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Quick, easy, gluten-free Sunday night dinner

Still nursing a cold, and after a long day of crafting and doggie playing, I wanted something warm, quick, and easy for dinner. And I stumbled upon this.

Blender Black Bean Soup.

I love Black Bean Soup! I love it! It is so flavorful and healthy and light but filling. And gluten free. Hey girl.

So off I went to the store, bought two cans of black beans, trusted in Jesus I had some salsa at home (which I did!), and knew I had some cumin. I didn’t have stock, so I boiled up two cups of water and threw in some chicken bouillon cubes (check labels to make sure what you are using is GF), followed the directions, and before I knew it, I had the easiest, tastiest, simplest soup ever.

It doesn't LOOK good, but it TASTED great! And the iceberg floating in there is sour cream.

I also baked up some tortilla chips. This is one of my favorite things to do. I keep gluten free corn tortillas on hand at all time. These got a little extra-toasty because I was on the phone chatting and forgot about them. Standard Natalie-ism.

Homemade tortilla chips

Β Super Easy Homemade Tortilla Chips:

Ingredients:
Corn Tortillas (up to you how many)
Cooking spray or olive oil
Salt and desired seasoning

  • Preheat oven to 425.
  • Cut the desired number of tortillas into triangles of the desired size (this portion is two tortillas cut into 8 triangles)
  • Spread foil (optional to save clean up time) across a cookie sheet.
  • Place tortillas on sheet in a single layer.
  • Spray with cooking spray (or toss with olive oil, but this is just easier).
  • Sprinkle with salt and chili powder, or the desired seasoning. I like them spicy so I use chili powder. Garlic powder is also good!
  • Bake until lightly browned. You can flip them halfway through if you’re not lazy. I rarely do that.

So by the end of dinner, we were whooped and it was bedtime.

Sleepiest puppy

Today will be a work day… a little working from home, a little office time, some meetings, teaching a voice lesson and then teaching a class… all with half a voice! Boo! At least it’s warming up here in Central Illinois.

Here’s wishing you a happy, happy Monday!

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Spring break pictures

(none from Barcelona! sorry!)

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Spring Break, Parts 2 and 3! and some very important lessons learned

I have no excuse for taking so long to update… if anything, I should have in the past few days because while y’all are watching flowers bloom and donning short sleeves and flip-flops for strolls in the park, I’m fighting snow and negative-degree wind chills!!! Which mostly means I’ve been inside a lot… it’s just too cold and so windy to really be out and about unless you have to be. But, it’ll be warming up again hopefully this weekend and next week.

So, continuing where I left off in terms of spring break… we left warm, sunny Barcelona and landed in Paris at another off-the-beaten-path airport and took an hour bus ride into the city. The ride through the countryside was pretty, but Sarah and I at this point had been on so many buses that we were a bit sick to our stomachs, and little did we know, coming down with the flu as well. So we fell asleep and woke up as we pulled in. We found a cab and headed to our hotel on Boulevard Rouchechouart, in the Montmartre district, near the Moulin Rouge and the Sacre Coeur. It was a fairly decent hotel, and we dropped our things off and decided to head back out in spite of not feeling well. We wanted to do a hop-on hop-off bus tour but were so tired that we ended up doing a little shopping and looking around and then heading back to our hotel, hoping we’d wake up the next day feeling better. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home and got things like bread and cheese for dinner.

The next morning we got up and ate breakfast at the hotel and decided to try and see some things, so we found the Eiffel Tower but it was freezing, rainy, and so windy. My umbrella got a hole in it so I bought a new one, and immediately it blew inside out and was pretty much unsalvageable and did that several more times… we walked around the Champs Elysees, saw the Arc de Triomphe and the Palais Royale… we continued to walk for a long time but it was so rainy and so cold that it wasn’t too enjoyable! Not to mention we looked like drowned rats and couldn’t bring ourselves to go into stores like Louis Vuitton. We weren’t exactly sure where to go from there because we both didn’t feel well, so we decided a nap was in order. After our nap we got up and walked around Montmartre and saw the Moulin Rouge and all the sex shops (SO MANY!) but really just couldn’t take the rain and cold and wind… I have a lot of pictures of inside out umbrellas!

