Surprise ending!

Last night was our API Goodbye Apertivo! So sad. It was at this really good apertivo place that we’ve been to before but it was a little different because all the API kids had a different buffet than the people that were there on their own. AND we couldn’t have alcoholic drinks haha so we told the bartender to just make us something fun and he made what we concluded were raspberry mojitos (minus the booze) and they were super delicious! Might be my new favorite drink! By the time we sat down the food was kind of cold cuz it had been outside and there wasn’t much left so we were kinda bummed but decided we mine as well go get dinner. After some consideration trying to think of our favorite place we decided to try something new and ended up at a restaurant called Il Teatro. The service was kind of slow it took like 20 minutes for them to even notice we were there but once we ordered and got our food it was well worth the wait!

Everyones food was amazing and the wine was one of the best I’ve had! I had just come from my food & wine final (so sad saying goodbye to that class) so I was being annoying and trying to pick a good meal that would work well with the white wine. I got this really great spaghetti dish (hey Mom & Dad I like spaghetti now!) and it didn’t end up being the best match but oh well it was fun trying! They also brought us a bunch of different types of bread with our meal. Once we were all done it was kind of late and we needed to get home to study so we tried to signal the waiter for our check saying, “Posso pagare?” She came over and started asking us why we were leaving so soon and that we need to have another bottle of wine yadda yadda yadda so we told her we needed to study and then she felt bad that we’re “students and have so much stress”…little does she know of the 4 month vacation this has really been…

About 5 minutes later we’re kind of irritated because it’s taken so long to get our check but she just brings us some bottles of water and gives us all spoons. Then she comes back with these huge pieces of tiramisu for each of us! It was so sweet! She was saying complements of the chef so that you can go home and study with a full belly. How nice! The dessert was awesome and everything always tastes better when it’s free so all in all we had an amazing night! Unfortunately it was one of our last nights all eating together with friends from the API program.

Tonight I have been studying for my LAST FINAL! It’s Italian, which I really like and seem to understand well, so I’m not stressing too hard over it. Tomorrow is my last day in Florence and I couldn’t be more upset, I’m just trying not to think about it!

Arrivederci!

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The beginning of the end

This is it. The week I’ve been dreading so much since January, yet never thought it would actually come. The last week. Finals week. I have so much to do in the next four days it is insane and even thinking about it right now is making me sweat. I’m solely taking a break to write this blog because I just finished an 11 page study guide and am very proud of myself. I have to go get my favorite foods for the last time, buy last minute trinkets and gifts, soak up the Italian sun, drink enough wine to last me until June 27 (the big 2-1) and hit new clubs I haven’t been to all while attempting to study and actually pass my finals. I don’t even have enough time right now to reflect on the past 4 months but all I know is that it went by too fast. I do have some regrets but also new friends & memories that will last forever. It’s Monday afternoon and tomorrow starts my frenzy of finals and then unfortunately Friday, May 17 has to come.

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Finals days…

I’m so sad right now after reading this post from the bus2alps blog by Max Widmer:

“The sun is beginning to set on your time abroad. Cracks of purple and pink are breaking your fading skies to fragments, and you know it’s almost time to leave. Soak in this moment and reflect on the ride. You lived here. You jumped in the ice-cold water of culture shock back in January and allowed the water to warm. Espresso became less bitter as snippets of Italian were absorbed into your vocabulary. Salt-less bread became the norm and Mozzarella melted in your mouth. You made friends named Pino and Massimo, and you kissed them on both cheeks. Family style at Gatto never failed you and the limoncello shots were always free. You stopped noticing the churches and their bells and the gypsies that swarmed like pigeons. The accordion outside became the default ambience, and fresh foccacia the accompanying scent. You lived like an Italian even though you didn’t look like one, but the food tasted just as good. And while every weekend was somewhere new, going home meant Florence. That’ll be different now, but so will you.”

That just put me over the edge as if I wasn’t already depressed after just coming home from my final class cooking in food & wine. It was the first part of our final – the “practical”. We split into groups last week and each group was assigned a dish that we’ve already made to make again and perfect and pair a wine with it. My group made the chocolate spoon cake. And we really undercooked it so it was like a gooey brownie (one thing I definitely am looking forward to when I go home are gooey fresh pastries). Four courses were made and we all made extra so I had at least two servings of each dish. There was the pesto pasta with green beans & potatoes, ginger shrimp with farfalle, grilled swordfish & mediterranean veggies and then our cake! Everything was super delicious and we all got to hangout and chat for the last time. I’m going to miss everyone in my class so much I made so many friends and I truly love all 15 people.

