Hazlenut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache + Mastrad Kit Review

First of all, happy new year to everyone! I appreciate all the support I received from all of you in 2013 and hope to give you an even better blogging experience in the coming year.

I’ve got to be honest about the past few weeks. I’ve missed some prime blog posting time by not blogging about Thanksgiving or Christmas. Thinking about all the pie and cookie opportunities I have passed up is saddening. But I hope that these little, heavenly, sweet and delicious New Year’s beauties might make up for some of it.

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Instead of doing Thanksgiving this year, I went to Paris to visit the boy and fell in love with all the food. One of my favorite parts of the trip was the macarons—light and yet moist, sweet and yet not overly so, these cookies are what is served in baker heaven. Because I loved them so much, my family gave me a macaron kit for Christmas. Secretly, I think they wanted in on some of the delicious fun, too! It turns out that the secret that makes these cookies so extravagantly delicious also makes them wicked difficult to make.

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I’m sure most of you already know that macarons are a hard cookie to master. I had heard this before, but it didn’t really hit home until I started to make them. The cookbook that came with the kit basically told you to mix the batter thoroughly, but not too thoroughly! Bake them until done, but not too done! Everyone’s oven is different and only experimentation will tell you how is best to cook your macarons! There is even an entire page dedicated to what you can do with your “imperfect” cookies.

Again, I had heard this, but I am the kind of person to think that because I am resourceful if not sort of experienced, things will turn out differently for me. I even decided to up the ante by adding ground hazlenuts to the cookies. This time, I proved myself right. With what may have been a severe dose of beginner’s luck, I ended up with a good number of cookies that are not cracked, are cooked well, and that taste delicious.

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To make these guys, I followed the basic French Merengue recipe in the Mastrad French Macarons cookbook. I added 1 tablespoon of ground hazelnuts and filled the cookies with a simple chocolate ganache. Before baking and before the cookies set, I topped some of them with clear decorative sugar crystals.

I am not being paid to write a review of the Mastrad Macaron Kit, so I can say with a good conscience that it is flippin’ awesome. It comes with a silicon macaron baking sheet with little wells that help keep your cookies looking fly (and, well, circular), a reusable silicon pastry bag that is lovely to use, a pastry bag stand, and a variety of shaped piping tips. The kit also comes with the cookbook. Really, the only extra tools you will need are a flat metal baking sheet on which to put the silicon mat and the mixing bowls for your ingredients. I have only two small complaints: one is that the silicon baking mat is slightly too large for a standard baking sheet. The second is that I haven’t yet figured out how to fill the pastry bag without whatever I’m filling it with oozing out the bottom. There very well may be a way to stop this, but I haven’t yet figured it out. If anyone has tips, I would very much appreciate them.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the kit and I look forward to using it to continue perfecting my macaron skills. Given how happy my family and the boy were to sample my new skill, I think I will have some willing taste testers!

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Butternut Squash Soup

There is something about winter that calls for soup. Specifically, the rich, thick, stick-to-your-bones, keep-you-warm kind of soup that makes you feel like you’re curled up in front of the fireplace, even though your NYC apartment certainly does not have the proper permits for one. I know it’s not really winter yet– we still have many colder months to go– but the briskness in the air is starting to signal that it’s a soup time of year.

My first journey into soup territory was only six weeks ago. Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen the tomatillo soup I made in late September. Surprise! I had never even tried to make a soup before that. Since then, I’ve made a delicious and hearty stew, a quick and yet tasty French onion soup, and the star of tonight’s meal: butternut squash soup.

20131110 Butternut Squash Soup

Thanks to my parents’ decision to clean out their kitchen storage spaces, I am the proud new owner of a very nice immersion blender. I am so thankful, because without this little (well, big) gadget, I would never have been able to make this incredible meal. While it’s a bit time-consuming to roast everything, there are ways to cut the time down. If you hate wielding a knife against a large, difficult piece of squash just as much as I do, feel free to buy the pre-cut cubes of squash. It’ll save you a lot of time and will still taste incredible. 

