Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Last Sunday

Sorry for the delay readers -- I do not intend to give up on blogging now that we are no longer "Metzing Around" but if you are a Facebook friend, you are well aware of our travel troubles when returning to the US (3 flights in 3 days but more on that later) and I just now am feeling settled and calm enough to sit down and look through all these pictures.

Our last Sunday was spent again in Nancy with our blogging/real-life friends Megan and Joe. Not only were we anxious to see them one last time before moving back but we also had a home-goods delivery to make.

Pre-departure, we made a giant list of all the things we had accumulated after 1.5 years in this tiny apartment and put them up for grabs. And since Megan and Joe are car-less and live 45 minutes away, we offered to drive them to Nancy in return for a fun evening at their place. 

When we arrived, Megan was ready for the delivery with crust and batter for the scrumptious French burnt cheesecake, Tourteau Fromagé (which we mentioned here awhile back) to throw in their newly acquired oven.

We had a wonderfully light and very french meal complete with chewy bread, smoked salmon dip, ratatouille, the tourteau fromagé (isn't that a great cross section shot? we were seriously impressed that our little toaster oven managed to burn the top!) and a batch of Alton Brown's amazing brownies. And wine. Of course, there was wine.

And after another enjoyably long evening of chatting and reveling in how many strange things we have in common, we took our parting photos...

...and reluctantly headed home one last time (which turned out to not be the last time since I somehow ended up with their apartment keys in my pocket and had to run back the next day to return them).

And to make the night even sweeter, a few days later they were kind enough to send on a pdf file filled with all their favorite things and suggestions on Saint Louis where we will be residing in the near future. Here's hoping the we end up somewhere close to these wonderful new friends.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


 Last Friday we met up with Amanda and Katrina for some fun in the cold. We went downtown to the packed-on-weekends ice skating rink for some skate time and found it empty with the exception of two other people who came and went while we were there (one is a local secretary taking figure skating lessons while the other is an 18yo boy convinced that he will be France's next big Hockey star).

We had a fun time trying out new moves and wiping out when they didn't go as planned.

Katrina worked on her backwards skating -- it was her first time trying and she did great!

 After tiring ourselves out we took one group shot then split up for separate shopping endeavors; Katrina and Amanda Christmas shopped while Michael and I grocery shopped for that night's adventures.

At the marché couvert (covered market) we finally took the plunge and bought a poulet de Bresse (chicken from Bresse).

These chickens are so fresh, they come with the feet, head and innards still intact! The woman at the counter asked me if I wanted them removed then gave me a strange look when told her to "non", leave it how it is. I won't share the gory pictures of Michael chopping off the head and feet; and thankfully, we only needed the meat off the carcass so we were able to leave the guts where they were. It's needless to say that we are coming closer to our food here in France.

Katrina and Amanda showed up not too long after the butchering. We started off with some escargot, Katrina's first escargot, in fact!

And before we knew it, our 11:45 deadline was upon us and we hadn't even had dessert yet! What 11:45 deadline, you ask? 11:45 was Michael's deadline for accepting his first real, live job in the adult world!

So, if all goes smoothly, after spending the holidays with our wonderful families, we will be packing up (or *gasp* movers will be packing up) and we will hit the road for our new home in Saint Louis. We're excited to put it lightly.

After the excitement we settled down to dessert and enjoyed the rest of the evening and part of the morning (think: 4:00am) with friends.

Solar Racing in the land of no sun

 Metz is no Alaska but since I can only remember 2 sunny days in the last month or so doesn't a solar car race seem funny? Well, for our purposes, even a sunny day wouldn't have been reliable enough so when GTL hosted its OSA sponsored solar car race last week we stayed inside with a 500w light that was masterfully attached to a wheeled desk chair and a race course laid out in tape.

In all there was something like 10 participants and while not everyone's car cooperated with the conditions, it was obvious that they had all put a lot of work into the design. This is our friend Seth racing his speedy little car. He did well as you'll see later.

 While the participants raced, the rest of us stood around the outside eating snacks and acting like paparazzi. 

And here's Siri re-directing her car back into bounds. While many of the cars were very speedy, most tended to veer one way or another forcing the racer to re-direct the car which added 5 seconds on to the final race time. 

Katrina's car was uncooperative at the beginning but after some tinkering and pep talk from Amanda, they go it working like a charm.

And finally, after lots of patient waiting, it was Michael's turn to race.

And he did great! Notice the open mouthed surprise of the timers.

The winners: (L to Rt) 3rd place -- Seth, 1st place -- Michael,  and 2nd place -- Eli and his partner (don't know his name, help undergrads!)

