Saturday, April 26, 2008

Germany: pro/con

I am fairly certain now that German fashion (at least in Cologne & Dusseldorf) is hideous. The good news about that is that I did not spend any money frivolously.

The best outfit I have seen was a woman wearing minuscule hot pants with a garter and stockings under them. Second best was a 2-piece midriff-baring leopard print affair. I got a photo of that one.

The one thing I do appreciate here is the gelato stands everywhere. Everyone eats it out of sugar cones so I don't have to feel like a kid asking for one. I'm not even sure they have cups. You probably have to ask for those. I don't understand why anyone would prefer a cup when walking anyway. Also they sell an honest to goodness single scoop for a euro or even 80 eurocents. I hate how in the US a single not only costs about $4 but is really 3 scoops. A single scoop is often just what I need.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Germany makes nice

Okay. One bartender is possibly redeeming my annoyance today with Germany not being Belgium.

When I asked for more hot water for my tea, she scowled and then brought me new tea bag, new cup. She kept asking if I wanted more and said "no charge! No charge!"

As I was getting ready to go, she saw me take out a half empty bottle of sparkling water from my bag. She took it out of my hand, set it on the table, and said "no, wait." She brought me a glass of water with lemon and ice and said it was free for me and was I sure I didn't want anything else?

Vacation meals

Eating alone is tricky under the best circumstances. But when you have already burst into tears once that morning, taking the plunge and staking out a table alone is not so easy.

Also not helping -- I left my sunglasses in the room. So I can't sit facing the sun or directly in it. But I must sit outdoors where there is a breeze.

This morning I avoided all awkwardness by eating breakfast at a gas station. There were 2 tables and dishes and everything. Very civilized.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bye Brugge

On our way out of Brugge we made two final stops: chocolate and de Bier Temple.

We have no idea how come the Good Beer Guide to Belgium didn't mention the Temple, but it was well worth a stop. We procured two Westvleteren 12s for a hefty 6.50 euros each. But considering how much harder it is to buy a case now, we were happy to pay it. When we were in Belgium 2.5 years ago, we just drove up to the abbey and bought. Now you have to make an appt. and you're lucky if you can get through when calling.

We are now sitting in a beer hall in Koln, drinking Kolsch. It's no Belgian ale, but they do have a wonderful white asparagus soup. Oop! Here is my crispy pig!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bruges Beertje gives us the royal treatment

On our last night in Brugge we had multiple bars we wanted to visit. But one after the other we found to be closed (a party, renovation, day off, etc.). I was getting more and more depressed and the 10 miles we walked today was not helping me feel any more excited about going to one more.

So instead of walking to any more probably closed places, we went back to Bruges Beertje and got a fabulous interview with the darling owner.

And then, oh what a way to end our stay. She brought out a sherry glass of 20-year-old Gouden Carolus, which had aged so incredibly well. And THEN a 20-year-old Westmalle tripel, also aged to perfection, like a white port. Both were found in her colleague's grandfather's cellar. Finally, they shared with us a '91 Guiness. If only all Guiness tasted that good -- chocolatey and robust. Such a treat. I was almost teary eyed when we left.

Day trip to Gent

Belgian cheese, Belgian Parma-type ham, beers that don't export and fantastic house beers, sitting by a canal on an unexpectedly 70 degree day. What more could I want?

Monday, April 21, 2008


We are back at Beertje for the 2nd time today. The smoke is getting to me and it's full of foreigners again. But I guess that's not a crime at a famous beer bar. I'm ending the day with a fruit beer called Passion Max -- "new taste, even more fruity." It smells divine and tastes like juice + beer.

When we were here earlier, we met a beer-loving couple from NJ and a group of loud Brits who work for the railroad. Although I pre-judged them all harshly, all were enjoyable to chat with. And what? It's not like we're the only ones allowed to be in a foreign city.

from Brugge

The stairs in our hotel are so narrow. We have to hang on for dear life going up and down. There is no running back up if we forgot something.

