Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Breakfast- the most important meal of the day. At least in the States it is, which is far from what I can say about how colazione is eaten here in Italy. You'll never get that nastolgic morning wiff of fresh morning eggs, sizzling cinnamon waffle batter on the griddle or golden hashbrowns being browned with onion in a skillet while walking down the cobble roads of Italy, but are rather pleasantly welcomed by fresh espresso and warm pastries and brioches fresh out of the oven (which I honestly can't complain about). I struggle with the two polar opposites since both have their advantages (both being delicious) and facing the fact that I really can't have both at once. I still have to come across a better espresso than an Italian one and I still have to come across a better plate of hash browns than those of a real American diner. What I do wish that Italians ate that we American's seem to consume more of is oatmeal.... *sigh* glorious oatmeal. It's such an important health staple that the thought of someone going a whole lifetime without a delicious spoonful of the stuff, well, makes me a bit sad. Personally speaking, and due respect to the notorious super healthy Italian diet, their breakfasts' lack imensly in the health department. It pains me to see most people start their morning on nothing less than a belly "full" of a single shot espresso and a packet of white sugar, which of course will pleastly last them until 1:30 PM pranzo. Skipping breakfast is like the biggest no-no when it comes to living and eating a health diet, but knowing Italians, there is NOTHING that will get in between their caffe' and pasta breakfast. So I guess that will just leave me, the American girl, always companion-less with my bowl of morning oats as I smell the aromas of fresh caffe' and warm brioches fresh out of the forno.
Monday, April 5, 2010
It's one thing to grow up in a household that celebrates Easter, but to live in a country where it's a national holiday is another thing. Like Christmas, Easter, or Pasqua, in Italy is another day to prepare a HUGE feast, be with family and friends and eat like it's nobody's business. Because Marcello (my honey) and I weren't able to make it down to Naples and spend Easter with his family, we were invited by one the mother of one of our fellow southern Italian friends' over to help them gorge on their Easter meal. Never wanting to go empty handed, Marcello and I decided to make the traditional Napolitan Pastiera, which is the traditional cake eaten in Naples for Easter. Pastry making honestly is a whole different ball game when it comes to Napolitan or even Southern Italian sweets and pastries. We spent literally entire yesterday making this thing from start to finish, between making the pasta frolla, the three different components of the filling, and the two hour cooking time. I feel as if it's all about technique when it comes to their pastry making. Sure, one can go to the store, find the ingredients and follow a recipe, but it really boils down to how everything is made; it's what the hands are doing that is making the amazing glory of all things delicious. Seriously that's how I would describe any pastry from the southern region. It's all about perfecting la pasta, or crust, and it's always going to have the right balance, never being too sweet or too rich (which can be a bad thing because, how do you know when to stop?). You'll never find a 5 layered chocolate cake, a mammoth sized peanut butter cup, or a decadent New York Style Cheesecake (yet, guilt as charged, these are the desserts that I miss and end up going to town on when I'm home visiting), instead it will be a creamy gelato, a ricotta filled cannoli, baked or poached fruit in balsamic reduction or a slice of one of these marvelous cakes. So what does one typically have at an Easter (primarily Southern Italian) meal?
Antipasto: various sliced meats (salami, prosciutto, sopressata), fresh mozzarella, in-house sun-dried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, olives, country bread, and frittata.
Primo: Lasagna alla Napolitana--(homemade pasta with meat) What sounds as a heavy dish, if made well, is rather light or leggero, NEVER prohibiting one from continuing onto the next corse. The objective is to taste the wonderful homemade fresh pasta with a few bites now and then of cheese and meat as an accompaniment, rather than a gut-bomb over load of meat and oil.
Secondo: Ribs and baby Veal of 10 months. Unfortunately I had to stop at the Lasgna because I'm not a big meat eater, but I can even say that these babies looked divine. The aroma of the meat juices with the tomato sauce just made me want to take a piece of bread and soak up some of the juices..... and maybe I did :)
Terzo: La Rostiera. Pork roast (white and dark meat) roasted all day to perfection. That's all there is to say.
I Contorni: Sides of vegetables and salad were abundant and perfect.
Dolci: Started with fresh gigantic strawberries with a touch of sugar and lemon juice with a center of panna (whipped cream) if people desired. And of course TWO versions of the Pasteria Napoletana (she made one too).
Of course wine was served as well as Grappa before dessert and cafe' at the end to help with the rest of the days digestion.
