Nutty Chocolate Balls

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Photo by Anita Carroll

We had a fundraiser for Sandy Hook the other day and I volunteered to make a few treats. At first I planned to make my chocolate-chocolate chunk cookies, my sweetheart cookies and lemon bars. Well as we all know, things don’t always go according to plan. While we made the lemon bars and the sweetheart cookies (using green instead of pink food coloring to match the Sandy Hook colors), the chocolate-chocolate chunk cookies went a little awry. First of all, I miscalculated the amounts of ingredients, doubling some while not doubling the others (aka the eggs) and then I used a little too much melted chocolate. I really should read recipes more carefully when I’m making multiple things at once… Whoops. And then I thought I’d experiment by making them into bars instead of cookies. When they came out of the oven they looked fine…

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It doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong with it…

So what happened when we cut them into squares and tried to remove them from the pan? They crumpled up. Double whoops. Probably because I didn’t have enough eggs to hold it all together. I was just about to give up, when my friend Ashley, the mastermind behind the fundraiser (her mom works at Sandy Hook) asked if maybe we could turn them into balls. Like choco-nut balls. So we did. While they were delicious, they weren’t exactly appealing, so here’s what I did. I covered them in chocolate and turned them into truffles. Voilá!

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Crisis averted. Whew. Now if I only knew what to call them…Chocolate-chocolate chunk truffles? Choco-nut balls? Nutty chocolate balls? Nutty chocolate truffles? Eh I’ll leave it up to you 🙂

So let’s get started!

Ingredients:

-11 ounces and one cup semisweet chocolate
-3 tbsp unsalted butter
-1 tsp espresso powder
-1 cup brown sugar
-2 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2/3 cup AP flour
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-a pinch of salt (since I used salted butter, I omitted the salt)
-1 cup chopped almonds
Coating
-2 to 3 cups of chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a pan with parchment paper.
  2. Coarsely chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl with the butter and the espresso powder. Place bowl on top of a saucepan of about 1 cup of simmering water (in other words, it’s a double boiler) and whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside.
  3. Beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. Add in the  chocolate mixture and beat until smooth. Then add in the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk until well blended. Fold in the remaining chocolate and nuts.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes and remove from the oven.
  5. Once the pan is cool, crumble it with your fingers (it will stick) and roll into small spheres. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and let them firm up in the fridge for a few minutes (10 to 15 minutes should do).
  6. Meanwhile melt the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl, removing it from the microwave to stir every 45 seconds or so.
  7. Once the chocolate balls are out of the fridge, gently dip one into the bowl, rolling with a spoon until it’s fully covered. Lift it out of the bowl with a spoon (or maybe a fork?), gently tapping it on the side of the bowl to get rid of any excess chocolate. Place on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the chocolate balls.

Tip: Once covered let the chocolate harden at room temperature of in the fridge if you don’t have time. If you leave them in the freezer, when you remove them they will sweat.

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Optional:  You can also roll them in crushed nuts, cocoa powder or drizzle white chocolate stripes across the hardened chocolate to be more decorative.

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The fundraiser was a immense success! I got a few henna tattoos from my friend Ashley who has her own facebook page. She hase her own business doing henna called Henna Creations. It’s absolutely amazing! Not to mention we raised over 200 euros for Sandy Hook! If you want more information about, please let me know 🙂

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Hugs and puppies!

Mimi

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A Day on the Beach

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We woke up to a gorgeous sunny day in Kefalos. The sun was shining, the ocean was a sparkling blue and the weather was perfect. Jessica and I set off to explore (and find some breakfast). We decided we wanted to hike around to see the sights and ended up following a path up one of the mountains around Kefalos. 

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While it was a little weird getting strange looks from the locals (I mean we were visiting during off peak times), but it was still nice to feel like the only people on the island. It was such a ghost town. When we got to the end of the path, there was a gorgeous view and the cutest little baby goat!

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Finding animals (especially goats and chickens around the area was pretty common). I came across some chickens, goats and even some rams. They’re just tethered to a nearby tree or allowed to roam around. It was pretty cool.

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After our little hike, Jessica and I decided to just relax on the beach for a bit. Well Jessica did. Me, being fidgety lil me, I wandered on the beach. It was nice to squidge my toes in the sand and chase the waves. The water was so cool and clear. I even picked up a few rocks. They were so smooth and perfect for skipping. I think that may be how I got tanner on my right arm….

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The water and the sky were so blue!

The water and the sky were so blue!

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A result of my fidgety-ness 🙂

Afterwards, we went back to our room to get some relief from the sun. Word of advice? Pack lots of sunscreen. The sun in Greece is absolutely merciless. I got sunburnt within a couple hours and it was only April!

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By the time we decided it was best to go back out there and explore before it was too late to do so, the sun was setting and it was absolutely gorgeous.

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Afterwards, we went on a little walk to try and find the Kefalos village. It was up on the cliffs, further inland, but first we decided to walk toward the harbor.

IMG_7811 IMG_7810On our way to the village, we discovered an abandoned little building, white with a blue roof. We went inside to check it out, but really it was a little bit of a ruin, nothing inside, some broken building materials scattered across the floor. It was a fun little detour though

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And then we realized that we could have rented bikes on the island. Unfortunately they were daily rentals, meaning you could only rent them for a day and since we were leaving the next morning, it was too late to try and rent one then. It would have been nice to have had a bike because, well long story short we weren’t able to get to the village.

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We thought we found a short cut, but it only turned out to be a grassy plain where people kept their chickens and a goat. It had a nice view of the island though. By the time we got back on the road to head to the village, the sun had gone down and it was getting pretty dark. Since there were no streetlights and we had no flashlights, we thought it best to head home.

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While my time in Kefalos was brief, I really do hope to go back. It was so nice and wonderful. The weather is excellent and even though it was empty of tourists and everything was basically closed, I preferred it that way. Without all the people it was truly relaxing and I think it was the best part of my spring break. But alas, after 2 blissful days it was off to Rome. The joys of being in a student abroad 😉

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Hugs and puppies!

Mimi

Relaxing in Kefalos

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Kefalos was definitely one of my favorite stops. The beaches, the warmth, the emptiness. We went during the off peak season, but I liked it like that. I don’t think I would have been able to enjoy the beauty that is Kefalos while it was packed with tourists partying on the beaches. Being a huge nerd, when I grew up I didn’t read your classic fairy tales. I mean I did and I loved them, but I preferred reading Greek myths. My favorite being the story of Persephone, Daughter of Ceres. So you can imagine my excitement to finally be able to visit Greece. There was even a temple for Apollo on the island, but we couldn’t really find it. That’s okay, I know I’m going to be back in Greece to visit Athens, Mykonos, Crete…I think what drew me to greek myths was that they told of magical places that can actually be visited. I mean sure we can all go to London or the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we can’t really enter Diagon Alley nor can we really visit Hogwarts. Nor can we go to Narnia or visit the Tardis. But Greece, we can really go to Greece. It’s not man-made or anything. It’s always been there and it’s amazing.

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When we first landed, it was raining. So we spent all day inside our little apartment, cuddled under the covers and watching youtube videos and catching up on whatever sleep we’ve lost. I mean the view was still beautiful, but we didn’t have umbrellas or rain shoes, so we didn’t really have a choice about wandering around. And trust me with early morning flights, we’d only been getting a few hours of sleep each night. Sleeping with the sound of rain pattering on the window and the waves crashing was absolute heaven. After a while, our host, Giorgos (he owned the apartments) and his wife, called us in for dinner. We had some fried chickpea fritters, which I got the recipe for, some seafood mixed with rice, salad and spaghetti. It was delicious. I think my favorite was the chickpea fritters. I’m definitely going to try and remake them when I get back to NYC and have my own kitchen to experiment in 🙂

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After dinner, Jessica and I went for a walk around the beach. It had stopped raining and we lived literally 5 seconds away from the beach. We wandered around, loving the sound and the smell of the ocean. Enjoying the breeze. We stopped by a little supermarket that was open and bought some snacks to much on. Their pita chips are to die for. And I got these bagel chips-esque snack that was flavored with garlic and parmesan. Can I just say, the flavors exploding in my mouth were so delicious, I could’ve eaten those forever.

After a quick and well deserved shower, we headed to bed and prayed for the next day to be sunny and warm.

Hugs and puppies,

Mimi

A Day in Frankfurt

After Milan, Jessica and I headed up to Frankfurt, the business and financial center of Germany. Now, why didn’t we go to Berlin you ask? Because well, Frankfurt was cheaper and we were only going to be there for a day, so why now? When we landed in the Frankfurt Hahn airport, we were about a hour away from Frankfurt by bus and 2 hours away from Heidelberg. I would have been happy to go to Heidelberg seeing as I had family friends there, but since I had been there already and we were feeling adventurous we chose to go to Frankfurt.So we bought a breakfast pretzel, stowed our bags in lockers and hopped onto the bus.

