Recipe: Chilled Beet Soup

When traveling through Eastern Europe, I fell in love with the taste and vibrant color of cold beet soup. Interestingly, the dish is fairly consistent throughout Eastern Europe, but it has a different name in each country. In Lithuania it is called Šaltibarščiai, in Poland it is called Chlodnik, and in Belarus it is called Holodnik, meaning something that cools you.

I ordered the dish in numerous countries and pledged that when I returned home I would study the recipe and share it with you all.

After reviewing many recipes online, and I am ready to share my own version of this easy to make, low-calorie, vegetarian dish!

The recipe below is for one large bowl of soup, so multiply based on the number of people in your party.

Ingredients for one bowl of soup

  • 1 cup of kefir
  • 1 cup of beet juice*
  • 3 cooked beets*
  • 3 radishes
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 2 tbsp of chopped green onion
  • 1 tbsp of chopped chives
  • 2 hard boiled eggs**

For *, ** see the Ingredient Tips section below.


  1. Slice the radishes and cucumbers in to thin rounds, then cut them in to then 1 mm wide strips. For the radishes, cut the strips so IMG_6328.jpgthat the bright pink skin is on either end.
  2. Cut the beets in to small cubes (approximately 1 cm per side)
  3. Pour the kefir and beet juice in to a large mixing bowl. Note that a 1:1 ratio of kefir to beet juice produces the vibrant color. For a more creamy colored soup, like the one I’m holding in the picture below (taken in Lithuania) add less beet juice.
  4. Add the cubed beets, chives, green onion, and thinly sliced strips of radish and cucumber to the kefir and beet juice mixture, and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. If you’d like your soup to have less green things floating in it, reduce the amount of chives and green onion.
  5. Get creative with your hard boiled eggs… I like to add 1 finely chopped hard boiled egg to the chilled soup and garnish the top of my soup with another hard boiled egg either halved or quartered. It’s really up to you how you’d like to include the eggs, if even at all!


Ingredient Tips*, **

* My favorite brand of beets is Love Beets, which provides healthy, organic beets and beet juice. If this brand is available in the grocery store near you, I highly recommend using their products! If they aren’t in your grocery store, a single can of Whole Beets Grade A generally contains ~1 cup of beet juice, and will have more than enough beets for a single large bowl of soup.

Love Beets.png

** If you haven’t tried Vital Farms Eggs yet, add it to your grocery store list right now. This company is outstanding, and treats their hens with utmost care. Did you know that “cage-free” only gives hens an average of 1.5 square feet to roam? Imagine standing in roughly a 1 ft. x 1 ft. square for the rest of your life. Vital Farms provides pasture-raised eggs, which means the hens have an average of 108 square feet. You can taste the difference, and you can see the difference in the vibrantly colored yolk.


For Inspiration: I consumed my most beautiful bowl of cold beet soup in Riga at Gutenberg’s Rooftop Restaurant. If you find yourself in Latvia you have to go an order the beet soup as a starter. The picture below is proof of its beauty! One of the greatest things about this dish internationally, is that it was always affordable. I never paid more than $10 per bowl regardless of presentation.



What to pack for your European Summer

What to pack for your European Summer

When it came time to pack for our two-month trip to Europe, I told myself everything I brought needed to fit in my 21” carry-on suitcase and North Face backpack, both pictured above. Also pictured is a yellow stripped market bag that I fell in love with during our time in Provence, but I carried that around empty to get through airport security.

A week before our trip, I thought to myself, “Packing for two months will be a piece of cake!”, but ultimately, I had to reconsider my packing list several times before I was able to zip my suitcase. I also have to confess that after a few weeks I ended up sending a several items home with my mom: a pair of long yoga pants (it was way too hot for them), a white blouse, and some souvenirs.

In this post, I provide general packing tips for spending more than a couple of weeks in Europe, and a list of items that I packed in both my suitcase and backpack!

General Packing Tips

When travelling to Europe for more than a couple of weeks, I recommend the following:

  1. Leave all electronic hair appliances (hair dryers, straighteners, curlers) at home
    • You may think you can’t live without them, but keep in mind that hair dryers are often provided in Airbnbs and hotels. These appliances are heavy and require a power converter. Even when you convert the power there’s a risk of them overheating and burning your hair!
  2. Leave your “special occasion items” (high heels and fancy dresses) at home
    • Unless you have a specific occasion for which you are certain you will use them, leave these items behind. An alternative to heels is to bring a comfortable pair of wedge sandals that you can also wear while touring.
  3. Pack solid colored clothes over loud patterned clothes
    • While there is an argument to be made that patterned clothes hide stains more easily than solids, I recommend sticking to solids because they can be easier to mix and match – enabling you to create more combinations
  4. Pack solid deodorant over liquid: it won’t count towards your liquid allotment! I recommend the brand Native. If you click on the link you will get a free travel size deodorant with your purchase!
  5. Pack Sudafed. It is common to catch a cold while travelling, and in Europe Sudafed is difficult to find.
  6. Try to limit single use plastics by purchasing refillable toiletry bottles that you will keep long-term rather than disposable samples that you will discard.
  7. Leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs, or pack an additional bag that folds up. This way, if you find an item you want to purchase you can check your bag on the way home and use the folded bag as your carry on.


