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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!

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-

GFather

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!

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.

mountains1

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.

 

Critters

pigeon

I started looking through my photos from the January and March trips to France (yet once again) and found an theme:  critters.  I did not realize I had so many until I started looking for them.  Of course, what would it be like in Paris without pigeons?  Bertrand, our guide par excellence, said that you can be fined for feeding them in parks.  I threaten my students with horrible punishments if they do it.  They are very annoying.  (The pigeons, not the kids.) But I decided to start with a picture of one anyway.

I love lions on the other hand.  At the Musee d’Orsay–

The lion is the symbol of Arles–

How about seven three swans a-swimming in the Seine?

swans in Seine

Or “un loup qui voit?” In the courtyard at Les Invalides, there is an interesting critter carved up high.  Supposedly, Louvois, the minister of war under Louis XIV, who later was in charge of buildings, asked if he could sign his name somewhere in the Invalides.  Louis said no, so the cunning Louvois commissioned this lucarne:–

louvoit

Loup (wolf) + voit (sees) = Louvois (same pronunciation).  Clever, non?

How about a salamander in the Opéra Garnier?  I don’t know… the more I look at it, the less it looks like a salamander.  A gila monster?

salamander opera

Another one?  Spotted while walking along the Seine (on what used to be a busy expressway that it now a pedestrian walkway thanks to Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris)–

salamander2

The fountain at St. Michel–

St Michel

Dog lover?  The French sure love them.  Canines can follow their owners almost anywhere (not museums as I found out while living there in 2008).  Suggestion: always look where you are stepping.

At the market–

market dog

In a diorama-type scene about the building of Notre Dame–

creche dog

In the Marriage at Cana painting at the Louvre (the largest painting in the museum, opposite Mona)–

A dog was here- evidence near the Eiffel– at least I hope it was a dog and not a loup

pawprint

How about the mythical critters atop Notre Dame cathedral, seen from the bell tower walkway?

This guy is my favorite…

ND5

A whimsical elephant at Beaubourg/Centre Pompidou– (in the summer he squirts water)

elephant

No montage would be complete with a king on a horse– Louis XIII in Place des Vosges

king on horse

A former horse butcher shop in the Marais–

chevaux marais

The window of the Disney Store on the Champs-Élysées–

belle bete

The rooster is the symbol of France (dates back to the days of Gaul)– Le Coq Sportif shop:

le coq sportif

A black cat in Montmartre (always makes me think of Lautrec’s Chat Noir)–

montmartre black cat

Back to the Marriage at Cana

cat

Death by snakebite at the Musée d’Orsay (my title, not the real one)–

snake arm

I am very fond of les flamants roses

flamants

I prefer looking at them in the Camargue, though–

A cicada in the window in Arles (music to my ears in the summer)–

arles cicada

A piggy spotted in Arles as well–

arles pig

Also spotted in Arles… in town above one of the buildings–

arles critter

Can’t leave out the bulls and cows–

Nor the lambs in the Christmas crèche (santons from Arles) at Notre Dame–

creche lambs

The huntress and her buddy in the park in Senlis–

senlis huntress

And last but not least, can you find the pet bunny seen in the rooftop garden of a home in Aigues Mortes?

bunny in AM

And my 2017 group of “critters” who made the trip an unforgettable one–

group

Today’s recipes are brought on by my longing for lemon after my friend Mme M posted a photo of lemon cookies on Facebook last week.

lemon tree

I love lemon anything.  Daughter-in-law loves Chicken Piccata and I must confess that I had never made it before last week when she, Son #1, and Granddaughter came for dinner. Easy!  No idea why I didn’t discover this dish sooner.

Chicken Piccata

from Simply Recipes

Serves 4

  • 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 pound total), or 4-8 chicken cutlets
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or dry white wine (such as a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup brined capers
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley

1 Slice the chicken breast halves horizontally. If the breast pieces you are working with are large, you may want to cut them each into two pieces. If the pieces are still a bit thick, put them between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound them to 1/4-inch thickness.

2 Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Rinse the chicken pieces in water. Dredge them thoroughly in the flour mixture, until well coated.

