Rain, Rain, Vattene!

Monday was a generally unpleasant day, with one notable exception…
Prosciutto, pecorino, and arugula. Worth staying awake through my classes for.
That, however, was an exceptionally difficult task considering we got back to Florence via taxi from Pisa at 2:30. More than once I had to physically struggle to keep my eyelids up. 
But enough of my whining. THE END IS NEAR!!! It is our last week of classes, then exams and then home! I’m still in a state of semi-denial about this whole’ leaving Florence’ situation. Let’s not talk about it.
Let’s talk about oats!
Mmm, chocolate-pineapple oats to be exact. Maybe it sounds weird, but really it makes sense – every chocolate fountain I’ve encountered is usually accompanied by strawberries, pound cake chunks, and pineapple! If you haven’t tried this combo, you must – whip out that fondue pot collecting dust in your basement and get to it! Heck, just nuke some chocolate chips in a bowl and dip some pineapple in there. I am a chocolate+fruit fiend. Especially in terms of gelato combos…mmmmm….
It has yet to cease raining here since we’ve returned from our Spanish vacation. We’re thinking Florence is sad we’re leaving soon. Yup, that’s definitely it.
Last night was our LAST Ethnic Tuesday! Che peccato! And what better way to do up our last one than with…pizza?
We actually discussed the interesting nature of pizza recently in my Food & Culture class. It has become an “archetype food,” meaning a food with no specific identity and neutral characteristics. Think about it – we have Thai Chicken pizza, Hawaiian pizza, Mexican pizza…it crosses every ethnic boundary line! So really, it’s the perfect choice for our final Ethnic Tuesday. It covers every ground!
We’ve had Gusta Pizza on the list for a while (and yes, I have an actual Excel spreadsheet of restaurants to go to) because it is rumored to be the best pizza in Florence. That certainly sounds like a challenge made for the ladies of The Palace! It was pouring down rain, and the restaurant was across the Arno – but we do not let Mother Nature stand in the way of pizza. We called a cab. Totally worth it.
There are only 7 different pizzas made (and a couple daily specials), which we all agreed was kind of nice – sometimes looong menus are just too overwhelming! After much debate, I went with the Napoli – tomato, mozzarella, capers, and anchovies. It was the anchovies that did it – Italy has made me an addict 😉
Melty mozzarella deliciousness 🙂
It was saltier than I would have liked – and before you say it, yes I know anchovies are capers are salty, but actually the anchovies I’ve had here haven’t been overwhelmingly so. I still enjoyed it. How can you tell? I ate the entire thing. Crust and all. Yes, it was that good. And I don’t regret a single bite.
Today the weather matched our mood…our LAST Wednesday lunch at Sergio’s!!! WAAAAAH!!
Alaina’s parents are coming next week and Alaina is taking them there on Monday for lunch and I’m tagging along (for blatantly obvious reasons), so it’s not our true last lunch there, but it is the end of our Wednesday lunch date tradition, and that is sad. We all sat around with our pasta e fagioli with mournful looks on our faces between bites.
From this…
To this. No better tribute could be paid than that of an empty plate.
Tonight, LdM is hosting a farewell sit-down dinner for us – and where free food beckons, we follow. Until then, I’m getting my study on for the written part of my cooking final tomorrow. Antioxidants, phytochemicals, and homocysteine, oh my!
~Namaste~

Wonderful Wednesday


Oh, Wednesday in Florence. I will miss you.
Mostly because Wednesday=Sergio’s. The only man in my life. At least he can cook!
This was fresh pasta alla carrettiera, which really just means in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. It wasn’t even that spicy, just well-seasoned, and it was delicious. There is just nothing like a bowl of fresh pasta. Italian soul food at its finest.
I had some errands to run today – like pay ridiculous import taxes for a package (wherein lies my NEW camera!!!!!) – and whaddyaknow, a trip to Vestri for some gelato just popped onto the list…
Tiramisu + caffe.
It was good, but not near as blissful as last time. The coffee was lovely, just strong enough, but the tiramisu was not very, um, tiramisu-y. I thought it actually had hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, oddly enough. Not to say it was bad – I had NO problem devouring this cone – but Perche No still wins the tiramisu gelato competition. I think the dark chocolate at Vestri is just the way to go. Can’t be beat.
Tonight’s dinner theme was “going to Barcelona for the weekend and have to use up all my veggies” night!
A TON of green goodness – arugula, spinach, red bell pepper, cannellini beans, pecorino.
But no, I can’t possibly eat this ENTIRE pan of veggies….right?
Well, after some quality time in the oven…
 Oh yes I can. And did. Veggieriffic.
Dessert was multi-coursed, of course:
A small chocolate-hazelnut biscotti. Would have been better with actual chocolate chips, but still was quite tasty.
And…
My marzipan pear. Yumyumyum:)
Trying to get prepared for Barcelona this weekend – woohoo!! Although I’m rather sad that tomorrow is my last cooking class here (we have 2 finals). But I know what we’re making, and it’s exciting. Like, something I’ve been waiting for all semester. Are you on the edge of your seat yet?
Good.
A domani!
~Namaste~

