A Beautiful Blur

Have I mentioned that I was going on a trip to California?

Maybe once. Or twice.

Well, I did! From Thursday to Sunday, my roommate and I ran around northern California for real life/outside-the-college-bubble stuff and little bit of fun. Oh, and food. Always, always food.

15 minutes after our morning classes were out, we were on the road to the Charlotte airport. California adventure? Bring it on.

We stayed with my uncle and his family in the San Rafael area (thanks, family!!), and rented a car to get us around. After the 45 minutes from the airport to their house in which I bit my lips repeatedly, gripped the steering wheel like my life depended on it, and emitted the occasional profanity when someone 2 lanes over sped by at 90 mph, I got quite used to it.

PS, South Carolina drives way too slow.

Day 1: Getting down to business

My roommate is a music therapy major, and as part of her degree she has to do an internship after graduation. Her top choice was (yes, was) in Sacramento and when she started planning the trip so she could audition for them live, I jumped at the opportunity to visit the CIA Greystone campus. Plus – adventure tiiiime! [When you call a trip to the grocery store an adventure, a good reason to go to California in January looks like an epic journey. You understand.]

We dutifully bounded out of bed at 6 in the morning on Friday (is that sarcasm I hear?) to beat rush hour traffic into Sacramento. At least we got to see a pretty sunrise!

A big thank you to my navigator, who sleepily obliged my request to take these pictures πŸ˜‰

After dropping her off, I zoomed to Napa Valley! The CIA is located in St. Helena, just down the road from Napa and across the street from a vineyard.

 

Culinary school….or castle??

mmmm, grapes πŸ™‚

Turquoise lamp posts! If you are unfamiliar with my turquoise obsession…consider yourself warned.

The herb garden!

I have to admit, part of the pull of this school is its location. Not just wine country – M.F.K. Fisher lived in St. Helena with her 2 daughters at one point in her life. I’ve walked the same ground as M.F.K. Fisher. Whoa.

The town of St. Helena is as cute as it can be! Love at first drive-though.

 

Love the grapes on the street signs!

Note the G on the clock!! Omen?

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I waited for my 3 o’clock appointment with admissions, I spent the afternoon in – where else? – a bakery. A really cute, local organic bakery with incredible coffee.

I haven’t had coffee that wonderfully strong in a while!

I had to stay for lunch, of course. It’s just polite.

Well, that, and I found this sandwich of hummus, goat cheese, lots of veggies and balsamic on focaccia – all my favorite things on bread? Yes please.

After the tour of campus, during which I asked tons of questions and all my mother’s hopes of my liking the New York campus better flew out the proverbial window, I headed back to Sacramento to pick up my kid roommate. Not without about an hour and a half of rush hour traffic. But I did manage to get something out of it…

Tuscany? Is that you??

 

 

 

If anyone asks, I most certainly did not take these while driving/sitting in traffic. That would be dangerous.

Out of hunger and desperation, we chose a brewery on the same street as the internship location for dinner. It actually turned out to be a pretty good choice!

Spinach salad with feta, artichokes, crispy onions and little baby bay shrimp that I subbed for chicken. I’m on the west coast, people – seafood all the way! It was in a really delicious garlic-basil dressing that I am going to try to recreate – both flavors balanced so nicely! Paired with a glass of wine, I was a very happy – and exhausted – girl.

We slept in a bit til about 9 and I made us breakfast – oatmeal, of course!

2/3 c oats, 1 c. of water and 1/3 c. of low fat milk. Topped with a barely ripe banana (when they are not quite ripe, they are better on top – if you mix them in the pot, they are just to starchy and lose all the sweet flavor), peanut butter, and whipped cream. Because it was there. I recommend it heartily πŸ™‚

We decided to have a low-key day because, well, we are pretty low-key people. We headed to Sausalito, a really cute little town (that was apparently the theme of the weekend!) on the other side of the bridge from San Francisco. We wandered, drank more amazing coffee while sitting on a bench and gazing at the water, and of course, we ate.

 

It was a blissful 60 degrees. I’m ready to go back now, please.

[twss?]

Loved the funky hydrant!

sooooo good.

 

 

 

Cheers!

We didn’t plan that…we swear.

