There’s No Place Like Home

There’s No Place Like Home

There’s truly no place like home. After almost five months of the most incredible journey of my life, I was anxious to return home. I have always been dreaming of the day that I would leave Ohio and travel the world and found myself surprisingly excited to make the journey back to Ohio. While I … Read more

There’s truly no place like home. After almost five months of the most incredible journey of my life, I was anxious to return home. I have always been dreaming of the day that I would leave Ohio and travel the world and found myself surprisingly excited to make the journey back to Ohio. While I was hoping for an unforgettable adventure this semester, I could have never predicted how many unbelievable places I would travel to, the wonderful friends I would make and how much I would learn about myself and the world. Although I didn’t realize it while I was in Europe, I am now slowly realizing with each passing day how my perspective on things has changed. Who knew that in five short months you could learn so much?

boardingpass

One of the things I realized while I was away is that where you are doesn’t matter quite as much as who you are with. While I got the opportunity to travel to some of the most amazing places in the world, I found myself wishing I could share every incredible moment with my family. I wished mom was with me to aimlessly walk through the breathtaking tulip fields in Holland, my sisters could see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, my brother could experience the insane crowds cheering during European “football” games, dad could hike to the top of the volcano in beautiful Santorini, and grandma could enjoy a cannoli with me while strolling the streets of Sicily, where her parents came from. Family means everything to me and the past five months made me realize even more how truly blessed I am to have them in my life.

ciaobella

What I looked forward to most upon arriving in the United States:

  1. Seeing my family (a hug from mom was my first priority after landing)
  2. DRIVING (finally getting to go exactly where I want, when I want, without worry of delays, strikes or cancellations)
  3. Getting back into the Sunday morning church & brunch routine
  4. Hot dog shop (two chili cheese dogs and a chocolate shake please!)
  5. Summer (warm weather, fun concerts, ice cream runs with Laur, and the list goes on…)

welcomehome

What will I miss most about Europe?

  1. The relaxed, slow-paced, “let life happen” atmosphere
  2. The ability to spontaneously hop on a plane to another country
  3. Nutella gelato waffles & spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil
  4. The un-replicable views of the Italian countryside
  5. The cute, flower potted, colored-door side streets in Italy

I know I will be craving another adventure, feeling the urge to travel the world, soon enough, but for now I am so happy to be back at home sweet home.

Benvenuti in Italia, Papà!

Benvenuti in Italia, Papà!

Benvenuti in Italia, Papà! I am so lucky that dad could visit this weekend before heading to Germany for a work trip. While hearing stories from home made me miss my family even more, having him here also cured a lot of my homesickness and I was so excited to share Italy with him. After Italian … Read more

Benvenuti in Italia, Papà! I am so lucky that dad could visit this weekend before heading to Germany for a work trip. While hearing stories from home made me miss my family even more, having him here also cured a lot of my homesickness and I was so excited to share Italy with him.

After Italian class Thursday morning, I pulled up a chair and waited anxiously for any sign of dad in the piazza below my apartment. After finishing homework and still seeing no trace of him, I pulled on my jacket and gloves to go searching. However, before heading out the door I glanced out the window once more and saw him coming around the corner. The man’s a trooper. It was freezing outside, pouring down rain, and he was towing along two roller suitcases on the cobblestone streets, along with his lap top bag thrown over his shoulder (keep in mind one entire suitcase was filled with mac & cheese, ramen noodles, nutter butter cookies, special k bars and tons of my favorite snacks from my family. What can I say? They’re the best.) I was so excited and ran down the stairs of the apartment as quickly as I could to greet him with a “buon giorno!” and a big hug.

The rest of the day I showed him around Viterbo; my apartment, the university campus, some of my favorite shops and a pretty church I had previously visited for art class. I also took him to one of my favorite cafes for his first Italian pastry. Later that night, we went to The Spaghetteria for dinner. There was no menu that night; they just brought out dishes. While this made us a bit nervous as first, I was happy that they brought out two dishes I would have NEVER ordered on my own, yet I loved. The first spaghetti dish had bell peppers, chili and olive oil while the second was a dish with mushroom sauce. I know, I can’t believe I ate it either, but I am so glad that I did! Dad booked a hotel in Viterbo and I got to stay there with him while he visited. Hot showers, heat and free breakfast… of course I had to take him up on that offer.

