Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018: A Year in Review

We started out 2018 with a white New Year's in David's home town in the Alps.

The biggest event in January was David FINALLY getting his visa/green card approved. He gave his notice at work with a big smile on his face, and we started making plans to leave Cannes at the end of the month.

To pass the time before our big move to the U.S., we went on a last-minute weekend trip to Krakow, Poland. I loved the beautiful architecture, snow, and history.

January was also my last chance to say goodbye to my favorite French Riviera cities. I made sure to stop by Nice, Grasse, Mandelieu, and Antibes one last time. One Saturday, we checked off the last item on my Cannes bucket list by taking a boat ride to the Iles de Lérins.

We moved out of our apartment on the first of the month and settled in at David's parent's house for our last few weeks in Europe.

But we couldn't leave the continent without saying goodbye to the Sicilian side of the family! Mid-month, we embarked on a 2-day road trip to Brontë, Sicily (Antonino's hometown). For 2 weeks, we saw incredible Roman ruins, beautiful cities, admired the volcano Mt. Etna, drove on "roads" no car should ever drive on, communicated through hand gestures and baby Italian, and were basically force-fed copious amounts of pasta by David's aunts. It was an amazing and memorable trip!

The first week of March was our last in Europe after 1.5 years of living in France. It was a tough week of saying goodbye to David's family and fitting our lives into suitcases. Not to mention me tearing my meniscus again. Yay.

After the hard times, we were both very happy to get off the plane at O'Hare and start our new lives in America. We settled into my parent's house and enjoyed reuniting with the family, friends, and puppies that we had missed.

This month was all about the job search for David. Looking for a job was his full-time job. He fine-tuned his resume and started applying, networking, and interviewing.

My excitement in April was going on a quick weekend trip to New York City with my mom and sister. We got to see Anastasia on Broadway, eat a lot of good food, and enjoy shopping and sightseeing together.

The good news in May was that David landed a great job! After 2 months of looking, he ended up with 3 offers the same week. 

The bad news in May was that I turned 29. #old

On David's 26th birthday, we flew to MAUI for a family trip. I don't even know what adjectives to use to describe Hawaii. I will try my best by calling it relaxing and insanely beautiful. It was one of those trips where before the end of the first day, you know you want to go back someday.

After the high of Hawaii, June was by far the worst month of the year. I had not 1, but 2 awful knee surgeries when the doctor messed up the first one. I stayed in bed, inside, and on crutches for the rest of this month and the next.

I also got to experience 2 firsts in my life: staying overnight in the hospital, and going to the ER. Staying in the hospital was actually pretty nice because I liked the concept of people bringing me things at the press of a button. I had to go to the ER to check for blood clots since morphine wasn't taking the edge off the pain in my calf. Thankfully, I didn't have blood clots. My leg just hurt because the doctor messed up the surgery and my leg was crooked. Nbd.

Still gotta point that toe.
By mid-July I could crutch from room to room in my house and shower without things were looking up lol. 

The big excitement in July was that WE PUT AN OFFER ON A HOUSE. And it was accepted! The bright side of my knee saga was that I didn't get too bored being cooped up because I had so much to do during the house buying process.

We own this :)

In August, David got to live his dream and I got to live my nightmare. That's right, we went to Branson, Missouri.

The best way I can describe Branson is "the opposite of Paris." That explains our different attitudes toward it haha. Alas, my dad's family had a reunion there. I love my family, so there I went. 

After the reunion, we both got to check off a new state when David and I stopped in Bentonville, Arkansas. We visited David's friend Kurtis (one of the first missionaries to teach him) and his family.

I started my job soon after we got back from our trip as an assistant teacher in a private Jewish school. I enjoyed dusting off my Hebrew and confusing several people that a random (crippled) Christian knew so much about Israel.

There were so many big events this month! We celebrated 2 years of marriage. I finally got off crutches.

I made the difficult decision to throw another job into the mix. I was offered a part-time  French teaching job at a 5th and 6th grade middle school. I now teach every other day there and do an after-school program from 3:30-6:00 at the Jewish school. 

It has been quite stressful because it was last minute and I didn't have the chance to lesson plan over the summer. I've also never taught kids this young.

And if that wasn't enough... we closed on our house!!!!! It almost fell through at the last minute (literally the day before our scheduled closing). It still feels surreal that we are homeowners.

