Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Paris Part 2

Okay, boring I know. More vacation photos... but it's my blog, so I'm going to show them!  Here's our Paris journey continued...

Day 5 - Opera Garnier, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower
On this day we started with taking the Metro to the Opera Garnier, the Phantom's opera house. Paris Travel Tip: buy a NaviGo Decouverte metro card at the beginning of the week. These cost around €23 per person, but you can travel unlimited on all Metro, RER trains, and bus lines around Paris for a week (mon-sun). Well worth the expense! You can buy them at any metro station. In Paris, you're never more than 500 ft (literally) from a metro stop.

The front of the Opera Garnier. Apparently there is actually an underground pond that inspired the Phantom's lair. We didn't get to see it, but were told Fireman practice their underwater diving drills down there.

Regardless of getting to see the spooky underground caverns, the interior of the Opera was sufficiently opulent enough to impress us. Although I think all that old velvet gave the place a little bit of an antique shop smell. This photo is of the grand foyer. Because you know, people have to have somewhere pretty to walk during intermissions and such.
 After the Opera house (tickets to tour on your own were €9 each, which is kind of expensive because the Louvre was only €10 each, and there's much more to see at the Louvre!), we made our way to the Ile de la Cite to see the Notre Dame cathedral. Lots of tourists. It's not even the peak of the season yet, but there were still plenty of people at all the major sites.

Luckily a nice British couple took this photo of us in front of the cathedral. It's the only one of us on the whole trip we didn't take ourselves.

The beautiful rose window from the outside.

I loved all the intricate gothic architechture of the cathedral and the fact that the back looks completely different than the front.
 Finally, that evening we made our way down to see the Eiffel Tower. Can you believe we waited until this far into our trip to do this? The weather was perfect that evening. The clouds had cleared and the temperature was perfect for dining by the banks of the river before watching the lights come on the tower at exactly 10pm. The only drawback? The dozens of solicitors who ask you every minute or so if you would like to buy champagne or an Eiffel Tower miniature.

This photo was taken close to sunset at around 9:30. Can you believe how light it is outside at this time of night? It never really got dark outside until well after 10pm. This photo is of the tower from the left bank.

Tower photo taken from Place de la Concorde (a metro stop and also marked by that obelisk). Place de la Concorde was the place Marie Antoinette lost her head. Yeeks!
Still more to come later....
again, all photos credit to my husband, Scott

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back from Vacation

So, my millions of followers might have noticed my blogging absence over the past couple of weeks. Well that's because we've been in Paris, silly!  We had a great time, but in truth, I'm glad to be home sleeping in my own bed. And I missed our crazy doggies as well.  Here's a rundown of how our trip was.

Day 1/2 - Traveling
We left Kansas City and traveled to Chicago and then boarded our plane in Chicago for Paris. Our seats were not so good - right by the bathroom. So we got to hear flushing for an entire 8 hour flight. Lovely. We arrived in Paris around 9am on Friday the 17th of June. When we made it to our apartment rental (which I would highly recommend), we broke all the rules and immediately took a five hour nap. We woke up briefly to run to the grocery store to stock our small fridge for the week with snacks and breakfast foods for about €18. We then right back to sleep after eating a frozen pizza. That's right, we had a frozen pizza for dinner on our first night in Paris. How very American of us.

Day 3 - Montmartre and Sacre Coeur
On our first real day in Paris, we decided to take ourselves on a little tour of Montmartre, since it was the closest neighboorhood to the apartment rental. The apartment actually looked out over the Montmartre Cemetary.  Here's a few photo highlights:

The Sacre Coeur Basilica

Lots of cute little cafes. We stopped and had crepes for lunch on this day.

Moulin Rouge in Pigalle - the red light district.
Day 4 - The Louvre and the Champs Elysees
On our second day in the city, we strolled through the Jardin du Tulieries to the Louvre. The Louvre contains some 35,000 works of art, and it would take you 9 months to view them all. Fun travel tip: if you want to go, enter through the Pont Des Lions entrance across from the Seine. The entrance is flanked by, appropriately, two giant green lion statues. No waiting in line!

The view of the Pyramid from inside the Denon Wing (where the Mona Lisa lives - among numerous other Italian, Spanish, and French paintings)

Napoleon III's apartments. This was one of my favorite exhibits - such opulence in all the rooms! They even had the crown jewels on display.

One of my favorite Caravaggio paintings. I didn't realize it was this big in real life - as you can see, it's almost as twice as tall as me! I'm thinking I'm not painting large enough...

One of my all time favorite statues - Cupid and Psyche. I've painted this statue in watercolor many times.
After the Louvre, we walked all the way down the Champs Elysees and saw the Arc de Triomphe. Then I got to stop at Laduree and get my macarons! I waited in line for 40 minutes, but they were so worth it. I think the raspberry macaron is literally the best thing I've ever eaten.

That night we ate a little cafe off the Rue St. Honore. Scott had the duck with potatoes au gratin, and I got a delicious white fish filet in a butter sauce (of course..butter). Our legs were KILLING us after this day.

To be continued with the rest of the trip at a later date (and more photos to come too, I promise!)...
All photos taken by my wonderful husband, Scott.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On The Menu: Fried Chicken

*Disclaimer: This is not a healthy recipe. If you try it, do not complain that it is greasy, fatty and delicious. If these things bother you, you shouldn't eat fried chicken...ever.

So, this was the first time we've ever really attempted to make "real" fried chicken. For our first attempt, I'd say it was pretty good. Luckily we did it in two batches so we could learn from the mistakes of our first batch.  This recipe is modified from one found on the Food Network website from the Bobby Flay fried chicken throwdown challenge (this was the competitor's recipe).

What we used:
Four chicken thighs, bone in/skin on, thawed (it's best to not used chicken that has been frozen for this)
1 Pint Low-Fat Buttermilk
A couple tablespoons Sriracha or simlar hot sauce
About 4 tablespoons minced garlic (from a jar)
2 Cups Flour
2.5 Cups Corn Oil
1 Stick Butter
Salt & Pepper
Chili Powder

 1. Mix together your buttermilk, hot sauce, and garlic. Coat the chicken and let it sit in the mixture for at least two hours, but preferably overnight. We let ours sit overnight and all the next day until we got home from work. This step is extremely important, so try not to cut corners.

2. Take the chicken out of the fridge and set aside. Heat your corn oil and butter together over medium heat. Also, get out a baking sheet and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

3. Mix together your flour along with two tablespoons black pepper, 1 Tablespoon salt, and paprika and chili powder to taste. To be honest, our chicken wasn't spicy at all, and we could have used a lot more spices - so go crazy! Add what you think looks good!

4. Once the foaming from the butter has subsided, remove the chicken from the buttermilk one piece at a time, and let the excess drip off. Coat the chicken in the flour mixture and place skin-side down into the hot oil. Be careful not to crowd the pan. Ours could only handle two at a time.

5. Now the tricky part. You don't want to continually flip the chicken, or it will be soggy and greasy. The trick is to just let them sit in the oil for about 10 minutes on each side. The difficulty for us was finding a temperature that would cook the inside of the chicken completely but wouldn't burn the outside. We actually turned down the heat on the second batch so it would cook a little slower. Try to only flip the chicken once.

6. I forgot to take a picture of this step, but it's also important. When you remove the chicken from the oil, place it on a baking sheet and into your preheated oven and bake for about 10 minutes. This helps the chicken cook through and makes the outside crispier.

7. The top picture is from our first batch, and the bottom is from our second. The meat was really good, although I wished the seasoning had been spicier. I would also recommend setting the pieces on some paper towels to absorb any extra oil - it makes eating it a lot easier. When we got a piece that had been cooked perfectly, you could really taste the buttermilk that it sat in and it was SO good.

Overall, making fried chicken requires a lot of patience - something everyone knows I don't really have. But now that we've done it once, it's not so scary, and we'd be willing to try it again. It's amazing that something that's such an American staple is so difficult to get right! Feel free to click on any of the pictures above to enlarge.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bookcase Redo

I'm sorry I have no "before" pictures for this post. Just imagine, if you will, a piece of crappy furniture from Big Lots made of wood veneer costing $20... are you picturing it? Ok, well, here's my bookcase. I've named him "Timmy."

Timmy did not like being painted. In fact, he refused to have the primer stick to him. That's how awesome the wood veneer was - it wouldn't even accept primer. The horror! Eventually though, I willed Timmy into submission.  He's now the same Gabardine color as the kitchen island. The back pattern is vinyl wall decals from Home Depot I've had for about a year but have never used. Timmy looks much more dapper now.

Update: Here's a photo I found online of Timmy "before". And this photo is being kind.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Happy Friday

I don't have anything exciting for you today, so here's a picture of my dog. Obviously, I got some fun filters on my phone and couldn't resist trying them out. I am working on a painted bookcase that I hope to share sometime early next week. Until then, have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Will Paint for Food

I can announce that we are officially poor. First, a tree uprooted itself and fell on our house. That was fun. Then the fridge broke. Then we had to get new tires for my car. Then we ordered Euros for our fast approaching trip to Paris. Being an adult is no fun sometimes. Remember when you were a kid and thought nothing of your parents paying for these every day disasters? With all this, at least our trip is already paid for and we can escape reality for a little while.

We mostly plan on winging it in Paris, but we do have a few planned stops:

The Louvre. If we only visit one museum, we might as well make it the big one.

The Chateau de Versailles. Here's the queen's room...well it was until she lost her head.

Laduree - the premier macaron and tea shop. I can't wait to eat some major pastry! Image via
Anyone ever been to the City of Lights? Anything we absolutely can't miss? I'm excited to document our trip and report back for all you Francophiles! Until then I'm just going to keep my fingers crossed for no more disasters or things breaking!