Weekly Wanderlust // A Vacation to Europe + The Art of Anticipation

I only have 8 weeks of school left. Then I’ll be done forever.

What shall I do to celebrate? Go to Europe, of course! Not only will I get to soak in all that sun, but I’ll finally get to experience all that amazing culture and mouth-watering food!

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The enjoyment of a trip is invariably linked to food that city has to offer. I think everywhere I go, its always centered around what to eat next. With Europe and its concentration of a myriad cultures, it’s almost a no-brainer. That is, until I have to narrow down the places to go. I mean, saying “Let’s go to Europe!” is a lot more simple until you get down to the details, like what country, what city, for how long, etc. etc.

To help organize my thoughts, I’ve decided to make a blog post on my current findings.

Past Trips to Europe: Mixed Feelings

I’ve been to Europe before, but most trips weren’t exactly enjoyable, albeit memorable. The first was when I was 11-years-old, much too young to soak in any culture at all. I remember feeling quite miserable as my parents dragged me from city to city. I’m embarrassed to say that my happiest moment was when my parents left me in the London hotel room and I got to watch Cartoon Network. Terrible, right?

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We were only in Florence for 1 measly hour. See my attempted smile? No glimmer of happiness in those eyes, that’s for sure.

I’ve also been on one of those dreaded tour groups where the “goal” was to take pictures next to monuments and then jump back onto the bus to the next monument. We visited 8 cities, yet I didn’t experience a single one of them. Did I mention that we ate crappy Chinese food (in a basement) the first day in Rome!? It filled me with absolute rage. And horror. Then sadness. Yes, a very broad spectrum of emotions swept through me at the tender age of fifteen. These people had no idea the culture they were missing out on. I’m determined to never go on these tours again.

But there were still some good times shared with my dad. One can never go wrong with gelato =)

But there were still some good times. One can never go wrong with gelato =)

My latest trip to Europe was last May, when I visited one of my closest high school friends in Copenhagen. I mean, she was studying abroad and I finished school a couple weeks early. It was perfect! We ended up having a great time, taking a week to go to Oslo then the absolutely quaint, beautiful sea side town of Bergen. It was there where I realized that planning a trip and going with friends (not parents) is leagues better than that sad tour group many summers ago.

Gleaming Lights of the Souls by Yayok Kusama @ Louisiana Museum

Gleaming Lights of the Souls by Yayok Kusama @ Louisiana Museum

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Nyhavn, Copenhagen

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Adorable streets lined with colorful houses in Bergen

Planning a Trip: The Art of Anticipation

I remember reading a NYTimes article about how anticipating a vacation makes you happier. Anticipation is like building up a sense of excitement and expectation. Imagining and relishing the possible happiness that much-needed vacation in the distant future can result in a happier state of being today.

Elizabeth Dunn, a happiness researcher, says that there is an art to anticipation. That is, there is a way to optimize that happiness you feel today for the vacation you’re daydreaming about everyday. Hint: it’s not just daydreaming

Step 1: Immerse Yourself

Immerse yourself in cultures of the region. Read up on the culture, be it travel books, fiction books, cookbooks, or food/travel blogs! Listen to music! Brush up on art history (if you’re into that stuff like I am) or learn a language!

There’s so much you can learn about any place in the world. Not only will you become more knowledgeable about the place you want to visit, but you’ll be slightly more cultured in your daily life. If you’re stuck in a daily routine that can easily transition into a pretty boring existence, looking up the rich cultures of other places can brighten an otherwise boring night of Netflix binge watching.

If you’re thinking about…

Paris, read My Paris Kitchen, watch Ratatouille
Italy, watch Under the Tuscan Sun
Spain, watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations: Spain (season 4, episode 17)
Scotland, read The Outlanders Series (I read them all, so addicting)

SO…I realized that all those suggestions are food related, but what can I say. It’s late. I’m hungry. I just want to go to Europe already!

Here are some inspiring blog links:

Little Towns of Europe – How picturesque!

One Week Itineraries of Europe – Half the work is done for you, basically.

Italy Itineraries for the foodie, or cultured, or outdoorsy! – Or maybe a hybrid…

More reasons to visit Barcelona – This may be a perfect blend of food and culture

Supposedly the prettiest city in Europe…

A convincing argument for Florence and the Emilia-Romagna region

STEP 2: Share your upcoming travels

Tell your friends about where you’re planning to go! It’s not like you’ll be bragging the whole time about your future vacation, either. Sharing travel ideas could always lead to new ideas about future trips as well. It’ll help you organize your thoughts and, apparently, just talking about traveling can boost happiness!

I guess my version of sharing comes in the form of this blob of mine. This unknown abyss that is the Interweb, where anyone anywhere can access my very thoughts is kinda scary.. Hm. But at the same time liberating to think that there’s so much bullcrap out there that nobody is probably even reading this.

Reminicing vs. Anticipating

Similarly, reminiscing about a trip also increases you happiness. After going through my photos of the past Euro trips I’ve taken, I definately remember the happier moments peppered throughout trip. The fact that anticipation brings about greater happiness relative to reminiscing makes perfect sense. With anticipation, your imagination runs wild. Everything glitters with the possibilities of tomorrow. Reminiscing about a trip, on the other hand, always has a tinge of reality, of the imperfections of life. Plus, if said vacation is indeed a complete bust, at least you had a wonderful time fantasizing about it.

