A Paradox

According to Merriam-Webster’s Learners Dictionary:


noun par·a·dox \ˈper-ə-ˌdäks, ˈpa-rə-\
Popularity: Top 1% of lookups

Simple Definition of paradox

  • : something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible

  • : someone who does two things that seem to be opposite to each other or who has qualities that are opposite

  • : a statement that seems to say two opposite things but that may be true

After what I consider a great deal of thought (but what probably amounts to some deep thinking in the shower), I have come to the conclusion that I am a paradox.  And oui, this comes on the heels of the post “What am I?” Today in French 8, as we are learning and discussing words for professions, I said “Mon père était plombier.”   My dad was a plumber.

I did not go any further than that.  EXCEPT to say, in French, when your toilet doesn’t work or you do not have water, you need a plumber, don’t you?  I am so over trying to be something I am not.  And if that is not quite what people expect, so be it.  I am who I am.  I am my family.  My roots.  And, you know what, I am proud of it.  So there.  Tommy was a plumbing and heating kind of guy.  He remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, too.  He built houses, added on rooms, and built furniture without a plan.  Without directions.  It was all in his head somehow someway.  (So, why do I not get geometry?  Seriously.  Or distances? Or angles?)  I remember sitting with him when he was adding a room on to our little house on Bell Street.  I swear it was all in his head.  He scribbled stuff down with one of those funny flat pencils.  And he had levels and those really cool measuring stick kind of things.

www.texasbowhuntingrecords.com  https://www.johnsonlevel.com

http://www.acetoolonline.com/  www.harborfreight.com

Quite honestly, I am surprised we did not get more beatings for breaking his stuff.  But how could little kids keep their hands off of do-dads like these?  Remember, this is before video games.  And Netflix.  And HBO.

Back to the paradox.  How does a little mountain girl whose parents did not graduate from high school and who is a proud product of public school education (Mama Mildred did get her GED– she is also incredibly smart and well-read), become a French nerd and France fanatic and build a career teaching in an independent school?  Not one single French relative that I know of.  No long lost French cousins.  Granted, I have not had my DNA tested to find out for sure.  (I am dying to do that, though.)  A French businessman I met once said my Frenchiness is due to my Scottish roots.  “The Scots love the French.  They always have.”  That is all the explanation he needed.  I accept that.  I have no better explanation.

I think that I have a wandering soul. At an early age, I fell in love with Pepe le Pew.  Oui, c’est vrai.  We did have three TV channels and Looney Tunes was an option.



The lovable Looney Tunes / Merry Melodies French skunk trying to seduce the black cat who had the misfortune to end up with a stripe of white paint down her back.   And to be obnoxiously pursued by an idiotic smelly mammal.  Une mouffette en français.  Please, Fanny, Olivier, Ghislaine, Érick et Betty– tell me that there are no skunks in France.  S’il vous plaît. I want to believe that they only exist in the state of Virginia.  I think that the skunk is the official mascot of that state to the north of North Carolina.  Every time I drive through there on the way to Washington, DC, I smell them.

Mme Christiane Roze Buchanan, my high school French teacher, struck a chord with me my sophomore year in high school.  How I loved her.  She believed in me.  She was a WWII war bride who married her soldier and moved to the mountains of North Carolina.  And influenced my life beyond belief.  I fell in love with her country.  Sight unseen.  I was looking for the exotic, I think.  Something different.  I was not trying to be better than my siblings or cousins.  I was not ashamed of my upbringing.  But for some reason, I needed / wanted something different.  And I found it.  Is there something / someone in a former life that has drawn me to this culture and language?  I have no answers. Just lots and lots of questions.

You know what?  I think that I am going to take the DNA test and find out…  I promise to share the results in a future blogpost.

I am not sure why this recipe came to mind.  Maybe because it takes a rather complicated dish and simplifies it.  Brings it down to the basic level.  Maybe because it is the first day of fall and I am longing for cool temperatures and the comfort food of soups and stews.  Not important.

Easy Crockpot Cassoulet


serves 6

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped

1/4 lb. cooked smoked sausage, such as kielbasa or spicier andouille, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1/2 tsp. black pepper

4 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 Tbsp. water

3 cans (15 oz each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion to hot oil and cook, stirring, until onion is tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir in chicken, sausage, garlic, thyme and pepper.  Cook 5-8 minutes, or until chicken and sausage are browned.  Stir in tomato paste and water.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Stir beans into the chicken mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW heat for 4-6 hours.  Before serving, sprinkle the chopped parsley over cassoulet.  (You could put it under the broiler for a few minutes before serving- without the parsley- to get a crust on the top- the way it was served in Carcassonne.)

When I am Chez Fanny, she serves me cassoulet.  And, of course, in France you can find seriously good duck cassoulet in a can from Castelnaudary, a lovely spot in Languedoc known as the world capital for this specialty.


Bon appétit to those who dare to be different.  



Who am I?

This popped up on Facebook as my post (on the old blog) from a year ago…  I am still wondering who I am!  A work in progress, I like to say.  I can even add a few more facts to the list.

When you were twelve or so, did you sit around and wonder why you are you and how you got to be you?  I did.  But maybe I was a weird kid and I was the only one lying in bed at night looking up at the ceiling doing all that wondering.  I remember asking myself “What makes me me?”  I studied genetics in a college biology course and I found it fascinating, but it didn’t answer my question. And I was indeed still asking myself that very same question, even after learning about DNA and chromosomes.  All these years later, I am still wondering.

So, what makes me me?

