Monday, August 26, 2013

Parties, shopping and a visit to the Harley Davidson dealership

This weekend was a lot of fun and so, so busy! Friday night, Max, Leony and I went to a cookout hosted by the host family of the other German exchange student in Alexandria. We met so many good people and the Tomato Tart was a hit. And Max had his first "Dad Moment" giving Leony some money to get ice cream when all the teenagers decided to walk over to The Dairy Godmother after dinner.

Saturday there was a huge block party at our house with music, a bouncy house, a (planned) visit from the local fire truck, tons of food and beverages, and, after dark, a movie projected on a sheet. So much fun! We were out there from 1pm until 11pm (though I did take a nap from 5-7). One of my coworkers came for a few hours and brought her teenage daughter and two of her friends to meet Leony. They go to a different school but I think Leony had fun talking with them and they exchanged info so that's a good sign. :)

Yesterday we went to the West End Farmers Market to get some fresh, local produce. Max and Leony also had a sausage biscuit for breakfast. Plus we bought some cookies from Great Harvest.

When we got home, Leony and I put together our new couch from IKEA. Didn't need Max's help at all! :D Then we went to Pentagon City Mall. Leony definitely had fun shopping at Macy's. Check out my new dress:

Then we went to the Harley Davidson dealership. Max and I have a friend who works there who gave us a
tour of the whole place. Leony picked out some cool HD stuff and had her picture taken sitting on our friend's bike. She was so happy! :)

A very good weekend.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

One week with our exchange student

As of last night, one week has passed already! It has been going well so far and I think we are all enjoying it. Leony is helpful and easy going. She does chores and volunteers to help out even more. She's not a picky eater and she has a small appetite so feeding her has not been difficult. She seems fine spending time on her own while I am at work and equally happy to be around lots of people. She is great with our cats. Momo and Erin are LOVING all the extra attention. :)

On Sunday we baked cookies and made a peach pie for my neighbor recovering from surgery.


Last night we made the pastry shell for the Heirloom Tomato Tart we are making for the cookout on Friday with the other exchange student family. I'm having fun explaining things to her and teaching her stuff. She's excited to be involved and learn. 

Her English is very good. Yesterday she took a test as part of the registration for school and she scored a 4.6 out of 6. I was so impressed!

There are quite a few students in her program who do not yet have host families. If you are interested, please check the International Experience website.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to take a TB test in Alexandria, Virginia

Bring with you:
- photo ID
- immunization records
- $22.39

1) Arrive early and be there when the office opens. Leony and I were there 15 minutes before it was open.

2) Get a letter. This is your place in line. We were "B."

3) Fill out a form. Give the form to the clinic staff, keep the letter.

4) Wait for them to call your letter. This could take awhile. They do not necessarily call you in alphabetical order. I guess it depends on what your form says.

5) Once you are called by one of the staff, you will follow them back to their office. They will copy the information from the form you filled out to another form that they must fill out. Then they will ask you many questions. How you answer depends on how long this step takes. When all the questions have been answered and all the forms have been filled out, the person getting the test will sign twice.

6) Then you go back to the waiting room and wait.

7) Eventually they will call your last name. They will give you something to take outside the clinic to the main desk and pay $22.39. If there is someone available to take your money then this step is quick. Otherwise, not so much.

8) Once you've paid, you bring it back to the clinic and they will either have you take the test or, like Leony, give you a form saying you are a low risk and do not need to take a test. Then you're done!

Expect to be there for at least an hour. Longer is more likely.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My first "Mom Moment"

Tonight there was a pizza/pool party for one of the other exchange students going to Leony's school and his host family invited her to come and meet him and some other kids that will be going to the same school. I knew that the host Mom was out of town but I thought I would meet the host Dad there. Instead when we showed up there was a bunch of teenagers chowing down on pizza but no adults. When I asked where the host Dad was, the other exchange student said he was gone. This took me a minute to compute. I thought he would be there with the two other children and that I would hang out with him while the kids got to know each other. Nope. Okay. Not knowing what else to do (because it would be super weird if I had stayed), I told Leony I would pick her up at the end of the party.


