Tuesday, March 31, 2009

fancy schmancy

Nancy :). I didn't want to include these pictures in the last post because I feel like I already make you readers scroll and scroll during my long-weekend-trip-marathon-posts. Try saying that three times fast, haha.

The city really was beautiful and the central plaza was adorned with gold, a clear memory of the wealthy past of Lorraine.

One of my favorite statues was the one on this fountain, Poseidon/Neptune.

No Western city is complete without a beautiful cathedral! Is it okay to admit that I'm actually getting used to them all? No. Okay.

The entrance to their Medieval city, however, was a very unique aspect. And the best Quiche Lorraine ever, lies right beyond it.

It should look something like this... and taste incredible :).

There was also quite a few examples of Art Nouveau architecture. I, myself, am a big fan. The weather left much to be desired but my run through town the next morning was gorgeous. In the stillness of the early hours of day it was just me and Nancy's many souvenirs of their French past, and it is that aspect that made me fall in love with running, all over again. If you don't know what I'm talking about... don't give up. If I can ever so slowly become a runner, anyone can.

In more current news, I believe there was a request for my American Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies recipe from family night, n'est past?

Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

1 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2  tsp of baking soda
1/2 stick of butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of mashed banana
1 cup of chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, grease cookie sheet
2. Cream butter and sugar together
3. Add egg and vanilla until combined
4. Mix in mashed banana
5. Add in flour until combined
6. Stir in chocolate chips
7. Drop onto cookie sheet in tbsp scoops, approximately 1-2 inches apart
8. Bake for 5 minutes, rotate, bake for another 5 minutes
9. Leave to cool for at least 20 minutes
10. Enjoy an American favorite with a banana-lovers twist!
So, I'm happy to say that I'm feeling a lot better than yesterday, a lot less overwhelmed, a lot more confident with myself as far as my future is concerned. It's really a scary thought, that unknown path in front of me. I'm nearly a "grown-up" and that means I have to begin living in the "real world." Are you serious?!? OMG. And yet (deep breath) I'd much rather "live in the moment" as much as possible and simply form a flexible plan and to-do list to figure out what I'll be doing in the moments to come. Today, I'm pretty much booked, and so I bid you adieu :). I hope you've been having a great week so far! 

Monday, March 30, 2009

a little bubbly

Like I had mentioned, I spent the past three days traveling with my program to Nancy, Verdun, and Reims... it was fabulous. Nancy and Verdun are both located in Lorraine, I tried duck for the first time, had an authentic Quiche Lorraine, and saw the heart-wrenching place t where one of the most horrific battles of World War I occurred. And on Saturday we entered the Champagne region...

At the heart of it, the city of Reims.

Even the grey weather could take away from the magnificent charm of this historical place.

It was here, in this cathedral, that all the kings of France were crowned.

Many restorations have taken place during that time.

And thank God,

it was one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture that I've ever seen.

The immensity of the building took my breath away.

As did the spectacular and unique stained glass windows.

Between the city square, the museums, the cathedral, and the shops, I knew that I had fallen in love with yet another French city. But it wasn't until dinner time that I realized how much. I ate one of the most delicious meals I've had in Europe.

I ordered one of their Menus which consisted of three courses. The dinner began with a split pea vegetable soup. It had been pureed, save a few potato chunks, and was served with a bread crisp, homemade croutons, and a parsley sprig.

I ate all of it, and anything I missed was scrapped out with one of these fantastic rolls. I, of course, also let my 3 friends try the soup before it was finished, all were dumbfounded by how delicious it was... and how foolish they were for having just ordered a plat ;).

Afterwards out came our main courses, mine was a river fish (I don't know the name in English) with eggplant. I gave half of mine over to Liz who generously did the same with her...

salmon and spinach. Both were absolutely incredible! Oh my gosh. Neither of us could stop raving about it, and neither could the other two, who, once again, enjoyed a bite of their own :).