Food & Wine Dinner

I figured I would post this to my blog. It is the paper I had to write (very informal paper) about the dinner we went to with my food and wine class last week! Enjoy!

Last week, I went on an organized dinner with my Food & Wine Pairing class. We met at a cute restaurant right in the middle of the Santa Croce square called Boccadama. I showed up hungry and ready to eat because I knew we were about to have four courses of delicious Italian food, and wine to go with each dish! My friends and I sat at the end of one of the long tables that was set with multiple forks and different size wine glasses. When the waiters (who were formally trained and dressed) put a basket of bread in front of us, we all kind of looked around wondering if we should have any or try not to fill up because we knew what was ahead of us. Together we decided not to have any before our first course came…but that decision changed after about three minutes.

After a quick introduction by our teacher, we were served our first course! It was a traditional Tuscan antipasti. The plate came with a few pieces of salami, a piece of bruschetta, a crostini with chicken liver and a slice of prosciutto. Served with the first course was a chilled white wine named Rayet. It was from the Laimburg region in northeastern Italy. The wine was made from Pinot Bianco grapes in 2008. It was a D.O.C. classified wine and had 13.5% alcohol. The Denominazione de Origine Controllata classification means the wine was produced in a specific region, it followed a given recipe and yield and sent in a sample every year to certain wine tasters. In short – this wine was delicious! It was definitely one of my favorites from all that we’ve tried in class. It had a light yellowish color and smelled slightly of apple juice. It was somewhat low in brilliance and after tasting it I found it was very light and had a clean finish. The wine was definitely not dry, but not too sweet, and had a fruity taste. The wine complemented the food when tasting them together. I didn’t think the wine enhanced the food in any way, it was just a nice refreshing match.

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Once we were finished the first course, the waiters brought out the next dish: Pasta integrale con pomodoro e ricotta – translation: wheat pasta with tomato sauce and ricotta cheese. So good! I was expecting it to be a small dish but it was a good-sized portion, one I would normally eat if I were just having pasta for dinner! I thought about if I should eat the whole thing or not because I knew a meat course was coming and of course dessert but I just dove right in and cleaned the plate! We were served another white wine with this course named Gewurztraminer, which was also the type of grapes, and it was from the Laimburg region. It was made in 2011, classified D.O.C and was 14.5% alcohol. It had the same color as the first wine, pale yellow, but was very dull with no brilliance. It had a floral smell and was heavier than the first wine when tasting it. The wine was semi-sweet and it was a bit too heavy for my liking. I surprisingly didn’t think it went that well with the pasta as the wine became more sour when they were paired in one bite.

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Next came the third course – artista con mele e patate meaning pork with apples and potatoes. We were all a little skeptical about apples but then realized we normally eat apple sauce with pork chops at home so it couldn’t be that weird…and it wasn’t! I loved the apples layered on top of the pork it was unusual but perfect. The roasted potatoes were seasoned well and just what I wanted. This course came paired with our first red wine of the evening. The name and grapes were the same: Nero D’avola, and was from the Terre Sicilane region. The year was 2012, it had 13% alcohol and was classified I.G.T meaning it was just one step down from the D.O.C wines. An Indicazione Geografica Tipica wine is produced with grapes all coming from the same region. It was a very deep red, almost purple color that had Earthy smells. The wine was surprisingly light and low in tannins yet somewhat bitter. I also noticed there was a strong after taste. In my opinion, this was the best wine and food combination because when eaten together the wine actually tasted different and became more sweet and for me, more enjoyable. This is one of the my favorite things about this class – when the wine tastes different with and without the food! I think it’s so cool! Overall I loved the dish and wine and hope to have something like it again one day.

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After three courses (and three licked-clean plates) I somehow still had room for dessert. I had a delicious piece of apple cake! With our final course we had a white-gold dessert wine called Ambar. It was from the Sicilia region and made from Moscato grapes. The classification was I.G.P (same as an I.G.T.) and had 15.5% alcohol, and dessert wines don’t have years. It was orange-ish in color and smelled like oranges too. It tasted of apples and oranges and was very thick, like all of the other dessert wines I’ve tried this semester. The food and wine were a very good pair, as they both tasted of apples! Together, the wine tasted more acidic but was still very enjoyable.