October was all about working on the house. We owned exactly 0 pieces of furniture the day we closed. My dad helped us paint several rooms and we worked on finding furniture and other things we needed. It took a long time because we were both so busy with work.

On one weekend we paused working on the house to experience Wisconsin's pretty fall at Holy Hill and a pumpkin patch. Oh yeah, and I tried out having red hair for the first time this month.

Moving day was in November! It feels so good to be settled here but I'm still a bit homesick for my parent's dog Buttercup. Good thing they live 8 minutes away.

I don't have any pictures of the event, but David was thrilled to celebrate his first Thanksgiving in America. 

After spending the last two Christmases in France, I was thrilled to be home for the holidays. 

It has been a year full of changes and adulting. We're looking forward to enjoying 2019 in our new house and seeing what this year brings. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Rubinos! Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!

Previous Years in Review below- I love looking back on these.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Finding Europe in New York

As happy as I am to be living in the U.S., I will forever miss the beauty, culture, and history that surrounded me in Europe.

After a few days of skyscrapers and bright lights in NYC last spring (yes, it was forever ago..I'm behind), I convinced my mom and sister to travel with me back in time and across the pond.

In reality, we took an Uber along the Hudson River to Fort Tryon Park and the Met Cloisters.

I had never heard of this place until researching for this trip. The Cloisters are affiliated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They are home to 5,000 works of art and architecture from medieval Europe.

It is all thanks to good old John D. Rockefeller, who had the money and power to travel around abbeys in Europe and say "Yes, Ill take it. Please dismantle, wrap it up, and ship to New York.”

Even the building itself is made up of bits and pieces from various French abbeys. I felt right at home! There are 4 cloisters inside (hence the name), brought over stone by stone from France.

I learned on a tour of the cathedral in Aix-en-Provence that cloisters were private gardens where medieval monks meditated and studied.

I did not meditate here, but I did make it my private runway.

Not 100% private though. Note the sister photobomber.

Said sister photobomber may have mocked my enthusiasm for cloisters a little bit haha. For years, I have loved stepping into these places in Europe. It's a pretty sure bet that they are all peaceful and have beautiful symmetrical architecture.

I stand by my obsession.

Besides all of the lovely architecture, the museum had plenty of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and stained glass.

This made me happy, don't ask questions.
Did you know that medieval art had a lot of unicorns? There was an entire room devoted to unicorn art.

Outside, there were nice views of the George Washington Bridge.

I thought my European-style sightseeing was over after finishing our tour of the Cloisters, but later that day we stumbled upon a pretty impressive cathedral.

Park across the street. 

St. John the Divine is an Episcopal church that was built in the late 1800s. Not bad for the new world! It made my ex-European heart so happy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Eating New York

Last week, I finally got around starting the account of our spring trip to New York. We hadn't been back to NYC since 2011, so we were all very excited to explore and see as much as possible. 

And did I mention being excited to eat as much good food as possible?

On our first trip to the city back in 2006, we pretty much only ate at chain restaurants that we also have in Wisconsin. Back then, we thought the Times Square Olive Garden was the epitome of cool. 

We have changed a little bit since then. The 2018 versions of us laughed so hard at the 2006 versions of us. For this trip, we spent time researching and chose a variety of restaurants that we definitely don't have in good old Wisconsin.

Our first stop after arriving on Friday afternoon, checking into the hotel, and shopping at Zara (priorities) was Lombardi's Pizza. They opened in 1905 and claim to be the first pizzeria in the U.S. They also claim to make authentic Naples pizza. I ate a lot of pizza in Naples just shy of a year ago, so I felt fairly qualified to make a ruling on whether or not it was authentic.


Mom and Jenna opted to share a classic margarita pizza, and I went for their white sauce pizza with mozzarella and ricotta.

They were both DELICIOUS, but just a hair short of being Italy-level delicious. I'm a pizza snob now, what can I say.

To cleanse the palette, we stopped by Doughnut Plant on the way back to the hotel. It's right next to the famous Gotham City Comedy Club. The doughnuts have rave reviews both online and from people we know.

They were good because they were doughnuts, but I didn't find them to be anything special. My rose doughnut was very pretty though. I was expecting it to be rose-flavored because lots of desserts in France are flower-flavored. Nope. It just tasted like sugar.

