My Hotel Kitchen: Everyday People, Eating. Not Styling.

Right now I’m writing this post listening to my Earth, Wind and Fire station on Pandora and hoping that my hotel room stops smelling a little less smoky before I go to bed. Maybe that means I’ve really broken the room in?

Don’t worry. Nothing actually caught on fire. It’s those darn non-non-stick pans! But I digress. We’ll get back to that in a few.

So this week I had planned on making a bunch of things. Among these were shrimp stuffed avocados, pan-cooked salmon, mozzarella and provolone melts, a blueberry and feta salad, and I think some kind of pasta. Haaaaa. I’m a grownup with a job that involves evening meetings out of town. When am I going to sauté mushrooms for provolone melts? And while shrimp stuffed avocados are quite easy- mash an avocado. Add cooked shrimp. Toss to coat. Season to taste. Put back in avocado skin.- that involves more work than putting something on a plate and sticking in the microwave and then in my mouth.

I still made a few very yummy dishes, though! I made that blueberry, feta, and pecan salad. I also cooked salmon today (which is why my kitchen smells smoky) and threw together a panzanella. Photos will follow.

First, a disclaimer. I shoot with an iPhone in a room with limited lighting. I recently discovered that I get the best pictures on the desk in front of the window. The next best spot would be on the floor in front of the bedroom window. Limited lighting. I don’t have a fancy photo editing program. The most I use is Instagram. I don’t style or edit my food. Why? Because most real people, whose livelihoods do not depend on how their food looks, don’t worry about the placement of the berries on their salad. Or the composition of the plate. Or what paper straws or Mason jars or a ribbon-tied napkin will add to the visual experience of the food. 

Most people, who are not entertaining or looking to use their cooking to earn a living, cannot live up to the Pinterest aesthetic because Pinterest exists in a cloud, on a screen. Paper straws and Mason jars and ribbons don’t taste good. You know what tastes good and feeds me? The salad I threw together in less than five minutes, which I didn’t spend 20 minutes styling. shooting, and editing.

The women and men who run dedicated food blogs, who do style and edit their photos, are awesome. It is a lot of work, and they create some really lovely dishes. Their styling and photography makes me want to eat what they make! But there’s one catch: if it doesn’t arrive at the same level of visual aesthetics, I’m still eating it because it will still taste good. 

I enjoy Pinterest as much as the next girl. But there’s something to be said for the way that the Internet and the ability to share our food- and what it looks like- maybe be changing the way that we cook and expect to feed ourselves. I’m not going to stop sharing my food. But I’m just saying, I’m not putting an effort into making my blog Pinterest-able, because a) I don’t depend on it, and b) I just want to eat good food and prove that you, the average person and not a professional food blogger, can cook and eat good food too. Without the assistance of Nikon and Lightbox.

Now that I’ve finally written that, you deserve some food.

First up: salad. This salad is simple. Greens, blueberries, feta, and pecans. You can toast the pecans in an oven or on the stove for a few minutes, but it’s not necessary. I enjoyed the salad with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little bit of sugar. 

Delish. Five minutes to throw together. You don't even have to make the dressing. Just drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top. And then scarf it down.

Delish. Five minutes to throw together. You don’t even have to make the dressing. Just drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top. And then scarf it down.

Yup. You’ll scarf it down. Probably standing directly in front of the television, getting bits of feta and salad greens on the floor (I might need to ask for a vacuum). The official recipe is here.

I didn’t cook anything new the whole rest of the week. I sautéed shrimp and bought another rotisserie chicken, so I was able to have burrito bowls and sandwiches for lunch. On Thursday morning I did boil some pasta because I was out of grains. Lesson learned: it takes water forever to boil in my kitchen. I think it has to do with the chlorine in the water. Anyways. That happened.

On Saturday I went to the farmers market and bought some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and a big, fresh loaf of French bread. 

This made my pickup smell like bread all morning. Goodness.

This made my pickup smell like bread all morning. Goodness.

