Tuesday, July 21, 2015

And we'll never be Royals…but we can read about them.

So about a month ago (or longer) I was tagged by my lovely fellow bookworm, Mikaley, once again to do a BookTube tag.  However, when she tagged me, I was in the middle of moving, then my best friend got married so I was super busy with that, and now over a week after that ceremony I am finally falling back into my rhythm. So I present to you…The Royal Court Tag! (You can watch Mikaley's video here!) Basically, in the same theme as last time, there are a list of categories and you pick the book (or in this case, characters) that fit each of those subjects. Mikaley got to wear a crown in her video, so you can pretend I am wearing one as you read this. Here we go!

King (Favorite Male Lead Character)

So I am making my own rules for some of these. Picking favorite characters is impossible. So instead, for me, the King is someone who is a True Leader and would have a reign over his country without breaking a sweat.

Daniel MacGregor - The MacGregors series

There are 14 stories within 6 books (not including a prequel that I did not read), but you still want to know about this family. So basically Daniel MacGregor, known as "The MacGregor," is the patriarch of this family. All he wants is to see his children, and eventually grandchildren, married and starting their own families. So he starts getting tricksy with them and does some meddling, tries to be sly, but they are romance novels so of course he gets his way. His wife Anna is also one of the strongest female characters. Nora Roberts got so much fan mail wanting to know how Daniel and Anna got together that their story is the 5th one in the series, I believe.

Queen (Favorite Female Lead Character)

So once again, can't pick a favorite. For me the queen is the female lead character with the Most Commanding Presence. She walks into a room and the world stops and waits for her lead.

Noelle - Private

I talked about this series in my last post. While the stories focus around Reed, I would definitely still call Noelle a main character. She is the ultimate Queen B of the high school world. She is the girl who has it all and will let you know, she directly and indirectly commands her friends' relationships, and she is not afraid to tell you how she feels. There are times you will hate her and there are times you will want to scream at Reed to just walk away and ask if it's all worth it, but as the story arc continues you will see some different sides to Noelle. I don't want to give too much away, but if you start reading them, be sure to clear out some time because you will probably be reading all 14 of them.

Prince (Most Loyal Male Character)

Wendy - Violet Eyes

Ok, I know Wendy is not a male character, but so what? I made up my own rules for the first two, what does it really matter at this point?

I recently reread this book, and I can honestly say that Wendy is one of the most loyal friends you could have. Angel is the main character, and when her boyfriend and badminton partner (yes…badminton) goes missing, Wendy drops everything and helps her in any way she can. Angel and Mike are part of a subspecies that was created to be an improvement in every way. They have grown up in living historical museums (1980's to them, over 100 years before modern day for everyone else) as a way to prevent them from being able to survive in the real world, but still be able to test them on their skills. When Angel finally tells Wendy about this, Wendy believes her and jumps in full force. This is a YA Distopian novel from my childhood before YA Distopian novels were cool.

2nd Prince (Most Laid Back Male Character)

Marcus - The Jessica Darling Novels

Woo! Actually picking something within the guidelines!

So Marcus is the epitome of laid back, not a care in the world. I don't even know what I can say about him to make this point.  He literally just embodies it in every sense. The Jessica Darling novels (Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, Forth Comings) are told in a diary like style. The fifth and last book is not, but to say why would give too much away. He is just so much smarter than you would think, because he's so quiet in some ways.  Man, writing this makes me want to reread them. I loved them growing up.

Princess (Most Headstrong Female Character)

Amy - Ivy League Novels

Oh man, if there was ever a girl that was stubborn and headstrong…it was Amy.  She is the lead character of these novels.  She gets tapped into a secret society at her school and life just gets crazy from there. This is a girl who just basically starts saying "Eff you!" to a bunch of people, burns a lot of bridges, and still somehow gets you to want to root for her. A lot of stuff does happen to her that does in some way justify her responses, to be fair.

King's Advisor (Most Trustworthy)

Ed - Fearless

So there are like 36 books in this series, give or take a few.  I will admit, I have not read them all. I started reading these in like 7th grade. It took forever, but I finally tracked down the whole series. I don't know if I ever made it past book 24 any of the times I tried to reread them.

HOWEVER, Ed was the most trustworthy guy. This is a series that basically at any point you don't know where people stand.  Sometimes they are good, sometimes they are evil, sometimes they don't know what choices they are making. But then there is Ed. He is the stereotypical best friend that is stuck in the friend-zone. He would stop the world for Gaia, whether it means putting an end to a snarky remark in the hallways or trying to take down a mugger that he thinks will hurt her.

Court Wizard (Magical Powers)

Stacey - Blue Is For Nightmares

It would have been too obvious to pick someone from Harry Potter for this, haha.

So instead I chose Stacey. There are 4 books in this series.  Stacey is Wiccan and her powers work in crazy ways.  When she has nightmares, they start to come true.  Her best friend Drea has become the object of a psycho stalker's obsession. She has to use cards, candles, spells, and incantations to figure out the puzzle of what everything means before it is too late.

Court Jester (Funniest Character)

Heaven - Stupid and Contagious

This was the HARDEST one for me to pick.  I admit, I finally just chose someone.  That is not to say that Heaven was not funny, but I feel like I had so many options.

Anyway, Heaven is a hoot.  When her new neighbor Brady moves in across the hall, she is constantly opening his mail, she'll walk in on him without knocking, and she kind of invites herself on a business trip he is taking.  She sees nothing wrong with this. The mail was in her mailbox, his door was unlocked, and he's self employed, so a business trip isn't much different than a vacation, right? This would make a great chick flick, honestly.

Traitor (Least Trustworthy)

Judas - The Bible

There's just something about him, man, that I don't trust.

For real, I couldn't choose anyone that wouldn't be a huge spoiler by me posting anything. I figure this was a good bet. If this was a spoiler for you…#SorryNotSorry.

Lady-In-Waiting (Favorite Supporting Female Character)

Ruth - 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU 

Ruth is a better friend than I. She is Jess's best friend and the most supportive in situations where all she wants to be is anything but.  When Jess gets on a motorcycle with her crush a few years older (who is on probation), she goes off on her. Tells her she is crazy, Rob is bad news, why can't you like a nice boy? Then when Rob comes around, she holds her tongue. Oh man, if I could even tell you all the similarities I see between her and I.  I just love her. Even when I find her annoying, I love her.

Duke and Duchess (One True Pairing)

So I kind of wanted to choose Anna and Daniel from the MacGregors for this one as well, but since I clearly already sold you on those book, I'll pick a new pair.

Laurel and Delaney - Savor The Moment

Of course it is another Nora Roberts book, though! This is actually the 3rd book in the Bride Quartet, and they are all good. Laurel was my favorite, though, because she had the sass and a chip on her shoulder. Del is Laurel's best friend's older brother.  Watching them discover their feelings was great.  You watch Laurel deal with Del always being the One, and Del realizing that Laurel is not his sister, even though she's been around basically just as long.

Gossiping Lady's Maid (Most Likely To Reveal Secrets or Spread Rumors)

Rita Skeeter - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Feel free to correct me if I am wrong about this being her first appearance, but I couldn't remember if she showed up before the TriWizard Tournament. 

I don't even feel I need to explain this one.  If you haven't read HP by now, you probably won't (at least not based off of this). If you have, you know this is true.

Handsome Male Servant (Most Likely To Woo A Woman)

Again, so many options.

Augustus Waters - The Fault In Our Stars

If you haven't read it, spoilers ahead.  However, at this point, you should have.

Who doesn't love Gus? He does everything for Hazel. He uses his own Wish to take her on a vacation! He knows the value of life and doesn't get caught up in petty drama. His best friends have gone through more in their young lives than most adults ever will. He uses his words and his actions to express himself. Ugh, love him!

Ok, that's it. I tried not to make it as long at the last one.  I would love to hear any of your answers to any of these questions.

Quick list of the questions so you don't have to scroll all around:

  • King (Favorite Male Lead Character)
  • Queen (Favorite Female Lead Character)
  • Prince (Most Loyal Male Character)
  • 2nd Prince (Most Laid Back Male Character)
  • Princess (Most Headstrong Female Character)
  • King's Advisor (Most Trustworthy)
  • Court Wizard (Magical Powers)
  • Court Jester (Funniest)
  • Traitor (Least Trustworthy)
  • Lady In Waiting (Favorite Supporting Female Character)
  • Duke and Duchess (One True Pairing)
  • Gossiping Lady's Maid (Most Likely To Reveal Secrets and Spread Rumors)
  • Handsome Male Servant (Most Likely To Woo A Woman)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I'm Going To Marry A Book In A Library

Remember when this blog was supposed to have a unifying theme?  Remember when it was also supposed to be updated somewhat regularly? Ha! Those things for sure have not happened. This post is definitely also going to be unrelated to basically every other post. Get excited.

So my friend Mikaley has a vlog that she does about books.  If you know me, you probably know that the greatest love of my life is books. On Pinterest I have a board called "Books: The True Love of My Life, A Novel" so I can pin wonderful libraries, quotes, books I want to read, etc. If I were to ever get a tattoo, it would probably be book themed. When looking at houses or apartments, my main question is: will it fit all my books and can I create a Beauty and the Beast level library in it? You get the point. Back to Mikaley.  She recently did a video called the Book Courtship Tag, and since I don't Vlog but I sometimes Blog, I thought I could just adapt it here. (If you're interested to see how this works before reading my long post, Click Here to watch Mikaley's Book Courtship Unfold)

*I'm posting with pictures of the covers I own.

Initial Attraction: What Book Have You Bought Based On The Cover?

Love By The Book - Melissa Pementel

So here I am, mid-20's, very single while most of my friends are not, and a new FB engagement everyday. This book called to me. The cover was intriguing and I just wanted to know more.

Love by the Book charts a year in the life of Lauren Cunningham, a beautiful, intelligent, and unlucky-in-love twenty-eight-year-old American. Feeling old before her time, Lauren moves to London in search of the fab single life replete with sexy Englishmen. But why can’t she convince the men she’s seeing that she really isn’t after anything more serious than seriously good sex? Determined to break the curse, Lauren turns her love life into an experiment: each month she will follow a different dating guide until she discovers the science behind being a siren. Lauren will follow The Rules, she’ll play The Game, and along the way she’ll journal her (mis)adventures and maybe even find someone worth holding on to. Witty, gritty, and very true to life, Love by the Book will have you in stitches.

I was not misled. This book was SO FUNNY and could easily fall into many other categories of this post. I laughed so hard, out loud, and in public that I am sure I seemed crazy to any passer-by. Lauren was a lovable character that you just want to root for. One of my favorite parts of the book comes very early on. She is attending a work function and is also following the advice from the dating book The Rules where she is not supposed to make eye-contact with anyone, talk only when spoken to, and basically be aloof at all times.

"I decided to try another Rules-approved tack: act removed and vaguely entitled. With the "dance like no one's watching" mantra quoted so much on Facebook posts running through my head, I staked out a spot in the middle of the dance floor, closed my eyes and went nuts to "Jump Around." I mean, I really got into it. By the end of the song, the people around me had cleared away, leaving me in the middle of an empty circle. I'm not sure how refined I looked, but no one could say I was on the prowl for a man.

I stayed the course, doing a low-key, interpretive dance-style performance to "Gin and Juice" before throwing everything I had at Missy Elliot. It was strangely liberating, the whole dancing-like-no-one-was-watching thing. Just as I was about to get to the finale of "Hot Boyz," I felt a tap on my shoulder."

I can't tell you enough how much I loved this book. Seriously, if you want a funny, quick read, look no further.  Even when she does things that I am like "Girl, what are you doing?" I still wanted her to succeed.

First Impression: What Book Got You Based On The Summary?

Moby-Duck - Donovan Hohn

When the writer Donovan Hohn heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away. Hohn's accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive arena of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories. Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable.

If the writing in the book had been as good as the back cover, maybe I would have finished the book. It is still part of history that I think is interesting, and would be cool to read about. However, this book was not the way for me to do so. I don't even remember how far I got before I called it quits. Not all stories are love stories, and that was definitely the case for me and this book.

Sweet Talk: What Book Has Really Great Writing?

Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

If you grew up on Harry Potter, and are looking for a little bit of magic in the next stage of reading, this book will deliver. It is long, but the imagery that Morgenstern creates will make you anxiously wait for the circus that Opens at Midnight and Closes at Dawn.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

I have only read this once, but I can tell you it was a choice to put some time between readings. Some chapters are just descriptions of different tents within the circus grounds and they are unlike anything else. It's a book that you read once and you just know that you missed 800 things and you need to go back and reread it to find them. Like Love By the Book, this one could easily fall into another slot on this list.

I'd Listen To You Talk All Day: What Authors Do You Automatically Pick Up When See Something By Them?

(This was not in Mikaley's post, but I'm adding it.  Here is just a list of great authors that you should check out.)

Scott Westerfeld
Elizabeth Chandler
Rachel Gibson
Jill Shalvis

First Date: What Book Did You Read That Made You Want To Read The Rest Of The Series?

Private - Kate Brian

If you love Pretty Little Liars, you will love this series. If PLL took place at a boarding school, this would be the result. There are…14?..books in this series. (plus 2 prequels that I admit I will probably never read. Also, you definitely shouldn't read them until they pop up in chronological date of released publication. I'm sure they're great. In fact, I think I did read one of them and it was slightly terrifying so I stopped or finished and forgot the ending. Either way…) They are pretty short, but definitely action packed. What I love most about them is that every single time I was almost done with a book, Kate Brian got me. No lie, about 20 pages from the end you think "This is it. What else could possibly happen to make me want to read the next one? Nothing. Nothing could happen. This is wrapped up." Then like 5-10 pages later you start thinking "Oh wait…" and then in the last second, it's like a complete mindf***. Every. Single. Time. Every time I was like "Alright, give me the next book. What happens? What is going on?"

