Monday, December 29, 2014

My Best Books of 2014

I read a lot.

And each year I've been trying to read a little more.

This year my goal was 68 books, one more than I read last year.



I surpassed it!!

I've read 72 books this year. I might be able to squeeze in one more that I'm working on to make 73.

I've made a habit of sharing my favorites each year here on this blog, so the tradition continues.



In the past, I've been really disappointed in some of what I've read, so I did a little more homework in scouting out books that had been highly regarded this year. I figured if the year was going to start out right, it needed to start with some great reads that inspired me to read more. 

I rated 6 books with 5 stars this year...and here they are!

Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind- This book is simply incredible, perhaps I'm affected more by this story as a teacher, but my dad found me crying on the couch as I read this book over the summer. A young girl, battling cerebral palsy, discovers the joy of communication after a lifetime of keeping her thoughts to herself. 

Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project- A man with Asperger's Syndrome is on the hunt for a wife. Hysterically neurotic. I loved it. 

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro- Maybe I love this book because I'm obsessed with Neal Caffrey and White Collar, a show on the USA Network (I can't believe this show just ended!!!!), but there's something about the ability to forge the artwork of renowned artists and pass it off as the real thing. This story had me hooked. 

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes- Moyes has been writing and publishing novels for years, but her real explosion on to the scene happened with Me Before You in 2012. Her recent novels are getting pretty big press and I can see why. Easy to read chick lit that grabs you and entices you to want more each time you read. If you haven't picked up a Moyes novel yet, you most definitely should! I haven't gotten to The Girl You Left Behind yet, but it's on my list for 2015!

Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park- This is probably my favorite book of the year and I've been reading everything by Rowell that I can get my hands on in recent months. Eleanor & Park is the sweetest young adult love story. Run to the nearest store and get your hands on a copy. 

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult- I had read a book of Picoult's in the past and didn't care for it, so I'd always avoided her books. But in my search for highly rated books, I came across this. It was, hands down, amazing. Now I'm having to rethink my ban on Picoult and add a few more of her books to my 'want to read' list. 

And, one honorable mention to hand out...I didn't give this book 5 stars, but it has lingered in my mind the entire year. It was the first book I read in 2014. I despised it initially, hence the rating of only 4 stars, but by the end it was one of my favorites.

 The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert- This was a selection for our book club in January and it was well received by our group. You'll learn more than you ever wanted to know about moss and many other plant species (the research for this book must have been soooooo boring) but the main character, Alma, will find a place deep in your heart. 
You can follow what I'm reading on Goodreads or Shelfari. I use the Shelfari widget on the right sidebar as well, which links to my page. (Even though more people seem to use Goodreads these days, I've always preferred the look of Shelfari.)

Need a good book for 2015? I hope you'll choose one of my favorites! You can also check out the Goodreads recent winners for 2014 as a good place to start!

Have a recommendation for me? Leave it in the comments! I'd love to hear your ideas!
Wishing each of you a very happy and healthy 2015!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Milan's Unique Advent Calendar

Advent marks the beginning of the Christmas season for Christian churches. In Latin, the word advent means arrival or coming and refers to the anticipation of Christ's birth. Germans began lighting candles each night in anticipation of Advent, and the tradition translated into various forms, including calendars to mark the days leading up to Christmas. (source)

the Duomo and the city's tree

Milan has a unique way of celebrating this holiday season by creating a musical Advent calendar in Piazza Duomo.

Beginning December 1, each night at 6 pm, a musician stands at the window of municipal offices. Every night an additional musician stands at a window. They play Christmas music for 30 minutes for the crowds in Piazza Duomo to enjoy.

I went on December 12th, so there were 12 musicians to enjoy.

The windows are numbered from 1-24, for each day in December leading up to Christmas.

Greetings hang in many languages.

Here's a little taste of what you can go and experience.

video

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Travel Map

In the last few weeks, I've seen this travel map floating around Facebook a bit and today I decided to build my own.


Carrie’s Travel Map
Carrie has been to: Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Now you can also build a US travel map. I've clearly got some work to do in the US.


Carrie has been to 19 US States
Carrie has been to: California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thanksgiving in London, 2014

When planning for our short Thanksgiving break this year, I decided to head to London. I hadn't been in about a year and a half and I simply love the city. Elizabeth, who was my travel buddy in Iceland this summer, offered to let me stay with her now that she's living in a London suburb.

the only cityscape picture I took

I had a few things I wanted to do while in London, including catching at least one musical...and resisting the urge to see Wicked for the 7th time. So, instead, I bought a ticket to The Book of Mormon, which I've always heard is fantastic. It definitely lived up to the hype. It was so good, extremely clever,  hysterically funny, and a little raunchy. But, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Currently, the two leads are both American and one trained at CCM, which is in my hometown of Cincinnati.

I also took time to venture out of the city to the Warner Brothers Studios where they've set up The World of Harry Potter. A lot of filming was completed in the studios here and they have piles of costumes and sets for you to look at first hand. You can walk down Diagon Alley, drink Butterbeer, and green screen yourself flying on a broomstick around Hogwarts. I really liked the green screen technology they showed, comparing the green screen version to the film version we're used to seeing. They also have the masks and costumes for all the creatures, like the Gringotts goblins and it was really cool to be able to see the masks and listen to the costume and makeup artists talk about their work on a television screen hanging above.

