Monday, March 14, 2005

We had a terrific weekend. Friday night, we went out for some drinks and just talked. It’s always great to reconnect after Chris has been gone a few days. We chatted a lot about our upcoming two week trip to South Africa, which starts tomorrow. Chris had gone for work last summer and loved it and swore if ever had to go again, he’d take me with him. Luckily, an opportunity popped up late last week and he jumped on it. He only has to work six of the fourteen days we’ll be there so I can lounge around the hotel pool or get up to no good on my own, easy for me! The other eight days should be great. We’re trying to organize a safari for two of the days and the other six days will be spent in the Cape Town area, which looks like heaven on earth. The more I read about it, the more excited I am becoming!

On Saturday, we hosted the Fantasy Football Stammtisch, which was really a hoot. Lise and Richard and Cal couldn’t make it leaving just us, Bev and Gary and Planty. Pete came over too as did Jen and Paul and we chatted about sport for awhile before it turned into full scale eating and drinking. I made a curry, a great pork sate and some brownies. Bev made hot cross buns, which were wonderful and we had lots of snacks. Gary brought Henry some treats which was so sweet of him. I was really touched. We watched Southampton get trounced by Manchester United, which didn’t do much to lift Gary’s spirits. He came in wearing full Saints regalia and was throwing articles of clothing on the floor with each goal scored by Man U. Good thing they didn’t get more than four goals or it would have been total nudity for Gary. It was a really fun night.

Yesterday, I just lazed around most of the day. Chris took Henry to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and then went to meet Brian to watch Newcastle beat Tottenham. Liz stopped by for a few minutes and then Jen came over and we had a great chat and went out for some really good sushi around the corner, prompting memories of Sagami at home.

Today, I am meeting this gal Peggy for lunch. I met her through Toytown when she helped me out of a jam getting Henry to the kennel. We hit it off well and I am taking her to lunch to say thanks and to get to know her a little better. I also have to iron and pack. Drudgery!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Snowy Bike Ride, English Garden

Monopteros, English Garden

Bridge in English Garden
Up until today, which is sunny though cold, we seemed to get a new coating of the white stuff every single day, which was great when it was a novelty, but now is just making me feel housebound and isolated. I did force myself out early yesterday morning for a walk though and I am glad I did. I went to the English Garden, my normal summer spot to relax, and enjoyed the still and snowy morning. There were a few people out with their dogs, and one or two folks on their bikes. These Germans do not let the snow stop them at all. They are efficient at cleaning the streets and sidewalks and I have never seen anything here that could even remotely compare to the total confusion that arises in South Jersey when any amount of snow falls.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I am just about at wit's end with the constant shitty weather. I am sick to death of slogging through snow and slush to get anywhere. At home, we usually have one crazy warm day in winter. My mom told me it went to 70 degrees F the other day and snowed the next. We need one of those days!
But there's always tulips to remind you that Spring is just around the corner.

Image hosted by

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Today is International Women’s Day.

Here are a few of the women who inspire me (other than the women in my life who inspire me every day):

Mathilde Krim – tireless AIDS researcher and co-founder of amfAR, a charity aimed at mobilizing public in the area of AIDS research. She took on AIDS earlier on, before it was fashionable and helped rally public awareness.
Image hosted by

Meryl Streep – my favorite actress. She brims with intelligence and wisdom, yet still has a good sense of humor and doesn’t take herself too seriously. I’ve loved her since the first moment I saw her on the screen, in a bit part in the Jane Fonda movie “Julia”, but my very favorite character she played was in “Sophie’s Choice”, in which she was heartbreakingly brilliant.
Image hosted by

Marianne Pearl – French journalist who was married to Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal writer who was kidnapped and murdered by an Islamic group in Pakistan claiming he was a spy. At the time of his murder, Marianne was pregnant with the couple’s first child. She is a Buddhist and an extremely contemplative and serene woman who acted with grace under real pressure. I read an interview with her in which she stated that we need "to embrace the complexity of the world" and to realize that young men in the impoverished world lack the chance to dream and hope. She gets it yet, so many people in power don’t. She’s amazing.
Image hosted by

Jane Austen – who wrote my favorite book of all time “Pride and Prejudice” and from whose circumscribed life arose some of the world’s best and most beloved novels.
Image hosted by

Kirsty MacColl – one of my favorite singers EVER, who died a really sad death in a boating accident in front of her two children. Kirsty, I still listen to your music all the time and mourn your loss.
Image hosted by

