For the love of focaccia

Riomaggiore

I don’t typically regret things. I’ll critique myself mercilessly on how I could have done or said something differently, but ultimately, no regrets. However, there is one thing I’m borderline regretting…and it has to do with bread.

It’s been nearly two months since we returned from our trip to Italy, and while every place we visited cast a spell on me, I’ve been daydreaming about one thing. I wish I could rewind time and go back to Liguria – the northwest coast Italy- not just for the mountains, colorful villages and fresh fish, but for the focaccia. The folks in this part of Italy can bake the crap outta some focaccia, and I wish I spent more time eating it and learning the secret of what makes it so incredible.Breakfast focaccia

In our Cinque Terre wanderings, we passed countless storefronts showcasing the bumpy bread in their windows. Plain, tomato, olive, onion, pesto…they were pretty to look at, but not what our taste buds were pulling us toward. (Side note: My taste buds screamed for what I … Read the rest

Picnic lifestyle

Picnic friends

It was 93 degrees in Paris, and I was on day five of my solo European adventure. The romance of independent travel was wearing off and my simple desire for someone to talk to was setting in. I had been awake since 3 a.m., running face-first into a cruel series of travel-induced roadblocks, least of which was my laughable attempt at speaking French. I wandered “les rues” weary and wilting under the heavy air, desperately needing water, a functional ATM and a bathroom. And then there it was.

American in ParisWhen I was eight, I fantasized about seeing the Eiffel Tower one day. Europe seemed galaxies away – completely inaccessible to a country mouse like me. But 22 years later, the imposing icon was right in front of my face. My weariness turned into a whirl of giddiness and awe. I wanted to share this with someone. My eight-year-old self wanted to turn and say, “Can you believe we are here?! Do you see this?!” But everyone around me were strangers and seemingly unaffected.

To make matters … Read the rest

Urban Adventure Hike

Kauffman Garden

People love to retreat into nature to hike – crossing off “fourteeners” like they are part of a grocery list. I totally get it. Escaping into the grandeur of untouched nature is truly spectacular and transformative. But I’m also a pretty big fan of what I call “Urban Adventure Hikes.” This is exactly what it sounds like. Trade the cliffside switchbacks for questionable industrial neighborhoods, and breathtaking views for newly discovered breakfast joints.

You’re like, “Jenna, you’re basically just taking a walk, right?” My response to you is the real-life version of the straight-eyed, straight-mouthed emoji.

I was in NYC recently and set out early, meandering alone through neighborhoods, listening to podcasts, taking pictures, changing course on a whim to follow people, seek out a perfect lunch or Gossip Girl locations – it ended up being about 7 hours and 20 miles long. It’s like being on a trail all day, except with weirdos and street food instead of elk and granola bars. This is easily the most relaxing way I can imagine spending a … Read the rest

A Gypsy Brunch Picnic

With so few days of summer left, I needed to jump on the opportunity to get my friends together for a picnic. Everyone knows brunch is the most important meal of the week, and I decided to take it to the park for extra flair. Three hours of snacking and lounging in the late-summer breeze with good company is time well spent. Fresh fruit, baguettes, cheese, tomatoes, mimosas, animal crackers, pie…a perfect mish-mash of picnic fare was present. The highlight was Gwen’s blueberry crisp (recipe below).

Gwen’s Blueberry Stuff – She adapted it from a recipe she found online and used berries picked by Uncle Larry in Bayfield. I bet any kind of fruit would be outstanding.

1 c. butter           1 c. brown sugar           1 c. flour              1 1/2 c. quick oats

1/2 tsp. salt        1 qt. fresh blueberries mixed with 2 tsp sugar and 1 Tb flour (or a 15 oz can if you don’t have an Uncle Larry)

In a medium bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Stir in flour, salt and oats … Read the rest

I survived a Bed and Breakfast

Lanesboro street signHave you been to Lanesboro? I’m quite sure I was one of the last few Minnesotans to visit. It’s a postcard-worthy town tucked into the base of the river bluffs where the pace is slow and everyone knows each other. Maybe I stayed away for so long due to my aversion to bed and breakfasts. Heads up – Lanesboro is dubbed the “Bed and Breakfast Capital of Minnesota.” I typically crave anonymity in my accommodations and B&Bs sound like a nightmare. I always imagined it like staying at a distant great-aunt’s house. She’s kind enough to let you stay in her country chic guestroom, and in return you’re obligated to spend time small-talking while sitting on wicker furniture and politely eating a too-precious Martha Stewart meal before continuing with your vacation plans.

“Fine. We’ll stay at a bed and breakfast,” I told myself and started my online digging. I perused several before landing on a comfortable, affordable fit. Here’s what sold me – the innkeeper bakes bread every morning. Yes, please. Maybe all B&Bs do Read the rest