On Baking Your Way to Design Success: an Interview With Melissa

Image from designeatrepeat.com

Image from designeatrepeat.com

It feels so good to be back, babes! I’ve been having some technical difficulties with WordPress this week, thus the radio silence, but I have FINALLY got it to cooperate again. Thank goodness! Unfortunately that means this month’s interview is a day late getting to y’all, but I’m so excited to share it regardless. Today I’m sharing an interview I did with Melissa, which wouldn’t have happened unless I baked a batch of her sugar cookies over winter break and decided I needed to get to know the girl behind the recipe that had my whole family singing praises. So, without further ado…

Would you mind introducing yourself and what you do? Hi there! I’m Melissa & I’m a freelance Graphic Designer & Blogger over at Design Eat Repeat. I recently made the leap to take my business full-time, and now spend my days designing blogs/websites, branding, stationery, and more! I get to work with other creative business owners & bloggers every day & I absolutely love it.

How did you first get into cooking and baking? Were they lifelong passions or ones you stumbled upon? I’ve been a baker ever since I was really little. I come from a big family, so anytime I wanted to step in and make dinner/treats for the family, my parents had no objections! I made tons of messes and always made a deal with the family that if I cooked, then had to do the dishes :)

Do you think blogging about your adventures with cooking and baking have changed how you approach a recipe? How so? Yes, definitely! Growing up, I didn’t really experiment much with recipes, mainly because I didn’t want to waste ingredients if they ended up not working. I would use recipes I found in family cookbooks and usually decorated them with my little decorating kit. Now days, I better understand how different ingredients interact with each other, so I take a little more freedom in developing new recipes. Before posting a recipe, I always make sure it’s something I love & something I think my family would love. My siblings are pretty honest critics of anything I bake, so I just try to imagine what they would say about it before posting!

As a graphic designer by trade, do you see any influences in your cooking from your design work? And conversely, are there any influences from baking that come into your designs? I’m a big lover of clean, simple design and I think I carry over an element of that in my baking. Mainly with how I decorate goodies, but I tend to lean more toward simple treats, rather than something with a lot of extra “fluff.”

Image from designeatrepeat.com

Image from designeatrepeat.com

You also offer printables on your site. Was that always a goal or something that just happened? I started my blog back in 2011 the summer after my sophomore year of college, simply as a little summer hobby & an excuse to craft. I had zero idea of what I was going to blog about & really had no idea what kind of “niche” I wanted to take the blog. As I went through design school & experimented with a bunch of different design projects, I decided that I might as well share some of these designs as printables on the blog. A lot of my readers & clients find me through a printable they saw on Pinterest & Craftgawker & I always love seeing reader photos of something they printed off my site.

On your blog you document series of food-related challenges, as I think of them. 30 days of cookies, smoothie week, etc. How do you come up with the ideas and the recipes, and how do you stay motivated to keep up with them all the way through the end? Whew, 30 days of cookies was a real challenge! I did that challenge mainly because I had been pretty sporadic at blogging throughout the summer & needed an excuse to bake & get some new content on the site! I honestly didn’t know HOW I was going to complete 30 days of cookies, but I made a point to bake/photography 4-5 recipes each weekend, so that I didn’t have to do much baking throughout the week (I was working a full-time design job at the time, so my weeks were pretty full). I usually just do these type of challenges when I have a bunch of different recipes within the same category in mind. I figure that I might as well group them all together!

Who are some of your heroes? Life inspirations, style mavens, people who make your soul shake. Professionally, I am always inspired by Courtney over at Pizzazzerie. She’s a styling genius & I just love everything she does. Melissa over at Best Friends for Frosting is also conquering the party & entertaining world, and everything she touches is just gorgeous!

You can only read one book, watch one movie, one television show, and listen to one album for a year. What do you choose and why? Eeeek, okay moment of truth. I am the WORST book reader, movie watcher, and pop culture follower on the face of the earth. Whenever I do sit down and watch tv, it’s usually some kind of reality tv (yeah, embarrassing). But when it comes to music, I love country music, as well as a little bit of pop.

