14 November 2010

BIG TRIP: Days 3 through 6

Lots of time watching baby NJ crawl and climb, and always with a plan. It doesn't take much to get her to smile. She's the perfect baby. She gets tons of hugs and kisses from LG and KF, her mommy and daddy, and papa and grandma, too.

We've mostly been at home laughing and talking, and swinging granddaughters into the air. There've been some musical chairs, a bit of yoga, some book reading, and tickling.

Yesterday KF went along with her daddy and us to the Nachsmarkt in Vienna to choose some of the treats we all look forward to when we're here--sun dried tomatoes, olives, fresh baguettes, 3-year aged Reggiano Parmesano, Chaumes (stinky) cheese, hummus, baby spinach, and various and sundry other items. In a day or so we'll make some rissoto and a sauteed spinach salad with roasted garlic.  We've already eaten the baguettes, so we'll scout out something local to accompany the meal.

LG had swimming lessons while we were in Vienna, but there was still time for MK to whip up a yellow cake and chocolate icing from scratch, and the little girls topped it off with lots of sprinkles. Before bedtime, papa mixed up enough Pâte Brisée (Martha Stewart's recipe) to refrigerate overnight.

This morning, I peel the apples and mix in the flour, sugar, cinnamon, a bit of salt, and a tablespoon of two of butter to build the apple pie that DM and MK are imagining. KF and LG proficiently help roll the dough and cut the apples. We bake the 12" pie for a hour, until the crust (brushed with cream and splashed with a generous amount of coarsely ground sugar) comes out golden. The entire house smells like Fall or Winter holidays.

We're invited to MK's parents home in Avion in Bratislava for a traditional Sunday meal. JK is a cook extraordinare, and insists on feeding us a multi-entree, multi-multi course meal. Today we are served chicken soup with angel hair pasta, roast chicken with planka (something akin to stuffing or dumpling), pork loin roasted with creamy mushrooms and thick slices of onions, and rice pilaf. She'd agreed to let us bring dessert (apple pie and cake) but hasn't resisted the urge to bake two flavors of strudel--one a sweet walnut and the other a cheese with raisins.

Then, we spend the afternoon, along with MK's brother RK and his wife EK, walking from their parents flat into the old city. Because it's a warm and sunny November, many people are out on the streets. I smile as think how fine it is to be in an old city in central Europe, walking over cobbled streets, carrying on conversations in two languages--just enjoying the day and reveling in the long-sought freedom that these Slovaks have begun to accept as normal.

We don't speak Slovak, or understand it. MK's parents have very rudimentary English, but we enjoy each other's company and share a mutual love of our children and adoration of these three beautiful granddaughters.

We've been coming here for more than 10 years--this is our 9th trip. We've seen this city rise from financial depression, 10-years post Communism, to a very evident prosperity. Major corporations have found their way into this economy. There's been a housing boom, and a bit of a housing recession. The city is spreading to villages, creating suburbs with single-family homes, strip malls, and families. The city lights up the night sky with skyscrapers and retail blocks. The pall of Communism peeks through in various ways, but is mostly superceded and beaten back by capitalism and change.

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