Saturday, January 31, 2009

His most beautiful feature

This is a post just to say that I have a phenomenally humongous crush on my husband. Yes, the hug 'n kiss, hug 'n kiss some more type.

I'm not usually one to notice facial features, but Marcos has gorgeous wrinkles at the corners of his eyes when he smiles . If I'm excited by wrinkles now, imagine how aging together will be. YES!!!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dear Body...

Dear Body,

I have some bad news. I went to Target today, and swimming suits are already on display. I know, I know, you're not ready for that season yet. I saw how much you enjoyed the holidays, and I respect that, I really do. I just think it might be good if we, you know, start to exercise. They just don't make swimsuits these days like they used to...



Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It was all sort of a spontaneous blur, but today we signed a lease! We actually intended to simply check out different local apartment options in Chapel Hill and scope out the possibilities, but anybody can do things the rational way. We will be moving an entire three-minute drive down the road, so get excited.

Our current lease is up at the end of July, so there's no immediate move on the horizon, but our new apartment is definitely something to look forward to when the ants here start to eat our crackers at the beginning of the summer. We have been happy with our current little home, but the managing company is a royal pain and we are ready for a bit more space. The new place has a fireplace, two bedrooms (the master bedroom is very spacious and has a massive walk-in closet) and two bathrooms, a good-sized kitchen and its own washer and dryer. I know that for most of you that seems pretty basic, but for us that is palatial. My only question now is: how will we fill it?

Luckily, we have six months to fit in a trip to Ikea.

For those of you living in the Chapel Hill area who are considering a move at the end of the summer, come live with us at Shadowoods! One of the clinchers for us was that there is currently an incredible move-in deal, and we will be paying $200 less than the going rate for every month of the one-year contract (almost $2,500 savings). I think that the deal is up in a few days, but please give us a call if you want more info. I'm so tempted to put the price here because it is so good, but I'm constrained by my internal tackiness censor...

So, maybe not the dream house yet, but we're making progress! Here's a picture of the pool area, just because I like the tiers:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Redemption Song

To redeem myself from the last cake fiasco, I set about to use up my bucket of ganache by trying out a new recipe, bittersweet chocolate and pear cake, from Smitten Kitchen, a foodie blog I am starting to love. How did Deb know that my heart sings with these two lovebirds meet?

Maybe you don't believe this, but I adore the combination of pear and chocolate so much that I swayed a professional cake baker to experiment with the lovebirds as a potential batter for our wedding cake. Sadly, the basic batter she used was an intense chocolate chocolate chip ditty, which overpowered the pear and didn't make it worth the extra cost in the end. But ah well, the perfect recipe has flocked home at last. This time? The batter is made with browned butter and eggs whipped to oblivion, with all of the other ingredients of a light, yellow cake batter, so the pears and the chocolate have space to leave their flavorprints.

Changes to the recipe: I used ganache instead of the chocolate chunks, so the batter took on a marbleized appearance on top where the soft chocolate fell through the batter as the cake was rising. It tasted amazing. Also, I found that three pears were a bit much for the recipe. I cut up all of them, but only used about two.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Documentary

I was thinking today about documentaries, and a question came to mind: If somebody made a documentary about my life, what would it be about, and what slant would they take? What would the title be? What would make it educational and worth watching for anybody but myself and my close friends and family?

What would you name your own documentary?

Locale Highlight: Guglhupf Bakery & Patisserie

Although I am no connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, I am always on the lookout for local eateries with atmosphere. Food just tastes better when the presentation is beautiful and the surroundings are pleasant.

Today I re-scoped out a Bakery and Cafe in Durham called Guglhupf, which means "bundt cake" in German. After my in-home parenting therapy sessions, I have taken to doing my paper work at Guglhupf as often as possible, to beat the alternative of sitting at the ice-age computer in my window-less office. To tell you the truth, it's such a unique, stylish place that I feel classy just walking through the doors.

Guglhupf has two parts: one is a small bakery which sells the most beautiful, genuine, hearty, fragrant German-ish loaves of bread you've ever experienced, and the other part is a cafe. The cafe is very uniquely decorated, and shows off walls of eye-candy art and local funkiness. Unfortunately, the very few things I've eaten there have been only an 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, but there are so many other gripping factors...

Such as the desserts... internet access...

...and the decor.

P.S. Exciting News! This post was my 100th post!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Let it Mildew

I just changed the piece on the right "about the authors" because I felt like the old paragraph was getting stale and I no longer liked it. I asked Marcos to come read the new blurb and tell me if he thought was funny, or just weird. He made a face and said, "Well, just leave it. We'll let it mildew for a bit", and he walked away.

I guess he meant "simmer", or "settle" or "sit"? But "mildew"....

