Leah bachhuber

Live, read, travel, explore, enjoy

A-Marketing for Dinner

There are so many things one “should” do in Paris: go to the Lourve, stroll the Seine, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. All of them are wonderful things, but I did most of those “should’s” on our last trip to Paris. When picking things for this trip, I just asked myself, “what do I WANT to do?” One of my favorite things to do is find good local food markets, so this ended up being a top priority. I researched a number of food markets and Marche d’Aligre stood out. David Lebovitz described Marche d’Aligre as “especially bustling” and reflecting a rich cultural mix compared to other markets in the city. The Atlantic published a piece titled “Antidote to Stuffy Paris: The Last Great Daily Market.” So, naturally Marche d’Aligre topped my list of things that I truly wanted to see.

We spent most of Thursday walking around Paris. We started in Montmartre and headed to Canal Saint Martin, a neighborhood I had heard interesting things about. We wandered along the canal, poking through some of the stores in the area. Canal Saint Martin is quite an artsy and hip neighborhood, I’d compare it to Mississippi or Alberta streets in Portland, though maybe a bit more edgy and a bit less polished. The neighborhood is covered in funky graffiti, street art and hip cafes abound. The banks of the canals are where the Parisian youths gather for food and a bottle of wine (you know you’re old when you start referring to young people as “youths”).

We continued on towards Marche d’Aligre, though when we finally arrived at the market structure it was totally dead and the gate was locked. It turns out the market opens in the morning at 7am and then closes mid-day, then opens again at 4pm. We sat in a nearby park to kill time before the market opened again. Once the market did finally open, it was almost nothing like I expected based on the Atlantic and Lebovitz articles I’d read. I expected a sprawling complex of bustling stalls and a flea market component. When we arrived there were no wares being sold besides food (and flowers), and about half of the stalls within the market structure were closed. I concluded that to truly get the “bustling market experience” I think it is best to come first thing in the morning, or possibly on the weekend.

Despite the lackadaisical feel of the place, we still enjoyed surveying the offerings. There were stalls offering cheeses, meats, flowers, and different desserts. Earlier in the day Daniel had offered to make me dinner at our Airbnb rental. Admittedly, I didn’t jump on the idea because I wasn’t sure I wanted to miss out on an opportunity to dine of one of the multitudes of delicious street-side restaurants. But, Daniel convinced me that we should pick up ingredients from the market and cook them up into something tasty at home. After surveying the fresh pasta choices, I was convinced.

It turns out Daniel’s French is actually quite functional. He was able to talk a bit with the market purveyors and pick out thin sliced jambon, fresh tagliolini pasta, tomatoes, and some shredded cheese (which we thought was parmesan but may have been mizithra), and a slice of chocolate torte. On the walk home from the market we also picked up a fresh baguette, a pistachio meringue (needed sustenance for the walk), and two beers.

Back at home Daniel whipped up an absolutely spectacular meal with our market ingredients. The meal was simple, but oh-so flavorful. The French culinary axiom seems to be: use good ingredients, not too much or to many of them, and the meal will be spectacular. Daniel followed this with delicious results.

 

Travels to Paris

Bonjour from Paris! I write this blog from our Airbnb bed, it is 4:48AM and I have yet to fall asleep, which means today calls for a double espresso. Actually, make it a triple. On the plus side, I’m watching the Parisian sky slowly turn pink from my window and listening to the clear chirping of the birds grow steadily louder by the minute. It feels like a treat, especially because I have the luxury of no responsibilities today. No kids to look after, no work to go to, no agenda to keep, no place to be. I’m not sure I’ll get over the novelty of it all.

Daniel and I arrived on Monday afternoon and took the train into our Airbnb, which is located in the charming northern Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre. Despite varying degrees of extreme exhaustion, we cleaned up and headed out to explore the neighborhood. We walked up the some 300 steps to the top of Sacre Couer and were rewarded with expansive views Paris below, including the Eiffel Tower in the distance. We wound through the cobblestone streets of Montmartre, stopping to take photos of the quirky street art and graffiti that seem to be a hallmark of Paris. We dined at one of the lovely street-side cafes, sitting at a table on the sidewalk, a lovely place for taking in the posh balconies wound with wisteria and bougainvillea, with carefully tended flower boxes – perfect private oases within the city.