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It was pretty…well to be honest it was a business and financial center so there wasn’t a lot to do. Granted that might have been because Jessica and I didn’t really research any sites that we wanted to check out, but it was still fun. We got off the bus at the central train terminal, where we could’ve caught the train to Berlin or somewhere, but we only had a few hours (we had to take the last bus back to Hahn airport and that was around 11:30 pm. Seeing as going to Berlin would take about 4 hours and $150 we decided to just hop on the metro to the city center and explore.

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When we got off the subway, we made our way around the center, stopping by a bratwurst stand for, well obviously for some bratwurst. I loved it. I had two during my short stay in Frankfurt, but I swear I could’ve eaten more. The bratwurst was so savory and it came in a bun, the german version of a hotdog, but so much better. There’s just something about grilled meats that I love. Jessica tried a currywurst and she loved it. I wish I’d gotten another one. It was just so good.

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After our first bratwurst, we wandered around Frankfurt, stopping in front of the opera building

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and then following the signs of other tourist sites. Along the way, we met another student from our NYU Madrid program and that was such a coincidence. He pointed us the direction of the river, telling us that that’s where all the fun stuff was. So we headed off. We walked along the river for a bit before crossing it. Interestingly, there were locks on the bridges just like the bridges near the Notre Dame.

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After that, we stumbled across a cute little Teddy Bear museum, but it was really just a store. I found some adorable little cards there, but forgot to buy a few.

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After that we found ourselves in a little plaza, which had some pretty awesome buildings. We stopped by a few stores. My favorite was a book store and of course, a kitchen store. They had so many cool things. We stopped by the bookstore in hopes to find a guidebook about Frankfurt and maybe see some more sites.

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We also went to a gorgeous church, although we weren’t able to get inside.

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After that, we made our way back to the city center where we stopped inside a candy store for gummies. I absolutely adore gummies and well in my opinion, Germany has the best gummies (Haribo anyone?)

IMG_2390We had been walking around a few hours, so we decided to sit down and relax a bit, people watching as we ate our gummies. Afterwards, we stopped into the Apple store (I know, what am I doing in an apple store?) to check our e-mail, look up places to go and chill out for a bit. After about an hour, we decided to go to the Botanical gardens. It seemed fun and interesting and it was closer to us than the zoo or the museums. So we grabbed another bratwurst to go and hopped onto the metro. When we got off the metro, we encountered a cool tower-esque building that was on one of the tourist signs back in the city center.

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After snapping a few photos of it, we headed up to the botanical gardens and were just about to go in through the park when the woman at the ticket desk informed us that the botanical garden was probably closed at this time (it was only 5 or 6 pm). Jessica and I were a little disappointed and I felt guilty for spending a lot of time in the Apple store. If I had only discovered the botanical gardens earlier, we probably could’ve have had an interesting time. However, we did manage to wander around the area and come across some awesome looking houses as well as a nearby museum. Which was also closed. (Why is everything closed by 6 pm in Frankfurt? I have no idea. But I feel like that kind of makes sense). We did manage to stumble across cute little church though.

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By this time, we were too tired to go back to the city center and wander around some more, so we went back to the main train terminal and headed to the bus stop to go back to the airport. By the time we got back, it was only 9 pm and our flight was the next morning, so we got our bags out of the lockers, grabbed some dinner at the airport kiosks (german style foods of course) and settled in for the night.

Let me tell you, spending the night in the airport is not as fun as you think it would be. With all that free time on your hands and nothing to do, Jessica and I caved and paid 4.50 euros for 24 hour wifi access (well I had bought it earlier in the morning) and we just watched youtube videos all night. Yup. Frankfurt was pretty boring, but I think as long as you plan for it, it can be quite fun. I do hope to go back and next time, I’ll really research what to do. Or maybe I’ll just go to Berlin or Heidelberg. Who knows?

Hugs and Puppies!

Mimi

 

Hitting the streets of Milan, the fashion capital of Italy

After Jessica and I woke up and ate breakfast at the hostel, we decided that Milan wasn’t the city to marvel at old ruins and amazing sites (we had Rome for that) no Milan was the place to strut our stuff and go shopping. So we bought another 24 hour metro pass, hopped on the metro and headed toward the shopping areas. After we got off the metro, we quickly ducked into a café to fuel ourselves with none other than a cappuccino  My first cappuccino in Italy. Oh it was delicious. The memory of the taste still lingers….god I miss Italian food/drinks.

