A weekend fix-it project

4 03 2012

This weekend’s do-it-yourself home improvement construction project was one that is very close to my heart. After becoming an expert in mounting doorknobs in my Florida condo in December, I now had a chance to return to another craft I know and love: putting together a new barbeque.

Here in Europe, everything is smaller than it is in North America. So a few years ago, we got a teeny little gas grill for our teeny little balcony. I put it together all by myself. It took 6 hours.

I loved our own personal barbecue out on the balcony. We used it rain or shine, snow or drought, night or day. Whenever we felt like we needed some very good seared flesh, we fired that baby up and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. We felt like we were back home on the range.

Last week then, a tragic discovery. Rust had completely eaten through the bottom of our beloved little grill, leaving a gaping hole large enough to put a basketball through. This was bad, very bad. And reason enough to go out and get a new one right away.

And here it is.

A box.

You’ll notice what it says on the upper right hand corner of this box:

"Montage facile." Uh-huh. Yeah, right.

Then take a look inside.

Hm. Hope all the parts are in there.

Okay, so I started to unpack everything and spread all the pieces out evenly across the living room rug. With the expectation, of course, just like every item of Ikea furniture ever conceived, that you never know if you have enough screws until you are missing the very last one.

For everyone who thinks my husband took over command of the situation, here is proof that it was, indeed, my own personal project. That’s the igniter I am holding in my hand, by the way.

ES can read, too.

Just a few moments after this shot was taken, I discovered that I had screwed the tub onto the frame backwards, and had to take it all apart again. Harumph.

But putting together a spanking new barbeque is not really rocket science – if you follow the instructions carefully and can figure out all the diagrams. I cut my work time by two thirds and our grill was standing on the balcony just over two hours after I first slit open the box.

Ta-dah!

Mmmm…. Looking forward to dinner tonight. Bon ap!

Organic Swiss beef - the best of the best in this country.

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Thanksgiving on the wrong side of the pond

23 11 2011

It’s Thanksgiving week and I am, once again, for yet another Thanksgiving, stuck in Europe. I came here after finishing my Master’s degree expecting to be away from the U.S. for one or two Thanksgivings. I have been away for nineteen, and counting.

Here in Europe, there is no such thing as Thanksgiving, and I must say it is the one day of the year I am physically sick with longing and blind with homesickness. And my European friends, all lovely people for whom I am eternally thankful, just don’t understand.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all time because there are no expectations attached to it. There is no gift-giving and therefore no disappointment and no fake joy. The joy is (usually) real, and it’s all about just having a great meal together. Food that reminds me of where I come from and who I am. Food that reminds me of my good fortune in this life, so far. Comfort food.

When my father was still alive, he would come visit me at the end of the year. Every September we would have the same phone conversation – should he come at Thanksgiving? Or four weeks later, for Christmas? We always decided on Christmas because then he could hang around for New Year’s Eve too. And he loved being part of a traditional European Christmas over here… it reminded him of his childhood in Germany, a long time ago.

We would turn our Christmas dinner into an “end-of-year” dinner, so that we could celebrate all the holidays we had missed and the ones that were to come in the first part of the new year as well. The centerpiece of our culinary extravaganza was his Thanksgiving turkey. He had been the Master Of The Bird at home since as far back as I can remember, and was always eager to commandeer my mini-kitchen for a whole day, along with all of its tools and appliances.

I would pre-order the turkey from a local supermarket and he would directly import the stuffing and the cranberries in his suitcase.

The Bird, 2002 edition.

Since the amount of food on the table was usually far greater than the two of us could possibly consume in any useful period of time, and the standard European freezer is the size of a shoebox, I invited friends and colleagues over to partake in the gluttonous, succulent feast. Our rallying cry was always: “EAT MORE!” One year we had guests from six different countries, including Palestine, the U.K. and Germany, to name just a few. It was a real United Nations around the table in my little Berlin apartment.

Those were good times with my father, and old and new friends. Those evenings are past and long gone, now, but no one can take the memories away from us.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Be thankful, and eat well.





ES fails the baking test.

15 11 2011

So I thought I would regale you with my latest kitchen/baking fail.

“Baking,” you ask? “Evelynn Starr in the… kitchen? You have got to be kidding me. I had no idea she was so… so… domesticated.”

Well, dear fans, not to burst your bubble, but I do, occasionally, venture into our tiny little kitchen. It is usually R.’s kingdom, and we have a demarcation line which under normal circumstances I am loathe (and sometimes forbidden) to cross. Because every time I do, something bad happens.

However, we had a few guests coming over last Saturday evening, so I had this great idea that I would also try my hand at creating something edible. Dessert. Couldn’t be too hard.

But often, like last Saturday night, it fails.

I tried an old reliable… something I have successfully produced in the past, (once, a while ago) and didn’t taste half bad then, either. Something safe. Something that you can’t really screw up. I decided that lemon-poppy-seed muffins were as safe as I could get.

Everything went well, considering. The batter was absolutely heavenly, I could have (and probably should have) eaten it all right then and there, unbaked, with a spoon. And I didn’t even make a mess about it. The little guys (for they were, indeed, little, especially when you compare them to, say, Starbucks muffins) baked well, and looked like they were nice and fluffy and lemony-poppy-seedy inside. They were golden brown and not burnt.  (Wow!)

Careful, don't bite into your computer screen, now.

I had to try one right away, while it was still warm – because the fragrance of freshly-baked muffins right out of the oven is utterly irresistible.

And then, the shock. I discovered that when I tried to peel the paper cupcake cup off, it wouldn’t. The dough was so stuck to the paper that in order to eat my muffin, I pretty much would have to eat the paper too because the paper just refused to unstick itself from my muffin.

I was crushed. My masterpieces. My babies. Stuck to the cupcake cup. WHY? It’s the third time this has happened and I have no idea what I am doing wrong.

My mouth watered as I proceeded to pick microscopic-sized bits of paper from my fabulous little home-made muffin. It wash sheer torture.

“Oooohhhhh Evelynn,” you say. “Dear, dear Evelynn, leave the kitchen stuff to your husband. He can do it so much better than you.”

Yes he can.

So instead of proudly serving up my home-made lemon-poppy-seed muffins to our dinner guests that evening, I hid them in a sideboard.  We raced out to the supermarket before it closed at 5pm to get a vat of the old reliable (vanilla ice cream) to go with the chocolate sauce we have had in our cupboard since, like, forever. For emergencies just like this one.

Fortunately, when we opened the can we discovered it was still fit for human consumption, even though it was way past its “sell by” date.

So this is a blatant, unabashed call for help. If anyone can tell me the secret to perfect lemon-poppy-seed muffins, I would really appreciate it. Because my husband and I are pretty sick and tired of eating lemon-poppy-seed-flavored cupcake cup paper.