31 December 2007

I like to drink and fight!

Brad and I just got back from a great weekend in Chicago, filled with good friends, good food, and maybe a few drinks. Friday night we met up with Mike, who moved to town a few months ago. He lives in a high-rise condo with floor to ceiling windows that made me more than a little seasick. But it was amazing. This, my friends, is the way to live!
After basking in the view for a while, we headed down the street a bit for an amazing sushi dinner at Japonais. It was very similar to Blowfish in Toronto, all hip and trendy like, but way bigger. And the saketinis weren't as strong. But I could totally eat there every day. So good. We sampled and shared a little bit of everything. My favorite was the tuna tuna salmon roll. Mmmm. Mike and Brad enjoyed The Rock, tiny sliced steak that they cooked themselves on a hot rock. Fresh crab, requisite California rolls, and did I mention the berry sake martini? Turns out there's one in Vegas, too, so I hope to make a stop there when we travel there for our trade show in April!

Saturday morning, we decided to go to Pizzeria Due. We ate here on our last visit, but we waited at least an hour for a table. When we walked by it Saturday, it had just opened and it was virtually empty. Score!!! If you haven't eaten a deep dish pizza here or at Uno's, wow, you are missing out. Get on it! But go when they first open -- ha ha! By the time we left, an hour after it opened, there was probably at least an hour wait. I could go for a big meal of sushi and pizza right now, actually. I'm making myself hungry!

Saturday evening was the big event, the reason for our trip to Chicago: my boss' wedding! Brad and I joined up with Little Chris and Sarah at our hotel, then took a quick cab ride up to the church for the ceremony. Afterward, the reception was one of the classiest and lovely receptions I've been to, held at Salvatore's in Lincoln Park. Just beautiful. And fun! Great party, bossman!

Congrats to the Happy Couple!!!!

Before dinner, we sipped wine and ate yum yum yummy hors d'ourves. I could eat a whole meal of the smoked salmon with a dollop (a dollop...) of cream cheese on thin, crisp potato pancakes. Even the cake was delish. Did I mention the full bar? Let's just say by the end of the night, Brad and LC were doing the Irish jig, and Sarah and I were dosey-do-ing perfect strangers. Some old guy was taking photos of us -- hope those resurface someday.......

Good times, guys, good times.

27 December 2007

Meat pie, anyone?

I just returned from seeing Sweeny Todd with my sister-in-law, and I must say, two thumbs up! And even though the blogworld seems to deny it, I swear that was Michael Palin getting his throat slashed in the barber's chair! The blogworld did confirm my sighting of Giles (from Buffy), though; what seems to have been an anticipated role in the Buffy universe was simply a quick flash on the screen, unfortunately. Johnny Depp was amazing as always, and I shall contemplate ordering the soundtrack over the next few days. It's no Rent, but I think I may enjoy it nonetheless.

Taking nothing away from the movie, I did spend much of it marveling at the lovlieness of my new sweater ($16 at Kohl's!) -- I can't find a link online, but trust me, it is heavenly. My new obsession is what I call my work sweaters. Big fuzzy cardigans that keep me warm in the morning and evening but are easily shed to a bottom layer when I take Heidi out or get overheated from all my hard work. My mother-in-law and I hit the post-Xmas sale at Kohl's yesterday, and I'm the proud owner of two new work sweaters. Current said sweater is pink and gray and all sorts of cozy. Highly recommended.

While we enjoyed a lovely seafood dinner last night at Mac's (thanks, Marc and Mel! [the tartar sauce alone is to die for]), no new food news to note. Although I just remembered that there was a feature in the new Observer about locavorism! Which also reminds me: Happy 10th Anniversary to Conor's -- you've treated me well (and thanks for my first hangover)! Now I'm babbling. My point was, no food news to report, so I shall report on my movie- and book-filled vacation.

