Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Bit on Peruvian Food

AJ is Peruvian and it was not until he introduced me to the cuisine of his fine country that I realized just how delicious Peruvian food is. I grew up in Minnesota so I was never introduced to exotic cuisines. Italian food was the usual in our house because we are Italian. Now, I can't get enough Peruvian food and I love eating at AJ's when his parents cook. When we first started dating, I was obsessed with the rice his mother makes. It's just regular white rice, but she uses the perfect amount of oil, salt, and garlic. I think she thought I was a little odd because for a while, all I wanted was rice!

So, AJ also introduced me to what is now one of my favorite restaurants, Fiesta LimeƱa, a Peruvian place near his house. The food is consistently delicious, the portions are almost too generous, and it's a nice, simple place that is no fuss and so easy to go to. A few years ago we were going too often and AJ had to impose a once-a-month rule on how often we could frequent Fiesta!

The food is the real deal, Peruvian food and I always have AJ order for me since the staff speaks Spanish. We always get anticuchos for our appetizer (beef hearts) and we either order a chaufa or lomo saltado for our entrees. Sometimes we'll get this drink called chicha morada that is made from purple corn!

There are three different Fiesta restaurants in Fairfield County, and I bought us a Groupon to one in Stamford. We went the other night and were so disappointed by the terrible service and waist staff that the moment we sat down, it was clear we will never again stray from our Fiesta restaurant.

But just to give you an idea of how delicious Peruvian food is and how big the servings are, here's a photo from our dinner the other night:

Huge, right?! AJ got the chaufa de mariscos, it's the Peruvian version of fried rice made with seafood. You can also order it with just shrimp, chicken, or beef. 

I got a dish I had never tried before called tallarines verdes because AJ's sister gets it all the time and loves it. It's the Peruvian version of pasta with pesto sauce but you can taste there's a difference between their pesto and Italian pesto. It was so tasty! And it also came with a huge portion of pepper steak which I had to share with AJ. I didn't finish all of my pasta either so I left it in the fridge at AJ's house—hopefully his sister will find it and eat it!

And because I can't resist, this is AJ's 'don't take a photo of me' face. Dinner was a disaster but the food was perfect and that is what matters the most. Also, we were both able to laugh off the ridiculousness of the experience and have fun anyway and I'm so glad we could do that. 

Plus! We also ended up ordering dessert which we never do at our Fiesta. We got a big slice of flan and an alfajor, which I still can't say correctly. 

Because Peruvian food is so delicious and there are so many different types of dishes—all of which I have loved so far—I'm sure I'll be posting about it many more times to share all of the interesting, yummy foods from AJ's home country!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chatham Favorites

In just over a week, AJ and I will be packing up the Jeep and driving four and half hours to the South east most corner of Cape Cod. Once in Chatham, we'll be spending about 5 days there with my family. Since I was a baby, my family has rented a house in the same neighborhood in Chatham for one week every summer. Last summer was the first time AJ joined us and I was nervous, not because it would be his first time spending an extended period of time with my extended family, but because I just really, really, really wanted him to love Chatham as much as I do! It's my favorite place and it's been a big part of my life forever. If he didn't like it, what would I do???

Luckily—even though he is not a beach guy—he loved it, too. And he's really excited to go back. We had fun taking long walks and exploring hidden parts of Hardings Beach. We would walk through town together and on our last day there, we put Greek yogurt and cereal into Solo cups, got iced coffee from Dunkin's and walked to private beach at the house to have a little breakfast in the sand. That's one of my favorite memories from that trip. My other favorite memory took place on our last full day there, it was drizzling outside so we were taking a little drive through town when we noticed that my favorite ice cream place, Buffy's, was open! It hadn't been open at all when we there because we went so early in the season but I kept telling AJ how badly I wanted mint Oreo ice cream from there. So, even though it was raining, we pulled a quick U-turn, picked up some ice cream, and drove to Lighthouse Beach where we parked the car, walked down on the sand towards the water, and ate our ice cream in the freezing cold rain. What a good sport he is!

