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Intelligent Extrovert
Most defining characteristics: You are lively, outgoing and emotionally open. You are a leader. 

As you probably already know, you are a born leader. You are a very charismatic, passionate, mature and calculated person. You are always there when people need you, you always know the right thing to say, and you are always able to help.
You have a great career, amazing family and lifelong friends, but you are no stranger to hard times as well.
You’ve had more than enough struggles through life, and although it seemed very daunting at the time, your good spirit and amazing set of skills has always helped you to overcome them.

Okay, I confess.  I am kind of addicted to these personality-type quizzes that pop up on Facebook.  This one showed up today.  Of course, I was already pretty sure that extrovert would be the end result.  I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test a couple of times during faculty development workshops.  I can never remember all those letters, but I know that there is an E in there.  And that the Ex-Ex and I are complete opposites.  As for this morning’s revelation, I am not sure which photos I chose to lead to that conclusion, but it is pretty spot on.  I am bossy… is that a leadership quality?  Hope so.  Over the years, I’ve learned to be a better listener and not be as defensive as I was in my younger days.  That helps when talking to students and/or parents about their children and sometimes righting wrongs. Thank goodness wisdom comes with age.
Maybe everyone does this, but since age 11 or 12, I’ve wondered about what makes me me. Why am I the way I am? I still think about it. Genetics? Environment? A combination of both? Most likely the latter. But since having my own two children, I never discount the personality that humans come into the world already owning. It is fascinating to now watch my granddaughter’s personality develop. (Grandparents have the luxury of worrying less and observing more!)
How would I describe myself? What adjectives or traits would I assign to me?
  • common sense
  • perseverance
  • hard worker
  • extrovert
  • emotional
  • worrier
  • talkative
  • optimist
  • stubborn
  • independent
  • spiritual
  • judgmental
  • loyal
  • cynical

The two traits I am working on are worrier and judgmental. Mindfulness practice, a lot of deep breathing and my summer reading book, Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, are helping. I know that mindfulness has become a catchword, but what I am working on is wrapping my mind around being in the present. A few sentences/phrases I have highlighted:

…it often seems as if we are preoccupied with the past, with what has already happened, or with a future that hasn’t arrived yet. We look for someplace else to stand, where we hope things will be better, happier, more the way we want them to be, or the way they used to be.

To find our way, we will need to pay more attention to this moment.  It is the only time that we have in which to live, grow, feel, and change.

… there are many things in life over which we have little or no control.

It is about not taking life for granted.  Because, seriously, the present is all we have.  Think about it. The past? Done. Over. Fini. The future? Not here. Will get here when it gets here. Or not. I saw another quote the other day that hit home.

Never be a prisoner of your past, it was just a lesson not a life sentence.

I don’t know who said it. But, yep, that sums it up.

It’s also about realizing that we have to let others make their own mistakes, learn their own lessons, chart their own course. I wouldn’t be a teacher if I didn’t want to help others, but everyone has to find his/her own way. We can help guide, but we can’t control.  Boy, as a parent, is that a hard one. I struggle daily with that. That’s where my worrier personality takes over. And where the deep breathing is saving me.

I do my best thinking in the shower and while baking.  Kneading dough is very conducive to thinking. And I have often wished for a waterproof idea board to tack up in the shower so I can actually write down and remember the great ideas I come up with in there. But then again, maybe I think too much.  Maybe I just need to let go, take some deep breaths and enjoy the hot water or the feel of the dough under the heel of my palm. Live in the moment. Take that feeling of pleasure and revel in it. Enjoy the smell of lavender goat’s milk soap or vanilla sugar. Marvel at the juicy ripe cherries as I fold them into the dough. Be thankful for a seemingly limitless supply of indoor, hot, running water. Think less, feel more.

I found cherries for $1.99 a pound at Aldi.  (On my summer to-do list, I finally went to the one here in Durham.) And I love using the cherry pitter do-dad I found last summer.

cherries

I baked them into scones. The Ex-Ex’s breakfast for the week.  I am a big fan of cherry and vanilla.  I am pretty sure that dates back to my childhood love of Biltmore Cherry-Vanilla ice cream.  The milkman made deliveries to Bell Street and when Mama Mildred could afford it, she would give us money for a half-gallon of ice cream in the summer. Pure bliss. What I wouldn’t give for a Winky Bar. I promise that I would enjoy every second of eating it.

Cherry Vanilla Scones

makes 12 small-ish scones; this is a variation of Quick Scones, a recipe I have posted several times in the past

2 c. all-purpose flour
¼ c. granulated sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. cold butter
1-1/2 c. fresh pitted cherries, cut in half or chopped smaller, if desired
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/3 c. vanilla yogurt (I used Greek yogurt this time)
1 egg yolk for brushing tops
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top, if desired
In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter and cut in until crumbly. Make a well in the center.
In small bowl, beat egg until frothy. Add vanilla and whisk together. Pour into well. Add yogurt, stirring slowly until a soft dough forms. Turn out on lightly floured surface. Divide into 2 equal parts. Knead each part about 5 times, by folding it over, spreading it out with the palm of your hand, folding over again. After spreading it out for the final time, place cherries on the dough, fold it over again, trying not to smash the cherries too much and keeping them inside the dough as much as possible. Pat each into a 6-inch circle. Transfer to greased baking sheet or a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush tops with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Score each top into 6 pie-shaped markings (or you can go ahead and cut them, if you wish). Bake in 425F oven for 15-18 minutes until risen and browned slightly, making sure that the center is baked with over-baking them.
Bon appétit and Happy Monday!  Keep breathing.  Enjoy the moments of your day. Merci to my friends and family who put up with me.

Sean of the South

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(photo courtesy of Jackie Thompson Reagan)

AKA Sean Dietrich.  One of my heroes.  I feel as if we are long lost cousins or I am his long lost aunt.  I consider him and his wife, Jamie, my dear friends although I have never met them.  We send messages.  I’ve begged Jamie for recipes and she has grudgingly given me a couple.  I’ve written about him before.  And here. I kind of accidentally stumbled across his writing a couple of years ago and I used him (with his permission) as a guest blogger. Sean gets to the heart of people. He champions the underdog. The people who aren’t glamorous, who live in trailers, who work two or three jobs just to provide (barely) a living for their kids. My people. Someone recently was ugly to him in the comment section after one of his Facebook posts. Seems the fellow did not believe what Sean had written. Sean’s rebuttal was priceless.  As were the faithful followers who called the jerk out. Me included. Sean is a writer (although he was told by a teacher once that he his writing would never amount to much- I am paraphrasing here), a musician, a dog-lover, a real human being. This article in an Alabama newspaper gave me more of an insight into his life. He routinely gives his books away for free on Amazon. I have been known to fuss at him for this. (And I have downloaded them… and bought a couple as well.)  He overtips waitresses. He admits to having a soft spot for them and if you read about his mom you will understand.  I fell for him when I read a column he wrote about women.  He did it again today, so I am sharing it. We are all beautiful in our own way. As a middle school teacher, I worry about girls and the pressure they are under to be perfect physically. There is no perfect. We all come in different shapes, sizes, and hair colors. How boring life would be if we all looked the same.  Thank you, Sean, for reminding me. Even at my age, I need it most days.

