Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My 2016 Firsts!!

It's been a couple years since I've put up one of these's something I try to do for myself whether or not I post them here but while in the middle of our Trip to Croatia, I realized I hadn't started this year's list yet and there were so many things that were new experiences for me this year and it was only April!  On the ferry back from Hvar Island, I grabbed a notebook and started jotting things down.  So, fresh off the heels of an incredibly cool vacation, I figured I would share my list after settling back in to the daily routine.  I decided to start with the very first day of the year so my first item technically was...

My first New Year's Day in Paris!

First visit to Mont Saint Michel.
First trip to the Brittany Coast.
First time to Disney Studios Paris.  
First (and last) time trying Andouillette!  Trust me on this, people, andouillette and andouille sausage are not the same thing.  I was so proud of me for trying something new that I didn't know anything about and I barely choked down the first bite.  Kris sent it back to the kitchen, told them we'd pay for it and we ordered me much more agreeable plate of fettuccine.  Kris was telling coworkers about it the next day and one guy was like "Well, it must not have been cooked right," but I can't imagine that any of it being cooked any differently would have encouraged me to take another bite.  It's pure evil.  
Moving on!
First time witnessing a wedding by a French official.  Here, everyone gets married in city hall.  You can do a traditional church ceremony after the fact if you want, but legally, you have to get married in an official (but lovely) setting.  Our friends had a lovely ceremony and a serious party to celebrate and it was a blast.
First plane flight out of Paris (to Croatia.)
First time to Croatia!  We went landed in Zagreb, went to Split, Plitvika, Dubrovnik (Better known as King's Landing for all us GoT's fans), and Hvar Island.  
First time in Bosnia.  Our route to Dubrovnik took us into a corner of the country for about fifteen minutes of driving time easy way, long enough to get passports stamped to mark the occasion and pull over for a coffee and bathroom break, but we got stamps, so I count it as a thing, though I'd never have guessed that in all my travels I'd ever be able to say that.  But it simply reinforces the knowledge that you can drive all day and not get out of California but drive half a day here and cross a country.
And on that note, we thought Croatia was not in the EU but a couple years ago it was added, so on entering Bosnia, it was officially our first time leaving the EU while living here.  
First time on a car ferry!  The island of Hvar is large enough to drive around so we took our rental with us and followed our own little guide.  I've been on ferries before, of course, but this was the first one that hauled cars that I've ever been on.  
First ferry ride on the Adriatic Sea and the first time seeing the Adriatic in person!
First time speaking Croatian! (Just 'Hi' and 'thank you', but it counts.  It's 'bok' and 'hvala', by the way.)
First time tasting Croatian wine and Algerian wine, beef cheeks, and black cherry grappa and honey grappa.  We picked what turned out to be an amazing restaurant for dinner in Old Town Dubrovnik and everything there was amazing, and the grappa was graciously on the house with our dessert.  
First time leaving Croatia by bus.  And what was apparently out first time riding through Slovenia on route to Venice.  
My first visit to Venice!!  Kris has been there twice before but it was so amazing to see it in person!  It was so nice to be back on Italian soil with the laid back atmosphere we came to love living in Lugano and visiting Milan and Rome.  And along with that, it was our first visit to the Hard Rock, Venice, and my first time on a water bus.  Venice has boats, just like any other city has buses or a metro, that run back and forth along different routes and different stops along either side of the canals.  So very cool.
Traveling firsts aside, this year was my first time bowling in Paris, first time living with an inflatable couch, and as of later on this year it will be my first time as a matron of honor in my Best friend Kelsey's wedding, and my first time in a wedding party, so I'm super excited and very honored to be involved.   It's going to be a whirlwind of a year, but that's just how we roll on our adventures!
Allie H.

Our Productive Weekend in Paris!!

Fun filled weekend!  Saturday was our "get everything done day" and we left the hotel shortly before 9 am....six hours later we'd been to three banks, the third of which handled new clients and opened new accounts on Saturdays and didn't care where Kris's first paycheck was from, so they got our business!  We got an account with debit cards, we got local sim cards for our phones so we have service and WiFi for maps and such.  Next, we headed off to Porte d'Vincennes and found a case for one of Kris's hard drives, wandered into a cave in search of a good bottle of tequila and found one.  Asked and was recommended a nice bottle of red for just shy of ten euros, so bottles in pack, we finally settled in to a very late lunch, but well worth the wait.  We both had what was basically a very large slab of bacon with crispy skin on and a little meat sandwiched around pure fat, fries on the die for.  Found fresh limes for our tequila on the way home.  The tequila was quite inspired by our first visit to the Mexican place near our hotel....pre-mixed margaritas.  Not at all what we were hoping for, so we decided to grab the ingredients and do our own.  We mixed up a first round yesterday after bike rides but decided we needed simple syrup or something to blend the lime and ended up with Orange Fanta.  Not quite orange liqueur but an improvement!  Took everything home after a stop for coffee at a usual cafe and then melted onto the couch and had some late snacks while perusing housing choices.  