 

The bus stop. Obviously.

We made a friend.

For lunch, we decided on the bakery where we found the wonderful coffee. I’ve decided that local bakeries are generally the best choice for dining when traveling. How can you go wrong with bread?

 

Cibo = ‘food’ in Italian. Good sign!

We ordered 2 panini for lunch and split them.

This was the veggie filled with beets, chard, pepper, other veggies and either mozzarella or fontina cheese – the bread was great and the veggies had a lovely sweet flavor that went well with the melty cheese.

We also ordered the prosciutto panini, which had spring greens, peppers and fontina – it was like a crispy, crunchy rainbow! It reminded me how much I love prosciutto. It just has such a wonderful smokey flavor, but it’s so thin. That’s saying a lot coming from an almost-vegetarian!

Dessert is, of course, a necessary thing.

Kona Coffee Fudge yogurt from the apparently famous Lappert’s. Such a good flavor combo!

We spent the late afternoon crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve been to San Fran a couple times, but I was way too young to remember if I’d even done this before, and this time I had a camera!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night night, sun!

It took 16 hours, 2 cars, 3 planes, 4 states and time zones, and a grande sub-par latte from Starbucks Β to get us home. But it was worth it.

Well worth it.

Simple as That

Whoops! Guess who slept in a little later than expected? In my defense, I had a massive headache when my alarm went off at 9 that made me want to scream or split my head in half or something. My roommate and I had planned to get up and go to the Uffizi, but her alarm didn’t go off, so I just rolled over and went back to bed. It felt so nice, even if I did sleep later than I intended. I’m soaking it in while I can; April is going to be insane! Exciting, but insane.
Spring Break is winding down! Come 2 AM, we spring forward, and then it’s back to school. I’m looking forward to the longer days. It always gets me excited for summer.
Lazy vacation days always call for oats!
oats made with tropical juice (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!) + orange yogurt
I’ll be honest, I was not a huge fan. It was perfectly edible, I just really don’t like orange flavor (clementines, however, are a horse of a different color!). BUT I buy the 8-pack of yogurt to save a little money, and it includes 2 orange yogurts, so I have to get creative. And, when all else fails and my creativity expires…add chocolate. Seriously, it fixes everything.
Just in case you think I’ve been totally ruined for “normal” food, here is my lunch:
Soft boiled egg on toast. Sometimes – more often than not, I think – simple is best.
Check OUT my coffee today:
Swirly, almond-milky goodness!
Dinner continued the simple theme:
Whole wheat penne (~2/3 cup?), tomatoes, garlic, and LOTS of spinach topped with a heavy powder of grated pecorino romano. Mmmm, spinach πŸ™‚
Ok, ok, booooorrrring post. But even in Italy, sometimes boring days are necessary. So, I will leave you with a perty picture, and promise to return with something to say!
Simple.
~Namaste~

Catching Up

Have you ever tasted almond extract and said “well, it’s tasty, but I have no idea how this flavor relates to almonds,” ? Well, I have. And now I know the answer.

These are unlike any almond I have EVER tasted! It will be hard to go back to the Costco lifetime-supply jar kind.

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about that recently, and I am anticipating some major reverse culture shock when I come home. I know, I know, I’ve been here barely 2 weeks and my mind is already 3 months in the future. But I can’t help it; this lifestyle feels so natural to me. I suppose I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

ANYway, to pick up where I last left you all, with baited breath I’m sure…

Thursday – Giovedi. I had Italian, which was a bit better, learned the trapassato tense. I don’t know what to call it in English – when there is a sentence like “When they arrived, class had already started” the trapassato is the “the class had already started” part. Capisci? Bene!

Went back, made some oatmeal, chilled before…my first cooking class! I am in love. The teacher is great – very Italian but very smart and congenial, and definitely knows his stuff. This class is basically the way I try to cook all the time, which made me so happy. It’s actually a Nutrition course (even though Converse wouldn’t give me science credit for it…don’t GET me started), and the emphasis is on using fresh ingredients and portions that can be feasibly eaten by one person (ahem, America – take notes!). We made AMAZING fresh pasta with mushrooms and these to DIE for chocolate cookies, all with healthy, fresh ingredients. I was so hungry by the time we sat down I forgot to pull out my camera – mi dispiace! (sorry!) I will remember this week, vi prometo.