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I’m so glad I got to experience a four-course real Italian meal paired with wines. It was a great experience and a lot of fun to relax and eat and drink with the new friends I’ve made while studying abroad! 🙂

Under the Tuscan Sun

This past weekend was so much fun! My program had an organized trip to many little places around Tuscany that me and my roommates went on. It was just Saturday to Sunday so we had the beginning of the weekend to relax and just hangout. Friday night we made dinner at home and watched She’s the Man, which none of us had seen in forever and quickly remembered how hysterical it is! What happened to Amanda Bynes, she’s crazyyyy now!

The trip left early Saturday morning for Siena. It is a small town and we learned a lot about Catherine of Siena during the tour. There is a beautiful church set up on a big hill that is basically the biggest thing in the town. We finished the tour at a large piazza where we then ate lunch – single slices of pizza! This was the first time all semester that we’ve just been able to eat a slice and it was so nice and a little reminder of home. The slices were huge by the way – like 1/4 of a pie! We ate our slices in the piazza and layed in the sun. I actually fell asleep for a couple minutes just sunbathing. It was nice and relaxing and fun to see a new part of Italy that is so different than Florence yet so close!

From Siena we headed to thermal baths in Rapolano. They were just like those in Budapest but a little smaller and there were more outside. Even though it was a Saturday the spa wasn’t that crowded because it is starting to get warmer and people are heading to the coast! Yes it was around 70 degrees outside but the thermal pools were still amazing to be in…not too cold or too hot! We lounged in the water for a couple of hours before leaving for the hotel. The API ladies had told us they were giving us dinner at the hotel but everyone was kind of like ya ya ok sure because every time we’ve had an organized “dinner” with the group its been just an appertivo buffet that is over crowded and not enough food. However, at 8pm we went to the lobby to check it out and there were set tables. So we sat down and were immediately greeted by a woman spooning pasta in our dishes. Amazing! The pasta was delicious and not even a small portion and my table got seconds! I was so satisfied I didn’t even need anything else, but then came the chicken and potatoes, then salad (the Italians have weird timing with their salads) and then chocolate cake dessert! I was so full it was beautiful. After dinner we all walked into town to this bar that was inside and outside and there was live music under the bridge we were on so that was nice. It was a great ending to a great day and I was excited for the next day!

Sunday we woke up and left for Cortona – where the movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed!!!! If you’ve seen the movie (and if you haven’t you must) I don’t need to explain the beauty of the town. The busses dropped us off at the bottom of a huge hill, where Cortona is located, and we had to take little vans up to town because there was a rare car race going on through town. Of course we had a tour and then got to stop and see some of the antique cars. They were antique racecars though, not like the ones you see in parades, and it was exciting to watch them race around the windy roads. After Cortona we went to Castello da Verrazzano for a wine tasting. At this point we were all very tired and a little cranky because they told us it was going to be a short bus ride and it was 2 hours long. Getting off the bus there was a lot of complaining but as soon as we made our way to the Castle gardens everyone shut up. It was absolutely gorgeous filled with lemon trees and fountains and a nice old British lady gave us some history about the castle and the Verrazzano family. We went on a quick tour of the wine cellar then were seated in a grand terrace for the tasting. We tasted 4 wines – 1 white, 2 red, 1 dessert (ew) and had lots of appertivo to go along with it. Prosciutto, salami, bruschetta, olive oil, quiche, biscotti, salad and olives were just a few of the things that were passed around our table. We drank and ate for about an hour and had so much fun meeting the 5 other girls that sat at the table with me, Bre and Michelle. They were all so nice and all from different places and I’m sad I didn’t get to meet them earlier in the trip 😦 The wine tasting was definitely my favorite part of the trip!

2 bad things about the weekend:

1) I somehow managed to get allergies for the first time in my 20 years of existence! As soon as we got on the bus Saturday morning it was like flipping a switch – my nose was uncontrollably running, eyes water, I couldn’t stop sneezing (and I have obnoxious sneezes) and my throat was sore. It was awful. I barely slept Saturday night because I kept having to wake up to blow my nose. Thankfully it didn’t ruin my weekend and I stil managed to have a ton of fun!