At first I wondered what I would do with such a large loaf of bread. And then I remembered that my extensive experience with bread in Chile meant that I would have no problem whatsoever eating bread with ham and cheese as onces (supper), topped with avocado (pan con palta), maybe smeared with Nutella…the possibilities were endless. But I had the tomatoes. Tomatoes + bread = bruschetta? Maybe. But difficult to eat by yourself. Panzanella? Much better.

Panzanella is bread salad. Yes. Bread. Salad. This is also an easy recipe, adapted from this one but inspired by this one. Step 1: tear up some crusty bread into pieces. Let it sit out overnight in a bowl, until a little stale.

Step 2: mix up the lemon garlic vinaigrette in the first recipe. It’s basically the same lemon garlic stuff I’ve been putting together for shrimp for the past three weeks. Let it sit so the flavors develop. 

Step 3: Cut up the tomatoes into chunks and put in a bowl. You can decide how big or small.

Step 4: Rinse and tear up some fresh basil.

Step 5: Add half of the dressing to the bread. Toss to coat. Add the other half to the tomatoes. Yes, in a different bowl. Don’t mix them yet! Toss to coat. Let both bowls sit out for at least fifteen minutes.

Step 6: Add the tomatoes to the bread bowl. Mix. Add basil and fresh mozzarella cheese (optional, but really. Is it optional?). Let sit for at least another fifteen minutes before serving at room temperature.

Bread in a salad. What else can I say?

Bread in a salad. What else can I say?

It’s key that the bread sit out overnight. The harder and more stale it is, the better it will soak up the dressing and tomato juice without getting soggy and falling apart. Soft, garlicky bread. Creamy, salty cheese. Ripe, juicy tomatoes. Sharp basil. Just go make this now.

And then I made salmon. My favorite way to make salmon is in an oven. It cooks it slowly and evenly. But I wanted it, and I wanted to make it myself. I started off with this recipe (which looks amazing, right?) but mostly used tips from my dad, probably the best cook I know.

Frozen for a week and still fresh.

Frozen for a week and still fresh.

Tip: fresh fish should smell clean. Maybe a little like saltwater. If it smells strongly fishy, in a way that makes you crinkle your nose, it’s not so good.

Step 1: spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray. I like the olive oil kind. Heat the pan on high. If you have a non-stick pan, heat the pan and coat with olive oil. 

Step 2: Place skin side up. Sear- cook on high- for three to four minutes.

Step 3: Flip, placing the skin side down. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for another 6-10 minutes, depending on how hot your stove is. How do you know when it’s done? When the fish is opaque, and the thickest part of the fillet flakes easily. It doesn’t take long!

Case in point about the aesthetics/visual food thing: I didn’t upload a picture of the finished salmon. Whoops. Maybe I’ll update the post later. I was clearly too concerned with eating it and making sure it was good.

That’s my food for the week! I have that pasta already cooked. Maybe I’ll whip up some kind of a carbonara with it if I get bored of bread salad, salmon, and the other staples in my fridge. 

Comments and suggestions are always welcome! Have a great week, friends!

With love,

Gaby

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There Are BuzzFeed Lists About This

Somewhere between Dallas and Amarillo.

Somewhere between Dallas and Amarillo.

Right? Hasn’t BuzzFeed already put together a bunch of lists of 27 Things You Learn While Living Alone, or 31 Things That Happen When You Move to a New Place, or something like that? I’m not going to repost any of them here- I’m sure they’ll pop up in my Facebook feed eventually- but I’m pretty sure they might approximate my life right now.

I’m relocated to Amarillo until November. I have never been to Texas before, let alone the Panhandle. This is the first time I’ve paid my own bills, pumped my own gas (I never drove often enough, okay?), and had a job that was not somehow connected with my education. If I want to take a weekend trip someplace, that’s my decision. I’m the one paying for it. If I want to spend the entire day on the couch watching TLC, I can do it. No one is telling me to go do my laundry or wash the dishes or eat (or not eat) or run errands. It is up to me.

Nothing is keeping me from spending hours in Target, browsing the amazingness there. Like this display of journals!

Nothing is keeping me from spending hours in Target, browsing the amazingness there. Like this display of journals!