The next day, after a long morning of sightseeing, we were all more than ready to put our feet up and have some lunch. It was not to be. 

A long line stretched down the block to get a table at Ellen's Stardust Diner, but we decided to tough it out. We ended up standing outside for about an hour before getting in.

My mom suggested this place after seeing a viral video of a waiter singing all the parts in a Beauty and the Beast song. This place is in the Theater District, and all of the waiters and waitresses are aspiring Broadway singers. They perform in between taking your order and bringing you your food.

I thought it would be cheesy but it was actually amazing. It was such a fun atmosphere. The little stage/runway where they sing was right next to our table. I tried to take a few videos in between bites of my challah French toast. Our waitress sang the Little Mermaid song. I'm pretty sure the guy who sang Stacy's Mom was the same guy from the viral video.


This place was a hit! It was one of our favorite things we did in New York. We were a little sad that we were only able to catch one Broadway show, but this helped make up for it.

I haven't had the chance to go yet, but Mom and Jenna have raved about going to Eataly in Chicago. It includes multiple restaurants as well as an Italian food market. You know it's legit because the chain started in the motherland: Italy. There are 2 branches in NYC, and for dinner on Saturday we went to the one next to the Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building and a dancer doing her thing.
Across from Eataly.

The day before, we made a reservation at the rooftop restaurant Serra. We chose that particular restaurant because they had PESTO GNOCCHI. Those are my two favorite foods (besides chocolate, to be clear). I've never had the chance to experience them in one dish before.

Eataly was an absolute zoo. We had to fight our way through a wall of people to get to the elevator and the rooftop. Serra was loud and crowded as well, mostly because of people hanging out in the bar area. 

It was cute and decorated like a Tuscan garden. We loved the view!

Who likes the right upper quadrant of my face that snuck into my mom's picture?
Alas, the magical pesto gnocchi was not to be. Some things are just too good to be true. They didn't have gnocchi, but offered us pesto fusilli instead. We consoled ourselves with delicious homemade bread and fancy cheese skewers as appetizers.

The pasta was amazing and authentically Italian (I don't say that lightly), but it was still a bit of a let-down after expecting gnocchi. 

Later that night while getting ready for to see Anastasia, we ordered edible cookie dough to be delivered right to our hotel. It's probably good that I don't live in New York, because I would have a hard time not casually taking advantage of that delicious convenience all the time.

We were surprised to see a branch of Carlo's Bakery in Times Square. We picked up some treats to have for breakfast the next morning after the show.

We didn't get these, but they're adorable.
After some more sightseeing on Sunday, we had to stop outside Tom's Restaurant for a photo op. Our family loves Seinfeld. I give credit to that show for developing my wonderfully sarcastic sense of humor. This is the restaurant they show on pretty much every episode. The food didn't have great reviews so we didn't eat there, but it made us happy!

For lunch, we headed over to Katz's Deli on the Lower East Side. This place has been around since 1888. I wanted to experience a Jewish deli, and that we did. There was even a cute synagogue across the street. There's a lot of Jewish history in this part of the city.

Like everything in New York it seems, it was packed. We waited for about 20 minutes outside and another 10 inside. It was an interesting experience getting a table haha. First of all, both of the huge bouncer men were into me. One told me I looked elegant while the other looked me up and down. I was popular at Katz's. 

Then someone else handed us numbered tickets, along with a warning that there was a $50 fine for losing said small paper ticket. We were pretty confused, but eventually figured out they were necessary if you braved the chaotic lines yourself and collected food from the different stations. 

We decided to wait for a table with a waiter instead of fending for ourselves in the lines.

We each tried one thing on the menu we'd never had before. Mom got an egg cream, Jenna got matzo ball soup, and I got potato knish. We all tried each others' choices and I throughly enjoyed all 3 things. Me, the picky eater, tried 3 new things. I'm looking for some praise here.

I learned that egg creams, apparently, contain neither eggs nor cream. They do contain milk, carbonated water, and chocolate syrup. My knish (Yiddish words are the best) was the perfect side dish for my less adventurous grilled cheese main course. 

Mom and Jenna got the traditional deli sandwiches, and we shared the big plate of pickles that came with our meals. It was fun to eat here, and the food surpassed my expectations.

The gelato we came across next door was sadly our last New York food after a great few days. Our food research paid off- a little extra planning beforehand made for a delicious weekend.