Last night we splurged and went to a fancy place called den Dijver where they cook with beer and do tasting menus with beer pairings. Only one of the beers was new to us, but having a beer and food tasting combo alone was excitement enough. I started with a Champagne and hops cocktail (the hops were very light). I loved the ingenuity of that mix. The best part of the meal, in my opinon, was the white asparagus with a diced egg sauce and smoked salmon (very traditional and the asparagus was so succulent).

We also decided that on every trip from now on we should research and book reservations at an upscale restaurant that specializes in local cuisine.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

#55 Brian

For the cover photo of the one Van Go album you set a guitar on fire in your driveway. You had a loft in your bedroom that smelled too much of boy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hardly an authority

Skidmore invited me to come be on a panel talking about new media/publishing jobs this past Sunday. I admit, I probably would not have done it except that they offered to put us up. The Adirondack Inn is definitely no frills, but it was fine. They had wifi and cable and the bathroom was gigantic. What more does a person really need?

The panel took place in the "new dining hall," I was told in an email beforehand. When we arrived, I had Jeff stop the car in front of the map at the top of the main drive. I was leaning in, squinting at the map, trying to find the location of this new dining hall. A student walked up and asked if I needed help. I said, "I can't seem to find the new dining hall," I said. "Oh..." she started and then stopped. "Um, the new dining hall is the old dining hall. It's just been rebuilt." Oh. If we had driven onto campus and gotten a look at the new/old dining hall, this would have been readily apparent. It looks much different. It's cozier and there's a 2nd floor with meeting spaces and cozy nooks.

I don't think I gave any terrible advice per se, but I do marvel at me giving advice to these students. When they asked me questions afterward, they eagerly awaited my responses, looking expectantly into my eyes. I wanted to say, "I have no idea! Do you realize I still have no idea?!" But I did the best I could and they seemed satisfied. All I could do was tell them what I had done and how it worked out for me. Not necessarily the best "advice," but at least I wasn't fudging that part.

There were a good number of sophomores present, even. The ones who asked what I think they should do to prepare for getting jobs in a few years I told, "the fact that you are here and you are applying for internships is huge. I think you are incredibly well prepared!" That's probably not what they were looking to hear, but maybe just being told they are doing the right thing is helpful. If it is even the right thing. Who knows!

I wish there had been panels like this when I was still in college. Of course, whether or not I would have attended is another story.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

#54 Brent

You wouldn't divulge your contact prescription or how you knew to ask at the deli for cheese ends. When I left, you wouldn't let me have my bike. You needed it more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A drink I now love: Gin Genie

1.5 parts Gin
1 part Sloe Gin
1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 part simple syrup
8 whole mint leaves

Shake and pour over ice. Garnish with more mint.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

#53 Brent

You never remembered who I was, even though we were introduced at least three times. For that I did not like you. Also, because you were a hipster. Plus you're probably needy.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

#52 Bonnie

You have beautiful long hair that you unfortunately almost always wear in a ponytail. We lived on the same block in Hoboken. I think you liked it better there than we did.

Friday, April 11, 2008

#51 Bob

You proudly show off your newest farm equipment when we visit. You were excited to see NYC but couldn't come to our wedding because of fear that a corn crop would rot.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

#50 Blythe (Buffy)

We were tent mates for six weeks. You were a little older than the rest of us hikers and seemed years more mature. You weren't bothered by the cliques like I was.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

#49 Bill

At your Christmas party you would point out you had made chili just for me. I never saw the side of you that drove your children away, but I heard about it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ode to alcohol

Rum and coke at the party my whole class attended a few months before high school graduation. I didn't know what to drink, so someone offered it to me because it's what one drank. I didn't like it.

Sips of my mom's vodka & tonics that she trusted me to make for her. I didn't really like the taste, but in college, this was my drink of choice for a while, for lack of knowing any other drinks and because it seemed classy.

