Friday, November 20, 2009

Buon Thanksgiving: The Last Supper

Some of my teachers! (L-R) Claudio, Andrea (man), and Livia on the right

Today was the last day of class and also our mock Italian Thanksgiving!! We took finals and then proved to Nando that we are all chefs - we actually made our Thanksgiving dinner without his help. I was a little nervous at first because the ingredients were totally different (their brown sugar is course cane sugar) but it ended up working out just great! We had a lot of food and I even made a pumpkin pie from scratch - entirely!! I cooked the pumpkin in the oven, cooled, peeled and spiced it. Then I made the crusts and the finished the inside pumpkin filling. It was a little nerve wracking but it did end up being absolutely delicious!! Nando dubbed it "La Torta di Maria" - it sounds so cute when he says it. He loved my pie, told me it was delicious and then asked me for the recipe!! I'm seriously going to miss the kitchen here, including Nando. Good guy!

Tomorrow (Saturday) we are spending the day in Florence and then we head out to Venice on Monday morning bright and early. Sunday is our last whole day in Siena and it's really making me sad. It's a bittersweet thing. I'm excited to go home but I'm also sad to leave all of the good friends I have made here but I will always remember the experiences I have had!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Week and Counting

Sadly enough I have less than a week left in Siena. We are leaving Monday morning and heading for Venice. It's so crazy how fast the time has gone by. I feel like I just barely got settled into my groove and even started understanding quite a bit of Italian. Such is life. I've decided that once you get comfortable in one place, the scenery somehow changes whether it be good or bad. Thankfully my change of scenery consists of Venice, Rome, London, New York, then the best one yet - HOME!!! YAY!!

I've been a bad little blogger this past week simply because I've been slightly busier tying loose ends before I depart. I'll give you a little run down of what went on this last week in a short and hopefully entertaining list.
-Monday I explored Siena and found a really neat library where Italian college students were studying. It looked surprisingly similar to good ol' Harld B Lee Library and I felt right at home.

-Tuesday Eli opened her mission call: Switzerland Geneva (French speaking) WOHOO!! We also got to visit a ceramics shop. It was pretty neat but I was slightly distracted by the man's disfigured thumb. I think the pottery wheel snagged it.

-Wednesday I experienced my second round of chestnut hunting. I now have a 10 pound package full of chestnuts that I'm going to send. There's some parmigiano reggiano coming Utah's way as well - delicious!!

-Thursday I went to....MILAN. Be jealous. It was so much fun! I shopped a lot and went to the Gothic inspired Duomo. Breathtaking! I also saw a very overpriced baby sweatsuit: 55 Euro for the shirt, 88 Euro for the Jacket, and 140 Euro for the pants. I loved it all!!

-Friday I came home to my fake little brother's (Giuseppe) hamster, Pipi, on his deathbed. His breathing was shallow and he was getting colder by the minute. Giuseppe was at soccer while this was going on. Right when he got home he saw that his hamster was dying and he instantly tried to revive it and kept encouraging it to live. He then ran into his room sobbing when he realized that Pipi wasn't going to make it through the night. It was so sad. It reminded me of when this happened to Trevor and my mom told me to console him. I was the person of choice for the job because I've had many hamsters die on me, including one that Jamie stepped on while we were playing. RIP Benjamin Franklin were a great pet.

-Saturday I went to a Medieval Market in the Campo. It was fun to see all of the different items being sold. It reminded me a lot of Swiss Days. The market was really neat until this weirdy parade started. Road flares were pulled creating this creepy red light haze as intense music blared in the background. 4 interesting figures were dancing around - by interesting I mean dragons in masquerade masks flapping their wings. I forgot to mention that they were also on stilts. It was very crazy!

-Sunday I flirted with the missionaries that are serving here in the Siena branch. SCHERZO (joke). I have hardly talked to any missionaries since my family made fun of me for "flirting" with other missionaries in Florence. Just so you know, talking about college with missionaries is not flirting, it's making conversation to avoid awkward silence. Everyone knows that dearest family of mine. Anyway, round 3 of chestnut hunting after church - they're passionate about chestnuts. I was also approached by my host mom Sunday night. She wanted me to curl her hair like I curl Elizabeth's. She plopped right down on the toilet and handed me her blowdryer and the brush and put me to work. It was really cute. After that Alberto - the 15 year old fake bro - had me straighten his curly hair. It was fun to play beauty salon for the evening. They told me it should be my 2nd job. Love them.

That was my week in a nutshell, a big nutshell. Sorry, I failed miserably at making it brief!! Life couldn't be better here in Italy!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I just realized that half of my posts, probably more, are about food. We made SOFT and HOT cookies for our host family. They were shocked that we like them soft and hot - funny cultural difference. The brown sugar is a little different here so they tasted a little funny but they were still really good - I have been craving these little babies for a long time!!

Thanks Eli for the recipe!

Marriage of Figaro

OPERA - ITALIAN OPERA. The opera we chose to go to was cheaper and as I entered I was a little concerned. The "opera house" was just an old church and there wasn't a stage or any props. Not super impressive initially.

A man came in a red bowtie approached the "stage" and described the opera (in English - nice) and it began. I WAS BLOWN AWAY!! The pianist started playing and he was seriously amazing. Then the actors came out and all of them had amazing voices. It was really cool because they didn't need props, a stage, or an orchestra to make it really incredible. It was a very neat and thanks to the man in the red bowtie, I also understood the story line.