I love vacation. I've dreaded going back to work since vacation started (no worries, Chris, I still love my job!). When else can you sleep in until 10 every day, stay in your PJs all day (ok, I can do that every day), go see a movie when you feel like it, read two books at once and actually made headway, and catch up on your DVDs? First up was 28 Weeks Later, which moms got me for Xmas. Bob fell asleep about 10 minutes in, but Lynn actually made it through the whole thing. She complained the whole time, but I know she secretly loved it. Brad got me the original Fog, which I've been moaning and groaning about trying to find for months. Today I watched that, as well as the special features (yeah!). Then I popped in The Girl Next Door, which Jason loaned me, and it was as brutal and disturbing as I had expected; don't know that I'd "recommend" it, but it's certainly something... Worth seeing (if for no other reason than Ginny from Sixteen Candles is the head meanie!). Jason also was nice enough to give me my own copy of I Am Legend for Xmas, and I'm already halfway through. So different than the movie, so different. But so far I'm still liking them both. Still laboring through Middlesex, which is good but is taking me a while to get through (lots o' pages). Oh, and I still am "dealing" with having seen PS I Love You. One of those movies that sticks with you and you can't get out of your brain.... It's like being in eighth grade again and watching Life Goes On and crying along with Becca while Jesse died... Ugh! So traumatizing. I need soothing. I shall now cuddle up on the couch in my work sweater with Heidi.

Off to Chicago for the bossman's wedding tomorrow!

26 December 2007

A tale of three Christmases.

Can you believe Christmas is over? Phew! What a whirlwind! We had a great holiday weekend, and we got to spend lots of time with all of our families. We started the holiday on Saturday afternoon, visiting my dad in Saginaw. In between pestering him to puh-lease move out of Saginaw, we had a tasty, huge, fried lunch at Red Lobster. Mmmm. As you would correctly assume, I went to bed early with a stomach ache. But we had a great visit, and I wish we could visit more often.

We headed home in the early evening and were greeted by Brad's parents who are staying here through the new year. So Brad had someone to watch sports with when I crashed at 10:30. Sunday we took a break from Xmas celebrations, and Birgit and I saw aka cried through PS I Love You. I then spent the remainder of Sunday and Monday morning cooking and baking. The previously mentioned overcooked birthday cake, a pumpkin gingerbread trifle, olive and cheese spread.... Good stuff! I would recommend both recipes, and both are super easy and quick (especially the cheese spread).

Monday evening we went over to my mom and Larry's to celebrate Christmas and my mom's birthday with them and Beth, Ryan, and Jordan. Jordan was his normal adorable self, running circles around the house when he wasn't sitting on Brad. Jordan sure loves his Uncle Brad! I redeemed my ham gift certificate xmas bonus from work, so we enjoyed that and some o'graten potatoes I made (well, Brad and I enjoyed them -- my mom and Larry nervingly did not like them!). Jordan was more aware of what was going on this year, and it was so cute to watch him open all of his gifts (well, not all, but the ones from us). Just a short clip of Jordan being a cutie pants. Beth loved her Jordan photo book I made her, and my mom really liked the babysitting coupons I posted about earlier. Oh, and, of course, we busted out the German glow wine, in honor of Patrik.

Mmm. Glow wine.

Jordan and Uncle Brad.

Come on Beth! Let me borrow your Baby Phats!

Christmas morning Brad, Heidi, and I slept in, and then we set up a treat smorgasboard for Heidi in the living room. It was hilarious to watch -- she must have been all "what the heck is going on? I don't know, but I like it!"

Brad and I exchanged gifts, then watched Price Is Right with his parents. Brad spoiled me, as always, and I'm writing from my Table Mate II. I never have to work in my office again! ha ha! After scrambling around for days, I finally finished our trip albums, which I gave to Brad. I found great albums at World Market -- almost 12 x 12, 5 pictures a page, two of which are vertical. Perfect for a vacation spread! I'd share the link, but I can't find them online.

Next we headed over to Marc and Melanie's for Christmas dinner. And cocktails. Can't forget Melanie's yummy cocktails. It was fun to watch Bridget and Brendan open their gifts from grandma and grandpa, and they spent the rest of the day playing with their new toys in the playroom.

