Tag Archives: travel

Constantinopoli!

Wow! It feels like just yesterday we were booking hostels and buying bus tickets for Istanbul, and just like that it’s over. I am so, so happy I decided to go because I absolutely fell in love with that city. I know I wouldn’t have known what I was missing out on if I hadn’t gone, but thank god I made it there before I left Europe. Monday and Tuesday were two absolutely crazy ridiculous days, but they were worth every second. 

Our adventures started right off the bat. An old Turkish man in a suit approached us as soon as we got into town and not only went to find someone who knew English to read the directions to our hostel, but actually took us all the way there. I will never know why that man had the time or the desire to help six random Americans and take an almost 30-minute walk with them, but I don’t even want to know how long it would have taken us to find the place without him. We took an overnight bus (which means basically no sleep), but since we only had two days we only sat down to eat breakfast and then we were out. After we walked out the door, the only other time we sat down that day was to eat lunch, and that is not an exaggeration. We went to the Grand Bazaar, which is completely appropriately named, and the Blue Mosque before heading back to get ready for the concert.

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ImageWe found the Grand Bazaar randomly on the way to the Hagia Sophia. The only problem with that was that those two things aren’t even close to each other… Like I said, I was pretty lost the entire trip. We spent over two hours there and I don’t even think I saw a tenth of it. Image

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We had to wear these inside the mosque. I think we pull them off, don’t you?

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I think the best part about not knowing where we were was that we honestly just wandered our way to and from everywhere. Walking for two days straight was absolute hell, but we would have missed so much taking taxis or public transportation everywhere. We didn’t get to do everything we wanted to just because of how much time we spent walking, but I’m glad that we got to take our time actually seeing what little of the city we did see. 

The JT concert was absolutely incredible. He puts on one hell of a show. And I have no idea how he is so good at everything he does. I don’t have any good pictures, unfortunately, but just take my word for it. Absolutely worth waiting an hour listening to “Some Type Of Way” on repeat for an hour, standing for over three and climbing a fence to find a taxi that we overpaid for to get home. 

The second day we got to go in the Hagia Sophia and we went to a Turkish bath, after a serious struggle with the number one worst hostel receptionist of all time. Let me tell you, that bath was quite the experience. Not an experience I’m sure I want to repeat, but definitely something I’m glad I got to do once in my life. After we ate dinner a few of us went last minute shopping to spend the last of our Lira and we ended up getting to our shuttle pick up at exactly the right time. Seriously, if we had been two minutes later we would have missed it. I have no idea how we managed that so perfectly, but it couldn’t have turned out better if we had planned it that way. 

I can honestly say I will be back there. Two days was nowhere near enough. I could spend forever just walking down every side street and spending too much time looking in all the random shops. I left my heart in Turkey.

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Saturday Special: I miss Asian food

Today I was really craving some fried rice. There’s a place I can order from around here, but I knew it would be significantly healthier (although definitely not as delicious) if I made it myself, so I did. Sort of. I didn’t really make this decision until right before dinner, so I was missing a few ingredients. It didn’t exactly satisfy my Asian food craving, but it was pretty good nonetheless. Next time I will definitely opt for non-frozen vegetables, even with the extra time it will take to cook them. You really can just tell the difference between them. 

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I am getting tired of chicken. How many times have I said that already? I don’t even know why. I went to an absolutely fantastic burger place earlier this week and I haven’t even really been eating meat at all recently. Also, it’s not like I don’t eat chicken all the time back home. I definitely eat chicken more than any other type of meat. I do think I’m in a cooking rut. I seem to be making small variations on the same meals every time I cook. Whenever I try to make something drastically different it typically doesn’t turn out as nice so I feel like it’s not worth it try again since I have to end up eating whatever I make. Still, something’s gotta give. Saturdays are meant for food experimentation, and I have definitely been slacking on that front. I’m going to try to quit my bitching and give it a genuine effort next week. 

Earlier this week I planned a trip to Istanbul with five other people from my group. I am TOO stoked about this. And, get this: we’re going to see JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE. I honestly can’t wait. Knowing that this trip is coming up has made it so hard to focus on my school work. I have been wanting to go to Istanbul basically since I got here. I haven’t gone yet because I was worried about my finances, but I decided this trip was my reward for my internship over the summer.

