When Isaac came to visit.

A few weeks ago was my fall break: no class, extra sunshine, and a week-long visit from my great boyfriend. The week topped every birthday bash thrown on My Super Sweet 16.

Isaac and Zach flew over from Des Moines on Sunday, and Emily and I deprived them of sleep right away. We jumped right into walks around Florence, good food/gelato, exploring new parks, shopping in the markets, cribbage games, making coffee, and ended the week with a trip to Cinque Terre.

Florence seemed just a little more alive and beautiful when I had someone to show around. Plus, it was Isaac. So even sitting on a bench seemed like a European-blast-and-a-half. Showing him my favorite places and introducing him to the friends I’ve made was so exciting, but we were able to explore and find so many new things together as well.

If YOU find yourself with a boyfriend/friend/mother/neighbor/dental assistant visiting you in Italy, here are some suggestions from me to you:

-Central Market. It is full of fresh fruits, veggies, breads, and treats. There are also packaged pastas, sauces, and limoncello for gifts. I always have fun grabbing some coffee and walking around.

-The Duomo. Yes, it’s pretty touristy, but the view is pretty ideal. We climbed 460 steps to get to the top, so if I’m still suggesting it, you know it’s worth it.

-Boboli Gardens. YOU MUST, OKAY? The huge gardens are complete with lemon trees, amazing views, trails through the woods, fountains, and benches for days. It was my favorite part of our week.

-Gusta Pizza. The best and cheapest pizza I’ve found. Plus it can come in the shape of a heart. So just try to debate me now.

-Cinque Terre. It’s the best day trip to take. The trip is easy**, and the views are unreal. We hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza, and the world’s greatest pesto pizza is in Vernazza. This may be my opinion but it’s the right one.

-Cascine Park. It’s the biggest park we’ve found and it is a treat from the crazy city center. There are trails and beautiful trees everywhere. On Tuesday mornings, there is a market that lines the path along the Arno. Cheap, cheap, cheap. Yes, of course that bag is not real leather, but it is 5 euro. Soooooooooo, whose side are you on anyway. Isaac and I bought some cappuccinos and walked through the whole market. It was one of my favorite mornings! He was a champ too; he oooed and aahhed at all the right necklaces and sunglasses.

-Take a breather. There are a million things to see and it’s so fun to get up early and have a full day, but I definitely loved the time we just chilled out for a bit too. The four of us always had a good homemade breakfast in the morning to sit and enjoy each other. And we took one rainy morning to watch Pitch Perfect and play some cards, and it was just as enjoyable as running through the streets of Flo like a couple’a’kids.

**I mean, sure, we maybe missed our transfer and got stuck in Pisa for 3 hours, but USUALLY it’s a breeze. We camped out at a coffee shop and played some cribbage and then got milkshakes for the train ride. Dried those tears right up.

 

The week was an absolute blessing. It is still a little surreal we were able to hang out in Italy. Very thankful. Here are some pictures to prove I’m not lying about this whole thing.

Our first Florence adventure: getting Chai from friends at Chiaro Scuro and sitting on the river.

Our first Florence adventure: getting Chai from friends at Chiaro Scuro and sitting on the river.

Entrance of Boboli Gardens.

Entrance of Boboli Gardens.

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View from the Duomo.

View from the Duomo.

 

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Em and Zach, casually posing in the mountains.

Em and Zach, casually posing in the mountains.

Zach in his Kammok!

Zach in his Kammok!

Naps after the hike.

Naps after the hike.

The money shot. Photo cred: Isaac.

The money shot. Photo cred: Isaac.

Last morning before saying bye to my man. We took a long walk around the city and through Cascine Park.

Last morning before saying bye to my man. We took a long walk around the city and through Cascine Park.

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Flo Week 2.

We’re living dog days here in Florence…each day feels like 7. This past week has been another full but good one, and I’m starting to feel like Florence is home. Last week I started classes. Which feels only half real, considering I only have class 3 days a week, and many of them are jam packed with field trips to museums, palaces, and factories.

I’m taking 5 classes:

1. Italian. My professor, Irene, is the bomb. She’s a Florence-native and full of tips for places to check out and things to see. Italian is really confusing though. My mind always translates things to Spanish…not Italian. I’ve almost said Hola many a time.

