I believe in miracles.
I try to change the world every day.
I love my husband, my friends, and my family.
I plan my next great adventure constantly.
I think most occasions call for a dress.
I write what I know and believe.
Somehow my dad’s semi-homemade chicken alfredo recipe has stuck with me throughout my entire life. I made it after he passed away. I made it when I lived with my grandmother. I made it for dinner parties in college. And, I still make it now. I like the combination of flavors. I taught one of my friends to make it, and her husband liked it so much that she swears that she made it up… she says it’s because he thinks she gets all her recipes from everyone else… and it’s one she can claim. (Maybe?) When I first started dating my husband, it was one of the recipes he was willing to try and eat. All things considered, this should be considered a HUGE success.
Whatever the case may be, it always gets rave reviews. You know what would be good with this? My easy garlic bread… why didn’t I think of this earlier? (What’s with the carb overload today? Must be the residual effects of being in Italy for two weeks.)
Furthermore, it’s easy to make. It’s also good as leftovers (cold or warm) – don’t judge me.
garlic salt (I used Paula Dean's House Seasoning this time -- tasty!)
2 tablespoons Kikkoman teriyaki sauce/glaze
1 (12 ounce) package dry pasta, any shape
1 (16 ounce) jar Bertolli alfredo sauce
Olive oil - I like to use roasted garlic and herb for a little more flavor!
Put on water on to boil for pasta. I like to use penne rigate because the ridges hold the sauce really well. Anything you like works well. Bowties are fun for dinner parties.
Cut chicken breasts into small, bite-size pieces, and season chicken with Lawry's season salt, lemon pepper, and garlic salt.
Coat medium frying pan with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) over medium-high heat. Add chicken breast pieces and let them cook until white on both sides.
Turn down to medium low, add teriayki sauce (I like to use the Kikkoman marinade because it's a little thicker), stir until chicken is coated, and let chicken finish cooking until the teriayki is absorbed.
Turn chicken down to medium-low, add the alfredo sauce and stir well to mix everything.
Once chicken mixture is absorbed into alfredo sauce, turn temperature down to low. Allow it to simmer until the pasta is ready.
Drain the water from the pasta and add chicken and sauce mixture. Toss and mix well.
After 25 days on the road, I’m finally home. I’m already appreciating all the best things about being home. I feel guilty saying that because half of my trip was a fantastic vacation with my husband (I realize I never talked about my intention for April – but it was exactly that – reconnecting with my husband). The second half was dedicated to professional accomplishments that most people aspire to. I recognize my privilege, but there truly is no place like home when you’ve crossed SO many timezones.
Disclosure: This post contains shopstyle links that may earn me a few pennies towards a future purchase if you click on them.
Best Things About Being Home
Yes, I said laundry. Living out of a suitcase with dry-clean everything is my least favorite thing. I love being able to grab fresh smelling laundry until my heart’s content because no matter what, my clothes always seem to smell like airplane. Whether you think I’m weird or crazy, I don’t care. I can smell airplane. Being able to do laundry is a luxury that I haven’t taken for granted since I spent Fall 2004 smelling like the Turkish restaurant below my apartment.
I don’t mean my mattress (though I love that, too). I mean my linens. My favorite duvet cover is on super sale right now. I own it in seaglass, white, and dove. The seaglass is my favorite! I ordered the white one for less than $70 while I was gone. The first thing I did was change our sheets (I have these in white, brown, and light blue) and pop it on my lightweight down comforter. To be completely honest, I haven’t changed out this down comforter since I bought it. It works for all seasons in Texas!
I think this applies more to when I’m traveling extensively for work, but when I’m on the road, I don’t do a lot of extraneous things. I don’t read blogs, I don’t write blogs, and I don’t really unwind. This means that I end up binging on these things when I get home. It’s a little out of control, lol. If you got a ton of comments from me yesterday… sorry. It’s because I haven’t taken the time to do Sara-time things.
Confession: I’m absolutely obsessed with this Lela Rose dress. (Dang – I got a great deal on it. I paid way less than that so keep watching, friends.) It showed up in Italy, at CalTech, at Amanda’s rehearsal dinner, AND at TACAC (multiple times). It’s comfortable, it’s lightweight, it travels relatively well. Sometimes, however, I just want to lounge around in an oversized t-shirt and socks. Or wear jeans and glitter shoes. These things take up space so I don’t usually pack them. It’s hard to get me in dress clothes after extensive traveling.