All in all, I can’t complain about this week. I have definitely been relaxing more than I should, which will probably come back to bite me later on this week, but for now I’m doing alright. I’m officially three weeks away from the end of this crazy journey, and I have a feeling it’s going to be the best three weeks yet. 

P.S. I hope you’re still watching me do yoga. I am not ashamed of bragging about how awesomely I have been doing. I’m especially proud of myself for actually keeping it up for this long. 

 

Saturday Special: Soup of the Day (With a bonus breakfast success)

So, I’m on spring break right now. I still have two weeks to go and I am BORED. I think there are some people coming back from their trips next week, but I haven’t seen anyone in person since Wednesday. Rough stuff. It’s not all bad, though. I’m easily able to work out 6 days a week and spend hours on cooking my meals without worrying about what else I have to do that day. I’ve watched a LOT of TV (I’m on a Sister Wives kick right now) and played my ukulele nearly every day, so I am keeping busy enough. I also started a Giveit100 project for doing yoga. I have been doing yoga almost daily for a few weeks now anyway, but I thought it would be a good idea to take videos of my progress.  If you’ve never heard of this website before, go check it out. The videos are so motivational.

 

Today I made soup. Well, I tried to make soup. I used this recipe, but I added spinach, chicken and feta cheese. It turned out okay. It definitely would have been MUCH better pureed like the recipe called for, but I didn’t have the necessary equipment to do that. So, this is what I ended up with:

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As you can see, the soup on the recipe page is creamy, as in “creamy tomato soup” and mine is brothy. You know, you win some and you lose some. I’m just happy to have had a break from the chicken-breast-plus-veggie-cooked-in-butter dinner I’ve had for the past week. There are only SO many ways you can cook a chicken breast. 

Speaking of that, I ventured away from chicken breasts today. My grocery budget is more than enough to feed me, but the most expensive thing I buy BY FAR is the chicken breast (4 euros worth lasts me 3 days, yeesh), so I tried to buy some different cuts to try and save money. I bought two whole chicken legs (with the feet and all, gross) today for 3 euro. They were overall cheaper than the chicken breasts, but I ended up using an entire leg today, so they were actually a little more expensive and twice the work. I also found a package of chicken wings at the market for 3 euro, and I do think that was a good buy. Still, the chicken breast is definitely the simplest way to go, and those aren’t really that much more expensive, so I might just have to deal with it. 

I normally don’t go to the grocery store, but I do have to go every once in a while to buy a few things. This is what I picked up today:ImageYep, butter, bacon and cream cheese. I AM ON A DIET, people. Keto is amazing.

That chocolate syrup (made with stevia!) came in handy for my breakfast this morning. I conquered the pancakes!

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They were damn good, too. And it was beyond nice to have chocolate. I have had a mean sweet tooth all week long, so I’m really glad I was able to hold out until the weekend for these pancakes. I’m pretty sure they’re going to become my saturday morning breakfast staple, along with my other favorite breakfast item- fried eggs with chili powder. How acceptable would it be if I ate some form of egg for every meal? I would definitely do it if I could. I’m a little egg obsessed. I’m already looking forward to the bacon and eggs I’m going to have tomorrow for breakfast. 

Living Low-Carb: Souvlaki wraps

There are a few foods I’ve grown to love (and by that I mean “obsess over”) on keto (it seems like I started this forever ago… it’s only been a week and a half!). Those are cream cheese and eggs. Cream cheese has changed my life. Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but you get the point. I love cream cheese. It makes everything better. Anyway, today at the market I picked up another game changer- romaine lettuce! I normally have spinach salads, so I’ve never felt the need to pick up any type of lettuce, but today I went for it. The guy managing the stand only charged me half price (I don’t know what I did to deserve that) so that was nice too. Anyway, it’s like keto bread. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to stuff those babies before. Today I made ham and cheese “sandwiches” and for dinner I made these bad boys:

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Not the prettiest meal I’ve ever made, but that’s alright. I heavily overestimated the pork- the souvlaki skewers looked like they were half the size they normally are, so I thought two would be a good amount, but I was wrong. Not the biggest deal, but there was too much pork to fit inside the lettuce leafs. Under the pork is a tomato/cream cheese/spinach mix. These were DELICIOUS. Messy, but delicious. The lettuce surprisingly didn’t break or fall apart when I was eating, but I would like to find a way to make them stand up better. I might try iceberg lettuce next time. 