You don’t transition into the freedom and the responsibility. I don’t know if there’s a way to ease into it. How would that work? Your parents come and live with you for a little while, until you’re in a routine at work? You pay part of your bills, and they pay the other part, until gradually you have enough to cover it all on your own? At some point, though, you have to strike out by yourself. At some point, it needs to be you.

I’m liking the independence so far. I am proud of being able to pay off my credit card balance in full, and I’m going to keep that up for as long as possible (ideally, forever and ever). I’m happy that I got a workout in before I went into the office, four out of five days last week. There are other things I need to do, though. For instance, my benefits kick in next month- meaning there will be less money coming in from my paycheck. I need to budget for that, as well as for my upcoming student loan payments, and for savings. You know, the money that you put aside for big expenses later on, or (God forbid) for emergencies.

Living on your own is not just about finances, of course. What do you do in a new place, with no friends or family around? Technically, you can just stay in your hotel room or your apartment all the time. I mean, there’s enough on TV and Netflix and the Internet in general to keep you occupied for your entire life.

That sounds like a really easy way to drive me absolutely crazy. And also burn my eyes out- I already spend all day on the computer at work, so why rely on that at home?

So, I’ve gone shopping. I live five minutes from the mall, Target, and Barnes and Noble. That worked at the beginning of my stay, when I really needed a bunch of things, but now it’s just to wander around and get to know the area. I went to the farmers’ market on Saturday, which is a great way to chat with locals. I arrived a little late- I think I’ll really have to get there closer to its 7 AM opening- but the few people I talked with were very friendly. They also informed me that the occasional strong smell of cattle comes from the stockyards, where they auction and sell cattle. Sometimes, the wind picks it up and blows it all over town. Good to know.

I’ve also taken up more reading. I especially hope to take advantage of this once I have longer work days, and I need time to unwind. For now, it’s an excellent way to occupy myself. I love the Barnes and Noble- there’s a Starbucks cafe in there, and it’s a lovely place to get a sandwich and a coffee and read on Sunday afternoons.

Here's what I picked up my first week: TIME, Hyperbole and a Half, Half Broke Horses, No One Belongs Here More than You (short stories), and my uncle's lifestyle book, Strength + Simplicity. Plus the Notre Dame prayer book.

Here’s what I picked up my first week: TIME, Hyperbole and a Half, Half Broke Horses, No One Belongs Here More than You (short stories), and my uncle’s lifestyle book, Strength + Simplicity. Plus the Notre Dame prayer book.

That reading list up there helped me get through my first “rough” night. A big thunderstorm moved through town last week. It wasn’t technically severe, but there was strong winds, pouring rain, and constant thunder and lightning. One lightning strike somehow hit the hotel and threw off the alarm system. Suddenly my smoke alarm was chirping, the fire horn was going off intermittently, and the alarm lights in the hallway were flashing. And of course that was the night that I was settled into bed early, ready to get a good night’s sleep before an early morning workout. I don’t like thunderstorms, and I hate the sound of alarms. I got both in the same night, at the same time.

That’s another living-on-your-own life skill: self-soothing. Which is actually something we learn when we are babies, but it something we call upon and hone the whole rest of our lives. You can’t sit and whine and cry every time you encounter a stressful or uncomfortable situation. You also can’t totally internalize your stress and anxiety and bottle it up. Not healthy. So what do you do to manage it? That night, I read and I watched the Tonight Show. The next morning, I ate Nutella on toast. Self = soothed. It was a thunderstorm. It was an alarm. Life goes on. I’m a grown up.

Yup. That’s been my first two weeks here. If any of you hear that I’ve made friends with the Target or Barnes and Noble staff, that’s a sign that I need to find something else to do.

What do you love to do, all by yourself? How do you cure boredom? How do you like to get to know a new place?

With love,

Gaby

 

 

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My Hotel Kitchen: Taking It for a Spin

Hello good people!

I write this as I listen to the dogs in the room across from mine bark up a storm, and I’m reaching for a sip of wine (that I opened with my keys and a shoe after the screw part of the corkscrew broke off in the cork. Resourceful.). “The Blind Side,” one of my favorites, is on TV. My plans for the rest of the night include a home manicure and a face mask. I hope that your night is as chill or as wild as you’d like it to be.