  • I am the only one in my family with green eyes.  Weird fact– they’ve become greener with age.
  • I am an optimistic extrovert.
  • Pale pink is my favorite color although my standard outfit is black- dress/pants/skirt.  (I love the scarf pictured above.  I bought it at a great stall at the Arles Saturday market in March 2015. I went back last March and bought a couple more! )
  • Fall is my favorite season.
  • I am proud to be from the Appalachian Mountains.
  • I cry very easily.
  • I have very vivid dreams, usually in color.
  • I love to hum, whistle, and sing.
  • I am messy, but I hate wrinkled clothes.  I make my bed every morning.  I rarely leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight.  Maybe I am as messy as I think?
  • I love to read and often am so immersed in my book that I dream about the characters.  I think they are my new best friends.
  • I have been known to stalk writers.  It has lead to some very nice friendships, though.
  • I love trivia.
  • My secret (or not so secret, maybe) dream is to be a writer.
  • I am very slow to anger, but when I am angry I get over it quickly.
  • I have an abundance of common sense.
  • I do not like being photographed.  I would much rather be the photographer!
  • I have no idea what my IQ is, but I do know that I am a hard worker.  So, I really don’t care.
  • I love pink lipstick and have way too much of it.
  • I am a spiritual person.
  • I love my two boys beyond reason.
  • I do not leave my house without mascara.
  • I am still ashamed of being mean to my 7th grade best friend. I wrote a very ugly note about her.  Someone showed it to her.
  • I am a procrastinator.
  • I love to dress up in costumes.  Ball gowns and evening dresses preferably.  I have two tiaras.
  • I am a terrible joke teller.  I almost always mess up the punch line.
  • I am going to be a grandmother in February 2017.  Excited doesn’t begin to cover it.  A girl!
  • I am resilient.
  • I am grateful for my life.  Every single day.
  • I love me and I know that I am a work in progress.
My new favorite quote–
“Nobody can be exactly like me.  Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”
                                                                                    –Tallulah Bankhead
But enough about me.  How about a yummy it’s-almost-fall recipe from Deb at  Smitten Kitchen.  I love her.  I wish I could hang out with her in her tiny little New York City kitchen.  I could be her sous-chef. I would peel the apples.  Wash the pots, pans and measuring cups.
The Ex-Ex and I were invited to dinner at a friend’s house this past weekend.  I was asked to bring dessert.  I already had this cake in mind after seeing it on Deb’s blog.  And I had all the ingredients.  I used Honeycrisp apples because I love them and I know they bake well.  They don’t get all mushy.  I did add the optional walnuts, sprinkling them on top of the apple-cinnamon layers.  I decided to take talenti gelato to go with the cake.  The stuff is like crack to me.  Especially the Sea Salt Caramel flavor.  The BFF introduced me to it a couple of years ago.  I chose Tahitian vanilla and Caramel Apple Pie flavors to go with the cake.
Kind of flopped over on its side, but you get the idea of the apple layers.
Mom’s Apple Cake
6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and unmolding onto a platter.
Bon appétit, to all.  “Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken.”  Another quote I love. Merci, Oscar Wilde et Deb!

Good Women by Sean Dietrich


Here I go again.  Shamelessly stealing from Sean.  Well, it’s not stealing if he says I can, right?  And if I give him full credit?  I love this man.  He says it the way it should be said. He is not ashamed of his Southern roots.  He is not ashamed to eat real food.  And to write about it.

Over the years, I have battled with my roots.  And I am not talking about my hair.  (I gave up coloring it a year or so ago, so I don’t have to worry about those roots anymore anyway.) I am not and never have been ashamed of where I come from, but I have not always been totally forthcoming about it.  I grew up thinking that everyone but me had the perfect family.  I now know that no such thing exists — except maybe on TV.  Anyone out there remember Leave it to Beaver? We all have some crazy in our backgrounds.  But, as I have come to understand, most people do the best they can on a daily basis.  Some are not as adventurous or ambitious as others.  That’s okay. Some don’t need to leave their zip code. That’s okay.  Some work with their hands.  Thank God.  Some go to school for many years so that they can heal us and help us get out of trouble.  Thank God for that, too.  Some hold hard and fast to their religious beliefs. That’s not bad.  At least as long as they allow others to do the same.  I am constantly amazed that some Americans seem not to have heard of separation of Church and State.  Or that some politicians simply ignore this in order to get more votes or to appeal to certain voters.  I was terrified of my 4th grade teacher.  Every Monday morning, she asked for a show of hands of her little 9-10 year olds who went to church the day before.  I was so embarrassed that I lied and raised my hand whether I had gone to church or not.  She should not have asked that question.  Times have changed, thank goodness.  Well, in some places they have.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have absolutely nothing against religion or religious people.  Mama Mildred would disown me.  However, religion is a personal choice.  I am much more concerned with how we as humans treat each other on a daily basis. On my maternal side, I come from some hard-core Baptists, Southern and otherwise.  On the paternal side, I am the descendant of Methodists and Quakers.  Wow.  I got off track there, didn’t I?

Anyway, back to Sean and his lovely Facebook post from today.  I read his posts first thing- well, after getting the coffee going and feeding the cat.  I laugh, I cry, I always find a little nugget in what he writes that I can identify with.  He uses the English language in a way that makes me happy.  He paints pictures with his words.  He loves and he is not afraid to say it out loud for the whole world to hear.  Bless his heart, as we say in the South.  And I mean that in the best possible way.  Enjoy.

September 12, 2016

I was going to write about something else, but then a stranger dropped homemade cookies onto my front porch. It was the same woman who said, “Don’t trust a baker who looks good in a two-piece.”

It took me a few hours to understand that. By then, I’d finished the cookies.

There was a note attached. She wrote: “I make everything the right way.”

Well, heaven bless the good woman who does not walk in the path of the unrighteous, nor practice the spiritual defamation of plastic-tubed biscuits and frozen breakfast burritos.

I’d like the record to show that I miss the days of real food . I miss country ham—the kind that comes from a hog in a nearby county. And real fried chicken—made with an iron skillet and slippery floor.

Last Christmas, a friend served ham from Walmart. It was an affront to decency. The meal tasted like undercooked linoleum. The package label on the ham read: China. I’d rather eat chicken feet than red ham.

Not only that.

I miss grits that come from feed-sacks, that take more than two minutes to prepare. I miss French fries cut before frying. I miss popcorn made in a skillet, with enough butter to short circuit U.S. Congress.

A friend made microwave popcorn during a football game last weekend. When it finished popping, he opened a yellow packet of slime, labeled, “butter-flavored topping.” That gold-colored degradation ruined my favorite shirt.

