Monday, November 28, 2011

Problems you may face while planning an American/European wedding in Europe:

SAVE THE DATES: how to write the date! This is a serious concern because if you found the perfect save the date style that you love, but it only has room for writing the date with numbers (like 6/9/2012), the problem is that half of your guests will assume the wedding is in June and the other half will think it's in September!

GUEST LIST: With that comes the guest list, in general. It's so difficult to figure out who and how many people to invite. With us, we would obviously love all of our friends and family to attend but we understand with the very far travel, it's just not possible. Our venue is very small so we actually can't invite too many people, although we would like for them to be there. We just don't want anyones' feelings to get hurt or for them to feel rejected in any way but it's just hard. We also can't assume that people won't come because it's in Zagreb because who knows, maybe EVERYONE will come since Croatia is just that awesome :) I just want everyone to have our Save the Date because I'm proud of them and I think they're really cute.

MUSIC CHOICES: To circle dance or not to circle dance? I'm slowly but surely letting go of my childhood American wedding dreams and accepting that this is truly gonna be a Cro wedding: our style and its gonna be amazing! It's so hard to choose whether to have a band or DJ, although we'd really prefer a DJ but finding an English speaking, awesome and pumped up wedding DJ in Zagreb is proving to be difficult. Please let us know if you know of anyone!

Wedding planning isn't as easy breezy as you might think it is but through it all, we just keep reminding ourselves to not stress out and think about the important things, like that we will be married after the whole wedding is over. Thankfully T-Slav reminds me to take lots of deep breaths to calm down. I'm just excited to show my family Zagreb and to be T's wifey :)

P.S. The picture is from our wedding venue which is right on the Main Square in Zagreb so there's a fantastic view from the window behind me! Love it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Very Croatian Thanksgiving

I was very happy to spend the whole day cooking yesterday for T-Slav's first Thanksgiving and even happier with how everything came out! I'm proud of myself for cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner ever and honestly, I wish I could cook like this all the time. It was fun to plan the menu, a little less fun trying to find certain ingredients and spices. It was difficult to find sweet potatoes and I can't find celery stalk anywhere in Croatia. I was shocked when I couldn't find sage at the super-supermarket because Croatians use tons of sage in their cooking! Eventually found it with the help of several employees and curious fellow shoppers observing my searching and questioning employees about "kadulja."

 Hungry Chef

 Thankful :)

We finally got to drink the prosecco we bought a few weeks ago to celebrate our wedding planning. Loved it, reminds me of such happy times like when we went to Venice or Dominika and Paul's engagement party.

 Is that everything? Almost forgot the cranberry sauce because I had made it so much earlier that day!

 My sweet potatoes, corn, green beans (à la Alton Brown), cranberry sauce, and delicious gravy that I want to put all over everything!

 Our turkey, done 2 ways with the dark meat and light meat and one of my other favorite dishes of the day, the stuffing muffins! Carmelizing the onions first totally made the difference in the taste.
 It was so worth it.

 Leftovers are my favorite!

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!

Leave a comment if you want any other recipes! I looked for inspiration and understanding of flavors in several recipes but put my own spin on everything (ie: extra garlic...everywhere). We still have leftovers and I'm excited to make it all again!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chili for a Chilly Day ;)


When I was little, we didn't eat a lot of junk food or fast food or anything like that, but the one thing that everyone in my family really loved were the Southwest Taco Salads from Wendy's. That was the one fast food item that my parents let us have once in a while and we all loved it! I remember when I came home after the year in Germany, my parents and sis picked me up in D.C. and we stopped to get the Southwest Taco Salad along the way home. The salad has a new name now at Wendy's, I believe, but it's basically a salad with chili on top. YUM!

