Going somewhere that isn't on your bucket list is always interesting, but it's the best when it turns out to be a perfect hidden gem. For us, that was Tallinn, a beautiful northern city in Estonia, located between Finland and Russia with influences from both. Estonia has an interesting history, as it's only been independent from the USSR for over 20 years, but its technology and culture are booming — they even invented Skype! Tyler's lived there twice for work, so when I got the opportunity to visit him (also twice!) while he was living there, it was a double treat — reuniting with my love in a foreign city. Who could ask for more!
Look, I like to eat seasonally, but sometimes, favoritism trumps timeliness. So when I stumbled across this rhubarb syrup from IKEA, I knew something inspired by my absolutely favorite pie, strawberry rhubarb, was in the works. And why wouldn't that be a cocktail? We're consistent, folks.
There's nothing like the holidays to get you thinking about family. These caramel pecan rolls were a staple at every visit to my grandmother's home in Iowa, especially during Thanksgiving, where pecan is king.
She would make them ahead of time, store them in the fridge, and then on a crazy morning where my cousins and aunts and uncles and second cousins and sisters were rising from the twin beds and air mattresses in the basement, we would walk upstairs to find these sticky beauties waiting for us, fresh out of the oven. They'd be crammed into the metal 9x13 pan she always used, whose lid was labeled with an address label to her home to make sure no one ever tried to swipe it. We'd cut the rolls out, making sure to spoon enough caramel-y goodness on top, plop it down on a plate (never a paper plate, because grandpa actually loved doing dishes), pair it with a cup of coffee that was definitely spiked, because this was grandma's house, and all was right in the world.
Because Grandma Pearl was a working woman, she used store-bought dough. And no one's going to judge you for your half-homemade pastries, because these babies are so good you can't even tell.
Listen — I'm a bit of a control freak. And not only that, but I ~love~ to plan things, especially fun things like vacations. I meticulously research restaurants, neighborhoods, flight prices, pin beautiful places on Pinterest, save locations on Google — favorite pastime, guys. Making Airbnb wish lists is like, a hobby of mine.
When my sister was planning on visiting me in Italy, she said she really wanted to go to Lisbon. But the problem was 1) I was swamped with work at the moment and 2) I had never really thought about going to Lisbon and was a little overwhelmed on where to even start (the internet, Katie, duh). So I put off planning like, forever, and let her plan it — something that is borderline impossible for me to do. And damn, she did a good job. So this round-up is 75% brought to you by my little sister Annie's diligent research.
So now that I have been to Lisbon and can report back with real life experience instead of internet research, I can tell you a few things. Firstly, dang, what a bunch of beautiful buildings in that city. I was so obsessed with the tile work and the colorful façades of all the buildings, with the totally unique surfaces on every single apartment — hands down, my favorite part of the city.
Secondly, dang, it is weird getting around Lisbon. First of all, everything is very uphill (a lot of people compare it to San Francisco), but that isn't even what bothered me! The trams were totally crazy, as were the tuktuks, and a lot of the city was built up with unfinished construction, including on the sidewalks. However, it totally just gave this unique vibe to Lisboa that you definitely can't find anywhere else, and we kind of enjoyed the wildness of it all.
Other takeaways include: Wow, they really like sardines. They have really great wine. Portuguese sounds like if a bunch of German people tried to speak Spanish. The Portuguese are some of the nicest people I've ever met in all of my travels. I'm now a pro at spelling Portuguese. And, what a fun city. Let me tell you what we did.
Prosecco, guys — I don't know if you know this, but it's like, ~the cool new thing.~ We don't need champagne anymore (or Arbor Mist, because we have taste buds), because Prosecco is here. Can we tell the difference between Prosecco and Champagne and Arbor Mist? Probably not, but we'll keep buying our very affordable Prosecco anyway.
And it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out, but I guess I live right next to the Prosecco region — under a 2 hour drive. While many people think Italy is quite small, that is actually not at all true, as it would probably take one between 12-14 hours to drive from the Austrian border to the tip of the boot, and that's not even including Sicily. So to be close to a very cool and important wine region like Prosecco and not to have been there? Well, that needed to be taken care of.