Magic tricks

So this past weekend in fano, after sharing a bottle of wine and having a spiked espresso, I told Ricky that I wanted to drive the bike with him on the center bar. I got on and he begged me to be careful. I said yeah yeah, get on... So he got on. I put one foot on the pedal and the other tried to kick off for a head start before being placed on the other pedal. He begged again, be careful. I didn't get my second foot on the other pedal before we lost balanced and went crashing to the ground. We were laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. He got up to take pictures of me, laying on the ground grabbing my butt, and we both laughed ourselves sick. The police stopped by to see if I was ok. Won't be trying that again. My green and purple butt says not to. And as far as work goes...I feel like I understand more, but it's still not enough. Once I know what is being asked of me, I'm fine. The work itself is fairly easy... If I don't know how, they show me and I rarely ever screw something up. But it's getting the directions correct in the first place that is the most challenging. And it's almost impossible to tell them "hey, please speak slow" when tickets are piling up and orders need to get done. :/ if anyone knows of a way to speed up a learning process, I'm all ears. And yeah, practice practice practice. I am. I need a magic trick at this point.



OMG!!!! La prima volta ho wifi!!! Cazzo! San marino è una città di merde!! But seriously, I'm back. I. AM. BACK!!! =O After a 20ish hour flight (I had 3 layovers), I finally arrived in bologna where Ricky, my boyfriend, was suppose to meet me. I had not seen him in 3 months and was excited to the point where I was shaking when I stepped off the plane. My hands couldn't grip my bag and my knees felt like they were going to give any second. I go through customs, get my bag and exit into the main room (it's one big room for the entire airport since is very small). I quickly look for his smiling face and I'm so nervous I figure I can't see him. So I scan the room again, and nothing. There was a large crowd of people waiting in one area and I was sure he was one in the crowd... I just couldn't see him. But then, I glanced down and saw a neon blue sign propped up against the wall that said "Ashley Jeanne Cramer, look for the next color"... And the second my face lit up with a smile, the crowd of people looked back at me and smiled. They knew something that I didn't. So I see another sign and it directs me to another sign. I stop at a neon yellow sign that says "stop here... Can you hear my heart beating?" and my jaw drops and I cover my mouth. I don't see Ricky and I started to giggle at how ridiculously romantic this boy is. People are smiling back at me, people I don't know, and I become more nervous than before. But as soon as I turn around... "ciao amore" greets me with a bouquet of roses/lillys (he remembered my favorites) and I get a glimpse of his adorable face before I am suffocated in the biggest bear hug I have ever had. It was a good suffocation. I didn't need to breath in that moment... It was too perfect as it was. I hear a few "awww"s and my eyes well up, buti don't care. I'm in his arms again, after 3 very long months. I kept hugging him because I couldn't believe he was actually here in front of me. Walking out to the car, I realized he felt he same when he said " if this is all a dream, please don't wake me." :) :O I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!?!? Alright, so I spent my first day and half in fano, Italy, Ricky's hometown. We went to have an aperitif on the beach with two of his friends who made me feel very comfortable and welcome. The aperitif/bar/beach thing they have going on in fano is amazing! What a cute little city!! I met his amazing parents who immediately made me feel at home! They are absolutely wonderful! We sat down at the kitchen table for dinner and.... His mom had made passatelli AND piadina with squacquerone, my two absolute favorite traditional dishes!! How did she know?? Ricky told her. :) it was delicious and a great first meal. The next day, we went to the beach to lay out and swim. But upon leaving his home, Ricky told me that we were going to use a bike to go instead of his car because parking is impossible. I didn't mind, so I agreed and thought " I don't remember the last time I rode a bike, but I don't think it's something you forgot how to do". So he pulls one bike out of the garage and locks the garage up. I look at him. And then ask him where my bike was. He points to the bike he pulled out of the garage. So when he said we were going to use A bike to go, he really meant A bike. One. And I laugh so hard and tell him it's impossible. He calls me crazy and says its totally normal in Italy. He gets on, and tells me to go on one side and sit down on the bar in front of the seat, behind the handle bars. I tell him he is crazy, it won't work. And we take off! His arms are on the handlebars on either side of me, and his seat is high enough so that my head rests on his chest. It's really possible. He wove in and out of Italian car traffic as I screamed, twitched and feared for my life. He was laughing the entire way. I saw other couples doing the same thing, two people on a bike. So I guess it is totally normal and I am crazy. When in Rome/fano, do as they do, right? So we got to the beach in one piece. Omgggg!!! Italian beaches!!! Beautiful!! Italy in the summer is completely different from Italy in the winter. Completely. I am totally in love with italy in the summer. Its a different vibe, it's beautiful, is relaxing, and it is hottttt!!! I am still getting used to it. But we went to the beach, laid out, swam and then took another bike ride down the street to a restaurant where his mom cooks at. THE FOOD!! My god!!! The food!!! Stringhetti pasta and then a plate of freshly breaded and grilled fish and shellfish =O we went back to the beach and then back home to have dinner with his parents again, tagliata with rucola. After, we headed back to San Marino for work the next day. My alarm went off at 720am. I instantly remembered what this all felt like. My Italian vacation, all 2 days of it, was over. Back to work. And I was nervous. I don't know why except for that I knew what I was getting myself into this time and I knew it was difficult. We climbed the familiar mountain and entered the familiar kitchen. I saw the familiar faces and this time, I was able to speak to them. Not much, but more than I was able to on my first day in February. Its an incredible feeling. But don't get me wrong, I am no way fluent or even able to understand most conversations. I just mean that I can finally see my own progress in learning another language and it feels good. They even complimented me on my progress... And compliments here are hard to come by. :) and for those of you who remember, this next sentence is for you...I am NOT joking when I say: guess what was waiting for me to clean when I stepped in the kitchen? What white box was sitting on the counter just calling my name? Screaming my name! That's right, the cuttlefish box. And guess who tried to avoid it for as long as possible but got called to clean it anyways? Yup, this girl right here. Hahahaha! My life. This is my life.:) After two days of work, my body started to ache like it did three months ago. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I do the same moan and groan that I did three months ago. I am back... Back to working my ass off. Literally. And I'm exhausted, always. But, I'm not going to complain. Because this time feels so different from the last time. I feel like I have a very small grip on the language, but enough to where I can communicate a little and I know that through this, I will learn a lot more. I got moved to the downstairs kitchen where its is an Osteria that has a much faster pace and very traditional dishes. I am extremely excited about this change. Its a beautiful summer, not a snowy winter. And I am also spending every second with someone I can't get enough of. I'm sorry for all the mushiness, but it is what it is. I'm in Italy for the gorgeous summer AND I'm totally in love. :D besides some sleep, what more do I need??


Adventure #2

So.... Three months are winding down once again. My three months here in the states are done. I'm about to journey into round two of my European adventure. Except this time, I have completely different goals, expectations, and fears. This time is going to be different. Not even comparable to the last adventure for many reasons. 1- this time, I go straight to work. There is no traveling around first and then starting work in the middle of my trip. I go straight for it, head on. 2- I know what I'm getting myself into this time, more or less. Yeah, it will be a different experience with new challenges, but for the most part, I know what's in store for me. Which is actually both a blessing and a curse. It's great to know and feel comforted by the fact that I've done this, seen this and felt this all before... but what comes with that is the memory of knowing when it gets rough, it can be really really rough. No joke. I learned from last time that being completely removed from the comforts of home, a persons patience, strength, endurance and instincts are put to the test. Pushed and shoved even. Don't get me wrong, I am ready for this... But the memories of some of the rough moments are vivid and still fresh which makes me believe that ignorance sometimes really is bliss. 3- I am not going into this adventure with Ashleigh. I will be alone. But even that is half a lie... I will not be alone exactly. Which brings me to: 4- this time, I will have someone waiting for me at the gates when I land. Someone I have grown to adore deeply and appreciate immensely. Someone who is equally excited to see me as I am to see them. And someone who has shown me that life isn't just about work and persuing a career, but for having a love for life itself...to not be your own prisoner. This person has opened my heart after it was closed for so long. He has told me that trust isn't easy but it's still very possible. He challenges me and my stubbornness and makes me change my mind about things that ive been absolutely positive on. And he appreciates me, the way I am. It is no secret that a lot of my decision for doing adventure #2 is because of reason 4. Which may sound crazy! The Ashley back in December/January would've called me crazy. Ridiculous even. But I guess this is where we can recognize the changes I've experienced from within. Because I really don't think this is crazy. It's necessary. I must see where this road takes me. Its wayyy too strong to forget about. And its also oh SO heart warming to think of the moment that I land in Bologna at 12:35pm on July 8th and am reunited with Mr. Paolinelli. After 3 months... I will finally get to hug the person that has convinced me that love is worth the risks. So I sit here on America's Independence day, hearing the distant booms of the fireworks, and ponder my near future in Italia. Funny. For me, there is no place like home. But I want to get out and experience another life style and culture before I can feel any more comfortable here. I want to know what's out there and how other people live. And I want to know it well. I AM GOING BACK TO ITALY!!! :O Aside from my fears, I will be surrounded by amazing food, rich culture and history, and people that have a passion for living. I am excited for so many reasons: Ricky, cooking at Righi, eating piadina and squacquerone, Italian beaches. But I am MOST excited to be removed, once again, from my comforts and forced to think outside the box that I know too well. I live to be challenged... It's my addiction. I will be able to further my adventure into the discovery of myself, after I thought I learned everything I could possibly learn. I am going deeper into an experience that will not only benefit my career but also benefit my soul. I am fortunate. I am so lucky. Which makes all my fears and concerns minuscule and not important. I have way more to gain than to lose, so what is left to fear? As far as I'm concerned, adventure number 2 will be just as life altering as adventure number 1, just in a different perspective. I am jumping in, going head on. Ready and willing. Bring it. Because I know that life would not steer me in this direction if I was not ready. Adventure 1 and the aftermath prepared me for adventure 2 so I can only imagine what is in store for me. :D


