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!