Dumbledore's costume on display in the Great Hall

Right now, everything is themed as "Hogwarts in the Snow", with winter and holiday decorations.

Costumes and props from the Yule Ball

Wigs for Bellatrix Lestrange and Dumbledore

Identical outfits for Harry, labeled with where and when they were needed

the green screen version of the Invisibility Cloak

one of only three places in the world to try butterbeer...

Several of the goblin masks

Hogwarts- this is the model used for all the exterior castle shots

Having lived in Europe for over three years now (how is this possible?) I have developed a few friends in various places and London is home to several of them. I met up with a friend from Milan for coffee, two former ASM teachers for dinner and drinks, and a group of ADEs (Apple Distinguished Educators) who I met in Cork, Ireland in 2013.

catching up with Zach and Elisa

Graeme, Marc and Lauren and I met in Ireland in 2013
It's hard to believe that the holidays are just around the corner. Eight work days to go and I'll be on a plane 'across the pond.' Can't wait to see all my Savannah friends! 

Are you a Harry Potter fan? You should check out the studios next time you're in London. You can book tickets in advance (a must) on the site linked above and book a convenient, but expensive, bus ride there as well at this link.

You can see the rest of my pics from my day with Harry here

Sunday, November 23, 2014

100 Things that I am Grateful For...

A few weeks ago one of my students commented on a blog post about gratitude. It was written by a young student in the US and I was thoroughly impressed by her list of 100 things for which she was grateful.

by pocketful of perspective
https://www.flickr.com/photos/pocketfulofperspective/8114143719/


With that in mind, I'm working on my own list.

1. my family- they really are a fairly amazing bunch

2. travel

3. the ability to read

4. puppies

5. hair cuts

6. photography field trips with my dad

7. the chance to watch my niece try on wedding dresses this past summer

by Tambako the Jaguar
https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/8476612001/ 
8. pumpkin everything

9. leggings- I would wear them everyday if I could

10. hoodies

11. pistacchio gelato

12. a hot cup of tea

13. handmade ceramics

14. writing this blog

15. ashtanga yoga- it's changing my life and body

16. deliciously scented candles

17. my rainboots

18. Dancing with the Stars- it just makes me happy, what can I say

19. home cooked meals

20. an unexpected apology

21. a handwritten note from my Aunt Joni

22. candy corn sent all the way across the ocean

23. rides home from school

24. being included

25. a warm smile

26. audio books

27. my parents' commitment to physical activity- my 80 year old dad walks a couple miles several times a week and my mom has run the Rock and Roll Half Marathon the last four years

28. University of Cincinnati basketball

by Jacky Yang
https://www.flickr.com/photos/zen1972/4114606416/ 
29. chicken fingers

30. pedicures

31. unexpectedly understanding an Italian conversation

32. sunshine

33. the ability to cook

34. my education

35. a strong work ethic

36. Facebook- despite annoying me greatly, it does help me keep up with what happens in the US

37. blue skies

38. good friends

39. a great book

40. being able to give

41. teachers

42. a bike ride on a Fall day

43. lazy Sundays in pajamas

44. WINE!

45. freedom

46. choice

47. good health

48. running water

49. indoor toilets

50. change

51. missing American political ads

52. hair color

by Universal Pops
https://www.flickr.com/photos/universalpops/5509323247/
53. bacon

54. fresh mozzarella

55. a cozy sweater

56. living in Europe

57. coming home at Christmas

58. routine

59. friends who listen

60. summers in Savannah

61. Alpha Phi- some amazing women have come into my life because of this sorority

62. hugs

63. challenges

64. face wash

65. friendly hellos

66. playlists

67. Skype

68. my tutoring job- I work with the cutest kid ever

69. storage space

70. clean sheets

71. summers off

72. adventure

73. the Hola unblocker

74. unlimited internet

75. a roof over my head
by Lee Coursey
https://www.flickr.com/photos/leeco/5121662628/

76. the desire to be better

77. my parents' sacrifices

78. cheese dip and margaritas

79. friends who keep in touch

80. comments on my blog

81. each country I've visited

82. hot showers

83. views from the top

84. Ursuline Academy- my all girls high school instilled a strong sense of self

85. chocolate

86. my iPhone

87. a small umbrella and the bag it comes in

88. comfortable shoes

89. picnics in the park

90. frozen food

91. boat rides

92. bug spray

photo by BK
https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/14671807134/
93. Christmas lights

94. direct flights

95. watching children learn

96. failure

97. time with my family

98. long weekends

99. the men and women of the U.S. military

100. vanilla lattes



So, what are you grateful for? Leave your message of thanks in the comments.

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lately...

Lately, there's been a lot of rain in Milan.

I mean A LOT! As in flooding in the northern parts of the city and street and metro closings because of all the water.

Thankfully, I've only been bothered by my rain boots feeling like even they've absorbed some of the water. Argh.

Thought I'd take a few minutes and share some of the random happenings of recent weeks.