Had to call Max immediately and tell him. He laughed and called me Mom. Ha ha, guess I am!

Monday, August 19, 2013

First impressions of our exchange student

So far Max and I are really enjoying having Leony stay with us. She has been polite and helpful, cheerful and excited. Her English is pretty good and aside from a few words here and there, we have not had any trouble communicating with her. Max and I have enjoyed showing her around and introducing her to the different aspects of American culture.

Friday we went to Whole Foods and she was really glad to see all the fresh produce. One of the American stereotypes she had was that it was very difficult to get fresh fruits and vegetables. For lunch we went to Red Rocks in Alexandria. Delicious pizza! We also went to visit the two Little Free Libraries in Del Ray, which she thought was really cute.


She also got her pass to our community's pool and fitness center for the year. Every step she seems so excited. That night we watched Remember the Titans.

Saturday we went to Potomac Mills for some shopping, had lunch at Silver Diner, a little shopping at IKEA (which she said it very similar to the one in Germany) and then to Costco. That was fun! :)

She's handling the jetlag well and I think she'll be fine by the end of the week. Tomorrow she'll be meeting another German exchange student going to her high school as well as some of the other students that go there. We also have plans for Friday for more of the same. And Saturday there's a big block party where she will finally meet all of our neighbors.

It's a really good start!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Host parent for a year

Wednesday night, I became a host Mom for a 15 year old German girl. Yesterday was Leony's first full day in the US. We went to the Smithsonian Zoo for my company's picnic. She met a bunch of people from my office. For dinner we had tomato salad, roasted potatoes and grilled sausage for Max and Leony. Today I had the day off so we went to Whole Foods for their avocado sale ($1 each!) then to Red Rocks for lunch. Delish! Awesome pizza. Afterwards we went to Home Deport to get a house key for her. Then I took her to visit the two Little Free Libraries in Del Ray. Before dinner I helped her setup a blog. You can read it here: USA Exchange Year.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Riviera in Riga, Latvia

Max and I went to Latvia to visit some friends we haven't seen in two years and we LOVED it. The people are wonderful, everything is so reasonably priced and affordable, and the food is great! Our friends took us to Riviera in Riga, which was amazing.

served with Prosciutto Parma, Arugula, grilled peppers, olives, pine nuts and olive oil-lemon sauce

Puff pastry  La Buche goat cheese tart 
with fig, peach jam and lettuce salad

Chanterelles Risotto
with parmigiano reggiano, gorgonzola, roasted parma ham and dill

Chanterelles Cream Soup
with chanterelles fried in truffle oil and garlic - herb crostini

Barbary duck breast
served with sugar pea mash, caramelized fruit and blackcurrant liqueur sauce

Hot chocolate fondant 
with home made tonka bohne ice cream and berry sauce

Seasonal berries
with whipped Mascarpone cheese and Valrhon chocolate





Saturday, August 03, 2013

Thursday, August 01, 2013


The first time Max and I went to Paris was in highschool before we met. The second time was for our honey moon.

Here are some more pictures from our most recent trip.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Back into the swing of things

With a two week trip to Paris and Latvia coming up and a 15-year old German exchange student arriving less than two weeks after we get back, I should have lots to blog about for the next little while. Please let me know if I still have any readers out there by leaving me a comment on this post. Thanks!!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Help Build a Little Free Library

Please support this project: [copied and pasted from their page]

Free Library for Kids, Teens, and Adults with little park

We'll provide free printed books, benefiting education and reading skills for all ages. 

Free Libraries will promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide. To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.

We will build several free library parks. That means we will set not only the book box, but also a whole reading environment around the box, such as a garden and a bench, allowing people to read a book in loco.

The project will supply several kind of books for free exchange. A person can also just take the book home, and bring it back again, instead of exchanging it for another. Of course, some people will just take books and not replace them, so we'll be prepared to fill the gap with new books.

The free libraries will be set in some places around Bristol TN/VA. Each spot will be announced on the newspaper. The project will install and do maintenance on the book box, garden, and the little park in general, as well as administrate the books supplies.

The value we are starting the project provides for one spot, and maintenance for 1 year. Every time we reach the same value will allow us to install the project in a new place.

For the initial spot for the next "Little Free Library" we have partnered up with a Child Care Facility that is located on the main highway going through the heart of Blountville, TN. All About Kids Early Learning has agreed to provide adequate road front space at their location.

Pricing Details: 

$ 350.00 - Book box
$ 250.00 - Landscaping (brick pathway, bushes, mulch, flowers)
$ 150.00 - Long Bench (park style, metal)
$ 200.00 - Initial Books
$ 100.00 - Year maintenance
$ 100.00 - Honor Plaque to main supporter
$ 100.00 - Bricks with names of supporters
$ 150.00 - Newspaper and Inauguration Party
$ 1400.00 Total

Risks and challenges 

We will need to work on the community consciousness to improve their reading experiences, as well as to develop a sense of responsibility in order to really take the books back or exchange them, rather than just taking it home. But, we are glad to realized our community already has a strong sense of group, and we expect not to have any major issues in this project.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

How to Celebrate 35

1) Mani-pedi

2) NKTOB concert

3) 90 minute massage

4) Dinner with friends

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Little Free Library Film Festival

Create your video. Then, upload it to YouTube. From YouTube, you can share your video on Pinterest. Be sure to use the #LFLFF hashtag in the description of your pin! 

How To Win 
Once your entry has been added to the Film Festival board on Pinterest, invite all your friends and family to like and repin your video! Winners will be chosen by the public based on the number of YouTube likes, plus the number of Pinterest repins. Entries must be received by June 21st and voting will end on June 28th. 

Videos must be uploaded to Pinterest and YouTube using the #LFLFF hashtag by July 21, 2013.
Minimum Length: 2 minutes. 
Maximum Length: 5 minutes. 
Must include in the video "For more information about Little Free Library, visit" (images are available for your use on Pinterest). 
Video must be G rated. 
Video must be uploaded to YouTube and open to the public. 
Voting will end on July 28, 2013
Winners will be announced on July 29, 2013. 


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Anne Seiwert

When I was 15 or 16, I spent the summer in France on an exchange program with the Seiwert family. My French was not great but I got along so well with their daughter Anne. We had a wonderful time together. When I returned, we wrote back and forth to each other from time to time but as my French deteriorated it become more difficult to keep it up. All that before the internet. I've tried looking for her online but I think she must have gotten married and changed her name. Today I finally thought to look up her brother and it seems that he is still living in the same house! 12 Rue Bossuet, 57000 Metz, France. I'm going to try sending off a letter in the hopes that I can reconnect with Anne... who knows, stranger things have happened.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

#LittleFreeLibrary on Instagram

There are actually 800 photos, these are just the most recent 60 photos on Instagram tagged with #littlefreelibrary:

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Little Free Library

This week I was on Facebook and learned about the Little Free Library, a network of thousands little libraries in communities around the world as small as a mailbox or as large as a phone booth. Each one is stewarded by an individual or family but seem to be adopted by the entire neighborhood, community or town. The idea is utterly amazing.

I have yet to see one in person but I created a Little Free Library list on Foursquare. Let me know if I missed any!

There are tons of pictures on Pinterest as well. They're so cute!

I also created a Little Free Library playlist on YouTube. It includes the video above plus many, many others!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I wrote a short story

Home Again

The future was finally here. At 80 years old, we finally had transporters - something I'd been dreaming about and hoping for ever since I was a girl. But only for inanimates. So the post office was making hand over fist whizzing letters and packages to the destinations on the same day they were dropped off and I  could send my luggage to Latvia ahead of me if I wanted, but getting there was still a hassle.

