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Baking linzer cookies for our neighbors

Warm greetings from Barcelona! ♡

I have to admit that I had really (really) been hoping to write this month’s update cozied up in front of a fireplace back in Kansas, where we had planned to spend the month of December home with our families.  But, like so many of you, we ended up having to make the hard call to cancel our long-anticipated plane tickets and holiday plans and stay put here instead.  Which was totally the right decision.  But, sigh, still a hard one.  It’s been a year now since we’ve been able to see our families in person, and Barclay and I were so excited for them to finally get to meet their little grand-bun while he’s still in the oven.  We feel incredibly fortunate, though, that everyone in our families is currently safe and well.  So we’re pivoting 2020-style for the holidays this year, and instead, setting our sights ahead on our next family reunion complete with lots of baby snuggles here in Spain, hopefully as soon as possible after our little guy is born.  We can’t wait.

As for now, I’m sitting out on our sunny new terrace here in Barcelona and realize that I have so much to share with you since our last update.  Such as…we moved!  And we made it through another trimester with our sweet bebé (and learned the gender, in case you missed it above)!  And you all not only fully-funded our very special community garden project in Mali this holiday season…but you donated more than TRIPLE the amount that we needed help launch!  $26,000 and counting!!!

I’m still completely blown away by your generosity and can’t even begin to tell you how much it means that you have joined in to support this new project.  We already have some exciting new updates on the garden construction to share with you below, plus details on where all of the extra funds that you raised will be going, as well as a new video from the garden that I promise will brighten your Monday.  So without further ado, here is the latest!

Drilling a well in Mali with The Wash Project

Community Garden Update

First things first…thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. ♡

You guys absolutely knocked our socks off by donating over $26,000 to help launch this very special community garden in Mali, which is extraordinarily generous and over triple the amount that we had hoped to raise for the project!!!  In case you missed it, this was the response of the local women in Oulessebougou when we shared the news with them last week that the community garden was officially a go.  They were thrilled!⁣

Your donations have allowed us to begin work on the community garden immediately.  And I’m happy to report that drilling for the community garden’s brand new well was completed this past week — and it was a huge success!  You can watch the full story (and see the local community’s amazing response as the drilling truck pulled into town) in the new 2-minute video update above.  In a nutshell, though, the drilling engineers ended up finding even more water below the garden than the initial groundwater tests had predicted.  (Which was an amazing surprise; you can never know for certain exactly how much water is available until you officially begin drilling.)  Which means that even more local gardeners and members of the village will have access to clean water year-round.  Which is going to make such a difference in this community.

Thanks to your incredible generosity, we are also going to be able to DOUBLE the size of the water tower that will soon be constructed to help store the clean water from the well, which will also help to increase the access to clean water for the neighboring village.  And amazingly, your extra donations have also already put us well on our way to being able to fund ANOTHER brand-new community garden in a neighboring village in 2021, which was something that local leaders had hoped to begin in the next year or two but didn’t yet have the budget for.  So everyone is incredibly excited and talks have already begun to choose the next site for a garden.  More on that to come.

Anyway, lots of amazing work has already happened in the past two weeks (I told you The Wash Project moves quickly!), and we’re receiving exciting new updates daily about the next phase of the garden that is already currently underway.  So stay tuned here for more news to come soon.  And again, you guys, thank you.  It means the world to me to be able to partner on a meaningful project like this with you, and I’m so excited for all of us to follow along and learn more from these amazing women in Mali in the months ahead.

Barclay and Ali Martin | Baby Bump

Second Trimester

Here on the home front, Barclay and I are now just a few days away from crossing over into our third trimester with our little rainbow bebé.  And in case you missed the mention above, I’m happy to report that…

…we’re having a BOY!  A little niño! ♡

After an intense few years riding the roller coaster of infertility, IVF, and losing our baby’s precious twin during our first trimester, our second trimester has ended up being mercifully smooth health-wise, and also so sweet and encouraging for our hearts.  Our little guy started rolling around and kicking up a storm early on in the second trimester, which has just been the absolute best and also such a comfort when I’m feeling anxious.  During one of our recent ultrasounds, the camera also just so happened to be zoomed in on his tiny face at the exact moment he let out an enormous yawn (eee!), which was amazing to actually see on screen and instantly melted my mama-heart.  It’s been amazing to watch this baby bump grow bigger and bigger by the day too.  Although I must say — our little guy already feels huge, so it’s wild to think about three more months of growing to go!

That said, as encouraging as this trimester has been, it has still been a very slow process for our hearts to reach the point where we feel ready to start dreaming about the newborn stage in earnest — as in, moving onto books about newborns, starting to design a nursery, and actually working on a registry and purchasing things for our little guy.  We’ve cautiously made our way through lots of resources about pregnancy itself.  But even six months in, it still feels hard not to just brace ourselves for more loss.  And instead, to let ourselves get our hopes up that things might end well and that we might actually make it all the way to our due date and experience this dream of holding a healthy baby in our arms.

However, each passing day of this pregnancy continues to give us more confidence.  And now that we’re all moved into our new place and can actually spend time in the room that will one day be our little guy’s nursery, I feel like I can finally start to more confidently picture what it’s going to be like to have him here with us.  And last week, I found myself finally wandering into a baby store for the very first time and came home with a sweet little onesie purchase in tow too.  Baby steps for mama in this part of the process too, I’m learning.

Anyway, our second trimester has taught us that hearts most certainly do not magically heal after the grief that accompanies infertility and loss.  But they do grow stronger and all the more grateful for good news when it arrives.  And this trimester — and this sweet little boy — have most certainly been the good news we’ve been hoping for.