Last week I wrote about my new cooking adventures. I got off to a solid, if basic, start after a very fun grocery trip. It was fun because I could spend as much time as I wanted wandering the aisles and browsing all of the delicious offerings- quiche! cupcakes! tarts! wine! quinoa! crab legs! Gah. The freedom was thrilling. 

My very own grocery cart. Plenty of essentials, and a few treats.

My very own grocery cart. Plenty of essentials, and a few treats.

I had done a little cooking before my big grocery trip. Over the course of cooking eggs and grilled sandwiches, I realized that I will have to load up my pans with nonstick spray and keep the heat low in order to avoid burning. The smell of burning eggs is one of my least favorite smells, and burnt eggs are not fun to clean off a pan. I do not like burnt food, period, so knowing that it will take some time for me to learn how to use my cooking tools has influenced the recipes I’m starting out with.

In preparation for the work week, I cooked:

A Southwestern quinoa blend: it came in a pouch, and I simmered it for a while on the stove. Easy. What wasn’t easy was controlling the heat (remember, it’s an electric stove) and keeping it from boiling over or dying down completely. But it worked out.

Brown rice: I cooked rice in a pot, not a rice cooker! Rice is easy, guys. Add a little oil or butter to the pot, and it will help reduce the stickiness. Just keep an eye on it. When most of the water has steamed off, it’s close to done. As you learn how to cook it, add or reduce water depending on how fluffy or dry you like it. 

Sautéed shrimp: I bought a package of peeled, tail-off, frozen shrimp. I wanted the tails and peels off because I didn’t feel like dealing with that, but I still wanted them raw so I could control how done they were. To me, a lot of precooked shrimp is chewy and kind of dry. It was a gamble cooking the shrimp in those sticky pans, but I figured if I didn’t want to eat everything cooked in the microwave, I had to give it a shot.

First, you thaw the shrimp. Get it completely thawed, but don’t let it sit out and get warm. That’s just not good policy with seafood (or anything you don’t usually eat raw). Rinse the shrimp and drain it in a colander. I then tossed it in some lemon garlic vinaigrette, which I got from this recipe. I intended to make that salad, and maybe eventually I will if I can find a small quantity of plain quinoa at a reasonable price. But it turns out the vinaigrette is a perfect “marinade” for sautéed shrimp! 

After that, I sprayed the pan with olive oil non-stick spray, and in went the shrimp on medium heat. Do not leave shrimp alone when you sauté them! In a hot enough pan, shrimp cook up really quickly. Cook them on each side, just until opaque. They’ll be pink, but if they’re solid white and look very shriveled up, they’re probably over done. How do you know if they’re done? Once they look opaque, you’re probably safe tasting one, even if it’s a little underdone.

These shrimp were super tasty. If you keep an eye on the pan, shrimp are a cinch to cook and are an easy way to get more seafood into your diet.

This week, I ate them with brown rice and avocado. Simple and satisfying.

It's not the prettiest. But if you've been around this blog long enough, you know I'm not the queen of aesthetics.

It’s not the prettiest. But if you’ve been around this blog long enough, you know I’m not the queen of aesthetics.

That was the extent of my real cooking this week. The other meal that I made was a quinoa burrito bowl. I put that together with the quinoa I made, rotisserie chicken from the store, shredded cheese, and more avocado.

Okay, I ate the burrito bowl on a plate. Same idea.

Okay, I ate the burrito bowl on a plate. Same idea.

People love Chipotle’s burrito bowls, but really, you can make them at home with very basic combinations of simple ingredients. I’m picturing future versions with more vegetables, black beans, maybe some Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream- you get the idea.

We went out for lunch twice this week. One lunch was a nice Italian place, and the other was a chicken-fried steak at the Amarillo stockyards. The stockyards are where they auction off cattle, and the cafe there is where the ranchers eat lunch and breakfast. That chicken-fried steak was hearty and delicious, but man oh man, was my appetite shot for a while. My dinner that night? Avocado toast.

