buying through Amazon this holiday season (or any time of year!) please consider navigating to by clicking the banner on the right side of my blog. Why, you ask? Because I recently joined the Amazon Affiliates program, which means that whenever someone navigates to Amazon by clicking on my link on this blog (look to your right), I will make a percentage of commission on their purchase(s). It doesn't cost any extra for the buyer, it just means that Amazon shares a small amount of the purchase price with me!

Don't tell Nick, but this is my long-term plan for Stella's college fund. (He's not-so-secretly depending on a tennis scholarship, but I think I'm much more realistic...).

I hope the giving and buying season is lovely for everyone and I hope you receive everything you asked Santa for this year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy 32nd Birthday to Nick!

By Liv
Young man Tostenrude turned 32 this weekend. Stella had to out-do me by singing him a special birthday song and baking him a delicious wooden birthday cake :) 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Sister's Wedding: 11-5-11.

By Liv

My Sister had the most lovely wedding I've ever seen. The theme was appropriate for our Mexican heritage and for the time of year: Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. The wedding venue was splashed with vibrant colors of mexican paper flowers and intricately decorated sugar skulls. Jessica's wedding dress was a one-of-a-kind mexican wedding dress with an amazing veil to top it off.

I've never been to a more personalized and intimate event in my life. Everyone was made to feel part of the couple's special day and that day ended with a private rock show at Columbia City Theater - headlining one of Jessica's best friends' bands as well as a special performance by the groom as lead guitarist when Hedwig and the Angry Inch played. Talk about a full day of festivities!

All our love to the newlyweds!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Baby Girl Tostenrude - due April 20th, 2012!

Today, we give thanks for many things. First and foremost, we are thankful for the newest addition to our family - a baby girl who is due to join our family mid-April!

I'm so very thankful that we have family and friends to spend this day with. Thanksgiving is a perfect day to spend in stretchy maternity pants – now we are off to feed our bodies with delicious food and our souls with the love of our family. I hope everyone has a lovely day of Thanks!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Stella's first hair cut

By Liv

I've been told by numerous people that I should NEVER cut Stella's beautiful locks. But the truth is, it needed it! Luckily, I have a lovely friend (who also happens to cut my hair) and agreed to tame Stella's mane. Ava owns Tigerlilly salon in Ballard and does an amazing job with hair. I'm so very thankful that she went out of her way (and out of her comfort zone) to attempt cutting little bambina's hair.

As I promised, and much to Ava's surprise, Stella was perfect in the salon chair. She sat in silence and simply observed what was happening around her. In the end, we left with no tears shed and not a peep from her little mouth until I asked if she was ready for her lollipop :)

Settling in Seattle

By Liv

We are pretty much settled in. We've found a beautiful new townhouse in Fremont (Seattle) that is filled with natural light, hardwood floors and all the comforts that we've missed over the last two years of traveling and living abroad.

Now that we are settling in to our new home, we have enjoyed getting out and doing some fun things. Here are some of the highlights from our October in Seattle.

Searching for the perfect Halloween pumpkin: All three of us had a lovely time splashing through the mud in search of the perfect pumpkin. We took a tractor ride and attempted the corn maze before heading home and warming up with some hot cocoa. Stella, of course, wanted to pick out the SMALLEST pumpkin she could find...

A breathtaking view of Seattle from the Bainbridge Island ferry: Not that it's possible, but if one ever runs out of fair-weather outings in the Emerald City, I highly recommend a trip to one of the many destinations that the local ferry takes you to. We took the short trip to Bainbridge Island and back. Stella loved being on the ferry and seeing all the sights from a different perspective - and we enjoyed the fresh air and time together as a family :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What our 2-year-old is like.

By Liv

Stella is now 2. People often ask me if time has flown by and I can honestly say that it hasn't. We've done so much in the last two years, we've crammed so many travels and adventures in the last 24 months that the time has not flown by. I remember all the places we've been and all the wonderful people we've met and I can't help but think that it feels like Stella should already be 10!

And let's be honest, she jabbers like a ten-year-old. This child can talk until you're sure there's nothing left to say, but still she'll say more! It's quite amazing to listen to. Even when I've had enough and I stop listening, she wanders over to the cat, Lucy, and starts a conversation with her!

Here are some milestones that our bambina has met, and I want to keep track of them so I never forget!

• She speaks in full sentences and says some of the funniest things I've ever heard! Some of my favorites are, "Lucy, don't cry. We'll be right back..." (Speaking to our cat when we are leaving the house.) "Mama, call the doctor!" (After any time she hurts herself.) "Oh hi, Daddy! So happy to see you!"

• She is potty trained! Well, she was trained at 22 months, so technically before she turned two, but who's counting? (I'd like credit for this amazing feat!)

• Stella loves to sing songs and can sing in perfect tune many of her favorites, including "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Ba-ba Black Sheep"

• Still has the tiniest feet in the world. She's still barely a child's size 4, so she looks like a little mini-person!

• Sleeps in her own big-girl bed in her own room.

There's so much more to say about my little love but I figure this is enough for now. We have really enjoyed watching her grow in the last two years and can't wait to share her milestones when she's three!

 Her new favorite thing is the jewelry her Abuelo gives her. For her second birthday, she got her first pair of fresh-water pearl earrings. She insists on wearing them every single day :)

Stella, Abuelo and Seren.