I ate enough to satisfy me but not too much in order to save room for dessert, (this profiterole au chocolat is Liz's,) I had a glass of un-pictured fromage blanc. We spent three hours at the Bristol Café with all of our talking and eating. It was a perfect night.

We all woke up the next day exhausted, Europe has finally changed the clock for Daylights Savings Time :(. I assure you, however, that my Sunday was nothing to frown about!
After re-packing the bus and eating breakfast at the hostel we we headed to the Taittinger headquarters for a tour and tasting.

Below the building the champagne from the countryside is aged within the cellars of century-old passageways, once used by monks.

I learned a great deal more about the entire process but I'll spare you and get to the degustation. I think this is the first glass of true champagne I've ever had, (all other varieties grown outside this region are simply sparkling wines,) and I adored it.

Following lunch at a brasserie nearby, we boarded the bus for "home."
Five hours later I was greeted by my lovely host-mom and the meal she had prepared me: beets, cucumbers, two cheeses, roasted peppers, sardines,

a mango purée, and fromage blanc au sucre. Did I also mention that I had fromage as a snack on Friday afternoon? I've been craving it for the past few weeks... and I definitely got my fill this weekend. Ha.
Now it's back to my very real to-do list. I've been busy... as I'm sure you can tell by my inconsistent posting... and it doesn't look like life is planning on slowing down any time soon. I almost wish that I could open the bottle of champagne that I bought and ease the stress a little bit ;) but I'm saving that for my 21st birthday. I've been thinking a lot about the future lately, even beyond these final few weeks in Strasbourg. Like, where is this blog going?, for instance. I began writing to share my year abroad experiences with the blogworld but what happens when I'm done traveling? I don't want to say goodbye and leave this community forever but what else can I do? I really just do not know.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I'm speaking of Marie... not the character from Grease, although I did meet her at a pharmacy in Nyack about 8 years ago, ha, long story... my Frenchie is the bestest friend I've ever had, a girl who I refer to as my sister because she knows me better than most after living with me during our senior year of high school as an exchange student.
Two weekends ago her family and her drove all the way from their Parisian suburb to see me. They love me almost as much as I love them I guess ;). On that Friday morning I woke up early for a sweet breakfast (in both senses of the word) and met them for coffee around the corner from my apartment. It was as if no time had passed since last time I saw them (last year). And so the amazing weekend began...
First we went to a castle outside of Strasbourg. There are so many incredible medieval creations in Alsace!

Marie's mom studied architecture, and her father, history, so this was a real treat for both of them. And they both were more than eager to share their knowledge with us, (most of it French, btw, go me!)

Afterwards they were eager to try traditional Alsatian dishes alongside Alsatian wine.

Haha, her father is absolutely adorable.

And she has quite the sense of humor too :). She got the Quiche Lorraine, by the way, and although it also sounded fabulous to me, I'm saving my next one for this weekend when I will actually be in the Lorraine region.

So I got the Tarte aux legumés which was equally if not more delicious served alongside a salad and my choice of wine, a Pinot Noir.
I surprised myself when I considered not getting dessert but I did purchase this cheesecake for Marie and her mom to enjoy, a token of my gratitude for their constant generosity.

Then we went small town-hopping. I just love places like this during their off-season, they're so ridiculously quaint.

I felt like I was walking through Belle's hometown on the set of La beauté de la bête.
And then I'd be snapped back to reality when Marie and I got into one of our "silly" moods. Gosh, I miss her already!
Following our day as tourists we settled into our bed and breakfast, took showers, and then headed out in search of an Alsatian dinner.

That meant Tarte flambées, obviously. The tiny restaurant we found had three varieties (the original is pictured) and we split a few among the four us.

The gratinée version (with cheese) was my personal favorite. It paired perfectly with our glasses of Riesling. Did I not already mention that we shared 2 bottles? :)

We did leave enough room for dessert though! This was an apple tarte flambée and it was in flames. Our waitress poured some apple liquor on it and before serving it to us with the switch of a lighter. So. cool.