This was all I needed. Simple can be satisfying!

This was all I needed. Simple can be satisfying!

Other meals included a few prepared items I picked up at the store. It’s tempting just to buy six or seven dinners from the deli and just make sandwiches for lunch. I have to cook, though, so I know exactly what I’m eating, and so I learn how to make food that I enjoy- all the time. Nevertheless, I like having a few meals on hand that I can just stick in the microwave and chow down.

One of the challenges of shopping for myself is figuring out just how much to buy. If I’m going to buy a rotisserie chicken, then I need to put that chicken in my lunches in order to use it up by the end of the week. I don’t need to cook an entire cup of rice- that yields three cups, and you know what? That’s a LOT of rice for one person. 

I think I did a little better this week. There was still ice cream left over, so I resisted the temptation to buy a new flavor…or to pick up some cupcakes or cookies from the bakery. I didn’t buy more salad greens, even though I might need more by the middle of the week. It’s about balance, and learning how much I really need, and what I can allow for wants.

Next week, I’ll be cooking:

Shrimp-stuffed avocado

Pan-seared salmon (just because I don’t have an oven doesn’t mean I won’t eat my fish!)

Blueberry feta pecan salad

Again, if you have any recipe suggestions, or if there’s something you’d like to see, please let me know in the comments!

Let’s get cooking!

With love,

Gaby

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Riding Solo and My Hotel Kitchen

So yesterday I talked about the few weeks of summer break I had before starting my job. And then I realized that I haven’t talked about my job on the blog yet!

Yes. I am employed! I have a salary and benefits and I mostly wear some kind of suit. I am a consultant with a fundraising consulting firm, working exclusively with nonprofits. I spent a week in Chicago in training and orientation. My friend E. gets HUGE thanks for housing me for the week in her apartment. We cooked and both got dressed up and went to work every morning like grownups. I took a bus and train to work each day. It was a fun little flashback to my commutes in Santiago (especially when I took the wrong bus route, but don’t worry, it was fine!).

This was a bonkers avocado pizza E. and I made my first night there. We demolished the whole thing ourselves.

This was a bonkers avocado pizza E. and I made my first night there. We demolished the whole thing ourselves.

The view from my window on the second day of training. To be clear: they just moved me to a different office because the computer in the first room wasn't cooperating. But I lucked out!

The view from my window on the second day of training. To be clear: they just moved me to a different office because the computer in the first room wasn’t cooperating. So I lucked out!

E. made delicious popsicles, which were the perfect way to cool down at the end of the night.

E. made delicious popsicles, which were the perfect way to cool down at the end of the night.

A view of the Sears Tower and other buildings from the walk into work from the train.

A view of the Sears Tower and other buildings from the walk into work from the train.

I really loved being in Chicago. I saw a few friends, I got to know my new coworkers, and I was pumped to be back in a big city among all of the noise and people and public transportation. But after just a week, I took a quick day at home, and then headed down to Tulsa, Oklahoma to shadow one of my firm’s projects. I don’t have any pictures from Tulsa. We worked and went out to eat, and I didn’t think to pull my phone out. Things I would have taken pictures of include: the Oral Roberts University campus (it is gold and shiny and 1980’s futuristic), the Arkansas River, the Brookside neighborhood, and the Art Deco downtown.

Then it was the 4th of July. I once again returned home for the weekend, and then I flew down to Amarillo, Texas, for my first assignment.

Yup. I am writing you from my hotel room in the Texas Panhandle. I’ll be here until November. Right now it is hot and dry, but they’re forecasting rain and cooler temps later this week, which gets the locals really excited and happy. Our client has very generously loaned me a pickup truck for my stay. It has provided much entertainment for family, friends, and acquaintances.

Last year, if you’d asked me where I thought I’d be right now, I never would have said in Texas, with a pickup. I would have guessed Chicago or DC or maybe even New York or Santiago. But here I am!

The next four months will be a whirlwind. Work will keep me more than busy Monday through Thursday. So I’m trying to enjoy these next couple of weeks while I try to establish some routines and learn my way around. I live within 10 minutes of a Catholic church, Target, Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, an excellent grocery store, and the mall. I pretty much have everything I need.