And my mouth.

What happened to real butter? The kind that made your arm muscles sore. Or ice cream that turned into soup if you didn’t eat it quick. Commercial ice cream wouldn’t melt on my dashboard.

I’m just getting warmed up.

I miss how it was before people worried about deadly mosquito bites, dookie in our drinking water, whole milk, and deer ticks. As a boy, deer ticks were no cause for national alarm. Now they’ll turn your brain into butter-flavored industrial pump lubricant.

Anyway, what I’m driving at is:

I met a man who went fishing with his nine-year-old son. While on shore, he saw a deputy in a khaki uniform. My pal knew something was wrong. The deputy inspected the fish his son caught, then asked to see fishing licenses.

My friend, like any self-respecting Southerner, did not have a license, nor has he ever. Johnny Policeman fined him. His son had to throw his fish back. And the deputy called his mama ugly.

Mother of fatback.

I don’t know how to get things back to the way they were—back when a grit was a grit. But, I wish it could be done. God help me, I do. Not because I’m not happy, but because the world doesn’t seem happy.

Thanks for these sugar cookies, ma’am.

And God bless the good woman who wears a one-piece.

Now doesn’t that post just make you want to eat some sugar cookies yourself?  Well, I have the perfect recipe.  I love these things.  Could eat my weight in them.  I have several recipes.  A Quaker one even.  But I will share these two.  I actually did a taste test a while back.

We will begin with Sistine Chapel.
The dough–

In a stack–

Top view–

Sistine Chapel Sugar Cookies

makes about 30 cookies

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. Crisco
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, butter, and Crisco until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the vanilla, lemon extract, and orange extract.  Mix well.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  With mixer set to low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
For each cookie, drop 2 Tbsp. of dough (I use a melon baller/scoop for mine) into a bowl of sugar and roll the ball to coat.  Place on a greased cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment paper and skip the greasing).  Before baking, sprinkle about 1 tsp. of sugar on top of each ball to cause crackled top.
Bake 14-17 minutes or until edges are light brown.  (My guys do not like “well done” cookies so I set the timer to 12 minutes and they were just right.)  Remove from baking sheet to cool on wire racks.

Now for Foolproof Chewy
The dough–

The stack–

Foolproof Chewy Sugar Cookies
makes 2 dozen

2 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 1/2 c. sugar, plus 1/3 c. for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350˚F.  Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl.  Set aside.
Place 1 1/2 c. sugar and cream cheese in large bowl.  Place remaining 1/3 c. sugar  in shallow dish or pie plate and set aside.  Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later).  Whisk in oil until incorporated.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla.  Continue to whisk until smooth.  Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.
Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 Tbsp. each (or use #40 portion scoop).  Using hands, roll dough into balls. Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 balls per sheet.  (Spread them out even if you have to use an extra sheet so that they have room to bake– they do spread out when baking.)  Using bottom of a drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter.  Sprinkle tops evenly with the remaining sugar.
Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11-13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes.  Cool cookies on baking sheets about 5 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

Bon appétit and Happy Monday!  Eat more cookies– good ones!  Otherwise, why bother? Life is too short.



Ask Americans of a certain age where they were on 9/11 and they can tell you.  I was in a 7th grade team meeting.  Before internet and televisions in all classrooms.  Most of us didn’t even have radios.  Sounds like the Dark Ages to the young’uns.  The kids I teach this year, in 6th, 7th and 8th grades, weren’t born yet.  They’ve only known long security lines to get through gates at concerts, football games, and museums.  Taking off your shoes at the airport.  Three 3-ounce bottles of liquids.

Many will say that we have no modern day heroes.  Gloom and doom.  The world is ending soon.  Going to hell in a handbasket.  (Not sure what that is, but I’ve heard that saying all my life.)  I don’t believe it.  Americans are “accused” of being eternal optimists.  Not enough history under our belts to be jaded.  Only 240 years of it as a country as opposed to 2,000.  I am not buying it.  I am a card-carrying, well-documented optimist.  Everyone who knows me knows that.  And I believe that we have heroes in our midst.  We don’t even know them when we pass them on the street because they do not make the news.  Until a disaster strikes.  They go about their daily lives and business, doing the best they can to make a living for themselves and their families.  They step up when needed.  A little girl taking a plate of lunch to a homeless man  outside the restaurant where she is eating with her dad.  The folks who fill backpacks to the brim with brand new school supplies for kids who wouldn’t have them otherwise.  Mama Mildred, who herself doesn’t have a whole lot, volunteering for Meals on Wheels once a week.  One of my students giving his Nutella crêpe to a homeless woman sitting on the steps of a church.

Each year, I go to Washington, DC in February with 7th graders.  It is our annual class trip and a much anticipated one.  How lucky am I?  What a city.  It is filled with reminders of what our country has been through and the heroes who have helped shape it.  In no particular order, I will take you through some of my favorites.

Abraham Lincoln- 16th President of the United States; abolished slavery


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.- Civil rights activist; Nobel Peace Prize recipient




George Washington- 1st President of the United States, the Father of our Country


The Greensboro Four-Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson



A few years ago, I had the great honor of shaking Dr. McCain’s hand and thanking him.

Congressman John Lewis- One of Dr. King’s helpers on the road to Civil Rights; he is still fighting the fight; we bumped into him in DC and I dashed across the street with my kids to talk to him.  He took the time to talk to us.


All those who fought in WWII; there aren’t many left of those who came home




Vietnam.  My uncle Charles at age 18.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt- our 32nd President and a wise man


We are still fighting the fight.

The political cartoon at the beginning of the blog was drawn by Doug Marlette.


Heroes are men and women who are brave enough to draw and write what they feel.  Doug received death threats for some of his drawings after 9/11.


I knew Doug.  A quiet unassuming man.  What a talent.  There is a permanent exhibit devoted to him at the Newseum in Washington, DC.  This museum is not to be missed if your travels take you to our Nation’s capital.  It is our first stop every year.

There was an exhibit after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.



