SLOW-GRILLED ZUCCHINI, a recipe + Sweden’s first vegan cruise menu (this just the start[er])

On the 29th of September I had the pleasure of attending the official launch and tasting of the swanky (and ground-breaking) Birka Cruise vegan menu; purportedly the first vegan cruise menu of any of the Swedish pleasure cruise services.

If you live in Sweden, you are no doubt familiar with shorter pleasure cruises, and M/S Birka is one of a few passenger ships that travels the route between Stockholm and Mariehamn on the island of Åland (some continue on to Helsinki for a 2-night trip). The big draw cards for these mini cruises are:

  • having a convenient mini break
  • the entertainment
  • the facilities (sauna, spa, pool, etc.)
  • the tax-free shopping
  • the views (the Stockholm archipelago is stunning)
    … and, of course, the dining!


Sweden has a particular traditional food culture that is well-known and loved by many, and the ubiquitous meatball, traditional cinnamon bun and buttery new potatoes can all be expected to feature on such cruises. Birka has stated that they are not about to abandon completely every expected/classic dish, however they recognise that both traditional pleasure cruise culture and traditional Swedish culinary culture do not cater well to those with vegan preferences. And they want to address this fact whilst modernising their offering.

On the day of the menu launch, our party of journalists, bloggers and vegetable-lovers congregated downstairs in the Birka terminal at Slussen just after 4pm. Escorted upstairs and onto the ship itself, we made our way to a dining room where we were met by Birka management, chef Maximillian Lundin and glasses of champagne (or sparkling water in my case!). After a short introduction we headed straight into the kitchen or, as I think of it, the hallowed space “where the magic happens”. Aside from tasting the food (it’s no secret that I like to eat!), this was a highlight. To watch the chefs not only prepare the dishes for service, but hear about the process of creating the vegan menu, the rationale behind the project and the various steps involved was fascinating.

Major international and luxury cruise lines have been focusing more on catering to varied dietary needs for some time, but here in Sweden, Birka is the first company of its kind to not only recognise the growing demand for plant-based dining options, but to do something about it by creating a gourmet vegan menu.

Birka’s new vegan cruise menu is the result of a collaboration with Maximillian Lundin (one of my favourite chefs in Stockholm), owner of vegan restaurant, The Plant (one of my favourites eateries in Stockholm), cookbook author and TV chef. Satu Andersson, CEO of Birka Cruises, is a veggie food-enthusiast and was wholeheartedly behind the initiative, and it seems as though the Birka chefs have also relished the creative challenge of taking on a project of this nature.

Asked what he thought of the vegan menu concept when the topic was first raised, chef Glenn Högback (who presented the plating of the starter and dessert) was nothing but positive.

“You felt or encountered no resistance to the initiative?”, somebody asked.

“No,” replied Glenn earnestly. “In fact, everyone was very positive. Meat is meat in many instances, but every vegetable has it’s own very unique character… and that is incredibly interesting to work with.”

There are even more plant-based plans in the works (including the revision of breakfast offerings to include extra vegan options), and the complete Birka 3-course vegan menu is as follows:


Slow-grilled zucchini in smoke-marinade, roasted garlic, white bean cream, grainy mustard,
pickled red onion & toasted poppy seeds
(see recipe below!)

Crispy chickpea pani with dill & cummin Côte d’Or sauce, pommes pavé & creamy braccia salad

Sorbet of raspberry, chocolate cream, cashew nuts, dried raspberry purée & raspberry crisp

missmarzipan_birka_cruises_vegan_menu_launch1 missmarzipan_birka_cruises_vegan_menu_launch2 missmarzipan_birka_cruises_vegan_menu_launch3 missmarzipan_birka_cruises_vegan_menu_launch4

Moving from the kitchen into the dining room, we were presented with material including an outline of the menu, the concept behind it and the three recipes featured. We then had the opportunity to taste the food, meet the chefs and find out a little more about Birka’s plans to expand upon the initiative. Judging by the comments I overheard at my table, others enjoyed the food as much as I did. I must say that aside from the inventive and beautiful food, the thing that really struck me was everyone’s belief and enthusiasm for the project. That was inspiring in itself. Maximillian talked about some of the benefits of incorporating more plant-based meals into daily life (health benefits and environmental impact being just two of them). Then he sat down to have a casual chat at our table. He talked a little with me about how he’d found the collaborative process and how he was looking forward to enjoying the cruise that was departing that very night (perks of the job, and all that 😉 ).

I reminisced about my first trip on the M/S Birka (taken with a girlfriend who I’d treated to a surprise cruise for her birthday) and I heartily recommended an early morning spa visit. I still have fond memories of waking up early and the two of us being the first people in the spa… with the entire outdoor jacuzzi to ourselves. It was late October. Fog hung around the waters of Mariehamn and everything outside was perfectly still and quiet. The air was cold and the warm water was heavenly (is there anything more refreshing than warm water on your body and fresh, crisp air on your face?). We literally floated in that hot tub by ourselves, giggling with glee. Max said he would definitely check out the spa and that he was keen to give the running track a go, enjoying some archipelago views while he was at it.


I had a brief chat with chef Marcus Nordin (creator of the main course) and was able to thank him for being part of the reason my vegan husband was so well taken care of on our last Birka cruise, a special 2-night Gotland trip with a culinary theme. In fact, the plant-eaters* in our party were just as well taken care of as the omnivores among us (who ate from the set menus on the cruise).

Soon after finishing dessert, everyone said their thank yous and farewells. Then we departed, the cruise passengers hopped on, and M/S Birka headed off into the Swedish archipelago.


“It’s about understanding how to cook and season ingredients in the best way to bring out the flavors. I want to introduce modern vegan food to more professional chefs and, at the same time, get more guests to dare to try it. So when Birka expressed interest, I thought it was a perfect opportunity “.
– Maximillian Lundin.

Vegan or not, these are exciting times for the health-conscious, Stockholm-bound/based foodie! On our next Birka cruise, I’ll be sure to test out all the new plant-based offerings onboard and get back to you all with a definitive verdict!

❤ from Stockholm,

Marisa x

*And on that subject, I can also recommend the veggie burgers!



in smoke-marinade, roasted garlic, white bean cream, grainy mustard, pickled red onion & roasted poppy seeds

Serves 4


1 zucchini
3 roasted garlic cloves
100 ml water
1 smoked lemon
80 g white beans
coarse mustard

Sea salt
Olive oil
Blue sesame seeds
100 g red onion
100 ml apple cider vinegar

  1. Slice zucchini lengthwise and pan fry.
  2. Make a marinade of chopped garlic, smoked water, and the juice and zest of a lemon. Add the zucchini to the marinade and leave for 6-8 hours.
  3. Soak and cook the white beans, before blitzing to a smooth puree, diluted with the cooking water, sea salt and fruity olive oil.
  4. Slice the onions thinly and put into äpplecidervinäger.
  5. Serve with a dollop of coarse-grained mustard, watercress, dill and roasted blue poppy seeds. A couple of whole roasted garlic cloves make a wonderful addition.


*Recipe shared with kind permission of the Birka team, including chefs Glenn Högback and Marcus Nordin.

**Please note that I have translated the menu, recipe and quotes in this post, and have tried to do so as accurately as possible.

My modest and slightly more “pedestrian”* version of Slow-Grilled Zucchini, made with what I had on hand (*to pinch a Master Chef Australia term!)




In need of comfort? I can’t guarantee this will make you feel better. And I certainly wont claim it’s better than a cuddle (what’s better than a cuddle for comfort?). But it is nourishing, it is delicious and it is a treat you can give yourself to make your morning a little cosier.


It’s so easy. In fact I came up with this in a matter of seconds when I was pregnant with Oliver, and found myself with surplus Golden Milk Hot Chocolate and a serious porridge craving!

I hope you like it if you try it! I’ll be popping back tomorrow with an entirely different, extra special recipe in conjunction with some fun food-related news.

Until then, happy new week!

❤ Marisa xx



Prep time: 5 minutes | Serves: 1-2 (depending on hunger levels)


250 ml unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp organic cacao
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp maca powder
1 tsp organic rice malt syrup (alt. honey) or to taste
1 tsp organic coconut oil

100 ml oats
200 ml water (or unsweetened almond milk)


  1. In a small saucepan, make the hot chocolate by warming almond milk gently over low heat.
  2. Sift in the cacao, turmeric and ginger and whisk. Add rice malt syrup and whisk until combined.
  3. In a separate small saucepan, combine oats and water and simmer over low heat until porridge is cooked, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add porridge to a bowl (on the larger side).
  5. Drop in the coconut oil into the hot chocolate, stir and remove pan from heat.
  6. Pour over porridge and serve immediately.


