Wednesday, September 2, 2015

NOLA by Day

New was so wonderful to be back. It all began for us 4 years ago in the Crescent City, and it was nice to revisit the city we fell in love in. The trip for us was a lot less about Bourbon Street, but instead a lot of antique shopping and art admiring on Royal St. We spent a lot more time ambling around, looking at the beauty of the buildings and taking (God forbid!) a carriage tour (so touristy!) We felt a little...older, and maybe a little less wild, but relaxing was what we needed. A little break from Houston, and a little culture and DELICIOUS food in the big easy. 

Our favorites from this trip:
Carriage Tours at the front of Jackson Square
Spicy Bloody Mary at Frank's-- we taste tested a bunch for you. You're welcome. 
Gallery Burguieres- The cutest artistic prints (a lot of animals, like, cute animals)

Check back next week for a post on Nola by Night...probably the best time to see New Orleans. 


Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Nolandia returns to New Orleans, the city where it all began. 

In 2011, we took our first real trip as a couple to the crescent city, and a few months later, we returned to Nawlins, and Mr. Nolandia proposed. Suffice it to say,we have a huge soft spot for the The Big Easy.

While New Orleans is definitely the place to get a very strong drink and casually walk down the street sipping on it, it is also a wonderfully complex place. Not just for raucous bachelor parties and too many sweet, rum-filled concoctions, but a city with depth and layers and so much history.  There's Ann Rice vampires and voodoo queens, beignets and gumbo. Po-boys and graveyards and ghosts and gambling. And it's beautiful. A city that has resurrected itself from disaster after disaster, too wild to be tamed, too strong to be broken.

Here's a few of our favorite spots:


That's it for now. See you next week with more restaurants + bars + things to do in The Big Easy, 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Real Deal Gazpacho

I have a lot of fine qualities. Brag-able qualities. Skills, talents and aspects of my character that are tippy-top. But food photography is, unfortunately, not one of them. 

This photo doesn't show a correctly lit and mouthwateringly staged bowl of gazpacho...but that doesn't mean you shouldn't eat it. On the contrary, get your spoon ready, and plug the almost non-existent calories into your food diary of choice. Because this gazpacho is the bomddotcom.

First, let me start out by very proudly declaring that this recipe is not mine. It comes straight from España, from the cocina de mi amiga, Patricia. Or more correctly, from her mother's kitchen. 

We had tasted some really delicious Gazpacho Andaluz while on our recent jaunt to Spain, and when we returned I had ordered a Spanish brand online that I had liked on the train from Madrid to Barcelona. was really hard to find, and super expensive. I kept asking Patri if she could find it for me, and in the end she was like, "I don't know that brand, but I can give you the recipe. It's super easy." 

Now, my dumb American brain was like NO, IT WONT TASTE THE SAME. AND, GAZPACHO, THE WORD IS NOT ENGLISH SO IT WILL BE HARD TO MAKE. Then, she passed along the recipe, I face palmed, and made it in 2 minutes, all the while singing an Ode to Patricia. 

So, here it is.

Makes ~6 servings, ~150 calories each. 
5 tomatoes, cut in 4
1 peeled cucumber (if you leave the peel on it makes you gassy, FYI)
2 cloves garlic
1 bell pepper ( Patri said green, which I did, but my mom was all like, "Ah nah, I'm using red")
3 tbsp vinegar (I used balsamic)
1/2 -3/4 cup Olive oil. (Don't be cheap, use the good ish.)
Salt to taste, but Patri says (use like a lot)

Put in blender. Blend. Blend. More blending. 

For me, the crazy thing was that everything was raw. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, but it seemed...too easy? Anyway, literally 2 mins.

See you next week for some travel related goodness/mild soul searching. 

For shots of life in Barcelona, Follow Patri on Instagram: @patrilara 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Amsterdam + Delft + Den Haag

Near Centraal Station in Amsterdam


The Hague

The Hague

She's a dayyyyyy tripper. Mr. Nolandia and I struck out one fine morning to explore some other cities besides the great and mighty Amsterdam. We were especially geeked about Delft, because we wanted to get our hands on some unbelievably pricey hand-painted ceramics because we are, truthfully, two old women. 

The train from the Centraal Station in Amsterdam to Delft is about 45 minutes or so, and not too expensive. After we arrived in Delft, we asked a courteous Albert Heijn employee where we could find the Delft factory. Which was stupid. Dumb-dumb American tourists might call it that, but it is officially known as De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, basically "Royal Delft Porcelain". Terrence found the video portion of the factory tour fascinating, but I just wanted to get my hands on some of that sweet, sweet porcelain. 

After that, although Delft is a sweet and sleepy little place there really wasn't a whole lot to do. We were hungry though, and we hit the jackpot. Just the loveliest little vegetarian restaurant with 100% the greatest brownies I have ever eaten in my entire life, and that is saying something you guys. 
The Living has a small buffet style set up where you dish your own food and they charge you by weight. The homemade chai is ridiculously delicious and again, THE BROWNIES.

The Hague
We hopped back on the train and headed to The Hague, or Den Haag, if you wanna get real about it. We were headed for The Mauritshuis, which is home to both Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch by Fabritius. Our personal favorite in the collection is by Willem Van Haecht, and it's called Apelles Painting Campaspe

After a look around the city and a stop for a Belgian beer or two, (La Chuff, amirite?) and then we hopped back on the train back to old Amsterdam for a stroopwafel  and maybe some more appeltaart. 

xx see you next week for a recipe. (it's good. Like, REAL good.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Amsterdam Views + Bites

Oh, Amsterdam. The city always gets me. Whether it's warm appletaart with slagroom (WHIP CREAM!) from Winkel 43 or the best damn daily specials at Cafe De Prins, we had the best gastronomic time in the Dam.

This latest travel escapade was supposed to be a (very needed) break from the sweltering Houston heat, but...we arrived to Amsterdam in the middle of a freak heatwave. And...we had no air conditioner. Because guess what....NOWHERE has air-conditioning in Amsterdam. It never gets warm enough for it. Except when we come from Texas, of course.

But, if you want the best views in Amsterdam, I got you. And if you are dreaming of nibbles, I got you too.

Best Apple Pie in Amsterdam: Winkel 43
Cool Local Bar/Restaurant: Cafe De Prins
Super Touristy but Amazing Cheese Tasting: Reypenaer Cheese
Actual Best Salads EVER: Juice & Salad

Great People Watching: Intersection of Leliegracht & Prinsengracht over the canal
Hang Outs: The lawn in front of the Rijksmuseum & Vondelpark

See ya back next week for a peek at our day trip to Delft + The Hague


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

29 Years.

Yesterday was my 29th Birthday. I love birthdays, no matter how old I am. The birthday isn't less sweet because I get further from 18, or 21, or 5. To me, it's like a personal day of Thanksgiving.

 Not to be sappy, or overly dramatic, but, a day to reflect and celebrate a number of things.
The day I was born. All that I have learned so far. All the people I've loved. All the pets that I've cuddled and walked and given baths to. All the books I've read (and written!). The places I've traveled. The number of chocolate cakes with chocolate frosting I have consumed for my birthday over the years (answer: 29.)

A day to be grateful for all the pieces of my life that have remained constant, and all of the pieces that have changed.

Plus, cake.
And cake.
Cake, cake, cake.

Also...if you are reading this and really embarrassed that you forgot my big day--fear not!
You can make my whole week with just a snag of a copy of one of my books on Kindle and then reading it. And then maybe, like it and want more. Alexandria Nolan Full Works on

I leave you with my favorite birthday quote.
"There are 364 days when you might get un-birthday presents... and only one for birthday presents, you know." Lewis Carroll

PS-Amsterdam on the blog next week!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Shop the DAM

Ok, so Nolandia is busy. Moving...unfortunately just across town instead of across the Atlantic. I haven't fully processed the photos + my thoughts on our latest gallivant around the Netherlands, so in the meantime, I leave you with this achingly lovely shot of a canal and a few of my favorite places to shop in Amsterdam. Add them to your list, immediamente!

Amsterdam Shopping

See you back here next week! (With brand new travel posts to make you drool.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Current Adventure: Amsterdam

Returned, reunited, renewed, rejoicing. The Nolandians are back to their favorite European spot, the Netherlands. There will only be one post this week, but I wanted to include a few links to some of the places we are adventuring to, and events to catch when planning a trip to Holland and the rest of the Netherlands.

Start planning, buttheads.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Traveling + Relationships

Check my latest + greatest article on Coast to Coast Central about how traveling with a partner, romantic or otherwise, can change you as a person.
And also change the relationship. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Strawberry Soft Serve

Ok, so this strawberry ice cream is incredible. As in, I am almost not able to credit it. Plus, as you may know from my other recipes, it had to be essentially a child's recipe for me to attempt it. Not because I am lacking in cooking skills, but because I am über lazy. 

This strawberry not-really-ice-cream is THE balls. Delicious, sweet, super easy and gone within moments. The original recipe was all like "make sure you use a food processor", but you know me, I was like, "Oh, you mean blender" because mama doesn't have a food processor. Mama refuses to purchase a food processor. Mama doesn't  know why I am referring to myself as 'mama'.....

Anyway, here's the recipe. Which is all you wanted from me anyway.

Strawberry Kind-of Ice Cream, Maybe
Gather yo stuff
4 cups frozen strawberries
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used coconut yogurt, because, LOOK AT ME)
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

+Add the frozen strawberries, yogurt, lemon juice and honey to the blender.
+Process until creamy and smooth, about 5 minutes. I had to stop and start a few times, putting a brave spoon down into the belly of the blender beast to knock around the stubborn strawberries, but in the end--VICTORY.
+Serve immediately or pop into the freezer for up to a month. (But, who are we kidding, AMIRITE?)
*Feel free to add more honey if desired. But really, don't. Because you are sweet enough, girl. And also, what are you, an animal? Winnie the effing Pooh? Stay outta that honey jar, sweet cheeks. 

That's it. Eat it. Eat it every night. Mama won't tell.
(Who is MAMA?)
See ya back here next week for something else interesting/mildly funny/uncomfortably soul searching.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Twins

You can never really know a person. Ever. For one thing, people hardly ever know themselves, and secondly, a person’s character is evolving and changing with every passing moment. The person I am today is similar, but not precisely the same as the person I was yesterday. 
Sometimes I think being a twin makes me philosophical. Or perhaps not. Maybe I would have had the same personality if I hadn’t shared a womb with Tristan, but I don’t think so. Every circumstance affects the actions that follow it.  But still, these things race around my mind a lot. What would my life be like if I wasn’t a twin? Would there be something missing, or would I just accept it as my life because I knew nothing different? What if he wasn’t my twin but an older or younger brother from a separate pregnancy? I think about these things, because, Tristan is everything to me, but we couldn’t be more different.  He is wild, reckless and fearless. I am quiet and self contained. As if we were one normal person, that split into two. (Which is not even biologically possible.)

Still, we always prefer each other’s company. Sometimes we forget to talk out loud, but it’s almost as if I can understand him anyway. As if  we are conversing, speaking on back and forth, communicating all of the important things without a word. But of course, deep down, I don’t think we understand each other at all. Because, as I said, no one can.

Take my brother Brandon, for instance. On paper, he’s perfect. He has fulfilled every hope that our father ever had for him and then some. So when he announced that he was marrying an artist that we had never set eyes on, everyone freaked. But, me? I wasn’t even surprised. I could always tell by looking at Brandon that there was something going on underneath that cool, collected, over-achieving surface. I’m glad of it. Everyone deserves a little mystery, and I like him better for hiding it. But it makes me wonder what other secrets we all keep from one another. What other clandestine desires that we keep to our chest.

I’m not exactly sure why we decided to come to Vegas. I personally wanted to wait for the summer, but Tristan has always had a “let’s go right now” mentality. So, here we are on Spring Break in Las Vegas, just the two of us. It’s nice to have a break from graduate classes. I was beginning to wonder if being a school counselor was all that important to me. Tris, of course, has enough credits to graduate, but not enough in any one area. I used to worry about him, but he always seems to land on his feet. So, in the last year or so I have tried to just listen to him and enjoy his company. 