3 Heat olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add half of the chicken pieces, do not crowd the pan. Brown well on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate. Cook the other breasts in the same manner, remove from pan. Keep them warm in a 225°F oven while you prepare the sauce.

4 Add the chicken stock or white wine, lemon juice, and capers to the pan. Use a spatula to scrape up the browned bits. Reduce the sauce by half.

Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

Serve with the sauce poured over the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley, if you wish.
lemon cookies

Lemon Cookies

adapted from Chef in Training

makes 4 dozen (depending on the size, of course!)

For the cookies:

1 c. butter, softened

1-1/4 c. granulated sugar (next time I might use only 1 cup)

1 egg, room temperature

2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tbsp. lemon zest (one med. sized lemon gave me enough juice and zest)

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. lemon flavoring (I wanted them very lemony)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2-1/4 c. all-purpose flour

Glaze:

1-1/2 c. powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. lemon juice (a bit more in case glaze is too thick and needs to be thinned)

1 Tbsp. milk (a bit more can be used to thin the glaze if it is too thick)

1/4 tsp. vanilla

To make cookies:

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar together.  Add egg and beat well.  Add lemon juice, zest, lemon flavoring, and vanilla and mix until well blended.

In a small bowl, whisk together salt, baking powder and flour.  Add to butter-sugar mixture until well incorporated.

Roll or scoop (I use a small melon baller) cookies into 1-inch balls.  Place on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350˚F for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Combine glaze ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until smooth.  Drizzle or spread as much or as little as you would like over the still warm cookies.

Bon appétit, mes amis.  I hope you enjoyed the menagerie!  Happy Easter!  Joyeuses Pâques!  Or just Happy Spring!

 

 

This & That: March 2017 Edition

dirty-dishes

Dirty dishes?  This is a great photo because this is all I had to dirty in order to make two loaves of banana bread this fine Sunday morning.  I found a new recipe, located the overripe bananas that the Ex-Ex had stashed on top of the refrigerator (the man detests messy countertops), and stirred up something that is still baking and smells heavenly.  Excuse me for a minute– the oven timer is beeping.

banana-bread

Voilà.

So, random stuff this morning.

Kennedy, the cutest baby in the world continues to grow.  She is almost two weeks old. Gramma and Granddad are totally in love.  As are Mommy and Daddy.  Seven pounds of perfection.  Pretend Daughter #1 just gave birth yesterday to a bundle of baby boy.  I am thinking arranged marriage.

kennedywaving

I am preparing for my annual student trip to France.  This will be my 30th anniversary trip. How the heck did that happen, I wonder?  Anyway, the checklists are growing, but I am crossing off as much as I am adding.  I think.  I have 22 kiddos and 2 other teachers going with me this year.  Delta began offering a non-stop flight to Paris from my hometown airport last May and, although this crop of kids cannot fully appreciate it, they are so lucky.  I will be a much happier traveler which means they will, too.  No running through airports to catch a connecting flight that may or may not have left already.  (I have been known to beg for the doors to be opened to let us on.)  We leave on Thursday.  Paris, Normandy D-Day sites, including a tour and wreath ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery, a visit with our pen pals at the Collège Anne-Marie Javouhey in Senlis, a macaron-making lesson at L’Atelier des Gâteaux for part of the group, éclair-making at La Cuisine Paris for others, and a tour of the Stade de France for a small group of boys.  And the usual sites in Paris– the Louvre, Notre-Dame, the Musée d’Orsay, Sacré Coeur and Montmartre.  Throw in some crêpes, Berthillon ice cream, macarons from Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, and shopping at Galeries Lafayette and Monoprix while in Paris, course. Falafel in the Marais, strolling along the Seine, a boatride on the river, gliding under the Pont Alexandre III and Le Pont Neuf, making wishes under the Napoléon bridge,  finding at least a couple of passages to wander through, a trip to the top of the Eiffel, bien sûr. Then Avignon bound on the TGV.  The Palais des Papes and perhaps the Pont du Gard on the way to Arles, “my” French town.  Only two nights there unfortunately, but two is better than one or none.  A morning drive through the Camargue on the way to Aigues Mortes, a visit to a salt-harvesting facility (a first for me), and a few hours at the Arles Saturday market before heading back to Paris.  I will get to see all of my favorite Frenchies while I am in France.  My heart is happy at the thought of this.  Time to drag my suitcase out of the closet where it has been since January and start filling it. Sticking to my list, of course. Hahaha- I am a terrible packer.

