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Laffy Taffys, world climates and natural disasters

4 Feb
Clouds are one of my favorite aspects of "weather" (sunset in Serbia)

Clouds are one of my favorite aspects of “weather.” (sunset in Serbia)

This week in Nashville there was a beautiful 70 degree day, a crazy storm that produced 8 tornadoes, a sudden drop to 20 °F and substantial snow. Like, “you could see it on the ground” substantial.

Welcome to Tennessee! Where no one worries about global warming because, well, it’s always been like this.

Some of my fondest memories growing up include spending spring afternoons in our basement, the tornado siren blaring outside. Occasionally we sat under a mattress. We would listen to radio dramas and eat Laffy Taffys (or, if the power was out, ice cream!). Tornado warnings seemed to come twice a week.

One December, we had enough snow to build a small igloo, and then a few days later, we wore shorts to hike on Christmas Eve.

The crazy weather made me contemplate climates in other parts of the world, so I give you…Carly’s World Weather Lists!

Best overall climate:

Faulconbridge, Australia is rumored to be rated “the most equitable climate” by the World Meteorological Organization. It sits 1, 463 feet above sea level, has evenly distributed rainfall and year-round mild temperatures. If you’re not careful, you might forget there’s such a thing as seasons.

Most alien-like:

Dotted with volcanoes and never free of hazardous gases, Danakil Desert in Ethiopia supposedly has the oddest sights, smells, landscape and temperatures in one location.  Its nickname is “Hell on Earth.” Since there is lava just waiting to bubble over the surface of the ground, temperatures can reach up to 115 degrees regularly! There are salt flats, mineral springs, sulfur pits, lava lakes and acid ponds. It has the only below-sea-level volcano. Although not ideal for a relaxing vacation, Danakil is a hit tourism spot for thrill-seekers. I like thrills, but…I…don’t know…

Biggest temperature range:

Verkhoyansk, a town in Siberia, Russia, has a record high of 99.14 °F. Although that doesn’t sound high, let’s remember that it’s in Siberia. Also, their record low is -93.6 °F, giving the two extremes a difference of almost 200 degrees! And I thought Nashville weather was bipolar.

Most dangerous places to live:

Oklahoma City, OK. has been hit by more tornados than anywhere in the world.

The Phillipines cash in with the most hurricanes – they have up to 20 per year!

Japan and Indonesia are the earthquake capitals of the world. Indonesia has more earthquakes total, but Japan has more earthquakes per square kilometer.

Latacunga, Ecuador has been destroyed by the Cotopaxi Volcano four times in the past 300 years. And yet they keep rebuilding…

Well, the world has some pretty crazy places. I hope you, reading this, stay safe from disasters and have fun in your home’s climate! I still have a few months before tornado season starts, so maybe you’ll get a few more blog posts before my laptop is sucked into a swirling vortex of wind. There’s no place like home!


A European hate affair

15 Jan

IMG_0612Everyone knows I love coffee. And you won’t be surprised to discover that I’m fond of chocolate, too.

But I have a bitter hate for the two combined. The word “mocha” makes my mouth water, but it’s less in blissful anticipation than terrified expectation. The only mixture of coffee and chocolate I’ve found palatable is espresso chocolate cheesecake. Yet, then again, I’ve never met a piece of cheesecake I didn’t like.

My point is that the bitterness between the mocha and me is long, complex and hate-filled.

Yet…two days ago it was 70 degrees in Nashville, and now it’s 30. In my quest to find a hot drink to ward off the winter chill, the Italian bicerin caught my eye. It has coffee in it, it’s Italian and I already had all the ingredients. ‘Twas fate.

A bicerin is a tri-layered drink; the base is rich dark chocolate covered with syrupy espresso and topped with freshly whipped cream. Most bicerin recipes require melting chocolate, but I used Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate. It’s thick and European and has just a trace of chocolate liqueur. My espresso was Starbucks Fair Trade Italian (fitting for the occasion) brewed with my lovely AeroPress. Finally I whipped up some heavy cream and covered the top with creamy goodness.

