For What I am About to Do…

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Isn’t the Pacific Northwest beautiful?

It’s been a few months. And in these few months, it seems like nothing has happened, yet some important things have.  From February to the beginning of April, I was in a constant state of curiosity (not the fun, relaxed kind). I was tensely waiting for responses from the graduate schools to which I had applied, checking my email at least 20 times a day. Well, it’s now well past the deadline for responses, and my decision has been made.

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I ended up choosing Virginia Tech, which was not the school that I saw myself ending up at, but I was offered a great opportunity as a Graduate Teaching Assistant as well as a nice stipend. From a young age, I’ve always been fascinated by the colonial period of America’s history, and now I’ll be moving to the area of the country where evidence of that period abounds. I’m both scared and excited about these next two years of my life. I’ll be moving to an area where I’ll know absolutely no one, beginning arduous graduate studies, and teaching freshman English starting my second semester. If you had told me even three years ago that I would be applying to graduate schools, I would have laughed you out of the room. Because at that time I was so burnt out on school that I could barely stand the thought of crawling through my senior year of undergraduate studies. Things never ever seem to go as planned.

What else has been going on? Well, this little guy has joined the family. Little is a relative word. Little boy Blue is probably three times the size he was when we first brought him home almost two months ago. He’s all legs, but he’s the cutest thing. Boy, does he keep me busy.

I haven’t had any adventures since Kansas City, but I have a trip planned to return home to California for about a week in June, and I can’t wait! Lately, there have been certain objects or songs that trigger homesickness in me, and I am overjoyed at the thought of going home, even if its just for a little while.

Speaking of adventures, I’ve had this overwhelming desire to go to Spain for the past month or so. I just officially signed my contract with Virginia Tech yesterday, and part of me was wondering whether I should have asked for a year extension so I could go back abroad as an au pair in Spain for a year or so.  What can I say other than that I absolutely going new places? And part of me also thinks that this is the time when I should be globetrotting because once you hit a certain age, people look at you like you should have your life together. I feel like I’m not quite at that certain age yet, but getting closer. At the same time, I also thought that now was the time to get the M.A. It was a conflict—it still is. I don’t think I made the wrong decision, but I can’t help the wistful feelings that come when I think about going abroad.

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La Sagrada Famila, Barcelona, Spain

I have a heartache, an impulse, a dream, and because of this, I find myself somewhat depressed with where I am in life.  *WARNING: STRUGGLE ALERT* With the advent of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and the like, I’m seeing the highlight reels of people of whom I know personally and those of people I don’t know at all. It seems like everyone has something that I can’t have. My friends are married or in relationships. Instagram Jane travels all over the world and takes beautiful photos of Wonderland-like landscapes. Why can’t I be lucky enough to have that or go there? Hello. I realize that there are SO many problems with the line of thinking. Heck yes there are. For one, those feelings and questions suggest that I’m entitled to those things, that I deserve them. Nothing is further from the truth; I deserve absolutely nothing. None of us do, and that’s something that our culture can’t grasp the concept of. Another thing is that these posts and photos capture the highlights. They reveal what the author wants everyone to see. Nobody’s life is perfect. And lastly, my life isn’t really that unfortunate; however, as I compare my lows to everyones normalcy or life highs, of course I become even more unhappy.

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I can’t continue to go through life with this chip on my shoulder. I’ve seen the idea of Gratitude Journals pop up every now and then. I thought about doing them but would brush it off. Finally, I saw Amy Perrin, a fitness icon that I have followed on Instagram for a few years, post a video on Snapchat about her Gratitude Journal, suggesting that I should write my gratitudes down, even if it’s being thankful for putting gas in my car or not working a Sunday night. She stated that being thankful for these small things will make you appreciate those spectacular things that happen even more than you already do. I was actually really convicted as I heard that. I am not hurting for anything. I’m blessed with enough, but because I want other things of a greater magnitude, I overlook these things that I already do have and take for granted. Talk about ungrateful. So I started a Journal of Gratitude in order to help me keep things in perspective and recognize the small blessings that occur daily. And if something happens, like God-willing I somehow get back to Spain or Italy in the next few years, then that is a blessing that I will be that much happier about.

