Friday, August 8, 2014

{life} loving lately

Lately I'm loving....

All of the time I have been able to spend with this wonderful, sweet, thoughtful man.

The new mascara I am using lately. Holy amazeballs, this stuff is good.

The new color of revlon nail polish I picked up at Target the other day. I love Essie and OPI as much as the next girl, but I love the price tag of this similarly high quality nail polish more than the others!

Dining at The Refinery in Seminole Heights. A unique menu that changes daily and a whole lotta delicious craft beer options. What more could you ask for?

Total Wine because I can find a wine I tried in Portgual and my favorite Spanish red in the same aisle. Yes.

All of the back to school shopping I get to do again! Say hello to my gorgeous new bookbag / hiking pack.

In a similar vein, I cannot wait to say hellllo to some gorgeous new gameday dresses! This one is perfection.

I'm also really excited to move up to Tallahassee and get to know the city like I never did in undergrad. This means that I will definitely be checking out the Farmers' Market, Railroad Square artwork, and Tallahassee Trails much more this time around.

And finally...

I saw this quote at the perfect time last week. Invest in people who invest in you. Sounds so simple doesn't it? It's important to remember this at this extremely transitional period of life. Let go of the negative energy in your life and focus on the people who, and things that, make you feel energized and happy. Namasate.

What are you loving lately?

xx, Jen

Thursday, July 31, 2014

{travel} paradise is a beach in greece

I have always been fascinated by landscapes and climates that are completely the opposite of Florida. Who needs to travel to a place with a beach when you've spent your entire life tanning on the white sand beaches on the west coast of Florida? I always find myself much more in awe of Mountains! and Valleys! and Snow! But then I went to Greece. Let's just say that the inner beach snob in me was cured. Warning: This is a photo heavy post. Prepare to feel the desire to book a ticket to Crete directly after viewing.

Aaaand the award for the most beautiful beach I've ever been to in my entire 24 years of life definitely goes to Elafonisi Beach on Crete. Even though we were there during a crazy wind storm (sand pelting into your skin at 30 mph is not very fun), it was still the perfect day. If you ever find yourself in Chania, make sure you make time for a day trip to this beach.

How to get there: Go to the main bus station in Chania and ask for a ticket to Elafonisi. There is one bus a day that goes to Elafonisi and one bus that takes you back to Chania. ENJOY!

xx, Jen

Thursday, July 24, 2014

{life} hashtag: i'm definitely not in madrid anymore

As I take the first sip of my iced coffee to go, I smile. I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

An unobstructed sunset glowing behind the tall, swaying palm trees. The quiet, empty streets of suburbia, broken up only by the laugh of a child or the low hum of a lawn mower. The pool in my backyard. I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

The conversations with friendly strangers. "How are you doing today?" "What are your weekend plans?" "This drink is free because it took way too long to come out." "Oh, excuse me. Sorry!" "You have a wonderful day, honey/sweetie/darling/my love!" I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

The five minute drive to the grocery store? A 20 minute walk. The twenty minute drive to a restaurant? A 60 minute walk. I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

The abundance of cultures and cuisines. A twenty mile radius on Yelp showing great Vietnamese! Korean! Colombian! Peruvian! Mexican! Lebanese! Italian! Cuban! and finally American! restaurants. I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

The hours spent sitting in a car. But on the other hand, that glorious, glorious one stop shopping. (Hello Target. Hello Publix.) I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

Slowing your car to allow a deer to cross the road. Waving hello to an alligator in the pond. Stopping and patiently waiting as an owl decides whether it wants to stay chilling in the middle of the road or fly away to the nearest tree. Seeing unidentifiable animal prints in the backyard. Was it a fox? Or a raccoon? I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

The extremely predictable afternoon thunderstorms and the extremely high humidity. Blegh. I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

It's the slight withdrawals from plaza life and 2 euro glasses of wine. From tapas and jamon, rooftop drinks just because, and the Spanish language. But making up for it with happy hours with friends and $5 craft beers (helllo my pretties). With delicious sub sandwiches and smoothies, rooftop drinks just because (somethings never change), and being asked on your first day back, "Hablas espanol?"