This sounds and looks ridiculous in terms of quantity, and one might wonder why do American's eat only one huge plate, yet cultures like the Italians can eat all of these various plates and stay slim and healthy? The biggest key is correct proportions. Yes there were two courses of meat, but everyone had a few smaller pieces of each type. Each courses objective was to not fill one's plate to the max, rather it was to take a taste and save room for the next course. Don't get me wrong, we all felt stuffed and couldn't fit another morsel into our stomachs, but it was Easter and I'm definitely one who on the right occasion will enjoy their plate(s) of deliciousness to the fullest.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
I have a new obsession..... ceramic watches. Lately I've been making my leisure daily strolls purposely passing the little Italian jewelry shops in order to gaze at the lovely tickers that hopefully will make my wrist nice and pretty one day. It's not even that I need a watch, I already have a BEAUTIFUL one that my honey gave my for my graduate, I just think that watches are like shoes, you can work them into any outfit (it's funny that I'm even blogging about these because as of two years ago I never even owned one). I really like both black and white, but my favorite are the mauve tones, which I've searched EVERYWHERE for online but couldn't find anywhere, only this Chanel pink one....which I guess I could settle for..... um, yes please!
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Some may not agree with me on this (like my brother for example), but I LOVE fruit in salads!!! I'm such a lover of the sweet/salty combo that any excuse to pair a nice peppery green like arugula, topped with a sweet pear, a few juicy plums and a chopped pistachios makes my mouth start to water. I think salad inventing is so much fun and can be a great way to get extremely creative. The best is during the summer months with the lovely fresh farmers' markets where everything just looks perfect in every shape and form, all of which has to be put into the same bowl for consumption in that very moment. I hate seeing people eat the same drab salad at restaurant: standard veggies (either iceberg or limp romaine with pale tomatoes, dried out cauliflower and broccoli and shriveled cucumbers) accompanied with a raunchy cream dressing. Rather go for the bold and jazz things up a bit with a non-orthodox (I had to, it's Passover) salad and make a wonderful night of it. I know I seem over the top with all this, but you know what it's like to have just indulged the perfect bugger or sandwich consisting of all things delicious? Imagine that same satisfaction but between veggies, fruits and all wonderful condiments imaginable. Sounds like heaven to me.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Since living in Italy and adapting to their 24/7 obsession with always looking fabulously dressed in the hottest new fashion trends, there are definitely a few that I just can't seem to wrap my brain around. For example, sagging.... NEVER cute! To me that means ass crack and no one like to see that, even hot Italian women don't have pretty cracks. But there are these GOD-awful pants, which have been around for a while now that I just can't get over. With summer approaching they are EVERYWHERE, back on the racks in all different colors and textures awaiting the mad rush of antsy fashion-crazed Italian women. They're supposed to ride low on the waste, lay baggy in the hips, sag low in the croch and tapper off at the ankle . . . how lovely, no? The first time I laid eyes on these pants I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or just vomit as I thought that the woman wearing them thought she may have "scored" them at some fun unique vintage shop somewhere as a definite "find" from the '80's. But then I began noticing that they weren't an "unique find" but rather a haunting trend that ever-other woman and mannequin were wearing. The other day while shopping I decided to just try them on and stop talking about how awful they were to see if I could indeed give them a chance. Well, after one look that was a definite NO, rather F NO! The only way however that these pants could look remotely cute (at least from what I've seen) is paired with a simple tight-fit shirt and a nice pair of heels, otherwise (and regardless it still does) it will look like you took a big crap in your pants. And believe you me, no one likes poopy pants.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Nothing is more lovely than a beautiful flowers. There is a particular flower man at the market that has one of the most beautiful stands that I've ever seen. Unfortunately due to the ever-so low number of my bank account, purchasing these wonderful flowers are a bit out of the question, so rather I sit there and gaze for a while, trying to lock them tight into my memory. Beautiful flowers for me being out of reach is truly the biggest tease in the world. Growing up with a mother who made it a lively routine to pick and arrange flowers spreading them around the house, from the small kitchen table, to the bathroom sills, bedrooms and living room, while displaying her unique vase collection, engraved in me the happiness that flowers bring. From the simplest arrangements to the grand bouquets, all guests, visiting family, hell, even my father would comment on how joyful and pleasant the flowers were. So each friday as I pass the lovely flower booth I sit there creating new arrangements for my future nest, always with the hope in living up to my mother's vibrant imagination.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I can't believe it! Today, while flipping through my calendar to figure out what I was going to do for St. Patty's day here in Italy, far away from all things Irish, it was brought to my attention that it was YESTERDAY!!!! I wash shocked! How could I have missed it?!? For some reason as someone who never truly celebrated the green day, was somewhat disappointed. It's one of those days that all get together, no matter if your Irish or not and just have a good time. Like watching the river be dyed green in downtown Chicago while dodging people left and right on the way home or eating the crappy green festive cookies and desserts from Costco while throwing it all down with a nice Guinness. Yum, I think my mouth is starting to water.... Anyways, next year- promise to self....NEVER forget St. Patty's day. Regardless how much I truly care about the holiday, it's rather about spending quality time with my friends, in this case, my fellow non-Irish Italian friends.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Fashion is everything in Italy, although some may take it to different degrees. Even the most nonchalant Italians are proud of the Italian effortless elegance when it comes to dressing for the day and would NEVER be caught dead in nasty old tattered sweatpants . . . ugh never. Now, most people would assume that lovely Italian designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Baci Abbracci, Valentino, etc. are those that are worn by most Italians, but little do most people know that TIMBO'S are the hottest thing to be wearing. Who would think that an Italian woman would be wearing the same shoe as 50 Cent or The Game? Obviously they aren't the shoe of choice when it comes to going out with the girls for a night on the town, but for everyday wear, Timberlands are usually seen in one out of three people, men and women. A typical outfit would be slim jeans, a nice leather or Monclear jacket usually worn with an oversized knit scarf, all of which are topped off with a nicely maintained pair of Timberlands. This whole trend of fashionable Timbo's would have never been on my radar in a million years, thank god those J.Lo Timbo stilletto's didn't make it over the pond because let's face it, those were a hot mess from the get go.