Sunday we slept in....Poor Chloe was so patient waiting for anyone to get up to take her outside and once we got up we took her on a big walk around the Sunday marche (farmer's market), found some nice cheese and bread to go with our bottle of red, stopped at a cafe for coffees and lunch and met the neighboring table who have been transplants in Paris for about five years now.  Nice to catch up with someone in English for a minute!  While wandering about, we got to see what Kris calls the French pastime....Sunday mornings, I think the first of the month, everyone brings stuff out from their apartments, offices, houses, wherever, if they don't want it, they toss it in neat piles on the street corner or around various benches on the sidewalks.  Books, area rugs, clothes, furniture....all unwanted out on the street.  And people walking by go through it all and grab the things that they want and the rest of it is left for the trash trucks to pick up, and they do.  This morning it was all gone like it had never been there!  Back at the hotel we napped out for awhile and then rallied to get the bikes out and go for a ride!  We were so focused on making sure the bikes were ready to ride that we forgot our bread, wine and cheese.  Tucked Chloe into her basket and had a nice hour and half ride through the Boit (forest) behind the Chateau d'Vincennes.

Allie H. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Honey Garlic Chicken Made Easy!

I've been wanting to try this recipe ever since I came across it, and since, a couple weeks back when we went to the store, we've had a tray of chicken thighs tucked away in the freezer waiting for us to polish off leftovers and work with the fresh ground beef in the fridge.  And yesterday, we finally got around to it.  I consulted a handful of websites for cooking times of frozen chicken since I threw it in after lunch when Kris said, "Hey, we need to do something with that chicken," and so I pulled out the crock pot and did.  There's more than a few different recipes for Honey-Garlic Chicken but I picked one, tweaked the measurements a bit because I had probably twice the chicken, added a sliced up onion in the bottom of my crock pot before putting the chicken in, , and letting it do all the rest of work.  I wanted to lick the marinade off of the whisk when I was done putting it all together!  (It smelled like something I would have made homemade jerky with when I was a kid in 4-H.)  

Kris came home and it had about half an hour left so we went on our walk and came back to find out that our new crock pot DOES in fact kick over to warm when the timer goes off, so had part of a nice meal waiting for us.  We pondered and decided noodles, so he set the chicken aside, we added some hot water and tossed some pasta into the sauce, turned in back on high for thirty minutes and ran down to the bar for a quick drink and the beginning of the soccer game between Manchester and PSG, excused ourselves to come home and chow down on chicken and sauce coated noodles before going back to the game.  The chicken fell right off the bone.  Picking up a piece the skin slid right off and came away with the tongs.  It was perfectly done and the flavor is amazing.  I didn't so much care for the texture of the sauce on the pasta, that whole "one-pot" texture that happens with pasta that normally I don't always taste, but there was just enough to cook and coat the noodles.  I should have taken before-pictures but the finished product was much prettier by far!  

So, Honey-Garlic Chicken!
4-8 Chicken Thighs (our tray had seven and I threw them all in)
Half a cup of soy sauce, and a little extra
One third cup honey
Half a cup of ketchup, and a bit extra
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons dried basil
One medium onion, sliced
Onion, chicken, marinade whisked together and poured into the crock pot.  Couldn't be easier and after five hours on high, it's done!  Next time I'm definitely cooking the noodles separately to avoid that texture, but this recipe is a keeper.  IF any of you try this, please let me know how your cooking times worked out and what you served with it!
Happy Cooking!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

To The Seaside, Hoo Hoo, By The Beautiful Sea

Spring in France is beautiful!  Especially on the coast.  We took a little weekend trip to Mont Saint Michel in Normandy a couple weeks back and got to skip over to the ocean-side of things in Brittany and we realized that we missed the ocean so much, and it was so pretty to see.  Being to ocean, it took our breath away...and it took Kris's hat!  The wind kicked up and whisked it right off his head and into the surf.  

Mont Saint Michel was equally as breathtaking!  While it was cold, gray and rainy much of the time we spent there, plenty of people were out to see it, and while wandering through the little town, because it is in fact a town, and technically an island, which is so cool.  The minor 9 euro cost to enter the abbey is well worth it.  It goes on and on for days and the views out over the bay are amazing.  We lucked out with a sunny first day and got to see sunset, having the dog with us couldn't enter the abbey so went back the next day and left her tucked in the nice warm hotel room for a few hours.  We did the abbey tour, warmed up with lunch and asked our waitress how we could move there and she told us if we managed it, we should come back and see her, but it's pretty impossible.

We later found out from the owner of the hotel why it was so tough.  The population of the town is about 45 people, made up of three families who run all the shops and restaurants, and while the abbey and the town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the abbey is cared for by a community of monks and nuns who replaced a group of Benedictine monks in the sixties.  So it's really, really tough to move in, and we'll just have to settle for visiting it every chance we get.  Which is totally fine with us.  Once it warms up a bit more we have to go back to the ocean and spend a few days, because Brittany, too, was so very cool.  We got our plethora of ocean views and waves crashing on the rocks and along the beaches and grabbed lunch and a little silver sailboat souvenir to go with a glass one that we have before heading back home again.  Quite the weekend!