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Granada, Spain: First Impressions

And just like that I’ve been in Spain for three full days. I keep having to recount on the calendar from both shock and exhaustion. I slept like a baby the first night here, leaving me somewhat ready to live the sleepless life of a Spaniard while taking in as much as possible. Between the walking tours and host mom bonding, I have some thoughts on this beautiful city:

Architecture // Arquitectura

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While I fell in love with UD for its “old” brick buildings and style, Granada takes that love for old architecture to another level. There are plenty of modern buildings to appreciate, and I won’t romanticize the simple apartments, but the historical buildings and albayzín take me through time and space with their many influences and styles.

Coffee // Café

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I’ve seen just one Starbucks since I stepped off my plane, and it was in the Madrid airport. I’ve passed a Dunkin’ on the daily as we’ve explored, but I am continuously drawn to every single small coffee shop we pass. I’ve managed to surpass my host mom’s expectations by not just not having the jitters from their “strong” coffee but also needing more coffee throughout after the cup she gives me with breakfast. My cortado experiences haven’t failed me, but more importantly the black coffee is also much smoother than in America.

Food // Comida

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Not everyone here eats breakfast, but when they do it can easily be a cup of chocolate and fresh churros without judgement. I could go for a syrup soaked french toast any day in America, so that sweet alternative is nice for when the typical coffee and toast doesn’t cut it.

The unspoken motto here is that lunch is the most important meal of the day, which so far have consisted of a rice-with-red-meat-sauce and then carrot puree with chicken wings. With nothing too terrifying (yet), I’ve taken on that big meal every day with open arms and a mouth open wide. Don’t even get me started on the magic of tapas.

Other // Otro IMG_8444.jpg

It’s been an overwhelming couple of days, but I could not be happier to be here. I knew coming into this that I would go outside of my comfort zone, and here I am waving at it from a distance–churro in hand. The biggest surprises continue to be the struggle of showering and how quickly I go from understanding my host mom to being completely lost. It’s more apparent to me now than ever that a smile means the same thing everywhere. I can only imagine that my Spanish discussion class will help me, only after the initial pain of getting into the swing of things. It’s been easy to forget I’m actually going to come out of this trip with another grade on my transcript.

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It’s flown by more than anything, but I already have great memories to show for it. Bring on the next 4 weeks.

Hasta luego,

Casey

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Less Talk, More Action: Part 2[017]

My 2016 motto was “less talk, more action”. As simple as it sounds, I was only relatively successful with it as far as joining my sorority, my summer working next to the beach, and booking a flight to Spain. 2017 is the year where I kick it up a notch.

I couldn’t go as far into the future as the lovely Paxton Mittleman did, my professional mentor who inspired me to write this up, but this list leaves me full of excitement for the coming year.

My 2017 Goals

The Measurable (in no particular order) 

  1.  Write everyday: It’ll help me in the long run, even if it’s just a quick jot.
  2. Get my nose pierced: Oddly enough my mom convinced me.dsc_1251
  3. Join a committee on my sorority: Saying “get more involved” was too vague.
  4. Get a great job in Delaware if I don’t get an internship: Gotta be realistic.
  5. Go to the beach once a month this summer: I miss it.
  6. Get a tattoo: Something dainty.
  7. Perfect the process of the french press: The Keurig isn’t cutting it, no matter how convenient.
  8. Apply for CEAStudyAbroad: Spring 2018 here I come.
  9. Get 500 followers on penneformythoughts: And enjoy the journey.screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-3-24-12-pm
  10. Try a new recipe once every 2 weeks a month: Can’t get too ambitious there, but different variations of the same thing don’t count.
  11. Visit a new [American] town or city: Road trip?
  12. Have a 30-photo nikon portfolio: Or have 30, high-quality photos I am completely and utterly proud of. Food photos don’t count.
  13. Parasail (again): I’d give zip lining a shot too.
  14. Learn [at least] one song on my guitar: I’m thinking James Arthur, Lauryn Hill, or the Lumineers-if not all three.
  15. Read 3 books on my own time: I’m not going to share how many books I didn’t read this year.

