Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dear Winter, please leave!

March and February were a blur, in that not much happened except having to brave the worst winter in Pennsylvania in the last 30 years.

In February, we celebrated the bitter-sweet anniversary of one year of America.

In March, we celebrated the one year anniversary of our wedding. That was just sweet, no bitterness involved.

There was chocolate ganache cake and red pomegranate wine from Cullari Vineyards.

We had the pastry chef write "Happy Anniversary" in my native language. There were no typos. Or are they chocolatypos? Very important thing to ponder. 

I'm really eager for spring. I have the feeling I'll need to thaw for about 3 weeks before I can truly enjoy it.

EuroAmericanHome :: Cake and wine

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Super Bowl with the Wife

Sunday was a momentous day in the EuroAmerican household. We woke up in the morning and Trevor had the entire day planned. There were going to be beers involved, nachos grande and banana bread. There would be TV watching and beer-drinking and cheering and explaining and a much anticipated finale. It was like Christmas in February, only with a more excited Trevor and a decidedly less excited me.

It was the Super Bowl.

Luckily, I was well versed in the art of acting as if I cared about a football game (and don't even get me started about calling it football). This is probably real life situation #1901 that allows me to use valuable life skills learned from Friends. So I pulled a Chandler and Phoebe circa The One with the Rumor and just screamed stuff at the TV. In retrospect, I think I should have probably waited for Trevor to explain the rules before I pretended to understand.

This is a true story:

Superbowl with the wife stick figures 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Of maps and hearts

I can't remember the first time I realized I like maps. But I know it was before Pinterest, before the crafting obsession and before moving halfway across the map. Maybe it was in the fifth grade, when we were studying the history of imperial expansions. Maybe that's when I looked at the maps of the Roman Empire doubling and then tripling, and I realized how many stories a map can carry.

Trevor and I collect maps from everywhere we go. It's ironic, really, because I can't read maps unless I turn the map to face my direction whereas Trevor only needs a 30 second glance to memorize the routes for an entire holiday. I don't even bother when I have him with me.

We saw this idea floating around on the internet to make a wall hanging with a map of the place you met and the place you got married. It proved tricky, unless someone maps out the internet (where we met), and I didn't want a constant reminder that we took our vows with none of my friends or family present. So we decided to make a collage of maps of places that we traveled to - six cities in three countries that we like for various (undisclosed) reasons.

We already had the frame. All we did was turn around the paper that came with the frame. Then we:

1. cut hearts out of the downtown of our maps; we chose downtowns because that's where our touristy selves romped and frolicked;
2. cut larger hearts out of construction paper to add a solid background;
3. glue the map heart onto the green hearts, thus creating double hearts;
4. tape the double hearts to the paper backdrop to keep them in place; mild measuring was done (we asked each other "How does it look to you?" "Good. How does it look to you?" "Good!" "Ok, we're good.")
5. reassemble the frame.

Heart map wall art - EuroAmericanHome Blog

While we're on the topic of maps, allow me to bring a West Wing favorite moment to your attention.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pennsylvania snow

 Mice mittens and Pennsylvania snow: EuroAmerican Home

I like the world when it snows. I like how the sounds are muffled and the night looks like the day.

I love the feeling of possibility.

Snow in small town Pennsylvania is not like snow in the big city. Snow in small town Pennsylvania is clean, immaculate and lightweight. It lures you to come out and play and then sticks to every fiber of your being. It's cold and dusty and irreverent.

And it's coming our way again this weekend.

This means I can wear the mice mittens that my mom bought for me ... when I turned 25. My mom is like that. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My expat resolution: the year of Enough

These thoughts have been brewing in my mind for some time triggered by:

- just a new year on the calendar;
- my upcoming birthday, the last one of my 20s;
- my one year anniversary of moving to the U.S. (this February);
- reading Daring Greatly;
- going through the talks in the Year of Enough project.

2013 is over, and what a year it has been! We did so many wonderful things, and so many amazing things happened. But what will define this past year is my move to America - the physical uprooting, but more importantly, the emotional overhaul and imbalance in self-perception that came with it.

After moving in February, then getting through the whirlwind of learning the small things and meeting a bunch of people the following months, I spent the rest of the year tucked away in a corner, rocking back and forth and whimpering "noooooo moooooore change!!!"

