Friday, May 30, 2008

Four, five days for the big canal

Gone to Amsterdam - be back on Tuesday. We're traveling laptop-free!

In other cool news, my dad started a blog - go leave a comment!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Meat, men, and music

24 May Reenactment
Originally uploaded by hellomizk

Now that I have your attention - hi!

Sounds like fun, huh? Let me explain before you get too worried about our newly-acquired debauched European lifestyle. Last night Peter invited Mr K and I over for a barbecue dinner (including delicious grilled Mexican-spiced pork, ground lamb, and most importantly sausage-that-used-to-be-made-with-brains-but-isn't-now) and he was kind enough to throw in a crash course in two important European phenomena as well - I'm talking about soccer and Eurovision.

I'm going to go ahead and skip the soccer game to go straight into Eurovision as that was what we spent well over three and a half hours glued to the TV watching. I'm having a difficult time figuring out where to even start with this one. The first couple hours of the show were the twenty or so bands each performing their one song. Peter told us the singing is all live but all the music is recorded and played back - however, this doesn't prevent members of each band from pretending to play their respective instruments as they dance, slink, or stomp around the stage.

After all the performances, the last hour and some or so of the show is voting and awarding of points. All of the voting is done by phone or SMS and is completed within 15 minutes, after which voting is closed. No country is allowed to award their points to their own entry. Once voting was closed, each of the 43 participating coutnries called in to announce how they were awarding their points. The tallying of the votes was simultaneously the most fun and the most painful as we watched our favorite sinking further down the list as our least favorite rose up.

Russia ended up winning with a performance that left us all jaw-dropped in disbelief... and not in a good way. Yup - rolling on the floor - check... lone violinist (remember what I said about pretending to play instruments - yeah) ice skater?!?! Yeah.

Other performances worth mentioning included Ukraine - Mr K was very impressed with her "talents." Another interesting entry was Latvia, who managed to make DJ Bobo look like a creative genius. Spain (watch the dancer in the pink) and France were both just plain entertaining.

Now I'm off to check all those links and maybe sneak in a little nap - too much excitement!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Auberge de la Cigogne

First and most importantly: Happy Birthday Mr K!

Last night we went to a restaurant in Fribourg called Auberge de la Cigogne (beware the music on the website) for a birthday dinner for me, Mr K, and Steph - a whole herd of bulls. Celia, Olivier and Dani joined us, with Dani having planned the whole thing. As I'm sure I mention far too often, I don't eat any seafood, so Dani was kind enough to plan ahead and let the restaurant know, so I didn't have to awkwardly apologize my way through and miss out on a third of my menu. The waiters and chef acted as if it were no big deal, which was refreshing. We went for the many-course "menu d├ęgustation" - a series of small plates covering a wide range of ingredients and flavors. The typical menu included two or three fish dishes, so I'll mark with an asterisk my dishes that differed from what everyone else ate.

First Plate (amuse-bouche)
* Duck liver pate with minted couscous and fresh greens, pain noir (black bread)and butter
(Fish eaters had smoked salmon with fresh greens)

Second Plate (amuse-bouche)
Shredded beef shin in lemon and orange with lentil salad served in a small porcelain spoon (think won ton soup spoon)

Third Plate
* Crisp veal on a bed of young fava beans with dried tomato
(Fish eaters had "sea devil" with baby beans and dried tomato)

Fourth Plate
Candied salted beef in crispy fried wrappers (like rice paper) with fresh greens and a chilled white asparagus and Port soup

Fifth Plate
* Ravioli maison with asparagus in a morel cream sauce
(Fish eaters had a chunk of mild white fish tied with green onion(?) on a bed of pasta in morel cream sauce)

Sixth Plate (plat principal)
Pigeon in a butter and Merlot sauce with fresh baby vegetables and black truffle polenta

Seventh Plate
Cheese course: A cart with over 50 cheeses was brought over and we each tried 6-8 cheeses arranged on the plate from mildest to strongest. Highlights included a triple cream cheese in truffle oil, a nice Gruyere, and a Vacherin Fribourgeois. Mr K also enjoyed the "very strong" Roquefort.

Eighth Plate (petite dessert)
Strawberry mousse topped with a lavender and caramel-tasting mousse (not sure what exactly it was - that was just my impression of the flavor)

Ninth Plate (grand(e) dessert)
Thin layers of dark chocolate layered with a sweet and spicy pineapple mousse and garnished with finely chopped pistachios and pomegranate seeds

Tenth Plate
Coffee and various cookies, including tiny brownies, tiny lemon tarts and caramel tuilles

We started our meal with a round of Kir Royales made with blueberry rather than cassis liqueur. We had a bottle of white, a bottle of red and finally a dessert wine to finish the four and a half hour long meal off. Everything was amazing, particularly the cheeses and plates three, four, five and nine. The waiters were all friendly and funny and the chef came out at the end of the meal to ask how we enjoyed it. Despite the elegant food and corresponding prices, the guys all wore jeans and collared shirts and the whole restaurant felt comfortably informal - a huge change from the typical atmosphere you would expect in a similar-style of restaurant in the US.