The Vague (to remind me how endless the possibilities of the future are)

  • Laugh until I cry: As much as possible
  • Stay Healthy: mentally and physically
  • Think More: Ask more questions and seek more answers
  • Stay positive: Constantly keeping that glass half full
  • Self love: Enough said

I am not making any promises to myself with this blog in particular because I can only hope my goals will fuel my passions and ideas.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Casey

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Life Lessons From Baklava

Living with a chronic sweet tooth can simply only be soothed by trying every new dessert in sight. I never thought this would lead me to a new obsession with baklava, or finding out my grandpa made baklava every Christmas eve for years after trying it in Greece, but nothing tops the life lessons I learned when making baklava itself with my dad.

1. Sometimes you can actually have too much butterdsc_0049

I’m the first one to jump off the healthy eating train, but if there was one thing I would
change about my final baklava product it would be how much butter i slathered on there.

2. Everything can be fixed.

Next time i’ll use my butter more sparingly; The phyllo dough can be re-arrranged; Toss those almost back in the food processor. Nothing is permanent, in the kitchen anyway.

3. It’s the simple things in life

Square baklava is nice, but the simple act of cutting them diagonally is the perfect touch.

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4. Teamwork makes the Dreamwork

My newest cliché motto that is so essential to putting together baklava at a decent pace. Simultaneously keeping the dough moist and laying it with the butter is so much easier with a two person team.

5. Don’t Rush

I always insist on using convection bake instead of regular bake, which we thought cut off 20 minutes of the cooking time. Turns out, it could’ve used a few more minutes. The baklava holds for several days, letting the dough soak up both the butter and syrup, so you can easily set aside 15 minutes a day for the next week to enjoy this.

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6. The biggest surprise is in the syrup

While what led me to this masterpiece of a recipe was a combination of family and friends, the simple syrup made it worth it. It was a small detail but the finishing piece and essential element.

7. Sometimes you have to just let the food speak for itself

Not matter how much I described this dessert to my little brother, he didn’t seem to grasp the beauty of baklava until he tasted it for himself. He was speechless himself after that. The sound of nothing but forks hitting plates might be one of my favorites.

Constantly eating,

Casey

Peep my other eats on Instagram! @penneformythoughts

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Spain Countdown: 2 Weeks

One year ago, I was bouncing around the idea of studying abroad during a winter session.

Eight months ago I found out that I was accepted into the program.

Two weeks from now I will be on my way to Spain.

The process to studying abroad is a slow one, but it has still been barely enough time for the fact that I am living in Granada, Spain for a month to sink in. I’ve taken action on something Idsc_0815 had talked about doing for years but with a twist.

I never thought I would study abroad in Spain. The plan was always London and only London. The UK is not off my list, but I couldn’t wait until junior year of college. I also wasn’t about to have my first experience abroad be for a full semester. That brought me to the magic of a month in Spain, with a host grandma to lessen the strains.

It’s this huge leap of faith outside of my comfort zone, into a Spanish speaking country that will support my minor and nurture my terrible accent, that I am eagerly counting down to.

As I prepare for all of tricks and turns of travel, I am kept awake at night by a few particular ideas:

1. Familia de acogida

If there’s one thing that moving halfway across the country for school taught me, it’s that there’s nothing like family. Or family-like figures. The idea of my host family, which is essentially three generations, is so comforting. I might still be overly optimistic in hoping that I’ll develop some incredible bond with all of them.

2. Hablando Español

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Taking up a Spanish minor is mostly for my own enjoyment, no matter how un-naturally the language can come to me sometimes. Time for me to embrace how terribly I sound in the start in order to not just get by but enhance my skills.

3. La comida

Get back to me on this after I make eye contact with what’s on my plate, but the authentic cuisine and endless coffee that I am bound to enjoy already make my tastebuds water.

4. La belleza pura

Everyone I know can expect a lot of Instagram posts, and this trip was my main motivation for purchasing my Nikon, but pictures are really only worth taking if I have a beautiful subject. It’s not hard to be better than my current polar vortex location, but Granada is going to have a type of classic European beauty that I have not yet been able to witness.

5. La perspectivaimg_7908

I used to have this idea that traveling would change me. That every stamp on my passport would practically bring me to enlightenment. I’ve changed my tune a bit, or perhaps just my wording. Spending a month in Granada will give me the perspective I need to grow as a person. That growth, no matter how big or small, will allow me to enjoy not just my month in Granada but all future endeavors. Whether it be more independence or appreciation for what I have, Granada ought to teach me a little something more than what my SPAN208 class has to offer.