I once asked him if I could make a running list on the blog of all of the funny things he says, much like parents make lists of the funny things their kids say. He said no. Bummer.

SnObama Day!

Tuesday was a day of many "firsts" here in the exotic state of North Carolina. It was the day of the Presidential Inauguration of the first black African American President of the United States, and the first time in years that our state received more than four inches of snow during the winter. In order to celebrate both exciting events in one clever title, North Carolinians have dubbed the historical day "SnObama Day".

It might has well have been an arctic blizzard out there, for the response from the Chapel Hill community. I woke up, got ready and caught the bus into school for my class, which was attended by a whopping six students. There was barely a car on the road. It was absolutely fabulous: quiet and snowy, and beautiful. Our class was intimate, engaging and short, as we were dismissed early to head to the auditorium to watch the Inauguration ceremonies. Marcos met me at my building so that we could watch the event together, and I sat sandwiched between my Brazilian husband and my friend Darshan, who is a Rotary World Peace Fellow from India, and his Rotary-World-Peace Fellow-friend Paulo, who is from Italy. Me and the UN on one row.

If my experience with the UN there on the bench was anything like the party world-over, then it was one heck of a day! Darshan nearly cried at the swearing in of the President, and kept yelling, "I love you Obama!" every time he came on the screen. Although the entire auditorium was hollering, there was nobody louder than my friends from India and Italy, who are princes of peace in their own right, and more than ready for a change...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Baking Party: Donauwelle!

A friend of mine with a popular foodie blog posted an invitation last week to join her in an Inaugural Baking Party from home, and wanting to do something fun to celebrate President Barack Obama, I signed up to join the baking festivities.

Did I mention that I lack all baking skills? No really, there's no modesty here, I really am just awful at baking.

But being the type of person who dislikes not following through with commitments, I racked my brain for days trying to find the perfect baking idea. I looked at dozens of "Obama" cakes online, and leaned towards making a simple yummy round cake and decorating it with a flare.

That's where I should have stopped searching.

But then yesterday a new idea came to me, like a word out of thin air: "Donauwelle". As a high school exchange student in Germany, I once ate a slice of Donauwelle cake, and the memory of its deliciousness to this day has not left me. As of yesterday I couldn't even remember what type of cake it was, but I remembered one thing: that it had changed my life.

Luckily, my computer genius husband had trained me well, so I immediately sat down and asked Google some questions: what is Donauwelle, and what are the ingredients? Google was more than happy to respond, but there was unfortunate news: Apparently I was the first American to ever wonder how to make the Donauwelle cake. (Correction, there was one recipe listed in American English, but I grieved when I read it because it reminded me how unsophisticated we are sometimes, particularly in the global baking sphere. The entire sacred recipe was dumbed down, and revolved around opening mixes, making them according to the three-step ingredients on the box, layer it with a can of already prepared such and such, and then voila!). But griping aside, after reading through the few German and British recipes available, and thinking that I could probably take the parts I liked from each, I determined to try baking Donauwelle.

This is what the Donauwelle is supposed to look like.
Mine does not look like this.

Donauwelle ("doh-nau-ve-la") means "Danube wave" in German, and like the waves of the Danube river, there is a wave in the cake of vanilla and chocolate batter, which are layered and then marbleized a bit to give a gorgeous cross-section. Typically, the two layers of cake are dotted with tart cherries, baked, and then covered with a vanilla cream layer, and then a chocolate ganache layer.

To cut to the chase, I totally bombed this recipe. Okay, maybe not totally, but there is definitely a point in the baking process after which I will no longer include any photos. Let me start as if everything went fine...


Batter: (I had to translate this recipe, and so the ingredient amounts are somewhat approximate, because they were originally written in grams, etc.)

1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
6 eggs
2 1/2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
3 Tablespoons of high quality cocoa powder
1 can tart cherries, drained

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs. In a separate bowl stir together the flour and baking powder, and fold into the wet mixture. Spread one half of the batter onto a well-greased cookie pan (traditionally this cake is not baked in a cake pan, but it is possible to make in a pan with sides). The batter should be somewhat thicker than usual cake batter. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining half of the batter, and spread the chocolate layer on top of the vanilla. Run a spatula or kitchen tool vertically through the cake in figure eights to create a marbled effect. Place tart cherries on top of the batter in rows approximately one inch away from each other. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool.

The next layer was the vanilla cream goodness. I quickly discovered that even though I thought my friends in Britain and I were using the same ingredients (I followed a British recipe for the vanilla cream), we weren't. It was mildly catastrophic.


The final layer of the Donauwelle is a chocolate ganache, which I only partly ruined. I used a (very) large amount of heavy cream for the recipe, and had to scrounge around the house looking for more chocolate to toss in, so that the tendency would be thick enough to set nicely. It is amazingly delicious, but I am stuck now with the need to bake again, in order to use up the other quart of it.