2) I forgot I needed to charge my camera battery. So when I turned on my camera in Siena it started to die so I knew I couldn’t take my pictures. So I basically could only take like 1 picture at every place.

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Trattoria Anita

MY NEW FAVORITE!!! It’s been hard the past few weeks because me and all my roommates/friends are running low on money so we haven’t been going out to eat a lot…trying to cook at home and save money for the weekends we travel. But when my sister and Justin came that wasn’t really an option and I’m so glad we tried so many new places because they were seriously all fantastic:

4 Leoni: I already wrote about this a couple posts back. The pear ravioli (dumpling) things were amazing! I’ll definitely go back there before I leave.

Osteria San Spirito: I had heard a lot about this place but honestly never made it there because it’s across the river (which means far from my apartment). We were looking for this place last Sunday night and were walking all around to find it and ended up actually walking in a huge circle from where we started. But it was worth the walk! The food is amazing and there are half portions, which is what I got, and still a good amount of food that is filling. I had the rigatoni with a bolognese sauce – perfection! It was covered in cheese and just melted in my mouth. This is where Justin got the tripe, and Jill a gnocchi with truffle and cheese sauce. The plates were all really cute and festive also!

image-1Ok so the portion looks kind of small in the picture – but it wasn’t! Pretty plate, right?

My favorite place we went was TRATTORIA ANITA! Bellisimo! It’s run by brothers and they’re super Italian, old and sweet! We went on a Wednesday, the day after my Food & Wine class, and so I was craving pesto with white wine because we had it the night before and it was ridiculously amazing. There wasn’t any on the menu but I just asked the guy, do you have anything with pesto? And he said, “you like pesto? I’ll get you some pesto!” So then he brought me back a huge plate of fettucini with pesto and it was so homemade and fresh I almost died. Jillian got some ravioli that she loved and Justin got tortellini that was amazing and the guy had recommended it! I can’t wait to go back there with my friends!!

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Finally Spring!!

I know it’s technically been spring now for almost a month, but just like everyone back home in the Northeast we haven’t had spring weather here either!! Ok, ok, I shouldn’t complain because we’ve had NO snow (thank goodness) but it rained every. single. day. From March 1 to about April 5. AND my spring break trip wasn’t too warm either…

Jill & Justin brought the sun! We spent a lot of time outside and yesterday I finally went to one of the parks I’ve been meaning to get to. It was kind of a let down because there was graffiti everywhere and it smelled pretty gross. We found a cute spot though in some clean grass and took a nap for a little bit. We walked along the river to get to Cascine Park, which took probably over 30 minutes but then when I walked back to my apartment I went inland and was shocked to realize it only took about 15 minutes. Now I can go for runs there!…maybe… So apparently this park we’re not allowed to go to after sunset, like they’ve reinforced this rule many times over the semester, because it’s where all the Italian prostitutes go! OMG!

Before the park we grabbed lunch at Gusta Pizza because I hadn’t been in a really long time and Jill was obsessed! We’re trying to steal the recipe and bring it over the the US! It was nice to finally have a sunny day. And then today was absolutely gorgeous!! 75 and not a single cloud in the sky! Unfortunately I only got to lay out for a couple hours then had to spend the rest of the day cooped up inside writing my 8-page paper for Italian Family and Society class. It was actually pretty easy because my topic was “change in family and tradition” and that is basically all we’ve talked about in class. Now that that’s over I’m so relieved! This is a busy week for me because I had that paper due, a 15 minute presentation (in the same class, same day as the paper’s due) and an Italian quiz and oral presentation in Italian. LUCKILY though my Food & Wine class is going out to dinner for class this week! We get a 4-course meal all paired with wines on Tuesday night! That’ll definitely get me through the week. Then next week my boyfriend, Jeff, visits!!! AND WE’RE GOING TO SARDINIA!! But before that this coming weekend I have a trip with my program to a bunch of little towns in Tuscany. It seems like it’ll be really fun and we have a visit to the spa during it!

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Cinque Terre

Today is the most beautiful day I have had in Florence! Just absolutely perfect weather! I feel so lucky to be here and glad I could share the start of spring with my sister.