Caitlin and I participated in an October walk to raise money for breast cancer here in Milan. It started late...how Italian of them. I think we waited while they tried to get the confetti machines working. Dai!

waiting, waiting, waiting...for the Pink Parade

the confetti we waited so long for

One night I met my friend Meredith, who works at another international school in town, met for dinner. We went to Corey's Soul Chicken in Chinatown. Corey, from Louisville and who also just happened to work at King's Island, makes the chicken to order. (I just happened to grow up down the street from KI.) We had some delicious chicken fingers and a cold can of root beer! A rare treat here in Milan.



go get your chicken!

In early November a couple of friends and I went to the Chet Faker show here in Milan. Chet Faker is an Australian musician who writes, records and produces all his own tracks. He was pretty incredible live and even though his music is not what I'd typically listen to I thoroughly enjoyed his show. So, take a few minutes and check him out. This is from an earlier show in Australia this year...that has far better video footage than I was able to capture.

Chet Faker performing '1998'- one of my favorites

Another food treat worth mentioning is a small, but amazing experience out in Corano, Italy. This restaurant is about an hour outside of Milan and anytime someone mentions heading here for a meal the answer is always YES! Arriving at the restaurant, they start with the day's spread of antipasti, which is a variety of freshly cooked vegetables and the traditional spread of prosciutto and salami. Then you can order primi, secondi and dolci as desired. Traveler tip- do NOT eat at all before arriving at this gem of a restaurant. Of course, make a reservation. And, if you go, take me!

It's that way.

baked pumpkin with balsamic, eggplant with tomatoes and olive oil, and an onion tart

one of my favorites! can you guess what it is?

Here's to more great Fall experiences! 

Have a great Italian 'Fall' experience to share? What would you recommend?


Friday, November 14, 2014

The ABCs of Travel

In reading some new blogs lately, I've stumbled upon some interesting themed posts that I've decided to try out for myself. Though this one has taken forever to write, it's a pretty cool way to revisit some of my best memories.

So, this is the ABCs of Travel...and you can find some other bloggers similar posts linked here.
Amy and the Great World
We Took the Road Less Traveled

A) Age you went on your first international trip

When I was 14, I convinced my parents to send me on the school Spanish language trip to Portugal and Spain. It was 1992. I remember hating Portugal. That was the spoiled American teenager in me. I loved visiting El Escorial outside of Madrid and being scared by the aggressive leather salesmen in Tangiers. While I've been back to Spain since, Portugal is still on the to do list.

B) Best foreign beer you've had and where

Well, this is nearly impossible to narrow down, but two beers immediately come to mind. First is the house made lambics in Brussels at A La Mort Subite. They had a variety of flavors and were so delicious. Even though we were only in Brussels for a couple of days, we managed to stop by this local hot spot twice.



My second choice is the Einstok Icelandic White Ale that I discovered this summer. I just really liked it when I discovered it during our road trip.



C) Cuisine (favorite)

Not necessarily related to my travel experiences, but my favorite cuisine is currently 'anything but Italian'. The flavors of Italian food always seem to be in the same vein and, while delicious, feel so limited. While in Milan, we often frequent Asian and Indian restaurants and I've developed a true affinity for Chicken Tikka Masala. Basic? Yes, but so delicious!!!

D) Destinations- favorite, least favorite and why?

I've loved a lot of places, but a top tier fave is definitely Dubrovnik. I had the best few days there this past summer. Least favorite? Probably Naples. Places where I feel like I have to hang on to my purse for dear life are never comfortable.



E) Event you've experience abroad that made you say "Wow!"

Hands down- Jokusarlon Glacial Lagoon in Iceland this past summer. If you've seen my pictures, you don't need any explanation.



F) Favorite mode of transportation

Well, I love a good car that allows you to come and go as you please, but I'll take a good train trip any day. No airport security lines. No arriving two hours in advance. No hour long train to get to your departure point. Trains. One of Europe's greatest amenities. 

G) Greatest feeling while traveling

Sitting at a historic place, that you've heard of all your life, and never really believed that you'd have the opportunity to experience. Those are the best moments. And I've been blessed to feel it many times over.

H) Hottest place you've ever traveled to

Don't laugh. LONDON. Summer of 2013 my mom and I went to the UK for two weeks. They had a crazy heat wave. And, who'd think to worry about air conditioning when booking places, since it is rarely necessary. I carried my 50 pound bag to my rented room...up to the 6th floor of a walk up...in a building without AC. Who'd of thought?

I) Incredible service you've experienced and where

Ummm...struggling a bit with this one...but we did love our stay at Agriturismo Marciano just outside of Siena. It was super close to the city, the owner and cook were really nice and we had the most excellent meal with the other guests while we were there.

J) Journey that took the longest

Besides traveling back and forth to the US, most of my journeys aren't too long. When I traveled to Iceland this summer my plane was delayed and then I missed my connection to Reyjavik. This resulted in having to spend the night in Dusseldorf. No big deal. I was put in a decent room at a nice hotel without a problem. The next morning I had to fly from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt to catch a flight to Iceland. Soooooooo....it did take a bit longer than I expected to actually get to Iceland.