And even if I’m here without friends or family, if the past six days are any indication, they’re never far away with text messages, phone calls, and Facebook.

Blah blah blah, now I’m getting sappy. My temporary relocation does mean that I’ll be doing something new on the blog. And so, I introduce: My Hotel Kitchen.

I have a two-burner electric stove top, a microwave, one large and one small saucepan, and one large and one small sauté pan. I also have a very basic assortment of kitchen utensils. Take note: no oven. No cookie sheets. No non-stick pans. I can’t eat out every single day. I just can’t. We did in Tulsa and although every meal was delicious and not fast food, I felt a little gross at the end of the week. Grocery shopping this week was quite exciting, to say the least.

Every week, I’ll be prepping meals and sides for me to take for lunch and heat up for dinner. This week, for example, I made brown rice, a prepackaged quinoa mix, shrimp, and lemon garlic vinaigrette (for an adaptation of this recipe). I also have pasta, jarred tomato sauce, mixed greens, fruit, avocados (porque si hay pan y palta, hay comida), a whole rotisserie chicken, and chicken alfredo from the prepared food section of the grocery store (which is expansive and amazing). 

Why am I doing this? It’s healthier. I enjoy it. I’m learning to be resourceful- I can’t cook whatever I want because I don’t have all the tools, and I’m not going to buy them for a four-month stay. I also need to remember that I’m cooking and eating for one person, not an entire family. Cooking is just one of those things that young adults, on their own, have to learn how to do- like pay bills, save money, make new friends, and not stay up too late watching TV or surfing the Internet. You know, grown-up stuff.

If you’d like to follow along on Instagram (@gmtnunez), I’ll be using the hashtag #myhotelkitchen for my meals and meal prep. And you’ll find me back here each week, writing about my cooking adventures (like learning how to use PAM in the absence of Teflon pans) and exploring the Texas Panhandle. 

Should you have any great recipe or solo living suggestions, please let me know in the comments! 

See you soon! With love,

Gaby

 

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Meanwhile…(A Summer Photo Summary)

Oh hey!

Sorry for the radio silence. I was just graduating. And then my brothers both graduated (excellent timing, parents). And then after all of that, I had three weeks of summer.

I could tell you lots about all of the fun things I did. I could have written at some point in the past two months. But you know, sometimes it’s better to live in the moment, rather than think about how you’re going to share it with people on the Internet.

I can share a little bit of it though. In pictures!

I spent a lot of time in church at these graduations. #catholicschools

I spent a lot of time in church at these graduations. This was my own senior Mass. #catholicschools

Church #2 for one brother's graduation Mass.

Church #2 for one brother’s graduation Mass.

We took a quick trip out to Omaha. I don’t know what it is about Omaha- it can’t just be Berkshire Hathaway, right?- but it’s actually pretty cool.

The Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge connects Omaha, NE with Council Bluffs, IA, and crosses the Missouri River.

The Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge connects Omaha, NE with Council Bluffs, IA, and crosses the Missouri River.

See? Two places at once! Does this remind anyone else of A Walk to Remember?

See? Two places at once! Does this remind anyone else of A Walk to Remember?

The nicest views of Omaha might be from Iowa.

The nicest views of Omaha might be from Iowa.

Probably the best part of Omaha- given what we could see in two days- was the food.

That thing about Omaha steaks being really good is actually true. This is a bone-in filet mignon (yes, it exists!). Notice how there's nothing else on the plate. The meat is that good.

That thing about Omaha steaks being really good is actually true. This is a bone-in filet mignon (yes, it exists!). Notice how there’s nothing else on the plate. The meat is that good.

An ice cream neon light detail at Ted and Wally's Ice Cream.

An ice cream neon light detail at Ted and Wally’s Ice Cream.

Coconut and ube (purple yam) ice cream. The color was fantastic. As was the taste.

Coconut and ube (purple yam) ice cream. The color was fantastic. As was the taste.

They even have a cupcake shop. That makes it a legit city, right?

They even have a cupcake shop. That makes it a legit city, right?

