Tag Archives: Florence

New York Bound – Day 2

7 Jul

Day 2 of our New York trip was the one I was most looking forward to — wine tasting on Eastern Long Island with my friend Ally! Ally and I went to the same high school AND college but didn’t meet until we were placed in the same apartment while studying abroad in Florence, Italy in 2009.  This is us in front of our favorite bridge in the WORLD the Ponte Vecchio:

Ponte Vecchio!

Ponte Vecchio!

 

and a pic of us in Sicily!

Circa 2009

Circa 2009

Well many years have passed since we traveled Europe together but we finally reunited for the first time in nearly three years for wine tasting on LI! Wes and I also stayed with Ally and her fiance, Chris, at their brand new home – we were their first ever guests! So exciting.

Before meeting up with them at their home, I HAD to take Wes to my favorite deli in the world – the one I ate at literally every single day (my dad jokes that we bought the owner his hummer) called se-port. I am so upset that I did not take a single picture of Wes devouring his first se-port sandwich (no he didn’t get a boone – I ordered him an American hero with mac salad because he wanted something cold).  I was so busy chatting with all the se-port guys I totally forgot to snap some pics – they all remembered me even though I’ve been gone for 4 years! So exciting 🙂

So after our se-port run and a quick drive through my old home – we met up with Ally and Chris and their new puppy Brewster! Then we headed out east to Martha Clara vineyard for a few bottles of wine, some snacks and a little world cup action – Brazil was playing that afternoon and Chris is half Brazilian so we had to keep an eye on the score!

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We tried two different white wines and they were both fabulous. I know everyone raves about wine from the Napa Valley – but Long Island can definitely hold their own in the vinosphere (hahaha get it???)

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Martha Clara also had a little farm and corn hole boards set up! Which we ended up never playing because we were so focused on our fresh guacamole and local wine.

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We had plans to stop by two other vineyards but we ended up loving the atmosphere at Martha Clara  so much we decided to forgo the other two and just enjoy the afternoon there! We also wanted to head back to Port Jefferson before the sun set so we could show Wes the water and get ice cream at my favorite ice cream shop called Snow White and The Seven Flavors — which apparently Ally and I are the only ones that know that’s the actual name of the place

2014!

2014!

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After our Port Jeff rendezvous we met up with my brother for some drinks and food and then headed back to Ally and Chris’ to play with little Brewster! He was only 8 weeks old so we had to head back to our little baby – I can’t believe I don’t have any pics of him either! I’m a terrible blogger

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I am already missing my friend so much – but we are trying to make plans for them to come visit Raleigh for Labor day! So i’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be able to show them all around Raleigh and bring them on the Green Machine Raleigh Brew Tour!

Thanks Ally and Chris for a wonderful Long Island themed night! I love you!!! ❤

Chris and Wes "not posing"

Chris and Wes “not posing”

A surprise visit to Toronto, Ontario

24 Oct

This past weekend I was granted the pleasure of surprising one of my friends, Laura Aloise, in Toronto, Ontario (In case you weren’t sure, yes, that’s in Canada). She is currently living there after moving from Florence, Italy where we met!

Little piece of the Toronto skyline

Little piece of the Toronto skyline

Let me do a quick recap of how this all came together. A few weeks ago, Laura’s boyfriend Mikey found me on Facebook and asked me to help him plan a surprise for his beautiful girlfriend. At first, the plan was for him to send Laura down to me in Raleigh so she could have a little getaway, but after some deliberation we decided that it would be nearly impossible to pull that off since she would eventually have to find out where she was going. Example, you can’t just force someone to go through customs at the airport and get on an airplane bound to God knows where with them blindfolded. It just wouldn’t work. So we changed the plan to me flying to Toronto to surprise her! Makes much more sense.

Mikey was suppose to pick me up from the airport, bring me to their apartment, then wait in silence until she arrived totally unsuspecting. But when I landed Mikey surprised me with a giant stretch limo and a driver! Very fancy.

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A few hours later Mikey and I were anxiously waiting with glasses of champagne to hear Laura’s footsteps down the hall. Our plan when she opened the door was to jump out and and attack her like female fight club (Bridesmaids anyone?) but we ditched that plan at the last minute for lots of hugs and champagne toasts!

Champagne Toasts!

Champagne Toasts!

When she opened the door and saw me standing there she screamed like a hyena then became utterly confused and said “wait, I don’t understand, how did you get here??” and I responded, “an airplane and a stretch limo brought me!”

Fresh juice at fresh!

Fresh juice at fresh!