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Bowl and Pitcher, Spokane, Washington

So yep. That’s life right now. I have some exciting events coming up in the next few weeks, like my first half-marathon (yikes!) and my trip to California. Be on the look out for a post on those things within the next month! In the mean time, for what I am about to do concerning my next steps in life, I could use prayer.

 

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Un Anno Fa

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Downtown Nashville

Confession time.

I haven’t been feeling the creative, inspired feelings lately. Actually, I’ve been feeling rather drained. Perhaps that’s the reason for my absence on my blog. That, and I’ve been busy doing who knows what. What have I done recently? I visited my best friend in Tennessee for the New Year. Then I took a spontaneously planned trip to the Midwest to spend my 25th birthday with two lovely ladies that I met while in Italy.

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My American friends that I met in Italy. Here we are in Monaco.

Those were such welcome and highly anticipated trips. Since going to Canada in August, I had been glued to the same spot until December; I also hadn’t seen my best friend since before I left California about a year and a half ago. It was positively refreshing to be together again.

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My first Civil War battlefield

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And words can’t describe the affection I have for these two girls here. I have nothing but the best memories shared with them, and I consider myself truly blessed to have been able to reunite with them less than a year after we separated in Marche and Campania .

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I love these two so much

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Shopping in KC

I traveled to Omaha, Lincoln, and Kansas City in a matter of days. Whirlwind trips are something we’re all too used to. I had never been to the Midwest, so I was excited to see it. We experienced the…well…interesting Kansas City nightlife and walked around seeing sights.

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Baseball fans must go see the home of the MLB Champs

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Union Station in KC

My favorite part of the trip was our dinner at Garozzo’s Ristorante in KC. It only seemed fitting that we enjoyed a plate of pasta and a bottle of wine considering it was over those things that we got to know each other in the first place. It was fabulous and delicious.

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Gnocchi is my weakness. And wine. And bread. Ok, I love carbs.

 

Now that I’m back home with no foreseeable outing in sight, it’s a little depressing. Particularly when thinking that one year ago (un anno fa), I was living my dream in Italia. It’s been an entire year! I cannot believe that since everything feels so fresh in my mind. I think I’m at the point when I realize nobody cares about that anymore. Which is completely fine! I totally understand those sentiments. But if everyone only knew how much I think about those three months of my life and how much I keep them to myself. If they only knew how deeply my experiences and the Italian people affected my heart. If they only knew how I crave new experiences and being in new places.

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One year ago in Florence

I’m about to make deep confession here: it’s rather ironic that I feel the way described above. I was just thinking today that I truly loved my life in my California hometown for the three years I spent at community college before transferring away to University. I worked a lot. I studied even more. But I had friends and endless meals to eat and things to do with them.  Neither extreme hot nor extreme cold prohibited us from doing anything. I had a closely knit support group. And it was great. I loved the routine I had. However, since moving to Idaho, I haven’t gotten my groove back. I don’t have that support group that I can always call up and count on, though I have a few caring friends. Also, I don’t exactly mesh with these surroundings. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a gorgeous area, but something in me feels like it doesn’t belong here. I don’t really fit in.

Maybe it’s the fact that I was here for just a few months before leaving the country. Maybe it’s because I changed in some ways that I wasn’t ready to admit. I think the girl that used to cling to routine is gone. I find myself always thinking about how many good shifts I would have to work to buy a plane ticket somewhere, even if it’s just for a week. I am constantly wondering if I’ll ever be able to afford to go back to Europe again. And I just have to be able to because something is pulling at my heart, telling me to go back and see everything.

A picturesque city square. Every building is beautiful and inspired.

A piazza in Florence.

I’m still waiting on responses from the grad schools to which I applied. So if I make it in, going to grad school would land me in a different city for two years, which is thrilling to me; however, I’m not sure how much light of day I would see considering I’ll have my nose in books and eyes on a computer for those years. Not to mention that those would probably be two years without much traveling. There is nothing to regret about more education though! Who knows where I could go with the degree that I might earn?

Life has so many possibilities. I just wish I knew which ones to capitalize on. I continue to pray that God would lead me in making the right decision. What if I miss a sign? What if I’m supposed to do something completely different than what I’m setting myself up for now? “Let go and let God” and “God helps those who help themselves” seem to be clashing in my soul right now. Is this what a mid-life crisis feels like?

