I have been insanely busy!! I will have some real posts and stories again soo, I promise, but for now just finding an InternetTrain has been extremely frustrating!

This morning I walked to il Merchato Vecchio to look at the leather goods. I wan't planning on buying anything yet (EXCEPT A WINTER COAT, IT IS FREAKING COLD AND WINDY), and all of the men were so pushy about trying to get me to buy something. I noticed the woman next to me spoke Spanish, so I turned to her and made a comment about them. We ended up talking for a while and it turns out she owns one of the stalls. Long story short... I DID end up buying a darling little purse (I want to carry something small when I don't need my school book, etc, because I can keep it closer to my body). Her husband made them, and she said because I was "si bella e si fredda!!" (so pretty and so cold!) and also vacationed in Mexico this summer, she would give me a good deal. She brought out all of her purses and asked what I was looking for, what kind of things I liked.

It was the most fun I think I've ever had shopping; it didn't FEEL like shopping! I found one that is just perfect, just very much my style, and I knew it when she pulled it out. She agreed (of course she agreed, haha) and told me it was 45 euro. I checked the tag and it was £95! I told her I would bring my friends back and she said, No, you dont need to do that, but maybe come and visit some time.

Hahaha so hopefully I didn't just get caught in a crazy tourist trap, but she really was sweet and she gave me the card to her husband's leather shop. I'm going to have to look it up when it comes time for my BIG shopping.


These feet were made for walking

God, I hate walking tours.

The headset starts to hurt,

you resent that ringing voice in your ear,

and worst of all you move too fast to really SEE anything!

I wrote down a lot of facts to tell you guys, like that 200 AD, one in every two hundred and fifty people on earth lived in Rome, and that  the word arena comes from the sand thrown on the ground to absorb that gladiators' blood during exhibition--but honestly I'm too burnt out after that walk to even look them up right now.

This temple was built by some emperor (Angostino?) to deify his wife, Faustina. I thought that was really cool. Also, I found the following, which kind of made my trip. Hopefully you can read the English translation, because I am way, way too tired right now to copy it and type it in here.

Some things never change.

Il Vaticano

So… the Vatican. You have to do it, and honestly I was dreading it a little bit. But as soon as we got there and dribbled out of our tour buses onto the wet pavement outside the Vatican wall, rain dribbling (dribbling, drabbling, drizzling) over us—there was that instant of recognition, that I was somewhere very important and very special, and from that instant I felt, for at least a few more instants, Italian. Or at least Catholic.

I love to hear Italians speak English. Our tour guide said the most amazingly detailed things (most of which went completely over my head) about the Sistine Chapel, the history of the Vatican city, and the roots of the Catholic faith in Italy. But I was more enraptured by her charming malapropisms and mispronunciations, especially the word “choosen” and her difficulty with any and all prepositions, which are, granted, pretty tricky. My favorite memory of the day was her description of the ceiling grotesques as “women turning into, you know, like vegetables—not grotesque, as in ugly, just a little bit weird.”

This time around I was able to appreciate more of the art than when I came in high school: Rafael’s angels’ wings, the shimmering silk tapestries, the storied progression across the Sistine Chapel, and most of all the sheer magnitude of art amassed in this tiny state. And then after the museum, the church…

The inside of the Basilica was (and I know I overuse this word but this time it is absolutely correct to say) literally a spiritual experience. I ended my visit feeling so small, as if I can’t quite (and never will) see above the grownups’ knees to know what they’re talking about, but like a child, enveloped in thick blanket of faith in those higher-ups.

On a lighter note, literally (I’m on a role today), we went back the next day and it was sunny! And I got to re-take all of my dark and hazy pictures, inserting my new friends in the foregrounds.

“Tra-ste-VER-e?” “No, Tra-STE-ver-e!”

Italians are never too shy to correct you. The most useful phrases we’ve learned so far are, “Puó ripetere, per favore?” and “Puó parlare piu lentamente, per favore?”

But one thing they are is accommodating. Trastevere—the name comes from its location, atras, or across from, the fiume Tevere which separates most of Rome from the Vatican—is a neighborhood where a lot of younger locals live and eat, mostly students and professionals. Above and behind the small bars and restaurants, there’s an overlook from which you can supposedly see most of the city, but we wouldn’t really know, since it was pouring rain and very hazy.

Anyway, accomodating. The restaurant was packed with italians and there was a wait, so I asked, "Possomos apostarre un nottiglia di vino and drink it outside?"

The result:

But about the view: who goes to Rome for the view from some obscure city? Views, shmiews. We ate. And drank. And ate and drank, and then we ate a little more. And I ate bacon. And bone marrow. And it was amazing.

Si, siamos Turisti

Goffreddo Parise (I’m reading Italian short stories in Italian and English to learn to speak a little better) described perfectly that piece of Italian culture I admire so much, and seem to be missing out on.

I'm pretty sure this isn't allowed.

“Erano dotati per vivire, avevano quel genio italiano, ma non di tutti gli italiani, di muoversi, di camminare e di sorridere che è come bagnato dal mare Mediterraneo.”

They had a talent for living, having that Italian gift, that not all Italians have, for moving, for walking, and for smiling which was bestowed upon them by the waters of the Mediterranean sea.


Bruschetta: toasted bread, olive, and tomatoes. It’s a canvas for a smorgasbord of other toppings, and it’s the cheapest thing on every menu. It’s my new favorite thing.

Menus usually have three or four different varieties and so far I’ve had bruschette con pomodori…

and also ai carciofe (artichokes) and alle anchovies. That last one was a bit too salty for me—ok, my fingers swelled up to the point you could hang them in the windows with the rest of the salumi—but brisling are so healthy and delicious I might have to do it again. Ok, I will just say right now I am definitely going to eat it again, it’s clearly only a matter of time, and it will absolutely be worth it. Probably.

Welcome to Roma


My first meal:

It didn't last long.

I need to learn Italian NOW! Ordering at the airport café was the most humbling thing I’ve ever done. After standing there for five minutes being ignored by the barista and shoved aside by big, loud, Italian men, someone took pity and ordered for me.

I felt like an idiot. All I could say is, “Espresso? Sfogliatella?”


“No, espresso. Caffe.”

“[something in Italian I vaguely understood to mean] Oh, sure, you look like you need a little help. These men.” (That last part was implicit in a broad sweep of his arm towards the crowd.)

“Grazie. Capisco, ma… Grazie! Grazie!”

I need to learn Italian. Now.

Last Supper

I know this doesn’t count as a real pre-departure meditation, since I’m writing this from my hotel breakfast room in Rome (!) but I didn’t have time to do any of this writing before I left… So here is a super long I will definitely miss my family and all of my friends at the Hop, but I’m not going to lie—the break could not have come at a better time.

I wanted to fix a special good-bye dinner for my family, so I made a three-course dinner from scratch (and only cut myself twice!)

The Menu:
Wilted Watercress Salad with Red Onions and Avocado
Turkey Breast with Brown Rice, Cranberry, and Pomegranate Stuffing
Sweet Potato Fries
Pannettone with Apricots, Raisins, and Cranberries

I’m sorry I didn’t take more pictures. I kind of fail at that once I get close to a finished product, with the stress of the timing and the general craziness that hits you all at the same time, and the bread is in the oven instead of on the table and there are no wine glasses on the table and the turkey is cold and the sweet potatoes are burnt and—well, you get the picture.

Watercress Salad

Juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
Diced shallots
1 tsp spicy whole grain mustard
Olive oil

I would suggest cleaning the watercress a day or two ahead of time; in a plastic bag with damp paper towels, it should stay fresh. Mix the dressing at least six hours before serving, but not more than one day ahead of time. Just before serving, heat the dressing slowly in the microwave. I didn’t actually do this, and the room temperature dressing instantly cooled the watercress. It was still delicious, but it wasn’t the effect I was hoping for. When dressing is warm but not hot, heat a pan over medium flame and throw in the watercress. Cover for thirty seconds, then stir quickly, so that the leaves that had been on top are now on the bottom, and vice versa. Cover again and cook for thirty more seconds. Toss and serve. (Quickly!)