If you don’t fall in love with him, well, I am not sure you would like me much either.

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I’m sorry. That’s what I want to say to any woman reading this. I’m just flat-out sorry.

The world is trying to squash you like an albino cockroach, and you deserve an apology.

Today’s modern female is expected to be a walking-talking industrialized domestic machine.

If she’s not busy bathing toddlers, dropping kids at soccer, or changing her own transmission fluid, she’s supposed to be planning a three-course supper, scrubbing dirty underwear, learning a foreign language, or making her living room fit for HGTV.

She must be a certain size, weight, width, she must have a gym membership, a midsection stronger than most outboard motors, tight underarms, young-looking hands, perfect teeth, slender necks, soft-spoken voices, no gray hairs, no eye wrinkles, and the amiable disposition of Princess Grace of Monaco.

I’m even sorrier for young girls.

Not that it matters what I think, but I believe television and magazines are trying to ruin females.

Take a gander at the magazine racks in the Piggly Wiggly. Half-naked bodies on magazine covers. Pop-stars dressed like senators from Planet Krypton. Reality television hosts with plastic hindparts.

Anyway, the reason I am writing this is because of my friend’s daughter. Her name is not important. But let’s call her, Little Miss Alabama.

She is in seventh grade, top of her class. An athlete, a social butterfly, a horseback rider, fluent in Spanish, math wiz, funny, kindhearted, and well-loved.

Miss Alabama has dreams of attending Auburn University, she wants to study zoology, she is pretty, has brown hair, blue eyes, flawless health.

She has aided in the birth of exactly three colts. She can spit farther than any boy, and cook just as well as granny alive. I know this; I have eaten her biscuits.

And she hates herself.

Well, not her SELF, exactly. But she hates her body. She thinks she’s too fat, and she’s disgusted with her own reflection.

Well son of a biscuit.

Who told females they had to be USDA-approved and ninety-eight percent lean? Who in the H-E-Double-Cuss said beauty had anything to do with dress sizes?

Look, I have no right to talk about things I don’t understand. I’m not a woman—you might’ve noticed. But do I cry at “Steel Magnolias” so hard I have to pause it after Shelby’s funeral. And that counts for something.

And, I am a person, by God. I don’t like what people are doing to other people.

I don’t like underwear commercials. I don’t care for celebrities that People Magazine says I should care about.

And when I hear about my friend’s thirteen-year-old girl who believes herself to be—in her own words—“ugly, and fat,” it is an affront to my human-hood.

The voices on TV are too loud. They tell girls who they should be, what they should do, how they should think, what their den should look like, how their waistline should appear, what they should eat, and what they should feel.

There are too many voices talking to our women.

So here’s one more:

This world owes you an apology.

Jamie’s Pound Cake
makes 2 loaves or one bundt cake, but Jamie recommends the loaves
I have blogged about this cake before and made it a couple of times, playing around with the flavors each time. In the South, we sure do love our pound cake.
For the cake:
3 c. sugar (this time, I used 2 cups granulated white sugar and 1 cup Turbinado cane sugar)
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
3 sticks + 2 T. butter, room temperature (2 T. are for buttering the pans)
3 c. all purpose flour
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 t. each: vanilla extract (this go around, I used 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. coconut extract, 3 tsp. Praline Pecan Liqueur -sent to me by Ms. Tammy in Arizona who spoils me)
coconut extract
almond extract
brandy
sherry
For the glaze:
1 cup sugar
1/2 T. each: vanilla extract
coconut extract
1 t. each: brandy
sherry
Prepare 2 loaf pans by generously coating them with soft butter and then coating them with sugar.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar, butter and cream cheese.
Gradually alternate adding the flour and eggs, stopping to scrap down the bowl as needed. Mix just until blended.
Add the extracts and the wines until blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans.
Place the pans in a cold oven and then set the oven to 300 degrees.  (I think my oven is a bit off so I set it to 325˚F for the first 40 minutes and then turned it down to 315˚F)
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. (Sometimes mine need a little longer. However, you want this cake super moist–like a butter cake.)
Once you remove the cakes from the oven, let them cool in the pan on a wire rack.
In the meantime, melt one cup of sugar in half a cup of water in a pot on the stove. Once the sugar is melted, remove the pot from the heat and add the extracts and wines.
Spoon the glaze over the top of each cake–do not remove the cakes from their pans. Continue to let the cakes cool and absorb the glaze for a couple of hours before serving. ***This can be made in a bundt pan. However, you will need to invert the cake before adding the glaze. I feel that you do not get as much glaze absorption on a bundt cake as a loaf cake.

 

Bon appétit, y’all! Make a pound cake and take it to a friend.  Or make it and invite a friend over. Pound cake is a gift no matter what.  It has healed many a broken heart. Calories? Yes. Sugar? Yes. Moderation, people. A little pound cake once in a while never killed anyone. Thank you, Sean and Jamie!

Paris has to wait (for me)

PCW

Finally.  The movie made it to Durham.  Arles Lucy and I went to see it a couple of nights ago. It was the second time for her. She was very tightlipped and gave me no hints about what was in store.  Impressive, AL!  And merci.  So, I will not go into the details.  But let’s just say that the story hit home.  No, I am not as drop-dead gorgeous as Diane Lane. My grandmother was not a Pentecostal preacher, although she was religious enough to have been one. My mom did not run off to Mexico to divorce my dad, even though she did threaten to join the Foreign Legion if her four brats did not stop arguing and fighting and start behaving. My dad was not a drama coach and taxi driver… he was a plumber and drove a truck.  I did ride around in that with him from time to time. When he was actually holding down a job. I did not declare my independence from my family at age 15 and run off to California. I did escape my hometown at the age of 18 and ran off to France at age 20. I didn’t stay gone long enough. Hindsight. Ms. Lane did come to North Carolina to film Nights in Rodanthe. She has kissed Richard Gere. Sadly, I have not. However, friends, I am saying right here and now and putting it in writing, that if a movie is ever made of my life, I want Diane to play me. Period. I’ve said that before and I still mean it. Should that not happen and should I be dead and gone, returning to another life, I will haunt you.  And I will haunt you in interesting ways.  Let’s leave it at that, shall we?