There is an exhibit dedicated to 9/11.  Many photos and videos.  Newspapers from around the country and world.


I live in an amazing country, filled with heroes, past and present.  We must keep believing in good, even in times of darkness.


In the spirit of our wild west, I decided to make Cowboy Skillet Cake for the Ex-Ex’s breakfast this bright Sunday morning.  I had some peaches and had planned to use my mother-in-law’s recipe for peach pie with homemade crust, but… I got lazy and I thought of the tea towel I bought on our trip to Fort Robinson, Nebraska a couple of summers ago.  img_5260


Cowboy Skillet Cake

I used peaches.  I’ve used cherries, apples, and pineapple in the past.  Or you can just follow the recipe, without fruit.  I put the peeled sliced peaches on top of the batter. Instead of lemon extract, I used almond flavoring.  And I sprinkled turbinado sugar on top of the cake before baking, without the lemon zest.

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Combine in a bowl and stir a little to mix:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a separate bowl, whisk and set aside:

2 large eggs

1-1/4 cups milk

Melt 8 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch iron skillet .  When butter has cooled, add to egg mixture and stir.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.

Stir into the cake batter:

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour into the cast iron skillet.

Finishing touch:

In a small bowl, combine and sprinkle on top of cake:

1/4 cup of sugar

the zest of one small lemon

a dash of cinnamon

Bake 25-30 minutes. (With the added fruit, mine needed to bake about 40 minutes.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean!)

Bon appétit and thank you to all the everyday heroes out there who do what they can to make life better for others.  May we all be so brave, today as we remember 9/11, and every day we are lucky enough to be alive.



A week of big news


Yes.  Big, big news.  I am going to be a grand-mère.  Mamie, as my Frenchies are already calling me.  Pronounced Ma-Me.  Son #1 and Mom-to-Be invited me over at 7:00 am a couple of weeks ago to take the photo.  Buddha is a handsome fellow, too, isn’t he?  Looks as if he is ready to take his job seriously.  A lot to wrap my head around and so very exciting now that I have!  The Parents-to-Be stopped by my classroom a couple of days ago to give me a little present and more big news.  I burst into tears.  Of course.

girl bracelet

And to share a photo.  (They did not have this technology when Dad-to-Be was patiently waiting to be born.)


Oui, that’s the Little Nugget who will be known as Kennedy in a few months.  Amazing. Incroyable.


I want happiness for them.  A healthy baby.  Love.  And more love.  A child can never have too many people who love her (nor can her parents). She needs the devotion of a sweet pup.  And a grand-mère who has been given permission to decorate Son #1’s old room in pink and Eiffel Towers for when Kennedy comes over to stay. Visions of souvenirs from France are dancing in my head.  Baking with her.  Her first apron.  Someone to inherit all my Eiffel Towers.  And books about France. Pretty exciting stuff, n’est-ce pas?

School’s second week is coming to a close.  Almost everyone in the entire school is off on one field trip or another.  Most to the great outdoors in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.

The Ex-Ex went rappelling.  I tried that once.  Scared the bejesus out of me.


He is now back safe and sound.  And with both feet firmly on the ground.

I got up early this morning and baked for my fabulous 7th grade teammates.  A few days ago, Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted an update to her blueberry muffin recipe and I had blueberries waiting in the refrigerator.  One of my buddies proclaimed them the “best blueberry muffins I have eaten in my 48 years on this planet.”  That is high praise.

unbaked muffins

muffins 1

I think it’s the abundance of blueberries and the crunchy turbinado sugar on top that pushed this from good to great.

(Didn’t save any for the Ex-Ex…  oops.)

Even More Perfect Blueberry Muffins

Smitten Kitchen

(Below is Deb’s recipe copied and pasted.  I came out with 12 muffins and baked them for 23 minutes.  Her pictures are much more beautiful than mine!  Check them out by clicking on the link above.  Believe me, Blythe Danner has never commented on one of my recipes!)

This began with an adaptation of an old Cook’s Illustrated blueberry muffin but with so many changes, it no longer resembles the original. I use yogurt instead of buttermilk, less sugar, I’ve adapted it to make it one-bowl and then in August 2016 it got the biggest overhaul yet after a month of blueberry muffin studies. From Stella Parks at Serious Eats, I came to agree that a full teaspoon of coarse sugar on top of each muffin sounds crazy but actually makes a delightfully crunchy lid. If the muffin underneath it isn’t too sweet, it doesn’t put it over the top at all — it’s just right. I also found her combination of coriander (I know!) and nutmeg crazy good and worth trying if you’re curious, even if I’m still defaulting to my lemon zest only here. From Blythe Danner, I realized you could put an inordinate amount of berries in each muffin and still have a very good muffin. I ended up doubling the berries in my go-to in the last batch and regret not-a-thing. (Should you be hesitant, just an increase from 3/4 cups to 1 1/4 is excellent but not over-the-top improvement.) I found it made 9 taller and more gorgeous muffins than it did of the 10 to 11 in the original recipe; just double it for a crowd.


  • 5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) sugar
  • Finely grated zest from 1/2 a lemon (previously: 1/2 teaspoon zest)
  • 3/4 cup plain unsweetened yogurt or sour cream- I used Fage plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (215 to 255 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (no need to defrost) (previously: 3/4 cup, see note up top)
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado (sugar in the raw) sugar


Heat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with 9 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray. Melt butter in the bottom of a large bowl and whisk in sugar, zest, yogurt and egg until smooth. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda and salt until fully combined, then lightly fold in flour and berries. Batter will be very thick, like a cookie dough. Divide between prepared muffin cups and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar, which will seem over-the-top but I promise, will be the perfect crunchy lid at the end. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean (you know, except for blueberry goo). Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then … on a rack. 

Bon appétit and much love and happiness to all!  This morning when I got in my car to go to school, I got my first glimpse that fall just might be on the way.  I am ready and waiting.

autumn leaf

The BFF Hometown Tour


with Helen

I would love to say that I will make  Hometown Tour a regular feature of The Sabbatical Chef, but, well, I think that it would go the way of most of my best of intentions.  As Mama Mildred has said to me more than once “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Is that a Bible verse?  Who knows?  (Mama Mildred probably does but since she is at Sunday School right this minute I can’t ask her.)

