Do a Lot With a Little

Allergen-free eating on the road, europe, family, food, France, geek, Ireland, italy, Travel, United Kingdom

I have never had what I would consider a lot of money or resources. I grew up in my grandparent’s house. My family lived below the poverty line. Since moving out of my childhood home I have been in school and/or working in jobs that don’t pay more than $34,000 a year. I sometimes do some work as a photographer or web designer to make ends meet. It has never been a lot. I have never had excessive means.

However, even with a little, I make it stretch. I take the advantages that have been given to me and make it work. This is, of course, been an immense lot of luck, and stubbornness, and sacrifice. However, it has meant that I have been able to do more than many at 27.

For my first trip to Europe, I lived at home and worked almost seven days a week for $8 an hour, at a crappy little fossil shop with sketchy owners. I did that for eight months, and then cheaply wandered around Europe crashing with friends, old and new, and hosteling when I needed to. I ate apples for lunch, and cooked in dingy kitchens to save cash. I walked instead of taking taxis and buses. I made it work. I took the advantages of free places to sleep and turned it into a longer trip, another museum, a nice meal.

In 2013 on my study abroad I headed to Italy on the most economical program I could find. I ate at the apartment for the most part, picking up in season produce at the markets. Savoring every sweet little strawberry and succulent squash. I bought $2 gelato on my way to classes for my “lunch” and euro store (same as a dollar store) nuts for a snack. I would scour the city for food deals on dinners. €15 three-course meals meant I could eat and drink on the cheap, street vendors served €2 polenta for a real treat. I bartered to cut down on souvenir costs. I stubbornly walked away to save another €5. I took advantage of every meal and treat that the study abroad program offered, knowing it would save me money.

2015 was the start of my M.A. and I hosteled, while others stayed in hotels. I packed lunch or ate cheap soup in the cantina at the college instead of eating a sandwich nearby. I traded books at the hostel and did my laundry in the basement. In an extra three weeks of travel I only stayed three nights in a real hotel, a 3-star Ibis. I was gifted gluten free bread from a fabulous bakery in Dublin. I bought few souvenirs and savored toast and tea and packets of oatmeal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I LOVE food. However, I love seeing the world more. I love diving into museums and cathedrals and tours. I love eating cheap food that locals love, from chippies and markets, and food stalls. I like finding fresh veggies and fruits to suck down locally. I like fancy things, and fine meals, but if it means I can try three restaurants for the price of one, I’ll take more over the one.

I find this philosophy trickles into everything I do. I shop second hand clothing stores so I can afford a better quality item for much less. I shop grocery store sales, and closeout items for a better deal. I coupon and wait for deals to get the items I need. I scour for off-season travel deals and seasonal items to hit the clearance sections. Some find this cheap. I find it a means to live a fuller life.

I don’t hoard this bounty either, I gift to others, and donate like crazy. Monthly I probably get rid of at least one if not more trash bags of stuff. It consists of clothes my stepdaughter has outgrown, shoes we are bored of, and books we have read. I recycle and reuse, I pass it on and upcycle. I take a little and make a lot.

End note: I have been extremely lucky and I am fully aware not everyone can do this.

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Make Sure You’ve Got the Docs

adventure of the week, Allergen-free eating on the road, Caribbean, colorado, Colorado Events, europe, Florida, France, Iowa, Ireland, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

So many times I hear this classic “I didn’t know I needed a Visa”.

Here is the truth, you ALWAYS need a Visa.

“What?” You ask. Because in London they stamped your book and you were free to go as a US citizen. This is totally true, but that stamp, at customs and border, was your visa. No pre-registration and paperwork needed. Just the stamp.

Here is the thing though, sometimes the stamp doesn’t happen. And a big reason is that your passport may not have at least 6 months left on it for you to enter a specific country. Or more depending on where you are headed. In fact, many airlines won’t even let you board the plane if your passport is low on time. Meaning that week in Paris may be thrown away if you’re not prepared. This happens a lot.

Now for countries where you need advance permission, it’s vital to learn who needs what and what is needed. Meaning: countries like China may take longer and need you to buy plane tickets before you travel. Vietnam only takes a few days to process. Some countries only need a form when you land and a $50 fee. Just make sure you find out and find out at least a month or more in advance so you have time to plan.

Where do you find these details? Embassy websites and through the US state department’s website on travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

Don’t forget to also check warnings on places you are traveling to. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Even consider registering with the state department in case you go missing. https://step.state.gov/step/

Other needs? Check with a travel agent or specialist that can at least point you in the right direction. Read a travel guide on your preferred country and ask around to others that have been to such locations.

Most of all, plan ahead, and have fun!

Happy Travels!

German Beer Fests and Go Carts

europe, food, musings, Throwback Thursday, Travel

Millions of beer lovers are headed to the annual Munich mayhem of Oktoberfest this month. Starting on the 22nd of September this year (not in October like many think) the celebration is a mass gathering of international beer snobs and party hunters. Yet, itis not the only festival worth visiting in Germany.

While Oktoberfest has captured an international audience with its romantic imagery, Bavarian setting, and set up for the masses, it lacks some of the small-town or smaller festival charm. As the world’s largest beer festival, Oktoberfest is known the world over as the ultimate beer festival, what many tourists miss is the fun, intimacy, and excitement of other annual gems that dot the German landscape.

In April many metropolitan areas hold a Fruhlingfest, a spring beer festival. This equally enjoyable festival offers the same fun as the September version with a fraction of the people, lines, and a more German experience.

I found myself at a Fruhlingfest in April 2010 while visiting family friends in Stuttgart, Germany. Here it is where I made a dirndl and wore it to one of the best nights of my life. At Fruhlingfest I danced with US military kids, and local Germans. I rode go-karts on a 3-story track while buzzed and giggling insanely. I ate delicious and salty roasted almonds. I drank the best beer I’ve ever had in my life. I listened to 80s and 90s cover bands belt out radio classics. I laughed my ass off at versions of David Hasselhoff adorning rides and booths. I thought the CONDOM MAN was a gem that should be at every event involving narcotics.*

Fruhlingfest was the iconic night out everyone dreams of in Germany at a beer fest. My point being, that exploring in the off season and with locals means you get a deeper experience in a country you visit. I avoided the chaos of 6 million people and had the time of my 19 y/o life. It meant pushing out of a comfort zone, dressing up and joining the crowd, and I will never forget the euphoria felt while driving drunk go-karts.**

Happy Travels!

*the condom man sold funny condoms, funny novelties, and hats that looked like the latex devices.

**I even had a little romance with a Polizei named Mario… maybe named Mario… there was a lot of beer.

Spring Foods from Around the World

europe, History, italy, mexico, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

Have you noticed how with each season come certain holidays and with said holidays comes certain food?

Naturally, this is not purely American (though we tend to take it above and beyond). Other countries in the world celebrate holidays in their own way and with certain dishes. Here are some of my favorite spring treats.

 

North America

  • Easter candy- this is a given, with Easter on its way and the end of lent, food looks mighty tasty that’s full of all the bad stuff you maybe gave up for 6 weeks.

pexels-photo-730848.jpeg

  • Fruit on everything- Though we live in world with fruit available almost year round, when berry and cherry season arrive everything has a touch of blueberries or cherries to make life more colorful.
  • Meat- pair your fruit and chocolate with some lamb….somehow this makes sense.

South America

Due to the flipping of seasons south of the border, most of South America is entering fall. Here are some of their preferred treats for their Easter Season

  • Easter Bread Ring “rosca de Pascuahas roots in Spain, king of like a King cake in the French tradition, it’s a sweet and tasty bread.

pexels-photo-940838.jpeg

  • Spanish Fasting Soup “potaje de la vigilia is popular this time of year. The main ingredients are codfish, spinach, and chickpeas.
  • Ceviche is a popular dish in Peru, and that means Easter week it becomes a necessity for home and celebration

Europe

Many of our “American” traditions have European roots; here are some of the better or more surprising foods.

  • German Eggs – This one surprised me on my first trip out of the country. As Germany was my first stop my friends there had received an Easter basket from their landlord. To my surprise, eggs are not refrigerated in Europe before purchase AND sometimes after. So boiled Easter eggs are often just left out for a few days, fully decorated and then consumed. The cool thing about eggs in the shell is that they don’t really rot and eggs don’t rot in general until they are very old or exposed to oxygen.

pexels-photo-372167.jpeg

  • British- Guess where that odd 1994 Cadbury commercial came from, the Brits. Who make and developed those delicious, sickly sweet fill eggs that are popular this season.
  • Italian- The Italian menu for this holiday moves away form heavy and sweet into fresh and tasty. Though lamb is also common asparagus side dishes are popular, so is an egg and rice soup, and for a finish many enjoy Columba cake.

Asia

With the seasons come new foods, and Asian cuisine is all about embracing what is fresh and seasonal. Many parts of China and into Korea love to eat dumplings starting from Lunar New Year into the summer as a hearty cold weather treat and for traditions around the food. Here are some other tasty treats.

  • Japanese- As blossoms and spring plant life leads to many spring traditions in Japan, they whole-heartedly embrace it with their food. Mochi with cherry blossom leaves are common, strawberries don many treats, and mugwort comes into popularity in mochi and other treats.

pexels-photo-76997.jpeg

  • Chinese- Asparagus stir-fries with beef, vegetable pot stickers, and lamb when available.
  • Southeast Asia- Much of this region does not have the seasons that we associate with in the west, but that doesn’t mean some food is not seasonal. Thai Basil is popular to make refreshing drinks as temperatures rise. Rice paper spring rolls, served cool make for a crisp treat with a tasty sauce and shrimp. Indonesian cuisine embraces fried crispy spring rolls full of tasty veggies and light meats.

Australia

While food in Australia is not too obscure for the holiday, and while they are very British culturally, Australia has their chocolate eggs, hot cross buns etc. BUT in Australia instead of a bunny bringing treats, kids get a visit from a Bilby…

Bilby critters are nocturnal insect, snake- eating rodent things, with giant claws. It’s really not any weirder than someone making up a rabbit that leaves/lays eggs. So while the food is not too weird, I leave you with the Bilby.

easter_bilby_by_arabidopsis-d3entpc.png

AMENDED March 19, 2018

So I actually asked a friend about the Bilby, he is from Australia and said they have the Easter bunny in Australia and that the Bilby is a new twist on the classic. Maybe, just maybe to confuse foreigners.

 

Happy Travels!

 

Homemade Wedding Dress

europe, History, wedding
Our obsession with white wedding dresses is purely a concoction from the last 150 years. Why white? Well it represents “purity” but it was also a sign of wealth for those at the start of that 150 years. Having a white dress, that you only wore once, well that was the height of luxury. So with a growing middle class and more disposable income, in addition to cheaper labor, factory weaving and mass production, white dresses became more and more popular. Yet in my family, white dresses has only been a tradition for around 100 years. With my Great-Grandmother’s donning their white gowns in the 1920s and 1930s, but before that wedding photos show women in “sunday’s bests” posed with their husbands in nice suits. Many wore dark colors. Why dark? Dark blues last a lot longer than lighter clothing.

Anyway, we’ll set aside family wedding lore and get us to the 21st century. My grandmother’s wore store-bought dresses, as did my mother. Even though the grandmother’s were avid seamstresses. No doubt, their dresses were beautiful. Juanita wore a 1949 classic dress that had a train and a slim a-line cut with plenty of lace, while Candice went early 1960s in a bell skirt and soft satin.  My mom had a simple 1990s dress that was simple and suited their Western-themed shindig.

For myself, a child and grandchild of crafters and history nerds, I went a new but old direction. No doubt for centuries my relatives made their own clothing or had someone make them clothes, probably a relative, maybe a seamstress. So when it came to my own dress, I started with shopping in stores, and online, and with Etsy. I ended at making my own dress.

Being me, I couldn’t make a normal dress. Because of being stubborn and also being entranced with a certain design from the 18th century. The Chemise a la Reine, which was worn in the late 1700s is the amalgamation of changing culture, feminism and moving away from the strictness of fine dress. It was the beginning of a brief 30 years or so where women wore clothing that was more comfortable and more reasonable for the lives that women were leading. The Chemise a la Reine was controversial in its time for being too simple, too much like underwear. The painting below of Marie Antoinette was scandalous in its day.

So for me, the chance to create and wear something so beautiful, but
representative of how far women have come and the excitement of having something of a “princess” dress was the perfect blend.

Naturally, I made a  few modern changes. I added less poofs, I made a multi-colored under skirt and my hair represented a more modern take. It all also blended well with the Alphonse Mucha fall theme that touched many aspects of our day.

Part II tomorrow.

