Friday, December 30, 2011

Music Moments

In my house music is very common, and my daughter has grown to enjoy music as much as us.  We like to crank it up after my husband gets home from work and dance around the living room, great family music moments!   
One album we are all enjoying at the moment is Mumford & Sons (they're a British folk rock band). It seems to be the running background music of our lives over the past two weeks. It's funny how you can like an album so much you will listen to it repeatedly. I remember at one time thinking Kings of Leon would never get taken out of rotation, but eventually they all get replaced. As of now Mumford & Sons is taking their slot on our playlists.  Then there is always Adele, she's great, I think everyone can appreciate her talent.  She's also someone we can listen to with the entire family or individually.  I'll often turn on one of the above albums while I'm writing, they're soothing, don't distract, and have a lot of emotion to them.  From what I understand Adele has become quite popular in The States but I'm not sure about Mumford & Sons... so for the ones of you who have never heard of these albums you really should give them a chance.  Now if I'm not listening to mellow British music, I'm listening to American rap, I love it! 
I love any music that will get me dancing but there's something special about rap. I wish I could say I outgrew it as a teenager but I didn't. I also wish I could say there are a lot of great rap albums out today, but I can't.  Other than dancing to it, I really enjoy exercising to it.  It's peppy enough to get me moving, yet has this aggression to it to keep me motivated on the crosstrainer.  The past couple of weeks I have either listened to Flo-rida or Nicki Minaj while exercising.  My husband also appreciates rap but he can't stand Flo-rida; he's more of an Eminem type.  And Nicki Minaj just makes fun rap, she's a little eccentric and that definitely reflects in her album.  I'm sure you've read this and lost a bit of respect for me, but you have to understand I enjoy a variety of music.  Before driving lessons I like to listen to Andrea Bocelli, and while growing up I almost played out my Phantom of the Opera cassette tape.  And I enjoy Metallica as much as I enjoy The Beach Boys!  I hope you all have music moments throughout your day!     

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Deviled Eggs

Well the holidays are here so that means time for family dinners and get-togethers with friends. Most years I avoid having to bring a dish to the meals, opting out for snacks or drinks, but this year I was asked to make deviled eggs for my sister-in-laws Christmas Eve dinner. I dreaded every moment leading up to it. It's been years since I made deviled eggs and I can't say even then they tasted nice. But between a hectic holiday schedule, including a driving lesson on the morning of the 24th, I managed to make them. I decided to split the work up into two days, just so I wouldn't run out of time. Plus I like taking my time cooking, I don't want to make any mistakes. I boiled 2 dozen eggs according to a recipe I found online for deviled eggs, it was a different way of hard boiling eggs than I was used to. I put the eggs in a pot, brought the water to a boil, then only let them since in the hard boil for 3 minutes (usually I boil them for 10 minutes).  Then according to the recipe I was to remove them from the burner and let them sit in the hot water for 30 minutes, sounded strange but I had nothing else to work from. Then after letting them sit I was to to cool them in ice water for 20 minutes, all of this was to help with peeling and to lessen the chance of the green ring that often appears on boiled eggs. I felt this was a lot of work just to boil eggs but I wasn't going to take any chances. Apparently the hard work with deviled eggs is peeling them! But surprisingly enough I managed to peel 18 eggs without damaging them. I had 2 extra eggs just is case of a disaster but it worked out. According to the recipe I was supposed to leave the eggs on their side over night prior to boiling them to ensure the yolks were in the middle, but I didn't feel like turning it all into such a large project, I just wanted to make something edible. After peeling and slicing the eggs it was time to empty them to make the filling. This is also quite time consuming, I don't have a technique for emptying the eggs so between prying them loose with a spoon and squeezing the eggs I eventually popped all of the yolks into a bowl. The next step was easy, just a matter of tossing all of the ingredients into the bowl and mixing. At one point I was afraid to taste my own concoctions, but I knew I should before I refilled the eggs. Surprisingly it tasted a lot like ones I remember getting at family events growing up. I ended up combining two recipes one for preparing the eggs and a different recipe for the filling. I found a recipe that a restaurant in Indiana used from the 1920's-70's, and if I ever have the need to make deviled eggs again I'll refer to the recipe from the Durbin Inn. Now it was time to refill the eggs, I had no idea how much to portion per egg so I started out with small spoonfuls and kept making rounds until the bowl was empty. For the most part this went well. All the while I took pictures, just in case the eggs didn't make it to the party I had proof that at one point they looked nice. It was time to add the paprika to the top at first this went smoothly but as I sped up I started getting sloppy, but by this point I was just tired of dealing with the eggs. I had to no choice but to transfer the slippery eggs in plastic containers to the dinner. Just trying to get them in and out of the fridge I smashed a few eggs together, I didn't think they stood a chance of making it. Then of course we were running late for the dinner and with every turn I felt the eggs sliding around, I expected a disaster when we arrived. but to my surprise they survived! I wouldn't say they were a hit compared to the rest of the food, but most of them were eaten (by the kids, ha-ha!) I did save a small batch for the Christmas dinner the next day and with pleasure I watched them get snatched up and eaten. I know my family is thinking, I can't believe you're still going on about the eggs, but hey, what can I say, I complain a lot and I retell stories endlessly!