This soup is hearty enough that it stands confidently on its own, and versatile enough that it would be wonderful paired with another dish. The sweetness of the squash roasted with brown sugar pairs well with the spiciness of the cumin, giving the soup a surprising depth. It’s rich, it’s deceptively filling, and it definitely creates that warm feeling inside you, like curling up in a blanket on a cold night. 

And now, without any further ado, please let me introduce you to this soup. I’m sure you two are going to be great friends.

Butternut Squash Soup 

2 lb butternut squash, in about 1-inch cubes
32 oz low-sodium chicken broth
3 large carrots, cut small enough for your blender to handle*
2 medium onions
Olive oil
A pinch of red pepper flakes
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cumin**
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp cream per bowl (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay the butternut squash and carrot pieces on a baking sheet and coat with about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well so that all chunks are thoroughly coated with oil– this will prevent them from sticking and give them a nice color in the oven– then sprinkle with brown sugar and ground ginger. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until a fork can be easily inserted into squash and carrots, stirring the mixture at around 15 minutes. 

While the squash and carrots are roasting, chop the onions. In a heavy-bottom pot, heat about a tablespoon.5 of olive oil with the hot pepper flakes over medium-high heat. Add the onions when the oil is fragrant and shimmering. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Allow them to cook, stirring to avoid burning, to desired softness or until the squash and carrots are soft enough, then lower or turn off the heat on the pot.

When the squash and carrots are ready, add them to the pot with the onions. Even if the squash was thoroughly coated with oil, there may still be parts of it stuck to the baking sheet. While the baking sheet is still hot, add a bit of chicken broth to it and scrape the burned bits and leftover caramelized brown sugar from the pan, then carefully pour the liquid and chunks into the pot. Add the cinnamon and cumin to the pot and mix well. 

With the immersion blender I found it easiest to add all the liquid to the pot and completely submerge the head of the blender while letting it do its thing. If you are using another type of blender, it may be best to add the liquid in stages. It’s your call. Blend carrots and squash to a pleasant consistency– mine was smoothish but a bit chunky. 

Once blended, heat soup thoroughly. Serve immediately, stirring in 1-2 tablespoons of cream per bowl if desired. Finish with freshly ground pepper. 

*I cut the carrots in half lengthwise and again into three short sections, cross-wise, so that they would roast in about the same time as the squash pieces. My immersion blender didn’t end up liking this, though if you’re using a slightly larger blender it may not matter. If your blender is also a bit finnicky, roast the carrots at this size and then cut them into smaller pieces before adding to the pot. 

**We only have cumin seeds– not ground cumin– in our apartment, so the cumin I used was freshly ground. Pre-ground cumin may not have the same level of flavor, so you might need to adjust the amount of cumin to taste. 

Foodie Confession + Quiche Bliss

Okay, I have a very important confession to make to you all.

I know I bill myself as an adventurous eater. It’s true– I love food, and I will try almost anything at least once. But I feel like I would by lying to you all if I didn’t come one hundred percent squeaky clean:

There is one food that I absolutely cannot stand. It is my food nemesis. If this food were a villain, it would be the most evil of all villains and the thwarter of all my plans.

My food nemesis is eggs.

Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of weird reactions from people when I tell them this. “Eggs?? You don’t like eggs??” is the most usual one, but it’s ranged from incredulity all the way to unadulterated disgust. Most people just don’t understand it. I don’t eat them for breakfast, I don’t eat them for lunch, I don’t even eat them green with ham. Unlike the Dr Seuss character I have tried eggs before making up my mind; my mom tells me that when I was a kid I used to eat an egg sandwich every morning for breakfast. I was way too young to remember this, and sometime between then and my first memories some great change came over my body to make it rebel against all things eggy. I can’t eat french toast that has been soaking for too long because I can taste the egg in it. Breakfast sandwiches are off limits, and even egg drop soup is sometimes too much for me. Hell, I can’t even stand the smell of eggs cooking. It makes me want to hurl.