A couple of days ago me, her and Justin went to Cinque Terre! It’s a place on the western coast of Italy that is made up of 5 small towns all close together – so close that you can hike from one town to the next in about an hour or two. We woke up early for a 8am train from Florence to Pisa then Pisa to La Spezia then La Spezia to the first town in Cinque: Riomaggiore. It was a lot of travelling but we made it there by 11:30ish. Of course it was a beautiful morning with sunshine and blue skies, which quickly changed as soon as we stepped off the train. Even though it was overcast all day, it actually made for some pretty pictures and we were lucky it never rained! There are a couple hiking trails that run through the towns, but the easy, scenic route by the coast was closed due to landslides. We were pretty bummed but decided we’d spend time in the towns then take the 2 minute train rides in between.

Riomaggiore was exactly what I pictured it to be! So many colorful boats lined up on the coast, huge cliffs and rocky shores. The water was a beautiful acqua color with random rocks and sandbars all around. Me and Jill had a little photoshoot before we got on the next train to the third city. We decided to skip the second because we knew there was a lot to do in the 3rd, 4th and 5th towns! The third town is called Corniglia and was less than a 5 minute train ride form Riomaggiore – I told you they were close!! There was a huge crowd getting off the train and we kind of got swept up with all the people walking up the hill on the road. It seemed like there was no where else to go so we just followed until people started dispersing to different restaurants for lunch. We didn’t want to stop yet so we continued to walk until we found the path that was closed off. There was man there who told us we could “go at our own risk” and we figured if they even said that then it couldn’t be too bad. So we went down the forbidden path! Such rebels.

The hike was amazzzingggg!!! Probably one of the best things I’ve done here. It was manmade, which was good because I was expecting to be like in the dirt on the side of a mountain, and pretty difficult. We were definitely sweating at times and was glad the weather wasn’t any warmer than 60s. There were cute bridges and lots of flowers and streams and it was just really nice to be in nature. Oh and there were of course awesome views!! It took us about 2 hours to get from Corniglia to Vernazza (4th town) where we stopped for lunch outside on the water. I got a sandwich, Jill had some gnocchi, and Justin a pizza. Then we took the train from there to Monterosso where we were staying for the night. We were in a really cute B&B right in the center of town! Once we got there and put all our things down it was around 4 and we figured we should spend the last few hours of daylight exploring this last town. We went on a few paths up cliffs and saw an old church and statues and little shops in town. Everything was very quaint and pretty and I would definitely go back there!

For dinner we went to a tiny restaurant right next to where we were staying. The town was really quiet at night and we figured it was beacuse it was a Thursday so not many people stay over on week nights, and it’s not really the season to visit there yet – the summer months are probably more popular. So there was basically just us and locals eating in this tiny restaurant. I have been on a seafood kick and wanting to try all these new foods so we ordered muscles to start. I’ve never had muscles before but I’ve served them and know they come in a garlicy buttery juice…these didn’t! They were just so fresh and still had barnacles on the shells! I thought they were delicious and Jill and Justin said they were the best and freshest they’ve ever had. So now I might be let down every where else I have them in the states but you can’t really go wrong with garlic and butter anyways. Then for dinner we all ordered seafood again. I got gnocchi with clams and a local white fish in a tomato cream sauce and it was no lie the best thing I’ve EVER eaten. Beats everything even in my food & wine class! (maybe) Jillian got some spaghetti scampi that she was a little scared of because the crawfish were fully intact with their heads on and she made Justin take the meat out for her…and Justin got grilled swordfish! We all agreed it was the best meal we’d had in a long time! And basically now I’m on a seafood binge but it’s hard because I can’t really make it here in my apartment 😦 So sad.

Some pics from the trip:

 

Tuscany Bike Tour

Jill & Justin are here! It’s been great seeing family faces and in the last 3 days I’ve had some new and delicious foods/wines/experiences!! Saturday, I picked them up at the train station and we went to see the apartment they are staying at – so pretty! It’s bigger than what they expected and has this awesome deck that’s HUGE and overlooks Palazzo Pitti! That night we went to a small restaurant (for those in Florence, 4 Leoni) that is known for their pear ravioli so me and Jill both ordered it and Justin got a beef stew that he really liked. The bruschetta there was also delish! It wasn’t really ravioli as much as just stuffed pasta in random shapes and had such a unique flavor! The portion was tiny (only about 5 pastas) but worth it because it was so tasty! After dinner we headed over to Golden View Open Bar which is right on the fiume Arno (Arno River) and had amazing views of Florence all lit-up at night!