So I am happily anticipating our impending trip and I am brainstorming everything I want to fit into this next trip to make the most of our time! Here are a few of the things that we will definitely do.

Watch a Chatham A's Game
We might be there too early in the season, again, so we might not be able to catch a game this time. However, if you ever are on the Cape during the summer, try to catch a baseball game! It's a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening when you want a change from going to the beach or out to dinner. It's a fun atmosphere and they sell T-shirts and ice cream and hot dogs at all the games.

Have Dinner at Chatham Bars
We did this twice last year because the first time the spot where we really wanted to eat at the Inn was closed for a private party so we ate on the Veranda, which I don't really recommend. The portions and options are slim but really pricey, still, it was a great view of the ocean for dinner. We went back the next day for a late lunch and ate at their patio grill which is actually on the beach. The food is a bit cheaper and there are plenty more options. Plus, the view is even better!

Get Coffee at Chatham Cookie
Last year was the first time I even noticed Chatham Cookie! And since I am known as a cookie monster, I had to check it out. It's right at the beginning of Main Street in town and it is the perfect place to take a break from walking around or to pass a cloudy morning. As the name suggests, they have dozens of cookie flavors (why aren't there more cafes like this? Enough with scones and muffins and cupcakes—we want cookies!) along with different coffees, teas, pastries, and even small buckets of food that are specially made to order for your day at the beach! It is such a cute idea and is well decorated. It has a beachy, mermaid theme with lots of cute signs with funny or inspiring quotes.

Watch the Fishermen Come In
Just passed the Chatham Bars Inn, you can park your car and walk over this little deck that overlooks the docks where the fishermen boats come in. You stand above them and watch all the fish pour off the boats and into buckets to be cleaned up and sent out to restaurants and stores. It smells, yes but it's interesting and you will always spot some seals that come in to try to get fish scraps. The seals are the real scene stealer, they flip over and pop their heads out of the water to stare at you like they're putting on a show!

Drive to the National Seashore 
I am always content to spend the whole trip parked in Chatham, but we usually drive to other beaches that are smack dab on the ocean, rather than the Nantucket sound like Chatham. The waves are taller, the beach is bigger, and the drive up the coast is beautiful. There are also bike trails that go through all the towns on the Cape that can shoot you out at the beach. I haven't tried that yet, but my sister and cousin did a few years ago and enjoyed it! Last year when we drove up the coast, it was raining and dreary so we didn't lay out on the beach, but we still walked in the sand, watched the waves crashed, and enjoyed the long drive.

Take Photos on Hardings Beach
Since we were babies, my mom has been taking photos of my sisters and me on Hardings Beach because it's where we stay every year. You can watch us grow up in those photos on the beach. Last year, neither of my sisters came to the Cape and AJ gladly stepped in to take photos with me. These are some of my favorite photos of us that we've ever taken and they were so fun! The weather was perfect and the sun was in the perfect spot. I definitely want to make this a new tradition for AJ and I to have photos on Hardings every year. And when we have children, we'll take photos of them in the same spot, too!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rainy Summer Days Don't Bother Me

Summer is all about sunshine, warm breezes, and beach days. I love it and I want to soak it all up this year. But today is a rainy day and, even though I usually get bummed when I see rain or storms in the forecast, it's kind of nice. It's an excuse to spend the day inside catching up on cleaning or reading on the couch and maybe squeezing in a nap in the afternoon, too. 

Storms are en even better excuse for staying inside and reading in better. These days are nice and are relaxing in a different way than your typical beach day. It's a day to recharge so that the next day can be filled to the brim with summer activities and errands under the sun, which I hope tomorrow will bring!

New York City in Novels

Last week I wrote an article for about books that take place largely in New York City. I'll give you the list of the books included in the article, but for more of a synopsis and praise, you can read the article here!