It might come as a huge surprise to you, then, that one of my favorite foods is quiche. That’s right. I can’t stand eggs but I love a food that’s essentially egg pie. In reality, though, quiche is so much more than that. It’s veggie-filled, cheese-gushing goodness that’s been poured into the mother of all baked things– a pie crust. There is so much deliciousness that radiates from quiche that not even eggs could taint it. Really, what more could you ask for from a food?

 

Seriously. Is it not the most delicious-looking thing you’ve ever seen?

 

I have been going absolutely crazy with my internship this summer (which finally ended yesterday, by the way, and while it was a great experience I’m also glad it’s over), but I did have time recently to have a fun cooking day. And– you’ve probably guessed it by now– I made a quiche.

The recipe I used was (highly) adapted from the McCall’s recipe for Quiche Lorraine, but considering I had a ton of spinach and onions in my fridge I decided to do something completely different from what the recipe said. I ended up putting so much filling into the quiche that I had  bunch of the extra egg/cream mixture left over (whoops), so the measurements that I used are in the recipe below with what I guess would be better measurements in parenthesis.

So, without further ado:

Spinach and Onion Quiche

(Crust secret: I had some time to be in the kitchen, but not a lot of time. So I cheated and used a store-bought pie crust. Shhh. I recommend Trader Joe’s but the Pillsbury ones are also good!)

6 eggs with 1 white separated (4 would probably be better)

3 cups light cream (I used a mixture of cream and skim milk, and 2 cups would probably be better)

1/2 lb gruyere, shredded

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

dash of red pepper flakes

1 large onion

1lb spinach, washed and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Saute the spinach until wilted, then let it cool.

3. Slice the onions, then throw them in a pan with a little oil. When they’re close to being finished, add a little white wine and let it reduce.

4. Place your pie crust in a sprayed or buttered pie plate and brush the entire surface with the egg white. Throw the leftover egg white into the bowl in the next step.

5. Combine eggs and dry ingredients in a bowl, and beat together.

Ahh, my nemesis. You are so delicious when baked in a quiche.

6. Beat the cream in slowly until just combined– don’t let it get frothy.

7. Layer about half the cheese evenly onto the bottom of the pie crust.

8. Drain your spinach. Seriously, you want to get it really, really dry– I recommend actually wringing the water out with your hands. Get your spinach as dry as you can. Drain your onions, too!

9. Layer the veggies into the pie crust, then coat evenly with the rest of the cheese.

10. Pour the egg mixture in.

11. Cook for 50-55 minutes, or until the center of the quiche is firm.

12. Let sit for 10 minutes to set, then enjoy!

Bon appetit, everyone!

The Right Start to Summer

Hello, hello! I have been absent again for quite a while. Finals are done, friends have graduated, and I am officially a senior in college, hoping someone will find a way to stop time for a bit– I am not at all ready to leave this place, yet. But summer has started and it is going to be a challenging, rewarding, and hopefully relaxing few months.

I’m living at school this summer in an apartment and commuting to the city for work. I didn’t find out about my job until late so I couldn’t deal with housing until late, either, which means that I’m living in an apartment all by myself. It’s nice having so much space and I am definitely learning to be self-sufficient, but it’s gotten a bit lonely at points. I have lots of friends here over the summer, though, so I am not, by any means, alone.

Last night my friend Raymond came over for dinner and we made fajitas. Raymond says he can’t cook but did an excellent job of chopping everything (and an even more excellent job of doing the dishes… which was STELLAR). Before I talk about the food, though, I have to mention our cooking soundtrack: Onda Vaga. They’re an Argentine band that reminds me fully of summer and I would highly recommend getting their CDs, especially when it’s warm and happy out.

I was an idiot and forgot to take pictures of our fajitas (and the leftovers in my fridge don’t look nearly as pretty as my plate did), but the marinade on the chicken was delicious and I would most definitely use it again. You can find the basic recipe here, though I made some small changes. In the marinade, I used a bit more cumin than was called for and a lot more lime juice. The recipe also tells you to marinate the chicken already sliced, but I was worried that cooking it in slices would dry it out. Instead, I cut the breasts into thinner chunks– sort of like thin breast pieces (I  got about three out of each breast)– to cook in the pan, and sliced them afterwards.  We added some sauteed onions and peppers, homemade guacamole, and homemade pico de gallo to the mix and we were set. Yum!