Yet another luxury that I take for granted. Because of my husband, I have cold water on demand at home and at the office. There’s never a time when I don’t have a cold water bottle. When I travel, it becomes much harder to keep myself fully hydrated. I always try to pick up a couple bottles so I can stay hydrated, but it seemed like it was more difficult on this trip. Thankfully, there was a CalTech water bottle in our welcome bag! When I swapped suitcases for TACAC, however, I forgot to put it in my bag so TACAC was a struggle.
What are the best things about being home for you?
It’s been 24 years since I lost my dad… and in my overwhelming grief of losing my stepdad, I’ve found myself feeling guilty for forgetting about my “real” dad. The truth is – he’s never really left me – but there aren’t many people left in my life who knew my dad, so I push him from my thoughts because it doesn’t help to dwell on trying to figure out what he would think.
Or what my life would look like if we hadn’t lost him.
11 years ago, I wrote the following entry in my trusty live journal.
Last night I sat and flipped through old photographs. It felt like they weren’t even mine. I hate this. It’s so frustrating.
I don’t know how to verbalize it.
It makes me sad.
I look at pictures of my dad, and it’s like…. I don’t even know this man. He gave me everything he had, and I know nothing about him. It’s so damn frustrating.
I’m sad because I will never know my dad.
I wonder how on earth I can ever be a good judge of character if I can look at a picture of my dad and not know anything about him… Or see him as a stranger.
It’s so hard to explain.
I wonder what he thinks about certain things.
I wonder how my life would be different.
I wonder where I would be and what might have been.
I know it’s impossible to know those things, but still I wonder.
It is so hard for me. I hate feeling like my father is a stranger. Hate, hate, hate it. My parents 25th anniversary would have been on the 3rd of this month. How weird that is to me.
It all seems like another lifetime to me.
Like it wasn’t my life…
or that it was a movie…
but it was all so long ago.
But some things, like the night he died, I remember like they were yesterday.
Some things I will never understand.
I wish I could vocalize it.
How today I felt like punching something to let all the anger out because it felt like it was contaminating me. How I woke up knowing it was a grey day. I wanted to stay in bed, but I forced myself out anyway. How I carried around a picture of Paris all day to calm myself down and keep my sanity. How I slid in my car this afternoon and sobbed for everything that I feel like I’ve lost. How I pretended that I didn’t know what day it was with my mom because I don’t want to bring her down.
I hate the fact that I don’t remember what his voice sounded like… that I don’t remember much at all.
The only thing it seems that is truly ingrained in my mind is the day he died, and I hate that too.
It was a perfect day. I got my progress report that afternoon. It had 100s in every single class. Dad was proud. He even stopped at a pay phone on the way to pick up mom to tell her all my grades. We had Girl Scouts that afternoon, and he came to our meeting like he always did. After we picked Mom up from work, we went to dinner as a family. She had classes that evening, so he and I went to play Putt Putt, and then stopped at Baskin Robbins. I had bubble gum ice cream because it was pink. We sat outside because it was breezy. We picked up Mom at 10:00, and I went home and went straight to bed. I slept in a lilac silk nightgown of my mom’s because I loved wearing her nightgowns. They were always so elegant. A few hours later, she was waking me up and helping me into her velour robe that had been a gift while she was in the hospital having me. Granddaddy was already at our house and the neighbors were there. I rode to St. Mary’s with my mom and granddaddy in silence. They left me in the car while they went and checked in. Granddaddy took me to his house, leaving my mom at the hospital. When I had settled in the living room with Granny, he went back to the hospital. An hour later, the phone rang. My great grandmother said “Yes, I know” and “I see” a lot. She wouldn’t tell me anything when she got off the phone. Almost an hour later, my mom and granddaddy returned. She took me into the spare bedroom, and when I asked when I could see him, she started to cry.
In heaven, she told me.
I started screaming hysterically, asking what I was going to do and who would take care of me. I pulled away from her when she tried to comfort me. I fell asleep with my fist in my mouth, so she wouldn’t hear me cry myself to sleep.
When I studied abroad in Italy, there was one splurge I always had money for: gelato. You know why? Because you can get good gelato for a euro or two and that doesn’t break the travel budget. It became custom for one of my roommates and I to cook the cheapest dinners we could before heading out for an evening walk with gelato. One euro. Two euros. Never more than three euros. We believed ourselves to be gelato aficionados, seeking the best of our favorite flavors and venturing all around Florence to find them.
I haven’t changed much. And, when it comes to gelato, that’s not a bad thing.
