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Fall Fasting & Other Fun Stuff

It’s a gloomy Monday morning and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than sitting out on my screened-in porch, enjoying the chilly breeze with a hot cup of coffee. My job is remote and although I have a (messy) office in the house, I typically do most of my work out here with a view of the canals behind my house.

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Things are still a little messy after last weekend’s hurricane prep!

The truth is, I set up a bunch of fall goals that I just haven’t been keeping (refer to last post that was around 6 weeks ago). I’m not going to dwell on it here, but I know I said I was going to blog more often and it’s disappointing (to me) that I haven’t been keeping it up. Maybe if I would keep to the “shorter workouts” promise, that would free up some time? I should be able to bang it out in an hour or less, but it’s rare that I’m at the gym less than 90 minutes. Hell, I feel if I’m driving 1/2 hour to and from, I want my time there to be worth it. When I work out at home, I tend to keep to the hour promise (including yoga). Shorter workouts, shorter blogs? We’ll see.

One thing that I’ve been doing that has yielded good results is working out at the end of a 19 hour fast. About a decade ago, I was very much into Intermittent Fasting (IF) and got rather lean following the “The Alternate Day Diet” aka JUDDD (Johnson Up Day Down Day Diet). What this entails is eating 500 calories or less on down days and basically whatever you want on up days. And by this, I do mean whatever you want! I think back then I wasn’t quite as health conscious as I am now (amazing how a decade changes you) and was eating a lot of vegan junk food on my up days (I recall a lot of vegan ice cream pints being consumed). The down side of this, I know now, was that I felt positively famished by the middle of my down day. I needed more nutritionally dense foods, but honestly, all I cared about was the weight melting off.

JUDDD also made for difficulty in social life planning. I recall being on a 3 week trip to Italy, and trying hard to fall asleep super hungry and obsessing over all the amazing food I’d get to eat the next day. Anyone who succeeds on Intermittent Fasting long term will tell you that you need to not obsess about food while fasting. Use that clearer thinking to do great things and all! But, all I could think about was a huge bowl of pasta with marinara sauce and soy gelato. Um, who fasts while on vacation in Italy, anyway?! Me and my stupid ideas. But you can see I’m pretty disciplined when I set my mind to it. I didn’t cheat in Italy.

I soon switched to Fast Five (you eat within a five hour window daily), figuring it would work better within my lifestyle and I did find it a lot easier. I think I kept that up for about a year, maybe more, but when I moved out of NYC, my lifestyle changed drastically and I had a lot more downtime making the whole not eating thing really hard, so I just stopped.

And now I’m back. It’s been two months without straying and I feel great and (daresay) I look pretty good, too. Nutrition is my focus, although some days might be more nutritionally dense than others. That IF makes you appreciate food more is fact. This go around, I’m so appreciative of good food, that I don’t want to waste my eating window with subpar food (or junk).

But enough about that! There’s writing to think about (I was back at my novel rewrite for a while at the end of Summer), and tonight I’ll be going hard at my French lessons so that I can communicate a little better when I’m in Montreal next week.

And Halloween is coming! I have several parties that I’ll be attending and I have costumes in mind that I need to get working on. This past weekend, Danny and I decided to do a late afternoon stroll through the French Quarter. I love it this time of year. It was warm out, but not so stifling hot that everything reeks of (unmentionables). Yeah, the crowds are slowly trickling back in, but it’s not as crazy packed as it’ll be two weekends from now, the weekend before Halloween. I actually won’t even be around for that because I’ll be in Montreal, but I’ll be back in time to celebrate Halloween night here in NOLA!

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I really don’t love clowns at all, but how cool is this house in the French Quarter? Sorry that car is ruining things a bit…

I’ve been traveling a fair amount (New York a couple times and Toronto) since my last post, but now I’m home for a bit. I’ll put up another post this week, because I had some pretty amazing food. This coming weekend is Rougarou Fest in Houma, LA and this week I’ll be getting together my swamp witch costume.

So, those goals… there’s no time like today to get a real start on them! The chill in the air inspires me.

Summer 2017, The Official Farewell

It’s safe to say goodbye now, right?

I grew up on Long Island and “back to school” was always the day after Labor Day. I used to have mixed feelings. After all, who can resist the allure of a new Trapper Keeper and fall clothes that would be too hot to wear for a month? But I definitely loved summer. A mere two months of freedom, but wasn’t it endless once?  Beach days with my grandparents at Zach’s Bay, Disney vacations, huge Sunday family picnics at Eisenhower Park, Friday night baseball games, pool days in my backyard, parades, ice cream truck jingles, cupping lightening bugs in my hands and admiring the glow before releasing them… it’s a sunny, sandy, starry humid blur but probably familiar to anyone growing up on Long Island in the 70s/80s.

In New Orleans, while locals enjoy having a lot less tourists taking up all the dining reservations, a lot of us either leave the city or count down the days until Labor Day. And here we are. Happy Labor Day, bitches!

This summer has been a good one for me. There was the new boat, which allowed for a entirely new way to explore this intriguing area of swamps, wild life, abandoned boats and forts. We’ve admittedly wimped out a bit and haven’t used it due to late afternoon storms (the entire month of August was a bit of a wash out), but September’s cooler temps beckon so that we can go out earlier than 5pm.

Travels were steady, New York and Toronto in June and July, San Francisco in August and Nashville last week.

Food memories of the summer, though! It’s been a while since I did a vegan food share, hasn’t it? One standout moment recently was at an old favorite in a new location in the Bay Area, Millennium. You can read all the details in my Yelp review, but these photos might do the dishes justice (probably not!)

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Fresh Corn, Chard & Toasted Pumpkin Seed Tamal

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The most glorious, gorgeous Fattoush Salad I have ever experienced!

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I was all gaga over the Strawberry Trifle

Another standout experience was Toronto’s Planta.

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Frenchie pizza made healthy w/ arugula; made super rich with truffle oil

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Cauliflower tots- super decadent

Speaking of pizza, i.e., my favorite food, I had tons of it at my favorite Italian vegan cafe on Long Island, Three Brothers. Photos aren’t blog-worthy, (LIES. I ate it too quickly!) but check out this delicously colorful ‘za I had in Napa at Live Fire Pizza!

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Feast the rainbow!

And while we’re at it, I’m a little bit proud of the pizzas I’ve been making weekly this summer. Danny has been even trying to eat less animal products and is sharing some of my vegan dinners lately.

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Homemade pizza with Miyoko’s VeganMozz, olives, broccoli, fresh basil & tomatoes and Tofurkey vegan sausage

“What about dessert,” you say? How about this divine vegan tiramisu from Graze, Nashville?!

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Jesus himself might have wept when eating this tiramisu

Alright, I guess I should admit that I did eat dinner before indulging.

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savory Chickpea Cakes with Bay Seasoning

And this seitan steak and potatoes ain’t pretty but I would kill to know how they were able to get the seitan so succulent/crispy/tender (steak-like!)

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Seitan Steak & potatoes (the steak is that ugly dark triangle in the lower right corner. Ugly but incredibly delicious, so I have to share!)

Want to see some nachos, while we’re at it?

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Homemade, can’t you tell?

OK, so these nachos aren’t very pretty either. I really just want to share with you the holy grail of gooey vegan queso, made with tapioca starch so you get that stretch going. I put the nachos over a massaged kale salad and it was half junk food and half healthy.

I’ve been experimenting a lot with cooking and hope to do a blog post detailing this more, however, the reality is, this isn’t a cooking blog (there are just so many pretty ones out there). I prefer to detail my dining out experiences, especially given all the traveling that I do, but who knows. Perhaps an exploration of spending more time in the kitchen will be part of my fall pursuits.

Fall goals:

-blog at least twice per week

-work on my novel daily for at least an hour

-get back on my French and Italian lessons

-keep up the shorter (an hour or less), more intense workouts

-keep up the IF (Intermittant Fasting, subject for another blog post because it really makes sense for when I travel)

See you later this week!

Hurricane Season (Wake Me When It’s Halloween)

Time for the obligatory, August sucks, bring on fall post. Two days left in this tiresome month and they are full of storm. So it goes. This city is in my blood and I’ll take it with the storms and flooding the same way I’ll take it with the second lines, beads and bourbon. Three weeks ago I was storm-stranded in my car. Luckily I had pulled onto high ground, and after almost three hours of waiting it out to no avail, I had to wade through thigh-deep water to get to safety. What kept going through my head as I walked through the filthy water while garbage cans floated past me? This is practice for the zombie apocalypse (I think about the zombie apocalypse way too often). Spoiler alter: I made it OK and along the way, enjoyed the local attitude, ie, the folks partying away at the gas station and flooded bars in the neighborhood.

Today is August 29 – fall is still about a month away. I’m rained in due to the city being “shut down,” thanks to the outer bands of Hurricane Harvey. I have work travel planned for tomorrow (but who knows if that’s going to happen) and guests for the weekend who may or may not even be able to get into the city. Happy thoughts are needed. Wine is needed and it’s not even noon yet.

Actually, copious amounts of coffee is preferable on a rainy day, don’t you think? Make mine cold brew cuz the humidity is at 93%, people and I’m compelled to do as I always do, work out on the screened-in porch. I have just enough left to get me through the day. I live a half hour or so from my grocery store of choice (yeah, Whole Foods… gotta appreciate those new lower prices, though. Thanks, Amazon) and there’s no chance I can get out of the swamps today to restock on much needed fresh vegetables, coffee and Nada Moo (That Snickerdoodle Dough is liiiiife!) But hey, I have frozen bananas and cacao powder and frozen cherries so I can make a really healthy kind of ice cream with that. When life hands you bananas, make nice cream(?) On a serious note, I’m really feeling fortunate because those folks in Houston have got it bad and the end of this storm isn’t coming quickly enough.

On any typical August day recently, it was 104 degrees with the heat index. I sit on the aforementioned screened-in porch every morning and evening, drinking something iced while I work and the roar of the cicadas is deafening. Days are brutal, oppressively wet-hot and afternoon storms are constantly threatening, destroying any early evening boat plans. Although I feel slightly done with summer, I’ll have a dreamy evening like this one and think it’s not so bad.

But, I’m holding out for fall because I’ll still have evenings like this, only my fingers won’t stick to the computer keys. I won’t be sweating merely from the act of sitting. Besides, fall promises Halloween.

For some people, this is one day, but not the likes of me. I get started with Halloween pursuits in late summer and the season kicks in full force on September 1 for two months. I’ve covered my lust for all things spooky, witchy, owly, pumpkiny in a blog post before, but at the risk of being slightly repetitious… oh fuck it, I have two whole months of going there again and no one can stop me. I’ll try to keep it fresh.

In the meantime, I’m going to force myself to wait until after Labor Day to start Halloweenifying the house, probably also when I’ll start to turn my office into the vintage Halloween & haunted house room of my dreams (and I won’t take anything down come November 1). I’ve already picked out a color for the walls. Fall is the season of change for me. New pursuits, new decorating ideas, new outfits. I’m ready for it.

Homesick?

I love New Orleans, but I’ve been missing New York a lot over the past year. Perhaps I have the best of both worlds, though. I get to visit New York when I have the time (except during the months of January, February and March. I don’t miss those NY winters at all) and I get to live in a much more affordable city (any city with the exception of San Francisco and perhaps LA is more affordable), one that I love equally to my birthplace. I don’t take this for granted.

But, homesickness isn’t always a rational thought. I was back in New York last month and I’m going back next week for a few days and already I’m thinking ahead to when I can visit again. It’s just that I find myself yearning for weird things that I can’t have here and they aren’t even that big of a deal, just things that seem silly but are meaningful to me. Like I am missing fucking subway stops! What the hell? Nostalgia is for maudlin wimps, right?

I was looking through photos of my trip last month. There weren’t a ton of photos, but the ones I did take (other than food), were all significant to me, due to the memories they hold for me. Like the lower Manhattan skyline viewed from a boat. This last time, though, I wasn’t taking the free Staten Island ferry, but via a vintage schooner ride.

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That view, tho…

Sights that bring me back to childhood. One of my earliest memories is of trying to see the tops of skyscrapers from the backseat of my parents’ car.

Here, I spy the Mid-Century Modern TWA Terminal as I wait for my Lyft at T5. This is my welcome home and just looking at this photo makes me happy.

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I’ve never wanted to stay in one of those seemingly dreary airport hotels before but damn… I might have to make an exception for this one!

Nothing like getting caught in Central Park in a thunderstorm. We waited it out in the Loeb Boathouse. I can’t think of a better place! More idyllic views.

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I took so much for granted when I lived in NYC, like excellent vegan food at every turn (delivered to your door, if you so desire!) Now feast your eyes on my new obsession, The Impossible Burger.

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Such a momentous occasion deserves some video, doncha think?

 

Please forgive the lousy quality and lack of landscape shooting (not to mention the close-ups!) This was originally an Instagram story.

Side note: While the other scarily realistic vegan burger (Beyond Burger) is far more accessible (and sold in grocery stores), I much prefer the Impossible Burger. For starters, you can get them well done. If you try to make Beyond Burgers well done, you can ruin them. Then there is the thoroughly disgusting smell of Beyond Burgers. It’s just hard to get past! When I bit into the Impossible Burger, I was reminded of those days long ago, as a child, when I’d get well done burgers at steakhouses . While I never thought I actually missed that experience, with just a couple bites, I was feeling strangely nostalgic.

Serious late night roams through the East Village. Ducking into basement bars, because, the allure of the subterranean lair… You feel like you’ve stumbled on a thrillingly illicit secret. For obvious reasons, they do not exist in New Orleans.

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Sake Bar Decibel

We like to do progressive dining and drinking (a fancy way of saying that we don’t stop eating) until way past the witching hour.

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Nothing like a tofu steak at Midnight (Stanton Social)

Long Island. The place I swore I’d never appreciate, but funny what 8 years away will do to you. Who knew that I’d be able to get a decent vegan slice until four am, just five minutes from my parents’ house? Or that I’d be able to relive my childhood with vegan versions of all of the Italian American classics that I cut my teeth on?

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Vegan pizza with sausage, cheese & olives at 3 Brother’s in Farmingdale

Waves. Real beaches. I never knew I’d miss the beach, but I guess growing up five minutes from one, means its influence is strong. During those 27 months spent in the Midwest, I hallucinated seagulls more than once. I guess I didn’t save my Insta-story, but we did have a day where we walked the boardwalk at Long Beach.

I’ll be back at my “other home,” in a week, a few days sandwiched between work trips to Toronto and San Francisco. Away from NOLA for 10 days? I have no doubt I’ll be yearning for sunset boat trips through the swamp… humid breezes carrying the scents of jasmine and brackish water to me as I write on my porch late at night and – well, maybe I just need to write all that down when I’m away from here because nostalgia is more palpable when you’re far far away.

Bring On Summertime, New Orleans!

Happy July!

The mindset of being on summer vacation is instilled in us as soon as it’s our last day of kindergarten. I’m sure I’m not alone in this: with the unofficial start of summer being Memorial Day, we have about 3 months to fill with an array of getaways, from a weekend road trip to a month-long retreat (or longer) in some sort of exotic locale. We’re not even halfway there yet! I’ve got months to fill… let’s get on it!

It’s good to get out of town periodically, but it bears mentioning: I love living in New Orleans, but I especially love it in the summer. Yes, you’re reading that right. There’s that magical time after the colleges let out and JazzFest is over when the city becomes a lot hotter and a lot emptier. We can finally go out and get into places that normally are too packed for me to consider, places with stunning views like Tin Roof at the Pontchartrain Hotel. Hello, Staycations!

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Us being dorks, taking a selfie

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How gorgeous is New Orleans?!

Don’t get me wrong. It’s unbearably hot at times. I can’t imagine life without A/C. I run out of the way of palmetto bugs because they are that fast and that horrific. I haven’t yet found a beach that I love that’s close to here, and I am allergic to most festivals (the way most locals like to summer here yes I just used “summer” as a verb). But there’s just something wretchedly lovely about July and August in New Orleans. The humidity holds the overbearing scents of tropical flowers. Frogs in our backyards sing and croak their tales. Someone, somewhere, is practicing a trumpet with their windows open and even if it’s not yet perfectly played, you love it.

On staycation days, we usually grab a frozen daiquiri somewhere in the Quarter (St. Lawrence crafts ’em up with real fruit) and stroll the hot streets looking for something to catch our fancy. Trust me, at any given moment, there’s entertainment on the streets, whether or not it’s intended to be so.  And you need to drink that frozen drink before it melts, so you’re feeling good in no time at all and people-watching is a glorious thing.

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Grabbing a frozen French 75 Uptown at Superior Seafood is also a treasured NOLA summer tradition

As I’ve mentioned in my last post, we have a new boat and what better way to explore secret bayous and not-so-secret huge lakes? My house is surrounded by Lake St. Catherine (which leads out into the Gulf of Mexico), Bayou Sauvage, Lake Pontchartrain and other tiny passageways. What better way to see the most beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen?IMG_0697.jpgIMG_0830.jpg

Travels… they are being had and they are being planned for the rest of the summer. I’ll be reporting back on that shortly, but for now, I’m enjoying my time at home.

Boating on the Bayou

We picked up the new boat on Saturday in Baton Rouge and drove it home (carefully… South Louisiana roads aren’t in the best condition) with a UHaul.

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There she is!