By Liv

I know what you're thinking, "Liv, when the heck did you go to Iceland? I thought you were living in Seattle now and are all settled?" Well, you're right. We ARE living in Seattle and we ARE settled, but over a month ago, when we left England to move back to America, we made a short stop in Iceland along the way. Call it our last adventure for a long time, if you will.

We stayed in Reykjavik, Iceland. We rented a beautifully renovated 1-bedroom apartment right near the center of town and settled in with our 8 checked bags and 4 carry-on bags that was the entire contents of our house in Oxford. Yes, 8 checked bags. Yes, 4 carry-ons. And a stroller. Crazy, I know.

Besides strolling through town and admiring how amazingly expensive everything in Iceland is, we spent some much-needed family time together and enjoyed the local zoo as well as the world-famous "Pylsur" (aka Hot Dog) stand that both Metallica and Bill Clinton once ate at.

Directly before our flight to Seattle, we made a day trip to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulphur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to have healing properties, too. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 98–102 °F.

We had an amazing time at the Lagoon and would highly recommend anyone who visits Iceland to make a stop there - especially right before your long international flight!

 This store, "Stella" sold only the craziest looking pantyhose you've ever seen.

 Riding the carousel at the Zoo.

 Enjoying Pylsur at the most famous Pylsur stand in all of Iceland.

 No sink is too small for this girl!

 The Blue Lagoon's milky blue waters were very warm and calming.

 It was like being at the biggest spa in the world!

The tiniest spa-goer...

The things I do and don't miss about living in Oxford.

By Liv

I know I've spouted on and on about how much I love(d) living in England. I really did love it. There were quite a few things that (now that we are back to the USA) I can honestly say that I do NOT miss about living in Oxford. Here are a few:

I do NOT miss: hang-drying all of our clothes, hearing all the goings-on and people walking past my house (i.e. drunken undegrads), Nick being away working on assignments for what seemed like 24/7, the never-ending bug problem in our flat (first moths, then spiders then slugs!), using a self-rigged shower (our bathtub didn't have a shower head but just a hand-held shower head that we had to rig to the ceiling so we could take a shower!) and not being able to call and chat with my American friends whenever I want.

But, the list of things that I DO miss is even longer. I DO miss being surrounded by academics, amazing architecture everywhere (it really looked like I was living in the Harry Potter movies), the hilarious British accents all around, making new friends that were all in the same situation together (i.e. starting from scratch in a brand new place), walking EVERYWHERE, having so many wonderful restaurants within walking distance - my favorite Indian restaurant of all time was only a block away!

Mostly, I miss the friends that we made during our stay in England. I will never forget them and hope that we stay in touch for a long time to come. Here are some photos from our last week in Oxford. Everyone really rallied together towards the end of our stay - and we ended up having more than one going away dinner, which was lovely. I wish we were heading back for Capstone and Graduation, but it doesn't look likely. For all our OX friends, please keep in touch! We miss you all :)

 Anas can really play the tennis-guitar!

 Laka and the gang put together a delicious home-cooked Indian going-away feast for me!
Lovely Laura and her precious son, Tenzing. Stella and Tenzing Skype almost every day :)
 Stella's best-buddy at their favorite spot: The Perch Restaurant in Oxford.

Fancy a spot of tea?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy Second Birthday, Stella!

By Liv

Stella's birthday isn't actually until July 20th, but since we left Oxford on July 17th, I decided we should host a birthday gathering before leaving England, so we could celebrate with all of our new friends.

And what's more appropriate for a little girl living in the romantic English town of Oxford than a proper Mad Hatter's high tea birthday party? Especially since Stella enjoys having her very own high tea at home every single day.

As I have mentioned about 39 times in my previous posts, I have made some amazing friends during our time in Oxford. I have met people who I know we will be friends with forever. Some of those friends came to the rescue on Stella's big day and helped me to put together a fantastic gathering. We had over 20 people join us to celebrate and we served a completely gluten/egg/dairy free menu that was delectable and delicious:

• Tea Sandwiches •
Chopped olive & cucumber
Wafer-thin turkey & hummus
Almond butter & strawberry jam

• Fruit •
Strawberry, banana, grape and peach fruit skewers

• Treats •
Ginger cookies
Brownie bites
Chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate cookie sandwiches filled with vanilla frosting
Shortcake fingers

• To drink •
A selection of fruit and black teas

The decorations were perfect, the food was delicious, the weather was delightful and the company was wonderful. We couldn't have asked for a better day to celebrate our daughter's 2nd birthday.

 My helping hands: Vini, Thanzeem, Yuvi, Neelima, Lakshmi and Mahdieh.

 Taste-testing every single flavor...

 The ever handsome, Jamal.

 Gluten free and still delicious!

 Ellie Claire sporting her Mad Hatter Hat.

 The Royal Tea party and the birthday girl at the head of the table :)

 Stella sat in her chair at the table for almost 2 hours, sipping tea and eating cookies!

 Anas & Thanzeem :)

 The Gareys: looking fabulous as usual!

 Enjoying some tea and treats.

 Neelima loves Stella.

 The whole group.

 Rahul is one of Stella's favorite new friends. 

 Stella loves Anas and Thanzeem.

 Vasu & Neelima are always so happy to see her, too!

 Stella loves Laka and Ash!

 Mahdieh did most of the decorating and did a fantastic job. Stella says, "Thank you!"

 Anas trying to convince Stella that he's cooler than Rahul :)

 These girls love the bambina soooo much!

How many tea sets does a girl need? In Stella's case, the answer is three. This is just one of them :)