We topped it all off with this lovely grapefruit, thyme, and gin soda (minus the gin because Raymond had to drive home afterwards). Shh, don’t tell anyone… but I cut a few corners and this beverage was super easy to pull together. Trader Joe’s has ruby red grapefruit juice without sugar added, so I used some of that instead of fresh grapefruit juice. I also am not too keen on juicing limes, so I used some of the bottled stuff from the supermarket. The thyme syrup is incredibly easy to make, though, and I am so happy that the recipe he provides for it makes much more than you need for this soda– I’m planning to use it in just about anything and everything. It is so tasty! The one thing I was disappointed about is that the club soda lost its carbonation almost immediately, but I also wasn’t storing it in an appropriate bottle and the drink was delicious un-carbonated, as well. Basically, I was so pleased with it that I am planning to make it all summer long! Maybe next time we’ll try it with the gin and report back.

I’m preparing now to head home for Memorial Day weekend. We’re supposed to have a doozy of a heatwave here at school this weekend, and nothing says Memorial Day like swimming in a nice, chilly pool. Have a wonderful holiday weekend, everyone! Catch you next week.

Still alive, I promise! + news + pho

So… yes. I kind of dropped off the face of the planet for a while. For everyone who thought my plane might have disappeared in a Lost-esque situation on the way back from Argentina, I’m sorry to disappoint.

I like to tell myself that I haven’t been posting because I’ve been readjusting to living in the US. Which is true! Or, at least, was— while I’m still adjusting the recent truth is that I was not at all prepared for all the free time I don’t have now that I’m back at college. Seriously. I run from place to place to place and have so much stuff to do all the time and yet am somehow managing to sleep, which is a real-life miracle.

That’s not to say that I didn’t do work while I was in Argentina. I actually did a lot of reading, and one of my classes was even more challenging than some of the classes at my top-notch US college. The difference, I think, is that while I have more work here in the US I also have more activities. In Buenos Aires I would finish my work and then have time to hang out with my family or go out and explore. Here, I finish fencing practice, finish a capella practice, and then still have all my homework to do. All my time is taken up either by homework or other commitments, and that, I think, is what’s killing me. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love everything I’m doing. I know that it’s just that I’ve had a taste of what free time can be like and am missing it now that I don’t have any, but it’s seriously getting me down.

Something that’s keeping me happy, though, is the new boy! I know, right? Surprise! The serial monogamist strikes again. But really, this boy is wonderful. He’s from my study abroad program, and even though that means it’s long-distance (womp, womp) he’s only a few hours away by train. So far I’ve been wonderfully happy and expect to be so for a while.  🙂

In other news… I’m back to being a suburb gal. The biggest difference between suburb and city is that here, everything is so spread out. Not that Buenos Aires wasn’t– as the seventh largest city in the world I would call it anything BUT that. I guess the difference is that it’s easier to get around in a city. A half-hour bus ride wasn’t so bad because the bus stops were generally no more than three blocks away. I walked briskly to the stop, waited for a little bit, and then got to do some reading or people-watching during my trip. Here, however, the train station is a ten-minute walk away, and even though the commute is the same old half hour, for some reason it feels completely different. I did get into the city today, though, which was a wonderful experience. My friend Brian took me to a Vietnamese restaurant for my first-ever pho, and believe me when I say that if you haven’t already tried it, YOU MUST!!! Seriously. See how delicious it looks??

Now take that deliciousness and multiply it by like a thousand. The base is broth with rice noodles, scallions, and paper-thin slices of beef. The beef starts cooking in the broth as soon as you get it, which is pretty cool and means that you get to eat it at exactly the right level of cooked-ness. Plus the sauces you can eat with it… mmm, the sauces. I’m so glad I went with Brian because he sure knows what he’s talking about. We rounded off the day with a lovely bubble tea experience, and then on the way out of the city I ended up on the same train as my fencing coach. Ha!

