Euroviv moves to Texas

Us right after Catalin received his visa from the US Embassy, Bucharest.
I created this blog a few months before moving to Romania in 2011. Euroviv I jokingly told my friends is the newer, more sophisticated version of myself. I was making light of the fact that I'd be 'Europeanized' over here, that this move to Romania would change me a bit. What do you know, that is exactly what happened. I now put a premium on having fresh baked bread in the house. I've learned the Romanian art of receiving guests with good food, drink, conversation and great pleasure. You should never feel guilty spending your time or money with friends, it is always worth it. Homemade trumps store-bought every. single. time. I can light a gas stove with a match now, cook more dishes than I ever have in the past, and enjoy a nice coffee from our ibrik in the morning. These small things, little bits of daily life in Europe, are treasures in my memory. I wish I could share them all, but it is more feeling and joy than I have words.  I'm grateful for the year and 9+ months spent abroad. As much as I dislike some things about this country I know I'll miss many more things, people and places. I am both happy to leave and sad to go. This is what Romania has done to me; I love the place yet can't stand to live here permanently! If you've lived in the country you might understand the sentiment.



Tip: Packing Wine in Checked Luggage

I'm in the middle of packing so this will be quick. One of the best souvenirs to bring back from Europe is....WINE. You can find great wine at any price point. A taste of Europe ya? But wait, that wine bottle needs to go in your luggage. Will it make the trip? Glass+Liquid+Int'l Flight= Anxiety. Last time I went to Texas I was adamant on bringing four bottles for my parents. This time I've got wine and some beautiful Romanian ceramics. Problem solving like this is a joy of mine. How could I make a cheaper version of this $150 wine carrier? Well, I'm here to tell you it is possible to make one using recycled materials and duck tape. Awesome! Ok this is what you need:

One 2 liter plastic bottle
One wine bottle
Strong tape (ideally duck tape)
2-3 plastic grocery bags
Knife blade
Optional: Newspaper (extra stuffing)  & Cardboard box (extra protection)

  1.  If you're really paranoid, like me, duck tape the top of the wine bottle.
  2.  Place the wine bottle in one grocery bag and tie securely at the top. Repeat but this time place the bottle so that you tie the bag at the bottle's base. Repeat as much as you want. This helps cushion things and makes it harder for liquid to escape should the worst happen.
  3. Using your knife slice off about 3 inches from the top of the plastic bottle. 
  4. Insert the wine bottle into the plastic bottle (which is now wrapped in grocery bags).
  5. At this point you need to use scissors and tape to form the bottom of the plastic bottle to the wine bottle. I usually cut 3 inch strips around the perimeter of the plastic bottle and tape it securely to the wine bottle.
  6. Placing the top of the plastic bottle over the wine bottle is optional. Depending on the shapes of both bottles it could be easy or difficult. Secure with more duck tape.
  7. Place the bottle(s) in the cardboard box with some newspaper around them for added cushion and tape it closed. I only do this if my luggage box is mainly empty and I need the bottles to not roll around.
NOTE: This packaging was used for a cross-atlantic flight successfully. All four wine bottles made it to my parents house. We had a great wine tasting night!


Keeping in Touch while Abroad

One of the first things I did after arriving in Romania was buy a cell phone package that included international minutes. My family is very close-knit so the ability to call them was important to me. Unfortunately I quickly found out those international minutes run out fast. I had 'phone card syndrome' where the pleasure of speaking to someone is spoiled by thoughts of 'am I going to run out of minutes?' Plus my family couldn't call me which made it harder to stay in touch. I was pretty bummed about the situation so I looked for other options.

Here are the top four ways I keep in touch while living in Europe:

Rebtel- This is a phone service that takes all the effort out of international calling. If you've ever used a phone card, trust me this is NOT THAT! Instead you create and account, and then add contact numbers for those abroad (in any country). Rebtel will automatically generate a unique local phone number for each person you add to your contacts. For example: I have a local Romanian number saved in my mobile, the number has been assigned (by Rebtel) to my sister's cell phone in Texas. I dial her Romanian # and it rings her cell in Texas, easy. No having to input long lines of numbers and international codes on my phone. Cost? 1.5 cents per minute. On top of that my sister can call me in Romania using a local Texas number assigned to my phone anytime at no extra charge to her. I wasn't sure if it was a legit service when I first got to the site but they give you five free minutes to try it w/o requiring any payment info. It is genius, I've been using this service for over a year and highly recommend it. Note: This is not sponsored content. These are the honest words of a customer. I do however earn points if you end up purchasing their service here.

Google Voice- Google voice is awesome if you already have it set up in the US. My google voice worked even though I was in Romania so I could make phone calls to the US for free from my laptop. It was perfect when I needed to call places which I knew would put me on hold forever, like my US bank, Ebay customer service, etc. Side note: Anyone else have terrible problems using a US Ebay account abroad? It locked down on me 3 times! My luck ran out after six months though. Google voice found out I was in Romania I guess. Still, if you really need to use the service try a proxy like HotspotShield. It works ;)

Skype- A no brainer here.  The only catch is trying to meet-up online when there is a 8 hour time difference. Who wants to hang around waiting for people to get on skype? Rebtel fixed that for me. Now I can easily call my parents or they can call me and say "hey lets skype". Fyi: If skype is crashing too much I usually switch to google video chat.