~Be on the look out for more travel posts~

Constantly excited,

Casey

Follow my travels more on social media! @caseyirwin97 @penneformythoughts

 

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You Can Call Me The Girl Who Ate the World

It was my creative writing class this semester that gave me the final push to return to my abandoned child of a blog. It reminded me that it’s not about what exactly I write but that fact that I am writing at all. The following personal narrative, and my final for the class, brings me nothing but pride and hunger for both food and adventure

Of all the posts to return to CC with, I think this is a curveball for all of us but enjoy!

The Girl Who Ate the World

By Casey Irwin

I plan on eating the world. Our planet we love and live for, I plan on devouring—and I don’t just mean I’m going to eat at the “Top Ten Restaurants in Rome”.

I am going to eat Rome.

Devour Moscow.

Consume Toronto.

Throw in some Hong Kong and even Vienna for dessert. I am going to eat the world until nothing remains.

I left Chicago because there was nothing left of it. I was eating away at it as I grew up, really learning the best mindsets when setting out to explore my city, person, or plate before me. My family nurtured me with putting experiences over everything, which showed me the best approaches to satisfying my hunger. I started off slow, not completely taking it in until the picky eater in me faded away and a big appetite took its place.  Even as I visit, returning only after it has had a chance to rebuild itself in my absence, I eat all that I missed and more of the surrounding areas. Eat one city and it is as if two grows back in its place. There is always something new to try while too much of the same also remains.

Next I will be on to Spain. I go. I try the Paella. The Jamón. The Tapas. But I don’t stop there. I consume the smiles that join me for every meal. I am given energy by the flowing conversation around the table. I snack on the satisfaction of a meal out, with a buzz from a coffee and a life-high hangover. Every element of Spain fuels me for my next trip, repaying the meals that my host family feed me with the filling feelings of appreciation and love. I leave without a regret; not a corner unturned.

Maybe India is next. India might be a bit harder to swallow, but I will take on any challenge if it means a full stomach. To some people it isn’t as pleasant as other places, but throwing enough spices on anything will make it tasty. I will be bloated by the rivers, and I’ll need to run off those festivals and traditions later. Social media will capture it all before there is nothing left to capture. Consuming India is a more intimidating idea, more than just the different table manners that come with a different place. It can take a lot of energy to step into a place without letting expectations and other people’s judgments take over, but what you get out of it is so much more. I won’t let the over crowded streets clog my arteries when there is something so satisfying about sharing a meal or traditional chai tea with someone that expects nothing from you except a smile.

Again I will be forced to question myself as I make my way to Egypt. History is like the bran muffin of subjects to some people, while to me the thousands of years of being marinated in conflict and culture have left Egypt ready to be cooked and consumed like a fine steak. My tongue may grow tired from trying to speak the native language, only to have my appetite grow with the humorous conversation around my mispronunciations. The tourist filled pyramids won’t stick with me, like how carbs never manage to keep me full for long. It’ll be the authentic restaurants and people that will carry me from one adventure to the next.

It’s then that I am ready for Melbourne, Australia. One of my high school best friends was from here, but I would like to think she would be encouraging and even helpful as I nibble away at it. The artistic support that has been created by the beautiful city, whether it be through the discussion around cafés or street art, will make it go down so smoothly. The intriguing thoughts brought up enrich my body more than any vitamin could.

Can’t leave out South America. I’ll make my way through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile,

Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela by way of the Andes Mountains. The rough terrain has nothing on my chompers, making my way through small villages and vast cities. You would think that I would get tired of it after so many countries, but people tend to forget just how different the Latin American countries are. Only once I take a sip of satisfaction where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet will I move on.

To Baklava in Athens.

Korean Barbeque in Seoul.

Matriarchy in Mosuo, China.

The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

Equality in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Only the penguins of Antarctica are safe. One sided conversations leave a bad aftertaste.

I will travel them all, picking my teeth clean of them one by one, until I have licked my plate clean and eaten it too.

~          ~         ~

 I would eat the world if I could; for I think it would taste pretty damn good.

That is the thing though. Food isn’t just food. We don’t just consume and grow from what we put in our mouths. Food is the conversation around the table. Food is the energy of whoever you care to share a meal with and the culture that surrounds its roots. Meals are remembered by the place they are eaten and who they are with. Food is an experience that can be done alone, but is so much better with people by your side to complete the experience.