Here's to you, America. You're pretty darn cool.

xx, Jen

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

{travel} colorful chania + exciting news!

Soooo I'm skipping over like.... 5 other trips to write about one of the most beautiful places in the entire world (but seriously), GREECE! So, why don't you dollop a few scoops of Greek yogurt into a bowl and drizzle generously with honey? It's gonna be a long one!

I went to Greece with my best blogger friend, Courtney. We started reading each other's blogs in January, met up for a few glasses of wine later that month, and booked a trip to Greece together in February. We had no idea if we'd still be buddies 5 months later when we bought those tickets, but luckily we never even had to worry about that at all. Bloggers make for the best travel partners. We love to wander aimlessly through cities and take photos of ALL THE THINGS OMGZ. What else could you want on vacation? ;)

We ended up in Crete because we found really cheap RyanAir tickets from Athens to Chania, and like every other English teacher abroad, we chose to go to the island that was cheapest to get to. I am so glad that we found those inexpensive tickets, because we both absolutely loved wandering around the old town of Chania.

Sights & Activities: One tip I hope to pass along to you if you ever find yourself in Chania? Book a room with a view of the Venetian Harbor, even if it is the absolute most touristy area of Chania. It's all worth it because then you get to wake up and look at this every morning. And that is pretty awesome.

Venetian Harbor: This harbor was built by the Venetians in the 1300s for trade purposes and to protect the port city from pirates. It is completely worthwhile to spend a good chunk of time walking along the water until you reach the lighthouse at the end of the harbor. Beware though, you will definitely be dodging restaurant promoters left and right. Because Greeks speak English SO FREAKING WELL, we decided to go with the Spanish right. Lo siento, no entendemos. Worked like a charm. Below: the view from our room at Loukia Hotel.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

{life} a goodbye letter to madrid

Do you know what is really hard?

Trying to find adequate words to describe how much my time living in Madrid has meant, and will continue to mean to me. I spent my entire last day wandering around my old barrio, Malasana, smiling one moment, and tearing up the next. 

Smiling at the memories those streets hold. 

The afternoons spent drinking tinto de veranos and the late nights that followed, always with a slice of pizza and liter and a half of water in hand. The days spent window shopping; not for clothes, but for the next restaurant or bar to add to our list of places to try. The quiet, peaceful mornings and the loud, chaotic nights. The summer afternoons spent meeting for ice cream and iced coffee. The winter nights spent dodging into the first warm place we came across for a plate of queso and a glass of red wine. I must have walked these streets a thousand times over the last year and half, but there was always something new to see; something to marvel at or write down to check out later. 

Tearing up over the thought of separation from my Spain family.

As I passed my favorite coffee shop, a ton of memories started flying through my head. The first time Breanne and I walked through the doors we were immediately in love. We set out to make it "our place" in the huge foreign city we now called home. Little did I know at the time what that little cafe was going to end up meaning to me. It was where a coworker turned into a friend. Where goodbye parties were held and new friends were made. Where hangovers were created, and then cured. Where trips were planned and politics were discussed. Where we talked about overcoming homesickness and our falling in love with our new home away from home. When I sat down later to really think about all of these memories, one thing kept coming back to me. It wasn't that this little coffee shop was any better than others in my neighborhood. It was the people I experienced the coffee shop with that made it what it is to me. Beautiful, wonderful people who made my life in Madrid more than just an empty shell of my life at home. Friends who filled my heart and brought me joy. Friends who turned into family. 

My Madrid.

