Inspiration

Personal

I was feeling particularly uninspired this week. I felt like I was approaching a stand still in my life: nothing was happening. I was trying to create my own work and contribute something, but it just didn’t feel genuine or important. I’ve been thinking of the things that keep my motivated and creative in order to get out of this rut.

Staying in touch with your body is so important. Are you eating right? Are you washing your face? Are you exercising? I’ve been going to the gym bright and early in the morning. It gets me out of bed and I can get creative with my breakfast once I get home (see here). I indulged in a bottle of Trader Joe’s kombucha to make my tummy feel good with all of those probiotics. Drinking kombucha makes me feel like a health queen, and that inspired me to sketch and paint for a little while. I felt that since my body was at peace with itself, my mind was also at peace and could contribute something.

The gym also gives me something to look forward to. The Thursday night yoga class at my local gym is a treat. Yoga makes me feel the most in touch with my body as it involves so much of me. Breath, movement, and mindfulness join together and bring some much inner peace.

I learned that doing something, anything, inspires me. I drove to Trader Joe’s and that energized me. I went thrifting today and that got my creative wheels turning. Whether you spend all your money, or just browse, going to thrift stores could ignite creativity. When my tiny self goes thrifting, sizes do not matter. I could see the beauty and potential in a boy’s large or a women’s medium. I think of outfits I want to wear involving those “new” pieces. I think of what I want to look like and how I can make that happen with something at the store. Thinking of all the ways to achieve an aesthetic gives me creative solace. Even if I leave with nothing, I never leave with nothing.

Finally, a trip to Michaels was the icing on this inspiration train (too much?). I love watercolors and journaling. As you read here my travel journal is my favorite souvenir from my semester abroad. I decided to continue to keep in-depth details of my trips, so for my trip to Austria coming up I bought a small journal, portable watercolor brush, and rolls of washi tape to create a journal just for those 10 days. Nothing is more inspiring than fresh art supplies. I had a great time today testing watercolors and setting up this new journal.

I finally feel like I’m out of this rut. Finally.

Don’t Choke

food

My life is coming to a stand still and I’m struggling to cope with that. It’s been building up for the past two weeks or so, but I just read a Washington Post article about speaking to recent graduates and it kills me knowing that my generation is prone to the anxieties that come with the unknown. I feel like I’m wasting my time without a purpose, but I’m here trying to produce as much content as possible to fill the void.

Stuffing the void, if you will, like I stuffed these artichokes. They were rough around the edges, like life can be, but after all the work it took to clean them, trim them, soak them, stuff them, and simmer them, the artichokes became beautifully fragrant and delicious. I’ve never had a full artichoke, I’ve only had the delicious marinated hearts. The whole  artichoke takes time and effort to deconstruct and consume. Each green petal was scraped against my bottom teeth, getting all the earthiness out of the petals. The reward? The soft, sweet heart that, after hours of simmering, could be spread across crusty bread.

Waiting was worth it. Waiting is usually worth it, but I like to have objectives or tasks or projects while I wait. I need to always improve myself in the down time, otherwise I feel like I will get stale and no one will want me (not even for croutons). As I scroll through Indeed and watch Sex and the City (ya know, for inspiration and research purposes) I wonder: will my waiting be worth it?

Beans, my dude

food

Beans are so underrated. They transform over time and take days to make perfect, but the transformation is worth the wait.

All over Italy at those beloved outdoor markets vendors sell dried beans. I don’t know how, but they’re far superior to anything we can get in America. These dried beans are large to begin with, but after an overnight soak and another day of simmering on the stove, they become so large that they require cutting with a fork and knife just to eat. The beans soak in water first, then garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and olive oil are added before they simmer on low all day.

I think my favorite part of this (aside from the creamy beans you get after over 24 hours of preparation) is the vintage crock that these beans soak and cook in. The reddish-brown clay pot was my great grandma’s and it’s a piece of cookware that inexplicably produces the best foods. There’s something about old cookware: I’m not sure if it’s a placebo effect or if the age makes a difference, but this is not the only piece of old cookware that produces the best of the best. My dad’s mom (my nonna) makes focaccia in her old pan. It inexplicably comes out better than any bread on this earth. We think it’s the pan, but it could just be Italian nonna magic.

Whatever it is, my dudes, I guess what I’m trying to say is that nonnas know best about everything from love to beans. Fill your soul with love, that’s what food (and nonnas) are for.

Treasures

Personal

 

I’ve kept journals for as long as I can remember. I definitely destroyed the ones from middle school/early high school, but these are the five I have in tact from the most recent years. Some span a few years, some span one summer, some span a few months, but all are great recounts of my emotions throughout these really formative years of my life.

 

This journal contains my thoughts from my senior year of high school all the way until right before I left for Florence. It spans two relationships and includes my transition from high school to college. In the back I have letters from friends and important mementos from those years. It ends abruptly, approximately 4 days before I boarded my flight to Europe.

 

 

This journal was given to me by my then boss right before I left for my first year of college. This was fun because it was guided and has pages containing everything I ate in a day and what I spent my money on as well. It also has lists of songs I liked, countdowns until fun events during that summer, and descriptions of new vegetables and fruits that I learned about on the farm.

 

 

 

Ah, my favorite. I wrote in this every day for 4 months during my semester abroad. It is FAT with business cards, tickets, and other mementos from the various countries and cities I visited. My roommate and I made sure that we both wrote on every night of our journey, and it resulted in the best souvenir that I have from those 4 months.

 

 

 

I bought this journal from Tiger, a store on my street in Florence. This wasn’t so much of a journal as it is an artistic account of my time in Florence and my interests now. I have watercolor paintings, calligraphy trials, and short stories in these pages. I continue to fill it whenever I can. I absolutely love keeping this one around.

 

 

Finally, this is my most current journal. I started this last summer after I returned from Florence. It has the thoughts about my adjustment back to America, as well as my senior year of college. Senior year was a doozy and unfortunately I couldn’t write in this every day, but I made sure to recap as best as I could even if it was weeks later. Yes, the beer stickers are upside down.

 

 

Keeping these has been the best decision of my young life (probably). Not only because I can see how I felt during different milestones in my life, but also because I can accurately accrue information about places and topics. I can refer people to certain places in Florence or Europe based on my abroad journal, or I can figure out what I was baking three summers ago based on my farm journal. I encourage anyone, especially young writers, to keep journals. Your future self will thank your past self for doing it.

 

 

The Reading List

Personal

Is book debt a thing? Reading debt? I am a sucker for buying books, and each time I decide to buy or start a new book life slams me with all sorts of schedule-packing trials. Now that I finished college, and no longer have to read to fulfill a quota (i.e. “read this play for discussion,” “read this long-form article for class,” “read chapters 9 and 10,” etc.) I can get back into reading leisurely. After about a year of not reading it, I picked up Dan Barber’s book, The Third Plate, and finished it today. The book takes a look at the food industry, specifically the organic, farm-to-table industry, and applies it to his personal experiences at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It was absolutely fascinating for someone like me who has always been interested in food, sustainability, and farming. I would definitely recommend it to someone looking to expand their knowledge on sustainable farming, while also reading something interesting and full of Chef Barber’s personal anecdotes.

Next up, I’m cracking open Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. Aziz has been somewhat controversial lately, but his work for Netflix’s Master of None and his stand up routines prove that he can craft intelligent content. I was apprehensive of going forward and reading his book, but I had been interested in the subject and heard great reviews about it since before any public allegations against him. I can’t yet form an opinion about it, but after reading the introduction I can tell that it is full of his voice (I hear him saying the opening line in his Parks and Rec Tom Haverford voice). I hope to finish the book this summer and move on to other great reads that I’ve hoarded over the past few years.

After Modern Romance I’d like to tackle Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. I know, I know, most would categorize this as a cook book, but after receiving it for Valentine’s Day I read the short intro about how to use the book. According to Nosrat the book should be treated like any other book and should be read cover to cover. After flipping through the pages I noticed watercolor-esque illustrations, fold-out charts, and practical recipes using her techniques and methods. After her appearance on the short Netflix series Cooked, I’ve been interested in cracking open her book and understanding some new (“new,” I guess) cooking techniques.

Now that I’m out of school, I miss the required reading I had to do for certain classes. My Magazine Writing class emphasized that good writers read often, so we all had to read articles assigned in addition to finding our own online or in print. I still have the book we used (The Best American Magazine Writing 2016) and I intend on finishing it in hopes that my writing improves.