Tradition, Honor, Excellence...and secrets so dark they're almost invisible 

Fifteen-year-old Reed Brennan wins a scholarship to Easton Academy -- the golden ticket away from her pill-popping mother and run-of-the-mill suburban life. But when she arrives on the beautiful, tradition-steeped campus of Easton, everyone is just a bit more sophisticated, a bit more gorgeous, and a lot wealthier than she ever thought possible. Reed realizes that even though she has been accepted to Easton, Easton has not accepted her. She feels like she's on the outside, looking in. 

Until she meets the Billings Girls. 

They are the most beautiful, intelligent, and intensely confident girls on campus. And they know it. They hold all the power in a world where power is fleeting but means everything. Reed vows to do whatever it takes to be accepted into their inner circle. 

Reed uses every part of herself -- the good, the bad, the beautiful -- to get closer to the Billings Girls. She quickly discovers that inside their secret parties and mountains of attitude, hanging in their designer clothing-packed closets the Billings Girls have skeletons. And they'll do anything to keep their secrets private.

Late Night Phone Call: What Book Kept You Up All Night?

Old Magic - Marianne Curley

Ok, so I read this forever ago. As in, for sure high school, possibly middle school. So I will admit that I don't remember if I stayed up all night reading it the first time. But since almost all books can keep me up past my bedtime, I couldn't pick just one. I have reread this book perhaps 10-15 times over the years and there are times when I have stayed up just to reread some favorite passages from this book. This was one of my, if not the overall, favorite books.

Jarrod Thornton is mesmerizing, but Kate Warren doesn't know why. 

The moment the new guy walks into the room, Kate senses something strange and intense about him. Something supernatural. Her instincts are proven correct a few minutes later when, bullied by his classmates, Jarrod unknowingly conjures up a freak thunderstorm insidetheir classroom. 
Jarrod doesn't believe in the paranormal. When Kate tries to convince him that he has extraordinary powers that need to be harnessed, he only puts up with her "hocus pocus" notions because he finds her captivating. However, the dangerous, uncontrolled strengthening of his gift finally convinces Jarrod that he must take Kate's theories seriously. Together, they embark on a remarkable journey -- one which will unravel the mystery that has haunted Jarrod's family for generations and pit the teens against immense forces in a battle to undo the past and reshape the future.

Always On My Mind: What Book Can You Not Stop Thinking About?

Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake-Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia - Dennis Covington

So a lesser known fact about me is that I am fascinated by religion. I have my own personal beliefs, but other religions mystify me.  I read this book in college for a class (World Religions?) and I was blown away.

For New York Times reporter Dennis Covington, what began as a journalistic assignment—covering the trial of an Alabama pastor convicted of attempting to murder his wife with poisonous snakes—would evolve into a headlong plunge into a bizarre, mysterious, and ultimately irresistible world of unshakable faith: the world of holiness snake handling.
Set in the heart of Appalachia, Salvation on Sand Mountain is Covington’s unsurpassed and chillingly captivating exploration of the nature, power, and extremity of faith—an exploration that gradually turns inward, until Covington finds himself taking up the snakes.

So snakes and myself will never be a thing. I think it's for the best for both myself and the snakes. That being said…did you know that this was an actual religion? There are people who worship and pray, and then in the middle of all that they pull out crates with poisonous snakes and take them out! Their belief is that if they believe hard enough that the snakes won't bite them. (I don't believe hard enough, nor will I ever believe hard enough, to even be in that room.) This man, while researching, ended up partaking a couple times and his recall of the events was mesmerizing. It has been years since I read this book, but I still think about it more often that you would imagine.

Getting Physical: Name A Book That You Just Love The Way It Feels

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin

First off, I love this question because as a bibliophile, I love the feel of books. Second of all, I love that my choice for this question is a book about books.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over--and see everything anew.

This is a book about books and a man who owns a bookstore and loves and hates books. Then he writes about books and what books to read or what he was reading when certain life events happen. Books. Can I say books anymore? Anyway, the cover of the book I have has a soft leathery feel that just makes you want to hold it in your hands and discover what is inside.

Meeting The Parents: A Book That You Can't Stop Recommending To Friends and Family

(Ok, well it used to be The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, but then everyone read it and it became a movie. Then it was Divergent by Veronica Roth, but after I finished the trilogy, I said "Eff this! I hate this ending!" So I stopped giving that out, too. So now…)

This is probably the hardest question of the group.  In true bibliophile fashion, how do you just give one suggestion? Also, I usually have to know what kind of books the person likes to read. Alright, I'll pick something.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything--instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.

This is another book about books. And technology and modernizing things. Without giving too much away, this book circles around a group that believes that if they solve a massive code and puzzle they will be able to live forever. It's cloak and dagger meets your local bookstore.  I want to say so much, but I also want to leave the mystery there. If I remember correctly, there was a stretch that dragged a bit, but you have to know what is in those books.

Thinking About The Future: What Book Series Have You Read That You Will Read Over and Over Again?

SO MANY OPTIONS! I actually had to make a point in my book buying to not buy series. I was at a point where I needed to be able to drop into a world for a little bit but not linger on for 4 or 5 or 10 books. I'm going to throw back to another series that I read when I was in maybe middle school…

1-800-WHERE-R-YOU - Jenny Carroll/Meg Cabot
(She originally published under the pen name Jenny Carroll, and then reprinted under Meg Cabot)

Just because her best friend wants to exercise, Jessica Mastriani agrees to walk the two miles home from their high school. Straight into a huge Indiana thunderstorm. 
And straight into trouble. 
Not that Jess has never been in trouble before. Her extracurricular activities, instead of cheerleading or 4-H, include fistfights with the football team and monthlong stints in detention -- luckily, sitting right next to Rob, the sexiest senior around. 
But this trouble is serious. 
Because somehow on that long walk home, Jessica acquired a newfound talent. An amazing power that can be used for good...or for evil. 
Run, Jessica. Run.

So in the first installment of this series, Jess gets struck by lightning (this happens on like page 5, it's not a spoiler, calm down) and all of a sudden can find missing people. Once she sees a picture, she wakes up the next day knowing where there are. Sounds great, right? Yea, until the first few locations don't go as planned.  The next couple books follows her into some very messy situations including a white supremacist camp and a possible serial killer's lair. She has some wit to her though that just makes you love her.  I don't know when the final book came out, but I read it significantly later in life and it was a great conclusion to the story. She's older, has lost her power, but when Rob needs her help she has to do something. The last book is the one I go back to most, but all are great reads.

This was probably the quickest blog post I have ever written. What is life without books, though? Tell me your answers to these questions. I want to know. I want all the book recommendations. You don't have to go into details if you don't want to. Just tell me all of your answers.

