Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Italy: Siena in Tuscany, Italy

The story of Italy | Part 1 - Venice: Here.
After departing the beautiful waters of Venice, we dragged our suitcases up the tall stairs at the train station to leave the lap of luxury and head to the hostel-ish hotel that my brother, Conor, had picked-out for us. Our destination was Siena in Tuscany, Italy where Conor had been living the past 3 months while studying abroad. I was so excited to see him as he's one of my favorite people in the world to joke around with. He mainly just stands around and insults me but d*mn it if the jokes aren't hilarious.
So we were just a 3-hour train ride away from our reunion with him. The train itself was hot, humid and so incredibly fast that it made the Italian countryside pass me by in this blur of sunny colors & boastful landscapes. It is generally hard for me to sleep during the middle of any given day but the view worked as a lullaby and I drifted off despite the Tuscan sun smeared across my sweaty face.

I woke up to the familiar lurching of the cabin indicating an arrival and peered out the window at the large 'SIENA' sign. One-step off the train and across the tracks I saw Conor there waving at us. We grabbed our stuff and marathoned over tracks, sidewalks & trash cans until we were hugging him and desperately throwing our bags at him to carry. Amongst all the hoopla and jubilation, I couldn't help but notice that he was a bit... fuller. He has one of those youthful metabolisms that allows him to eat like sh*t and not gain weight. But I could immediately tell that that had even been bested by months abroad in the country of amazing eats. So I expressed that thought with a favorite quote from "The Incredibles" ("Conor: OMG. You've gotten fat.") which was met with defeated laughter.

Normally, I would never make a habit of commenting anyone's weight but my brother and I thrive on making fun of each other and I knew that he would slim right back down in the states (which he has). So really, his weight gain was up for discussion according to the contractual terms of our relationship.
^Conor showing us his apartment behind him (left) and his fave neighborhood haunts (right)
But really, it was a quick meet & greet until we were on to our hotel room in Siena to unload our bags and head out to see this foreign city that Conor had grown to know as home.

Again, a story best told with pictures if you can stop focusing on my ugly yellow hair (Whhhhy Caitlin, whhhhy?).
 First we had to stop in the main square and drool at the view. Because... that town square. Look. At. That.

And then we found a spot to enjoy afternoon aperitivo. We sipped on handspun Italian cocktails and noshed our way through the fruit, bread, focaccia and cheese display. After imbibing and eating to the tune of Santa Claus on xmas eve, I pulled out my wallet to drop a tip. "Caitie, don't tip. It's not customary, it's not worth it." At which point an Italian turned to this table of Americans to confirm the notion: "The boy is right. Don't waste your money!"
So I put my wallet back and was able to finally place why the taxi driver yesterday told me "THANK YOU FINE LADY!" as I left him with a 30% tip. Oh well. Vacation elation warrants big tips.

After we closed our tabs, Conor took us on a private tour of the city and even spoke a lot of Italian along the way to local merchants. It was so fun because he knew everything. Every store, every corner, ever neighborhood haunt. He had stories from karaoke at the pub with the flags, we listened to him tell of learning Italian cooking at that restaurant there. He had stars in his eyes pointing to the window of the apartment building he had just moved out of the previous day. A place where he lived with six former strangers almost 6,000 miles from home. In a city near where his Great-Grandpa lived. I don't believe growing-up happens in one instance and there's all sorts of little milestones in the long journey to adulthood. But it was palpable to me during this tour that a chapter of Conor's youth had been long-destined to come here to die. In the ocean of his life, this tide had drawn him far away from his familiar shores and though he would eventually return, a part of him drifted off into the infinite sea and belonged to its vast tale. And that made me zealously happy for him.

 After witnessing that sweet growth, we went out to dinner where I ordered a Pine Nut & Pesto dish (hamada-hamada) and drank some delicious red wine

Followed by the town square during blue hour. Which is my FAVORITE sky in the world.

Until we headed back to the hotel to sleep. Well, my Mom and I did at least. Conor wanted to enjoy one last drink at his local pub and to say bye to the staff he had come to know and love. So as to remind me again that he was becoming his own man, my Mom and I drifted off to sleep while he headed out into the world alone at 11 PM to say goodbye to his city.

The morning was followed by (of course) a yummy brunch and packing up our room
^Our Siena digs at Hotel Minerva. Certainly not complaining because I'm in Italy after all! But it was a change from Venice for sure.
^Hotel room view. Left: Our afternoon arrival. Right: Our morning view.
and making way to the train.

^Doing the Oregon Ducks 'OOOO' outside his Italian school (behind him) as he says goodbye.
Next stop: Florence, Italy. Which I will post about in my next Italy post.

Sidenote: Happy Birthday, Conor!!! This post was the best way for me to say on here how much I love you! xo.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


^Julia Louis-Dreyfus image VIA.
If I'm half as pretty.
A quarter as funny.
2/3 as stylish.
21% as much of an utterly comedic genius.
Remotely have her sophisticated yet flirty hairstyles.
10% as enjoyable to listen to.
Even a tiny slice of how intelligent she is.
And if I have even the most miniscule version of her great, huge laugh (and use it as often)...

When I'm her age. I will consider myself a great success story.