The list of books include:

The Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Soledad: A Novel by Angie Cruz

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The Interpreter by Suki Kim

Push by Sapphire

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Photo via

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Currently Reading: Chocolates for Breakfast

I love when I get the feeling that I have stumbled upon a literary treasure and that is the feeling I get whenever I open this book. Chocolates for Breakfast was published in 1956 and is written by Pamela Moore. I was especially drawn to this book when I found out that Pamela was only 18 when this book was published, not to mention in her last year of 18 years old. The book was translated to many languages and was an international bestseller. Pamela Moore continued writing but none of her other novels compared in success. At 26 years old, she committed suicide. 

The book is amazing and is often compared to The Catcher in the Rye because it deals with youthful angst and anxieties as well as depression and the desire to grow up. It is considered to be autobiographical as Pamela and her main character, Courtney, were both children of divorce and were shuttled between their parents' separate homes in Los Angeles and New York City. 

The book begins when Courtney is at boarding school in New England. The end of a relationship with a female teacher leaves her upset and causes her mother, a struggling actress, to pull her out of school to move in with her in California. There, Courtney grows up as she mingles with movie stars and lives the life of an adult far too early. 

What is most amazing about this book is, of course, the writing. Moore is able to grasp the feelings, confusions, and contradictions of youth without shoving it in her reader's face. She's subtle in her writing but so powerful. The simple sentences that hold so much more meaning than one realizes upon first reading. It really touches on the life of a young adult with such perfection and with extreme realism. 

The book went out of print decades ago and was brought back by the help of another author, Emma Straub. The edition of the book that I have was printed in 2013 by Harper Perennial and contains lots of interesting extras such as old articles about the author and book as well as photocopies of early drafts of the novel. 

Most of the books I write about I would recommend to other readers but this one I recommend above and beyond all others! Anyone will enjoy it and will relate to it. To prove my point, I will leave you with a small quotation that is one of my favorites thus far in my reading:

"It's gray. It's gray and dim. Do you know what I mean? It's dead leaves in the swimming pool and smoke in the bedroom. But I guess that doesn't make sense to you."

You can learn more about the book and author here

Also, how awesome are all these older covers of the book from past editions? I think they are more representative and truthful to the content and feel of the book than the newest cover.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Week of Cakes

My future mother-in-law is the queen of making cakes. She makes cakes for everyone and for every occasion. She made no less than 4 cakes for this week and they were all equally delicious. For some reason, a number of events feel into the same week, starting this past Sunday, and as a result we have been on cake overload. I've never eaten so much cake in such a short period of time.

But let's start from the beginning.

As you know, my graduation ceremony was on Sunday. I could only bring 5 people so my mom, godmother, grandmother, sister, and AJ sat outside, under the beautiful sky for over 3 hours to watch me get my degree. After, we headed to my favorite restaurant in Fairfield, Centro, where we met up with AJ's family for a delicious brunch. FYI, for anyone in the Fairfield County area, I highly suggest you go to Centro for brunch sometime. Instead of bread baskets, you get croissant baskets that are to die for. After brunch, we came back to my house and a few more family members came over for cake!
AJ's mom, Carmen, made me a two tier cake decorated with my school colors. Inside was a vanilla cake with cannoli like filling, except she used cream cheese, and ginormous chocolate chips. I still have the top tier waiting on my dining room table but I'm practicing self-control and not cutting it until I've gone another few days without cake.

The second cake we devoured in one night was for my mom's birthday on Tuesday. Carmen made her a chocolate cake that had Nutella and raspberry jam between each layer. She covered the outside of the cake with yellow fondant with blue details, my mom's favorite color combo. Everyone that was over that night shamelessly went back for a second slice before swallowing the last bite of their first piece.

