I Finally Made a Good Iced-Coffee

Iced-Coffee is not really a thing here in Italy.  A shot of espresso with a shot of grappa is a thing, but god forbid you put ice in that drink.  It’s a shame really, since the only time I truly enjoy coffee is when it’s over ice and sugar.

You would think iced-coffee would be an easy drink to make, but for me it has been trail and error, and error, and error.  You get the point.  I tried every method, but the end result was always a bitter cup of iced-disappointment.  Finally I just gave up.

The other day I read this article and it was like a cappuccino colored cloud opened and a ray of light shined down on me.  I was using the wrong kind of coffee!  I would usually just grab the strongest brew available (more bang for your buck, right?) for my experiments, then I would wonder why my iced-coffee always tasted so bitter.  Kind of a ‘duh’ moment for me.

So, here is what I learned:
1.) Use a mellow blend of coffee with a ratio of 1 part coffee grounds to 2 parts water
2.) Let it cold brew for at least 16 hours
3.) Throw in some fresh mint while it’s brewing

When the coffee was ready, I put a smidge of sweetened condensed milk in the glass instead of milk and sugar (learned that little trick from the pioneer woman).  Holy cow, that’s good.

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Fountain Drink

Halfway through my trip to France I got a sore throat, which turned into an ear infection.  By Sunday night I had blood and puss dripping out of my ear (gross, I know).  I am going through some pictures from the trip and I found this little gem.

Fountain Drink

I think I just discovered how the germs got in.

Traveler’s Tip: don’t drink out of questionable looking fountains no matter how thirsty you are.  That is, unless you like blood and puss dripping from your ear.

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How to Survive a Breakup

It was our second to last night in Marseille and I finally found the courage to say the words that have been stuck in my throat for weeks.

“I want to be in a relationship with someone who loves me, and I know you are not that person.”

Those words were hard to say, but they are even harder to write because writing them means this wasn’t just a fight, it means we really broke up.

To say it is for the best is a cliché.  Of course it is for the best.  It was a lopsided relationship.

It still sucks.

Since I couldn’t sleep I googled ways to get over a breakup.  So far Lauren Conrad is my front-runner with the sage advice to take a weekend and binge on crying and ice cream (was totally planning on doing that anyway, but it is nice to see it looking all official in print).

But first, must survive the multi-hour trip back to Italy with my no-longer-sweetheart.

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Untying the Knots

Here is something you probably don’t know about me: I am really good at uniting knots. Any size knot, any material. I am the girl you want around when you pull out the Griswold size ball of tangled Christmas lights.

I don’t know if this talent is a result of nimble fingers or sheer will, but I do know it was my mother who taught me to untangle things.

When I was about ten years old I had one of those perpetual motion toys with the balls suspended between two bars. You were supposed to hit the other balls with one ball and then they would click back and forth for a while. Does that make any sense? I kind of confused myself with that description.

Anyway, because I was a kid I didn’t just let that toy sit on my desk like it was supposed to. I tossed it around and twisted the cords until it was a useless jumble of balls. (ha! balls!) Then I threw it away.

Mom came along, fished it out of my trash and untied every single knot. She left the new-again toy on my desk with a note that read:

“Tenacity and Perseverance are the key.  Love Mom”

Talk about teaching life skills!

That was over two decades ago and I still hear those words when I am picking apart a tangle in a necklace or string.

My fingers are nimble, but I am pretty sure it is the determination I feel every time I remember my mother’s encouragement that not only makes untying and untangling easier for me, but also kind of enjoyable.

So to everyone out there trying to untangle anything in your life, please remember this awesome Mom advice: tenacity and perseverance are the key.  And love, don’t forget love.

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Girls Day in Venice

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Reclaiming My Study and My Finances

I survived a week of organizing my personal finances and retirement planning!

At the beginning of the week I was taking breaks away from the computer every 30 minutes or so because my heart would pound and I would start to panic if I looked at the numbers and rules and details for too long, but by Friday night I was feeling much improved, it probably had something to do with the wine).

I rarely think about my emotional relationship with money and for a long time I thought that was because my emotions concerning money were minimal.  I was wrong.

This past week showed me a whole different side of myself.  Talking in-depth about my finances and seeing the big numbers associated with retirement and emergencies makes me so uncomfortable my body actually goes into fight or flight mode.  ~clearly my default in this situation is flight, which explains why I always avoid this.~

But, in the end I got all of my accounts in order and I even set up a new savings account just for emergency savings that cannot be dipped into unless it is a REAL emergency (and not just a shopping emergency).

I think the thing that saved my sanity during this week was finding Mint.com.  Now, I am not hawking their wares or anything, but I would definitely recommend this website if you struggle with personal finances. Trust me, just check it out.

On another note of personal growth, I finally managed to reclaim my study!

For a couple of years the study (which sits in my super awesome loft!) has been a thriving community of clutter.  Just like I do with finances, when the clutter goes on the attack, I go into flight mode and I just stopped using this cool and unique space.

When my friend Caralyn came over for dinner one night she mentioned that she LOVES projects like this and to let her know if I ever want to tackle the clutter in my study.  Oh hells yes.

We set up a date and she showed up ready to WORK.  I got comfy on the floor and she was the ruthless voice urging me to get rid of anything that doesn’t serve me.  It took all day and two bottles of wine.

ReclaimingStudy

This is me in the middle of the book cull.

If I lingered too long over a book she was say “do you really think you are going to read that again” or “you can get that from the library, you don’t have to own it” and off the book would go to the donate pile.  That is exactly the kind of encouragement I need to stay on task when I start getting sentimental or just plain lazy when reorganizing.

St. Caralyn, my patron saint of clutter!

This is the “after” of my study.  Only the things I really love stayed to remind me of the great trips and stories of my life.

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I moved the desk right into the middle of the space overlooking the picture window and stairs.  It feels so much more open to write like this rather than staring at a wall.  And yes, I have the now cliched “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster.  It’s solid advice.

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Between the  fiscal responsibility and reclaimed space, I feel like I can do anything!  Bring on tax season!

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Planning For The End of The Road

Yesterday was a new moon, which is a time to set intentions for the following month.  Inspired by a conversation with my dad the other day (hi, Dad!), I decided that my intention for this month is to get my head wrapped around a retirement plan.

I’m a sprightly 32, so aside from monthly contributions to my 401k I haven’t bothered much about how I am going to support myself when the wheels start to fall off.

And now I know why.

This shit is scary.

For the past two days I have swung between patting myself on the back for having a good start on retirement planning and freaking the hell out because I had no idea how overwhelming some of this stuff is.  And I have NO IDEA if I am doing it right.

You would think that as a (somewhat) reasonable (kind of) adult my first instinct would be to talk to a professional about this.  Someone who can give me clear financial guidance (and maybe hold my hand while I freak out a little).  Nope.  The course of action I am most leaning toward is gathering up all of my papers, shoving them into the first folder I find and forgetting all about this nonsense for another 10 years or so.

Option number two is hunting down and marrying George Clooney now that he is back on the market.

Since both of those options will most likely end with major disappointment, I think my new policy for tackling this retirement thing is that no planning, phone calls, emails, or other work will be done without a giant glass of wine.  And it will be good wine.

And Dad, I am sending you the bill for the wine since this was all your idea in the first place.

Hey!  I am starting to feel better already!

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Ravenna, Italy: Resting place of Dante and some really good wine

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35 Before 35: Kiss a handsome man on top of the Eiffel Tower

Mission Accomplished.

After dreaming of Paris and the Eiffel Tower for more than half my life I got to experience the city, and kiss a handsome man at the tippy-top of the tower.

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As much as I want to gush about how romantic the whole scenario was, I can’t.

It was romantic in the sense that everything is butterflies when you are in a new relationship, but voice on the loud-speaker warning us to beware of pickpockets was kind of a buzz kill.

In fact, a lot about Paris was a buzz kill.

Like the price of wine.  That adage about wine being cheaper than soda might be true in other parts of Europe, but not Paris.  And I may be totally biased, but none of the expensive wine I was drinking could compete with the cheap Italian wine I can get at home.  Total fail, Paris.

One way Paris did not let me down: the cheese sauce.  The restaurants served it with red meat and fish and it was divine. It was both creamy and pungent.  Yum.

Oh yeah, and the Creme Brule, I ate two a day.

I’m surprised that I didn’t feel at home in Paris since I had dreamed and plotted about it for about twenty years…. but I just… didn’t.  It is not my city.  But it is the city where I got to kiss a handsome man way up in the sky, so overall, not bad, Paris.

 

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In Bed With a Very Talented Woman

In Bed With Julia

 

My sweetheart and I are planning a road trip to Marseille  France.

I know nothing about Marseille.

For now I will rely on one of my favorite lady cooks, Julia Child, to show me the ropes of this mystery city through her cookbook.

I read cookbooks in bed.  Most of the recipes I drool over never make it from my bedroom to my kitchen, but they still manage to satisfy me.

The first challenge I have found… how to make a proper roux without wheat flour.  Let the games begin!

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