K) Keepsake from your travels

I love to buy souvenirs. I mean, it's hard to resist handmade items, native to a certain country, like handmade pottery. So I have quite a collection starting.

Main picture: bowl from Morocco; Clockwise from top: Murano glass from Venice, small bowl from Istanbul, handmade mug from Sicily from a friend, handmade mini pitcher from Bruges, Belgium, medium sized pitcher from Levanto, Italy, small bowl from Slovenia (gift from Sheila), and Murano glass from Venice

L) Let down sight- where and why

The Bock Casemates, Luxembourg City...why is everyone so excited about this on the various travel guide sites? Unfortunately, we were bored.



M) Moment when you fell in love with traveling

As soon as I moved to Europe, the travel opportunities just kept coming. In my first four months, I visited the South of France, Florence, Pisa, Lake Como and Munich. Feeling the vibe of different cities, seeing the locals, tasting the food...how can you not love traveling?

N) Nicest hotel you've stayed in

Stayed at Hotel Bristol in Vienna. It's directly next to the Opera House. We had a small balcony that we could look over to the opera's outdoor screen and our room was a series of rooms instead of one. It was old school traditional, but felt pretty fancy!

O) Obsession- what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling and why?

I'm not necessarily obsessed with taking pictures of any certain thing, but I am obsessed with taking pictures are weird and odd angles. I find pictures so much more interesting when they are taken in this fashion. So, my friends know that if they hand me their camera the likelihood they'll get a picture that is perfectly horizontal or vertical is slim to none.





P) Passport stamps- how many and from where?

Currently, 41.

Q) Quirkiest attraction you've visited and where?

The only thing that comes to mind is more weird than quirky, and that's the mixed gender hammam in Turkey. It was such a crazy, weird, and slightly creepy experience.

R) Really frightening: where's one place you felt unsafe or uneasy?

Since I already mentioned Naples, another place that had moments of unease was definitely Morocco. We ended up having a great trip, thanks to our trusty and highly recommended guide, Mohammed, but our first few days in Marrakech did intimidate us from time to time. Maps were impossible to read and not feeling like many of the locals around could be trusted for reliable information made it difficult to relax and really enjoy the surroundings.

S) Splurge- something that you have no problem spending money on while traveling

Chances are, when you travel to a destination, it might be your only visit there. If there's something you want to do, I'm a big believer in just doing it. You might not be back. Do what you want. You can't take the money with you. So...splurging to take a hot air balloon over the mountainous terrain of central Turkey? Do it. No regrets.



T) Touristy thing you've done

In Istanbul we wanted to see the 'whirling dervishes'. These shows are put together just for the tourists and are super 'touristy'!! But, at least it was still super interesting to see them spin



U) Unforgettable travel memory

There are so many it's nearly impossible to choose but a huge highlight was getting to visit the famous grounds of Wimbledon during the 2013 tournament with my mom. My family has been avid tennis watchers for years, and to experience the 'queue' and then make our way to a grass court for a 5 set men's match. Hard to beat.



V) Visas- how many and for where?

Two. My Italian work visa and the visa required to enter Turkey.



W) Wine- best glass while traveling?

Let's just do the best glass of wine period. During the wine course I took last year we tasted a red wine from Calabria. It smelled of soap, but had the most delicious and smooth flavor. It appears to be available online to purchase...I might just have to go spend a few bucks.




X) eXcellent view and from where?

Top of this hill overlooking the harbor of Split, Croatia. I wandered up some stairs and found this perfect overlook, as recommended by my favorite travel guru, Rick Steves. The view was AMAZING!



Y) Years spent traveling

Well, I've traveled here and there throughout my life but the travel opportunities have really picked up since moving to Europe in 2011.

Z) Zealous sports fans and where?

A couple of years ago a couple of us went to an A.C. Milan v. Napoli game. I thought the Naples' fans were crazy! I don't really have much to compare it to in Europe, but it was insane to see flares being lit and the sound of canons firing throughout the game.

Favorite travel memory of your own? I'd love to hear it!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

City v. Countryside Travel

I was hopping around a few blogs and stumbled upon the button you see with a themed post for the next two weeks. And, while it's not a Tuesday, I thought I'd write a post to connect with the designated theme of city versus countryside travel and which you prefer.


So............the question stands, which do you prefer? Travel in cities or in the countryside?


For me, I think I naturally lean towards city travel. I wasn't raised to be the most outdoorsy-est person in the world and the introvert in me loves being able to blend into the buzz of a big metropolitan city. Cities also seem to have such energy, which I find magical and it's easy to get lost in that feeling.

I mean, Florence is one of the world's greatest cities. It just has that 'je ne sais quoi.'

Wandering through Amsterdam's bustling bike filled streets and finding the solitude of a quiet canal.

Venice- at the start of Carnivale. Incredible!

Street markets on weekends that pop up around a city. This one's in Split, Croatia.

Love. Dubrovnik.
One of my all time favorites.

But for every great city experience, there's always a few awesome sights only to be seen or experienced when you take a few steps back from the hustle and bustle.

You will certainly not find giant chunks of glacier in the heart of a city!

Or be able to take hot air balloon rides over the majestic white mountains of Cappadocia, Turkey.

