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!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Au Revoir, California! Bonjour, Paris!

It was only a matter of time...We've moved to Paris!
After all my non-blogging, why not jump back in with the new adventure?!
The opportunity came for us to pick up and travel and go somewhere new and see new things and re-immerse ourselves into a type of culture that we love so much.  Kris has switched jobs and is now working for Ubisoft, the company that produces Assassin's Creed and so much more.  He's the mobile lead for games, so he'll be in charge of the systems on the back end of the mobile game division, so, for example, when a new game comes out and 10 thousand people jump and download it all at once, he's responsible for making sure all those systems run efficiently without incident, processes like that.  He's excited, and I'm happy he's getting a change of pace that will be a boost to his skills and his career, in Paris of all places.  I love being back in Europe!  I love all of the different little neighborhoods.  I love that having a pocketful of coins can buy you a beer or an espresso or a pre-made sandwich (with meat and cheese and greens you know are fresh!)  I really kind of love that there seems to be a sushi joint on every other block.  I'm still dismayed that there's a McDonald's tucked into every area populated with grocery shops, bakeries and cafes.  There's a Pizza Hut across the street from our hotel.  With all the epic cheap mom and pop pizza shops, somehow, there's a Pizza Hut.  Le Sigh.  I love that there's a castle right down the street from our hotel and I'd really love to live in it but maybe I could settle for being a tour guide for American tourists.

The atmosphere is different and lovely.  There are people bustling everywhere but it's not at all rushed or strained unless it's anywhere near the exact minute of commute hour on the metro.  The people are very nice, the coffee is what I've been missing and the food, so far, has been wonderful.  We had a quiet dinner in hotel our first night in...the receptionist sent us up a nice welcome package that had pasta, a little jar of sauce, chocolate, tea, coffee, snack mix, two waters and some packaged soup and all we had to do was go to the store, grab some beef and bread and we had a quick bite before we crashed from a long day of travel.  We went from Oakland to Salt Lake where we had an eight-hour layover so we could give the dog a rest between flights and grab lunch at The Red Iguana, sure to be the last real good Mexican food we get anywhere for awhile, chilled out with family and a friend of Kris's for a moment, then got back on the flight from Salt Lake straight to Charles De Gaulle airport. 

Kris was smart and upgraded us to economy comfort over the pond, which was a bit more room, and while the flight attendant said we couldn't put Chloe's carrier on our laps when we asked, they didn't show up for two hours into the flight to offer us something to drink, then dinner an hour later, then nothing until breakfast, so we got away with it anyway.  We just opened her carrier enough to let her pop her head out and covered her with a blanket.  As usual, take-off and landing was not fun for her but this was her best flight yet, despite not having been on a plane for a couple years now.  Such a pro traveler.  We landed to a rainy, gray Paris morning and even though we hadn't slept much and were sore and exhausted, all three of us were so happy to be in a taxi with our bags and our bikes and on route to our hotel, our home for the time being until we find something more permanent.  We've been lusting over a particular river boat but admittedly have been looking at others and we may be close to finding something perfect for us, and an apartment wouldn't be out of the question, either, depending on where it is and how much it goes for.  We'll have it figured out soon.  After all our stressing and re-packing and waiting for paperwork and then rushing to have everything done once paperwork was a go, it's nice to finally be here after months in the making of a new chapter.
More to come, I promise!

Allie H.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Time Flies!

Has it really been this long since my last post?  Yikes!  Suffice it to say we've had a busy summer!  We finally tried the oven and while it takes forever to cook two mini pizzas, it does in fact cook food quite well!  So far we're tried mini-pizzas and an entree for two, but we've been playing with the grill as well.  I've been getting into the habit of cooking an entire package worth of pasta so that I have cold pasta for a couple of days for lunch, or if we make it for dinner there's leftovers for Kris to take to work since he can easily reheat them. Though I am quite excited...our neighbor had an extra small crock pot in her possession that she gave to us!  We had dinner with her and her nephew one night and it was shredded pork tacos from the crock pot.  She'd found a package of six pork rounds that she threw into her crock pot (1.5 qt) and it was enough food for her and Jimmy to have two tacos each the night before and for all four of us to have two more that night with sides.  I'd seriously been thinking about bringing our huge one here because it would be so easy to make dinner and four or five leftovers for Kris, and then to prep food for our next dock party/barbecue but I really had no idea where I'd be able to put the darn thing, since it's so huge.  Solution?  Free small kitchen appliances from friends.  I'd started shopping online when Lindi came by to tell us that she'd found the one that her mother had owned at her brother's house and that she'd bring it to us.  I'm imagining slow-cooked pasta sauce and all I have to do is cook pasta when Kris gets home, or hot-dip appetizers for crowds, shredded chicken....I'll let your imaginations run away with you.  So I've been searching for smaller crock-pot recipes and ways to cook staples like rice and beans and realizing that all you have to do is cut those big recipes in half!  Small batches of tortellini-tomato soup? Done!  Best of all, it can be tucked away under the settee when not in use. Not that I've done that yet.  I keep staring at it, imagining the smells I've been missing of all-day cooking without the hassle.  Whoever invented the crock pot was a genius. 

Kris has been full-tilt at work and so usually by the time he's done, he's ready to relax!  We come home, catch up with the neighbors, have a drink, dinner or nosh, watch a movie, and chill.  We still go play Ingress occasionally...we've been getting a little lax on it the past month or so.  He's been installing a new system, including all the prep work, running cables and the like, testing, troubleshooting, and getting the machine up and running so between that and actually having some issues to deal with during on-call weeks, our free time is lazy free time!  Though we have done a few evening sails, a nighttime sail last month, and we took a class to help us prep for taking the test to get our radio operating license for the boat.  (We scheduled to take the test this weekend, so wish us luck!)  