*This post is dedicated to Nils and his family. Your light shines on, Nils ❤

WELLNESS & WANDERLUST WEDNESDAY with featured fitness expert, Diana Tencic


Welcome to the first of a series of posts featuring fabulous individuals (some of my favourite people!), their inspiration and insights into some of my favourite subjects: wellness, wanderlust, food and travel! I couldn’t think of a better person with whom to begin this dialogue than long-time connection, friend from afar and I Quit Sugar super-star expert panelist, Diana Tencic of Body Be Well.


A renowned food and fitness coach with over 16 years experience in the health industry, Melbourne-based Diana understands better than most the importance of balancing proper nutrition with a sound, achievable exercise protocol. Setting her apart from some other qualified fitness professionals, Diana’s personal experiences of transformation, healing and bringing three children into the world, have imparted an unusually empathetic aspect to her methodology. With a strong focus on balance, development of practical skills and crowding out unhealthy habits by replacing them with better options, Diana’s coaching techniques not only help her clients achieve their fitness goals, but maintain them. Her kindness, genuine approach and generosity when it comes to supporting others were truly the first things that made an impression on me when we connected via Instagram in 2014. And if you haven’t met her yet, I am thrilled to be the one to introduce you!

Following Diana on Snapchat during her late summer holidays this year, I couldn’t help but notice that she managed to turn every space into a gym of sorts; from a stretch of lawn beside a house, to the beach, and even a children’s playground. And every workout she managed to do with a smile on her face!

Who better to ask for inside information on staying fit, balanced and happy while on the move?

Marisa: For some people, travel means “escaping reality” and that can lead to indulging in certain less healthy behaviours (such as bingeing on unhealthy food or consuming too much alcohol). Any advice for those wanting a more balanced vacation experience?

Diana: You need to have the right mindset before you leave. There is nothing more enjoyable than tasting the cuisine of the area you visit. Allow yourself a piece of a cake, however create food harmony and include a nutritionally dense meal during the day too. And consider walking the area to include movement in your day. I like to Google restaurants in the local area or supermarkets in the area before I go. That way I’m more inclined to make better food choices by knowing what is available. I also make sure I have a kitchen if I’m booking a family holiday.

Marisa: And what about those who strive to live well, but fall off the proverbial wagon? What do you suggest to your clients and/or practice yourself?

Diana: There is no need to punish yourself. When we have certain cravings – say, for sugar – they’re our body’s way of talking to us. I teach my clients to listen their bodies. We need to understand the difference between food for fuel and desire, recognising there are times when our bodies are truly in an insulin slump and need carbohydrates, and times when our mind is simply telling us we want to eat a piece of cake! Understand the difference between food for fuel or food for joy, and be ok with the decisions you make. Life is tough enough without torturing ourselves over food choices.

Marisa: As a fellow mother of three, I appreciate that finding a balance health-wise can be logistically challenging even when at home. Travelling takes the need to be an organised mama to a whole other level. What are your top tips for travelling well as a party of five?

Diana: Do a little research before you leave and find out if there are cafés or restaurants in line with your food philosophies. And find accommodation with a kitchen or kitchenette. That way you can prepare some of your meals and be in control of what you eat. I always pack my hand held blender (it’s quite light!) and an aluminium milkshake container. That way I know I can make a smoothie for a snack or breakfast.

I make sure we all bring our runners (training shoes) and a tennis ball. We then find a local park and play games with the tennis ball or on the playground equipment. I source out bike hire at holiday locations as we love to bike ride. See if you can hire sporting equipment or even give a new sport a go. I stood up paddle boarding for the first time last year… and loved it. Yes, at age 44 you can still give new sporting pursuits a go! This can be useful if you are travelling overseas.

Marisa: You’ve made quite a name for yourself as a food prep aficionado and ‘real food’-lover. Do you have a go-to on the go recipe you’d care to share?

Diana: Yes! My healthy capsicum bake. If your kids don’t like tuna, you could use roast chicken or butter beans instead. For a veggie option, I use tinned butter beans and drain the liquid.

Marisa: Are there 5 commonly found things you can think of that could double as exercise equipment in a pinch?

Diana: I love training outdoors. I usually design mini circuit programs for my clients. Monkey bars are fantastic for chin-ups, park benches for step-ups and dips. I always bring a tennis ball (I use them for games and stretching too). I use the perimeter of the playground as a balance beam to work on my proprioception. If you are having a beach holiday just running to the water’s edge and back to the top of the sand is a workout! Repeat that 10 times and your butt will love you for it!

Marisa: I am sure long-distance/long-haul travellers (and those of us who spend far too much time seated in front of computers 😛 ) would appreciate any simple stretch tips to improve circulation and reinvigorate weary limbs. Do you have any suggestions?

Diana: We always tell our clients to hop out of their seats if flying, and go for a walk up and down the aisle at least every hour. We also recommend doing small ankle rotations in your seat, and pointing your toes towards the ground for 30 seconds then upwards towards your shin for 30 seconds is a great stretch.

We have a 7-day stretch challenge coming soon. Its a free program where we share a stretch a day for 7 days. It takes just 60 seconds to do and the only equipment needed is a tennis ball.


  • Train or car? Car.
  • Yoga retreat or boutique hotel? Boutique hotel.
  • City ghost tour or woodland stroll? Woodland stroll.
  • Favourite form of exercise when travelling: TRX suspension trainer.
  • Favourite destination: Anywhere by the ocean.
  • Best wholesome food spot in Melbourne: Oh, this is a tough one… there’s so many!
    Currently I am enjoying Matcha Mylkbar in St Kilda. The nachos are to die for!
  • Somewhere you haven’t been that you long to visit: Another tough one! New York, for sure. And the Greek islands.

I sincerely thank Diana for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. And I truly hope you enjoyed reading this little interview and the tips Diana shared!

If you have any suggestions for questions you’d like me to ask upcoming health/wellness/travel professionals for this blog feature series, please leave a comment below. Actually, feel free to leave one regardless! I love hearing from you. 🙂

To connect with Diana and get more of her food and fitness tips, visit:

Diana’s popular eBook ‘Sweet Treats’ featuring 11 toteable sugar-free/refined sugar-free treats was published in 2015 (I have a copy and the raw brownies are my personal fave!). Get it here

Need support to achieve your best food & fitness personal balance? Body Be Well run a Melbourne-based 4-week course featuring meal plans, meet-ups, exercise protocols, cooking classes and, of course, a ton of support. Interested?
Join here:4-week Clean & Lean Program

*Quote image: Miss Marzipan, using source image found (via here


An alternative name for this post could well be “We came, we ate, we listened/chatted/enjoyed!”, as this pretty much sums up my experience of meeting for the first time both the couple behind the incomparable Green Kitchen Stories, David and Luise, and Sara, the bento design queen of London (known in blog & Instagram circles as shisodelicious).


After leaving baby Oliver in capable hands (thanks mama!) and making hasty dash for the subway, I had time to gather my thoughts and check my email on the train. I happened to receive some amazing news, right as my train approached Mariatorget and, four stations later, I was still in mild shock and operating on a heightened level of emotion as I stepped out of the subway station and onto Sveavägen. Having very recently dined at Urban Deli Sveavägen with some girlfriends, I knew the layout and went to find Sara who had texted me “table by the window”. After meeting, hugging, expressing disbelief in meeting and getting thoroughly engrossed in conversation immediately, we realised the event was already kicking off in an adjacent area of the dining room. We grabbed a little table for two (and I can recommend the booth-style seats for leisurely meals and long conversations!), and looked on happily as David and gorgeously radiant, heavily pregnant Luise served up three smoothies from their latest book offering, Green Kitchen Smoothies.


One of the three we tasted was the Smoothie with Fennel & Super Berries (page 47 of the book), there was a refreshing green smoothie (Grönt och Gott) and one featuring passionfruit known as Tropicalia (which I later recreated at home, as pictured below), quite possibly my favourite on account of the taste nostalgia factor. People mingled and chatted casually, returning to the smoothie station at leisure to taste test the next concoction, flick through the book (which was available to purchase at a special price) or grab an appetiser of farinata with roasted grape and ricotta.

After all attendees had made their way to the dining tables, David and Luise did a short presentation about who they are, their food philosophy and what they have been working on project-wise. Aspects of what they shared I could relate to very much, both as a mother of three and also as someone who co-parents a family in which all members eat slightly differently. Their focus on real food and bio-individuality resonates strongly with me and it was great to hear their balanced perspective on things both wellness and family-related.

The first course of tacos with lentils and strawberries was light, refreshing and tasty without being heavy on spice. As one of those unfortunate souls who cannot abide coriander in most instances, I found myself pleasantly surprised that the coriander element to the dish did nothing to spoil the eating experience for me. We bemoaned the terrible food photography lighting conditions, but were too pleased with everything else to take the matter seriously. In fact we laughed, imagining ourselves in Instagram capture parody mode. Somewhere around this point in the evening, Sara and I delved into conversational subject matter that literally had me in tears (mostly of gratitude). Right on mascara-smudged cue, David popped by for a friendly chat. He was seated with us as our main courses of creamy polenta, mushrooms and artichoke arrived. He expressed surprised amusement at the cheese portion sizes (on the generous side, to be sure!) and talked with us about his collaborative involvement with the Urban Deli group and the interesting lessons he and Luise have learned about catering restaurant/deli-style as a result.

Our conversation was relaxed and interesting. David touched on the recent humanitarian assignment he found himself on when in Turkey recently, meeting with war-affected families and photo documenting the lives of Syrian refugees as part of an initiative by The United Nations World Food Programme and the European Commission. He was still emotionally landing (after having just physically landed back in Sweden) and remarked with a sincere and reflective expression that it was “… hard to care about avocado toast when you’ve just experienced such things”.

Wishing us bon appétit, David left us to tuck into our main courses and joined some other diners at a neighbouring table. I particularly enjoyed the mushroom component to the main course dish and the texture of the polenta and, as delicious as it all was, I couldn’t possibly manage the amount of cheese that came with it (which, David assured us, was intended to be rather more modest and unassuming).

Coffee was offered and then a light dessert of individual apple pie parfaits was served. Comprised of sautéed apple, granola-esque crumble and vanilla spiked yogurt smoothie, it was a lovely sweet – but not-too-sweet – way to round off the meal. Books were signed, thank you’s were said and more chats were had with both David and Luise. Sara and I stayed a little while longer, grateful for the opportunity to speak to each other in person (as opposed to via Instagram DM) and then we parted on Sveavägen, me to head home to my little tribe and Sara to visit with her mother before jetting back to the UK the following day.

Here’s hoping that in the not-too-distant future there will be a Green Kitchen publicly serving up wholesome veggie delights and, in the meantime, I am sure everyone reading this joins me in wishing Luise a wonderful birth experience and the entire family all the best as they welcome the lovely new arrival.

And if you happen to be headed London-way, keep an eye out for Sara’s foodie happenings. If you’re lucky, you may be able to catch her alongside some rather illustrious collaborators (including Bettina’s Kitchen) at pop-up food events about town.

❤ from decidedly autumnal Stockholm,
Marisa x

*Tips: The recipe for Tropicalia (that I recreated as pictured above) can be found page 50 of Green Kitchen Smoothies and the Apple Pie in a Jar that was our dessert can be found on page 135.


CINNAMON & WALNUT BUNS (a vegan, refined sugar-free take on the Swedish Classic)

And I am back with another belated recipe share! This time it’s the Swedish fika favourite: cinnamon buns. But these are not made of the same buttery dough as the original, more commonly known kind. In fact, they are dairy-free. And if that’s not enough of a departure from the classic variety, these ones are also refined sugar-free.

Now, before we all get too excited by that last point, I feel obliged to state that sugar is sugar. But for those who prefer to avoid the white refined kind, you will love these… and it must be said that the coconut palm sugar adds a rich, caramelly note to these treats that works amazingly well, especially in combination with the earthy nuttiness of toasted walnuts.

I received many comments on these buns and requests for the recipe when I first shared about them on Instagram. I also received a fair share of complaints about the difficulty of locating the recipe in amongst a couple of hundred comments. 😛

I’m not whining. I get it.

So for all of you who wanted it (and for myself, as I plan to bake these again now that autumn has rolled in), here is the recipe!

Wishing you a happy day and a lovely fikapaus, if you happen to have one!

❤ Marisa x




Makes 10


1 sachet fast-acting dry yeast
250 ml almond milk (at room temperature)
60 ml boiling water
50 g coconut palm sugar
1/2 tsp salt
400 g plain flour (plus more for dusting)
4 tbsp corn flour
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
4 tbsp olive oil


100 g coconut palm sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp corn flour
60 ml vegetable oil


1 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp coconut palm sugar


Chopped walnuts for sprinkling over


Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Combine the almond milk and water. Test liquid with your finger to check if it is lukewarm. If it is, stir the yeast into this mixture and set it aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, salt, plain flour, corn flour and ground cardamom.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the yeast mixture and oil. Bring the mix together with your hands until a dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth (approximately 10 minutes). Grease the mixing bowl used earlier with a little oil, place the dough in it and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for an hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

Once the dough is ready, in a small bowl combine the coconut palm sugar, ground cinnamon and corn flour.

Roll the risen dough out onto a floured work surface into a 35cm x 35cm square. Brush the surface of the dough with the vegetable oil and cover with the cinnamon-sugar filling mixture. Fold the dough into thirds and roll into a 35cm x 20cm rectangle.

Cut the dough into 20cm long strips, approx. 2.5 cm wide. Take one strip and twist and roll.

Watch video below for a rough idea of how I did it.

Note that I did not twist the dough strips as fast as shown in the video as they would have come apart. Rather, I twisted one end carefully until the entire strip of dough was “a twist”, then I rolled it into a bun form, tucking the end underneath.

Place the buns on the baking tray and preheat the oven to 180°C.

Leave the buns to rise until doubled (approx. 30 minutes). Make the glaze by dissolving the coconut palm sugar in the boiling water and brush this over the buns, then sprinkle them with chopped walnuts.

Bake for approximately 17 minutes or until dark golden.


*Recipe modified from this one found at

FAMILY VACATIONING ON THE MAKARSKA RIVIERA (with a recipe + tips for eating well veg-style & travelling with young children)

We recently returned from a wonderful two weeks in sunny, friendly Croatia. It was my third time there, but my first with the children, and the bulk of this post will cover various experiences we had. But I’ll kick things off with a recipe for those of you who may only be interested in 1) how we self-catered veggie meals using a small aparthotel kitchenette 2) a simple, customisable meal idea made with the most rudimentary collection of pantry staples.

I must preface this recipe by stating that I don’t know if ‘stew’ is exactly the right word to describe it. ‘Mish-mash of whatever-we-were-able-to-purchase-that-was-kind-of-healthy’ would be a more appropriate recipe title, but it clearly doesn’t “work”. The flavours, on the other hand, do. They could definitely be enhanced with a splash of tamari, a squeeze of lime juice, coconut milk in place of soy and the addition of fresh leafy greens. Having said that, the ingredients you will see listed below were the exact things we had access to where we stayed. And this recipe is, of course, highly customisable.

If you ever find yourself in Tucepi, with access to basic self-catering facilities, and in need of a wholesome vegetarian meal, give it a go! 😉




1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper/capsicum, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained & well-rinsed
100 ml crushed tomatoes/passata
75- 100 ml peanut butter
100-150 ml plant milk (we used organic soy)
1-2 tbsp turmeric
A good squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste (we used local sea salt infused with dried herbs)
Olive oil

SERVE WITH (optional)

Cooked quinoa
Fresh sliced cucumber
Pan-fried turmeric-dusted tofu (1 block, sliced)
2 sweet potatoes, sliced and sautéed
Pepitas & sunflower seeds


  1. In a frying pan, saute chopped onion in a little olive oil over medium heat until turning golden and translucent.
  2. Add chopped red pepper and tip in the chickpeas. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add passata, peanut butter, plant milk and turmeric to the pan. Stir gently to combine. Simmer for around 5 minutes, adding more plant milk for a thinner consistency if you like.
  4. When done, add lemon juice and season to taste. Serve with quinoa and additions of choice.


For those looking for travel tips in the Dalmatian region of Croatia, specifically ones that cover fun and stress-free travel with young children, wellness and healthy/vegetarian food, feel free to read on.

