Tag Archives: birthday

You don’t look a day over 2,600.

Just after Paige left, Rome celebrated its 2763rd birthday. What better excuse to have a festa?

April 21, 2010 is regarded as the anniversary of Rome’s legendary founding by Romulus, remembered as the pudgy baby suckling a she-wolf’s teat, victorious over his poor brother Remus. Here’s a teaser photo of the famous she-wolf sculpture projected in Piazza del Popolo.

Can you see baby Romulus and Remus suckling?

So, what does Rome do to celebrate its birthday, you ask? I think a better question would be what doesn’t Rome do. There were over thirty events for the birthday week including (but not limited to) tours at archeological sites, marching bands and choir performances, seminars, conferences, exhibition openings at museums all over Rome, free entrance to said museums and archeological sites and a grand finale that recalled the history of the city with lights, sound and fireworks. But more on that later.

The event that kicked it all off was a parade that Ryan and I barely made it to in time. We stood outside the Vittorio Emanuele II monument and watched groups of people dressed up in ancient costumes. There were groups recreating famous legions, groups representing different areas of Ancient Rome, different religious sects (think Vestal Virgins) and even captive barbarians! I think I saw a Dacian or two being mistreated. Yay! (For those of you who don’t already know, I am researching a sculpture that supposedly features a Dacian.)

Over the next few days I took advantage of free admission to museums during what is called Settimana della Cultura or Culture Week. One of my favorites was Palazzo Altemps. I could not believe that I had never been here before. I was able to get quite a bit of research done looking at ancient sculptures restored by Ippolito Buzzi (also written as Buzio), but the highlight was definitely seeing the sculpture known as the Suicidal Gaul. By now everyone knows I love barbarians. The sculpture is absolutely gorgeous and I’ve written about it on a few different occasions. This time I scrutinized the work in terms of its restoration. Hmm, that barbarian seems to wield a Roman sword… How odd.

Suicidal Gaul at Palazzo Altemps

Ryan and I also took advantage of free admission at the Palatine hill, a place I shamefully haven’t visited since 2007. We took a picnic lunch that we ate near the Palatine museum, from which Ryan fed a few pigeons before we headed on our merry way about the hill top. We traveled down through the forum before decided that although our ticket included admission to the Colosseum, we were just too exhausted to carry on. We did have fun walking amongst the ruins though. It’s a shame that it costs money to go to the forum. It used to be open to the public back in 2007. Drat.

Me in the forum next to the Temple of Deified Antoninus Pius and Faustina

Anyway, the next big birthday week event was ROMAGNIFICAT, which is a play on the Italian words for Rome and magnificent. Shayna and I trekked it out to Piazza del Popolo with the rest of the Romans to see the light and sound show that was to chronicle Rome’s history. It was cheesy, but also very cool. They projected images of the Sistine ceiling and last judgement on random buildings in the piazza, little snip-its of famous Italian films were shown, there was an interpretive dance and reenactment of Rome’s founding (think she-wolf and Remus getting clobbered). The finale consisted of fireworks in Italian colors and the lighting of the olympic torch; Rome has been nominated to host the 2020 olympics. So, all together something magnificent indeed. Here’s a look:

Michelangelo's Last Judgement projected in Piazza del Popolo

Other things I got up to in late April were meeting the director Francesca Archibugi, teaching the Italian studies students how to make Spaghetti alla Carbonara (see recipe below) and having drinks with Mia and friends. It was certainly a great month. 🙂

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta (You americani can also use cut up strips of bacon if you can’t find the cubed pancetta version.)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Half a small onion, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • pepper
  • Optional table spoon of dry white wine
  • Optional bits of parsley for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add spaghetti noodles.

While the noodles are cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the pancetta (or bacon) and saute for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Remove the pancetta, leaving that lovely oil/fat mix in the pan.  Toss the garlic and onion into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften. Turn the heat down to low and add the pancetta back in as soon as the noodles are done and strained.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the yummy oil/fat/garlic/onion mix. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Some Italians also add a tablespoon of dry white wine to the egg mix. I recommend it! Make sure you the heat is low, low, low before you move to the next step.

Pour the egg/cheese mix on top of the pasta, whisking quickly so that the mix covers all of the noodles. You want the eggs to thicken, but not scramble. Tricky, tricky. You can take the pan off the heat entirely if you want as long as your noodles are hot enough to partially cook the eggs. You can also thin out the sauce with a bit of reserved pasta water, but it won’t fix the scramble issue. So, don’t let it scramble!