We had a great Christmas, and I feel so lucky to be blessed with such a loving family (well, all my loving families!). Here's to great memories from 2007 and on to many more in 2008.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Churches!

24 December 2007

Mele Kaleke Maka!

Just a quick note to wish everyone a wonderful, wonderful Christmas. I've been busy the past two days with last minute-scrapping, visiting with family, and cooking up a storm! My gingerbread and pumpkin trifle looks beautiful, my olive and cheese dip is making my mouth water, and I made breakfast for Brad & his parents this morning (yeah breakfast!)... Can't wait to continue the eating. Off to mom's for ham and o'gratin potatoes (and a birthday cake I overcooked!). At least when I made my dip today, it didn't explode out of the blender and coat my entire kitchen in a green mess like last night when I made potato and leek soup! ha! Anyway, lots of love to everyone! XOXO

20 December 2007

Sniff sniff. But yeah!

The humane society just called..... And Diamond is getting adopted tomorrow!!! Merry Christmas, Diamond! While I'm so broken hearted to lose her, I'm so glad she gets a new, permanent home for Christmas. She deserves it, as she is the sweetest little girl ever. They loved her on sight and seemed so excited to take her home, so I think she'll be well taken care of. Plus, she'll have lots of creatures to chase around in the country -- even chickens!

15 December 2007

I heart Ann Arbor.

It's been well over a decade since the days of spending entire afternoons wandering Ann Arbor with Sara in search of secondhand jeans and flannel shirts. These days, our ventures downtown are more along the lines of parking lot to Grizzly Peak, parking lot to Blind Pig. Maybe mix it up a little and go from parking lot to Palio to Borders and back. I've always loved my town and take pride in my local status, but it's not often that I spend time appreciating it as a whole. Brad and I love to travel and discover new cities, spending hours walking around, shopping, eating, stopping for spontaneous drinks. Today kind of reminded me of that. Somehow I conned Brad into Christmas shopping with me downtown, and it really was the perfect day. I loved wandering around with him, discovering new and old shops, looking for that last perfect gift. It was cold, but that's ok because (courtesy of my $50 Xmas bonus--thanks, BNP :P) I picked up a new tweed cap to keep my head warm. We started our day with gingerbread lattes and chocolate donuts from Espresso Royale. Then onto Peaceable Kingdom, Vault of Midnight, Acme... How can you not love all our local little shops? I would rather shop downtown any day than wander around the mall with the rest of the Christmas zombies. We walked Main Street, down Liberty, State Street, and over to Kerrytown. We finished our day off with a Zingerman's lunch. I don't care what anyone says, but of all the food I've eaten, all over the world, you'd really be hard pressed to find a better sandwich. Seriously. I could eat a #77 (Jimmy Wants Rosemary's Baby) every. day. of. the. week. I know it's expensive. A $10 deli reuben? But so what. It's worth it. And where else can you get fresh sourdough bread, fresh mozzarella, and special rosemary goat cheese while you wait? Anyway, my point is, I had a great day. I love my town, I love my Brad, and I freaking love my Zingerman's cheese.

When we got home, I was energized from my day, so I headed downstairs to my freezing cold craft space. For Christmas, I'm giving my mom the gift of my time, and Brad's time. I made her a little coupon book of babysitting, yard work, and general helping-out coupons. I definitely think she'll appreciate it -- there's nothing she needs more than a break now and then. I'm mostly pleased with how all the pages out, and I really hope she loves it. :) I'm also happy to report that I'm mostly done with my Christmas shopping (gotta throw props out there to the Rocket, a local Ypsi store Rachel turned me onto -- support your local Michigan businesses, folks!). Our spare bedroom is currently present central.

For Beth. Har har.

I printed a photobook for Beth of Jordan pics. It turned out really well.

Here's one page layout.

And another!