Tuesday I groggily woke, thinking it must be around 8AM, as I knew Daniel had already left for his conference. I got quite the shock when checking my phone and it was 12:30PM! I had slept for at least 15.5 hours, I suppose due to catching up on jet lag, no sleep on the flight, and over 3 years of child-induced sleep deprivation. I spent the rest of the day wandering the city, walking all the way from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower. On the way I stopped at the Musée Cernuschi, an Asian Art Museum. The Museum is housed in the former mansion of Henri Cernuschi, the founder. At some point in the mid 1800’s Cernuschi made an inaugural 18-month trip to Asia (from what I remember) spanning from China to Indonesia and he returned to France with some 5,000 pieces of art. The main exhibit when I visited was showcasing Lee Ungno, a Korean artist who ended up living in France. I quite enjoyed his works, especially the combination with the traditional Japanese calligraphy-style aesthetic mixed with more modern colors and shapes, and his use of texture and unique mixed media backgrounds.

I met Daniel at his conference venue, just past the Eiffel Tower, and we dined on savory and sweet crepes with new friends Alain and Carole, from Luxembourg. Alain works on WP-CLI with Daniel. Carole introduced me to Kir, a traditional French drink that is crème de cassis (black currant liquor) and sparkling white wine. Quite refreshing!

This is my second trip to Paris. The first was in December 2012. We found cheap-on-miles flights to Paris, but stayed for only four days. During that trip I was six months pregnant, had a terrible respiratory illness the entire time, and was extremely jet lagged and couldn’t take a sleeping pill due to said pregnancy. It was my first trip to Paris, and to Europe in general, and I was hell-bent to not spent the trip convalescing in our room, but that being said, it was extremely difficult for me. So, I’m thrilled to have a second chance at Paris – not pregnant and not sick (though I’m still jet lagged). The mid-summer light at this time of year makes Paris even more magical than I remembered. The glowing pink skies at dusk light up the regal beige exteriors of the apartment buildings and make the city come alive. 

Paris observations and impressions

  • A lot more people smoke cigarettes in Paris than the US (at least the parts that I inhabit/visit). Smoking in Paris seems to be pretty normal, for all ages. I see teens smoking, young people smoking, old people smoking. People smoking with friends, with spouses, with their kids (teen kids, that is). People smoke unselfconsciously. Part of it is because you can smoke anywhere, there aren’t so many designated “smoke free” areas like the US. My initial gut reaction when I see someone smoking is, “don’t they know that’s so bad for you?” That reaction is probably thanks to some very successful public health campaigns in the US over the years. I think Parisians do know smoking isn’t good for you (how can you not know when there are pictures of corpses on cigarette packets here?), but they seem to simply not care. The obsessive trend of “wellness” that is present in the US doesn’t seem to be present here. The juicing-working-out-staying-fit-staying-pure-additive-free-organic-yogapants-lifestyle doesn’t seem to have caught on here. 
  • Coffees are smaller but people take a lot longer to drink them. Also, I think I’ve seem approximately no one walking around with a to-go coffee. The coffee culture here is one of slowness and connection. People drink espresso coffees in tiny cups (probably one to two ounces in size), and they drink them sitting at a cafe with a friend. No one seems to rushed to get their caffeine dose in and continue on-the-go, as is true in the US. They drink their coffees and enjoy sitting and talking with their friends. Parisians must be absolutely horrified by the idea of a “venti”.
  • Paris is so multicultural! That was my first impression upon alighting at Charles de Gaulle, and the impression has held true throughout Paris. The variation of people here is astounding, and quite refreshing. Portland area, where I’m from is quite homogeneously white. I’m pretty much guaranteed that anywhere I go within my normal life’s activities, almost everyone will look like me, look like my kids, and look like my husband. There are many redeeming qualities of Portland-area, but diversity ain’t one of ‘em. In fact, Portland is the whitest city in America. So, it is so refreshing to be surrounded by a diversity of people. There are people speaking all different languages, of all skin colors, wearing all types of clothes from hijab, to saris, to colorful kaftans, to kofi caps. In some neighborhoods, I might even be in the minority. 
  • People’s personal space bubbles are smaller here. I keep noticing this: people talk to each other, but they talk very close. Two friends sitting on a park bench, but they talk so close it lends a feeling of intimacy that I’m just not used to seeing in the US. Tables at cafes are quite small, so you are always sitting very close to the person you are dining with, and close to the people dining around you.

Nehalem Bay Yurt Camping

You know you are a true Oregonian when you go camping in the rain. Well, to be fair, we were yurt camping which is high on the glamping spectrum and is FAR easier to camp when the weather is unfavorable. Given that we live in Oregon and Oregon seems to have blown up with ourdoorsy, camping types in recent years, camping in close proximity to Portland is no longer an “on-a-whim” type of thing. We booked a yurt at Nehalem Bay State Park with a group of friends last year. It was my and the kids’ first time yurt camping, and we had a blast, despite some heavy rains on the first day and some night “challenges” from the kids.

Now that both the kids are mobile and can actually run off and play with other kids, camping is actually really fun. The general reaction we get when we tell people we are going camping with an 18-month-old and a 3-year-old is, “Why would you do that to yourselves?” Both recent camping trips have turned out really well, though. Of course, there are the challenges, bedtime difficulties, early wake-ups, and sugar highs (and subsequent lows), but I mentally prepare for that because: camping.

The Nehalem Bay Yurts were awesome: they include a bunk bed with a twin on top and full on bottom, and a pull-out futon with a full mattress. We brought the Pack’n’Play for Charlie, so everyone had their own bed. Best of all, the yurts have heaters in them. Unbeknownst to me, Daniel had cranked the heater to 80 degrees, so I was actually too hot at night – when does that ever happen camping? But really, having the heater makes staying the cold night with kids pretty easy. Ava woke in the morning at 4:50am and immediately woke the rest of us up. But, after Jet Boiled coffee and some fresh air, we were in good spirits.

We were rewarded for sticking out a raining evening and night with beautiful, sunny, blue skies the next day. The kids loved playing at the beach and getting sandy.

Spray Rodeo – 2017

Another great Memorial Day rodeo weekend in the books! We headed to Shelton Wayside campground on Friday and spent two nights, returning home on Sunday. We did go camping one night last summer, but Charlie was still in full-on baby mode, so this was the first official camping trip with two mobile kids. To be honest, I was mentally preparing for the worst. We generally tend to avoid sleeping in the same room as the kids at all costs and always seek out vacation lodging options where everyone can have their own sleep space (this means Charlie has slept in more than a handful closets and bathrooms in his life). I was envisioning over-tired kids who wouldn’t go to bed, kids crying in the night, kids waking up at the crack of dawn, kids having to use the outhouse at 4am, etc…

As it turns out, I was very pleasantly surprised by how awesome the camping trip turned out. The kids had SO much fun and it was SO much fun for us to watch them really enjoy themselves. Ava is starting to enter the phase where she can really play with other kids, rather than just along side other kids. My friend Ashley had her kids there too, Rory (4.5) and Riley (8.5), and Ava and Rory totally hit it off and played so well together. Charlie loved just wandering around the campsite, exploring. Both the kids were so tired by bedtime that they easily passed out without much cajoling. On Night 1, Charlie woke up crying around 2:30am, probably because he was too cold. Despite the 90 degree day temperatures, the temps dropped to extremely chilly at night. It took us about 2 hours to finally get him to sleep, and luckily Ava slept through it all. But, once we woke up, saw the sun shining, and drank a cup of coffee, all was right with the world. On the second night, we put a hat on Charlie before bed, and had him sleep on his Pack’n’Play mattress between us, and he fell right asleep and slept through the night.

Saturday was taken up with rodeo events. Daniel started off the day by running the Spray Half Marathon. We met him in town for the buckaroo breakfast. Ava had a orange tang mustache for the entirety of the trip after downing two cups of the sweet elixir. Then, the rodeo parade, which Ava absolutely loved because she got to admire the rodeo queens with their glittery horses and sparkly shirts. Ava also really enjoyed the rodeo itself, and was quite perplexed by why the cowboys kept falling off the bucking broncos. Charlie seemed to enjoy himself too. The hardest part of the whole experience was the heat. The days heated up to above 90 degrees, which was quite difficult with two very small children.

Overall, we had a blast, more fun than I anticipated. The trip was a great test for us, because now we realized that a) we can do more camping this summer and b) we can be a little more flexible with vacations because sleeping in the same space as the kids actually wasn’t so bad.

Photo Editing: Seoul by Night

I’ve been playing with creating “presets” in Lightroom, which are essentially pre-programmed edits that you can apply to different photos. I’m still figuring out the basics, but I watched a tutorial about creating a “cool, urban, desaturated look” on photos. I picked a photo I took during a walk around Seoul. I followed most of his suggestions, which involve a lot of manipulation of color. In the HSL panel, the greens, aquas, purples and magentas are taken all the way down, then red was bumped up (+44) and orange was bumped a little (+18). Blacks were brought down to -59, then some other work on contrast and sharpness, as well as some adjustments to the general tone curve. I like the end results, the oranges pop a lot and the reds are minimized, which I think gives it a more “polished” look. I also darkened the sky with the brush tool because I think it takes your eye more towards the street scene.

Before:

After:

Photos: Vegetable Market in Delhi

As mentioned below, I’m on a quest this year to learn more about photography, lighting and editing. I’ve been experimenting with Lightroom, and I’ve decided to share some progress and little things I’m learning. I’ll share the before and after photo. Another task I’ve recently undertaken is to import the hundreds of THOUSANDS of my travel photos from an external hard drive to Google Photos. While tedious, it has been fun to relive some of the great memories of traveling around the world. I’ve also realized that I have pretty much endless “rough” photos to choose from to experiment with editing.