And then we stopped off in Iowa for a little bit of barbecue at Jethro's. Jethro's was featured on Man v. Food. My eyes were 10x bigger than my stomach.

And then we stopped off in Iowa for a little bit of barbecue at Jethro’s. Jethro’s was featured on Man v. Food. My eyes were 10x bigger than my stomach.

The rest of my break was mostly spent hanging around my beautiful hometown of Milwaukee. After looking through the pictures, I realized I ate a lot- like, a LOT- of ice cream.

A mint marshmallow Oreo sundae from one of my favorite ice cream places in town, Lee's Dairy Treat. The color of the mint sauce was unnaturally green. But it was exactly what I wanted.

A mint marshmallow Oreo sundae from one of my favorite ice cream places in town, Lee’s Dairy Treat. The color of the mint sauce was unnaturally green. But it was exactly what I wanted.

Requisite Brewers game. (I write this as the Cardinals have now tied them for first and it's upsetting.)

Requisite Brewers game. (I write this as the Cardinals have now tied them for first and it’s upsetting.)

Kopp's Frozen Custard. A Milwaukee staple.

Kopp’s Frozen Custard. A Milwaukee staple.

Leon's Frozen Custard. Another Milwaukee staple. A big question for Milwaukeeans is: Kopp's or Leon's?

Leon’s Frozen Custard. Another Milwaukee staple. A big question for Milwaukeeans is: Kopp’s or Leon’s?

(I wasn’t kidding about the ice cream/frozen custard.)

The Milwaukee Art Museum. We call this the Calatrava, named after its architect, Santiago Calatrava.

The Milwaukee Art Museum. We call this the Calatrava, named after its architect, Santiago Calatrava.

A nice message on a wall in the Third Ward.

A nice message on the side of a building  in the Third Ward.

I hope to be back on a regular (weekly) posting schedule soon. Stay tuned for how this blog will be shifting over the next few months. Preview: I have a job! I’m cooking for myself. I’m living in places I’ve never lived in before. You can bet there’s lots to write about!

With love,

Gaby

 

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I’m Not Crying, It’s Just Raining on My Face

(I will preface all of this by saying that yes, I’m writing this right now when I have to a) pack up my room, b) vacuum, c) clean, d) run all over campus and get errands done before about 1 PM, so that I actually have time for a nap and a shower before my first commencement reception. I got 4 hours of sleep last night. Clearly, the answer is a blog post.)

This May is the month of tears.

It’s not a sad month. It’s just a wildly emotional month. One of the most emotional months of my life, probably. Right up there with September 2010 (first semester of college), July 2012 (when I left for Chile), December 2012 (when I left Chile for the US), and July 2013 (when I left Chile for the US the second time).

Most of the emotions are happy ones. Pride, joy, love, all of those. There’s a few others in there: fear, anxiety, sadness, things like that. So why all of the emotions?

I graduate from college this weekend. Senior week ended last night with a visit to the Grotto (where I remarkably teared up but did not actually cry. Too many people around? Not that that’s ever stopped me before.), and today begins the official University Commencement celebrations. I have two formal receptions, then Baccalaureate Mass, then the university-wide commencement ceremony, and then my college ceremony, where I will finally receive my diploma. This happens over the course of three days.

On Monday, I move out of my dorm and hustle right back to Milwaukee where we will start celebrating my brother’s high school graduation. His senior awards ceremony is that night, so the tears of sadness of departing my beloved residence hall and university will quickly change over to tears of pride for the young man he has become. He also has a Mass and a graduation ceremony the next weekend. More tears. My youngest brother graduates from middle school the following week, but at that point it will be June and the tears should abate.

This BuzzFeed article was incredibly well-timed. And accurate. Did I tear up when I read it? Take a guess.