2. History of Italian Fashion. Very lecture-based, buuuutttt it’s interesting to learn about the brands that I see everyday walking to class. Whenever I’m navigating my way to that side of the city I have to remember “turn right at Max Mara,” “left at Louis Vuitton,” “across the street from Armani here.” It’s basically just like Ames.

3. Visual Merchandising. We had to build this paper box thing the first day of class, and it was so hard??!!! I don’t want to talk about it.

4. Fashion Consumer Behavior. The material is things I’ve heard a million times, but my professor rules and we always get a break in the middle of lecture to go buy a cappuccino or candy bar. So…

5. Lifestyles in Renaissance Florence. This is the best. My professor, Marcello Bellini, is the happiest most adorable old man I’ver ever met. He loves Florence and loves teaching us things. Today we had an hour of lecture about 3 influential Florentine families and then an hour of walking around to each of those families palaces. It’s amazing being in a class where all the things I’m learning are out the window and down the street.

Ok so there was class last week. And lots of running around buying books and getting lost and getting found and buying groceries and getting lost and getting found.

On Thursday my roommates and I hopped on a train to Rome to visit friends studying there. We wandered the city, seeing the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, and gelato shops. Plus the “cat sanctuary.” Unsettling. We went to the beach on Saturday. I felt like the beach would be just a skip and a hop away, but it was a little more of a trek. It took two tram rides, two subway rides, two train rides, and 80 minutes of walking in this semi-sketchy scorching hot town. And we almost missed our train back from Anzzio to Roma because we were washing the sand and sweat off our faces in this ghetto bathroom/outhouse thing behind the “train station.” But the water was amazing, laying out felt too good, and it was a million percent with it. On the train ride home as I was dirty and sandy, drinking a Peroni beer, and blasting Yeezy’s “The College Dropout” I simultaneously felt like I had hit a new low point and also that I was fulfilling a long lost high school dream I never knew I had and felt hella good.

We went to Rome Baptist Church on Sunday, which ended up being AMAZING and teaching me about generosity. Which just haaaappened to be what I had been praying over last week. Imagine that.

Visiting Rome was so much fun and made the weekend a blast and a half. But I have to admit I’m happy to be back in Florence and settled in my apartment. It’s currently thunder storming outside, I have a french press full of coffee, and I have a free day tomorrow. So very content. This weekend I’ll be staying in Florence, but have fun things to look forward to. Updates next week. Thanks for your prayers and messages and being so fly. Miss all you friends so much.

Reunion!!

Reunion!!

Paige in the Iowa State Design School in Roma.

Paige in the Iowa State Design School in Roma.

Trevi Fountain. We literally fell asleep to the Lizzie McGuire movie every night in Rome and this picture is just SO Lizzie.

Trevi Fountain. We literally fell asleep to the Lizzie McGuire movie every night in Rome and this picture is just SO Lizzie.

Vodka crans at Scholars. Or Skull-hairs as Delaney calls it.

Vodka crans at Scholars. Or Skull-hairs as Delaney calls it.

Beach day with my model friends.

Beach day with my model friends.

Florence Week One.

We got to Italy last Wednesday and it’s been a whirlwind since. Emily and I flew into Rome, took a bus to the train station, took a train to Florence, walked 60+ pounds of luggage up and down windy streets and FINALLY got our housing assignment. We met up with Delaney and Eileen and got to our apartment that night. It is small but has wonderful perks including a cozy patio off the bedrooms, mosquito screens, and a toaster? Everyday I get a little more comfortable here.

Florence is extremely confusing to me, since every street looks the same BUT today I wandered around mapless and found my way home, so progress is on its way?

We have pretty much spent our days exploring the city. Highlights include::

-Trip to the central market (basically a giant indoor farmers market) for fresh fruit, biscottis, and olive oil.

-More than one trip for gelato. One shop has an employee with the most ridiculous rat tail in all the world. We like to get gelato and sit on the steps of the Duomo (you can see it from our apartment…it’s about a 5 minute walk!) and people watch. People are really weird and watching them and making up back stories for their lives is one of my all time favorite hobbies.

