Mt. St. Helens – the Edible version

This was a journey requiring 1 hour of shopping, 6 hours of mixing and baking, and 1.5-2 hours of decorating. The idea came out of a weekend getaway in the enchantments. On the drive home, a two hour discussion then turned into reality: a cake in the shape of the famous Mt. St. Helens. It even included spirit lake, the logs, and certain contours around the area. Besides that, all the ingredients except for the tan-sand colored frosting was home-made. The base material was made of a sponge cake, the same as what the Hungarian Dobos Torte is made of. Here is the time-lapse in pictures:

First rough cake-looking part. This will be the main mountain.

Image of one of the thin layers. Kind of falling apart but it will be used!

The frosting I made – It is a mixture of coconut oil and semi-sweet chocolate chunks from trader joes

Spirit lake being created…

Cutting out contours for the glaciers

Bird’s eye view of the contoured mountain. Looks like a mess without frosting and cover up.

Closer image of contours

Frosting starting to be applied

Almost finished, only the vegetation missing now.

Finished! (not the best quality…) this is when we presented it to the birthday boy. Maybe next time I’ll put an explosive in the crater or some dry ice or something.

The birthday boy was really happy for the cake. real man hug 😉

Ubud Days 1-3

Day 1

I wake up around 6am, sprawled out on a king-sized bed in a room about 4 times the size of my room at home with the air conditioner on and black curtains blocking out most of the sun outside.. and snap- it comes back to me. I’m in the Villa of my cousin’s fiancee’s gay cousin. and he gave me his bed because he was spending the night with this guy he just met 2 days ago and they were going on a bike ride at 7am that morning.. easier to just eliminate the meeting part in the morning and just stay at his place, right? Sure..

walk out to get the other half of my breakfast, sat out in the pool area to eat it. met up with emily, gave michael’s key back at the receptionist making up a story about how he left it in “my” room so they didn’t think i slept in his room because that would have been an extra fee. took a cab back to emily/endre+ his family’s villa, from which they were moving out of to go to Ubud. I was to take the car with them. Little did I know that I was going to be the two kids’ playtoy on the way there.. after braiding their hairs (one was in the car while the girl was turning her head around not really helping me do the job, and was while we were dodging around motorcycles and potholeing) then had to hide a toy and use “hot/cold” to figure out where it was – but of course it was always under her butt or behind her back, so i had to pretend to not know that and start somewhere far away so she was always delighted to see that I took such a looooong time to find it, so she must have hid it in a clever place.
As we made our way out of Seminak, the terrain got more hilly, and rice fields were everywhere around us, with harvesters using old-fashion scythes to cut down the crop.
When we got to the new Villa, i was breathless- it was at the outcrop of a hill-but almost as steep as a cliff, with a river roaring down below. The panoramic view at the top area was of the largest palm-jungle I’ve ever seen. The villa hosts even told us that there’d be the occasional monkey and other wild animal that we would see. On arrival, they gave us fresh-cold towels, and iced-tea. After a tour of the place, we dove straight into the pool, and I spent about 1 hour teaching my little nieces (or cousins? not sure what my cousin’s children are in relation to me) how to swim.

Back to Ubud center, Endre rented a motor-bike. Him and I sat on, and zipped over to a supermarket to get me a SIM card into my faithful phone that I have used throughout Europe as well, and has the capability to connect to any network I’ve tried thus far. On the way back, we got a bottle of vodka to fuel the motor – hah just joking, it was gasoline, but here’s the best part: it was sold in a vodka bottle. Gas station = a shelf of petrol at the side of the road housed in clear bottles. Price ~ $2/gallon. (and the motor only cost about $5 per day) Barring that you don’t drive off the side of a bridge, I’d say that’s pretty worth it (and the rental is filling out your name, and signing.. they don’t even check if you have a lisence which technically should be a Balinese license.