Cover of coupon book. Here are a few coupons:

Diamond update: We LOVE her. I mean seriously. LOVE HER. I have a sneaking suspicion that if she hadn't started getting calls, we would have snatched her up. Her and Heidi slept with us last night, and she was perfect. Her and Heidi snuggled in between Brad and me and didn't make a peep until morning. At this point, three people have called about her and the first is coming to visit her tomorrow. I'll keep you posted! But until then, a little photo spread of our past few days together.

That face. Kills me.

We like to sleep on top of each other.

We like to play tug of war, too.
Heidi usually wins.

It's a rough life.

Enough chatting. Time to FINALLY watch Audition. Preparing to be grossed out.

09 December 2007

I love bobsledding!

As I write this, our little stripper pooch Diamond is laying on the couch with her head across my lap. Luckily for her, she's small enough that I can mostly type over her. Heidi can't pull this move off anymore.

Diamond has been doing so well. She sleeps through the whole night, doesn't bark or whine in her cage (we think her and Heidi stay up all night plotting the next day's mischief), picks up commands quickly, and is walking so much better. And she's down to just one accident a day if any. Her cough is getting much better, but not before she blew a snot rocket on the carpet and licked it up. That's our classy lady! No calls this weekend, so keep your fingers crossed that someone shows some interest in our new little puppy.

A funny coincidence -- we were all in the laundry room on December 6, and Diamond was standing next to the growth chart we did of Heidi her first year. We'd happened to measure her on December 6, 2006. On December 6, 2007, Diamond was the exact same height Heidi was last year. No wonder they like to cuddle: they have a special little bond. :)

Other than poochiness, it was a lovely weekend and I got to smoosh most of my favorite ladies. Friday night Brad and I kickstarted our Christmas shopping, then Saturday afternoon we helped Jason and Krissy celebrate Bava's first birthday -- great monkey party, great monkey company, as always. Best wishes throughout the year, Bava Joy! Saturday afternoon Meg was in town (yippie!), and we met up with Birgit to see Lars and the Real Girl (go see it, trust me). Next up, Rachel and Don paid us a visit and more smooooshing ensued. Finally, we topped off the evening, joining Birgit for a scrumptious Prickly Pear dinner. Today Meg and I went on a rampage and I'm pretty sure bought half of the city. Christmas shopping officially at least half way done.

Now I must rave about breakfast. Meg and I decided to finally try the much raved about brunch at Aut Bar. We both loved it. It was busy, so we ate at the bar -- it was a real old-time diner experience. We got some coffee (me, too!) and ordered up a frittata (Meg) and some corned beef hash (me). My breakfast was so delish, and the two eggs on top didn't even rip my guts apart. It was a yummy, friendly, and cozy way to start the day. I can't wait to go back, and I suggest you do the same.
Hey! Did somebody say food?

We've been eating out a lot lately -- kinda stuck in the mode from vacation. But last week I got fed up and whipped up some butternut squash soup. Basically five cups of stock, some cream, a squash, about 1/2 cup of leftover pumpkin I had, diced red peppers, and some nutmeg. I like to just cook and smash the squash, leaving some texture to the sauce, even though the recipes always say to puree it. Anyway, I was happy to be cooking, and my belly was happy to eat such yummy soup. I've also been trying to cut out pop (yes, again), and I did good! I went two weeks without any soda, but I did celebrate the weekend with a glass of coke on Friday and a mountain dew at the movie that night. But anyway, I hate drinking water, so I'm always on the lookout for something with a little taste to throw in the mix. I love orange juice, but I have a really hard time with it. I assumed it was the acid, but even the low acid oj was trouble. Last week I picked up some Light 'n Healthy oj, and it was a miracle. No gut rot. AND it tasted 10 times better than normal oj (and, you know, it's low-cal). Try it out!

Ok, that's enough out of me. I've got Funniest Home Videos to be watching and a new Simple Scrapbooks magazine to be reading.

Thanks for visiting us, auntie Meggie!