Monday, March 15, 2010
You know you're in Italy when the first odor you smell walking off the plane is a the deep must of parfume, espresso and cigarettes, which for me, says nothing more than "welcome home". I can't believe two and a half weeks went by that fast, can't imagine how I'm going to feel when I'm 90 (I hope I'm not being too optimistic with that number), but there is just something about Italy that I love. Besides my wonderful boo residing here, there is just an elegance to the people; their humor, way of living and eating- all worth adapting. But of course there is the wonderful, unique United States, which I always miss while being here in Italy. As the country of which I grew up in and lived my whole life, I can definatly say that I think as an American and act as an American because that is indeed who I am, a flippin' American. I was utterly shocked while traveling this past trip, primarily going through Paris' airport, bearing my passport in hand with the silver stamp of "United States of America" and national eagle daringly exposed to all, and I guess for all to judge. Holding my passport felt as if I had the swatstica tattooed across my forehead. Many people, between security guards, boarder patrol, and travelers, were literally staring at me, all in far too many ways to decifer what their glares was actually intending. Did I not seem/look/or talk like an American? Was it because I was put together and didn't look like a hot-mess? Was I just "annoying" because that's where I came from? (Or maybe I was taking it all wrong and really had a bugger coming out of my nose.... but I doubt it.) Whatever the reason may had been, holding a United States passport should NEVER be something to be ashamed of. I hate it when people ask me if I say that I'm from Canada or if I make any other avoidance in saying that I'm from the States. It's an awful way to represent one's country and it only carries on the poor representaton that Americans receive while traveling. What does it mean when people say "Oh, wow, you don't seem American?" or "Your not like most American's are you?" WTF!!!! Yes I do and Yes I am!!! Personally I hate stereotypes (a part from stand-up comedy, then they're o.k.), they're offensive and just ignorant. It's like when people say to a well spoken African Americans that they don't seem "black". Just like within all the other countries in the world, people are different amongst each other, with different opinions, different styles, different eating habits, education, etc. Why can't that be the same in the States? The media and Hollywood's propaganda are definitely the major part of this problem of this poor representation of the American people; therefore it's our responsibility to help change the way people judge and perceive us. I mean why can't the rest of the world think of us as Michelle Obama, Oprah, or the fabulous Ellen DeGeners rather than Rush Limbaugh?
