Saturday, April 7, 2012

Phil's Bday

I haven't written  in awhile because I've been pretty busy lately with a couple of different things.  The biggest one being Phil's surprise party last weekend.  It turned out that one of my new friends here (K) was talking about celebrating her husband's birthday, and coincidentally his birthday is the day after Phil's.  So we decided to have a joint SURPRISE party at her place the week before the birthdays so that there would be less suspicion.  Then we found out that two other of our friends' other halves also had bdays around that time, so we evolved the party into a four way birthday bash.  We created a secret invite on facebook and told everyone to come early, she recruited two good friends to set up and decorate the house, while she and I and the others went to a "birthday dinner" and then made our way back.  It was crazy how well it all worked out.  I was determined to not have Phil find out, so I had to be very careful with our stories to keep them straight. The hardest part was getting all the drinks for the party, because I was the only one in that little group with access to a car, but me, being Miss Daisy, still had not driven a single time since we moved. But my friend K offered to be my co-pilot and one night we told our husbands we were going for a baby shower planning meeting out in BB Land (a semi-suburb of Belgrade where most of the Embassy people live, the BB stands for Beogradskog Batalonja the street, or Banovo Bardo, the neighborhood).  K came to my house after work and I loaded the car with stuff I already had that I wanted to take to the party while doing a silent prayer that Phil didn't notice the disappearance of 3 bottles of Coke Zero or his precious Bacardi, or the 3 packs of cream cheese frosting that I had been hoarding since February.  Then we finally got in the car, and we were on our way. Immediately, I'm like, K, you need to set the GPS because I had no clue where we were going, but the store we needed was not showing up, so K says she knows the way, but in my head I want to slap her (sorry K :) ) and make her find that address because I am already sweating and super nervous and even though I repeatedly  tell her that I don't want to get to the highway, she took me straight there.  But the only Tempo (which is the closes thing to a Walmart/Sam's Club/Costco that we have here)  she knew about was all the way out by the airport  about 30 minutes from my house. But then K pointed out that if I started freaking out, I could just stop and put my hazards on like every other Yugo does, and take a rest.  I laughed at the joke, but  it was the most brilliant piece of advice she could have given me, and so true too.

After shopping for what probably appeared to others as a frat party, we had to sneak all the stuff at her house and semi organize it for the people who were gonna help us set up.   Good thing that K has a storage unit, so we easily took all the beer and non-fridge items there and then went upstairs with what seemed completely regular grocery items.

The night of the party we all went to dinner and it was really hard to not smirk at each other, and then say our well planned out and rehearsed lines of "what do you guys want to do after this"..."we could have some drinks at my place", "yeah, that'd be great, right, boys??"  But clearly our acting skills are pretty fabulous, cause when we got to K's place, this is the face that Phil made (photo courtesy of my friend C):


On another note, I have never baked or cooked as much as I do here. It seems that 90% of our social events and gatherings are done at people's places so I am always making stuff to bring.  Hence, I have now become obsessed with Pinterest.  If you're not pinning or at least looking at others' pins, then you're missing out.  I have found some really awesome recipes there that have now become legendary in my book.   For the surprise party I made a s'mores dip and a buffalo chicken dip (which is actually my friend Andrea's recipe and it is the wrongest, least healthy option you can find, but it is delicious!).  This weekend I am making the buffalo dip again and a 7 layer Greek dip that I also found on Pinterest.  It was Phil's actual birthday during the week, so I made him red velvet cupcakes from scratch, but those were a whole lot of work, and not really that good.  The Greek dip was easy except for the olives, because the olives I bought at the market still have the pit in them and prepping them was like doing open heart surgery in each olive.

One of my favorite things about living in Serbia is seeing the Serbs reaction to stuff that is 100% American.  For example, I was told that while the surprise party was being set up, the Serbs were totally into it, hiding really well and eagerly waiting for the signal so that when the birthday boys came in they could all yell "SURPRISE" in unison.Then later this week, I brought the red velvet cupcakes to work so Phil could share them with colleagues in the cafeteria and I took them in my cupcake carrier that I got at Target.   People in the office were like " what is that thing?, where did you get it!?, how ingenious!"    Then two days later, the Embassy Employee Association bought a Margarita machine and they had Margarita Friday at the cafeteria, and the Serbian employees were all in line and giddy waiting to get their frozen margaritas. Mostly because it's pretty crazy that 1. there is a whole humongous machine devoted solely for the purpose of making margaritas and 2. the fact that its only 2 steps to make the margaritas : open gallon of margarita mix imported directly from the US and pour in the machine along with the ice.  Done.  Then there's the whole buffalo dip thing,  I've taken it to so many parties now and it's a HUGE hit with the Americans but the Serbs are pretty skeptical, and why wouldn't they?  It's this neon orange sauce with smelly blue cheese dressing (pre-made salad dressings are not a common thing here) mixed with cream cheese (yet another inexplicable American staple) and chicken.  At least the chicken is free range and hormone free. All in all it's a fabulous dip.

Finally, I do have an update on my cilantro plants

They lived!