08 June 2012

London and Home...and the End

So on May 10 I went to London for my last week in Europe. I stayed with my generous friend and her roommate for FREE near King's Cross/St. Pancras (you know, Platform 9 3/4). It was great, fantastic, and I cannot WAIT to go back.

Covent Garden! Awesome place. Like my hat?
Two iconic London sights. The Tube and the Black Cab.
I tried to get him to laugh but he didn't even blink!
Just a BEAUTIFUL day sitting in St. James Park near the  Duck Island.
Kaitlin and I had our own lovely day sitting at the park. 

The often misnamed Tower Bridge as seen from Tower of London. 

It wouldn't be complete without a visit to Twinings. Which I happened to stumble across. 

I love Pret. Love.  

That's right! Top of the bus!

I'd hoped my dress-like-a-witch-trying-to-dress-like-a-muggle disguise would work but it didn't.  :(

Cue hyperventilation. This is THE DESK that Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility were written on. WHOA.
Me outside Jane Austen's kitchen. 
I actually went to the Jane Austen House and Museum for a writing workshop about food! I turned out some pretty good stuff and also got to write while sitting in Jane's kitchen. SO EPIC AND LIFE CHANGING.
Maybe my favorite photo. 

 Well, on May 17 at approximately 2pm I landed in Chicago after a lovely flight in which I watched "Alfred Knobs", "Jane Eyre" (the Michael Fassbender one), and "The Descendents". I actually like transatlantic flights b/c of all the movie watching. Maybe like is a strong word.

I've grown. I feel different. And I like it - it's not just a matter of maturity, it's a matter of becoming more of ME! The person I am meant to become. I've met AWESOME people* who have impacted me so much, people that have helped me learn more about me, put up with me, and simply been there in my darkest hours. Travel and losing my dad and not seeing my friends or family for almost nine months has been...life changing.


And so my dear beloved readers, after just over 100 posts, and 260 days, and I've no idea how many photos, and six countries.....it's the End.

It's been amazing. AMAZING. And ridiculous and tough and heart wrenching and challenging...

And it's not over! Well this part is - but the trick of life you learn while traveling, the trick of living each day consciously and refusing to just struggle through and slug on? That will continue. And there will be LOTS of baking involved.

So check me out in a few weeks at girlpenspoon.wordpress.com. Right now there's not much to see. Just a template. I'm working on it!

Baci per sempre,


*Special shout out to my Rhomers -especially Natalie and Megan and Caitlin, Mas de Madelena, Sebastian, Sam, Sara from Poland, Brie from Santorini, my MICers -especially Emma, and everyone else!

KY Derby via Ireland

See those things on the left...those are Chocolate Earl Grey with  Cream Cheese Icing Cake Balls...

Any Derby Party has to have Bourbon....Lots of Bourbon. 

The only other chica to where a hat! The beautiful (French) Raphaelle.

Arnaud had a hat too. Not sure where he got it. I think he was sharing it...

I think my KY Derby part Italian style was quite the success. Not many pics, not good quality at all, but an awesomely awesome time getting to share a piece of my culture with my sweet European friends.

I served:

Chocolate Earl Grey Tea Cake Balls
Chicken Nuggets and Southern Fried Chicken Goujons with Mango Chutney and BBQ Sauce
Sweet Baby Corn
Low fat hummus and sweet chili hummus
Strawberries and grapes
A shot of bourbon with mixer

It was awesome!


PS Congrats to I'll Have Another on the Derby and Preakness win and good luck with the stud farm!

21 May 2012

I'm baaaaaack!

So...I'm back. In the States. Gli Stati. Los Estados.


No really. It's so weird. I honestly feel like I never left, or maybe was just gone for two weeks.

Life has just picked back up where it left off.


Don't worry, I have a couple last posts for this one but I'd like to announce (again I think) that this adventure isn't over!

I've learned SO MUCH and most of it about myself. One of the most important things is living consciously. Actually paying attention to what is going on around you. I really want to keep that - it has been hard when I was abroad! Especially in Ireland when  I had my own apartment to deal with, classes, and recent grief. It was tough.

So. The plan is to simply try to find the beauty in the small things, make the most of the wonderful country that is America, try to focus on quality over quantity... and blog about it :)

I don't even have a title yet. Working on it.

But, to that end I'd like to invite you to take part in this awesome giveaway from OneSheepishGirl! It's both a lovely leather journal and an e-course about creative journaling!

Just check out the rules here...


10 May 2012

Getting Real...

Well, the day has come. Today I go to London, and a week from now I'll be on a plane home to the USA.

I packed last night. It weighs too much. Story of my life.

I'll try to post an update while I'm in London. I have a lot to look forward to:

  1. I get to stay with a friend from freshman year.
  2. I get to meet up with the amazing Natalie AND fly home with her.
  3. I get to go to Jane Austen's home Saturday.
  4. I get to participate in a writing workshop at Jane Austen's home Saturday.
  5. I'm going to try my darndest to get to Paris for a day or two.
Then, God and airlines willing, we will land in Chicago next Thursday at around 2PM. 

It's becoming real. So real. Painfully real. 

I'm leaving what has been my  home for eight and a half months. And when I get home a really important person will be missing. 

But all of my friends will be there (well, scattered but still). And my family.  

And so, if I don't get to post again before, Happy Mother's Day to my amazing Mommy and wonderful Step-mom. Thank you so much for your love and support throughout my grand adventure. 