And the final cake (of this week, anyway) was AJ's graduation cake at his grad party last night. It, too, was decorated with fondant for the graduation theme. It was similar to my mom's cake, with chocolate layers and Nutella and jam layered between the layers. As always, it was delicious and I even got to watch her make some of the white fondant the night before—it's a lot of work and a lot of powdered sugar! Now, hopefully, Carmen will get a little break from all her cake making (during the week, she also made a cake for her sister's birthday that I'm so bummed I didn't get to try! It was tres leches cake but chocolate!) and I'll begin my sugar withdrawal.

Shakespeare Saturdays: Hollywood Twists

One reason that Shakespeare's plays have remained relevant and important for so long is because people continue to reinterpret and adapt the historic plays. While many adaptations line the streets of Broadway or make their way to small town theaters, Hollywood plays a large part in remaking and modernizing the very best of his plays. Below are some of my favorite adaptations!

10 Things I Hate About You. I know I'm not alone on this one. This movie, based on The Taming of the Shrew, came out in 1999 and people are still quoting the famous poem at the end and fawning over Heath Ledger's smile. Of course, this movie does not stick to the original script or storyline, but it's a hilarious and updated take on love, trickery, and happy endings. This one makes my list because The Taming of the Shrew is my favorite Shakespearean comedy.

She's The Man. Again, another given. The movie is based on Twelfth Night and is such a good rendition of the play. It sticks to the bare bones of the plot but makes it absolutely hilarious, starring Amanda Bynes before she went cray cray. The comedy of it is truly Shakespearean and his influence is very apparent throughout the hijinks and missteps of the colorful characters.

Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. This is one of my favorite movies and it is especially unique because it takes the exact, word-for-word script of Shakespeare's play and just updates the setting. I think I like the use of the original script so much because it shows that understanding the language is attainable. And, because it's a Baz Luhrmann film, everything is over the top and dramatized and that's always fun to watch.

Love's Labor's Lost. I love this play, even though it is not one of his most popular, because it is all in rhyme which makes it perfect to adapt into a musical. Kenneth Branagh did just that—also, everyone should watch Branagh in some form of a Shakespeare remake, he's in or has created a ton of them. Alicia Silverstone stars in this adaptation and I found the watching the movie made reading the play more fun and entertaining. The dance and singing scenes are occasionally cringeworthy but there's plenty of humor in it, as well!

Friday, May 23, 2014

AJ Graduated!

Sorry for the not so great photo quality, but that's usually what happens at graduations. Dodging other people's arms and cameras to get your shot in before the graduate leaves the from, hence the photo on the bottom right. But the photos are only a very small part of the big day that was had yesterday. On May 22, 2014 AJ graduated from NCC with a degree as a Physical Therapy Assistant after many years of extremely hard work! It was such an exciting day because he worked so hard to get here. I can't stress that enough and it seemed like the celebration and acknowledgment of that was long over due.

First, there was his pinning ceremony with the other students in his program. The families were able to attend and we sat in the PT room at their lab tables and had a little lunch before the professors spoke and then AJ even delivered his own speech that had many in tears! Everyone came up to him after to tell him how great it was and I was, of course, very proud.

After they were all pinned and many photos were taken, AJ's parents, siblings, and I headed outside to the tent where the entire school's graduation was held. It was long and crowded but I would have sat there for days just to see AJ's happy face when he walked across the stage and his full name was read correctly! I stood up and shouted as he got his diploma and he saw me and waved.

Just as everyone was leaving the tent, it started to thunder and downpour so we hurried to his family's house, changed into sweats. His mom started making us soup to warm up and AJ poured us glass of Hoegaarden beer (it was my graduation gift to him—he got me a beautiful bouquet of flowers that included my favorites, ranunculus!). His mom and I split one, and he and his dad each had their own.

Tonight is his real graduation party and it is only fitting that this celebration last more than just one day! I am so proud of his hard work and I am extremely proud to be his fiancee!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I Graduated!

Ok, so I really graduated in January but on May 18th, 2014 I walked across the terrace of Bellarmine Hall at Fairfield University whilst my name was read into a microphone and I shook the hand of our school's president, Father Von Arx.

