Archive | January, 2011

Vacation!

28 Jan

After a long, tough semester and an intense few weeks of finals, Colin finally is at the end of his first semester at SAIS. The joy in the air is palpable, as more and more of his classmates wrap up final papers and group projects and head off to Prague, London, Spain, Budapest, Egypt (uh-oh!), and elsewhere.

As for us, we’re heading to northern Italy, the Dolomite Mountains, for some fun in the snow. Another couple, my friend Leah and her fiance, Aaron, who is a SAISer, are sharing a cabin with us. We’re taking games and hot chocolate and a frozen lasagna that I put together this afternoon. I’m super excited.

I found the cabin on AirBnB, which aggregates all the people who want to be amateur BnB hosts. It’s a better deal than an actual BnB, and the experience can be just as enjoyable. So far the host has been really great over email!

We get back late Monday night, and the rest of the week holds a (day)trip to Venice and possibly a (day)trip to Florence. Also a lot of sleeping in and watching movies.

Asian-subcontinent-sized headache

26 Jan

Last night I made my first real foray into making Indian food, which I love but haven’t had much exposure to. Anyway, I decided I’d be making eggplant curry following my darling lemon thyme’s recipe (isn’t that the cutest name?). I needed naan to go with it, and finally settled on what seemed like a basic recipe from the Food Network.

Well, before I’d even started on the naan dough, a headache had me headed for the couch for brief spells of rest in between the nothing I was doing and the nothing I was planning to do. Colin, in all his grad-school wisdom, suggested we not cook tonight, go the ol’ pasta and a jar of sauce route. I tell you, I choose the silliest things to be stubborn about.

We went ahead with the curry, Colin being an immense help. I was excited about this dish because I had an eggplant going soft and many of the ingredients are anti-angiogenesis: ginger, turmeric, garlic, and tomatoes. With Colin stirring and me chopping, it came together really easily, but the rich smell was really only aggravating my throbbing head.

I opted to pan-fry the naan a la pancakes because it just seemed easier than baking. All the blogs promised naan just as good as a restaurant’s, but maybe I need a bit more practice or a different recipe, because mine didn’t come close to Baba Masala’s.

I ended up with no appetite for anything but two of Kristen’s Motrins. Luckily the curry is supposed to be even better after a day, so I’m enjoying it now for lunch.

Fledermaus

24 Jan

You know how in old period movies set in the 18th century there’s usually a ball scene that has at least one big number with all of the dancers in rows and doing set moves? Well, I figured that if that ever really happened, it was something that had long ago drifted out of fashion and never would have guessed that it was something that still happens today.

I would have been wrong. It will happen at the Austrian ball, and our Austrians have dutifully prepared us for it. At the stroke of midnight at our ball, any number of SAISers may be participating in the Fledermaus quadrille.

How ridiculously exciting is that? We started learning it of Friday and, I have to say, we looked pretty good. More practice is needed, certainly, and we’ll need to learn more than the first minute, which is all we know now, but I’M SO PUMPED!

Round, round, get around

23 Jan

I had the busiest day yesterday without getting too much done. It felt that way, at least.

Having neglected to buy more oatmeal, I made us a polenta breakfast to start the day. Let me tell you: this polenta was super fancy. I know what you’re thinking – polenta is not at all super fancy. Au contraire, dear friends, fried polenta topped with caramelized onions, feta, and honey is super fancy. And delicious. And time consuming.

The rest of my morning was completely absorbed with preparing for my new tutoring gig. One of the Others returned to the States last week, leaving two kids in need of a new English tutor. I volunteered for it and gave my first (ever) lesson yesterday. The two families met me with a burst of energy when I walked in the door; among other things, they were surprised with how different I look from my friend, who is Taiwanese-American.

There’s such a huge difference between working with Ludo and even 5-year-old Mati and working with these two kids, who are 10 and 12 and have really some of the best English that I’ve heard from any Italian. After just 15 minutes, it was clear that these are truly special and intelligent little people, so I’m excited to be working with them. It’s going to be one heck of a challenge to keep up with them every week!

By the time I got home it was late afternoon. After an hour Colin and I were both out the door again to go see about getting a second bicycle. Colin rode the Blue Banshee and I took the bus, as we had to meet the guy on the edge of the outskirts of Bologna, a 6 km ride. But I liked the bike well enough and we got it for a good price, so I’ve got wheels again. Attention potential bike thieves: Mine is the rust-colored one with the disintegrating basket on front and the wobbly wheel in the back. Please don’t steal it.

The Rust Bucket sharing a lock with the Blue Banshee, so named before it had it's brakes fixed. Seriously, what color do you think it used to be?

Cook book

21 Jan

I had what I think is a pretty good idea yesterday. It’s not an original idea or even one that I can take most of the credit for, but I present it here.

I’ve got a couple practically empty journals sitting on my side of the book shelf, and one very important thing in my life here that I’d like to compile: all of the cooking I’m doing. Just last week I tried to go back and collect all the links to cooking blogs and FoodNetwork.com and food52 that I’ve tested in our little white kitchen and put them onto a more permanent (than my memory, that is) Word document. What’s more permanent than that? An actual paper document.

Also, early this week I started going through Federica’s cook books after the baby goes down for her nap. They have this beautiful, only slightly markered-in, 12-volume cooking encyclopedia. English-Italian dictionary in hand, I’ve been sifting through them and scribbling things down. I can’t include those on a list of blog links! Nor can I do that with Jane’s bread and scone recipes, or the things we learned in the cooking class.

And that’s not to mention all the emails requesting recipes from back home. I had a nice little recipe box in Santa Barbara filled with 3×5 cards, but that got left behind in the move. The handful of those recipes that I’ve made here will have a place in the book, and they’ll probably all get there eventually.

I’m going to get back to sharing all of these things with you here; you still don’t know why I have a bag of turmeric! I’ve been making a lot of soups the last couple weeks, because really, what sounds better on a cold night?

SoCal girl forever

20 Jan

It snowed again today! Only for a couple hours and none of it stuck, but they were definitely snowflakes landing on my eyelashes when I walked back from the library with Ludo. What a day to have a broken umbrella. And to have forgotten my camera!

It’s been about a month since the last snow, but the weather we’ve had in the interim has been so much worse! Dark, cold, misty gray days that hover just above freezing. Honestly though I feel bad complaining when my baby brother has to walk through six inches of “slush” and my recently transplanted-from-SoCal-to-Montana pal is in -4 degrees F. Yikes! I still cannot comprehend what that must be like.

I hear this weekend will bring more snow, so some hot chocolate and movie nights will be in order. Waltz lesson, part two, is tomorrow!

1-2-3, 1-2-3

17 Jan

Stacked desk chairs lined the walls of the auditorium to clear enough space for the hundred or so students who’d shown up to learn the waltz last night. With the girls against one wall and the boys against the other, a few of the Austrian students stood in the middle and demonstrated.

We started as simply as you can, with the basic step of the simple waltz, but within half an hour we were in pairs and learning the under-arm turn. By the end of the hour, they’d demonstrated the spinning Viennese waltz, but people were struggling a bit with that.

I was partnered with an Austrian guy for one of the numbers and, when I asked, he said he’d been doing the waltz since he was a young child; going to a ball is something they would do pretty much every year. I wonder if that is perhaps a treat limited to wealthier or more influential Austrians.

Colin and I were rusty, but had an easier time than most with the Viennese having learned the steps before in a ballroom dance class at Santa Barbara. We’ve got a wonderfully long hallway that we can practice in whenever Colin needs a study break, so hopefully we’ll be more polished in time for the ball.

Unrelated, here’s my evening sky tonight: