Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I'll be wearing black.


Hey lovers-- mama's busy this week.

Last week I traveled on up to Boston to hang with my mama, my pal Courtney (who is also a chief babe) and the ladies over at Brass for a Babefest! Courtney and I are two of the Brass Clothing Chief Babes, who mentor other Brass fans and aficionados. I've written about Brass before, but, in a nutshell, they're a badass female owned company of superladies who create curated wardrobes of fabulous clothing.

The trip to Boston was to finally meet these CEOs in person and to have some cocktails, lunch, snap some pictures, attend some events like a total BAMF and wear some lovely dresses. 

So, here's a referral link, I think it gives you some kind of discount or free shipping, or tells people we're buddies, or something. Snag some Brass here.

Anyway, I'll get my life together and put out my travel post of these adventures next week. 

In the meantime, keep it Brassy...sassy lassies.
 Too much? 
No, not enough. 

xx

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Orleans, Again








This past Labor Day we took a trip on over to New Orleans, and though it was much looked forward to, it was a disappointment. 

The hotel situation was fraught with billing issues, the drive from Texas to NOLA was a nightmare, the tours were lackluster, we packed the wrong clothing and we were worried about our animals at home. 

Not every trip is destined to be the greatest ever taken. 

But, I think the most important thing about traveling is what each trip teaches us about ourselves and each other. And, in this regard, the trip was a success. Because even against the setbacks and the bad times and the money spent and gone, we always adore each other. Even after I've screamed "I hate you!" 30 times while driving through pouring rain in a traffic jam, or he's taken his 14th work call in 2 hours, we're still glad to be together. There's something important about that, I think. 

On the bright side, we bought some beautiful original art, had some incredible gumbo and a damn fine Pimm's Cup in America's oldest stand-up bar. 
Art: Gustavo Trujillo Art
Gumbo: GW Fins--(y'all, check their Lobster dumplings too. So good!)
Pimm's Cup: Tujague's Bar
Bonus--Cool 19th century house: 1850 House

xx

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Mackinac Island





The jewel of the north, indeed. Isn't it simple to see why I would choose to base a few of my books there? Mackinac is unbelievably beautiful, with sparkling crystal blue water, and balsam and fir, pine and limestone. 

I've said before that I'm not as big of a fan of the sea, I much prefer the fresh water of the lake, and the water in the straits doesn't get any clearer or fresher. I realized on this latest trip up north that I have spent a majority of my life's worth of birthdays on the island. It was only fitting then to be on Mackinac for the big 3-0. Maybe because I was also there for so many other birthdays, I also felt like I was 3, and 13 and 22, and all the ages in between. Memories of riding behind my dad in my baby bike seat and my hair blowing in the wind on the ferry. Or the time when I was 20 when my mother rolled her eyes as I used a really terrible fake ID to get a daiquiri, only for me to leave the ID at the restaurant, and I not drink most of the too-sugary drink. 

Biking around Mackinac is a tourist highlight, but I prefer to bike through. The bike trails within the island are smoothly paved and take you through tunnels of trees with sparkles of sunshine falling through like snowflakes. The scent of balsam is so strong and the sounds of the modern world so far away that it is easy to forget what time you are in, or that time exists at all. 

No cars, cellular reception that is spotty at best, fudge and horses and buggies and carriage rides through the dark woods on a cool night. A quick bottle of champagne at the top of the cupola of the Grand Hotel and the sounds of the waves and the lights from the bridge as I swing on the playground of the tiny island school. 

Mackinac, a gem and a jewel, and a sparkling beacon of memories past and present. No wonder I love writing about such a magical place. 

Links to my current books set in Mackinac, and don't fret, the last book in the trilogy will be out in 2017. 
Sunlight Serenades of Wind & Iron, Book 3, coming late 2017

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Amalfitana






What can I say that I haven't already? Amalfi is...glorious. If it wasn't, we wouldn't go back every other summer. It's like the whole coast has a magnet that attracts its opposite, which is located somewhere under our ribcages.