So, which do you prefer? And recommend? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Best Books of 2014

I read a lot.

And each year I've been trying to read a little more.

This year my goal was 68 books, one more than I read last year.



I surpassed it!!

I've read 72 books this year. I might be able to squeeze in one more that I'm working on to make 73.

I've made a habit of sharing my favorites each year here on this blog, so the tradition continues.



In the past, I've been really disappointed in some of what I've read, so I did a little more homework in scouting out books that had been highly regarded this year. I figured if the year was going to start out right, it needed to start with some great reads that inspired me to read more. 

I rated 6 books with 5 stars this year...and here they are!

Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind- This book is simply incredible, perhaps I'm affected more by this story as a teacher, but my dad found me crying on the couch as I read this book over the summer. A young girl, battling cerebral palsy, discovers the joy of communication after a lifetime of keeping her thoughts to herself. 

Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project- A man with Asperger's Syndrome is on the hunt for a wife. Hysterically neurotic. I loved it. 

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro- Maybe I love this book because I'm obsessed with Neal Caffrey and White Collar, a show on the USA Network (I can't believe this show just ended!!!!), but there's something about the ability to forge the artwork of renowned artists and pass it off as the real thing. This story had me hooked. 

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes- Moyes has been writing and publishing novels for years, but her real explosion on to the scene happened with Me Before You in 2012. Her recent novels are getting pretty big press and I can see why. Easy to read chick lit that grabs you and entices you to want more each time you read. If you haven't picked up a Moyes novel yet, you most definitely should! I haven't gotten to The Girl You Left Behind yet, but it's on my list for 2015!

Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park- This is probably my favorite book of the year and I've been reading everything by Rowell that I can get my hands on in recent months. Eleanor & Park is the sweetest young adult love story. Run to the nearest store and get your hands on a copy. 

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult- I had read a book of Picoult's in the past and didn't care for it, so I'd always avoided her books. But in my search for highly rated books, I came across this. It was, hands down, amazing. Now I'm having to rethink my ban on Picoult and add a few more of her books to my 'want to read' list. 

And, one honorable mention to hand out...I didn't give this book 5 stars, but it has lingered in my mind the entire year. It was the first book I read in 2014. I despised it initially, hence the rating of only 4 stars, but by the end it was one of my favorites.

 The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert- This was a selection for our book club in January and it was well received by our group. You'll learn more than you ever wanted to know about moss and many other plant species (the research for this book must have been soooooo boring) but the main character, Alma, will find a place deep in your heart. 
You can follow what I'm reading on Goodreads or Shelfari. I use the Shelfari widget on the right sidebar as well, which links to my page. (Even though more people seem to use Goodreads these days, I've always preferred the look of Shelfari.)

Need a good book for 2015? I hope you'll choose one of my favorites! You can also check out the Goodreads recent winners for 2014 as a good place to start!

Have a recommendation for me? Leave it in the comments! I'd love to hear your ideas!
Wishing each of you a very happy and healthy 2015!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Milan's Unique Advent Calendar

Advent marks the beginning of the Christmas season for Christian churches. In Latin, the word advent means arrival or coming and refers to the anticipation of Christ's birth. Germans began lighting candles each night in anticipation of Advent, and the tradition translated into various forms, including calendars to mark the days leading up to Christmas. (source)

the Duomo and the city's tree

Milan has a unique way of celebrating this holiday season by creating a musical Advent calendar in Piazza Duomo.

Beginning December 1, each night at 6 pm, a musician stands at the window of municipal offices. Every night an additional musician stands at a window. They play Christmas music for 30 minutes for the crowds in Piazza Duomo to enjoy.

I went on December 12th, so there were 12 musicians to enjoy.

The windows are numbered from 1-24, for each day in December leading up to Christmas.

Greetings hang in many languages.

Here's a little taste of what you can go and experience.

video

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Travel Map

In the last few weeks, I've seen this travel map floating around Facebook a bit and today I decided to build my own.


Carrie’s Travel Map
Carrie has been to: Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Now you can also build a US travel map. I've clearly got some work to do in the US.


Carrie has been to 19 US States
Carrie has been to: California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thanksgiving in London, 2014

When planning for our short Thanksgiving break this year, I decided to head to London. I hadn't been in about a year and a half and I simply love the city. Elizabeth, who was my travel buddy in Iceland this summer, offered to let me stay with her now that she's living in a London suburb.

the only cityscape picture I took

I had a few things I wanted to do while in London, including catching at least one musical...and resisting the urge to see Wicked for the 7th time. So, instead, I bought a ticket to The Book of Mormon, which I've always heard is fantastic. It definitely lived up to the hype. It was so good, extremely clever,  hysterically funny, and a little raunchy. But, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Currently, the two leads are both American and one trained at CCM, which is in my hometown of Cincinnati.

I also took time to venture out of the city to the Warner Brothers Studios where they've set up The World of Harry Potter. A lot of filming was completed in the studios here and they have piles of costumes and sets for you to look at first hand. You can walk down Diagon Alley, drink Butterbeer, and green screen yourself flying on a broomstick around Hogwarts. I really liked the green screen technology they showed, comparing the green screen version to the film version we're used to seeing. They also have the masks and costumes for all the creatures, like the Gringotts goblins and it was really cool to be able to see the masks and listen to the costume and makeup artists talk about their work on a television screen hanging above.