That night Endre+Emily, 2 of Emily’s friends and i went out to dinner where about 1 hour in, jetlag hit hard. I just couldn’t get a comprehensible sentence out of my mouth, although it may also have been because of this insanely spicy fish I ordered.. i swear it was the most spicy thing I ate in my life, felt like my tongue was about to burn off. But good news was that anything after it seemed mild. I was even cooling my mouth off with a rice that the rest of the table deemed “very spicy”. I guess next time watch out for the phrase “traditional Balinese spiced”.

Day 2

After riding the motor on monday, i just had to get one myself. Of course all the “danger” alarms were going off in my head: No, I’ve never driven a motorcycle, people drive on the opposite side of the road here (well… theoretically) so I’m not used to that, I am not “actually” allowed to drive with an american lisence, so i may get stopped by the police, I’ll have no protective gear, just a helmet. But then I looked at the flipside: if I don’t rent one out (and price was definitely not an issue here), I will come home with the dissatisfaction of not having done it.

So here i go: rented the bike, weaved my way down a potholey path that was smaller than a regular sidewalk at home, and not even a 1/4 km away, i already bumped something. Now a normal person would probably curse and wish they never did this, but I just thought – yeeah adrenaline! awesome! now I have to think quickly what should I do? A taxi driver came and helped me then said he would go with me to the mechanic to get it fixed and he would get a better price than if I would go by myself.. i was skeptical, and good thing i waited around a bit, because the owner of the bike just came by, and said no no, he will bring his wife and then we would go together. Long story short: damage done: $30. All the while I had a great experience in waiting for the bike and observing how they fixed it in around 45 mins, talking to the lady from who we rented the room. All this instead of getting a massage like i originally wanted to. Haha, don’t regret it at all 🙂 Picked up my gay roommate, then headed back to the Villa on the motorbike through windy roads weaving through the jungle-like landscape then the rice paddies, all the while feeling the poor guy behind me shaking as I tried to hide my own nervousness by talking to him. Apparently did it well because he though I was totally chill, without a drop of anxiety. And we made it the whole 7 kms without a scratch. Score!

That night the whole gang went to the Jazz cafe, had a delicious buffet, and danced to a stevie-wonder double singing Superstitious, among many other great songs. Any jetlag I had for the first half of the night was pretty much gone after boogie-ing and making a human train on the dancefloor with Emily, Louise and Michael. Great night!

Day 3

In the morning, shortly after waking and washing my face, the homestay owner came up to us and asked if we were eating breakfast now or later? I said, oh, now.. and 10 mins later, he came back out of the kitchen with two places of the best looking egg-tomato-garlic toasted bread sandwich ever. I could not resist the temptation to eat at least half of one – it was delicious.. and although I was supposedly allergic to wheat and eggs in the states, I must have left it behind, it’s fists shaking on the California coast because I went through the day without a pang of pain in my stomach. He also brought a plate of fruit: papaya, watermelon, pineapples, and the sweetest bananas I’ve ever tasted! On top of all this, he brought two enormous coconuts with straws poking out! Remembering the coconut water I tasted back home, i was a bit wary about drinking it, but I thought – why the hell not.. it’s the freshest you can get.. and indeed it was very different from that store-bought, so called “100% coconut water” drink they sell at costco. Refreshing and semi-sweet.

By 10:00, we were at Emily+Endre’s villa where Michael and I booked a hotel for the Gili Islands where we were going to take a jetboat Saturday around noon. Then at 11 I hopped in a tour-car with my family except Endre (included 2 nieces, cousin, her husband, and my aunt and her husband) The adventure has begun!

