Cheesemaking @ Asheville, North Carolina

Looking Glass Creamery Asheville North Carolina Cheese Cristina Nogueras

About a year ago I listened to a Savor podcast episode about cheese in Asheville, NC and I just knew I had to make my way there to experience Looking Glass Creamery for myself! I know everyone raves about the breweries in Asheville (don’t get me wrong, they are great) but being the cheese lover that I am, I was most excited for the cheese. I didn’t know there was such a vibrant cheese community in Western North Carolina. I absolutely love and appreciate European cheeses but given the logistics and financial implications to get there from Atlanta, having local cheese adventures just a drive away is pretty sweet. From what I gathered, they respect the classic rules of cheesemaking but are not afraid to showcase creativity and make each cheese unique to their style.

Looking Glass Creamery Asheville North Carolina Cheese Cristina NoguerasLooking Glass Creamery Asheville North Carolina Cheese Cristina NoguerasLooking Glass Creamery Asheville North Carolina Cheese Cristina Nogueras

LGC has grown and now has two locations: a farm and store in Columbus and The Cheese Shop in Fairview (right outside of Asheville, where we went). This cute little farm house you see was their original creamery and now the second floor, or attic, is a cozy seating space where you can find super interesting cheese books to browse while you wait for your magnificent board! They also serve wine but mind you, we were there at 11:00 am when they opened and weren’t ready for that just yet. (Yes, we had a cheeseboard for breakfast, thank you very much.)

The cheese was absolutely delicious (not surprising!) and each variety had something special to offer. The sides were also fresh and flavorful, including some pickled beet which sounded weird but paired really well with the more sharp cheeses, in my opinion. I came home with some of their fromage blanc and sour cherry jam with plans of spreading those babies out on some crackers very soon!

Can we take a moment to talk about jams? Maybe my Puerto Rican upbringing did not expose me to jams as much, or maybe it did and I was just a picky eater then, but my goodness, they are wonderful! I have always been a butter-on-my-bread kind of person and never really gave jams a chance but lately, however, I have been trying them more and wow. During our time in Asheville alone I tried like 5 different, wonderful jams, all locally made. I know this may sound lame for some of you (Duh, Cristina, where have you been living?) but to me this is extremely exciting. So exciting, in fact, that I came home with two new jars of homemade jam. I now need to learn how to make biscuits or scones from scratch and we will be golden. Also, news flash for me: jams, jellies and marmalades are not all the same thing. About to fall on that Wikipedia rabbit hole real soon…

Anyways, cheese is great and local cheesemakers are cool.

Have you visited any cheesemakers in the US? Let me know where!

Looking Glass Creamery Asheville North Carolina Cheese Cristina Nogueras

It’s Ok.

It’s been a very long time since I share my poetry here, but this one came to me recently and I think it’s a very important reminder for everyone in this world of constant hustle. Vulnerability and perseverance are wonderful, complicated things – hope you enjoy this little piece of mine.

Switzerland Cristina Nogueras Suiza

It’s OK.

It’s ok to fall down
to get up
to try again
to get it right
to try new things
to fall down
to get up
to rise above
to lead the trail
to stand out
to fall down
and fall down
and keep falling
then stand up
dust off
chin up
smile on
(or not)
but keep going.

-Cristina Nogueras (10.16.19)

How I Found The Best Tuna Tartare and Other Portuguese Tales [Vol. 3: Lisboa]

Sintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras

It may have taken me over a year to do it, but I am finally completing my Portugal series!

If you missed my earlier posts, here’s my post about the beautiful Porto and the great region of Douro. Ok, let’s do this!

Lisbon Lisboa Portugal Cristina Nogueras

What better way to learn the history from a city than with a light show projected on the ruins of a monastery? The Lisbon Under The Stars show was only in town for a limited amount of time, but I really hope other places around the world are following suit and doing similar presentations as they are such a rich experience. We sat in the middle of these ruins, under the stars… it was magical.

