Friday, June 28, 2013

Life via Instagram

Life as of late through the lens of my iPhone.
A Monday night trip to Molly Moon's, comprised of berry goat froyo with rhubarb and rose compote. 
Juicy strawberries for breakfast: one of my favorite signs of summer.
Because I mean, why wouldn't Bendel's give me a chocolate bar?
Enjoying my favorite flowers and catching up on journaling with my beloved Rifle Paper Co. notebooks.
Ladurée macarons hand-carried home from NYC. So worth it.
Sunny days are perfect for backyard lounging. 
I'm looking forward to doing a lot of this in the next few months.
Homemade salad with spinach, kale, pear, fig, almonds and balsamic vinaigrette enjoyed al fresco. 
Life is good.
"Spain night" featuring tortilla española, gazpacho and a lovely bottle of Rioja wine. 
You know, just trying to get my taste buds ready for my move to Madrid.

Follow me on Instagram @courtneylikkel

Monday, June 24, 2013

Take Me Back To: Los Angeles

Although I had so much fun on my recent trip to New York, it really validated that I undoubtedly belong on the West Coast. I was born in California, and although I moved away when I was little, I'm still a California girl at heart.

In fact, after I visited my kindred spirit Meghan this past March, I made the official decision to only apply to grad schools in southern California. (That is, after I teach English in Spain!) SoCal is the only place I can see myself living indefinitely - well, besides Paris, of course. But let's be realistic. As much as I love Seattle, homegirl needs at least 300 days of sunshine per year to maintain her sanity. I connect with the California attitude and lifestyle so much more than I ever could the East Coast (or the Midwest, or the South, or... anywhere else in the United States.)

I cannot wait to visit Meghan again and soak up the beautiful SoCal sunshine when I visit in July for my birthday!! I'm still (very obviously) reminiscing about my most recent trip. One of my favorite parts was when we ventured to beautiful Santa Monica for some time near the beach and shenanigans on the pier. Everything about Santa Monica is so quintessentially Californian, in which I zealously embraced. The golden sunshine, bustling pier, charming ferris wheel, iced coffee and hordes of perfectly bronzed natives in shorts and sandals made me feel like I was in a picture-perfect SoCal paradise. We even ended our day by watching the sunset at the Shangri La Hotel rooftop bar, rendering our adventure positively flawless.

One of my absolute favorite parts of LA is Larchmont Boulevard. Meghan calls Larchmont "like a hug for the soul". After spending a morning wandering through this charming neighborhood, I couldn't agree more. The glamorous Hollywood sign lies in clear view, while darling boutiques and coffee shops line the main street. We started our day at Babycakes, the most amazing gluten free and vegan bakery I have yet to experience. Words cannot express my euphoria as I took my first bite into my allergy-friendly maple donut. Following our bakery-induced bliss, we ventured to the farmer's market across the street where we admired all of the stunning flowers and colorful produce. Roaming about this quaint farmer's market in the sunshine while savoring the charm of the neighborhood sent me into a state of profound happiness. 

I can't write a post about Los Angeles without mentioning The Standard. I mean, what's better than a chic rooftop bar in downtown LA with sunshine, delicious libations and awesome people to hang out with? Nothing. Between the bellinis, the amber rays of sunlight reflecting off the pool and onto the city skyline, cozy bubble-enclosed waterbed cabanas, outdoor fireplaces, skyscrapers towering over us, unicorn topiaries, and a fabulous crew to enjoy it with - the rooftop bar at The Standard Hotel is easily the coolest bar I've ever been to. If I lived in LA, I would come to The Standard every day just to swim in their magnificent pool and drink divine champagne cocktails. That is all.

Oh, and last but not least: Bottega Louie. Enough said.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tuscan Chicken Salad

One recipe that my family will never tire of is Tuscan Chicken Salad, our go-to dinner for once the weather starts to warm up. This has been my favorite salad since middle school, and I am confident that it will continue to thrive as a traditional recipe for generations to come. All in all, this salad is simple but amazing. It's the perfect way to celebrate beautiful weather, the beginning of summer, and the coming together of friends & family.

Although this recipe can prove rather time consuming due to quite a bit of chopping, it is well worth the preparation time. The fresh herbs make this dish unique and invigorating, and every bit is savory and refreshing.

Mustard Vinaigrette:
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:
4 slices rustic Italian bread (or in my case, 4 slices Udi's gluten free bread)
Olive oil
Shredded chicken breast
3 stalks romaine hearts
1/2 cup thinly sliced basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
Cherry tomatoes and pitted Kalamata olives to taste (optional)

Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Grill or broil the bread on both sides until slightly crisp.

Combine ingredients & enjoy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Moving to Madrid: The Beginning

A caught a nasty cold on my flight home from New York that unfortunately caught up with me this past weekend. Not only did I miss several important days of work, but I also missed out on some rare Seattle sunshine. These things always come at the worst times, am I right?