As a side note, I learned that the current "look" for upper-class older women out for a nice dinner is a stylish tee shirt coupled with diamond and pearl necklaces, perfectly coiffed hair and modern, chunky glasses - very chic!

Thanks again Dani for planning everything - thanks for what will doubtless remain one of the most memorable meals in our lives. Thanks also to Olivier and Celia for our charming "Swiss-gifts" - I plan on relaxing in my shirt all day!

Friday, May 16, 2008

More Friday Fill-ins Fun
My answers in bold once more.

1. There is absolutely NO way you can get me to stop with the running and shrieking in the presence of bees and wasps!

2. The sudden emergence of absolutely glorious produce at the grocery reminds me that summer is almost here!

3. I cannot live without my BFF CNC.

4. Hopping on the train without reservations or a specific destination and traveling with only one backpack are two things I'd like to try.

5. When life hands you lemons you make (Lynchburg) lemonade, of course.

6. Playing with Fred is my favorite childhood memory.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to adding to my impressive bruise collection at jiu jitsu, tomorrow my plans include surprise three-birthday dinner at some fancy restaurant and Sunday, I want to sleep off the copious amounts of food we plan to consume on Saturday!

If you have a minute, leave your fill-in in the comment section!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The relief of turning thirty..

(Or self-indulgent rambling as a gift to myself)

I'm one of those people (and by those people I mean nearly everyone) who is prone to finding myself choking on thoughts of my own mortality at three in the morning on any given day that I stay awake too late without a real distraction (you know - like Xbox). Two years ago, the idea of the "Big Birthday" was enough to tie my belly up in knots for a couple insomniatic hours. Despite this fact, when the BB actually rolled around, I woke up feeling calm and content. I haven't been one of those people who gets excited about birthdays for years - I've never been one to throw or attend birthday parties for myself or anything like that - a nice dinner is more than enough. The thing about my birthday that has always made me the happiest is that I share it with my mom - a fact that I feel has always made us just a little bit closer and made birthdays seem just a little more special in their own quiet way.

So I woke up feeling warm with contentment - and why shouldn't I? My best friend and the most fun person I've ever met was curled up warm against my back, the sun was just starting to pour over the Alps right outside my window, my bedside table was littered with amazing novels I've finally had the time to finish, and an ice-cold glass bottle of fruit-flavored black tea sweetened with brown sugar was waiting for me in the refrigerator. This is a far cry from my life four and a half to five years ago, when my boyfriend (not my future husband either though a very nice guy in his own right) was living far from me in another state, I was moving from a crappy job to a stressful one, I was leaving a gross city for another gross city and I was living with barely one month's rent in my bank account at any given time. Doesn't sound like much fun, does it?

Well, a lot of it wasn't, which is why turning thirty has come as something of a relief. My life now is so much calmer, yet more fulfilling than it was in my twenties. I feel like I have a much better sense of who I am and I'm more comfortable with that person - bizarre sense of humor, still-mainly-black wardrobe, big butt and all! I'm getting to the point that I feel like I have some experience to write from and things look a little clearer than they did five to seven years ago. I would like to think I worry a little less about what other people think - their opinions certainly aren't as paralyzing to me as they once were. Despite the calm that has come to some parts of my psyche, I still find myself getting completely enraged over things that would best be blown off and ignored - maybe that level of calmness is reserved for the 40-plus crowd. I still overthink things and probably always will. I still have a tendency to become overwhelmed by guilt when I've done nothing and I'm still too much of a perfectionist. Despite these facts, I feel like I'm aging well physically and mentally. Sure I have streaks of gray - and have had them for at least five years - but they're laced through huge handfuls of coarse blond hair and pretty much invisible to everyone but me. No wrinkles or anything like that so far - no doubt thanks to a combination of my black-clad teens and twenties, my late-night and overnight work schedule, and my obsession with sunscreen - not to mention some good genes (thanks mom and dad). My brain is stuffed full of books and ideas and feels much more productive than in my food-and-drink-slinging restaurant days. Even better, my painting seems to be slowly improving.

Exactly four years ago today, I was on the cusp of massive change and completely unaware of this fact. For anyone who reads this and doesn't know, I met Mr K on his birthday four years ago in four days.... or on 18 May 2004 to be less confusing. Nothing was supposed to come of it - we chatted online and I thought it was sad he wasn't doing anything for his birthday, so I suggested we meet up and go out to dinner - tacos, of course! I remember sitting next to what passed for a duck pond in Northern Virginia - really just a muddy hole next to the highway that someone thought would be improved by the addition of some over-wrought-iron (ha ha - did you get that?) benches waiting for him to arrive. We had a nice dinner and a fun chat but nothing out of the ordinary. Within two weeks, the details of which we won't be disclosing, we had become pretty much inseparable even though it took us both five or six months to realize what we had. Exactly two years later we were too busy worrying about our wedding (23 May 2006) to get into the whole birthday thing. Mr K had his BB just five days before we got hitched, leading to several weeks of "if you're not married by the time you're thirty, you wanna marry me" jokes. One year ago today, Mr K was getting ready for his first trip to Fribourg to check it out and decide if we wanted to move here.

