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.

World News We Got to Experience Firsthand

04 November 2007

So you think Nicky can dance?

Good news! Nicky got adopted! After a lot of back and forth with the Humane Society last week, I was beginning to lose a little faith in them -- not the good they do, but sheesh! It's a disaster over there. The train of communication borders ridiculous, and I was progessively irritated with them throughout the week. Regardless, Brad and I dropped Nicky off Saturday morning (and I got to give Brad his first tour). I checked in this morning with one of the managers, and "Oneida" (the woman who was "chomping at the bit" for Nicky) adopted him yesterday afternoon. Sigh of relief. I hope he loves his new family, and they smother him with love in return. The only downside is that Heidi is a) beside herself (she ran all over looking for him yesterday) and b) back to her sneakiness (e.g., getting in the garbage, stealing remotes). Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and we're looking forward to our next fostering opportunity.

Before he left, though, Nicky tried to teach Heidi some manners... She ran underneath the bed with my glasses case. Up to this point, that was her safe spot -- he wouldn't follow her under there. But what did he do? Ran under, grabbed my glasses, and brought them to me!

What a pair those two made.
While we're talking about dogs, today was puppy day for me at the hs. The first dog I walked wasn't a puppy, rather, an old scraggly looking dog. The sweet thing? He's been adopted. It's always nice to see proof that every dog has its perfect match somewhere out there. After walking Aspen, it was on to Harriet, a four-month-old pitt mix, then the sweetest four-month-old black lab. Then two more pitt mix puppies from kennel two (where the strays await getting checked in). Phew! They were too funny, all cute and spazzy but sweet in their own ways. While not yet interested in catch, all already know sit, and I even got the lab to do "down."

Backtracking to Saturday night, Birgit and I went to see the So You Think You Can Dance tour (shut it!). It was. Totally. Awesome. Minus the ONE person in the entire place going nuts, who, of course, was sitting right next to Birgit. Anyway, it was a great time, and we loved re-living all our favorite dances from the third season. Oh, and oogling over Neil. We weren't alone, though. Everytime he came on stage, the entire audience screamed. Side note, the audience was not entirely under the age of 20. In fact, I'd say it was 50% our age. Anyway, it was a blast, and we even had a "celebrity" spotting. At intermission, we went out to procure a soda, and there stood Travis, runner up from season 2! Pretty sweet. So we go back to our seats, watch the rest of the show. We're coming out at the end, and we hear screaming and see flashes. We're all, who could it be? Maybe it's Neil?! But no, it was Travis, and seriously, it was like Beatlemania in there. I do not exaggerate at all when I say he was mobbed. There was a crowd of women (women! not girls!) RUNNING after him. It was fing hilarious. For our fellow fans:

Unfortunately, my video of psycho pants sitting next to Birgit didn't turn out -- too dark.

Now on to the food...

I love spending Sunday evening in the kitchen. I decided to make soup, basically the soup I made in my squash post from September. This time I used an acorn squash, five red potatoes, and half a pumpkin (Sara, try this -- you may enjoy it more than just the squash soup). I also shredded some parm into it. It was so tasty. Both Brad and I had two bowls. Yum.

Squash mangling update: I peeled my squash! I peeled my squash! The books all say you can do this, but I was beginning to think they were a bunch of liars. I started with the acorn squash -- I cut it in half vertically, then went at the shell with a veggie peeler. And it peeled! It really peeled. I figured it was too good to be true to work with the pumpkin, but lo and behold, I cut that in half, too, and I was able to peel away. This is much handier, and yields much more squash for use!

FYI: Michigan squash goes out of season November 30. I can barely even stand to think of it. Squash keeps for two months, I think, so I'll be stocking up, wait! It already is November! Holy crap. I better start stocking up now. I only have three butternut squash and two pumpkins left! Ahhh!

I picked up some Michigan apples this afternoon, so I made dessert, too. A halfassed apple crisp -- just sliced up some apples, poured a little milk over them, sprinkled some brown sugar, and topped them with a few handfuls of some pumpkin granola I had leftover. It's currently baking -- 20 minutes at 350. Time to eat!

02 November 2007

Ice cream and cake is great.


PS. PATRIK: Clean out your darn inbox! You are over quota and I can't bug you to meet us in Paris!

01 November 2007


What a lovely Halloween! I was in a foul mood most of the day, my favorite holiday dampered by the appearance of a NEW rash... This time in the form of hives all over my body. I've never had hives, ever, and seeing as how I had a different rash just a week ago, I made a quick trip to the doctor to get some meds. Why is my body so angry with me right now?! Sheesh! Anyway, by the time 5 o'clock rolled around, and I got a chance to carve my pumpkin, I felt much better. I was in the spirit.

I don't know that I can really express how I felt last night without sounding like a tool and/or not doing it justice. Nothing exciting happened. We handed out candy (and ran out), normal stuff. But our neighborhood was just a-buzz. It's all youngins, so no high school kids showing up in a sweatshirt pretending it's a costume, ungrateful for their candy. Everyone was so cute and sweet, and polite. We were actually sad when we ran out of candy. We decided to take the dogs for a walk so we could check everything out, and who knew our neighborhood was so into Halloween? Decorations everywhere, everyone out... Families joining neighbors, everyone enjoying themselves (even throwing back a few beers as they walked -- Mardi Gras for the parental set). It was just such a great atmosphere, and it made me so happy to see everyone enjoying my favorite holiday. It gave me a newfound appreciation for our little neighborhood, and it still makes me happy that we can walk down the street and be greeted by name. (Especially when they give me kit kats!)

It also definitely inspired me to kick my yard decorations up a notch next year, too. I already can't wait!