Sunday, August 19, 2012

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Montecatini, Italy)

What an appropriate church to share with you today! While traveling in Europe on a pilgrimage to World Youth Day, we spent a little bit of time in Montecatini, about an hour away from Florence, Italy. We attended mass every day. Since this church was right next to our hotel (you could see it from our rooms - actually, from the rooftop we were allowed on) we attended mass here. It was a very clean church with a giant rosary decorating the front and with the tabernacle to the side.

Here we are exploring the roof that we had access to from our hotel rooms. We stayed at "Hotel Peregrino", which means "Pilgrim's Hotel". They had flags of many many countries hanging outside. You can see the bell tower of the church in the background.

The church is the building on the right - not too small, not too big. It was a nice, refreshing service in a more modern building (for Italy, at least). What a great memory.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sippin' Saturday

I have some drink reviews for y'alls! Hopefully you'll get the chance to try some of these delicious drinks. =)

This is horchata, a sweet rice-milk. I got this at a little soda in Costa Rica, but it is common other places too - it's more a Mexican drink than anything. (Oh, and soda is what they call little laid-back restaurants in Costa Rica). This was deeelicious. I'm going to have to get this more often!

Mango smoothie! There was a fantastic pizza shop right next to school I attended in Costa Rica called "Observa la Pizza". They had an awesome ice coffee and great smoothies including mango and pina colada. It was great to stop buy and grab one occasionally.

I got this fantastic coffee at a place called Galileo's cafe, which is attached to the kids' museum at Balboa Park  in San Diego. This drink was called the solar flare and I believe it had raspberry and orange syrup in it. This drink was fantastic, even if it was a heart attack waiting to happen thanks to the amount of sugar in it. It tasted sort of like fruity pebbles and coffee - but in a good way, not a gross way. On a side note, anyone else find it weird that they have an entire hands-on exhibit for children on how germs spread but they don't have hand sanitizer anywhere?

And last but not least, a cherry limeade from California Pizza kitchen. I love this drink. If you like cherry limeades (sort of like lemonade but, well, limeyer and with grenadine and carbonation) you'll love this one. My sister got one tonight (at my suggestion) and she loved it too. I had a mango iced tea tonight, which was great as well.

Vintage Button Earrings

Here's a surprisingly simple craft for you today that yields a super cute pair (or pairs!) of earrings.

Things you need:
Earring studs

You may also need:
A nail file

Step 1: Find some cool buttons. I found a jar of vintage buttons at a local estate sale. It took me a bit, but boy was it fun going through them! Here's a picture of my (mostly) sorted buttons.
I've found that if you have a lot of buttons, sorting them on newspaper or a piece of felt makes it that much easier to clean up when you're done. I also use felt when working with beads - they don't roll as much.

Step 2: Find a pair you want to turn into earrings. Make sure the back is flat - not all buttons will work with this. On plastic buttons you can often use pliers/scissors/etc. to snap the backs off. (But be careful - you could damage your button too). Some buttons have metal hooks that can be twisted or cut off. I even had a few leather buttons that I cut the back loops off. After removing the back piece, if necessary, sand down the back to make it flatter and easier to adhere to. This isn't always necessary, but for the leather ones especially I had to do this with a nail file.

Step 3: Use jewelry glue or craft glue to glue your earring studs on the back of your earrings. Let dry.

Experiment with different glues, especially with different buttons made of different materials.

I had a ton of fun with this project and it is super easy! Here are some of my favorites. (All of which are available in my etsy shop, plus much more.)

Linked up at

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Watermelon Nails

It's Health and Beauty Thursday. I recently tried painting my toe-nails like watermelons. I forgot that when I paint my nails I get bored about halfway through - which is sad because my nails never quite turn out the way I want them to. Anyway, here's a picture of my piggies:

Sorry that it's not an amazing picture - I snapped this while waiting to watch my sister's marching band performance. To get these watermelon nails, I painting my nails with a dark pink first, then added a green french tip. I wish I'd done better with this, but I got impatient at this point. I don't have any fancy nail tools, so I just used my liquid eyeliner to make the dots.

Hopefully at least you'll be inspired to paint your nails - even if it's just so they look better than mine! =D

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back Home Again by Melody Carlson

So my goal this year is to read one book a week. Am I a bit behind? Yes. But to be fair, I spent a bit of time re-reading book Harry Potter, but in Spanish. Which is harder than it sounds, at least for me. =) But anyways, here's the latest book I've read.

The main characters in this book are three sisters who have recently lost their dad (the sisters are in the sixties-ish) and are left wondering what to do with the house he left all three of them. They decide to turn it into a bed and breakfast- but there are many obstacles in their way, including resistance from the small town they live in. This is a cute Christian story about sisters working together to achieve their dreams.

While I enjoyed this book (it is by my favorite author) and I look forward to reading the next book in the series, it's a slower book, perhaps suited more for an older person with a cup of coffee on a cold day.

Here's a link to the book on amazon.