Quick list of the questions so you don't have to scroll all around:

  • Initial Attraction: What Book Have You Bought Based On The Cover?
  • First Impression: What Book Got You Based On The Summary?
  • Sweet Talk: What Book Has Really Great Writing?
  • I'd Listen To You Talk All Day: What Authors Do You Automatically Pick Up When See Something By Them?
  • First Date: What Book Did You Read That Made You Want To Read The Rest Of The Series?
  • Late Night Phone Call: What Book Kept You Up All Night?
  • Always On My Mind: What Book Can You Not Stop Thinking About?
  • Getting Physical: Name A Book That You Just Love The Way It Feels
  • Meeting The Parents: A Book That You Can't Stop Recommending To Friends and Family
  • Thinking About The Future: What Book Series Have You Read That You Will Read Over and Over Again?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Aca-Scuse Me! Let's talk Pitch Perfect.

Ok, Pitch Perfect 2 has started, everyone! This is not a drill! The cast is starting to post pictures, this is HAPPENING! Now many MANY of you know how aca-obsessed I am with Pitch Perfect.  I have watched this movie more than any other movie in my life, by far.  I own it on DVD, but that did not stop me from also recording it on my DVR during free HBO weekend (Thanks UVerse!); there have been multiple occasions where I have watched this movie at least 3 times in one day (I don’t even wish I was kidding); I also have favorite Trebles who are not the frontmen. That being said, over my viewings I have come to acquire a few questions and comments about the movie.  Some of these questions have been “answered” while listening to the commentary, and I will share those with you, along with some general fun facts about the movie (also read: things I learned from the commentary).  Now, I am typing up this list as I watch the movie (again), so everyone settle in, grab your popcorn, press play and follow along with me!

1. If you produce that much puke, you probably need an exorcism.  Like for real, that is a lot a puke at a very solid projectile angle.

2. Where is Barden?  Beca takes a cab to campus, so some kind of metropolitan area, right?  I want a city and/or state.

3. How did the rest of Beca’s stuff get to her dorm? She gets out of the cab, grabs ONE bag while it looks like an orientation helper takes the rest, but then he just leaves!  She gives him no directions, he doesn’t seem to be following her, and he is definitely not there when Beca gets to her dorm.  I realize that music is her life, so all she needs is her MacBook and mix stuff, but I would also be concerned about, say, my bedding or books… or what to wear on any day following today! Maybe she can borrow clothes from Kimmy-Jin.

4. Where did Jesse’s parents go?  They actually start out as responsible parents and drive their kid to school, but then do they just leave? Where are anyone’s parents actually? This drives me nuts in all movies.  All filmed dorm rooms are like 80x bigger than mine was, and we fit at least 10 people in them. You can fit mom, pop, and kid times 2, because f you drive all the way to the school, you know you want to see the dorm room.  I’m going to assume they are parking the car and will be up in a minute. Everyone else’s parents obviously hate their children and don’t care about their living quarters.

5. Ok, now we are at the org. fair. If you have not done so before, take a moment to rewatch the Trebles sing “Whip It”, but only watch Unicycle (yes, that is the name of the guy on the unicycle). You’re welcome.
5b. Did you see all the fun organizations in the background? Quidditch club and RIAC (Running in a Circle) club are my faves.

6. Did all the original Bellas graduate except Audrey and Chloe or did they just leave after Pukegate?

7. Let’s play a game called “Name that radio station?”  If you look at the door when Beca enters it says 85.7, but then Luke says “95.7 WBUJ: Music for the independent mind.” I’m going to assume Luke is mistaken, but Freddie Stroma is super attractive, so I’m going to let it go this time.

8. Did you see the RIAC club in the background while Beca is laying on the grass?! How many people are in the RIAC club?  I want to be friends with them.

9. Why are Chloe and Beca both wearing their hair up in the shower? I know no one who does that. If you are a girl (or guy with long hair) and you wear your hair up in the shower, let me know!

10. Why are auditions for the a cappella groups a MONTH into school?  Audrey continually talks about how they don’t have enough time to prepare, but what could help this situation would be not wasting a month of school before starting to practice!

11. How long have Justin and Tommy been at Barden?  I don’t know why, but I just get the feeling they have been hosting Barden A Cappella events for a long time. They are also there at the end of the movie, meaning they are there the following year. Grad students? Local a cappella enthusiasts? Benjis from 2 years ago who have climbed the ranks of outsiders who are involved?

12. Are all the new Bellas freshmen? I’m hoping not.  Don’t pull a Glee where all of a sudden you need to replace everyone. Weed these aca-bitches out slowly. I’ve also been watching a lot of Degrassi lately. That show has this rotation down to a science!

13. Do any of these groups have faculty advisors? At Carthage every group had to have an advisor. Maybe Tommy and Justin ARE the advisors.

14. Who does Chloe make out with at Aca-Initiation night?  It has been clearly stated that it can’t be a Treble, the BU Harmonics mostly seem to play for the other team, and I would be surprised if the High Notes even showed up.  BUT, if anyone can go to this event, why doesn’t Benji go?  He goes to everything else later in the movie. Sad Benji...

15. Let’s take a minute to discuss some First Bellas Rehearsal fashion. I LOVE Stacie’s sweater! Chloe’s shirt isn’t bad either.  Some of these other girls, though… oh man! Fat Amy is wearing a tie-dye shirt and headband.  She did not know there was going to be exercising, so she chose that headband as a for real accessory. Also, Audrey, you are a hot mess. Your shirt is too formal for this day and the rest of your outfit, but could work in other situations, but what are you wearing on the bottom?? Shorts? Skirt? With running shoes? Just no. This bothers me more than I should even admit. This is like some costuming internship gone wrong. (Everyone not currently wearing jeans they can’t remember when they last washed and a tank top with a broken strap feel free to tell me these outfits are actually acceptable.)

16. They really should have just gotten Milo Ventimiglia (Jess from Gilmore Girls) to play that frat guy, because they look almost identical and I love Milo!

17. Did you know: Ester Dean (Cynthia-Rose) was actually the one who wrote S&M for Rhianna! So it’s a little nod to her when she sings it at the Riff-Off. This is one of my favorite fun facts!

18. When do the BU Harmonics get eliminated from the Riff-Off? THIS IS HUGE! Rewatch it! The High Notes get eliminated because that one girl sucks, and the Bellas get eliminated on a technicality, but the BU Harmonics are never shown getting eliminated.  Now my friend Emily says they get eliminated because they didn’t sing in that last round. I don’t accept that. I want to see them talk about it.

19. Oh hey, they just mentioned North Carolina University, so is Barden an East Coast school somewhere?

20. When did Bumper have enough time to design and release a line of sports sandals?  He doesn’t strike me, or anyone, as the overachiever.

21. Where do the Trebles rehearse? They do a lot of dancing so you know they aren’t winging this.

22. I love the old dudes! They are one of my favorite parts of this whole movie.

23. How does Jesse have Beca’s dad’s phone number to call him to come get her from jail?  I’m not even convinced that Beca has her dad’s phone number.