Which can be difficult. You see, Tristan is one of those people who gets weirdly fixated on stuff. Like, one week it would be bodybuilding and then the next week home brewing, and then organic gardening. Sometimes it’s partying too hard in the electronic music scene and other times it’s dressing up in pearl snaps and cowboy boots and heading to the dance hall. Whatever it is, he latches onto something and just obsesses over it until he hates it. Sometimes it’s destructive like taking too many adderall, or drinking… and sometimes it’s just funny. Like the cake decorating or the impressionist painting. He’s so unpredictably predictable. I can always count on him to do something strange and unexpected…and somehow there’s a comfort in that. A consistency. And the one thing he never gets tired of is me. So there’s that. I just couldn’t help but wonder as the taxi pulled away from McCarran Airport,what was it this month that he was addicted to? Was it fast cars? Craft beer? Married women? You never knew with Tristan, but I knew I’d find out soon.

*          *          *          *          *          *         *

Let me just start by saying that my sister, Tess, is the coolest girl I know.  It’s weird, I realize to hold your sister in such veneration, but she really is amazing. 

We grew up so differently, even though we began life literally in the same space at the same time. She was always the smart one. The bookish one with her long braided brown hair and glasses that would probably be considered ‘hip’ now. And I played the part of the perfect athlete. Talented at all things physical, exhibiting athletic prowess in all activities I took up. So, even then we felt like we had somehow been one person that had been broken in two. It only made us closer though. I mean, we had Brandon, but he was like…perfect. All. the. time. You had to feel bad for the guy, because he was the nicest big brother you could imagine, and he was constantly keeping the heat off of us. But, we couldn’t really connect with him. So, it was always just me and Tess. Me and Tess against the world. 

I can hardly even date girls. Not because I have a weird crush on my sister or anything, but because I expect the girls I date to at least be able to hold a conversation like she does. One night with them is okay, or if they want to come on over and stay the night when I call, that’s cool too. But, when they start talking and I realize they’re barely on my level of intelligence…there’s a problem. But, I guess maybe it’s not such a big deal anymore.

Tessa and I spend a lot of time together, but we do a lot of things apart too. Obviously we take different classes, and we go on trips with our friends without each other. Last year she did a Europe trip with her girls and I did a South America trip with some of the guys on my rugby team. So, it’s not like we can’t function without each other, it’s just…not as much fun when she isn’t around. It’s like part of me is detached. Weird twin stuff, right?

I know she’s wondering why I was so insistent we come here. Or…maybe she’s not. She’s probably used to me doing crazy, random shit by now. But the truth is, I want to tell her first. Everyone will know soon enough, but, I thought she oughta know ahead of time. Like I owe it to her, ya know?

*          *          *          *          *          *         *

One upside of having a father who is a complete money-grubbing sociopath, is that he doesn’t really care about his kids except for how we affect his image. The second great thing about it is that because he doesn’t really care what we do, we have had the freedom to travel together a lot. Tristan and I have it down to a science almost. We book the whole trip together, and then I pack both of our suitcases. He carries the suitcases everywhere and does any driving. It’s my job to memorize enough of the language of wherever we’re going to get us around. It’s a good system. 

And even though we have the money to travel, we don’t mind doing it on the cheap. We don’t like to use our Dad’s dirty money, we’d rather use our own. So we use enough of it to escape, and then we stay in cheaper hotels and do the research on the best local places to eat, shop, et cetera. We like to pretend we live wherever we travel. As if we really are each other’s brother/sister/mother/father only family in the world. Maybe we’ve seen too many movies. 

Anyway, as soon as our taxi pulled up at the Flamingo we had booked for the week, I knew we had made a good choice. It’s an older hotel, and not as fancy as some of the others we have stayed in, but it’s being renovated so it’s nice enough. It never has really mattered where we stayed. We both just get a kick from being together. Something about the combination of both of our natures makes us somehow more vital, more vibrant. We could stay at the dirtiest room in the Golden Nugget or the swankiest suite at the Encore, it wouldn’t dampen our spirits. Tristan was already up and out of the cab, getting our bags from the trunk and walking towards the lobby doors. I paid the driver and went with Tris inside to the front desk to get checked in.  

We never minded sharing a room, especially when it was big, and the location on the strip couldn’t have been better. We decided to unpack, nap, shower up, and then grab a drink before walking the strip at night. 

I smiled as I hung my things up in the bright white closet, and folded my shirts into the dresser drawers. I knew there was no way Tristan was putting away anything. He would just throw his suitcase in the corner and dig through it like a dog when he needed a change of clothes. But he knew that I had a weird need to “nest” whenever we traveled, and so had given me the time to do so. I sighed aloud. It wouldn’t always be this way, would it? When we got married our spouses would travel with us, and eventually our children. We only had a few years left of our vagabond traveling. I try not to dwell too much on the future or the past. It’s an awful habit of mine to spend too much time in either of them. My brother is always living in the moment, sometimes too much so. But, he would say, “what more do we have?”. And he’s right, of course. I laid down on the bed nearest the window and set the alarm on my phone for an hour. Just enough time to rest my bones and then pop back up to wash the travel dust off my skin and be ready for a night out. The last thing I saw was the winking of the lights dancing up and down the strip.

*          *          *          *          *          *         *

As soon as I could hear Tess sleeping, I took the papers out from my bag and read them again and again. I knew them practically by heart by now, but it was still a sharp intake of breath every time I got to the end of the page. It was done. It was all settled. I had kept the secret so much longer than I thought I could, and so many times I had broken down, almost revealing everything to her. It was almost impossible to keep anything secret from her. Our hearts were connected in our chests, and one wrong beat in mine seemed to echo in hers and alert her immediately if something was off. Weird twin stuff, I know.

I was glad to be here. Vegas was always an experience. Tess had been here last year but I hadn’t been since before our mother died. I had come with my fraternity a few years back, but not since then. God, but I was invincible then. What is it about traveling that makes you think about other places you’ve been? 

I spent some time online these past weeks researching. I wanted to make sure that Tess remembered this trip. It’s important. So, tonight, I knew we would do our usual “first day there” activity and just kind of wander around aimlessly, gamble a little, get a little lit up. But tomorrow I would take her to see a show at the Bellagio or something and we would do VIP at one of the clubs. I knew she’d want to go shopping and ogle the beauty at some of the upscale resorts. I had lined up some time for us to spend at the new champagne Bar at Caesar’s, Fizz.  Girls always ate stuff like that up, especially Tess. 

For some reason being here with her, just me and Tess reminded me of Mom. Maybe because I knew that this trip was different. But, for a moment sitting on that strange hotel bed, miles from home, I wished Mom was there. I wished she could tell me what to do. No one tells you that losing someone very close to you is like creating a big empty hole in your life. That person had filled that hole, and if they were dear enough to you, then no one can fill it. It just stays. It can scab over, or begin to heal, and then you’ll be reminded of them and the scar tissue or the new skin just rips right back to raw. Our mom had always been closest to Brandon, but I think that was because Tess and me had each other and Brandon was kind of an island. But she was one of those people that just made you warm. You know? One word from her and even if you were still mad, or upset, you just felt warmed up to your soul somehow. So, when she died, she left us colder and lost, and raw. All the same, even when it hurts… remembering can be good. It makes you feel alive to know that you lived through pain like that. That you endured it and kept on living. It was part of the reason I had wanted to come here. There’s nowhere to feel more alive than Vegas. 

When I heard her alarm go off, I got up off my bed and jumped in the shower really quick. I knew from experience that I had between 4-6 minutes before Tess would get mad and yell for me to get out. Live with someone long enough and you learn things like that. 

         *          *          *          *          *         *

I woke up to the alarm and the sound of Tristan jumping like a kangaroo off the bed and bounding into the shower. I grit my teeth and breathed out hard. He knew exactly how to drive me crazy. Live with someone long enough and you know where each of their buttons were, and how to push them. He knew I wanted to get right in that shower, but of course he waited until I wasn’t sleeping anymore to get in himself. Typical.

About 5 minutes later he was out, and grinning at me like an idiot. I straightened my glasses and asked what he wanted to get into tonight. I think we both knew we would be mostly relaxing or gambling ourselves into oblivion. 
“Well, Tess, I figured we’d just go out and get into some mischief. Maybe have such a great time that we forget all about it by tomorrow.”  He had a weird look on his face, but that was all I needed to hear.

An hour later we were dressed to the nines and ready to take Vegas by storm. Tristan seemed a little off, but I figured he would tell me whatever it was sooner or later. I was thinking that he’d better get his game face on, or we would be in for a pretty pathetic evening. Besides, I had even worn my contacts tonight, which between us was a sign that I was planning on getting wild. 

