19 October 2008

Back from Romania

We just returned from Romania this evening. We drove from Oradea this morning to Budapest, Hungary (the closest big airport). Weird to think that we've been in three countries just today!

We LOVED our time in Romania and hope to return. We felt like we had a lot in common relationally with the friends we met there.

One day after classes several of us went out to some property owned by the school's director to have a picnic. They prepared several different kinds of grilled meats - chicken, pork, mici (pronounced "MEECH"), along with savory bread rolls and grilled mushroom caps. For dessert we had little bite-sized pastries made with a walnut paste that tasted like it also had nutmeg in them. And of course, fruit. The director's wife put together a beautiful fruit basket for table decor, then served the fruit at the end of the meal. When we first arrived, Vino looked at the fruit basket and thought the fruit was plastic, especially the grapes - because they were perfect! Green, pink & purple grapes. There were purple grapes growing on a trellis around the house, which I noticed was common in that area of Romania. I loved the simple arrangement, so I took a few photos.

After dinner, we all played a Swedish lawn game that we were told was called "King". I had never seen the game before, but had a lot of fun playing it. It involves throwing sticks, so naturally, I was shamefully bad at playing because I throw like a girl...who can't throw. Our team came very close to winning, but squandered away our lead with poorly aimed tosses. Seeing as how I hardly have a competitive bone in my body, I was fine with losing, especially since it was getting pretty dark near the end and the mosquitos were out in force.

Good times!

16 October 2008

Decoupage Wall Art, Take 2

I have some time, so I'm going to post some photos I've had waiting around for a while. This is my second attempt at decoupage. My first attempt was posted on thisyounghouse.com here. You can see more photos starting here. I was quite happy with how that turned out, so I decided the blank wall above our hide-a-love seat (folds out into a small bed AND hides guitars & electrical stuff behind it - hey, we're short on space!) needed...something.

I turned to the stack of random items I had saved from the dumpster on a cleaning day at the office and found two small pieces of styrofoam that were roughly "rectangle" and about and inch thick. I also found a box that at one time was original packaging for some electrical thingy or something. Anyways, it was also rectangular, smooth and about 2 inches thick. I chose three photos that I had taken in the old part of town in Alcala de Henares. The larger piece is the old University building and the two smaller ones are lights strung up over Plaza Cervantes and a weather vane seen through the gazebo in the plaza. I converted them to black and white, then measured the box & styrofoam to determine what size I needed to make each photo. I didn't want to blow them up more than absolutely necessary. I ended up needing to Photoshop some edges on the one of the University building because the shape was different than the original.

I think I printed about 6 different panels for that one, then spliced them together to make one big photo. I could only print on A4 paper. Then I basically just glued it to the box and wrapped it like a present. When that was dry, I brushed Modpodge over the outside. I must admit that I only did one coat. It was messy, and after the first coat dried, I was ready to move on to something else. I did the same process for the small images on the styrofoam. I only had to use one piece of paper for the smallest one. Styrofoam was great for this project in that it was the right shape and extremely light weight, but it's not easy to glue the edges down well. The best thing about using styrofoam, though, is that I only had to put a tiny little nail in the wall and just pushed the styrofoam over it to hang.

So there you go, nearly free art! Check out more photos of this project starting here.

For Love of Cabbage!

I haven't eaten this much cabbage in the past 10 years combined than I have in the last week. Every day is a cabbage day. We've been in Romania for a week now, and leave in a couple of days. I think the cabbage is growing on me. It totally depends on how it's prepared and what it is served with. Examples - Bad Cabbage: cooked and served with plain pasta (this was lunch yesterday). Good Cabbage: wrapped around little meaty spring roll type thingies called sarmale. I'm not doing well at describing these, but they were delicious. Seasoned ground meat (pork? beef?) and rice wrapped in cabbage leaves, simmered in a savory broth. They were so delicious.

We had spent the day in the countryside last Saturday with some new Romanian friends. When we dropped one of them off at her house, she invited us in to meet her family. Their home, in a village, was simple and humble, yet incredibly warm and welcoming. We were greeted by her parents, two sisters, and her sister's foster daughter. Immediately the table was set for us and we were presented with a stock pot full of these things. It made me think about my own hospitality. I want people to feel a welcoming peace in my home, but it has so much more to do with how I treat them than how cute my decor looks or how presentable I think I look (or don't look!). These people were incredibly generous to share their food with us. I can imagine that they don't have a lot of excess for their own family, yet they, with joy, gave to us.

Before we left, our friend's father gave me a bouquet of flowers that he had just picked from the garden out front and tied together with a string. He was so cute when I thanked him profusely and gave him a hug. I don't know if it was culturally weird for me to hug him, but it just came out. :)

So we have just two more full days in Romania, and I can pretty much be guaranteed to eat cabbage at least two more times before we leave. At least. And why not? It's nutritious, inexpensive, and more versatile than I ever imagined! Cabbage soup...cabbage and potatoes...cabbage salad...cabbage and hot dogs...gotta love it. Cabbage.