In other news, my birthday is next Monday. Which means - lots of free food! I signed up for a bunch of "birthday clubs" in July, and now I have plenty of coupons to use. Today I got a free meal from Rubios. It was deeelicious.

Pork carnitas anyone?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gallo Pinto

Gallo pinto is a dish served in Costa Rica for any meal. It can be served with breakfast as a side dish with pancakes or eggs, made with the rice and beans of last night's meal. It can be served for breakfast with a fried egg on top (called "gallo pinto a caballo"). It can be served for lunch or dinner, as is or with sausage cooked in with it. But what is it? Translated literally, "gallo pinto" means "painted rooster". This rice and beans dish was a common dish served to Costa Rican (or Tican) farmers when they came home from work. Black beans on white rice looked like a spotted rooster, and the name stuck. (Some other Latin American countries claim fame to this dish as well, all under different names).

I made this dish in Costa Rica and in the United States, and I looove it. I plan on making a batch of it when I get up to college to eat for any other meal I don't feel like cooking for. Just tasting it brings me back to Costa Rica. This version can't replicate exactly what my Tican family made for me, but it's pretty darn close.

Gallo Pinto
Recipe by Jean Avila Valverde, Translated and Adapted by Annette Kolnitys

Ingredients for Rice:
1 1/2 cups of rice, already cooked
1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups of water
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Boil the onion and bell pepper. Prepare chicken broth, if necessary. Then, combine all ingredients in a large pot and cook until most of the liquid has boiled off. (You can also use a rice cooker, but I don't have one). Cover and place in fridge overnight (or just leave in your rice cooker). Apparently, this is an important step - if you don't prepare the rice the day before, you just end up with soggy gallo pinto.

Ingredients for Gallo Pinto:
Rice (prepared as above)
2 cans of black beans
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce*
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 cup of chicken broth
1 pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1 small roll of cilantro, well chopped

Saute the onion and bell pepper. (I skipped this step - I added too much the day before in the rice, and didn't feel like I needed any more for the beans). In a big pot, add the vegetables with the two cans of beans (including the liquid that comes with the beans) and the chicken broth. Mix well and heat at medium to medium high heat. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and sugar and stir. Cook until the broth has mostly cooked off. Then add the rice and lower the heat (medium-low) for about 10 minutes. Lastly, add the cilantro, mix well and cook for two more minutes. Serve hot.

*In Costa Rica they use a sauce called "salsa inglesa", which is produced by a Costa Rican family company. They use this sauce in many of their dishes, as it adds a lot of flavor. The closest substitute we have for it in America is Worcestershire sauce.*

I served this plain to my family the first time - they all had been "bleh" about the whole beans-and-rice-for-dinner thing, but were pleasantly surprised. It also makes a great next-day dish. Just put some mozzarella cheese on it, nuke it in the microwave and add cool sour cream. Yum. You can also serve this on tortillas, with cheese, with avocados - the possibilities are endless!

That weird white cheese is one of two main cheeses they had in Costa Rica - American cheese (you know, the processed stuff) and "queso blanco" or "white cheese". It was pretty close to mozzarella cheese, except maybe more spongy.

Linked up at

Monday, August 13, 2012

Musings from Costa Rica

After going to Zumba tonight, I am missing Costa Rica quite a bit. There's nothing quite like learning salsa, merengue and machada in the humid nights of Costa Rica. If you want to read my whole story, it's at But here are some of my travel experiences.

While there, I lived with a Costa Rican host family. This was a great experience as I got to practice speaking my Spanish in a casual setting. The family was really nice and we always had good food and good conversation. Here's (by my experience) what a typical Costa Rican meal may look like:

Eggs with chopped hot dogs in them OR
Pancakes (thinner, as if they were made from waffle mix) OR
Sandwich with ham, mayo, ketchup and American cheese
Gallo Pinto (an amazingly good rice and beans combo they use for everything)
Plantains OR Pineapple OR banana OR apple

This is typically the biggest meal of the day. Their main dishes usually include rice and beans, plantains and some sort of meat main dish. Their food is well seasoned but never spicy.

Rice and beans, perhaps gallo pinto, soup, pasta (hamburger helper or something of the sort) and/or a meat main dish

And guess what? Tomorrow I'm going to post the recipe for gallo pinto! It sounds simple, but the taste is anything but.

Here are some pics from my trip. If you have any questions about life in Costa Rica, feel free to leave a comment. =)

The parrot who said "Lorita" all the time. I had fun trying to train her to speak English. All my roommate and I managed to do was get it to imitate laughter.

Spanish everywhere! I miss speaking and listening to Spanish.


Biking with friends along the beach


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cloaked by Alex Flinn

Johnny, a shoemaker, works for his family business and lives a pretty mundane life. Then, a princess comes to stay in the hotel he works at and she brings with her a mission - find her little brother. The catch? He's been turned into a frog. This book was a great story of real-world meets fantasy. I loved this book. I read it all in one night - I couldn't put it down. (I stayed up to 3 am to finish it!) The story includes storylines from six or seven fairy tales that aren't commonly known. I would recommend this book to almost everyone.

Link to the book on amazon
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