I knew something was strange between us. I could feel the shift like an electrical charge in the air. The way that it feel before a big lightning storm, every part of you on alert, the axis of the world slightly shifted. Like I said before, you can never really know a person, even when they are the closest person to you in the universe.

We both had been talking and laughing as we jaunted past the gleaming lights above and all around us. Covering us both in the shimmering lights of a thousand fireflies. His normal, easy-going grin had returned and we continued on toward the Cosmopolitan, perfectly in step, always in sync, moving towards the beginning of a night we wouldn’t forget.

         *          *          *          *          *         *

I felt like I was sweating like crazy. I wasn’t sure how she was going to take this news. The closer I got to telling her, the more I was losing my cool. Looking up, I was surprised to see so many stars. I would have thought that with the illumination of so many twinkling lights from the strip, that all of the stars would be hidden, barely discernible ghosts of light. Yet, there they were.
 The cold that flows into the desert at night is a strange beast. It’s dry and clear, and it sneaks up on you. The cold in Vegas feels windless and almost soulless, like the emptiness of too many card games played, too many chips lost. I grabbed her arm and tucked it in mine. It felt good to feel her close. Comfort washed over me, and turning, I caught the edge of her smile. 

We waltzed into the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier Bar and ordered a bottle of wine. Tess always says if we are both going to have two glasses, it is almost always worth just buying the whole bottle. I could see her eyes flitting around the room, taking in all of the people, the room, assessing and analyzing.

“Tess..Tess…Tessa!” Her eyes finally flitted back to me and her face was flushed with excitement. 

“This was a good idea, Tris. I love getting all dressed up and causing mischief. Well done, you!” For a moment I felt a little guilty about possibly ruining her happiness, but I couldn’t think about that now. I had to tell her. It couldn’t wait. 

         *          *          *          *          *         *

I could tell immediately after we sat down that something was wrong. My goofy brother looked like he was tied up in knots inside, and so of course, I felt like I was tied up and confused too. He had something to tell me, and it wasn’t good. I could feel it. I knew as soon as he started talking, he wouldn’t stop, and then that would be our night. We would both sit and wallow over his problem, both feeling it as our own and try to figure it out the best we could. Always together. I leaned over and grabbed his rough, calloused hand, and held it between my own. If I focused hard enough, I could feel the thrum of the blood racing through his body, and my own heartbeat would race to meet the pace of his own. There was something in that connectedness that always took my breath away. This person in front of me was my closest match in all the world, and I still didn’t understand him. 
And then I began to wonder… was I about to learn Tristan’s latest addiction? Had he finally stumbled into something he couldn’t handle? I braced myself for the onslaught of an unwanted confession, a confession that would both relieve me and burden me…but I was used to that by now. It’s what happens when your existence is hitched on someone else’s.

         *          *          *          *          *         * 

I could feel my hand sweating in hers. She looked pretty. Even if she wasn’t the kind of girl that most guys noticed, she sure knew how to step it up on nights like this. Tess was beautiful in the way you would want your daughter to be pretty. Wholesome, sweet, she looked like an angel. We really didn’t resemble each other too much. A mix-matched pair. She had gotten all the good, all the tender, all the kindness, and I instead had gotten the hardheadedness, the indecision, the impulsiveness,  the raw physicality. 

The trouble was…I wasn’t the same as the rest of my family. I couldn’t live up to the standards that everyone else seemed to meet so  easily. I guess I was just made from a different mold, or I had different talents. Tessa was looking at me now, the expression on her face told me she knew I had something to say, which didn’t surprise me. She always seemed to know what I was thinking, before I was even thinking it usually. 

Right before the words tumbled out, I took one last glance around the iridescent pinks and purples of the chandelier jewels that hung all around us, protecting us both from the rest of the world. Shielding us from the realities of what I was about to tell her.

“So, Tessa, you know how I switched my major twice last year? And, remember when I failed Chemistry, and then we found out I didn’t even need Chemistry for my new major? Or that time that I stayed up all night long and studied for Linguistics and then failed anyway because I had studied the wrong chapter?”