All in all, it’s been a pretty awesome day. And now I’m back (for realsies)! Which means that everyone has reason to celebrate.  😉

Holy Guacamole!

I don’t think I’ve written about it before, but my host mom Silvia loves guacamole. Seriously. She thinks it is dance-and- song worthy and has actually both sung and danced about it. During one of the first weeks of me being here, during a dinner when my family was both tired as anything and hitting the wine pretty hard, guacamole came up somehow in conversation and Silvia got up from the table. At first she just started shaking her hips and we were all pretty confused about what was going on, but soon after started  to sing-song chant “guacamole guacamole guacamole!” and dancing around the kitchen!

I sort of forgot about her obsession until we made Mexican food– when I told her the next day what we ended up making, her eyes lit up as soon as the first syllable of “guacamole” left my mouth. So today my first order of business was going down to the corner verdulería to buy the necessary vegetables so I could whip up a batch for the family. I ended up using 3 avocados– or paltas, as they’re called here, NOT aguacates like in Mexico– which yielded a fair amount of guacamole.

Silvia came home soon after I was done making it and was super excited when I told her what I’d made for her! She said she doesn’t normally eat lunch at midday, but we sat down and finished off a significant amount of it plus some tuna salad I put my extra avocado and a tomato into. It was a wonderful way to share lunch with her, and a great excuse to give her a break from working on things for her art exposition, which opens in only a month!

Much more delicious-looking than Paint art, no?

Guacamole is also spectacularly easy to make. Seriously. If you like it and haven’t tried it before, well… you should. And I’m posting my process below (plus some handy spanish vocab) so you have no excuse not to!

GUACAMOLE

For this batch, I used:

3 avocados (paltas)

1 medium tomato (tomate)

1 small onion (cebolla)

1 clove of garlie (ajo)

lemon and salt to taste, but you’re gonna want a good amount of lemon.

Cut the avocados in half and scoop out the meat with a spoon, removing the pit. My friend Rachel, the Guacamole Queen, likes to mash up her avocados first but I decided to chop them because I thought it was prettier. Throw them in a bowl, then chop the tomato and the onion and throw those in, as well. Crush the garlic with the flat of the knife and then mince it as finely as possible– it could probably use more garlic, in reality, so feel free to add some more. Then salt it and lemon it– I ended up using a white vinegar-lemon combo just because we ran out of lemon, but lemon by itself is definitely better.

Mix it all up (sort of gently so the avocado doesn’t turn into a squishy mess) and ta-da! Your very own guacamole! Whoo!

I also made a bit of a variation with my extra avocado, a tomato, an onion, and a can of tuna that also came out pretty well, but a shot of lemon would have made it even better.Corn chips don’t really exist in this country– the closest we could find last weekend was Doritos– so today we ate them with crackers. Though I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how to eat guacamole! Happy eating!

Week-Long Saga in Four Chapters: Parts III and IV

I have more things to update you on but first, as promised, Chapters III and IV of the Week-Long Saga in Four Parts! Plus… another paint drawing. Just what you all were waiting for!

CHAPTER 3 or Mexican Food and a Spice Craving Satisfied

So I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Argentine food is bland. Seriously. People have no spice tolerance here– sometimes it’s like living in a world with the relative spice-content of baby food. A few years ago, I would have loved it. Adored it, even. Because even though my family has always gone crazy for spiced-up foods that make your nose run and your eyes water, I only started appreciating it within probably the past six or so years.

Once I finally discovered how much I was missing out on by skipping the spice, I quickly built up my tolerance and pretty much took spice for granted as a common, delicious addition to food. Which, as this Argentine experience has taught me, it is not.

So last weekend (well, two weekends ago, now), a bunch of kids from my program and I got together and cooked up some spicy Mexican food. We had guacamole, salsa, chicken and beef fajitas plus all the fixins’. We even made some sangria (which isn’t Mexican, I know, but it is sure darn tasty).