 

We spent the remainder of our weekend basically just stuffing our faces. The food in Toronto is utterly divine. Our favorite restaurant is a vegan/vegetarian place called Fresh that we ate at twice in 2 days. Everything is local, organic, vegan and delicious! Our first trip I had the world’s greatest veggie burger and a fresh juice, (Apple, carrot and coconut water) and the second day I had a vegan breakfast made up of a tofu scramble, toast, baked beans and hash browns. Yummmyyy!!

 

 

 

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My second favorite restaurant was an Italian place called Ciao that had amazing Gnocchi! I had it with a fresh tomato sauce instead of the Gorgonzola and I devoured the entire thing in seconds.

After a weekend of lots of eating, drinking, shopping and talking we woke up to Monday morning when I was scheduled to return back to the States. I had such a great weekend with Laura and her wonderful boyfriend Mikey! I can’t believe its been almost a year and a half since she left me in Florence…

 

As for Toronto, its a beautiful city with amazing restaurants. It reminded me a lot of NYC, which also reminded me that I am definitely not a city person. I love visiting them but I am so happy to be back home in Raleigh, with my car and my fried food! hehehe

 

Dundas Sqaure, Toronto

Dundas Sqaure, Toronto

Just in case anyone plans on visiting Toronto soon the addresses of my too fav restaurants are below:

Fresh: 894 QUEEN STREET WEST

Ciao: 133 Yorkville Ave.

Ending note: Canadian money is plastic and un-rippable… how genius is that??

Did you know Canada shares Queen Elizabeth with England?? She loves being on their money!

Did you know Canada shares Queen Elizabeth with England?? She loves being on their money!

A Journey of Faith

29 Sep

Don’t let the title of this post confuse you, I’m not going to pull a 180 and get all religious on you and talk for hours about how I’ve found my path to God. This post has nothing to do with that, when I say faith, I mean having faith in yourself and in the beautiful universe that surrounds us.

This morning, I was sitting at my favorite park in Florence eating a cornetto filled with cream, drinking a cappuccino, and reading an issue of Bon Appetit that had a feature article on Paris. The weather was cloudy but the temperature was perfect with the most beautiful fall breeze. I put down my magazine to look over at the Arno, “what could be more perfect than this?”. I just felt so content in that moment, and realized that I’ve been so content almost the entire 10 months I have been living here. My baking and pastry program has been amazing, and has already taught me so much, I finally got a full-time job starting in January… everything is just falling perfectly into place.

These little guys were watching me read and stealing bites off my cornetto

Last week, I was so stressed about finding a job and a direction in life (career wise that is), I had no idea how to make a decent living for myself. Thinking about having to be financially independent from my wonderful parents in a few short months made me want to break down in tears, pack my bags and just give up and go home. In that moment I thought back on the words that a psychic in North Carolina told me during my latest reading. She said, “Sara, you are more on your path than you think you are”. Re-hearing these words in my head I decided right then to have a little more faith in myself. I’ve been listening to my heart and following everything it tells me, which is that at this time in my life, Europe is my home. Maybe not forever, but right now, no place else could make me feel so incredibly happy. Why would I ever choose to just pack it in and give up now? After finding a place that ignites these feelings in me? Some people search their entire lives to find a city that makes them feel at home, and I truly believe I have found it. Will this feeling last forever? Who knows, but I’ll just have to cross that path when or if I come to it.

My favorite church in Florence, Santa Croce

When I think back on the things I have done in this last year, I am amazed at my own courage. I think, “this can’t actually be me, doing all these things”, at 22 years old I packed my bags and left my entire family to move thousands of miles away to a city where I knew not a SINGLE person, I couldn’t even speak the langauge. Theres something to be said about finding something that ignites such a passion in you that you’re willing to leave the people you love most on this earth to venture into the unknown – without a speck of a plan, just praying that it will all work out. Even though I am not religious, I feel that my faith in myself, in the universe and in the innate goodness of humankind is what enabled me to embark on this journey. Truly a journey of faith. I have no idea what the future has in store for me, but even if everything I have built here goes up in flames and I am forced to move back to the States, I’d still be so incredibly happy and most of all, grateful that I was able to experience this life, if even just for a moment.

My amazing family – Love you guys! This pic is missing one niece who refuses to take pictures

If anyone reading this could learn one thing from what I am trying to articulate, its this: if you have a dream, follow it. Don’t let your fears get the best of you, because the rewards of following your heart are truly amazing.