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Espresso is the reason I’m up right now.

In the meantime, I am making a conscious effort to not wish these current days away in hope of an exciting future, remaining eternally grateful the experience I was allowed to have a year ago and for the ones that have followed since. I realize that I am lucky to have ben able to be in so many different places even this new year! My 24th year was undeniably, unbelievably incredible, a year that will be hard to beat in terms of new and exciting. It was a marvelous year of growth and learning. While I am starting off my 25th year feeling rather drained, confused, and blue, I trust that it will be wonderful in its own way, perhaps in ways I don’t expect. Va bene.

Until next time, ragazzi! Ciao.

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Gaining Weight (Holiday Edition): Sbrisolona

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Winter is in full swing here in Idaho, complete with the traditional White Christmas. I’ve been incredibly busy with grad school applications, work, and baking for work functions that I haven’t had enough time to do my customary holiday baking. However, I’m going to share with you something that I threw together a couple of weeks ago.

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In case you didn’t know, I have an terrible sweet tooth. This holiday season will probably provide me with a cavity and 10 extra pounds. Speaking of gaining extra pounds, that’s exactly what I did when I lived abroad. Sbrisolona was one of my favorite things that I ate in Italy. I can’t tell you exactly why. Maybe it’s the slight amaretto flavor. Maybe it’s the slightly moist, yet crumbly texture. Maybe it’s because I had never tasted anything like it before. Whatever the reason, it’s something that I ate multiple times a day because Italians eat dessert-like things for breakfast. My favorite. My host family made this and cheesecake multiple times because I liked them so much.

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My dilemma was finding amaretti cookies here in the US. Actually, now I know they’re not too hard to find if you buy them on Amazon. But here in Northern Idaho, particular ethnic foods can be a little challenging to find. But I ran into Big Lots for no real reason (which is a rare run especially during the holidays considering the fact that I find their Black Friday/Holiday Commercials particularly annoying).  But their Italian food section jumped out at me, and I almost squealed out loud when I saw the amaretti cookies, and I was just so happy seeing some familiar things, and it was the best day. So I grabbed ricotta at the grocery store, and sped home to make this dessert that I had somehow forgotten about.

I found the recipe that my host grandmother had dictated to me and set to work. Now that I’ve translated the measurements into Imperial system format, it’s so easy. Actually, I find that most Italian foods are simply put together, yet full of flavor—a trait that speaks volumes of Italian culture.  You’ll love this little cake. Pair it with coffee for dessert or breakfast.

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Sbrisolona: An Italian Crumble Cake

Ingredients

1 egg
½ c. butter
2½ c. flour
1 T. baking powder
¼ c. sugar
——– ———————
IMPASTO

1 pkg*

 

Amaretti biscotti

1 egg
½ c. sugar
1¼ c. ricotta

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° Also, grease and flour a small springform pan or 8 or 9-inch round pan. Set aside.
  2. Melt and cool butter. Mix sugar & egg. Add butter. Mix in flour & baking powder. Mix with hand, then make a ball. Put in fridge for ½ hour.
  3. IMPASTO: Mix together biscotti, egg, sugar, & ricotta. Set aside.
  4. Once dough is set, take more than ½ the ball and crumble on bottom of the pan. Spread impasto on top of sprinkled dough. Crumble rest of dough ball on top of impasto.
  5. Bake for about 30-40 min, or until top is golden brown/toothpick comes out cleanly. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

*A note: I only used half the package of the amaretto cookies because I didn’t recall using all of it when we baked it in Italy. Though the cake tasted good, it could have used more amaretto flavor. I suggest using the whole package or maybe adding a little Disaronno for more intense amaretto flavor.

 

Here are some photos. I baked after dark, so I apologize for the terrible lighting.

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Pasticceria: Torta di Mele

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Model: sista sista Anna

Hello, all. The red leaves and chilly days are now upon us. It’s that time of year again! The time when I spend my days off in the kitchen baking up pies, cakes, cookies, and cinnamon rolls that smell delightful. It’s the time of year when I begin to up my cardio regimen. Here’s my first fall baking post of this year. Why have they been basically non existent? There are a couple no-good reasons.