Terrace in Eixample Barcelona

Our New Casa!

Onto some lighter and also very-long-awaited news…we finally found a new flat in Barcelona and officially moved in three weeks ago!

In true 2020 fashion, our apartment search took us much, much longer than expected, which definitely started to feel a bit more stressful as we were inching closer to our due date.  But last month, we finally stumbled upon an absolute gem of a place in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona, and hustled to be the first to negotiate and meet their terms for an immediate move.  (Apartments in Spain aren’t typically listed until they are vacant, so the moving process goes very quickly.)

And oh my goodness, we are loving our new place so much. ♡

It ended up checking off all of the boxes on our list and more, including a small extra room for our bebé (I can’t wait to show you the space soon, it’s so perfect and sweet), a private outdoor terrace (that’s surprisingly huge and sunny and beautiful, and also something we’ve desperately been craving during Spain’s various phases of home confinement this year), an open kitchen that can double as my office/studio (these are very rare in Barcelona, but this one is gorgeous and even more spacious than I had hoped), an elevator (which this pregnant gal is loving, after our former fourth floor walk-up), an outdoor grill (finally, I can start posting more grilling recipes again!), plus lots and lots of European old-world-style charm (as you can catch a peek of here in our new bathroom).

Anyway, the past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind between moving and the holidays and getting everything ready to go with the community garden project in Mali, and I haven’t had a chance yet to take pictures of a full home tour.  But if anyone’s interested in seeing more, let me know and I’ll snap some to share in next month’s update.  I’m definitely entering into full-on nesting mode over here, so hopefully there will be some baby nursery photos to come soon too. 🙂

Smeg Mixer

Things I’m Loving Lately

Other than the three big pieces of news listed above, life has been pretty simple around here lately.  We’ve had a steady stream of friends coming over each week for safely-distanced hangouts our new terrace, which has made my heart so, so happy.  (I’ve missed being able to safely entertain SO much in 2020!)  We’ve also been enjoying all of the fun Christmas markets, lights and traditions here in Barcelona around the holidays (and can’t wait to introduce our little guy to Caga Tió next year, haha.)  And I’ve been having a nostalgic bake-a-thon in our new kitchen, whipping up all of my favorite American holiday cookies and treats to pass out, which are always a hit with our Spanish and expat friends alike.  I’ve also especially been loving…

  • My new Smeg mixer: Now that we have a kitchen with extra counter space again (woo hoo!), I decided to celebrate by buying myself a new stand mixer for Christmas. I ended up going with a Smeg since they are much more popular here in Europe and I’ve long admired their pretty designs in storefront windows.  And so far…I’m loving it!  For any of you bakers interested in a review, I would say that the Smeg mixer definitely feels more sturdy and powerful than some of the KitchenAid mixers I have owned in the past, and the attachments all work really well.  I’m also enjoying having a glass (instead of metal) mixer bowl for the first time, which looks so lovely in the kitchen.  The mixer base, however, is noticeably larger than KitchenAids with a comparable bowl size, so it does require a bit counter space than I was expecting.  Overall, though, it’s so fun to have a stand mixer again…and all of the cookies it has been mixing up!
  • Christmas everything: Those of you who have followed this blog for awhile know that I’m one of those people who loves all things cozy and Christmas-y at home this time of year.  So moving into a new casa around Christmastime has definitely had me in full-on holiday hygge mode! 😉  This season, my faves have included: this album on repeat, this balsam and cedarwood candle burning each evening, batches upon batches of Linzer cookies (recipe coming soon), and of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas in our house without some Clark Griswold.
  • Shows, shows, shows: Ever since Barcelona imposed a city-wide evening curfew a few months ago, we’ve been watching more shows in the evenings than usual (with nooch popcorn, of course), which has been fun way to break in our new living room projector.  We loved the popular series that everyone can’t stop talking about — The Crown, The Queen’s Gambit, The Undoing, The Politician.  We also watched GBBO for the first time in like a decade and could not believe how charming it was.  I was admittedly one of the people who cringed my way through Emily In Paris.  (I know so many people loved it, but oof, I thought it could have been sooo much better.)  And after hearing all of our European friends fan over David Attenborough for years (he’s a legend over here!), we finally watched his latest Netflix documentary and would highly recommend it.  Would love to hear what you’ve been watching and loving lately too!
  • Books and podcasts: I finally read Caste, which was excellent and important, and am currently enjoying a fun novel about a sommelier in France.  I also really enjoyed the Dolly Parton’s America podcast and am currently finishing up Chameleon.  And while this isn’t a book, I spent an hour making by way through this post yesterday and found it completely captivating.  Wow, what a year we have been through.
  • Planning for 2021: Finally, I’m spending a lot of time working on new content for 2021 right now and would love to hear what sort of recipes you all would like to see here in the coming year.  I know that 2020 has been such an intense and unusual year in the kitchen, where it seemed like comfort foods and cooking “projects” were what we all needed in quarantine.  But I’m definitely craving all things lighter, fresher, and quicker in the coming year — maybe you too?  Would love to hear any requests that you have, especially if there are any particular ingredients, cooking methods, or recipe themes you would like to see represented in 2021.

Dog and baby bump snuggles

XOXO

Anyway, that is the very long update from life around here these past few months.

Would love to hear how you all are doing and feeling as we come to the end of this exhausting roller coaster of a year.  Wherever this finds you in the world today, I really hope that you are safe and well and finding some moments of light to carry you through this holiday season.  Sending lots of love your way from our little baby-bump-sleeping-pup snuggle here in Barcelona today.

Love,
Ali ♡



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