Beautiful Thing

Today was a good day.

It started out with Italian, which because of my “sick day” yesterday, was relatively easy to get out of bed for. And lucky for me, today we took a field trip – to a cafe! Our teacher ordered pastry and cappuccinos for the 10 of us and we each had to ask the waiter a question about espresso. If I learned anything, it was that field trips in Italy are SO much better than home!! The capp was delicious, too 🙂

It only got better from there. After some food shopping (the best kind!) at the market, we went to Sergio’s. The main man in my life! I ordered the ribollita…second week in a row. Addicted? Me? Naaaaah…..

It’s a beautiful thing.
Speaking of which, check out this gorgeous (and massive) pear:
Doesn’t it kind of look like it’s floating? Frida wants to be Salvador Dali when she grows up 😉
Most of the day was spent working on the blog paper – I have a very rough outline and sources, but I’m still a little nervous about it. I have the tendency to get over-ambitious with my papers and then end up disappointed, and this one has so much potential…well, I’ll stop neurosing about it.
Alaina and I took a trip to a new gelateria that is *supposedly* better than Grom…and this we had to see taste.
Dark chocolate + crema di vin santo
The second flavor is based on the traditional Tuscan dessert wine vin santo, which is frequently had after dinner with little almond biscotti. I’ve had it before and really liked it, but the past few times it’s just been a little too strong on the alcohol-side – but this was perrrfect! Had the nice biting taste of the wine that was perfectly balanced with the sweetness of gelato. I loved it! 
We agreed that this place was on par with Grom – no better or worse, very similar. Interesting variety of flavors and high quality ingredients. Oh gelato, how I love thee!
I have nothing profound or particularly interesting to say in this post, but sometimes that’s a good thing. Simple works. Simple is a beautiful thing.
~Namaste~

A Wonderful World

Pick a day of the week, any day, and I’ll give an example of why I’d rather spend it in Florence. Wednesday, for instance:

Lunch at Sergio’s. I think we are official regulars.
I got their ribollita for the second time because I wanted to re-try it after I had it at Mario’s. For comparison’s sake, of course. Sergio’s version is chunkier, you can see the pieces of vegetables and soaked bread, whereas Mario’s was smoother, almost like it was pureed. Sergio’s uses better olive oil, but also tastes a bit more cabbage-y than Mario’s (I’m not much for cabbage)…I think it’s a toss-up. They are each amazingly delicious and soul-satisfying in their own right. This is one love triangle I hope is never resolved 😉
Unfortunately, a large part of my day was spent sleeping. One nap after Italian in the morning, and another in the late afternoon. Sleep and I have a very interesting, ever-changing relationship, and right now we are having some schedule difficulties. It will work itself out eventually; right now, I’m just taking it when I can get it and focusing on getting work done and erasing stress.
I started to get antsy after an all-too sedentary day last night while working and decided that a walk was just the medicine I needed. It was nice to just get out and get some air and do some thinking. And get gelato.
I walked by Carabe, one of the places nearby which seems to have mysterious opening hours that are always ‘just wrong’, and when I saw it open, I took it as a sign. Who am I to mess with fate?
I have gone once before and got the almond, but was a bit underwhelmed by it. My roommate went recently and raved about the tiramisu, so obviously I had to give them another chance! There was also kiwi on that cone – not because it’s the perfect compliment to tiramisu, but really because it looked good and I wanted to try it. I gobbled it down before Frida came out, but it looked like what you might imagine kiwi gelato does – pale green with little black seeds. It was deeelicious. The tiramisu was a semifreddo, not gelato, which basically means it’s a kind of cold mousse instead of frozen. It was heavy on the coffee flavor–but that’s a good thing! It was good. Tiramisu gelato is one of the funnest flavors to try because you never know what it’s going to be like; some are more coffee-y, some are more rum-y, some are blended smooth and others have actual pieces of tiramisu in them. It’s a wonderful world.
The sky looked so cool, I couldn’t resist taking Frida out again. She was in one of her moods and it’s a little blurry, but doesn’t this picture make it look like the bell tower is fake? Like one of those little models architects use. I swear it’s real!
I didn’t really sleep and have a neck/head ache that would stagger a horse, but I’m doing just fine because it’s Thursday, and that means one thing…
COOKING CLASS!!!
Not until I’ve had my oats, of course:
Doesn’t it look like the vanilla is giving the cocoats a big hug? …Well, I thought so. I swear I’m not crazy…just, um, creative.