monster garden

Friday I wanted to take dad for a day trip, so we decided to go to the Monster Park, also called “Basco Sacro,” meaning “Sacred Wood,” in Bomarzo. Since I told dad that I never used the bus system before and I wasn’t sure how it works, he was a bit iffy about going. He assured me many times that he was content staying in Viterbo, but I had confidence that I could figure it out on my own. Whether it was confidence, or believing dad would fix it if I messed up along the way, I’m not sure… but let’s just go with the first one. It ended up being a great trip and the Monster Park was so cool! The artist created these unique sculptures to “confuse the senses” and cause amazement for anyone that entered the woods.

trevi fountain with dad

Saturday morning we woke up super early, grabbed breakfast at the hotel and took off for Rome. Our hotel was literally a minute walk away from the Trevi Fountain, my absolute favorite spot in Rome. I took dad on the tour that I went on my first time in Rome and he got to see the Vatican, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and the Colosseum. We also went to the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps after dark to see them lit up. I made sure that dad also had his first gelato (as well as a few chocolate pastries throughout the weekend), which he really liked. I am much more confident with the metro system now and we were handling it like pros on Saturday.

coloseum

While dad was bowing at the taxi drivers and saying “gracias,” to everyone when he first arrived (too many business trips to Japan and Mexico), I was extremely proud when he replied “grazie” to the hotel manager after checking out… better late than never right? After our last breakfast together Sunday morning (a chocolate pastry for me, of course), we headed to Termini train station for dad to head to the airport and for me to get back “home.” I was really nervous about finding and taking my first train alone, but it all worked out in the end and I made it back safely in Viterbo!

It was such a great weekend and I don’t even have time to be sad that it’s over because I am going to PARIS this week for Valentine’s Day!!! Au revoir Italy, Bonjour Paris!

Friday Five

Friday Five

  [The cutest gift wrapping ever, by mom] From the Christmas Sunday church service, to the family parties, to waking up Christmas morning and cuddling with my mom on the couch, waiting for the rest of the family to wake up to open gifts, this Christmas meant so much to me. While the presents are … Read more

 

gift wrapping[The cutest gift wrapping ever, by mom]

From the Christmas Sunday church service, to the family parties, to waking up Christmas morning and cuddling with my mom on the couch, waiting for the rest of the family to wake up to open gifts, this Christmas meant so much to me. While the presents are exciting and the dozens of Christmas cookies never disappoint, spending time with family is my absolute favorite part of the holidays. While everyone is always so busy with work, school and friends, Christmas always brings us together… if even just for a day!

This weekend I plan on spending time with my best friend, Olivia, who is visiting for the holidays from South Carolina. She leaves in a few short days and I am looking forward to spending some much needed time with her. Plans for ice skating, sledding and a game night are also in the works. I hope everyone is having a relaxing, fun winter break.

Happy Friday!

rainboots[Christmas rainboots]
gifts for italy
[Sporting a few gifts I LOVE for Italy!]
ava
[The biggest bow goes on the cutest present :*)]
liv
[Liv and I at a Christmas party]

Winter Back at Home

Winter Back at Home

It’s the end of November, I just finished the rough draft of a 20+ page Spanish research paper, I have a Geographical Information Systems final project to worry about and 3 exams to study for (one being Corporate Finance, which is the hardest class in my major). This can really only mean one thing, Christmas … Read more

It’s the end of November, I just finished the rough draft of a 20+ page Spanish research paper, I have a Geographical Information Systems final project to worry about and 3 exams to study for (one being Corporate Finance, which is the hardest class in my major). This can really only mean one thing, Christmas break is just around the corner, and it couldn’t be any closer. A while back I posted a simple guide to surviving finals week, and will revisit some of my own recommendations in anticipation to returning back home for a good month. Winter and the holidays mean to me a lot of different things, but all I really think about is snow, warm fireplaces, purposely excessive Christmas decorations, tons of cookies, traditional Slovak dinners, pea coats, video games, Christmas music playing around the clock (especially Kenny G, Mariah Carey, Babyface, Colbie Caillat and the Elf soundtrack), old friends, snow football games, Tim Tam Slams, hot cocoa and of course, family.

How to successfully do a Tim Tam Slam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MQZX1nLOJ4

With my two older brothers soon to be living both in New York City, Christmas back at home this year will be extra special. Also, going back to my hometown of Cedarburg, Wisconsin will be warming because of the winter wonderland it is made out to be. Historic Cedarburg is a beautiful destination any time of the year (I now realize this since I am out of high school), but especially during the winter. It has century old limestone buildings, an old woolen mill, Cedar Creek Winery, unique art galleries, coffee houses and cozy pubs and restaurants, while two historic inns greet cozy travelers. Thousands of lights brighten the main Washington Avenue, which is quite inviting to a stroll throughout the historic district. It’s no joke that Cedarburg was honored by Forbes Magazine as one of the prettiest towns in America in 2011 and as one of the Midwest’s 6 best holiday shopping towns in Midwest Living.