24. Where is Beca on campus that she can hear her song on the radio and still make it to the radio station before the song ends?  She is not running that fast in those heels. Where did she come from? An easy fix: have her at least be wearing headphones and I would believe she was listening to it on her phone or thru some kind of app.

25. Why does Benji run after Beca when she storms out of Semi’s?  I like the reasoning in the commentary where they say “Maybe Beca was his ride.” They are obviously best friends now, right? Haha!

26. I love The Breakfast Club. Never once have I cried during it.

27. No, seriously, if you puke that much I’m worried you might be Satan. Also, just skip this scene.  As stated, I watch this movie a lot. I still can’t watch her roll around in puke.

28. As brought up by my friend Sarah, who actually had nodes, you would not be able to sing that soon after surgery, Chloe.  And especially not at full force, competition ready.

29. Fun Fact Time: At the finals, the group that sings The Final Countdown is an actual a cappella group!  They drove cross country in their van to film and got a flat tire on the way.  They are known for their robes and a member was actually initiated into the group while they filmed and I think it was Brittany Snow who gave him his robe. (I did not rewatch with commentary before posting this to double check that fact, so I am unsure who it for sure was)

30. What school has enough mics to give to that many people?! Every Bella has a mic while they are still “On Deck”, the Trebles get their mics before they go on, and there are mics ON STAGE with the group before them. That is SO MANY mics.

31. Which Anna (Camp or Kendrick) do you think Skylar Astin was really looking at during that final performance? For those of you who don’t know, Skylar and Anna Camp are dating in real life.  You should follow both their Instagrams for adorable pictures of them! Skylar would be the perfect boyfriend.

32. Where do the rest of the Trebles go when the Bellas leave the stage and come into the audience?  Like they all disappear from the row and it is magically just Beca and Jesse there. A better solution would have been to have Jesse meet her in the aisle or something.

33. Why do the Bellas get to pick the audition song at the end? The Trebles didn’t get to pick the song in the beginning.  That song was obviously preselected and the auditionees got to prepare for it.  Beca and the girls pick this one on the spot.

34. Final thoughts: How are Audrey and Chloe going to play into Pitch Perfect 2? They are cast and Brittany Snow updated her Instagram with a picture, but they are missing from the seats during auditions. I love them and want them to be in it, but I don’t want it to be forced. This is a true worry in my life.

Thank you for watching Pitch Perfect with me, everyone. I think you all have fat hearts and I love you, awesome nerds.  I can’t wait for Pitch Perfect 2! I hope it has a 90s battle riff off.

If you have any comments or other questions that you think of when you watch the movie, share them with me!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Final Thoughts On My Italian Adventure

The one thing I have been thinking about a lot this week is something that Laura said in her blog: “I think I am homesick for a place that doesn’t exist.”  I completely agree.  My trip has come to an end, and I have been thinking back to everywhere we went, everything we saw, everyone we met, and I can not think of a better experience I have ever had.  I lucked out with such a great traveling partner in Laura.  She pushed me to get outside my comfort zone a lot!  Those of you who know me know that I am a planner.  I like having a plan, I like knowing where I am going, who I will be with, where I am, and what we are doing.  When we got on the plane to Italy, I knew we would be in Venice until June 22nd when we would meet Melissa in Florence for a few days.  After that I was supposed to have about 3 1/2 weeks left that were unplanned.   This is a huge problem for me and made me super anxious.  My mom had to talk me down from the ledge a few times with how nervous I was.  I had even told Laura at one point that if we didn’t have something planned by June 17th, I was changing my ticket and flying back with Melissa.

It all worked out.  Three weeks into Venice when we were out to dinner at Sanchit’s restaurant and we talking about how we couldn’t believe it had already been almost a month and what we were going to do afterwards.  We decided then that we had to go back to Venice.  There were too much we hadn’t done, too much we hadn’t seen, and we weren’t ready to say goodbye to our new friends.  In fact, we would have just stayed an extra week directly after we were scheduled to leave if it had not been for our plans with Melissa.  I actually think I liked how it turned out better though, because it was like a mini vacation within our vacation.  Going back to Venice was like going home.

One night when Laura and I were out at the bar with Slava, we created this kind of Utopia that we wanted to live in.  It was called Marslavchilauria or something similar.  It was going to have a little something for everyone, and the best part was that it didn’t matter where the location was.  We all want something different in our lives, but this place would have it all.  It is impossible to create a Utopia for the whole world, but for 4 people, we could make it work.  At least for a while.  After that, when you start to miss your family and friends, and you want them to join you in your new home, you realize that there is more you need to add and build and then in the end, you wind up with our current world anyway.  It would be nice to have a little escape though, a place where you can return to nostalgia and remember how life was when you were in a happy place.

That is the end of that tangent though.  Back to my trip.  If you’ve been following this blog, you know where I went, but if you need a refresher, here is a quick break down.
May 24-June 22 Venice
June 23-26 Greve (Sienna, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Chianti)
June 27-30 Florence
July 1-7 Venice
July 8-10 Rimini
July 11-15 Atina (Picinisco, Sora)
July 16 Rome (Hotel)
That brings us to today.  If you did the math, you know that it is not quite 3 1/2 weeks after my plan ended like I said.  In the end, I did end up changing my flight to come back early.  Not much, but it was cheaper to come home half a week early than to stay.  Laura will still be traveling around until the beginning of August.  It is weird to not have her around.  Last night was the first night I have spent without a roommate since we left Venice the first time.  That is crazy to me!

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to be coming back.  I was definitely getting homesick and I was ready to be done traveling.  I do good with being stationary.  If I had been able to stay in one place that I was comfortable for a more extended period of time I think I would have been fine.  But considering I can not drive stick and I would have been alone, that essentially would only leave Venice.  My goal before I return to Italy is therefore to learn how to drive a manual. I am half surprised that wasn’t covered at Istituto Venezia since they took care of basically every other one of my issues.

This post is a little scatterbrained, I apologize.  I’m writing it on the plane.  Basically, I guess you should think of each paragraph as a new lead in.

I have learned a lot about myself in the past 2 months, and I hope that I can take some of it with me as I continue, and I hope that I can learn to deal and cope with other parts of myself.  For example, I hope to go forward with the calmer lifestyle of Italy and to not always be so rushed.  I want to enjoy life more while I have the time.  I want to be able to look back and see that I have met more people and learned more about their lives.  I need to become more involved in community activities and get out there.  I also would like to work on being calmer when I am stressed.  Some situations I think I dealt with great, and other times I know I could have kept my cool a little better.  I also need to be more proactive with things that I want.  A late night conversation with a more than tipsy Laura and Melissa may have really put that into perspective.  This will be the hardest one for me, but piano, piano… (slowly, slowly) I hope to make it happen.

I don’t know what else I can say about this.  Life is good and plane rides are long.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Memories From Half My Life Ago And Saying Goodbye

So this has been 12 years in the making.  It has been almost exactly 12 years since I was last in Atina.  Ever since we came last time, I have been begging my grandma to bring me back.  I didn’t appreciate it last time I was there.  Though I had had fun with my cousins, I was too young to really appreciate where we were and the history of the place and what it meant to my family.  Now I am older and I really care about out family history and where we come from.  A huge reason of why I wanted to learn Italian was to be able to communicate with my family and to be able to come back here.