I loved every second of the film.  Arles Lucy has vowed to buy it as soon as it comes out. (You can pre-order it at Apple.) She will host a viewing party at her house so that she can stop it and I can translate the French tidbits.  I caught some of them the other night and translated a bit, but I, too, want to hear everything.  And see the Pont du Gard, picnic along the Rhône, drool over chocolate desserts, ride in a car through a lavender field. You get the idea. Oh, and don’t forget hang out with a handsome Frenchman who, it must be said, has un accent charmant when he speaks English. And, Arles Lucy, this thought just popped into my head… he calls her Brûlée, as in crème brûlée, as in burnt. You were once nicknamed The Woman on Fire by a Frenchman, if memory serves me properly. Just saying. I will leave it at that.

Here’s the trailer. Fall in love. Indulge in a little fantasy. It’s okay.  They do eventually make it to Paris, at night, when the Arc de Triomphe is all lit up and Mme Eiffel is sparkling.  Big sigh. Paris must wait for me.  My summer trip didn’t work out. She will still be there, waiting for me, when I do get there again.  Hopefully, in January, definitely in March.

Now I think I will go google Arnaud Viard.  Au revoir.

How about some chocolate tarts? I made these several times while living in Arles and working with Chef Érick.  The ganache recipe has come in handy many times over.

Hazelnut Sablée Crust and Chocolate Ganache Tarts

recipe from Érick Vedel and Madeleine Vedel

For the crust (makes enough for a dozen little tarts or a large single tart):

2 cups flour
1 cup toasted and ground nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans)
¼ lb plus 3 tablespoons sweet butter
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon water (if necessary)

In a large mixing bowl, put in the flour and toasted, ground nuts, the sugar, the salt and the butter, cut in small pieces. Push up your sleeves, wash your hands, take off your rings, and with your fingers work the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a sandy texture that, if you squeeze a handful will hold together. Into this mixture, break your whole egg and work in the egg with your hands lightly, then, as needed, add a tablespoon of water, work the dough quickly together and pat it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator to chill.
At a minimum 2 hours later, remove the dough from the fridge and put it onto a work surface. At this point, preheat your oven to 350F/160C. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface and start to knead your dough. Press it down and fold it over, press it and fold it, for about 2-5 minutes. You want it to start to hold together and no longer crumble apart too easily. When making tartlets, take a small amount of dough, roll it out and place it in the greased tart pan and press into the pan. Do not make the dough too thick. It works better for small ones, rather than one large one, as it is not easy to cut once cooled after cooking.
To preheat the crust, poke the crust with a fork multiple times, place into your preheated oven and bake just until it begins to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Cool before filling.

For the chocolate ganache:

300 grams (12 oz) superior quality dark chocolate
225 grams (9 oz) heavy cream
90 grams (4 oz) butter, cut in small pieces

Chop the chocolate into very small pieces. Put into bowl. In a saucepan, heat the cream to boiling point. Remove from heat and pour slowly over the chocolate. Stir gently until the chocolate melts, then add the bits of butter, one at a time, stirring gently and continually until the chocolate starts to thicken. Pour into the shells. Let cool before eating.

I love you, Arles Lucy!  Thank you for being my friend and indulging me in my love of all things French.  Let’s hit the road in a little décapotable and see France the right way!

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my lavendar

Bon appétit!  Fantasies are fun and good for the soul.  So are movies, music and chocolate. And amazing friends.  Indulge.

Summer to-do list

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I am sort of a list maker.  Not that I always can find the list.  Or that I take it out and look at it. Or that I actually cross off everything more than two items. But I feel as if I have accomplished something just by writing the to-dos on a notepad. Mary Kay consultants are encouraged to make a Six Most Important Things list every day.  Maybe six is a manageable number?

6 most important

(photo: https://www.pinterest.com/thepinkbubbleco/)

What’s on my to-do list for tomorrow?

  1. Wake up early.
  2. Go to Responsive Classroom workshop.
  3. Read.
  4. Go to bed.

That’s all I know for sure. What’s on my hope-to-do list?

  1. See my granddaughter. (Maybe read her a story- she loves this now!)
  2. Have dinner with a couple of friends.
  3. Write.

Wow.  That’s seven things! Go me.

I guess I should think about my summer to-do list. In no particular order:

  1. Read my school summer reading book,  Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
  2. Go to the dentist (appointment made).
  3. Hit at least 10,000 steps on the Fitbit at least four days a week (maybe five?). This means lacing up the shoes and walking in the morning.
  4. Spend a week at the beach with my family.
  5. Take an on-line writing course.
  6. Try not to worry so much.
  7. Visit Chatham Hill Winery.  (I worked here part-time before The Sabbatical. I wrote an article about NC wines and Chatham Hill for the Durham Herald newspaper.)
  8. Try some new recipes.
  9. Go to the Durham Farmers’ Market at Central Park regularly.
  10. Blog as often as possible, but at least twice a week (should I make a schedule?).
  11. Work on my curriculum for the 2017-18 school year. Read the book I was given on curriculum design. (I think it is currently upstairs? Yep. Found it.) Keys to Curriculum Mapping: Strategies and Tools to Make it Work by Susan Udelhofen. We will be working on our curriculum map next year at school. Hello, Rubicon.
  12. Have lunch with friends at restaurants around town I haven’t tried yet.
  13. Read some books I want to read. (Stay tuned for an update on my reading list soon.)
  14. Write to my nephew once a week.  Send him some books.
  15. Eat as healthy as possible.

Guess we will see how many I accomplish! At our closing faculty meeting, some silly person commented that we had 72 days until school starts back.  And we now working on week 2. But I will not worry about that.  See, I am trying. I will look at photos like these of my Darling Granddaughter:

kennedyon tummy

She can now roll over.  In the night, she was babbling and when her parents got up to check on her, this is what they found. Photo 1:  “Oops. They caught me.”  Photo 2: It’s okay. I’m cute and how can they possibly be mad? I’ve learned a new trick.” Adorable, right?

I found a recipe for Tomato Pie and gave it a try over the weekend.  Not perfect, but pretty darned good.  Especially the second night. I put pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, grated more cheese on them, warmed them in a 375˚F oven for 10 minutes, then under the broiler set to high for about 4 minutes. It’s better when it looks as if it has almost baked too long.

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Biscuit Crust (recipe from King Arthur Flour website)

To make the pie “crust” skip step 4 and go to 5. Do not cut.  Pat the dough into a rectangle on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Do not pre-bake.  Set aside.

  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons sugar, to taste* (I used only 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons butter or shortening (I used 6)
  • 1 cup milk, buttermilk, or water (I used about 1-1/4 cups buttermilk)
  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients. With two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips, cut or rub the butter or shortening in until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
  3. Add the liquid all at once, mixing quickly and gently for about 20 seconds until you have a soft dough.
  4. To make drop biscuits: Drop the dough by the spoonful onto a lightly floured baking sheet; or for tidier shapes, fill the cups of a greased muffin tin about two-thirds full.
  5. To make cut biscuits: Pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4″ thick. Fold it into thirds like a letter and roll gently with a floured rolling pin until the dough is 3/4″ thick again.
  6. Cut into circles with a biscuit cutter for traditional round biscuits. Or, to avoid leftover dough scraps, cut the dough into squares or diamonds with a bench knife or bowl scraper.
  7. Bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re lightly browned. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm.

Pie filling: adapted from South Carolina Living: 7 recipes every S.C. cook should know 

Hattie Mae’s Tomato Pie

To avoid soggy tomato pie, use every bit of the salt the recipe calls for, says Heidi Trull. “It gets all the moisture out of the tomatoes. You’re not going to be eating that salt, because you rinse it off.”  (Note: I did not rinse the tomatoes as well as I should have. So, after tasting them, I did not add any additional salt.)

Hattie Mae’s tomato pie

SERVES 8

4 ripe tomatoes, sliced

¼ cup salt

1 cup grated hoop cheese (I had to google this… sad but true. I used Vermont sharp cheddar cheese, a mixture of white and traditional)

1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise (there is no substitute for this in the south! I also added about 1/4 cup of half and half- my mixture was not pourable, but spreadable anyway)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (totally forgot to add but I did sprinkle in some herbes de Provence)

1 medium onion, diced (decided to leave off)

Salt and pepper to taste

8 mini piecrusts (or one large) – used the biscuit crust instead

Slice tomatoes, and cover with ¼ cup salt. Let sit for 1 hour. Rinse well in colander, and pat dry with paper towel. Place piecrusts in pan(s), and lay tomato slices in pie shells. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour over tomatoes. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes.  (Mine needed to bake for about 35 minutes- the biscuit crust is different than a traditional pie crust.)

After it cooled for about 10 minutes, I cut it with a pizza cutter.  Kitchen scissors would work also. I cut it into 10 rectangles. You can cut the pieces as large or small as you wish. This would make a great appetizer. The Ex-Ex called it tomato pizza. He liked it and he usually doesn’t like “hot tomatoes.”

Day 2

tomato pie 2

Bon appétit!  Whether you are a list-maker or not, I hope you are having a great June.  It isn’t officially summer yet… Schedule in some fun.  And try to worry less. Wherever you go there you are.

SV Day 5: Over the mountain

fog

Blowing Rock to Boone to Foscoe to Linville to Spruce Pine. That was my route this morning.  I made a stop for breakfast at Grandview Restaurant.  The address is listed as Banner Elk but it is just off NC-105 between Foscoe and Linville.  This is the grand view-

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Grandfather Mountain as seen from the patio in back of the restaurant.

This was my view inside, a real Southern breakfast–

breakfast

Yep, this is how we do it.  With lots of hot coffee.

I made a quick, pull off the road stop in Linville. I spent three college summers working at Eseeola Lodge.  The photo I took  today was terrible so I found one from last fall. We thought it was fancy then, but it is really fancy now.  There is even a spa.

eseeola1

What a great place for college students from far and wide to work and spend the summer.  I was a waitress. We girls lived in an old house behind the main lodge, nicknamed The Last Resort and the boys lived in another house down the road. The gang threw a surprise 21st birthday party for me.  My first birthday party. Good times.

I made it to Spruce Pine and Mama Mildred’s by mid-morning.  Sister Moo is using three of her vacation days while I am visiting.  We goofed off. Pedicures first.

toenails

A stroll around downtown- Lower Street to be exact, BFF. The old train depot.  Not many trains pass through any more. Sad.

traindepot

I got to hang out with the Grand Nephews and their mom, my niece. The boys love my baking so I decided to make them some blueberry scones.  I wanted cherries, but at almost $4 a pound I decided to go for blueberries instead.

A good day.

BBscones

This recipe for scones is from my friend and colleague Daniela Harrell. It is so easy and so good. I prefer using yogurt instead of milk.

Quick Scones

makes 12 small scones
Use whatever fruit is in season or the currants (or other dried fruit) that the recipe calls for.  Or plain. Up to you. I used blueberries and added the zest from a small lemon. I added the fresh berries after kneading the dough.  I separated the dough into two balls, flattened each one out, placed the berries on top and gently folded the dough several times to incorporate the berries without smashing them.  Not easy and it’s okay if you smash a few.

2 c. all-purpose flour
¼ c. granulated sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. cold butter
½ c. currants, raisins, or other dried fruit, if desired
1 egg
2/3 c. milk or ¾ c. (175 ml) plain yogurt (the yogurt produces a moister scone)
egg yolk for brushing tops
granulated sugar for sprinkling or fruit preserves

In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter and cut in until crumbly. Stir in dried fruit, if using. Make a well in the center.

In small bowl, beat egg until frothy. Pour into well. Stir in milk or yogurt slowly with a fork, stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn out on lightly floured surface. Knead 8-10 times. Divide into 2 equal parts. Pat each into a 6-inch circle. Transfer to greased baking sheet or a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush tops with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar (if desired). Score each top into 6 pie-shaped markings. Bake in 425F oven for 15 minutes until risen and browned slightly. Brush with fruit preserves after removing from oven, if desired.

Bon appétit to all families!  I hope that you all have a chance to spend time with your loved ones and get back to your roots!

SV Day 4: Out and about

around the curve

I have no sense of direction and often get lost.  Ask any of my friends or family members. It used to drive my boys crazy.  Always turing around. I have a hard time reading maps and I don’t trust GPS systems. With good reason.  I programmed in my destination this morning- Blowing Rock to Banner Elk- even though I know how to get there (I really do). I thought there might be a better or more scenic way to go. Better, not necessarily.  More scenic, definitely.  I ended up on a dirt road where I saw one house-

house

met three cars, ran over one big black snake (he was right in the middle of a one lane road- he might have already been squished by another car) and saw no bears. Thank goodness.

I was listening to Balsam Range‘s latest CD, Mountain Voodoo, and singing along.  Maybe that kept the bears at bay?

car dashboard

I saw this tree all of sudden- seems to be signaling a fork in the road, right?

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Non.  I kept on going, sure I would end up on the right highway eventually.  And I did.  I ended up in Banner Elk where I roamed around for a few minutes before getting back in the car to find Apple Hill Farm.  I read about it in High Country Magazine. I was supposed to get on 194N and somehow ended up on 184N until I realized that I couldn’t possibly be on the right track. Turn around… not always easy to find a place to do that on mountain roads, I might add.

Signs should be this straightforward–

straight sign

Lee Rankin, a single mom, saw an alpaca, fell madly in love, bought an abandoned apple orchard and turned it into a farm.  God bless her. It is a beautiful place.  Mountains views on every side. I took a tour of the place with about 10 other folks from Florida, NC, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Yvonne was our guide, wearing this t-shirt-

t-shirt

Ag teachers from several counties were there for a workshop and Lee was helping them learn how to help their students.

We met Mr. Pickles, the pig.  He is a rescue pig who was bullied by the other pigs he was hanging out with on another farm so Lee took him in.  Snickers the cat is his BFF, but Snickers didn’t come to meet us.

MrPickles

There is a chicken coop.  Lots of hens, one guinea and two roosters kept in separate coops.  You know how roosters can be.

A couple of guard donkeys, Chip and his daddy. Meet Chip, who was quite friendly and a touch pushy with his dad. He literally pushed him out of the way once or twice.

chip

Next up, Napoleon the shetland pony/horse.  Prized for his studliness.

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Maybe the ladies like the long shaggy hair/mane that falls over his face.

Angora goats.  Beautiful and incredibly soft.

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This one accidentally got pregnant.  Teenagers.  What can you do?

These two babies are twins.

baby goats

There are guard llamas as well.  It seems that a mountain lion got into the fence one day and killed several of the alpaca so Lee had to put several layers of protection into place, the donkeys, the llamas, and an electric fence. Meet Carly.

guard llama

There is also a llama to guard the goats. What a sweet face.

The main attraction are the alpaca.  They were shorn two weeks ago for their prized wool and to keep the cool in the summer heat.  This is the only one who came close enough to check me out. They are skinny without all that lovely wool.

black alpaca

They are native to the Andes Mountains and although they can no longer be imported to the United States, there were several well-established herds before the ban was put in place so there are thriving farms of alpaca now. They seem to do well in the mountains of North Carolina.

This one’s legs weren’t sheared.  The curly wool is prized- guess they are letting it grow a bit longer.

alpaca leg

Lee has a garden, bees, and plenty to keep her busy. Pretty impressive.  I learned that alpaca poop is called beans and is excellent fertilizer.  It doesn’t smell and it doesn’t attract flies.  Who knew?

I challenge you to throw that out into a conversation sometime.  Did you know, by chance…

A few other photos-

I enjoyed my time at her farm immensely.

I then set off, turning on the GPS again, trying to get to Foscoe.  I passed by this spooky abandoned house. The stuff ghost stories are made of, right?

old house

I was looking for Grandfather Vineyards and Winery.  I found it with no wrong turns on a road with many twists and hairpin curves.

vines

There’s not much room to grow grapes here, so the winemaker brings grapes in from the Yadkin Valley as well as Lodi, California.  I’ve been to Lodi.  It is well-known for Zinfandel. All of the wines are made on site. The winemaker works with the fermentation classes at Appalachian State University to come up with a couple of his blends. They didn’t have that class back in the late ’70’s! I tasted dry whites and reds and then sat by the creek for a little bit and sipped a cold glass of verdelho, a grape I had never heard of before today.

wineglass

I watched little kids doing what little kids are supposed to do in the summer- play in the creek. That restored my belief in kids. And parents.

playing in the creek

I love this drawing that was done of the owner, Steve Tatum, and his dog.  It graces the label of some of his wines. It is a family run operation, with Steve and Sally’s son, Dylan as the winemaker and general manager.

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It started to rain, so I got in my car and headed back for my last retreat night. That’s Grandfather Mountain in case you can’t tell.  You will just have to take my word for it.

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I head for Mama Mildred’s tomorrow morning for the second part of my adventure.

Bonne route!  Et bon appétit to all!  Get lost once in a while.  You never know what is just around the bend. And splash in a creek next time you get a chance.  At least put your toes in!

 

Summer Vacation Day 3: Back to Boone

daniel statue

daniel plaque

I attended and graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.  It was really the only school I was interested in.  I applied to UNC-Greensboro but never had any intention of attending. Not sure why I even wasted my hard-earned money to apply. I was very happy at ASU. College life suited me. I met the girl who was to become my best friend during freshman orientation.  Rest in peace, Melody.  I still miss you. I embraced becoming a Mountaineer, wearing black and gold and attending football, basketball, field hockey, and baseball games.  I even went to one wrestling match because a friend asked me to come watch. The campus has changed so much since my days there.  That’s a good thing.  It shows progress.  I had classes in these two buildings.

I didn’t venture over to the part of campus where my dorm is or where I took French classes. Not sure why.  I did pay homage to Yosef, our mascot.

me and yosef

Needless to say, I did not see anyone I knew.  It was orientation for freshman so there were a lot of parents of Mountaineers-to-be roaming around.  I talked to a couple of them. I took both of my boys to their freshman orientation— UNC-Wilmington and UT-Knoxville. Sad and exciting all at the same time.  A parental rite of passage. (I am really not very good at this selfie thing.  I take them when no one is looking because I am mortified that I am actually doing it. And how the heck did I go from wide-eyed freshman to wrinkles so fast?? Someone explain that one to me. Please. And while you are at it, slow the clock way down.)

So.  Food is very important to the Sabbatical Chef, as you know. After the campus crawl, I set out to find a restaurant I had read about thanks to the BFF and Our State magazine. Proper.

proper

This used to be a jail.  How cool is that?? Yep. Circa 1896. If only the walls could talk.

proper front door

I had what I can only describe as an epic lunch.  Legendary. I had already made up my mind to try the Tomato Pie that was described in the magazine article. Then the waiter started reeling off the daily specials. He got as far as baked grits before I interrupted and said “I’ll have that.”

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Grits, cheddar cheese, spinach, tomatoes and pimiento cheese baked in that bowl (hot!) for 12 minutes. Served with Granny Smith apple slices and flatbread sea salt crackers.  Slap your mama good, as the BFF says.

baked grits

I still ordered the tomato pie.  I knew that I would be offered a to-go box to take my leftovers home for dinner.

tomato pie

Sides of collards and succotash.  A biscuit for me, please.

lunch

A warm biscuit with melted, dripping salted butter.  Heaven in a little square.

biscuit

Dinner.

take out

Next on the tour, roaming around downtown. Lots of restaurants and shops now. Antiques/junk, consignment, Watsonatta is still selling the much coveted by me cowboy hats and boots. Still haven’t bought anything there, but I sure love to look.

Speaking of Watson, I met up with Doc Watson on the street corner.

Doc and me

A legend. I love this statue that was placed here in the town where he got his start.

doc

(photo: http://www.downtownboonenc.com/index.cfm/doc-watson-statue/)

Next up, a visit to Appalachian Mountain Brewery.  I recently tasted one of their ciders and wanted to drink one on the premises.  Keep in mind that back in the day ( meaning my college years) Boone was dry (meaning you could not buy alcohol). Carloads of stupid coeds drove the 8-mile stretch to Blowing Rock and back on Thursdays for happy hour (meaning there was no such thing as Uber). The drinking age was 18, but I thank my lucky stars every time I think about this. I didn’t know anyone who died on the way back to Boone. That’s a miracle. I didn’t have a car so I was never behind the wheel.

Anyhow, I enjoyed the afternoon sun and cool breeze and sipped a Mystic Cider. Strawberry, rhubarb and green tea. I took my writing to the great outdoors on their patio.

AMB

I talked to a couple from Charleston, SC whose son is considering Appalachian.  And they are considering buying a place up here. A great idea, in my humble opinion. And I saw one of the bartenders from Blind Squirrel Brewery in Plumtree.  I felt kind of like a local again.  Actually recognizing someone.

It was a lovely, delicious day.  I intend to try to replicate the tomato pie when I get home. Until then, my Provençal Tomato Tart will have to do.  Proper’s crust is made from biscuit dough…

2

Tomato tart

One pie crust (see my vinegar crust recipe below) or store bought one you roll out
Dijon-style mustard
Grated gruyere or Swiss cheese
Sliced tomatoes
Herbes de Provence
Coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Place the crust in a pie plate. Prick the bottom and sides and use pie weights, if you wish. Bake crust for about 10 minutes.
Brush the bottom of the warm crust with the mustard. Layer shredded cheese on top of mustard. Place sliced tomatoes on top of cheese, overlapping them just a bit. Sprinkle with herbes de Provence. (One friend makes a second layer of cheese and tomatoes.) Bake for about 20 minutes or until tomatoes start to shrivel and crust turns golden brown. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with salt.

Crust
(A great basic unsweetened crust for general pie-making.  It can be pre-baked for cream pies or used unbaked for filled pies.)
This recipe makes enough dough for four 9-inch pie shell bottowms or two pies with top and bottom crusts.

3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 c. shortening (or lard or butter or any combination– I use chilled butter)
1/3 to 1/2 c. cold water
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 egg, beaten

Stir the flour and salt together in a large bowl.  Cut the chilled butter into the dry mixture using a pastry blender or by pinching the fat into the mixture with your hands.  The resulting mixture should have lumps no smaller than peas.  Add the vinegar to the chilled water.  Slightly beat the egg and mix with the water/vinegar.  Pour the chilled water mixture into the dry mixture, a small amount at a time, mixing gently with a fork until the dough is wet enough to be packed into a ball.  The dough should be handled as little as possible to prevent the blending of all of the fat lumps.
Split the dough into 4 equal amounts, roll them into balls and wrap them in plastic before placing them in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.  Generously dust a clean, dry surface with flour and remove one of the packages of dough from the refrigerator.  Flatten the dough slightly and dust the dough’s top before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin.  Start rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards.  Quickly roll the dough into a circle 1/4 or 1/8 inch thick.  The size of the circle should be about 4 inches wider in diameter than the pie pan.  Carefully place the dough in the pan and press it into the pan, being careful not to press the dough too thin.   Cut the pie crust slightly larger than the pan and crimp the edges.
(Unused crust can be flattened a bit, wrapped in waxed paper, placed in ziploc bags and frozen.  When ready to use, remove from freezer, allow dough to come to room temperature and proceed with your recipe.)
Line the crust with a parchment paper circle and fill with pie weights, dried bean, or rice.  Place crust in a preheated 425˚ oven for 5-6 minutes, just until it begins to brown.

This little guy has been flirting with me and playing hard to get for a couple of days.  Finally snapped his photo!

hummingbird

Bon appétit, Yosef, Doc and Chef Angela Kelly! Eat good food. Support local businesses. Watch for the hummingbirds who cross your path.  Patience pays off.

Summer Vacation Day 2: Sticks and stones

Sticks

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and stones.

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I had a completely different idea for today’s post. Then I took a break from writing and decided to take a hike. It was a stunningly beautiful June day in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Blue skies, 72˚F, cool breeze blowing, quiet. I grabbed my camera, my purse, my walking shoes and set off to acquaint myself with Mr. Moses Cone and his manor.

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I worked in a denim factory for two summers, making Wrangler jeans, with Mama Mildred.  My nephew was born in Moses Cone Hospital, I saw an exhibit of the Cone Sisters’ art, Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters, twice when it came to the Nasher Museum at Duke.  I watched a TV special about the exhibit, produced by UNC-TV, several times. I am very interested in French art and this period of time in history, the late 1800’s-early 1900’s, is fascinating.  Growing up in the mountains I knew nothing about the Cones and Vanderbilts and their palatial estates until I was in high school. Moses, the son of a Jewish German immigrant (his father’s name was Kahn), and his brother made their fortunes in the textile business. There is little mention of his sisters, Claribel and Etta, in many of the articles about him, but they inherited money when their father died and, later, their brothers provided them with an allowance that they used to purchase art. They probably raised at few eyebrows at the time- neither sister married, one became a doctor, and they traveled to Paris, befriending Gertrude and Leo Stein as well as several struggling artists, including Picasso and Matisse. I love this quote from an article written by Edward Cone (yes, a relative) in Forbes magazine about the sisters:

The Cone sisters’ use of the family’s prosperity to collect fine artwork was unparalleled among other women. They were known as eccentrics and had a comical presence clad in their long Victorian dresses. When they went to the opera in Paris, they would buy an extra seat to hold their day’s purchases.

I would have been a hoot to meet those two women.  Can you imagine sitting in a café having a drink with Dr. Claribel, Etta and Gertrude?

collecting

Claribel Cone, Gertrude Stein and Etta Cone sitting at a table in Settignano, Italy. June 26, 1903. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta Cone Papers, Archives and Manuscripts Collection, CG.12.

I digress.  But I just can’t help myself sometimes.

Looking at that rock wall along one of the pathways on the estate and at the trees while walking along Figure 8 Trail and then during the hike up to see where Moses is buried, I started thinking of the old children’s saying:  Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.  That is a lie. It may be interpreted as you can say what you want, but calling me names won’t hurt me. But I think that words can be very harmful and leave lasting scars and regrets. I wish that I had been more careful with my words over the years. And I wish that others would be as well. Every single day I work at watching what comes out of my mouth.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.  But I do try.

On the other hand, putting into words how you feel about someone is a gift.  I received several gifts of letters last week. I have two of them in my purse now.  They are from a couple of girlies I taught for three years, from the day they arrived as new 6th graders at my school. I am notoriously known as a tough, strict teacher. Oui, moi!  I tell everyone that I would not have survived 37 years in middle school otherwise.  I do set high standards, give nightly homework assignments, and expect them to practice in class what they are learning (learning a second language is not a spectator sport), but I temper it with care and respect. And fun. And food. To paraphrase the girlies…

From Girlie #1:

On my first day of French in 6th grade, I walked into class wanting to be in Spanish & pronouncing “bonjour” wrong. Now, I am proud to say that I can carry on a meaningful conversation in French and that French has become, by far, one of my favorite classes.  Even though it has been a lot of hard work and practice, taking French with you has taught me about overcoming challenges… I have been doing some thinking. And I have no idea where I would be without French & you as my teacher.  Not only have I learned French, I have been able to grow, bond, and make friendships outside of my normal friend group… So, madame, in conclusion, thank you. I don’t know if you knew how much you have done for me but I wanted to let you know before I left the middle school.

From Girlie #2:

I have come to realize that there are not enough words or phrases (in French or English) to describe and show how much you have influenced me.  French is, to say the least, one of the hardest classes I have had. You made me look forward to learning it though. It will always confuse me how much I loved the hardest class, but your passion for the language rubs off. You made the class seem like a love letter to the language that you just read out loud. I have heard around 540 love letters. Honestly, I’m very excited for high school, but the thought of you not teaching me is one of the only things I can’t let go of… Thank you for showing us all tough love because while in sixth grade I was slightly terrified, it showed us how much you cared about all of us. You care, and I would like to think that most people in my life do but the truth is there are only a handful that do…  This is my first fan letter.

They know that I write thank you notes and fan letters. From a note of appreciation to our computer guru (and my personal garlic dealer) to Pierre Hermé in Paris to thank him for making such delicious macarons. (I’ve yet to meet him, but there is always the next trip.) I feel honored that these two amazing young women took the time to write to me.  (And now that I have copied some of what they wrote here, it will be less traumatic if I misplace the letters, just as Claribel Cone lost a $15,000 check sent to her by one of her brothers by placing it in the pocket of one of her skirts, according to the article in Forbes!)

Today was also a day for wildflowers.  Much to my friend KR’s dismay if she sees this post, I do not know the names of but one or two of them.  Some are even considered weeds, I guess.

The purple rhododendron are my favorite.  I only found a couple of bushes in bloom.  A bit too early yet.

Can you see the face??

treewithaface

And what does this rock, collected for the BFF, look like?

nc rock

North Carolina, of course!

I made it to Moses’ grave.  He is buried with his wife, Bertha.

grave

The view from his final resting place isn’t shabby.

cemetery view

If you are out driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a stop at Moses Cone Memorial Park would be well worth your time.

And last but by no means last… on my way to the cemetery, I walked by a cow pasture. I am overly fond of cows. And I don’t mind the smell of cow patties.

cow pasture

Now, with that in mind (or maybe not), I will leave you with a recipe for something delicious that is sometimes called a Cow Patty. Many thanks to my mother-in-law for sharing this recipe with me 30+ years ago.  I would love to make some right now, but it will have to wait. I am not in my own kitchen.

Chocolate Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies
(recipe from my mother-in-law)

2 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. butter
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. peanut butter
3 c. oatmeal

Combine sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa.  Bring to boil and boil for one minute.  Add vanilla and peanut butter.  Stir until peanut butter is melted.  Add oatmeal and stir until it is well-coated.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper and place in refrigerator until cooled. (Lick the bowl just to make clean up easy.)
Makes about 3 dozen.

Bon appétit to all!  Write someone a genuine, heartfelt thank you note.  Heck, even write one to yourself.  You deserve it.

Summer Vacation Day 1: A porch with a view

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Well, Summer Vacation, the 2017 Edition, is officially underway. There is the minor detail of about 20 student comments that still have to be written, but I have until Monday at 5:00 pm. Hours and hours. At the last minute, I decided to book myself into a writer’s retreat. Remember, in the last post I said I have a new writing project. I also just needed to get away for a few days all by myself. I spend my days during the school year doing for others from 7:30 am until 5:15 pm Monday through Friday. And I am pretty worn out right now. I need some peace and quiet. And I have found it. Just a short distance off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Where I hear birds calling, hummingbird wings beating, and an occasional fish splashing around in the small pond just beyond the porch where I am rocking. The sun is starting to set. The clouds are taking on a pink hue.

sunset
I imagine I will see a few lightening bugs soon. I will remember chasing after them as a little girl and trapping them in a mason jar with holes poked in the lid so that they could get some air. I am back in my hills.

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This is where I spent the first 22 years of my life, with the exception of a few months spent in France between my sophomore and junior years of college.

Friends/colleagues I’ve taught with here in Durham for many years are beginning to retire. Every year now someone significant will leave.  It began a couple of years ago. It won’t be easy for me. C’est la vie, n’est-ce pas?  JC this year. She will still coach and I will see her as often (or maybe more often) than I do now, but somehow the thought of opening meetings next fall without her make me sad.  Not for her, needless to say. She will find plenty to occupy her free time– sewing, exercising and traveling have been mentioned. All fine ideas. She and hubby are headed to France for two weeks in July. Bravo! They will have a blast. I am so proud and happy for them. Enough of that or I will make myself cry.

I roamed around for a short while this afternoon admiring the flowers in the small town I am near.

I found a little girl to sit next to.  I didn’t strike up a conversation because she was totally engrossed in her book. I thought of this same scene happening in a few years but with Miss K by my side. Joy. I hope she will love to read as much as her Gramma does.

reading

reading girl

Night has fallen.  It’s getting chilly.  The birds are now silent.  And I am getting sleepy. Day 1 has been a good one.  Tomorrow the writing begins in earnest.  Wish me sweet dreams and luck.

I am thinking of cherry scones.  It’s about time to find ripe juicy cherries in the local grocery stores.  I’ve missed them since last summer! I will go back to a past post for my favorite recipe to share. I recently found another recipe I want to try.  Crumpets. Reminded me of scones. But I digress…

From July 13 2011:

My new friend Teresa Lust (she isn’t in on the friendship yet) devoted a chapter of her book Pass The Polenta to the currant scones that a very good friend makes.  She can’t divulge the real recipe, only her approximation of it.  And, according to Teresa’s research, the scone is a Scottish invention.  Maybe that’s why I love them so much.  As good a reason as any, n’est-ce pas?  But it is difficult to go wrong with butter and cream.  And red juicy cherries.  I’ll try currants another day.

Currant Scones
(from Pass The Polenta and other writings from the kitchen by Teresa Lust, Random House, 1998)
makes 8 scones

2 c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, chilled, cut in pieces
1 c. heavy cream, chilled
1 c. currants (I used fresh cherries, pitted and chopped in quarters)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400˚F.  Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter, then toss with your fingers to coat each piece with flour.  Work the mixture with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-sized lumps of butter still remaining.  Drizzle in the cream, stirring the mixture with a fork, until it just comes together.  Alternatively, combine the dry ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor, add the butter, and process with quick pulses until it is just incorporated.  Add the cream in a thin stream, and pulse only until the mixture starts coming together.  Do not over-process.  Turn dough out onto a cutting board, sprinkle in the currants, and knead lightly half a dozen times or so, until the dough forms a ball.  (I had to add about 1/4 c. more flour because the dough was very sticky.  Sprinkle the cutting board with flour, as well as your hands, before diving into the dough.)  Pat the dough into a circle 3/4-inch high.  Dip a pastry brush into the lightly beaten egg and baste the dough-circle.  Cut into 8 wedges.  Transfer to a baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Bon appétit and happy summer vacation to all!  Bonnes vacances!  May you find a quiet spot to rest and regroup.

 

The end is in sight

macaron and tex

It is the eve of my exam.  Wonder how much the kiddos have studied?  Foreign language exams are last this year… the only thing standing between my students and 10 weeks of freedom is me.  And pages of verbs, adjectives, object pronouns, etc.  You get the picture. Hope you aren’t having flashbacks.  We still have practice for the closing ceremony for the 8th graders followed by lunch tomorrow.  The ceremony is on Thursday. A couple of days of meetings for the weary teachers.  Exams to grade.  Grades to enter into Veracross.  Progress reports to write.  Then freedom for me.

Today I received the beautiful plate of homemade pink macarons from my room parent. One of the 8th grade girlies gave me the armadillo.  I use a website, Tex’s French Grammar, put together by the University of Texas-Austin. The main character is Tex, an existentialist poet who just happens to be an armadillo.

char_tex

Yes, he smokes.  No, I do not approve.  Yes, he indulges in a glass of red wine from time to time.  The kiddos know that they cannot do this legally until they are 21. The grammar explanations are great.  The kiddos love to listen to the voices, especially Joe-Bob, the squirrel from College Station.

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I am partial to Paw-Paw, Tex’s Cajun granddad.

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I really want to go to Austin and meet the geniuses who created this website.  And now I have a little stuffed Tex to keep me company in my classroom.  Merci, EM!

I will make a trip up to the mountains to visit the relatives and hopefully see a few friends from the Class of ’76.

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Last year, before our reunion, some of us got together at Spoon, a great little place on Upper Street.  It’s the craft cocktail slingin’ counterpart to knife & fork restaurant, to quote the website.  Knife & Fork is on Lower Street, by the way.

beach

We will have our annual family week at Sunset Beach.  We all really look forward to a week when the most important decision we make is who will go back to the house to refill the cooler and make sandwiches for lunch.  Guess it was my turn that day since my chair is empty?

I have a few projects to accomplish around the house.  Organizing the notecards that I have made from my photos, go through bookcases to see if there are some books I can give away, clean out my closet.  You get the idea.  I also plan to write.  I have a new idea.  I’ve taken some notes and have the beginning of an outline.  That’s all I have to say at the moment.

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The BFF and I have pledged to get up early and walk before she has to go to work and before it is too damn hot and humid to do much besides sweat.  I am thinking 6 am, but I am an early riser.  We’ll see what the BFF thinks.

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I plan to hear some music.  There are several spots around town where the concerts are free.  We went out to Southpoint Mall last weekend to hear Big Time.  Mr. BFF is in the band.  A talented fellow.  I can’t help myself when he is singing Love Shack or Give It to Me Baby.  Just got to dance.  And attempt to embarrass him.  Not possible, but I won’t give up!  Mr. BFF, Tracy King aka Sweet T, was a member of The Castaways back in the day.  I can’t help but post this photo… (top row right)

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Last, but by no means least, I will play Gramma and spend more time with the Most Amazing Girl.  She is already 3-1/2 months old.  I cannot wait. Bonding time. Oui, elle est belle!

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Today’s recipe, just in time for summer so that you don’t heat up the house by using the oven.

chicken salad

Chicken Salad

adapted from Inside Brucrew Life

Shredded chicken from 1 rotisserie chicken

1-1/2 c. finely chopped pecans or almond slivers (I toast them to bring out the flavor)

3 stalks celery, chopped

4 c. halved red seedless grapes

Salt and pepper, to taste, if desired

1 c. sour cream

1 c. mayonnaise (today I used a mixture of Duke’s mayo and Just Mayo Chipotle flavor)

I c. finely chopped fresh dill, if desired (I left this out)

In a large bowl, toss together the chicken, nuts, celery, and grapes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.

Whisk together the sour cream and mayonnaise.  Add the dressing to the chicken mixture and gently toss to coat.

Cover and refrigerate.  It’s best if allowed to chill for 2 hours so that the flavors can meld.

Bon appétit and happy summer to all.  Bonnes vacances!  Be sure to slow down a bit, if possible, and smell the flowers.  Gardenias are presently blooming in my corner of the world.  Heavenly.

gardenia