“What exactly are you trying to say, Tris? What are you getting at? Yes, I remember that you have been having a rough time in school. So what?” I could tell she didn’t appreciate the way I was tap-dancing around the story. 

“Ok, Tess, please don’t be angry, but… I dropped out of school. Officially. Not time off. Not a semester break. I’m done. It’s… just not working out for me. School is great for you, and for Brandon…but I never really fit in there. I never could get…motivated, ya know? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I’m done with it. I understand if you hate me, or are disappointed in me. I figured that your friends all thought I was just a big brainless idiot anyway.”

“Tristan, don’t be silly. I have never been ashamed of you. You’re my brother.”

Finally the world had stopped spinning. She didn’t look that mad or concerned, which gave me confidence. She was so much smarter than me, so much more logical. If she wasn’t worried then I had nothing to fear. Which just left the other thing I needed to tell her. I didn’t quite have the courage for that one yet though.

“Put it out of your mind, Tristan. If college isn’t your thing, it’s not your thing. It’s not for everyone, you know. Maybe you can be on the board  at Dad’s firm, or do some volunteering or get back into the brewing or the gardening or something. Make a business out of it. You’ve definitely got the enthusiasm to make a go of any of those things.”

She patted my knee. And then leaned back against the buttery-soft leather upholstery behind her and sipped her wine. Just like that. She was done. I wish I would have known it would be that easy. I wish I would have known that I could have quit anytime and that she would still need me. 

“You’re still down for partying here? Even if there isn’t much to celebrate?” The air felt suddenly awkward surrounding us. I felt stifled and over-warm, and I removed my suit jacket without even thinking about it. Her face was strange, as if what I was asking didn’t make sense to her. 

And then I realized that even though this was part had been easy, that I wasn’t even nearly out of the woods yet. There was much more to tell, and she wouldn’t take the next thing I had for her so well. 

         *          *          *          *          *         *

Something about his face alarmed me. I had thought his admission about college had been it. I could see though, that this was only the beginning. He had been holding back an even bigger secret. All of nerves strained at the realization that there was more… and that it was worse than what he had just shared. The wrinkle in his forehead had a different story to tell. Beads of sweat broke out on his face and I was bracing myself to hear something that might break me.

For a moment though, I took a long look at him, and wondered why he would have kept secrets from me. Of course I didn’t think he was a joke. Of course I wasn’t laughing at him. It hurt me to think that he could even for a minute imagine that I thought less of him, or didn’t approve of his choices. It never even occurred to me that he should be doing something differently. Of course pity wasn’t the only reason I would want to be around him. How silly. I adore Tristan. He’s the beat of my heart, the other half of my soul. My twin! It was always our differences that balanced us out. It was why we were a good team, a good team at anything we did together. I planned, he acted. I thought, and then he spoke for the both of us. I needed him. 

         *          *          *          *          *         *

It was time. Like I said before, I wanted her to know first. 

“Tess, I’m joining the Marines. I’ve already enlisted” 

The worst words. I had said the worst words. If I concentrated hard enough I could see our mother’s face wasting away in that hospital bed. I could feel her warmth, even as she was dying, pure light seemed to emanate from her. An angel, just like Tess. And now I was putting her through it again. I was ripping out of her life just like Mom had ripped from ours. 

“What?” Her face had frozen. Her mouth only moved the tiniest bit. I almost had to guess what she was asking. And this was the problem. It had been my fault, but I knew she was going to blame herself.

“I need this, Tess. It will be different. College was all about Dad, and staying close to you…but it wasn’t for me. I’m a man of action, Tess. Ya know? I need some discipline in my life, I need a place where the skills I have are needed. Where I can contribute something meaningful. Most of all, I need you to support me. I need you to tell me that I made the right choice. I need you to write me letters and tell me that I’m your hero, I need that. And I want to earn that. I know you love me, but I want you to be proud of me too, understand?”  I slumped back into my seat and breathed out. I spent a long time on that breath, and let my eyes fall out of focus until all I could see was the shimmering pinks and purples of the chandelier. The whole world was pink and purple light, the color of our mother’s bathrobe, the color of her favorite lipstick a pinky, purply dream. 