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I mean, how awesome is it to be shopping in Milan? We went from store to store, trying on clothes, falling in love with shoes and tearfully placing them all back where we found them after we saw the prices. There is no doubt that Milan is a pretty bougie city. Not to mention Ryanair is kind of a stickler and with it’s bag limit, there was no way we could buy all that AND pay 50 extra euros to check a bag.

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After walking around for a a bit and doing some serious window shopping, we stopped at a little café for a lunch of pasta and homemade bolognese. This definitely made my taste buds swoon. It was the perfect bolognese and I wish I could bring a jar of it home. I did however wish there was more sauce. I’m the kind of girl who likes more sauce than pasta and this is one sauce I would have loved to have more of. The pasta wasn’t my favorite type, it was a tad chewy, but it was still delicious and I don’t think I could have asked for anything more. What was really cute was that they had olive oil in packets! Only in Italy, no? I got such a kick out of it. It’s like instead of giving you sugar or ketchup or mustard, you get olive oil. I was so tempted to slip a few of them into my purse, but I didn’t.

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After lunch it was back to the streets for some more shopping. It was so fun, yet very tiring. I think Milan is definitely a shopping city. While they didn’t have the a lot of turist-y sites, they did have the most amazing stores!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large Zara or so many stores. Jessica and I even got lost inside a giant Abercrombie and Fitch (we went to see the models and to just get a taste of home?)

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And the shoes! :3

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And then we went to the top floor of an department store and found all these bougie food stuffs:
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Well this post was short, but there isn’t much to say about shopping in Milan. And I highly doubt you guys want to hear me babble about it. It was pretty fun and by the time we went back to the hostel I was absolutely tired. I do know I want to go back to Milan again, but this time I’ll have more money to burn next time :p

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi

Easter Sunday at the Milan Duomo

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I was super pysched to be going to Milan. It was my first stop in Italy and I have been dying to visit Italy since I read “The Thief Lord” way back when. So imagine my surprise when my friend, Jessica, and I landed in Milan, dropped our stuff off at the hostel and found almost every single building closed. They had some adorable leather boots in the shop window too…

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Okay, so to be honest. I totally forgot about Easter Sunday. To my defense, I’m Buddhist. But that’s what I did on Easter. I went inside the Duomo and it was absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous. I mean it was, wow, and the Mass they were holding. I felt like I had entered a very sacred place and it, well of course it was. It was the Duomo on Easter Sunday. I highly doubt it gets any more sacred than that. So after quietly appreciating the duomo, Jessica and I decided it was time to go.

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We were a tad peckish (no actually famished) so we wandered through the area around the duomo, looking for a place to settle down and eat. Despite the beauty of the duomo, I was super excited for the food. I mean real Italian food in Milan? Yes please! Unfortunately, a lot of places were closed, but we did find a tourist-y restaurant nearby (it’s hard to find an authentically Italian café/restaurant when it’s Easter Sunday and the whole city was shut down) and settled down for pizzas.

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I got a margarita pizza and it was absolutely amazing. I polished it off like it was nobody’s business. And I mean, c’mon who wouldn’t? After we ate, we still couldn’t check into the hostel, so we decided to cover all the tourist-y sites that we could. A word of advice? Milan doesn’t have many of them…but we did find a castle! So we hopped on the metro, which was pretty cheap. Milan has one of those 24 hour passes meaning that you spend about 4.5 euros (I think) on a metro pass and you can use it all day (for the next 24 hours).

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So we went to the castle, wandered around and decided it was time for a snack….

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Pastel de natas were my lover in Lisbon, Chocolate speckuloos my lover in Brussels, Gelato was definitely my lover in Italy 😉

A delicious gelato snack. My absolute favorite gelato flavor is chocolate and stracchiatella. Stracchiatella, for those of you who don’t know, is a vanilla based gelato with smattering of chocolate shavings. If there’s one gelato flavor that makes my taste buds dance with joy, it’s stracchiatella. Along with the stracchiatella, I got tiramisu and that too was absolutely heavenly.