The silver lining: I finally found time to work on my visa paperwork and my moving-to-Spain to-do list. (Naturally, that also included a Gael García Bernal movie marathon. Because, why not?) It's finally starting to feel real that I'm moving away. My unsuccessful research on potential apartments and fruitless attempts to figure out Madrid's public transportation system solidified both my fear and excitement for my upcoming adventure.

A part of me is still in disbelief that I am about to call Madrid my new home this September. Not to mention, I'll be gone for almost an entire year. When I lived in Cádiz for 5 months, I thought I was going to literally keel over and die of homesickness. Granted, I was at a completely different place in my life (for reasons described here), and it was my first time actually being "away from home". (Because let's face it, going to college and living 25 minutes away from where I grew up isn't exactly "moving away".)

I'm so nervous. Terrified, really. Yet, I am also filled with profound euphoria and excitement. Plus, I've already lived in Spain and vaguely know what to expect, I've been to Madrid before and I know that I love it there, and generally speaking, I'm at a point in life where I feel ready to pack my bags and move away.

I've been compulsively looking through all of my pictures from my first time to Madrid - trying to envision myself living there. And my word, what a beautiful city. Here are some of my favorite shots of my future home!

Plaza de Oriente
Palacio Real
Plaza de La Villa & the statue of Don Alvaro de Bazán
El Oso y El Madroño (the symbol of Madrid) and Banesto
Plaza Mayor
¡Tío Pepe!
Mercado de San Miguel

Monday, June 17, 2013

Take Me Back To: Rome

Lately, I've been feeling a little Romesick. Simply put: Rome is magical. The apricot buildings, the shimmering Trevi Fountain, the delicious red wine, the gorgeous Spanish Steps spilling over with luscious magenta flowers - everything emanates beauty. I felt like I was living in a painting for five days. Italy is so marvelous, I almost felt like I was dreaming. The rustic lavender and tangerine homes are elegantly decorated with picturesque shutters widely opened, letting the warm Italian sunshine effortlessly stream in. The locals bustle across the streets, chatting vivaciously in their eloquent language and enjoying their sweet bowls of heavenly gelato. The ancient ruins rest humbly along the streets, reminding the city of its glorious past and its ambitious future, while lively cafés and gelato shops line every street corner. Everything in life is better Italian.

On our first day in Rome, I told Becca I had three goals: 1) Make a wish in the Trevi Fountain, 2) eat gelato at the Trevi Fountain, and 3) meet cute Italian boys at the Trevi Fountain. So we navigated our way to the Trevi Fountain and lounged in the sun's golden rays while indulging on our creamy Nutella flavored gelato. I tossed three coins over my shoulder into the fountain, making three memorable wishes. As we sat on the stone ledge admiring the turquoise water dancing across the elegantly carved sea gods, three gorgeous Italian boys came up to us. We flirtatiously chatted, and they taught us adorable Italian phrases like "Nella botte piccola ci sta il vino buono". It was more of a scene straight out of the Lizzie McGuire Movie than a Roman fairytale, but we had no complaints.

Next we wandered to the Spanish Steps and admired the beautiful rustic Italian buildings, the succulent bougainvillea, and the stunning stairs rising up to the Roman heavens. I climbed to the top and stood in awe of the city, in a state of complete euphoria. Bright colors of crimson, cantaloupe and lilac danced before our eyes while the sweet music of the city entranced us. Looking down upon the city, we contemplated how genuinely wonderful life is. We reflected upon our adventures abroad from the past four months and how blessed we are to have amazing families to come home to. I soaked in each second, etching every detail in my mind so I could cherish it forever. I felt on top of the world on those steps, and I truly was. 

The following nights we discovered charming outdoor restaurants, generously draped in ivy and covered in glistening Christmas lights; sparkling under the full moon and silently singing along to the enchanting accordion players. We window shopped along the upscale shops near the Spanish Steps, and sat in the grass eating black cherry, coconut and rum flavored gelato. We explored the Vatican and gazed up at Michelangelo's stunning work in the Sistine Chapel. We dived into rich Roman history at the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, and relished the ancient ruins at the Roman Forum.

Rome felt like my home away from home. Within my first hour of arriving, I felt an overwhelming sense of comfort and familiarity. The quaint streets and cafés reminded me of my own home, decorated with chic Italian style and Tuscan countryside charm, along with my mom's delectable homemade Italian meals wafting through the kitchen. Drinking wine in outdoor restaurants decorated with emerald plants and illuminated candles reminded me of my backyard, surrounded by lush gardens and twinkling lights. Embracing my Italian roots in Rome was like indulging on gelato: sweet, flawless and completely euphoric.