It's a realization that Spain is so much more than we could ever imagine it to be in the USA. It isn't just sunshine, siestas, bullfighting, flamenco, and sangria. It's the old man bars and napkins on the floor. It's begrudgingly adjusting your schedule to match the siesta schedule, but secretly loving the lull in the middle of the day. It's becoming a jamon, croquetta, tortilla de patatas, and huevos rotos nut job. It's secretly pretending to love Real Madrid soccer. It's the maddening yet comforting sound of the trashmen banging down your street at three in the morning. It's the four floor walkups never getting easier - but hey, at least no gym membership was necessary this year! It's struggling with Spanish, but missing it fiercely the second it is gone. It's coming to Spain with no language ability to go to a bank, fruit shop, or restaurant without freaking out, and leaving with those topics mastered. It's referring to American currency as euros, and realizing how awesome one euro coins are. It's days spent picnicking in the park and drinking on the streets. It's visiting the same museums over and over again, just to see your favorite paintings in person again. It's getting out of the city and hiking on Saturdays, and then going for tapas all day on Sundays. It's a deep love for the Spanish people, but a disdain for the Spanish government. It's getting to know the people at the stalls at your favorite market. It's terrazas and plazas. It's exchanging Swedish, Spanish, and American recipes with the cutest roommates on earth. It's olives and Manchego, churros and chocolate, and toast and tomato. It's mojitos and gin and tonics, Rioja o Ribera, and cana o doble. It's cafe con leches, cortados, and espressos. It's a late breakfast and a slow lunch. It's socializing over a tiny beer with no time limit in sight. It's meeting people from all over the world and learning about their cultures through food, debates, and more. It's taking enough pictures a year and a half after moving here that could convince anyone around you that you are a complete tourist. It's finding your passion for your future career. It's the people you meet and the memories you share. It's going as far out of your comfort zone as you could ever imagine, and coming back home a more complete and mature person. It's falling head over heels in love with a city like you could never imagine possible.

It's knowing that Madrid will always occupy a huge place in my heart; no matter the distance, no matter the time.

Because Madrid in reality is nothing special. It doesn't have a great river. Nor does it have many skyscrapers. Nor canals or lakes. Nor glorious ruins. Nor the sea. Madrid lacks lots of things. But it has people in the streets. The unexpected street corners. The variety. The contrast. Constant busyness. And it has customs. It is worth getting up early, just once, to live the Madrid life.

Hasta pronto, Madrid. Te amo.

xx, Jen

Monday, July 14, 2014

{life} loving lately

Oh, hi! Remember me? I can't believe it's already been a month since I last blogged. My life has been a little crazy lately. I finished up with work for the year (hola verano - adios mis estudiantes), moved out of my apartment, said goodbye to a whole lot of friends, and went on an 11 day trip to Greece. Now I'm back in Madrid for a super measly two days before it is time for me to head back to Barajas airport to hop on yet another plane, but this time I will be going back to the USA, for good. Eeeek.

While I am slightly freaking out about leaving this gorgeous city I have called home for the last year and a half, that is not going to be the focus of today's post. Here's to focusing on the positive and all of the things I'm looking forward to at home.

Hanging with my sweet boyfriend.

We'll finally be living in the same country again! Even better? In the same time zone. Goodbye six hour time difference and 31839182 mile distance. Even though we'll be in different cities attending our respective graduate schools, what's a three hour drive when you've survived almost an entire year of living on different continents? Best thing? I'm flying home on his birthday, so I get to be with him on the day he turns 25. Old man status! ;)

Good ol' American BBQ.

This is ALWAYS the first meal I request when I come home. While Spain has certainly picked up on the American burger concept, nothing compares to my dad's pulled pork or my mom's baked beans. Some of the best food I've ever tasted has come out of my parent's kitchen. I mean... check out the spread below.

FSU football.

I might look like your typical girly girl, but I am paaasssionnattee about my college's football team. I bleed garnet and gold and am therefore ridiculously excited to attend football games again. My graduate school choice was 90% about the program and 10% about the football. sorrymomanddad. I'd just like to throw everything else American cultured into this section too. Tailgates! Happy hour! Fashion! Service! Language! Etc. This American girl is ready to get back down with her roots.