The next morning we left Paris for Nice. We flew AirFrance this time which was a lovely airline who gave us snacks and drinks for free (this doesn’t happen much anymore). Flying into Nice was gorgeous and I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me which was even better! The grounds of Provence were so beautiful and green, and then seeing the water was stunning. When we landed at the airport we found a taxi to take us to our hotel. We drove the whole way on the Promenade des Anglais, the beautiful street along the coast… I was overcome by the color of the water, the smooth small stones that the beach is composed of, the blue and white umbrellas and beach front restaurants, the boardwalk with the white arbors with benches in them… it was gorgeous and sunny. Our hotel was located directly behind a gorgeous hotel called the Palace Negresco, which incidentally my mother and grandmother stayed in when they were there. It was so beautiful! We had a little apartment-type room with a kitchen and simple, white decor. Sarah still wasn’t feeling well when we checked in so she took a nap while I explored Nice on my own (mostly the shopping) and four hours later returned with a couple new things :). We went to the supermarket and made dinner (we tried to keep meals REALLY cheap and grocery stores are the best way to do this in Europe).

The next day we headed directly to the beach of course and spent most of the day on it. A lot of the beach is considered private, so if you don’t want to lie on the stones, you rent a chair, which we did, for 5 euro for the whole day. They were very comfortable. Sarah ordered a cocktail and I ordered a cappucino, of course πŸ™‚ I was a little cold (ALWAYS cold) and needed to feed my caffeine stream. We stayed there the whole day, soaking up sun, and it warmed up a good deal. We watched the boats come out of the port around the peninsula and sail across the horizon silhouetted by sunlit haze. It was fabulous. That night we walked around a little and then fixed dinner again.

Our last day of vacation was spent on the beach of course, but later in the afternoon we found the bus to Monaco and Montecarlo, where we walked around and saw the beautiful boats and took an elevator up the mountain to the casino and Montecarlo area. It was dripping with wealth, and of course we couldn’t go in– I think there’s a pretty formal dress code. It was enough to stand outside and see the amazing cars, the botanical gardens, the society going in and out… beyond that, there isn’t a lot to see though, unless you want to shop in designer stores– which, believe me, I do, but couldn’t afford that stuff!

When we got back, we went to dinner and killed time until our bus left at 12:45 AM (yes, it sucked). The first thing we saw when we got to the bus was a passenger throwing up so that was a good sign. We crawled on and pretty much went to sleep, but as soon as we reached the Italian border, some scary men got on the bus and forced us all off, while they got on, went through our stuff, and then brought their dogs outside and let them jump on us and sniff us. We were too delirious to be irritated, and we simply climbed back on and went back to sleep. We arrived in Florence around 6:45 AM and caught a train back to Perugia, and upon arrival climbed into our beds and slept the day away. And that was spring break. Quite an adventure!

I feel like the luckiest girl alive these days… mom and dad will be HERE a week from today to see me (and Italy, too)!!! And then, after they leave, Liz and Grant will be here less than two weeks later… and… well, then I come home. Which is really sad. I’m looking forward to a lot of things about home… but I know it’s going to be a difficult adjustment when I get there in so many ways. I’ve really gotten accustomed to life here, to a city life, to places that are lit with lanterns and wall sconces, places with vaulted ceilings, tiny cups of coffee, long meals, people that look like a million bucks every time they leave their apartment, walking everywhere with the rhythm of this city, the rhythm of street musicians, dogs that prance around with more of a command of the city than the people.

I’ve also realized why the transition was so difficult for me when I got here. I come from a school and a home where I am constantly surrounded by cushions of love, people that know me inside and out, and I’m so fortunate to have so many people in my life at home that I love so dearly and I know love me. We’re very open about our love for each other at home, at school, etc. Here, although I have a core set of friends, I have not found a warm love from anyone. I’ve had to find it within myself, which sounds cliche, but for the first time I think I truly understood what loneliness can be. This is something many people here have gone through, it’s been discussed amongst us. Many, many of us have experienced various degrees of loneliness, homesickness, separation anxiety… they don’t tell you this when you sign up to study abroad, but I think this is where the growth comes from… the hardest parts… There comes a point when you are sitting alone in your apartment or at school or in a cafe and your brain starts to wander, and you suddenly find yourself realizing that you are a tiny pinprick on this gigantic earth in this gigantic universe and you are miles and oceans from home and suddenly you feel isolated and scared as the world hurriedly moves around you, this miniscule, anonymous pinprick. But all it takes is a smile or a hello from someone and you return to where you are in the moment and you’re back on earth. At home I live in a world of hugs and loving gestures (I’m a very huggy person… as a child, mom called me Kissy Face because I always wanted hugs and kisses). I live with the two most cuddly people in the world, my sister and Grant, and we spend many a day and night on our couches tangled around each other. This sounds weird unless you know the three of us well, in which case, it no longer sounds weird. Anyway, here, I don’t get hugs often, I could probably count my hugs on 2 hands (except in Barcelona when seeing Mike and Allison and Lindsey… I don’t think I let go of them the whole time). I’ve found solace in playing piano, which is a return to home for me. There is nothing more like home than a piano. My family knows. There’ve always been pianos in my life.