Dumbledore's costume on display in the Great Hall

Right now, everything is themed as "Hogwarts in the Snow", with winter and holiday decorations.

Costumes and props from the Yule Ball

Wigs for Bellatrix Lestrange and Dumbledore

Identical outfits for Harry, labeled with where and when they were needed

the green screen version of the Invisibility Cloak

one of only three places in the world to try butterbeer...

Several of the goblin masks

Hogwarts- this is the model used for all the exterior castle shots

Having lived in Europe for over three years now (how is this possible?) I have developed a few friends in various places and London is home to several of them. I met up with a friend from Milan for coffee, two former ASM teachers for dinner and drinks, and a group of ADEs (Apple Distinguished Educators) who I met in Cork, Ireland in 2013.

catching up with Zach and Elisa

Graeme, Marc and Lauren and I met in Ireland in 2013
It's hard to believe that the holidays are just around the corner. Eight work days to go and I'll be on a plane 'across the pond.' Can't wait to see all my Savannah friends! 

Are you a Harry Potter fan? You should check out the studios next time you're in London. You can book tickets in advance (a must) on the site linked above and book a convenient, but expensive, bus ride there as well at this link.

You can see the rest of my pics from my day with Harry here

Sunday, November 23, 2014

100 Things that I am Grateful For...

A few weeks ago one of my students commented on a blog post about gratitude. It was written by a young student in the US and I was thoroughly impressed by her list of 100 things for which she was grateful.

by pocketful of perspective
https://www.flickr.com/photos/pocketfulofperspective/8114143719/


With that in mind, I'm working on my own list.

1. my family- they really are a fairly amazing bunch

2. travel

3. the ability to read

4. puppies

5. hair cuts

6. photography field trips with my dad

7. the chance to watch my niece try on wedding dresses this past summer

by Tambako the Jaguar
https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/8476612001/ 
8. pumpkin everything

9. leggings- I would wear them everyday if I could

10. hoodies

11. pistacchio gelato

12. a hot cup of tea

13. handmade ceramics

14. writing this blog

15. ashtanga yoga- it's changing my life and body

16. deliciously scented candles

17. my rainboots

18. Dancing with the Stars- it just makes me happy, what can I say

19. home cooked meals

20. an unexpected apology

21. a handwritten note from my Aunt Joni

22. candy corn sent all the way across the ocean

23. rides home from school

24. being included

25. a warm smile

26. audio books

27. my parents' commitment to physical activity- my 80 year old dad walks a couple miles several times a week and my mom has run the Rock and Roll Half Marathon the last four years

28. University of Cincinnati basketball

by Jacky Yang
https://www.flickr.com/photos/zen1972/4114606416/ 
29. chicken fingers

30. pedicures

31. unexpectedly understanding an Italian conversation

32. sunshine

33. the ability to cook

34. my education

35. a strong work ethic

36. Facebook- despite annoying me greatly, it does help me keep up with what happens in the US

37. blue skies

38. good friends

39. a great book

40. being able to give

41. teachers

42. a bike ride on a Fall day

43. lazy Sundays in pajamas

44. WINE!

45. freedom

46. choice

47. good health

48. running water

49. indoor toilets

50. change

51. missing American political ads

52. hair color

by Universal Pops
https://www.flickr.com/photos/universalpops/5509323247/
53. bacon

54. fresh mozzarella

55. a cozy sweater

56. living in Europe

57. coming home at Christmas

58. routine

59. friends who listen

60. summers in Savannah

61. Alpha Phi- some amazing women have come into my life because of this sorority

62. hugs

63. challenges

64. face wash

65. friendly hellos

66. playlists

67. Skype

68. my tutoring job- I work with the cutest kid ever

69. storage space

70. clean sheets

71. summers off

72. adventure

73. the Hola unblocker

74. unlimited internet

75. a roof over my head
by Lee Coursey
https://www.flickr.com/photos/leeco/5121662628/

76. the desire to be better

77. my parents' sacrifices

78. cheese dip and margaritas

79. friends who keep in touch

80. comments on my blog

81. each country I've visited

82. hot showers

83. views from the top

84. Ursuline Academy- my all girls high school instilled a strong sense of self

85. chocolate

86. my iPhone

87. a small umbrella and the bag it comes in

88. comfortable shoes

89. picnics in the park

90. frozen food

91. boat rides

92. bug spray

photo by BK
https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/14671807134/
93. Christmas lights

94. direct flights

95. watching children learn

96. failure

97. time with my family

98. long weekends

99. the men and women of the U.S. military

100. vanilla lattes



So, what are you grateful for? Leave your message of thanks in the comments.

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lately...

Lately, there's been a lot of rain in Milan.

I mean A LOT! As in flooding in the northern parts of the city and street and metro closings because of all the water.

Thankfully, I've only been bothered by my rain boots feeling like even they've absorbed some of the water. Argh.

Thought I'd take a few minutes and share some of the random happenings of recent weeks.