Where the wind is

Alright, here is where I am. Have you ever felt like you haven't been somewhere long enough to feel like youre family, like you belong? And at the same time, have you ever felt like you have been away from a place too long to feel that you don't belong anymore? Maybe it's just me, and I'm really not trying to sound dramatic, but it's really how I feel. I feel like I live in a bubble. Since I've been back, I don't quite belong anywhere. I don't elong where I used to be anymore and I don't belong where I want to be quite yet. I'm in this really weird middle area. Maybe it's me separating myself from everything...maybe it my own paranoia, but I really don't feel a sense of belonging anywhere. I wake up, do my thing, keep to myself and I literally live in a bubble. I'm physically here in LA but I'm not really here. I feel so spaced out all the time, like I am in another world, and it's sometimes scary how I don't remember things. I am counting down the days until I go back to Italy... My mind is already there, and I think my heart is too. So the only thing that is here in LA is this shell of a body, and I realize that's no way to live. It's not ok to live somewhere in order to pass the time to get to your next destination. I know I should be living here, while I am here. I should live life. But I can't help this bubble feeling, this passing time feeling, and this shell feeling. I don't know how to snap out of it and I don't know what can make me feel like I am actually here. And at the end of it all, I don't know if I want to change this feeling. Do I want to be here right now? It's really really odd, this mindset that I am in right now. Like I, my soul and heart, are separated from my physical being and I am looking at myself. Debbie told me its the growing phase that I'm still going through. And I believe her because it makes sense... But I didn't know it would feel this odd. And foreign. I started reading "the sun also rises" by Ernest Hemingway... I'm in to these classic authors and poets nowadays because I feel like the closer I get to self realization and awareness, the further I get from immediate surroundings and the closer I relate to abstract thoughts Haha. Anyways, I opened the book and my jaw dropped. On the page in the beginning of the book, where the author dedicates or thanks someone, Hemingway quoted Ecclesiastes saying "...the wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits..." !!!!! My god! That sounds familiar! Sounds like the quote that I blogged about in "living" on 1/18/12 after seeing it engraved on the side of the Westminster Abbey in London. I read it, and put the book down. As so much has changed between now and then, so many things are different and I have a new set of priorities, the quote still means the same to me. That I am currently on this journey, this wild journey. I am still whirling about, whirling continuously. It's strange how life shows you something and then reminds you of it after you have nearly forgotten it and yet, it still has the same meaning after everything has changed. This quote was revealed to me in London, at a time where it made perfect sense... And I have since nearly forgotten about it until today. I read it, and although everything is different, it still made perfect sense. I don't know why the world works the way it does but it's timing is impeccable. Now... Let me return to my bubble


Push itttttt!!!

I've been awake for the last 20 hours. I've worked for 16 of them and the other 4 were spent randomly, either getting ready for my day, driving to work or ending my day with friends and a margarita. Needless to say, I'm pretty tired but I find myself without the ability to close my eyes and fall asleep because I have this one nagging thought. This one thought is running through my mind and MUST be so important that it is keeping me from resting.

I made money today for the first time this year (no, this isn't the thought keeping me awake... I'm getting to that). I have been home for almost one month, not quite, and I've done nothing but worry, question, obsess and complain about the fact that I have no money and no source of income. I had just enough money left from my European adventure to buy my next ticket to Italy to start another adventure; I could afford to get there but had no idea of how I would stay there. After coming back, I was so mixed about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do next that I threw myself into the closest thing I could find to Italy. Well... I've spent the last three weeks working for free for Angelini Osteria because I WANTED to be there so bad. Gino told me he wasn't currently hiring, but it didnt matter to me. I kept showing up because he was the closest to Italy I was going to get and I wanted HIS experience so much that money was secondary. In the mean time, I constantly told chef Chris that if he needed an extra hand at Mozza, I would be available because I needed the money. For the last three weeks, I've been stressing out about how my next trip to Italy financially would work. I cried about it. And I tried thinking of all my possible options of making money while in the mean time, working for free somewhere, because I valued the experience, and praying that my help was needed. I just kept going and I didn't stop. I wanted to make money and I wanted to keep gaining experience, so I pushed, despite what I was told.

And THAT is the thought that is keeping me awake. To push and to keep pushing. Because the world is going to push you and not stop. It's going to push you until you think you've reached your limit or are just sick of being pushed. But... NEVER. STOP. PUSHING. BACK! Ever. And by push, I don't mean to resist what the world is pushing at you. I simply mean that whatever cards are dealt to you, do whatever it takes to make them work in your favor. and don't stop. I've seen people that stop pushing. They are stagnant, uninspired and ultimately unhappy. They've given up and just accept what's going on. Don't do that. PUSH for the life you want and don't stop pushing until you see it happening.

Because I got hired at Angelini Osteria. Today was my first day on the clock. And after that, I went straight to Mozza because chef Chris told me he needed some help. I'm currently on the Angelini schedule and the Mozza schedule: I now have experience and money coming my way. I pushed for it and my persistence paid off. I worked 16 hours today and I am thoroughly exhausted... The world is pushing me again. But I'm giving it right back.

Whew. Hopefully now I can sleep.



Chef Gino walked around the kitchen today and gave everyone $5. I'm not really sure why and he mumbled something about everyone deserving tips. Haha, it was random but it was cool. Funny guy.

But for those of you who read my blog for insight on the ins and outs, reality, secrets and life of a cook, here is some insight:

My year to date income for 2012 is $5. Yes, the $5 chef Gino handed me this morning. And I doubt it will be any higher than $500 come September.

I told my parents that they will be seeing me in their home for quite some time. I've also decided to become a charity case and I'm now accepting personal checks, gas money and loose change. Hahaha, joking...



New adventures

Ciaooooooo!!! Sooooo.... as of about 2:30pm today, I got the official news that I will be returning to San Marino in July. I am returning to San Marino and I am returning to Righi la Taverna to work again for another three months. This last week has been FILLED with many mental ups and downs, changes, decisions, more changes, more decisions and finally (i think) a new beginning. Let's recap, shall we?

I flew back in to LA, feeling incomplete. Well, I was extremely happy to see my friends and family and also thrilled to be back in a city I know; after being out of my element for three months, it was nice to have some familiarity. But I left San Marino on very short notice and I left a job/internship that I did not get to finish. My mind and heart were set on being there until June. In my mind, it was a done deal. So to hear 6 days before I had to leave that my visa didn't work out was disappointing to say the least. I got home, saw my friends and family, explored the familiar city, got back in to work right away and then thought "now what?". Because that incomplete feeling was still lingering, growing stronger even. I filled the cravings (family, friends, familiar work, and yes, in n out was one too..)that had grown in me over the last few months and then didn't have a clue what my next move was. And that's where the work part comes in.

So I went back to Mozza, my home and training ground for the last almost two years. It was nice, it was familiar and it was satisfying. I started to butcher but I wasn't feeling it. Within two days, I knew something was off. I was also getting stir crazy. I was out and about in a big world for 3 months and then suddenly, I was home, where everything is familiar. Yes, I was craving familiarity so bad but I realized familiarity sometimes feels like a small room. From a giant world to a small room, I was definitely going a little crazy. I also started to realize that I can't spend my whole life traveling or staging. The last three months were an experience to BENEFIT me in the in real world where people have jobs and bills and obligations, not my ACTUAL real world. But I couldn't focus on anything other than the fact that being back felt like I had unfinished business somewhere else. And I needed a different kind of familiarity.

So I went to the closest thing I could think of to San Marino and Italy without actually going there. Chef Gino Angelini. The man that started this wholeeeee thing. If you remember, back in my first blog entry, my friend Debbie told me to talk with Chef Gino to get a job in San Marino. I met and talked with Gino once and that was all it took. I had a job. And by the way, Gino trained Chef Sartini, the chef I worked with in San Marino. Chef Sartini is his product. So I went to Gino in hopes of filling the part of me I left behind. Good choice, Ashley. Good choice.

I've been working with Gino for a few days now and his food and techniques are the closest thing to Italy without being in Italy. He speaks Italian, Spanish and English in the kitchen. He makes sure everyone eats and has coffee before, during and after work. He works on the line with us everyday, doing whatever it is that needs to get done. And he sings songs and dances on the line when things get crazy busy. He IS Italy. Born and raised in Rimini, the small town right next to San Marino. He filled the void. The food and menu filled the void. And on my third day, we sat down after the shift to eat family meal (the meal prepared for the employees), and Gino sat with me and poured me a glass of wine. Over our pasta and barolo, we talked about what I wanted, what we thought I needed in terms of my next move, and the future. He advised me to go back and finish what I started, my thoughts exactly and I didn't even have to tell him. He told me he would call Chef Sartini and make it happen. Again. Chef Gino has seen me for a total of four days and he cares enough to give me the world in the palm of my hands. Just like that. I tell him what I think and he makes it happen.

So today, I was butchering/cleaning a rack of lamb and I hear chef Gino scream from the office "ashleyyyyyyyy!!!!". I run over and Gino hands me the phone and says " it's chef sartini, he wants to say hello". I answer and Chef Sartini tells me whenever I want to come back to San Marino, it's no problem. (!!!!) So because of the whole visa thing, I tell him July, which is the earliest I can legally go back. I can hear the smile in his voice as he says no problem and laughs at my excitement. I think he likes me. Haha

So, here I am. Once again, getting myself into another adventure. Only this time, I am a little more prepared. At least I know what to expect: long hours, little to no sleep, communication frustration, etc. But I get to be surrounded by people and a country that revolve their lives around food and wine. I get to dissect the mind of a Michelin star chef in Italy and learn his techniques. I get to have my ass kicked in the name of food!! I've dedicated my life to food and learning the ways of producing great dishes. I'd say this is pretty severe dedication. And at the end of all this, I get to finish what I set out to do in the first place. Yeah it's difficult and very frustrating and not all fun. But it's valuable, unforgettable, and beautiful. It's worth it. It's so worth it.