Since nothing warms you up on a cold and dreary winter day like warm, hearty chili, I decided to make a batch of it when I realized I had almost all the ingredients that could make a delicious chili at home already. Here's what I had:

1 Onion
5 Cloves of Garlic
500g Tomato Puree
2 Tbs Tomato Paste
3 Tbs Chili Powder
1 Tbs Red Pepper Flakes
2 Fresh Tomatoes, chopped
1 Can of Black Beans
*Secret Ingredients*
A dash of hot madras curry powder
A pinch of cinnamon

First, I sauteed the onion for a few minutes (the onions are super strong in Croatia), then added the minced garlic for a bit longer. Then, I added the chili powder and red pepper flakes and mixed it up within the garlic and onion. Next, went in the chopped fresh tomatoes and I sauteed them too. I added the tomato paste to the whole mix. It smelled amazing already! After another couple minutes, I poured in the tomato puree and let the whole pot simmer together. At this point, I threw in the 2 secret ingredients. I almost forgot to put the beans in, which I had rinsed and drained but I put them in then and let it all simmer away happily together.

I got this amazing ciabatta bread from the bakery to use for my Thanksgiving stuffing but I couldn't resist cutting a few slices of it to enjoy with the chili. T and I also used the chili as dip with some chips! If I had had sour cream or some kind of cheese at home, I would have put those on top too but this was delicious as it was!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Pistol Pete!

Wishing my amazingly funny, wonderful, energetic Dad the best birthday ever!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fondue for 2, Fondue for 2!

I'm so excited for Thanksgiving! I'm reminding myself all the time that it's coming since I don't have any Black Friday commercials here to do the reminding for me ;) I'm planning out a Thanksgiving menu for the 2 of us (and getting a little inspiration by watching reruns of the Friends Thanksgiving episodes). So here's what I'm thinking:

  • Roasted turkey breast
  • Gravy
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Baked sweet potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Corn
  • Stuffing: This is probably my favorite Thanksgiving food so I'm really worried about making it as good as my Ciocia (Aunt) Bozena's or my Mom's, especially because they don't have celery stalks here, just root. I really hope I can find a yummy recipe that I can find all the ingredients for here. Please let me know if you have one!
  • Cranberry Sauce: This is also something I will have to find a way to make, but turkey without cranberry doesn't fly for me!
  • Dessert: I'm thinking either maybe an apple pie, or if I'm feeling really ambitious, maybe a pumpkin cheesecake. It would be delicious and so good for the occasion. I think I'm just gonna have to go for it!

I have a lot to be thankful for, and I'm definitely thinking about everyone and everything I'm thankful for a lot this week. Safe travels to anyone traveling somewhere for the holiday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Live to travel? Travel to live!

It might be totally cliche or obvious or whatever, but I really love to travel. I love the feeling of being in a new place, especially one I've never been to before and the rush, the excitement, even the confusion it all brings! It must have began when I was little and my parents would bring us back to Poland (from PA). I find it so interesting to hear about what I was like when I was little, how frustrated I got being in Poland and not understanding my family speak Polish around me. It's hard for me to imagine NOT wanting to speak another language, but apparently I was really against speaking Polish for a while. After that trip, I vowed to speak only in Polish with my parents so that the next time we went to Poland, I would be ready.

And ready I was, am, and always will be! I'm sort of obsessed with learning other languages. Going to Germany for CBYX  was one of the best experiences of my life and I'm so glad I got to go at such a young age (15/16 for one year, living with a host family, adapting to life in a foreign country, with a foreign language, and a new and different school system). It taught  me so much, about myself and about the world and about other cultures. It really helped shape my future and I'm so thankful to have had that amazing year in Bayern.

Anyway, I could talk about this sort of thing forever because I'm so passionate about it and really believe that young people should experience life abroad to allow themselves to learn, immerse themselves in another culture and grow and mature with that. The other thing I wanted to mention is that even if you are on a serious budget, you can still find ways to travel. Believe me, you really can! As a high school student, I obviously didn't have money to travel so I'm really thankful that I found out about that scholarship. There are tons of scholarship opportunities, especially for college students so you just have to do some research (early!) so that you know what the requirements are for certain scholarships. Here are some other ways that you can travel on the cheap, or ways to make money while traveling!

