Wednesday, May 26, 2010

365 Days

As hard as it is for me to grasp the realization that we have been living here in Metz for almost 10 months, it is almost unfathomable that Michael and I have now been married for one year! It seems like this picture

could have been taken just a couple of months ago when, in fact, it was taken years ago, somewhere during '05-'06 Chrismas break. Rest assured people, he stopped short of actually stabbing me.

This picture was taken of me on our first official date back in August of 2006. Curiously, our first date was a french feast our on Barbour rock complete with a cold haricots verts (green bean) salad, ham and cheese sandwiches (our knowledge of french cuisine has certainly improved in the past 4 years), and Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux cookies (who knew they existed?).

This very unflattering picture was taken later that night in the Subaru. Obviously tired but happy for a first date gone well :-)

And there we are almost three years later, one year ago (technically at 3am tomorrow, since we got married in the afternoon half a world away from here), just after gettin' hitched on La'ie Point on the beautiful island of O'hau. What a happy day that was for us!

So here's to the amazing past year that we've so immensely enjoyed on this exciting adventure in France, here's to spending that time with my best friend in the world, and here's to many more adventure-filled years to come!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Birthday Weekend

While Laura and Ginny were celebrating in NYC, watching West Side Story and eating (and riding buses), we spent the entirety of Michael's Birthday weekend here on the Technopole (which is the name of our little section of Metz). That's not to say that we were jealous or complaining; in fact, it was a beautiful weekend to be here in Metz.

Just after waking up on the birth-day, we found this nice sentiment from the Reindl parents on the French-Phrase-a-Day calendar that they gave us for Christmas.

For breakfast, we ate some bagels that I had made a few days ago accompanied by real Philly cream cheese that I had to drive all the way to Luxembourg to find. Yes, cream cheese is that important to me!

And to prove my earlier point about the pristine weekend we enjoyed, here is an example of what our general landscape looks like if you jump in the car to head to the grocery store, which is what we did on Saturday morning.

And as usual, we (read: Michael) spent a long time picking out the perfect bottle of wine to be enjoyed with a Birthday dinner. For those who are interested, we ended up with a 1996 Pomerol which might have been the oldest thing we have ever ingested...maybe.

When we got home, Michael got to work putting together our new tiny grill...

...while I got to work putting together Michael's Birthday cupcakes.

Then we took some goofy pictures on the couch while waiting to get hungry enough to make dinner and when that finally happened..

...we opened our wine...

...and we ate. Oh boy, did we eat! To be clear, we ate grilled steaks (that were still perfectly tender despite being more on the medium side than I like), grilled asparagus, and twice baked potatoes with authentic English Cheddar (not an easy or cheap find in France despite being geographically close).

When we were finally finished with dinner (and watching Up, which is an awesome movie!), Michael opened the best cheap bottle of sparkling wine we have had (€1.03 to be exact, that's roughly $1.30)...

...and blew out his cupcakes.

Continuing our at-home celebration the next morning, we made some non-mimosas with the cheap sparkling wine and some strawberry/raspberry juice that was lying around and brioche french toast.

After breakfast we went on a nice walk in the beautiful weather. We admired the beautiful flowers in front of the main building of our complex;

we watched the swans forage for food with their adorable babies (babies, babies everywhere, seriously!); and we threw around the football over at GTL (not pictured, apparently my season as the only girl on small-fry football did nothing for my actual football throwing abilities).

For dinner that night we had another (heart-burn inducing) favorite: fish and chips. 

For our final day of "vacation" (as if our non-vacation days are very demanding anymore) we walked to a nearby lake to have a picnic with more pan bagnat (this one was better than the last, we made it the night before so it had all night to marinate)...

...and Grandma Baker's apple salad (Michael is indeed wearing shorts in this picture).

And after all of that food, we are looking at a week of almost vegetarian eating in an attempt to counteract all the crap we ate over the weekend. Sorry for the long post, friends, but it was certainly a fun filled week-end for us and I wanted to make sure you got the scoop. Until next time ~

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Post of Shame (and a Birthday!)

I know it's been almost two weeks since my last post, for which I am so disappointed. I was doing so well with timely posting there for a bit then Michale's summer job started and it seems we've been chickens running around with our heads cut off. *sigh*

Oh well, so what we're gonna do is a bit of current events first (since it's more important) and then a bit of catch up from the past few weeks (it'll be short, it's been too crazy to take many pictures).

Here we go!
Happy 24th Birthday Michael!

Here's the Birthday Boy himself (who may or may not be slightly depressed about turning 24, I can't say I blame him either) just about to blow out his candles on his Birthday 7 years ago.

He received a couple of cards from 4 fabulous parents back home who will also be sponsoring a trip out to dinner in the next few weeks.  Initially the plan was to go out tonight but after the craziness of the past two weeks and the craziness of town (a Saturday night and the Centre Pompidou just opened up) we decided that a quite night at home will be more relaxing. So steaks, some good red wine, and his fav vanilla cupcakes with chocolate buttercream icing will be on the menu.

My gift to him was to lug home the largest bottle of alcohol I have every purchased. This, my friends, is a 2 Liter bottle of Pastis (which will hopefully last the summer); and it is one of the best things ever to come out of France (too bad we will have an awful time finding it when we move back). It is a anise liquor and at first it is a yellowish brown color, but after you add cold water to a shot, it becomes a lovely, milky yellow with a fairly strong but oh-so-smooth anise flavor. We are in love.

And since Michael has a twin, I will have to share this totally flattering picture of the lovely Laura blowing out her candles 7 years ago (aren't you happy I have access to all these old pictures of  you?). We miss you Laura, we wish we were celebrating with you. Oh, and have a great time in NYC!

And now for the weekend update portion of this post.

As you can see, Michael wrote lots of note for his finals (this is only one class).

 And he finished his finals (you can pick out that look of sheer elation if you look closely enough)

Then we stayed with the adorable little miss Kimber while her Mommy went to the hospital to have little-sister Katelyn. (didn't get pics, camera battery was dead :-( )

Then we made ribs and baked beans.

Then we finally had some nice weather

Then I stayed with Kimber while Daddy went to bring home Mommy and little Katelyn. I also got to see the first adorable interactions on home turf.

And our bean's been growing like crazy! You can see where the vine has now made it more than half way across the top of the door.

Our herbs have been growing well and enjoying their new window box home, although it's hard to see their growth after watching the bean plant grow five inches per day.

And for the final catch-up, here are the pre-roasted vegetables for our pizza last night.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

For Our Moms

Writing these past three posts has made me realize what a truly horrible events recorder I am. I take far too many pictures of objects/food/landscapes that won't mean anything to me in 20 years. Well, the food will probably make me salivate but I'll have no idea what it was.

First I went in search of a picture of my grandmother: no luck. Then I started looking for a picture of my grandparents together: nothin'. A picture of Chrissy? Eventually found one but it took forever. A picture of Michael and Ginny?

 This one is the most recent I could find, from Christmas in 2004, just before he graduated from High School. To find a picture of just my mom and me, I had to go back much further into the archives.

She'll probably kill me for posting this (or scold me via skype, killing me probably isn't worth the $1200 plane ticket) but it is honestly the only picture I could find in my files of just the two of us. It's not the most flattering picture of either of us but I am the queen of making excuses (it's a bad habit) so I will tell you that we would have both looked more presentable had we not been staying in a cabin on a 4th grade brownie trip to Knobles. I can't even remember if there were real showers there. Those glasses really were tragic though. I'm glad that style went by the way-side.

Old and unflattering pictures aside (and a new resolve to take more pictures of people rather than objects/food/landscapes) the purpose of this post is not to embarrass but rather to show our gratitude. We both know what wonderful mothers we had growing up and that fact is just as prevalent as we have grown into independent adults. And while we may not have shown our appreciation well during our pre-teen/teenage years (I'm speaking more from my perspecitve here...boys just aren't know for their teenage angst the way girls are) the loving compassion, understanding and advice we were given by our mothers has shaped the adults we've become (and the parents we will one-day-in-the-not-so-near-future strive to become).

