laupäev, 15. august 2020

Baltics and the white sands. What you will be served when you order pizza in Jurmala

For Saturday we had invited us to Tartu for lunch and filled ourselves with smoked salmon, tomatoes, baked cheese breads, fried potatoes and yellow beans offered by my parents.

Around 4pm we left Tartu towards Latvia and arrived in Jurmala at 8pm. At first we had the idea of bringing our stuff to the room and hurry to the beach to enjoy the best sunsets in Baltics, but our hostess did her very best to obstruct this plan. While I was checking us in, Scott was checking out the restroom and the lady, wanting very enthusiastically introduce Jurmala to us, refused to do it only for me: We wait until husband here too. Once the husband returned to the reception, the hostess spread out the map and started to point out how Jurmala is placed nicely between the sea and the river and where exactly our walks should take us. We finally managed to get the room key, however the lady insisted on walking us to the room, to make sure that we are able to find the door, merely 8 feet away from the reception desk.

We arrived at the beach exactly 15 minutes before the sun hit the horizon, walked along the beach, took some pictures and walked to the main boulevard to grab a light snack before hitting the bed. We chose Cafe 53. I got grilled chicken breast and carrot juice and Scott, ever the optimist, took pizza in addition to his salad. My chicken and the warm carrot juice were good, Scott's salad seemed fine too. Instead of pizza he got a loaf of bread with a pile of cut ham in the middle of it and covered with a lot of cheese. We didn't plan to return to that cafe.

neljapäev, 30. juuli 2020

Go Blue. How they almost kicked me out of the hotel.

The husband of Sowjet woman will not be troubled by little setbacks. In December our washing machine broke and it wasn't reasonable to repair it or get a new one. Clearly we didn't consider the option of laundromat, where we could have had some masquerade with all the other customers. Since our US home has never needed a wash-basin, we also didn't have one handy. But what we did have, was a growing pile of clothes needing to be washed. Making mountain out of a molehill and a moment later my husband had lined a bog laundry basket with garbage bags and presented me a McGyver worthy wash-basin. The drier luckily was working, so it was enough to throw clean stuff in it.

Dear reader, did you know that there's a food item called pickle chips? When Scott added the mentioned chips to his food order, I thought of the usual load of chips or french fries, covered with pickles. Turned out, in this country you can deep fry everything, even sliced pickles. As proof take a look at the picture above.

Continuing with food - the other day I happened to see a video of bacon and cinnamon rolls and since we had both, flour and cinnamon that we needed to consume, we ordered some bacon and I have to tell that with the maple glaze it was an amazing pastry. As we are not hosting any big reception under current circumstances, only Rebecca stopped by to visit once, we ended up with a few too many of them. But since the children are starving in Rwanda, instead of throwing two stale rolls away, I just sliced them, soaked in egg-cream-baileys mixture and fried them as extra fancy french toast. Zero waste at its best!

They loaded all our super comfy terrace furniture on the container, but to avoid just looking at the empty terrace for the last four days, every morning we dragged the only armchair left out there for me (Scott used our pocketable hiking chair) and used empty cardboard boxes as side tables. Land of McGyver, tellya that!

Although I somewhat am collecting the Starbucks mugs, I still didn't have the Detroit one. It always seemed to have a little to dark colors, but now I decided that this time the mug will join me on the flight to Tallinn. As well known, Starbucks is only selling their mugs in respective countries and cities. Knowing that Starbucks has their cafe in Detroit Airport, we didn't take a separate trip to Detroit to get a mug. Well... The airport cafe was closed until further notice.

With great joy I discovered that despite only having three restaurants opened in airport, it's possible to also get a salad there, not just burgers and hot dogs. Or rather the US idea of salad (a pile of greens, two slices of chicken, a few olives, a few pieces of cucumber and little jar of dressing). I grabbed the mentioned box of health and vitamins alongside with a little slice of cheesecake and my total was over 18 USD. For the same money I could have gotten six portions of chicken nuggets. Or seven hot dogs... No wonder they only advertise the prices of fast food and the you'll learn about your investment in lettuce industry only in check-out.