The happy and unexpected winner

Seth and Michael showing off their prize money, which we subsequently blew on expensive wine and chicken that we've been too frugal to buy so far.

I've saved the best for last. You see, the reason Michael's car did so well is because it was so stable, and the reason it was so stable is...

Yup, he made it out of a sardine can. If he hadn't needed to tape on that stupid solar panel it certainly would have won the prize for most fashionable. A big thanks goes to Sarah who passed on these yummy sardines when she moved back to the states.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Beginning to Look...

 You guessed it: A lot like Christmas!

Since the French don't have that pesky Thanksgiving holding back Christmas decorations, we got an early start (this coincided with the Thanksgiving decorating) on bringing that festive spirit to the GTL lounge. Michael, Katrina and Peter make sure the tree was sparkling and blinking (much to my chagrin, lights are never static over here, always blinking).

These XL handmade snowflakes that Amanda is holding eventually hung from the ceiling mostly thanks to Francis, the GTL maintenance man and his XL ladder.

 As is customary this time of year, we have been hitting up the local Christmas markets in town, soaking in all the festive smells and sights but mostly, the food and vin chaud (hot, mulled wine).

 The indoor decoration stand was jam-packed with festive folks looking to spruce up their homes.

And much to our surprise, Place de la République, which was largely under construction last year has been miraculously transformed with a veritable winter wonderland complete with a rotating tree ride (which was present last year but placed in the middle of a street during the construction) a giant ferris wheel and an ice skating rink.

Warm and sugary churros and hot wine. Can life be any better?

The next week it snowed like mad, quite literally shutting down all operations in Metz. I have sadly come to realize now that I have a car here in this weather that not only are sidewalks never shoveled, but only main roads are ever plowed, leading to a slippery trip to teach English on Tuesday.

 What else to do but go to the markets again?

 Oops...forgot to rotate this picture! Here I am though, cracking open one of the most expensive confections we've found here: 8 candied chestnuts (marrons glacés) for a whopping 10.99€ (~ $15)! Mostly though, I liked the tin and totally plan to bring it back. I'll take a picture of it sometime soon.

Mmmm, glorious, scrumptious, candied goodness

I'm gonna miss Christmas in France.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving, Extended Edition

The wonderfully welcomed view that we woke up to on Thanksgiving morning
I heard that Wellsboro woke up to the same view, it made me feel closer to home which is also a good thing on Thanksgiving day. 

 Thanksgiving Day, American-style fun at GTL

Full on tackle football
Thankfully it was too muddy and slippery for many big hits, mostly people were just sliding into each other and the snow and mud made for a softer landing. 
I can't wait to do that laundry!

I was unaware that Michael had been home until I walked into the bathroom to find this. He was kind enough to rinse it all out and hang it to dry at least.

 We enjoyed an excellent, as usual, meal at GTL complete with plenty of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes along with many, many interesting dishes from any number of cuisines. After dinner was the "talent" segment. The blurry picture above is of Katrina and Jessie (hope I'm spelling that right) during their "GTL Ballad: 21 going on 22". It was a hysterical re-mix of the ever popular "16 going on 17" from the The Sound of Music that confronted the trials and tribulations of being a GTL scholar. 

After their little ditty...we performed. Well, not Michael and I; any of you that know Michael know that he wouldn't be caught dead on a stage performing. No, the day before the dinner our friend Peter asked me if I would be willing to do a song with him and I agreed...reluctantly. We practiced all that afternoon and ran through the song a few times with the mic that day. I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I was incredibly nervous, but that's what happens when you haven't been on a stage in nearly 7 years I suppose. I'm even nervous about posting hands are sweating. But, here you have it. Peter and I singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside".

Oh, and if anyone with any power at GTL is reading this, please do not hold the performance portion after dinner, I thought I was going to explode. Oh, and a big thanks to Michael for putting up with hearing this song on constant repeat for 24 hours and for recording the song.

On Saturday we got a little out of order (you'll see why later); we made ourselves some yummy eggnog (for the record, eggnog with cognac=amazing!) and lit up our little palm tree thing.

Since we'll be leaving in a mere 2.5 weeks, it'll have to suffice until we can get home to enjoy our parents' full-sized Christmas trees.  

We struggled for a long time that night to come up with something to make for dinner. We ended up settling on an epicurious recipe for Veal Cacciatore mainly because we have a lot of polenta in our pantry to use up in the next few weeks. On top of everything else, I feel like our time in France has opened up my eyes to new meats that I never really considered eating in the states and veal is certainly at the top. Veal has always had a bad rep in the stated because of some particular farms that were confining and abusing the animals and the market has never really returned. Here in Europe however, people care about their food in a way I have never seen before (OK, the Culinary Institute of America did have a high respect for food). There are very strict regulations in place for animal treatment and food safety and everywhere you look, there are these incredible looking, incredible tasting meats readily available in the supermarket (rabbit, quail, guinea fowl, lamb, veal, horse even?) and you know that it didn't live in the horrible conditions that we see in US factory farms. Sorry to get up on my soapbox but in short, if you have access to humanely kept veal, it is a delicious, lean, and tender meat, and it was oh so yummy in this particular dish.

Despite our wonderful Thanksgiving meal at GTL, I felt that I had missed out. I missed stuffing myself with stuffing and potatoes and lots of gravy. I missed the leftovers. So, Michael being the wonderful husband that he is, agreed to help me make a second Thanksgiving feast just for the two of us. 

And because there was only two of us, and because I frequent the food section of the New York Times all too often, we decided to try a new turkey breast method and recipe. The turkey breast is first brined overnight then it is tightly wrapped in seran wrap and tin foil before being effectively steamed in a low oven until the internal temperature is 135°.

I can't even being to describe how strange the turkey breast looked and felt after coming out of the oven. 

Seriously, it was gross!

The turkey turned out to be delicious although we weren't too sure about the honey and roasted garlic glaze that went on at the very end, it never really set and although it tasted delicious it was just kind of slimey. On the whole though, we loved the steaming  method and plan to use it again but perhaps with a different glaze at the end.

The meal was rounded out with a green bean casserole and stuffing (both from The Pioneer Woman blog, her food always looks amazing), basic mashed potatoes, gravy and my family's uncooked cranberry relish kicked up a notch (1 bag cranberries, 1 entire orange (skin and all), 1-1" piece of ginger and 3/4 c sugar blended in the food processor until finely chopped). Oh, and we drank one last bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau for the year with the meal. Really, everything turned out perfectly and even though we've done our first "married" Thanksgivings at GTL, it was really nice to have a night and the dinner just to ourselves.

Less than 3 weeks people...!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Home Again

After our lovely trip to the Black Forest (which was mostly spent with me trying to convince my parents to retire there) we headed back to Metz for our final 4 days together before that sad trip to the Luxembourg Airport.

The weather in Metz wasn't particularly agréable but we found ways to fill the time and our stomachs.

This particular meal was one of the few we made at home. It's a duck confit salad that was the product of a whole duck that we bought a week back, cut up, and used for multiple different meals. It's a very economical way to enjoy this scrumptious and usually expensive meat.

We went on multiple walking tours of Metz and as it turns out, there is much more to show that I had realized. I think we managed to walk off a good portion of the deliciously high calorie meals that we were ingesting every night by going out to dinner. Mom and dad are pictured here in front of the Knight's Templar Chapel (whom you might remember from The Da Vinci Code).

We also showed them the normal sight of St-Pierre-aux-Nonnains basilica which is widely believed to be the oldest church in France right in our beautiful little city.

As expected, Dad made more friends with the local fauna.

And across the river we found and explored more about the Temple of the German Garrison which has a very interesting story. It was built around 1880 during the occupation of the region by Germany solely as a Lutheran church for the German soldiers. The locals though it was ugly, being of the Gothic Revival archetural design and all, and they were offended by the bell tower which rivaled the Cathedral in it's height. After Lorraine was returned to France in 1918, the church was abandoned and day dormant for decades. During WWII it's nave was badly damaged by allied bombs and in 1946, the roof of the nave caught fire. The locals could ignore the church no longer as it was now a safety hazard. They had the nave demolished but kept the tower as a monument that was later incorporated into Metz's Luxembourg Garden.

While exploring the other side of the river, which we rarely visit we happened upon this beautiful view of the Cathedral. Too bad they're busy cleaning it right now; I may have to photoshop out the scaffolding at some point.

After dinner one night we were walking along the Moselle river when we were bombarded with hungry swans. One minute we could see 3 and the next thing we knew, there were 11 following us along the river hoping for a morsel. Sadly we had none, we had eaten everything (and it's not like it's kosher to take a doggy bag here in France). 

The next day we packed everything, including an extra large duffel bag filled with our belongings into the tiny Twingo and set off for the Luxembourg Airport yet again. As expected, we had a wonderful time with my parents. I was so happy to see them  in the flesh after over a year of not seeing them and while it was sad to leave them at the airport, we've made it over a year without seeing them in the past and at this point, today, we have only 3 weeks (eek!) here before we will see them again. And just for a tiny plug: I can't say enough how much skype and other voice/video calling has made this year and a half away from family more bearable. Thanks to it, I never felt too far from home.