Leaving the only life I've ever known to move to a place I had never even visited was clearly a leap of faith, one that I was willing and courageous enough to take only because I knew that the support of my husband would be there to catch me, love me and care for me. But when the reality of every day life set in, I went into self-shaming mode. I became increasingly aware of everything, but the equation would always come out with a big fat minus in it. In other words, I became painfully aware of what I was NOT, of what I was failing to be or to do.

None of the people I met became my friends, not in the way my friends of 10 or 15 years were my friends. What was wrong with me? I wasn't trying hard enough. I wasn't putting myself out there enough. I wasn't looking for friends hard enough. I didn't say yes often enough.

I left a job that I was good at when I came here. Then I started to feel I wasn't doing enough to get a job here. I felt like I was failing myself. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I determined enough to brave the commute lifestyle? Why wasn't I trying hard enough to adjust to a way of living I didn't want in the first place?

There were other things bothering me. How can I be a good enough daughter for the parents that I left behind? How am I being a good enough friend for the people that have been there for me thorough thick and thin? Am I trying hard enough to keep in touch with friends back home and all over the world? What if my English is not good enough? What if my accent is not smooth enough?

You would think that all these questions might spring me into action. But in fact, it was quite the opposite. The pressure that not enough created in my brain and on my heart had an undesirable paralyzing effect. I felt overwhelmed, so the best response that I could come up with was stillness, numbness, almost a complete shut down. This came with "perks" such as lower self-esteem, fear to try anything that might fail, fear of failure and fear of the fear of failure.

I pride myself on not wanting more possessions. I think our house (medium-sized if I'm to compare it to American standards) is too big. I think that our car is too big. I don't want more clothes or shoes because I have enough and I dislike shopping. I don't want another gadget because I have everything that I need. I'm not craving material possessions because I know they come at a cost, one that my little family is not willing to pay. We don't need more stuff.

So why is it then, when I have everything that I need, I feel like I am not enough? Would I treat my best friend like that? Would I tell her: I think you're not doing enough. What's wrong with you? The answer is no. Would I put down my husband and blame him for everything under the sun? The answer is no. Would I walk up to a stranger on the street and tell him: For the record, I think you're doing at crappy job at doing this, this and this? The answer is no. Then why do I treat myself that way? The answer is I don't know.

But I do know that in this new year I will work on getting out of that habit.  I've decided to start working on shifting my perception from "I'm not (doing) enough!" to "I am enough!"

Living in the mindset of enough is not about becoming complacent. It's not about being lazy or inactive or settling for whatever comes my way.

Living in the mindset of enough, the way I understand it, is being grateful that right here, right now, what I have is enough to make me happy. That right here, right now, I am enough. That whatever my hopes, dreams, plans and aspirations are, they exist to complement what I already am - enough.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year: 1

Days until spring comes: 77

Degrees outside: -4 C

Degrees in Fahrenheit: No bloody idea.

Number of times it took to spell Fahrenheit correctly: 2 (am getting better)

Pieces of fudge eaten today: 5

Pieces of fudge smuggled from the kitchen to my home office when Trevor wasn't looking: 5

Number of fireworks seen on New Year's Eve: 0 (must be living in a parallel universe, where colored gun powder is not considered fun and blowing up your fingers is not considered worthy celebratory activity).

Number of bottles of wine I fell in love with: 1 (Hello Niagara grape, a U.S. native. Lovely to meet you!)

Number of resolutions made: 10

Number of times I heard December-2014-me cackling "I pity the fool who makes 10 resolutions": 100 => 10 cackles per resolution.

Number of days I will continue to write like Bridget Jones: ToBeDetermined. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy was so bad that I now have to wash it out of my brain and retrieve the goofy innocence of the first two books. Is there any way to unread a book? I didn't even finish it, so there must be a way. 

Happy 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Make paper snowflakes

We've already mentioned that we don't like to buying the Christmas ornaments that you find in stores. It seems to me that all the collections available are cheaply made in China. The glitter is more in the box than on the baubles, Santa's eyes are drawn on his forehead and angels have dubious things hanging from their backs, that definitely don't look like wings.

So this is the third year that we're making our own ornaments.

Making a paper snowflake was a simple and fun project done while we were watching TV. I remember doing this paper project when I was in kindergarten, so it really is easy. The most difficult part might be picking the right book to butcher, if you choose to use book pages instead of regular paper. I did, so I picked Jerry Seinfeld's Seinlanguage. Jerry wouldn't mind, and all the jokes are in his shows anyway, so I felt the sacrifice was minimal.