Yeah... So my visa didn't work and I am now home. Not the happiest camper right now but everything happens for a reason. It's hard, so very hard, to see the reason in this one. But it's there, I just have to wait. I miss Italy and traveling and being on the go so much already. I knew the visa wasn't going to work about 6 days before I actually had to leave which left me very little time left to enjoy everything. It was a sudden shock for me since I had made plans to stay until June. It feels like Italy and work was ripped away from me just when I was beginning to get a feel for things. But I talked with Chef Sartini and he wants me to come back as soon as I can, which would be about 90 days from now because there is a bunch of logistical paperwork bullshit that only allows an American citizen to be in the EU for 90 days within a 6 month period. It's stupid if you ask me, but what can you do?

I must think positive. There is a reason why I was sent home. A reason I am here and I reason I am here now. As difficult as it is to understand a situation that seems impossible to understand, I must. Because life goes on. And Italy isn't going anywhere... It will be there 3 months from now, 6 months from now, 5 years from now. And before I even came back, I decided that I wanted to persue learning butchering and meats, whether it was back at Mozza or a butcher shop or wherever. So when I walked in to Mozza yesterday to surprise everyone, I talked with Chef Chris and told him my idea. He looked at me and told me that the Mozza butcher is leaving in 15 days and if I was serious about this idea, I could be the morning butcher for Mozza...

My life. My crazy life.

How does this happen to me? How does it somehow work out? And when it doesn't seem to work out, when it seems like its all taken away, it still works out. Somehow. I don't know. But is mylife and I live it everyday.

So of now, I will learn the art of butchery. In Los Angeles. For now. Who knows where I will be in 3 months or 6 months or 5 years. But I'm living now and that's all I know. And I hope for the best. And yesterday, I told Chef Chris, "you know what I really want to learn??" and he says "let me guess, everything?". Hahaha spot on Chris, spot on. (since I know you read this)




Food is on my mind a lotttt these days. I have always thought about food but lately, it's all I think about. And my mind is starting to mix and match recipes and techniques that ive learned, now that i feel i have some sort of very small "data base". But my thoughts are nowhere near organized...my mind is just brainstorming ideas and it's like a tangled web.

Maybe it's just my mood today or what I am secretly craving, but my mind keeps going back to the Champagneria that I went to in Barcelona. Can Paixano. So basic (only sandwiches, a few small dishes and champagne) but so spot on. Noisy, crowded, delicious and dirt cheap. It had great traditional food of the region and appealed to the surrounding community. I want nothing more than to be there right now. Like, right now right now. Eating a prosciutto and cheese sandwich, sipping on rose cava and taking in the atmosphere. Ahhh...


Break it down

Now that I have a moment of time, let's break it down.

A little of the Righi la Taverna Menu. Lets start with pastry since that is what I currently know most of.

First and foremost:

--Semifreddo al cioccolato fondente con cuore di mascarpone e salsa alle amarene con spuma di birra!!!! Oh my god. How is this possibile?? Its my dream dessert and executed perfectly. In English, it is basically chocolate gelato that is on the firmer side. We form two disks and sandwich mascarpone whipped cream in the middle. There is a sour cherry sauce drizzled on the plate, with a few marinated cherries as well and then, the best part, a beer foam!! Beer foam! It's chocolate. It's cherries. And it's beer. It's incredible. I think it's genius because it's ingredients people are familiar and comfortable with, making it very popular, and it's traditional (semifreddo) but is playful (beer foam). It's a party in your mouth, basically.

--Raviolo di mandorle e cassata su zuppetta d'arance. English: almond ricotta ravioli in an orango soup. I like this one because it takes a usually savory dish (Raviolo and pomodori or any sauce for that matter) and makes it a dessert. It also makes use of seasonal ingredients, oranges. The hot ravioli is filled with a ricotta, almond, chocolate, orange zest mixture and the orange soup (zest, fruit, and juice) is served cold. Pretty interesting if you ask me.

--Crema di fave con gelatino di crue di cioccolato. Another oh my god. Are you kidding me? English: fava bean purée with chocolate gelatine. Ok, stop one second before you judge it to quickly. This dish is one of my favorites. At first, The combination of fava bean and chocolate sounds crazy, in a bad way. But the purée is made sweet and blended completely smooth as silk. A few fava beans are left whole for texture. Then, there are 3 different chocolate gelatins: one milk chocolate, one semisweet and the other dark. The flavor is great!! The texture is completely smooth except for a few whole favas and the color contrast on the dish is incredible. I have a picture and it's beautiful: almost a neon green with shades of brown. Genius, again.

--Passatelli al cacao con latte al rhum e croccante di nocciole. Again, this takes a usually savory dish and makes it a dessert. I also love this because passatelli is a very traditional pasta made in the Emilia Romagna region: it is a fresly made, very soft noodle, traditionally served in brodo(broth). But here, it is made into a chocolate version, served over a white chocolate rum soup/sauce topped with hazelnut brittle. Sooooo good. Playful take on tradition and savory. Creative and delicious.

Those are my top favorite desserts. The others are of course good but I had to deconstruct my favorites for you. :) plus, I'm proud to say that I can now make all of the above listed items! I've never worked pastry before in my life and honestly wasn't interested in it either. But after working it for a month, I have a new appreciation for the art and technique. And it's also good to know how to do a little of everything. Be well rounded right? Yes. That's it for now... I'll write about antipasti and primi next.


You're welcome. Again.

So this morning, I walk in to work and see a large white box with black stuff smeared on it. By the looks of it and from experience, I know what's in that box and I pray to god that it's not me that has to deal with it. It's near the sink with a couple trash buckets, a pairing knife and scissors... I know what that means. It's a large box of seppia (cuttlefish) that needs to get broken down and cleaned. But this box is bigger than the other times. It's a lot of cuttlefish... So I try to find something to make me look busy so I'm not chosen to clean ink and snot out of jelly like creatures.

No such luck. " Ashley, come over here and bring your towel". Shit.

From 830am to about 2 pm, I broke down and cleaned cuttlefish. I don't think it has ever taken me that long... But it was a lot of fish AND I was told that the fresher they are, the more difficult they are to clean. I guess it's good to know that Righi serves really fresh seppia. Because from trying to skin and gut and rinse seppia, it took me about 5 hours (I had a lunch break) to clean these damn things! It's hard enough just holding one in your hand, trying to decide which piece is what because it looks like a slimy white jelly blob and i have to seperate the pieces: eggs, head/shell thing, fins on the shell thing, tentacle legs, and another part I have no idea what it is. I also I have a trash bucket that gets filled with the eyes that I've gouged out with my thumbs, this bright orange brown liver looking thing (if seppia has a liver), and all the useless snot that is hidden in every crevice. All the skin gets thrown in the trash bucket too, which is similar to a stretchy slimy snake skin.

I don't know about you, but seppia seems like a useless creature. Yeah sure, it tastes great and the ink is pretty cool when it's used for black rice or black pasta. But the time, labor, and useless parts make seppia stupid. Yeah, stupid. I do not have a better word other than stupid, and now I sound like a child. Haha. But do me a favor and just google image "seppia" and imagine that and their insides all over your hands and arms for 5 hours.




God, there is so much I want to say right now and yet, I still don't have the time. Work here is my life. I wake up and work, get a break, and then work until I sleep at night. I don't know how the Italians do it but work is literally their life. I can do it now because I know it's temporary... But I could not do this forever. For sure. I want to write about the kitchen and food and what I'm doing and seeing and tasting so bad but I just never have time! I look like a hot mess. I'm lucky if I sleep five hours. I'm also lucky if I get to Skype my family. Usually, I have time or wifi for a short 5 minute fb chat. And just an update: my apartment stopped having hot air and hot water a few weeks ago and since, I've been sleeping on someone's couch and then finally moved in to the apartment next door. also, that date I went on when I first got here actually ended up going very well and is still going well :)))) a few bouquets of flowers and some home cooked Italian meals go a longggg way. Thanks Ricky! ;)

I would love more than anything to sit and type everything I'm thinking and feeling. And eating. But there is too much to do now and not enough time. I'm afraid my in depth menu breakdown of Righi and other places is just going to have to wait to a more available time. Sometime soon, I promise :) Oh do I promise. Sooner than you think


You're welcome

It's been awhile since I wrote and although I have much to say, I don't have a lot of time. But I will leave you all with this lovely comment:

If I have to clean the ink and snot gelly out of a bucket of squid and then peel the ridiculously difficult skin off one more time, I might just throw up.

Until next time :)



Today has been weird. No other words to describe it. But it hasn't been too far off from all my other days which brings me to believe my life is weird. Non lo so. But I got to work at 830, as always, having slept for about 5 or 6 hours, as always, after I worked the previous day for about 13 hours, as always. Betty and I started the day the same, her making the dough for bread and me setting up and writing our to do list. I went downstairs and back up countless times as always...the kitchen is on the third floor and the walk in fridge is on the first with an elevator used only to carry ingredients and equipment. The multiple trips up and down 3 floors is no biggie for me anymore and I've trained myself to go fast enough to beat the elevator anyways (if I skip steps and briskly walk through the bar, I win). I made recipes that I've made before here: moscato poached pears, piadina, crackers, cioccolato gelatina... But I still ask Betty for help every so often because I don't want to screw up anything.(it's an internal battle really- if I ask for help, I admit to not knowing or remembering what she has already shown me but if I dont ask for help, I risk doing it wrong and having to start over. Both are bad) I consider myself a fast learner but the combination of not understanding Italian directions, reading Italian recipes, and making food and pastries I've never made before to begin with because I've never worked pastry kinda slows me down! My ability to memorize recipes/ingredient names isn't as good and I admit to not remembering a lot of what Betty shows me Bless her heart, I know she has shown me a lot of things over and over. She has patience I wish I had.

But today, a comment was made about me not remembering anything. And I've heard her say this before but today, it didn't sit very well. Maybe I'm being sensitive or the little sleep day after day is catching up but in my mind, I'm working my ass off. I'm doing the best I can,always, and I'm totally doing a bunch of shit I've never done before. The comment oozed in to my mind as "it's not good enough" and I couldn't just brush it off this time. And during service, I got corrected/scolded, as usual, for things that I know better of. Do you know how frustrating it is to make such stupid stupid errors (plate 15 salads when I was clearly told 11, or make something completely different because 'pasta frolla' and 'pasta sfoglia' sound pretty much the same in my mind) because the directions are not computing in my head and its not what im used to? Everyday, I have people get frustrated with me, and I understand their frustration. But then after I fix the ridiculously stupid error for the millionth time, I can't even explain myself, like why I thought pasta frolla sounded like pasta sfoglia or why I can't count to 11. I don't have the words and they don't have the time to wait for me to get my Italian/English dictionary and try to form a sentence. So I just keep going. Head down, and go.

And after the fist service today, I was cleaning the dough mixer thing and I guess I dazed off because I heard Betty ask " are you ok?" and I was so deep in thought, it caught me off guard. Betty could tell something was up and she said "your family? Your home? Your work? Los Angeles?" and I lost it. I couldn't hold it together. And if there is one thing I can't stand, its crying in front of people. So I went to the bathroom, shut the door, and just stood there against the wall with my eyes closed. Tears streaming down my face, I stood in the bathroom stall until vivid images of all my comforts stopped. Because the truth is, its everything. It's the challenge and the beauty of my current life. I've held it together for this long and today, that felt like every other day, was my tipping point. It's like someone poking your arm over and over and over until you snap. Today, unexpectedly, I snapped and I found myself, in a bathroom, telling myself to get it together. When I walked out, Betty was standing there. And then she spoke to me, all in Italian. And I kid you not, I understood every word. She told me that it's ok to be upset because what I'm doing is difficult. I'm working a station I've never worked before and trying to perfect recipes that took her 5 years to understand. She said I don't understand Italian but she sees me watching and tasting and listening and feeling everything. She said the work itself is different but that when it comes to service and speed and soul, it's the same no matter where you go. And she hugged me and said that I was doing a good job. And walked away.


I stared at myself in the mirror and then told myself to get my ass back in that kitchen. Who cares how many stupid mistakes I make? Who cares how many times I get scolded for the same thing? Because after everything Betty said, my mind heard "I understand", and that's all I needed.

I have my only break today from 3-6 but i asked danilo if I could go in early to help with staff meal. Because I know that will make me feel better. Cooking is like a sick relationship. Haha. It can be so evil and draining and take up all your time... But when you're apart, it's all you think about and find ways of seeing each other. I should enjoy my break, since rest is scarce. But right now, nothing would make me feel more happy than to cook. I cook all day for six days a week and the only way I really enjoy my down time is cooking. Go figure

It reminds me of when Gato, a chef at Mozza, told me during one of my worst services (that I'll NEVER forget) "never stop moving. Keep going."



Sudden realization today while eating #274829101 squacquerone, rucola, prosciutto piadina sandwich:

What the HELL am I going to do when I leave here and no longer have instant access to incredible food?! Doesn't matter where I go, I'll be away from fresh Piadina and fresh Stracchino and Squacquerone di San Patrignano, my all time favorite food and current obsession!!! Oh my god! I can get my hands on fresh arugula and pay a hefty price for prosciutto... And its a good thing I learned how to make piadina at work. But fresh stracchino or squacquerone???? Nothing compares, especially the squacquerone from san patrignano. I'm doomed. Done for. Finished.

Currently depressed. I better eat all the piadina sandwiches I can now while I'm still here. :)

And you think I'm joking...


The person I want to meet

Today= 2 months since I left home. Due mese fa. Hands down, thee LONGEST two months of my life. And I know I'm like a broken record when I say that I cannot express in words how much I've learned. Not even the quantity, but the quality of information- I've learned qualities that I will use forever and they are qualities that separate me from the rest. I've learned to be extremely in tune with my instincts and how I feel. I've also learned to take risks because no matter the outcome, it builds character. I've learned that it's ok to allow myself to feel every emotion because being numb is no way to live (I really hope a few certain people read that one). I've learned to dream...really really dream. And then live. I've learned to live no matter how scary it can be. I wrote ash an email about my doubts and fears and here was her response:

"you are living it up. You are conquering fears people don't DARE to imagine. And hey, you decided to take charge of your life- I think 90% of the time it's tough and rough when someone makes that choice. You are doing things people only dream of. Ash, you broke your box. Take a look at the pieces- the first thing you'll see is the chaos, destruction, disorder and mere outlines of what used to be. Ok, now close your eyes, kneel down and start feeling. Now step away and build the frame you want or maybe not do anything but linger in the broken pieces. Initially, they were broken pieces. Terror, but in a good way. They are broken for a moment before you realize it's still the same pieces, just in a different configuration and probably one FAR more interesting, more interesting to yourself. Same you in a new light. Let it marinate and reveal yourself to you- patience."

Smart girl, that Ashleigh!! Great metaphor. Because I feel completely out of place and yet, I'm trusting in that. I'm trusting in something that feels so utterly foreign and different. Trusting. And I find myself trusting that this foreign situation is beautiful and good. I would say I don't know why I am trusting it, but that would be a lie. I do know why: I am trusting in this foreign situation because I KNOW the me on the other side is waiting. I'm running a marathon now to greet myself on the other side. The me on the other side has been to hell and back, been humbled beyond what I thought was possible, and has lived in a way I never thought I could. I doubted myself. I said I could do this adventure because I wanted to so badly and dreamt about it, but I never thought it would actually happen. I want to meet the me that I dreamt about. And through this situation, trusting in what seems obscured, I WILL get to meet the me of my dreams. The me that I doubted and the me I never thought would actually happen. I get to meet her and even better, be her. Not just shake her hand... But actually live in the body of someone who existed in my dreams. THAT is the reason I trust in the unknown, the obsurd, the awkward, unfitting, difficult and mysterious. The me on the other side is the me of my dreams.

Be the person you want to meet


Journal game

Forgive me if this entry is confusing. It has a point, I promise :)

Aside from our blogs, Ashleigh and I both have been writing journals. The blogs are for family and friends and to share our experiences with the public but our journals are where all the good stuff is and are very very personal. If you ask either of us, these journals will never be seen by anyone other than ourselves. They hold all the secrets, information, and deepest thoughts. I think we would both agree that only SOME excerpts are ok to share from our journals. We both learned that when traveling, your journal is your best friend and ooooh boy, if my journal could talk, I would be in big trouble.

So back about a month ago, February 1st to be exact, Ashleigh and I were leaving Barcelona and headed for Rome. Although we were stoked about going to Italy, the land of food, we were both completely heartbroken about leaving Barcelona; we fell in love with the atmosphere, the people, and didn't want to leave. The morning of February 1st, ash and I sat in a coffee shop in Barcelona and reminisced about our trip so far, laughed and even shed a few tears. It was a moment of realization for the both of us: Where we started, what had happen, and how we were forever changed. Remembering everything from our lunch back in October when we initially imagined a European adventure to then, February 1st, having experienced the most incredible things and situations, ALL of which (positive and negative) will be fondly remembered.

Sitting in the coffee shop, February 1st, feeling a little blue, I told Ashleigh to open her journal to a random page and read line #6, no matter what it said. Hesitant (probaly from all the dirty secrets;) ), she did and oddly enough, it was EXACTLY what she needed to hear. It was like she was speaking to herself from the past. She picked a random page for me and I read it out loud as well. Again, the line that I had written myself was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. Feeling so incredibly connected with our surroundings and feeling like we were exactly where we were suppose to be at that moment, we took time to write in our journals at the coffee shop. Some of my writing:

"Listen and feel. Trust in what's around you. It's suppose to happen. A quote from Rilke 'sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from foreign matter; so one must help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and break out with it, for that is its progress'. Be your own doctor and heal yourself."

Then, feeling inspired, Ashleigh and I traded journals and wrote each other a note on a random page, promising not to read it until we were actually using/writing on that page. We made this promise because we knew that when we eventually got to that random page, reading each others note would be exactly what we needed to hear in that moment.

So guess what I stumbled upon today? And guess what it was that felt so good to read? :) ash wrote a Rilke quote, one of my favorites:

"And your doubt may become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become critical. Ask it... Why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perplexed and embarrassed perhaps, or perhaps rebellious. But don't give in... And the day will arrive when from a destroyer it will become one of your best workers- perhaps the cleverest of all that are building at your life."

Beautiful. Simply beautiful. And I have no other words except thank you Ashleigh. She knew that writing that on this page of my journal in Barcelona on February 1st would find me well early on March 3rd in San Marino, just after asking my parents when things are suppose to get easier. Thank you Ashleigh. And because of stumbling upon this, it made me go back to the page in my journal on February 1st and re read everything from that day. I told myself then to trust in my surroundings and here I am now, telling myself the same thing.

Full circle moment



I'm at that stage at work right now where I can basically do nothing right. My newness has worn off and they aren't as forgiving for the mistakes I make. It's extremely frustrating because I KNOW I can do the job and I KNOW I'm not an idiot... But I make stupid mistakes because I can't understand what they are asking me to do. I feel like some people are still being patient with me and understanding about the language thing, but others are becoming less patient. The last two days in particular have been challenging and I can feel the frustration of others towards me. It's a sucky feeling. If I could only express to them that I really am trying, I'm not an idiot and I if I could understand the directions asked of me, all of this would be better. Ahhhh!!