Oh Christmas Tree

europe, History, musings
Those of us that grew up with something resembling a Christian background are likely to have a Christmas tree up this time of year.
While not religious the tree is the center of familial celebration for the Christmas season. Some of the traditions go back a thousand or more years, while the modern tree is straight from Victoriana. Well by the way of Germany to Queen Victoria’s home.
There is in fact something charming about bringing the forest inside and placing trinkets on the branches, covering it with lights and fighting the cat off of it.
Growing up we did not have a lot of money, so the tree was always an exciting extravagance that came before Christmas. Most years we went into the national forest and found a tree to bring home, often it was a family outing with boots, scarves, and frozen fingers. Our dogs would act like maniacs in the snow and our little kid dreams always wanted to bring home a tree in the 10′ to 15′ range, when our ceilings topped at 8′.
At times the tree was a little sad and bare, but somehow it didn’t show too much when we added some tinsel and a mess of ornaments. There were clay hands, broken snowmen, and felt reindeer that made the tree look like an explosion of the worst crafts known to 90s children. Mom also had the “Special” ornaments that were more fragile and special, they always made it to the top of the tree where no child nor puppy, nor kitty could aim or maim them.
There were years that things went awry, like when the cat killed the nativity in an epic crash that involved a tasseled table runner, and it all landing on the Siamese’s head. Only Jesus made it out alive. Then there was the year that my sister’s and I took ornamenting the tree on ourselves, unaware of our mother’s awareness on evasive placement, and the litter of puppies ate all the wood ones on the bottom foot of the tree.
All around though, our tree was our own, and each year was looked on with excitement. It was never because we got new ornaments, or a new tree, it was because we got to relive all our old memories and all the ornaments that brought as joy and wonderment. We had crystal ballerinas, glass bells, and whimsical forest creatures.
As an adult I learned that people buy new trees, new ornaments, new decorations, and have a new theme every year. It enhances the general Martha Stewart nature of a home, it’s clean and happy, and photogenic. In the age of Instagramming, YouTube Stars, there is definitely an appeal. I like a home of clean lines and design as much as the next 20-something, but not when it comes to my tree.
This year our fake tree is on its last leg, there are metal-plastic branches missing the it is permanently bent, with many branches unable to hold bigger ornaments. We only paid $20 for it five years ago, so it makes sense that the 6′ Family Dollar mess is falling apart. This year is its last, but there is something about it that brings up an immense amount of sentiment. It was the first tree I bought as an adult, and not another family hand-me-down, but what decorates the tree is the better story.
Each ornament has a tale. There is the carousel horse I have had as long as I can remember, a 25 year old fragile plastic white horse with black hair. There is a copper ornament with a cutout elk, announcing many weekends spent in Rocky Mountain National Park. For my step-daughter there are My Little Pony’s and a plush fox. The newest ornament members include a pair of hedgehogs commemorating our marriage this year, and a fat clay dolphin from Mexico.
Each year Ryan, Lily, and I have been playing house, I have bought Ryan and Lily an ornament, something to remember the year or just something they like. Ryan has received Yoda, a Maneki-neko cat, and this year a spaceman. Lily has a Lenox Elsa, a parrot and this year will be the dolphin and a miniature sombrero. There is a wood cat for when we adopted our cat, and a groom from my bridal shower.
It looks like a mess, to be honest, it should not be in a magazine, or even an Instagram post, and the cat hates that it took over some of his prime sunbathing room. Yet it’s ours, a tree full of baubles to celebrate our lives, and the gifts from our families to get started on our own. Maybe I’m more sentimental this year because we are officially wed, but all around I love that we have such an ugly tree, and the joy of decorating it each year.
Maybe the best part is sharing this with Lily, we decorate the tree together, pulling out our boxes and deciding what makes it on the tree. Each year she gets more that are hers, and when she moves on to college or her first home, they will go with her, pieces of our home, so that she too can buy her first tree and start creating her own ugly Christmas Tree.

Faces of Italy, Part II- Calcio Storica

europe, History, italy, Photography, Travel

This photo essay explores the traditional clothing and roles of individuals in the parade that precludes Calcio Storico in Florence, Italy on St. John the Baptist’s Feast Day in June 2013.

This is part II of my Faces of Italy series. Please visit part I, Faces of Italy.

Faces of Italy

europe, History, italy, Travel

In the summer of 2013 I decided to do my study abroad in Italy, and more specifically in Florence. As a person deeply intrigued by history and the art and changes of the Italian Renaissance there was really no better city in the world I could pick to live in for six weeks. So I signed up for a program that sent me to the Santa Reparata International School of Art where I took a class for fun in Modern Italian History and a class for knowledge in the Italian Fashion Industry, maybe I got it backwards.

While in Italy I learned more than I thought humanly possible about the culture, food, people, history, art, characters, politics and many other stories that have shaped Italy in the past and continue to shape it today. What was most intriguing for me was how honest the Italian people felt. They were honest about their vanity, honest about their lust, their passion, their vulgarity and their existence as what they were and what they are today. Though eccentric or even crazy to some people; I found Italians to be a truly great people, willing to welcome you into their lives and take you into their hearts at any moment. They are benevolent in their stories, regardless of the embarrassment or secrets hidden in them. They also want you to become just a little bit Italian, and will do anything to make sure you understand, La Dolce Vita.

These photographs, mostly taken in secret, reflect what I felt and experienced in Italy, I hope they give you a similar sense of passion and love that i feel about them. Thanks for viewing.

For Part II, Calcio Storico click here.

 

The following video clip is a trailer for a documentary that is being made of Calcio Fiorentino or Calcio Storico. For more information on the match and more video clips visit their official website. The video is for educational and contextual purposes only.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/25512336″>MODERN GLADIATORS – CALCIO STORICO</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/battistella”>David Battistella</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>