I set out on this trip to find the best gelato in Cinque Terre, happily scouring all the villages to find it. After months of a slow carb (no carb?) diet, I was more than happy to take one for the team to find the best gelato in Cinque Terre. I’ll count them down for you with the pros and the cons because there wasn’t a bad gelato, but there were some that were better than others. Sadly, this list is incomplete. Every time I tried to find gelato in Monterosso al Mare, they were closed. Blame the off-season. Blame my inability to get there before sunset (which is truly the most beautiful time of day in Monterosso al Mare), but I could not find a gelateria that could accommodate my wily schedule. I’m sure it’s easier in the summer.
No name gelateria on Via Colombo just past Bar Centrale (Riomaggiore) – 2 euro, small cone, Bacio (chocolate hazelnut) – After finding fantastic focaccia in Riomaggiore, I wanted the gelato to be good, too. Maybe I wanted it to be good because it was 2 euros. Maybe I wanted it to be good because I didn’t trust the other gelato stand. Or, maybe I wanted it to be good because it included plenty of hazelnuts. But, it just wasn’t as good as any of the others. It was a little icy. The cone was of the boxed variety and didn’t taste fresh at all.
5 Terre Gelateria (Manarola) – 2.50 euro, small cone, Canella (cinnamon) and Nocciola (hazelnut) – Oh, I was so excited to see canella. Some 13 years ago, I found canella in a tiny alley in Venice and I’ve found it about three times since that night. It’s one of my favorite flavors. I wanted to love it and tell you it was the best gelato in Cinque Terre. And, the canella was good. The flavor was strong and robust. The nocciola had a rich flavor as well, but it was slightly icy. The cone was fresh, but the serving was skimpy. Two thirds of my cone did not have any gelato, and that made for a very sad cone.
Gelato Corniglia (Corniglia) – 2 euro, small cup, Miele (honey) – After I finished Alberto’s gelato, it seemed only appropriate to try the gelato from across the street. I sent my husband in with the directive to ask for the most popular flavor. He came back with miele (which included bits of walnuts) and neither one of us were entirely sure about it. Like Alberto, it was creamy but not quite as soft. The wafer pirouette wasn’t quite as fresh as Alberto’s, but overall, it was tasty. Alberto’s freshness allowed me to easily dub him the winner of this Sunday morning challenge, but both are great buys.
Gelato Alberto (Corniglia) – 2 euro, small cup, Nocciola (hazelnut) – Alberto’s gelato was soft and creamy with a subtle flavor that was not overpowering. The wafer was a nice (and delicious!) touch – fresh, flakey, and a strong taste of vanilla. I sat on the steps across the street and enjoyed watching children play.
Gelateria Vernazza (Vernazza) – 2.50 euro, small cone, Gandiolo (chocolate with nuts) and Nocciola (hazelnut) – I conducted two separate taste tests on two separate days before I was willing to admit that this was the best gelato in Cinque Terre. The rich chocolate flavor of the gandiolo was the perfect complement to the strong flavor of the nocciola. Neither were overly sweet but both included plenty of nut pieces, which provided a nice texture change against the creamy consistency of the gelato. The generous serving size lasted well into the fresh, brittle cone, and I spent the next day trying to figure out how to get back to Vernazza to enjoy another cone. The best thing about Gelateria Vernazza though? It’s open later than all the other gelaterias along the main street, so you’ll be able to get your fix when you decide you need another one.
Though we didn’t get home until late yesterday afternoon, it started to hit me Saturday that we would soon be back in the real world. For two weeks, my husband and I focused on each other. We didn’t worry (too much) about work, about nonsense, or anything else. I surprised my husband with a driving tour (which I read about on Victoria’s blog), and though it turned out to be a little bit of a disaster on our end, it reminded me how this life was worth the wait.
…in junior high, I always wanted to go on my school’s trip to France. That wasn’t in the cards financially, so I had to wait until my junior year in college when my summer internship paid for my study abroad semester in Florence, Italy… worth the wait.
…not getting to attend my first choice college out of high school, spending my freshman year at Texas Tech, and transferring to University of Redlands, where I met all of my closest friends, got healthy, and realizing that I could be happy again… worth the wait.
…living in our tiny apartment to save money so we could buy our first home in the neighborhood where we wanted to live with a short commute… worth the wait.
…all the times when I thought no one would get me and that I wouldn’t get married, only to find the perfect person for me. Who gets me. Who understands me. Who loves me despite my flaws and desperately tries to make me happy every. single. day… worth the wait.