Saturday, December 20, 2008

New Home

S got the keys yesterday and I'm posting pictures for friends and family who have been wanting to know what the new home looks like. The previous owners have been great, having left the apartment in a reasonably good and clean condition.

The front door opens into an entry way.

View from the front door.

Right ahead is the kitchen. As you can see, it is just the bare walls. It was surprising to me that it is the custom here to take the entire kitchen with you when you move... even the kitchen sink.

Next is the living room. The big windows let in alot of light.

Looking back at the living area from the windows.

Next is the hallway into the night area.

The first bedroom is on the right.

Inside of this bedroom.

On the left is the first bathroom. This bathroom has a shower but no window.

Next on the right is the second bedroom.

View looking back out of the second bedroom.

Across the hallway is the second bathroom. The sink is missing at the moment.

This bathroom has a window and a bathtub.

The terrace is a good size. The kitchen, living room and first bedroom windows all open out onto the terrace.

The views outside are unobstructed. In front are the condominium gardens.

And that's the end of the tour. Here's the proud and happy guy...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cross Country Skiing

Winter time means winter sports. And since Stef's family home is practically in the mountains, there is no escaping winter sports for me. Not that it was so bad today with the sunny day, blue skies and brilliant white snow. ;-)

Today was my first try at cross country skiing. I look like I knew what I was doing...

But that just how it looks in the picture. In reality, it was a lot harder than I expected. I was hoping my downhill skiing skills would come into play somewhere. But not really. The skiis are alot thinner so it's tougher to balance and then there's all that work when it's all flat or uphill in front of you.

But it wasn't too bad. I was slowly getting the hang of it. And the scenery was really beautiful.

I think I will be back.

L'Artigianato in Fiera

It's a three-day weekend, yippee! This Monday is a holiday here - the Immaculate Conception - I had no idea what that was all about so looked it up on wiki here. It's uh, a religious holiday. I'm just really happy about the holiday since I missed out on the Thanksgiving one last week, and work has been real hectic lately.

I celebrated my birthday last week and had a fun day considering it was a Monday and I had to work and go to class. Thanks to everyone for all the birthday wishes! It really made my day special. I had cake too! It was an ice cream cake and it was seriously melting while I was trying to decide what to wish for. haha.

Now if you're ever in Milan the first week of December, don't miss out on the annual L'Artigiano in Fiera, an exhibition of crafts and goods, from Italy and from other countries. The first time I visited this fair was 3 years ago during my first visit here. Admission is still free as it was then, and I remember wandering around for hours looking at all the different products for sale.

This year is the first time it's being held at Milan's new Fiera/trade exhibition center. It's outside of the downtown area, but still very convenient and easy to get to. There is a Metro stop that drops you off practically inside the Fiera.

The new Fiera is huge...

The l'Artigianato fair this year took up ten big exhibition halls, divided by different regions of Italy, Europe and then a general 'Paesi del Mondo' (countries of the world). Our first visit, we only saw 2 of the halls, which turned out to be my favorite ones, the regions of - Sicilia, Campania, Puglia, Sardegna. We ended up going back again to see the rest with friends later in the week.

Oh yeah, did I mention that there's food too? (One of the reasons why I love this fiera. hehe) I had an arancino for lunch and it was so good. It's basically a baked ball of rice, with a filling that could be ragu (tomato sauce, ragu, peas, meat) or prosciutto and mozarella. It's fits in the palm of my hand, and just one fills me up pretty good. Yum.

In the France section... a 'biscuiterie'. The cookies looked so tempting.

There were stalls selling bread, desserts, honey, hams, candies, chocolate, wine... any specialty that you can think of from different regions of the country. And crafts made from wood, leather, paper, ceramics, etc; many at very reasonable prices. I wish I took more pictures! It's well worth a visit and even if you're not planning on buying anything, you can at least have eat an arancino or cannoli or just taste the samples offered by the vendors.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cookie Overdrive

I decided to bake chocolate chip cookies Thursday night to make up for our lack of a turkey dinner. I needed to adjust the cooking times a little to make up for the Italian ingredients and oven. They turned out ok. Well, this evening after dinner I thought, let's bake cookies again!

I experimented a little bit more and with the help of my Chief Taster and Timer, I think I have a hit. ;-)

Here's the recipe, adapted from Mark Bittman's 'How to Cook Everything'.

Buonissimo Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 lb (226gm) butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375F or 190C.
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
3. Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugars; add eggs one at a time and beat until well blended.
4. Add flour mixture to batter by hand, stirring to blend.
5. Stir in vanilla and chocolate chips.
6. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet and lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake 7 minutes until lightly browned. Add a minute if you prefer a crispier cookie.