I wasn't sure if I was going to walk because I had already graduated and I've been away from school for so long anyway, but it was important to my mom and grandmother and it was actually important to me, as well. It's a big life moment and it really is an experience. It is something to be savored and recognized. College was hard work and it is nice to have it be celebrated.

I LOVED my time at Fairfield. I transferred there at the beginning of the second semester of freshman year and I was a commuter student. Because of these factors, I don't feel like I was a huge part of the Fairfield community. I was only on campus for my classes and occasional lectures throughout the semester. I didn't go to parties or live in the dorm but I still loved my college experience, it was the perfect fit for me. I can not even describe all that I learned while at Fairfield. I read Dante, Shakespeare, Joyce, Woolf, Dickens, and the Bible. I was introduced to ideas and thoughts and practices that I was never privy to before. I owe a lot to my education at Fairfield. I had wonderful professors who really love their area of expertise and who you could tell love teaching. I had so many experiences that are priceless and will aid me in my future as a student, as a writer, and as an academic.

A Little Life Update

We are back in Connecticut for the summer! Our time in Boston was swell and it went by so fast! AJ worked hard and he worked a lot. I played housewife, worked part time at two stores on Newbury Street, and was able to flex my writing muscles much more than I usually do. It was a great time and it has left me excited to head back in August for graduate school.

We're still getting our feet on the ground as far as summer plans although AJ has gotten as tickets for 3 concerts, we have one wedding to attend, and we are anticipating a trip to Cape Cod in a few weeks. And, of course, we'll have lots of details to get done for our upcoming wedding! Also, AJ just accepted a fun summer job offer at a sports camp and, while I'm hoping to keep writing this summer, I am still searching for my own, money-making summer job.

Lastly, I hope to keep my fun blog running strong during our last few months living in Connecticut and our last few months as an engaged couple. Happy Summer Everyone!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Currently Reading: Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

This is the first book that I have ever had signed in the presence of an author, not to mention by one of my favorite authors, Francine Prose. I had it signed in April at the Boston Athenaeum after Ms. Prose gave a reading from this book, her newest novel.

I am over halfway through the book now and I am really enjoying it! It does not have me sucked in like Elena Ferrante's novels, but it is such an interesting read! It took her five years to write and you can tell; it is so full of interesting facts that are presented so simply that you don't realize you're learning about actual historical moments. Not to mention, her prose in this book is amazing. Every word is curated to give the desired effect. It's beautiful, like a painting, and so incredibly impressive!

The story is not written like a typical novel. It is written by different threads of people in the form of fictional autobiographies, biographies, letters, and memoirs. Most of the characters are based on real people, but Prose fictionalizes the unknown parts of their lives and certain events but you still learn so much about pre and post war France, including the Olympics and the nazi occupation.

It's a long book, pushing 500 pages but it is read so quickly! The characters are quirky and so complex. Sometimes you love them and in the next section, you hate them completely! It really is an impressive book and you can tell that it took a lot of work and research. It is so well done that as you read it, you can't believe someone could possibly write a book that is so complex but is so full of beauty!

I really recommend this book to everyone, especially those that love historical fiction. I don't typically gravitate towards historical fiction—and I keep saying that I would never have picked up this book if it was not written by Francine Prose—but this book is exceptional. It may seem a bit long and daunting for a summer read but it's so entertaining, no one should put this book on the back burner!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Reluctant Reviews

What's there to say when a book you read-hoping it will be brilliant-just disappoints? Falls flat?

I finished reading Blue Angel a few days ago, eager to be done. I read it because I have really enjoyed many of Francine Prose's writings in the past and that's probably the only reason I read the entire novel. The plot became too predictable and I don't feel like the story telling or the characters ever took off. They were stuck to the page and nothing and no one became real. Some of the words and language were superfluous, I found myself skimming paragraphs by the end. Not to mention, there was an alarming amount of typos and errors in the editing of the novel that added to my disappointment. It's not a book I would recommend and it does not seem like the work of an author as well-written, creative, and talented as Prose. 