-Morning run around Florence. The city is most beautiful in the morning I think. It was cool outside, so quiet, and really peaceful.

-Quiet times out on our patio.

-Dinner with friends out on the patio. Mostly anything on the patio is great.

-Mass at San Miniato al Monte and enjoying the incredible view afterwards.

-Roommate dinners.

-Skype dates with Isaac.

I’m not sure if Florence is exactly what I pictured, but I’ve loved a lot of moments since being here. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned so far has been trusting in the provision and protection of the Lord. I think it will be a daily decision to choose trust and peace, and it’s good. Once again, I feel like a year has passed in a week. It’s wild to think it hasn’t even been a week in Italy yet. So excited to make Florence my home for a while and see all that unfolds this semester.

 

Da Duomo. It really has not gotten any less beautiful. Every time I see it, I appreciate it so much.

Da Duomo. It really has not gotten any less beautiful. Every time I see it, I appreciate it so much.

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Overwhelming cheese options at the market. Beautiful, I knowwww.

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My front door. There are about 6 deadbolts to get into my actual apartment. Don’t know if that’s comforting or unsettling. Both I think.

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Two of my cute roommates.

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Dinner party set up.

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Our view after church. Breathtaking. I needed that hike to see the beauty in Florence. When you get away from the tourist sections, the town is gorgeous and peaceful and at its best.

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I get to live with the greatest girls. This is San Miniato al Monte. It sits on top of the hill with the view above.

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America’s Next Top Model. I think I just got eliminated.

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Even the Lorenzo de Medici cafeteria is beautiful.

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Dinner party with friends 🙂

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Making the trek back home.

 

The last few pictures were stolen from Emily and Eileen. Check out all my roommates blogs/pictures because they are all so beautiful and hip and real in, okay.

Emily.

Eileen.

Delaney.

 

Ireland.

Advice from me to you: Keep up on your blogs and journals. Every day. I have been overwhelmed with trying to find time to journal all that’s happening, contact people back home, and finally show pictures/blog on my trip so far. My new motto has involuntarily become “I’ll do that tomorrow.” So first, here’s whassup with Ireland.

I left Omaha on August 20th and flew to Dublin, Ireland. Big shout out to Deb Schmidt who drove me to the airport, hauled home extra clothes because my suitcase weighed too much, bought me a Panera farewell breakfast, AND supplied me with great pepper spray. Big blessing. Emily, Paige, and Chelsie are these cute girls in the pictures below who I got to spend the week with. We flew from Omaha–>Newark–>Dublin and arrived at 7 am Ireland time. We arrived at our hostel only to find out we had to wait until 3 pm to check in. Sooooo we locked up our luggage and sleepily wandered the town for a bit. Espresso and the chilly wind helped some, but we were pretty out of it. The next three days we spent exploring the city. There were some fun gems, like a garden we found (full of gorgeous flowers, green grass, and paths winding around the park), St. Patricks Cathedral, and the Dublin Castle. We also had fun going to a few pubs and finding out Irish men really do just love to drink beer and laugh loud. But…for the most part….Dublin is not great. After we told some friends we weren’t loving it, we heard lots of “Oh yeah, I’ve heard Dublin is really dark and not that great.” And my reply would be: where were all you advice-giving friends before??! I feel it is my duty as a friend to get the word out on this city: take a day trip in and walk around for a bit. See some shopping, get a beer, and then leave before the clock strikes midnight. Scary ish goes down and you’ll smell like cigarettes and sadness for a week plus.

We stayed in Dublin through Friday night, and then on Saturday morning, we traveled by train to Bantry. Our friend, Amy, picked us up and took us to her house in Durrus. She had studied abroad in Ireland a few years ago, fell in love with an Irish man, and now they live in Durrus. I think they’re making a movie about her life soon. I can’t even explain how much I loved that weekend. It was the best way to see Ireland and how beautiful it really is. We got to relax in their beautiful home, explore their small town, visit a local church, picnic with friends after, and watch movies with warm tea and cookies. Dream life. Amy and her husband Rob have been able to host a Bible study in their home and are involved in their church. Their discipleship and faithfulness has already produced visible fruit, and it was exciting to hear the ways they are being used in a their country.