Although it has gotten more and more touristy over the years, it still feels like home. Or, at least familiar, like a favorite aunt or family friend. Anyway, it's a dazzling place for my eyes after living in Houston. Although, it does make one realize how little actual beauty you take in on a daily basis. It's strangely sad, to become aware of all the color and brightness and the voice of the sea that you are missing out on the daily. 

Geography is super unfair that way.

Anyway, here's a refresher:

Ravello:

Amalfi:

Atrani:

Beaches:
Santa Croce
Lido Degli Artisti

xx





Wednesday, August 24, 2016

How about those Naples?




Naples is a strange creature of a city. I've written before about the city, but it really can't be captured. There's a vitality, a rawness...a feeling of....? I'm not certain. There's something special in the loud voices, the dirt, the grit and grime and pizza. The saint-like depictions of Diego Maradona and a woman handing out coupons for gelato from the steps of the Basilica. It's as if a rag-tag juxtaposition of elements come together that shouldnt, but somehow, they fit anyway. Like a bunch of pieces from different puzzles are forced together into some kind of glorious modern art. 

There's something endearing about the strange man that used my husband to metro-hop and the couple at the table next to us who each ate two pizzas, and the little boys playing soccer in the middle of traffic as if the street wasn't full of cars honking and people screaming. It's a wonderful madness and it is easy to understand how the people that live here think a little less of you if you don't have the privilege of a Naples address yourself. 

Some favorites:
Pizzeria Sorbillo - the best pizza on earth. Confirmed. Signed, sealed. 

That's all for today. Pizza and chaos for you, you're welcome.

xx

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Capri for Free






It’s good to have friends. Well-connected ones? Even better.

So, we’re in Amalfi, and we’ve arranged with one of my dearest local friends to spend the day on the Isle of Capri. Our ferry tickets are purchased, we’re patiently waiting above said ferry, and there is no Maria. The boat will leave at any moment and we’ve had not a phone call, nor a text, nor seen hide nor hair of her. 

Until she emerges on-board. She is talking to the captain in her sing-song Italian and gesturing about, smiling and laughing. We are getting off the boat she says. We are getting on another boat she says. It is a private speedboat and we are going for free she says. Her uncle’s cousin’s son has a charter company that usually charges $100 a pop for a ride to Capri, but for us, for family, it is free. And if we are Maria’s friends, then we are family. 

We walk over to the other dock, where the sleek, white luxurious speedboat is bobbing in the water. The paying customers are clustered in the back, eyeing us newcomers with goodwill, and some confusion. We hustle up to the front, towels are laid out and we are meant to lay and sun ourselves while everyone else sits in the back. If I have never felt important before, I certainly do now. 

The boat slips away from Amalfi, and quickly gains speed. The blue is so blue it is almost painful, the sky above so clear it’s almost unreal. We laugh and talk,  friends from across the ocean, as the boat skims over waves and past the gorgeous terraced coastline. We stop for a swim, the salty ocean water already permeating my skin and hair through the wind that has been blowing through my hair, and we jump in, like children, splashing and flipping about in the sapphire blue. 

We’re back on board, having had a chance to converse a little in the water with the rest of the party. A married couple from Turkey, two ladies from New York, a lone Australian. All smiles, united,in a blanket of blue water and sunshine. We cruise up to the Isle of Capri, passing the grottos and circling the island, allowing all of us to take in the sights. There are a lot of oohs and ahhs, but not from me, as I do not personally like the island very much. Too touristy, too expensive, too many stairs to climb for my already almost-broken-by-the-Roman-steps legs.I would prefer to stay aboard the speedboat, flying around on the waves, bronzing in the sun.

But, we alight on the island and climb, climb, climb, to the top, sweat pouring and tempers flaring. It is hot, unbearably so. We seek out fresh lemonade made from local lemons, and a cool place to have a light lunch, if any lunch including a bowl of pasta can be considered light. The view from the top of Capri is lovely, though, and well worth the trouble to get to the top. Pictures taken, hunger and thirst satisfied, we make our way back to the speedboat.