I have illustrated the post with personal photographs and videos captured almost exclusively using Instagram Stories on my iPhone. And, rather than merely paraphrasing information about locations/services that you would be able to locate elsewhere online, I am limiting the information in this post to include our own personal experiences and tips based around them.

I hope you are all “travelling well” no matter where in the world you are! 🙂

Happy weekend, all!

❤ Marisa xx


Tucepi was our home base for two weeks. Famous for having one of the best beaches in the Makarska area, the water in Tucepi is crystal clear, the people are friendly, and it’s not as busy as some other areas (although there is still a lot of activity during the day). It finds itself positioned – with a gorgeous mountain backdrop – in between charming little Podgora and bigger, more cosmopolitan Makarska. It has to be my personal pick of towns to stay in along the Makarska Riviera for all of those reasons… and more.


I can’t recommend Hotel Tamaris enough. It has excellent reviews from guests, is a Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice winner and the location is perfect. The staff members are professional, friendly, warm, accommodating and wonderful with children. The entertainment is refined, simple and optional (eg, traditional klapa performances during special dinners, as opposed to cheesy music blaring 24/7 😛 ).

We stayed in apartment 106; a perfect location away from the noise of the perpetual pool party at Bluesun Hotel Neptun next door (you wouldn’t even know it was there) with balcony views of the sea and pool.

First impressions count. Ours was as follows.

We arrived at Split airport around 9pm. It was warm, and although our flight was only 2 hours and 40 minutes long, we’d left our place in Stockholm at 2pm. So were a little travel weary already. Apollo (with whom we booked our trip) were on the case. Exiting the airport was an efficient procedure once luggage was collected, and bottled water awaited us as we boarded the comfortable transfer bus. Around two hours later, our excited and over-tired family checked into Hotel Tamaris.

Friendliest. Hotel. Check-in. Experience. Ever.

The restaurant kitchen had closed, but the staff (all of them!) stayed on for an extra hour so that we could have a meal and not feel hurried. If you are a parent, traveling with small children, acts of such kindness and true “hospitality” are beyond appreciated.

It also needs to be said that the folks at reception are absolute gems with children. Yes, the ladies will give your kids candy (everyday 😛 ), but far more importantly, they are always up for a cuddle and keen to listen to tales of their little adventures. We are not the only ones to be thoroughly impressed with the above-and-beyond service at Tamaris.

The apartments are perfect for families. Perfect. My husband and I had one large bedroom which we shared with Oliver (his portable snuggle nest was positioned in between us on the bed, just as his baby nest is when we are at home). Louie and Lillian shared a double fold-out bed (which they loved) in the generously proportioned open-plan lounge area.


The kitchenette was a godsend. Featuring a fridge-freezer, sink, microwave and small stove top and containing cupboard space, cutlery, crockery and utensils, it had everything we needed for quiet self-catered breakfasts, cosy afternoon teas and a few healthy home cooked lunches and dinners.

Healthy ricecake "donuts", prepare in our kitchenette (as shared on Instagram)

Healthy ricecake “donuts”, prepared in our kitchenette (as shared on Instagram)

The balconies are spacious, plenty of room to sit together… or dry clothes. There is ample storage space, with several large built-in wardrobes that make it incredibly easy to get organised, feel at home and not be ‘living out of suitcases’. The sides of the bathtubs are high, but if you supervise your kids getting in and out (we do, as ours are little), then you’ll find them perfect for bubble baths at the end of a salty beach day.


Our children loved what they referred to as “kids club”, an area designed for playing computer games and drawing. The pool is not huge, but lovely, clean and never over crowded. We swam daily. There always seemed to be a sun lounger if we wanted one. The gym is nothing to write home about (it doesn’t have to be with sea/pools/hiking/jogging opportunities on the doorstep), but it’s good to have as a backup if the weather turns bad and I happily used it a couple of times.

The restaurant (Freyja Restaurant) is one of the top rated restaurants in the region and serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. The prices are good, the food is fresh and made with care and, again, the staff are excellent, friendly and always happy to assist.

The one downside at Hotel Tamaris? We found wifi to be somewhat unreliable. I am not sure if it was an issue with our apartment in particular, but connectivity seemed to come and go for no apparent reason. To be honest, this was not a big issue as I wanted to minimise my time online. But, here’s a tip if you happen to stay in our old room; the wifi connection is best on the balcony. So grab a bottle of mineral water and your laptop… and head out for some sunshine. 😉

Last impressions count. This was ours.

Louie refused to say goodbye to Silva at reception. He was too sad. Silva wrapped her arm around Louie and said, “You cannot leave me like this. You must be happy. We will see you again… come here…” and with that she passed him a 1 kilogram bag of candy*. And he held it like a favourite toy… and sat on the bus and cried in a way I have never seen him cry before, half the journey to the airport in Split.

I still miss Croatia. We all do! And we would all happily stay at Hotel Tamaris again.


Having a cuddle with Silva at Hotel Tamaris

*The packet remains unopened. Louie is happy just knowing he has a present from Silva for now, and I am sure the trick-or-treating children of our neighbourhood will appreciate sharing the bounty soon.


There is a small playground near Kastelet, and several trampolines and coin operated kiddie rides are dotted about near the promenade. Paddle boats are available for hire right on the beach (we went with the blue ones near Tamaris: 50 Kuna for 30 minutes, 70 Kuna for 1 hour). The paddle boats are a great option for little ones; a private boat, a slide via which to enter the sea (with a splash and a giggle), and a place to rest little legs if tiredness creeps in, all in one.


Of course there is the beach itself; nature’s playground! And water sports for the more adventurous. 5 year-old Louie went parasailing with the company located on the beach front outside Tamaris. As someone who is afraid of heights (really afraid), seeing my little boy 350 meters up in the air was both fabulous and nerve-wracking. He also went ziplining with Tip Extreme, who run an excellent, friendly and professional service. They even do pick-ups direct from local hotels. Louie still raves about both experiences.

Lillian and Louie both had a speed boat adventure too. Lillian didn’t appreciate the water in her face (there were a few tears), but found the actual boat more comfortable to sit in than the inflatable ring and enjoyed the “modified” experience. The watersport businesses that operate along the beach are accustomed to accommodating families and have life jackets in various sizes. They will also reduce boat speeds if asked.

Mid-way along the promenade is a large floating playground with various obstacles to climb, slide down and jump on. My husband tested it out with Louie and, although they had fun, the verdict was that it probably isn’t the best of activities for younger children that cannot move about freely without assistance from an adult.

Bicycles can be rented on the promenade (near the tennis courts), and all of the larger hotels have swimming pools, which are understandably the most popular places to be aside from the beach.



There’s a small convenience store known as Paula. It’s open late and, for those eating dairy-free, they do sell soy milk. Yes, there is fresh fruit and veg to be found in Tucepi as one might expect, but other staples upon which you may ordinarily rely could be hard to come by. Spices, for example. I saw paprika in the supermarket. That was seriously it (excluding black pepper). The Konzum supermarket has a larger range of products that veggie whole foods lovers may appreciate. I found quinoa, chia seeds, sweet potatoes, aubergines, nuts, seeds, plant-based milks and natural muesli.

For spices, tofu, ready-made veggie products (burgers, sausages, etc.) and larger assortment of organic grocery items, your best bet is DM in Makarska, which also stocks an impressive range of cosmetic products, including local pure essential oils from Hvar.

Fresh produce can be purchased at market stalls, supermarkets and also from fruit and veg boats that stop at various points along the beach.

A small selection of grocery items purchased from Konzum & DM

A small selection of grocery items purchased from Konzum & DM

Paula: Dračevice 46, 21325, Tučepi
Konzum Tucepi: Kraj, 21325 Tučepi
DM Makarska: Šetalište Dr. Franje Tuđmana 1, 21300, Makarska
Fruit & Veg boats: you’ll come across them if you spend time on the beach!


If you’re a dedicated omnivore (as most of my family members are, including my parents who travelled with us), you will make your way quite easily when it comes to Croatian food. Paleo people, you’ll encounter obstacles of a grainy, cheesy nature, but you will also be ok. But if you visit this region of Dalmatia, you’re vegetarian and used to eating fairly healthy food, you may be in for a surprise; a donutty, french fry-covered, drenched-in-melted-cheese pizza kind of surprise. And if you’re vegan, you’re definitely in a spot of bother.