I’ve learned so much. I’m three-quarters of the way down the road… I now truly, deeply realize the value of friends and family and home. I also, finally, have experienced the beauty that is traveling and seeing the world, and fully experiencing independence. There is also a hard truth to be learned in loneliness, but the other side of this truth is the opposite of loneliness and I only appreciate more the feelings of independence I have gained in addition to the fortune I have in my family and friends and school. This is sort of my last week here of normalcy, as the semester comes to an end, family visits, we travel… and I just have to express my gratitude to my family for supporting me in this huge endeavour, not letting me give up when I was so sick with pneumonia, patting me on the back, and letting me spread my wings (with a lot of encouragement). I have learned so many valuable lessons– talk about facing anxiety head on. I’m sure many of you know I’ve dealt with an anxiety and panic disorder my whole life, and it has more than popped its head up here, but I now think the only way to deal with your toughest issues is to face them head on, with gusto and a proud fear, letting your most frightening emotions wash over you so you know what they feel like, and learn they won’t kill you, probably just make you cry for awhile, and then, at last, you’ve dealt with it and you can move on from it. There is always a temptation to ask a psychiatrist to re-balance you with some basic prescriptions, and sometimes I think that’s important if you really, truly feel uncapable of dealing with it on your own, but I have learned here, the hardest and best way, that this is something you can conquer on your own.

I also now see that this has been an incredible preparation for the future. The first month I was here, all I wanted to do was come home and never, ever leave my parents and my family and my puppies and kitties. Now, of course, yes I love them more than anything on this planet, but I know that I can survive away from home, I know I can be separate from them and still a part of them, even halfway around the planet, six timezones away.

I can blab all day about what a life-changing experience this has been, and how absolutely indispensable it has been for the person that I am right now, today, in this moment– and when you see me, whether or not you notice a change, it’s here inside me, and I’ll probably never be able to explain it in full. Nor should I, because it is mine, and another thing I have learned is the beauty of keeping some things to yourself (this is not a value I knew beforehand… haha… I say this with humor and a touch of dismay).

Anyhow… when I get home, I’ll post more pictures, but you’ll have to wait a month because the internet here is so slow that it just takes too long now.

I love you all, and miss you so much, and hope to get hugs from every single one of you when I get home.

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La Mia Vacanza, part 1: Barcelona

Goodness… where to begin!

Last Friday morning, I got up and had eggs (and grits, thanks to a lovely package from my lovely sister) and then Sarah and I hit the railroad tracks to Roma Termini train station. From there, we found the bus to a smaller airport outside the city called Ciampino. The ride was a bit jerky, and in Rome traffic… it was a tad nauseating! We got to the airport and hopped in line for our flight to Girona, a city outside Barcelona. I’ll stop here and say we decided to fly on a European airline called RyanAir that flies to smaller airports outside of larger cities, and you have to take buses and shuttles to get to and from them… the airline tickets are cheaper, but the convenience and comfort factor is lacking. They didn’t take our razors or our water bottles, and once we got to the terminal to board, we had to squish on a bus to the plane, from which, upon arrival at the airplane, people literally took off running toward the plane– there are no assigned seats. Quite an experience, let me tell you.

So anyway, we arrived in Girona about an hour and a half later and then found a shuttle to downtown Barcelona. It was really exciting coming into the city… we saw the enormous, incredibly phallic building first… wish I knew what that was, and then we saw one of the Gaudi buildings as well. We took a cab and found our hostel (at this point we’d been travelling for about 12 hours) and then I called my Elon friends who are studying Madrid and were kind enough to meet us in Barcelona. It was so wonderful to see them and hear about their experiences in Spain. They live with families, so theirs is quite different from ours. We found a tapas restaurant and had our first Spanish food and chatted til a little after midnight and then headed to bed.

Saturday morning we got up and saw a Starbucks!!! and of course went running to it and had a lovely Frappucino and blueberry muffin… oh, how exciting that was. We met up with Mike and Lindsey and Allison again. We decided to walk around and look at the crazy weird Gaudi buildings (I can’t really explain these, they’re just strange architectural structures– google them). So we found three of them I think and then walked a really really long way to the Gaudi park. First, we stopped at a market and got some bread and cheese and meat for a picnic. We climbed a huge hill and were a bit unimpressed at first. The view was amazing but we were a bit confused– we’d heard that the longest bench in the world was at this park, but we didn’t see it… we were really hungry and ready to sit down, but we heard some music and decided to walk toward it, and found ourselves in this amazing courtyard-type thing… all this Gaudi stuff is impossible to describe. Anyway, this place was incredible, and huge… the bench is completely done in mosaic and it winds around the whole courtyard, acting as a wall and a bench. Below us were more strange structures waiting to be explored, but we sat and had a long picnic first.

Barcelona is full of interesting characters. The first we saw was sitting next to us while we ate. Mike discreetly took a picture of him, and we later studied him more in-depth. He had about 75 piercings in his face. I can’t even tell you how disgusting this was! And he had the huge HUGE gauges in his ear lobes… yuck! People were staring. Of course.

After lunch we explored Gaudi park some more and then had to say goodbye to Allison and Lindsey, who were heading back to Madrid. Mike stayed with us til Monday.

Saturday night, Sarah and Mike and I found some dinner and I got to try hot chocolate and churros (fried batter, basically, that you dip in hot chocolate). Then we went to a couple bars and had some Sangria (I just had a little) and went to bed a little after 1.

The next morning we woke up and realized we were coming down with some sort of cold so we stopped at a pharmacy and I got some echinacea and Tylenol Cold. We had deemed Sunday to be our beach day, and started walking. We didn’t pass a Starbucks, though, so we did a rather large loop until we found one! They asked to see my ID when I tried to use a credit card and then made fun of me for having my headshot on my International Student Card (something I’ve endured since being here… I didn’t know they were going to put it on everything when they asked for a picture)!

We were walking along the port when suddenly we look up and see another Barcelona character: a man, probably 75 or 80, completely buck naked, just walking along. He had a speedo tattooed on… and… a rather interesting piercing that um, well, swung back and forth when we walked. This was probably the funniest and most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in my life in person. The best was watching people’s reactions… conservative women kept stopping and staring and looking at each other confusedly. It was hilarious. And, we know he does this often because the girls had seen him the previous morning. How is this okay?!! Anyway, we continued on.

Finally we came upon the Mediterranean… it was warm, and just a bit breezy. Walking along was interesting– there was a platform on the beach that had a boxing ring and workout equipment, where beefy guys were exercising… it was strange. We found a spot on the beach and spread out, and realized how many topless women there were, and how many men in speedos there were, and how many people seemed to have forgotten their bathing suits but, no problem, they just wore thongs and bras. Europe has a lot of naked people.

We spent the day in the sun, had dinner, and hit the sack a little early since we had an early morning the next day.

Anyway, that was Barcelona… Paris and the Riviera are on their way. πŸ™‚

Miss and love you guys.

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Spring Break!!!

I’m just about to go to sleep, but I just wanted to tell y’all I’m headed to Barcelona, Paris, and Nice for spring break. Send thoughts of on-time flights, sunshine, warmth, and health my way!!!

Also, I’m feeling about a hundred times better. Thanks for the prayers… miss you guys SO much!!! πŸ™‚ Check back next weekend for spring break stories… I promise it will be better-written than some of these last ones have been. πŸ™‚ Buona notte!

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La Ciba Umbria

Just thought I’d update real quick before I (hopefully) get to finally talk to my sister for the first time in forever…

This afternoon a little before five, we met in Piazza Italia to catch a bus out to the Perugian countryside for typical Umbrian cuisine. This was organized through a company called AltraUmbria… there is a trend in travel, particularly Italian travel, in which tourists don’t just want to sight-see– they want to experience Italy. Alternative vacationing usually involves staying with a family, cooking meals with them, etc., and thus experiencing a different culture from a very inside-perspective. I think it’s a fantastic idea… anyway, AltraUmbria organizes vacations like this, and set my class up with the opportunity to have dinner with a Perugian family.

We hopped on the bus and went wayyy out, a good 20 minutes past even where my voice teacher lives. We were definitely in the countryside now, and I saw things I’d never seen… beautiful castles, villas, estates, farms… it was gorgeous. We finally got off and were picked up by the mother in a car and driven even further out into the country. A storm was rolling in, and as we drove through the hills we could watch the storm clouds forming vertically on the horizon. It was incredible.