In the following 10 hours, I saw the oldest temple in Bali, the elephant caves where some old men liked to meditate for 1 month without food and water (the smoke in there definitely made me want to sit and just “exist”.. and never go back to work :D), a coffee plantation where I tasted some amazing coffee, tea and hot chocolate – and witenssed the most interesting coffeemaker-contraption.. looked more like a science experiment, wolfed down mouth-watering fried bananas with fresh cane sugar on top, then saw their handmade-silver factory, the monkey forest where monkeys go abound stealing stuff out of your pockets and bananas out of your hands.. with certain ones thinking I’m friendly enough to even climb on my backpack and then pulling my hair, and finally the famous female-only kacak fire dance that celebrated the life of their sun-god Ramayana, as well as the horse rider’s dance through burning coconut husks. I finished up the day with the most delicious snapper fish dinner with rice and greenbean and cabbage salad. I even cleaned out two small bowls of spicy tomato and pepper salsa-like sauce. I must have grown some hair on my tongue or something after that first night out where I had to drink 2 large cups of orange-mango smoothie before I could breathe normally again. On the way back home I even witnessed the second pair of mating animals that day (first being a pair of monkeys, this second one being 2 dogs).

Aug. 19 – Felkészülés nemzeti ünnepre Budapesten

Táborbol könnyes szemekkel távoztam, fuvart Iringó és barátja kedvesen nyujtott nekem. Keleti Pályaudvarban letettek (persze ott maradt a kulacsom nagy sietsegben, de jo oka venni még egyet, szerintem már jo penészkert volt a tetejében, hiába sikáltam, a fekete maradványai mindig ott tündöklöttek.) Majd átvágtam a pu-on, nézve az időt, még kb 1 és fél óra mig megjön a Franciaországban volt Cseh szobatársam. Gondoltam, perfekt, addig átmegyek az Andris lakásába, ott van meg egy böröndöm, esetleg zuhanyozok (ez eléggé prioritás volt a fejemben, hiszen már 10 napja nem voltam zuhany alatt, es a hajmosást is amit lerendeztem tabor utolso napján az utolso kiöntendő ivóvizzel- azt hogy hová öncsem es mire lehet hasznalni nem szabták meg- csak annyit csinált, hogy az elso réteg koszt lemosta a fejemről). Aztán kinyomtatok valami program infot a holnapi napra. Ekkor írt nekem Tomas, hogy kesik, en meg visszairtam, hogy ok, s mit szól ahhoz hogy menjunk gyogyfurdobe vagy ma vagy holnap este. Erre visszaír, hogy “Ehhh…nem hoztam fürdőgatyát.” Prima. Nekem nagyon mehetnékem volt egy gyógyfürdőbe, ezért írtam, hogy most megyek neki talalni egy furdőgatyát, amire irja, hogy “sok szerencsét, tudod hogy nagyon válogatós vagyok…” s erre meg en: nem erdekel ha nem teteszik neked, azt fogod hordani amit veszek… Rohangálva 2, 3 üzletbe: használt ruha üzletbe, sarki kis rongyturkálóba, aztán komolyan tiszta utolsó percben találtam egyet, 5 percel mielött a ferfi bolt bezárt. Egy “s” méretet vettem, csak ránézésre, utolsó példányt. Késöbb kiderült, hogy tökéletesen ráfért. Azt hiszem tehetségem van erre – a hosszú bevásárlások nekem nem sikerürlnek, csak amikor bemegyek, s 2 perc mulva a szerzett holmival a kezemben kisétálok.

Le Voisin

Morning after the party, I come downstairs, make a hot chocolate, and survey mr. mess grinning at me from every corner of the apartment. Slowly, my flatmate appears, complaining of a headache, and that he doesn’t want to clean… two minutes later, a girl of whom I had faint recollection of seeing last night appears out of nowhere. Apparently she got “tired”, found my other (currently absent) flatmate’s bed, fell asleep unaware of the latter 3/4 of the party that went down the rest of the night. I wonder to myself: are there any other hidden corners of the house where people fell asleep, not realizing that they have comfortably curled up on a hard stone floor that hasn’t been washed since 1975?

The three of us are in the kitchen, me washing dishes by the window, the other two at the table. All of a sudden, we hear someone banging on the door. My flatmate and I look at each other with eyes wide open, and mutter the same word: Le Voisin. Regardless of the fact that my flatmate doesn’t speak french, that is the first word that popped in his head at the sound of fists threatening to break down the door. The girl looked at us curiously: why would you know it’s your neighbor, and why is he banging on the door?