Right here I am going to have to interrupt myself and give a shout-out to Freyja Restaurant. There were restaurants and cafés we came across that would modify a sandwich by removing the ham from the usual mix of fillings, but at Freyja they will actually cook good, wholesome vegetarian/vegan food, from scratch… and with seasonal, fresh produce. It’s a shame that they are hesitant to state this officially (they will do so upon request quite happily, though). They probably don’t see a reason for it, or don’t want to add non-traditional dishes to a rather classic Dalmatian menu. That being said, things are slowly changing. As I said to Silva at reception, I see no need for them to totally abandon the classics in favour of a revamped raw vegan menu, rather the addition of one or two complimentary vegetarian meals made with local produce and flavours could only serve to bring more positive (and well-deserved) attention to Freyja Restaurant.

Cocktail bars abound, but surprisingly “real” juice bars are in short supply. Having said that, it is possible to get juices and smoothies from some of the cocktail bars, and juice-based mocktails are a much-enjoyed treat for little ones.


When out and about in Croatia and looking for meals on the veggie-friendly side of things, be open to modifying menu items. The virgin coladas with whipped cream on every cocktail bar menu, for example? Ask for one to be made with only pineapple juice and coconut milk. Boom! A healthier, dairy-free colada smoothie.

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Virgin Colada Smoothie

With Scandinavians loving Croatia as they do, and companies such as Apollo having well-established partnerships with various venues in the region, it is only a matter of time before someone decides it prudent to capitalise on the growing trend towards plant-based eating that Swedes are following. During our stay I met someone who had been discussing the possibility of opening a healthy food and juice bar in Tucepi with family members. So, who knows? It might be there when we return, and it would certainly fill a niche.

Louie with one of his friends at Restaurant Freyja

Louie with one of his friends at Restaurant Freyja


There are various walking trails (some can be found clearly marked on local maps), but right in Tucepi we discovered two places of particular interest to the children. Our Grand Designs-obsessed, 5-year-old future architect, Louie, was utterly fascinated by the charming and beautifully kept St. George Church next door to our hotel. Built in 1311, this little church has a surprisingly active life. During our time in Tucepi we saw several gatherings there and a Christening.


On the other side of the road partially hidden by trees, lies what was once the jewel of Tucepi, now the abandoned and derelict Hotel Jadran; socialist Yugoslavia’s first hotel. Several hundred German POWs provided the manual labor for its construction. The hotel itself is off-limits, but a walk around the site is eerily fascinating.

Little explorers discussing Hotel Jadran

Little explorers discussing Hotel Jadran


The young woman who runs the massage stand closest to Tamaris and neighboring Bluesun Hotel Neptun is excellent. She is kind, professional and provides a great service for a very fair price. She has a little girl not that much older than my Oliver, so we chatted a little about “mama stuff”. After telling her that Louie is slightly enamoured with the idea of having “spa treatments”, she gave him a free leg massage!

The price for a 25 minute back or leg massage (I had both. Several times!) is 100 Kuna. Full body massage, facial massages and others are also available.


On a whim, my father decided to book a haircut for himself at Bluesun Hotel Alga. Louie ended up getting one too. The prices were fair (70 Kuna for Louie, if I recall correctly), and the hairdresser was lovely. Both my dad and Louie emerged from the hotel salon happy… and looking sharp!

For manicures and other beauty treatments, Aura at Tamaris seems to have very good reviews. I almost booked a facial there, based upon recommendation.


If you want to get the most out of Croatian beach life, invest in a pair. You can walk in them, hop straight into the sea with them on (via pebbly beaches), pedal in paddle boats wearing them, etc. The ones with drawstrings are more secure than those with velcro. You can buy them everywhere (prices range between 70-200 Kuna or thereabouts, depending on the type). Oh, and forget about knock-off Crocs.


At various points along the beach you will encounter large signs with photographs of boats and text with mention of a “fish picnic”. I had been on one such boat before (in 2009); a small one that departed from Podgora, went to a few beach locations and was quiet and comfortably Spartan, if you can imagine what I mean. On this recent trip, we were charmed by the look of Calypso, and won over by the guarantee of a few things we had small concern over. The salesman was quick to allay our fears. Unfortunately the exact things we were concerned about were the very things that were not delivered in the end. For one thing, we were promised vegetarian food that sounded rather wonderful: locally grown vegetables grilled right on the boat, fresh salad, bread… plus drinks included. Wine (or some kind of mysterious alcoholic beverage) was one such drink on offer and, as I don’t drink alcohol, I ended up with cordial. I can live with that. But lunch was a far cry from what was promised. Two slices of some kind of pre-sliced cheese, some tomato, a few slices of cucumber and some white bread. Had I been in a complaining mood (I wasn’t, as it happens), this would not have sat very well with me.

We were told it was a family-friendly boat and that there would be “reserved seats”. The first point is debatable. The second couldn’t have been further from the truth. By the time we arrived in Makarska to board, the boat was packed. There was literally only one place left for us to sit (inside) and it turns out reservations are never made. Everyone else seated in the same area looked beyond miserable. Some even complained, as almost everyone had expected/been promised sea views and sunshine. Luckily we had a perfect spot for the children, away from the blaring music that was to come on the homeward journey, with soft bench seating just made for little people naps.


A quieter moment aboard Calypso

The young lady who works aboard Calypso (with the cat ear headband) is friendly and sweet. Louie gave her several enthusiastic high fives throughout the day. And we did end up having a great time 1) because we always put a positive spin on things in my family (it must be genetic) and try to make the best of every situation, 2) because we got lucky and happened to end up with seats no one else wanted but that were perfect for us, and 3) because we ended up meeting some truly sweet people on the boat (from Poland, Germany and Switzerland) who were great with the kids, even giving them trinkets and hugs. But it could have been quite a disaster. Let it be known, Calypso is a party boat. It’s packed to the rafters, and people drink and dance on the tables. My kids thought this was hilarious. We even joined the dance party on deck for a bit (sans Oliver!). And it must be said that I have no regrets about doing the trip for many reasons. We had a great time at Brac/Bol renting a buggy boat, swimming in the sea, catching a mini train and stumbling across a juice bar. The children thought it was all good fun, and I only write this detailed, honest review to give you an accurate picture of what it’s like, in case you’re ever in a position to decide to make a trip on Calypso (or not).

Back at the hotel, Silva at reception enquired as to what we had been up to while she gave the children their nightly cuddles and cheek kisses.

“Oh lovely! Which boat did you go on?”, she asked.

We told her.

“Say no more! I know all about that Calypso…”, she remarked, tutting in exaggerated exasperation.

I still don’t know exactly what Calypso’s reputation is, but I imagine there’s a modicum of promise-breaking involved… and some alcohol… and dancing on tables.

If a party boat trip takes your fancy:
If a slightly more subdued trip to Brac is preferable: Apollo’s day trip to Brac costs 407 SEK for adults, 204 SEK for children and infants are free. “Fish picnic” lunch is included.


There’s much more of a town vibe here, more residential housing, a lot more bustle down by the waterfront and, as my sun-sensitive mum noticed, less shade than can be found near Tucepi’s beach front. The promenade is hectic compared to Tucepi’s (and certainly to Podgora’s). But there’s fun to be had there, nice walks/views, amusement rides, some lovely eateries, mini trains, etc. And it’s certainly worth visiting if you are already in the general area and staying in the riviera.

It should be noted that although it is possible to walk from Tucepi to Makarska, it is not recommended. And buses can be unreliable. Your best bet is to order a taxi via your hotel.



I travelled to Podgora in 2009 (also with Apollo) and opted for an all-inclusive package at Aurora (although I did eat some meals elsewhere). I was traveling with a girlfriend (pre-children), so the experience of Croatia and the area was rather different, but it’s a lovely town. This year, I had my birthday lunch (a rather decent veggie pizza) at Obala and followed it up with a trip in a semi-submersible with the children, an iced coffee and a swim in the sea.


En route to Podgora from Tucepi

The walk between Tucepi and Podgora is rather lovely; a tad awkward in part with a buggy (as we discovered), but nonetheless doable.


Lillian fascinated by fish


If you’re truly interested in exploring Hvar (which I believe is one of the loveliest Croatian islands), it’s best to make a day of it. Otherwise, if catching one of the “island hopping” vessels, you may well find yourself struggling to do more than have a short stroll and an iced coffee in the time allocated to your visit.

My second time in Croatia, I booked a day trip with Apollo and spent far more time in Hvar than is possible with a “fish picnic” boat excursion (where the majority of the time is inevitably spent on Brac at the famous Bol beach).



