Monday, February 24, 2014

A love letter to life

I am frequently exhausted, almost always have at least a hint of a cold, only make time to run about half as much as I'd like to, and often, like this past weekend, end up with something like churros for dinner at 10:30 pm rather than the healthy meal I imagine myself eating at a normal time.

But I absolutely love it. I love this life that I've chosen, that my job with Bus2alps has allowed me to live, more than words can say. As wayward as I am in actually updating my own blog, I'm a pretty devoted reader of quite a few other blogs, most of which detail day-to-day lives in America. Which I enjoy reading for multiple reasons--they remind me of home, they give me a glimpse into the type of life I might someday enjoy, they have pretty pictures...but for the life of me, I can't imagine living a life anywhere near that right now.

None of this is meant as an indictment on anyone who's chosen a career/life route that looks more typical than my current one--I respect and admire that in a lot of ways, and even tried it out myself without as much success as so many people I see excelling at chasing their own dreams more gracefully than I ever managed at home.

The thing is, on days like today, when I wake up to a sun-soaked Florence after a weekend in the French Riviera with moments that bordered on magical, and after (perhaps most importantly) a full night of sleep, I can't imagine being anywhere else. I don't think it's possible to be 23 and not dancing around some kind of doubt about what you're doing with your life (if I'm wrong, please let me know, because I would love to meet you). But the fact that I've been lucky enough to find myself living in Italy with a group of some of the most talented, hilarious, street-smart, beautiful, caring people I've ever met, showing people just a couple years younger than myself the sights that entrance me and have taken my breath away, is a kind of good fortune that, had you asked me a year ago, I didn't think I'd ever come across.

When people ask me if I like my job, my response that I'm living my dream life is not an exaggeration. Yes, there are everyday challenges and frustrations and a ceaselessly-growing to-do list that might make me give a different answer if you catch me in the wrong moment, but all in all, the fact that I worked my way out of a lifestyle that felt like a cage to live in this place means that there's nowhere else I'd rather be right now. 

So what is the point of this post? I guess it depends on who's reading. Had I read this a year ago, it would have been a lifeline of hope, a reassurance that if you want something fiercely enough, it is possible. That if seeing the world is something you dream of, you can make it into something more than a dream--a lesson I've been taught more and more every day by the people I've met along the way.

Happy travels, friends, in whatever way that might apply to your life!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Winter wonderland

Let's be real: I'm not cut out for the cold. Born and raised in California, my body typically starts shutting down organ by organ when the temperature dips below 50 degrees. But there are some places that make braving the cold more than worth it, and Interlaken, Switzerland is one of them.

I just got back to Europe after about a month at home, and hopped right off a plane to Rome onto a bus to the Alps for my Bus2alps orientation...makes sense. This is where I spent my last weekend before heading back to the states so I was more than ready to head back to this magical land. 

The weekend was a mix of meetings and snowy activities. We stayed in the cutest hostel that looks just like a little Swiss chalet and is a short walk to Lake Brienz, one of the most picturesque places on the planet. 

This was a weekend of a lot of firsts for me. I tried snow shoeing, which was basically a giant hike up a mountain followed by literally bounding down it in fresh powder almost up to my knees. It definitely involved more than one snowy tumble but was a ton of fun and provided some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.

There was also night sledding, which, it turns out, is not just sliding breezily down a hill. The whole steering thing kind of evaded me, but the following fondue dinner more than made up for it, and hanging out in the Alps after nightfall felt like a once in a lifetime chance. 

Suffice to say, I'm eagerly awaiting many more (I hope) Interlaken trips this season. Maybe next time I'll get brave enough to try this!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Familiar faces

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and for me that will always be a pizza or gelato shop. Finally being back and living in Florence again and working for Bus2alps living my dream life comes with a lot of perks, and one of the best is being close enough with the people behind my favorite food in Florence to be greeted by name when I order my daily panino/pizza/gelato. 

Pino after wine tasting...true love
There are a lot of things I love about this city, but one of the best has to be getting to see all of my favorite people I met while abroad last time again. By which I mean pizzaiolos, panini men, and gelato makers, because duh I spend all my time here eating. I'm never happier than when walking into Gusta Pizza and being greeted with a friendly "Amore mio!" or Pino's Panini and hearing "Ciao bella!" with a wink from Pino. Today I went back to Vestri for the first time, a gelato shop that's been closed for holiday since I've been back, and gorged myself on cioccolato gianduia a sale and crema con scricchiolio mandorla (chocolate hazelnut with salt and vanilla with almond crunch). When I paid, the man gave me a questioning look and asked if I had been there years before...I'm never happier about my gelato-a-day habit than when it makes enough of an impression on the people who work there that they still remember me years later. Obviously, I'll be back at Vestri on the daily again. 

Gusta Pizza on my last day in Florence two years ago
Living in another country can feel alienating and isolating from time to time, but something about Florence has always felt more like home than anything else. I feel like the city loves me back, which is not a vibe I really got from LA, that fiesty giant of a place. And on days when I think I might miss home, there's no better pick-me-up than eating some delicious food and being greeted with a friendly smile while doing so. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tuesdays are tough days

Tuesday is almost over and that is something I am happy about. Today may have been the longest Tuesday ever, except for last Tuesday, which was also quite long since it masqueraded as Monday after a 3 day weekend. Does anyone else feel like Tuesdays might just be worse than Mondays?

In any case, I opted to try to turn this Tuesday around with some pinot, Bananagrams with the roommates, and a little ingredient-improvisation to create some cheesecake marbled brownies:

I used this recipe, but substituted 9 tablespoons of cocoa (I have no idea what normal-person measurement that equates to, but I googled unsweetened chocolate substitute and it said 3 tablespoons cocoa and 1 tablespoon butter for every ounce) and 3 extra tablespoons of Earth Balance (I also didn't have butter since my vegan roommates are slowly swaying my food choices). They were still pretty unbelievable, because it turns out, chocolate is pretty much chocolate--unless you are an actual chef or real food blogger and have money to splurge on fancy things like high quality ingredients. If you are more like me, Albertson's brand cocoa powder will do just fine. 

Moral of the story: brownies with cheesecake swirled in and melty chocolate chips on top can actually fix pretty much anything. 

In other news, I ventured out to my home territory of the Inland Empire (exactly as glamorous as it sounds) for an outdoor Mumford & Sons concert this weekend with some of my favorite people and it was pretty great. 

Kenda and Jessica, two of my favorite ladies on the planet, plus photobomb guy in the background, who I guess also seems pretty cool

 The whole concert, I was complaining wondering aloud about why they weren't turning on the twinkly lights. Turns out they later synchronized the lights to the music, almost as if a professional somewhere planned it rather than listening to my insistence that things would be so much better if only the strings of lights were glowing. 

Jess, Kenda and I all brought our older siblings for a full-blown family fest!

Even though the night ended with a solid two and a half hours stuck trying to exit the parking lot, the concert itself was pretty fabulous, and made me wish I had more outdoor concerts planned for the summer! If anyone would like to take me to Outside Lands or a similar event, I am now accepting invitations.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cappellini with cherry tomatoes

Made with love!

There is not a lot I love more than really good pasta. I have pretty high standards when it comes to what qualifies as really good pasta since my pickiness has led me to reeeeally focus in on the foods that I do love. And I got pretty snobby about my pasta while living in Italy since I ate it at least once a day (jk I still do that).

Contradictorily, this doesn't stop me from chowing down on some standard spaghetti with Ragu, but I do irrationally resent it a little bit. So my solution, when I choose to take the extra few minutes, is to make a simple olive oil, garlic, basil, and cherry tomato sauce over cappellini. Adding some parmesan doesn't hurt, either (does it ever?), and using fresh tomatoes actually makes a big difference vs. canned sauce, try as I might to deny it. I base it loosely off this recipe since it makes me feel fancy (it doesn't take much). But I substitute normal basil and garlic for lemon basil and garlic chives because I'm not totally convinced those are real things (which I guess negates the fanciness). It's pretty easy to eyeball, though, and is perfect with some white wine for a summer dinner.

This is not pasta. But it is a lovely Insta stolen from Kenda that illustrates what dinners in our backyard are like (beer is a staple, obviously). 

Alternatively, I never grow tired of a simple pasta (preferably orecchiette) with butter, parmesan, black pepper, and red chili flakes. What's your go-to for a quick and tasty dinner?

Monday, April 1, 2013


My dream of sleeping in a lighthouse began last Spring Break (back when I still had Spring Break...I miss you, college), and although I ended up in a yurt instead of a lighthouse--totally worth it--I haven't given up on the idea. My sweet parents are letting my brother and me join them for a week when they go to Ireland this summer, and we've finally started making our first attempts at planning. By which I mean my mom has been flipping through Rick Steves' guide to Ireland while I google things like "castles where I can sleep in Ireland" and "can I stay overnight in a lighthouse on the Dingle Peninsula". So we still have a couple details to work out, but it's going well so far.

Disappointingly, the only lighthouse where you can actually stay in Ireland is 100% booked for July (apparently this is a more popular thing than I realized?) but there are a few lighthouse keeper houses available, which sounds almost as cool.

How fun would it be to stay right on the edge of a dramatic Irish cliff, surrounded by greenery?

Would you want to stay in (or near) a lighthouse? Imagine how fun it would be to explore the seaside by day and cozy up by a fire at night, listening to the waves crash on the cliffs just outside! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Parmesan potatoes

If I haven't made it clear yet, cheese and potatoes are two of my favorite things in life. I've been meaning to make one of the many recipes that combine the two that you'll find on my Pinterest (look for anything that's not Nutella-based on my recipes board and it's probably potatoes), but never got around to it between all the pasta that consumes most of my meals. 

Anyway. Last night I really stepped up my game. Not only did I make these parmesan roasted potatoes to have along with my veggie burger, but I ran (ok, power walked) to the store to buy the potatoes first. Let's put it in perspective by considering that I counted Monday night as productive because I made cookies and caught up on The Office. 

The point is, these are amazing. And crazy easy. I'm not a food photographer (/not a photographer at all), but if they look this good in iPhone pictures with dismal lighting, imagine how good they are in real life. Biggest tip I can offer: don't imagine that there's no such thing as too much cheese (I know, I know, it feels wrong even to type it) because the excess parmesan won't stick to the potatoes and you'll just get a messy pan. Also, I substituted rosemary for paprika, and it was deeeeelish.

Happy Wednesday, friends!