But back to the show.
Today’s class was focused on cooking with FRUIT! Quite possibly my favorite food category. I don’t take pictures of everything I eat, mostly because it’s just not all that interesting or photogenic, but if I did – you would be very sick of apples and pears. I think I eat at least one of each a day. Can’t wait for summer berries!!
NEEDless to say, I was quite excited about today. We started with a salad:

Spinach, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, red onion, pears, fresh buffalo mozzarella, dressed with lemon juice + olive oil + few drops of good aged balsamic vin.
Now, I grew up with the reigning queen of salads. My mother makes wonderful and creative salads not unlike this one, and I’m actually pretty envious of her ability to whip up the right dressing that complements the salad ingredients. That said, this salad blew my tastebuds away! The pears just made it. Although I would recommend using a more pungent cheese like a goat or bleu, would have been even better with the sweetness of the pear.
We also made some fresh rosemary focaccia to go with it (and by made, I mean actually hand-made it from ingredients-up, not just took it out of some plastic and threw it in the oven):

Oooh, this made me so happy. 
I’ve found I’m not such a fan of the oily, airy focaccia found in the bakeries here, but the focaccia we make in class (see our first here) is amazing. Dense and doughy but thin and chewy, with juuust the right saltiness. I had 4 small palm-sized pieces…I have no ability to resist when it comes to fresh bread. And yes, I know how to make it. Expect to see a lot of this rolling out of my kitchen when I’m home.
My 1st portion of salad + focaccia:
I had a large second helping of this stuff! I can’t wait to make it again!
Next up was my team’s dish:
Risotto alle fragole (strawberry risotto)!
Sounds weird, right? Well, it was. I have had it before, at a restaurant, and liked it a lot, but my tastebuds remained a bit confuzzled. It’s something like mac & cheese in its creaminess, but then there is the surprising sweetness of the strawberry. We made parmesan crisps to top it and finished it with a drizzle of balsamic. The crisps could not be easier – literally take a palm-ful (or however much you like) of grated parmesan cheese, put it in little circular piles on a baking sheet, and bake it for 5-10 (just watch it, it will turn golden-brown when done). Easy and quite pretty! Added a nice extra kick of cheesy flavor, too. I enjoyed the dish as a whole, but I’m not hankering to have it again. To be honest though, I think that has a lot more to do with the fact that I really just don’t like rice very much; it just does absolutely nothing for me. Perhaps I should try this with pasta? Hmm, experiment time…
Next dish:
Chicken with porcini mushrooms and green apple
This dish was fine. Acceptable. Perfectly edible. But I was unimpressed. We took a chicken breast and fried it in olive oil (about 5 minutes on each side), then covered it with the simmered porcini mushrooms and apples with some parsley and baked it for about 10 minutes covered with tin foil. It’s not that it was bad, it just didn’t appeal to me. I’m not a big meat eater anyway (fish, however, is a horse of a different color!), and the texture of the chicken was quite nice (not to chewy and slightly crispy), but overall…meh. Could have done without it happily. The mushroom-apple combo was not as striking as I expected, even with the saffron added (which I love!). Good, but not more than that.
I can’t say the same for the dessert…

Chocolate souffle.
This is, I believe, my first-ever experience with a souffle…and now I am wondering why. This. was. so. good. It had the light, fluffy texture of mousse that I adore but was warm and moist like cake fresh out of the oven. The chocolate was dark but not too heavy and all in all, this was a little ramekin of heaven. We did not alter this recipe, and the only fruit added was that raspberry that you seeon top, but I think it makes an important statement nutrition-wise: it’s perfectly healthy to eat indulgent foods! It’s all about the portion size. And what better an end to a meal than chocolate? Especially in carb-form. I left perfectly satisfied.
This class was the first that I didn’t go ga-ga over every single dish we made, but the salad, focaccia and dessert more than make up for the other two (which weren’t even bad, just not something I personally enjoyed as much as the others).