Lisbon Lisboa Portugal Cristina Nogueras Time Out Market Lisbon Tuna Tartare

Time Out Market Lisbon

During this trip I had, what I still consider the best tuna tartare I’ve ever tasted, and still have dreams about it. It was from the Tartar-ia booth if you want to go taste it and tell me all about your experience!

It was a busy hall, tourists everywhere but in spite of my hate for crowds and overly touristy spots, I really enjoyed it. There is one now in New York City too, if you want to explore it (overpriced, in my opinion, but great views). For the one in Lisbon, you had to camp out a little bit in order to get a table but once you did, you were set. There are SO many good things to try that you can spend hours eating and drinking from different renowned places without having to leave the hall. Definitely, recommend stopping here if you don’t have a lot of time to explore Lisbon, but want to have a good food variety. 

I also took the opportunity in Time Out Market to purchase even more canned fish selections from a local shop. No regrets. Seriously, canned fish from Portugal > any other canned fish. 

Lisbon Lisboa Portugal Cristina Nogueras

More food

Unlike other places in Portugal where we were able to make reservations the day of or just walk into excellent restaurants, I recommend you plan some special dinners ahead of time and make reservations. We, unfortunately, were not able to try some places on my list because of that same reason. Thankfully, Lisboa is full of culinary wonders and I still had an incredible experience. I did not write down every place we visited (sorry!) but I recommend you ask locals about their favorite places (your hotel receptionist, Airbnb host or random person at a bar!). 

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Our first night, we had a delicious dinner at Taberna da Rua das Flores, a small but cozy restaurant. They had a curated selection of small plates and I let the waitress recommend the best options for us. These crabs in steamed buns were absolutely amazing. We also had a goat cheese dessert that sounded kind of weird (not that common to have goat cheese in a dessert for me) but was actually really good! We did not have reservations and were able to just walk right in for an early dinner. 

Pasteis de nata fabrica da nata food Lisbon Lisboa Portugal Cristina Nogueras

Of course, we had to try the famous pastéis de nata. We may or may not have had these for breakfast every single day in Lisboa. 🙂 We did not make it to Pastéis de Belem for the “authentic” ones but these ones from Fábrica da Nata were honestly really good (and right next to our hotel). It’s great to go to the “original” or “popular” spots but a lot of times when traveling, it’s about striking a balance between what you are told and what you want to discover on your own.

Sintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras

Sintra

If you go to Lisboa, Sintra is a must. I know of people going only for the morning, the whole day or even stay overnight. We ended up spending the day there and it was lovely. There are several transportation options but since there were 3 of us (hey, Lala!) and we were being lazy, we decided to Uber to and from Sintra. Not bad at all when you are splitting it.

Sintra Portugal Cristina NoguerasSintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras

Once in Sintra, we had the option to walk up all the way to the Palacio Nacional da Pena or choose from other methods of transportations. We were kind of winging it at this point and up for exploring, so we decided to walk all the way up… nobody really told us what this entailed. Let’s start by saying I was not quite wearing the best “hiking” gear. There were people rock climbing up this trail and I was wearing my white converse, jeans, and a cute top. It probably took us about 2 hours, but we made it. Barely. I would encourage you to explore your transportation options. 🙂 If you are not a big fan of crowds I would also encourage you to wake up super early and get there when it opens. 

Sintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras FoodSintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras Food

After exploring the palace and the Castelo dos Mouros, (crowds, crowds!) we were FAMISHED. We hopped on one of the little tuk-tuks and made our way down. Once back in town, we stumbled upon Tascantiga Sintra and had a feast for basically zero dollars. We ordered way more food than we could handle, but wow, it was the best reward after an unexpected hiking day. We basically lived on ham, cheese, olives, cod, and wine for our entire week in Portugal. My kind of diet, if you ask me.  

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There is a LOT to explore in Lisboa, so much that in fact, we barely made a dent on the list we had compiled prior to arriving. We were in a chill, exploratory mood and did not want to rush any of the wonderful experiences we were having. Sure, sometimes it’s fun to rush through places and activities in order to cover more things on your list, but most times I believe that doing less with more focus and intention is more valuable and enjoyable that skimming your way through a wonderful city such as Lisboa.  

For next time though, and for your own considerations, here are some places we did not make it to. Have you been to any? What was your experience like?

Food & drinks

To do & explore

  • Belem Tower
  • Praca do Comercio
  • Sao Jorge Castle
  • Tram 28 to Alfama
  • Monastery of St. Jerome

* BONUS! *

We did go to some other places in Portugal besides Porto, Douro and Lisboa. I don’t think we spent enough time exploring for me to share full-on recommendations but still wanted to share my experience briefly, just for reference. 

Fátima – I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school, so getting to see Fátima was truly special. We stopped there on our way from Douro to Albufeira. The day was gloomy so I don’t have great pictures, but it had a very solemn vibe. I had never seen people complete a pilgrimage so that was really impactful, especially the older folks that do so on their knees! Seeing such devotion and commitment in person is something truly special.

Albufeira Portugal Cristina NoguerasIMG_9844Albufeira Portugal Cristina Nogueras

Albufeira – If the Jersey Shore and Bourbon St. had a baby, it would likely be called Albufeira. It seems to be the place where all the Brits go for bachelor parties. Lots of fun, but not at all the “authentic, chill beach vibe” we were looking for. Still, we had a fun time, I mean, you are in a beach town in Portugal! I can’t wait to have the opportunity to return to the southern coast of Portugal for a proper vacation in such a beautiful area though!

I think that’s it! 🙂

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions about my experience. You can follow me on Instagram @cristina.nogueras to check out my latest photos and more.

Here’s Why Libby Will Be Your New BFF

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Growing up, I was that little girl who would come home with a Scholastic catalog marked all over with the books I wanted my parents to buy for me. When we had a reading assignment in elementary school, I had to control myself to not finish the book all at once and instead follow the class as we read it chapter by chapter, together. I just loved reading so much.

Fast forward just a *few* years and I admit I’ve had my ups and downs with reading. I’ve had moments when I didn’t read for months and it was not until I started reading frequently again that I realized how much I missed it. The past few months have been great from a reading standpoint, but with that, there has been a small problem rising: reading more means spending more. Don’t get me wrong, I want to support all the authors but I also have savings goals I want to hit. So, what are my options?

Amazon Kindle Unlimited is not for me. 

While I absolutely love my Kindle, their unlimited reading service is just not for me. I tried though! I cross-referenced my reading list with titles available on the service and very few were available, so it’s not worth it for me.

Meet Libby, your new BFF.

Libby

Free books you can borrow online and send directly to your Kindle? Sign me up! Libby is an app that connects with your local library and allows you to borrow books and audiobooks. Sure, there might be a hold on some of the books you want to read but hey, they are free and will be available to you eventually. 

I first learned about Libby recently, thanks to the wonderful Janssen from Everyday Reading and I was surprised that I had not heard about this before! I mean, I knew I could rent books for free at the library, but I thought I had to go back and forth every time and that seemed like a lot of effort for me. Plus, I really do enjoy reading on my Kindle so I didn’t want to deal with hard copies either.   

So, what do you have to do?

    1. Get a library card! I just did a google search based on where I lived and it was super easy. I did have to go in person to show proof of residence, but I didn’t mind it at all.
    2. Download the app and sign up using your library card.
    3. Search for books and start borrowing! 

The only downside of Libby is that there likely will be a waiting list on the most popular books, as the library has limited online licenses available. For example, I am currently on a 6-month wait for Where The Crawdads Sing, but was able to get Next Year in Havana right away. I don’t mind the wait as I always have such a long list of books to read, I am bound to find one from my list that is available right away. Since they give you estimates on when the book will be available, you can place multiple holds and plan ahead! I currently have 6 books on hold that have varying waiting times (anything from 2 weeks to 6 months). Honestly, it’s kind of exciting to plan it like that, but maybe that’s just me? Either way, I love that this is something I can use for free, so absolutely no complaints here.

Had you heard of Libby before? Was I just living under a rock? 

Also, I have no friends over at Good Reads so if you are into that, let’s be friends!

 

Humor as a tool for revolution and coping mechanism for the current Puerto Rican situation  

Puerto Rico no se deja - Natalia Benitez

Photo credit: Natalia Bénitez

My friend said that if memes could be properly monetized, Puerto Ricans right now would be making bank. In the midst of a political crisis and arguably the start of a revolution for change, Puerto Ricans have shown no fear manifesting their beliefs with creativity, both physically and virtually. From divers underwater showing their protest signs to yogis leading a peaceful yoga class in front of the governor’s mansion – our creativity knows no bounds. If you are Puerto Rican, I bet you are receiving a constant flow of memes from family members, friends, and even coworkers. You have to admit they are good! 

How can a country that is undergoing what has been said to be a historical manifestation have the strength to continue to fight, while also entertaining millions with constant hysterical remarks?

The two coexist as part of a conscious or unconscious strategy, as one of the obstacles that important education and political messages often face is the ability to reach those who need to know said message. From a basic communication standpoint, humor is easy to share, it even strengthens interpersonal relationships. I have seen memes circulating social media that have encouraged me to do my own research to further understand the jokes and/or claims being made. In a culture where we are so overwhelmed by information and opinions from every device imaginable, researching has become key. I have had conversations with my grandma in which it is evident that solely relying on one TV station for your news is never going to be enough again. It is simply impossible to properly capture an entire movement when it is happening virtually and physically, EVERYWHERE.

Puerto Ricans are loud and proud, and it is in our nature to find humor in all situations, for some, in too many situations. You can blame the tropical climate for our “warmth” but perhaps, it is more accurate to look at years and years of situations (political or not) that are so beyond ridiculous that all you can do is laugh. People often say “hay que reír para no llorar” (essentially, you have to laugh to keep yourself from crying) and although that shows our resilience and spirit, it uncovers another big issue that Puerto Ricans are facing: a vulnerable mental health state.

After Hurricane Maria, the suicide rates reportedly went up in the island. The entire nation lived day after day full of worries, desperation, and angst. Those in the island were too busy surviving to have the time to call out shady government actions or even worse, lack of action. Those in the diaspora essentially dropped everything they were doing to desperately try to find feasible and effective ways to help, overwhelmed by the inability to connect with family members on the island. I am no medical professional, but I think it is safe to say that the island has gone through trauma. By definition, a coping mechanism is an adaptation to environmental stress that is based on conscious or unconscious choice and that enhances control over behavior or gives psychological comfort.

Interestingly enough, you could argue that this “humor as a coping mechanism” strategy was the governor’s own downfall. He claims the expressions said on the controversial leaked Telegram chat (charged with sexist and homophobic remarks) was his way of “releasing tension” from the pressure of his job. So while humor is a powerful tool for awareness and joy, it can also be poisonous and dangerous. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the majority of the humor utilized lately in public conversations has been positively fueling the right for people to manifest themselves and hold the government accountable. It has also been key in the spreading of information and unification of a country that had been divided for far too long. Now, nothing will ever be perfect and while I can assure you there will be future memes mocking the fighting spirit of Puerto Ricans these days, it is important to remember what fueled the humor from the beginning: indignation and the overwhelming feeling that Puerto Rico has had ENOUGH.

New York, I love you.

Sunset on Manhattan

Today marks what would have been my 7th New York Anniversary. 7 years ago, on a day like today, I landed with my one-way ticket to JFK hoping for the best. I had no clue what was in store for me.

I left New York this past January and have not been able to gather my thoughts of what this has meant to me. To those close to me, you know that New York was sucking the life out of me, slowly but surely. No need to get into details here, we all know New York is expensive and demanding. As it was getting close to my last day in the city, I started seeing things differently, you may call it “graduation goggles”. The crowded trains suddenly felt poetic, the hustle and bustle felt energizing and little by little I started to notice the things I was going to miss. 

I used to compare New York City with a drug, you know it’s bad for you but you keep coming back for more. I expressed some of these thoughts during my 5th New York Anniversary post and I think you can sense in my words that I was about ready to go. New York City lifts you up so high, you are soaring, but then it can drop you so hard, the impact is undeniably sobering. I used to think that it drained you but it still felt so good but now I think you feel that way because you’ve forgotten what normal feels like. I danced with so many of these emotions for years. 

Now, New York City feels like an old lover. I know it was not perfect, there were certainly hardships along the way, but I choose to remember the good times and respect the bad times as they have made me who I am today. I go back and rejoice, feeling lucky to have called it mine for however long it lasted. Sure, there are many things I miss and maybe will always miss, but that’s ok. 

Thank you, New York. I believe there is strength in being able to thank someone, something, anything for the good it did, in spite of all the bad. A kind of broken beauty that requires patience and wisdom to be appreciated.

New York, I will always love you. 

2019 Book Challenge: 5/15 Reads [Book Reviews]

No matter how much I love reading, I always go through some dry-spells here and there. Some longer than others but regardless of time away from books, it’s always so refreshing when you get back to it. I have a goal of reading 15 books this year, here are the 5 books I’ve read so far, in order of when I read them and not how I necessarily rate them. According to Good Reads, I am behind schedule, but I think I can still pick it up. 🙂

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One Day in December by Josie Silver 

If I had to pick the least favorite from this list, this would be it. It’s not necessarily a bad book, maybe I was just annoyed at the main character and for me, it’s hard to look past that. I can enjoy a little serendipity magic here and there but for some reason, the predictability of this book did not hit me the right way. It gave me a little bit of “Carrie and Big” vibes from Sex and the City and I honestly didn’t love that couple. I know a lot of people enjoyed this book (and looove Carrie and Big), but it’s ok, can I respect that!

 

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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I am a sucker for good YA, I don’t think they get enough credit, in my opinion. Sure, they can be light and easy reads, but every now and then you find one that makes you feel all happy and hopeful inside. This is one of them. I loved how you are able to get inside the mind of the main two characters and see how they perceive the same exact day through the lenses of their preconceived world views. It also explains a thought that connects love with the dark matter of the universe and I think it’s truly magical – probably because love and astronomy are two of my favorite things – but still, uplifting read in my opinion. 

 

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The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

This is the kind of book that gets turned into a fun romantic comedy-ish, you enjoy it and move on and there’s nothing wrong with that. Although it was quite predictable, I really appreciated the diversity and unique stories that we got exposed to, in addition to the main storyline. I felt like it painted an accurate, balanced picture of today’s world and I respect that. I also can always appreciate a solid male character that is respectful as he is sexy, especially when they care so much about their family like you will see in this book. 

 

Field Notes on Love

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

Ah, to be young and take chances, what a wonderful thing. I really enjoyed this YA, mostly because I felt like I was truly in this journey with the two main characters, discovering new things with them. Their traveling mostly happens in a train from New York to California and that was something I had never really thought of doing. I probably pictured it all more glamorous in my head than it probably is, but still, anything that has to do with travel and discovery will likely strike me the right way. The book also talks about success, performance, self-confidence and how you perceive your talents. It’s spoken to more as it relates to a student’s project, but you can make so many connections to your own life with it, regardless of your age or skillset. 

 

Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book is truly something. You’ve probably heard all the buzz around it already but I think it’s worth the hype. I wouldn’t say it is my favorite book of all time, but it’s definitely my favorite from this list. Daisy Jones & The Six is beautifully raw and perfectly broken, with characters that make you feel a rollercoaster of emotions. It also has a way of conveying a whole music album just through words. How I felt I was in a music performance when I was just reading words on paper (or my kindle) is beyond me and anyone that can achieve that has true talent.

Have you read any of these books, what did you think?

Not exactly sure what the next 5 books will be, any recommendations? For the next 5, I am looking for a more historical fiction vibe, but open to anything if you think it’s worth it!