italy/france trip recap


Wow! Just got back from a 2 week trip where I, husband, and mom and dad and sister hit Milano, Como, Bellagio, Varenna, Pisa, Firenze, San Gimigniano, Lyon, and Oingt (pronounced as a nasally oo-ah). It was wonderful getting to see family (my husband’s family is all born and raised in Italy), celebrating our marriage with those who could not make it to the US for our wedding 2 years ago, and seeing some more Italian and French cities. Quite a trip! Happy to be home, but I’ve of course got some of those post-vacay blues.

Table setting at my in-laws house…bruschetta!
Bowls warming up for onion soup
Family (minus 1 sister) after a huge and amazing meal at an agriturismo in the hills above Lago di Como
Chestnut Fettuccine and Radicchio Risotto at the agriturismo
The city of Varenna on Lago di Como

I’ve been missin’ the cured meats, which I ate way too much of. Seriously. It was probably too much. This trip I found myself appreciating Speck more than I ever did in the past. I hadn’t noticed before that Speck and brie is something that is often offered together whether on a pizza or a panino. Although Breseaola is still my preferred cured meat. Yum, so good. I miss aperitivo and digestivo time. I could skip the primo piatto and secondo altogether in exchange for aperitivo/antipasto time. I tried several new digestivi this trip, one of which was Braulio, which is made from an infusion of a mix of plants, roots, and alpine herbs in the valley of Valtellina. I liked it, although didn’t love it. I miss gas stations with beyond beautiful and fancy crema-filled brioche and cappuccinos and panini and deals on beautifully packaged wine and chocolate and biscotti…aka the Autogrill. I miss how everyone, aunts and uncles and cousins, etc., asks you what you ate for your last meal and/or what you will eat for your next, because the passion for food and the art of the meal is so great that it is commonplace and natural to inquire. But most of all, I miss family. We don’t see them enough, of course, an ocean between us. It is especially evident with a little niece growing up so fast, with many milestones passed in between the times we see her. But I’m thankful for Skype and now that the husband is out of school and I will graduate soon, we will have more money, albeit probably less time, to visit. Gosh, I sound depressing. (Hopefully endorphins from all the working out I’ve been doing since I’ve been back will kick in soon…If not, I know starting my next rotation will help)

Duomo a Milano never gets old. Never.
Adorable city of Oingt, France
THIS marron (chestnut) molten cake at Chez Marguerite in Oingt, France

Onward, I was a bit worried about my progression with Italian on this trip due to the fact that, in being busy with school and rotations, I hadn’t been able to devote much time to brushing up on my Italian. Luckily, however, it all seemed to come back to me and of course progressed some. I acted like a translator this trip as my parents and sister do not speak Italian and my in-laws and husband’s family do not speak English, with some exceptions. That is a good way to improve your Italian (or whichever language) right there. When you are forced to translate, you are forced to learn and learn quickly. My head felt at times like it was going to explode, between remembering which language I was translating to and from. Multiple times I began to talk to my mother-in-law in English and parents in Italian, before seeing confused looks on their faces and realizing my mistake.

Right outside the bouchon we ate at in Lyon, called Le Musee


Hopefully we can make it back to Italy sooner than 2 years from now (that is what we have been averaging). Next time will hopefully and most likely will be a trip to Sicilia. That is where my father-in-law is from and much of the family still remains there. I have never been and am a little scared (my brother-in-law describes it as the 4th and maybe 5th dimension), but very very excited to go and experience it. Maybe a few days spent in Roma before heading down there too. If we are living in DC, there is currently a flight directly from DC to Rome, which would be oh so lovely!

At an Agriturismo for our belated wedding lunch. It was perfect.



Obligatory Pisa pic…with Dad trying too
Colle Val D’Elsa in Tuscany, maybe my favorite place of the trip
Agriturismo we stayed at outside of Florence
The last night in Italy we saw the Last Supper, beautiful








Well, I’ve got 5 rotations left before I graduate! It’s very exciting. I’m ready to get back into them after this long and nice vacation time and finish up strong. That’ll get me back into the routine of things here…But until the next one starts, I think I’ll be hanging on to memories and remnants of the trip. For example, I made homeade pasta last night at 9 pm and plan on canning some melanzane sott’olio today. And maybe buying some Campari? Yes, that sounds awesome. Baby steps:)



foreign film review

Bonjour à tous!

So I wax and wane on foreign films. I really enjoy watching them and it’s like my favorite category when watching the Oscars (does that sound snooty? I really don’t mean to sound snooty.) However, sometimes it can get a little tedious reading the subtitles when you are in a mood to relax (does that sound too third world problem-ish. Well yes, I think it definitely does.).

Side note: I actually really love subtitles. Much of the world uses dubbing, and while it’s more convenient to watch dubbing compared to having to read the subtitles, the best way to watch a movie is in the language it was written in, right? Even if you can’t understand it. side note to this side note: really this is an over-generalization that all the rest of the world uses dubbing and I also gloss over historical elements of why countries use the dubbing/subtitle/cinema translation system they do. All that is for another post! Moving on…

But there are occasions, especially when I am in the middle of one of my “learn ALL the languages” binges that I love watching foreign films. I will spend like an hour or two on Netflix or Google just to find THE best foreign film in whichever language I am in the mood for.

Quindi, in the past few weeks I’ve been in said mood and have watched two foreign films: Corazón de Leon and L’Auberge Espagnole. The first is an Argentine movie in Spanish and the latter is a French movie with parts in French, Spanish (it is set in Barcelona), and English too.

The purpose of this post (or posts, might make this a regular kind of posting topic!) is not to give the plots away, but to suggest movies that will help you learn your desired language (I mean, in this case, if one of those desired languages is Spanish or French.) Additionally, I watched them without subtitles, so I probably couldn’t give you a plot summary anyway (ideally, that was a joke. I mean, of course I understood every word in every language…uhh.) But below you will find a language learning tailored review for what I learned watching these movies and maybe what I didn’t learn too! Enjoy!

Corazón de Leon: This movie is ADORABLE. Hilarious, sweet, and with a good message, all at the same time. It’s all in beautiful Argentine Spanish, which I find to be one of the easier forms of Spanish for non-native speakers to understand. This is a romantic comedy, so it is nice for Spanish learners since the plot easy to follow and actually pretty predictable (like most romantic comedies). There are several scenes when the female lead feels strongly about her words and speaks rapid fire Spanish with no hope of me understanding anything (I watched those scenes like 3 times each and still got nuttin’). But other than that, my intermediate Spanish brain really enjoyed it!

L’Auberge Espagnole: This gem is from 2002. I had never heard of it, but my husband knew the Italian translation of the title and remembers it. I LOVED this movie because it had parts in all my favorite languages (except Italian, although there was an Italian character who said a bit of Italian parolacce, which I am very well-versed in). What I really liked about this film is all the different cultures represented in it. The “auberge espagnole” is actually an apartment full of foreigners in Barcelona, all living together in (somewhat) perfect harmony. I also liked that they switched languages throughout the film so many times. Sometimes I didn’t even register which language they were speaking. Maybe they start speaking Spanish after speaking English for a while, and I didn’t even realize they have switched. Ahh, so cool. Love it. 

Et voilà! Let me know what foreign films y’all are watching too, whether it be with subtitles or without! Or for language learning or just for fun! Also, don’t be discouraged if you feel like you don’t understand a lot while watching a foreign film in the language you are learning. Just try is the key! I have no idea what is going on when I watch a lot of these films, but I ALWAYS, however small it is, learn something.

Un bacione,

Layne Alyssa


Arancini and Fresh Pasta

This past weekend I hosted a pasta-making party! This is actually the third pasta party I’ve done. Pretty soon, I’m gonna be a pro! So this pasta party thing kind of came out of just us and some of our friends getting together to make a bunch of pasta and several sauces. Sage, fig, and goat cheese ravioli and salmon and cream spaghetti. Yum. And since it is a time consuming process, it just makes since to spend an afternoon making it with friends and then to making extra!

Side Note: You may notice on this blog that I reference Italian culture, language, and food more often than other cultures and their languages and food. As a little disclaimer, I am married to an Italian who was born and raised in Italy. So, I reference Italy a lot because I have a lot of experience with it! 
My second pasta party was spent with my parents and good family friends, making fettuccine with bolognese sauce. We added pasta made with semolina flour to this party! So good. And, lastly, we had last weekend’s party. I just finished my didactic year of Physician Assistant school, so some other PA-S2’s (what what) decided to celebrate by making copious amounts of pasta (although is it really ever enough?) and throwing some vino into the mix too. And (this absolutely amazing) cake! We made fettuccine and ravioli. <<Pause for easy pasta recipe>>

1 lb of pasta (we usually make 4 lbs each time. it freezes well!)

  • Put 3.25 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour on the counter
  • Make a well in said flour
  • Add 4 large eggs to center well
  • Use fork to slowly & gradually incorporate eggs into flour
  • Use hands to finish mixing ingredients together
  • If dough is too dry, add water a tsp at a time
  • Cover ball of dough tightly in plastic wrap and let dough rest for 1 hour
  • Roll out and cut pasta. We have both kitchen aid with pasta attachments and a hand-crank pasta roller/cutter. Both work well!

For our sauces, we made spinach & ricotta ravioli filling, bolognese, and classic carbonara. The ravioli filling and bolognese sauce turned out WONDERFULLY. They were both very flavorful, but not troppo salati. Comunque, the carbonara, which is a common offering of bacon, egg, and cheesy goodness at our house, fell short. I didn’t see it coming, but the soft freshness of the eggy pasta contradicted the lack of sauce found in the carbonara recipe. As weird as it is to say, use a boxed, store bought pasta when making carbonara. However, the problem could have lied with the fact that the carbonara was our third pasta course of the night and we were pieni and all pasta-ed out.


So pasta night was a success! And because I have a few weeks off now before starting clinicals, meaning I have time to cook, I decided to keep the creativity flowing by trying my hand at arancini. The first and only time I have had arancini was in Riomaggiore at a place called Siamo Fritti. See their wonderful creation below.

They sold all sorts of fried foods, as their name explains. My husband cited arancini as a something I had to try culturally-speaking, so even though it was 10 am and we were walking around in the blistering heat, that’s what we did. It was just okay. So basically it is bolognese (meat sauce) + a bit of cheese, wrapped in creamy rice (made to look like an egg), then breaded and fried. Oh, and there is some saffron in there for coloring. But I didn’t mess with that mess in my recipe. The name actually means little oranges due to their shape and color, and they have roots in Sicilia (Sicily!). 

So I think they turned out how they were supposed to, but this is probably the last time I make them. Mainly because they are like really fried and made my kitchen smell like the point of no return from fried. I mean my eyes burned all night from either oil droplets in the air or maybe the smoke that filled the apartment when I burned a batch of them. Who knows, really? Everything was just full of friend smell! OK, I digress. All in all, not bad, but I won’t make them again. On another unrelated note, anyone want to help me eat all these little oranges?

I have linked most of the recipes I mentioned in this blog, but if anyone would like more information on recipes I used or just about making pasta or arancini in general, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Note: the arancini recipe I used is in Italian, but it has a video! Might be worth it for ya to learn Italian just to use this recipe website…giallo zafferano. I think actually some recipes are in English too. Everything is so good and they make it easy to make! 

Un bacione,

Layne Alyssa