They let my husband, who, again, did not pay, drive the boat on the way back, much to the continued confusion of the other passengers aboard. And as we came closer and closer to the the twinkling white city of Amalfi, the glittering waves tumbling under our speedy boat, my husband at the wheel, I had to agree—It’s good to have such friends as we have.

xx

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Golden Latte


Coffee and I have a weird relationship. I only like it when it is drowned in heavy cream and sugar, and even then it bothers my stomach. I'll do a café con hielo in Spain or a café  freddo in Italy--but if I'm at a coffee shop in the US I'll usually go for chai or herbal tea. 

So...when I heard of Golden Milk and Turmeric Lattes, I was intrigued. I mean, 'golden milk' sounds like something a deity would drink in a fantasy novel or a compendium of ancient mythology. There's a bevy of recipes online for varying renditions of this drink, but the one I drink most often is a take on this version from the Goop

To this recipe, I add a little black pepper, some cinnamon, I substitute local honey in for coconut sugar. Oh, and I use unsalted grass-fed butter instead of coconut oil, but that's just because I had the butter in the fridge and the whole coconut oil craze makes me a little nervous anymore. 

Anyway, check the recipe above, and make yourself a cup. Turmeric and ginger have anti-inflammatory properties, and turmeric is touted for all kinds of miracles. From aiding in depression to clearing your skin and regulating your weight, there's a long history of the benefits of turmeric across cultures. Check this article if you're interested: Turmeric Benefits.

Anyway, it's delicious, and it's golden and I like gold and yummy things. 

That is all. 
More travel and adventure posts on the way. 

Also: have you ordered the book yet? Order the Word Collector
xx

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The tippy-top of Positano

Most people will tell you that the gem of the Amalfi Coast is Positano. I disagree, one because I like to be difficult and secondly because I genuinely think that there are far too many sandal making boutiques, tourist restaurants and people wearing socks with their sandals. For myself, I prefer the city of Amalfi itself, which is still unspoiled in some places. But, today’s tale is set in Positano, amidst the lush purple vibrance of bougainvillea and bright white and pale yellow buildings that dot the terraced city. 

We had really only come for one reason. From where we were staying in Amalfi, Positano was an uncomfortably warm ferry ride filled with the crush of tourists and children who take up too much of the seat next to you. As stated before, I am not tremendously fond of Positano, a fact that I take no pains to hide from my long-suffering husband, but we had mutually agreed to return in order to eat at a wonderful restaurant perched at the very tippy-top of the city that overlooks the harbor. The food is delicious and the view is resplendent, with twinkling blue waters and the colorful houses cobbled together out the windows of the restaurant. 

The last time we had been to Positano, a friend of mine was working in a swanky villa, and had arranged transportation from said villa to this restaurant. We had arrived in grand style, seated right in front of an open window, and ate for free because I had been touted as a “famous American travel writer”, which if not wholly false, was certainly flattering and I didn’t feel at all guilty about the free meal that accompanied this fiction. 

While we were not expecting the royal treatment this time, I did not expect to walk to the top of this mountain in order to eat. But we had no one to arrange the transport and had no working cell phone on hand. So, we walked. 

The climb to the top of Positano from the harbor is about 45 minutes of straight incline up Roman steps. These are not modern stairs with set inclines, these are crumbling narrow steps meant for tearing the muscles in your calves into pieces. We walked, in the bright sunlight, sweat pouring through my hair, from the tops of my arms, from my knee caps, from every inch of my body that I have never seen sweat before. Up, up, up, with no break or water, or even a cloud to pass overhead to offer a moment of respite. 

But then, we emerged down the street from the restaurant. It glittered and beckoned like a mirage, but was real and tangible, and though I looked terrifying, a dripping, sweat covered vagabond, we arrived. 

If they found our appearances distressing, they have the decency only to give us dark looks and point us toward a table near the wall. No windows for us. I tell them I write for travel magazines. I tell them we walked from the harbor. It didn’t matter. 