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Join Me: A Foodie Roadtrip Dream

Two of my favorite things in life are food and traveling, so my dream would be to combine those in a career somehow. While I wait for the opportunity to make that happen, I would love to take to the open road on what I call a foodie road trip.

What is it?

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NDB in Newark

Instead of driving to the nearby city to visit a friend or checking out another beach, I find nothing wrong with planning a whole day to drive from one cute food place to another. I am not sure if this is a regular thing, but planning the trip so that you go in a circle and make your way home at the end of the day, stuffed and satisfied, sounds like a day well spent. There’s no hotel struggle, just one day and done.

Why?

Life is too short to eat the same food all of the time. More than giving you stock for the next three weeks on your Instagram, a road trip will bring you closer to whoever your with and give you so many amazing, delicious memories. It’s something different, a worthwhile adventure, and i’ve personally got nothing to lose.

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How would I plan it?

The easiest part is knowing I would need to start and end at home.  With that in mind, the rest is a bit more complicated. It would go something like this:IMG_8576

  1. Check Instagram. That would give me the option to look for food pictures near my current location or looks for tags that relate to food and the area-probably done while hungry.
  2. More Research. Can’t waste this day, so I would also end up on Spoon University because that would be an easy reference for how far the food is from me. I would also need to follow up on what I found on Instagram.
  3. Consider Eating 6 Meals in One day. My nutrition teacher taught us that it is best to east every 4 hours. Whether that is correct or not, that seems like a good way to limit myself when it comes to narrowing down places to go.
  4. MapQuest it all. GPS is a valid option on the day of, but getting a good idea of the finals restaurant selections and their locations would be important.
  5. Find an understanding companion. Not everyone will understand a day revolving around food. Once I find someone willing to handle the day, it would be time to pick a date and hit the road!

You could always take the more spontaneous route and just choose a town or route and hope it leads you to some mouth watering food, but I like some methods to my madness. I should probably figure out a car workout routine to combat all of this stationary eating.

Anyone else ever thought of doing something like this? Let Me Know!  Also, check out my new food Instagram @penneformythoughts

Catch me cruising,

Casey

 

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The Five Ingredients to My Perfect Summer

I love summer. My allergies have finally adjusted to the beautiful flowers, my birthday is plopped right in the middle of Labor Day and Memorial Day, and everything is just more relaxing. What makes this summer special is that I am living on my own for a good part of it, and I am prepared to make it as great as I can. It’s one thing to be off of school, but it’s another to make the most of your time.

I was going to write up my five goals for summer, but I realized I didn’t want to pressure myself or hold myself to a to-do list like I do during the school year. This list is more of a reminder to myself, and others, for what summer is all about.

1.  Time to be CreativeIMG_7743.jpg

School does not leave a lot of time for writing for fun. It only really left time for my Spoon Articles, but summer gives me time to tackle both SpoonUD and my blog. More than that summer means summer cooking, baking, and photographing.

2. Beach Bumming it

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Ten years ago, I never would’ve imagined how much I love the beach after I used to leave it burnt, dirty, and tired. Now I hope to spend as much skin-healthy time at the beach as I can. Game are fun, but the real beauty is in just lying there. Just me and the waves–The savage seagulls I could do without.

3. Work Work Work

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Now I can’t actually spend every day at the beach. A lot of my time is going to be spent at working at a coffee/ice cream shop, and I am extremely excited about it. The lessons learned will last a lifetime while the money I earn in the summer buys me more fun for the rest of the year. I find working empowering, especially when it’s better than doing nothing compared to having an internship.

4. Keeping it Simple

A Simple Summer is a summer I like, and not just for the alliteration. Things seem to move slower, giving me time to sort through all of my things and thoughts in order to get rid of what I don’t need. I’ve realized how much I hate clutter, so summer is the perfect time to get rid of annoyances like that.

5. Adventures

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Nothing says summer quiet like adventures. I am not very familiar with my new Jersey shore home, but I plan on getting comfortable with my surroundings. It might be tough to drag yourself out of bed, but getting up early is so worth a day of exploring a new place.

I could not be happier to be back in the blogging game now that it’s time for summer. Same drill as before–I’m still growing up and figuring out what I want to write about.

Hope you’re all still interested in joining me.

Still sharing my conscience,

Casey