  1.  Be a caretaker (basically, a professional house sitter): If you're interested in getting paid to take care of someones home/pets or perhaps even a hostel or bed  and breakfast, definitely check out this very informative article here. It's a great way to earn money while experience life in a new place, if you're up for it.
  2. Teach! Teach what you know, whether it be teaching English (or another language you may know). Depending on what country you are in, you may not need a teaching degree to teach the English language. Tutoring is always a great way to earn some extra dough, and you can find a tutoring gig by posting on local forums or at the local university. Also if you have any special skills like playing the guitar, that's something else you could potentially teach!
  3. Along the lines of music, become a busker. If you have an instrument and a talent, you can earn some serious cash if you find an area that gets a lot of foot traffic!
  4.  Become a tour guide. Find out anything and everything about the city you are hoping to go to, or that you live in. Learn everything you can about the historical aspect and be ready for questions that anyone might want to know. You can plan your own tour of the town and advertise your services then. It's a bonus if you speak several languages, but if you have a friendly and outgoing personality, you may be able to start your own 'business.' Or, seek out a tour agency and see if they could use a freelancer!
  5. Couchsurf: Although this isn't a way to make money, I think CouchSurfing has to be mentioned as something every traveler needs to know about. CouchSurfing is an amazing community of interesting, opening minded, and welcoming people. One of the taglines of CouchSurfing is: Imagine having an interesting friend wherever you go -- whether that’s 2,000 miles away, or right in your hometown. CouchSurfers are commited to intercultural understanding. If you haven't been on the website yet, go check it out now. You don't have to go anywhere to get involved, you can start by maybe hosting someone or just meeting up in your hometown for a coffee with a new traveling friend. It's a way to make friends all over the world!
  6. Finally, one of the most inspiring CouchSurfers and people I know is Thomas Love Perko. You have to check out his page Thomas Love's Adventures. He writes in both Croatian and English (and maybe a few other words/phrases here and in there in other languages!). He is a CouchSurfing ambassador, hitchhiking advocate, and one of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Check out his page to read all about the adventures he's had and to learn more about how he found sponsorship (from the likes of MasterCard and the travel agency Da Da Da) for some of his recent travels. He is currently traveling for his Project '1000 Days of Summer - following the Sun on a journey around the World' using alternative ways of travel (couchsurfing, hitchhiking, busking). Read more about it (in Croatian) here. Or just check out his Facebook page! 
The King of CouchSurfing himself!

Just do it! Go, put yourself out there and do it now, because if you don't go now, when will you do it? If it feels right, just go for it and make it work! And if you have any questions or need any help or advice about anything, please feel free to ask!

To get a better understanding for what Thomas Love's project 1000 Days of Summer is really like, check out this short trailer about it:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Change of Plans = Changed my Mind?

I didn't plan to be in Zagreb right now. In fact, nearly every plan I've made in the last couple of years has completely fallen through. But I'm here now, and I'm really enjoying myself and living this new life in this new country with my fiance. Sometimes it's hard to appreciate what you have while it's happening. I'm trying to enjoy and appreciate every day here because I don't know how long it will last. It's important for me to continue remembering that, the fact that this is not forever, and that this is an amazing opportunity and honestly, it's what I always wanted to be doing. I always wanted to be abroad, traveling, being amongst anything and everything foreign. Yesterday, I took the tram and then a bus to work because our car was getting winter tires. I stopped to look at the trams and it's really amazing how far Zagreb really goes with the street art. There are several trams that have been painted with "grafitti" specifically with Dinamo Zagreb grafitti. It looks amazing and cool and I'm so glad the city allows the (old) trams to look like this:

The tram I took yesterday had a new, or rather old, design to it:

 There were pictures of old school Zagreb 

 It's really pretty and different

 If I stare out the window too much from inside, I get a little dizzy because of the design on the window!

 I snapped this one so quickly, but this is just to give you an idea of how the new trams usually look like.