He knocks, bangs, holds the ringer for 30 seconds multiple times, then after about 10 minutes of us pretending to be not home, his upper body appears a meter from me in the window in the kitchen (we live a story above ground floor), mouthing the doors: OVRIR LA PORTE, pointing towards our door.. HOLY SHIT. I nearly break the dishes, and move away from the window to behind the table. We’re scared shitless, why would we open the door? Maybe he has a club with him or a knife, or something.. This is when my female flatmate comes downstairs, looks at us with fright; who is banging, and why? We start telling her it’s the crazy neighbor, when he appears again in the window. This I know not because I see him, but by watching the girl’s face, as she was the only one left in plain view of the window. Covering her mouth, her eyes frozen with fright, she wispers: I’m scared, he’s stark mad! I don’t wanna open the door! So we collectively decide to go out there together..

Of course we know the subject is going to be about the “exorbitantly loud” party we had last night. To be frank, I believe this retiree has nothing better to do than lay in bed at night, waiting till the clock strikes 11:30pm, then strains his ears to see if he hears anything from the corridor common to all of us living in the french-style apartment house.

In fact, the we kept the music to a talkable level, keeping people in the room farthest away from the corridor, and when they came to complain, we turned off the music and left the house so that we leave the neighbors alone.

And as the cherry on top, we received a letter today seemingly from the landlord, but we discover by clearly different handwriting that it is in fact not the landlord, but the neighbor who has forged the landlord’s signature.

And this isn’t the first time this neighbor has done total “conaries”, complaining about bikes in the building to us that aren’t actually ours, coming to say that we parked infront of his garage (it wasn’t us again)… I think we shall take all the VELO toulouse bikes from the rack in front of the apartment and park them in front of his door. Or better yet, park my flatmate’s car in the entrance way. No bike, no problem, eh? Or shall we ask my coloc who works at airbus to borrow a helicopter or a small airplane to park in front of his garage.

Next party we’ll ask people to come up on a ladder from the window. Yeah right.

Fete du Vins et le demenagement du lit

November 18 (well actually it is past midnight, so the 19th), people are going craaaazy outside, like Mayfest in Syracuse, or Mardi Gras. It is the festival of wines. All the hard work has paid off with the grape harvest and wine making. The newest wines are opened tonight.
Of course I had no idea this was happening, so conveniently scheduled to move a bed over from a friend’s apartment to mine. Thus, we got the car over to her apartment, lugged the mattress down the stairs, into the car, shoved the mattress in, which actually didn’t fit so i jumped in, compressing the mattress so it would fit. Then she closed the hatchback with me in the back. Eventually got my way up to the front of the compact Opel. Alors, vas-y! My apartment is a 15 min walk from my friends… so driving over shouldn’t take so long…
…It took 40 minutes. Reason: Combination of police barricades (at some point there was a corner with at least 20 cops hanging out in uniform), drunken crowds, cars parked in the middle of the road, too many one way streets, and lack of parking spots. Maybe it would have taken less time if we just carried it on our shoulders through the streets…
3 hours later, finally in bed, writing this post. AAh by the way – had the best hot wine ever, mix of water, wine, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Yummmm. Also made an excellent soup, containing only 2 fresh ingredients: onions and bell peppers. The rest came out of cans and boxes. So far 35 euros on food this week. Can it last til Sunday? Will see.

Adrenaline Rush

I think I had enough of Adrenaline for one weekend.. but it is merely Saturday night.

Part 1
So first… Friday night I was invited to my first real “french party” aka a house party full of mostly french dudes/dudettes. (except for one guy from Sweden or somewhere- but he was actually asian or Malaysian looking) To get there, I had to take a bus from home all the way to the metro, then took the metro north two stops. From there, it was all by foot. I had looked up the way to get there on google maps, but when I was walking, I took a wrong turn, and went on the road I thought would pass by some tennis fields (which it did, but was actually the wrong set of fields- really the field I was looking for were rugby fields, and a block north)… so this road I thought would pass over the canal, but instead I ended up with a dead end of fence. Proceeded to climb the fence, because the canal road was just on the other side.
Bad idea.
Fence was the kind that was not just supposed to keep cars and bikes out, but people too. Long story short, it created some pretty nasty wounds in my hands. (Eyes… check, ass… check, face…check, hands… !check) I even felt the sneaky little metal pointy thing at the top sink in. At least it avoided any ligaments and nerves, actually barely hurt, only slightly swollen now.