Postcards- True, I haven't been sending out dozens of cards but I made it a point to send a few every time we travelled somewhere new and interesting. It was my favorite way of letting people know that I was thinking of them.

There you have it, a few ways I found to easily keep in touch with my friends and family back home. If you have tips please share below!

Ravasel : Viorica's Village

Going to visit Ravasel, the small village where Viorica grew up, has been on my to-do list for a while. It is only an hour's drive away from Medias and is so tiny it is not counted as its own place on the map. A google map search for Ravasel will bring up Mihaileni, Romania–it is the core of a cluster of villages within the area. I think you've got the idea of its size now let me tell you why this place is so interesting.  First there are more horse drawn carriages than cars... seriously. Second you can "tour" the village in about ten minutes by foot. Third everyone is mostly self-sufficient by producing their own food. People live old school here. It is a sight to see for someone who has never taken a bath outdoors using collected rainwater, plucked dinner up from a backyard garden, or bought milk from a neighbor down the street. (that would be me!)

Uncle Rucu's garden.

Plucked a few of these for an afternoon snack and took some home to Medias.

On our walk we came across this woman splitting pumpkins to feed her pigs. Thanks to her willingness to share- we went pumpkin picking!

Pumpkins are not commonly sold in markets, so these were a happy find. Now we just need to carve these suckers.

Viorica buys potatoes from this couple.

Family photo, Oct. 2012
Back on the main road. 


Wine Making: 101

September was an eventful month for me. The weather changed from scorching hot everyday to beautifully warm with cool nights. Perfect weather for long walks and running errands. Each time I stepped past the entrance gate into Viorica's garden I was greeted with the sweet smell of ripening grapes on the vine. If you're trying to imagine this from home, just stick your nose in a Welch's grape juice bottle, it is the same smell! I'd been anticipating two things the month of September: 1) a letter from the National Visa Center regarding Catalin and 2) harvesting grapes to make wine. Thankfully both wishes were fulfilled. Here are a few photos from our harvest.


Weekend in Cluj

In the past I've visited Cluj on business but this weekend was all pleasure. Cata and I hopped into our classy ride (an old school dacia) and spent a few days roaming the city where he once attended university. If you're visiting from Bucharest I think you'll definitely notice how clean the streets are in Cluj. It is a nice looking city that has old world charm plus new world fun (hello shopping mall). Going to the movies and eating ethnic food were a must for us since Medias doesn't offer such things. Highlights: Cluj Botanical Garden, Cluj Flea Market (awesome!), and Indigo restaurant.
It is more like a park than a garden. It is huge, with several greenhouses and thousands of plants. My new favorite garden this is a must see.


Fig-tastic Jam

The joy of homemade gem or dulceata was first made known to me after Viorica gave me a jar of her homemade strawberry jam almost two years ago. Everyone's mother or grandmother makes sweet batches of fruit preserve annually; it is a common practice here. The fun part comes in tasting variations in recipes from different households. Some add vanilla, others add lemon, all taste good to me (except for quince). Until today I was convinced jam making was a complicated and difficult process. It has got to take hard work for the result to turn out sooo darn good doesn't it? In short....nope! We bought figs yesterday and today we've got a delicious fig jam. The process took about an hour and a half total. Tomorrow's breakfast menu? Clatite w/jam of course :)

If you'd like to make your own fig jam, we based our recipe off of this one link here.

Summer Wrap-up: Name days and Pickles

 Everyone is preparing for the coming winter here in Medias. That means lots of cooking and canning in the kitchen. Viorica is making tomato sauce right now but before that was zacusca –a vegetable spread. As usual this is all new to me, the foreigner! I've never in my life seen people prepare for winter. In Texas there is no need really. To join in on the preparations I decided to try making my own pickles for the first time. The recipe is not Romanian, as their pickles have horseradish and no vinegar. They're not bad but I'm always left craving the kind I know and love, Vlasic zesty dill pickles. Hopefully this copycat recipe yeilds zesty results. I won't know until a few weeks from now though when they're ready. I'll keep you posted on the great pickle experiment. 

Below are a few photos from my name day. Yes I have a name day! My middle name is Marie so I got to celebrate along with thousands of others here in Romania on August 15th– Saint Mary's day.   In brief, if you're named after a saint then you get to celebrate yourself on that saint's day. In essence your name day is like a 2nd birthday; you can make it as big or small of an affair as you choose. For my name day we drove to Targa Mures (an hour away) to shop and go to the movies. It all felt like such a treat.  Before hopping in the car Viorica bought us each a fresh-made kurtos which made for a very sweet end to my first name day.


Trashy trails- the littering problem in Romania

We went to Remet this weekend for Viorica's 66th birthday. It is about a two hour drive from Medias into the mountains. You'll find lots of little cabins in the area, hikers, and camp grounds. The hike was beautiful but this pile of trash along the path was not. Littering is a big problem in Romania. Walk, ride or drive through the country's cities and you'll see piles of trash along the roadway, along train tracks, and gathering in rivers. It is a pity to have such beautiful scenery adorned with empty bottles and old wrappers.

My story:

Girl meets boy.
Love strikes.
Boy moves to Romania,
girl (now engaged) follows suit.

I'll be living abroad for the first time in my life beginning January 11th 2011. Follow this blog if you want to see my adventures.