Things are really great these days and it's so nice to take a step back and realize that this is what I've wanted and been waiting for all along. Tomislav and I have been through so much, going back and forth, and being apart from each other for up to 5 months at a time. It's hard to think about and remember those days because we can't imagine it ever being that way again. I can't believe we've been through that. But we made it through those long months apart and thanks to that, I think we have a stronger relationship than most because of the different course ours had to take. The heartbreaking good byes suck, the solo events and celebrations (that you often try to spend having together on skype (like Valentine's Day or raising a glass to say cheers behind your computer screen on an anniversary), dealing with the time difference and not being able to talk more than once a week because of work schedules. 

Example: in the spring while I was in my last semester of grad. school, I was teaching all day and then going straight to night class after school so I wouldn't get home until after 8PM which is after 2AM in Zagreb and T has to wake up early for work, so we had to rely on a lot lot lot of e-mails. We've written thousands of e-mails and sometimes, it's nice to take a look back and remember where we were at that time. What's even nicer is being able to finally be together. Our plans are still quite unclear but what we do know is that we're not going to be apart any longer and we're very excited to go back to the States for Christmas and New Year's! Together! :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Taste of Summer!

Sometimes I just really want a crisp and cool salad, even in the colder months. Of course, it's best (and healthiest) to make a salad like this with fresh ingredients. We're lucky that Tomislav's family has a big garden outside of the city where we can get fresh veggies. Anyway, here is what's in this salad:

  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 1 can of Corn
  • 1 can of Black Beans
  • bunch of Basil Leaves
  • Balsamic Vinegar
Sometimes I make a little vinaigrette with balsamic, lemon juice, and olive oil, and sometimes I just add a little balsamic over the salad. Depends on my mood! This salad is delicious, fresh, and also hearty and filling!  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Indian Food Made Easy!

T and I love trying new foods and I especially love trying to make new foods. Maybe I can't make some things the totally authentic way, but I definitely make it work! I got a real craving for Indian food the other day so I made this delicious Dhaniya Murgh, or Coriander Chicken Curry. I, of course, had to be creative after discovering that I couldn't get certain spices. So here is what I used:

  • 4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts (cut into cubes)
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1-2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 container (I had 200g) of natural Greek (thick) yoghurt (you can use plain yogurt in a pinch!)
  • Half tsp turmeric powder
  • Half tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • Half tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste

It came out delicious, warm, and spicy! Really warms your heart up on a chilly night. I served it with a side of rice and veggies inspired by the flavors in this Anyhow Prawn Pulao.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Photo Post - Upper Town

T and I are really into exploring the city these days, especially since we are planning our wedding, we're constantly looking for inspiration, discovering new spots, and maybe even wedding photo opportunities. We love getting lost in the upper town.

Adorable cobblestone streets

Love the clock

Pretty arch :)

We found a new little park that's very close to the church we'll be married in :)

Playing in the park

This house/building right next to the park is very narrow, it looks neat!

 This is the Gazebo in my favorite park in Zagreb, Zrinjevac. Very romantic to walk around this park, especially in the evening.
 Tomi and I enjoying the beautiful daytime in Zrinjevac 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dinamo vs. Ajax

In honor of last night's (disastrous) Champion's League Game in Amsterdam, I had to post about the previous Dinamo vs. Ajax CL game which was in Zagreb 2 weeks ago. Tomislav and I went to the game here in Zagreb at the Dinamo Stadium in Maksimir. It had been a birthday present for me from T and I was really pumped because I am a big soccer fan and I had never been to any matches in Croatia yet!

The city streets were completely packed on the way to the game, km long traffic jams, but we finally found a parking spot and headed over to the stadium. Tailgating is different here, because there are so many stands of people selling hot dogs, yummy treats, cold beer, and hot kuhano vino (Gluehwein, hot mulled wine with spices, or if you were at T's welcome back party in Philly last winter, you remember what we drank?). It was cold so we got a yummy hot wine and started walking in to the game.

 Thanks to Ivona for lending me her Dinamo Zagreb gear!