After that, I floated home on a pasta high, hung out. My roommate and I ventured out to the train station to check out how to buy tickets for our trip to Pisa (don’t worry, I’m getting to it!)

My cold has vastly improved, partially because my sleep has vastly improved, but also because I ventured into a farmacia and was given this (after I demonstratively sniffled to the pharmacist – cold, by the way, is ‘raffredore’):

Basically a powder I mix into water. It’s actually not bad, very much like powdered lemonade mix. I’ve been dutifully sucking it down, and I do feel better. NO idea what’s in it – magic cold dust, I suppose.

Oh, I have a new man in my life to introduce you to…

Meet the Moka! It’s the coffee maker that most Italians use in their homes. I am totally getting one, it’s sooo easy. And yummy πŸ™‚ It’s kind of like a French press – you put water in the bottom part, then put coffee grounds in a filter, and put the top on. A couple minutes later…COFFEE! It’s pretty awesome.

Ok, our fantastic trip to Pisa deserves a post all by itself – as does the chocolate festival (yes, you read that right – get excited), so stay tuned!

~Namaste~

Buon Compleanno, Norman Rockwell!

It figures I would get sick. BUT I’m still in Italy, and that makes it significantly more bearable. I’m only stuffed up, bit of a sore throat. I know a big problem is sleep. It’s still quite a struggle, which is frustrating, but I’m determined to not let it bring me down.

I had Italian again this morning. Meh. We’re doing really really basic stuff and I kinda want to pick up where I left off last semester. I still haven’t learned the subjunctive, which I find odd. I should have brought my textbook from home and just taught it to myself. I guess what frustrates me is that I want a slightly more intensive practice so that when I wander into a random caffe, I can understand what people are saying around me. I feel like I walk in a store and they can tell I speak English just from the vibe I am sending off because I am thinking so hard about how to say it in Italian. But, this is not the first language class I’ve gotten frustrated in. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had a language class where I wasn’t at some point wishing we could go faster. Huh.

After Italian I trudged back home and made oatmeal, quite successfully if I do say so myself. Banana, milk, cinnamon. Simple but oh so yummy – and it is definitely my #1 comfort food, which I really needed. it was freezing and rainy for most of today, made me feel sicker (?). But it was still pretty successful.

My roommate Alaina and I are going on a day tour to Cinque Terre in April (40 euro, covers transport and a guide, pretty sweet), so we went to the office to book it. We did some grocery shopping at Mercato Centrale. P.S. – I LOVE pecorino cheese. Molto. And then, the best part of my day…
CAPPUCCINO! With a foam heart πŸ™‚ It’s my first one since I’ve been here, and no, it wasn’t as good as it looks. It was better.
Came back and made some lunch. I love it – a turkey and cheese sandwich turned into turkey and pecorino with tomatoes on Tuscan bread toasted in the skillet, then topped with arugula and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. AND it was free. I’m doing ok, no?
Ran out to do some more errands, grab a couple things I forgot, get a textbook. I made dinner tonight, totally random but seriously delicious:
I chopped up a clove of garlic and heated it up in a pan with olive oil, then added chopped eggplant, zucchini, tomato, and cannellini beans, and added a good bit of olive oil and balsamic to it. Threw it over some leftover pasta. My roommates really liked it, as did I. I kinda figured it was hard to screw up that combo.
I am planning a trip to Prague for the first weekend in March, which I’m pretty excited about. I may be going to Lake Como for Easter break because we get a long weekend. Maybe Sorrento/Capri tour for the beginning of Spring Break…I refuse to stress out about travel. We’ve been making dates and stuff to figure out where we want to go and when to do it…3 months goes by WAY. TOO. FAST!
Going to Pisa on Friday. We want to learn how to get around via the train system, so this is our practice. And tomorrow is my first cooking class…mamma mia!
I’m sorry if this post is spastic…I’m so tired and stuffed up I’m not thinking very clearly.
I will leave you with a pic of me and my awesome roomies at dinner the other night:
Aren’t we cute? Yes.
Reading/bed time. Buona notte!
~Namaste~