Story behind the photo: This photo was taken at night at a vegetable market in New Delhi, India in December, 2010. I don’t remember the name of the market, but it must have been somewhere near Paharganj neighborhood, where my hostel was. I remember grabbing my DSLR and walking through the market, snapping dozens of photos. The colors and textures were stunning, as is true of most of India I experienced. Great fuel for the fire for an amateur photographer. I think the nighttime light (or lack thereof), gives the photos a special, almost mystical feel.

Before editing:

After editing:

What I did:

  • First steps from the original: bumped the clarity (+28), decreased the vibrance (-13), decreased blacks (-16), slightly bumped highlights (+6) and saturation (+3). All these steps helped sharpen the image and tone done the yellow look of the original.
  • Used the Graduated Filter feature to selectively darken the bottom right hand corner of the photo, which I think helps visually bring your eye to the subject.
  • Experimented with the brush feature: This is the first feature I’ve really been learning about in Lightroom, aside from the basics. You can selectively edit specific sections of the photo, which I think is really cool. I used five unique “brush zones” (not sure exactly what to call this, but I edited five zones separately with a unique brush.
    • First: I darkened the background behind the main subject.
    • Second: The light shining in the upper left hand corner was way too bright, and detracted from the subject, so I used a targeted brush on that light and tried to dim it.
    • Third: I lightened up and sharpened the man at the center of the photo so he “popped” a bit from the background.
    • Fourth: I targeted the subject of the photo even further and lightened up some of the shadows on his face so his expression was easier to see.
    • Fifth: I lightened up the three baskets of vegetables in the foreground.

In editing this photo, I mostly learned about the brush feature, specifically how you can edit, then re-edit targeted zones. Given this is only the fourth or fifth photo I’ve edited in Lightroom, so there is a lot more to learn! What do you think about the photos? If you are a photographer, or just have a visual eye and have ideas on how the edited photo could look better, I would love to hear!

New Learning Project: Photography and Lightroom

I’ve decided to make a goal this year of learning more about photography and photo editing. I started by dusting off my old DSLR camera and downloading a trial of Adobe Lightroom. I’ve been watching some tutorials and experimenting with the functionality. I’m going to pick one photo per week that I really like, edit it, and post it. I’ll continue to record and report about my foray into photography.

Photo for week of March 27th, 2017

Summit Meadow Cabins, 2017

We spent the weekend in a cozy cabin at Summit Meadows, a short walk from Trillium Lake. Last time I was at Summit Meadows, the snow pack was long gone, but this time we had a great base of snow (and it was still coming down!) for snowshoeing around the lake and gazing out at the falling flakes.

It just so happened to also be Ava’s third birthday on Friday! We celebrated with cupcakes and presents after dinner.

San Diego, California

Ahhhhh… 70 degree weather, palm trees swaying in the breeze, tank tops, sand between the toes: I could get used to this! Our long weekend in San Diego was a welcome change from the soggy (and sometimes frozen) Oregon winter.

Flying with the kids is always a wild card. Ava is at the stage I’ve been waiting for – she can easily plop in front of the iPad for a few hours and be entertained on a flight. Charlie isn’t there yet, and it took a bit more effort to distract him, entertain him, and eventually Ergo nap him. Overall, the kids did great though and the airplane flight was a definite highlight for Ava (read: biscotti cookies, orange juice, unlimited use of iPad, her own seat).

We met our friends Shane and Angela in San Diego, where we shared a lovely Airbnb rental with them. The rental, which had previously been lived in by the owners and their kids, was fully outfitted for kids, including a Pack’n’play, high chair, baby gates at the stairs and toys. This made the trip SO much easier. Definitely worthwhile to take into account when booking a rental home.

It was a treat to enjoy the weekend with our friends, who are equally up for a good, long city walk and a great adventure. Highlights include:

  • Playing in the sand at Dog Beach
  • Taking an absolutely epic San Diego city walk (according to Daniel’s phone pedometer: 15.5 miles), winding us through Point Loma, to Old Town, through Downtown, to Balboa Park and then back to Point Loma along the water.
  • People watching and enjoying the street performers at Balboa Park. I also loved the gardens at Balboa Park.
  • A personal highlight was walking through the neighborhoods, looking at the houses and taking in all the unique flora of this particular area of Southern California. Front yards are teeming with all variety of palms, cacti, succulents, colorful desert flowers and more. I could spend all day just wandering through neighborhoods, looking for unique details on homes and in yards. Ocean Beach neighborhood has some especially funky homes.
  • Just generally, it was so much fun simply going to a new place with the kids. It sounds cliche, but to be able to see things fresh from their eyes is a real treat.
  • Enjoying quiet time around the rental house with Shane and Angela, including some seriously delicious dinners (grilled pizza, fish tacos).

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