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I sit here in my apartment ready to part tomorrow for home. What do I have so far? Well for starters, an over-flowing suitcase, various contemplation piles of clothes and nothing really that important, books that I know I wont read on the plane, my passport, bottles of various amazing Italian wines and olive oil and of course my, well, lets just call them "thoughts" about flying. As much of a bitch traveling might be, I think there can be a sort of glamor and chic to it, which I love to play up. Since I DESPISE most airports with a passion, I try to make them entertaining (also because I'm alone and bored) so I play pretend. I go into the boutiques as if I have a purpose being in them, like a rich women waltzing into the Chanel boutique on Fifth Ave. Wearing the best effort of an elegant comfy outfit, I browse the shelves of perfume, designer bags, make-up and jewelry as if I could throw a couple hundred euro like that (most of the time I can't even by the 4 euro bottles of water). It's almost like playing dress-up, none of the people will ever see me again and I can just play with everything! Although sometimes I can take it a bit too far and often leave the boutique as if I bathed for an hour in pure perfume with the potential of suffocating the person next to me on my next flight. Anyways, this is just me venting my nerves because like before every flight, I always have that last minute vision of the plane exploding during take off, but truly I do in fact do this and it is fun. So next time your in JFK or better yet PARIS, i highly advise this little game to entertain yourself during your lay-over, but don't be disappointed when you realize that your life really isn't that luxurious and you will be returning to crappy apartment.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
In France it's out, in Italy it's "in", and it's a cultural trend that I think should be done in the States. In Italy, the gesture of getting an aperitivo(which is actually what you call the drink) is the cultural way of cooling off the past weeks steam and relaxing with friends, sharing laughs over a glass of wine (or two) or rather with a spritz ( Northern Italian cocktail). Someone could easily say, "well, hey, we do the same thing too, it's called Happy Hour", yeah, but the only difference between the States' "happy hour" and an Italian aperitivo is that an italian aperitivo isn't going to have pitchers of beer, deep friend cheese and nachos while having a game on in the background. Rather it's going to be at a chic restaurant or a bar where there will be a few munchies, such as, local cheeses and meats, olives, and sometimes if you're lucky like on Sunday's, a nice little taste of pasta prepared by the locale (restaurant). Bottom line, the purpose is not about the food (in fact, sometimes there isn't much food being served) it's rather about enjoying a glass of wine with company and then going after to get an actual meal, which can be enjoyed and not enhailed. Since being back and forth between the two countries, the Italian aperitivo has always been something that I've wanted to start in the States, like a new trend or something. Unfortunately it's an idea that seems brilliant while I'm in Italy, like one of those super-successful money maker ideas where I would be the owner of "the cute and elegant European-style bar, the hot-spot to be on Friday nights". But once I'm back in the States and see how people are so fixed in their ways of "bigger is better", time is money, and Franzia, my wonderful trendy idea is shot and I'm back to drinking wine in my kitchen with a bowl of olives and stinky cheese.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Recently I have discovered the joy in baking. With a little bit of reading and research, plus numerous trial and errors, I have been able to break away from the "just cooking" category to now the plus baker. This past-time of baking might also have to do with the fact that my handsome Valentine is a much more experienced cook than I, which sadly can end up pushing me out of the kitchen a bit. However, with my self-taught baking lessons, I've surprisingly enjoyed the satisfaction of knocking out a delicious piece of rich chocolate cake or a nice refreshing fluffy yogurt tart. This is not only because of my personal sweet tooth, but more so the reward in seeing people jam a nice big piece of chocolate cake in their mouth and the returns of seconds and thirds, all of which keep me motivated in conquering the next challenge. Dessert is also just plain sexy and almost necessary if you ask me. I can almost NEVER go out to dinner or even after dinner at home and not have something sweet. Whether it be an actual baked dessert or a simple piece of fruit, something sweet on the taste buds is always satisfying. Next challenge: mastering the PERFECT pastry dough (trust me it's not as easy as it looks).
Friday, February 12, 2010
I absolutely HATE being cliche, which is why it's hard for me to actually post this little food for thought with Valentine's Day just around the corner, but due to a friends situation made me realize how powerful the notion of love really is. We love our parents, our friends, our siblings, our neighbors, our teachers, our hairdresser, our lovers, anyone who's anyone that is a part of our daily life/routine. What we don't realize is if these people really know it. How often do you tell your dad that you love him or your closest friend that you've known since middle school? Obviously it might be weird to say "I love you" to your hairdresser, but I think between your-monthly visits and (hopefully) nice tip they comprehend that they are important. So no matter how busy or chaotic your life may be, take a moment to appreciate those around you, those who make you happy, those who would give anything for you to succeed, just say "I love you."
Thursday, February 11, 2010
While browsing around the NY Time website (like I do every morning), reading article after article about war, politics, Obama, fore-closure, Alzheimer's, etc., I stubbled across an article that for a change truly left me a bit perplexed, but in a good way. Inspiration, jealousy, hope, empowerment were all feelings that this simple, short article gave me, which at the time made me want to gather anything I had collected over the years, quickly put together a room, send off a photograph to an elite design firm, wait and pray for a call. Since such an impulsive act would rather counter act any dream of mine, making me look like an ass rather than a qualified person, I rather share this story to you who could possibly use a bit of inspiration in your life. Obviously one doesn't have to care about design to understand the point of this article, but to rather identify the message of it: if you got talent, use it. So, happy read.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Some might call me an animal killer, but I can't seem to get enough of cow skin rugs! Having grandparents who gave these rugs as gifts (grandma used to wear animal print skirts until she was in her 70's!) left my parents' house decked out in every different design, shape and color of these cow skins (in fact we were known as the people with the cow rugs). Whether they were large or small, checkered, caramel, or a nice dark chocolate brown with white marble, the Bessy rugs always took guests by surprise. I wish we had a camera for all the hilarious facial expressions people made and also unfortunately a log book for all the rather idiotic comments such as, "you know you have a cow on your floor right?" "um, yes thank you, I'm quite aware". Virtually everywhere in our house from the porch to the front door, under the piano, in the living room, dining room, we had a nice soft Bessy just kickin' it and joining the party. When it was time for me to leave home and head out on my own (Chicago), I had to snag one of the beauties (of course my mom gave me the beat up one, which honestly was fine with me . . . "it's more vintage" I kept telling myself). Anyways, all of this came to my mind while I was wasting countless hours looking through Design*Sponge's billion different pages of sneak peak's (peaks into designer and artist's homes . . . amazing!) and came across the beautiful cow rugs! It made me quite nostalgic since I tried thinking of every way possible to bring mine here to Italy, and unfortunately attempting to hunt one down in the middle of the night just to make my house pretty isn't an option. So, again, before judging, take a second to look at how nicely cow rugs accompany a room by bringing a certain dynamic in such a subtle way, a hell of a little better I must say than any left over piece of crappy carpet could.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Call me an old lady, but I have to say, scrap booking kicks ass! Yeah, I might be doing it because I have quite a bit of down time right now, but I remember even in my most hectic of times, my best friend Jules and I would look forward to sitting down and work in our books. It's surprisingly therapeutic, exercising your mind and thoughts while being creative at the same time. Not only is it fun to create these journals or books, but really half the fun is hunting for unique books to use, like this one from Anthropologie. They don't (and honestly shouldn't) be like those over-sized one's that you always need a ladder to retrieve and spread out across a whole kitchen table to show to people. The point is to have these journals for your own keep-sake and not necessarily to display to the whole world, but at the same time have out for display looking nice and pretty. So try it out, you'll be pleasantly surprised the tranquility it will bring you.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Lately I've been catching myself gazing at leather women brief cases. Whether they be made of newly bound leather, purchased from a high-fashion boutique, or a banged up (yet still intact) hand-me down from dad or grandpa, or better yet, an awesome vintage find, women briefcases hands down are probably the most classy/elegant/chic way for any woman to tote around any piece of paper. So next time you're downtown and you spot a "successful" man carrying one of these classic brief cases thinking he's hot shit, keep in the back of your head that you could pull it off better . . . and some day you will, with you're kick ass Jimmy Choo's and all.
Friday, February 5, 2010
I know this sounds really cheesy, but I absolutely love waking up to the sound of birds chirping in the morning, especially in the spring. For me it's a sign that the dark months of winter are coming to an end and the warming days of spring are upon arrival. Having grown up with a nest outside my window, I've learned to appreciate the earlier bird chirper convo's telling me to get up!; whereas for others, might instead initiate the serious consideration in investing in either a small shotgun or sling-shot. However one may feel about the little birdies, to me there says nothing more than spring is on its way.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
OK just made the BEST cookies ever! I don't want to call them necessarily "healthy" cookies, but I guess due to the fact that there is no butter, no flour and no eggs in the recipe, and by first glance look as if someone wearing Birkenstock's made them, then they might be considered on the "healthier" side. I stumbled across the recipe on the wonderful website of 101cookbooks.com (best website ever!) under "Nikki's Healthy Cookies". I did a little tweekin', such as substituting dates for the chocolate (didn't have good chocolate on hand ) and added more banana to make them a bit thicker I guess. Fresh out of the oven, I put them in my yogurt like granola and had a mouth dancing with fantastic goodness. They're wonderful because they can be used for any craving, even just for a simple snack, but for those who are picky about "altered" sweets than these might not be for you. But those like me who love experimenting than enjoy!
You can make your own almond meal by pulsing almonds in a food processor until it is the texture of sand - don't go too far or you'll end up with almond butter. And lastly, the coconut oil works beautifully here, just be sure to warm it a bit - enough that it is no longer solid, which makes it easier to incorporate into the bananas
3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, barely warm - so it isn't solid (or alternately, olive oil)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 - 7 ounces chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the top third.
In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips.The dough is a bit looser than a standard cookie dough, don't worry about it. Drop dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart, onto a parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes. I baked these as long as possible without burning the bottoms and they were perfect - just shy of 15 minutes seems to be about right in my oven.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Sitting at my desk and with it being over a month of Christmas being done, I still manage to have christmas ornaments hanging in my apt. My mom, probably being one of the most creative people I know, gives us each christmas really funky christmas tree ornaments from Anthro, which are usually decked out in gold, feathers, or some other funky material. They usually have nothing to do with christmas, meaning birds, butterflies, various other animals and sometimes stars or pretty shapes. Now with the holiday's being long gone, I don't want to put them away.... so rather I've decided to just hang them up all over. They make me happy and add something different to the room; plus it's a pretty economical way of decorating I'd say.
Monday, February 1, 2010
waking up under a wonderfully warm feathered comforter with one of my grandma's hand-made quilts drowning in pillows
amazingly scented soy candles (which unfortunately cost the price of someone's arm here in Italy)
silk robes and pajamas
parfume (no woman should ever leave the house without it)
a nice cup of herbal tea, but better yet, the perfect cup of coffee
a bowl of grapes
a good stinky cheese
a fresh, crisp, yet dry glass of champagne
. . . I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but this is what rolled off my finger tips
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Sunday's are probably my favorite day of the week. When home in Minneapolis there is nothing more that I enjoy than getting up, watching Sunday Morning with my parents next to the fire with a mug of coffee in hand and a lovely plate of fruit before me, that's about it. Probably change in to more "appropriate" clothing at some point during the day (3PM) which consists of nothing more than a different pair of spandex and a more fitted sweatshirt (that being one of my many American Apparel hoodies). Same thing here in Italy (besides the fire): un' caffe' (at the bar of course) and rather than the Sunday Morning show, the various soccer games that unfortunately don't interest me that much, but rather give me the opportunity to relax and watch a movie, work on my knitting, or bake. Since being in Italy I've become accustomed to the cultural concept of relaxing on Sunday's, almost as if one's life has been paused from saturday night to monday morning. It's important to take at least one day to just relax, no matter how busy or board I am in my life and surround myself or at least speak to my loved ones. A day from running and exercising, cleaning, worrying, tutto (all of it), and take the one day for me, myself and I (that also includes my honey). I mean if not even the grocery store is open, than why even bother leaving the house, right?
After looking and searching though my favorite blogs, I started taking note of all the responses and comments they receive from their readers. They even have posts that go back as far as 2006 and 2007 (feels like ages ago) and then I realized, who am I talking to? It's funny to see the difference in blogs of professional (especially those of graphic designers or let's just say designers in general) and those of us "common folk", that have been blogging for only a few months and our only readers are either our best friend plus a few others. In the end though that doesn't matter, blogging is therapeutic and that's why I like it.
Friday, January 29, 2010
I know it might seem that I've gone off the deep end with the whole olive oil thing, but I really haven't, I swear. I just happened to stumble across this AWESOME recipe of an olive oil cake and just had to try it out. So here is the recipe:
Olive Oil Cake
This is what you'll need:
2 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups milk
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Large pinch of salt
Zest of one quarter of a lemon
This is what you'll do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour a 10 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar. Add the olive oil, milk, and citrus zest.
In another bowl, sift together: flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the egg mixture, to the dry ingredients stirring just until blended. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. (There will be extra batter—this is because it can also be baked in a 12 inch round. If you make a loaf you can also make a muffin or two or a mini loaf).
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let the cake cool in the loaf pan. After cooling, run a knife along the edges to loosen. Turn pan upside down, and out will come the cake! If you have problems, cut the first slice directly from the pan to create extra removal leverage.
I swear this cake is awesome. Enjoy it with tea, jam or just plain by itself, it will by nummy regardless.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
What's shiny, full of feathers and makes you look like a million bucks? A Moncler jacket that's what. Since being in Italy I've developed this obsession with Moncler jackets. Maybe because the day of that purchase is NOWHERE in my near future, which has allowed me to cope with the fact that any possibility of snuggling up to warm fabulousness is just not in my deck of cards as of this moment. Therefore, the blissful thoughts of throwing on my beautiful black (or purple I can't decide) Moncler jacket while quickly scampering out of my Italian apartment are rather glorious daydreams that I linger over during the day putting smiles on my face, right next to those of my future Christian Louboutin's and Hermès handbags.
Monday, January 25, 2010
For some reason, despite my best friend being a CVS junkie, I have never fallen to the whole face/hair mask, skin serum, pore de-clogging world. Some may say because I'm a tight-wad and HATE buying things outside of necessity, or it's because I'd rather get lost in Whole Foods and munch on grapes and almonds out of sample bins, anyways who knows the real reason, but all I know is that I love to experiment with what mother nature has given us (how fortunate we really are). Because in the end, more than half the crap out there isn't making us that much prettier, or should we say the stuff that us "normal" people can afford is not changing what we want to change, damnit! Most of us can't afford the thousand dollar surgeries (nor would we want to) or little serum bottles of exotic juices from some god known plant or animal that we can't even pronounce the name of. Therefore, as an awesome alternative, I advise everyone to look up on-line (or any source for that matter- don't forget your grandma or mother) about at-home beauty remedies. Simple face scrubs, such as oatmeal, honey, and egg or a nice hair mask of olive oil, avocado, and mayonaisse can truly change the whole beauty experience, as all the materials are truly natural and are coming from your own kitchen! My all time favorite ingredient that truly man just could never live without is olive oil. Not only is it perfect for cooking, but also a few swipes of the magical stuff on your face or a few drops in your hot bath will turn your skin into supple-goodness. Or right before you're about to wash your hair, put a few drops in and let it sit, and after you're hair will be blinding people with its shininess. Experiment alone or with a friend, but I gaurantee you, you'll be thanking me.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
What makes us go crazy for coffee? Is it the aroma of freshly ground beans just done by dad, or the sound of coffee drippings in the glass pot which will be then sipped on leisurely throughout the the morning in a ceramic mug? The option of having it with or without milk, cream, cinnamon, vanilla or classically just plain black? My perfect cup of coffee, or should we say espresso, is a caffe' macchiato from a tiny pasticceria (bakery) called Bida in Ferrara, Italy. It comes in a perfectly small square shaped, white porcelain cup and saucer, followed by a small shot of water to chase with. The schiuma (or milk foam) is frothed slightly higher than the rim of the cup, which from the warm espresso that sits beneath it creates a lovely dark brown line around the rim. I always judge a perfect caffe' macciato or cappuccino by the froth of the milk; if the sugar sits nicely on top without sinking, it's perfect. Then, to end the perfect little delight are the little sugar cane morsels that sit at the bottom of the espresso cup, waiting to be scrapped out and slowly savored. This is my perfect coffee, which I think everyone should have the pleasure of enjoying. If in Italy, ask for a caffe' macchiato and if you're in the States ask for the same thing (although you might have to explain): a single espresso (you might have to say short) with frothed milk (I'm sorry to say, but the milk has to be whole or 2% to get the right froth consistency, skim and soy just wont do).
Friday, January 22, 2010
I can't think of a better luxury than a frickin' awesome good market; full of fresh and in-season fruits and vegetables along with artisan cheeses and local meats. Which are of course are then accompanied with aromatic herbs, locally made assortments of honey, and in-house mostarda's (mustards) and jams. Every friday I am blessed with Ferrara's small (it's bigger in the summer) local, organic produce market that makes me always leaving with WAY too much stuff, making my 15 minute walk home end up feeling like a 25 mile marathon. I just can't help myself. Everything is too good AND super cheap, especially compared to the supermarkets, plus it's all organic and local! Let's see.... today I bought, a pumpkin, 3 kilo (about 6 lbs) of amazing juicy, crispy apples, 2.5 kilos (5 lbs) of pears, celery, cauliflower, fennel, walnuts, arugula, and kiwi's all costing me about 11 euro (or about $15)!!! There is nothing more that makes me happy than a fresh market. The various aromas, conversations amongst the people and farmers sharing recipes and tips as well as keeping up with the latest gossip puts me in my happy place. Although this maybe a very normal ritual in the life of an Italian, better yet European, Middle-Eastern, African, AND South American, it's not in ever city or town in the States which puts a frown on my face. Luckily with the new food "fad" or Slow Food Movement (which I hope isn't a fad, but rather a permanent lifestyle) of eating local and organic food is spreading across the States; sprouting farmer's markets in rink-a-dink towns that were once only provided with grocery shopping at Walmart or the corner convenient store on Main Street. So now, while staring at my huge pumpkin, I'm left with some food for thought... what to make with all my goodies!?!?
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
How many times can you remember leaving your house late as hell with dripping wet hair, clothes barely on, soap residue flaking off your skin, and much later realizing that you have a white crusted mustache of toothpaste nicely outlining your lips? For me, quiet a few times, but once coming to Italy NEVER in a million years! Two years ago my house mom brought to my attention the "hazard" of walking outside the house with wet hair and how for sure I would get sick. Making me feel like the size of a frickin' mouse she literally made me go into the bathroom with a blow-dryer not permitting me to leave until my hair was perfectly dry. Annoyed as ever, I did as I was told and never made the "mistake" again. Still do this day, I never leave the house with my hair wet, nor with toothpaste crusties, but rather I've learned that a well-groomed presence says a lot. Italians have a grace and an elegance that unfortunately you don't see that often in the States, unless you're on Fifth Avenue in NYC or in the ritzy neighborhoods of any big city. It's a quality of the Italian way of life that I've learned to appreciate. It's an enjoyment that the people have amongst themselves. What are people wearing? Did you see her new hat? Or her new shoes? It's pure entertainment and I LOVE IT! Sunday evenings are like the town's fashion show where everyone goes out for a few hours, always wearing their best, NEVER looking just mediocre. It's a great self-esteem drill to practice, walking around like you're worth a million bucks and fabulous. Just a few words to the wise: never walk around with wet hair.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
Sniffling last night while watching Broken Embrases (which I highly recommend) I yearned for a big tub of Vick's Vapor Rub to slather all over my chest to release my sinus' from the nasty mucus that seamed to continuously spew out of my nose. Marcello, thanks to being raised by an Aunt who lives her life by memory, whether it be food recipes, beauty or health remedies and napolitan "sayings", he told me to sniff (yes sniff) salt water up my nose. Since 3/4 of the peninsula is surrounded by water, many times Italians who live by the sea go to the shore (or at least close enough) in order to breath in the salt water-air which naturally clears up their sinuses. After giving him the "are you out of your frickin' mind" glare, I found the courage to try it out. After a few repeated sniffs of the salt water, I went to bed pissed off and in uncomfortable of what I just literally inhaled. I mean who would voluntarily sniff water, nonetheless salt water? It ruins everyone's lovely day of swimming, doesn't it? Like I said, I was pissed off in bed and realized that my nose was not running anymore and that I was actually breathing laying down! With my tail under my ass for being well, a not so pleasant girlfriend while my caring boyfriend was helping me cure my waterfall of a nose, I felt bad; yet, more happy that this home remedy worked. I do have to give credit to my mother for always curing us kids with at home remedies (rather than pumping us up with drugs) such as gargling salt water for a soar throat and using the Aloe plant for any cut and scrape, but the notion of sniffing salt water up my nose was just never in the deck of cards. For another at home-napolitan remedy, here's one for curing a soar throat:
Sunday, January 17, 2010
After aimlessly wondering around Italian supermarkets looking for baking powder and baking soda and then attempting (and failing) to bake bread, brownies and everything in between, I've realized that some sweets are just meant to be made in the country of origin. Although that doesn't mean that they can't be attempted (because any sweet is still good if it's made with a little bit of love) the end result however just won't be same. For the past two hours I spent trying to make a lovely butter-cream frosting for my trial cupcakes for Marcello's birthday this upcoming week, but in the end I ended up with a grainy, non-fluffy bowl of gew....yum! Of course this probably has to do with the fact that we were making everything by hand and not with a handy-dandy beater. But the nature of it all was also off, in the end it was evident that they are not an Italian specialty. However same goes to eating any Italian sweet in the States. From cannoli to gelato, most American attempts leave me disappointed (but that doesn't mean that close competitors aren't out there...because they are!) I guess in the end, this just means that I need to be a better baker, or rather try to bake according to my surroundings.
One could say that over this past six months my life has made a 180 degree shift. Parting from the squeaky "L" running outside my Chicago apartment window and listening to drunken Wrigleyville "Chads" or "Hags" leaving the bars at 4 AM to bicycle infested cobble stone Italian roads and overlapping Church bells ringing in the distance has left my brain in a complete blunder not knowing how to place my two worlds together. Loving both dearly and having to always avoid the question: Which do I like better? I've rather filtered from the two worlds everything that I enjoy and place them into my life...How nice :) Although, I do have to say it's much easier said than done. Adapting to a culture other than one's own is difficult, plain and simple. Not only learning the language, but learning different daily customs, ways of acting, eating, dressing and simple life-long principles can leave one to a state of running for the hills (which I have already contemplated doing). Now, thanks to my lovely hunny Marcello (or should I say Maestro) I have adapted well enough to and feel comfortable in the Italian world. Which is why I have started to write this blog. As a proud American girl from the Mid-west, there are customs that I have and will never be able to shed; such as making cupcakes, wearing my American Apparel hoodies and gold tennis shoes, being incredibly obsessed with Top Chef and playing Mariah Carey on repeat on my iTunes. However, a part from my "American" genes, I've been able to adapt to the Italian culture, learning and adapting to their customs and ways of doing well, about everything. Through each educational experience that I've had, there has never been someone next to me with whom I could say "huh, that makes so much more sense," and instead have to hope that I remember it until the next time I Skype someone (which is always a failure). Rather now with this blog, I can share everything with everyone whenever I want. The world is too large for people to be fixed on just one way of doing things and living life. It's important to understand and know other cultures perceptions on life and death, how they spend their Christmas, or further more, how they take a simple break during the day. So now, from Italy, I pass it all on. Enjoy!