You don't really realize how unique of a culture your particular state has until you move abroad and start chatting with people who grew up in other places. So wait... you didn't learn the stingray shuffle or the best route on how to run away from alligators? (Always zigzag, never straight). You didn't grow up going boating on the weekends or on a diet of freshly caught fish? You didn't have friends who caught lizards to wear as earrings? (Yes, totally a thing in Florida. lolzz). You didn't have hurricane parties or have your afternoon storm ritual in the summertime? You didn't grow up eating Cuban food or hearing Spanish all the time? It has been so interesting learning about other states' cultures and realizing how awesome the place I come from is.

Friends and family.

I'm so thankful for my time living abroad, and all of the incredible people I've met along the way, but I'm getting so excited to be home with my family and hometown & college friends. Nothing feels worse than missing weddings, babies' births, engagements, birthdays, and holidays. I can't wait to catch up with everyone and celebrate a few things I've missed!

Blogging catch up.

Even though I will be starting graduate school soon after moving home, I have high hopes for my blogging productivity. I want to start setting aside solid hours each week to write. After all, I still have to write about my trips to Ireland, Asturias, and Greece, as well as my last few months in Madrid! Eeep. #comingsoon

Next time I blog I will officially be living in the USA again. Here's to new memories and a new beginning. I hope you'll still follow along as I start to adjust to life on American soil again.

xx, Jen

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

{travel} four italian hill towns worthy of your wanderlust list

There's something so magical about small towns in the rolling hills of Italy. These are towns filled with friendly locals who never hesitate to a shout an amiable buongiorno your way. Towns with stunning views from every direction and incredible cathedrals. These are towns with histories filled with tales of mighty rule and incredible decline. Hope beyond all hope that you'll get lucky enough to be in these towns during one of their weekly markets or annual festivals. Take a deep breath of fresh air and wander around the narrow, winding streets without any sort of direction. Taste some local cheese and wine. Explore Umbria.

Civita di Bagnoregio:

Civita di Bagnoregio is one of the most unique places I've ever been. For one thing, you have to walk across a long bridge to get to it because it is literally placed directly on top of a quickly eroding hill. The other interesting thing is that there are only 6 permanent residents in the entire town. I suppose this has to do with the whole quickly eroding thing. This little town was founded over 2500 years ago by the Etruscans, the empire that Tuscany is named after. The most striking feature of Civita di Bagnoregio for me is the view from the modern (and much safer) suburb, Bagnoregio. It's just absolutely stunning. One word of advice: You probably shouldn't go visit Civita di Bagnoregio when it is raining. Trust us. We learned this the hard way. lolz

Monday, June 9, 2014

{food} madrid tapas, taverns, and history

If there's one thing you should know about me it is that I adore food. Obvious right? I also am extremely curious. I love to try new things and new restaurants, and love learning the history behind, well, everything! This is why I have so much fun going on food tours! Although I have lived in Madrid for over a year and half, I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the culinary delights that await at every corner. Did you know that Madrid has the second highest number of bars per inhabitant in Europe (just behind Cyprus)? Did you also know that each bar serves food as well as drinks? So how do you know which restaurants and bars are the good, local joints and which ones are run solely for tourists? This is where Madrid Food Tour comes in. Run by an American expat turned Spanish entrepreneur, Lauren, Madrid Food Tour offers guests with an unrivaled local experience. Not only do I read their blog regularly for restaurant suggestions and tips on Spanish cuisine, but I also have been working as a social media intern for them! I have been so lucky this year to be able get a behind the scenes look at a company filled with people passionate about exposing the best of what Madrid's culinary scene has to offer. 

Today I'm going to chat about a tour I recently went on with James, a Kiwi expat turned "The Spain Guy," who seems to know just about all there is to know about Madrid's history and the restaurants and bars that make it the incredible city it is today. Get ready to go all in with some tapas, taverns, AND history.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

{travel} two great day trips in sicily

Sicily is filled to the brim with bustling cities, old school markets, and unimaginably beautiful panoramic views. Even though we used Catania as our overnight base in Sicily, we made sure to explore more of what the football at the end of Italy's "boot" had to offer. Today I'll tell you about two day trips we went on from Catania, although both cities are also easily accessible from other parts of the island as well! This is going to be an extremely photo-heavy post because... well, you'll see why!