Our first day here we kind of explored the city center a bit and I was trying to remember some of the places we came to when I was younger.  The restaurant we went to for breakfast I remember being constantly filled with the older men (this has not changed for the most part), I remember the shape of the center and the ramp leading up to the arch, and I thought I remembered where the good pizza place was (I did not).  I also could not remember which road down led to Uncle Ollie’s house.  We went to Sora for a little jaunt and it happened to be the day of the mercato!  We briefly walked around as we tried to find WiFi.  I had assumed that Atina would not have any anywhere, though later we discovered that was not true.  Instead, we got to have some coffee and pastries at this rad and modern cafe that used a french press to infuse tea with different flavors.  It was on our list of places to hopefully revisit before we leave.

The next morning at breakfast we met Uncle Ollie’s brother, who I have always heard referred to as Gelarduce (sp?) but who introduced himself as Gerardo and now Laura doesn’t believe that we call him by his nickname.  He told us that whenever we were ready he would take us to see the house and anywhere else we wanted to go.  After lunch it was.  He took us to the house and showed us around.  It is amazing how your mind remembers things.  The house is so much bigger than I remember, but the patio was so much smaller.  I remember sitting on the ledge above the driveway talking to Ollie.  I remember all of us kids sitting in a circle in the driveway talking to Tommy as he told us stories.  I remember a huge party on the patio and in this extra garage where we had a huge dinner every night it seemed.  I remember when some/all of my cousins decided to climb up this huge hill to check out this ruin castle thing.  It all started coming back to me.  However, now, I have no idea how all those people fit there.  Someday, I hope we can all try again. (I’m looking at you, DeLucas, next time come with me!)  Then we went back to his house and looked at more pictures and heard more stories.  Antonella, his daughter, had told us that he could talk all day and that when we wanted him to stop to turn off the switch, but I loved hearing everything he had to say and Laura can talk to anyone.  Along with Atina, Gerardo also took us to Picinisco on Friday so that I could see where my grandma had grown up.  We didn’t go to the house because it is up a steep hill, but he did take us to what is left of the castle up on top of the hill.

Overall our time in Atina was very peaceful.  We got to rest and explore at our own rate because we had a car.  That was one thing I loved about Greve, we weren’t tied to the timetables of public transportation.  We went for a couple drives, just to see what was around, we went to the beach for a couple hours and didn’t have to leave like 3 hours early for a 1 hour trip in order to account for bus stops, and we were going to go to the Abruzzo National Park, but we waited too late so instead we just drove around to Cassino and then back up to Sora.  Driving in the mountains was less terrifying than I remembered, but still scary at times.  Siri liked to give us directions that included like a tiny gravel road at what seemed like a 50 degree incline only wide enough for one car and no guardrails. I was actually pretty impressed that google maps knew about these roads, but I also wish there was an “Avoid death trap roads” option.  It was like my phone knew that I was leaving Italy soon and was trying to take matters into it’s own hands to keep me there.

Our last day there was like the day that everything went wrong.  The place for Laura to print her ticket didn’t have internet so we had to go find another place, the place we went for gelato in Sora was awful, Antonella had to go to Naples for a few hours for something and so the restaurant was closed that night and we couldn’t have dinner there (such good food! Did I mention how good the food was?), Gerardo was late saying goodbye to us so we went to another place for dinner but it was closed, then we were going to get pizza but we thought that was closed too, and then as we ate at the cafe next door we saw other people with pizza.  Oh, I almost forgot, we also got stopped by the police!  I think it was just random stops, because they were set up on the road and stopping people going both directions.  I was worried because I didn’t have my passport (Fun Fact: I actually did, I just didn’t realize it) and I didn’t know what they were doing.  Basically though, the man loved us because we talked in Italian and because Laura shares a last name with a famous Italian singer and everyone gets excited about it.  He just looked over our documents, asked why we were in Italy and where we got the car from, and then sent us on our way.

Today Laura and I parted ways.  After waking up at 3:30 to get the car back before getting to the airport in time for her morning flight, we said our goodbyes.  Here is a brief breakdown of my day: wake up at 3:30, hit the road by 4, return car around 5:30, get to the airport by 6, part ways at 7:30, shuttle from one airport to the train station at 8, shuttle from train station to other airport at 9:30, shuttle from airport to hotel at 10:30, internet things and Facebook time until lunch, awful lunch at the hotel, nap for 4 hours, dinner, and not a single moment spent sight seeing.  Now I am laying in my hotel room alone for the first time in a month and Laura is with her family in Sicily.  Tomorrow will be another day of traveling as I go back to the hotel and then the long long LONG flight home.  As sad as I am to go home, I am also really excited.  I have more thoughts, but this post has gone on long enough.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Staying Up All Night And Eating Too Much Gelato

Ok, I promise this post will not be as long as the last one.  That just means you will have to ask me about the missing week in Venice.  It was fun, but the highlight was the little party we had for Slava’s birthday.  It started with Laura and I trying to mape these Ukrainian dishes with no recipe or picture to go off of, just a list of ingredients and what we remembered of Slava’s explanations.  It all turned out pretty good though.  Highlights of the night included: the food, the dessert (I made caramelized figs and bananas and served them over gelato), dancing to a wide variety of music including Ukrainian folk music and modern music, Italian ballads, funny Italian songs I have on my computer (“Mama Get The Hammer (There’s a Fly on Papa’s Head)” “Show Me The Way To Go Home” “Tici Ti Tici To Tici Ta”), and some American music, sitting on the canal talking about anything and everything, staying up all night and watching the sunrise over the canal, taking pictures and an ungodly hour when we all looked ragged and tired, and then grabbing a coffee in the morning after being up for almost 24 hours.

The next stop on our adventure was Rimini to visit with Laura’s family.  Getting from Venice to Rimini was the most stressful train exchange we had.  We had about 20 minutes, ended up running up and down the 3 floors of the station twice and making it to our correct platform about 5 seconds after our train was scheduled to pull away.  Luckily for us our train was 7 minutes late.  

Laura had been in correspondence with her cousin Lucia, and we were staying at Lucia’s parents house.  They were so funny.  So my grandparents are Romeo and Julie(t), right?  Well Lucia’s parents are Anthony (Marc Antony) and Cleopatra.  One thing I can say about our time in Rimini is that we were never hungry.  I thought my grandma was a food pusher…she’s got nothing on Cleopatra.  I have never felt so constantly full in my life.  At least 3 full meals a day and snacks.  We had food fresh from their garden and figs right off their tree (which is almost the height of their two story house, for a frame of reference).  Everything was delicious.