After our gelato snack, it was finally 2 pm and we were able to get to our hostel, check in, and relax. Unfortunately, while our hostel had wifi, they didn’t supply wifi to the individual rooms. So to relax with wifi, upload photos, reconnect to the world, we had to chill in the lounge area. Not a bad thing, but not exactly a great thing either.
We did however find a nice little restaurant near our hostel that served really good pasta and risotto (good for the price…hey I’m a poor broke college student remember?) and even more wonderful was a small gelatería and a bar called Café Hemingway on the street next to our hostel.

So after a pretty long day/morning, just wandering around a closed Milan, we snuggled under the covers of our little hostel beds and called it a night.

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi

A City on a Hill

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After a pretty lazy morning (well for me anyway, I woke up around 11 AM, but hey, I was a tired little traveler) and another satisfying breakfast of cereal, chocolate speculoos smothered bread slices which then turned into a light lunch of raisins, almonds, cheese and baby tomatoes, which spanned about 2 hours. We, that is my friend and her mom, drove to the nearest metro station and hopped on the subway to the city center to check out the sites.

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One super awesome fact about Brussels is that it’s built on a hill. A city on a hill. Now where have I heard that before? Anyway, after leaving the metro stop, we weaved our way through fun little alleys lined with numerous cafés to make our way to the main square.

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When we got to the Galeries Royales, my friend’s mom pointed out the different shops and there were a lot! Chocolate stores, lace stores (where old ladies hand make [weave? crochet? produce?] the lace themselves).

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But I got distracted when I saw an old childhood friend…

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Yup, Tintin the Reporter and his ever faithful dog Snowy. Since my best friend, when I was three, was from the Netherlands, I was introduced to Tintin at a young age and I grew up reading his comics and watching the cartoons. And of course, Brussels is the home of Tintin and Snowy. I was so excited to see them around the city.

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We even went inside a Tintin store where I reminisced about the adventures Tintin had (I still have his comics in my room 😉 )

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After exiting the Tintin store, we headed to the main square where the buildings are breathtaking. According to my friend’s mom, during the summer, they have flower exhibits in the center of the square, where it’s overflowing with color and bursting with flora. I guess this means I’ll have to come back to experience the warmth of Brussels. Did I mention that it was absolutely freezing in Brussels? Okay not freezing, but I did have to double my socks :p

IMG_7623After the main square, we wandered our way to Manneken Pis or the peeing baby statue. Apparently this statue is very popular among the children as well as tourists. I’m not sure why, considering that it’s quite a small statue of a baby peeing. But it was definitely something to check out and it was pretty cute. Manneken Pis had on a outfit and according to my friends, he wears a different outfit throughout the year.

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After the statue, we walk up towards upper Brussels, stopping to look into different stores along the way. I got to check out one of the best (if not the best) chocolate store in Brussels…

IMG_7636I was so tempted to buy a box of chocolates. I have no idea why I didn’t… it was either the plethora of choices or the prices (I know, I know. I’m in Brussels! I should splurge on chocolate. Unfortunately, I’m also a poor broke college student). On the bright side, I know what I’m getting the next time I’m in Brussels….

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After that, we went into a comic book store. Apparently Brussels is a huge comic city to the point that they even decorate the buildings with comics. Mind you, I think that’s better than illegible graffiti (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We passed a church or two, absolutely breathtaking and large, but it was a little too cold to admire it for long (my toes were going numb) so we went into a café and not just any café….

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Whoops a tad blurry :/

Le Pain Quotidien. Le Pain Quotidien is one of my favorite cafés in New York and so, imagine my surprise when I found that this cozy little chain was not originated in France, but in Belgium. Brussels to be exact. It was so nice to be there, like I was back home in NYC for a bit and the food was quite delicious. I had a hot chocolate and an apple muffin. After our little snack, we went to the top of Brussels to look down on lower Brussels as well as see the Justice building.

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It was so amazing to see the entire city of Brussels spread out before me. After taking photos and wandering around, we took the elevator back down and headed back towards home. But not before wandering around the city some more and stopping by some more stores…

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After we got home, we warmed up with a pot of cheese fondu. Interestingly, this cheese fondu was made with tomatoes and it was absolutely delicious. Our dippings were: potatoes, bread, tomatoes, pickles and pineapples. It was so delicious we cleaned out the pot 🙂

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Brussels was, most definitely, one of my favorite cities and I can’t wait to go back again some day. Next time, I plan on visiting the chocolate museum, the comic book museum as well as eating proper Belgium waffles and pomme frites.

Off to Milan!

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi