Blog posts have been far and few between around here lately. We have been busy!

To catch everyone up a little, we are still in Albania. We love it here and are keeping it as our home base for an extended period of time. We are still traveling, so look for photos and videos on social media and Youtube!

Cosmo has recently began working as an English news anchor for Ora News of Tirana. He is on air Monday through Friday at 6:00 pm. He is also still teaching English and involved in various volunteer activities. 

All of the children have been active in studies and various interests including volunteering.

I have been making attempts at writing and getting my health back on track. I am beginning to see the real benefits of healthful and simple living and am enjoying the discovery of my own potential!

One of my most important activities is forming the Bohemian Habitat, an NGO (an nonprofit organization independent of government), to offer displaced children education and access to arts, healthful living and, as an alternative to traditional orphanages and foster care, offer greater opportunities for successful independent living into adulthood. The Bohemian Habitat will offer utilize the arts to help children overcome the trauma and stigma often associated with being displaced, as well as stimulate creativity and imagination to increase the potential for success Our goal is to bring peace and harmony into lives that have been disrupted by pain and suffering.

Part of establishing The Bohemian Habitat has been relocating to a much larger home! We now have 3 levels of living space:

• The Theatre level for performance arts, movement and exercise
• The Art level with an art studio constantly being added to for inclusion of all visual arts from painting, photography, sculpture, etc.
• The Living level, with living and dining areas, a study and a kitchen.

The dining area is being developed into a café-like atmosphere, with an area for lounging, self-service tea and coffee and can flow into the balcony and garden with the beautiful weather on our way! Each level has a small island for self-service tea and beverages. There are balconies on each floor that will be equipped with tables and chairs for café-style outdoor relaxation. The bedrooms are large and when the house is fully furnished and functional, can accommodate many. The entire space is light and airy with a very calm vibe and with plenty of garden space to be developed, it will definitely become a peaceful retreat for all.

Coming soon! Look for several posts that will answer some of the many questions about our family, lifestyle and the Bohemian Habitat.

Peace and blessings to all ~

It’s all about the food…#simplefood #keepitfresh

Hey everybody! HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and stayed happy and healthy!
Speaking of healthy and happy, I know a lot of you likely made some resolutions to get healthy or lose weight. So, I wanted to share this recipe idea with you, because the Clan is all about #simplefood and finding balance, living abundantlyAND because it’s so easy, tastes sooo amazing and has plenty of leftovers, which I am famous for making over into something new for the next day!

My receipt from the veg stand in Albanian (no, I don't know all of the Albanian names yet!)

My receipt from the veg stand in Albanian (no, I don’t know all of the Albanian names yet!)

To begin with, chop up any and every fresh vegetable you can get your hands on. Don’t think about whether it will taste good with the other veg, just add it anyway! We almost always add potatoes, carrots, cabbages, leeks, onions, garlic, zucchini, celery and spinach, but it will vary by availability. Although frozen spinach, peas and such are lovely to just toss in when fresh isn’t available. Be sure to #keepitfresh for health and flavours sake!
Just put it all in the pot!

Just put it all in the pot!

Add any and all fresh herbs that are available. Right now, it’s basil, thyme, rosemary, dill and some type of cilantro-looking stuff I don’t know what it is, but it is commonly used in Albanian dishes). Just chop them up and throw them in the pot – use an abundance! There are no right or wrong amounts, unless of course, spicy things need to be accounted for, but my goal is usually just to fill the pot 3/4 full.
Add everything that's available -  it really will taste great, it's fast and easy to prep...

Add everything that’s available – it really will taste great, it’s fast and easy to prep…

Add a lot of love and positive thoughts, salt and pepper, a can of coconut cream and a jar of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes. Fill with just enough water to cover the bounty, cook on medium heat for a couple of hours and voilà! You have an amazing meal!
On the stove for a couple of hours The smell is amazing and look at those colors!), while I catch up on other must do's...

On the stove for a couple of hours The smell is amazing and look at those colors!), while I catch up on other must do’s…

Finally, don’t forget it can be made over the next day by adding pasta, rice, beans. Be creative! Serve with bread and a little cheap (or expensive) wine. The Clan likes to throw some almonds, macadamias, pecans or walnuts in our soups instead of croutons!
The best thing about this is that it’s so simple, uses what’s on hand and little thought, can last for at least 2-3 meals and be made over into something new and leaves you with more time to enjoy the beauties of your world…or at least time to spend with your favorite people.
Less prep and cook time leaves me with more time for things like meditating with my favorite people!

Less prep and cook time leaves me with more time for things like meditating with my favorite people!

Our Albanian TV docu-interview…

In the studio of Vila 24, an Albanian morning program, with the show host, Androniki Kolkata, and our friend, Sonila Myftaraj.

In the studio of Vila 24, an Albanian morning program, with the show host, Androniki Kolkata, and our friend, Sonila Myftaraj.

An Albanian morning news program, Vila 24 on Channel 24, expressed interest in our family and over the course of two days last week filmed this 24 minute docu-interview.
We enjoyed the opportunity to discuss travel, volunteerism, worldschooling, foster care, and adoption and we were so glad to participate!
The intro and questions are in Albanian, of course, but our responses are in English with light voice-over Albanian translation, so the meat of it is understandable.
I hope you enjoy!

Second day of filming with journalist and friend, Elda Lamja.

Second day of filming with journalist and friend, Elda Lamja.

You’re WHAT?

Birthday dining in Montengro

Birthday dining in Montengro

I have alluded to it and never publicly acknowledged it. Not that anyone should really care in this day and age – everyone is entitled to their preferences, right? Even so, I am ready to step up and own it. I don’t even know when, or how, I really knew…it was just a sort of “aha” moment, when I thought, “this is what I am.”. I’ll tell the story…

When we arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, I struggled to find decent healthy food for a reasonable price. There are no reasonable food prices in Stockholm. Everyone was hungry all of the time. I felt like I was hunting for food everyday and no matter how much I bought, it wasn’t enough. We stayed in an apart-hostel and the kitchen was nice, but minuscule.

Then, we moved on to Poland. I loved Warsaw, but we weren’t long for there. Soon, we arrived in Krakow and another apart-hostel and tiny kitchen. It was here we fell In love kebabs. Food, glorious food! They were cheap and easy and we really couldn’t cook meat in the apartment, as there was no real cooking utensils for that (unless we wanted to boil it, and I didn’t!)

On to Budapest, and what a wonderful time! We loved the castles and inexpensive food choices – and the KITCHEN! We stayed in an Airbnb with a real kitchen! Good times we had, but something was amiss – everyone was growing increasingly dissatisfied. Complaints of aching and intestinal discomfort. Headaches and wild cravings for constant sugary things that we rarely ever indulged in. This didn’t happen at the amazing vegan restaurant we loved to eat at, though and a seed was planted…

We traveled to Serbia and beyond to Montenegro with that tiny seed ever so slowly sprouting…

Awaiting our meat...

Awaiting our meat…

When we arrived in Greece, the meat and french fry filled gyros were not only amazingly delicious, but wonderfully cheap, too – we could feed the whole family an abundance for under $20! But then, after a few gyro fueled heartburn blazes, the novelty wore off. We were left all craving still more meat, or so we thought, but more meat wasn’t the answer – we still were feeling less than our best, or even our okay-est.

We discussed it amongst ourselves. It was a practicality thing to begin with – meat is too hard to cook in tiny places lacking the means to cook it in the way we prefer and we didn’t always like the local options in several of our stays (That would NOT include Poland and Greece! A kebab or a gyro are amazing and wonderful, divinely inspired foods!). After a while, we found that we were using less and less meat and even when we thought we wanted it, it was disappointing and tasteless, and didn’t make (some of) us feel well. When we ate foods rich in fruits and veg, which we love, we felt so much better. Able to wake up in the morning, better and clearer thinking. Of course, it wasn’t just meat doing that – it was the sort of tourist-eating-new-foods that added to our problems, with processed foods and foods that we were unaccustomed to.

Then, it evolved into “part-time” vegetarianism ( I know! I have heard it said that there is no part time allowed – the reality is that, statistically, most people fit into the 80/20% group – 80% of food is vegetarian and 20% of intake is some form of animal products, albeit sometimes without knowing it). We would remain meat-free at home, but be free choice when eating out or at the homes of others. That idea didn’t last long…

Vegetarian Caveman stew

Vegetarian Caveman stew

So, after all of this time (about 4 months of avoiding it) we are ready to come out. We are no longer meat eaters. Not everyone is in the same circle. With 8 people, we have varying degrees of who likes/wants/does what. Everyone is almost completely processed sugar-free, with the exception being an occasional coffee, a birthday celebration or the local bakery bread that a few of the kids like. There are a few lacto-ovo vegetarians, one gluten-free vegetarian, a few that prefer eating vegetarian food but don’t want to fully commit when they smell bacon cooking or chicken roasting (which is fine!), and one gluten-free mostly raw vegan – that’s me. I have some serious health issues to overcome and this is what is helping me right now. I am eating about 90% raw-vegan, but include an occasional egg or mayo for protein and fat once in a while.

Mixed veg over rice and sheep's yogurt sauce (not pictured) all prepped in our tiny little Greek apartment!

Mixed veg over rice and sheep’s yogurt sauce (not pictured) all prepped in our tiny little Greek apartment!

Are we committed? Three of us are, but not as a lifestyle. Not all of the kids are sure they want to make this a lifelong plan, but really appreciate the bennies right now. We will not become religious about a meatless diet. This wasn’t a choice based on ethics. We raised ethical meat and dairy ourselves and I am not opposed to meat as food. This is a health and practicality issue. Travel and meat prep has been challenging and unsatisfying. Meat and meat products just don’t fit our lives right now and we need the health and vitality we have gained more than food worries, expenses, wild cravings and such.

A little thought..

When you call that person “crazy” for their choice in a leader, religion, or lifestyle, just remember that, even if their choices are wrong for your life, there are forces at work in their lives that led to these decisions. If all was wonderful in the world, there wouldn’t be the struggle to be heard, the need to make difficult or unpopular decisions, desperation, fear or any other powerful motivating influence.
Today’s casual use of “crazy” doesn’t only imply mental illness, but stupidity. Neither applies to most people, in the spirit it is used. When you call someone a profane name or hurl a ripping insult, you don’t show them how wrong they are – you confirm that the the situations they are facing are not the only things against them and they become even more entrenched in fear based or desperate thinking.
We are not smarter when we demean or belittle another. We are not more powerful because we follow a certain ideology. This is not progress or higher thinking, it is bullying. Aren’t we a country, a world, trying to unite to stop that within our schools and amongst our children? Then be an example, be kind.
Just because someone doesn’t agree with you, you don’t have to react. We can have opinions, share opinions, discuss opinions without being hateful, cruel or antagonizing. Seriously.

The Cost of Travel for The Caveman Clan…

We are often asked how we can afford to travel. Now that it has become our way of life, we don’t think we can afford not to travel! The short, yet dissatisfying, answer is “we make it work”. The long answer is a bit more complicated. I will address a little beyond the short answer, but will have to put more effort into the breakdown and costs for the long answer…so I suppose that makes this the medium answer!

We are budget travelers. I am a very bad budgeter, so I can’t tell you that all we do is completely hinged on our budget, but I have very specific amounts that I am willing to spend on certain things. These things are housing, entertainment, actual travel costs, and a few other personal items. It also consists of a lot of work – researching, scheduling, contacting, negotiating, and sometimes changing gears when the situation calls for it.

Visiting Alexander the Great...

Visiting Alexander the Great…

Our goal is to spend less than $2000USD per month. Occasionally, it doesn’t happen. Doesn’t sound like much, especially for a family of 8, does it? (Honestly my usual goal is $1500/mo, but lately we have gone over and I’ve had to use some discretion in spending.) So, now you want to know how it is done? I will try to explain and some folks will think it isn’t worth it and some may be encouraged. No matter, to each his/her own!

We travel with only our backpacks and a couple of computer bags/daypacks for the electronics. We travel with only 3-4 outfits and 2 pairs of shoes each, which keeps our clothing costs very low and our packs lighter. If we buy something new, something else has to go! I did buy some much needed clothes here in Greece at the street market and now have an abundance of clothes, some of which will have to find new homes! We hand wash if we have no washing machine, or do a load every few days if we have one.

Mixed veg over rice and sheep's yogurt sauce (not pictured) all prepped in our tiny little Greek apartment!

Mixed veg over rice and sheep’s yogurt sauce (not pictured) all prepped in our tiny little Greek apartment!

Our food costs are usually the biggest expense, but no surprise there, with 4 teens and a 20 year young man in the clan! We are usually vegetarians now – I know many of my friends are exclaiming loudly that the Bacon-Lover-of-All-Bacon-Lovers has given up her carnivorous ways and the end of times has drawn near, but I have most of the time, but this is not an absolute. We will eat meat when we go to restaurants or with other people. This not only keeps our food costs manageable, but makes better use of fresh foods which in turn has been great for our health! (I am not advocating a vegetarian diet for better health – I believe that including meat in our diets can be just as healthy, but while we travel, we tend to adopt a more vegetarian lifestyle and it’s not only simpler, but more efficient.) Greece has been really great for fresh foods due to the weekly street markets that rotate areas each day – we have eaten more peaches in season than ever before! – and we utilize the Wednesday street market just outside our door and the market on Saturday a few blocks away (watch our Youtube channel for the video on our shopping excursion.) The food costs are much higher here than in some other countries, though, and one of the reasons for our impending departure, along with transportation and some personal things that have arisen. Our food costs have been almost double than in Montenegro and Serbia, so it has been a little overwhelming at around $900. We rent actual apartments or houses, so we have a kitchen and appliances for our food and meal prep.

I never spend over $700USD per month on housing, if at all possible, and with few exceptions, it’s possible. I often negotiate a monthly rental at substantial saving over the nightly or weekly rates. It is a little time consuming, but saving $1000’s is often possible for a few hours time!

Transportation is not always needed, as we tend to ride Shank’s mare (I couldn’t help but throw in that tribute to my mom – it means to walk, for the younger crowd!), but will use public transit other times. The public buses in Thessaloniki are high at 1Euro ($1.12USD) each way, so we try not use it too often as that will run the whole family about $18USD just to make a trip into the city. It’s about 2 miles from our apartment to Thessaloniki downtown, so it’s a longish walk, but not undoable on a cool day. On a hot day, we take the bus!

For long haul traveling, we use the budget airlines that are so amazing in Europe, trains, and buses. We are looking forward to some boat travel but haven’t made it work, as yet. I do not spend over $50USD per person, luggage included, for any travel, except when changing continents. That is another thing, but I still have managed to keep costs super low at those times, also.

The Fox at the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle

The Fox at the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle

We do not always visit every tourist attraction in every place we go. My thought is that we visit what we can and what’s important to us now. We can always come back when we need/want. We walk and explore for fun and education, visiting anyplace that catches our attention. We recently visited the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle (Proxenou Koromila 23, Thessaloniki, Greece) and it was a gold mine of history and Macedonian culture. It was inexpensive, not too large, informative and interesting (also has clean restrooms!), and we enjoyed it immensely.

This European travel has been a learning curve for us. We have frequently needed to rethink some of our plans and make new ones to accommodate our finances or personal desires. It has always lead to the most awesome experiences, but takes time to learn the best way of doing one thing or another. Large family travels aren’t for everyone! It takes time, determination, and sometimes even a little humility to plan these things, but I have just refused to consider that this would be an impossibility for us, just because of our family size. I believe it has paid off and getting easier and stress free as we go.

Much of our time is spent in the usual pursuits of life, so while we may not visit some of the really expensive tourist destinations, we also get to really live in each place we visit. We meet people, serve people, study, write, work, explore and enjoy. We not only slow travel, but we live slowly, which in this age of hurrying has really become an important part of our travels. We don’t have set schedules for a lot of things, we take joy in the simple things – have you ever taken your kids to a tiny unused amphitheater in Thessaloniki, Greece and listened to them recite Shakespeare? Did you walk along the Adriatic Sea early in the morning after picking up some hand made “burek” for lunch from the local bakery? Have you slowly walked through castles or ruined forts, playing knights in countries you never imagined visiting, much less live in? That is what our budget traveling has allowed us to do. We do it slowly, with meaning and thoughtfulness, differently than those who travel on vacation, but no less lovely, in a way that is important to us…

Cosmo, Seaside Promenade, Thessaloniki, Greece

Cosmo, Seaside Promenade, Thessaloniki, Greece