Hillary Clinton – people love or hate her. I LOVE her!
Image hosted by

Thai Curry
I absolutely love Thai curries and have made quite a few over the years supplementing the store bought pastes with extra ingredients to add zing. Amazingly, yesterday, for the first time, I decided to make my own paste and I am here to tell you that I am NEVER going to use store bought paste again. The stuff I made was so fresh tasting and pungent and gave a really authentic kick to my curry. Chris and I both lapped it up and will again for lunch!
Thai Chicken Curry with My Own Paste

1/4 cup peanut oil
4 T fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic
3 shallots
3 t ground coriander powder
3 t ground cumin powder
2T ground red pepper flakes
a handful of fresh coriander
a handful of fresh thai basil
zest of 1 lime
4 sticks of lemon grass, heavy outside bits removed
3/4 to 1 lb chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 c Thai fish sauce (good quality, not the cheapeast on the shelf. It makes a difference.)
1 can coconut milk, unsweetened
12 oz. chicken stock
3 or 4 handfuls fresh string beans, trimmed

juice of 1 lime
a hint of brown sugar
black pepper to taste
fresh coriander, chopped, for garnish
fresh thai basil, chopped, for garnish

Place peanut oil, ginger, garlic, shallots, coriander powder, cumin powder, red pepper flakes, fresh coriander, fresh thai basil, lime zest and lemon grass in bowl of small food processor and process on high until a paste forms. Taste and make corrections.
Place a film of peanut oil on the bottom of a large pan and when it is hot, add the paste. Saute until ingredients are letting off a pungent aroma. Add chicken breasts and saute till all of the pink is gone and chicken is looking done. Then add coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce and bring to a simmer. Add fresh string beans, or any other vegetable (when feeding a mob, as I so often do, I add eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, red and green peppers, anything I might have around actually). Taste and add some brown sugar (be careful not to add too much), lime zest and black pepper. Keep tasting until you really like it. I usually kick up the fish sauce a notch and add some more red pepper at this point and perhaps lime juice. Cook until beans are nearly done and then turn off heat. I like to let it sit awhile to allow the flavors to blend.
Serve with basmati rice. While making the rice, reheat the curry, tasting for spice corrections, and add fresh coriander and thai basil at very end for tasty garnish.

Serves 4 - ish.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Yesterday, Jen and I went to the Open Westend festival here In Munich. A bunch of artists in that neighborhood opened their doors to folks coming to see their works. I like that sort of stuff and find it really interesting to see people’s studios as well as their finished stuff and works-in-progress. But in actuality, aside from one or two things, I was unimpressed by most of what I saw, if only because my collecting habit runs towards representational art, which there was very little of yesterday. Still, it was good to see what people are doing, even if I didn’t feel any great burning desire to own anything. Every time I go to First Friday in Philly, I usually fall in love with at least three pieces. The scene in Philly is so different though and more my style. The galleries are larger and seem more professional and there’s a huge and highly visible group of people who are seriously into the arts be it through creating or collecting, which there is no doubt here as well, just not as visible to me.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Chris and I are having a blast playing fantasy football with Planty, Gary and Bev, Cal, and Lise and Richard. Chris is currently in first, followed by Planty who leads me by a very slim margin. The rest of the pack is a bit further behind us. We even do things like have a football stammtisch every so often to discuss our league. It's so ridiculous, but a ton of fun. Gary Jones is so obsessed that he's made up this "queer little book" with everyone's stats. Honestly, it's so silly. But I’m thrilled because I’m a novice to this sport and am doing quite well. But most of that is due to my star player, Thierry Henry, who scored 3 goals today against Portsmouth giving me another 9 points! I really like watching Henry. He’s so agile and exciting on the field. And he has the cutest car commercial ever! I love him….Don’t tell Chris how much.

Thierry Henry, Star of my Fantasy League Team

Climbing Rose
I've spent quite a bit of the day looking at gardening resources on the internet. I can't wait to get planting. I want a good kitchen garden with all the herbs I use in cooking, namely rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, basil, thai basil, coriander, oregano, tarragon and lemongrass, if at all possible. I also want to put in some good plum tomatoes, a few different sorts of lettuce and some zucchini and eggplants.
I also have a ton of ideas for my perennial garden. I really like the idea of going with one color in many hues. I love yellow and have always planted things such as rudbeckia, coreopsis, echinacea and heliopsis. I've never been the sort of person who would be interested in growing traditional rose bushes, although I think they are stunning. However, I am very interested in a climbing rose like the one my friend Andy Johnson has growing on the side of his beautiful house.
It's so much fun to get out in the garden and start digging, planting and weeding. I love it so much and I really can't wait to get started on a garden in our new home. Luckily, I have several friends who are amazing gardeners and upon whose input I will rely heavily. It really is satisfying to grow things. Yippee!