It's a very humbling experience to not be able to explain or defend myself. It's teaching me a lot about handling situations in general. Since I am not able to defend myself clearly, I stand back and take the criticism or blame even though I KNOW better or that it wasn't even my fault. I sit back and I take it. Everytime. Because I don't know the words or have the capability to defend myself. Its humbling to say the least but also eye opening because I realized that sometimes saying absolutely nothing or accepting the criticism regardless of how I feel is better than anything I cold possibly say. Sometimes, it's better to just keep my mouth shut. And its not until the frustration subsides that I see this. I look back and think of all the things I could have said and thank god I just kept my trap shut. Sometimes, it's jot worth the argument. And at the end of all this, they may or may not misjudge me and see me as an idiot, they may or may not see me as slow or inexperienced, but they sure as hell will never see me as someone who argues or talks back. I'll be the person that always nodded their head, accepted the situation and kept going. I'm hoping thos phase dies out soon because it's wearing on me. To always be wrong, or too slow, or making dumb mistakes that I know better of but can't seem to overcome.

On a positive note, aside from work, living here is pretty cool. It's a different way of life and really sets my priorities in order. I have no tv, wifi on rare occassons and nothing but work and sleep to fill my day. My favorite thing to do now is walk to work for my second shift, listen to Ray Lamontagne on my iPod, and watch the most beautiful sunset as I hike the mountain to the kitchen. Il tramonto é sempre molto bello. Bellissimo!!! It's always breathtakingly orange and red and it always sets just beyond the landscape of incredibly beautiful white rolling hills (now somewhat green because the snow is melting). :) I feel like I live in a bubble. I am so out of touch with current events, I didn't know it was march 1st or that yesterday was leap year. I have no idea what is going on in LA and only know about my work here. Everyday, I only know my to-do list. That's it. Haha it's a little strange getting used to, if I'll ever get used to it but I must admit, it's a nice change. To only know about what's going on in front of me. I couldn't live like this forever, but for now, it's nice. I'm extremely focused on what I'm learning, I suppose. It's like my culinary school since I never went.

When I don't work, I walk 20 minutes one way to do laundry. Im definitely asking someone to drive me next time since San Marino is a town on a hill. I also drink beer, learn traditional Italian pasta dishes, and learn italian bad words in the car when ALWAYS lost with Riccardo. Hahaha he is my neighbor, coworker, and a genuinely honest and generous person. I also go to the nearby town of Rimini to have amazing pizza (made with fresh leavening, a huge difference) with Danilo (linguine), Betty (fresca mama), and Sergio (palline). Their nicknames developed somehow instantly and stuck. :) San Marino is feeling more and more comfortable as I get in to the swing of things. My Italian speaking seems like its taking the longest time but I suppose that's just me being impatient. Everyone keeps telling me that it gets better and I can't wait any longer for that to happen. Haha ahhhhh!!!

Anyways, I'm done drooling over the most beautiful man in the world at this cafe and need to put my iPod on, walk to work and watch the sunset. Ciao!


Ear plugs

I was trying to describe to my friend Riccardo what it's like to work in the kitchen here in San Marino and I thought of the perfect example:

Its like walking in to work everyday with ear plugs in.

In a field that is solely based on senses, like cooking, your ability to produce top products is as good as your ability to feel, smell, taste, hear and see. I don't have much experience compared to other cooks and there is a lot I need and want to learn; my ability to cook (feel, smell, taste, hear and see) is still developing. But by working here, I might as well have earplugs in. If all my senses are still mediocre, I can't afford to be down a sense completely! I need all the senses I can get! So I wrote last week that because I'm working in a kitchen that speaks a different language than I do, I will be learning how to cook based on my senses alone. Yeah, REVISION: I will be learning how to cook based on the only senses I have left. Ahhh! Hahahahaha

As much as I stress and write about this language problem, I know it's good for me. Submersing myself in a new country, language, way of life. And I probably should give myself more credit... I'm sure I've picked up or learned more language than I think. But it's just TOO easy to recognize how behind I am and not easy enough to see how far I've come. In time, I'm sure I'll read back on some of these entries and shake my head at myself.

Patience, Ashley. Patience. If language isn't the only thing I learn, patience should be next on the list.



4 great things in my life right now:

- the joy I have going to the same bar (cafe, since cafes are called bars here) everyday to see the most gorgeous man in existence. I walk in and he smiles and knows my order (not that an espresso is hard to remember, but it's that he remembers my face) :D

-a car is called a macchina (mok-een-ah), which literally translates to machine. So when Italians speak in English about their car, they say machine. I smile every time. Just like when they say disco. Hahaha

-I've had no hot water in my apartment for 3 days and got fed up and managed to fix the water heater myself!! I'm so proud! Now my showers are ultra hot and I love it! After my shower, I ate a piece of chocolate that has little fortune/notes in the wrapper. Today's said "you'll get a lot of joy out of simple things today."

-today is the warmest day since I've been in Europe. No jacket necessary. And the snow is running down the mountain like a river.

I have many other joys but those by far are my four top favorites. Work is good. I work approx 13 hours a day and I'm learning a lot. I'm doing a lot of bread making, dough rolling, and pastry type of activities which is great because I have absolutely no experience with that. In the down time, or when Betty doesn't want me messing up her perfect dough ;), help out with whatever I can. Shucking oysters, cleaning and breaking down squid, cooking Parmesan rind and pounding it in to dust(yes, its possible people. And delicious. Save your rinds!). I have nasty fingernails again, a big blister on my thumb from the oven and a gash on my index finger that sends off a tingly feeling in my thumb when i touch it (I'm thinking nerve damage?). And I love it! My hands are back to normal!! Yes!!

Living and working here definitely has its ups nd downs and I feel like I'm on an emotional roller coaster, but for the most part, San Marino and my work is really growing on me. The people I work with are great and extremely dedicated to their craft. Everyone wants to be there and produces dishes to the best of their ability every time. The speed and sryle of restauant is a lot different from and what im used to, but I'm welcoming the change. I wish that I could understand all of what is said in the kitchen because I feel that I could do a better job with knowing what's going on. I'm trying my best and working hard but I have to base everything on what I see because I can't understand the words. Every night, I leave work frustrated, thinking that I could be doing a better job, knowing that I'm capable of doing a better job, but feel stuck. I know what I am capable of and I know I could be doing better. It's so hard to be at my full potential when I have absolutely no idea what's going on around me. I watch, I interpret, and I repeat exactly what they do. Over and over and over. Because listening to any explanation on how to do something won't help. Watch, interpret, repeat. Watch, interpret, repeat. It's exhausting but I wake up and want to do what I just did the day before, but even better. I'll get it eventually. They say I'm doing a good job and they compliment me on being non stop. But I know I can do more. I want to do more. I want to understand. Ahh! I need to be patient, I know. Patience is not one of my best qualities.

I want to write more but my iPad is about to die. For now, I'll just relax at this bar and stare at the gorgeous man before I go back to work :)


Watch out

Ok. Brace yourself.

I'm totally ok with people helping me speak Italian, correcting my words and sentences so that I am speaking properly.


This has only happened maybe twice since I've been in Italy but it irritates me to no end. Two times have I encountered some asshole who makes some rude comment about me speaking Italian. It's something along the lines of I need to practice my Italian or I need to stop speaking English and start speaking italian. They stop me after I've said something in English, and make a point to tell me that word in Italian...


Ok, thank you. I'm sorry, GRAZIE. Excuse me, ive been speaking the same language for 23 years so a new one is a little bit of a challenge. As if my inability to formulate a complete sentence in Italian wasn't a BIG enough clue that yes, I DO need to practice my Italian. Thank you for pointing that out. And why the hell is MY speaking Italian so important in YOUR life? Why does it mean so much to you. Furthermore, the last time I checked, you don't know me. You don't know what I've been doing, where I have come from, and more importantly, who I am. Because if you knew who I was, you'd know that that is the exact wrong thing to say to me right now. It's the ONE thing that can really push my buttons at this moment. So pardon me, but in English, we say shove it. (actually worse, but I'm editing myself)

I swear the next person that makes some crack along the same line will not leave the conversation feeling like have taught me any Italian language. I promise.

Whew. I feel better :)


Blah blah blah

So many thoughts go through my head head at work, most of them along the lines of translating Italian/English. But when I'm doing mindless work, like shelling fava beans or rolling out millions of little balls of dough, my mind wonders... but also because I basically talk to myself all day, since Im the only one that understand me. Ha

I can not wait to see San Marino take off its blanket- the snow. From my work station, I have an AMAZING view on top of the hill that looks over the entire city and into the rolling hills of further towns. Yes, it's beautiful now, covered in white with the contrast of the crisp blue sky or flaming orange sunset. But I want to SEE San Marino! Not just colors. Not just white land and a colored sky! San Marino, reveal yourself! I want to know where the local everything is and if it's walking distance because right now, I can't tell. I've been grazing up and down a few streets on my down time but I'm afraid to go too far because in the snow, everything looks the same and I don't want to get lost. We know me by now: being lost is second nature. But I asked a few people, or tried to, if there was a local yoga studio around so I could stretch and relax my mind. No luck. They kind of chuckled at me; maybe san marineans dont believe in yoga. But I did find a guy at work who is willing to try muay Thai/kickboxing with me!! I've never done it but I'm interested and down to have some sort of physical activity outside of work. Hopefully it's in walking distance... Or maybe he has a car. Heh

So my work schedule is as follows: tues-Sunday 8:30 to 3 and then 6-10. I guess it's common for Italian cooks to work a shift in the morning and then again at night. I don't mind. I don't mind at all in fact because I'm keeping busy and learning food and language alllll day! I had my first night of service last night and it was pretty cool. There were two reservations, a HUGE difference from mozza's 375, but everything had to be perfect. The cooks and chef spend time making sure everything that goes out is up to par. It's very different from LA but I am learning to go with the flow. I'm here to try something different, so it's great to have it different in every way imaginable. The only thing that is frustrating me to no end is the fact that I don't have words to explain to them my background, where I come from, my cooking experience, and what Mozza was like. Although no words in English or Italian can explain the work done at Mozza since the kitchen and the cooks run like a machine. But I can't even explain to my new coworkers anything about me. They just see me and know me from what I've done in the past three day which let me tell you, has to be pretty freakin funny. Watching an American girl try to figure her way in an Italian kitchen...they must think I'm fluff. I can only imagine what they are assuming. Haha Whatever, I'll just prove them wrong. It's more motivation to prove myself.