They were also hilarious.  Just watching them interact with each other was a show for the most part.  They lived in Germany for about 25 years, and so sometimes they would start talking in German.  They would watch German tv sometimes, and cook German food.  Cleopatra was a Renaissance woman when it came to languages. She speaks Italian, German, Greek, some English, some Spanish, some French, and I think at least another one but I forget. Maybe Russian.  She gave us massages, offered to do our laundry, and told me to use their towels and not the ones I brought because I was on vacation.  She also ironed some of Laura’s clothes.  I felt bad about all the stuff she did for us.  We tried to help out as much as we could.  We did the dishes and Laura helped in the garden and cleaned the kitchen.  I also played Rummy with them one night when we got back.  I was impressed with myself for knowing what they were playing.  After some vague discussions about what their rules were, I got the swing of things.  Cleopatra won like 4 hands in a row, and then on the last game I won.  I was so excited, I threw my hands up and said “VINTO!” which means “I win/won”.  They just laughed at me.

We also met Noah, the newest member of the family.  He is an adorable 10 month old baby complete with a permanent smile and eyelashes I would give my right arm for.  Ugh, literally I was so jealous of the baby's eyelashes that I cannot even explain it.  His dad, Loreno, had them too.  We only had a few days there but we did get to see the city and the famous Rimini beaches.  Everything was so beautiful and we also had some great gelato because Lucia has a sweet tooth, haha!  "Sometimes in the summer, the people in this area just eat gelato for dinner because it is so hot.  This means you have to get a BIG gelato, though!"  The day we went to the beach, we had gelato twice.

Travel days are always hard, and the trip to Atina was no different.  Getting to the train was fine, and for once our train switch was over a half hour and at a small station so we didn’t actually have to freak out and run around with our heads cut off.  Our total train time though was about 5 hours and then we had 40 minutes until our shuttle bus from the train station to the airport.  The shuttle was longer than I thought it would be, and then the phone numbers to the shuttle to pick us up to take us to the car rental weren’t right.  Luckily the guy who picks up people for every other car rental knew the number we needed by heart and told us what it was.  Then my credit card wouldn’t work at the actual rental place even though it had worked online for the deposit.  Apparently they had put a security hold on my card because they couldn’t get a hold of my mom even though we had told them that I would be in Italy until the end of July.  The phone numbers to call Visa/Chase on the card also weren’t going through.  Then the car we thought we had rented was not the same one we got so we didn’t have a GPS in the car and had to use my phone.  Once we got close to Atina, my phone just dropped us on this street that was not where we needed to be and I wasn’t quite sure where the restaurant was.  After a call to Antonella, a stop at a caffe that was open, and a second call to Antonella, we found it.

More to come on Atina later.

Monday, July 1, 2013

That time I actually liked nature more than the city.

Ok, I am in love.  I am stating it here for the world to know.  I am in love with Toscana.  This place is beautiful and I do not know where these natives would go to travel, because I don’t know why they would ever leave.  Maybe I should start from the beginning.  Laura and I caught our train from Venezia to Firenze and I was ecstatic for the air conditioning.  This clearly means that everyone else was probably freezing, but I loved it and was just content.  Then when we arrived in Firenze it was a free for all for everyone.  The conductor had come through and I heard him say that we had 10 minutes once we got to Florence for everyone to get off who needed to.  This clearly resulted in everyone forming a straight orderly line and walking calmly to the exits, right?  No, it resulted in me trying to lug my gigantic suitcase and duffle through the aisle without hitting anyone in the head.  Then when we got to the door Laura said to me “Save yourself and just get off the train” but that was easier said than done because everyone before us had made a mess of the entrance way and I had to lift my suitcase up over everyone else’s.  (It was not that bad really, but in the moment I always have that panic of “what if”.)  Laura and I both made it, and Laura even got her suitcase off the train without any help because she is woman, hear her roar.

Then began the time to try and figure out where Melissa was.  “I just got here and I’m near the stazione..parked at the moment.  Text me when you get outside and I will drive by hoping to see you.  I have a dark gray fiat panda.”  This was my clue for us to find her.  Now for those of you who know me, you know that I can only recognize Ford cars.  So already I was waiting for Laura to point out a panda.  My extent of panda knowledges are limited to the black and white bears, so I was basically just looking around for any gray car and going “Is that Melissa? Nope, that is a man.”  But we found her and packed up all of our bags into the tiny European car and headed out.

When we arrived in Greve it took us a few tries to get to our B&B.  The directions basically say “Don’t look for our address, but instead go down this unmarked road at the end of this other road.  Good luck!”  We drove around and it wasn’t actually too bad.  We did find it, and it was beautiful!  I could live there forever.  The building was classic stone architecture and covered in flowers.  There were also big giant wine barrels everywhere for decoration, which was a nice touch.  We were next to a vineyard and everything smelled amazing-maybe jasmine? We kept calling the flowers sassafras, but I don’t know if we ever really figured out what it was.  After a bit of R&R we went to explore the town.  There was a little town center with some stores and restaurants that was so cute.  We ended up eating at this restaurant and the food was ok.  Melissa and Laura had good food if I remember correctly, but I had gotten spaghetti with clams and it just didn’t live up to the ones I had in Venice.  Same thing with dessert.  I got tiramisu, but it was too dry for me.  Melissa’s limoncello gelato/sundae thing was amazing, and Laura’s strawberry thing was good too.  Then we headed back to the room and sat outside and had some wine.  We played some music and ended up having a little dance party “Put you hands up their playing our song…It’s a party in Italia!”.  Inside we also pushed all of our beds together so it was like one big slumber party.  Night one was in the books.

The next day we went to Sienna.  So for those of you who have been following this blog and found my story about being confused in the grocery store funny, let me tell you about our adventure trying to get gas.  It was basically right out of “How many [insert stereotype]s does it take to change a lightbulb?”  We pulled up to the pump and just kind of had to take a moment to look at it and see what we were supposed to do.  There were three buttons on the pump €5, €20, and Cancel.  Then we couldn’t figure out if we had to pay first or pump first.  We tried several different options, and my card wasn’t working.  There was a man there with a coach bus also trying to fill up.  He tried to help us but later we were thinking maybe he didn’t know what he was doing either because he was still there when we left and then again when we realized we were going the wrong way and turned around and passed the gas station again.  Anyway, we tried several different times and different combinations of things.  Finally another man came to get gas and he did it for us.  I have no idea what he did because I was by the car and they were all by the payment machine (because of course the two are not connected), but he actually pumped our gas for us which was so nice.  It turned out my card wasn’t working because of the clearly marked sign that said they did not accept Visa.  Then we were on our way…and then again after we turned around and actually faced the correct way.

Now I didn’t know much about the city, but Melissa had read a book about the Palio so she gave us the 411 on Sienna.  A condensed version to understand what we did is as follows: The city is divided into 17 different contradas, each with their own church, flag, colors, mascot, etc.  The communities are very close knit and it is still frowned upon to marry outside of your contrada.  We walked around and tried to find as many different contradas as we could.  We also got to see one of the contrada’s banner carriers practicing.  It was really interesting and impressive.  My favorite contrada was the Swan until I found out it was actually a Goose.  Then it became the Tower because it’s mascot is also an Elephant.  There were also a ton of beautiful alleyways (which if you have looked through my pictures, you know that I love).  This may have been my favorite place that we have been thus far.

