Does a change of scenery set our feelings free?

Text and Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Good times.
Good times.

I recently re-read The Last Summer of You and Me by Ann Brashares, and this book gave me a lot to think about how sometimes our feelings and emotions seem to be stronger, deeper or easier to be expressed when we’re in a different place.

The novel, originally published in 2007, tells the story of Alice and Paul, who meet on Fire Island, where their families keep their summer houses.

Although they’ve been friends since they were kids, the reunion after some years of being apart makes them nervous, as somehow their feelings toward each other have started to change from a simple friendship to a kind of love they both seem to want and, at the same time, to resist.

So it’s this summer, apart from their daily responsabilities related to their schools and their plans for the future, which gives them the chance to explore their emotions and clarify their feelings.

It’s also here where Brashares shows one more time how well she knows the changing emotions of young people, the same as she did in 2001 when she published The sisterhood of the traveling pants.

While going through the pages of The Last Summer of You and Me, it’s so easy to identify oneself with the emotions of the characters, as if they were alive. The same as when one listens to a close friend who’s looking for some advice.

As the story continues, the long walks on the beach, the sights of the sea, the trips to the town that give Alice and Paul the answers they’re looking for, not aware that very soon their lives are going to take an unexpected turn, one one trip back to New York city makes them deals with a crude reallity that takes their life apart.

During this time in the city, Alice and Paul’s seem to harden their hearts, and with this, their lives turn gray, the same as the color of the buildings that suround them, up to a point in which things look very bad for their relationship.

It takes another trip to their beloved island to help them understand that the time they’ve spent apart, has actually helped them to grow their love stronger and to get a clearer picture of what they expect of the future.

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Weekly Photo: Sign

Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Look up!
Look up!
I love the sense of humor that some people have to make fun of a challenging situation, like the owners of this restaurant that was cover by the scaffoldings.

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An unconventional book on Mexican Food

Text and Photos by Nora Vasconcelos

Mexican restaurant by NVS
Mexican food is well known around the world for its tasty food. And, although its many times spicy – hot flavor, sometimes hard for delicate stomachs, dishes such as ‘Mole’ (chicken with chocolate sauce), ‘chilaquiles & enchiladas’ (fried tortillas with tomato or green tomato hot sauce) and its huge variety of ‘quesadillas’ (stuffed tortillas with cheese) and ‘tacos’ (stuffed tortillas with all sort of dishes) appear very often in the international menus of all sort of restaurants around the world.

So, it’s often easy to find Mexican restaurants in different countries, some of them as far away from Mexico as Madagascar or the Czech Republic. Even more, in 2010 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) include the Mexican food in the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, considering that “Traditional Mexican cuisine is central to the cultural identity of the communities that practice and transmit it from generation to generation.”

What’s curious to know it that many of this food that it’s so common to find everywhere nowadays, is that it had its origins in the Colonial Convents that became very famous in their time (mainly 18th and 19th Centuries) for their well elaborated food, made with all sort of ingredients which complete preparation could even take hours and hours.

Mole by NVS
To remember those times, the book Delicias de Antaño. Historia y Recetas de los Conventos Mexicanos (Delights of yesteryear. History and Recipes of the Mexican Convents), not only collects a long list of recipes, but also, shares many stories of the practices, customs and anecdotes that occurred on those majestic convents (many of them, originally built in the 16th century).

So, this book, by Teresa Castillo Yturbe and Maria Josefa Martinez del Rio de Redo, give the reader the opportunity to learn how traditional Mexican deserts such as ‘arroz con leche’ (rice with milk), ‘buñuelos’ (sweet fritter) and ‘dulces de leche’ were made during those years by the nouns.

It also shares the recipes of the ‘Chiles en nogada’ (stuffed Poblano chiles with walnut sauce) are to be made following the conventual method, as well as other dishes such as ‘Mole Ranchero’ and ‘Chilaquiles’.

All in all, going through this book is a complete delight, even if one is willing to take the challenge of preparing any of these recipes, or if one is only interested in history or wants to spend a relaxing time.

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The irresistible joy of cookie books

Text by Nora Vasconcelos

Photo by Anna Langova
Photo by Anna Langova

It’s funny how I can’t never get tired of cookie books. Whenever I’m wandering around a bookstore I can’t resist the temptation of buying a new book with all sort of recipes to prepare cookies.

Most of the time I restrain myself, but, from time to time I just surrender to the wonders of this unique pieces of happiness and enjoyment.

Of course I enjoy making cookies, but most of the joy comes just from browsing the books, reading the recipes, imagining how the ingredients combine and leaving in my mouth the sweet idea of how any given cookie should taste as soon as it’s out of the oven.

Among my favorite cookie books, these take priority on my bookcase: Holiday Cookies and Treats; Perfect Cookies: Delicious, easy and fun to make; 500 Cookies: The only cookie compendium; The Great Big Cookie Book, and Swiss cookies: Biscuits for Christmas and all year round.

From these, 500 Cookies gave me an immense source of happiness as I got the calendar version, so I was able to go through each one of the recipes day by day, making my mornings both enjoyable and delicious. Although, it’s worth saying that they aren’t in fact 500 different recipes, but three different versions of each cookie. Anyways, it’s something I really like.

The Great Big Cookie Book and Perfect cookies are amazing books to go through and it’s hard no to feel hungry after turning several pages of them.

Of course, baking cookies is always a big challenge, there are so many variations to take into consideration that some times it’s an interesting task to prepare the perfect cookie, but it sure is fun to try! And to try with a good deal of success, Holiday Cookies and Treats is a friendly book that presents in an easy way all sort of Christmas cookies, from shortbread to brownies.

The Swiss Cookies book is my most recent acquisition, and I like that it really puts me in the right mood to feel as if I were walking around one of those busy streets of Zurich, enjoying myself with the sight of the cookies and the treats shown in the window displays, waiting for me to seat down and rest for a moment, while enjoying the traditional recipes of this country.

And now, it’s cookie time! Enjoy 😀

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