Anyway, this came out to about 600-ish calories and about 7 net carbs. That’s pretty high for my tastes, so this will definitely not be an “all the time” meal, but I woke up late and skipped breakfast today. I just used my last tomato and don’t plan on buying any more, so if I do make this in the future I’ll probably use half the pork and no tomato, making it much more keto-friendly. 

 

In other news, I finally got a LONG overdue haircut/color at the salon today. I went to the dentist yesterday since I haven’t been in a WHILE and I’ve been on this self-improvement kick. I was expecting to need several fillings, but he said I only needed one (thank god and Greece)! AND he didn’t even charge me for the first appointment. I had budgeted a LOT more for my teeth than I will be spending, so I used some of that money to take care of my hair. 

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I feel like a new woman!! I’m going back at the beginning of May to get it re-dyed (I’m really feeling medium-dark brown this time), but I’m surprised at how much I like this color. After dealing with whatever my hair has been doing for the past month, I think anything would be an improvement and a blessing. I’m also really happy with the cut- I’m trying to grow it out, so I only wanted a trim, but just that little bit has made it look ten times better and a million times less raggedy. I really love it, and I’m so happy getting it professionally done was in my budget. I’ve been trying to live pretty frugally since I am moving into my first house in August and it is completely unfurnished, so it was also really nice to be able to splurge a little bit. I haven’t really bought anything for myself other than food and toiletries in weeks. Spending money was actually a pleasant change. 

That’s all for now. I’m planning on a big grocery shopping trip at the end of this month to buy some baking materials, so I’ll be trying my hand at healthy baking here in a few weeks. Until next time!

Saturday Special: Living Low-Carb

Trying to cook with-in Keto has brought its own slew of challenges for me on top of being in the process of actually learning to cook in general. This past week got a bit a lot a little repetitive, so today, as per the norm on Saturdays, I broke out of my keto-confort zone and tried some new things. For breakfast, I used this recipe for cream cheese pancakes. I also bought an Atkins chocolate bar, which I melted and added to heavy cream to make chocolate whipped cream. Unfortunately, as with my other pancake endeavor, they ended up more like pancake mash and the whipped cream wasn’t very whipped at all, but that was because I got bored and my pancakes were getting cold. Again, I can’t complain because they tasted great, but the actually pancake-creation is going to take some intense practice.

Dinner turned out a bit better. I am sorry to say I am partially a recipe repeater. I made the same salmon from a few weeks ago. But I did use this recipe for zucchini pizza bites, and I can safely say that dinner was overall a huge success. This meal was around 5.50 euros. I already had everything except for the salmon. Let me just say it tasted just as good as it looked.

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Right now, the only aspect of my life in which I am actually feeling keto is my budget. I spent almost double what I normally spend on groceries this week. A lot of that has to do with the pancakes I made, since I didn’t have hardly any of those ingredients on hand, but it was still a little off-putting. Those will definitely be a “once in a  while” treat. The only reason I made them today was as an in-diet reward for resisting pizza, calzones and everything in my favorite bakery in Thessaloniki (Terkenlis!) yesterday. I can’t remember a time that I was more proud of myself. I am not one to turn down cookies when they are sitting right in front of me. It wasn’t easy, but I’m hoping that each time I face temptation it will get easier. We’ll see. 

This semester has been, at times, terrifyingly lonely. With my inability to connect with this group of study abroads and my complete determination to stick to a pretty strict budget, I don’t get out much. Sometimes it bothers me, but I know that it’s a choice I have made (I in no way think my lack of interacting with my group has anything to do with them. They’re great people. It’s really all on me.). I don’t normally have a problem being alone, but it has been hitting me pretty hard this last month or so. There is a silver lining, however. I have started doing a lot of “self-improvement.” It started with cooking, but I spend most of my day doing things that make me better. I play my ukulele a lot during the day, I workout nearly 6 days a week and in general I am just taking care of myself more. Sometimes I think I’d rather be home, but being here this semester has really helped me work on myself, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The independence that comes from having nearly all my time to myself allows me to make me the person I want to be. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity back home. And I’m hoping that I will get into a routine here that I will be able to carry with me back to the United States. 