The views from this little slice of Sicilian paradise are absolutely unreal. Although this small commune is an extremely popular tourist destination, as it is a common stop for many cruises, it is still 100% worth it to go! The historic center of the town might be crazy touristy and filled to the gills with people, but with Mount Etna in the distance, an impressive (and still-functioning) Greek amphitheater to explore, and an elevated view of the Ionian Sea, I can not more highly recommend adding Taormina to your must-see list in Sicily. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

{recipe} vegetable and quinoa stuffed zucchini

Today has been quite the day. I tried to wake up a few hours before it was actually necessary for me to get up in order to get some stuff done, only to be lured back to sleep by extremely rare morning rain. Instead of having enough time to write a blog post and reply to emails before work, I had just enough time to shower and eat some leftover banana pancakes before scampering out the door. I went to work and enjoyed a game of Scattergories with my oldest students, until the moment I had to give a stern lecture as to why using a specific word that starts with N is not an acceptable answer for the category Things that are black. Iyiyi. I came home with grand plans to workout, but those fell through because... um. I'm lazy. I spent the rest of the day replying to emails, planning my trips to Switzerland and Greece (any advice friends?!), listening to some great Spotify playlists, and watching the crazy weather go from sunny one minute to raining the next. Needless to say, it wasn't terribly exciting, but I did have lots of time to think about the next few months and everything that is going to change when I move back home.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

{travel} summer road trip dreaming + exciting news

The coolest thing about living abroad definitely has to be the moment you realize how ridiculously awesome the country you come from is. It's so easy to spend your entire life dreaming of going to new countries, and experiencing new cultures and languages, that we sometimes forget to appreciate the beautiful land we call home. I always knew that America was made up of fabulous cities and beautifully scenic lands, but it wasn't until I moved to Spain that I really appreciated her for all that she is. Hearing about the United States from a European's point of view is just so cool! My students are constantly in awe that I'm from Florida. "But Profe, you're from Florida! Why are you living in Spain?!" 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

{travel} getting to know my sicilian roots in catania

One of the things that makes me so proud to be an American is how diverse we are as nation. I love that we are one huge country filled with immigrants from all over the world, which now means that our citizens are more and more often made up from a big ol' melting pot of genes. I am the perfect example of a new age American. My mom's parents emigrated from China to California in the late 1940s, after they were arranged into a marriage, in search for a better future for their growing family. My dad's dad claims a Scotch-Irish ancestry, but his family had been settled in the USA for as long as we can trace back. My dad's mom's parents, however, emigrated from Sicily to an Italian settlement in New Jersey in the 1920s in order to get away from the ever imposing Mafia. It's safe to say that my family's history is prettttty darn cool. 

Needless to say, when we were trying to decide where else to go besides Rome during our Italy trip, we knew that we were going to have to include Sicily in our itinerary. The whole time that we were in Rome I was getting really excited to finally hop on a plane to visit the fiercely independent island where the Midili family originated from. My parents decided to make Catania our home base in Sicily. I had no idea what to expect before we arrived, and quickly learned that Catania was going to be unlike any other Italian city I had visited before. But more on that later.

Monday, May 12, 2014

{life} loving lately

I'm taking a break from my #italyspam travel posts to share a few things that I have been loving lately. New recipes I've tried, things I've done, and random internet things I've enjoyed lately. It can sometimes seem like my travels take over my entire blog, when it really is a fairly small percentage of my everyday life. My life is pretty normal, although you really wouldn't think so if you have read my blog lately. If I'm feeling fancy during the week I might hit up a market for some fresh fruits and veggies, or meet friends for a coffee or wine date, but a general day goes like this: wake up, go to work, cook lunch, blog a little, lesson plan a little, make dinner, chat with friends / family / my boyfriend, and then go to sleep. But I also do lots of fun stuff on the weekends that I stay in Madrid! I would love to start sharing more about that side of my life, instead of just sharing the "super glitzy" travel side! So here goes!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

{travel} a culinary trip to sardegna in rome

We never should have eaten at Enoteca di Sardegna Pigna, but thank goodness we did. 