Suitcase Contents

Below is a picture of the contents of my carry-on suitcase.

Suitcase items for 2 month europe trip


  • 1 loose cardigan (great for plane rides, and chilly evenings)
  • 2 long sleeved shirts (these came in handy in the Baltics)
  • 3 v-neck tops (all solid colors – white, black, and gray)
  • 2 sleeveless button up shirts (all solid colors – blue and yellow)
  • 3 tank tops (I originally packed only one sleeveless shirt, but purchased two during our trip)
  • 3 dresses (I originally packed only one dress, but purchased two during our trip)


  • 2 pairs of Crocs Sandals
  • 1 pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars
  • 2 pairs of shorts (one white pair one navy pair)
  • 1 jean skirt
  • 1 pair of long dark jeans
  • 1 pair of jean capris
  • 1 pair of white linen capris
  • 1 pair of yoga capris (I ended up sending my pair of long yoga pants home with my mother. At home I wear long yoga pants frequently, but even on travel days felt they were too hot!)

Other Items:

  • 1 Bathing suit
  • 1 Bathing suit cover-up
  • 1 Longchamp purse
  • 1 reusable grocery bag
  • 1 scarf
  • 9 pairs of underwear
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 4 bras
  • 1 brown leather belt
  • 1 SteriPen: a handheld UV water purifier (this is a lifesaver when it comes to limiting your use of single-use water bottles)
  • 2 toiletry bags (containing shampoo, soap, lotion, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, deodorant, make-up, face wash, band-aids, Ibuprofen, Sudafed, tide pens, and Tide detergent packets)


Backpack Contents

Below is a picture of the contents of my backpack.

backpack items for a 2 month trip to europe

  • Water bottle
  • Computer and charger
  • Kindle
  • Wallet
  • Passport
  • Sunglasses
  • Journal – shout out to my mom for the beautiful journal cover that she embroidered for me!
  • Raincoat & umbrella
  • Charger cords
  • Selfie stick
  • Kleenex
  • Pencil pouch – containing pens, earphones, travel scissors and scotch tape (useful for taping souvenirs in to your journal)
  • Logic Puzzle book and note pad – I wish I would have left these two items at home



The Cost of a European Summer

If you’ve made it to this page, you might be wondering, “How much does it cost to spend a summer in Europe?”

Prior to leaving for a two month trip to Europe, I had no idea how much to budget. There are thousands of blogs on how to travel for less than $20/day. Most of them require complete flexibility, and some form of couch-surfing, house-sitting, staying in a bunk in a hostel, or crashing with friends in order to save on lodging expenses. They also often don’t include destinations like Norway and Sweden, commonly sited as the most expensive countries in Europe.

A few months before I left, I attended a seminar where a couple spoke on travelling the world for ~$14/day. While this sounded enchanting, their calculus didn’t quantify their expenses covered by paid sponsorship from their seasoned travel blogging site.

I left thinking, “So what if you’re not sponsored to travel the world, and you’d prefer to stay in Airbnbs or private hostel rooms, instead of couch surfing or sleeping in a bunk with your suitcase locked to your bed? Maybe you also don’t have complete flexibility because you’re going to be meeting up with friends and family along the way.”

I had no idea what to expect.

Now that I am back from my trip, I want share the details!

My goal with this post, is to provide additional data points to reference in planning for your trip. Even though you won’t have the same travel schedule, I hope it will at minimum help you gauge your potential expenses.

In one of my first posts, European Summer 2018, I map out the route of our Eurotrip. As you can see, we did not optimize for transportation, a simple way to cut costs. We also mainly stayed in Airbnbs, renting either the entire place or a private room with shared common spaces.

Average Nightly Lodging Expenses Per Person

Our average nightly lodging expense came to ~$50 per person (~$20 more than I had hoped to spend per night). The figure below plots our average nightly lodging cost per person.

Graph of Average Nightly Lodging Costs Per Person

As expected, we found destinations like Italy and Sweden to be more expensive than the Baltic states, even though our accommodations were similar in quality.

Overall Expense Summary

In total, our 70 day Eurotrip cost $8,425.36 and 97k frequent flyer points per person.

The 97k frequent flyer points consisted of:

  • 40k points for BOS –> DUB (flight from Boston to Dublin)
  • 12k points for a rental car in Provence
  • 15k points for BUD –> VNO (flight from Budapest to Vilnius)
  • 30k points for AMS –> EWR (flight from Amsterdam to Newark)

I would estimate the monetary value of these points to be ~$1500 – $2000.

Expenses are broken into four categories: Lodging, Entertainment (museums, city bikes, etc.), Transportation, and Food. Lodging accounted for our greatest expense (>40% of our expenditures).

Trip Economics Table.png

Despite the summer costing more than we anticipated, we wouldn’t have changed our accommodations, as we found coming home to a place with a kitchen, where we could cook breakfast and occasionally dinner was important.