It is also home to countless festivals and lovely events. There’s a tree lighting, Festive Friday Eves with “Christmas in the Country,” an Artists Guild Holiday Art Fair, photos with Santa at his workshop, holiday concerts and the Polar Express among more, which are all capped off by Winter Festival held in mid February. Winter Fest is the highlight of the Cedarburg holidays because of the ice sculpture contest that lines the streets, restaurant specials and tons of activities like “bed races” on Cedar Creek (if it is frozen enough!).

When I fly home on December 15, there will be much anticipation for revisiting with family and friends. It also will be an unfortunate realization that I am soon graduating, and won’t have a whole months worth of winter break to celebrate winter at home in my history city. Once I get through finals, at last, I will have some much needed time for relaxation, especially with the people who are closest to my heart.

Friday Five

Friday Five

[My baby cousin, Ava, on her first Thanksgiving] This week flew by. Mount students have one more week of class and then finals are here. Winter break is in reach! Besides attempting to complete the immense school work load that is piled on toward the end of the semester, I made sure to make time … Read more

ava

[My baby cousin, Ava, on her first Thanksgiving]

This week flew by. Mount students have one more week of class and then finals are here. Winter break is in reach!

Besides attempting to complete the immense school work load that is piled on toward the end of the semester, I made sure to make time for a little bit of fun and friends. Earlier in the week, my friend Tia stopped over and we lit Christmas candles, turned up the holiday station on Pandora and got to work making snowflakes to decorate the apartment. I also made a trip to Belden Village to do some Christmas shopping with my friend Emily! I absolutely love when the stores are all decorated for the holidays. It makes Christmas shopping so much fun.

This weekend I plan on babysitting, finishing up my Christmas shopping, decorating the Christmas tree at home with my family and watching a ton of Christmas movies.

Happy Friday, everyone!

movie night

[Peppermint mocha and fresh baked cookies with mom]

decorations

[Snowflake decor in the apartment]

pink

[Free VS iPhone case I received during the trip to Belden Village!]

ornaments

[It was time to put up the fun Christmas decor in my car]

What are you Thankful for?

What are you Thankful for?

This Thanksgiving my parents drove in from Wisconsin, and we had an improvised dinner at my Grandparents house, who both are very immobile at this point. My aunt and all her siblings and their little kids came over for a feast and fun. I asked some of my little cousins what they were thankful for, … Read more

This Thanksgiving my parents drove in from Wisconsin, and we had an improvised dinner at my Grandparents house, who both are very immobile at this point. My aunt and all her siblings and their little kids came over for a feast and fun. I asked some of my little cousins what they were thankful for, and their sporadic answers spread among 5 little ones were…”God and Jesus, candy!, all my clothes, eating, family, the friends I meet, everything, I’m thankful for me I’m thankful for you, the things that I love and the things that I don’t like.” I was thankful that I got to sit at the kids table, yet again…

In all reality it was very nice seeing so much family, from my new 2-week-old little cousin all the way to my 90-year-old Grandpa. Looking back, here is the Thanksgiving history according to the History Channel. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations. Did you know that lobster, seal and swans were on the Pilgrims’ menu?!

What are you thankful for? I would say I am thankful for life, health, family, and grateful about the freedoms we enjoy and the gratitude for all the material advantages and comforts we have. Also, for challenges, because who knows where I’d be today without them.

Friday Five

Friday Five

[Huge polar bear (my favorite animal) at Anthropologie] It is officially the Christmas season! While others are out braving Black Friday traffic, fighting through aggressive crowds and tackling their way to the best deals, I will be preparing for Christmas in my own way. Now that Thanksgiving is over (although the leftovers will last for … Read more

polar bear display
[Huge polar bear (my favorite animal) at Anthropologie]

It is officially the Christmas season! While others are out braving Black Friday traffic, fighting through aggressive crowds and tackling their way to the best deals, I will be preparing for Christmas in my own way. Now that Thanksgiving is over (although the leftovers will last for days.. or weeks), it’s time to put away the fall leaves and pumpkin spice candles in exchange for twinkling lights and evergreen aroma. This Friday evening I plan on slipping into sweats, grabbing a peppermint cappuccino, turning up NSYNC’s Christmas album all the way and getting the house “Christmas ready” with my mom. Although I loved watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – did everyone see the Fierce Five gymnasts on one of the floats!? Love those girls! – I am so excited for all of the Christmas festivities that are soon to come (decorating gingerbread houses, going ice skating, picking out a Christmas tree… and the list continues).