You never really realize how overwhelming the sheer number of restaurant options in Rome can be until you let yourself get to the point where you are wandering the streets absolutely starved, with no direction and a very stubborn determination not to end up in an overpriced, mediocre tourist trap. But lemme tell you... once you are there and you inevitably start to feel hangry, well... that pizzeria with a million photos of PIZZA! PASTA! and GELATO! in the window starts to look like the most delicious place in the entire world. After walking around the block a few times in a fruitless search for a specific restaurant that was "nearby" according to our TripAdvisor app, we almost gave up our hope for a good lunch and were about to resign ourselves to eating at a restaurant with pictures on the front whennnn.....

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

{travel} wine and food of rome adventure

One of the things I've really learned about myself after living in Europe for the last year and a half is that my number one priority while traveling is to try as much of the local food & drink as possible. In my opinion, you can't truly get to know a country until you really dive into the local cuisine. From tasting port in Porto, paella in Valencia, Guinness in Dublin, fish & chips in London, jambalaya in New Orleans, key lime pie in Key West, and shrimp & grits in Charleston, I thoroughly enjoy collecting memories through my culinary experiences. This is the very reason why I absolutely love to go on food tours while traveling. You not only get to sample a ton of local dishes and drinks, you also get to learn about the history of how each thing became such a staple in the culture of the country you are visiting. Food, wine, & history? Sign me up!

With that said, I was obviously very excited when my parents suggested that we go on a wine and food tour while in Rome. I inherited my love of all things to do with food and wine from these two very wonderful people, so I knew it would be an absolutely fantastic night out on the town! After a long day of sightseeing at the Forum, and only eating gelato, cheese, and a few slices of salami for lunch, by the time we met with our guide, Kristian, we were famished and very thirsty. The perfect way to start a wine and food tour, no? ;)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

{travel} a roman holiday: the classics

I flew to Rome on the evening of my last day of work before Semana Santa - aka Holy Week - aka Spring Break 2014. Spring breaks for the rest of my life = definite teaching perk. After an awkward encounter in the airport with a *way too full of himself* Italian man, I was finally able to settle into my tiny little Iberia airplane seat. I had to attempt to contain my excitement during the entire flight because I was finally just hours away from seeing my parents, the absolute best travel companions! My friends always make fun of me for my crazy travel planning tendencies, but once you see my mom in trip planning action, you realize that I get that trait veryyy honestly.

I am beginning my #italyspam posts the same way that my vacation started - with a big touristy bang. We not only toured the Colosseum on day one, but also the Vatican & the Pantheon. It was a crazy hectic & completely awesome way to start our Roman holiday, but man oh mannnn were we tired at the end of it! On the second day, we spent just about half a day exploring the Roman Forum and then stopped for a few scoops of gelato before heading home to relax a while. We had to rest up for our wine & food tour after all. Are you ready for this party to begin? You might want to pour yourself a glass of Italian wine - it's going to be a long one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

{recipe} mediterranean edamame salad

Dear friends, meet your next lunch. Hi, lunch!


I made this salad just before I left for carb, gelato, and cannoli heaven in Italy for my big kid version of spring break -- I love teaching! (Lots of Italy spam to come on the blog. Get exciiiited!) I had a bunch of random ingredients I wanted to use up before I left, and a huge block of feta cheese sitting in my refrigerator that my roommate brought back from Greece. She is so kind for sharing it, isn't she?! I know that edamame typically only goes in Asian dishes, but trust me on this one. They add a sweet little crunch to the salad, but even better -- lots of protein. Did you know that just 1/2 a cup of shelled edamame has 11 grams of protein in it? Solid.

