Friday, September 30, 2011

Livin' it up, small-town style

One of the things I love best about living in a small-ish town is simply that here, people are real. I hear about a politician on the radio and it's someone I actually know, not to mention the radio host(s) as well. This is the kind of place where it's not unusual to run into someone you know at the supermarket, and you're almost guaranteed that there's someone you know at the farmer's market on Saturdays.
My dad said once that, living here, he was always disappointed when he had to fly out and he didn't know anyone on the airplane. It only happened a couple of times. Well, the same is still true for me. I usually know, at least by sight, one person on the flight. It was very strange, however, when Shane and I were in Germany, ill and exhausted, waiting to board our flight, when Shane poked me and asked, "Isn't that Cort?" (Our veterinarian, but we're friends with the family. In fact, his daughter was one of my bridesmaids.) He's well over 6 feet tall, hard to miss, so I picked him out right away. "And Connie!" I answered. (His wife.) Across the crowd, neither of us wanted to yell, so we waited for a few seconds to catch their eyes before waving. It turns out they'd been in South Africa, helping a colleague at a wildlife sanctuary.
Even though they were just a few rows ahead of us, we didn't get to talk with them much. Everyone was tired, and Shane and I didn't want to get them sick. Still, it was nice having them along. They were even on the same flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks, so we got to spend a few minutes talking with them when we were all on home ground again, waiting for our rides.
If I had to pick one thing I love the most about small town life, this would be it. When you really know the people around you, nothing is faceless. Our veterinarian is so much more than just someone we see when the pets are sick. That politician is someone I've sung karaoke with (he's amazing at "Piano Man"), and the radio DJ is someone Shane has played ultimate frisbee with, and so was the ER doctor when I broke my nose. The head of my department lives in my neighborhood, so I get to see her and her husband walking their dog when I'm out walking mine. These little moments of running into someone, or hearing someone, that I know make life a little bit more human. They take me away from my own troubles and make me smile. They are the moments that make me think I will never live in a big city again, even though there are parts of it that I miss. I would just be giving up too much.
We had our first snow this morning, although it didn't stick. Soon enough my small town will look like a winter wonderland, but for now I get to enjoy the anticipation. And when I can taste again, when my nose isn't stuffed up, maybe I'll enjoy a few cups of hot chocolate as well. :)

This could have been so much worse

Our honeymoon was amazing. Not to brag or anything, but it really was. We took close to 1000 pictures, and yet there was so much that couldn't be captured with a camera. The church bells constantly ringing in Zurich, the traffic in Rome which was just as crazy as I'd heard (Shane was nearly widowed the first day there when I didn't cross a street fast enough), the unexpected things that overawed us (I didn't think it would be a big deal to me, but when we stepped into the Sistine Chapel and I looked up, I almost started crying because it was just much more than I expected, even having seen the image thousands of times), getting lost in Venice and realizing that the only wheeled vehicles we'd seen were strollers and a couple of wheelchairs, waltzing to the music in Piazza San Marco, the crushing crowds in the Oktoberfest beer tents and the sound of thousands of people drinking and singing with the band, wearing dirndls and leiderhosen. It was amazing.
And we got sick the last day in Munich. Horribly, horribly sick. Shane less so than me, but even he was pretty miserable. We had a day and a half in Frankfurt to kill, but we spent most of that in our hotel room because we were too sick to want to do anything. I am now able to say that flying with the flu is just as miserable as flying hungover. Today is the first day I've started to feel better, thanks to the ministrations of my pets as well as lots of tea and honey. I found a natural "cure" for coughs, which is just apple cider vinegar and honey mixed together. Try it next time you're sick and let me know how it works for you. I've still been waking up at night hacking my lungs out, but that happened even when I took a Nyquil.
When we had down time on our trip we talked about how poor we'd be when we got home (Europe is expensive! Also, it's Shane's last day of work today--the lab is being officially shut down) and we came up with a plan to eat mostly out of our freezers at home. Thankfully, my little brother (who was house and pet sitting for us) figured we wouldn't want to cook when we got home, so he went shopping and made a big casserole for us. We ate the last of it yesterday afternoon, so I made dinner last night: salmon chowder. After all of the eating out we did in Europe, it's been so nice to get back to home-cooked meals. And if I cooked while listening to Rachmaninov's "Symphonic Dances", even better. :) I pretty much avoided any seafood on our honeymoon because I knew we'd be eating lots of it when we got home. (And we'll have to get very creative so we don't get sick of salmon.) Chowder was also a welcome change from the pastas and pizzas we'd had in Italy. (Even I got a little sick of so much starch, which I didn't think was possible!) Anyway, we had both our younger brothers over to share dinner last night, and it was fun despite how ill I've been.
It's good to be home. We need to spend a lot of time this weekend putting things back in order, though. So much cleaning and organizing to do!

Salmon Chowder:
Remove the bones and bake 1 large salmon fillet.
While it's baking, pour 6 cups of milk into a large pot and slowly start bringing to a boil. Stir frequently so the bottom doesn't scorch. At the same time, make a roux from 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of butter (melt the butter in a pan, then whisk in the flour). Temper it (pour in some of the heated milk) before adding to the milk. Spice it. (A little bit of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.)
Chop up carrots and potatoes, add to milk mixture along with frozen corn if you want. Continue to stir frequently.
Cook some bacon, drain fat, and add it to the milk mix.
When the salmon is done (doesn't need to be baked through, just mostly done) remove the skin and any last bones and add it to the soup. Add one chopped onion and keep on heat until onion is fully cooked.

*I'm sure chicken could also be substituted for salmon, though we've never tried it that way. This is modified from a clam chowder recipe, so feel free to mess around with a variety of seafood.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Reader, I married him."

We're going to Europe on our honeymoon, so I won't be posting anything for a few weeks. I just want to sit back, relax, and enjoy our trip. Talk to you all again at the end of September!