This is a space for you to leave any last remarks that you would like to share! Or, if you would like another question, here’s the last one: Has running Design Eat Repeat changed your life in ways you thought it would, or have you been surprised by the ride? Starting my blog has absolutely changed my whole career path. Like I mentioned before, I started it on whim after a friend told me that I should start one. I literally did not think I would stick with it for more than a few weeks. I had no idea what blogging really meant, and I had zero intention to ever turn it into something more than a little summer hobby. It has completely taken me by surprise, but it was one of the best spur-of-the-moment decisions I made. My blog has allowed me to connect with other creatives all around the world and grow my client base for my business. It has also given me a creative outlet where I can share free printables & family recipes, in hopes that they make someone’s day/party/get together a little brighter! I recently left my 9-5 job to pursue my graphic & blog design business and there is no way any of that would have been possible if I had not started my blog.

You can find more of Melissa on her blog, Facebook page, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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April Is the Cruelest Month

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It’s only nine days into April and I can already feel the whirlwind of my schedule for the rest of it pulling my shoulders up towards my ears. With a handful of weeks left in the semester my classes are becoming even more demanding, but with less work, I’m having to be even more creative in the kitchen(nette) to stretch my euros as far as they can go, and I am vibrating with impatience for spring break to begin so I can travel again. As the days become more hectic and the hours pass more quickly than I can keep track of them, I keep finding myself returning to tried and true basics for simple outfits. For my long day of classes, mid-week grocery shopping for a couple of items, an early evening run (for which I changed into proper workout gear), and preparing for a presentation tomorrow I wore one of my favorite sweaters from B.P., jeans from Target, and my trusty boots from Steve Madden. I love dressing up in crazy colors and patterns (don’t worry, you’ll see some of that after spring break!) but sometimes I love simplicity and minimal effort more. Or I could pretend that I’m just trying to blend in with the French students that overflow the streets of Angers every day. ;)

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Applications I Would Stake My Life On: Chrome Edition

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Last week I shared my most-loved and essential applications that I keep on my computer, and this week I wanted to share my essentials for making Google Chrome as efficient as it can possibly be. While I realize that Chrome itself is an application, these are all extensions that I want to share regardless. So, without further ado..

AdBlock is one that I’ve had installed for ages. It blocks advertisements on web pages and keeps pop-up windows from taking over my screen.

Buffer is a service that I very recently discovered and have fallen heads over heels in love with. It allows you to share web pages and information via social media with a click of a button. I’ve been using it to link my blog posts to Twitter and am very happy with how it’s been performing!

DoNotTrackMe is one that I use to maintain my privacy while online. It also offers masking emails and credit card information when you enter them on websites, but I only utilize the masked browsing option.

Pin It is the extension I use to pin images from my blog or elsewhere on the web to my Pinterest account. It makes the process easy as pie.

Wolfram Alpha is great for when I have an academic question and want a more thorough and quicker answer than going to Google. It explains everything in terms that are very easy to understand and I’ve been using it a LOT for my science class this semester.

ZenMate Chrome is another extension I use to ensure my privacy while online. You set it up once and it works quietly in the background from the on.

Zotero is another recent discovery and I can’t begin to describe how it has revolutionized my life as an English Lit major. It allows you to save any webpage to a database in your account on their website and then creates citations that are ready to copy and paste into any bibliography with just a few clicks of a button.

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Twelve Hours in Nantes

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On Friday one of my friends and I boarded a train at 6:18 in the morning, leaving the familiar city of Angers behind to venture to the unknown Nantes. Our weeks had been crazy and stressful with the last weeks of school quickly approaching and a day trip where we left all of that behind was just what the doctor ordered. We arrived in Nantes before the sun had broken over the horizon, our first explorations of the city occurring in the dark blue of the French pre-dawn sky.

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We wandered through a closed down carnival, through sleepy streets full of students and businessmen hurrying towards their schools or offices.

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Boulangeries were open, spontaneous meccas of light and the scents of freshly baked baguettes and pastries spilling out onto the streets.

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Statues of Charles de Gaulle are everywhere in France, but only in Nantes have I seen one where the locals gave him a bottle of beer to hold while overseeing one of the town squares.

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In our explorations we stumbled upon Nantes’ market, which apparently occurs on a daily basis as opposed to the twice-weekly market in Angers. Outside were stalls of beautiful produce, blooming flowers, and freshly pressed juice. There was an indoor part as well that was full of stalls selling meat, cheese, seafood, pastries, bread, juice; really anything you could think of, someone was selling it. The market reminded me of Pike Place Market in Seattle, which immediately made me feel right at home.

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I still have no words for how beautiful spring is here in France. Everyone needs to experience it at least once in their lives.

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I found this dandelion that took three deep breaths to disperse all of the seeds. I wished for a wonderful day in Nantes and I am happy to report that my wish was granted!