Back to my story.  We are often asked if we are sisters.  Did we always look alike?  I don’t think so.  But as they say about old married couples and people and their dogs, we have spent so much time together that it has happened over the years.

I met my BFF almost exactly 25 years ago.  OMG.  It’s our Silver Anniversary.  I just realized that.  Our oldest sons found each other on the first day of preschool.  Then she had another and then we both had one more who are the same age.  Here’s the gang in 2009.

goofy boys

Our own basketball team.  They have all graduated from college now.  Praise the Lord.

Here’s some scientific research about friends.

friends have genetic sim

“Our” psychic told us that we were siblings in another life.  We like that idea so much that we believe it. Wholeheartedly.

We have had some adventures and plenty of fun.  France, Italy, Sunset Beach, all around Durham, and Lexington, NC, her hometown.  I’ve been several times.  I even took Sister Moo there a couple of summers ago to spend a week at High Rock Lake.  The BFF introduced to me to both Lexington and The Lake.  She was born and grew up in Lexington and her family had a house at High Rock.  I never had the chance to meet her dad.  He died when she was pregnant with her first son.  I did get to know her mom.  She is pictured between the two of us above during a Second Wedding Dinner at Sunset Beach in 2009 when the Ex-Ex and I renewed our vows.  Helen and I hit it off immediately the first time we met.  I loved her.  (Don’t mean to make you cry, BFF.  Sorry.)  Her brother was quite a character as well.  Same party.  He was the master of Frogmore Stew. (Head over to the old blog for the recipe and a couple of stories.)

with Ben

Mom and Bro are up in heaven smiling down on the BFF right this very minute.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the BFF had to go to Lexington for a meeting so she invited me to go along.  Just for a day and night.

overnight bag

Lexington is in the piedmont section of North Carolina, a short detour off I-40/I-85, near Greensboro and High Point.

lexington map


It is famous for honest-to-God REAL barbecue and Richard Childress, of NASCAR fame.  It used to be known around the world for its furniture businesses.  Unfortunately, most of them went the way of most of our businesses in North Carolina– somewhere else. Downtown Lexington is the way downtowns used to be and I wish they still were.  Malls took care of that, though.

The BFF and I got to town early so we went driving around and that’s when I got the idea for this post.  We cruised past her childhood home.

MPK house

The football stadium where she went to high school (she still cannot tell me why if their mascot is a yellow jacket their school colors are purple and orange… have you ever seen a purple YELLOW jacket?)  She was a champion tennis player, BTW.


We saw where her family’s business used to be and some of the old factories.  The train ran right behind the factories, of course.

She told me how much she loved this little spot.  Who wouldn’t growing up in a small town? I bet she asked her daddy to drive through this and honk the horn more than once.


Mo, the BFF’s hometown BFF, took me on a walking tour in town while the meeting took place.


Oops.  She’s not in this picture taken in Paris in 2012.  She was taking the picture.  **Editorial note from the BFF:  Mo did not take the picture.  She had to miss the trip because her daddy was sick.  That was wishful thinking on my part.  Summer of 2017??

The BFF and I make cute bookends, n’est-ce pas?

Here is a photo of Mo recently taken at her son’s wedding.  (lifted from her FB page- thanks to whoever took it!)


Mo knows everyone in town.  She is a physical therapist with magic hands. Or at least so I have heard from people in North Carolina and the South of France…

In Lexington, they love their pigs.  This is the kingdom of pork barbecue, people. Pig sculptures are everywhere.

back to school pig

Conrad and Hinkle is an old-fashioned grocery store– real butchers even.  They sell local produce and products, the best of which, in my humble opinion (and Sister Moo’s) is their pimiento cheese.  It was featured on NPR in 2007 and they (gasp) gave out the recipe.

conrad hinkle

I got a sample.  (And a container to bring home.)

PC sample

Bull City Ciderworks has moved its operation from Durham to Lexington.  They have opened up a great little spot on Main Street as well.

bullcity cider

The Candy Factory is probably the best known spot, though.  It was recently featured (again) in Our State magazine.

our state

You name it, they have it.  I bet there has been more than one temper tantrum thrown in this shop.  One of the BFF’s cousins works here.  She wasn’t around during our visit unfortunately.

For some reason I can’t fathom, I didn’t take a picture of the old Courthouse.  It is a beautiful building.  The sign will have to do this time.

courthouse sign

After the meeting was over, our first order of business was lunch.  At Lexington Barbecue. Or The Monk, as the folks there know it.  Another mystery that was explained but really didn’t make much sense to me.  What do I know?  I am a mountain girl.  (**Ok– the website says it was built by Wayne Monk.)  Got it.  They even still have curb service. Another thing of the past. The precursor to the drive-up window. I was a touch offended when the BFF started to explain what curb service is.  (She didn’t know Don’s Drive-In in Spruce Pine back in the day so I forgave her.)

Hushpuppies and a messy BBQ sandwich with slaw.  Slap your mama good, as the BFF has been known to say.

After lunch, we headed to The Lake.  Mo and her husband have a house there.  I could sit on the deck for hours.

Mo's deck

We were joined by T and K and sat in The Island, sharing a red Solo cup of wine.

Côtes de Gascogne brings back lovely memories.  I introduced the BFF to it when she and Mo came to visit me in Arles, France during the summer of 2007.

This one was taken the morning they discovered viennoiseries, little French breakfast pastries.


Mo and her hubby also have a boat.

mo's boat

My toes were happy as we zipped around The Lake.

happy toes

So were the pups we took with us! Lola looks sad, but trust me, she was not.

We spent a lovely day and evening.  Thank you for having us, Mo.

Thank you, BFF, for so many, many things.  For being your best self and always being just a text or phone call away.  For being my soul sister, the Thelma to my Louise.  For all of your love, support and miles of walking therapy through this 25-year journey.  For having the chutzpah to reinvent yourself at an age when many are thinking of retiring. For loving white t-shirts and black pants almost as much as I do. For always looking for the silver lining and inspiring me to do the same.  For making me laugh. I love you.

A few years ago, the BFF gave me this recipe which she makes every Thanksgiving/Christmas.  It was passed down from her mother.

Helen’s Cranberry-Apple Casserole

3 cups tart, peeled apples, diced (Granny Smith)

2 cups fresh whole cranberries

1 cup granulated sugar

Mix above ingredients and put in 10 x 13 pan.

Top with:

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup flour

1-1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup melted butter

Mix topping together.  Sprinkle over fruit.  Bake 1 hour at 325˚F.

Bon appétit to all BFFs.  Here’s to adventures.  May we have many, many more and be those little old ladies who go kicking and screaming and laughing wearing pink scarves and just the right shade of pink lipstick.  Keep that twinkle.


Happy New Year!


Some people make New Years Resolutions on January 1.  Not me.  My new year starts on the first day of school every fall.  I have started school every August of my life since 1963 or 1964.  I have officially survived the first week of of  year 37.  Wow.  I am starting to sound old- even to me.  But I still love it.  New pencils and notebook paper.  Neat classroom. Smiling faces looking at me, with just a hint of apprehension and melancholy at the end of summer vacation.  Big hugs from colleagues and former students.

I don’t especially love meetings, but this year we had a faculty development day with Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee  leading us in a discussion about how to develop cultural competency at our school.  What a gifted speaker.  Ms. Lee speaks honestly, from the heart, and throws in enough humor and personal stories to keep her audience awake and engaged in what she has to say.  Diversity comes in many shapes and sizes.  Some wear it on their faces.  Some do not.  If I make a single student feel the anxiety I felt during this workshop when the question of socio-economic class during childhood came up, I must change what I say and how I say it.

I do love seeing all my colleagues/friends again after 10 weeks away from them.  The middle school faculty spent some time sharing photos of our summer adventures.  I didn’t leave North Carolina this summer, but I was fortunate enough to visit the mountains and the beach.  I read (The Nightingale and City on Fire were my two favorites, for very different reasons), baked, walked for miles and miles on the beach with the Ex-Ex, Son #2, and my sister Moo looking at the waves and searching for shells, stuck my toes in the Toe River, zip lined in Plumtree, visited Mama Mildred, and just generally goofed off.  We teachers call this “recharging our batteries.”  Because after 10 months with middle schoolers, they run real low.

On the first day of school, Son #1 and EB surprised me by leaving goodies on my kitchen counter.


EB works at Bull Street Market and they have all kinds of deliciousness there.  She knows me well, from Costières de Nîmes rouge to sea salt chocolate to Big Spoon peanut butter.  I even found a recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies on their blog, but the question is, will I use this jar for cookies or just open it up and eat it with a spoon whenever I feel like it?  Hmmm.  I will try to decide by the time I finish this blog! (But I have an egg out warming to room temperature just in case.)

Son #2 surprised me with a bouquet of flowers.  (Shocked would not be too strong a word, but I don’t want to sound as if I would never have expected this in a thousand years.)


I confessed to him that the Ex-Ex and I saw a charge for flowers when we checked his bank account 10 days ago or so.  I thought he had a secret girlfriend, but I was forbidden to be nosy and ask him.  Lol  was his response to that.

I have such good boys.  I love them more than life.  And EB is our added bonus.  I love her, too.

I look at these faces everyday.  Son #2 turned 24 this week. How did that happen so fast?

jake and g

One of the girlies in my new advisory group brought me three of her homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I shared one with the Ex-Ex.  They were excellent.  Bravo!  She told me that the recipe is a family secret and I respect that.  I did find an article just today, though, on how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie according to your own preferences using the Nestle Tollhouse Recipe.  The Science Behind Baking The Most Delicious Cookie Ever. Some research of my own may be necessary.

An 8th grade jeune homme, returning to my class for French 2 this go around, brought me the colorful  macaron erasers pictured above.  They look good enough to eat, but I think I will leave them to decorate my desk.  Such sweet kiddos.

Back to the resolutions part of this post.  I don’t want to set myself up for failure and I like to keep it manageable so that I am not riddled with guilt.

  1. Walk more.  Try to get that 10,000 step Fitbit buzz every day.
  2. Continue my Gratitude Project, expressing my thanks daily to someone who has helped me.  Who doesn’t love cookies?  Or a thank you note?  Or a hug?
  3. Keep things in perspective.  First World Problem or a genuine crisis?
  4. Look for silver linings.  There almost always is one.  Blessings in disguise.

And now, back to cookies.  Can’t resist trying a new recipe and warming up the oven.  I will take some to Son #1 and EB for a taste test.  The Ex-Ex will miss out this time.  He is off on an adventure for the next few days.


big spoon

Amazing Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Big Spoon Roasters blog

24 cookies


One 10 oz jar Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Butter  I used Vanilla Peanut Sorghum– minus a couple of spoonfuls- I admit- one must taste one’s ingredients, people, Quality Control, you know
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar  I was a bit short and used Spices and Tease caramel sugar to make up the difference- a gift from one of my girlies
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda


– Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
– Mix all ingredients together in a mixer until well blended.
– Scoop into even-sized balls (well compacted – the dough is crumbly and a bit oily)
– Flatten each ball slightly with a fork (we make a cross-hatch).  I tried the cross-hatch thing but my fork kept sticking to the cookie dough so I just flattened the second tray with the back of a spoon; I sprinkled some Hawaiian Island Salt Company’s Diamonds of the Sea salt given to me by Judy C aka Joan of Arc aka IronWoman on top of the second tray– definitely a good idea!
– Bake on parchment paper at 350 degrees F for 11-12 minutes.  Mine were done at 10 minutes.
– Leave on the tray for at least five minutes after removing from oven (the bottoms should not burn) as they are delicate until slightly cooled.
– Make friends.  If you decide to share, that is.


Bon appétit and Happy New Year to all students and teachers!  Be your best self and make it a great year!