1)Well, after taking the GRE, I took a few days off and now am working on my graduate applications. So. much. Work.

2) Aside from being too lazy to document my baking ventures. My kitchen is terrible in regard to lighting and scenery. And my phone’s camera is outdated and terrible.

But, I had to document this recipe. I just had to. Turn on the Gladiator soundtrack and try this one out!


When I was in Italy, I was in heaven, considering all the different food to which I was introduced. There were a few desserts, or dolci, that I was determined to remake when I returned to the states. This apple cake is one of them

I first had Torta di Mele at the middle school, the day I realized that meals were not a joke in Italy. It was the last course of the meal, and I had no idea what it was called, but it was so good. Perfect taste and texture. I began looking for recipes shortly after I returned home. Let me tell you, it’s a hard undertaking to find a recipe that’s authentic AND measured out in terms that we Americans know what to do with. People say that metric measurements make more sense than imperial, but after having spent many years with only imperial measurements, I find it hard to concede. It was definitely a challenge trying to translate and transfer measurements over when I was baking in Italy. Sometimes you just don’t have the time and energy to do the conversions. What’s a girl to do?

Then I found it. A website that made me homesick for Italy all over again. Just when I thought I was all right, that I was dealing with it. Nope. Nostalgia all over again. Memorie di Agelina. This website is AMAZING. Head right on over there if you want to find hundreds of traditional recipes to try out. Antipasti, Primi Piati, Secondi Piati, Dolci—you name it, they have it. Love at first glance. I look forward to working through what Frank has so diligently put together for his readers.

He had it! A recipe for Torta di Mele, a wonderfully easy recipe at that. It’s so simple that you could make it every day (which you just might want to after you taste this). The recipe’s measurements are given in ounces and grams, perfect for those looking for an authentic recipe. However, because I’m so used to cups and tablespoons,  I wanted to make it just a little bit easier for my future self by converting the measurements to the imperial system. Please go read his commentary on the apple torte! But for your convenience, here are the converted measurements.


Torta di Mele (From Memorie di Angelina)

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

7 Tbsp. butter, melted

3/4 cup milk

1 Tbsp. baking powder

the zest of one lemon

1 tsp. vanilla

pinch of salt

1 3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp flour (The conversion of flour from grams to cups is tricky. This is a suggested measurement.)

5 medium apples; peeled, cored, and somewhat thinly sliced


Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease medium size springform pan generously with butter.

Now, make the batter first. Whisk eggs and sugar together until blended.

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Add rest of ingredients, except flour, to the eggs and sugar.

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While the mixer is running on a medium speed, slowly pour flour in.

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The batter will be thick like pancake batter. Turn speed to high to get rid of any flour clumps.

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Add apples to directly batter and fold in. It will seem like there are more apples than there should be. Quite frankly, it will look like a little batter to go with your apples. Don’t worry! That is probably what makes this cake so good. Pour batter into buttered springform pan. Run spatula on top of batter to even out. Sprinkle with a little more granulated sugar. I also topped mine with a heavy sprinkling of cinnamon because FALL.

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Place pan in heated oven. Frank’s recipe states “for about an hour”; however, depending on your oven, it might take a little less time. I checked mine at 50 minutes, and the cake had already started to pull away from the sides of the pan. Done! You can also test with a wooden skewer or toothpick.

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Remove from oven and place on wire rack. Let cool before removing from springform pan. Dust with powdered sugar for a touch of elegance, if desired.

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See how nicely the apples layer themselves within the cake? Yummmmm.

Torta di Mele is not a looker. Meaning if you’re wanting to impress friends with a aesthetically pleasing cake, this is not the one. But it tastes simply marvelous. My family members, who are dangerously close to tossing me out of the house for continuously talking about Italy months and months after my return, raved about it. Actually, there was just enough to give everyone one generous slice, and they were quite irritated that there wasn’t enough for seconds. It will be a hit, trust me. Italians know what they’re doing.

Super simple and delectable. You throw everything together, pour it into a pan, toss it in the oven, and an hour later, you get dessert that’s perfect for our fall season.

