Happy Fourth of July!

(image: lovely indeed)

Hope YOU had a safe and happy and faaabulous one! One around tables covered in delicious food, surrounded by the ones who make you laugh and make you feel known… Or maybe just a good book to get lost in. Whatever floats your boat. (:

I know I’m a few days late on the fourth status, but I had an absolute great one so I wanted to share a little bit here.

Here are some photos of the day. I even (attempted) a home-made video:

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Friday Five

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Magical dusk at Barceloneta Beach.

This week was filled with several special moments, including celebrating a friend’s birthday, visiting Vicenzia, finding a new favorite cafe, and appreciating time for rest. I leave for Rome Saturday and friends of friends have graciously welcomed us to stay at their home for the night and even offered a ride to the airport. On Sunday, we leave for Greece where we’ll spend the rest of the Easter Break. Hopefully I’ll return with some color on my skin! It actually feels a bit strange that I won’t be celebrating this Easter at home. My church hosts a “passion week” revival and an extravagant Easter dinner each year, and although I can’t join them, I will keep this holiday in mind and be joyful nonetheless. Jesus has risen, people! Hallelujah! (:

Here are my five favorites of the week. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

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Sail boats were everywhere in Spain and it ignited a new desperate desire in me to find a sail buddy. Where’s a Nolan when you need one? (“Revenge”, anyone?)

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Coffee gelato + girl talk @ Amorino.

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We celebrated a friend’s 21st birthday with 21 gelato pops! (Scoops of gelato dipped in chocolate, then frozen) I tried the custard and mint — both were delicious. Now I’m looking for a reason to make my way over there and try more flavors.

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A new store has opened in Verona; it’s comparable to a Nordstrom or Whole Foods. The first floor is a sophisticated eatery complete with an oyster bar, sandwich counter, fresh produce, and more. The design is phenomenal and I found myself equally enchanted by both the food AND branding. I plan on copying this hanging clipboard design to showcase print in my future apartment. 

Happy Friday!
XO.

Sweet Treats in Spain

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I love my American chained goodness, I do. But I adore how European cafes and restaurants all possess strong, unique branding. Or in Korean, “con-cept.” Little quirks – wallpaper, color combinations, type, presentation – when integrated to create one theme, have the ability to transport you to a new world.

My friend is currently studying abroad in Barcelona and was able to free up some of her time to show us around her city. (: Knowing my weakness for cute cafes and desserts, she led my roommate and I to a magical little dessertery called Pudding.IMG_5344

The entrance to a walk-in storybook. (:

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I wasn’t joking when I called this place magical. The strung lights on red/white really made the entire room glow and charming wall decor added to the surrealism. Artificial trees completed the storybook theme – I was just waiting for a trail of gumdrops to fall from the sky and singing blue birds to start sewing my clothes.
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We decided to sit in the sun room so we could have more natural light and also people-watch through the window. Exhibit A:IMG_5361
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PS. Do you see how much CAKE those people left on their table?! Unfortunately, the people escaped before we made our entrance so I didn’t get to see exactly what kind of people in their right mind would deliberately leave behind perfectly good cake. Lucky them, because some dirty, dirty looks would have been sent straight their way. Whoever can’t finish their slice of cake is weird in my book, AND SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED! Maybe even more so than people who don’t like dessert at all, because these people know better…  (We were THIS close to scooting over and rescuing the left over pieces. Spoiler alert: We didn’t. Yeah, that was kind of a low point.)
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White chocolate mousse pie.
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Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

How did the cakes taste? Oh, even better than they LOOK. Each bite proceeded with a loud, dramatic “MMM,” because it is impossible to enjoy your dessert without an expressive, “MMM.” Ya just can’t. Cake was not meant to be consumed in silence.
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And the three of us together before we curtsied to the dog posters and said farewell.

Thanks so much for showing us around, Kristen! You were a lovely host. (: Check out Kristen’s blog here to follow her Spanish adventures. Her photos on food and landscape are reason enough to check it out. And the hot dog on the left? My roommate! You can read hers here, where you will find ample posts on humorous vignettes, honest rants, and even more odd, disoriented photos… I know she’s kind of socially retarded and weird, but she’s my friend. So, just promise me you wont make fun of her! (“Mean Girls,” anyone?)

Enjoy! XO.

Less isn’t So Bad Afterall

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The crust is my favorite part of the pizza. I’m a firm believer in the idea that “the best should be saved for last,” which is why the inventors of pizza placed the dangerously delicious doughness we now call “crust” around the END of the pizza. (Because it’s the best.)