06 December 2007

Diamonds are a Heidi's best friend.

We have another foster! I was disappointed because we were too slow to respond to fostering a black lab yesterday afternoon, but then we got another foster message in the evening and we jumped on it. This morning I picked up Diamond, a five-month-old American Rotweiller. She's 40 pounds, playful, and full of kisses (she's licked my face clean at least three times over now). Her and Heidi were fast friends, and hopefully Brad and I can do a good job teaching her some basic manners and commands. She knows her name and sit already, and we practiced stay and she did ok. In the meantime, she IS up for adoption, hint hint hint!
I'm ready to go home!

I love it here already!

I see you like carrots. I like carrots, too.

We would NEVER cause trouble.

PS. Tonight I'll be wrapping gifts at Border's with the Humane Society. Stop by if you're out and about!

01 December 2007

I saw mommy kissing santa paws.

What a fun afternoon! From 1:30 to 4 pm, I was at PetSmart doing Santa Paws with the Humane Society (aka, get your pet's picture taken with Santa!). By the luck of the draw, I was the printer -- I would have loved to take the pics, but alas, it was not meant to be. I did take a few, though, to give the photo guy a break. Anyway, I still got to see all the cutie pooches (and a few kitties!) and smoosh 'em and give 'em love. One sweet yellow lab even gave me love via a big wet smooch on the nose. I saw Bella, a eight-week old Chihuahua/shitzu mix, who looked just like a tiny little ewok. Two old lady pugs -- one in a pink xmas sweater, the other in a reindeer costume... They were so soft and fat and snugly! One couple had these two little dogs, and one was afraid of Santa -- but it was perfectly content to sit on the man's shoulders for the photo. I ran into Tucker, the funny little papillion from puppy class (he's still tiny!), and a family I babysat for (you read that right, me, babysit) in college... It makes me so happy to see so many loving families that just love their pet to death... Which is as it should be! I will definitely be signing up for this again next year :)

30 November 2007

Shaky legs.

So I've had restless leg syndrome since middle school. I have such vivid memories of sitting on my dad's couch, watching movies, and squishing my feet underneath his brass and glass coffee table (classy!). I had no idea what it was, so I didn't give it much thought for many many years, just sucked it up and spent most evenings in agony. Luckily for me, it's never really affected my sleep, so that's been good for sure. Post-college, RLS started getting identified, and low and behold, my doctor finally gave me a name for what I have. She prescribed quinine for me (an anti-malarial and anti-seizure pill), and it worked like a charm. BUT turns out I'm allergic to quinine and thus followed what I refer to as my bout with malaria. So back it went to twiching, fidgeting, and begging Brad to squeeze my ankles. Oddly enough, it's been my experience that my legs are somehow tied to my guts because since I've been medicated and feeling better, my legs aren't as much of a problem. Anyway, long story short, my legs have been bothering me pretty bad these past few weeks, so I've had them on my mind. Last night I was flipping through the Brookstone catalog, and I found the most amazing invention ever. Seriously. Ladies and gentleman, meet the iSqueeze:

Brad would never have to squeeze my ankles again, or sit on my feet, or move to another couch because I'm twitching too much. I can't even imagine. Why oh why do you have to be $400 iSqueeze? Sigh. Think Brad's insurance will cover it? :)

27 November 2007

Pumpkin, we meet again.

So I cheated this year. I bought my entire Thanksgiving dinner. After several years of ripping turkey guts out, I just couldn't do it this time. So thank you, Whole Foods, for the lovely dinner. If anyone is curious for future reference -- it was super tasty, not much more than paying for all the cooking accouterments, and only took a little bit of time and a few pots to heat everything up. Highly recommended. And hey, it's a free-range turkey, so you can at least know your turkey lived a decent life!

So I didn't feel like a total fraud, I decided to whip up some pumpkin pies. With real pumpkin! And what a disaster! Ha ha! As I was making them, I realized how long they had to cook, which overlapped with turkey heat-up time, so I started to get a little flustered, thus starting my pumpkin downfall. First, a handy tip.