There's a glare, but you can see the separate layers.

There’s a glare, but you can see the separate layers.

Now, bicerins are not my favorite drink in the world. And I’m not going to start ordering mochas anytime soon. But with the chocolate dark and the espresso strong and the fresh cream stirred in, I almost forgot my long-standing hatred towards chocolate in coffee. Buon lavoro, Italy. Nicely done.

4 reasons why new food is awesome

3 Aug

1) New food is a hot commodity

You can’t get new food anywhere. I mean, c’mon, I’ve had a lot of food in my life. It’s not every day I can get my hands on something I’ve never tasted!

2) It’s exciting and mysterious

I love surprises. I love not knowing what something will taste like, or even what’s all in it. The thrill of experiencing the hustle and bustle of a new city is on par to tasting that city’s specialty dish (mmm!).

The meal on my flight to Japan might have been more mysterious than exciting…

3) You can more fully experience small details

Think of meeting a someone new. You say hello, shake hands, maybe ask a few general questions. Five minutes into your conversation, you’ve judged whether or not you like them. If you do, you talk longer and discover a smidgen of their past, their favorite places to hang out and other details that make them unique. Accordingly, when you spy a new food, you scope it out. Give it a cautious sniff and inspect its ingredients. Then you take a bite. If you like it, you eat more, and as you do, you experience its notes of flavor fully and form adjectives for certain characteristics of it in your mind. Granted, you might learn more about a food each time you eat it, but that first bite has your total attention, allowing you to fully enjoy the details.

4) It tells about a country’s identity

In nearly every culture, meals are a time for community. What get-together doesn’t have food in the mix? A lame one, believe you me. If you want to call up that friend you haven’t seen awhile, you ask her to meet you for coffee or at a deli. Why? Food lightens the mood. We’ve been trained to associate food with good feelings (aka, coffee and friendship). Since food is such an important part of everyones’ lives, the things a person eats tells you a bit about them.

I’m not sure what this snack says about me…

Why do you enjoy new food?

Visiting Italy through gelato

14 May

Photo courtesy of my beautiful friend Krystle

It doesn’t get better than gelato. In my opinion, it beats out ice cream, smoothies and sorbet. The only sweet frosty treat that compares is tart frozen yogurt. So ever since we bought a quick and easy frozen dessert maker, I have wanted to try homemade gelato.

In Europe, it was almost impossible for me to resist buying from any gelato stand I passed. After all, a scoop was only around 50 cents, and there were so many flavors to try! Lemon (or limon, as I would order in Montenegro) is my longtime favorite dessert flavor, so I decided it would also be my first attempt at gelato.

Do the raspberries make it less sad?

Sadly, that beautiful top picture is not of my own gelato. Mine was more what you would call cold lemon soup. Better luck next time? If so, I will post a picture on here in order to maintain some of my culinary dignity.

Gelato originated in Florence, Italy. Where else would such a timeless, tasty treat come from? Italian cooking has highly impacted the world, and it’s the food alone that attracts many people to Italy.

It was difficult for me to research Italy, in part because it’s so popularized. Venice, Tuscany, Rome…all these places are famous and romanticized. Depending on which part of the country you visit, Italy holds wine-soaked countrysides, enchanting cities, pasta-laden eateries and idyllic ocean views.

It’s the culture, though, that beckons to me even more than the food and  breathtakingly gorgeous sights.

Italian culture is summed up in a common Italian proverb: “A day without laughter is a wasted day.” Italian greetings are hugs and kisses and shouts. If an Italian is feeling emotional, you will hear about it, and possibly be forced to empathize with them in the same vocal manner in which they inform you.

Italians care about appearance, yet are laid back and accepting. What some might call schmooze, they call charisma. The little peninsula we call Italy is world-renowned for simple and happy living. Remember, I’ve never been to Italy, so this is mostly my idealism and internet research talking. Have you been to Italy? If so, how does your experience relate to my idea of it?

In any case, Italy is a ton of fun. Eat yourself silly, meet a few genuine Italians and have a blast in a country where the word “bored” might as well not exist!