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We also found some interesting French graffiti while exploring. Both of us would have missed this piece if we hadn’t looked down at the sidewalk.

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One of Nantes’ many charming squares as the city began to awake.

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Both of us had eaten breakfast before leaving, but with a few hours between that meal and when we wanted to eat lunch we decided to stop at a café and have second breakfast. We ended up at Stratto, where I had an espresso and a pain au chocolat and my friend had a beignet framboise.

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After fueling up and resting our feet a little we decided to head out exploring again. This time we followed the tram tracks and city bicycle maps to find Les Machines de L’île, where we had learned a giant mechanical elephant lived.

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This sculpture also reminded me a lot of Seattle and the work at the Seattle Art Museum.

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While the elephant wasn’t open for riding for a few hours, we decided it was an opportune time to take some photographs. My sweater is from Pimkie, my jeans are from Target, and my boots are Steve Madden. Not photographed here, but in later pictures, is my new favorite jacket which is from H&M.

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One thing I’ve really learned while traveling around Europe this semester is that looking at every city with wide eyes on a daily basis is astoundingly rewarding. Every nook and cranny has been put to use and it’s amazing to see the beauty in all of these cities.

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Next on our list, while waiting for Les Machines de L’île to open, was finding the Jardin des Plantes. It ended up being the complete opposite direction of where we were in Nantes at the time and once we finally found it, after getting lost a few times, the first thing we did was collapse on a bench and chug water. After we felt sufficiently restored, we saw that straight ahead of us was a pen full of adult and baby goats. We walked in, pet all of the goats and were able to pick up this sweet little kid and cuddle it. It was the happiest baby goat I’ve ever seen, content to just be held and pet while it tried to eat my bag strap, my jacket, my sweater, and my hand.

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After about fifteen straight minutes cuddling baby goats, we began our explorations of the rest of the garden. There was a large number of ducks and a lot of them were just chilling on the grass like these.

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By the café in the garden there was a giant playground, which my friend and I immediately took to. We spent about fifteen minutes amusing ourselves on a giant see-saw, and took turns swinging on this swing. Sometimes being a kid again is the most refreshing thing in the world.

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I loved seeing how the gardens were kept in a way that allowed for rows of benches to exist in private-seeming alcoves like this on the edges. Many of the benches were full of people eating their lunch and talking. Hey, if I lived in Nantes, I’d be eating my lunch in the botanical garden every day too!

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After the Jardin des Plantes, we decided it was time for lunch. Because of Lent my friend can’t eat meat on Fridays so we agreed to look for some really good cheese paninis. It was a happy accident when we found La Tartinerie and bought the best three cheese paninis that we’ve had while in France. I can’t tell you what types of cheese were inside, but I can tell you that a) they were delicious, b) there was a garlic spread inside as well, and c) the paninis came with tomatoes. Absolute heaven. We also had the pleasure of eating our lunch right in front of the local chateau and watching hordes of school children enter and exit on what we assumed were field trips.

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The bench where we ate is right behind this statue, but it was the cutest thing when the old couple on the left sat down and began to sketch the statue. It made me yearn for my sketchbook and to explore a city and capture it through drawings instead of photographs.

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This chateau was different than any other I’ve seen while in France thus far because it actually had water in the moat!

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While looking for Les Machines de L’île again we got terribly lost, and ended up by a skate park. But it had this structure right next to it and we were surprised at the contrast between the ancient architecture and the more modern mural on the inside.

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Finally, it was time to ride the elephant! My friend and I excitedly paid for our tickets and waited in line before climbing aboard, going first to the very top and then exploring the lower level. The elephant walked very slowly and it also blew water out of its trunk. The journey was about 45 minutes in total, and it doesn’t go terribly far, but it was worth every minute.

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After riding the elephant we spent the next few hours just wandering around some more, getting lost and finding our way back to the main road.

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With less than two hours left until our train back to Angers, we found the carnival we had passed through earlier that morning, but all lit up and running.

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There were dozens of these claw machines, each with different prizes, but this was by far my favorite. Especially since the dolls would sing Gangnam Style (apparently)!

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We had planned on getting crêpes while in Nantes, as Nantes is the birthplace of the delicious culinary delight, but after hours and hours of walking around in the sun some ice cream seemed like a more enticing decision. I ended up getting vanilla while my friend got strawberry.

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We ended up riding one ride while we were at the carnival before having to head back to the train and begin the journey to Angers. My piece of advice: do NOT ride The Shaker. No matter what you do. Ride a crazy rollercoaster instead, you’ll be much happier.