This salad is extremely quick and easy to whip together and travels really well. We don't have a refrigerator at my school for teacher use, so I have to bring snacks to work that won't go bad. In my opinion, the flavors actually get better if you let the salad warm up to room temperature a bit. I threw it over some arugula I needed to use up, but you could also top a grilled chicken breast with it as well! That actually sounds super delicious now that I think of it.... 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

{travel} tasting port in porto, portugal

Northern Portugal is often overlooked by tourists who favor the capital city of Lisbon in the south, or Portugal's neighboring country & my current homeland, Spain. To be honest, Portugal was never really on my radar of places I really wanted to visit during my time living abroad in Spain. But if there is one thing I've learned while living in Europe, it's that sometimes the most unexpected cities and countries are the most beautiful. We all know that Paris, London, and Barcelona are incredible, but some of my fondest traveling memories are from my trips to Prague, Salamanca, and Granada. It's always nice to get off of the beaten tourist track and get swept away by the beauty of a new language, cuisine, and culture. 

{vino break at Bolhao Wine House in the Bolhao Market}

I ended up in Porto with three of my girlfriends because we discovered a 60 euro round-trip RyanAir flight from Madrid - way too good of a deal to pass up for a quick and easy weekend trip! We only spent one hour in the air before we were deplaning on the Porto airport's tarmac. Before leaving for our trip, the four of us girls got together for coffee and to discuss our travel personalities, as we had never traveled together before. We quickly came to realize that we were going to be a group created by the travel gods, seeing as we all had three very important goals for the trip in common: we wanted to wander around aimlessly and take a million pictures, stop often for food & wine breaks, and not enter a single museum. Bingo! I think we were meant to be travel companions. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

{travel} a romantic getaway to granada, spain

{the view from our airbnb flat}

Granada, you captured my heart so effortlessly and quickly last year that I didn't even see it coming. You were rainy, cold, and filled with people and Easter procesiones, but it didn't matter. I fell completely in love from the very first moment I laid eyes on the majestic Alhambra. I wandered through the gardens of the Generalife Palace in complete wonder and drank in the intricate carvings inscribed in all of the walls of the Nasrid Palace for what seemed like hours. I took photo after photo, each time exclaiming how disappointing it was that my camera couldn't fully capture the beauty of what I was seeing with my own two eyes. Our two days in Granada in 2013 went by all too quickly, and I vowed to come back again before my time in Spain was up. So when Alex and I were planning his spring break trip to come see me I knew that we had to sacrifice a few days in Madrid to get to know Granada's more romantic side together.

{sitting on the wall at the Mirador de San Nicolas}

I went to Granada in 2013 with three of my girlfriends during our spring break from work. We spent a lot of our time in the area directly around the cathedral and Plaza Nueva, only venturing up into the Albayzin for a view of the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas and a flamenco show. I knew that I wanted to get to know the barrio with a gypsy soul much better my second time around, so Alex & I booked an airbnb apartment in the area. Best. Decision. Ever. We absolutely loved our stay at the EcoConscious Moorish House & totally recommend it for anyone planning on traveling to Granada. The top picture in this post shows the view we had from our building's terrace. Enough said.

I'm going to try something new and break this post up into three sections - sights, eats, & ambiance. Let me know if you like the new format. Five years of blogging and still trying to get it right. ;)

Friday, March 21, 2014

{recipe} 3 minute oatmeal

There are soooo many things I need to blog about. For example, my trip to Prague (in November of last year!!!), an awesome food tour I went on in Madrid, my first solo trip to Zaragoza, Spain, a beautiful hike in the Spanish countryside, my travel plans for the rest of the year (I'm so excited), and of course my wonderful boyfriend's law school spring break trip to visit little ol' me in Madrid. But currently my laptop is sadly broken. The cooling fan has gone kaput, so it is now time to put some of these English teaching euros aside for a computer repair. Womp womp womppppp. Anyways, you didn't click on this link to read about my troubles in blogging paradise. Amirightttt? Alas, it is finally time for the most perfect oatmeal recipe around. And it only takes three minutes to make. (No really, it took me longer to make my cafe con leche than it did to churn out this delicious recipe.)