We decided to do a day trip to Dubrovnik with the children and travelled with Apollo. The bus departed Tucepi in the afternoon, the ride taking 3 hours in total, with a pause for refreshments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those of you who are aware of my Game of Thrones fan status, may be surprised to read that I did not do the famous walking tour of GoT-related sites. Firstly, our main purpose for visiting Dubrovnik was to have dinner with my friend Maja, otherwise known as @delicious_and_healthy_by_maya; Croatia’s foremost healthy food blogger. Secondly, our actual time in Dubrovnik amounted to around 4 hours and a walking tour was already included. And thirdly, there was bound to be some content inappropriate for little ears!

Exploring Dubrovnik with Maja (Lillian strikes a pose). Image credit: Maja |

Exploring Dubrovnik with Maja (Lillian strikes a pose). Image credit: Maja |


Funnily, after dinner, Maja took us to some of the more famous GoT sites. At the site where Cersei’s walk of atonement was filmed, Louie overheard people saying “shame”. He came over to me repeating it, pretending to ring a bell, and smiling, knowing he was being cheeky, but not understanding the context at all. Shortly afterward, Lillian approached, pointed at me and declared, “Shane!”. 😀


After our walking tour, which covered some of the main sites of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, we met Maja at Nishta, the only exclusively vegetarian restaurant in the area, I believe. We had been told to book well in advance and the hotel staff helped us to do so, but when we arrived (around 5pm) it was not busy at all. It is, however, a small establishment. So booking a table is prudent. The chef at Nishta kindly made special meals for the children (pizzas with kid-friendly toppings of an appropriate size). I ordered the veggie burger; a vegan quinoa-chickpea burger served with baby spinach, radicchio and sweet potato. Maja had a tofu dish and my husband ordered the a vegan version of ‘Tempehritos’ (tempeh-filled burritos). Maja and I both agreed that the food was good, and certainly far better than the average vegetarian meal one might expect at other Croatian establishments, however it was not mind-blowingly spectacular. Having said that, the service was friendly, the menu diverse (with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options) and, if and when we return to Dubrovnik, I’ll happily eat there again.


Maja and Oliver having a cuddle at Nishta


To reserve a table at Nishta in Dubrovnik: +385 (0) 20 322 088

To relive Cersei’s walk of atonement: Head to Dubrovnik’s Jesuit steps, located on the south side of Gundulic Square. The stone staircase leads to the Poljana Rudera Boskovica.

Important to note if traveling to Dubrovnik: You will need your passport if traveling to Dubrovnik from the Makarska Riviera due to the Bosnia and Herzegovina border crossing. There may not be a toilet on the bus (there was not one on ours) and the trip is a long one, so encourage children to use bathrooms when they are available and consider popping a pull-up on little ones recently toilet trained.

Travelling on excursion with Apollo: If your bus pick-up is from Tucepi (Hotel Tamaris or Bluesun Hotel Neptun), you should note that the pick-up location is not directly outside the hotel, but further up the road leading to the hotel, near the olive trees and before the main road. Two people almost missed our trip by getting the pick-up location wrong.


The kids and I near the Jesuit steps. “Shane!” Image credit: Maja |


One of Europe’s oldest cities, Trogir was founded by the Greeks and is surrounded by a city wall dating from the Middle Ages. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there are several historic buildings, including the oldest pharmacy in Europe (where we incidentally found ourselves purchasing cold & flu medication for my dad!).

We travelled to Trogir on a combination excursion trip with Apollo where most of the day was dedicated to visiting National Park Krka, however we did have a little walk around the pretty waterfront area and relaxed in one of the many alfresco cafés. I noted that there were a few places in Trogir advertising vegetarian dishes on chalkboard menus, which I thought was interesting as it is something I didn’t see elsewhere in Croatia (with the exception of Dubrovnik).

National Park Krka

Abundantly rich in flora and fauna, National Park Krka‘s most popular attractions are comprised of several impressive walks and waterfalls. Gentle hiking or exploring along the well-marked and kept boardwalks around the falls, or swimming around them, have to be the activity highlights. But my children were also fascinated by the old mill and the wildlife (particularly the fish).


It was so much more crowded by the falls than we imagined it would be and we were more than slightly surprised to be informed by locals that we had luckily arrived on a perfect and “rather quiet” day. The scenery is stunning and bathing near the waterfalls (you cannot bathe directly in one) is a joy. Floaties for children are available to purchase on location, or you can pack your own. The walks around the park are wonderful, there is shade (nice if the temperature is over 30°C, which it was for most of our holiday) and the scenery is breathtaking. We managed well with a buggy, despite encountering steps here and there.

We travelled with Apollo on a combination full-day excursion, during which we had a short visit to Trogir.

Excursion price: Adults 623 SEK, Children 312 SEK, Infants free
Duration: Full day (including visit to Trogir)
Note: The tour is conducted in Swedish. Our tour guide was half Croatian, half Norwegian and thoroughly entertaining and informative.

Cost for entrance to the park alone: 150.00 Kuna (in July and August)


Thank you for making us feel at home, Croatia!




50 THINGS ABOUT ME (part 1)

In all the time I have been active in the blogosphere, I have never done a ‘things about me’ post, let alone a ‘5o things about me’ post (though I have shared quite a few random facts via Instagram post captions 😛 ). However I thought it was an opportune time to take the plunge and do so now. Yesterday was my birthday and although I am not one for celebrating the occasion with fanfare, I always take the time on my birthday (and New Year’s Eve) to reflect on my life and practice gratitude. My general aversion to over-the-top celebrating has absolutely nothing to do with a fear of getting older. In fact my life today is the best it’s been, I don’t regret my past and I look forward to the future. It’s rather that I don’t like potentially unrealistic expectations placed on any one day; that everything should be perfect, or at least that I am supposed to be “happy” in accordance with the customary birthday wish.

But, for the record, I was happy yesterday 🙂 … and I am usually happy (or at least find things to be happy about) everyday. Things were actually rather perfect yesterday too, as I spent the day with my family, visiting a nearby town, getting treated to a beautiful specially cooked veggie meal at Freyja in Tucepi (thanks dad!), having a massage on the beach, and swimming in both pool and sea.

As a child, I believed I was unlucky on my birthday, that is before I realised that it was actually the expectation of how things “should” be that had me examining the minutiae of everything that went wrong with my day, thus preventing me from being grateful for what was amazing! To me, birthdays are a celebration of a person’s life… but it’s the actual “stuff” of that person’s life that really counts; the big, the little, the everyday. I have the same feeling about Valentine’s Day (i.e., that everyday should be a celebration of love). And I had a similar feeling when we got married, except it was amplified. I knew that our wedding day was special, but I didn’t expect it to be our one perfect “big day”. It was beautiful, no doubt… and it was fabulous to share it with others near and dear, but it was also one day of many days we would spend together. And, even as I prepared for the ceremony, I knew it was our actual life together that would really make our marriage, not one fairytale-ish day.

In any case, today seems a good day to share a little more about my life with you all.

Given the vast amount of randomness here, I have decided to split this post into two parts. And, by the way, I was tagged to participate in this blogging “challenge” by Cassie (aka superfitbabe) when I read her ’50 things’ post. So I’ll follow suit by tagging any interested parties who happen to be reading this post. If you feel so inclined, please feel free to join in and share your ’50 things’ via a blog/social media post too!


I was born in London and even though I moved to Australia at the age of 6, for many years I still felt British. I identified as such on a ‘heart level’ long after my British accent had been replaced by an Aussie one, and even after having been naturalised as an Australian citizen, a ceremony which ironically involved me having to swear allegiance to the Queen of England.

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Oddly, I began to feel incredibly Aussie only after having met my Swedish boyfriend (now husband).

"I met a strange lady, she made me nervous She took me in and gave me breakfast And she said, "Do you come from a land down under? Where women glow and men plunder? Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover"

“And she said, “Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover” – Men at Work


And even more strangely, after 12 years living in Europe, I feel more Australian than ever.

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I know I can’t change the past and that having regrets is wasting energy, but I do occasionally wonder what my life would have been like if I had applied myself a little more diligently to extra-curricular activities and school work. For example, I took dance, ballet and jazz ballet lessons as a child, but I wasn’t particularly motivated to excel and was probably the only girl in the ballet school who never practiced during the week. I only danced on Saturday mornings and had to be bribed with the promise of stickers (which I used to collect) to leave home.

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A few years later, however, you couldn’t drag me away from nightclub dance floors.