Throughout this week, I noticed that there are so many simple holiday pleasures. Even the smallest things make me love the holidays that much more, such as the huge polar bear display I came across on a shopping trip with my sister. I hope everyone finds even the tiniest bit of holiday happiness this weekend.

Happy Friday!

oreos

[The return of white fudge Oreos for the holiday season]

car freshener
[The cutest polar bear car freshener my sister, Lindsey, surprised me with!]

Christmas music
[It is now FINALLY acceptable to break out the Christmas music again]

holiday packaging
[Festive holiday packaging everywhere you go]

Thankful

Thankful

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! Five things I am most thankful for this holiday season: My family – especially my new baby cousin, Ava, who will be celebrating her first Thanksgiving this year! The wonderful friends I have made at Mount Union The opportunity to study abroad next semester My student blogging position (who else gets paid to … Read more

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!

Five things I am most thankful for this holiday season:

  1. My family – especially my new baby cousin, Ava, who will be celebrating her first Thanksgiving this year!
  2. The wonderful friends I have made at Mount Union
  3. The opportunity to study abroad next semester
  4. My student blogging position (who else gets paid to talk about everything they love?!)
  5. The shirtless Taylor Lautner scene in Breaking Dawn Part 2 (it’s a must see, girls!)

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that sometimes I need a holiday to remind me of how much I have to be thankful for, but I am very grateful for the reminder. Every year I look forward to waking up Thanksgiving morning, grabbing some blankets and cuddling up next to the fireplace to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year will be no exception.

As I was thinking of everything I am grateful for this year, I thought it would be nice to remind the people I love most how thankful I am for them. So, I decided to do some arts and crafts! I found an idea I loved on Pinterest and got to work. Making holiday cards for your family and friends would be a great way to pass away the last two days of class until Thanksgiving break! All you need is some tape, scissors, decorative scrap paper and some ribbon (which is optional, of course).

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

scraps

 

cards

thankful for you

 

Friday Five: Fall Edition

Friday Five: Fall Edition

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[The leaves changing colors on campus make Mount so pretty in the fall]

This week consisted of studying, sleeping, studying, homework, studying.. and a little more studying on top of that. It is crazy that it is already time for midterms! We are on week nine of the fall semester and more than halfway through. I can’t believe how fast time is flying. While I am definitely a summer girl, fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Mount’s campus has never looked so colorful! Walking to class at 7:30 a.m. doesn’t bother me as much when everything surrounding me is so pretty.

Fall break is finally here and, although I will miss being at Mount this weekend, I am excited to spend time with my family at home. My fall break plans include catching up on all of my favorite shows (The Vampire Diaries and Grey’s Anatomy), breakfast and a trip to White House Fruit Farms with my grandma, movie night with my sister, Sunday morning church and family dinners. Mom is planning to make my favorite meal, lasagna! Oh, how I’ve missed home cooked meals. Although I have my own kitchen in my apartment at Mount (score!), Mom’s meals definitely beat out any of my own.

I am not sure if it was because of my anticipation of fall break, but this week my five things are all centered around fall. Happy Friday & happy fall break!

[My planner reminding me that fall break is here]

[The Cider Lane candle from Bath & Body Works smells exactly like fall - leaves, apples, caramel & all]

[White chocolate pumpkin spice lattes = fall heaven]

[FINALLY time to break out the tall boots & big, chunky sweaters]

 

Wilderness Experience

Wilderness Experience

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This picture is of my friend Stephen (Paul) while we were camping. I only brought my phone with me to take pictures and to let my mom know I was OK.

I recently applied and was accepted to go on the Wilderness Experience. I remember reading Zak’s blog about his wilderness experience and it only encouraged me more to apply for it this year.

I’ve only gone hiking/camping once in my life and that was this past summer with my friend in Allegheny Park. We hiked about 20+ miles in two in a half days, but this experience is tiny compared to the one I’ve signed myself up for. This trip is 10 days long and with about 20 other people as well. There also is a portion of the trip where we supposedly go rock climbing, split into 3 smaller groups and spend a day on our own.

After hiking only one time, I loved it. The reality of being completely alone for miles is a feeling I’m not used to since I’ve always been able to spit on my neighbor’s house from my house if I wanted.  Sure, sleeping at night was a little scary, especially when raccoons were stealing my food, but there was no harm done. I like going back in time, without actually going back in time. Oh, the simple days of water, shelter and food.