This afternoon…

This afternoon I’ll be onto bigger and better things (also known as spring break). This year my kind and loving family invited me on a cruise with them! That means nine days in the company of my parents and brother Andrew. Nine whole days of nothing but together time… However, in reality, I can’t wait to spend time with them! I learned to fully appreciate family vacations once I stopped living with my family. I miss them leading up to the trip, so I look forward to together time, and at the end of the trip when I’m tired of being together I go back to my house and they back to theirs. It’s perfect!

I imagine it now, the first day at sea. I’ll sleep in, and when I finally wake, I’ll step onto the balcony squinting at the sun and basking in the warmth. I’ll put my swim suit on right away, enjoy a buffet breakfast, and head straight to the pool with sunglasses and a good book. And there I will stay, replenished by the sun and any beverage that happens to come my way. Ahhhhh. Paradise.

That’s just day one!

But really, when you live in the freezing cold midwest, an annual warm weather vacation is necessary. I can’t wait!


Weekend with Four

This weekend I play mom to four children. I’m on Friday at 12:30 through the Super Bowl on Sunday.

First, these kids are perfect, and I’ll be pleased if my kids behave half as well. Last night I told the boys they could play video games for ten minutes before they would set the table for dinner. The oldest said to me, “You’re like our mom.” Unsure how to interpret his response, I asked “Is that a good thing?” To which he offered an enthusiastic “Yes!” I’ll take that as a success.

After that episode we made pizza. Everyone chose their own toppings and made individual pizzas. You know what that means… No fights! Not that these kids fight. Ever. And don’t worry Mom, the kitchen is spotless post pizza!

On another note, both boys survived basketball games injury free! The family and I joked about the boys breaking bones under my watch. It was a funny joke until I considered what would actually happen if either broke his arm. True, a broken arm is manageable and it heals, but even more manageable would be NO BROKEN BONES! Alas, we’re clear there. I remember the last advice I received from the dad, “Everything is insured except the kids.” So far so good!

Away from Paradise, Back to Reality

Ah, sunset walks on the beach...

Ah, sunset walks on the beach…

My excuse for disappearing for a week: I went to Clearwater Beach, Florida for spring break! One of the best things about college is spring break. Sometimes I think about not having week in college designated for traveling, and I get sad. Most of the time, though, I am content with the break I do have.

So my excuse for zero posts is I was taking a leave in paradise. After lounging on the beach and spending time in our private pool and hot tub, I feel refreshed and ready to dive back into daily life. I already have many recipe ideas I can’t wait to post!

Stay tuned for Garlic Butter Shrimp and Soba Noodles with Vegetables. Coming soon!

Paella Escentials

My parents told me I can’t come home until I learn to make paella. My visa expires at the end of the year. I had to learn to make paella! After two cooking lessons, I learned one important thing: unless you burn it, paella is hard to screw up. However, that’s not to say there aren’t ways to make a better paella. Here are a few tips I picked up.

Pan: Chances are you imagine using a traditional steel pan, like in movies. This would be a great place to insert a movie reference, but I can’t think of a single paella scene right now. If you have a special burner for your paella pan, then yes, use this. When making paella on a typical stove, it’s better to use a frying pan because the frying pan more equally distributes heat from the burner.

Bomba rice: This is the best paella rice. It’s a medium grain rice that absorbs liquid without becoming soggy. In fact, after about 20 minutes of cooking and 10 minutes of sitting, it’s served al dente. It might be a bit pricier than other types of rice, but it’s easy to find in Spain and with specialty grocers in the United States.

Onions: No matter what, always start your paella with onions. After that, add whatever veggies and meats you have around. All paellas taste different, but every one starts with onions sautéed in olive oil.

Liquids: You’ll need something to cook the rice. The best is to make a wine based sauce and add tomato juice (or squid juice for arroz negro), but you can play around with this.

Saffron: Don’t forget saffron! Just a little bit carries a lot of flavor, and such a good flavor it is.

The rest is up to you. Throw in some chicken, chorizo, prawns, squid, peppers, peas, asparagus, or whatever you prefer. Buen provecho!

Sun, Dolphins, Beach, Volcano, Tenerife

Last week and weekend were so darn great I decided to take it easy this weekend. I watched a movie, ran some errands and slept in. Well, not exactly. Instead, after class on Thursday, I went home for lunch, grabbed my suitcase and set off for the airport. At least this time I didn’t leave at 5:30 a.m. At 5:00 p.m., the flight left for Tenerife, Canary Islands.


The study abroad program organized this trip for my fellow sixteen students and I. Since I am an expert at beach vacations (I live in Minnesota. I have to escape somehow.), nothing made me happier than hearing we were headed to a black sand beach.

First of all, Tenerife is famous for bananas, and they boast about fried bananas. Of course I got excited about banana desserts, only to find nowhere near our hotel served them. Low and behold, my roommate Megan cooked bananas on the stove in our apartment style hotel room. Let me tell you, she is a good. Those things were good.