HANDY TIP! So I've made pumpkin all different ways. Each method has gotten a little bit easier. And now, my friends, I have super triple easy pumpkin flesh-getting method! Microwave it! Here is the recipe I followed for my pie, and included is the new super easy getting method: real pumpkin pie. Pros: Wow! Easy! Cons: I actually kind of like the process of simmering my pumpkin flesh, watching it slowly turn into something useable. Yes, I am a nerd. But hey! I like to chop! And simmer!

Okay, back to the mess. So I have two pie crusts, stuff for two pies. I mix everything up, put one in the oven... And realize I've forgotten to put the evaporated milk in!!! So I have to pull it out (luckily I realized right away) and dump the goo into a bowl for remixing. What does this mean? I have to use the other crust for pumpkin number 1! Sheesh.

The result: The pie turned out pretty well. It definitely looked homemade :) I would definitely use this recipe again, although I think I'd put a little more sugar in. It could have used a touch more sweet. And I remembered to buy whipped cream, so Brad was happy.

On a final, unrelated note, I finally did some crafting this weekend. As I've mentioned, I've gotten a ton of family photos, from both sides, this past year, and I want to scrap them into one big book. Layouts done: 1. Go me! This one is a two-page layout of my grandma Choppy. On the beach. In her bikini, which is how I choose to always remember her. *The text reads "Itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini."

20 November 2007

This trip was not rubbish. J'adore le vacation.

It was Saturday night, our last night in Paris. After several days of go go go... in the cold... on our feet, we'd crashed early, no energy to move at all. Brad was dead asleep. Alas, I was not. To keep myself warm, and give myself some energy, I'd been downing coke and cafe au lait all day. Two am. Three am... And what is brewing outside on Rue Mayet? A wicked dance party. "Thriller." Awesome. "Jump." Rock on. "Celebration." I was dying. It was the perfect way to end the trip. Slowly giggling myself into sleep as the French enjoyed a little American music....

Cider and Chips

I really liked London. I felt comfortable there. Obviously, I loved being there with Brad, but it was one of the few cities I felt I could maneuver on my own. The map made sense to me, the Tube made sense... Definitely rare for me. It just felt right. If it weren't, you know, so very far away, I might consider a country switch..... But alas, we simply had a visit, and a short one at that. But I think we made pretty good use of our time!

Home base:
Our hotel, the Zetter, was in Clerkenwell, basically in the City. You always hear about the ridiculous hotels in Europe, but I've actually had really good luck so far. And the Zetter was no exception! Somehow we ended up with the biggest room with the only queen-sized bed -- still smaller than the typical US hotel, but perfectly lovely. The much anticipatd "porno pink" light over the bed was hilarious and cast a nice pink glow over the entire room. It also had the best shower I've ever been in - glass encased, shower head on the ceiling. Ahhhh. Perfect for a hot shower steamer like me.

Handy tip: Don't bother trying to eat in London. What a pain! The pubs stop serving food early, the restaunts close early, and god forbid you try and eat on a Sunday! ha ha. This is how we ended up at Conor O'Neills' twin, O'Neills, our first night in London. Luckily we had Marla and Andrew with us, or we probably would have just starved. It was just like old times, at Conor's with M&A back in the 90s... Except now there were mushy peas involved (yuck). And, of course, it was more than fantastic to get to spend our first evening with our dear friends, and such a shame we couldn't see them for longer. But I'll take what I can get. Love you guys!