So, if you are brave enough to try this recipe, I would suggest starting with the batter recipe I've provided, and then search online or in trusted cookbooks for a vanilla cream, or even a pudding-ish type dessert, to layer on top of the cake (one of the German recipes called for lemon juice and zest in the vanilla layer, if that sounds yummy to you). The final step is to locate a ganache recipe you adore, and spread the chocolate on top of the cake.

P.S. My favorite part of the entire baking fiasco? The tart Oregon cherries, which I discovered are delicious! In the grocery store I stared at the can sitting on the shelf for a solid minute before braving the purchase, which rang in at $3.75 for ONE CAN! Ah, the price of paradise...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Saving money... one creative thought at a time.

On Friday night we had a chance to take care of the Whittier's boy Korven for a few hours so that his parents could go out for a birthday date night.

Korven is the absolute poster child for anyone deciding whether or not to have children; he's happy, curious, calm and is totally okay being passed off to other people. Did I mention he was curious? Whenever either of us were in the kitchen preparing dinner, he was unsatisfied being held with his belly against our body, and kept twisting around so that he could see everything that was going on. If he wasn't being held facing out, he wasn't satisfied, but that was very tiring for the arm after a while. This was the position he settled on:

After a few minutes of juggling the boy, Marcos disappeared for a few minutes and emerged with a sturdy scarf. He tied each end around Korven's legs, and hung it over his neck, like so.

Korven was so content being suspended by his chubby little legs. Although I wouldn't try to patent this form of carrier - there are some obvious safety concerns with the rough model - it just makes me think about how much money can be saved through a little creativity...

Muito Obrigada!

The purpose of this post is to say thank you to our family who did so much for us this holiday season! We were able to escape to winter bliss for nearly four weeks because of your generosity, flexibility, kindness, hospitality, patience and love.

The Prietos: Belle, Kaitlyn, Mae, Pai, Marie and Danny

The GibsonFetzerMaero clan (left to right, back to front): Jacqueline, Jodi, Steven, Keli'i, Linds, Amanda, Lilli, Noa, Malia, Maika, Carol and Dan.

MTC you later!

A few posts ago, I introduced Amanda, who is off to serve a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints in Rome, Italy. Here are the few remaining pictures I wanted to post. They were taken at the MTC on the day we said good-bye!

I was so tempted to run out of this door before anyone noticed. I loved the MTC...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Getting over Guys (and Gals): 101

I promised a friend that I would do an entry on healing from break-ups. Driving on the way home from work yesterday I balanced a clipboard and a piece of scratch paper on my lap, and made a list of a few "dos" and "don'ts" of how to move on from a relationship gracefully. And this is what I came up with.

In my experience, the equation for getting over ex-guys (and gals) has been fairly simple:

distance + time = no more pain.

However, this next piece is for those who are looking for some immediate ideas. I wish I could say that I had some research backing me up here, but no. I'm really just running purely on women's intuition, and a bit of experience.

Getting over Guys and Gals: 101

  • eat chocolate (as if I even had to write that one...).
  • breathe.... click here to review my previous entry on Square Breathing. It helps me immensely when I need to calm down, or fight off feelings of panic.
  • watch movies. I always find that good movies can transport me for a few hours into a different world, which can sometimes feel really good when the current world seems disappointing. DISCLAIMER: When watching movies, if you don't want to cry, choose comedies, animated flicks, action movies, etc. There's a tendency with romantic movies to apply your current love life to the movie scene, even if it's a wild stretch, just because that is where your mind is. (Illustration: I dated a guy a few years back who confessed that he had once cried during Legally Blond. When I asked him why he had cried? Bingo! It had been during an emotional time in his life...).
  • run, run, RUN! Move your body. Shake/kickbox/run/wiggle off some of your hurt inside. Relax your jaw, and your bruised-feeling heart and soul. Exercising will also send some endorphins to the brain, which will help to kick the sad feelings.
  • reframe. Reframing is sometimes the only difference between the current you and happy you. For example, instead of thinking, "What a jerk! He has a real issue with commitment!", try to reframe that into, "Wow, I feel really sorry for him. He's going to take that commitment problem with him his entire life, and that's really going to hold him back from some incredible opportunities". Another reason for reframe? In my experience, bodies and hearts can function better when they are feeling pity, than when they are feeling hurt or anger. Those two emotions are very exhausting.
  • throw away/burn/tear up all belongings and gifts. DISCLAIMER: this one is tricky because it requires a bit of assessment before the box of letters goes into the bonfire or the jewelry gets thrown off the bridge. The assessment piece is this: ask yourself "was I really dating a full-on jerk, or did our relationship end because the timing wasn't right, or we weren't well suited for each other?". If the answer is the former, go ahead and chuck the letters in the fire, and enjoy it! If the answer is the latter, quickly put everything into a box, hide it at the back of your closet, and save it for a day a few years down the road when you are in a new wonderful relationship and you are emotionally distant from this one enough to enjoy the memories of a friend from your past. I add this disclaimer because I have tossed things in the garbage that years later I wish I still had...
  • let your friends take you out. At the end of the day, yes, you are alone again, but a healthy distraction never killed anyone, and well-socialized people are healthier than hermits.
  • try something new. Then, when people ask how you're doing, instead of saying, "Well, I'm depressed and getting over an ex..." you can divert the response to your new endeavor: "Well, I just attended my first ever vegan cooking class/sniper shooting workshop/audition for a Disney character, and it was a hoot!". How's that for a conversation starter?
  • date the ex's friends, just to get back at them. I know, I know, it's tempting, but resist.
  • go broke trying to heal your pain. Fact: retail therapy just really hits the head on the nail sometimes, but do yourself a huge favor and splurge at a thrift store, or the dollar store. There is no sense in adding financial problems to your list of things to overcome.
  • get stuck thinking that this person was the last person you will ever love and that nobody will ever come along who will make you as happy... When your mother and your best friend and your sister-in-law tell you that he didn't deserve you anyway, and that there are other, bigger fish in the sea, despite the comment not being helpful in the moment, they are absolutely right!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back to the grind...