Rookie mistakes

KA muffins

At first, I wanted to blame King Arthur Flour and whoever posts the recipes on their website.  (I may have even been a bit snippy in my recommendation of the recipe- shame on me. I will go back and fix that.  I promise.)  I have been baking for many, many years. Not a rookie.  Yesterday I had leftover buttermilk in the refrigerator and some blueberry and cherry infused Craisins in the cupboard.  Baking muffins first thing in the morning is one of my hobbies/favorite past times/joys/reasons for living.  I had a meeting at 9:00 am yesterday (our division’s tech committee- you can teach an old dog new tricks, my friends) at school so I thought I would take some to my colleagues.  And leave a few for the Ex-Ex, of course.  I tied on my Arles apron (if you are new to the blog and have the time, click on the link and read about my sabbatical), read through the recipe, turned on the oven, sprayed the muffin tins, and assembled the ingredients.  Only dirtied two bowls, one whisk, three spoons, one liquid measuring cup, two dry measuring cups, and a teaspoon measure. I had plenty of time to bake two tins of muffins and clean up the mess.  I put the first batch in, set the timer, and set about washing up.  Soon, heavenly smells were coming out of the oven.  About 15 minutes in, I opened the oven door for a peek.  Hmm. That’s weird, I thought.  They aren’t rising.  I admit that when mixing them up I thought it was a bit strange that the recipe didn’t call for salt, baking soda or baking powder. However, I confess right here and now that I am not particularly curious about the science of baking (or anything else except how teenagers’ brains work).  I thought that perhaps buttermilk has magic powers and would provide whatever was needed.  I used to have Harold McGee’s book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, but I gave it to the BFF because she is actually curious. (But she doesn’t bake.) Anyway, back to my muffins.  I brought the recipe back up on the computer and, well, if you bake, you may have already guessed where I goofed up.  I only buy King Arthur’s all-purpose flour.  Sister Moo gives me a lot of grief about this (but she doesn’t bake much either).  The recipe calls for self-rising, which already has all of the other stuff in it.  My bad.  The muffins looked like lumps. Albeit warm, nice smelling lumps.  I tried one.  Not bad.  Should I take them to school?  I am not, never have been, and never will be a perfectionist.  At times, my motto/mantra is Done is Better Than Perfect.  That could be the title of my memoir. I did end up taking some to school.  I told my story.  A few were eaten.  The rest came back home with me at the end of the day.  By the time I walked in the door around 5:00 pm, the Ex-Ex, having had no lunch, had eaten five of them and pronounced them very good.  As a matter of fact, he likes them better than “normal” ones.  Go figure.  “I like the texture of the density more than I like the fluffiness.”  Voilà.

inside muffin

Before posting the recipe, a quick French lesson…  Merci, La Brune, for coming to my rescue via Facebook.  I don’t just like technology, I love it.  I embrace it. I asked for the French equivalent of “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and promptly got this:

On n’apprend pas aux vieux singes à faire des grimaces.  You can’t teach old monkeys to make funny faces.  Hilarious!


These little guys are part of the Ex-Ex’s childhood possessions. Speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil.

As you can see, I didn’t bother to read the name of the recipe yesterday morning at 6 am…

Self-Rising Soft and Tender  Breakfast Muffins

makes 12

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (this could be cut in half if you don’t like too much sweetness)
  • 1 cup Craisins (or other dried fruit, nuts or chips)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I doubled the recipe and added a teaspoon of almond extract)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan; or line the pan with paper muffin cups, and grease them.
  2. Whisk together the flour and sugar, then stir in the fruit.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, vanilla, buttermilk, and melted butter.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combined; the mixture should be slightly lumpy. Don’t overmix.
  5. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full. (I now use an ice cream scoop- so easy!)
  6. Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re lightly browned. Remove them from oven, place pan on wire rack, let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove them from pan.

Bon appétit!  Keep baking and keep learning.  Every day is a new adventure.




Whosits and Whatsits

do dads drawer

I’ve got whosits and whatsits galore.

Anyone who has watched Disney’s The Little Mermaid more than once knows that line. (And will have the song running through her head all day.)  Son #1 was very much in love with Ariel, so we watched it at least a million times.  And thanks to Mama Mildred he had sheets, pillowcases and a comforter with that cute redheaded mermaid on them.

The first time La Brune came to visit from France, she took one look at this


and asked me if I planned to open a restaurant.  The Ex-Ex and she bonded powerfully right at that very moment.  He wonders why I need so much stuff, too. (However, he is the one who gave me the blue Le Creuset do-dad holder complete a few more spatulas.)

I just do.  Okay?  (And now I need a new pastry brush because mine went behind the stove yesterday when I was trying to cram  gently return it to its blue holder.)

Until a couple of days ago, though, there was one do-dad I did not own.  A cherry pitter.  I found one while strolling the aisles of Target.

cherry pitter

Did I really need it?  Well, no?  Will I really use it?  Well, yes.  For the few weeks of summer when cherries don’t cost an arm and a leg.  Grandma Bell had a cherry tree in her back yard.  I am surprised that I didn’t eat so many of them that I am sick of them.  They are my favorite fruit.  I learned what a kilo feels like the first time I bought a whole kilo of them at the market in Senlis many years ago.  I actually ended up sharing them with students that time.

I bought these cherries in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in southern France back in 2012 during our BFF trip to France.  We were having a picnic near the river.

And who doesn’t love a cherry seller who makes his own earrings? And hugs Americans.

cherry seller

Once I bought the cherry pitter, I fired up the oven and got to work.  Cherry scones first.

I was going to visit my friend Lyn and she is an Aussie afternoon tea drinker, so I thought she might like some.  I am not completely happy with the results.  I was going for a more biscuit-like less sweet scone than you usually find in the US, but it needs some tweaking.

The next day, Son #1’s girlfriend, EB, sent me a video with a recipe for cherry clafoutis. What a coincidence since she didn’t know about the new do-dad nor did she know that I still had quite a few cherries waiting to be pitted and baked into something delicious.