After the amazing week, we headed back to Dub-city and listened to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” on repeat on the bus. (Just kidding.) We checked into a new hostel…which was just a taaaad unsettling. I slept with my wallet, passport, and laptop in my pillow. And that’s all I’ll say. But we didn’t spend much time there or in the city. Tuesday we spent the day traveling to Limerick and Shannon, Ireland. We saw the Cliffs of Moher, Burren National Park, and the city of Doolin. Burren National Park was breathtaking. Sitting on the cliffs and overlooking the ocean was kind of an indescribable moment. Ireland really is a beautiful place, and it was a peaceful moment to take in beauty and appreciate the work of our Father so much.

Wednesday we got up real early. (3:45) We took a cab to the airport, grabbed some coffee, and took off for Italy! Italy updates are on the way.

You’d think such a simple update would be easy to fit in any old day. You’d be wrong. Pistachio gelato is a really needy friend…it calls for a lot of my time and attention…

Off to Europe! We all got to meet up and spend time in the Omaha airport before splitting up for two separate flights. By "spend time" I mean "figure out how to get luggage to 50 pounds."

Off to Europe! We all got to meet up and spend time in the Omaha airport before splitting up for two separate flights. By “spend time” I mean “figure out how to get luggage to 50 pounds.”

 

Emily and I have decided against taking a trip to Pisa, Italy, just to do this classic pose next to the leaning tower. So we improvised with St. Patricks Cathedral. Midwest girls: always thinkin ahead.

Emily and I have decided against taking a trip to Pisa, Italy, just to do this classic pose next to the leaning tower. So we improvised with St. Patricks Cathedral. Midwest girls: always thinkin ahead.

 

Gardens in Dublin. It's saving grace.

Gardens in Dublin. It’s saving grace.

 

Amy and Rob's kitchen window :) I had only been gone for three days, but it felt extremely peaceful to rest in a home for a weekend.

Amy and Rob’s kitchen window 🙂 I had only been gone for three days, but it felt extremely peaceful to rest in a home for a weekend.

 

Crossing the creek to our Sunday picnic spot. We got sandwiches (called rolls in Ireland) and had chocolate cake for dessert. Ireland was pretty chilly but the sun came out for our afternoon on the creek.

Crossing the creek to our Sunday picnic spot. We got sandwiches (called rolls in Ireland) and had chocolate cake for dessert. Ireland was pretty chilly but the sun came out for our afternoon on the creek.

 

Chelsie, Emily, Amy, Myself, and Paige. We wanted to cover the full spectrum of hair color…no shade left behind.

Chelsie, Emily, Amy, Myself, and Paige. We wanted to cover the full spectrum of hair color…no shade left behind.

 

Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher.

 

Burren National Park.

Burren National Park. “Oh did you just take a picture of me casually laughing on a cliff? I didn’t notice. But I’m always casually laughing on a cliff so that’s probably why.”

 

Off to Italy!! We packed light……...

Off to Italy!! We packed light………

 

on to the next one.

well, the time is here. i’m leaving tomorrow afternoon for europe. ireland for one week, then on to florence until december. it has been a hard but good summer, and i’m really excited to see what i learn this fall. i will miss you friends, so please message/email/skype/visit. measure yourself with a ruler and sharpie, making a mark on your bedroom door. then we can compare when i’m back and i can pat you on the head saying i can’t believe how much you’ve grown!

prayer requests:

safety. health. selflessness and awareness of opportunities to share to gospel. growth as i seek Christ in a new place and season.

I was reading Colossians today and Paul encouraged me (personally, i believe) to “clothe myself with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” And that is my prayer as i head into this adventure. that through everything i would give thanks to Christ, and allow Him to change my character into something more beautiful than it is today. I couldn’t be more excited for this blessing and am excited to share what i see, do, and learn.

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photo here

summer in bullet points.

Man, it has been a while. I want to kickstart this thang back in motion before this Fall. Hopefully I’ll be better at updating then. No promises though, okay? I mean, hey, you never made that cheesecake you promised me.