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Even though I wasn’t bullied by so-called mean girls in high school, I didn’t like them. And if I catch a whiff of ‘mean girl’ off of someone, to this day the rebel in me reacts adversely, even if I don’t express it outwardly.

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Once, when I was a little girl, my dad took me to a department store and allowed me to choose one toy. I chose a penguin that changed colour in the bath. I loved it and felt so happy that my dad had arranged a special day out for us. I took the penguin toy to church the next day and after the service an older boy who I had shown it to cornered me, aggressively pinned me to the wall and told me that I was a spoiled brat and that my family didn’t deserve what we had. The incident still makes me a little sad to this day… sadder perhaps that when I eventually decided to talk about it, I was dismissed as being overly emotional.



A couple of years after that incident, I attended a church camp with one of my best friends. It was organised by a different church and I bonded with a whole new group of friends. It was one of the most fun experiences of my early teens except for one sad factor. A male camp leader decided to target and harass me. He constantly tried to separate me from my friends, even locking me in a sauna with him at a swimming center on one occasion. My friends had to bang on the door and yell until he let me out. On another occasion he cornered me outside of a church hall and told me I was “exotic”. I was repulsed. For me, the word exotic translated as “strange”. I wanted to blend in. I wanted to look and be like everyone else… and not be targeted in such a way. I don’t know why my friends and I didn’t talk about the situation. I guess I felt ashamed that I had been targeted specifically and we probably all suspected that I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I did say something, especially as the harassment was verbal. It was one of several similar incidences that took place around the same time in my life. And even though I knew that there was something not right about the men involved, I also thought there was something not right with me. I don’t think it was about me in retrospect.



When I was growing up I felt weird.



I still do at times now, though I think it’s less obvious on the outside.

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And sometimes I actually truly embrace my quirks and see them as assets that have helped me both personally and professionally… and led me to have a very colourful life.



I sometimes feel genuinely overwhelmed by my own sensitivity, my desire to fix the world and how insurmountable its problems are. It’s the main reason I tried to develop a tough facade as a teenager. I saw my sensitivity and my maternal instincts as HUGE weaknesses. Now I see those things as two of my greatest assets. Though they do mean I feel a lot of ‘feels’.



And because I am emotional, my face often betrays my real feelings.

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I had issues when I was younger that I thought could be fixed by a change in circumstance/environment/relationship. I went from Melbourne to Seattle and within 24 hours I discovered that the same issues I’d had in Melbourne had followed me across the world. It really was the first time it dawned on me that everywhere I went I would take myself. And that I was the common denominator in all my problems.



I used to be make-up obsessed/addicted. When I was 18-19 years old, I thought I wanted to work with make-up as a profession and even studied to become a beauty therapist/make-up artist. It didn’t take long before I realised that it wasn’t really for me, but many years later I did end up working as an art director in the beauty industry.

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When Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef first aired on television, I knew that something big had just happened. I still believe Jamie is responsible for revolutionising the way young people (at least in Western society) look at food. My mum had cookbooks that I would flick through and very occasionally even cook from when I was younger, but I couldn’t for the life of me imagine wanting to hang out with any of those cookbook authors, let alone see them as fun/exciting people. Jamie, on the other hand… well, I thought he was kinda cool. I still do.



The strangest assortment of jobs I had was during the period between graduating from university and embarking upon a grand backpacking adventure. In order to save up as much money as possible in as short a time as possible, I worked morning shifts in housekeeping at a 5 star hotel (worst. job. ever… or rather, terrible management), afternoon shifts as a teaching assistant, night shifts as a waitress in an Indian restaurant (worst. pay. ever… or rather, dodgy boss) and, on the side, I sold glow sticks for festivals and was a guinea pig at a hospital research clinic where they tested my pain threshold for a scientific study by submerging my arm in freezing cold water and giving me electric shocks.



The worst jobs I have ever had have something in common: an out-of-touch, narcissistic boss in the midst of a midlife crisis.



One job I had at a marketing bureau was beyond stressful. I’m talking working a 21-hour day (with only a 30-minute break) and walking home in a snow storm to sleep for an hour… before heading back to the office to do it all again! And that was just my first day there. NO joke! The pressure and the craziness in that environment took such a toll on my health that I had developed a nervous eye twitch around the time I left, which was only cured by a trip to India (followed by a job at which I was treated a little better!).



I love to draw (weapon of choice: black biro), but I’m scared to paint. Somehow, I think I would love it if I could get past my hesitance to try it.

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I love plants and yet somehow I have managed to kill every single one I have been given. I honestly don’t understand why this keeps happening.

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One of my most negative traits is caring too much what others think of me, and feeling a need to be ‘good’ and/or to ‘perform’. I care less what others think today than I have in the past, but I am a work in progress.

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Sweet potatoes. I love them. I could eat them with every meal. Some days I do. They form the base of my personal food pyramid.



If I go to a restaurant and there’s a veggie burger on the menu, I’m ordering it. No questions, no debates. I am a veggie burger fiend.

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Before I really started to enjoy yoga, my first love was Pilates. I happened across a VHS tape (yes, this is an olden days anecdote) called The Method in a video store. I made a spontaneous purchase and started using it almost daily. My core strength and flexibility improved dramatically and my body retains a kind of “Pilates physical memory” to this day. Even if I haven’t done a class in two years, if I find myself in one, my body seems to just know what to do.



I love essential oils and, perhaps baselessly, I credit a combination of essential oils, Pilates and belly dancing (yes, belly dancing) with keeping me relatively illness-free during my university years, which were fuelled largely by Red Bull, cigarettes and Starburst jelly babies. Later on in life (when I was healthier and far more balanced), I used aromatherapy oils during all three of my pregnancies. And when I reached full-term with my daughter, I even used the services of a professional aromatherapist and massage therapist to help induce labour naturally. I studied aromatherapy modules during the beauty therapy course (see fact number 15) and I would love to learn more about essential oils. Even though my husband is not entirely convinced of their efficacy, he is happy to support me as he knows it is something that brings me joy.



In 2004, on a Trans-Siberian train at a border crossing between Mongolia and Russia at approximately 2am, a terrifying dominatrix-style, gun & whip (yes, whip) toting female soldier opened the door to our cabin and demanded to see my passport. She looked at me, looked at my passport, yelled at me in Mongolian and threw my passport back at me. I can only assume she was angered that the 20 layers of make-up I wore in my passport photo (taken when I was an alternative nightclub promoter) rendered me virtually unrecognisable. The scary female soldier ordered a male companion to strip our cabin. He went so far as to remove panels on the ceiling while another male soldier stood guard. They found nothing and we could only guess as to what they were searching for. Deeply annoyed, dominatrix soldier yelled again then stormed off followed by her two male counterparts, leaving us dazed and baffled. That same night, a fellow Australian on the same train was taken away to be interrogated over some trifling matter. We got off lightly, it seems.

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Part two will follow soon (when I am back from the beautiful Croatian coast and gifs don’t take 100 years to load due to dodgy wifi!). If there was anything mentioned in this post that you thought was particularly interesting and/or you’d like me to expand upon, drop me a comment.

In the meantime, love to you, thank you for reading this, and happy rest of the week!

❤ MM xx

KICKING SUGAR TO THE CURB (some myths busted + a giveaway spot on the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program)

**UPDATE** The competition is now closed and the winner was drawn fairly (live on Snapchat) and randomly using a random name picker tool. Congratulations @dromvittran and thanks so much for the interest everyone! I wish I could give you all a place on the program. For those who are interested in joining this round, it’s not too late to sign up. Click on the affiliate banner below for more info and I wish you all the best on your health journey. ❤ Marisa x
If you’ve been here for some time, you are certainly aware of my sugar quitting  journey. If you’re new here, then here’s a little recap, followed by details for your chance to win a spot on the upcoming I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program (IQS8WP); the program I first completed over 2 years ago and have done several times since.

As I am on holidays and you no doubt have weekend plans that you’re keen to get underway, I’ll keep it simple and speak to a few points (and hopefully dispel a few myths) about cutting back on the white stuff.

Responses to FAQs & sugar-quitting myths

Not everyone quits sugar for weight loss purposes. There are those wanting to hop off the sugar high/sugar crash roller coaster (me), those seeking sustained energy (me), those with thyroid issues (me also), those with hormonal skin conditions (me again!) or a myriad of other reasons as to why reducing sugar consumption is a valid lifestyle decision.