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All photographs were taken by me with the exception of the ones which I am in, which were all taken by my friend.

Applications I Would Stake My Life On: Mac Edition

Image found on www.flickr.com

Image found on www.flickr.com

As a college student, a blog owner, and a member of society in the 21st century my technology feels like an extension of my physical form. And one of my most prized possessions, and largest tools for running my life, is my laptop. I use a 15″ MacBook Pro and over the years I’ve accumulated my own cult list of applications I swear by, that I would stake my life on.

1Password is an absolute gem: it remembers every username and password you ever enter, helps you create impenetrable passwords, and can even remember the answers to security questions if you tell it to. I prefer to keep the answers to my security questions out of the app for the most part, but it is a handy feature for that obscure website you went to six years ago and need to be able to get into once in a blue moon.

Caffeine keeps my screen bright as the sun when I’m working on a paper, which is usually a day-long intensive process. It seems like such a small thing, having your screen constantly bright, but when you’re in the middle of writing something that carries 15% of your overall grade on it, you don’t want to take the time to press the brighten button on the keyboard.

Calendar is a life-saver when it comes to coordinating my schedule with my parents’ when I’m living at home, and for keeping track of all of my obligations and appointments when I’m at school or, you know, living in a different country. It integrates seamlessly with Google Calendars, I can color-code to my heart’s content, and it syncs across all of my Apple devices.

Coffitivity has been a favorite of mine for months now, the comforting and familiar track “University Undertones” playing alongside any music I have while I’m doing pretty much anything. It boosts productivity like nothing else for me, and in a foreign country it goes a long way for making me feel less homesick. I used the web application for ages and only recently downloaded the desktop application and am wondering why the heck it took me so long to make the switch.

Dropbox is a no-brainer in my book. I use it to back up my blog, my computer (as a back-up of the back-ups I keep on an external hard drive), to send files to myself that I have to print at school just in case the attachment doesn’t work on the emails I send myself. It helps keep me sane, knowing that I have a backup of every backup in case something goes wrong.

Pages is my life and blood when it comes to applications on my computer. I do pretty much everything in Pages — I write papers for school in it, I write drafts of my blog posts in it, I write and edit poetry, short stories, I keep a million lists and random ideas in documents, I keep an archive of quotes I find interesting or inspiring. If I didn’t have Pages, I don’t know what I would do.

SelfControl is another favorite productivity application of mine. You enter distracting websites into a blacklist, set the timer, and the application blocks you from those sites for however long your timer is set for. Quitting the application won’t grant you access, nor will restarting your computer or uninstalling the application. I use it the most around midterms and finals, when I need to spend every waking hour studying or writing papers.

What are some of your cult favorites when it comes to desktop applications?

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March Delights

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Image from katiemanderson.com

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What I Bought in Greece

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The weather in France has been more fickle than ever since I returned from my holiday in Greeceand to reminisce about the beauty of the country I wanted to share with all of you what I bought while I was there! Granted it isn’t a ton of things, but each of the four items was picked with care and my traveling partner was probably a bit tired of my deliberations by the end of our week because I wanted to make sure that I spent my money on the right things.

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The first thing I bought was a coin purse from a shop near the square of the Acropolis. I’ve been looking for a good one ever since I changed my wallet system for while I’m abroad (going from one large one to two smaller ones where one is for cards/cash and one is for coins) and I finally found this one! It’s small enough that I can carry it in my pocket without noticing it too much, but it’s not so large that I can never fill it up. One of the things I love about using it here is that Europe is such a cash-based society, I’m always ending up with coins and using them much more frequently than I ever did in America.

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While I was exploring Thira I came across this beautiful scarf. It is predominantly blue on one side and pink on the other. I’ve worn it a few times, but have also experimented with it as a backdrop for photographs, like in my makeup essentials post. This scarf has been the best purchase for the transition between winter and spring, and is a lot of fun to pair with a solid black dress or with something patterned.

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While I was in Oia I bought these two books from Atlantis Books. On my first trip to the bookstore I bought the Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, a classic Welsh poet. My second time I ended up buying Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith, which is a fantastic collection of essays about literature and reading literature. It’s become my go-to book for when I have a spare moment, especially when waiting for the tram or the train.