Pie chart of 2 month Eurotrip expenses

We always tried to book the cheapest transportation, and our dinners rarely exceeded $30 (meaning we didn’t frequent Michelin star restaurants), and ate every breakfast in our room.

I hope this information helps prepare you for your upcoming adventure! Enjoy your time in Europe!




Visiting Stockholm

Visiting Stockholm

If you’re planning a trip to Stockholm, you’re in for a treat. Unlike many European cities, Stockholm wasn’t completely leveled during WWII, making it one of the most well preserved medieval cities in existence.

I recommend visiting Stockholm in July / August, so that you can enjoy sightseeing with sunlight, warmth and blue skies. I have also heard December can be a great time to visit for Christmas Markets.

Before you go to Stockholm, you should known a few things:

  • Sweden’s currency isn’t the Euro, it’s the Swedish Kroner (SEK or Kr); In August 2018, the conversion rate was approximately 11 SEK : 1 USD. We were seeing closer to 9 SEK : 1 USD on our Chase credit card.
  • Stockholm isn’t cash-based, like Berlin. We were able to charge all purchases to our credit cards, except tipping our guides on our free walking tour, but they accepted Euros and USD.
  • Stockholm is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, and it’s often quoted as the second most expensive city in Europe next to Norway!
    • It won’t be easy to find a non-fastfood lunch for <$10 per person.
      • Our average lunch price was $14 per person, and our average dinner price was $35 per person (this included a starter, main and 1/2 a glass of wine).
    • It also won’t be easy to find an alcoholic beverage for <$10 per person.

Best Things to Do in Stockholm

  • .If you have read my other posts you know that I love free walking tours. On your first day in Stockholm, I highly recommend doing at least one of the 2 hour free walking tours with Free Tour Stockholmimg_5934.jpg There are multiple companies that operate tours. We really enjoyed this company, which has the three crowns as its logo. They offer tours of the Old City (known as Gamla Stan), of the New City, and on certain days of the South Island.Be sure to check out the linked website for the schedule on the day you plan to participate! The schedule can change, as can the meeting point. To the right is a picture of two guides at a meeting point. They will be holding signs with their logo.
    • The tour is FREE, but be sure to tip your tour guide. Our guides accepted euros and USD.
    • In one day we did the 10 AM New City tour and the 1 PM Old City tour.
  • Head over to the Green Island (Djurgarden) and visit the ABBA Museum and the Vasa Museum.
    • The ABBA Museum is fantastically interactive, and begins with an impressive guitar room filled with guitars from famous rockstars like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Alex Lifeson. If you have an ABBA-hater in your group make sure they know the guitar room alone is worth it!
      • General admission to the ABBA Museum = 250 SEK


  • The Vasa Museum is home to the most well preserved royal warships in existence; 98% of the Vasa is original! Unfortunately, in 1628 the Vasa warship sank on the day of its maiden voyage. After 15 minutes and ~1250 meters, gusty winds caused the ship to capsize, and it laid on the floor of the Baltic Sea for more than 300 years. Fortunately, the Baltic Sea is brackish (meaning it is low in salinity), so it isn’t home to worms that feast on wood and often consume sunken ships in their entirety. Great thing the Vasa sank in the Baltics, or we wouldn’t be able to see her today!
    • Be sure to wear warm clothes to this museum, which is kept cold at all times of year to preserve the wood on the hull.
    • When you enter the museum, head straight to the Auditoriums which feature 20 minute length films (all with English subtitles) on the history of the Vasa. When you’re finished with the video, head over to the bow of the boat, where every 30 minutes you can join a 25 minute guided tour in English!

Best Restaurants in Stockholm

  • If you go to Stockholm you have to try Meatballs for the People located in the South Island. I recommend going for lunch. We made reservations, but didn’t need them in the end. They also have vegetarian options! IMG_6009 (2).JPG
  • Alksade Traditioner is another great lunch spot on the South Island. They serve a variety of waffles (savory and sweet) and traditional Swedish dishes. I went for the veggie waffle sandwich, pictured to the right. Yum! They also have an amazing sweets – milkshakes, cookies, and individual fruit crumbles.
  • Tradition is a classy restaurant in the Old City, where you can find traditional Swedish dishes. We enjoyed our lovely dinner there – I ordered the smoked salmon and Scott had the brisket.
  • If you’re in the mood for Italian, Un Poco, was one of our favorite meals of our entire summer. We loved it so much we went back! The pumpkin ravioli is utterly divine (see picture below).
  • Saluhall is a Swedish food hall that’s great fun to walk around!
  • If you’re in the mood for gelato head to Stikki Nikki. There are multiple locations throughout Stockholm, and their gelato is organic. They even have vegan options!


Transportation to ARN

A central theme of this post is that Sweden isn’t the cheapest city to visit. When it comes to transportation that theme still holds.

  • From Stockholm city center, a taxi-sharing app like Uber will run you ~$100.
  • I highly recommend taking the Flygbussarna, which runs multiple times an hour from the bus station in the city center to the airport.
    • We purchased tickets at the bus station for ~$13 one way per person, but if you get them online, with the link above, you can save a few dollars.