Hot dogs, Kielbasa
As we made our way in, we came to an abrupt halt that literally made me lose my breath because we were stopped and stuck. All of a sudden, we were at the back of a huge mass of people waiting to get in through first giant gates, then through 3 working (out of 10 possible) turnstyle exits. We ended up being stuck in this massive crowd, suffocating for nearly an hour to go 100 meters through to the entrance. I felt really claustrophobic and nearly became panicky towards the end of it. We were literally became pushed up against people, pelvis to pelvis, my face way below a lot of tall guys, with elbows and arms flying, smushed down. Again, suffocating. People pushing like crazy and it honestly felt like people were fighting for their lives just to get through the turn.

This is the last pic I could get, while I could still move my arms. You can see the entrance is orange. People just squished themselves in even closer because I couldn't get my iPhone out to take any more pictures after this one.

It felt demeaning to see how little respect the stadium workers had for fans and the unfairness that ensued when people tried to enter the stadium and why this had only occurred in the East entrance of the game. (All other entries were completely clear, no line waiting at all!)

After that nightmarish entry, we made it into the game, 20 minutes late, which really made me disappointed in the stadium's organization, but we shook it off and were ready to enjoy the game. I was really happy to see that they had beer and food vendors walking around the stadium to sell snacks so we got a couple of watered down beers and got into the game.

Despite the chaotic start to the game, we had a great time. It's always fun to watch live sports, but it's especially exciting to watch soccer in a country full of soccer hooligans (ok, they're actually more scary than hooligans if you're talking about Dinamo's Bad Blue Boys), huge fans who have a true love for the game, and are ready to sing and cheer their team on! Unfortunately, Dinamo lost the game 0:2 but we still had a lot of fun watching!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

School Lunch for Dinner

The other reason Halloween was great for us was because I made these awesome Sloppy Joes. I actually really liked school lunches when I was a kid, probably because we always ate Polish food so I really appreciated eating the American food at lunch. So when I saw this recipe for Grown Up Sloppy Joes with Ground Turkey and Avocado, I got inspired and had to try it. Now I can't always find ingredients here so I make do and use what I have and change things up a bit. Seriously, these came out so good, we loved them!

Here's what I put in them:

1/2 kg Lean Ground Turkey
1 cup assorted diced veggies (carrots, corn, red and green pepper)
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 large cloves of garlic
2 TBS sunflower oil
8-oz can (about 250g) of tomato puree
1/2 cup ketchup
2 TBS cider vinegar
2 TBS brown sugar, packed
(approx.) 1/2 tsp chilli powder
(approx.) 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
(approx.) 1 tsp ground ginger
(approx.) 1 tsp Hot Madras Curry powder (which has coriander, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, and garlic)
1 avocado
6 whole wheat buns
salt and pepper
Simmering away

We got these nice rolls/buns from the bakery, maybe a tiny bit too bready but then we just added more Joe to it and then topped it off with slices of avocado.

 T agrees! His only other sloppy Joe before was the vegan one at Govinda's in Philly (which is so soooo good!)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween in Zagreb!

I love dressing up for Halloween so this year, I missed that from the States a lot, since here Halloween is really only celebrated on the 31st and not at all before. But I was really pleasantly surprised by how awesome the 31st really could be! Croatians go all out with their costumes and I respect that! We went to a party at this converted factory on the dam of the river whose name means "Swamp Place"" (Mocvara) and it was really fun! People got a lot more creative than I thought they would be.

 One of my fav costumes of the night was this Sexy Mrs. Claus 

It's a little blurry but can you see those two legos? Love it!

 Happy that my sis suggested we could do this costume! I have watched Grease literally over a hundred times because of a slight obsession in my childhood ;)

 Sandy and Danny...or a couple of people in black outfits? ;) 

At first, I was really missing American Halloween but then, after drinking a huge cup of "Gemisht"(White wine with sparkling water) I decided to embrace and really get into Croatian Halloween, singing along to the Magazin and Hladno Pivo songs that I knew!

 Bummed I didn't get any pic with the birthday girl last night though! Happy goofy silly dancy fun Halloween Birthday Sarah!


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