Straight vodka from a plastic water bottle while sitting on the Exorcist steps with Emmy, shortly after high school graduation.

Fancy, fancy Champagne at a fancy, fancy venue in DC, dancing and dancing and spinning and spinning. Age 18.

Stocking my freshman dorm fridge with Zima for a party with my then best friend Stephen.

A very minty and delicious $12 Mojito in a hotel bar with Jen. Thinking I had crossed a threshold into adult drinks that cost twice as much as a decent lunch.

Blind taste testing Proseccos with my parents and Kate, several months before my wedding, in my parents' kitchen.

Sharing our first batch of homemade beer with my parents on the dock at the creek, watching the sun go down.

First taste of Westvletern with Beth, New Year's Eve several years ago. And Jeff with the book open on how to savor it.

Saying to each other, what the hell, let's get the one called "end of the world" and in that first sip, experiencing a whole new world that would, not to be trite, lead us around the world in search of many, many more amazing beers.

Happy 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Craving satisfied

Most everything I bought

I had a notion to make pad thai from scratch. I figured easy, I'd go to Mitsuwa (Japanese market in Edgewater) and pick up the ingredients. They would surely have what I needed.

If they had everything, I have no idea. I spent an hour there, wandering the aisles, trying to make out labels. I felt like I was in a foreign country, just trying to find something, anything familiar. Although in this case I was seeking things I had never seen before, so I didn't even know how to recognize them. What the hell does a tamarind look like? I maybe could have looked up a photo of it before going.

According to my recipe, tamarind is essential for pad thai. I managed to find about half the ingredients at Mitsuwa, so I couldn't give up.

Today, I went to A&P and got a few more things, but no tamarind. I went to Basic Food in Hoboken (and got blocked in by a jerk double-parker in the process) and they didn't have it. The Asians running that store told me to go to Summit and Newark to Little Five Points area or something. I had melting ice cream in the car from A&P, so that was not an option.

My last hope was the Vietnamese market on Newark and Monmouth, near home. I didn't go there in the first place because I thought they would only have a small selection of Vietnamese food. Of course they had everything I needed for the recipe and for very cheap. I was so thrilled with the find, I went ahead and got everything the recipe called for, even though I probably did not need turtle food, I mean, dried shrimp. I probably could have skipped palm sugar, too, and just used regular sugar.

All in all, it was super easy to prepare, no more difficult than a regular stir-fry. Now that I have all these unusual ingredients, I will be making lots more of it in the future.

Ready to go


We've had two bamboo shades for five years. I bought them early on in Hoboken, but they were not dark enough for our bedroom, said Jeff. So, under the bed they went. They transferred nicely to under the bed in our new place.

We've lived here 8 months now, so I figured it was high time I hung a shade or two. I located the electric drill and the box of drill bits. That was after locating another box of ratchety things. After examining them I determined that they were not drill bits nor were they for use with the drill. This was not readily apparent to me.

I could not figure out how to get a bit into the drill. I called my dad; no answer. So, I asked an upstairs neighbor. He wasn't sure either, but some sixth sense told him to twist and sure enough, that was the trick.

"I feel so handy now!" he said. Ha. The tenant between him and us has piles of tile in front of his apartment door. He moved in 3 months ago and he's already re-doing the tile. Show off. I'm glad I asked the top floor neighbor. Handy neighbor probably would have laughed at me.

I successfully hung one bamboo shade in the kitchen and then stood back to admire my work. I lowered and raised the shade.

Whew. That's enough work for today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

#48 Bill

You claim to this day that you single-handedly taught me how to swim one afternoon. We used to see a lot more of you when we shared a beach house every summer.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

#47 Andrea

Going back to the beginning of the alphabet to add in someone who I met in person after I started this project.

You are gentle and accomodating. I wonder if sometimes people take advantage of your generosity. You are taller than I am, and very bendy. You are exceedingly brave for moving cross country.