I wasn’t sure what to say tonight to wedge myself back into the blogosphere. I opened up my “blog4evr” word doc on my desktop to see if anything jogged my memory. I keep future ideas/random daily thoughts/questions I need want answered sometime in this file. Unfortunately, I think I’ve taken too long of a hiatus. My ideas seem weird and unfamiliar to me. Some include “how sarah mclaughlin is ruining my life” “sexy muskrat with rabies for halloween costume” and “how dawson’s creek gang is doing it wrong.” Not sure what “it” is, but I’m sure I was on to something with that one. Those idiots do everything wrong. (I’m talking to YOU, skanky 17-year-old Michelle Williams.)

Anyway, my mind is a strange place, and these half-baked ideas prove it. So scratch that. Let my tell you about my summer in 5 bullet points. Then we’ll be all caught up and we can start afresh. Doesn’t afresh just sound right? It sounds like something I should say when I’m sitting in a field of sunflowers drinking sweet tea. Okay, here we go then.

  1. I’ve been back home this summer. Interning at a bridal shop. I have learned more than a thing or two and am thankful for an internship opportunity that has allowed me to make some $$ while being near family and this one cute guy that keeps txting me. I have also become very aware that weddings stress women out. Sometimes it’s funny: like when moms yell about mismatched pink hues, because it RUINS THEIR WHOLE LIVES. Sometimes it’s sad: like when I realize the majority of brides out there care much more about their wedding than their marriage. Off soapbox. On to number two.
  2. I get to attend Veritas now. We have church in a bar and I love it. There’s extra strong coffee, which is another plus. I think people feel like you can’t serve weak coffee in a biker bar. Someone will rev their bike, call you a wuss, and dare you a race to prove you’re a man. These people are right! Not too much else to elaborate on here. It’s just plain good. I’m learning new things all the time. We have been studying Genesis this summer, and it’s interesting to learn new things through old and familiar stories.
  3. I’ve been trying to be healthy (-er) this summer. Shaun T has yelled at me a lot the past few months, and I can like totally do a push-up and stuff. Don’t spread that around though-I still want people to find me approachable. Also, Isaac and I just stole a friend’s idea and completed a week-long detox routine. Fruits, veggies, 1 cup brown rice/day, and water. My workouts felt much better, and I found myself getting up out of bed much easier in the mornings. I don’t crave caffeine or junk food so much either. This is a big step for a girl who is sometime referred to as one of the “pizza girls.” (Self-explanatory inside joke.)
  4. I am jetting to Florence, Italy, in just a few short weeks. After a week in Dublin, that is. But only because my life is very hard. I have been craaaaazy overwhelmed to see how the Lord’s decided to bless me through this upcoming experience. I remember being all signed up to go last fall (2012).  Only to change my mind at Easter of that year. This decision was made at literally the last minute before I would have purchased plane tickets, finished housing things, etcetc. I can’t explain why I said “no not now” other than the Holy Spirit told me to. Sounds weird, but guys I don’t lie. By that I mean I’m not lying now.  A few days later I started talking to that cute guy I mentioned earlier. A month later I met amazing girls-now-good-friends that I got to live with and I began many relationships in Ames that summer. Two months later, the opportunity for Salt leadership opened up, even though I hadn’t applied. And that changed my college life so much. Six months later, I met three amazing girls all wanting to go to Italy but not wanting to go without community. Now we are all going together, and I couldn’t be more excited/thankful. His dreams are better than mine. All that to say, I can’t wait to see what the next semester holds! Let’s start setting up skype dates, people.
  5. I have a few projects up my sleeve and sometime wish there were a few more hours in a day. Let’s stay friends and see where these ideas end up, because it’ll probably be fun. I want to hear about what you’re dreaming up too, because I bet it’s great. If it’s not, I’ll just say “hmm. THAT’S  an interesting idea!” and take an extra long sip of my lemonade. And that’s how you’ll know. Anyway, whoever you are, I probably miss you. I’m missing lots of my friends lately. So thanks for stopping by and saying hi in a you-cant-hear-me-or-see-me-but-im-here kind of way. I got it.

 

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