Not only are we each grateful for the mothers that we were lucky enough to have but now with marriage, we realize just how lucky we've become in the in-law department. I probably shouldn't admit this but we have a bi-weekly ritual of reading Dear Prudence (the advice/manners columnist for the Washington Post) and let me tell you, there are some monsters parading as M-I-Ls out there. I won't go into detail for fear of creeping into your nightmares tonight but let me just tell you that we lucked out!

Ok, enough of the mushy gushy stuff.

In short, we love you both, are very grateful for everything you've done and will do in our lives, and are resolved to take more pictures of the ones we love.

À bientôt mes amis!

 As a gift to my mom on Mother's day, I have agreed to add in a much more updated picture. It includes Natty but I'll let it slide since it's her mother too.

Sorry I'm too lazy to take out the old picture and re-write the entire post. The damage is already done.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Big Brother

In honor of Seth's (the youngest of my 5 older brothers) Birthday today I thought I would show you all this adorable picture that Seth's wife, Chrissy sent me recently. It made my day.

If that's not adorable, I don't know what is.*

I can't imagine a baby that is a more perfect mix of both mom and dad than Luke is. Maybe he'll one day grow up to look more like mom or dad, but for right now, he looks so much like both to me that I can't tell where Seth ends and Chrissy begins. And just to prove my point...

And there's the Birthday Boy himself with Chrissy at a family mini-golf outing circa 2007. Have great Birthday Seth, we wish we were there to celebrate with you!

*For the record, I think ALL of my nieces and nephews are adorable.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Brace Yourself -- it's a knitting post!

Not that I think there are many of you, but sorry to any males who may be reading my blog. Of course, there may be more of you than I think but since only the women comment or follow my blog, I'm choosing to ignore the existence of you men.

As a child, I can't remember a time when I wasn't in possession of matching a matching scarf, hat and mittens set made my by Grandma Baker. Whenever I went to stay at my grandparents' house once or twice a month she was always working on either a hat, baby booties, or some form of baby blanket and eventually, I became curious.

*Just for the record, my grandma, although a knitter, was not a grandma who sat inside knitting all day. She was the designated family "school shopper", since my Mom was never the "mall" type and would take me to the mall whenever I was in need of some new duds. She indulged me by continually walking to "pebble beach" (a scattering of gravel in the shallows of the river running through her town) where we would seek out fossils then drag them home later. I can even remember making my Grandpa come down with us so he could be used as slave labor to drag the bucket of rocks home -- poor man.*

Back to the point: When I was somewhere around 10 years old I decided I wanted to learn how to knit. Grandma started me off on two straight needles with some scrap yarn making a simple scarf and for years, all I did was knit scarves. I did, and still do find the repetition of a simple scarf very soothing. Somewhere around 10th grade (I only remember this because I can recall doing it at a District Chorus Competition) someone taught me that I could knit in the round and make a hat almost as easily as I could make a scarf, which gave me a total of two projects in my knitting repertoire.

I was content to continue my lethargic scarf making until forcing my sister-in-law, Chrissy to teach my to crochet back in 2007. This was my first ever granny square.  And sorry for the blur, my low-light photography skills have never been stellar.

--On a side note, who recognizes the background fabric? That chair has lived at my parents' house, then in Seth and Chrissy's house, then in my house in Oakland, then in our apartment in Squirrel Hill and is now at what will hopefully be it's final resting place, Ben's house. That chair has seen better days.

That one granny square eventually became this afghan which is packed away somewhere in the mess of our worldly possessions in my parents' basement. I still haven't sewn in all the strings. I finished it over three years ago. I'm not proud.

After delving back into the knit/crochet world, I joined a knitting group in Pittsburgh. I'm sure you've heard me talk about them at some point or another. I loved that knitting group. For 3 or 4 hours every Tuesday we would sit around in a group of 10 or 20 women. There were some younger girls (and the occasional male) but for the most part, the women were 40 and up. We had a wonderful time though, laughing, eating, laughing, knitting, and crocheting. And most importantly, it taught me that I really could do more than just crochet granny squares and knit and purl (not that many of you necessarily have any clue what I'm talking about). And eventually, it was bound to happen, I got a real job that required me being there from 8-5 every day and I had to start missing my beloved knitting group. But I kept knitting. And now that I'm here in France, without a job, I find that knitting is what keeps me sane. Having a project, even just a hat, means that I have something to complete, something to accomplish.