Spritz Season

drink

I miss Italy. I lived there for four months during a semester abroad and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said I never felt more myself. I embraced the culture and the culture embraced me. Something new and exciting that I enjoyed frequently was the spritz, specifically the Aperol spritz. Aperol is a bitter liqueur made from non-specific herbs. The liquid is bright red, like some magic love potion you’d see near a witch’s cauldron. Its a little bit bitter, a little bit sweet, and a whole lot delicious. Aperol is most commonly served in a spritz: a drink consisting of prosecco, Aperol, club soda, and an orange wedge. The drink is perfect for almost every occasion. Eating a panini on a hot day? Spritz. Getting ready for dinner? Spritz. This is a cocktail that quenches thirst and satisfies your senses. Even the appearance of the drink is enchanting due to the signature red hue of the liqueur. The bitterness of the Aperol contrasts with the sweet effervescence of the prosecco. I simply adore everything about it.

To me the drink reminds me of warmth and happiness. There are so many versions of spritzes consisting of those three main components: bitter liqueur, wine, and seltzer or club soda. I bought an entire book devoted to the art of the spritz. I’ve had versions with Campari instead of Aperol, making the drink more bitter, and different herbal liquers, like the Hugo spritz. Today I made mine using rosé, Aperol, and a splash of seltzer. The sweetness from the rosé against the bitterness of the Aperol created a refreshing drink that didn’t taste alcoholic in the slightest, meaning it was a dangerous concoction and I should only have one.

The Aperol spritz reminds me of my second home: Italy. It reminds me of the great times and adventures I had. It reminds me of the little things, like tasting new foods, that made me excited to wake up every morning.

Try your hand at a spritz, traditional or of your own creation, and celebrate the little adventures you can only hope to have each day.

For the spritz I made for this post, check out this link.

The Smelly Lunch

food

TGIF, ya know? It’s been a long week of “so what are your plans now?” and it’s time to take a breather.

Remember when you were in elementary school and your lunch said just about everything about you? Gazing at the children unbagging Lunchables and Capri Suns I open up my bag to take out my Tupperware of tuna fish; stinky, smelly, delicious tuna fish. The smell today still makes me remember a time when I ate my lunch ashamed at the fact that my food was not the glamorous pre-sliced, mini ham and cheese sandwiches that kids assembled from their Lunchables.

Today I needed to feel like a kid so I can get those creative juices flowing (and figure out what on earth I want to write about). So I opened a can of oil packed tuna. Man oh man is that familiar. I’ve evolved since elementary school, and apparently so has everyone else because I’m sure most people would kill for the gourmet lunch that, in retrospect, was far better than an Uncrustable. I dumped the tuna, after draining some oil, onto a bed of greens with fresh tomatoes and a light vinaigrette made of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice. I finished with salt and pepper (duh) and with one bite I felt a lot better. Taste is an incredibly strong sense, and with one bite I felt the weight of the world off of me. It’s sort of stupid to imagine that stinky tuna could do that, but for the 15 minutes that I ate my lunch I didn’t refresh my email inbox to see if I earned an interview. I didn’t refresh Indeed to see if my dream job opened up. I just ate my lunch and enjoyed the sunshine.

New Photography

Personal, Photography

In my photography portfolio (seen here) I chose to include only photos from my semester in Italy. Now, since my job requires me to use my camera more and more, I found a new hobby in photography. Why deny yourself the joy of what you personally find visually pleasing? The following photos are from the last few months.

When I returned from Florence, I thought that I would never be able to assimilate back into my old life. I thrived in Italy, and discovered passions for cooking, photography, and language. So it was a real bummer to return home, having to complete one of the most challenging semesters of my college career, and encountering some unexpected roadblocks on the way. When I began my Fall semester I was at a less-than-satisfactory internship, and I did something that I never thought I would ever do. I walked away. I acknowledged that even interns (let alone “one of the best interns”-not my words) should be treated better. I fell into sadness when I heard about my great-grandma passing away, a woman who meant so much to me. I fell into anger, and pain when I heard about some other less than satisfactory occurrences. All I thought was “maybe I should’ve stayed in Italy.” Sometimes I still think that, but more so because I miss drinking an Aperol spritz in a piazza at sunset.

Why am I telling you this? Growth is important. Longing, and sadness and, anger are important to facilitate that growth. I look back on photos of myself from Freshman year and I thank whatever power above that I look and feel different. It shows that I experienced life that changed me, inside and out, and it was clearly for the better.

So here are some photos of experiences in the past few months, post-Italy, that have reminded me that getting out of bed is important.