The rest of the day was spent in a nearby piazza with a nap in the sun and bit of dog-watching. Lovely.

I am not sure that I have formally discussed this other than maybe some lines here or there, but I am as of now looking into culinary school after next year’s graduation (aaah! senior year…how did this happen???). I have no idea what exact career I want–and by no idea, I mean I have about 30 different ones–but I do know that my passion for and fascination with food only seems to increase, and I’m following what I love. I would go for Baking/Pastry because that’s really what I love and where I feel I’m more creative, and, well, I’d much rather deal with finicky pate a choux than learn how to de-bone a duck. It’s something I’ve been putting off announcing mostly because whenever I ‘announce’ something like this, I end up going in a completely different direction. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, as long as I love it, but right now I’m so into the food world that the thought of me suddenly not going into it is too scary and sad for me to think of.
Just throwing it out there.

The British weekend is coming!

~Namaste~

Nothin But Blue Skies, Blue Skies Do I See!

Despite yesterday feeling a little blue, this morning I woke up to a very different kind of blue:
There is nothing in the world like opening the window in an apartment in Italy and letting the breeze and sunshine soak in. Definitely a cure-all for blah moods.
While walking to Italian this morning, I remembered my epiphany from earlier in the semester. Why bother mumbling and grumbling about what isn’t perfect in life (now there‘s an exhaustive list) when you can slow down, take a deep breath and just enjoy where you are in that very moment. No “I’m going to be late”, no “if I don’t get home right now I’ll starve and die”, no have-tos or should’ves. It was with that thought in mind that I went to the market right after class. Because I was up, I was out, and because there is no rush. There is something about the personableness, the conviviality of the market that just leaves me feeling more content and calm than when I entered. It should probably be studied or something.
Blue skies calls for more blue, and what better way to do it than with…
Blueberry yogoats! If these don’t chill you out, nothing will 😉
I mentioned yesterday being a bit off. I’m never quite sure how to approach “off” days on the blog. I want to be honest, but I don’t want to bring everyone down! I was just feeling very…unsatisfied, I suppose. Maybe it was just a bit of homesickness in disguise. Or maybe it was the shopping trip on Monday – there is nothing like walking around an upscale Italian department store to make me feel unstylish, unattractive, and “un” everything else that I “should” be. And that got me a little angry. Why should I let some impersonal hoity-toity store dictate my self-esteem? How stupid. I happen to like my style; it’s not hot off the runway, and doesn’t fit any stereotype. It just fits me. I don’t like jeans, never have, and I think I do a darn good job of making myself presentable. If someone can explain to me why wearing yoga pants everyday is any weirder than wearing leggings that look like they’ve been sprayed on or wearing low-rise jeans that dip so low you wonder where exactly the “rise” is, then I will happily listen. But I can’t be anyone else, and I am determined that no one or thing will tell me otherwise or give me a guilt trip about it. So there.

And yes, I realize that society still judges and there are forces out there that even the greatest self-esteem can’t conquer, but in my experience, being comfortable in your own skin gives a kind of confidence that makes other people look past, or even not see, the outside. Easier said than done, of course. But it can be!

I tried to turn my day around:

Chocolate-raspberry yogoats. Not sure they helped my mood, but my tastebuds sure were grateful 🙂

Ethnic Tuesday: Sushi, take-2
tuna roll + seaweed salad
Quite depressing sushi, actually. The tuna was unimpressive and the salad was too sweet and too spicy. And it was overpriced in general. BUT, this place delivered and the rumored “good” sushi places here are sit-down restaurants and a little pricey, so subpar sushi it was.

Ok, no more crappy Tuesday talk, let’s get back to the present!

 I’ve been meaning to check out the San’ Ambrogio market, another big food market in Florence. It is not quite as old or big as Mercato Centrale, but you know, variety is the spice of life and all. And it’s such a beauuuuutiful day!!!

Funky angles, no?

This market had all of their produce stands outside – it went on forever!

Beautiful South African pears. I had to get some. I loved it! Very nice cinnamony-sweet taste. And so perty!

This market was fun; the old man at one of the cheese stands liked me and gave us lots of samples 🙂 I also bought this monster:

This pepper was 1,50 euro. That’s like 2 dollars of BELL. PEPPER. Did NOT see that coming. Whoops.