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The Purl Bee’s Worsted Twist Seed Stitch Scarf Progress

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Usually I have at least half a dozen knitting projects going on at once, and I’ll rotate between them while I watch television or movies, while being a passenger in a car, or just while hanging out with friends or family. But being in France I couldn’t bring my entire stash and giant jar of needles, so I had to figure out how to satiate my love for and need to knit for four months with a single project. I spent hours going through Ravelry, looking for the perfect pattern and I knew I’d come across my holy grail when I found the Purl Bee’s Worsted Twist Seed Stitch Scarf. Nine skeins of yarn that create a beautiful, warm, color-blocked scarf that’s really more of a giant blanket? Yes please! I knew it would fit my timeline because Danielle made one of her own last semester and it took her about four months.

I can safely say that I am in love with this project, although it does seem like I will finish it when the weather is too warm to wear it out and about, but it’s the perfect way to be productive on twenty minute study breaks while watching episodes of Brooklyn 99 or Broad City.

Oh yeah, and for reference, I’m six feet tall. This wrap, at six and a half skeins long, is nearly six feet tall.

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Explorations in Santorini

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The last leg of my time in Greece was mostly spent in transit, wandering from one village to another and trying to soak up as much of the culture as I could before leaving. My friend and I moved to our second lodging in Kamari, a beachside town that was mostly shut down. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful, and the few places that were open couldn’t compare to the Black Beach that Kamari is famous for.

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I was so thankful to be able to experience it without the swarm of tourists, to just see black sand and blue waves stretching uninterrupted into eternity. We arrived at the beach around dusk and the setting sun cast such a pure blue light over everything, amplifying the already vivid blue of the ocean.

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Exploring Kamari with such a blue light was magical in its own right, and it seemed to be reminiscent of a movie or television set to me — how everything was composed, how the light made the mundane infinitely mysterious.

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There were a couple of little super markets in Kamari, but this one was different because it seemed to have a restaurant above.

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I also spent a fair bit of time in Thira, which is the capitol of Santorini. It was by far the busiest, most alive village in the island, and took my breath away yet again. In Thira is where I had my first, and sadly my only, gyro in Greece — did you know they put french fries inside? I was not expecting that, but it was quite delicious.

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While wandering I came across this store with my name as its own and I wish it had been open so I could see just what Indigo sold.

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On the main street there was a café with benches just outside of it and I would sit 0n them, with this guy as my view and companion, to steal the free wifi and call my parents and gush about Greece.

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On my last day in Greece I ended back in Oia, paid one last visit to Atlantis Books and took in the oceanic views. Looking at these photographs makes me want to jump on a plane and go back, just for one more day.

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Week in Photographs : 3/21/2014

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This week has been pretty calm, all things considered. I’ve gotten back in the swing of school, patiently waiting until spring break comes along in a month, have been experimenting with different recipes — some of which have been hits and some of which have been entirely disastrous. Do you know how difficult it is to cook without an oven? I’ve been going INSANE without one over here, but I feel like I’m finally learning how to use my two pots, one pan, and two burners to their full potential.

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On Tuesday our group of study abroad students visited a chateau, although I’m sad to say the name has escaped me and I never wrote it down anywhere. We got a tour of the underground refuge — caves built into the limestone with rooms for animals, storing grains, and places for the royalty to sleep — as opposed to going through the actual chateau which was quite an experience. It was also a bit frustrating being six feet tall and having to be perpetually hunched over because the ceilings were not built with someone of my height in mind.

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We also got to see the kitchen, which had tiles that were burnt black from all of the cooking that had been done there over the centuries, and the wine cellar — which included this press which we were told had been used up until the 1980s!

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One of my favorite things about spring in France so far is how green everything is! There are also a great number of new-to-me plants and flowers over here, which makes wandering around quite the adventure.

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On Tuesday we also visited a mushroom museum, which was quite… interesting. We got a guided tour through the caves where various types of mushrooms are grown and learned a great deal about the process for each mushroom. There was also a shop where we could buy various forms of mushroom paraphernalia and I decided to be bold and try the mushroom beer. I’m sure there are some people who will love it, but the taste was just not for me.

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Yesterday was probably one of my favorite days this week because of a new tradition with one of my friends in the program — Kebab Thursdays! Kebabs are super popular here, and extremely inexpensive which makes them perfect for a student budget. However, it’s a different kind of kebab than you’ll be thinking of (and actually, I got a three cheese panini yesterday instead of a kebab so I apologize for my photograph being misleading). In Europe a kebab is a sandwich made with lamb meat that’s shaved and grilled and served with lettuce, onions, and other vegetables inside the bread. You also pick your sauce and depending on the place you go to, that sauce is either served on the side with your fries or is put inside the sandwich.

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