The ceiling of the church with the stage right below
Very small
Kayci (Annie's friend), Annie, me

Once Again - Florence

I went to Florence yet again for the weekend. I think this was my 5th trip! Needless to say, I guess I love Florence. We went shopping on Friday where I got some fun surprises. Saturday I met up with the group and we went to the Uffizi Gallery as well as a Monastery where Fra Angelico painted frescoes. Seeing all of the famous art is so amazing. It's incredible to think of the talent and time that went into every piece in the museum. It's breathtaking. I got to see some paintings by DaVinci, Michelangelo, Rafael, Boticelli, Fra Filipo Lippi and others. Really neat.

After that we went hunting for a Mexican food restaurant we heard about from a friend. Everyone in the group has been craving Mexican food, some have even said, "The only thing I want at this moment is a burrito" so we thought it was worth it to search. It was quite the hunt but I got some good practice with my Italian by asking for directions every block. We actually gave up looking for it because nobody we were asking really knew exactly where it was and we were all tired and hungry. We decided to walk back to the Duomo and find something else to eat and - Ecco - we found the place. We'll call the burrito "The Burrito of Gold" because it truly changed the attitude of the group, we went from crabby and stressed to happy in a matter of 10 minutes. Hilarious thing - I didn't even get one, I'm in Italy, let's eat good pasta or something, not crappy Italian imitation Mexican food. I'm waiting for my Cafe Rio pork salad (American-Mexican I know, not true Mexican but still better than Italian-Mexican).

The Burrito of Gold

We also got these waffles with Nutella in the middle. I have a pretty high threshold for sweetness and even I was sick by the end. BAH, I'll never eat another one - it wasn't that good AND they surprised us all by telling us after they prepared it that it was 6 Euro (by by 3 gelati) GROSS!

Cooking with Nando

The kitchen is where I belong. I love every aspect of it. The cooking experience here in Siena has been one of the best things that I have ever done and I've learned so much from Nondo. I've really started to grasp the whole idea of Italian cooking and it's so fun and amazing!

Nando loves me! What more can I say? He asked me to come back next year to help him cook and translate for students coming to take classes from him. I told him that I don't really speak Italian very well and he replied, "I will teach you to cook and you can teach me English." He then again asked me several times to come back. The intern told me that he has emphasized this same point to her quite a few times. Exciting!! Maybe I'll do it.

The most delicious dessert so far!

Happy Birthday DAD


Eli and I created a hilarious music video to a song by Michael McLean titled "She Doesn't Know". We stayed up until all hours of the evening creating this video for our talent show. It's an awful song that he wrote for his wife for Mother's Day this year - if anything it's an insult. Check it out on facebook if you would like.

Day of the Dead

Just like Memorial Day in the States, Italians celebrate the lives of those who have passed on in the beginning of November. The festivities start out November 1 with Tutti Santi where the Italians celebrate all of the lives of the martyred saints. The larger holiday is the following day, Tutti Morti, where all lives are celebrated. Most people would consider this holiday to be depressing and dark but it's actually a holiday that many look forward to. Typically people picnic next to the graves (they always eat food to also celebrate that they are still alive) and exchange "gifts from their dead relatives".

Coincidentally on this same day we had a field-trip with my group to the cemetery. The day was dreary, cold, and raining which was very fitting for what I consider the feeling of a cemetery to be. When I entered the cemetery I was taken away by how extravagant and highly decorated all of the graves were, some even had their own little "Duomo" as the place of burial. Very interesting. The cemeteries also don't have any grass - who wants to mow around all the headstones anyway. Buon'idea.

My new giraffe print umbrella
Cemetery - beautiful

Monday, November 2, 2009

Trick or Treat

Halloween day was not so spooky and was lacking dinner in a pumpkin but it was still eventful and enjoyable. Saturday morning we got to go to Buonconvento, Asciano, Monte Oliveto, and Rapolano. We visited some churches, ate lunch at a monastery, viewed the lovely scenery, and learned about the process of making olive oil. All of the towns were sleepy and picturesque so it was a fun change of pace for the weekend.

The view from the Olive Oil Museum
Some Olive Oil

An old man working in the garden-
Outfit: Tweed blazer, White button up shirt
red beret, skinny jeans and leather boots.
His garden might look a little dry but at
least he is still lookin' good.

Three-wheeler: the steering wheel is not
a wheel, it's a handle-bar. Awesome.
I want one.

Later that night there was a Ward Halloween Party in Siena that we dressed up for. With some ideas from some friends and a little creativity I decided that being Mario would be the perfect costume for an Italian Halloween. Mario is the perfect merger of the two cultures - genius! My partner in crime forgot her costume (Luigi) but it still ended up being just fine. The missionaries also dressed up for the evening: hippie, nun (funny but borderline), gangster (very borderline - it's ok he's the Branch President), and a magician. They did a dance to MJ's Thriller - cute choreography - then it faded into Coolio's Gangster's Paradise (minus the lyrics - still dodgy) while the Branch President (gangster) rapped to it. It was so funny but I almost felt bad for laughing - I still did though - maybe I'll join Grandma in Kamas.

Kaitlin (We Can Do It girl), It's a me, Mario!
Annie (Frodo) - she won the costume contest hands down

Elders: Stanfield, Ranieri (Branch President),
Drury (served with Natalie Johnson) and Shaw
Up close and personal to my mustache.