The next day I was exhausted! I guess staying up all night with over-due girl talk can do that to you :). I didn't complain, of course, and we made our way to Obernai after a wonderful French breakfast at the bed and breakfast.

But before we knew it it was lunch time and we had to head back to Strasbourg again. As their tour guide, we walked through Petite France and Notre Dame before arriving at my favorite Alsatian Winstub. I had the vegetarian Tarte au choucroute,
while both of Marie's parent ordered the venison and choucroute, it tasted quite good but they are much braver than I!
Marie's meal was on the lighter side too though and all for this reason of this little beauty, une Tarte aux pommes. In a pool of thin vanilla cream and topped with powder sugar it was absolutely divine and the perfect size for us to split.

We strolled around a bit more downtown to put off goodbyes as much as humanly possible. Then Marie's father recieved a call from François, her brother whom was the only family member absent on this mini-trip. He spent the conversation leaning on a well... only in France :).

And then that was it! I had been looking forward to it for seemingly forever but the weekend sped by faster than I could've imagined. I talk Marie about once a week (it's so much easier being in the same time zone and not having to worry about long distance) but I'll probably only be able to see her once more before I go home! The reassuring thing is that this isn't it, it never is. Before studying abroad I've been to visit her twice and she came back to the U.S. this past summer (I was in Ecuador at the time, but still) so I know I'll see her again... seeing her soon is simply, relative.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

le soirée de famille

Otherwise known as Family Night :). This fun-filled evening took place this past Tuesday which would explain the chocolate chip & banana cookies from earlier this week. Can you believe that I have not one picture of those beauties? They really did turn out well for the "figure it out as I go along" kind of baking that I did and were a hit at the party but I just could not photograph them. It always came out blurry!

What I did manage to do successfully was lead the decorating team in transforming a local church's recreation room into our printemps et Pâques themed party area.

We even managed to finish a little early! Here we are as we wait our guests arrival :). This night was basically run by us in honor of our host families hospitality and constant help.

We had a full-stocked bar, ha, with Coke, various juices, and water, both in avec gaz et sans gaz varieties.

A 3-D photo-exhibition courtesy of my very creative friend, Gloria.

And an array of homemade appetizers!

I don't care what any country says, I will forever love the "odd" combination of pb and jelly.

There was a ton of salads! Some with a base of couscous,

and others definitely more heavy on the vegetables.

But all were absolutely delicious.

Even this simple carrot one.

But especially this Spinach & Strawberry salad, a personal favorite of mine.

Or the pasta salad that my host-sister deemed as the best she'd ever had.

I had about two plates piled high and enjoyed everything so much that I missed out on the main course, ham and a vegetarian lasagna. It worked out fine though since I then had more than enough room for the next few courses.

That of cheese and...

dessert! Oh there were so many yummy things to choose from! I didn't realize that so many of us were such talented bakers. This is my friend's Zucchini bread.

Then there was an Alsatian Tarte aux Pommes that another friend made with her host-mom.

Dense, rich, and chocolicious brownies, of course,

and incredibly delicious simple peanut butter cookies!
A few people did cop-out and buy their dessert from the closest patisserie.

Supposedly these were also very though.

And if not we had a childhood favorite of Rice Krispies treats to fall back on.

But before we could even pass by the dessert table we suffered through a performance... oh. my. gosh. I am so kidding! The music students in my program are unbelievably talented and played a couple of beautiful pieces for our listening enjoyment. I will forever be in awe of them.

And between their playing and the scrumptious desserts, it was all worth the wait. It was such a successful evening. We were able to spend time with our host-families and the host-families of our closest friends in the company of great food. And now, on a ridiculously sentimental note, I'll admit that I did begin to tear up at one part of the night. I just cannot believe that I only have one month remaining in my year-long study abroad experience! It literally blows. my. mind. and I don't know what to do about it. Ugh. In the mean time though I have a great weekend planned, a trip to Nancy, Verdun, and Reims, complete with champagne-tasting. No matter how many days are left, I'm going to live up every last drop of this dream before it becomes a mere memory :).