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Skype Supper, or Dinner with Friends

Last night we had dinner with our friends Cristin and Daniel who live in Boston. No, we weren’t visiting Bean Town and they didn’t come back to Houston after only a few weeks. We had a Skype dinner; one dinner, two time zones, 4 friends, and a little help from the interweb.

Cristin revealed a few weeks ago that she had always wanted to do a Skype dinner with someone else in which both sides would make the same exact meal and eat it together as if they were in the same physical location. Naturally, Kayla and I thought this was brilliant. After a week or so of group text message deliberating, we landed on Thai food. Kayla and I love Thai food, but we rarely cook it ourselves (Ok, we do make curry a lot, but I wouldn’t call it Thai by any means) so we were excited to expand our culinary horizons.

The menu: spring rolls, Pad Thai, and coconut rice with grilled pineapple.

The spring rolls turned out to be fun to make, albeit difficult to make properly. I don’t know how people can make perfectly-sized and wrapped spring rolls. It reminded me of making sushi and, as with sushi, even though it may not look ideal, it still tastes delicious.

Even though Kayla had a rough experience with Pad Thai the first and only time she ate it, she agreed to give it a shot. This Pad Thai wasn’t hard at all. We made it with tofu since I’m a veggie and Kayla has veggie tendencies (Cristin is a veg as well so they made it the same and added some chicken on the side for carnivore Daniel). We altered the recipe a bit by adding mushrooms and zucchini. I think it worked well, but next time I would add more veggies because at times it felt like there was too much noodle (but I love noodle!). Kayla started the noodles and sauce off and I took the dish into the home stretch. It was the best thing we had all night. I had very little control; couldn’t stop eating it.

The coconut rice made me nervous. I find rice very difficult to cook. I grew up on mushy rice and tend to make mushy rice (sorry, Mom). However, this time my rice turned out perfect. No mushy at all! Paired with some fresh pineapple, it was quite good. We were both surprised at the result.

While the food was quite tasty, the best part was the Skype/Friends in two places aspect. We set up our computers in our kitchens and cooked alongside each other. Kayla asked a question about hoisin sauce and I didn’t even get to answering it before Cristin was giving her the info. It honestly felt like we were in the same kitchen cooking together instead of just “cooking together.” When our meals were ready, we set our tables (complete with Skype open on Kayla’s computer), and sat down for the “same” meal even though we were 1,850 miles apart.

Boston, MA

Boston, MA

Our Place

Houston, TX

Falling in love with French…again

For a while now I’ve loved French, but not been in love with it. I’ve not been a good lover these last few years.

While at Loyola I was forced to take four semesters of a second language due to being a Spanish major. I reluctantly chose to study French; I was going to get in and get out as quickly as possible. Thanks to Loyola’s inventive post-K scheduling, I was able to take both semesters of Elementary French in two 8 week sessions during the 2006 Spring I semester. Needless to say, it was intense and I loved it! I’m not sure how it happened though, but it did. I quickly grew to become a fully-fledged Francophile. I ended up dragging out my French education into a few classes short of a minor. I loved it and I was good! I actually could speak French pretty fluently. In fact, I probably spoke French better than I did Spanish. During my last semester of college, I went to Paris and had several lengthy conversations in French which was a surreal experience. I spoke effortless French when only 3 years prior I knew absolutely nothing in the language.

Around that time, I went digging through some old projects from elementary school and came across a book about myself – “All About Me” or something else of that nature – and was surprised and amazed to see that my 10 year old self had 5 goals for his life, a sort of bucket list. Looking back, that list is uncanny: “Speak French, Go to Paris, Get a doctorate, Become a professor, and Visit Sydney.” I still am taken back by my 10 year old self’s ability to predict the future when he probably had no earthly idea what getting a doctorate entailed nor did he know anyone who spoke a single word of French (Side note: my parents had been to Paris several times and I devoured their pictures and tourist books. I could see myself waltzing in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles and eating snails at a chic little bistro on the Champs d’Élysée – I was a weird little boy. And I am fairly certain that the first pair of naked lady breasts I saw was in the program from the Lido – Showgirls!).

Well, that 10 year old boy would be ashamed of his 27 year old version. Sure, I’m still working towards that goal of a PhD and Tenure-Track Professorship. I’ve been to Paris 3 times and just visited Sydney on my honeymoon. But here is the embarrassing part – I’ve fallen into the trap of a former language learner in my post-undergraduate years. Distant from the comfy confines of a college classroom, I stopped progressing and started losing my French. Now, thankfully I put in a lot of hard work to learn the language so it has not left me that quickly. When I went to Nice with my friend Karlee, I was able to converse in French with the security guard telling us we could not sleep on the airport floor. I was also able to order croissants with no problem. Hooray!

But since then, I have really let myself down. To be honest, I’m not that out of the loop. I understood Serena Williams’ French Open victory speech in French. Ten points for Ravenclaw! But in no way should Serena be out Frenching me!

However, I must thank my dear Serena for providing that pivotal spark to get me back in the swing of things and make Sallie Mae proud! The last few weeks I have been devoting between 30 minutes to an hour each day to relearn this language. La langue plus belle du monde! That one! It is remarkable the progress I have made in just 2 weeks. I found a great not-a-textbook textbook at Half-Price Books (I was anniversary shopping and bought myself 3 books and the wife 0 books – Fail!) called “French Made Simple.” It is terrific and I highly recommend it to anyone learning a major language (They have Spanish, German, and English versions). I do all of the lessons out loud and write everything out as well so I am able to get optimal practice. I’ve paired this with a great reading book – “Easy French Reader.” As with my other book, I read everything out loud and repeat anything that doesn’t come out fluently. Lastly, I have found some great Podcasts on iTunes- Learn French with Daily Podcast and Learn French by Podcast. I try to listen to one Podcast a day so that I can increase my listening comprehension for my next trip to France or Canada (eh!). And lastly, I still use Benny the Polyglot as inspiration and for his unique “language hacks”  (

In the end, I’ve been amazed at the amount of French I have been able to relearn in such a short period of time. It’s been an exciting experience in the nerdiest of ways and has stirred up many memories of my travels and French classes I took at Loyola with Madame Kornovich and Madame Mabe. It really gives me hope for the future knowing that I can do it and that if I play my cards right then I can even achieve a higher level of French communication. Honestly, I just want to read the Harry Potter series in French which is on my adult bucket list!

Hamming it up in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France in 2009

Hamming it up in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France in 2009