The next day we hung around the B&B and just relaxed.  We went into town and got a ton of different kinds of meat and some cheeses, then we picked up some wine from the B&B (they had their own brand) and made our own spread.  This was the day that except for breakfast, I only drank wine.  This was an awful decision, but my nap was a very deep sleep.  This was the only day we ran into some rain.  After my nap, I woke up to both Melissa and Laura gone on runs/walks and the sound of thunder rumbling in.  I love rain, so I was fine with this, but I didn’t want the girls to get stuck someplace.  The weather must have ended up clearing up, because we went to dinner in town and I believe we walked.  It was a small place with a lovely older woman who took care of us.  The food here was AMAZING!  Everyone’s meals were delicious and I wish we would have had time to go back there again.  All in all it was the perfect lead in to the next day, which was sure to be a long one.

Tuesday morning we all woke up early and started our day.  We grabbed a quick breakfast at the main villa and then started our drive to Cinque Terre.  Well, before we left Laura thought she might get motion sickness so I offered her some of my medicine.  It ended up with me basically drugging her and her sleeping for most of our drive.  Oops!  At one point after we figured out what had happened Melissa said “That was our plan. ‘How can we get Laura to be quiet for 5 hours? Let’s drug her.’”  It was really funny, but I still felt bad.  On the plus side, she didn’t feel sick!  We stopped at Lucca on our way.  This place was cool!  The whole city was inclosed within a huge wall, and part of it looked touristy, but part of it looked really residential.  We were on a time crunch so we only spent a couple hours there, but I am glad we went.  I had some of the best pastries at a little bakery there of my whole trip.  I can still taste the glaze.

After Lucca we continued on to Cinque Terre.  Here are my thoughts on CT: Not worth it.  I got some really great pictures and I am glad we went, but I probably wouldn’t go again.  However, if you like to hike, this will be a completely different experience for you.  There are a bunch of different trails and a time estimate for how long each one would take.  One trail estimated about 12 hours.  Obviously, this was not the place for me.  But the way that everyone talked about it, I know I would have been sad if we didn’t go.  On the way back we had briefly talked about making another stop but I am glad we opted against it.  We did pass Viareggio though on the way and I wish I would have planned better and maybe we could have gone there.  Oh well, next time.

Wednesday was probably the best day we have had so far while traveling by bus.  After breakfast and one last jaunt around the town, Melissa drove us to the bus stop and we said our goodbyes. Sad times.  This week with Melissa had been great, I love that lady.  She had some setbacks on the trip, but she powered through and didn’t let it ruin the rest of her trip.  When the bus came, it was the first bus we have taken that was more like a coach bus AND the real bonus was that the driver was able to put our luggage underneath.  For once we were not crammed into a little space with multiple bags while other people were trying to walk up and down the bus to get on/off.  However, I had forgotten to take any motion sickness medicine so I spent the ride staring at the bald bald head of the bus driver in the mirror to have something to focus on.  He was the nicest public transportation driver I have met in Italy.
So our accommodations in Florence were through AirBNB, and so the woman who owned the place had to move us to a different apartment because the person currently in the room we had booked wanted to stay another night.  She said she could move the other guy, but the other apartment was going to be the same price and only five minutes away so we were troopers and agreed to it.  Up 5 flights of stairs later, let me tell you I was regretting this.  Then we saw the apartment and it was really nice and very modern.  Everything was fine.  We went out for a little bit, but basically ended up catching up on WIFI and relaxing.

The next day we set out to explore a little bit and also find the school where I was having a meeting a next day.  If I had thought Venice was confusing, Florence was just as bad.  If you were looking for big things like the Duomo, it was no big deal, just look up any and you can probably see it.  But I was looking for a specific address on a street.  They have TWO sets of numbers and no one seems to find this weird.  I was looking for number 85, but I didn’t know if I was looking for Blue 85 or the stone 85.  Laura and I walked this street the whole length, and I asked a man in a store for help.  He was not helpful.  Finally he just asked what it was I was looking for and I said a school. His response: “Just go down this road and it’s towards the end.” “Ok, is it on the left or the right?” “It’s not on a side, it’s just at the end of the road.  It’s not a very long road, just keep going.” “It’s not on a side?” “No, it’s not.  It’s just at the end.  There is a school there.” “Ok…thank you?”  Needless to say, we just walked until we found it.  At this point I was convinced I hated Florence.  I even said that to Laura essentially right before she found the building.  She reminded me that every new place is hard to navigate and you just have to get used to the city.

That night we went out to dinner with Ailun (the hostess) and a couple of her other guests staying at the apartments (Jessica and Natasha).  It was nice and fun.  We went to a local restaurant that had some really good food.  After dinner we moved to the other apartment.  It was weird because Ailun had made it seem like we would be staying in the one place since the other room had been occupied, and so we had unpacked all our stuck and gotten a few groceries, and then we had to pack everything up again, lug all our stuff down the 5 flights of stairs, and go to the other apartment.  Luckily the other apartment was close and on the first floor (which in Italy still means one flight of stairs, but not bad) and it meant that we got to hang out with Natasha!  She is basically the best.

Friday morning I left for my meeting.  I got there a few minutes early, I looked presentable, and I was ready to see what this program had to offer.  The woman gave me a tour of the facilities in both buildings, took me to the pastry shop that is run by the students, got me a free coffee, and went over what classes were in the program.  Let me just tell you that this program has everything I have been looking for.  It focuses solely on Italian breads, cookies, and pastries. It also has an Italian language intensive program, internships available, and classes/seminars in topics such as gelato, chocolate artistry, and different wines.  Downsides are: Florence was not my favorite place, but I could live outside the city; I am really homesick right now and I would like to stay home for a while, but if I do this program I would be home for about a month before I would have to come back, and I kind of feel like this trip has already taken a chunk of my savings, I will have to review my financial situation before I make an official decision.

Other than that, we did some exploring and hung out with Natasha and Karan when he came into Florence to start a class he is taking there.  All in all, the weather was nice, cool but not cold and still sunny, and the city started to grow on me.  I still think if I were to go there I would want to stay outside the city, but who knows.  Ailun flipped the last night on the other guests and was basically completely irresponsible and immature.  She had never been completely responsible while we were there but we were mainly self dependent so it wasn’t a huge deal, but about 8 hours before we were getting ready to leave, she flipped the switch and went to crazy town (this included yelling at the new guest from the Ukraine who was a total sweetheart about something that was her own fault).  Let’s just say, we were all thankful to be leaving that next morning and to be done with her.

Now we are back in Venice and I feel almost like I have come home.  We are staying where Laura had stayed before, so I kind of feel like a guest more than I am back in the safe cocoon of familiarity, but that might just be because I am tired.  I am really happy to be back.  Next week when we leave for good will be rough.