I have had a really hard time finding the chewy rolled oats I am used to eating at home in Madrid. The box I bought from the grocery store looked promising, but had an incredibly goopy, soupy texture. Ick. What can I say? I'm a texture girl through and through. I found these oats at a natural food store near my flat, called La Magdalena de Proust. I was like a middle aged man in a Ferrari showroom the first time I walked in there. It takes all of my willpower not to buy everything in sight. I have to keep reminding myself, "Do you want this bag of chia seeds or do you want to eat chocolate in Switzerland?" Priorities, obviously. When I saw a 500g bag of rolled oats for 2€ at this store though, all bets were off. I was so happy after leisurely waking up and rolling out of bed to be able to make a favorite breakfast item from home. So what makes this particular oatmeal so special? A very awesome addition of a mashed banana to the oats/milk mixture. It thickens the oatmeal and adds a natural sweetness. Usually I dump a bunch of brown sugar into my oatmeal, but I didn't need any additional sweetness with this recipe! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

{life} my unfiltered life abroad

If you were to take a look at my Instagram or Facebook you would think that I lived an incredibly charmed life filled with every day adventure, endless fun, and European glamour. While I know I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to live and work abroad, there are some moments when I severely miss my easy American life. This post is not meant to be filled with complaints, but I feel like it is good to let the "real" side of living abroad out. You will rarely meet an ex-pat who is not momentarily filled with homesickness, or completely exasperated with the new country he/she calls home. It's not all sunshine and rainbows over here in Europe, folks. Let's get to it.

Kitchen Space

My kitchen is cute. It's Euro. But it is freaking SMALL. Meet my kitchen table. AKA my cutting board station. AKA holder of random things. And everything in between. Did I mention that this table is smaller than a card table? If people are sitting at the table eating, you cannot open the fridge or the pantry. How I long for the days when I thought my college apartment's kitchen was small & not very well equipped. Puhleaasse. I dream of crock pots and blenders and food processors. But mainly I dream of space.

Friday, February 28, 2014

{fashion} chic pink & shea mcgrath photography

I'm so excited to blog about this fun photoshoot I did in Retiro Park last weekend with Shea from Shea McGrath Photography. I met Shea at a Madrid blogger meetup at the beginning of the month. While the rest of us talked about our (less than professional) blogging lives, Shea introduced herself not as a blogger, but as a photographer with a brand new company. She told us that she really wanted to expand her portraits portfolio, and we gladly agreed to help her out. After all, who doesn't like getting dolled up and spending a beautiful day outdoors taking pictures with friends? :)

I asked Shea to a few questions about herself and how she came to open up her very own photography business. Click through for more!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

{food} my favorite restaurants in madrid

Charcuterie platter at Taberna Almeria.

It's no secret that I love to eat. Not only do I love to eat, but I love to explore. Trying new food and new restaurants is always top on my list not just when I travel, but also on the weekends I stay in Madrid. I pinch pennies in other aspects of my life (*cough*i miss shopping*cough*), but really... it's totally worth it in this city filled to the brim with such a great culinary culture! This list is certainly not exhaustive or meant to portray 'the best restaurants in Madrid', but simply a collection of some of the most memorable meals I've had around the city.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

{recipe} lentejas con chorizo

You guys... I have the winter blues. I know, I know. I can't really talk to you northerners and midwesterners about my #spainproblems considering the whole Polar Vortex thing has been dumping way too much snow on you this winter, but I really do. If it isn't raining, it is cloudy. If it isn't freezing cold, then it's windy. If there is sun, well... that's a miracle and you will definitely find me outside. Winter in Madrid is certainly not the coldest, wettest, or snowiest place to be, but it certainly gets old after a while.

The Spanish dish that is absolutely my number one comfort food during the winter months is lentejas con chorizo (lentil soup with chorizo). There's nothing quite like curling up in a window seat in a warm restaurant with a glass of Rioja and a huge bowl of lentejas. I have attempted Spanish lentils before and failed miserably. But this recipe? This one tastes exactly like my favorite restaurant's soup.

Ps. Do you want to know a secret about comfort food? It never photographs well. Get past the beany texture in the photo and make it for yourself. You won't be disappointed, scout's honor.