And though the food was still delicious, our special little dream place was brimming with tourists. It wasn’t special anymore, we had no window view, only views of tour groups and fanny packs and those terrible zip away pants that become shorts.


We traveled to the top of the mountain, returned to our own little heaven, to find it utterly ruined by our countrymen. Nothing was left but the walk down and another uncomfortably hot ferry ride back to Amalfi. Amalfi, where one can still escape to lemon groves waterfalls, in the places tourists never go. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Travel Capsule for Brass Blog





Check out my latest Travel Capsule post for Brass Clothing on their blog. Tips for packing, looking posh, assembling outfits and keeping your clothing fresh on the go. 


xx


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wine Slush



You guys. If I was at home,  I would treat you to a romping post about traveling somewhere gorgeous. I would complain and whine and make snide comments and self-deprecate myself until you smiled. But, at the moment I am off, rollicking around the Southern Italian coast, drinking wine and eating pizza and smooching my husband and my sister, Maria. Right at this very moment I am probably drinking an Aperol Spritz at a nightclub in Naples and maybe getting murdered. Or at least mugged. Or I might be laying on the beach, looking out at the Tyrhennian, but instead of feeling blissful I am also looking at the size of my thighs and thinking about how much extra pizza has gathered in my hips. 

So as you can see, I am busy.

But, I do have a link to the easiest, most delicious little wine slushy. All you need is wine + frozen fruit and a blender, and cups, obviously. Unless you drink things out of your hands like an animal. In that case, skip the cups. 

You can find the recipe ---> <HERE> Layered Wine Slush Recipe

Chill out, drink a little. (Or A LOT)
xx

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Word Collector, A Novel--Release Date and Teaser


Hey all, I am so excited to announce the upcoming publishing of my newest work: The Word Collector. 

It will be available for Pre-Order for Kindle on July 30 and available for purchase on August 5th in paperback and Kindle. 

To whet your appetite, and hopefully entice you to buy, please find the book blurb below. And next week, I will have the Prologue on the blog...to keep you salivating. Hopefully. That's the master plan anyway. 

The past has a habit of invading the present. For Petra, a linguist and self-proclaimed wordsmith, her own history  future have a way of blending and mixing, blinding her from the moment at hand. 

The past, though, is not a safe place for Petra. It is filled with terrors, with memories she buries beneath obsolete and archaic words.


Until the diary surfaces. A lost diary, discovered in a chest at the bottom of the lake. The book plunges Petra into the life of Nerissa Swifte, another woman that lived beyond the bounds of her own time, whose struggles and sorrows echo Petra’s own.
The more Petra reads about this woman of the past, the more she finds that her own history is revealed. 


But when all the painful memories are laid bare, where will Petra stand? Oblivious and tucked securely within the safety of her world of words…or will she use the truth of her history to propel her into an unknown future?
Magic and memories, pain and secrets all await her at the lake’s edge. And words,  glorious words—the greatest enchantments of all. 

from, The Word Collector, by Alexandria V. Nolan


Get ready to pre-order, bookworms!
xx
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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Milano; Not just a delicious cookie







Ok, so Milan was totally rad. First of all, it was beautiful. I mean, devastatingly beautiful. I was made to believe that it was an ugly, industrial wasteland of car and clothing manufacturing--and, it wasn't. The wide streets and blend of neoclassical, modern and experimental architecture is a draw to the eye. Blended within these elements are sights like the Duomo, the Sforza castle and numerous small churches, all from different periods. Though the streets are made up of buildings from different schools of architecture and time periods, it all seems to...go together. With panache, even. 