I liked this market a lot, but Mercato Centrale remains my favorite. More to see there, I think. Either way, it’s hard to go wrong with markets in Italy!

We did a bit of shopping in San Lorenzo and stopped for what remains to be the best cappuccino I’ve ever had before lunch at Sergios! My Wednesdays will be just a little empty when I can’t come here for lunch.
Although I woke up thinking about their wonderful soups, I ended going a different route once I took a look a the daily menu…

Melanzane alla parmigiana – Eggplant parm!
What I love about the eggplant parm I’ve had here is that it is nothing like the breaded, buttered, deep-fried, cheap-cheese-covered American version. The eggplant has a melt-in-your-mouth texture on the inside, but the skin gets crispy and crunchy in the oven, and paired with wonderful parmeggiano and provolone cheese and fresh tomato sauce, it tastes like nothing you’d ever expect to come from just an eggplant and some cheese. It’s really a toss-up between my first eggplant parm  at Dino and today’s…mm, yummylicious. And it was a perfect little lunch portion too. Cute food is more fun to eat 😉

Because of the gorgeous weather, the roomies and I grabbed a blanket and headed to a piazza nearby to do some much-needed sunbathing. I took my book…but ended up napping in the sun instead. I almost wish everyday were this wonderful, but then that would make it less special, and what’s the fun in that?

Taking pictures lying down is fun!

[That would be Alaina’s foot.]
Spring has sprung!

I came home on sunshine and nap high, fixed myself an enormous salad…and that’s about when my lovely day in the sun got cloudy. But this is such a happy post, I’m not bringing it down! Let’s just say – to be continued.

Wonderful food, warm spring weather, and a nap in the middle of a piazza. Life is good.

~Namaste~

Just…Odd.

Today was…odd. Specific, I know, but I can’t quite use any other words to describe it.
Last night was, um, not so good. I walked out of yoga into an intense rain storm, thunder and lightning to boot, and returned home soaked. It stopped pretty quickly (after I was inside, of course), and we headed out in the spirit of Ethnic Tuesday to find a recommended Indian restaurant somewhat nearby. I guess I didn’t eat enough yesterday, but between trying to go to yoga with a mostly-empty stomach (in general  it’s just NOT a good idea to do yoga on any kind of a full stomach…just trust me) and then waiting for everyone to get ready, well, my roommates got to meet Hypoglycemic Gillian. She’s not a very pleasant person to be around; in fact, she’s mean, nasty and just generally someone to avoid. However, I have had enough experience with her cameo appearances in my years that I have trained her to, instead of “speaking her mind” (her vocabulary is pretty small – lots of 4-letter words), become very very quiet. Not only did we get lost a couple times on the way, but it took about an hour for the server to bring us our dinner. It was not exactly the fun time I had planned, because I ADORE Indian food! And after my trip to India, it’s really fun for me to relive my amazing experience there through the cuisine. This restaurant was quite good, though – I ordered my favoritest dish aloo gobhi (although they called it something else, I think gobi sulemani…but really, it’s all the same thing). It’s basically potatoes and cauliflower cooked and spiced and I love it. Unfortunately because of the aforementioned low blood sugar, I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a picture before wolfing it down, but it looked a little something like this:
Try it!!!
I wasn’t able to go to bed early last night for reasons out of my control, and I can feel the dark circles under my eyes today. Ick, hate that feeling! Italian was….well, where the oddness began. We played a game with the other class and their teacher is quite a character! I mean that in the best possible way – he was hilarious. I was so energized after that class I almost didn’t go back to bed when I came home…almost. The grocery store refuses to restock the oats, and so I pretty much had nothing to stay awake for. Woke up a couple hours later, and it was off to Sergio’s for lunch! Truly one of the highlights of my week. I just love it.
Zuppa di verdure (vegetable soup)
I ordered this warily, a little worried that it would be too “soupy” – I have a serious problem with brothy soups. In fact, until I came here, I pretty much refused to eat them! But here they are more stew-like which I love, and I trusted Sergio’s to deliver. And oh boy, did they. This was great! Just brothy enough to soak up with the bread but I didn’t feel like I had to slurp my lunch. It was a big bowl of zucchini, carrots, potatoes, black cabbage, beans…and probably more. We left very happy!
It was on to the market for some fresh veggies & fruit after that! I know I’ve said it intimidates me, but I think I’m getting more comfortable. I really love going and wandering around – it’s just a really interesting place to be.
And then something EXCITING happened – I got an email that said a package for me had arrived!!!
Valentine’s PEZ, Chocolate Mousse Bunny Peeps (!), Jelly Bellies, a super cute card, a perfume sample, an article of the hottest-man-alive-aka Michael Buble, and my food scale. My family loves me:)
And my roommates will love me because I am about to put that food scale to good use – baking time!!!
I got hungry early again and made an easy dinner:
Whole wheat penne, arugula, cherry tomatoes, cucumber (which I haven’t had in forever!! my fave veggie), with pecorino in a mustard-balsamic vinaigrette. It fit the bill, but was missing a certain something…I think some bell pepper, more cheese, and a protein (beans?) would help. I’ll work on it.
I think today’s oddness was mostly a kind of “blah” feeling. Very much like the weather today actually – it was sunny, but when you looked up you only saw clouds. Odd. Felt a little homesick, but then a little heartsick when I thought about leaving here…lots of things whirling around in my head.
Tonight I had a concert to attend for my music class. Mauro Pagani is a singer/guitarist/violinist/flautist, and this particular concert was in the theme of World Sacred Music Week. It was really eclectic, some songs reminded me of Billy Joel, others of Santana, and others of Irish jigs! It was Pagani and then a guy on drum set and another on keyboards/accordion. I really loved it, and I hope I can find a CD. It was in one of many churches here, near the Ponte Vecchio, which really gave it a cool sound. It was so fun and so unique! You could really see how much the musicians were enjoying themselves too, which is just an awesome thing to witness. Lots of improvising!! And it was really relaxed – Pagani came on stage in a sweatshirt and khakis! It was such a cool night. I definitely encourage looking this guy up – this was some wicked cool music.
I considered getting gelato on the way home, but decided I was too cold. But I was ravenous when I came home and, um….well, a liiiittle too much food was just consumed. Whoops. Just goes to show how important to is to listen to cravings – a gelato would have caused a lot less damage than I just did. I’m still not quite ready for bed, I can tell I will just lie there for a while, so I think I will go do some yoga.
What a day.
~Namaste~