By the way, since I don't speak Italian, I'm not positive but I'm pretty sure I was asked out on a date. And since I don't speak Italian, I'm not positive but I'm pretty sure I said yes. Hahahahaha! We'll see.... :D



Epiphany: learning how to cook in an Italian kitchen without speaking Italian is the best blessing I could be given. Why? As I said yesterday, cooking is done with your five senses: hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and touching. If I can successfully learn Italian technique without speaking, that means I've based my learning off those five senses alone. I've learned how to cook based on what FEELS right, what my senses are telling me.

That, my friends, is the goal.

News update: Chef Sartini pulled me aside today, introduced me to Mrs. Righi who informed me that she would be getting me some chef coats and moving me in to an apartment on Monday. Chef then told me in Italian that someone will be taking me to the police station on monday to get my visa because I will be working pastry/antipasti for one month, pasta for one month, and meat/fish station for one month. Looks like I'll be here for the next three months.

Living in Italy. Working at a fantastic restaurant. With an apartment and chef coats provided. How did this happen?????


I'm back!

Ok. First and foremost, before I forget. I absolutely LOVE the fact that over here, clubs or places that people go dancing are called discos. The disco!! Because in my world, disco is an era or something that is long over with... But here, a disco is a club and the cool place to go to. I LOVE it!! I crack up everytime I hear it, I can't help it. Before I leave, I MUST go to the disco.

Now on with what I was originally going to write about: I started work today!! I can tell, from day one, it's going to be very difficult and challenging, but I already love it!! There is something about being in the kitchen, surrounded by food and people all working towards the same goal, that is therapeutic for me. I haven't cooked or been in a kitchen since December 27th and let me tell you it feels fantastic!! I ache all over, my left arm hurts from shucking oysters, I have little cuts and scrapes all over my hands and it feels soooooo familiar!! My life is back!! My purpose has returned! I can't understand a word anyone says, but when I'm standing there, supreming orange after orange or hand rolling trays of grissini, it doesn't matter! I'm back to what I love, speaking the same language through my hands. Through all my senses for that matter. The sight of breads and produce, the feel of a knife in my hand, the smell of extremely fresh fish, the sound of onions sizzling in a pan, and the taste of newly made chocolate hazelnut gelato!?! Are you kidding!! I'm back!!!!!!! My soul was floating and it came running back to me. Sprinting, actually. In reality, this job is going to be difficult. No question. It's a teeny tiny, tightly run, Michelin star Italian kitchen; Chef Sartini was cooking with us all day and watching over everyone. It's nerve wracking trying to stage in a kitchen on the first day when the menu is completely foreign and all the cooks have a different technique from what you're used to. It's a different story when it's that PLUS a language barrier. But, as I reminded myself all day long, I am here to cook. And cooking is what I will do. And it's what I love.

There were SOOOO many moments today that I was thanking people I have cooked with in my head. I was told to supreme oranges. Thank god Nancy Silverton taught me how to do that during one of my shifts at the mozzarella bar. I was told to roll grissini. Thank god Paulina and Armida showed me how to EVENLY roll long strips of dough since grissini is basically a cooked pici noodle. I was told to weigh out several ingredients for pastry. Thank god Stefan taught me the importance of precise and very accurate measurements. I was told to shuck oysters. Thank god for the guy in charge of some booth at the pebble beach food and wine festival where I had to shuck hundreds of them. Then I was told to go faster. And last, but most DEFINITELY not least, thank GOD for Chef Chris (although he would say "dont thank god, thank me.")who always told me to speed through the easier tasks to accumulate more time for the tasks you need to slow down on. And who instilled in me the meaning of working as fast as you can without sacrificing quality. And who also taught me, and beat in to my head, to never be a pansie. Thank you thank you THANK YOU! Seriously.

For the millionth time, as I'm sure you're all tired of hearing it, the language thing is my biggest challenge. I was paired with Betty, the pastry cook, and I owe this girl so much already. She was so patient with me all day and tried her best to explain things to me; she spoke Italian and charades and I spoke English, charades and Italian words. Im still in the process of learning the Italian words for kitchen tools, ingredients, equipment, etc. by asking "come si dice questa in Italiano?" (how do you say this in Italian?). Betty was great at answering, but I think I started to over do it because after awhile, she politely informed me that I should just work and she would answer more questions tomorrow. Hahaha, I had to laugh. I can only imagine what it's like to have a huge list of things to do, be in the weeds (a cooks way of saying you're behind or slammed with work), and have this dead weight constantly asking in a terrible Italian accent "how do you say this in Italian?" ha!! So a few times, I ended up walking over to the center of the small kitchen, charading out what was suppose to be a blender and making blender noises, and asking people where the blender was. I got a few blank stares and a few laughs too, but its all part of the learning process. And I found the blender. So it's effective. =P

After work, Danilo invited a few of us over to his house for dinner because his mom was making pasta. Oh, was she making pasta!!! I walked in his house to see a blanket of thinly stretched dough covering the table. She then rolled it up, very precisely, sliced through it like a machine, and unravelled beautiful strands of fresh tagliatelle pasta! Dear god!! Then, she drops it in the boiling water while Danilo, who worked all day, had no problem heating the bolognese sauce and finishing the pasta. Mama Danilo boiled pasta, Danilo sauced and finished the pasta, and Papa Danilo made an arugula salad, warmed Piadina, and sliced prosciutto because they happen to have a slicer and a leg of prosciutto in their kitchen. Voila! A real Italian home cooked meal. Family style. Unbelievable! We sat around the table, ate, drank Sangiovese, and enjoyed being together. Id like to say I started to have somewhat of a breakthrough because I started to understand what people were talking about. Everyone was speaking Italian and I kid you not, started to really understand!! I was so excited! I couldn't repeat to you any of it. But understanding is the first step. It's kind of like a movie: you can't repeat it or explain it to anyone until you understand first. At least, that's my logic.

Anyways, I have work tomorrow from 830-12 and then again from 6- whenever service is over. I need to shower, stretch, tend to my cuts and scrapes, and unwind with some good music. Day one at Righi la Taverna= success.


Pros & cons

Today's cons:

Still not working/cooking
Can't communicate with anyone
Still an insane amount of snow
Having anxiety/ moments of panic

Today's pros:

Went to the beach and collected sea shells
Knowing I start work/cooking tomorrow (it's been 6 weeks since I've cooked)
Figured out how to watch American news/greys anatomy on my iPad
Found a local bar that serves cheap beer
Ate a pack of haribo sour strawberry spaghetti
Talked to dad on Skype for 45 minutes
Messaged and caught up with Ashleigh and Estelle (friend I met in Venice)
Did laundry (technically yesterday, but it's a great feeling, still even today)
Got hot water in the shower

I'd say the pros outweigh the cons. I also say that I'll be writing more frequently in this blog due to new adventures and difficulties. Stay tuned ...

"I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances, but they're worth taking
Loving might be a mistake, but it's worth making
Don't let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin' out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance"

Shut up, I like this song. =P


My valentine(s)

Happy valentines day, first and foremost. Although I did nothing today that represented valentines day in America, I did do a lot of much needed laundry (not in the shower but in an actual washing machine!!!)and had dinner with new co workers. I have not started work yet due to the massive amount of snow that has completely covered San Marino and all the surrounding towns but i have spent all my time with Danilo (a fellow cook), met a few other cooks and finally met Chef Sartini and his family. I start work on Thursday which turns out to be a great blessing because now I have had a few days to get a grip on things. Let me tell you.... It has not been easy. Not at all. Not that I expected it to be, but it's more difficult than I imagined.

I am so very very very thankful to have this opportunity. To live and work in another country is incredible; to learn a craft in a foreign land, one such as cooking in Italy, is absolutely priceless. I see the generosity of those who have made and are making this opportunity possible and believe me, it does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. I owe so much to many people already and my real journey has not even begun yet. I'm forever thankful and will not be able to express the significance of my gratitude.


can I sound like a brat for the next few seconds? It's day two and I am exhausted. I mean mentally and emotionally drained. DRAINED. I have never had so much difficulty communicating before in my life and it's a completely new experience to be surrounded by people and still feel so isolated. My mind thinks in English and is trying to translate every word into Italian at all times of the day, whether it's speaking, listening, reading, tv, etc etc etc. It's about 12am and because my brain has been running marathons of language translation, I feel like I could sleep for at least 24 hours. I want to learn so badly and total submersion is great for me... But why does it feel SO impossible? Listening to people speak makes me realize I know even less than I thought I did. And because I've been trying to translate italian all day, I dont even think I can think/write/speak English anymore. My current face is 0_0. Just a glazed look.

And so I turn to music. It's the only thing I have with me that I can relate to currently. The only thing. Once I start cooking, I think I'll feel a little better because cooking is something I know and feel somewhat comfortable with. But for now, while I'm trying to find solid ground, music is it. A lot of lyrics have been hitting me harder than usual or making sense in a different way than before, maybe because my emotions are in a massive knot and I'm on edge. But the best one of all was tonight. While in danilo's car on the way home, I was thinking about everything and how far I felt from everything and suddenly, Rod Stewart's "have I told you lately" came on. I instantly thought of my dad, since he always sings that song, and then started thinking of my whole family. While listening to the entire song, vivid images of my mother, father, brother, uncle, and grandmother came to mind and I could hear their voices repeating all the support they have told me over the last month. It felt very real. I could hear and see each of them and my isolation didn't feel very prominant anymore. It slowly started to come back to me the very reason why I am here: to learn. And learn everything.

It's day 2 in San Marino. I'm kicking my own ass harder than anyone knows. Yeah, I'll get it pretty bad when I step foot in the kitchen too but no one kicks my ass harder than I do. The pressure is just beginning and I'm feeling it now more than ever. I've reached the highest of highs and the lowest of lows on this journey and although it's hard for me to believe and I almost wince as I type this: bring it on. Bring it. Because so far, I haven't been thrown anything I couldn't handle. Some higher power has given me tis challenge because they feel I'm ready. I gave myself this challenge as well... I must think I'm ready. Currently hard to believe, but that's where the self ass kicking comes in.

