Archive for December, 2009


Homemade is a word that seems to have moved from thrift to chic.  In the States we’re in the middle of a homemade revolution and it’s not your grandmother’s lumpy knit sweater or canned green beans. Frankly, I am not even sure it’s about saving money. It’s about quality, taste, craft and the right to brag that you make it yourself.  It’s cable knit sweaters, wraps and fingerless gloves on ravelry; it’s blue birds, necklaces, purses, magnets, coasters and whatever else the mind can dream up on etsy; and it’s blogs aplenty focused on innovative canning, pickling and preserving methods, recipes and techniques for our fruits and veggies as we dream of returning to the kitchen and away from flavorless cans from the grocery store.  It’s a homemade revival and the twenty-somethings seem to be leading the way.

Homemade Rakiya in a coke bottle

I was asked recently what my favorite word in Bulgarian is.  My vocabulary isn’t that big so it’s not some very clever, smart-person word.  In fact it’s a pretty common word: домашен (homemade).  I think that I like it so much because it’s a word that when it’s paired with a noun like lyutenitsa, rakiya, jam, wine and you know that the noun is going to be better because of it.  It’s unique, it’s interesting and it might just take your breath away (this may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the wine or rakiya you’re drinking).

Anyhow just this week, the New York Times wrote an article on this homemade phenomenon in Bulgaria. This article of course isn’t a sexy article about the revival of homemade in Bulgaria.  Rather it’s a fairly staid and slightly depressing article about homemade in Bulgaria. (more…)


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Me at Merchants (one last time)

There’s a piece of me that would like to think that things will stay the same in Walla Walla forever.  I like the idea of a nice little town with a handful of elementary schools two middle schools and a high school with football on Friday night. This said, I also like the idea of coming home and wine tasting–something that was nearly unimaginable 10 years ago when I graduated from high school.  So it’s not that I actually want or expect that things will never change, it’s just that I like the idea of a thriving small town with a vibrant downtown.

But things do change, and while Walla Walla is lucky enough to be a small town and to still be thriving something that’s becoming more and more uncommon, I have to prepare myself for the fact that nothing stays the same forever.  So now I must say goodbye to Merchants.  Merchants is (was) a deli/bakery/coffee shop not far from the intersection of Main Street and First Street–a shop at the heart of our little downtown.  My dAd tells me Merchants has been for sale for five years. Thus, I am sure this sale has come as a relief to the owner but for the rest of us, it’s come as a blow. On Sunday, it was announced that Merchants is closing shop.  Merchants will be no more (as of Thursday).  The space has been purchased by another local restaurant T. Maccarone’s an Italian place.  It’s unclear to me what the thrust of the new shop/space/cafe/restaurant will be but it’s not as if the Merchants storefront will sit empty on Main Street–it just won’t be Merchants any more.

So earlier this week, still in a foodcoma from Christmas, my family and I popped into Merchants for a final cinnamon roll and a coffee. The cinnamon roll was delicious–as usual but the experience was bittersweet.  It was a reminder that no matter how much you’d like things to stay the same they can’t.  Merchants was an institution downtown but luckily for us Merchants didn’t make Walla Walla, Walla Walla.  Good-bye, good-bye.

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Sharpstein Manor decorated in lights

Earlier in December, I wrote a post about Christmas lights in Sofia.  I was struck by the white lights on the national bank building, which were hung very neatly, and the blue lights in parliament, that looked like a 14 year-old hung them.  One of the comments I received asked me this:

Can you share some pictures with US Christmas decorations?

Happy holidays!

And truth be told, I don’t get lots of requests for blog posts and I love Christmas lights so I am happy to oblige.  (There were a few pictures in a post two days ago but today there are many, many more.) (more…)

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Beer Tasting

One of my new favorite things to do in Walla Walla is to duck out on wine tasting and go to taste beer instead. The first time I went was a couple of years ago when my dAd got my siblings and me lined up to drive to Waitsburg to check out Laht Neppur. Now driving over to Waitsburg for beer has become a Christmas tradition (rumor also has it that Waitsburg is one of the 10 best small towns in America so it’s pretty hard not to want to drive to Waitsburg for beer given a reputation like that–and it’s only 25 minutes or so from Walla Walla).  This year however we ditched our parents, aunts and uncles and headed out–my brother, sister and my brother’s girlfriend.