What have I been reading lately?  I just finished this one.

swann

I am in love with Henry Swann.  This is Charles Salzberg‘s latest in a series featuring Swann.  Charles and I are email pals.  I hope/dream about/would love to attend his writers’ workshop in NYC someday.

I get daily emails from BookBub offering up inexpensive (and sometimes free) books for my Kindle.  I am reading Blackbird Fly by Lise McClendon right now.  It is the first in a series about the Bennett Sisters.  This one features Merle, whose husband has just died, leaving her a pile of debts, a unknown mistress and daughter, and a house in France.  I cannot put it down (translation:  I have stayed up way too late the last two nights reading) because Merle is a believable character.  A 50 year old, intelligent, non-glamourous woman whose life takes quite a turn after her husband dies of a heart attack at his desk. And before you even wonder, yes, I have downloaded the next three books in the series.  I am addicted to authors that way.

Quick coffee and banana bread break…

bread-and-coffee

Another book at the top of my list– dear darling Pat Conroy‘s final novel, published posthumously.  A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life.  Says Amazon:

Final words and heartfelt remembrances from bestselling author Pat Conroy take center stage in this winning nonfiction collection, supplemented by touching pieces from Conroy’s many friends.

I’ve loved Pat’s writing since I picked up The Great Santini years ago. I even talked the Ex-Ex into reading it and he never reads fiction.  However, so much of Pat’s life is wrapped up in his writing, that it’s not really fiction.  We have both read all of his novels, ending with The Death of Santini.  Santini was Pat’s dad.  Thank you for the recommendation, Miss Anna T!

I am not really a shopper.  I loathe trying on clothes.  This week, however, I happened upon two bargains.

#1

Pale pink linen from Chico’s.  My favorite color.  I was at The Stock Exchange, a consignment shop in Chapel Hill, and it caught my eye. It was already on sale, I had a $10 gift certificate from my last shopping adventure there, so I ended up spending $1.63. Can’t wait to wear it.

#2

Navy blue and white polka dots from Crown and Ivy at Belk’s.  I am normally a black dress/pants/skirt/sweater kind of girl, but this caught my eye.  I have a thing for polka dots.  Once again, on sale.  Around $10.  Go me.  I look forward to wearing it with jeans in Paris.  Très chic, n’est-ce pas?

Lo and behold, I just found out, thanks to a text from the BFF and CBS Sunday Morning, that berets are back in style!  I have never worn one, but I think I may change that. Being the snob that I can be, though, it will have to be one made in France, the traditional way.  Laulhere is the gold standard in France, it seems. Perhaps Bertrand, our French ACIS tour manager will be able to help and give advice…

beret-on-mannequin-head-620

(photo: CBS News)

My goal for Lent this year–  place one item of clothing into a bag for each day of Lent. This will be given to The Salvation Army after Easter.  Admit it.  Most of us have way too much.  There are many out there without enough.

Enough randomness for this morning.  I will leave you with yesterday’s photo of Granddad and Granddaughter.

granddad

As I wrote yesterday on my Facebook page:

I love this photo. The beginning of a very important bond. My Papa was a major influence in my life from my birth to his death. I was lucky to live next door and spend many hours with him.

New life.  New beginnings.  New love.

Easy Sunday Morning Banana Bread

adapted from Simply Recipes

makes 1 loaf, 4 x 8

  • 2 to 3 very ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I also used rum flavoring)
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (I added about 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the flour)
  • I sprinkled turbinado sugar on top to give it a crunchy finish

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C), and butter a 4×8-inch loaf pan.

2 In a mixing bowl, mash the ripe bananas with a fork until completely smooth. Stir the melted butter into the mashed bananas.

3 Mix in the baking soda and salt. Stir in the sugar, beaten egg, and vanilla extract. Mix in the flour.

4 Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour at 350°F (175°C), or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. (Mine was completely done at 50 minutes.  Be sure to test and not overbake.)

5 Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack. Remove the banana bread from the pan. Slice and serve.

 

Bon appétit.  Bon dimanche.  Have a lovely week.  Be kind.  Be brave. Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Or even better.

Love at first sight

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I can be a bit cynical.  Oui, moi.  But love at first sight does exist.  It’s the love you feel the first time you hold your child.  Actually, this may be the purest form of love.  I felt it twice. And I have now fallen totally in love with my beautiful granddaughter.  Yes, I am a grandmother/grand-mère/mamie/grandma/grammy/mimi/whatever she wants to call me. This little angel came into the world at 7lb 7oz not quite a week ago. And she has stolen our hearts.

Not many moms go into the hospital to deliver a baby knowing what’s in store. We all have a basic plan, be it breathing or epidurals, but it just doesn’t always go the way we plan. This bundle’s arrival ended in a C-section after her mommy labored, labored, and labored some more.  As a result, she has a perfectly shaped head.

sleeping

Mommy is mending, Daddy is doing all he can to keep his girls happy and comfortable, and I (to be named at a later date) am totally in love.  She is loved by many.  Can you be loved by too many people?  Absolutely not.

Life will never be the same.  That’s the wonderful news.

I plan to be a Cookie Jar Grand-mère.  My own Grandma Bell had a Humpty-Dumpty cookie jar.  It’s funny, I do not remember her ever baking cookies.  Coconut layer cakes and banana fritters… oh my goodness yes.  But I remember that cookie jar.  Papa Bell would buy what we Crumbcrushers called Fuzzy Cookies- coconut marshmallow concoctions.

stock-photo-coconut-and-colorful-marshmallow-cookies-245294632

This is the closest image I could find to match the memory in my head.  A cookie bottom, squishy marshmallow covered in coconut.  Pink and white.  I doubt these cookies ever made it into the cookie jar.  They were consumed too quickly.

I googled Humpty Dumpty cookie jars to find out if one is out there waiting for me.  Oh, one is, but at antique collector prices.  I don’t know who got Grandma’s after she gave up housekeeping.  Pas moi, sadly.  Maybe someday I will come across one (even a knock-off) in a thrift shop.  Once can hope, right?

18229-1l

(image from chasingadventureorg.ipage.org)

I did make cookies for the now mom while she was still a mom-to-be.  She said there is no such thing as too many chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies.

dough

The dough was pretty tasty.

prebake-best

As were the finished products.

baked

Someday, I will have a little helper helping me make cookies…

Mimi’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes 4 dozen (depending on the size you want them!)

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur’s)

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs, at room temperature

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, if desired

Fleur de sel or other flaky salt, to finish, if desired

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Whisk to combine. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugars at medium speed of mixer until creamy.  Add vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, on low speed until thoroughly combined.

Gradually mix in dry ingredients, in thirds, until combined.  (Towards the end, I usually switch over to a wooden spoon to finish the mixing because the dough is thick.)  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using).

Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least one hour.  (I often leave mine overnight.)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375˚F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop by teaspoonfuls (I use a small scoop) onto the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt, if desired.

Bake 8-1/2 to 11 minutes, depending on how soft or crunchy you like your cookies.  I find that cookies baked for about 9 minutes will be crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the inside.  Cool for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Eat a warm one, just to make sure they are pass the test, though.

Bon appétit!  Here’s to falling in love, babies, cookies, and all grandmothers!

 

 

 

 

Snow 2017

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(photo taken by C. Bland)

2017 has barely begun and we have our first snow “storm.”  Well, okay, it is a blizzard for us here in the piedmont section of North Carolina.  The photo my sister-in-law sent is from the mountains where she lives.  I took a photo of her vélo at Thanksgiving and gave it to her in the form of a notecard for Christmas.

cindys-bike

She returned the favor this morning via Facebook.  It looks beautiful in the snow. Or sous la neige, as the French say.  Under the snow.