That’s about it in my life. I am very seriously considering octopus sometime next week with one of my friends (I know I just spent a paragraph talking about how I never see anyone, but that’s not ENTIRELY true ALL of the time. I do have a teensy, tiny bit of a life.). Hopefully that happens. Octopus has been my ultimate goal for this entire semester.

Back in Action

Alright, guys, it’s been a while. Spring break is swiftly approaching here in Greece and that means midterms and mid-semester projects. On top of that, Caitlin came to visit me for a week and a half before she left to go back home for good (sob), so blogging kind of got put on the back burner. Caitlin left Monday and I took my last test yesterday, so I’m back in the grind. 

 

 

Last Saturday we went to Meteora. It was BREATHTAKING. 

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Honestly, it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. We were trying to save money, so instead of taking a comfortable cab ride, we decided to hike from a town at the base of the mountain. Poor decision, trust me.

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please don’t kill me for posting this

Thankfully we made it. I really wasn’t sure I would for a while. It was like a baby version of Mt. Olympus but I was overdressed and wearing heeled boots. I wanted to die. 

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We had to wear these AWESOME skirts inside the monastery

It was a long day but definitely worth it. We spent most of it traveling, but I definitely think Meteora is a must-see if you’re visiting northern Greece.

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Having Caitlin here meant we ate out A LOT. And, to be honest, I didn’t feel like bothering with trying to experiment with my cooking. I will definitely be making up for the two last Saturdays I missed. I started Keto a few days ago so I’m excited to start creating fun keto-friendly meals. I’ve been eating the same thing every day just to make sure I’m eating the right things, but I know I’m going to get bored of having no variety soon. Last night I did try to make zucchini noodles for the first time. It was actually pretty damn good. Not pasta, obviously, but not bad at all.

 

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I haven’t been doing much recently other than focusing on school, so that’s about it for now. Spring break is next week, hopefully I’ll get out of my room a few days out of the next month (I don’t have to worry about school again until May!). I’ll let you know how my diet is going later, I’m feeling pretty laggy right now, but I’ve read that that’s normal for a few days in.

Saturday Special: Under the Sea

I did it! I finally tipped my toes into the world of seafood. I LOVE seafood. Living in Mississippi, catfish is basically a vital part of my life. Anyway, I’ve never cooked seafood before. I walk by the seafood every time I go to the market, but I’ve always been too nervous to buy any fish before today. Last night I looked up the Greek word for Salmon (σολομός) so I had NO excuses. I passed a few stalls with salmon before I gathered up the courage to walk up to one. Today was an expensive day at the market, since I bought fish and chicken. I was looking for a yoga mat (I’ve started doing yoga pretty consistently about four days a week! Fingers crossed that this stays a habit) but there was not one to be found (at least as far as I could tell). 

My meal tonight was about 5 euro. Not too bad. For some reason I’m still scared of the oven. I feel pretty confident cooking things on the stove but anything involving the oven freaks me out. I think it’s getting better as I just suck it up and do it. I think it’s just because I can’t actively see how cooked the food is. 

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I used this recipe. I have a new favorite “filler” food that I put in almost everything: sautéed spinach and tomatoes. It’s so easy, quick and super delicious. A few nights this week I made a meal out of it by adding bell peppers,broccoli and soy sauce. The salmon I bought had bones in it, so it ended up being a bunch of small pieces of salmon pushed together to look like one larger piece (luckily those tomatoes on top hide my handiwork). No bones made it to the final product, though, and it wasn’t overcooked, so no harm done. I’m really happy with this first attempt at fish. Seriously, go me. Actually being able to see how my cooking has improved since I started making a concentrated effort to learn is so satisfying. 

In other news, happy spring! The weather in Thessaloniki is miles better than it was just a week ago. It’s absolutely beautiful. Here’s proof:Image

 

Unfortunately, I forgot that warm weather meant bugs. I left my balcony door open ONE night and I am covered in bites. I definitely did not miss this. Oh well, it is a trade I am willing to make for the absolutely perfect weather we have been having. Beach weather is nigh approaching, and I cannot wait.