We were blessed by the Gods in that the weekend we visited was a gelato festival, possibly the two most beautiful words ever combined in the English, or really, any, language. We ate probably the second best pizza ever, (the first is still in Naples!) at a place called, Piz, which is owned by the appropriately named "Pizza Man". Our other food hallelujah can be found at Carlo e Camilla in Segheria. A cool, laid-back industrial type space with incredible aperitivos and cocktails, where we also stayed for the tasting menu. The walls are bare, but glistening chandeliers twinkle overhead and everyone is seated family-style at long tables. This would probably encourage conversation and camaraderie, but our speaking-Italian is limited to,"Please", "Thank you" "I would like", "where is the bathroom?" and "How much?", and on a good day, "I am from Michigan, but now, I live in Texas."


My favorite of all though, was the Pinacoteca di Brera, a museum called, "The Italian Louvre". Mr. Nolandia especially liked the statues of the nearly-naked Napoleon, who is his hero and celebrity crush. There were a few too many religious paintings for my taste, a lot of suckling old-man looking baby Jesuses, and a lot of bloody martyr stigmata filled triptychs from old churches. I prefer the romantic scenes, pastoral scenes, nature...and really, who doesn't like a still life with apples and grapes and maybe a dead chicken in the corner? 

Anyway, Milan was tops. I'd go again. I'd stay a week. I'd stay a month. 

xx




Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lago di Como








Lake Como. Let me start off by saying that it rained almost the entire time we visited. Also, it seemed...somehow less vibrant than Amalfi. Perhaps it is unfair to compare the two places, as they are wholly different, but...I mean, Amalfi Coast, you guys. This wasn't it.

There are several small villages, coastal-blink-and-you missed-it places along the lake, some with decent restaurants, others that are...not. Think, 80s love ballads (except the ones rejected by American radio) being played very loudly while you sit in a plastic chair and three Italians fight in the parking lot about the closeness of the cars and there's a lot of cheese on your food, which you never thought would be a problem until now when it's too much and your throat and stomach form an alliance against you and won't consume it. Maybe that is too specific of a situation, but...maybe not. 

Anyway, some highlights:
Villa Carlotta-- Tremezzo
Gorgeous villa named after some dead chick that didn't even have the best bedroom in the house. The gardens outside are lovely, with waterfalls and paths and lush greenery.
We spent our life savings here shipping wine back to the states. The barolos and barberas are top notch, the prices are fantastic and the cheese plate was worthy of a write home. 
Tacchi--Bellagio
This is like a...handmade and painted wood-goods shop? Think wooden trays and coasters and bowls all hand painted and ready to put on a table. We bought a coaster for the billion bottles of wine that we had just purchased, and also, strangely, a tray to "put our keys on" (this was a Terrence idea). 

Melzi-Bellagio This was kind of a mistake. When we visited this villa it was raining buckets, Terrence filmed me falling down a hill and there was no actual villa to go into, just gardens and very upsetting statues of babies riding dogs whose necks appeared to be broken. 

So, go. But really, I'd say day trip. Or, at least July or August weather.

xx






Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bergamo Beauty













If pictures are worth a thousand words, then I've already given you 10,000. Bergamo is a small medieval town, (at least the Citta Alta, where we stayed) walled in and chock full of twisty-turns streets and pastry shops and mountains in the distance. 

Home of polenta, apparently, though my grandmother wouldn't approve of the way they prepare it here. Full of truffles and mushrooms and cheese and nary a red sauce in sight. We feasted though, and watched soccer with the locals and drank campari spritz and espressos and listened to the damn bell in the clocktower clang, clang, clang all damn day. 

There was an interesting historical map museum, with hilarious guesses at what lay beyond Europe, starfish-shaped continents with sea-monsters and what looked like naked ladies windsurfing in the oceans. Not very accurate outside of Europe, but charming, certainly. 
The interior of the  church in Bergamo is enough to give me back religion. Gorgeous ceiling painting and color and gilt and beauty everywhere. 

Beyond that, there is a sad ruin of a castle on the hill, and the funicular is actually kind of exciting and the local wine is spectacular. 

Bergamo-skimmed, just for you.

Final thoughts: go. There were not very many Americans there, if any, besides us, and though low-key, it was everything you'd want in a Northern Italian medieval city on a hilltop. Fine wines, polenta and all. 

xx