Ah but then it was not very pretty… blood seeping out, dripping all over the place (I bet I would have some vampires on my tail if they existed). And for those of you I know are reading this (mom), don’t worry, I’m OK. no need to go to the hospital or anything. But just sayin, good thing I have some leftover calluses from rowing.

Party was fun, but more booze flowing there than adrenaline :p (Again for those worrying too much- I did not get drunk, or puke, or anything terribly bad)

Part 2
Today, I offered to take photos of a kind of suspicious place – namely where the guys doing some construction two houses over basically almost blew up the house where I’m living by fiddling with the electric boxes (presumably trying to steal electricity), and somehow ended up routing way too much voltage through the wires (you know nothing too bad – just some smoke and flames coming out of the wireless router, busting all the light fixtures, screwing up the fishtank’s 700 Euro water pump, blowing out the heating in half the house, etc.)
So today, just to have some evidence of the scene, I went out to take some photos from the PUBLIC road (did not go into anyone’s property). I go happily along with my small camera, snapping some photos of the electric box, the property being constructed on, etc. All of a sudden, I hear this guy yelling in French: “Why are you taking photos!!?” He’s pretty far away, so I just pretend not to hear him and keep going on (I was gonna jump on the bus that was coming in 10 minutes).
One minute later, a car comes racing towards me from behind.. in my mind I’m like oh crap… I hope I don’t get beaten up :-/. Comes screeching to a halt in front of me, guy jumps out, and starts yelling, “Why are you taking photos!!?” I’m just like, well “I’m here for a bit, and I just want to take photos of the places I’ve been, which includes this street…” His face turns red and keeps yelling,
“You can’t take photos of my car, and my work!! Why are you taking photos, you’re not allowed” I swear he’s like spewing spit he’s so mad… (there are 3 or 4 other guys in the car with him.. presumably illegal workers), I rebuke:
“What are you talking about, this is a public road, I can take as many photos I want here, there” ..He keeps ranting
“Why can’t I take photos??” I ask.
“It’s the law, you can’t take photos of someone’s vehicle, and someone’s work, it’s not like your country” (BULL SHIT).
So hes like show me the photos, starts grabbing my arm (me against 5 guys.. no way in hell – so I take out the camera). So I’m obliged to pull the camera out show him.. He’s like thats my car, thats my property, you can’t take photos, blah blah. At this point I’m getting really mad to – there must be something really bad if he’s acting like this.
He snatches the camera from my hand, and jumps back in his car, saying I’m taking the photos.
Then accelerates full speed. At this point, I’m like, great… there goes my camera… at least it wasn’t my really big expensive one.
But he ends up slowing down and stopping again, getting out of the car as Im about to pass by them with a really angry look on my face. He hands me back the camera saying “I took the card out, here’s your camera.” Wanted to flick him off so bad, but probably would have made matters worse.
He drives off, then another car full of Arabs drives by (most likely also illegal).
I think it’s time to find a new home… disappear before they attempt to blow up the house again…
Although in future cases these are the things I would have done (or should have tried to do):
1. hide as soon as he first notices
2. turn off the dumb flash when taking photos (why didn’t I think of this earlier)
3. have 2 cards, and switch the cards after taking the photos, showing him the empty one, saying they weren’t good and so I deleted them (probably wouldn’t have worked, but an interesting alternative).
4. put the scarf over my head as a headdress, and start swearing to Allah and bowing in the 4 directions.

And now I’m sitting in the Uni’s parking lot. I came here with the intention of finding a chair and table and a place where there’s internet so I can do some work. Fail University, fail: I found internet but no chair and table (unless I break into the building).