Caitlin and I participated in an October walk to raise money for breast cancer here in Milan. It started late...how Italian of them. I think we waited while they tried to get the confetti machines working. Dai!

waiting, waiting, waiting...for the Pink Parade

the confetti we waited so long for

One night I met my friend Meredith, who works at another international school in town, met for dinner. We went to Corey's Soul Chicken in Chinatown. Corey, from Louisville and who also just happened to work at King's Island, makes the chicken to order. (I just happened to grow up down the street from KI.) We had some delicious chicken fingers and a cold can of root beer! A rare treat here in Milan.



go get your chicken!

In early November a couple of friends and I went to the Chet Faker show here in Milan. Chet Faker is an Australian musician who writes, records and produces all his own tracks. He was pretty incredible live and even though his music is not what I'd typically listen to I thoroughly enjoyed his show. So, take a few minutes and check him out. This is from an earlier show in Australia this year...that has far better video footage than I was able to capture.

Chet Faker performing '1998'- one of my favorites

Another food treat worth mentioning is a small, but amazing experience out in Corano, Italy. This restaurant is about an hour outside of Milan and anytime someone mentions heading here for a meal the answer is always YES! Arriving at the restaurant, they start with the day's spread of antipasti, which is a variety of freshly cooked vegetables and the traditional spread of prosciutto and salami. Then you can order primi, secondi and dolci as desired. Traveler tip- do NOT eat at all before arriving at this gem of a restaurant. Of course, make a reservation. And, if you go, take me!

It's that way.

baked pumpkin with balsamic, eggplant with tomatoes and olive oil, and an onion tart

one of my favorites! can you guess what it is?

Here's to more great Fall experiences! 

Have a great Italian 'Fall' experience to share? What would you recommend?


Friday, November 14, 2014

The ABCs of Travel

In reading some new blogs lately, I've stumbled upon some interesting themed posts that I've decided to try out for myself. Though this one has taken forever to write, it's a pretty cool way to revisit some of my best memories.

So, this is the ABCs of Travel...and you can find some other bloggers similar posts linked here.
Amy and the Great World
We Took the Road Less Traveled

A) Age you went on your first international trip

When I was 14, I convinced my parents to send me on the school Spanish language trip to Portugal and Spain. It was 1992. I remember hating Portugal. That was the spoiled American teenager in me. I loved visiting El Escorial outside of Madrid and being scared by the aggressive leather salesmen in Tangiers. While I've been back to Spain since, Portugal is still on the to do list.

B) Best foreign beer you've had and where

Well, this is nearly impossible to narrow down, but two beers immediately come to mind. First is the house made lambics in Brussels at A La Mort Subite. They had a variety of flavors and were so delicious. Even though we were only in Brussels for a couple of days, we managed to stop by this local hot spot twice.



My second choice is the Einstok Icelandic White Ale that I discovered this summer. I just really liked it when I discovered it during our road trip.



C) Cuisine (favorite)

Not necessarily related to my travel experiences, but my favorite cuisine is currently 'anything but Italian'. The flavors of Italian food always seem to be in the same vein and, while delicious, feel so limited. While in Milan, we often frequent Asian and Indian restaurants and I've developed a true affinity for Chicken Tikka Masala. Basic? Yes, but so delicious!!!

D) Destinations- favorite, least favorite and why?

I've loved a lot of places, but a top tier fave is definitely Dubrovnik. I had the best few days there this past summer. Least favorite? Probably Naples. Places where I feel like I have to hang on to my purse for dear life are never comfortable.



E) Event you've experience abroad that made you say "Wow!"

Hands down- Jokusarlon Glacial Lagoon in Iceland this past summer. If you've seen my pictures, you don't need any explanation.



F) Favorite mode of transportation

Well, I love a good car that allows you to come and go as you please, but I'll take a good train trip any day. No airport security lines. No arriving two hours in advance. No hour long train to get to your departure point. Trains. One of Europe's greatest amenities. 

G) Greatest feeling while traveling

Sitting at a historic place, that you've heard of all your life, and never really believed that you'd have the opportunity to experience. Those are the best moments. And I've been blessed to feel it many times over.

H) Hottest place you've ever traveled to

Don't laugh. LONDON. Summer of 2013 my mom and I went to the UK for two weeks. They had a crazy heat wave. And, who'd think to worry about air conditioning when booking places, since it is rarely necessary. I carried my 50 pound bag to my rented room...up to the 6th floor of a walk up...in a building without AC. Who'd of thought?

I) Incredible service you've experienced and where

Ummm...struggling a bit with this one...but we did love our stay at Agriturismo Marciano just outside of Siena. It was super close to the city, the owner and cook were really nice and we had the most excellent meal with the other guests while we were there.

J) Journey that took the longest

Besides traveling back and forth to the US, most of my journeys aren't too long. When I traveled to Iceland this summer my plane was delayed and then I missed my connection to Reyjavik. This resulted in having to spend the night in Dusseldorf. No big deal. I was put in a decent room at a nice hotel without a problem. The next morning I had to fly from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt to catch a flight to Iceland. Soooooooo....it did take a bit longer than I expected to actually get to Iceland.

