Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gastronomical Training

My mom and I have been preparing for our trip in less than a month, and not just by reading guide books and booking tours.  We've jokingly been preparing our stomachs too.  This trip has become the perfect excuse to start drinking more Italian coffee, include more pasta into our meals, and indulge in yummy Italian desserts.

If you are ever in the Ottawa area, you must make a stop into La Bottega in the downtown market.  They have a wonderful cafe in the back in which two really sweet older Italian women cook all the food in an open kitchen. If you sit at the counter they'll talk to you while they cook. The food is phenomenal and you get so much food for your money (like a huge balsamic chicken sandwich on a fresh focaccia and a salad for $9) . The actual market has everything you need too - cheeses, sauces, pasta, homemade biscotti, and tons of prepackaged Italian snacks.  And most of their store brand products are also so much better and cheaper than what you'd find in your grocery store.  It's my favorite food store in Ottawa, and my mom's and my go-to mother-daughter lunch place.  They also make the most amazing double cappuccinos.

(taken from flickr)
By far the best cappuccinos I've had have been made with Illy espresso beans. I used to go out of my way while studying abroad in Warsaw to the train station just so I could hit up the Illy coffee stand for a cappuccino.  The espresso isn't as bitter or acidic as that of Starbucks, and it has a wonderful smooth, full flavor.

Because Illy is out of my normal budget ($15 for a small canister of espresso beans is a little too steep for my espresso package a month habit), I've been buying Lavazza for years to use in my espresso machine that I have here at school.  It's also less acidic and bitter than Starbucks espresso blends, and it's much cheaper ($3.99 on sale at the Bottega for a bag of ground espresso). 

I was a  little adventurous last weekend.  I went home for the weekend and during our usual trip to La Bottega, my mom and I were inspired by the giant shelf of lady fingers to make our own tiramisu.  And of course my mom disappeared into the living room while I was in the kitchen, so I ended up making the whole thing myself!  It was delicious!  I mean, who wouldn't love a dessert that uses coffee! It's not exactly a 'light' dessert, but it's a delicious indulgence, and I'll accept the extra sinfulness for the sake of gastronomical training!

These almond flavored cookies have a great light flavor and are really good dipped in coffee or tea.  

I love love love balsamic vinegar.  I'll mix it with a bit of olive oil and toss it on a salad or dip my bread into it, or I'll add it into my tomato sauce with a little red wine (if i happen to have any on hand) for a delicious extra flavorful pasta sauce.  I tend to buy the typical jar of whatever tomato sauce is on sale, but tend to find the flavor a little brand, so adding a little balsamic vinegar and maybe some extra garlic adds a great little punch.  

I'm normally a diet coke drinker, but I found these on sale and decided to do more 'research' for my trip.  I bought the Aranciata, which tastes a lot like Orangina. It's essentially orange juice with club soda, and it has fresh, light flavor.  

I love it when international trips allow me to indulge in some foreign flavor, all in the name of 'research'.  Does anyone else have any delicious Italian products my mom and I should try before, or even during, our trip?


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Soundtrack Sunday - Adele

If you haven't heard Adele's newest album, you better get on it asap!  Her voice is unbelievably powerful, and it's amazing that she managed to channel her bad experiences with ex-boyfriends into such soulful and powerful songs that make you want to just get up and conquer whatever demons you're facing.

My personal favorites are Rolling in the Deep, Rumour Has It, and Someone Like You. They also make for great sing-at-the-top-of-my-lungs while driving songs.

She's on tour starting May 13th, and holy moly do I wish I could attend one of her concerts, with her incredible voice engulfing and mesmerizing the room.  Until I'm lucky enough to see her live, I'll be blasting her music in my car and putting the album on repeat on my ipod.  


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Back after a long disappearance

So I thought I would be able to post more frequently, but the last couple of weeks have been ridiculous, mainly because the issue with my co-chair escalated to unbelievable proportions.  The week before our conference (we hold an annual young women in leadership conference for local 7th and 8th grade girls) she disappeared.  As in stopped answering phone calls, bbms, texts, emails, and facebook attempts.  Yup, just ceased all forms of communication.  Of course, she also failed to tell the principals from the schools from which the girls visit about the event, and never turned in the permission slips either.  So three days before our conference, we find out that no one outside our committee knew about the event.  And she didn't book the rooms we needed either.  So we had three days to convince the principals to let the  girls come, get them permission slips, plan the rest of the event, coordinate a workshop (since she also neglected to book a speaker for the morning), book rooms for the event, and a whole slew of other things! Thankfully the conference went really smoothly the day of, and all but three girls from the schools got their permission slips in on time to come.  The girls loved our activities, and we had an amazing guest speaker from Because I Am a Girl.  Unfortunately, I haven't seen or heard from my co-chair in over three weeks, and have basically been running the committee myself ever since.  I am beyond floored that someone could just completely drop such a huge responsibility like this.  I've also been doing some extreme damage control, after finding out about some other things she never actually took care of.  Needless to say, I've been extremely extremely stressed over this for the last couple of weeks, which is why I've been missing from the blogosphere.

Thankfully, the year is ending soon, so my duties as co-chair (or I guess Chair, now that my co-person is gone) will soon be over.  Now I'm just focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel - ITALY!  I've been slowly planning things between my school work and committee duties, and my mom and I have pretty much everything booked. The day after my last exam, I am gone baby!

So I'm so sorry that I've been so gone, but hopefully now I'll be able to start posting again (although I'm hoping I'm not jinxing myself here again!). And thank you so very much for all your kind get-better-soon support! I think all your wishes helped, because I was good as new after only two days of sickness! I think it was my quickest recovery from a cold yet!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sick Day

I haven't been sick since last semester.  Thankfully I remained healthy through my midterms and spring break, but as soon as I finally relaxed after a hectic last week, my body finally gave up!  I woke up yesterday sick, and have been dealing with a cloudy head, runny nose, and sore throat since. So not fun!

 My ideal sick day situation has me in a comfy bed full of pillows, wearing warm pajamas and slippers, sipping delicious tea, eating my mom's home made chicken noodle soup, watching old Audrey Hepburn movies, and catching up on back issues of my favorite magazines.

Instead I'm frantically planning a conference for 7th and 8th grade girls for Friday, while my co-chair (the person with whom I'm supposed to equally share my responsibility of our organization) is mia.  As in skipped our meetings, isn't answering any form of communication, and pretty much hasn't contributed anything to this conference. Thankfully I have two amazing girls from my committee who are doing an amazing job helping me.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it all works out perfectly on Friday! 

I really shouldn't, but I may sneak a watch of one Audrey movie while I attempt some of my school work later tonight...  I mean, Roman Holiday counts as research for my trip to Rome, right?


Monday, March 7, 2011

Giveaway Winner!

Last week was horribly stressful - I had two really difficult midterms to study for.  It would have been easier if the materials overlapped, but unfortunately they didn't relate at all.  I started Friday with an 830am German Architecture exam, followed by an Italian Renaissance exam after lunch.  What did I do after my last exam?   I went home and passed out, sleeping from 4 in the afternoon to 9 am the next morning.  Apparently my body was tired!  It was so wonderful to finally open up blogger after a bit of a tech break to see so many entries and new bloggers!

So, without further delay, the winner of the Lilly-inspired art is (after entering all the entries into a spreadsheet and then using a random number generator) ....

CDS!  I love this talented artist and new mother from Miami.  She always posts such great outfit drawings and some sneak peeks at some of her work.  

CDS - I'll email you shortly!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered and to all my new followers.  I'll be posting more regularly again, now that I actually have time to do something other than memorize dates, names, and architectural theories!