The most satisfying parts of the meal? For one, the fact that we found legitimate hot chilis in one of the verdulerías (vegetable stores) nearby. We also found awesome spicy hot sauce in the grocery store!! Which was spicy enough to make all our noses run, a bit.

It was also just nice to get together with friends and all cook together. Miss Roomie and I did that all the time last year in our apartment– we were kind of queens of throwing dinner parties– and I seriously missed that. Friends and food? Instant fun. And overall, a smashing success!

CHAPTER 4 or Part of the Family

As you guys know, I live in an apartment with a mom, dad, abuelita, and two host brothers. In case you don’t remember, I also have two other host siblings who both have their own kids plus a host uncle who lives about an hour away, a host aunt who lives close-ish to us, and another abuela who lives about five minutes away plus a bunch of other parientes (extended family members).

It’s a wonderful, big family and reminds me a lot of my own… but somehow they manage to be less crazy! Haha, to all my actual family reading this– don’t worry, I love you. You have all prepared me to adjust easily to living with another family who thinks they are ridiculous and weird but are really just right. You could say they’re the perfect bowl of porridge to my Goldilocks. But whatever.

Anyway, (almost) every Sunday a significant portion of the family gets together for a big midday meal. It’s usually at my house– I’ve been to a few but feel kind of weird invading their space all the time, and Sunday afternoon is a perfect time to go exploring and sightseeing, so usually they invite me to come only if I don’t already have plans.

Last (two) weekends ago, I woke up to find my abuelita, Yolly, cleaning strawberries in the kitchen. She gave me some really red ones to eat while she told me about their plans to go to my host sister Paula’s house for lunch. I didn’t really have plans for the day, so I figured I would hop in the shower and then enjoy having the house to myself for a bit before going out and reading in the sun.

Almost as soon as I got out of the shower, though, and was walking around my room in my towel, my host mom knocked on my door to tell me that they were leaving, and that they would wait for me to get dressed so I could come with them! So I threw on some clothes while they got the car out of the garage.

Paula’s house is beautiful. She lives near the outskirts of the city in an area that’s not as built up as where we live. Out there a lot of the houses have patios as part of their property; Paula even has a little backyard with grass, a parilla (grill) and a little pool! The inside of her house is also wonderful– everything had a very clean aesthetic and was just gorgeous, which was especially surprising because she has two kids!

It was a really nice lunch. We grilled some meat and veggies on the parilla and sat outside enjoying the wonderful weather. It was the first time that I met my host dad’s mom, as well, so it was great to sit and chat with all these incredibly interesting people. It’s not that I haven’t felt welcome in the house. I love my host family like my actual family. But there was something about the atmosphere, the way we all sat down together at the table and chatted, that made me feel like I was actually their youngest daughter. They were so inclusive and so welcoming that I truly felt like I was a part of their family.

The Secret to Being Thin: Ride the Subte

Wednesday marked my first month in Buenos Aires. I’ve been having a grand old time down here. The clothing is so cheap! The leather such high quality! And the food, oh the food. It is all so, so good. But I still have a lot of unanswered questions about the city and its people.

Today’s question: why, considering the amount of meat and fried foods I’ve seen people eating, is everyone so damn skinny?? I couldn’t figure it out. I generally think of myself as a healthy person but because I messed up my heel a few weeks ago and haven’t been exercising I’m gaining weight like nobody’s business. But these people who have been surrounded by all this rich food their entire lives? They are like STICKS. Could you imagine growing up with diet staples like dulce de leche and fried chicken or veal cutlets (milanesas) and NOT weigh a thousand pounds? Plus the fact that everyone eats so late here means they’re not even digesting before they go to bed, which certainly doesn’t help in the flub department.

This week, though, I think I discovered the reason why everyone is so thin: it’s because they have to fit on the subway. The subway system here, or subte, is pretty nice. It’s laid out really stupidly– all trains go towards the center of the city and there are only two connecting the city lengthwise– but it travels really quickly and the trains come fairly frequently. The subte during rush hour, though, is NOT somewhere you want to be. The subte during rush hour is the time where anything goes. People push their ways into the cars, mindless of the fact that there is no space left for them. I’ve had people’s elbows in my sides, my arms have been in people’s armpits, and I’ve been wrapped around metal poles. There are so many people in these cars that when the train goes around turns or stops short we all move as a mass, like a gigantic living Jell-o mold. Yesterday morning I was actually IN some old guy’s pot belly. It was like we were grinding in a sardine can but about a million times more uncomfortable.