Love and Light,

Sara

The Duomo! I get to bike past this every morning on my way to school

Back in Italia and It Feels So Good

17 Sep

Ciao Amici! I have been extremely lazy with my blogging lately and its most likely because I’ve been extremely busy getting back in the swing of things in Firenze. I started my baking and pastry program at Apicius two weeks ago and have been going non-stop ever since! They really like to keep you busy at this school.. my schedule for the last week as been as follows:

Monday – Friday: Wake up at 5:30am head to Fedora to bake. and bake. and bake. Until 5:30 in the afternoon. Race down to the other side of town to make a 6pm yoga class (on Thursday’s I’m the teacher! woo hooo) After that I either make time to see friends at aperitivo or dinner or just decide to cut my losses and head to bed since I have to do it all again in the morning. While my days have been insane lately they are so much fun! I’ve learned how to make bread, millefoglie, biscotti, macaroons, and I have of course got my hazelnut butter cream down to a science. I can roll out short pastry like a pro but if anyone makes me eat ANYTHING else made out of puff pastry I’ll probably lose it. Whats the obsession with puff pastry anyway? As far as I’m concerned, unless it’s a good old buttery french croissant, I’m not into it.

Here’s some pics of the amazingness I get to bake on a daily basis: (also be sure to check out my super sexy uniform – I’m not going to lie the pants are super cozy and I thoroughly enjoy wearing them)

Almond Macaroons!

Slicing up some bread for our bread class

My absolute favorite dessert ever… the fruit tart.

Millefoglie

Biscotti with Almonds

Some more breads of Italy

So thats what I’ve been up to for these last few weeks and I couldn’t be more excited to head back into that bakery in 30 minutes (I know that sounded sarcastic but I actually am really excited – more breads today! yayy)

Breakfast pastries stuffed with apples and butter cream, sounds good but made of puff pastry so no i’m not freaking eating it

 

Life in Italy has definitely been treating me well for the last nine months which has led me to this one thought that has been on my mind since I returned to Florence: sorry USA, I love you, but no, I am never coming back.

Baking!

 

I’m Officially A Yoga Teacher!

28 Jun

Namaste Ponte Vecchio. Namaste.

So here it is. I can finally say it. I’M OFFICIALLY A YOGA TEACHER!

After 6 weeks of practically non-stop practice filled with hours and hours of sweaty classes, soreness in muscles that I didn’t even know existed and yeah, i’ll admit it, a little frustration at the things I couldn’t do, I made it through! and I made it without crying ONCE! My daddy is probably so proud of that last part.

Standing tree in Oureka Valley, Morocco

Here is a small list of the many things I’ve learned during my yoga teacher training journey:

– Patience is the key to any yoga practice. Is it annoying that half the class can gracefully push up into tripod headstand and float through to seated without as much as a flinch? Damn straight its annoying but I know with a lot of patience and yup, A LOT of hard work, I’ll get there. and that day will be glorious.

– That big muscle on the side of your neck is called your sternocleidomastoid. and no, I didn’t google that. Yoga teachers just know this shit. (oh no! Can yoga teachers say shit?)

– Yoga isn’t just a work out but a lifestyle. This is something I truly believe because while yoga has amazing positive effects on the body it also has amazing positive effects on the mind. Its calming and peaceful and I know everyone can use a little more of those two things in their life. Yoga is a community committed to loving and accepting each and every living thing, so I say, “amen to that sista”

While there are many more things I learned this would be a very long blog post if I kept going so i’m going to stop here. Please see another one of my traveling yogi pictures that I’m pretty sure I will continue to take for the rest of my life because they come out awesome! And seeing the reaction on peoples faces when you do yoga in your bathing suit on a cliff in Cinque Terre is just amazing:

Yoga, cliff jumping and swimming… oh my!

(Is it bad that I just got really distracted from writing this blog post because I was online shopping for my first Manduka mat? It NEEDS to be sitting on my doorstep in Raleigh when I get there August 1)

I want to thank everyone at 19r Yoga and Pilates in the beautiful city of Florence, Italy (but especially Melissa and Shari!) for lovingly guiding me through my teacher training. The things I learned from these two amazing women about yoga and life in general has already changed a lot of things about my outlook on life. I can’t wait to continue learning from you and yes, maybe even continue to be a little bit jealous of your killer yoga moves! (I know thats not very yogic of me, but whatever. Cut me some slack!)

May all beings everywhere be free and be happy… Namaste.

2 Yogis and Some Free Time in Florence, Italy

15 Jun

Today, my Yogi friend, Stephanie and I found ourselves with a few unexpected hours of free time. So what do Yogis do in their free time you ask? I’ll show you how we decided to spend the bulk of one beautiful day in good old Firenze.

Our afternoon started off with a light lunch on the steps of the church in Santo Spirito…   This awesome summer salad from the Conad down the block was the perfect start to our afternoon. Anything heavier would have upset our balance and ruined our upcoming practice (we also just had our nutrition class yesterday so scarfing down a wonderfully delicious Gusta pizza would have been just wrong).