Family and Birthdays!  Kris's step-dad Roy found himself with two tickets for the Brit Floyd Concert in Utah and no one to go with him, so Kris took a couple days off work and we drove to Salt Lake City for a long weekend.  Kris got to go enjoy Floyd with Roy and we got to catch up with family and friends, see our new baby niece Willow (who slept the whole time everyone passed her around!), and enjoy the beautiful drive home again.  My family and our friend Kirby came up to celebrate my birthday and the dock turned into a last minute dock party, which was a blast!  We went down to Monterey to Allegro's for a late lunch for my brother's birthday, went to Santa Cruz for the annual Portuguese Sopa Feed with Ralph and Sabi, which we've been missing, had Kirby here for Kris's birthday weekend, and finally went down to Monterey last weekend to see my mom for her belated birthday, have dinner with the folks, and spend Sunday with friends.  And I got my hair re-dyed red again while we were there.  We planning on seeing Kris's cousin Josh soon...he's got an interview with a company in the Bay Area so we should be having a guest on the boat for a couple of days.

Summer has been in full swing on the dock!  Neighbors we've not seen during the winter season come and go, and we've had a handful of new people in the area with their boats, with lots more people going on on the weekends to sail or hang out in the area to watch the America's Cup festivities.  Chloe's jealous of the new puppy our neighbors have but she still gets plenty of love and pets when she wanders up and down the dock or when we take her to the club on the weekends for brunch or the like.  And we found bikes!  We've been waiting, budgeting, and a very affordable pair of Trek's popped up on craigslist.  We bought them, bought a bike basket for Chloe, and I've been re-finding bicycle muscles that have been out of use for awhile.  Note to self: work out more often!  But it's awesome!  So far we've biked to CVS to get a tire pump and an extra bike lock, down to the Italian place for takeout dinner, a few times just out and back, and every time that we let Chloe out of the doggie basket she goes absolutely crazy running in figure-eights on whatever lawn is closest.  She tried to jump out the first time she was strapped in and it didn't go so well so I think she's learned to stay in, even when the bike is not in motion.  I signed up for my first class on coursera just for kicks...and I'm working on stories!  Life is good.  Loving the sunny, beautiful weather in Alameda and enjoying our adventure.

Enjoy your adventure!
Allie H.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Errands and Galley Appliances!

It's Errand Day! PO box checked, gas tank filled, various and sundry items taken to storage, grocery store raided for our supply of instant mashed potatoes and a couple other necessities, trash from the car & the boat tossed, and now I'm debating whether or not to prep chicken salad for lunch tomorrow so it's nice and cold.  It's probably going to happen.  

Updates!  Strictly Sail Boat Convention was this weekend and all the yacht clubs were out promoting.  Our friend Anita is a member of Encinal Yacht Club and she invited us to take a tour of it Sunday morning when we ran into her and so we went to take a look.  It's right up the street from our gate and it's amazing!  It's got a pool, sauna, beautiful bar and dinning room, event rooms, monthly racing and cruising events that the members help organize, and unlike most of the yacht clubs around here, we don't have to spend a certain amount of money there over our monthly dues at the bar or for the brunches and dinners, so that's cool.  And in honor of Strictly Sail, they're waiving the usual initiation fee if we signed up this weekend.  So we did!  They're meeting Thursday to discuss all the new applicants so we should know and be official by Friday.  We stayed for the pasta dinner as Anita's guests, which is so fun if you've never been to one.  They have a salad bar station and then the pasta station, where you pick everything you want and hand it to the chef who cooks it up and you choose what sauce and pasta you want it with.  One of Kris's coworkers is actually a member too so it was good to meet him and it's nice to know that we know someone in the group!  It was so much fun and we met a few more of our neighbors, and we think it's going to be awesome to really be a part of the sailing community up here and to get to help out with the activities.  You can even reserve the club to have your own private parties, so we may have to have to take advantage of that!  Also, on our last minute trip to Strictly Sail, we got sailing gloves, ordered a life jacket for Chloe, and drooled over all the pretty 35 and 50 foot shiny boats for sale.  

We also figured out that our galley stove/oven actually works!  We asked a neighbor about it since he has the same style stove he told us that his is in the same condition as ours was and to try it out!  We went and got the fuel we needed to fill the canisters and tried it out.  And we made quesadillas for dinner!  I put the electric burner away yesterday and last night we tried both burners at the same time last night and it's so nice to be able to cook two things at the same time!  We have yet to try out the oven but we'll have to figure out something to make for our first use.  It's not huge, but I think I could fit in a 9x11 pan and that's more than we need.  We now need to repair the stove-side slide on table leaf as a prep station.  I may try re-configuing the outlets because everything's plugged into the power bar that hangs over the sink, which is serving as our liquor cabinet since we hadn't needed to USE the sink.  Without the support-brace underneath it folded out, you slide it on and it literally just falls right off, which it's not supposed to do.  Another project for the list!  But we did figure out that our bilge pump was only clogged and not actually broken, so we took the replacement kit that we bought back to West Marine.  We shifted a bunch of DVD's to a case and I took all the plastic ones to the storage space today, along with the clothes we traded out for the warm weather ones I grabbed the other day.  We picked everything up off the floor, swept, mopped, shook out the floor rugs,  figured out the trick to flushing the toilet when there's no back pressure...and more!  All in all a productive weekend that we hadn't planned on having and it was awesome!  Functioning on the boat day to day is really coming together and I'm so happy.  Every time we re-organize and put supplies we're just going to make it better and better and once we get into our list of projects our boat is going to be stylie.  
What are you looking to accomplish that's going to make your daily life better?
Happy Project Listing!

Allie H.