Holiday zeal

Alright, I may be from the land of no snow (aka South Texas) but I love the Christmas season. You can bet that right after Thanksgiving I was hungry for decorative things to fill our home. Unfortunately I found a small selection at high (oh so high) prices. I know I must stop comparing US prices to Romanian prices but I can't help it. My mind tells me instantly "You could buy that garland for $1 in the states, why pay $10 here!?" Needless to say the Christmas trees are pricier too but on top of that our tiny apartment can't really accommodate a full size Christmas tree. We'll be buying and decorating a big tree when we go to Medias for Christmas but still I wanted to have some sort of tree/decoration in the meantime. My solution? I made a "tree" that is now hanging on the wall in the living room. The lights were the only purchased item, everything else I had or found (like the stick I brought back from the forest in Vatra Dornei). Next projects for the house will be a fresh wreath and some snowflakes for the window. 
My best friend Mireille gave me this Leatherman about a year and a half ago. I can't count the number of times I've reached for it. Incredibly useful!


Vatra Dornei

Leaving Bucharest is fast becoming my favorite past-time. Luckily another opportunity presented itself this weekend, when I went to see a friend's hometown- Vatra Dornei. Although the ski slopes are what usually draw visitors, we did no such thing since there was no snow to ski on. Still the food, company and general merriment made for another great weekend in the mountains.[Click any image to view slideshow]


Fundata, Romania


A Romanian Feast

Cata and I went straight to Medias after Paris for what I thought would be a small, low key, family party. That concept quickly changed when I walked into a kitchen filled with three Romanian women (Cata's mom plus two aunts) standing in a production line around a giant deep fryer. Nearby trays were slowly being filled with chiftele (fried meatballs), snitel de pui (breaded/fried chicken breast) and fried fish. This is serious, I thought, and then proceeded to sample their work.

The feast included a first course of the aforementioned plus Romanian cheeses, icre (fish egg dip), smoked meats (pork and salami slices), black olives, tomatoes and other veggies. Round two was a delicious pork roast with mashed potatoes, sliced bread and a salad. Lastly we finished the meal with a chocolate cake plus trays of various sweets. We were home, surrounded by family, drinking wine and eating a huge meal. It felt like a Romanian Thanksgiving.

CLICK to view slideshow:


Lune de Miel

Ahh Paris. What can I say that has not been said before?
It is all true- beautiful, romantic, unique, charming, stylish, delicious.

 A few things that struck me about the city: the way of life, cultural diversity, and fantastic food quality. The pace at which people move and live felt like a calm river as opposed to the raging waters of say New York or Bucharest.'Parisians have got it right' I told Catalin throughout our week-long stay. Of course I realize my bias, this was a relatively short vacation although I enjoyed pretending to live in Paris for the week. No alarms set on this trip (except for the day we flew out). Usually I'd wake up first followed by Cata who would then head downstairs to the boulangerie for fresh croissants. Breakfast in Paris was one of my favorite parts of the trip; good food, the one I love, and a little balcony view of Paris to start the morning. Mmm. 

Sorry I don't have many food photographs, usually it was already eaten by the time I even thought of a picture. Thus, a couple of these are sourced from the web but they are actual pictures of the same dishes I ate at the same restaurant, only taken by someone else at a different time. Note B) & C) were my favorite meals. The Baltique salad consisted of smoked salmon, and boiled shrimp over a green salad drizzled with a cream sauce and the juice from a lemon wedge. To top it off they added a half avocado in the center. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Favorite Meals (which are not listed in any particular order):
A)Falaffel from L'As Du Fallafel in the Marais district
B)Confit de canard (pan fried duck with green salad and potatoes) Café du Marché
C)Baltique salade from an unknown restaurant in Montmartre--we were wandering.
D)Steak Frites from Restaurant Chartier
E)Banana and Nutella Crepe bought a few times in the Latin Quarter
CLICK any photo to view the slideshow.


Goodbye Miss, Hello Paris

We did it!  On September 30th 2011, Catalin and I went to the courthouse and were legally wed. I  know this took a lot of our friends/family by surprise so I'll take this time to explain a bit. Many people were not invited to our civil ceremony in Bucharest because we will be having a larger, more traditional, wedding ceremony in Texas (where we'll be married by the church). In short, this was one part of a two part series. And what a lovely part it was: 

*All photos were taken by friend and photographer Bogdan Dinca:


Signing with my new last name for the first time.

A bit giddy after the ceremony.
Update: I forgot to include a beautiful video our dear friend Bogdan made for us as a gift since he could not be with us on that day. I'm posting it for you to enjoy but also that I will always have a link to it---here it is:

Vivian & Catalin are getting married! from Bogdan Stamatin on Vimeo.

After all the fun we took off on a trip to Paris. Which leads me to my next post...


An adventure in cheese.

American's have 'American cheese'. Romanians have 'Cascaval'.
 Cascaval is a common, affordable, and ubiquitous cheese here. If you order a cheese sandwich - Cascaval.  Burrito? Cascaval all over it. Cheesburger? Cascaval again. This is great if you enjoy the flavor but a lot of times I don't. The tricky thing with this cheese is that there are a lot of variations that look exactly the same but taste different (see photo). Despite this fact Romanians (at least all those I've encountered) consider it all to be the same; they never refer to types of cascaval. No menu will list the specific variation of cascaval, like "Cascaval Dalia" or "Cascaval Dorna". They just put "cascaval". And this is why I tend to avoid the cheese when possible. My first encounter with it, over six months ago, did not go well. To me it has this strong, stinky aftertaste that makes me want to spit it out. Yuck, I can't eat it.

Or so I thought. 

Slowly I began to discover that all cascavals were not created equal. That took time since everyone I know likes any kind of cascaval and aren't picky about the type. It wasn't until I enjoyed a chicken w/cascaval sandwich at the Cluj Airport this past August that  I realized there was a mild, non-stinky version of the cheese I could eat. I had to find it. But how? Well, I really didn't know how. Catalin never makes the distinction between cascaval types, thus he was just as clueless as I regarding different flavors. Asking for samples was out of the question. People don't do that here and I didn't want to get an ice cold stare-down from the lady behind the counter.

Hmm what to do, what to do? I knew stinky was my enemy so one day it finally occurred to me- use your nose. It worked surprisingly well! There I was like a crazy woman, smelling hunks of packaged cheese at the supermarket one by one. I'm pretty sure Cata was embarrassed but he was kind enough to let me sniff away without any protests on his part. The stinky cascaval was easy to spot and avoid. My nose led me to this gem: "Cascaval Calup de Vaca" (aka)" De Albalact Cascaval Calup"If any Americans in Romania are reading, I would recommend trying this cheese. It is white like all the others, and has a mild flavor which strongly resembles cheddar.  Yum.

*UPDATE AUG.2012 –"Napolact Cascaval Dej" Is also a winner and it is easier to find than those previously mentioned*
The 'cascaval' cheese section of Real supermarket, Bucharest.



A few weeks ago my friend Mike pulled into Gara de Nord on a midnight train, officially ending his Trans-Siberian journey in Bucharest, Romania. I was determined to get him outside the city and had a weekend trip planned. Mike, Catalin and I drove north through the Carpathian Mountains on the Transalpina highway. This is a road similar to the Transfagarasan in that it goes through the mountains but unlike the aforementioned, it reaches the highest point of any road in the country 2,145 meters above sea level to be exact. It made for a beautiful drive and fantastic pictures. Take the drive if you have'nt yet, the road is newly paved and there are hotels along the way.
Peles Castle


It doesn't get any fresher than this. I drank my first glass of 'straight from the cow' milk thanks to this lovely woman.

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.