Son #1 loves cherry pie and often has that instead of a birthday cake, thanks to his Grandma E.  He is a Thanksgiving baby and she bakes one just for him.  And he obliges by eating the whole pie himself.  I gave him a slice of the clafoutis and he gave it his blessing. A good day for baking and motherhood.

I didn’t entirely follow this recipe for the scones.  (Hers are way prettier!)  I added the almond extract to the batter because I didn’t plan to glaze them- trying to cut down on the sweetness.  I added the almond extract to the dough when I added the buttermilk.  I patted the dough out and cut them with a biscuit cutter instead of the mounds.  I plan to make them again today to use up the pint of blueberries in my refrigerator.  I will follow the recipe more closely this time and swap out the almond extract for lemon extract and lemon peel.  Watch the baking times.  Mine got too done on the bottom before I moved the pans.  I always set a timer, but I should have shortened the time.  Neither Lyn nor the Ex-Ex complained, but I wasn’t entirely happy.

Cherry Almond Scones

from table for two (adapted from Food and Wine); makes approximately 16

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur is my favorite- I want to work for this company!)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1-1/4 cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • 1 cup halved, pitted cherries
  • 1 tablespoons sparking sugar

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup sliced almonds (toasting them in a pan brings out the flavor)

  • Preheat oven to 400˚F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into the flour using two knives or a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  Work quickly, though, so that the butter doesn’t melt.  Stir in the buttermilk, then gently fold in the cherries.
  • With an ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.  Brush the tops with buttermilk, then sprinkle sparkling sugar on top.
  • Bake the scones in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom half way through the baking.
  • Let scones cool for 10 minutes on the pan before removing to wire racks for complete cooling.
  • While the scones cool, whisk together sugar, milk, and almond extract until you get a thick enough glaze but still thin enough to drizzle.
  • Using a fork, dip into the glaze and then gently, in a zig zag motion, drizzle over each cooled scone, then top with almonds.  (Put a piece of parchment paper under your cooling rack for easier clean up.)
  • Let dry for 10 minutes before serving.  Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.


Cherry Clafoutis or Cherry Pie, French Style

ScrumDiddlyUmptiouscheck it out, there is even one of those quick videos (they give a great preview to whether or not I really want to make something)

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 21 ounces cherries, pitted and halved (or you can leave them whole if you wish)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Generously butter a quiche pan (or any round baking dish).  Sprinkle a tablespoon of the sugar into the buttered dish and carefully shake it so that the sugar is evenly distributed, even on the edges.
  3. Place the cherries in the dish.
  4. In a bowl, add the eggs, remaining sugar and salt; mix well.
  5. Add flour, vanilla and almond extracts, melted butter, and milk to the egg mixture.  Beat until smooth.
  6. Pour the mixture evenly over the cherries and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. (I sprinkled sliced almonds on the top before baking.)
  7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, before serving.

Mlle de Tavel, moi (when I was La Blonde) and La Brune in 2012 chez Olivier et Muriel Allemand– Vous me manquez, mes amies!


EB, Son #1, and Buddha the Wonder Dog


Bon appétit and Happy Baking to all!






Gratitude Project

This is an earlier post that I am moving over from my original blog.  It is one of my most meaningful experiences and I like to look back on it often.  It keeps me grateful and less likely to get wrapped up dramas or concerns that I cannot control.

Can you teach someone else to be grateful?  Do you just live it by example?  Why is it so difficult to just accept what we have and live each day with a grateful heart and mind?  Is it true that if you practice gratefulness daily that it will become a habit?  Research has shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit.  That is just three short weeks.  504 hours, part of which is spent sleeping.  30,240 seconds.  1 Mississippi 2 Mississippi 3 Mississippi.  While googling the topic, I found an interesting article on Psychology Today about happiness.  10 Ways to Make Yourself Happier in 30 Seconds or Less.  It’s worth a read.  Gratitude is in there.

Tracy Wilson, a woman I know here in Durham has also started a daily gratitude journal.  I have subscribed to her updates and enjoy reading them now each morning, along with Sean Dietrich‘s Facebook posts. (If you are not a FB user, I’ve linked his website.)  It is how I choose to begin my day.

Now, back to my original Gratitude Project post.

Abby is a very wise young lady.  I continue to be amazed by her.  And I am so grateful that we bonded last school year.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Mrs E:

What happens when a student and a teacher make a lasting impact on each other?  I realize that I have only known Abby for two years, but somehow it seems much longer.  There are a lot of things I could say about Abby, but this video will tell you part of our story.  See for yourself what an amazing young woman she is.
Many thanks to SoulPancake and their video on The Science of Happiness.  We used a short excerpt from the video.  If you wish to watch it in its entirety and find out more about their project, click on the link.
Many thanks also to the amazing Mr. Fitz who shared the video with us and inspired us to do our presentation in front of the whole middle school!
And finally, I would like to thank the incredible Abby who makes me want to be a better teacher and person every single day.  I refuse to think about next school year without you and your classmates.
We’ll always have Paris, Abby… and the Plaza Athénée and Dr. Lantieri –what great adventures! I hope that we will have many more!


If you watched the video, I hope you understand the reason why showing appreciation is so important. You never know how far a simple thank you, phone call, email, or just a smile could go. And you don’t have an infinite amount of time with the people you love either. For me, showing my gratitude, as simply as sending a letter, led me to having one of the best relationships of my life. I’ve realized that life is short, and there is so little time to stay the things you mean to the people you love, so say them while you can.

Abby’s Queso Dip

1 lb or 16 oz of Velveeta, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 lb ground sausage
1 can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, undrained

1. Cook the ground sausage in a saucepan until browned, strain all the grease out and put the sausage back into the saucepan.
2. Add the Rotel and Velveeta, cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the Velveeta is completely melted, stirring frequently.
3. Serve warm with tortilla chips, I recommend Tostitos Scoops because you can scoop up a ton of queso with those things, they’re also good for making these really good mini nachos by the way.

Bon appétit, y’all.  I hope that you have someone in your life to be grateful for each and every day. Tell them.  Start your own Gratitude Project.  You will be amazed at the results.