Her hand was in my hand, and we were both crying. She called the half-dressed waitress over and asked for a bottle of champagne. When she looked at me, I saw my face reflected back. We don’t look that alike, Tess and me, even though we’re twins, but once in a while, I’ll see myself reflected back exactly. I think it’s because we’re the same soul, split in two. And I knew it had been right to tell her.

         *          *          *          *          *         *

It was the last thing I wanted to hear. But, he was going to be okay. I wasn’t going to lose him, and I wasn’t going to lose myself. When Mom died, for a long time I felt like my heart was frozen. I would press my hand to my chest to make sure it was still beating because I was just cold all over. I knew then, and I knew now that the only thing that could have been worse was if anything happened to Tristan. If he died, I’d be as good as dead too. So maybe surviving would become his fixation this time. Which was a habit that I completely approved of.

Our eyes met over the clinking of  our champagne flutes and I did feel proud. My brother was choosing his path, we were growing up. But this wasn’t the end of us. As if he was reading my mind, he smiled and then laughed. And to my surprise, I found I was laughing too. Soon we were roaring with giggles, sloshing the expensive champagne around in the glasses. So many fortunes were being won and lost that night in Vegas, and the world had changed for me and Tris, but as long as we were still connected somehow, then I was the richest woman in the room.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Beautiful Eats Barcelona

At the end of the day, Spain is just chill. Topless sunbathing ladies on the beach, sangria, sangria, sangria, a loose maxi dress todos los dias. It's a good life in Barcelona and it definitely has the architecture, the food and the vibe that encourages a whole lot of embracing. Kisses on both cheeks from all of my friends, new and old. Besos on the mouth from my smoking hot husband. And paella, fideua, and Cava to stuff my face with. Life is slow, but the trip was over too fast. 

We thought we would have trouble waiting until 9:30 or 10pm to eat dinner every day, still stuck on American eating schedules. But, even on the first day, the sun is out so long and the day feels so...easy, that you don't even think about food until late. 

But when you do think about food in Barcelona, here's some suggestions.

Puda Can Manel-- traditional foods. Fideua, Paella, Sangria, etc. 
Granja Petitbo--Amazing salads + sandwiches. Healthy option (we ate here twice)
Euskal Extea-- Awesome  traditional Basque country pinxtos/tapas. Try the Basque white wine.
Brunch & Cake-- We ate here 4 times. YUP. Salads, on fleek. Sandwiches, lord have mercy. Oatmeal, oh my goodness. Ricotta pancakes? CHECK. And Almond milk lattes? YOU BETCHA.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Montserrat + Oller Del Mas Winery

We did one excursion while in Barcelona, and it was definitely worth it. 

Nor because we both adore visiting old churches so much, I mean, we're a little burnt out at this point. How many gorgeous churches can you see before you're jaded? (My guess is probably like 6.) Anyway, we wanted to go to Montserrat, which is literally like, "Serrated Mountain" to partake in the view from above (Mr. Nolandia is partial to views), and also, to partake in the wine tour afterward. (I am partial to wine.)
Montserrat was predictably beautiful, though we did not ride the funicular to see the black madonna, (nor did I want to) and also predictably uncomfortable, as visits to most churches are as a tourist. I always I'm desecrating the church coming in, unshriven, to take gawky looks up at the high ceilings and stained glass. My camera, shaking in my unsteady hands, worried the whole time that one of my former Catholic school teachers is going to snatch it away, give me a referral for dress code and send me to the principal's office. 

Anyway, after the church we had a quick history lesson. The Spanish tourguide took us around to a bunch of carvings around the walls of the outer part of the church (there's definitely an official name for it.) and I was the only one to answer the questions correctly. (Probably because I'm an insufferable know it all, and no one else in the group gave a good goddam.) Plus, the questions were like, "Does anyone know what happened in 1492? And the answer, actually, is a lot of things. But the right answer, that any red-blooded American schoolchild would answer correctly is, of course, "Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Which is what I said, verbatim, drawing strange looks from the Canadian and English members of the group. 

After that we happily drove to the Winery/10th Century Castle for a little history of the winery, the vines, the techniques used in making the wine (which was surprisingly fascinating) and then tapas and wine tasting, (yes, yes, yes, yes YES). Long story long, we bought three bottles.