Nobody can take that away from you. NOBODY!!!

On a lighter note, anyone have suggestions for a must-see city in Europe?

until next time,
Christy 

Cooking Adventures: Fresh, Deliciously Crusty Bread! (aka My New Love)

What’s better than a fresh loaf of bread?

Lately, I’ve been lamenting the fact that St. Louis has almost not bakeries to be seen. It’s pretty hard to find the perfect loaf of crusty, artisan bread. So, I’ve given myself the duty to correct this injustice. That’s right, I made bread. Not just any bread, but multigrain bread full of nutritious grains like millet, flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.L1031120.jpg

You know what my favorite part of bread is? The crust. It’s literally the best part of freshly baked bread (and not just because it’s my nickname). Without the crispy, crackling crust, there would be no depth of texture, of taste. Collete from the Disney’s Ratatouille sums it up perfectly:

“How can you tell how good bread is without testing it? Not the smell, not the look, but the sound of the crust. Listen. [bread crackles] Oh, symphony of crackle. Only great bread sound this way.” 

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My favorite part of the movie

Why did I bake my own bread?

Starting this year, I’ve resolved to stop buying pre-sliced bread. First of all, it’s not fresh. Second, there’s a bunch of preservatives in there, yet all you really need to make a basic loaf is flour, water, and yeast. Plus, baking your own bread is a small miracle in itself: a transformation of three basic ingredients into something wonderful. 

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After the second proofing

Plus, nothing comes close to that crunch when you take the first bite. When I baked the bread, a warm yeasty smell enveloped my friends and I into a warm hug. I could barely contain myself, hopping around the kitchen like a six-year-old on Christmas morning. After what felt like much longer than 30 minutes, it was done. When I tapped the bottom of my lovely loaf, a satisfying hollow thump resounded. Hurrah! My first loaf of bread, a success.

My masterpiece

My masterpiece

Another picture for good measure

Another picture for good measure

I can’t believe I made bread on my first try! I was so happy, I could barely contain it. My emotions can basically be summed up in the two pictures below: 

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After a quick snapshot of me and my bread,  it was time to dig in. We ate it with some delicious salted butter (Kerrygold is pretty good!) and ricotta and honey. Best. Afternoon. Snack. Ever. 

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no knead bread vs. David Lebovit’z Multigrain bread

I had initially planned to make the No Knead Bread that every blogger raves about. Or I guess more like raved about; it’s been almost 8 years since that blogosphere revelation. But, the recipe seems simple. A little…too simple. Flour + instant yeast + water = wonderfully delicious bread. No kneading necessary.

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David Lebovitz’s article convinced me otherwise. To him, the flavor came off a little flat. God forbid my first loaf ever was to be flatI needed a recipe with more depth, texture and flavor. I needed that satisfying crunch when I bite in. A recipe that I, coincidentally, found in his lovely book, My Paris Kitchen, which also happens to be my first cookbook. I bought this book on Amazon over Christmas break when I randomly fell in love with the idea of moving to Paris and going to culinary school à la Julia Child.

Well, that didn’t pan out. But my love for cooking certainly has not diminished. A warning: this recipe is not the easiest one out there. There’s some kneading involved. Okay, a lot of kneading. I’ve heard that kneading dough can be therapeutic, but for me it was more of a work out than anything else. Or maybe I’m just really out of shape…But it was totally worth it! I find so much more pleasure in eating something that takes time and effort to make. 

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You can find the recipe here. The one thing you’ll really need that you might not have is a dutch oven. If you don’t have one, it’s time to invest in one! Trust me, I only have 3 months of school left and I still succumbed to buying one.  

Marsala Poached Pear Galette with almond cream + another round of firsts

Today is yet another roundup of firsts for me. It’s my first food-related post. It’s my first attempt at making a pastry dough, pastry cream, blanching almonds, and poaching pears. What does the amalgamation of these ingredients culminate to? A galette! Hope this pans out.

This is me before baking: eyes glazed over, ablaze with insurmountable, starry-eyed hope   (づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ

This is me after reality hit: (⊙︿⊙)

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Hello World! (aka “The First Post” =O)

What’s with the blog name?

One day, I will own a pug. A pug named Bruce. (This guy beat me to the name, but whatever.) He will be the most perfect and adorably round, scrunchy-faced pug to have every walked the earth. But for now, I shall have to content myself with daydreams and reblogged pictures of pugs on Tumblr. Oh, and this blog I guess. For I have decided to start a blog! Yup! 

SO ADORABLE. How can you not love that face?!

SO ADORABLE. How can you not love that face?!

Without further ado: The Long-Awaited First Post.

Like many things in my life, I have been putting off starting a blog. The genius idea came to me as a junior in college. The first roadblock was thinking of the perfect blog name. Then, it was deciding on the content. Insecurities started popping up after a while, too. I starting having this sense of anxiety where my every word will be scrutinized and criticized by whoever reads it. Or the opposite: that no one will read it, ever.

And now, well into my last year-no, last semester-in college, I have finally decided to start blogging. Yup. When I should be hard at work finishing up my last semester, job hunting, and generally figuring out what I want to do with my life post-college, I instead decide to take it upon myself the all-consuming task of blogging.

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