Season the carbonara with salt and pepper and parsley, if you like. Then EAT!

What your pasta will hopefully look like.

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Social Experiments

So, after we got back from Paris we had very little time to prepare for Halloween. My coworkers also told me that it’s not really celebrated here in Italy. However, Leish and I went on our evening passagiata (walk) and saw a ton of Italian kids trick-or-treating. They were running in and out of pubs, bars, restaurants, anything still open at 8:00pm with bags of candy in tow. Yay for Americanization! So, then Leisha and I went home and tried to put together costumes from what we already had lying around. I teased my hair, put on a sweater vest and wore my reading glasses with tape in the middle. Instant nerd. Leish put on a black dress, threw some floss in her hair and drew a web on her face with eyeliner. Instant spider lady. After our glorious costumes we complete, we headed over to Barnum Cafe to meet some of Leisha’s friends. We had other plans, but we ended up spending the whole evening with a group of people we met there. So fun!


Spiderella and nerd on Halloween

I spent the next couple days resting and preparing for Dan and Oana’s arrival. Dan and I went to elementary, middle and high school together. Right now he has an internship in Düsseldorf, Germany and his girlfriend Oana is teaching English in Nice, France. They arrived on Tuesday night and when I picked them up from the train station, we began our mission for dinner which took us to 3+ restaurants. I still don’t know why things were closed that night. We had a lovely dinner in Trastevere. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to sightseeing with them during the week, but we spent the evenings going on walks that probably passed by the Pantheon and involved gelato in some way.

forum 1

Dan and Oana looking at the Forum from the Capitoline

Saturday was the first beautiful, warm, rain-free day of their visit and we went to the Capitoline Museums together, which is the first time I’ve been during my second stay in Rome. I’ve decided that I love that museum. It has two of my favorite sculptures: The Dying Gaul and Commodus as Hercules. The Commodus sculpture was especially fun to see because we drug the mattress into the conference room the night before and watched Gladiator on the big screen. It was perhaps too big. Another great thing about the Capitoline Museums is the wonderful view of the forum.

forum 2

View of the Forum from the Capitoline Museums

After the museums we made the trek to the Spanish Steps where they had constructed a fake Berlin wall in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the wall. I wonder if they knocked it down, too. We didn’t stay long enough to figure it out. Exhaustion.

Berlin in Rome

BERLYN / Spanish Steps

Our evening was a wonderful social experiment. After our huge Chinese dinner, we decided to go out to Anima, a dance club, so that I could demonstrate how persistent Italian guys can be. Dan, Oana and I had some good laughs that night. Unfortunately for them, they had to wake up just a few hours after getting to sleep to catch their flights back to Düsseldorf and Nice respectively.

On Sunday evening I met up with a German photographer named Chris and unfortunately did not practice German. Maybe next time! We went out for beers at a hole-in-the-wall bar and then took a passagiata before dinner. Mmmm saltimbocca.

Last night was Leisha’s birthday, but she is just getting over the illness from hell, so we took it easy. We went out to dinner in Trastevere and I ate my second baby cow of the week. Why does veal have to taste so good?!

Anyway, it’s finally less than a month until I will be back in the US for Christmas break. I’m starting to get very excited and also very broke. See you soon, America!

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Turning 22 Internationally

Ah, turning twenty two in another country has its ups and downs. It offers  cool, unique birthday experiences, but it inherently lacks some of your favorite people. You know who you are and I want to start out by saying, I miss you and I wish you could have been there!

“I’ve got the golden ticket.” Because Mia had to work on my actual birthday, we started the celebration on the 23rd. Mia, Leisha and I had a girls-only outing to the dance floor. I’d like to say that we danced out hearts out. After all the dancing we headed to Anthony’s apartment to hang out for a bit.

We put the birth in birthday. When I got to the office the next day, I found out that my boss, Jennifer had taken the day off because her friend went into labor and she wanted to be there for the birth. Unfortunately, the baby wasn’t born until the 25th. How lame. I was hoping we could share a birthday. So, Jennifer missed our little office party complete with cake, juice and other snacks.

How to create a tradition from Schramme. Last year for my 21st birthday, we all went to dinner at Schultzy’s, the German restaurant on the Ave, which was very fitting because my birthday falls on Oktoberfest. This year, Leisha found an Austrian restaurant in Rome. When I told Sheryl, one of my coworkers, where we were going for dinner, she said, “Oh, haha, that place is… fun.” Understandably, that worried me. After Leisha, Anthony, Dominique, Rain and I rushed to meet Ben there for our reservation, we understood what Sheryl meant. The place is decorated like a traditional Heurige with a Nouveau/Mod twist. For example, the walls are decorated with antlers painted white. It was so wonderful to be eating Weisswurst, Sauerkraut and Wiener Schnitzel again. YUM! I think I will have to make a tradition out of eating German/Austrian food on my birthday.

After dinner we walked towards the Trevi Fountain to have dessert at San Crispino gelateria. I never get to eat here because Leisha likes Giolitti’s gelato better. After the typical birthday photo shoot at the Trevi (as a shout out to Hallie, of course) it was time to move on to phase two of the birthday celebrations.

Ben, Leisha, Dominique, Anthony, Rain and I at the Trevi Fountain

Ben, Leisha, Dominique, Anthony, Rain and I at the Trevi Fountain

Sharing my birthday with Ireland’s pride and joy. Next we headed to Scholar’s lounge, an Irish pub near home to have the “beer of the week” where we met up with Lauren and Lucas. Due to the fact that it was Guiness’s 250th birthday, the place was packed. They were handing out free tee shirts and you had the chance to win a free key chain every time you ordered a Guiness. The best part, however, was the Irish band, which started to play the happy birthday song to Guiness while my friends filled in the blank with “Rae” instead. We finished up the night chatting at the students’ apartment. It was a lovely birthday indeed.

Lily let me down. As an extended part of my birthday (or really just because it was free) Leisha, Mia and I went to Piazza del Popolo for MTV’s Summer Song concert. The top 15 artists of the summer sing one song each and at the end everyone votes for the best song of the summer. I was really excited because Lily Allen was supposed to be there and her song Not Fair got stuck in my head all summer. Unfortunately, Lily decided that she wanted to focus on her acting career and would not be performing anymore. Bummer. It was still quite entertaining though. We felt kind of old next to the teeny-boppers yelling “Ti amo!” at the boy bands and “Ciao” at the camera. Nevertheless, it was still a good (and free) time. Here’s a medley of clips from our favorite songs of the night:

And that is the end of my 22nd birthday.

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Birthdays and the coming of Summer

The end of May holds a lot of birthdays for our group. So far we have celebrated Andrew’s birthday with an Indian dinner and Billy’s birthday with the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet for lunch and burritos for dinner. Then we headed out to Club Loco and Ride Club. Tomorrow is Amanda’s birthday and we will go out to dinner as soon as she gets back from Dublin. Then Michelle will be turning 20 to end our May birthday spree.

We also had another cooking night at IKI. This time we made things that I can’t remember the name of. I asked Sara to remind me, but she hasn’t replied yet. In any case, we made a savory soup with bits of pancake in it. Sounds gross, but trust me, it’s so good. The main dish was a noodle thing with cheese and ham, kind of like a casserole. We made Sommersalat again, too. For desert we had crepes filled with various toppings like strawberries, nutella or apricot preserves. Yum! I think they’re called Palatschinken in German.

Reflection of Karlskirche or St. Charles' Church in a pond

Reflection of Karlskirche or St. Charles' Church in a pond

In art history class last week, we visited a church I have been dying to see, Karlskirche. It’s a Baroque church just down the street from my dorm. On the inside they have an elevator that takes you up to the bottom of the dome where you can see all the frescos. Then you can climb the stairs to the tip top of the dome and get a 360-degree view of Vienna. It was amazing, but also very high up. I think Mom would have died when the stairs would shake. Here’s a view from below, looking at the elevator shaft and the platform at the bottom of the dome.

The path up the dome

The path up the dome

As for summer, Vienna is beginning to get quite warm and we’ve been enjoying the sunshine by visiting the Altedonaustrandbad and swimming in the river. Another common summer pastime is to visit the Prater, an amusement park here in Vienna. On Thursday Andrea and I met up with my roommate Diana and the two kids she was babysitting. Diana is afraid of roller coasters, but the kids aren’t allowed to go on them alone. So Andrea and I came to the rescue. Little did we know that a few of the rides are a bit much and made us (particularly Andrea) feel like puking. I powered through so that 9-year-olds Sasha and Anna didn’t miss out on the fun.

Now I am doing a bit of planning for my upcoming travels. Hallie has decided to come visit and I will meet her in Copenhagen next weekend. Then on July 5th I will be traveling to Greece with my roommate because she will be performing in a guitar festival there. However, I don’t know what to do with my time between getting out of school on June 28th and arriving in Greece on July 5th. Perhaps you could help me decide by voting here:


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