And having all of this spare time has led to experimentation. I've been trying harder and harder patterns (*gasp* Patterns? I never thought I had the mental capability to read knitting patterns!), forcing myself to learn new techniques. Which has led to these:

Since Heather has now had her baby, I can now show you what the baby blanket looked like that I made for her out of thrifted angora yarn. It's a lace pattern and I'm in love with the striping.

These bibs were made for a fellow GTL wife's new baby. I made about a million of the cabled bibs, which was my first cable experience. And the ducky bib is one of my favorites. It was my first experience with knitting a design into a piece and also my first time making an I-cord.

I really am so grateful to have this craft to keep me busy and my hope it to continue the learning process. I've already made myself a little shrug as well as a shrug for little Kimber (I've mentioned her before, right?), but that'll be another post.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The End is Near

Not to sound morbid or anything. What I intended to convey in the title is that the end of the semester is drawing near and we've been busy! Well...Michaels been busy, I spent most of the week either hugging the toilet (which I had thankfully cleaned the day before) or moaning in bed. But more on that later.
We made a first attempt at making the Indian fresh cheese, paneer, a couple of Mondays ago.

It's a component of our favorite Trader Joe's Indian-in-a-bag that we have been sorely missing.

Making it really made us wish we could attain some cheesecloth over here. It left one of our two kitchen towels stiff and smelly until the next laundry day.

But despite the smelly towel and the fact that it probably wasn't the most authentic paneer, it ended up turning this Paneer Curry with Peas into one of my all-time favorite Indian meals. 

My herb garden has been growing like weeds in all the glorious sunshine last week. Not that you can pick one bit of green apart from the other, but the plant on the far right is my bean plant. It is now 5" taller than the stick that is supporting it.

In my quest to convince Michael that raw veggies aren't the devil, we (read: I) decided to make ourselves some Vietnamese summer rolls.

 Don't ask me why our move to France spurred this intense yearning to make and eat all things Asian. I don't understand the correlation either. I just know that these were delicious.

We did indulge Michael's sweet tooth with these orange iced cinnamon buns for our usual Sunday brunch a few weeks ago. He still has one left to finish though and I want my tupperware back!

And we spent another day basking in the glorious sunshine. I read and Michael studied.

Then we fattened ourselves up again (must make up for all the lost calories in those vegetarian curries) with Thomas Keller's lemon-brined fried chicken. If you have a day, I'd highly recommend the recipe. However, unless you plan to make an early (2:00pm) dinner, I would suggest that you brine early in the morning for dinner later that day. The chicken ended up a little salty for us, and anyone who has eaten with us could tell you that the food would then be way too salty for the average human.

Just after the stalker incident, detailed in my last post, I took the little girls that I teach english/babysit to the Jardin Botanique (Botanical Garden) just down the street. I was attempting to take a new picture for the top of the blog but as you can see, my attempts were thwarted by Eleanora's Vanna While impression.

 Who knew of black swans' existence? I certainly didn't before our trip to the Jardin Botanique.

And later that night we made this deliciously ill-fated currywurst. Currywurst, for those of you who haven't been to Germany lately, is some sort of wurst sausage, fried then cut up and topped with curry flavored ketchup and a soft roll. It was ill-fated because I took some medicine later that evening that left me hugging the toilet while said currywurst came back up and subsequently led to me laying in bed, moaning about my burning stomach for the next 3 days. Sorry if that was tmi (too much information -- for the non 20 year old readers).

 This photo is just meant as proof of what an awful housewife I am.

 Oh, and I also rediscovered my love of drawing with this lovely rendition of

these sunglasses that Michael bought during last year's trip/wedding/honeymoon in Hawaii. Can you all believe that it's almost been a year?