When he opened the door to leave for work this morning, Mr K found a thick white envelope with my name on it - a birthday note and a tin of chocolates from our sweet neighbors! Things like that remind me of how wonderful this move has been for us. Two years ago I told Mr K I wanted to take a trip to Europe for my BB - today, as the BB arrived, I live here and I'm thankful for it everyday.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Spring arrives...

Spring park
Originally uploaded by hellomizk
And it was definitely worth waiting through those couple weekends of random April snow - the weather here has been beyond amazing all week. The little park behind out apartment has turned into a noon-til-dusk meeting place for all the sun-loving teenagers in Fribourg, as you can see from the picture to the right.

The crowds of people just outside my porch have provided a great people-watching opportunity (the swanky Canon binoculars Mr K got me help, too). The other day I saw two punkrock boys--sporting matching grass-green mohawks--enjoying a meal of beer and croissants while laying in the sun. After they finished eating, they politely packed up all their trash and left the park to the sound of clanking wallet chains and the gentle thud of army-surplus boots on thick grass.

Punk kids have been kind of a theme in the park, come to think of it. The other day I saw a group of 10-12 punk and goth kids, all sitting in a circle and chatting. Goth kids enjoying the sun makes me smile. Now I feel old again...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Friday Fill-in - Slacker's Saturday version!

Thanks to the nifty blogger who created this over at

I would love to see your version cut and pasted into the comments - maybe please? Pretty pretty please? C'moooooon! My answers are the text bold.

1. Two of my favorite ingredients in a drink are mint and lemon - works in mixed drinks, iced tea, hot tea and even plain water - all-purpose!

2. Mr K's ability to pick up anything and get good at it quickly often amazes me.

3. You can keep doing that forever, the dog is never going to understand you the way that cat does.

4. Throw about half the spices in the cabinet in a bowl, light on the cinnamon, mix it all together and voila! You have a pretty ok rub for steak or chicken! Remember - light on the cinnamon.!

5. If I had a yard with a garden, I would love to grow all of my own herbs and most of my own veggies. And chickens, but just to keep me company. I've wanted silkie chickens of my own for years..

6. The sauna is best au naturel.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to playing some Grand Theft Auto after finding the game and an Xbox on sale for less that the US price, tomorrow my plans include improving my driving skills and learning more of the city and Sunday, I want to maybe let Mr K have a turn at GTA.... maybe not!!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Catch-up and Barbeque


Mr K and I have been sick for the past 4 days or so - whether from a shared cold or assault by strange new pollen. Either way, we've been sneezing, coughing, tearing through tissues and just generally being disgusting. Despite the dread pollen, the weather here has just been amazing the past few days - sunny with just a few cotton candy clouds and temperatures in the 50s to 60s. All the little Swisslettes are breaking out their summer tank tops and I'm afraid Mr K is going to end up in a neck brace by June - I imagine his Flickr account will be loaded with proof of this phenomenon later on this week.

Anyway, back to the funny picture - this is something I've been meaning to blog for a while so I figured today was a good day to drag myself out of my decongestant-fueled slump long enough to play catch-up!

Early in April I took a trip to the American Store in Geneva with the wife of one of Mr K's coworkers. The store is located painfully close to the train station and was very small but packed completely full - it was like Wal-mart, but very condensed and with the prices Swiss-i-fied. I spent the first 15 to 20 minutes just taking everything in - all these products that I had completely forgotten existed. I knew I wanted to keep my purchases to the bare minimum as the prices were heart-stopping on many items. Try 18$ for Aunt Jemima syrup or 15$ for Easy Cheese. Amazing, right? So I did break down and pick up a couple things but I kept my purchases limited to the cash I had in my purse. The first item I snatched up was a bottle of Jack Daniels BBQ sauce (10$) - we haven't had anything BBQ since we left in September and we've been savoring this bottle. I threw two cans of baked beans (6$ each) into my pile as well since I haven't been patient enough yet to try baked beans done the old-fashioned way and they've always been one of my favorites - I love foods that straddle that salty-sweet line. Next I grabbed a tiny packet of Fig Newtons and a can of Dr Pepper for Mr K, which he loved. I also grabbed a box of Arm and Hammer baking soda (4$) as I'm sure there is a Swiss equivalent but I haven't figured it out yet and that one box will last me pretty much the rest of my life as little as I bake. Last splurge item, rolling in at just under 5$ was a bag of baby marshmallows. We plan to have a typical Southern-style BBQ sometime over the summer and what BBQ would be complete without Ambrosia Salad, right? Hah!

All in all it was a really fun day - after the shopping we grabbed Chinese for lunch before heading home - really good Chinese, at that!

Off to take a nap for no reason and then get some painting done! I have a couple projects in the works and my runny nose is no longer a valid excuse! Later I have to blog about our recent guests - Jen and Carl from Virginia/Portland/Belgium/Blogland. Jen's ahead of me and already has her post up.