We were greeted by a precious puppy when we got out, as fat rain drops fell, so we ran inside and entered a toasty, cozy home, complete with four Italian children who knew how to say their names and ages in English. They were so cute and sweet and round!

They gave us hot tea and some biscuits that I’m not sure of the name of– they were specifically for lent, and they warned us that they were hard and are supposed to be that way, and to dip them in the tea to soften them. Well I almost broke my tooth and it took me about twenty minutes to get through a small, 2-square-inch biscuit, but… culture.

She spoke to us in Italian for quite awhile about what were going to be making and eating, and explained that all Umbrian food has a history, a story… it doesn’t just taste good, it has historical value.

We started by making torte al testo, which I explained in the last entry… (by the way, I have the recipes for all of this, and now I know how to make it, so when I come home, you’re all getting an Umbrian meal. Well, maybe just some of you.) So we made the torte al testo dough, and while it sat, we tried fresh, raw fennel which we dipped in olive oil and salt. It was interesting– like licorice and onion in one vegetable. Then we made the sausage and baked the torte al testo, and finally made biscotti with fennel seeds… soooo yummy.

As things baked and cooked, we sat at the table and they served us fresh pecorino cheese topped with local honey made by her father-in-law… amazing. Then we had some ciabatta and a little local wine.

We sat down for dinner and started with lentil soup that she had pre-made, and it was wonderful. We ate it with bread (no salt of course) and a little local olive oil, and then she served the torte al testo with some cabbage she had made before, and also the sausages which were baked in a touch of balsamic vinegar with water. Finally we finished with the biscotti with small cups of Marsala, an Italian liquer-type beverage… yummy. By this time, it had been almost six hours and we were basically stuffed…

It was all very interesting and I learned how to cook! She even let me separate the eggs. It was wonderful, and I loved sitting and chatting only in Italian… a few of the others looked a bit lost, but my friend Frank and I speak decent Italian and enjoyed the discussion a lot.

Well, that’s that! I’m so sleepy! Buona notte!

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La luce

Okay, sorry it took me so long to update… it’s been kind of a crappy week… not feeling well again and still really dizzy and will be having a CT scan tomorrow… send happy thoughts and prayers! But I thought I’d go ahead and update a little.

Saturday night, Anna and I came home from Carnivale in Venice… it was a long train ride there, but really beautiful. Northern Italy is gorgeous, and so flat… it was really nice to be out of the mountains for awhile. Pulling into Venice was wonderful, just seeing water! Perugia is so landlocked, except for the incredibly huge Lago Trasimeno, that it can be a bit oppressive at times. As soon as we stepped off the train, went through the station and onto the steps, we found ourselves beside the Grand Canal, which was gorgeous! The piazza was filled with make-up artists, people in crazy costumes, street musicians, vendors… it was insanity. We crossed the canal on one of the big bridges and took a gander at all the gondolas and boats and tourists… immediately we were overwhelmed! Finding the bus station to our hostel was not exactly easy but we did it, and took a couple of buses several miles outside of Venice to our hostel.

Now, the hostel gets its own paragraph because it was humorous. It was called Camp Alba D’Oro, and it was in the Ca’ Noghera district, which essentially means it was the only place we could afford and it was about 30 minutes away from Venice. Haha! Everything else was really expensive, but this was fine! So we arrive and check in, only to see, yes, a campground! But we were given tiny little “Pins,” they were called– trailer/cabin things that were remarkably clean and sunfilled, and we had a large bathroom and a shower with doors (which never ceases to be exciting, since we don’t have that in our own HOME). We dropped our bags off and hopped right back on the bus to Venice.

Our map was absolutely ridiculous, as was all maps off Venice– they’re useless. Venetian streets are complicated, often water-filled, and basically impossible. So we walked about two hours and finally, as darkness fell, found ourselves in St. Mark’s square– an enormous, stunningly beautiful piazza. It was so packed with people that it was more than comparable to Times Square on New Years Eve. There was a huge stage set up at the far end of the square, and after we were camera happy for awhile, little characters made their way on the stage and were jesters of sorts. They talked for awhile and then other characters, contortionists, etc paraded down a runway to about 20 feet from us. Costumed children on horses also rode up, and a large lantern was held in front of a small boy’s face. Church bells chimed and then there was a countdown, and at zero, the little boy on the horse blew out the light in the lantern. When he did, all the lights in St. Mark’s square went out!!! Millions of lights! Shop windows, hotel windows… everything! For about 15 minutes, the jesters did a fireshow to Cirque du Soleil music (Allegria!) and then the lights came back on and the mayor spoke and finally we decided it was just too crowded to enjoy it anymore, so we decided to go find some dinner.