Monday, December 12, 2011

License to Drive

When I say license to drive I'm not referring to the C rated 80's comedy, I'm referring to myself.  I have an American driving license and I have a Dutch license to drive scooters (aka brommers/snorfiesten), but I am still not legally allowed to drive a car on Dutch roads.  Periodically over the years I have tried to convince the Dutch system to transfer my American license over but they refuse (probably a good thing).  So now after living here over 8yrs I have finally decided to attempt to get a Dutch driving license, which is no small feat.  They first take you out for 30 minutes just to see what you're even capable of; apparently I sent the wrong message because the instructor recommended a small package of just over 20 lessons.  But once I actually started taking the lessons (2 hours once a week) my new instructor quickly realized I was going to need more lessons than my package provided.  You'd think getting behind the wheel again would be easy, I drove from 17-21yrs old, and I even had my own car for 3yrs, but it wasn't easy.  I was actually a complete mess; putting it off for so long wasn't a good idea.  I had hang ups from all of the wrecks I was in, I completely lacked confidence, and I had zero understanding of the Dutch rules.  I'm surprised the instructor let me on main roads.  In The States I drove an automatic, here it's a stick shift.  There I understood the laws/rules, here there are so many it's practically impossible to remember them all.  And in the US it was all in English, here I chose to do it in Dutch (maybe not the best decision).  The combination made me want to throw up for about an hour before each lesson and my entire demeanor has convinced my instructor I can't handle stress and have anxiety attacks.  GREAT!  But with the help of a good instructor and a very supporting husband and family, I am now making progress.  I am about 75% of the way to getting my Dutch driving license.  I have completed the theory exam (written exam), even though it did take me three times to pass!  The 1st time I missed 1 question too many, the 2nd time I bombed, and the 3rd time I made it through.  There was so much pressure - the fact it was in Dutch, each test costs over 30euros, and every time I failed it pushed my entire schedule back costing more time & money.  But with a lot of studying, an 8hr course, and a 2nd book from my sister-in-law, I made it. 
That same week I also had a practice practical exam; it's part of the package I signed up for, to give me a good idea of what to expect during the real deal and to see what kind of progress I have made.  After it was over the instructor said he assumed I was going to be a nervous wreck behind the wheel (thanks to my overall attitude and appearance before the exam), but he said surprisingly I remained calm and didn't do half bad.  Technically he said I did "redelijk goed" which translates to reasonably/ fairly good!  I'm crossing my fingers that after a few more lessons I will be able to take the actual practical exam (driving exam) in January.  My instructor recommended that I take a special practical exam for people who suffer from performance anxiety (aka faalangst), basically it allows you to pull over to the roadside and collect yourself during the exam without getting points deducted.  At first I thought he was joking, but when I realized he was serious I was quite embarrassed.  Maybe talking to myself, huffing and puffing, and clenching the steering wheel until my knuckles were white sent off the wrong signals, ha-ha!  I have two chances to pass the test within my package, so 1st round I'm going to take the normal exam, and depending, I might have to opt out for the "special" exam 2nd time around.  But of course, I'm hoping to pass the 1st time!!!