Sunday we walked around most of the day and tried (and failed) to get bargains at the leather market. Some guy told us the leather jackets were FREE so of course we tried them on and were convinced he was giving them to us but then as we were about to leave he said “240 euro” so we were like “BYE!” I took them up to Piazzale Michelangelo that has a gorgeous views of the city and then we got dinner at a cute place in Piazza San Spirito. Jill had gnocchi in a truffle and cheese sauce, I got rigatoni (which is ziti here) with tomato sauce and cheeses and then Justin got TRIPE! As in stomach liner. He said it was good but me and Jill were both a little queasy looking at it.

Yesterday we did a Tuscan Bike Tour with a really great tour guide. The forecast said 57 and sunny but it was probably low fifties and rainy/grey all day…of course until the minute the biking was over! We met in the city at 9:30 and took a van all the way out to the countryside to a medieval castle that is still run by a count and countess. The family produces wines and olive oils and we got to tour the winery and taste some wine and oil! Both were really good and even though it was rainy and gross out everyone was perfectly happy. After about an hour tour of the castle we started the biking. It wasn’t a hard route, despite the very first hill that was steep and left me out of breath. We rode through the countryside and saw vineyards and gardens and basically exactly what you picture when thinking of Tuscany. Half-way through the ride we stopped for lunch at a small local restaurant. There were five pastas to choose from and me, Jill and Justin all got the pasta ragu. First time I’ve had ragu sauce since I’ve been here actually now that I think of it! Ragu sauce is just meat sauce by the way. It’s about the same as bolognese sauce and then theres pomodoro (tomato) sauce. Back to the meal..it was great and a nice touch to have authentic homemade Italian food out in the hills of Chianti. The second half of the bike tour started out in a torrential downpour that thankfully didn’t last long. There was a point of a really big hill and just about everyone decided not to bike up it but get in the van that was following us for a lift up haha! At the top of the hill we got back on our bikes for the last 15 minutes of biking. The tour was so scenic and I had an amazing time! The tour guide was from Dublin, Ireland and hilarious!

Jill got better pictures on her camera but here are a few from the day!

Midterms

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged! I’m just about done with midterms (thank goodness) and will be leaving for Spring Break tomorrow night! I just have to get through my Italian midterm first. It shouldn’t be too hard, I feel like I know more than I think I do. We have been reviewing all week but nothing can prepare me for the listening part because the Italians talk so fast and it’s impossible to hear through the little speaker that my teacher plays it through. Oh well. My other three midterms were easier than I thought, and a lot shorter. Basically just 10 short answers. The teachers here really want you to pass because they know everyone is studying abroad and doesn’t care much about schoolwork while we’re here.

Last weekend was my first weekend staying here in Florence for a month, and boy was it relaxing! So nice not to have to wake up really early and get on a bus then a plane then a train etc. and we didn’t have to go out to eat every night and actually made our first “family meal” since we’ve been here! Me, Michelle and Hannah made chicken cutlets, steamed broccoli, and a new pasta dish I found on Pinterest – it was all so good! And we had leftover so we could eat it the next day too. Sunday was St. Patrick’s day and even in Florence it’s crazy! We did a bar crawl during the day and all got green shirts that have The David on them with a clover and wig on they’re cute.

Yesterday in my food & wine midterm my teacher made food for us after we finished the test and it was just this saffron risotto that was amazing!!! I had never had risotto before and I’m glad I got too, because that’s probably not something I would order out at a restaurant. I’m all about the homemade pastas. And pizza. And seafood.

Even though midterms are over tomorrow I’m actually depressed that it means we’re halfway through the semester. Tomorrow I leave for Spring Break and will be gone TEN DAYS and miss Easter 😦 and then it’s APRIL. I’m excited because I have visitors coming in April but it scares me how close this is to over. I refuse to leave! This will probably be my last blog until I come home, unless I have some time to blog from my phone while I’m travelling but I can’t promise anything!

Eastern Europe awaits!

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