K) Keepsake from your travels

I love to buy souvenirs. I mean, it's hard to resist handmade items, native to a certain country, like handmade pottery. So I have quite a collection starting.

Main picture: bowl from Morocco; Clockwise from top: Murano glass from Venice, small bowl from Istanbul, handmade mug from Sicily from a friend, handmade mini pitcher from Bruges, Belgium, medium sized pitcher from Levanto, Italy, small bowl from Slovenia (gift from Sheila), and Murano glass from Venice

L) Let down sight- where and why

The Bock Casemates, Luxembourg City...why is everyone so excited about this on the various travel guide sites? Unfortunately, we were bored.



M) Moment when you fell in love with traveling

As soon as I moved to Europe, the travel opportunities just kept coming. In my first four months, I visited the South of France, Florence, Pisa, Lake Como and Munich. Feeling the vibe of different cities, seeing the locals, tasting the food...how can you not love traveling?

N) Nicest hotel you've stayed in

Stayed at Hotel Bristol in Vienna. It's directly next to the Opera House. We had a small balcony that we could look over to the opera's outdoor screen and our room was a series of rooms instead of one. It was old school traditional, but felt pretty fancy!

O) Obsession- what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling and why?

I'm not necessarily obsessed with taking pictures of any certain thing, but I am obsessed with taking pictures are weird and odd angles. I find pictures so much more interesting when they are taken in this fashion. So, my friends know that if they hand me their camera the likelihood they'll get a picture that is perfectly horizontal or vertical is slim to none.





P) Passport stamps- how many and from where?

Currently, 41.

Q) Quirkiest attraction you've visited and where?

The only thing that comes to mind is more weird than quirky, and that's the mixed gender hammam in Turkey. It was such a crazy, weird, and slightly creepy experience.

R) Really frightening: where's one place you felt unsafe or uneasy?

Since I already mentioned Naples, another place that had moments of unease was definitely Morocco. We ended up having a great trip, thanks to our trusty and highly recommended guide, Mohammed, but our first few days in Marrakech did intimidate us from time to time. Maps were impossible to read and not feeling like many of the locals around could be trusted for reliable information made it difficult to relax and really enjoy the surroundings.

S) Splurge- something that you have no problem spending money on while traveling

Chances are, when you travel to a destination, it might be your only visit there. If there's something you want to do, I'm a big believer in just doing it. You might not be back. Do what you want. You can't take the money with you. So...splurging to take a hot air balloon over the mountainous terrain of central Turkey? Do it. No regrets.



T) Touristy thing you've done

In Istanbul we wanted to see the 'whirling dervishes'. These shows are put together just for the tourists and are super 'touristy'!! But, at least it was still super interesting to see them spin



U) Unforgettable travel memory

There are so many it's nearly impossible to choose but a huge highlight was getting to visit the famous grounds of Wimbledon during the 2013 tournament with my mom. My family has been avid tennis watchers for years, and to experience the 'queue' and then make our way to a grass court for a 5 set men's match. Hard to beat.



V) Visas- how many and for where?

Two. My Italian work visa and the visa required to enter Turkey.



W) Wine- best glass while traveling?

Let's just do the best glass of wine period. During the wine course I took last year we tasted a red wine from Calabria. It smelled of soap, but had the most delicious and smooth flavor. It appears to be available online to purchase...I might just have to go spend a few bucks.




X) eXcellent view and from where?

Top of this hill overlooking the harbor of Split, Croatia. I wandered up some stairs and found this perfect overlook, as recommended by my favorite travel guru, Rick Steves. The view was AMAZING!



Y) Years spent traveling

Well, I've traveled here and there throughout my life but the travel opportunities have really picked up since moving to Europe in 2011.

Z) Zealous sports fans and where?

A couple of years ago a couple of us went to an A.C. Milan v. Napoli game. I thought the Naples' fans were crazy! I don't really have much to compare it to in Europe, but it was insane to see flares being lit and the sound of canons firing throughout the game.

Favorite travel memory of your own? I'd love to hear it!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

City v. Countryside Travel

I was hopping around a few blogs and stumbled upon the button you see with a themed post for the next two weeks. And, while it's not a Tuesday, I thought I'd write a post to connect with the designated theme of city versus countryside travel and which you prefer.


So............the question stands, which do you prefer? Travel in cities or in the countryside?


For me, I think I naturally lean towards city travel. I wasn't raised to be the most outdoorsy-est person in the world and the introvert in me loves being able to blend into the buzz of a big metropolitan city. Cities also seem to have such energy, which I find magical and it's easy to get lost in that feeling.

I mean, Florence is one of the world's greatest cities. It just has that 'je ne sais quoi.'

Wandering through Amsterdam's bustling bike filled streets and finding the solitude of a quiet canal.

Venice- at the start of Carnivale. Incredible!

Street markets on weekends that pop up around a city. This one's in Split, Croatia.

Love. Dubrovnik.
One of my all time favorites.

But for every great city experience, there's always a few awesome sights only to be seen or experienced when you take a few steps back from the hustle and bustle.

You will certainly not find giant chunks of glacier in the heart of a city!

Or be able to take hot air balloon rides over the majestic white mountains of Cappadocia, Turkey.

So, which do you prefer? And recommend? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!