For our last night we had booked a hotel. Through a 86F weather we walked into the lobby and as the first thing they took our temperature. From forehead. Scott was all good, I got told number 101,1F (if you, just like me don't know the relationship of Fahrenheit and Celsius by heart, the number means 38,4 by Celsius) and informed that if it doesn't go down within next minute, they'll cancel the booking and we'll be on our own to find a new place to sleep. Since I know exactly how I feel, when I have over 38C fever, I was convinced that the temperature was higher due to the outside sunny weather and indeed, already 30 seconds later they measured below 100F and we could go to our room. I was sure that taking the temperature from forehead with this kind of weather is such a next level of stupid that my blood pressure will add some to the temperature, but apparently not. The room was nice and cozy, but the bathroom and toilet so high-tech that we didn't even manage to check even half the functions of the toilet. Anyway, I can't imagine ever using a non-heated toilet seat ever again. While taking the shower, we could send music from phone to ceiling loudspeakers through a touch panel on mirror and wash your hair while listening Nancy Sinatra.

esmaspäev, 27. juuli 2020

Go Blue. How we went to Urgent Care. And to CVS.

Dear loyal reader, my first experience with the medical system in the country that has been built up on healthcare, lawyers and tax advisors, deserves a separate post.

Around lunchtime Scott started to have some stomach aches and while in the beginning he was accusing last night pizza and today's McDonalds' breakfast, in few hours it was clear that those two are not causing this kind of pain. All possible medicals had been consumed or shipped to Estonia, so we only had the choice of chamomile, peppermint and pure vodka. I started with chamomile tea and followed with strong peppermint tea. Neither was much help. By 6pm the pain was so strong that we went to the closest Urgent Care.

In the first cabinet we were sent to, the girl, constantly touching her mask, measured the temperature and asked questions about weight and exercise. From there we went to the next cabinet to wait. Few minutes later rasta-dude called Patrick came in, who immediately rolled his seat between Scott's legs and asked some questions about the stomach ache. Scott assumed that he has diverticulitis, which would not be the first time and asked for some painkiller. Considering that the patient didn't have US health insurance, he could choose whether he wants the IV (quicker, but more expensive) or shot (slower, but cheaper). Before prescribing antibiotics, they inquired, if the patient would like to have some tests taken, for example blood or urine. The patient didn't really want either, but to exclude kidney stones they did take urine test. The chosen shot was done by a lady, who had nicely covered her hair under hijab, but left the mask home.

The shot started to slowly kick in and meanwhile the rasta-dude popped in again to consult, which treatment the patient would prefer. Considering that in less than 48 hours we had to board the plane and still had few things left to do, the patient wanted some antibiotics and also a stronger painkiller to get through the next few days, like Vicodin. Turned out that the rasta-guy can't prescribe Vicodin for it being a too strong of a drug, but after a short consultation with the owner of the clinic the later agreed to prescribe two days dose of Norco. They handed us the Norco prescription on paper and sent the antibiotics one directly to the CVS. Fast and efficient - walk in, tell them what you diagnosed yourself with, pay and walk out with a handful of prescriptions.

So we did pay the bill and drove to CVS. Scott remained in the car until I quickly run in and get the drugs. Oh, well, guess again. There were three counters in the prescription area:
Consultation - empty
Drop Off - empty
Pick Up - one pharmacist and one customer

Since I only needed to pick up the pills, I naturally went to wait in the "Pick Up" lane. Turned out to be not the greatest idea. After 10 minutes of waiting it was my turn only to find out that until I have dropped off my prescription in the "Drop Off" counter so that they can prepare my medicine, there's nothing to be picked up. Alright, I walked to the mentioned counter and waited. In 5 minutes a young guy came, took the prescription and after clicking the keyboard for a while he told me that he doesn't have authority to deal with this kind of drug. More senior pharmacist should be with me shortly. Only 10 more minutes passed and the senior pharmacist was working with the prescription. She typed on the keyboard, took few phone calls and told me that they can't sell me the drug. Apparently, since it's too strong of a drug, they can't accept this prescription from a regular clinic and they shouldn't have issued it in the first place. Anyway, she refused to do anything with it. With the antibiotics they need 15 minutes and they'll call my name, once ready to be picked up.

Since there wasn't anything for me to do in CVS for the 15 minutes, I went back to the car and gave Scott the report of the current stand. Scott called the CVS as well as the clinic, but max he managed to get, was a new prescription for a milder painkiller.

I returned to the CVS and already 45 minutes after I first entered it, I had two of the three drugs!

reede, 24. juuli 2020

Go Blue. State of Affairs on the Western Front

Mid of July we had the need to fly to US again. Since both parties had closed their borders for the other, we packed all the documents we could think of to prove the right to enter the country. The first one, our marriage certificate was needed already in Amsterdam, where it took about 15 minutes to go through all the checks and permits. In Detroit, there was only one lane this time - US citizen shared the lane with all kinds of, yet very few immigrants. Once at the counter, the young dude asked, if we have already filed the papers, clearly indicating that this Eastern-European must want to move to US for a better life. Passport stamped, we had to go to have our temperatures checked. Neither of us had fever and we got out quickly. However, one more stop back in the passport control was needed, where before granting the right to enter they checked the results of temperature.

After finding at home that our realtor had cleaned out our fridge and freezer so well that even the mouse was gone, I was only happy to have some apples, carrots and cheese from Estonia.

I had the ambitious plan to go for a quick run after sitting my butt fat for hours on planes and in airports. Instead I fluffed my pillow and turned in at 9pm. Some time later, through my sleep I heard Scott telling me that he'll be out shopping.

Despite everything that's going on in the rest of the country, the situation in our city seems to be more or less under control. There are less cases than on average, everyone is wearing a mask everywhere and where possible, people keep distance. On Wednesday I managed to go for a run and on a smaller path in woods I noticed a mom with two kids, one in stroller and other one in strap walking towards me. I planned to keep as much on the right as possible, but then I noticed that the lady had already switched to the reverse gear and is speeding back forward away from me. A little while later she had the chance to pull aside in the woods and waited there until I had passed them. Considering the size of the woods behind our home, I usually run 2-3 loops there and so merely 12 minutes later I was running into them again. I pointed out which way I was heading and they were choosing another one. The same happened with most of the people I saw there walking or running. Either one was either turning around or stepped aside on a wider place.

In the city center there are few main streets closed for the car traffic, which enables the restaurants to expand their terraces on the streets so that customers can keep their distance. Inside the restaurants everyone was supposed to wear masks, you could only remove it after sitting down. Going to powder your nose you had to put the mask on again.

Bigger part of the free time we have spent on the upper deck sipping wine and watching squirrels, skunks, fireflies and raccoons. We have sorted our stuff, unpacked and packed. Visited Scott's mom and aunt and also Rebecca and went for few quick shopping trips. In the entrance masked employees are greeting you, offering disinfection and store floors have stickers marking the direction you should walk in the aisles. It also turned out that not everyone is looking down and my husband noticed the stickers after spending 10 minutes in the store and having me pointed them out to him. Trader Joe had marked waiting spots with chalk near the entrance and only let the next customer in after someone had exited. They also disinfected all cart handles before handing them to the next customer.

laupäev, 27. juuni 2020

Isolation Gourmet. Vol. 4

Here's the last overview of our homemade isolation gourmet, because by now we can go out to eat again and homecooking has gone down a lot. From top left:

1.  Really good carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
2. Brunch: hash browns, fresh spinach, fried bacon and poached egg
3. Scott's famous chocolate chip and walnut cookie
4. Homemade Dairy Queen: ice cream with Daim pieces
5. My first ever pie success: crispy rhubarb pie with marzipan
6. Brunch with homemade croissants
7. Beef Tenderloin with veggies
8. Rhubarb and sour cream open pie
9. Custard cake with berries and salted caramel

neljapäev, 25. juuni 2020

Haapsalu. White Nights.

Since I considered it a great idea that Scott, who was already disturbed by the fact that daylight arrives at 3:30am, would get the full experience of the midsummer and how the sunset will smoothly turn into sunrise, we chose a seaside hotel in Haapsalu and made our way there by Monday afternoon. Took our stuff through a blazing hot airless hallway to our room and still remembering those delicious cakes from Hapsal Dietrich, hurried there. Foresightedly we had booked a table.