Finally Anna and I found a lovely, cozy little restaurant, and as soon as we sat down they brought us each a wonderful glass of red champagne. We ordered antipasti of Insalate Caprese with buffalo mozzarella (which, until experienced, cannot be explained) which is just buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes. It’s amazing. They brought us bread (salted! hooray for being out of central Italy) and olive oil and even salt and pepper (!!!) and then we had our primi piatti (we decided we only needed one course). I had lasagna which was homemade and had incredible meat sauce on it, and Anna had ravioli con vedura primavera (ravioli with spring vegetables). Both were fabulous.

It was getting late and the last shuttle back to our hostel was at 10:30, and we knew it would take awhile to find our way back. Actually, we didn’t get lost this time, somehow, but it still took a little over an hour of fast, fast FAST walking to get back to the buses.

We only spent the one night, so we had to check out yesterday morning, so we got up early and ran into the market to get bread and cheese for breakfast which we ate on the bus (and a little Nutella). We checked our bags at the station and heard there was a parade in Saint Mark’s, but we knew it was an hour’s walk. Also let me mention here that we had a photography project due on Monday so we had to take about 3 rolls of film on Sunday. Well, predictably, we got hopelessly lost trying to find Saint Mark’s, but somehow after about 2 hours of walking stumbled across the parade… it wasn’t huge, but it was a long line of pairs of costumed Venetians in their haunting masks and incredible clothing. We decided to allow ourselves at least an hour and a half to find our way back to the train station, but we had a few minutes to spare so Anna decided we should trek on and find Saint Mark’s again. So we found it, and also came upon the parade again! That was neat, to see everything. We got our film taken and then decided to start walking back. The streets were so crowded though that literally we were being pushed and shoved along on all sides of our bodies… it was very stressful but we made it! Amazingly, I think we took the correct route back to the station and decided to grab some pizza and get our faces painted before heading home… that was so fun! Everyone had their faces painted in Venice, so we didn’t stand out at all, but once we got to Perugia we looked a little odd.

Anyway, Sunday was spent in the dark room which gets long… this week has been mostly cold and rainy and frustrating, but today the weather finally let up and I think some warmer air has moved in, perhaps. It was sunny and we were so happy about it. We also went to Ranieri again today, which is a bit disorganized, but I think we may have made some headway.

This weekend we will be staying in Perugia to save money and to study. My roommate Ren and I might so see a production of Death of a Salesman at Teatro Morlacchi, a beautiful old theatre near us, and it will be in Italian so that should be interesting.

This week is midterms already, and then spring break!!! We have finally made our hostel reservations for Barcelona, Paris, and Nice, and actually they all look really nice and fortunately they should all be private rooms shared by Sarah and me, which will be great… somehow I’ve gotten out of dorm situations completely while here. Don’t know how!

I had another voice lesson yesterday, and that went great… I was really dizzy unfortunately but it went well. Carmen actually got home a little bit after I got there so her husband, Marcello, said I could sit and play piano as long as I pleased… it was lovely to just sit in a quiet room and play alone. I play at school a lot here but the piano is in a classroom and people are always listening and walking in to talk to me, so it was nice to just be alone and play on their beautiful piano.

Tomorrow night, Anna and I are staying in and watching Harry Potter, and we also found a place that has pancake mix!!! The prospect of a real breakfast is enthralling to us.

Anyhow, I’m off… I’m going to the tanning bed because I need sunshine in my life… and also because if I’m going to be wearing a bathing suit in France, I don’t want to be pasty. Tanning beds here are hilarious… I can’t even explain them, but they are nothing like the ones in the US. Maybe next time I’ll make the attempt to put into words the tanning bed experience.

Also, tonight we’re going to grab dinner at Tutto Testo, one of our favorite restaurants here. Torte al testo is an Umbrian specialty bread. It’s a spongy, dense, large and usually triangular bread, about three-quarters of an inch thick, and it is only found here in Umbria. It’s so good, and they make sandwiches and things with it, really fresh and wonderful. Also at Tutto testo they have fabulous hot chocolate as well as dessert crepes. Hard to turn down. However, I have weaned myself almost off of caffeine!!! It’s difficult and I’m having the headaches and what not but I know it will be worth it. I do love my espresso but I hate needing it to get through the day.

Anyway, love you all, keep me in your prayers if you don’t mind! Please!

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