It’s the perfect day to stay in the house.  Read, straighten out and put away my messy Christmas wrappings, make a stack of the things I need to pack for my upcoming trip to Paris, charge camera batteries, make note of addresses for postcards, update birthdays in my calendar, and make gingerbread.

gingerbread

While doing some of that straightening, I came across some thank you notes written to me by students just before the winter break.  One of the math teachers at my school gives his students a point of extra credit if they write a note to one of their teachers.  (I am tearing up again just looking at them…)  They will be added to my Gratitude bulletin board when on Monday (IF we have school).  These notes are the reason I teach, why I am sure that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do with my life.  Sure, I teach French verb conjugations, try to brainwash middle schoolers into thinking that studying French is the most amazing part of their day, but that isn’t my most important job.

I am very hesitant to post these notes.  It sounds as if I am trying to hold myself up above others and say “Look at me- I am such an amazing teacher.” Oh no.  I have so many self-doubts.  Am I teaching them what they need to know before they move on to French 3 and high school?  My lesson plans are not that exciting.  Why don’t I spend more time on them? (Because I do need to sleep at least 6 hours every night?)  Am I up-to-date on the latest research in language acquisition?  No.  I don’t even have a master’s degree.  I met with our head of school a few weeks ago and he was kind of surprised when I admitted that. I wish that I had done it right after I graduated, but then again, maybe I would have never found Durham Academy.  Am I just too old?  Have I become too old to know what adolescents are facing?  Am I too old-school? Do my younger colleagues look up to me or think that I should retire soon?  I am an expert at French 1, 2 and 3.  Teach AP?  Not on your life.  Am I fluent?  Yes, but I don’t know everything/enough.  I have nightmares where I cannot speak a word of French or every time I say a word with an “r” in it, I cannot for the life of me make the French “r.”  And everyone laughs.  I know that I am lucky- I teach in an independent school with motivated kids.  I can only hope that I do indeed make a difference in their lives.

But enough of my (abundant) insecurities.  The reason I was inspired to write this post is because I saw an article this morning written by a math teacher entitled “What even IS good teaching?”  I understood completely what the author was trying to say.  Thank you, Crazy Math Teacher Lady.  You ARE really really awesome.  I get it.

Here are some excerpts, unedited.  They are, after all,  middle schoolers and not 100% perfect…

“This year has really been fun.  Having you since 7th grade has been awesome.  I have learned so much about French and life.  You make learning French super fun.”

Merci, but I KNOW for a fact that it is not always super fun.  But thank you for sitting in the front row and making me want to be a better teacher. And for staying awake first thing in the morning even when I know you are exhausted (because I kept you out late at a performance of An American in Paris at the DPAC).

“We had the opportunity to write letters to different teachers in math.  You came right to my mind.  You are truly an influence and role model to me.  You love your students so much and it encourages me to work harder and do my best in your class.  Your  honestly like a mom to LW and me and I am so greatful for that.  I know that if I am having a bad day or just need to talk you will actually listen.”

Oui, I do love you.  That’s why I was Mme Grincheuse the other day when you and some of your pals decided to hang out after school, but no one knew you were there.  I am your mom while you are at school.  I take your well-being very seriously.

“Thank you for teaching me French this year!! Although, there have been slight hiccups along the way, this year has been very fun.  I may be riding on the B train right now I think that something has clicked and I am understanding the language more than ever.  I look forward to the France trip!”  P.S.  le beurre de cacahuète

The B train has good, comfortable seats, too.  Keep eating peanut butter and making me laugh out loud!

“I hope that you have an amazing holiday!  This is the time of year when you look back at what you are thankful for and appreciate.  I appreciate you as a teacher.  Your rigorous class always keeps me motivated and you always make me smile.  For the year and a half I have been in your class, you have taught me to how to be a mindful student.”

You are all a teacher could hope for in a student.  I have a feeling that you have always been mindful!  Your smile and quiet presence in my class are a gift.  I should be thanking you for making me look good.

“I have learned an unbeliveable amount of French in just a year and a half.  You always seem to care about your students and I will definitely remember you as a great teacher.”