I love the subte, I really do. Except for the one problem trip I’ve had with it– this past week I got stuck in a subte train stranded between two stops, but that is perhaps a story for another time– it’s been a good travelling companion and it’s cheaper than the buses. But having to deal with the cramming and the pushing during rush hour is less-than-savory, for sure. I honestly couldn’t ever imagining something like this happening in the US. We like our personal space way too much. Plus– and I know this isn’t an accurate representation of my country but it’s still what I think of– the thought of cramming elephants into a subte car during rush hour is both hilarious and horribly inefficient.

As crazy as it is, I’m going to stick with the subte. We’ve become pretty good buddies and it wouldn’t do to abandon it for a few obnoxious people that decide to ride it sometimes.

Midwestern Grocery Stores vs Argentina: A Comparison

Alright, since I drafted that post yesterday and didn’t post it only because I forgot, I’m calling it yesterday’s post and writing another one for today.

Today’s post is dedicated to travelling. This is not only because I leave for Argentina in a little over a week and am completely freaking out about it; we went to visit my grandparents earlier in the summer and I found some photos I’d forgotten about, so I figured today was a good a day as any to lump everything together under one heading.

So, to get this over with: Things I Like (warning, it’s a little picture-heavy today)

3. Midwestern Grocery Stores

Yeah, I know, it seems like a pretty strange thing to find on this list. Really, we didn’t do a huge amount of grocery shopping so I’m talking about one in particular: Woodman’s. I can tell what you are thinking. You’re calling up all sorts of stereotypes about the kind of people who live in the Midwest, the types of food they eat, and the kind of things they might have (and not have) in their grocery stores. I can tell this because I was the very same way until actually experiencing one of these behemoths.

I can honestly say that I was so astonished by the Woodman’s we went to that I just had to add it to the list. This grocery store must have been the size of a small castle. You could probably jog around the place and call it more than a mile; this place was GIGANTIC.

They even had crazy things like okra pickles!

And they had everything in there! Their selection of hot sauces alone was larger than any I’d ever seen outside a hot sauce specialty shop. They also had huge containers of things, like jars of pickles and olives bigger than my head.

Hell, this store was so large they had to organize the aisles with numbers AND letters!

Madman and I got separated from our parents at one point... and were afraid we would never find them again. Don't lose your kids in here.

It was great. I’m sure you could find just about anything in that store (except, strangely enough, plastic serving platters). It was AWESOME. I maybe even for a second considered moving to the Midwest… but only for a second.

Moving to Argentina, however, is a completely different story. I really like travelling but I think it’s the whole idea of going somewhere for five months that’s freaking me out. And I am really, supremely, and completely freaking out about going to Argentina. I’ve mostly just avoided thinking about it; I only started thinking about packing yesterday which is bad, considering I leave in a little over a week. Whoops.

I don’t know. I guess what’s getting to me the most is the fact that I’m going to be away from everyone I love for half a year. More than the thought of being in a completely foreign environment, more than the idea of getting used to another language, even more than the idea of having to pick up tons of strange customs and live with a family is the stress of being away from everyone. If I were going on a summer program it would be completely different. I don’t see a lot of my friends during the summer to begin with; while some of them do live close to me a lot of them live on the other side of the country or places where it’s just not convenient or practical to visit. I do get to visit people some, but my parents are really big on spending time with me (I am NOT complaining about this, but it’s hard to balance family time and friend time, for sure).

Mostly I think it’s the thought that the semester will still go on without me that is making me hesitate so much. People will still take classes, have parties, and get to know each other without me. Life as usual will go on without me. And I’m going to miss everyone so, so much, but I can’t do anything about it. And I think that’s what’s killing me a bit inside. Is that normal?