Spring Sprang Sprung

I know, I know, long time no post. Bad blogger, bad! But I come with pictures! LOTS.
I don’t know how or why, but on Wednesday I slept until 1. PM. I did NOT see that coming! It was literally like someone just hit me over the head with a hammer. It was sooo good though – I haven’t slept like that in months. After all, what would a real vacation be without some great sleep? After a little get-together with Minerva the yoga mat and some breakfast, my roomie and I decided to try our luck with the Uffizi.
Note to self: Do NOT expect to just saunter on in to the Uffizi Gallery at 3 in the afternoon. Ain’t gonna happen. In my defense, there is a reason I thought this was feasible: my study abroad program gave us each an “Amigli degli Uffizi” card that gives us free admission to all state museums in Florence. We were told that with these card, we had to enter the Uffizi at entrance #2 (yes, there are multiple), so I figured there was a special entrance reserved for people with the magic card. Well, the card may be great, but it is not a miracle-worker. There are 2 entrances to the Uffizi – the one for those with reservations, and the one for those ignorami without. So, you say (at least I did),”well why not make reservations for tomorrow?” Because you are reserving a ticket, not just an entrance time, and the magic card means we don’t pay for the ticket, and thus no reservation. I realize that this has not been the most enthralling story…sorry. I like to rant.
SO, Plan A up in smoke, we improvised and visited an old friend – Dante. As in, Alighieri. As in, the Divine Comedy and Inferno. As in, the brilliant poet who lived in Firenze for a good chunk of his life. His “house” is now a museum (read: tourist money suck), and we being the diligent English majors we are just had to see it! It was kinda blah, but this was pretty cool to see:
Firenze ca. 13th century.
Notice anything?
NO DUOMO! Not built until 1476. Thank goodness it was – that thing has saved me from getting completely lost many, many times.
All this tourism shtuff really works up my appetite…what better a reason for gelato?
Mango + strawberry mousse
The mousse had a little of that artificial “cool whip”-y taste to it, but the mango was deeeLISH. 
Dinner was a bit of a re-run:
My vegged-up bruschetta!
Toasted bread with spinach, basil, garlic and tomatoes baked along side the bread on the oven, spinkled with pecorino romano. Bruschetta rock my socks.
So do gorgeous sunsets from out apartment window.
Frida doesn’t like it when I turn the flash off. But the colors are perty!
Thursday was significantly more eventful. It was a gorgeous Spring day – perfect for my first trip to the Boboli Gardens!
But first, lunch at Sergio’s since I didn’t make it Wednesday:
Paste e fagioli! The real deal. 
I want to put this restaurant in a box and take it home with me. So. Good.
On to Boboli! It’s a huge park behind Palazza Pitti (Pitti Palace), where the Medici lived when they were in power. It was absolutely beautiful. I could totally get married here. You know, with my millions.
back of Palazzo Pitti
My favorite part. I. Love. Tuscany.
Do you see this house? It’s turquoise. I have no idea what it is/was…but it’s more important what it will be: my house.
Cutest little spot. Good for reading/napping, I’m thinking.
Old (serious understatement) vineyards
The stone work looked like melted candle wax…no idea how that happened.
Check OUT this bathtub. Maybe the horses used it.
No words.
On the trek back, I, being the bottomless pit that I often am, was feeling some gelato. A neighbor from home told me about this gelato place across the Arno, which is where the Gardens were, and this was the perfect opportunity!
After-eight (as in, the most amazing dark chocolate covered mint candy ever. If you haven’t tried them before and like the mint-choc combo, seek these out. They leave York patties in the dust.) and yogurt & nutella.
The yogurt-nutella was ok; I have discovered I don’t really like the “yogurt” flavor of gelato after 3 tries. It’s tangy in an odd way. But the After-eight….WHOA. Yum-my. I know that the green color means they added all kinds of artificial crap (nautral mint ice cream is white)….but I don’t really care. This was amazing.
BUT – I still think I like Perche No! better. I guess I will have to go back to confirm…;)
If you want to see the rest of my Boboli pictures (or the rest of my pictures in general), check out my photobucket @ http://s32.photobucket.com/home/NorbertsShiksa!
Stay tuned for my solo adventure…where in the world is Carmen Sandiego Gillianasana???