Just toss together cooked brown rice; sautéed carrots, celery, and leeks; plumped cranberries (use warm white wine); a beaten egg; and ¼ cup white wine. Bake any extra stuffing at 350 degrees for half an hour (or toss it in with the turkey for the last 30 minutes).


Buy a BONELESS half turkey breast. Do not let the butcher sell you a bone-in turkey breast with back and ribs, even if he insists it is the best thing for a roulade. He is fooling. I’ll admit, though, I felt like a bad ass deboning it myself. Plus I have a cool cut on my hand. If you insist on following in my footsteps (the feeling at the end is incomparable), remember to make shallow cuts and take your time.

Lay the turkey on a cutting board covered in plastic, and put more plastic over it. Pound the turkey to a thickness of ½ and inches, then cover with stuffing up to 1 and ½ inches from the edge. Roll, jelly-roll style (my specialty, hahaha), and tie with twine every 2 inches. Brown on all sides, then add wine and stock to the pan. Turn turkey occasionally and add more liquid to keep the bottom of the pan from drying up. Turkey should reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees. It will happen FAST, so watch it. Still, even if it gets a little overcooked, the turkey is so moist from the stuffing and basting that it’ll be ok. Let it rest at least fifteen minutes.

Sweet potato fries you can figure out yourself. (Hint: cut, toss, and bake.) And you can find a great recipe for pannettone (“American Style Pannettone”) on the King Arthur Flour website.



Busy Busy Busy

Just got back from a trip to San Francisco with my mom, but before that I was visiting my sister at Notre Dame. We ate at Cafe Claude, a restaurant that is fast  becoming our favorite restaurant there.

My trip to South Bend, IN, was a welcome vacation from the stress of getting ready for Italy. Don't get me wrong, I'm so excited--but we've run into a couple of interesting roadblocks on my way there... First, I couldn't apply for my visa until four weeks before my departure, cutting it very close. And, of course, I had to drive to San Francisco to do it. That first trip seemed unreasonably long, but we had no idea what was in store when we returned to pick it up. I should also mention that we had two reasons to return to the city by the bay: the first being my passport, but we also had to go to the American Express travel office to get foreign currency because, of course, there is not an office in Sacramento. So off we were!

If you're not from California, you might not know this, but we are currently experiencing the first waves of the coming apocalypse. The wind and rain were so heavy at times that we literally couldn't see out the window to drive. The car, even at 30 mph, seemed at times to be merely floating vaguely towards the east, regardless of any of the driver's intentions.  I couldn't distract myself by reading, because the wind was buffeting our car so much I was suffering from motion sickness and my stomach  was threatening to heave up my breakfast of Guinevere's Garden pizza. In retrospect, pizza was not a great breakfast choice. (But in retro-retrospect, IT WAS WORTH IT.)

Oh, Italians... I'm already starting to love them. My visa claim receipt (I wish I had taken a photo of it!!!) said, in these words, "You are requested to pick up your passport on MONDAY, JANUARY 18th, in person." Well, yesterday, January 18th, we limped into the city and found the Italain consulate, only to discover that the office was closed on January 18th in honor of MLK Day.

It worked out in the end. We went, as I said, to Cafe Claude for dinner that night, and popped by the embassy first thing this morning. I was all ready to throw down with the embassy people if they refused to give me my passport back (Visa issues are only handled on Mondays and Thursdays), but luckily, no one had to get hurt. The woman was cheerful, if a bit harried, and she acknowledged that their closure yesterday had caused them more than a few complaints. She was so friendly, in fact, that when she returned with my passport as well as a selection of European treats, I assumed they were all for me. Turns out the latter were just her lunch. Another disappointment.

Anyway, these last photos are of my sister and her friends building an igloo outside my sister's dormitory. Compared to how cold it usually is, the girls assured me that the 24 degree weather was actually really warm.  Yeah, ok.


La Souche de Noel

Yule log fail.


It kind of... collapsed.


But it tasted good, so I guess: Chocolate coma win.