And to my family that gets me through the tough times... You have been most supportive and a constant flow of positive energy. Without fail, I know you believe in me and that makes this whole process worth it. So heres to you:

Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there's no one else above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away all my sadness
Ease my troubles, that's what you do.

Now that's a true valentine :)



Note to self: it is better to learn a foreign language BEFORE trying to live in that country.

Next time...


Way of life

Ahhh I feel so behind in posts! I've been through Venice, then Verona, and now Bologna and I haven't really updated much. Basically, after Rome, everything got better. Don't get me wrong, Rome was pretty awesome but there were just a lot of factors playing against us. I understand why everyone loves Rome and I can definitely see its potential as a city to visit while traveling, but for me, going when I did was somewhat of a bummer. I'm reserving my opinion of Rome until I get to travel it again hopefully in the spring or early summer, before ALL the tourists go.

But on a positive note, I enjoyed excellent gelato, pasta, and pizza and I saw and toured the colosseum and also toured the Vatican with an EXCELLENT tour guide, David Kellogg from California. He has been living in Rome for the last 14 years and was shocked to see it snowing. On the day of our tour, the group was not allowed in to St peter's basilica due to the unexpected snowfall ( I guess Romans close indoor events when freak weather happens). David told the group that if we wanted to come back the next day, he would continue the tour for us on his free time. Ashleigh and I, the hardcore tourists we are, were the only ones to show up the next day. He informed us that the basilica was still closed for 'tours' but that she and I could go in on our own. But before we went on our way, he felt the urge to fill us in on the history so that we would know what we were looking at. He took us to a cafe, bought us both hot chocolate, and taught us all about the basilica. We then talked about Ashleigh's dance, my cooking, and the daily life of an Italian. David brought a lot of useful insight to historical and present day Italy and I will always be grateful for his hospitality (and hot chocolate since it was the best I have ever had)!

Spent a few more days in Rome, having an excellent last day, and then went to Venice and fell in love. Instantly. My favorite part of Venice was getting lost. I made sure to remember the name of the train station near my hostel and what the signs looked like so no matter where I went, I could find my way back. I walked and walked and walked and turned every corner I could, going down every narrow alley, every brightly or dimly lit alley, and every alley that sparked my interest. On my first full day there, I ventured around with a guy from the hostel, Rossi (from brazil), visiting Piazza San Marco and walking all the way down to the very tip of Castello and walking around a beautiful park. We then went in the other direction and walked down to the very tip of Dorsoduro, having an unbelievable view! It over looked where the canale di San Marco and Canale Della giudecca connected and off into the coast of a few other islands. Absolutely gorgeous. And FREEZING(that is where I took my fb profile picture)!! The next day in Venice, I walked around with my Australian friend Estelle and we ate prosciutto sandwiches on the steps of a canale. How awesome is that?!? I thought even if I lived in Venice someday, there is no way I could ever take its beauty for granted. Even sitting on the steps of a canale, overlooking a gondola and a few bridges, eating a ham sandwich, Venice could not be more perfect. We then had dinner at a restaurant our hostel owner recommended because he found out I was a cook and his female friend owned a restaurant right around the corner. Osteria alba nova. Perfetto!! First best meal of my life and all I ordered was pappardelle with porcini. Ahhh!!

The next day, yesterday, I spent the day in Verona, the city of love. I briefly blogged about that yesterday but basically, who goes to the city of love by themselves?? Me. This girl, right here. And I still managed to have a great time! I went to the balcony and courtyard where Romeo and Juliet originated, I hiked a huge hill to that overlooked all of Verona at sunset, and I ate the second best meals of my life at Osteria "Le Decete". My tortellini in sage and butter sauce was I credible. So simple and done so perfectly. Verona was a perfect little day trip and I am glad I ventured out to the city of love BY MYSELF right before valentines day. Just shows that I've come to love myself and be just fine and better in my own company.

Today I arrived in Bologna. It's snowing and freeeeeeezing but that didn't stop me. I walked around and went to my new favorite market, Mercato Della Erne, where I bought stracciatella, prosciutto do Parma, finocchio salami, sopressa picante and a few heads of lettuce to make one hell of a salad. Woah boy. Now I'm off to pasta fresca, where they specialize in their fresh pasta dishes. I also ate a bright pink meringue that was in the shape of a pig. Now that I'm plump and happy, is time to think about my work in less than 2 days!!! Ahhhh!!! I'm meeting chef at the bologna centrale day after tomorrow....

Nervous is an understatement


Dash #2

I've been doing a lot in Venice and I took a day trip to Verona today, the city of love! I don't know if that was the smartest decision to make, traveling to the city of love alone... But I had a great time regardless. Call me an idiot but I didnt quite make the connection between Verona and city of love until I actually got there and then it was rubbed in my face. But on any note, it's beautiful, fun, small enough for a great day trip and I had the best pasta! I want to write more but I'm exhausted and have to travel to Bologna tomorrow so I'm just going to copy and paste what I wrote earlier today:

Totally forgot to share my other train dash story!! On my way from Rome to Venice, I bought the ticket the day before, making sure I bought the cheapest one (40€ instead of 90€). So the next day, I wake up on the later side and I know I need to hustle to the train station in order to find my train, get on, etc. it's also icy and snowy outside and I'm carrying all my luggage. I get to the train station and can't find any board with departure times and I get antsy. I ask a few people and they aren't very helpful, but one points me downstairs. I lug my stuff downstairs and the departure board only gives the track number maybe 7 minutes before the train departs, leaving no time for error. I find my train, but the departure time is off by 3 minutes. I figure " crazy Italians changing things, that must be it". I sit and wait, finally get the track number and head to the train. Get all bags on the train, find my seat and settle in. Whew. I look across at someone else's ticket and notice its completely different. So I ask a girl near me, who doesn't speak English and I basically find out I'm on the wrong train... The 90€ one that takes less time. Ahhh! And it's 2 minutes before taking off! I scramble, once again off a train, gather my stuff, pushing people out of the way, get my luggage, literally throw it off the train, again, and tumble down after it, again. It feels oh so familiar. The conductor happens to be standing right there and he looks at me with a lot of confusion. I can't find my ticket to ask him any questions and he doesn't speak any English either. I'm looking for my ticket, thinking the whole time that I'm missing the train I'm suppose to be on and now i have to spend another 40€ buying another ticket which adds up just to about the price of the one I was on that goes faster. I find my ticket, hand it to the man and he cracks a smile and says " you're ok... Get on". And he winks. I exhale so loudly and say " yessss!!" and he starts busting up laughing, probably thinking "crazy American girl, I don't care which train you take" since I'm finding out now that they really don't care. And then I realize I have about 30 seconds to get my heavy awkward bag back on the train and face the people I pushed out of the way. Ha! Ugh... I did it though. And I lucked out with a shorter trip to Venice for less than half price. Thank you mr. Italian conductor. I am forever grateful. Except it's now about 4 days later and my arm is killing me from yanking my bags around in a panic. Ahh, the trains. I'll never get it right :P


1/2 a conversation

I had my first Italian conversation tonight!!! Aside from ordering at a restaurant (vorremo una bottiglia chianti, vorrei due cappucini, il conto per favore), I actually talked with someone today. Well, I understood maybe MAYBE half of what was said BUT he spoke broken English and with my broken Italian, we were able to have a very lovely conversation! He was my server at a restaurant for dinner and we talked about my dessert, and then my work, and then the weather and Italy. He said my little Italian was very good and that gave me more confidence in wanting to learn. I'm glad I'm breaking down the wall of communication! It's intimidating for me to talk with a local, especially because they talk so fast. I'm slowly (very slowly) but surly learning the language. It was a nice conversation.... And then he smiled and gave me his number. And I realized our learning each others languages was not the most important thing on his mind, as it was for me. Haha I should've known. Tricky tricky Italian man!

Next time, I'll be more aware. And maybe learn the words in Italian to avoid such situations.

Come si dice "naive" in Italiano?


Freaking out!

OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Venice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm in love! I've never felt love like this before. I got off the train, feeling somewhat nervous and scared... I'm back to being on my own. I'm on my own from here on out actually. Ashleigh is back in Kiel getting ready for her dance auditions. And I have until Sunday to enjoy my free time. Anyways, got off the train feeling nervous about navigating and a bunch of other stuff ( if you can't tell already, I get anxiety all the time over most things). Got to the main part of the station, glimpsed outside and realized I didn't have a map to even find my way to the hostel with. Nothing. And I've heard that streets in Venice are not labeled and wind every which way, making it not very easy to find a specific hostel, especially if you're me. Ok ok ok, so grab a map and kind of freak out for because I can't figure out where I am on the map or where I want to be. I feel myself get all hot and sweaty and my breaths get shorter. I know those are my initial symptoms before I lose my shit. So I sit down, take a deep breath and tell myself "freak out. Go ahead. Do it. Get it overwith and when you're done, find yourself on the map. Let's go." I kicked myself in the butt. From there, I was able to skip the freaking out and I just focused on the map. Found my current location, kinda found my destination, got up and walked outside.

OH MY GOD. I wanted to fall to my knees and kiss the ground. Holy hell!! VENICE! The way you imagine it would look...yeah, it looks just like that. So after talking myself out of freaking out earlier, I totally lose my shit anyways and tears stream down my face. But at least I lost it for a different reason. Instead of being nervous/scared/lost, I was instantly in my element. Instantly!
A little man outside the train station makes eye contact with me, walks over and mumbles something i cant understand and then picks up my bag and starts walking. Shocked, I chase after him and it turns out he just wanted to carry my bag over the bridge for me, since the bridge is all stairs. Hahaha, so random!! I then followed my map, winding between narrow alley ways, up and down stairs, over bridges and find myself walking along the Canal Grande. I think " no way is my hostel here...its too nice". I'm walking, while looking at everything around me and not paying attention. I look up and see a street sign. The only street sign I've seen yet. And its my street sign!! The hostel is right on the corner. I open the door to what looks like an apartment and the owner, an Asian guy, greets me and carries my bags up the stairs and checks me in. I notice first that its actually warm in here, a good change from the last place. The owner shows me around and talks with me like we've been friends for years. He then tells me he is off to go to the supermarket and he'll see me later. Soooo welcoming!! My room has a beautiful view of the Canal Grande and this hostel already feels like home. It's more of a bed and breakfast but with hostel prices. It's incredible! I'm in love.