We’re in the process of getting a dock built because when we bought this house our insurance company made us destroy the preexisting dock. Understandable, seeing as it was all but sinking into the canals. We got some quotes and who knew how insanely expensive this project was going to be?! Also awesome, I have to replace most of the roof on my old house in the Marigny, so I’m going to be doing some serious damage to my savings over the next month. In the meantime, our kind neighbor across the street is letting us dock the boat there.

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Let the adventures begin! We had to launch the boat across the highway and then drove her to her resting spot before dealing with returning the truck, parking the trailer and a host of other boring stuff when all we wanted to do is get back out there and explore.

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Sunset over Bayou Sauvage

Mosquitoes are a thing to be reckoned with when you’re in the swamps and we didn’t want to drive out to the Lake yet, so it was a quick first ride and then we parked our girl for the night.

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On Sunday we had a boat christening (her name is Josie, after my grandmother and Aunt and of course, the late great Josephine Baker) and invited a few friends over to join us for some champers (one glass poured over the front of the boat, a more environmentally-friendly christening than breaking the bottle, I think?) and a ride to Lake Ponchartrain.

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I took lots of video but lack of a microphone means that you can barely hear our witty repartee because of the wind. I’ll get a better set up soon so I can share on Youtube.

 

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Addicted to the feeling of the wind (also, a rare shot of me w/o any makeup on– where’s a filter when you need one?)

Yesterday was Memorial Day and although I had a bunch of things I needed to get done in the day, we got out for about an hour before the massive thunderstorms hit New Orleans.

That’s a (weekend) wrap! The girl with her head in the clouds now has her head in the sea breezes…

Revisiting Your Favorite Places

“You’re going to Italy… again?” I kept hearing when I told friends about my upcoming trip. The implication was why not go somewhere you haven’t been before and I get it, believe me I do. There’s a whole world out there and I haven’t even been to South America yet, no less Asia or Australia. But Italy is easily my favorite place to vacation and  I found myself just simply wanting to go back. Do I really need to explain myself?

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Italy is fucking amazing. Who doesn’t know this?  The food, the wine, the art, the history… all the ancient shit and intriguing Catholic morbidity! My friend, Carolyn, and I found super cheap tickets leaving out of Philly and I had enough points for a free round trip ticket to Florence, my favorite city. Sold.

To be vegan while traveling in Italy is a pleasure. How things have changed since I first visited 18 years ago. In my wildest dreams, I don’t think I could have imagined this plate of pasta being served to me, dairy-free and smothered in truffles.

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I’m trying not to drool over such explicit food porn but it’s hard…

I don’t eat a lot of bread because normally I just don’t love it and let’s face it, you should love love love bread if you’re going to consume so many empty carbs, right? In Italy, however, the bruschetta is impossible to resist. Impossible. And oh so worth the carb overload.

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Although we spent most of our time in Florence, we also had forays to other cities. There was the day that we got to spend outside of Verona at the Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella winery owned by descendants of Dante Alighieri.

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We even got to meet the proprietor, the dashing Serego Alighieri, himself!  And of course, wine was had. Lots of wine. To be honest, the entire trip was a wine-soaked blissful adventure.

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Then there was one awesome accidental overnight trip to Rome because after that we missed our stop and it was the last train of the night. You know how annoying that is, and how a mistake can be so very expensive when you’re traveling. But hello, there are worse places to be stranded in than Rome, right?

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Pro-tip that bears mentioning here: carry a photo of your passport in your phone in case this happens to you. Naturally because we weren’t expecting to have to find a last minute hotel, we weren’t carrying passports. You cannot check into a hotel or even an AirBnb for that matter, without one!

I’m going to split up my travelogues because there is too much to fit into one post. Just a glance through these shots, though, should be enough to convince anyone why I make repeat trips to Italy, right?

Our final full day in Italy deserves special mention because this was a place I had never visited before, the gorgeous Medieval town of Certaldo. IMG_0314.jpg

As if this vista isn’t enough, there’s a church that has the body of a Saint on display. She was interred in this church in 1367!

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Beata Giulia da Certaldo

And no trip to Italy is complete without a visit to see the head of St. Catherine in Siena.

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She doesn’t show up as well in photos

Some people totally don’t get our fascination with the morbid side of Catholic traditions, but hey, that’s their problem. Lucky me to have a friend and travel partner who totally gets it, right?

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And there you have it. I will have you know that I’m already planning my trip back to Italy this fall with Danny so he, too, can understand my slight obsession with this glorious place.