For more traditional Italian recipes, head over to Memorie di Angelina! I know I will.

Until next time, y’all! Happy Baking!

What Have I Been Up To?

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My, oh my. It has been almost two months since my last post. What in the world have I been up to? On the surface, it looks like I’ve been doing a whole lot of nothing. I developed a usual routine: wakeup, run siblings to school (depending on schedule), gym, study/GRE prep, and work. Rinse. Repeat.

Before I break down what seems relatively straightforward enough already, I completely neglected to upload some pictures of my brief trip to British Columbia. I flew to Seattle where I was picked up by two good, old college friends who had been driving up all the way from California. We then spent the next few days driving around the southwest portion of BC—Vancouver, Whistler, and Victoria. We had to cut our trip short by a day and a half, so we didn’t see as much as we had planned, but it only leaves me with a desire to go back and trek through the gorgeous forrest-ed wilderness that is Canada. Instead of unnecessary prolixity, I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves, utilizing this post mostly as a photo dump.

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Squamish, BC. Mumford and Sons were here for a festive at the same time! I was SO close, yet so far.

Ever since moving up here over a year ago, I have wanted to make my way to Canada because, well, I’m much closer. BC is a 7+ hour drive however, but well worth the travel time. I just loved it.

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The BEST and tiniest little diner in Whistler.

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Brandywine Falls, Whistler, BC. The water honestly is that blue. I believe it has something to do with glaciers.

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Canadian Coffee and Mexican Coffee which are infused with Maple and Whiskey/ Tequila respectively. Yes.

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The cliché Starbucks photo. If only you knew how many times we frequented this fine establishment on this trip.

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The Victoria Harbor at night where we listened to a folk band play for hours.

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Capitol Building

Little insert here. I fell quite hard for Victoria, and, subsequently, it has been added to my list of favorite cities in this world. Its quaint charm and remaining English character makes it unique. Quite. If I could live a year in one place, Victoria would be one I would consider. Plus, there are so many delicious pubs!

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The Fairmont Empress, a beautifully elegant, old hotel. Our location for afternoon tea.

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The menu.

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Everything was good. Ev.ry.thing.

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Don’t worry, I got my hair trimmed shortly thereafter.

Another aside. If you know me at all, you’ll understand that I love anything remotely antique and reminiscent of another era of history. I’m an English major with a forever soft spot for Anne of Green Gables. So to have afternoon tea in a lovely old hotel in Canada made my life. This may seem juvenile, but this whole experience was too exciting. For me, personally, it was more than paying lots of money for tea and sandwiches: it was keeping class alive in a world that has been doing everything it can to assassinate it. It was gloriously refreshing.

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And moose.

We diligently kept our eyes peeled for a Mountie because who wouldn’t want one? But this is the closest we got to seeing one. (I think I later discovered that Mounties are mostly in a couple provinces of Canada, BC not being one of them.) Oh well. This trip, though insanely quick, was a blast, and I so appreciated seeing my wonderful friends again. When can I go back? If anyone wants to go to Quebec or Prince Edward Island, please pick me as a travel partner!

So after Canada is when the “fun” died. I signed up for the GRE, something like an SAT for grad school applications, which meant it was time for me to get serious about preparing for it. I had studied a little bit on and off, but once you actually pick a date and pay the outrageous $200 for the test, it’s time to stop fooling around because, essentially, this test has the power to ruin your life. No lie. So for weeks, my time in between the gym and work was spent with a GRE prep book studying vocabulary or hideous math concepts I couldn’t hope to remember.

I finally took the test this weekend, feeling like I needed a sedative because my heart was racing so fast. Obviously, I’m a great tester. Naturally. And after 4.5 hours of essay writing, staring at words I didn’t know existed, and guessing at math problems (because let’s be honest), I was beyond relieved to finally walk out of there. It is the worst. I won’t get my final test results for another two weeks, so here I am, spending my first day of true freedom in months, blogging about the two months I missed. I am so thankful to have that behind me and have some time to do things that I actually want to do, like read, bake, and get back to re-learning Italian.) I miss Italy.) I hope to have a baking post up within the next couple of weeks.

Ok, everyone! Thanks for bearing with me. Until next time!