In college, I double-majored with Spanish being one of my majors. I had been taking Spanish classes since middle school and yet, still didn’t feel confident speaking more than one sentence at a time. I knew that to really learn the language I would need to be completely immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment.
So I did what an sensible person would do. I found an agency online that does “international exchange” opportunities and sent in an application to be an au pair in Spain. Through this agency, I put in my work experience, hobbies, sent in letters of reference and completed a background check. Within a few weeks, I opened an email and excitedly read the profile of the family I was matched-up with!
For an entire summer I lived and worked with a family in Madrid, helping to take care of their 2 young children, and had no choice but to navigate my entire way speaking Spanish!
The program worked that in exchange for working as an au pair, I was given free housing and food and a small weekly stipend that was just enough money to help me travel to different cities on my weekends off. I traveled with the family on vacation to Northern Spain, took siestas in the afternoon and made friends from all over the world.
It was an incredible experience that really helped to shape who I am today, and there were many aspects of the culture and lifestyle that I knew I wanted to emulate in my life back in the States. For example, I loved that my host family didn’t have a T.V. in sight. There was one in the entire household, that was not in a main area and if I did watch a movie with the children, I was asked that it always be in English to help them learn the language. I also loved being able to walk most places and felt there was much more of an emphasis on using extra time and money to do things (vacations, day-trips, going out for meals, etc.) rather than to buy things. Their home was nice and had everything you could possibly need, but was also simple in size and furnishings.
While there were many highlights from this trip, it also was quite difficult to be completely alone in a foreign country at the age of 20. I didn’t always agree with my “boss” and never realized how challenging that could make working and living in the same place. While I absolutely loved the freedom that came with traveling alone, I also felt lonely many times, especially when my brain was feeling too tired to constantly be focusing on translating and not just be able to freely converse as I tried to make friends.
During these times, when I was craving comfort the most, I would walk to a nearby cafe and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and warm bread or bakery item as I read a book. I’m not sure what it is about a warm piece of freshly baked bread that’s always so comforting, but I swear it always has to power to brighten any mood.
So whether you’re on an adventure and feeling homesick, or just want a delicious piece of bread to go with your next meal, this Whole Wheat Poppy Seed Loaf is just for you!
Whole Wheat Poppy Seed Loaf
Adapted from Food 52
Keywords: bake bread vegetarian
Ingredients (2 loaves)
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 2 tbs. honey
- 1 tbs. active dry yeast
- 5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbs. salt
- 1 egg
- Poppy seeds
- 1 tbs. olive oil (or 1 egg white mixed with 1 tbs. water)
1. Warm the milk to body temperature (when you place your finger in it you shouldn’t feel it -not hot or cold). Place milk in large bowl and add the yeast and honey. Stir together and let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Add whole wheat pastry flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, egg and salt. Mix on low speed (or knead by hand) for about 2-3 minutes then increase to medium low speed and mix about 3-4 minutes. Add additional all-purpose flour, 1 tbs. at a time, if dough seems too sticky. Cover and let sit in warm place for 1 hour.
3. Punch down dough and divide in half (I put half in the fridge to use later in the week). Spray loaf pan with cooking spray. Optional for braided loaf: divide one half of dough into 3 equal pieces, roll out each piece into a log, pinch together at one end and braid bread. Place doug then place in loaf pan. Cover and let sit 40 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush top of loaf with olive oil (or egg wash) and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake 40-50 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, serve and enjoy!
Another piece of comfort whether I’m overseas or in my home? Receiving a package! Especially one with healthy new foods to try! This package came courtesy of NatureBox; they focus on delivering wholesome, delicious foods to your doorstep every month. In each package, there are new all-natural snacks! I love this idea of being surprised with new foods to try that you know will be good for your body, and especially love their focus on snacks, as that is so often where it’s easy to overlook choosing healthy options!
Just knowing that this package was coming led me to feel so much excitement, wondering what it would contain! My NatureBox included: Peppery Pistachios, Dried Pears, Zingy Currants, Cranberry Jubilee and Smoky Pumpkin Seeds!
First I tried the dried pears. This was my first time eating pears this way and I really enjoyed the mild flavor and chewy texture!
It was definitely a great snack to have throughout the day and I LOVE that the only ingredient in this bag is literally natural pears!
Next, I tried the Smoky Pumpkin Seeds. I now have a new favorite snack and definitely appreciate that this is not something I would have ever tried on my own! A small handful of these is full of so much flavor and is actually filling!
You can sign-up to receive a monthly NatureBox and the great part is you can pause or cancel it any time! Right now you can receive 25% off your first month of subscription using promo code JUBILEE (please note that the 25% discount is only applicable to the month-to-month subscription. 6 month subscriptions receive 1 month free and 12 month subscriptions receive 3 months free)!
~Have you ever traveled anywhere alone? What brings you a sense of comfort?