And I will always remember you and how hard you have worked in my class. It hasn’t always been easy and I know that you have shed more than a few tears of frustration.  But you have stuck with it and now you are reaping the rewards.

“Thank you.  Thank you for all you have done.  While I may not be the best student in French, you have always made me feel important in the class.  You make everyone feel welcomed.  In 6th grade, I was new.  I had French class B period so it was one of the first things I experienced at DA.  In that class I never felt new.  I can’t imagine middle school without you teaching me.”

Well, thank YOU for making everyone in your class feel important.  I have noticed that you work with classmates who don’t have a partner.  I saw you walking around with new students at recess the first week of school.  You didn’t do it so that I would notice and praise you.  You did it because you sincerely wanted to.  Your beautiful smile is a daily gift to all.

“I wanted to thank you for the wonderful time I have had in your class.  You have made French class so much fun for me, in a way that inspires me to love learning.  I love how your class is so interactive and hands-on, and I never expected to have this much fun in a class, and I look forward to class every day.  You are a great teacher who knows when to be serious and when to be fun.  To be able to not only teach a language but to teach kids to love learning is a special quality.”

I am so glad you decided to come to my school this year.  We are the lucky ones. You make me laugh every single day.  And, although you are a very serious student and a worrier of the first order, you are able to laugh at yourself.

“Bonjour!! Merry Christmas.  Thank you for being the best French teacher ever.  You have made — and I not only better at French but just at being better people.”

Oh, how I will miss you and your smiling face at the end of this year.  French isn’t easy for you, but you come to class with a huge smile on your face every single day.  You are amazing.  Never, ever forget that.

So, how about one more beautiful mountain photo of snow.  And a biscuit recipe. Everyone loves biscuits, right?

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(photo taken by H.H. Wise, near Spruce Pine, NC)

All-Purpose Biscuits Biscuits

Sam Sifton, New York Times

6-8 servings

2 c. all-purpose flour, more for dusting (I use King Arthur, non-bleached)

2 Tbsp. baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)

1 scant Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

5 Tbsp. cold butter, unsalted (European-style, if possible– higher fat content)

1 c. whole milk (can substitute buttermilk)

  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, sat and sugar in a large bowl.  (I use a whisk and skip the sifting.) Cut butter into pats and add to flour.  You can use a food processor and pulse 5-6 times or use a pastry cutter or even a fork.  (I have a pastry cutter and do it that way.)  Mixture should resemble rough crumbs.  If using a food processor, return dough to bowl.  Add milk and stir with a fork until it forms a rough ball.
  2. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and pat it down into a rough triangle, about an inch thick.  Fold it over gently and pat it down again.  Cover dough loosely with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 425˚F.  Gently pat out the dough some more so that it makes a (roughly) 10 x 6 rectangle.  (You can keep it thicker if you want bigger, but fewer biscuits.)  Cut biscuits using a floured glass or biscuit cutter.  Do not twist the cutter when cutting- it crimps the edges and your biscuits will not rise as high. (I cut mine into squares, using a sharp floured knife.  I do not have to work the dough again, which can lead to a tougher biscuit.)
  4. Place biscuits onto a cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment paper) and bake until golden brown, 10-15 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with butter, honey, jam, or whatever your little heart desires.

biscuits

Bon appétit!  Stay warm!

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”   –Abraham Lincoln

Après Thanksgiving 2016

give-thanks-pumpkin

It’s post-Thanksgiving, T + 3, but I am still thinking about all I have to be thankful for in my life.  I have fallen into a post-election sadness.  Not depression, but a deep sadness for my country.  Politics aside, seriously, it’s not Democrat vs Republican.  It’s about treating others, those different from us, with dignity and respect.  We lost that in the 2016 presidential election. We now have a group known as the Alt-Right who think it is okay to bring back some sort of Heil Hitler mentality.  I am uncomfortable in all-white Protestant settings now because it isn’t what I want my world to look like.  I like differences.  The day after the election, I sat down to face my 11 advisees and looked into a group made up of 6 girls and 5 boys, one red-head of Italian heritage, three African Americans,  three Asian-Americans, one French-Asian genetic combination, and a couple who look like me.  White European Americans.  We all came from somewhere.  Unless you are Native American, your ancestors came over on a boat or maybe in an airplane.  My ancestry?  Turns out that I am (according to Ancestry):

