Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rome, Ellie's Disneyland

Rome. What a dream. It's the light. The golden pure warmth of the Roman light that makes everything glow with ancient wonders and creative possibilities. I was overcome with it and in awe. I want to go back today. Imagine how nice it must be to stroll around in a summer dress with the glow on your skin. Of course my trip to Rome was in mid-December...I was bundled up and freezing. Regardless, you can easily understand why the birth of the Renaissance was here. How can you not paint with this light going on all hours of the day?? (Um, and those clothes! Talk about sleeve-spiration.)
My mom and I arrived by train from Bari in late afternoon. We pulled into the station with the sun about an hour from setting. The gold lights bounces around on does my mom's poor suitcase while we walk block after block in search of our hostel. Turns out, we were really centrally located just a few blocks from the Barberini stop on the metro. Perfect because it only took two (or three) days to discover that's only 10 minutes from the Trevi fountain. Since neither my mom nor I had cash to throw towards a sim card phone and our fully monopolized country doesn't see fit to stop AT&T/Apple from taking over everything and giving us no sim option (instead, charges ridiculous roaming prices), we have no option but to trust our gut and use a good 'ole map. Yeah, we were lost all the time. Feel bad for her though cause I never mind. Getting lost is the best way to see things you don't expect, but my poor mom's feet were never doing very well. Walking is easier for us New Yorkers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Making it happen

Aït Benhaddou
In recent years. several people in my life have said to me 'I wish I could travel like you do'. It always baffles me at first because I'm thinking 'I wish I could travel like [insert the name of one of the savvy super travelers I've had the pleasure of meeting over the years]'. Some days nothing is good enough and other days, you feel accomplished. Such is life. Anyhow, I wanted to write this post to share a few of the ways I've been able to travel just in case it could help a friend or acquaintance who's looking for tips (and it's a good reminder for me on those less accomplished days to remember I CAN make it happen).

Firstly, I want to say: I have yet to actually 'live off the road' or earn money during travel and have mostly kept my full time job during all of my travels. I'll explain how I'm able to this. This is important because you'll find a whole host of blogs and articles describing how to save for __ years then quit your job and become an overnight success at travel writing, food photography, or some other rarity. Lucky for those people, but that goal isn't quite what I'd call attainable for the average person. If we could all be Tony Bourdain, I wouldn't be sitting at work right now writing this blog with my coffee.

Secondly, I want to gear this post towards Americans. That is my experience and what I know. Plus the fact is that there are many nations in the world where travel is so normal ahem, Australia, and part of life, they don't need any tips. Also, if you live in Europe, travel gets a lot simpler and cheaper. Americans have a harder time, I think, because of three key factors: 1. our culture isn't supportive of world travel (they don't include watch the sunrise over the Sahara in the American dream), 2. airlines make it very expensive to leave, and 3. our jobs don't provide enough paid leave.

With all the said, I want to start with the mindset. No matter what tools and money making schemes I've utilized to book a trip, in the end - you have to know when to just do it. I'm very lucky to have a lot of family and friends I can count on. I mean, don't get the wrong idea, no one is handing out cash to support my backpacking. But, if I ever get down on my luck (knock on wood), I'm not going to be homeless. This is important because there always comes a time when you have to ask, What's the worst that can happen? Figure out your worst case scenario, and stop being afraid of it. So often life is a perfect storm. If you don't learn to sit on the porch and watch, you'll end up cowering in the bathtub missing everything. (Just a little Oklahoma joke for you.) The important thing is to always have enough in the bank to get you home.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tattoo Progression

My photo of the original print
My original idea for my new tattoo (yay!) just popped in my head while I was watching boyfriend get his cover-up a couple months ago. I've known for a long time I wanted wisteria. Wisteria is one of the longest living flowering plants, with vines twisting around and around to strengthen itself. It symbolizes longevity and inner strength. It's also a known symbol of love and romance in Japan. It drapes over itself and becomes heavy with flowers so that you can walk under its canopies. Endless love, long life. 

Wisteria Walk is also the name of the street in Harry Potter where Mrs. Figg lives in Little Whinging. Bonus.

Photo cred: y-fu
Anyhow, I was sitting there thinking about tattoos and I thought about wisteria and Japan and like...I should just get a block print. I love art and definitely different mediums. With my first piece being a sketchy drawing, I'm excited to have this one have a print/watercolor feel.

When boyfriend, my mom, and I were at a museum in Boston they happened to have a Hokusai exhibition. I was able to see his famous wave, but was way more astonished by his series of waterfall prints. Especially, the amida waterfall. I love that circle. It's the sun and the moon and the ocean. Perfect. And so, here I am with a solid idea. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Hello from the otherside

So far in London, life is a roller coaster. At first it wasn't easy, but it's gotten a lot better. I'm settling in now, getting used to the Brits in my office and learning how to live a constant life of travel planning. I'm filling up my passport at such a steady rate I have to replace it in October (thanks Obama). Behind on my travel blogging which there's no excuse for but I've made some truly excellent friends here. I'd like to have more friends join our travels but it's hard when you're working in such a small window and don't want to wait to book for fear the price will go up and don't want to bend on your must-sees and -- yeah, I guess it's just never that easy to plan trips with friends.