Studying in Candy Land

Did you ever play the board game Candy Land? You know, the one with the gum drop path, and your favorite character was Queen Frostine because she was the prettiest? Well, somewhere between Candy Cane Forest and Gum Drop Mountain, I think Hasbro forgot to add something…
Cinnilla-date VolcanOats!
Oats + almond milk + cinnamon + a chopped date. The date is soft enough that when you throw it in the pot it melts in with the oats. Make a hole in the middle of the bowl and pour in your vanilla lava, add some extra cinnamon “ash”, and BAM! Flavor eruption! 
…Wow, sometimes I cheese even myself out. But come on. I had to say it.
Even though dates have a much higher glycemic load – meaning the sugar in them releases into your blood faster and spike your blood sugar – the oats are full of slow-releasing carbs that balance out your blood sugar level and keep you happy. Just in case you were wondering if I’ve been studying for my nutrition mid-term…I have. And you lucky duck, are reaping the benefits of my studiousness!
I had another rough night sleep-wise and today was hard to get through – but I didn’t take a nap! Wednesday means a trip to the market – which still intimidates me. I just feel like my “Americanness” is even more blatantly obvious there. Kinda the “oh gee. another english-speaking student. here we go” sense from the vendors. And then others that are perfectly sweet. No matter, I have been reading aaaalll about why it’s important to buy local produce, and that’s more important than “bad vibes.”
Wednesday also means lunch at Sergio’s:
Minestra di farina gialla (soup made with maize flour).
This was super yummy, if not particularly aesthetically pleasing. I could really taste the maize and it was full of veggies which of course, I loved. Oh Italian soups, how will I face another winter without thee?
I also met a new man today. He’s an Earl!
You got all excited there for a minute, didntcha?
This was really great tea! The floral taste from the bergamot in the earl grey went really well with the earthiness of green tea. I’d highly recommend!
I talked my roomie into going to a cafe with me to study – it’s dangerous to be around computers sometimes. So much procrastination material at our fingertips. So we stopped by the cafe on our street that happens to be a chocolate store for cappuccinos. No chocolate…but I’ve got another 2 months here. Don’t you worry.
Mid-terms has definitely fried my brain a little. I definitely feel more scattered and I apologize if the blog is reflecting it! Spring break’s a comin…mmmm sleeeeepp.
I did some yoga when we got back – just some nice, gentle flows. It really is the best medicine. And I knew I would be happier doing that than taking a nap. I was right.
Dinner.
Whole wheat pasta + veggies.
I love how yellow bell peppers brighten up a plate! Pretty food tastes better.
More studying commenced…I am a walking encyclopedia of basic nutrition. But I will be completely honest – I love studying this stuff. It’s absolutely fascinating. I love that I can explain the breakdown of fats, and slow versus fast-release carbs and glycemic load…I’m a geek. And PROUD of it!
It didn’t take long for my brain to start yelling “bed time NOW.” There was more studying to be done and a blog post to be written…but health comes first. And sleep won. So until tomorrow…
~Namaste~

Wandering Wednesday

Despite our little heart-to-heart, Florence still continues to torture me with bitter cold. The sun came up for about 2 hours though, which was much appreciated.
It was one of those days that just felt infinitely long. I didn’t sleep last night – just couldn’t get sleepy, and after Italian came right back and napped on the couch for a while. The breakfast that followed was Yum with a capital Y:
cocoa powder + raspberry yogurt = Chocolate Raspberry Oats!
This brightened my day – almost as much as did the little Jack Russell terrier whose owner runs a shop on my path to class. I will have to take a picture of him sometime; yesterday he was frollicking with an empty water bottle, and today he was “attacking” a bike going by, as only a dog who comes 6-inches off the ground can. He reminds me a lot of my own dog – he has a lot to say and will run after something very gung-ho, but should he actually ever catch anything, he’d probably have no idea what to do. I adore him.
I went to the market and wandered around a little. I love the guy who I buy my almonds & dried fruit from; he recognizes me now and I’m sure he knows I’m American but he always speaks Italian; leaves with so much hope! I spent a pretty [euro]penny there today, but I don’t mind spending a little extra when I know it’s going to someone I like. Plus, the almonds are to LIVE for. Love me some omega fatty acids!
I went to my Wednesday lunch place, Sergio’s. I was going to meet a friend but problems arose and she couldn’t meet me. It was a nice quiet lunch to myself though, and I spent it writing. Mostly scribbles, but good brainstorming. Speaking of lunch:
“Fagottini” di pasta fresca nel brodo della gallina – Fresh pasta in chicken broth.
I had no idea what “fagottini” were, but I saw the pasta fresca part and was sold – you can NEVER go wrong with fresh pasta!
This was a filled pasta wrapped up in an almost candy-like shape. Here’s an example (just a Google image, but mine looked the same):
It was…whoa. I don’t even know what the filling was – I just know it was GOOD. Very intense – that little pocket of pasta held a TON of flavor! It was some kind of meat, my guess would be beef or pork (but I’m really not a good judge of red meats) with an incredible cheese. It was very sharp but smooth; pecorino didn’t seem quite right but it could have been a kind I haven’t tried. Oh, so good. As was the bread basket, which I also demolished. I’m a Tuscan bread fiend.
Went for a walk before I had to get back to the apartment to let one of my poor keyless roomies in. It turns out she called just in time though, because on my way back the clouds came full force, accompanied by the nasty mean ole wind and some very cold drops of rain.
And then I took another nap. I was too tired to focus on work and I knew coffee wouldn’t do it, so I just gave up. It wasn’t a long one, and I did yoga after getting up. I was craving the stretch! I can feel how out of yoga-shape I am though having not practiced it for a while regularly, but I will slip back. You can always go back to yoga; it’s really what I love about it. No matter where I am physically or mentally, I can just hop into my “yoga bubble” and find peace.
I was craving a big bowl of fresh veggies, and that it what I had – with a twist, of course!
That would be arugula, tomato, bell pepper, and pecorino topped with lentils cooked in…get ready…GREEN TEA! I was reading an article about how cooking things that are normally boiled in water can be cooked in tea for an added level of flavor, and this sounded exactly like something I would do. Unfortunately, I was a little heavy-handed with the rosemary and combined with the varying flavors in the salad, I couldn’t detect much of a difference. BUT I’m most definitely going to try it again – oh the possibilities!
And then the procrastination bug bit with a vengeance. I can’t stand feeling so sleepy all the time, it just makes things like papers so much more difficult! In all honesty though, I’m not too concerned yet. Of course, I want to do well and know I have the capability to do so. I, however, am all too talented at getting waaay overstressed about school work – sometimes to the point of health issues, and I made a promise to myself that this semester would be different, because it had to be. I am a perfectionist and it is a part of who I am, and I can accept that; but I think a big part of accepting it is learning how to work with and around it so that I am still able to live. And I mean ‘live’ in every aspect of the word.
Cooking class is tomorrow – I’m EXCITED!!!
~Namaste~