Because I believe that Prose is one if the best authors of the American novel today, I am reading her newest novel next and will be sharing a post on that shortly! Happy weekend! 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Today's Work Station: The Boston Public Library

I love writing in coffee shops, or trying to write in coffee shops, but it can get old and expensive fast. That's one of the reasons I love the library; it's free and I don't have to buy anything to sit there for hours. Plus, it's quiet and surrounded by inspiring books. It's the ideal place to write. I'm always amazed by how beautiful these steps are when I walk up them to head to Bates Hall.

Of course, it's a little more restricted than working in a coffee shop—I can't coffee or food with me and I get nervous for no reason whenever the security guards walks through the tables. But I find it easier to sit longer at the library and there's a sense of solidarity with all the other people working around me. You also have to avoid getting in the shot when tourists walk through to take photos but no big deal!

This was my view while working. 

The library will definitely return to the library to work. It's a nice walk to Boylston to Dartmouth and it's not too far from where we're living. I haven't explored too many other rooms there but I hope to one day have afternoon tea in their courtyard, it looks beautiful!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy May!

It may be raining and dreary outside, but it is May! This means we are even closer to summer and hopefully it will start feeling like it!

At the end of every month, it always seems like the time has flown by but, really, April went by the fastest. I can't believe it's over, it doesn't even feel like April even existed-that's probably the weather's fault, though. 

I hope I can make time slow down a little bit for May. It's a beautiful month and carries the most perfect days of sunshine, warmth, and a breeze before the heat and humidity of summer begins!

I hope everyone has a happy May first! Check back tomorrow for a post on my work station!

Currently Reading: Blue Angel

During the Spring semester of my freshman year at Fairfield University, I was a little awkward and out of place for a few weeks, maybe months. I transferred to Fairfield U the day after classes started for the new semester. It was a rash and rushed decision on my part to transfer but it is one of the smartest decisions I ever made. I'm so glad I changed my major and decided to go to a different college than the one I first attended.

But that's for another post!

Anyway, one of the things I vividly remember about that first semester in which I was accustoming myself to my new school, is sitting on the benches on the second floor of Canisius Hall between my Elementary Italian class and Mass Media sociology class. I had 50 minutes between the two classes and I didn't know what to do with myself! I didn't know where the cafeteria was (I still don't really know) and I didn't know the library well (I do now) so I just stayed in the same building rather than venturing out. I would sit on the bench and, for my first few weeks of that semester, I would read "Household Saints" by Francine Prose. A wonderfully strange but somehow realistic and relatable book, it kept me company when the hallways were dead quiet and it was engrossing enough to be distracted by the noise when students would start milling about around me. Since reading the first page of that book, I have become an obsessed Francine Prose fan and, once I finished "Household Saints,"I quickly bought 5 more of Prose's books at the same time.

And, getting to the point, I am now reading her novel called "Blue Angel." It was published in 2000 and was a National Book Award Finalist. I'm less than 100 pages in and I'm really enjoying it. I don't think it's her strongest book—her short stories and "Household Saints" are forever my favorites—but it's kind of illuminates the life of a writer/professor and it makes me wonder if there's a touch of prose in her protagonist as she, too, is a writer/professor. It makes me feel like I'm getting a little peek into her life, but of course, it's fiction so I'm not supposed to assume something like that.

The novel revolves around the life of Swenson, a writer and creative writing professor at a university in New England. One of his students starts bringing him chapters of her story in progress and, so far, he's enthralled by her talent. To be honest, if this book weren't by Francine Prose I might not have been drawn to it (however I think just coming off of an amazing Elena Ferrante book could be part of the issue) but I do like what it offers as far as a view into the life of an academic creative writer.

I'll post about it once I finish the entire book, and perhaps I'll write about it again in the middle if it's taking me a while to finish!