There is NO calorie counting, no essential nutritional restriction, and no snake oil products involved with the IQS8WP. It’s about adopting a sustainable, balanced, wholesome lifestyle based around the consumption of delicious, mostly home-cooked, nutrient-packed real food in amounts that are truly sustaining.

You do not have to be a low-carb-obsessed meat-loving type to do it. In fact I rediscovered my veggie roots partly as a result of the IQS8WP. And, more surprisingly, my hubby went vegan while I was doing veg version of the program and cooking many of the meals for both of us.

You can eat bread. And I love bread (especially sourdough!). But you also have the opportunity to try out some pretty awesome grain-free/gluten-free bread and muffin recipes too.

You can eat fruit. There are stages in the program during which sweeteners of all kinds are kept to an absolute minimum and, yes, the naturally occurring fructose found in fruit qualifies as a sweetener too. But setting sweetness to the side is done in order to recalibrate your tastebuds, not to make you swear off all fruit for life. I don’t personally believe that everyone has “issues” with sugar, but if you’re a hardcore sweet tooth with an ability to mindlessly wolf down two desserts after a main course (that’s me!), then teaching your body to be more finely attuned to sweetness in all forms really helps long-term.

Chocolate is ok too! I eat it almost everyday, actually! And on the program you get to experiment with adding sweet foods back into your life without going mad about it.

You can do the program while pregnant and breastfeeding. Of course, DO check in with your doctor, midwife or other medical support people and always listen to your body. I first did the program while breastfeeding my daughter, I also did it (with modifications) while pregnant with our newest family addition, Oliver. You may need to add more snacks to boost your calorie intake (just as you might when pregnant or breastfeeding regardless of your chosen diet!), but if in doubt, you have support from a variety of medical and dietary professionals directly in the online forums who will answer any questions you may have as they arise.

If you travel (and can’t access a kitchen) or fall off the proverbial wagon, you can get back on. I have been there too. No shame in it whatsoever. Life happens. The good thing is that you can download and keep your recipes, shopping lists and meal plans. When you’re good to go again, simply refer back to them and get started… and reach out for support on the forums if needed.

I am writing this post in our gorgeous seaside apartment in Croatia… and the pool is calling to me, so I’m off to catch a little much needed holiday sun now. But if you have any questions about my quitting sugar experiences, drop me a line or feel free to read some of my old IQS-related posts (with weekly reviews of the food and my findings), such as this one or this one.

For the record, I asked someone at IQS HQ if it would be possible to give away a spot on the next program as I’d genuinely love for someone else to give it a go and benefit from it as I have. Participation in the IQS8WP includes all meals plans, recipes, shopping lists, weekly agendas, peer/community support via forums that are accessible 24/7, and professional support from an expert panel including medical professionals such awesome Doctor Rupy Aujla, psychologists, nutritionists, personal trainers (including one of my personal faves, Diana of Body Be Well). The program is valued at $150 AUD.

Read on for entry details if you’re interested in the next program. And have a fabulous weekend, all!

❤ MM xx


If you would like the chance to win a spot on the upcoming round of the IQS8WP (beginning September 1), leave a comment below to express your interest, making sure to include your Instagram handle/name too if you have also entered via my Instagram post on the subject.

One comment on this blog post will count as 2 entries.

The winner will be picked randomly on August 29, 2016 at 8:00am GMT and this post will be updated accordingly.



EASY CHOCOLATE ORANGE BARK (a low-sugar alternative to Lindt Intense Orange)

A few weeks back, feeling like something a little more adventurous than my usual daily dose of plain dark chocolate, I decided to check out Lindt Intense Orange. The 85%-90% Lindt varieties are a staple in my home, so I have nothing against the brand, but was rather shocked to find that Lindt Intense Orange contains 17 g of sugar per 40 g serving, as opposed to 5 g in the 85% plain dark chocolate variety made by the same brand. But there were clearly two things absent from the plain dark chocolate; the crunch factor and the infusion of orange.

To recreate those things in a low-sugar way, I kept things very simple. So simple in fact, that I have time to share this recipe before we head to the airport to embark on our summer vacation.

Have a beautiful weekend, all!

❤ MM xx




60-100 g 85% dark chocolate
1-2 tsp finely grated orange zest
2-4 tbsp flaked almonds
A sprinkle of berry powder such as acai (optional)


  1. Line a flat-bottomed dish/tray with baking parchment.
  2. Melt chocolate using prefered method.
  3. Pour chocolate into lined tray and top with zest, almond flakes and berry powder if using.
  4. Pop tray in freezer for around 5 minutes or until chocolate has set.
  5. Break or cut chocolate into shards. Store uneaten chocolate bark covered in fridge or freezer.


30 MINUTES TO A VISITOR-READY HOME (an ongoing domestic challenge)

Have you ever heard the quote “You are your home”? Does it resonate with you in some way, making you feel warm and fuzzy… or slightly uncomfortable? We’ve been in the process of selling our home over the past few weeks and, amongst other things, it has meant a lot of cleaning, organising and sorting out and letting go. Interestingly, one of the recent points raised in the course that I am studying currently (more on that in another post), is the strong advocation of keeping your home in good order.

Today, as I made the beds one-handed (I was holding Oliver with my other arm), literally stopped to smell the roses on my windowsill and made myself a coffee the old-fashioned way (ground coffee beans + water boiled on stove + French press, as all appliances except for the Kitchen Aid have been stowed away), I thought, “I could happily live in this space… everyday!”.

I looked around this morning and realised I was about 15-30 minutes away from having a ‘visitor-ready’ home; one that, if a friend spontaneously called and said “I am in your neighbourhood. Mind if I pop around for a cup of tea?”, wouldn’t mean a panic stations-style domestic duties frenzy. Actually, in Stockholm it never happens that people spontaneously drop around (in fact, it is considered intrusive). Thus my happiness at the realisation was nothing to do with the possibility of a chance last-minute visitor. Rather, it was because we have made a conscious decision to give ourselves the same inviting, clear and clutter-free space we try to offer visitors to our home.

And this is so important. It is not about keeping up appearances and hoping we appear to have it all together in the eyes of others. It is about gifting ourselves the environment we deserve; a workable, livable, functional and enjoyable space… everyday. I suppose it is top of mind for me right now as I find myself on maternity leave, and my home is both my nest and my office.

Our mutli-purpose kitchen table, which serves as an extra kitchen workspace and office space

Our multi-purpose kitchen table, which serves as an extra kitchen work surface and office space

Having given birth to 3 children in a period of less than 5 years, I anticipated extra clutter, more mess and sticky little handprints on surfaces that would remain shiny in an ideal world. And so it is. This is why I am not aiming for ‘a perfect home at all times’. It is unrealistic… unless I aspire to run my home in the style of Captain Von Trapp (pre arrival of Maria), and my children and I are far too fun-loving for that.



In my experience there are two simple ways to maintain a home that’s in a ’30 minutes from lovely’ state at any time, and they work perfectly together. The first is to implement a declutter strategy (such as Peter Walsh’s 31 Days to Get Organized challenge) and the other is the simple practice known as ‘clean as you go’. The basic premise of a declutter strategy, such as the one Peter Walsh advocates, is that around 10 minutes per day for a period of one month should be devoted to clearing one area of your home. It could be your kitchen ‘junk draw’, or one wardrobe, or the area under your bathroom sink. Put all of these cleared out, organised little spaces together and, over time, you have an organised home, created with an investment of just minutes per day. Cleaning as you go is a no-brainer, but something that I had to train myself to do. Essentially it means, if you use it, clean it and/or put it straight back where it ‘lives’… and don’t wait until tomorrow to do it!

There will always be a few tasks on the go in a busy family home. As I type this I have folded laundry waiting to be put into drawers and another load of laundry being washed. There’s recycling that needs to be taken out and a hallway that could do with vacuuming when Oliver has woken from his nap. But all of those things amount to around 15 minutes of effort to achieve. And our current domestic goal (yes, my husband is just as onboard as I am) is to maintain just this: 15-30 minutes to a clean, clear home at any given time.

To reiterate, this is not about unrealistically striving for absolute perfection and thereby adding stress to our already busy lives. Rather, it’s the opposite; making things as easy and easy-to-maintain as possible with the purpose of living a lovelier domestic life. Clear space, clear mind (and all of that).

I will be sharing my experiences of the latest Peter Walsh 31 Days to Get Organized challenge soon.

In the meantime, do you have any strategies you like to implement to keep your home environment in check? I’d really love to hear about them!

❤ MM xx