Black Eyed Susan

Friday, March 04, 2005

One of the coolest things about blogging is when folks take the time to comment on what you've written. I've started friendships with several people who have commented on my blog as well as several on whose blogs I have commented. Very often you have a common interest such as books, cooking or knitting so you start off immediately with something to natter on about. Mia is an American gal, also living in Germany (soon to be in Munich!!!) and we have been reading each others blogs and writing e-mails back and forth. She loves to cook and two days ago I got this recipe off her blog, Nosh and boy was it incredible. Thanks Mia! P.S. I saw her picture on her blog and she is beautiful, looks like one a Botticelli...jealous!
Leek and Potato Tart


For the pastry:1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour;
1/2 tsp. salt;
10 Tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces;
2 Tbs. ice water, plus more as needed

For the filling:
2 leeks, sliced;
4 shallots, sliced;
1 yellow pepper, diced;
1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary;
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste;
2 medium potatoes, parboiled for 7 to 10 minutes, cooled and cut crosswise into slices 1/8 inch thick ;
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 1/2 cup heavy cream;
3 Tbs. olive oil;
1/4 cup grated parmesan + a bit extra to sprinkle on top;
A handful of chopped dill


To make the pastry, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough attachment, combine the flour and salt and beat on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the butter and continue beating until pea-size crumbs form, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the water 1 Tbs. at a time and continue beating, adding more water as needed, until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press together to form a 5-inch disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness to fit a 9 1/2 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the pan and trim the dough. Fold in the excess dough and press it into the sides so they are thicker than the bottom. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.

To make the filling, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Add the onions and rosemary and sauté, stirring, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the potato and yellow pepper. Cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in the egg mixture and the parmesan until blended.

Brush the pastry with the olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of parmesan and dill. Pour in the filling. Bake until the crust is golden and crisp, about 1 hour. The crust will have pulled away from the sides. Transfer the tart to a wire rack and cool for at least 10 minutes.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

After a bit of a lull, things are beginning to progress on the moving to the States front. I’m very conflicted about it missing my family and friends very much yet having made some really truly nice friendships this past year. That’s why our birthday celebration at Tattenbach was so special. A nice group of folks came along for the fun, most for Chris who people really love. It was great. I don’t know how I am going to say goodbye to people like Lise and Richard, Bev and Gary, Brian, and especially Jen and Paul, my friends from home, who introduced us. I have become so much closer to Jen this past year and feel that we have made a bond that can’t and won’t ever be broken. I am so hoping that they follow us back…..(Paul, I’m sorry, I know you want to stay, but I’m being selfish here!)

Richard and Planty, my birthday

Brian, my birthday

Joanna, my birthday

Gary and Bev, my birthday

Jen and Paul, my birthday
It’s good to have my little shadow, Henry, back home. We picked him up on Tuesday morning and he was thrilled to see us, which made me happy as last time he seemed indifferent and actually cried as we drove away from the kennel! I don’t know what I would have done this past year without him. He’s been great company for me during some very long and isolating days.

Back from Egypt and still reeling from the whole experience. It was, without a doubt, the best trip of my entire life and Chris agrees. From the first glimpse of the Pyramids, which made both of us literally gasp with awe, to Abu Simbel, which is Ramses II amazing temple on Lake Nasser, to the Nile itself, where farming is done in quite the same manner as it has been for thousands of years, to Cairo, with its overwhelming chaos and dirty beauty, we were bowled over. It isn’t to be described. You just have to get in there and go with it. It was sensory overload for the first few days we were in Cairo. The streets are congested with people (population 17 or 18 million) and cars and busses as well as donkeys, horses, goats and camels. It pulses with life and energy. The prayer call sounds are so beautiful and haunting. And the people were wonderful and genuinely friendly and fun, a real pleasure. The best I have met, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME. We thought we were going to be a part of a small group, but were thrilled to find that we had our own guide, a really charming young guy named Hamden, a graduate in Egyptian studies from the University of Cairo, and overflowing with information and infectious enthusiasm. He really enhanced our trip with his endless knowledge and charming anecdotes. A truly great way to see Egypt - with a native Cairene, who loves his country and its history and culture. We were lucky! I have always been fascinated with Islam and we had some great talks. He seemed to be pleased that I knew a good bit more about it than his usual clients. It was a good give and take amongst the three of us.
If you ever get the chance, GO!

Kom Ombu, Night

Minarets, Cairo

Pyramids, Giza

Valley of the Kings, Luxor

Hatshepsut Temple, Luxor

Abu Simbel

Nile Cruise, Aswan