I'm cooking a lot lately and really enjoy my time in the kitchen. I'm starting to learn to build flavors and check flavors. I don't know what changed recently but I feel confident I can make some really good meals (for myself lol, whether or not anyone else likes it is still to be determined). Maybe boyfriend cooking less. He used to rule the kitchen but he's been working so much lately, I've made it my own. And I love seeing St Pancras out of the kitchen window (Kings Cross Station to all you Harry Potter fans out there, the real Kings Cross, it's next door neighbor, isn't nearly as beautiful - I suppose King's Cross has a lot more whimsy than St Pancras which most people don't even know how to say properly).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Half a decade

Hi Boyfriend,

Half a decade. Assuming I live to be 94 years old, which I think is an age to feel good about, you've been in my life for 5.32% of it. Only 5.32%! It's not much time at all really but I am so immensely proud of it. You are so kind. So good and so fun. You bring so much joy to my life. I can't say it enough how thankful I am. You regularly make breakfast while I'm sleeping so I get to wake up to eggs, you feel sad for me for things you know are silly because you can tell it will make me feel better, yet, somehow, you never lose integrity and won't agree with me unless I'm right which makes it all the more better because when you agree I'm right I know I really am, you bring me flowers cause you know I love them, you don't make me ask if my parents can take our bed when they visit, in fact, you always show my parents respect and when I complain about my family you never agree with me, you always remember to include me or offer things to me even though I'm a jerk and don't always remember for you, and you snuck off with me in the desert in the middle of the night because who doesn't wanna do it in the sahara? 

You let me tell the story even if you know you tell it better...actually, you even let me finish telling the story that everyone stopped listening to because I'll realize it's awful afterwards and interrupting me would make me feel bad, you travel with me to places you've already been which is like sacrilege of your travel code just because you know I want you to come with me, you notice something is wrong with me even before I do, you always help me when I'm sick, even if it's every other week it seems, you put up with me complaining about your health consciousness when I absolutely should be supporting you, you always invite me to meet your friends and family, and you even sometimes waste time watching movies or shows I'm convinced you'll like and you never really do...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Homemade Pizza Recipe

I've had it on my life list for ages to spin pizza dough in the air. I wasn't successful last night, but I took the first step and tried. The reason I couldn't toss this time is my dough wouldn't stretch properly. After the fact, I did some research online and I think I needed some more water in my dough mixture and to let it rest longer (maybe even another knead and rest in between). Also, it would have helped to have measuring spoons (which I don't). Ah well, next time!

Recipe for Pizza Dough 

Ingredients (metric):
650g/1lb 5oz Italian 00 flour
7g easy-blend yeast
2 tsp salt
25ml/1fl oz olive oil
50ml/2fl oz warm milk
325ml/11fl oz warm water
1. Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in the olive oil and milk. Gradually add the water, to form a soft dough.
2. Once it's not so sticky, dump the dough onto a board with flour dusted. Knead for about five minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place into a clean bowl and cover with a damp towel. Leave to rise for about 1½ hours, until doubled in size.
3. When the dough has risen, knead again until smooth. You'll feel the bubbles inside as you knead. Roll into a ball and set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This is the hard you need another knead and rest? Use your best judgement.

4. Preheat the oven to its highest setting. Unless you're in England where ovens have eight settings and you only know what two of them mean. In such cases, just choose one at random and keep an eye on it.
5. Divide the dough into six balls. You can store the dough in the freezer but you must thaw completely (for about 12 hours) before using. If you plan to use it soon, you can also store dough in the fridge but not for longer than 24 hours. To store, it helps to rub the exterior with a bit of olive oil before placing in the baggie.
6. Take one ball and press the edges with your finger tips about one inch in around in a circle to create the crust.
7. Using your fingers and hands in whatever way seems right to you, spread the dough out, carefully stretching in the most even way your hands allow in order to keep the round shape.
8. When you're a master, throw the dough high in the air to finish the spreading.

6 alternative. If you're lazy and uncool, use a rolling pin to create the perfect thickness and roll up the edges for a crust. Proceed to step 9.

9. Spread a passata or homemade tomato sauce over your pizza base and top with your favorite toppings.
10. Bake in the oven until the crust is crisp and golden-brown.

Even without the toss, my pizza turned out delicious. I like pizza all bread-y so my great lump of a crust was perfectly alright with me. And who doesn't love a nice oval shape? ;)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Italy: Adriatic Waterfront

My time in Gravina felt much much too quick. As with all great things, they must come to an end. After such a fabulous time eating, site-seeing, enjoying family, did I say eating?, my mom and I left with our cousin Annie to stay at her uni flat in Bari to check out the city. Bari doesn't offer a lot for the wayward tourist. I'd have liked to explore and discover more, but really Bari seemed to be a very relaxed, beautiful, and hard-working town. It's full of college students. The architecture is classic, heavy with 1930's decadence. It's the end of art deco and the beginning of more simplicity in architecture. To find that in Italy was unexpected. There aren't any big sites to see or awe-inspiring museums. Of course the expected cathedral was thrown in here and there. Overall, it was modern, lovely shopping, beautiful malecón, and another opportunity to get to know my cousin and see her day-to-day life.

I'd love to go back to Bari with a bag of money. Great prices on really incredible pieces of designer clothing, jewelry, hand-made leather shoes, unique handbags, pretty sure I walked around drooling. The unemployed will have a sad afternoon wandering the labyrinth of Bari Vecchia.

Monday, May 9, 2016

10 Inspiring photographs of Cuba

Old Church in Trinidad
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