We got the last duck cannelloni, ate some dumplings, potato-salmon salad and tartar. Just in case, already when placing the order we had asked to set a slice of the blueberry chocolate cake aside, otherwise we would have nervously been eyeing the cake display during the whole dinner, because the mentioned blueberry cake was disappearing like the first snow. We later also chose the cherry chocolate cake and walked back to the hotel the extra long way.

Our hotel and the balcony was facing the sea and sunrise. To see the sunset on Monday, we walked to the opposite beach on our peninsula. Shared the space with about million mosquito and fly and walked back to the room.

The breakfast buffet in hotel was the oldschool buffet, where every guest could cough on the food as their lungs permitted, so we decided to return to Hapsal Dietrich. Their brunch menu wasn't overly long, consisting of three items (plus smoothies) only, but we found what we liked and placed an order for avocado-salmon bruschettas (me) and potatoes with eggs and bacon (Scott). Scott, for whom the eggs only exist in cakes or as scrambled or omelet, asked his egg to be scrambled. Turned out that the breakfast chefs can only make fried eggs. Because they are so busy serving the three tables that they manages to break the eggs on the pan, but not to scramble them. So, Scott took the salmon bruschettas as well. And a slice of blueberry chocolate cake, so fresh that it had departed the whisk merely few minutes earlier.

We walked some more in town, went to the beach, had some lovely afternoon nap and got out to find a dinner place. It turned out not to be such an easy task on the midsummer and we ended up eating in a pub on the streetside. Chicken breast and beef tenderloin were good and the lemonades had cute flower decorations. Since the better part of the dessert menu was sold out, we walked to the Kuursaal to have something sweet. I ordered a profiterole and coffee, Scott took ice cream with strawberry jam. My profiterole and coffee were brought to the table right away and I had almost finished both, once Scott got his mostly melted icecream with a spoonful of jam. And my previous memory of the Kuursaal was from years ago, when we once stepped in 10 minutes before closing time, totally hungry and their kitchen was long closed and they still found a possibility to combine a huge plate of ham, cheese and tomatoes for us. They didn't even want to take any money for that. We managed to leave some though. Clearly the times have changed.

The midsummer night we had planned to stay up until sunrise to watch from our prime seats how the evening light will turn into morning light. Scott was especially convinced that he wants to see the sunrise. At 12am he yawned and let me know that he'll be back out at 1:30am to see what the situation is with the sunrise. That's what we did. At 1:30am and 2:30am and 3:30am. After that we slept until morning.

Since the chefs from Hapsal Dietrich were still resting from the hard egg frying yesterday morning and opened their joint at 12pm, we walked to Müüriääre Cafe to have breakfast. It seemed that their chefs have somewhat quicker wrist moving abilities, so Scott could get an omelet and me oatmeal.

esmaspäev, 15. juuni 2020

How we went to Opera. And why we are not going there anymore.

In March, right before corona kicked in and closed all the doors, we managed to visit newly opened Opera restaurant on aa movie night. That’s the new pavilion in the central park. We had some tartar and hummus, a mushroom pie and creme brûlée. Was delicious.

We returned there on my birthday. Menu was new, from scratch. We had shrimp tempura, asian type salad, salmon poke bowl, schnitzel and limoncello cake. Everything was so delicious again that Scott was ready to have another meal there next day.

They did have a sign by the door that 2+2 should be followed and wait to be seated. Turned out that both rules are for pussies. But the chick in sweatpants, cap and shiny pink Versace purse with her date were for sure not pussies and chose in otherwise completely empty room the table right next to us.

And then, we went there again in June. Six of us this time. And new menu again. From scratch again. We did have someone with us, who could only eat veggies and she asked for some. The waitress went to the kitchen to ask, returned and informed us that all the veggies were foreseen for some other meal already. Oh, well. We found tomato salad with cheese from local farmer and pesto. So we asked to skip the cheese and pesto and just serve her tomatoes. What arrived on our table, was a plate with three slices of tomato and three little cherry tomatoes. And some olive oil. When it was time to pay the bill, it turned out that we were served the most expensive tomatoes in country - the price for three slices and three cherry tomatoes was 9EUR. We asked them to at least pack us the cheese and pesto for take away. We got a walnut size of soft cheese and tablespoon of pesto. Since also the rest of the food was average, we will be eating somewhere else.