35% Great Britain

29% Europe West

15% Ireland

12% Scandinavia

3% Europe East

2% Italy-Greece

2% Finland-Northwest Russia

<1% Iberian Peninsula

2 % West Asia

I looked at those 12 year-old faces on November 9 and told them that we are truly only in control of how we behave, how we choose to treat others. I, along with two 7th grade girls, challenged them to Spread the Kindness and do something kind for one person each day.

Son #1 lives close by so we discussed the election quite a bit.  We have the same views.  Son #2 lives a couple hours away from home and texted me a day or two after it was all said and done “The sun is still rising and the people I love are ok.  As selfish as it may be considering the circumstances, I’m going to take refuge with those two facts until I can think about everything with a clear mind.”  I have decided to take refuge in that as well.  The sun is indeed still rising.  Spectacularly some mornings.  And it is still setting beautifully as well.

I spent Thanksgiving in the mountains of North Carolina.  The view from the living room of my sister and brother-in-law’s house–

cindys-view

It reminds me of the woods behind my Granny’s house on a mountaintop in the Estatoe/Penland section of Spruce Pine.  My siblings, cousins and I spent hours making towns and playhouses under pine trees and rhododendron bushes.

The Ex-Ex’s parents made the trip with us.  We had almost the whole E clan there.  (We missed you D, K and M.)

We had an abundant amount of food.

We have two grandbabies on the way.  Thanksgiving next year will be quite different!  A pink cake pop- an ingenious way to let the family know what you are expecting. It took three of them and more than a few minutes for it to sink into my dense head.  I like to provide a laugh whenever I can.

cake-pop

My children barely tolerated my picture-taking.  One of them quite openly hates it, but puts up with me for a little while.  Can you guess which one?

three

Actually, from the looks on both boys’ faces, it might be hard to tell.  Too bad.  Mom wins.  (Thank you for smiling, EB!)

I got a few minutes with Mama Mildred and Sister Moo in Marion on the way to Brevard.  I had a couple of things to deliver and they met us right off the interstate.  Mama Mildred is on the mend (Merci, St. Bernadette) and Sister Moo is busy volunteering to take care of the firefighters who have come from all over the country to help fight the fires that have been raging for weeks in our mountains.  Love you more, Moo.  Bless you.

As I stood stirring a praline topping for this morning’s baking adventure, the thought popped into my head that in just a couple of years I will have a baking apprentice.  Sunday mornings will be my time to teach the soon-to-be-born Kennedy all of my secrets.  That thought alone is reason enough to get up in time to see the sun rise every day.

What to do with the leftover bread from Thanksgiving?  Eggs, milk, cinnamon, butter, vanilla, brown sugar, and a few pecans will solve that problem.

french-toast

Sunday Morning Baked French Toast

based on recipe from allrecipes

Casserole:

5 c. bread cubes (I probably used more- I had leftover sourdough and Italian-style bread), best if a bit stale

6 eggs

2 c. milk (maybe more if mixture seems too dry)

2 Tbsp. sugar (I used Turbinado, but granulate white sugar would have mixed in better)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Butter for greasing pan

Topping:

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

1 Tbsp. light Karo corn syrup (I found some without high fructose corn syrup which is, according to a chef friend, the work of the devil, to be avoided at all costs)

Pecans

1/4 c. packed light brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

Grease 11 x 7 baking dish.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Place bread in bottom of baking dish.

Mix eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla.  Pour over the bread and stir to coat.  If mixture seems too dry, add another egg and some milk beaten together.  (You do not have to be precise!)  Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.  (You can refrigerate it overnight as well if you like to do things in advance.)

To make the topping, melt butter in a small saucepan along with the pecans, cinnamon, corn syrup, and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Spoon it over the casserole.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until top is golden.

Bon appétit to all those out there who are thankful.  Keep smiling and Spreading the Kindness.  Wake up early and watch the sunrise!