Hmmmm...I might have a name for my next blog....


04 May 2012

Guess what...

He said, "Nice to meet you" and handed me the bread and went on.

I go home in 12 days. 12. Less than two weeks. I have a paper to turn in Monday, and an exam Wednesday and tomorrow I'm throwing a Kentucky Derby Party.

I admit. I'm conflicted. Seriously - I'm torn up inside.

I've been on the European continent since August 31, 2011. I've been in Ireland since January 17. I've lived in Italy, spent 8 days stranded on a Greek island, been to Auschwitz and Krakow, spent 8 days in Barcelona, 20 days on a farm in Valencia, and kissed the Blarney Stone twice. I'm headed to London and Paris. It's been amazing.

And I don't want to leave. I really don't.

But I do.

I want to hug my mom and my stepmom and my stepsister and all of my friends. I want to visit my dad's grave.

But there are so many challenges at home.

To that end I would like to announce that I shall be ending this blog in the week I return home. But the proverbial journey isn't over. Robert Frost said,

"I can sum up in three words everything I've learned about life - it goes on"

And that is so true. These amazing adventures I've had that I've gotten to share aren't going to end just because I'm back in the States and dealing with "life". I've been dealing with it these past nine-ish months and I've learned that for anything to matter you have to be present. 

That's my challenge, staying present. Not allowing myself to just zone out for days at a time. Sure, the occasional Downton Abbey or Pride and Prejudice or Transformers marathon. But not for days at a time and preferably with friends.

I want to continue this journey with you all, and I hope with more people. So, I'll be starting a new blog. It doesn't have a name yet, but it does have a purpose - to continue all the growing I've done. To live consciously. Eat healthy. Love yourself, but not selfishly.

I would like to share something else with you. I just read it, and it's very well put. It's what they don't tell you about grief.


18 April 2012

Natalie's and Mari's Grand Adventures! Part Two

Here's the rest of the featured photos from our adventures!

If you ever get the chance to drive the Ring of Kerry, you totally should.

Seriously, mountains of Ireland on one side...

...the sea on the other. Best done with awesome friends. BTW never take a pic of yourselves at the same time with two different cameras. You'll look at your own. 

Stunning. Just stunning. 



Another Ring of Kerry. Notice the look of bliss on my face. The cold look of bliss.  

This is a couple of days later. We visited Inishmore of the Aran Islands. My nails were painted the same color of this house. The man who was working on the roof waved at us. 

See those two dark spots right in the middle? THOSE ARE SEALS PLAYING WITH EACH OTHER! Because the Aran Islands have a seal colony. Sadly, these two were the only ones we saw.

Just us, on the Aran Islands. It was an amazing trip!

Again, sorry these posts took so long. Not only am I in the last week of classes with all sorts of tests and papers, but my grief requires a lot of sleep. Also, I can proudly say I haven't been homesick the whole trip! Except, I am really ready to go home. Not to leave Europe! But I also need to be home. Complicated emotions.

From this day, I have 22 days till I leave Ireland for London, and just 29 days till I fly home.


Natalie's and Mari's Grand Adventures!

First off, again, my most deepest apologies for not posting sooner. Especially this post. This post is full of awesome.

You see, the beginning of March one of my bestest friends in the whole world came to visit me here in Ireland. You know her, Natalie, we studied in Rome together last semester. As I may have said before, she's still in Rome! So she visited and we did a whirlwind tour of Ireland. Seriously - whirlwind.

View Nat and Mari's Southern Ireland Adventure in a larger map

I'm dividing this post into two because I have a lot of pics I want to share with you. But as always, you can view all of them at my Shutterfly site.

So to begin....

We met up in Dublin. Walked around. Went to Temple Bar area. Saw this awesome 'advert'.

This strange orb is on the Trinity Campus in Dublin. There is another in the Vatican Museum. It's actually a sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro and there are several more around the world. No one is quite sure what it means.  

 ME AT TINTERN ABBEY. There's another, more famous one in Wales. But I didn't know that. I thought this was the one from the poem. Guess what. I don't care. It was absolutely beautiful.

 Our friend Rosemary is in the band! We visited her in Cork where she has been studying all year. It was so nice to go to a pub with her and listen to her play the fiddle with other Irish musicians playing various instruments. 

 That's right. Blarney Castle. And guess what...

 (Tehehe - we loved this as Capri was one of our other great adventures)

 (This was a neat little place where people who explored the areas beneath the castle left their marks)

 WE KISSED THE BLARNEY STONE! Had to literally bend over backwards to do so. However, we were thus gifted with the gift of blarney

 The Blarney Castle grounds are about a lot more than just the Stone. There are amazing gardens. They had a poison garden. There would have been  a marijuana plant but...well, you can read.

 The trees were so huge! And gorgeous and nifty.

This is us in the Fern Gardens. I felt like I was in dinosaur times. Roar.

In the Fern Garden. Another large tree. Awesome lighting. 

This is her "Are you seriously taking a picture of me?" face. Yes. Yes I am. 

See my head there?! Another super duper awesome tree. 

This is in the Rock Close, my favorite garden on the grounds and so magical! These are the wishing steps. If you go up and down them backwards without opening your eyes thinking ONLY of your wish it will come true within the year. 

I might have peeked. Stay tuned for part two!