Reasons Why Everyone Should Experience the Dia de Los Muertos Street Festival in Norman:
Well, I’ve officially been back in the States for 10 days. I’m holding off on writing a “coming back” post because I don’t think I’ve completely processed everything that’s happened in the last four months, and honestly, I don’t know if I ever will. The past ten days have been a little crazy–I’ve applied for jobs, been to interviews, been hired, filled out paperwork, hugged about a thousand people, watched my sister and two good friends graduate, and about a billion other things. They’ve been really good, though, and I think home is the place I’m supposed to be this summer.
I think being away for a semester really allowed me to appreciate how beautiful Oklahoma really is. There are no large thousand-year-old churches or grand works of Renaissance art, but there are beautiful plains with thousands of wildflowers and forests full of squirrels and singing birds. There are museums and parks and nature preserves that capture the unique beauty that can only be found in Oklahoma. This summer, I hope to visit these places and write about them as a way to remind myself that each part of the world is worthy of being noticed, not just those that are far away or exotic.
Today I visited Redbud Valley Nature Preserve with my mom and sisters. It’s an area of land that has been untouched, preserved as a habitat for native Oklahoma birds, mammals, flowers, and other wildlife, a place to see what the land looked like before industrialization.
There’s a sign at the entrance to the park that instructs visitors to “hike, daydream, bird watch, visit with a naturalist, sketch, photograph butterflies, relax, study the wildflowers, forget things, look for fossils, remember things, sit, stare, listen… do all these things and more. There are a multitude of possibilities – invent some of your own.” It’s the perfect place to take a break from reality and just be for awhile.
The cool part about Redbud Valley is that it is home to several diverse ecosystems. One trail winds through a forest, another leads through a grassland prairie, and a third requires climbing through a bluff trail: three different homes for many different kinds of plants and animals. The forest trail is perfect on hotter days because the trees provide shade from the sun, while the bluff trail is better for rainy days because the overhanging rocks provide shelter (the rocks do get a little slippery, though, so make sure to be careful!).
It’s always fun to go with other people and just enjoy the scenery and each others’ company. More eyes also mean more opportunities to spot cool bugs and animals! If you’re near Catoosa, Oklahoma and find yourself wanting to escape from city or suburban life, you should definitely drive down to Redbud Valley for a day. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is completely free to the public. You should take advantage of this hidden treasure and experience some of the beauty Oklahoma has to offer!
I think one of the things I’m going to miss the most about Italy is that I can take a spontaneous day trip to some of the most famous cities in the world for less than ten dollars.
Yesterday, three of us decided to take a day trip to Cortona, a tiny hill town where the famous movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed, and to Florence. Cortona is a sort of hidden gem, the kind of town that gets a few tourists who’ve decided to go off the beaten path but isn’t overrun with them–exactly my favorite kind of town.
We spent the morning admiring the views, trying to get some ~artsy~ pictures, shopping in the local stores, eating gelato, and soaking in the sun.
Lunch was pizza and salad on the patio of a tiny bar, then we took a (sort of accidental) nature walk that led us to the side of a highway where we were picked up by a bus that was full of friendly high school students. They kindly dropped us off at a cathedral about two minutes down the road where we witnessed a priest doing a mic check. We wound our way through the cemetery that was connected to the church that overlooked the hillside before walking back to the train station to catch the train to Florence.
A little over an hour later, we made it to Florence just in time to browse quickly through the leather market, Zara, and H&M before grabbing dinner at a Korean restaurant, which was a much-welcome break from Italian food (I know it sounds crazy, but a girl can only eat so much pasta). We walked around Florence for a little while, just taking in the sights and sounds for what may have been the last time before we hopped on a train that took us back to Arezzo
Living only an hour away from one of the art capitals of the world is such an amazing thing, and I don’t think I’ll be able to fully appreciate it until I can no longer hop on a train and go visit it. Yesterday was a simple day, but it was definitely one for the books.
Yesterday, our class took a trip to a local winery. We learned about the process of growing grapes organically and about the different varieties of grapes that can be found in Tuscany. Then we toured the inside of the winery, learning about the actual process of fermentation and aging. At the end, we got to sample three different varieties of the vineyard’s wine using our newly-learned wine-tasting skills. I’m so glad that I was able to experience such an important part of Italian culture before I head home! I’m sad to be leaving such a beautiful place with such a rich history and culture, but I’m going to make an effort to soak up as much as I can during these last two weeks!
Here are some pictures (silly + serious) that we took on the winery tour!
This semester I’m taking a class that discusses global environmental challenges. We were assigned with a project that explored the potential impacts that the changing climate could have on different aspects of life in Italy. My group and I chose the aspect of tourism, which plays a large role in the lives of many Italians. I was given the task of making posters we could display in public areas that explain the potential effects of climate change on the tourism business in Italy. It was a really fascinating project–I’ll post some of the posters below so you can get a glimpse of what some of my coursework was this semester!
I can’t believe that spring break is already over. I feel like my time here has absolutely just flown by, and I’m starting to dread going home.