The salt sprinkle before baking is key. I read about it somewhere and it's true - it really brings out the chocolate flavor. I love the smell of cookies baking in the oven and baking makes me feel happy.

Ok, it's past midnight and time to wrap up the cookie baking operation. Hope you're having a good weekend. Buona notte!

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's Snowing

Woke up this morning, looked out the window and found this outside. And it's still coming down!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I wanted to wish Happy Thanksgiving to my sis and all my friends in the States.

Here's a picture from last year's holiday. ;-)

Hope you enjoyed a warm (and filling) holiday with family and friends. I miss you all!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Verona - Love at First Sight

Yikes, it's been a while since my last post. The last few weeks have been busy and I'll admit I've been lazy as well.

There's a special place that we happened to visit that I'd like to share with you. It was the first weekend in November and we were in the Veneto region in the north-east of Italy. We finished what we had to do and it was still early in the day. Since we were in the area, we decided to visit the city of Verona on the way back to Milan. I had never been there before even though it is only 1.5 hours from Milan. Stef had been there once many years back.

We got off the highway, parked and walked towards downtown Verona. My first impression as we walked across a bridge over the Adige River was, 'Wow..' It was a crisp and sunny fall day and the colors were beautiful.

We didn't have any maps with us so we just wandered around the narrow streets.

There were outdoor cafes and street vendors at the busy Pizza Erbe.

I loved this fountain right in the middle of the piazza.

We kept walking and ended up at the very center, Piazza Bra, where the impressive Roman arena sits. It's hard to imagine that this amphitheater was built in 1 A.D.

In the summer, the annual Verona Opera festival takes place here. It must be a magical experience and it's now on my to-do list.

Every where we turned, there were historical sights to admire.

The bridge from Castel Vecchio over the river.

Finally we had to swing by Casa di Giulietta, Juliet's house, of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet story. Even though the story is fictional, but supposedly a real Veronese family had lived here and was the inspiration for Shakespeare's story. The entrance to the courtyard was covered with love notes left by romantics.

Inside was quite the spectacle. There were lots of tourists posing for pictures on the famous balcony where Juliet was said to have spoken to her lover Romeo.

And underneath is a bronze statue of Juliet, where more tourists jostled to stroke her right breast, for it is said to bring good fortune. Haha. No, we didn't.

Our impromptu visit to Verona turned out to be a wonderful surprise. Too many tourists head straight to Venice and miss out on this beautiful city.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Eating in Barcelona

Finally, I'm all caught up with my Barcelona posts! This is the last one of some of the food we ate there. The afternoon we arrived, we had bocadillos (sandwiches) at a small neighborhood bar.

For dinner, we ate at Can Culleretes, a really old restaurant serving traditional Catalan food. Oh, I just found out it is the oldest restaurant in Barcelona, and the 2nd oldest in Spain. We weren't sure what to order, but the zarzuela Stef ordered was not bad. It is a traditional Catalan fish stew with assorted seafood like shrimp, fish, shellfish and squid. The catalan soup I ordered was all weird and watery, but the grilled shrimp dish was good. It was late and we were tired and hungry so I forgot to take pictures. But I did regain my senses in time to take a picture of the crema catalana we had for dessert. This was the real deal!

On another night, we decided to try out Bar Inopia, a tapas bar opened by the brother of Ferran Adria, chef/owner of famous El Bulli restaurant, which had been judged the 'best restaurant in the world' for the past 4 years. Since we couldn't afford the average 250 euro cost of a meal at El Bulli, not the mention how impossible a reservation is, this place seemed like a good alternative.

We arrived around 8pm, which was still early for dinner, so we managed to be seated right away. The staff was friendly and we enjoyed the tapas. We had patatas bravas, fried sardines, the russian (potato) salad, meat skewers... There were many tourists, but just as many locals dining there.

When we left, there was a huge crowd waiting outside and even a rope to hold the crowds back. I thought the food was good but not that fantastic.

One morning we had breakfast at one of the many outdoor cafes just a few steps from our hotel, with the Sagrada Familia in the background. My cafe con leche was excellent.

The afternoon before we left, we had lunch/dinner at La Fonda, a restaurant we had spotted the night. We had walked past one night around 10pm and there were literally 100 people standing in line outside this restaurant waiting to get in. The menu and prices in the window looked decent so we decided to try it out.

At 3pm, we only had to wait 10 minutes for a table. The fish soup Stef ordered was really good. The seafood fritters I had wasn't bad either.

We had to try paella at least once, unfortunately, it wasn't the best here. But overall, the ambience was nice and the prices decent at La Fonda.

Until our next visit to Barcelona, adieu...
Related Posts with Thumbnails