All of the emotions surrounding commencement- pride for my accomplishments, excitement that I’m finished, uncertainty about the future, love for my friends and family, and so on- haven’t hit me in a big wave yet. It comes in bits and pieces. For instance, I cried a little when we sang the Alma Mater at the end of our last dorm Mass a couple weeks ago, but not at the Grotto prayer service last night. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what my friendships will be like once we’re not together anymore, but I didn’t really cry about it until my boss made us a CD and put this song on it:

Listen to the song. Listen to those lyrics. I knew the song already. When she started playing it in the office one day, my eyes welled up after the first two notes.  I begged her to change it. Instead, she turned it up and handed me a box of tissues. That was a good moment…then I was just playing the CD while I was packing yesterday, and the song came on again. I got through the first couple notes and thought I’d be fine. Nope. Definitely cried again. Like Pavlov’s dog.

Emotions are healthy. I have no problem with crying in situations like these. I do have a problem with how my eyes swell up and are basically impossible to de-puff for hours and hours afterwards. Considering this will be one of the most photographed weekends of my life…it’s going to be challenging.

I know I cry a little more than most people. Some friends have said that they wish they could cry more. Not everybody processes emotions through tears. To me, the tears mean that this experience- everything and everyone who got me here today- has meant so much to me that there’s nothing else I can do but express how I feel. And my brain decides it wants to express those feelings with tears.

So if you see me running around this weekend in my cap and gown, with my face all splotchy and my eyes all puffy, don’t worry. I haven’t gotten broken up with (not like that was an option to begin with), I haven’t gotten into a fight. I’m just really, really happy/sad/proud/anxious/overwhelmed with feelings.

With love,

Gaby

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You Know You’re Ready to Go Back to Chile When…

You start to get nostalgic about fall and winter, conveniently forgetting the fact that you complained every single day about the cold and damp (and the fact that you just went through your worst Midwestern winter ever).

This is what I was wearing last year in July. I am crazy enough to miss this?

You drink tea (black and chamomile) just for the smell, because it reminds you of pre-program.

You almost tear up when your friend serves you avocado toast before your big interview, because it’s like the spirit of your host family descending upon you for support.

First avocado toast (pan con palta) in months. MONTHS.

First avocado toast (pan con palta) in months. MONTHS.

You inhale papas con chorizo in the dining hall, not because it’s Chilean (it’s not), but because it tastes vaguely like something you ate there. You also eat it with corn. Starch on starch on starch.

You listen to your Santiago radio station constantly, and you keep up on the big sales and events.

You follow the weather and grimace when you see that it’s rainy and below 60. That’s FREEZING.

It really hits you just how flat the Midwest is. La cordillera would be such a great change of scenery right now.

I mean look at that.

I mean, look at that.

You find excuses to wear your poncho. And your lapiz lazuli. And your mapuche earrings.

You follow the crap out of Santiago-based Instagrams.

You know when they have feriados.

You are pleased on the days when you look particularly chilena.

You panic when you start forgetting your Chilean vocabulary. You also laugh when you figure out that everyone else pronounces guapa with a hard g and not like wapa.

You find your old receipts from Espacio Salcobrand and Jumbo and get super nostalgic. Because you remember that shopping trip when you bought gummy bears and conditioner and apparently it was really important.

At one point I actually took a picture of the mess of receipts that I had. And I kept the picture.

At one point I actually took a picture of the mess of receipts that I had. And I kept the picture.

You spent a solid five minutes deciding whether or not you were going to keep those receipts (RECEIPTS) and put them in a scrapbook or something. (Rational Gaby won out and threw them in the trash, just so you know.)

Cumbia was the only thing that kept you awake working on your lighting design project at 2 in the morning. I talk about cumbia pretty frequently without giving you any examples, so here you go:

You go to Chicago, ride the Metra, and realize just how much you miss the metro, conveniently forgetting (again) what it’s like to ride for 20 minutes pressed up against the chest of a complete stranger.

From the one day that I got off at the wrong stop.

From the one day that I got off at the wrong stop.

For my fellow Chile alums, what do you miss about Chilito? What are the triggers for your nostalgia and Chile-sickness? Add a comment if you please! These are only a few of the things I could think of off the top of my head.

I’m not ready to start thinking about everything I’m going to miss about college yet- that’s a whole other post that I already have titled- so let’s just keep remembering one of the most amazing experiences college gave me: my semester and internship abroad.

Besos,

Gaby

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