I've been in my room since I got here, almost afraid to step outside because I know the waterworks will kick in again. Jesus. This is what I've been waiting for.

By the way, my last day in Rome was awesome! I woke up feeling down still and skyped my friend Rebecca who has lived in Italy before. She told me I was ok, I was normal, and completely related to me on every level. It was the perfect kick to my last day spent with ash, who is still fighting a cold but doing better. We walked around with more ease since it stopped snowing and the streets weren't as slippery. The sun was out and we were soaking up the Rome we came to see! We ended the night by eating at the restaurant we first dined at, cheesy 80s music and all, and then went to another hostel to watch the Super Bowl with out Brazilian roommates. So much fun and a great end to an interesting experience. :)

But now I'm here. In Venice! Ahhhhh!!! I must go wander now and get lost the fun way!! I can hear the water taxis outside and I have to go see it!


Giant cloud

Maybe it's an off day or maybe it's just me but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, not in a good way. The reality of having to live in Italy for the next unknown amount of time, not knowing the language, and being away from the comforts of home AND Ashleigh AND not traveling around like I have been for the last month is just not a settling feeling right now. I know what you're thinking. I'm in Rome. I should be having the time of my life. But my reality is a snowy and busy city, filled with people freaking out because they aren't used to snow either. Half of everything is closed or blocked off because of the weather while I am trying my best just to stay warm. I escape the cold weather outside and come home to a COLD hostel, therefor not escaping at all. Cold hostel, and the other hostels in the area dont have great reviews either. Haha... Of all the places it could've snowed while I was traveling, it snows here. Really?? Really!?! I do love Rome and I've seen the most beautiful things here, more beautiful than any other city I've been in. I'm walking through an alley way and a random piazza appears with larger than life statues or fountains or ruins. Hands down, the most breathtaking. No other city I've been to looks quite like Rome. Truly one of a kind. BUT.... I think I would enjoy it better in the spring or summer. When the natural circumstances are different. It's hard to enjoy a city I know I would appreciate more at a later time.

But it's not just the weather. It's the realization that I know all of maybe 10 words in Italian and I know nothing about their way of life. Yes, I can learn, and learn I will. But it's discouraging to know I'm at the very very beginning. There isn't much more of a beginning than where I am right now. Haha. And then I think of home, and how EASY it is to live and get around and do whatever I want or need because I'm used to it. It makes me miss my own bed, shower, room, kitchen, car, etc. ahhhhh, I'm just having a moment. Let me have my moment of ridiculousness. Anyone that has traveled outside of the US knows how I feel right now.

Think what you want, call me an idiot. Fine. Haha but I'm just pretty frustrated. I've gained so much strength and I still find myself needing more. Or clarity just to appreciate what I have in front of me and forget all the other non sense. Either way, I need rest and to recharge my batteries.

Good night big beautiful world


La dolce vita

What a day what a day what a day!! Wowwwwwwww!!! Experienced my first snowfall... And it was in ROMA!!!!! Even the locals were in awe since they said it never snows here. It snowed allll day, but thank god we were inside for most of it, touring the Vatican, which is another reason my day was incredible. The Vatican. THEE Vatican. Are you kidding me!?! Never did I ever think I, Ashley Cramer from Pasadena, would be touring the Vatican, and on one of the rare snow days that Rome has. But it gets better, oh yes it does my friends. I finally was able to contact Chef Sartini, who I will be working for in less than 9 days. I've been trying to get a hold of him (whether it was me finding a phone to call with, figuring out the correct country codes, or having wifi/service to get the call to go through) for a few days now. And I finally got through! Want to hear my plan of attack?? Yeah you do! Here is how it went:

Woke up this morning at 9am with a pit in my stomach, thinking of finding a way to get a hold of chef, my language barrier, the cold weather, usual travel worries, etc. I remembered I was in ROME and getting ready to tour the Vatican, so I smiled and wore 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of pants, tank top, long sleeve, turtle neck, 2 coats and my down jacket topped off with my scarf and hat. I was ready. We sardine canned ourselves into the metro and got to the travel agency with whom we booked the tour with. The guy at the desk said we were waiting for a few others to join and we would start the tour in 30 minutes. So ash and I went next door to the cafe with free wifi and sucked down our tea and cappuccino. I meanwhile tried to call chef (from Ash's phone) and Skype call him (after purchasing $10 worth of minutes) and still couldn't get the call to connect. Our tour was just about to start so I had to give up. Feeling anxious and somewhat defeated (I was suppose to call him 3 days ago), ash said " ask the travel agency to help". GENIUS! I asked the guy at the desk if he could help me call a San Marino phone number and not only did he help, but he let me use his phone AND THEN translated the whole conversation for me, setting up a time and date to meet up (that was also the moment I found out my future boss speaks only Italian)! I thanked him over and over for his help and went on my way to the tour, feeling very excited and thankful.

Then reality hit: my boss only speaks Italian. Ohhhh godddddd. I figured as much but a small bit of me hoped (prayed!) that there would be a miracle and he spoke both English and Italian. Nope. Not so much. Soooo although my job thing is settled, I'm still feeling unsettled. How in the hell am I suppose to do a good job (my job or any job) if I don't understand what is even being asked of me? I knew of all these things before I got here but I think reality just hit me hard. Like a thick thick wall... Oooh boy. As I usually ask myself: what did I really just get myself into?? Haha is funny as much as it is frightening.

Anyways, let's back it up a bit. Barcelona was such a great environment! Ashleigh and i got in to many deep conversations over wine/coffee about the past, our traveling, the future and fate. We felt very connected to Barcelona and learned so much in our 3.5 days there. Our last day was spent with our new friend Juan, who we met through Tincho, showing us Gaudí's Park Güell, la boqueria, la rambla, and small alley ways in Barcelona. Beautiful day and I wouldn't ask for any other ending. We did the touristy park, the food lovers market, and the local's street shopping which was awesome! My favorite, of course, was the boqueria, which had the most insane ingredients used for the local cuisine. I saw all kinds of organ meats/ meats (hearts, livers, stomachs, tripe, pig feet, heads, cow tongue, etc), cheeses, produce and more. Definitely one of my favorite markets so far (along with the borough market in London). Ash, Juan and I took turns buying cheese, olives, bread, prosciutto, strawberries, avocado and tomato that we prepared for our dinner that night. We had a wonderful finger food spread back at the hostel, where we ate the fresh market food, sipped red wine and the Sauternes I bought in Paris, and talked about travels. It was a great way to end our awesome time in Barcelona. We both fell in love with the city and it's people and were sad to leave (yeah, we actually did shed a few tears)! Thank you Juan for showing us around and letting us be tourists :)

We arrived in Roma, around 9pm so it was dark and we couldn't see any of the city. We found our way to the hostel, a few blocks from the train station we were at, and immediately asked for a good place to eat. Half a block away, we entered our first Italian eating experience. Oh. My. God. FAMILY!!! Doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, you're family. And I'm assuming because we were two blondes entering a literally underground Italian restaurant that we stuck out pretty easily. I attempted speaking Italian to which the server smiled at every time I spoke, probably because I sounded like an idiot. But I spoke anyways. We ordered risotto and carbonara and a bottle of chianti. There was a boom box in the corner of the room playing 80s music and a bunch of Italian men sitting at a table nearby, trying to smile and get our attention. I was smiling so much; the whole vibe of the restaurant cracked me up!! I loved it. The server brought us complimentary limoncello and then the table of Italian men came over to pour us more limoncello! They wanted to know where we were from and talked to us briefly. As customers left the restaurant, they would leave and say ciao or buona sera to EVERYONE upon exiting. Sooo much fun. I loved my first Italian experience and will remember it forever.

Yesterday, we toured the colosseum and saw a lot of ancient ruins. It hit us that we were in one of the oldest cities in the world. This was the first time that we cold actually see the sitting since arriving and we were blown away. We ate pizza, bruschetta and beer for lunch for 10€ and then for dinner we had pasta, soup and a giant bottle of wine for 14€. Crazy!!! I love the atmosphere here. Is scary and different but I like it. Italians are in their own little world and they love it which makes me love it. :)

Ashleigh and I also met a nun today who we didn't know was a nun until we were done talking to her, she introduced herself as sister Maria. She was all bundled up and talked to us about Italy through an american perspective since she was from Philadelphia. We told her about us, me being a cook and Ashleigh being a dancer and she told us how much she appreciated our art. At the end, she said " I would wish you luck but I don't believe in luck. I believe in destiny. And I want the two of you to chase your destiny." The whole conversation made me smile. Because last night, over our pasta and soup, Ashleigh and I toasted our wine to being here officially for four weeks. About a month now. And I quickly took out my journal and wrote before I forgot the train of thought in the heat of the moment:

It has been 4 weeks since we left home. We flashed back to where we were. The first thought I had was a flashback to the airport in LA where I first carried my bags. The first time I carried my future life on my shoulder and in my hand. I had no idea what I was getting in to. No idea what I would taste, see, smell, or feel. I held my own life, my self, and my bags for the first time and I was scared. I was excited, but scared. And here I am now, having been through what I've been through, stronger, braver and more confident in who I am. One month ago, I could not have said that and here we are now, different people. This has been the longest, most challenging month of my entire life. Easily. And here we are smiling and toasting over spaghetti and soup in one of the oldest cities