My mom and dad came to visit me for their spring break, so we went on a tour through Italy that included Rome, Florence, Orvieto, Arezzo, Cinque Terre, Naples, and Pompeii. We got to see things such as the David, the Colusseum, the ruins of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, and the Mediterranean Sea. I’ll post some pictures below of the highlights of the trip!
“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there…” -Ernest Hemingway
I bought a plane ticket on a Friday night and the next Friday night I was in Paris. There aren’t really words to describe the feeling you have when you step off the plane into a place that you’ve been dreaming about since you drew the Eiffel Tower in kindergarten art class. You catch your breath a little bit and don’t fully grasp the fact that you’re there until you’ve gone.
I saw more in a forty-eight hour period than I’ve seen probably in my whole life up to that point. I saw the Eiffel Tower at night, then climbed up it during the day and saw Paris from nearly a thousand feet up. I visited the Louvre and saw Mona Lisa, Lady Liberty Leading the People, Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, and countless other works from people I’ve previously only read about in art history textbooks. I ate baguettes and macarons and read the Paris edition of Vogue. I navigated the Paris metro system and explored the catacombs that lay hidden under the famous city and contain the bones of six million of its former residents. I experienced one of the most famous cities in the world and I am so grateful that I’ve been blessed with such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I took a lot of pictures, so I’ll put them here at the end so you hopefully don’t have to do too much scrolling to get a glimpse at what I saw this weekend. Au reviour to the City of Lights, until next time.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. Who wouldn’t love a holiday dedicated to chocolate, flowers, and love? Last weekend, on the day before Valentine’s Day, some friends and I took a day trip to Perugia and Terni, the home of St. Valentine himself, where a chocolate festival was taking place. Perugia is famous throughout Italy and all over the world for it’s chocolate, so this was the perfect time to go visit. I’ll try to keep this post short and sweet, but I’ll post some pictures below of what I experienced! Ciao for now!
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Italy (for me, at least) is pasta. Pasta is quite possibly one of the most delicious foods in the world. Macaroni, spaghetti, rigatoni, lasagna, with a ragu sauce, a tomato sauce, a cream sauce, a mushroom sauce, stuffed with ricotta, fried, baked–there are countless ways to eat it.
This week, I had the privilege of attending a class where we taught how to make tagliatelle, ravioli, and gnocci. The first two use the same basic ingredients (flour, salt, and egg) while the third uses just potato and flour. An egg is cracked into a “volcano” of flour, sprinkled with salt, and then mixed until the dough has a cake-batter-like consistency. Then the dough is kneaded by hand until it becomes thick and no longer sticky. It is formed into a ball, covered with plastic wrap, and left to rest for a few minutes. After the rest period, the dough can be rolled out very thin and then cut into the right shape, depending on what kind of pasta is being made. Tagliatelle is cut into long strips, while ravioli is cut into squares. We used a simple filling of ricotta mixed with spinach for our ravioli.
The gnocci is even simpler: potatoes are mashed and the mixed with flour and salt until thick, then rolled into a long “snake” and cut before being boiled. The final product is a mushy kind of pasta that tastes delicious with a tomato sauce.
Hopefully when I return home I’ll be able to recreate some of the dishes that I’ve enjoyed here in Italia! Ciao for now!
Buongiorno! Sorry I haven’t posted an update in a while, but life gets pretty hectic here sometimes. This post will be about our trip to Padova and Venice a couple of weekends ago during Carnivale!
Our first day was spent in Padova, a college town that’s home to a nearly 800-year-old university that has served as home to famous lawyers and scientists, including Galileo. We toured the university he taught at and viewed the world’s first anatomy theatre, where autopsies were performed for an audience of medical students.
Padova is also home to Scrovegni chapel, which contains frescos by Giotto and is considered to be one of the most important pieces of art in Western history. It was very surreal to be standing in a room looking at frescos painted hundreds of years ago by a man whom I had learned about in elementary school. The images were stunning, and the spiritual significance behind them made the moment even more unbelievable.
We had the rest of the weekend free, so that night we went shopping for a while before touring the Duomo of Padova, which contained relics from St. Anthony. Afterwards, we enjoyed a nice dinner and then headed back to the hotel to get some rest.
The next morning, after checking into a new hotel, a group of three other girls and I hopped on an extremely crowded train to Venice. The train was standing room only, and everyone was dressed up in costumes and masks. Carnivale in Venice is world-famous and is celebrated in the two weeks before Ash Wednesday.
We stepped out of the train station, and my breath was taken away. I WAS IN VENICE. It was so surreal–every time I see something that I’ve only before seen in pictures I have to take a moment to soak it all in. It looked just like I’d pictured it, complete with beautiful buildings, gondolas, canals, and thousands of people dressed up to celebrate.
The highlight of the day was visiting St. Mark’s square. There were so many people dressed in ornate costumes that I didn’t have enough time to see them all, but the ones I did see were incredibly detailed and had been painstakingly put together for the celebration.
We were only in Venice for one day, but it was enough to have a wonderful experience. I was exhausted, of course, but I had seen something I had wanted to see since my elementary school art teacher, Mrs. Ambrose, had told me about a city where the roads are water and instead of driving in cars they ride in boats. I got to experience a city unlike any other, and I am so so grateful to have an opportunity like this. Here’s to three more months in this magical country!