We stayed in Puerto de la Cruz, and Friday morning we travelled to the other side of the island for a dolphin cruise. After lunch and dolphins, our group all jumped into the ocean. It was exactly the quick escape we needed from the hot sun.

Megan (banana master) and I loving the ride

Megan (banana master) and I loving the ride

We got really close!

We got really close!

After the boat ride we went to the beach for a few hours.


We ate pizza on Friday night in a town called Garachicho, but beforehand, we jumped into the natural spring. I think it was technically closed due to rough water, but that could have been my only opportunity! I jumped in anyway. Then I went to dinner wet.


That brings me to dinner. We ate at pizzeria Rugantino. I tried a few pizzas, but my favorite was the one pictured below, with tomato, mozzarella, arugula and parmesan. We ate on the comfortable terrace with an equal mix of locals and tourists. The restaurant opens at 7:00 p.m., and from then until close, diners cycle through. Rugantino was a place I could go wet after swimming, where the service was excellent and the ingredients fresh.

Pizzeria Rugatino

Calle Esteban de Ponte 44

38450 Garanchico, Canarias, Spain


We woke early again on Saturday for a visit to Teide National Park. Most notably, we climbed the volcano. A gondola took us halfway and we hiked the rest. Any complaints about the long trek were instantly mitigated when we reached the top. We saw breathtaking views in every direction; we were above the clouds!

Just a few more steps!

Just a few more steps!

We made it.
On the top of Spain

We returned to the hotel, went to the pool for a few hours, showered, went to dinner and went out for karaoke. Maybe due to the fact that our fellow tourists were all over 65, we had karaoke to ourselves. I sang La Camisa Negra by Juanes and called it a night.

On Sunday we went to the beach near our hotel. Sun would have been better than the clouds that covered us, but I can really enjoy the beach in any weather. After a while it was time to return to Madrid.

Tenerife was a successful weekend. I relaxed, I was active and I only have a little sunburn on my back. Still, I look forward to a relatively quiet weekend (for real this time) in Madrid in a few days!


Surviving Olympic Dismissal

Everyone’s excited. The city hosts an eight hour party. The bars are filled. All are faced with disappointment. The prospect of winning the 2020 olympic bid made an ordinary Saturday night a special occasion. That is, until Madrid missed the final ballot. However, the news is hardly slowing people down. Congrats Tokyo!

I saw my first flamenco show this weekend. I also had a flamenco lesson, but since I can’t dance, I much preferred watching the show. Sorry the picture is poor quality. I took it on my old iPhone that I’m using here in Spain. Overall, a great way to spend my first Friday night in Spain.


Parque del Buen Ratiro

Parque del Buen Ratiro, literally “Park of the Pleasant Retreat ,” which I live very close to, is awesome! I need a park like this at home. A couple of friends from the study abroad program and I run on a trail around the perimeter. Once royal property, the park itself displays well-tended gardens, historical buildings, fountains and expansive lawns. 


Looking to hold an event in Spain? This is a good place, in the middle of the park.


I saw this guy in front of the building.


Meet a few of my friends from the program. There are 14 of us total. I look forward to renting a boat and exploring this pond in the next couple weeks.


Buen Ratiro is bustling with activity all day. Whether running, boating, skateboarding, having a picnic or just enjoying the fresh air, everyone loves the park.

Finally, an Update

Sorry I’ve been slow with updates. I just now was able to connect to the internet in my apartment. Today is technically day four. My days have been filled with orientation activities with the other students in my study abroad program. I live right downtown Madrid, close to many famous museums. 


This is my room. As you can see, I’m still unpacking and settling in. 


This is what it looks like outside my bedroom window. The front of the house opens to the street, but I like being on the side because it muffles the city noise. Temperatures during the day have been in the 90s here, and very few places have air conditioning. I’ve been wearing dresses to stay cool. 

Yesterday I visited the Reina Sofia art museum in Madrid. The art and the building were spectacular. I look forward to seeing all the museums! 


This post comes from a cafe in Spain! I arrived Saturday morning and met my host mom. For the next four months, I will live in downtown Madrid with my host parents and their 19 year old daughter. The city is beautiful. Expect pictures soon, I want to share my apartment and the city!

Packed and Pampered

My last day in the United States was a good one. After I finished packing (two big suitcases, a carry-on suitcase and a backpack), I had some fun. I got my nails done and a went in for a much needed haircut. 


I also went out to lunch. This is the Lobster Cobb salad from Smack Shack in Minneapolis. Anything with lobster is a favorite of mine, and this had avocado, another favorite. 


To really celebrate my last evening, I went with my family to see a Minnesota Gophers game. We watched from a suite and it was a beautiful night, so I enjoyed the time. 


I’m heading to the airport with my mountain of luggage! After removing 15 lb. of clothes, I’m all set.