This belief might be due to the fact that I’m from Chicago, home of the incredible deep dish pizza. (Miss you, Lou’s. I’ll be back one day.) The deep dish pizza — one slice’s width, length, depth all bigger than the palm of my hand, requiring silverware in order to enjoy it. My need for a fork and knife is probably a good thing so I don’t step over the barbaric line in public and just inhale the whole thing. The past three years while I was on campus in Champaign, deep dish (done well) was always difficult to find, so I would religiously make a trip to Lou Malnatis, my favorite pizza joint, every time I visited home. One deep dish pizza, Lou’s salad, and a side of pepperoncinis always did just the trick.

So once my bags were packed and we said our good-byes, (Me and Lou Malnatis, that is), and made the difficult decision to go live in Italy for a semester, you can imagine my disbelief when I found out that Italians enjoyed their pizza THIN-CRUST!!!!

“Wait a minute. You mean to tell me, there’s LESS crust? LESS?! I just don’t understand… What’s the point?” 

Simply put, I was pretty upset.

Anyway, trying to be the open-minded and not-typical- ethnocentric-American individual I am, I gave it a try.

Confession: I actually liked it. 

My roommate from sophomore year and oldest friend came to visit Italy for her spring break. For her first night, a few of us from the same hometown decided to all go out to dinner and celebrate. We chose San Matteo as the venue because it was highly recommended across the board to be THE best pizza in town. Plus, apparently news had broken out that one of the employees was a former model, so not only was it famous for its pizza, but also for the adolescent girls flocking for some eye candy. Both reasons were enough for us to make a visit. Dinner and entertainment? Done.

The menu was long and extensive with pages after pages of different pizzas. The four of us are very indecisive individually, so collectively, it took that much longer to order a dish. We each perused the menu carefully reading each description under pizza name, and finally settled on three that we decided to share family-style.

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{ Italian thin crust is something entirely different from Chicago style. The crust is thin and chewy, crispy around the edges. The sauce is light and fresh as opposed to the usual thick and creamy tomato sauce. This one was topped with shredded cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms. Despite the thinness, it was actually very filling! }
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{ Fresh mozzarella and prosciutto shaped in a heart. I didn’t fancy this one too much because the prosciutto made each bite a little too salty, but the other girls really liked this one. Despite the thinness of the pizza, it was surprisingly very filling and satisfying. Between the four of us, we were struggling to finish the last slices! }
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{ Cooked spinach and fresh mozzarella  This one was one of my favorites. Between the thinness and freshness of the ingredients, it really brought out the complex flavors of cheese, tomato, and buttery goodness. }
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My lovely dinner dates. 

I keep finding myself craving for thin-crust pizza now. My palate has expanded — not that I’m abandoning my first love by any means — there’s enough [ food ] love to go around for this chick.

London Street Markets

I think over the past few months I’ve gained a new appreciation for and liking to food markets. There’s just something about all the hustle and bustle that really pulls my heart strings…the fresh food, writing on chalk boards, quirky branding, free samples, and sounds of chatting and eating. In London, we visited two of their larger street markets, Camden Town and Borough Market, both really different from each other but also both abundant with food (and free samples). (;

* Camden Town is actually the location of where my iphone was stolen the first time. 

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Lunch on the Seine

Susan, Lisa, and I went to Paris wanting to drink in the entire experience — just on a college budget.

 

There was this boat tour attraction allowing people to wine and dine while enjoying the beautiful sights of the Seine River. Unfortunately, that deal was +40 euros and a little to steep for our budget. Rather than dismissing the entire idea, we just made some adjustments. (:

Verdict? SUCCESS!

One morning we strolled into a grocery store and picked up some easy things we could eat with our hands. We got: baguettes, hummus, fruits, and a entire gallon of orange juice. We then purchased tix for a different boat tour that costed roughly 11 euros. It was a simple boat tour, lasting 45 minutes allowing passengers to relax and hear fun sightseeing facts. We brought our groceries onto the boat, and just enjoyed our meal there.

It was, basically, lunch on the Seine River for half the price! I would definitely recommend this if you’re making a trip to Paris and want to save some monies. 🙂 We were still able to get a great view of the Eiffel Tower and take pictures in front of it, too.

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Photo Diary : Brussels

Like most European cities, Brussels is infused with the old and new. There are chic neighborhoods with modern brands like Prada, Rolex, and Longchamp, but nestled between cobblestone streets just wide enough for one small Fiat and castles from a previous century. You’re not really sure what will be staring back at you with each corner you turn. Is that is the definition of an identity crisis or a melting pot? Either way, it makes for one beautiful city.

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