Me, my brother and my sister at Laht Neppur

It doesn’t look like much from the outside.  It more or less looks like an glorified-overgrown garage with a big yellow sign over the door.  Once inside there’s a wood burning stove, some wooden picnic tables and peanut shells all over the floor but again it’s not much to look at.  That’s okay because the beer is good. (more…)

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Christmas Candy

Well, I’ve been in Walla Walla now for about four days–my sleep schedule has been completely out of whack, I am hungry at the strangest times and I am beginning to feel like I am going to need a vacation from my vacation. Still it’s good to be home.

I’ve been busy these past few days. I’ve been spending lots of time with my family. I had to sort and wrap all of the presents I brought home for my family. We celebrated both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with lots of eating and gift giving. I had to catch up on some bad American television, visit my favorite local coffee shop, candy shop and shoe shop and I stayed up late last night to have a couple of beers with high school friends.

My Walla Walla coffee shop

The Bright's Candy counter

It’s been a whirlwind of go, go, go, and eat, eat, eat while trying not to fall asleep while doing either. (more…)

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I’ve got Christmas songs in my head.  Mostly on repeat. I don’t love this but it is what it is.  I can’t ever sing enough of the 12 Days of Christmas to know how many maids are milking and how many drummers are drumming but what’s a girl supposed to do after a night flight across the Atlantic Ocean with minimal sleep? Oh and the real winner over the last two days is the refrain: I’ll be home for Christmas, just you wait and see.  I sing it to myself because I think in that song everything works out okay–but I am not sure because I don’t actually know anything but the refrain.  Who though would write a song about going home at Christmas for the last verse to reveal that the loved one never made it home?

Well, there have been a couple times in this trip that I was sure I wasn’t ever going to get close to Walla Walla.  There’ve been snow delays/weather whatevers and lots and lots of standing in lines.  But four airplane rides later, here I am sitting in the Seattle airport waiting for my last flight to Walla Walla.  Yep, I’ll have been on 5 in planes in 24 hours shortly–I think.  I mean, I am not sure if it’s really been 24 hours or if it’s more than this seeing as each time I get off an airplane I am find myself gaining time–an hour or two here or there and I have no idea what time it is.  In fact, I managed to eat breakfast now fewer than three times this morning.

So, now I feel like my head is spinning and I am looking forward to finding an Americano and settling down to wait for my final plane to Walla Wall.

Before I do this however I am going to submit you to a short list of the strange things I’ve observed, overheard or experienced in the last 24 hours.

  • The book In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is not a travel/read in the airport/on an airplane kind of book.  People look at your book and then look at you with confusion. I should probably tape a note under the title that says: don’t worry I am not reading this for fun. It’s work. I have to teach to my Bulgarian 11th graders in February.  But I am not sure this would make the situation any better. Now I just try to read it with the cover in my lap so that people can’t see what I am reading.
  • In Warsaw airport, an American man says to another man with a child: are you speaking Russian to her or Polish? (Really!? American man–think about it?!)
  • When airplanes land successfully in Eastern Europe, Eastern Europeans clap. I find this totally disconcerting.  (more…)

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For those of you following my Balkan dance (or more specifically my Bulgarian National Dance) debut you probably know that I danced on both Thursday and on Friday at school for the Christmas concert.  The first song we danced to was relatively easy and the second one was, um, not.  I don’t think that I’ll be winning any competitions any time soon.  But hey, the dress is great and I made it through.

You’ll see that I am the tall blond girl on stage in a yellow dress.  You’ll also notice that on the first song I do a great job but on the second one, well it’s a mess.  I don’t leave the stage hop jumping in the right order. Oh well.  The second dance has been cut down from the whole to just a clip but I have to say it felt like I was on stage a lot longer than this two-plus minute clip.

At least I am good at English.

Finally, I’d like to apologize to anyone who feels like I’ve co-opted his or her culture,  to anyone who now has a cramp in his or her side from laughing and to anyone who now can’t get the image of me jumping off stage on the wrong foot.  Thanks for being patient with me.

Oh, this probably my last post for a day or two. I am going to be flying to the States this afternoon and I wont get to Walla Walla until Tuesday evening.  Wish me luck with this and the 10 hour jet lag that I will soon be suffering from.

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