I was just sitting here listening to some classic Billy Joel, and realized that I have not said anything about making it safely back to North Carolina at the beginning of this week. Not that I need to give a minute to minute update of my location, but subsequent entries will probably make more sense if you know that I'm back in North Carolina. After settling in at about 3am Tuesday morning, I woke up for my 9am class and it's been one tired hour after another since then. *yawn*.

Amanda's last night on the town...

Meet Amanda. She is my best friend Lindsay's little sister, and by extension, my little sister as well. While in Utah last week, we had the excitement/joy/heartache of being with her family the last few days before she entered the Provo Missionary Training Center in preparation for year and a half in the Italy, Rome mission. Of all of the cool places to serve...

So to celebrate Amanda's last night before entering the MTC, we ate out on the town with the closest of her family and friends...

...Dad Steven, who came from Kailua, Hawaii with his wife Jodi to see Amanda off...

...Shannon and Logan, two of Amanda's best friends...

...Noa and Malia, Linds and Keli'i's youngest monkeys...

...Linds (my best friend) and her husband Keli'i...

...Amanda and Lind's mom Carol and husband Dan...

...and some strangers.

"Dear Aroma of Sesame Oil..."

Dear Aroma of Sesame Oil in a Hot Pan,

Tonight you visited as I was sautéing tofu with garlic. I think I love you. Please visit again soon.



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Celebrating the Inauguration...

On Tuesday, the UNC School of Social Work will be in full swing, celebrating the inauguration of President Elect Barack Obama. The auditorium will be open to everyone at 10:30 am, and the events will be projected onto the massive screen. I have friends who are going to Washington D.C. for the event, and although that sounds much more exciting, Marcos and I will just have to enjoy the big screen and cake afterwards... what a perfect day!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Men are from Mars...

Last night I had the singularly superb experience of being in the apartment of six college males, while Marcos conversed with one of the said males for hours into the night. After I had perused the one available magazine four times cover to cover, I resorted to eavesdropping on the other male conversations happening in the room.

What do a bunch of single guys really talk about when the ladies aren't around? The majority of the conversation was about women, which naturally piqued my interest. My favorite comment of the evening was, and I quote: "Dude, this movie is THE PERFECT date movie. If you told a girl she was fat at the beginning of the date and then showed her this movie, she'd still love you".

News flash from Venus: there are no movies that good.

Tokyo no Tomodachi

One of the great things about having been a missionary (and there are many) is that we have gained so many friends for life. The fact that both Marcos and I served in the same mission (Japan, Tokyo North) gives us the advantage of having a lot of the same friends, making impromptu mini-reunions fun for both of us.

Earlier this week we had a date with a few mission buddies, and per Chris' suggestion, went to an exhibition of Japanese block prints at the BYU Museum of Art. Think geisha, snowy landscapes, or my favorite:

Hokusai's print of a wave, as part of the "36 views of Mt. Fuji" series. Gorgeous, isn't it? Below are some photos of our friends. Immediately below are Ronald Christensen, Collin Clifford, me, Marcos and Chris Cutler. The occasion demanded that we connect with our Japanese roots and do a peace sign, although I have to admit we do it with much less gusto than we did in Japan.