Love her!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekend Puppy

My weekend was awesome, how was yours?

I truly did nothing noteworthy (left house twice) 1) Tree Farm 2) Grocery Store) but I am so happy with my time spent.

Chandler. How can I ever explain how much I love my dog? I can't believe I ever existed without him.

Anyway, it's Monday. Mondays are awful. Not trying to take over your day with negativity. I'll see you tomorrow and I hope you have a great one!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Be Excellent To Your Community & Party On Dudes

I posted this post yesterday about all the celebratory fun that December brings. Just last week we had Jay's work party on Thursday night, my work party Friday afternoon followed by a festive birthday party for my girlfriend on Friday night and then a Christmas cabin excursion with my friends Saturday - Sunday. 
^Photo booth at Jay's work party on 12.4.14
I'd long been dreading the week as much as I had anticipated it because that is just a lot of excitement for my old lady body. By Sunday evening, I swear I looked like Nick Nolte's mugshot. However, there would be no mugshot of me taken because I truly take steps to party responsibly.

We took public transportation to Jay's work party.
We walked to and from my work party.
We walked to my friend's birthday party and then cabbed it home.
At my cabin party, cars were parked and no one moved all night.

Because it's not worth it. It's not worth it to risk it.
I watch this video every holiday season and I think it serves as nice reminder to not get behind the wheel of a car amidst all of this festive fun.

Have a great, safe weekend and enjoy all the revelry that comes with it! And if push-comes-to-shove, just fork over dough for a cab!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Toastin', Holidayin', Smilin'

Lately (like most people) I've felt a wee bit rounder than usual. I've still been eating healthy base meals but there's been a lot more snacks seeping in. Can we all just agree to NOT have donuts at the office? I mean, who really wants them there? Who really walks away from the kitchen with a mouthful of donuts at 7:45 AM feeling proud and happy to be alive? 
Also chocolates at every corner. Snacks in the lobby of our building. Gooey treats being delivered. The caloric intake of pure and utter crap has begun. Tis' the season, right? I suppose what else is January for besides guilt and strenuous exercise?

I hate my "bonus" calories coming from things I don't normally like (like donuts & chocolate- I'm a bagel & cream cheese + chip gal myself). However, I will take all the joy and calories that comes from holiday toasts. They're the best and actually worth all the ensuing sweat and carrot meals in the following year.
 Whether it's champagne organized into a delightful presentation to toast with your girlfriends...
^Christmas Party 2012 with my girlfriends.
Or romantic toasts at home with paired wine & cheese...
^Xmas Celebration with my then-boyfriend, now-husband in 2013
Or board games over Pinot Noir at your friends' cozy shared home...
^Post-dinner board games at our good friends' house last xmas. They got engaged days later which made this more special.
Or simply smiles, cheers & jubilation with your family...
^Christmas toast with the family, 2013
Those are the big, fatty calories I don't regret during the Holiday season. Because they come with the added bonus of cherishing those you love & remembering why this season is so important to close out the year.

Not deriving from the fact that you happened to walk into the kitchen and found a platter of pastries which you decided to eat for no reason.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Snow & the City

You know what I've definitely noticed people like to say?
They love to tell you that you don't love snow as much as you do.
That sounds weird, I know. But I swear it is true.

I love snow. I love it so much. I love the way it makes drab roads and scenery look like they emerged from a f*cking Jan Brett children's book. Or the fact that it amplifies an already beautiful landscape into a silent, crunchy-footed, piece of art. I love the way it makes 'insides' so much better. Really, you tell me what is not to like about drinking hot beverages, watching movies and curling-up inside with a blanket of snow out your window? There's nothing like it. It's the best.
^Loving my snow day in Portland, Feb. 2014
Yet, when you tell people that you love snow in the city or when I explain this to people, I am always, always, always told that I don't/wouldn't like the snow.
"Yes, I would. I really love snow. I wish we had it all winter long instead of slow drizzle."
"Oh no you wouldn't, you'd get so sick of it. Trust me."

Ugh, I don't trust you. I trust myself! I trust that you don't like snow for long durations but I trust that I actually do. So kindly stop telling me that.

This may seem like a ridiculous thing to get worked up over and I would gladly agree with you. Truth is, it doesn't make me mad. It's just an eye-roll inducing, pet peeve at most. It seems to be what everyone loves to say when you say you like snow. Like when someone announces at a party that they (or their child) is getting their driver's license soon- someone will say a joke that's in the vicinity of "remind me to stay off the road!" Hardy-har-har...

But guess what? I love snow. And our last snowfall in the city in February was just about my favorite day I'd had in awhile. First, I woke up and went over to my balcony to discover this view:
I quickly made myself a cup of hot Licorice Spice tea (oh my, the best!) and stood outside and took it all in. Every white rooftop, every sparkly tree branch- so stankin' gorgeous. After the tea, I armed myself with my DSLR and rushed outside in my winter jacket to walk the city.

Though I was by myself during that four-hour excursion, I had the most amazing time practicing with my camera and even popped into 3 cafes peppered throughout downtown: One for a pot of cinnamon tea, one for some hot water w/ lemon and one for a piece of apple pie. 

I crunched back home happy, full & positive that I really, truly do in fact: Love snow.
[All images are mine]