Salad! Yummyyy

Because of our nutrition class, I decided to dive headfirst into my health kick… this means a green juice along with my lunch to bulk up on some vitamins before practice.

Spinach, Fennel, Orange… oh my!

Next, we decided to help aid our digestion by walking through some of the farmers stands in Santo Spirito…

More fruits and veggies!

Next up? A mid-afternoon coffee and chat in one of our favorite cafes, Volume. This is a favorite hangout of all the hipster Italians in Florence

Volume!

After coffee we stopped to re-fill our water bottles (drinking only water is part of our new health kick routine) and headed over to the studio at 19r yoga and pilates to get our vinyasa on:

You go girl!

I finally got to test drive my new “yoga time”playlist, we were listening to a combo of Mumford and Sons, Lana Del Ray, Oasis and even a little bit of Sugarland thrown in just for kicks.

The start of Surya Namaskara A

An hour and a half of self practice later we took some time to catch up on our reading… we’re testing out next week! Now its time to study hard and refuel my muscles with some yogi chai tea

The Yoga Mala AKA The Ashtanga Bible

Ok folks i’m heading out to our second class of the day… so get off your tush and get on your mat Yogis!

Namaste,

Sara

Being Vegetarian (and sometimes vegan) in Italy

6 May
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This is not exactly relevant to this post but kind of is when you think about it.. I doubt that sandwich is vegetarian! hahaha

After living in Italy for a total of about 8 months (4 months this semester, 4 months two years ago), I have learned that meat and cheese are wonderfully delicious Italian traditions. Since becoming vegetarian two years ago however, I have been deprived of many fabulous Italian specialties. Currently, I am making the transition to a mostly vegan diet (the key word here being mostly, cheese is just too wonderful/important in Italy to pass up on all the time), which means that not only has my indulgence in pizza and wonderfully cheesy Italian pasta dropped dramatically, but also my indulgence in awesome baked goods and desserts (gelato anyone?). After doing some research on typical Italian desserts, I found a simple and delicious recipe for vegan biscotti which may be a fun thing to experiment with on a rainy Sunday like today…

Vegan Mocha-Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Ingredients: (Approx. 56 biscotti)

  • 2 cups barley flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ – ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup non hydrogenated shortening
  • Flax seed egg replacer for 4 eggs (3/4 c water + ¼ c ground flax seed)
  • 1 ounce bakers chocolate, melted
  • ½ cup strong coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon coffee extract
  • 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine flours, baking powder, and cocoa powder. Set aside. Blend sugar with shortening. With a hand blender or mixer, add egg replacer, melted chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and coffee extract. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing until a stiff dough forms. Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Form into three logs and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten the logs’ tops slightly. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Remove and let logs cool for half an hour before slicing.

Set oven temperature to 325°F. Cut logs on the slant into 1/2-inch slices. Lay slices flat on a pizza screen and bake for 25 minutes or until cookies seem fairly crisp. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

Total calories per serving: 54 – Fat: 3 grams – Carbohydrates: 8 grams – Protein: 1 gram – Sodium: 11 milligrams – Fiber: 1 gram

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Veggies!

While the Italians appreciate a nice vegetable (eggplant for example) many of their meals revolve around the goodness of meat. Rabbit, veal, wild boar, beef, stomach lining, brains, pork; you name it, they eat it. As a vegetarian living in Italy I have had to find some creative ways to stick to my normal healthy vegetarian diet (contrary to popular belief it is very easy to become a unhealthy vegetarian). I must admit that my first month or 2 here consisting of below freezing weather and grueling winds allowed me to feed my appetite for heavy, cheesy foods. The many spoonfuls of pasta and double servings of pizza kept my bones warm but they were not doing much to ensure that I had a healthy and balanced caloric intake. To keep myself in check I decided to frequent some amazing vegetarian/vegan shops and cafes which I have listed for you below:

  • Brac Café: Via dei Vagellai, 18 (Has some vegan options and a vegetarian menu – also has awesome brunch on Sundays but make sure to make a reservation!)
  • Dolce Vegan: Via San Gallo, 92 (Sit down place, completely vegan with small market)
  • Panino Tondo: Via Montebello, 56 (Vegan burgers and salads plus free delivery.. winning!)
  • Sugar Blues: Via dei Serragli, 57 (Market)
  • Perche No! Gelateria: Via Tavolini 19r (Soy gelato, obvi)
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Soy Cappuccino from Dolce Vegan!

I hope this little post inspired you to try something new (hopefully not the sheep brains)

Happy Sunday, and eat your veggies for Christ’s sake! (or don’t, who am I? Your mama?!)