Luckily, the future, for the most part, was more of the same and none of the distopian dread that was in all the movies when I was in my thirties. The polar ice caps hadn't melted to drown all of Hawaii, in fact there was a new island that you could take a boat out to and have a "Deserted Island" picnic. But gasoline prices continued to climb at the same steady rate so that what was once considered "Inconceivable!" five years ago was "Woo hoo!" last week because it was lower than if I had filled up on the way home today. My younger friends in their fifties think it's just because I'm old that I'm not all up in arms about it but the truth is, the outside finally matches the inside that I've been feeling, on and off, since I was in my thirties. Who knew I'd be around this long? I was always so sure that my death clock had been right all those years, not that I had bothered to check it for the past ten years, but that 76 was it for me. And I was okay with that. But I'm okay with this too.

Sure there have been changes, but there always has been. And looking back, they have always come about pretty gradually. At least that's how it looks now. At the time, even now I guess, each bright, shiny new thing was amazing, better than anything and everything that had come before it!! Until the next thing took stage and was all over the news. I took comfort in that honestly. Like the keycode to get in my house, one minute it's 046 295 and by the time I make it out of my car and up to the front door it will be 535 330. No big deal. You knew it was going to be something different every time you looked. Now it's 242 245. Boring, banal. But still exciting to the kids next door who clamor to be the ones to enter in the numbers. Because even as things change, some things are universal. Something about pressing buttons that kids love. And blowing bubbles, playing with the box that something came in, and farting noises. Some things are the same now as when I was a child myself. Whenever that was.

What's the point of all this rambling? Just that, as much as life can seem so unexpected, your cat will still meow from downstairs like she's wondering where you are even though she was just in the kitchen with you five minutes ago and you haven't moved, she did. And for all the horrors that show up in the news, it's nothing like the super mutant "killer bug" that was in that movie that wiped out all those people, except the one guy who could save the world, if there was anyone else, except that there was and it was some small group of people in Connecticut or something. It just meant that every winter, I still had to get a flu shot. And at least now that I was over 76, it was free. So the little things are still exciting, like getting to be the first one at the stop light, and some things are still annoying, like having to go pee after driving down the road five minutes because you didn't go before you left because you didn't have to go then and yes, at 80, I guess I can still be a child.

You laugh, but I'm pretty sure that was you last week, or maybe it wasn't but you know it's true. Some things change, others don't. And it's never going to be as bad as "they" thought it was going to be - or fixed because we finally found the ultimate end all and be all silver bullet. Which is fine. And now the code is 335 879.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

One path to happiness is to help others

“Each of us can look back upon someone who made a great difference in our lives, someone whose wisdom or simple acts of caring made an impression upon us. In all likelihood it was someone who sought no recognition for their deed other than the joy of knowing that, by their hand, another's life had been made better.”

 ~ Stephen M. Wolfspan

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing US

Have you read the article from TIME magazine, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing US? It's eye-opening!  Here is a (very) short excerpt to persuade you to read the entire piece:

The total cost, in advance, for Sean to get his treatment plan and initial doses of chemotherapy was $83,900. 
The first of the 344 lines printed out across eight pages of his hospital bill — filled with indecipherable numerical codes and acronyms — seemed innocuous. But it set the tone for all that followed. It read, “1 ACETAMINOPHE TABS 325 MG.” The charge was only $1.50, but it was for a generic version of a Tylenol pill. You can buy 100 of them on Amazon for $1.49 even without a hospital’s purchasing power.
On the second page of the bill, the markups got bolder. Recchi was charged $13,702 for “1 RITUXIMAB INJ 660 MG.” That’s an injection of 660 mg of a cancer wonder drug called Rituxan. The average price paid by all hospitals for this dose is about $4,000, but MD Anderson probably gets a volume discount that would make its cost $3,000 to $3,500. That means the nonprofit cancer center’s paid-in-advance markup on Recchi’s lifesaving shot would be about 400%.

Read more:

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Pistachio avocado pudding

Based on this recipe, but with two changes and more precise measurements.

Pistachio avocado pudding

1/4 cup pistachios (about 50)
1/2 cup almond/coconut milk
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 avocados

Combine everything in the blender until the pudding is creamy. One taste and your reservations about having avocados for dessert will be gone! This is insanely delicious and you could have it for dessert or breakfast or an afternoon snack. Makes 2 portions.