What you need:

3 book pages for every snowflake
sewing thread
a needle
scotch tape

Make paper snowflakes book crafts EuroAmericanHome

1. Take a page out of a book.

2. Fold it accordion-style.

3. Cut the ends into little hearts or stars (optional, but it looks nice).

4. Fold it in half.

Make paper snowflakes book crafts EuroAmericanHome

5. Make two more, following steps 1-4.

6. Tie three folded pages in the middle with regular sewing thread or a thin ribbon.

7. If the snowflake doesn't stay "open" (this depends on the paper), use scotch tape to attach the separate pieces of paper at the ends.

8. We used a needle and thread to attach the snowflakes together. 

If you're making just one snowflake, you can use thread to hang it from the Christmas tree. We made five and put them up on a wall. As you can tell, it was really dark when we finished. Which means it was probably 4:30 pm in Pennsylvania.

Make paper snowflakes book crafts EuroAmericanHome

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas City of lights and paper

This past week has been spent in Christmas preparation mode in the EuroAmerican household. In all honesty, we started getting ready about a month ago. By that I mean that we brought down the boxes of ornaments and moved them from the top floor to the middle floor(*). A few weeks later, we set up our tree, which remained undecorated for 7 days. The tree was brand new and we just wanted to check its height and if all the lights worked. Then we brought down all the boxes to the bottom floor and this past Sunday we finally decorated out first Christmas tree as a married couple. Yes, we took our sweet time and vowed not to put it up before Thanksgiving, and then things got pretty hectic.

I delighted in taking inventory of the Christmas ornaments that Trevor grew up with, but I was so homesick when I unpacked the few ornaments that I dared to take on a transatlantic flight.

It was last year that we decided that we'll keep Christmas simple and practice mindfulness. Neither of us is a fan of excess or shopping and we certainly like being stress-free. Also, we are both born in January and birthdays don't just celebrate themselves. So we chose to forgo the shopping frenzy and indulge in Mickey and Trevor quality time. We baked, listened to holiday music, decorated the tree, assembled the gingerbread house, made some icing ornaments and watched Into the Woods

We also made this winter paper city, which we stuck on our front window. It started out as a paper village, but Trevor got enthusiastic about making a skyscraper, and he is apparently into cubic architecture. So goodbye Pieter Bruegel-esque picturesque, hello Winter WonderWhat?

Christimas paper city of lights: EuroAmericanHome

This is what it looks like from the inside. The pictures that we took from the outside are all blurry because, let's face it, pictures taken in -5C are bound to be shakey. 

We worked on it for about two hours, with Trevor meticulously doing the cutting and me frantically sketching houses. We reused sheet music from an old textbook, so it looks very musical on the inside. We're thinking that next year we'll just redesign the whole city and put it up for download as a pdf.

Come back soon, we have other things to show you.

* Top floor is the attic; middle floor is what Europeans call first floor but Americans call second floor; bottom floor is what Europeans call ground floor but Americans call first floor. It's all very confusing, really. Which is why, for a while after I arrived, Trevor and I would have conversations like this:

Trevor: Have you seen the car keys?

Mickey: On the table, on the first floor.

Trevor: They're not there. I looked.

Mickey: What are you talking about? You didn't even go upstairs.

Trevor: You said the first floor!

Mickey: That is the first floor!!

Trevor: That is the second floor!!!

Mickey: It's the first floor that goes on top of the ground floor!!!!

Trevor: The first floor is the floor that goes on top of the ground!!!!!

Mickey: Find your own damn keys!!!!!!

We have since resorted to naming our rooms, in the manner of old French mansions, so now the instructions for locating something are a little bit clearer.

More winter-themed posts:

How to enjoy Christmas without stepping foot into a mall - in which I do the handwriting and Trevor illustrates the list by hand.

How to make Christmas cookies - in which I illustrate how to stuff your face while boyfriend is not watching.

How to spot the pickle - in which I explain the tradition of hiding a pickle in the Christmas tree.

How to make paper Christmas trees - in which I don't really explain how, just show a picture.

Felt snow house ornament - no tell, just show. 

Remembering Christmases past - in which I do just that + a bonus picture of young Mickey with a dubious Santa.

How to make peanut butter blossoms - in which we're confused by metric conversions.

How to make sugar cookies - in which we figure out metric and imperial conversions.

Christmas card for tea lovers - proudly made by Trevor.

A list of fun things to do for the winter holidays - looking back is always sweet.

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