Monday night was the David Gray show at the Roundhouse. What can I say? It was awesome. And we expected no less. Nonfans may not believe it, but he rocks out! Always a great show, and we were SO excited to be seeing him in London. The venue was really cool, literally a round house. We stood about 100 feet from the stage to engage the leaning capabilities of a pole, but it was standing room, so we could have rushed the stage should the mood have overtaken us. And let me tell you, London is the place to see a show. Show says it starts at 8? It starts at 8! David Gray came right out, no boring us with some lame opening act. He played for half an hour, took a half hour break, then came back for another hour and a half. Perfect. Especially because I was clearly the shortest person there. I couldn't see a THING for the first half hour. Not a thing. Fine... Until some assy Brit came and stood on TOP of me. My mood was souring.... Luckily, after the break, the crowd shifted, and I could at least see DG's head bobbing around up on stage. And somehow he must have known we were there for our two-year wedding anniversary. Awww. (FYI, fans, the two new singles on the best of are awesome and you can get just them on iTunes.)

Now, we definitely didn't go to London just to see a concert. Lots of sights were seen! Tower of London, the Thames, London Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Picadilly Circus, Leichester Square, Soho, Chelsea. So cool to see the sights we've all heard so much about, and extra special knowing that these were all sights grandma Choppy grew up with. Sights my dad saw as a young lad on visits over to see grandma England. And, of course, I ate some fish and chips. And drank lots of cider!

Noteable Conversation

John (M&A's friend) to pub bartender: Are you still serving food?
P.B.: No.
John: Do you know anywhere nearby that is?
P.B.: Some other place.

Noteable Dumbass Move

Made reservations at Quo Vadis.
Wrote down address to Alister Little (or something).
Mapped directions to Alister something.
Traveled to mismapped address.

The Eurostar rules: What we originally thought was going to be a royal pain turned out to be quite cool. The Eurostar has always left London from the Waterloo station. Well, THE day we were to to Paris, the new station opened. It turned out to be right near us, and over the few days we got quite familiar with it. So Wednesday morning we made our way over to the St. Pancras station and prepared to board the second trip ever from there. Not only did the day's journeys make it into the news everywhere, freebies were in abundance. I got a really cool cloth shopping bag (the UK is trying to ban and/or add a fee to plastic shopping bags) and a yummy fruit/water drink. Anyway, so we board, and the seats are huge. They're comfy. They have... wait for it... foot rests! Ahhh... I get motion sickness pretty bad, so I was worried, but it moved so smoothly and so quickly that I didn't have any problems. Oh, and there's a little bar with snacks and drinks. Two hours later... bonsoir, Paris!

Vin Rouge and Frites

Wouldn't you know it... The Metro went on strike. The DAY we got to Paris. No Metro? What were we to do? How were we going to get to our hotel? More importantly, how were we going to get all the way up north to see Moulin Rouge? East to see the cemetary? While our first few moments in Paris were a bit of a panic, turned instantly into annoyance (the taxi queue was on par with a Cedar Point line!), the next hour passed quickly as we visited with our line neighbors. Waiting behind us were two sweet, very British old ladies in for a weekend on the town. They were just too cute, and they made the time so much more bearable. I hope they enjoyed their time in Montmarte (I told them they weren't fooling me -- I knew they'd be hanging out at the Moulin Rouge shows!). While we did more walking over the next three days than I think I've ever done in my life, we did manage to survive without the Metro (although trips to M.R. and the cemetary were impossible) and probably saw a lot more of Paris than we ever would have otherwise. And luckily, we did finally make it to our hotel, an hour, EUR 20 cab ride later. High note: Cab driver ROCKING OUT to Lionel Ritchie. All night long... all night.... all night....

In London, we tried to be cool. We studied our route ahead of time, knew our Tube lines... Left our Frommers at the hotel. After about 20 minutes in Paris, we said eff that and pulled out our map, our guide, our phrasebook... You should see our map -- it's in shambles. But boy, did we use everything, every day, at least 100 times. Looking like a doof be damned. Thank you, sizeable purse/bag from Old Navy!

Home base
: Another hotel score. The Hotel Mayet was adorable. Cute, friendly, cozy. Our room was tiny but manageable, our bathroom less modern but workable. And we had a pattiserie and a frommagerie right downstairs. Highly recommended. Right on the border of the 6th and 7th arrondismont, we were closest to the St. Germain neighborhood (and by close, I mean not very close, given we had to walk everywhere).

Way to go, Anthony Bourdain: We watched the Paris episode of No Reservations right before we left. In it, A.B. urges... don't follow the tour books... walk around... and if a cafe beckons to you, GO IN! So our first night there we're looking for a post-dinner cafe for dessert and cafe au lait. We don't know our area well yet, so we wander and find nothing. Finally, a lit cafe on a narrow, empty street. It looks perfect! We walk by, decide to go back. Remember what A.B. said! We go in, and it's packed. Perfect! People are friendly, the dessert sounds good. We order. In French! They look at us like we're nuts. "You have to eat! You can't just order dessert." So we had to bundle back up and slink back out like losers. How embarassing! Shesh. (FYI: Au Pied de Fouet [just happened to be in Frommers, which we saw after the fact]).

Did I mention that we walked? A lot? In the cold? I know... woe is me... :) But as a result, we slept. A lot. Which, I guess is ok, given we were on vacation. But we definitely slept -- I don't think we got out of bed before 11 am! It was lovely. Ahhh sleep. But like I also mentioned, we got to see A LOT. Even things we didn't actively DO, we at least saw (Napoleon's tomb, the Sorbonne, Place St-Michel).

What did we do, you ask? Well, the Eiffel Tower. Three times (at varying degrees of sunlight). Notre Dame, twice. Thanks to you, stupid strike, the Towers were closed and we couldn't see the gargoyles up close. The Louvre. Arc de Triomphe (couldn't go up. Yep. Strike). The catacombs were NUTS. The Eiffel Tower was really awe inspiring. And unreal. When we went back at night, we even saw it light up and twinkle for 15 minutes (we didn't expect it, so it was a fun surprise). Pretty cool to have really been there.

This IS a food blog: The best meal was definitely lunch on Thursday at Cafe Constant. It was everything I was hoping for in a real French cafe, and even though the waiters made us immediately (bringing a translation of the day's menu), I think it was a pretty traditional experience. We got a bottle of wine, of course, and both ordered the creme de potiron emiette de chataignes (pumpkin soup) and filet de bar a la planche polenta cremeuse au pistou (seabass and poltenta). Best. Soup. Ever. It was a deeeeelicious meal. Followed by a delicious dessert. I had no idea what I ordered (querelles au chcolat guarja), but omg. YUM. Basically, two egg-sized lumps of thick chocolate goo, covered in sweet cream. And, of course, our new favorite, cafe au lait. I could have eaten this meal for every meal all week.

Saturday night we wandered into L'alto, a tiny Italian cafe in St. Germain. After a lot of the same, we were happy to stumble upon this (Brad's choice, too!). We ordered our bottle of wine, of course, and after the very sweet and helpful determined that my meal came with fennel (feinnule), I ordered up the calamari. And get this... I even ate some of the tentacles! Me! Tentacles! And I didn't die. :) Brad got the fillet -- "the best steak ever!" It was lovely, and for dessert, cafe au lait and lemon cream with fruit. Yum. The perfect trip-ending meal.

Pain au chocolate. Cheese. 'Nuff said.

I even got to walk through a real food market once. Crazy-looking fish everywhere, cheese, bread... Mmmm! I confess I expected to see a lot more of this, but once was enough. I was happy.

PS. French TV is funny. While we saw a lot, we did spent quite a bit of time in the room. And because there wasn't a radio (the Zetter had 4,000 tracks on an in-room system!), we watched our tiny little TV. BBC news was in English. Occasionally we'd catch a Fergie video on the music channel. But mostly we listened to French. Hey! Sex and the City in French? Sure! SVU? Why not! Scooby Doo? Hilarous. But it gets old. So you can bet when we found the rare English movie with French subtitles, we watched it. One night it was A Clockwork Orange, which I hate, but hey! I could understand. Another night, it was the most ridulous 1970s American porn? I don't even know if it was porn. But it was gross! And hilarious. And totally, 100% random.

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