I miss Mayberry

Okay, if you are a Rascal Flatts fan then you know I stole borrowed the title of one of their songs. I don’t think they will get upset when they read today’s blogpost. I think they will be honored. I have been in a bit of a blue mood the past few days. I’ve recently read Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. (more about those book in a later post- they deserve their own) I’ve been very bothered by the news that the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC earned $3.5 million in compensation in 2016. I am trying not worry too much about things that I cannot control. Really I am. Therefore, I am going to a happy place and taking you along for the ride.

The Ex-Ex and I decided to take a couple of days to explore Mount Airy, the town that inspired the Andy Griffith Show’s fictional town of Mayberry. I read an article about hiking at Pilot Mountain (or Mount Pilot in TV-land) and we thought that sounded like fun. It was amazing.

pilot mtn

You can’t hike all the way to the top- that’s for climbers.  But you can hike all around the base.

We did it early in the morning before the 90˚F+ temperature set in.

Back to Mayberry.  As a young’un, I thought that the Andy Griffith Show was only shown in North Carolina.  This was back in the days of three TV stations, television programming signed off after the 11:00 news and the national anthem played, and a TV set was a real piece of furniture.

old tv

And shows were in black and white.  Yep, that’s how old I am.  I now know that New Yorkers, Nebraskans and Delawareans were also watching. I wonder what they thought of us in North Carolinians. Not that I care, truthfully. Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Mr. Griffith, always taught a lesson, mostly to son Opie, played by Ron Howard, and to his deputy, Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts. All in a 30 minute time slot. Add in a few other characters:

  • Aunt Bea, who showed up in the first episode to help take care of Andy and Opie. There was never much mention of Opie’s ma, except to say that she had died.
  • Floyd, the ditzy barber (I saw this t-shirt at a wine festival)

pink floyd

  • Otis Campbell, the lovable town drunk who would just lock himself in his cell after he got loaded

otis' cell

  • Howard Sprague, the county clerk, a mama’s boy

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  • Gomer, a gas station attendant with an amazing singing voice (Grandma Christine loved him and had fantasy lunches with him) who later went on to have his own show after he joined the Marines
  • Goober, Gomer’s cousin who also worked at Wally’s
  • Miss Crump, a school teacher who later married Andy
  • Thelma Lou, Barney’s main squeeze (she is still alive and was signing autographs the day we were at the Andy Griffith Museum- we didn’t want to wait in line or pay to get one but later saw a lady who had an autograph on her pink purse)

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  • The Darlins, a musical family of hillbillies who periodically came to town, usually bringing moonshine with them as I recall

darlin truck

  • Ernest T. Bass, a wiry little hillbilly who had a penchant for throwing rocks and climbing trees (I have a second cousin who reminds me of Ernest T)

ernestt brick

There were others, but these are the ones I remember the most.

Andy Griffith lived in Mount Airy until he left to attend the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. You can even rent out his family home and spend the night there.

andy's house.jpg

At his recently renovated museum, I learned that he was a teacher at Goldsboro High School for a few years.  Who knew? Not me. Quite a few of his personal belongings were donated to the museum.  His guitar-

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Some evenings after supper, Sheriff Taylor would sit on the porch and play.

There are also quite a few things from the set of the show. The doors to the courthouse/jail-

courthouse doors

Barney’s sidecar-

sidecar

The one artifact that I found especially touching is the white suit that Andy Griffith wore for his part in Brad Paisley’s video for the song Waitin’ on a Woman. The video was filmed in 2008, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where Andy spent his final years.

waitingonawoman

Paisley’s 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times tells the story of how it came about. Andy passed away four years after the video was made.  I double dog dare you not to shed at least one tear watching it.  Rest in peace, Mr. Griffiths.

While we were in Mayberry Mount Airy, we had breakfast at Snappy Lunch, made famous in the TV show.  It is the only real place in Mount Airy mentioned on the show.

snappy sign

According to the fellow sharing the lunch counter with us at Snappy, a local, Snappy was delivering lunches to the local high school, which was just up the street back in the day, for years before the school got a cafeteria.  It is quite famous for its pork chop sandwich, which Our State magazine has written about, even suggesting it should be our State Sandwich.

ourstate

So, I had one for breakfast.

I didn’t expect to be wowed. Just a fried boneless pork chop, with slaw, a tomato slice, chili and mustard on a regular old hamburger bun, right? I loved every bite.  Truly.  I would go back just to have another one.  And I vote YES!  A young guy stands in the window and cooks the pork chops for all the passers-by to watch. Snappy keeps short hours, opening around 6:00 am and closing around 2:00 pm, it isn’t open on Sundays and it isn’t very big. It has two rooms for eaters, the front room filled mostly with locals (and us at the counter) and tourists in the room to the side, it seemed. The Pork Chop Sandwich costs $4.20. I got a bag of chips with mine- no fries that day.

snappywindow

I love the Appalachian State hat! Go Mountaineers!

I found a blog, Happy Hodgepodge Home, with a recipe for the sandwich.  Try it if you would like. I don’t think I am going to try it myself.  I want the memory of the sandwich to be unsullied by my own feeble attempts at reproducing it. If you try it, let me know how it turns out.  Might be best to have it with a Cheerwine, a drink concocted in Salisbury, NC in 1917. (I’ve seen advertisements for a Krispy Kreme Cheerwine doughnut, but I haven’t had one. Yet.) I did find a recipe for a Cheerwine Pound Cake in an article in Our State.  This might be worth a try! Who doesn’t love pound cake?

Cheerwine Pound Cake

Makes one 10-inch cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Cheerwine soft drink
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Red food coloring gel, as desired (optional)
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch, light-colored metal tube (angel food) pan, tapping out any excess flour. (A dark metal or heavy Bundt pan will make the crust too dark and thick and will interfere with the baking time.)

2. Beat the butter, shortening, and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer set to high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Whisk together the flour and salt in another large bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with half of the Cheerwine, beating only until the batter is smooth after each addition. Quickly beat in the lemon and almond extract.

5. If you want the cake to have a deep pink color that suggests Cheerwine, tint the batter with the gel. Start with a little and work up to the desired shade, keeping in mind that a large amount of food coloring can make the cake taste bitter.

6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.

7. Cool the cake in the pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out the cake onto the rack and let cool to room temperature. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if you wish.

Maybe you could make a drizzled sort of icing with confectioners’ sugar and Cheerwine? Just thinking here.  Haven’t tried it.

biscuitsandgravy

Bon appétit to all!  If you’ve never been to Mount Airy or Pilot Mountain, go!  I bet it is beautiful in the fall, when the leaves change color.  Be ready for a charming small town and very nice Southern folk.  But before you go, watch a few episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.  Goober says Hey! If you are lucky and it’s a Saturday morning, maybe these guys will be sitting around playing some old songs.

menplaying music

 

Another trip around the sun

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It has been quite a year. And here is the best thing that happened during my 58th year on this earth.  The birth of this darling nugget. It snuck up on me. It wasn’t something that I gave a lot of thought to– after all, it wasn’t up to me! But what happiness my granddaughter has brought to my heart in the past five months. Oh, the places we will go and the things we will do, my Little Pumpkin.

The rest of the year in numbers. In no particular order (that would take too much organization on my part):

2 Brad Paisley concerts, thanks to the BFF and her Boss, pit passes no less.

3 Wine and Design classes, with friends, colleagues, and students.

3 trips to the mountains.  Boone, Brevard, Blowing Rock, Table Rock, Grandfather Mountain, Spruce Pine.

Too many macarons to count. Made by me, my students, local bakeries, bakers in Paris.

 

1 visit to the grotto of St. Bernadette near Linville, NC to pray for Mama Mildred’s health.

stbernadette

1 hug from Buddy Melton during intermission at a Balsam Range concert in Cary with Arles Lucy. I kind of snuck up on him during intermission. To quote Childhood Friend, who plays guitar, “Damn fiddlers get all the hot girls…” Flattery.

If you are interested, here is their latest video for “Something ‘Bout That Suitcase” one of my favorites from the Mountain Voodoo CD.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/225107197″>Something 'Bout That Suitcase &ndash;Dedication to Fans</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user4482073″>Mark Skoultchi</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

2 trips to France with ACIS. January and March. On the new non-stop flight from RDU-CDG. I love this, Delta.  Please, please, please keep it around.

ET1

1 dinner at La Tour Eiffel 58.

2 visits with Vincent at le Musée d’Orsay.

2 Duke football games. I didn’t bring them luck.  They lost both.  Sorry, Coach Cut.

2 trips to the beach. Sunset and Carolina.

2 sons, 2 women, 2 dogs.

Many, many beautiful roses.

2 outings to the Rooftop Bar at the Durham Hotel.

A few glasses of North Carolina cider, even a visit to Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone.

1 cemetery visit in Paris to find Lafayette and pay my respects (with a beautiful rose bought at an outdoor flower market near La Madeleine).

lafayette

1 North Carolina flag delivered to a French school, Collège Anne-Marie Javouhey in Senlis.

ncflag

5 friends, French and American, in France with me. Actually, there were 6, but AP isn’t pictured with me. Oops. I experimented with making memes just for him…

AP meme

1 Christmas.

christmas

Way too many baked goodies.  Is there such a thing as too many?? Ask the Ex-Ex.

3 reunions.  One with my 2016 France trip group, one with 4 classmates from high school– Harris High Class of ’76, one with my first class of 7th graders, celebrating their 30th reunion (the same night, Son #1 celebrated his 10th and Son #2 his 5th).

There is so much more I could add. I had a very full year. New friends made. Old friendships strengthened. A few friends and relatives lost. Adventures. Family love and a bit of heartbreak. All of the intangibles that make another trip around the sun so very worthwhile. Here’s to the beginning of year 59.

For Son #1’s senior chorus performance, he asked me to perform a song with him.  We chose the Jimmy Buffet / Martina McBride duet Trip Around the Sun. Enjoy.

I made Blueberry Skillet Cake last week.  A good use for my iron skillet (it will be the subject of an upcoming blogpost) and the fresh blueberries I had in the refrigerator.

bleuberry pie

Cowboy Skillet Blueberry Cake

from a tea towel purchased at Fort Robinson State Park Nebraska

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Combine in a bowl and stir a little to mix:

1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. granulated white sugar (I cut this down to 1/2 cup)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

In a separate bowl, whisk, then set aside:

2 large eggs

1-1/4 c. milk (I used buttermilk)

In a 10″ iron skillet, melt:

8 Tbsp. of butter

When butter has cooled, add to egg mixture and stir.  Add this to dry ingredients and mix well.

Stir in:

1/4 tsp. lemon extract

1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Fold in:

1-1/2 blueberries (you can use any kind of fruit and change up the flavorings, if you feel like it- depending on what is in season or what’s in the freezer; I’ve used apples & cinnamon, cherries & almonds, peaches)

Pour into cast iron skillet.

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

1/4 c. sugar

zest of 1 small lemon

Bake 25-30 minutes or until cake tests done.

Bon appétit!  Here’s to many more trips around the sun for my friends, family, and moi!  Keep breathing! Grabbing my toes like this would be fun… but I think that I will leave that to Nugget.

kennupsidedown

 

 

 

Le 14 juillet 2017

monet detail

Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Claude Monet, 1878, Musée d’Orsay (detail)

Should I wish France Bonne Fête nationale or Joyeux 14 juillet or Bonne Bastille or … just what?  Does it even matter?  I could sing La Marseillaise.  The bloody version or La Marseillaise de la Paix by Chanson plus bifluorée.  Bertrand of My Private Paris turned me on to this group. What do you think?

The original…

Or the peaceful version?

I guess it depends on your mood?

I prefer to look at all the lovely photos on Facebook and hear about what Judy C and her picture-taking Hubby are up to in France.

Let’s start with Virginia Jones’ magnificent photo from her website Paris Through My Lens:

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I actually watched this year’s celebration and fireworks by live stream on my computer. Not the same as being there, but what’s a girl to do?

This one I found on a fellow French teacher’s page:

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Sandra Boynton, my favorite cartoonist,  drew this little guy:

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Here’s the line-up for the military parade on the Champs-Élysées, also taken from FB:

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I would love to have been on top of the Arc de Triomphe to watch! The first time I was in Paris on le 14 juillet was in 2006 with the Arles 6. We didn’t have that view! We were farther down the boulevard, with a couple of the people in the group standing in the Gucci window, I believe. I was afraid they would set off the alarm and the gendarmes would come take them away in handcuffs. I was standing on top of a trashcan alongside AG, trying to get a good view of the goings on. We were actually on a little side street where some of the participants were lining up. I love men in uniform…

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Only later were we able to get a good view of the Champs-Élysées and some tanks.

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I was there again in 2012 with my BFF Trip girls. Not the best filming in the world.  We were with about a gazillion of our new best friends watching from a street near the Bir Hakeim metro stop, if I remember correctly.

And my photo of the Leaning Tower of Eiffel.  No idea how that happened. Too funny. I had not had too much champagne, trust me on that one.

July14

It was our last full day in Paris. We started the trip in Paris, headed south to Villeneuve-lez-Avignon for a week of traipsing around lavender fields, visiting a goat farm, tasting wine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and visiting friends.  Most of us then came back to Paris. At the TGV station in Avignon with Frenchie and his lovely wife:

group2

Où est Judy C?  Oh!  Dans les toilettes, j’imagine, avec Mme Arizona.

JC and I stayed on for an extra day to visit Mont Saint Michel. Her special place.

MSM

She was just there a couple of days ago again with her Hubby.  He sent this amazing photo–

montsm

I hear they are having a fabulous time- eating, drinking, meeting lots of Frenchies, seeing a lot of the beauty that is France. (Word to the wise– do not try to go to France unless your passport is valid for at least 3 months after your departure. They won’t let you on the plane. Due probably to the fact that no visa is required for stays shorter than 90 days.)

In 2012, for our last meal in Paris, we ate a few typical French dishes in a little café.

escargots.jpg

soupe

croque

bread

creme

cake

Think my Sister-in-law found the raspberry cake to her liking??  I’m guessing oui. A sweet fit of eatin’.

cindy

Anyway, back to the present.  Think I will go stir up some Nutella brownies to take to a going away party for my Partner in Pink. I will miss her. Off to Miami she goes! Bon voyage, mon amie, et bonne chance! I will still bring back Fragonard perfume, Belle de nuit, for you from Paris.  C’est promis!

partners in pink

 

Nutella Brownies

This recipe is from Alaska from Scratch who adapted it from a recipe by Mother Thyme.

1/3 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar*
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. Nutella
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Grease an 8×8 pan (I used an 11×7 pan, greased with the wrapper from the softened butter).
Cream butter and sugar together.  Incorporate eggs and vanilla until combined.  Mix in Nutella until smooth and fluffy.  Add in flour and salt until just mixed.
Scoop batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake 30 minutes or until set in the center.
Cool at least 10 minutes.  Cut into squares.

*Mother Thyme recipe uses 1 cup of sugar.  I thought they were sweet enough with just the half cup.

Licking the bowl is allowed.  Certainly encouraged. Maybe even a requirement!

licking

Bon appétit et bonne journée!  Celebrate with friends.  Eat chocolate.  Look back on your memories of good times with friends.

Got Gratitude?

gratitude board

I am not especially fond of photos of myself, but this is the only one I could find of my Got Gratitude? classroom bulletin board.  I do not and I repeat, emphatically, do not like creating bulletin boards.  I have only one in my classroom. I come up with an idea at the beginning of the year and I do not change it. For the past few years, I’ve gone with the gratitude theme and I add every thank you note that I receive during the year. Today I came across an article called Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life. I started reading because this is something that I am very interested in. I obviously love to write. I would write this blog even if no one showed up to read it (but I am very grateful to those of you who do- trust me). When I was younger, I kept a diary.  I have no earthly idea where those little books filled with teen-age angst are, but I wish that I did. I also kept one when I got married 35 years ago.  No idea where that one is either unfortunately. I used to write letters when I was upset, pouring out my feelings on paper. I would reread them, my anger usually dissipating, and then burn the letters in our fireplace. When and why did I stop doing that?  Probably when I went away to college.

So, what does keeping a journal have to do with gratitude? Benjamin P. Hardy, the author of the article, had already hooked me, but about halfway through the article he hit upon the subject near and dear to my heart:

Journaling Increases Your Gratitude

Even if you start a journal session in a bad mood, the insight writing brings has a subtle way of shifting your mind towards gratitude.

When you start writing what you’re grateful for, new chambers of thought open in the palace of your mind. You’ll often need to put your pen down and take a few overwhelming breathes. You’ll be captivated not only by the amazing things in your life, but by the awe and brilliance of life in general.

As part of your morning and post-work journaling sessions, be sure to include some gratitude in your writing. It will change your entire life orientation from scarcity to abundance. The world will increasingly become your oyster.

Gratitude journaling is a scientifically proven way to overcome several psychological challenges. The benefits are seemingly endless. Here are just a few:

  • Gratitude makes you happier
  • Gratitude makes other people like you
  • Gratitude makes you healthier
  • Gratitude boosts your career
  • Gratitude strengthens your emotions
  • Gratitude develops your personality
  • Gratitude makes you more optimistic
  • Gratitude reduces materialism
  • Gratitude increases spirituality
  • Gratitude makes you less self-centered
  • Gratitude increases your self-esteem
  • Gratitude improves your sleep
  • Gratitude keeps you away from the doctor by strengthening physiological functioning
  • Gratitude lets you live longer
  • Gratitude increases your energy levels
  • Gratitude makes you more likely to exercise
  • Gratitude helps you bounce back from challenges
  • Gratitude makes you feel good
  • Gratitude makes your memories happier (think of Pixar’s Inside Out)
  • Gratitude reduces feelings of envy
  • Gratitude helps you relax
  • Gratitude makes you friendlier
  • Gratitude helps your marriage
  • Gratitude makes you look good
  • Gratitude deepens your friendships
  • Gratitude makes you a more effective manager
  • Gratitude helps you network
  • Gratitude increases your goal achievement
  • Gratitude improves your decision making
  • Gratitude increases your productivity

Mr. Hardy’s list is much longer than the ones I have come up with on my own, but I truly believe every single one of them. I believe that focusing on what I am thankful for keeps my mind from wandering to the past and all of the things that I wish that I had done differently or the words that I wish I could take back. I try to practice what I preach with my students. We write thank you notes at Thanksgiving, during several of our advisory sessions, and my 8th graders have to write a thank you letter- en français bien sûr, for the writing section of their final exam in my French 2 class.  I give them guidelines and they can write it in advance and bring it to the exam. I promise that I will mail them. I just put letters addressed to Kobe Bryant, Zinedine Zidane, Paul Van Haver (aka Stromae), several sets of grandparents, a dog named Norman, Bertrand, the tour manager for our March France trip (if you ever need a tour guide in Paris or other parts of Paris, check out My Private Paris), three faculty members, one brother, and two sisters in the mail today, keeping a few for myself.

I will begin a journal. Not an on-line one. An old-fashioned one in a notebook, using a favorite pen. (I am truly obsessed with pens. It’s insane.) I will collect quotes and follow guidelines that I set for myself, using some from the article on journaling. I will Dream Big, Have fun, Share (some of what I write), Try new things, Always tell the truth, and do my best.

mat

I think I may even start with this:

Note to self

What do you think? Do you keep a journal or diary? If so, do you share it with anyone or is it strictly for your eyes only?

Here’s a recipe to be grateful for… JC made these the other night for a potluck dinner.  I ate mine so fast that there was no time for a photo.

Judy’s Cream Cheese Brownies

from Taste of Home

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces German sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • FILLING:
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate and butter on high until butter is melted; stir until smooth. Whisk in sugar until blended. Whisk in extracts and eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour mixture. Pour half of the batter into a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Beat together filling ingredients until blended; spoon over batter in pan. Spoon remaining batter over top. Swirl gently with a knife. Bake until filling is set, 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Cut into bars. Refrigerate leftovers.

Yield: 2 dozen.

Bon appétit, my grateful friends and family! Make a gratitude list.  Make it an experiment and see if it makes you feel better.  Tell someone that you are grateful for them. Send a note, an email, a text or call them.  

Paris has to wait (for me)

PCW

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

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

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

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

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

Hazelnut Sablée Crust and Chocolate Ganache Tarts

recipe from Érick Vedel and Madeleine Vedel

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

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

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

For the chocolate ganache:

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

my lavendar

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

Summer Vacation Day 2: Sticks and stones

Sticks

DSC00638

and stones.

DSC00625

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

DSC00632

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

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

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

collecting

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

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

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

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

From Girlie #1:

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

From Girlie #2:

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

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

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

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

Can you see the face??

treewithaface

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

nc rock

North Carolina, of course!

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

grave

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

cemetery view

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

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

cow pasture

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

 

Baguettes et Beurre vs Biscuits and Bacon

breakfast #1

It isn’t a competition for me.  Really, it isn’t.  I have been back from my annual spring break trip for almost two weeks and it has taken me this long to get to the blog.  I go through a sort of grieving process and a bit of withdrawal every time I leave France. This year’s kiddos were amazing.  Great eaters, non-complainers, roll-with-the-punches-walk-for-miles 8th graders.  22 of them.  2 co-chaperones. 1 tour manager. Me.  26 of us traipsing around France for 11 days.  The weather was unbelievably beautiful.  Picnics and eating outside were the norm this time.  So, I will focus this post on food.

Breakfast.  A good baguette tartinée with real butter and some honey or fig jam, s’il vous plaît.

I won’t say no to a pain aux raisins…

pain aux raisins

Or a croissant, especially the ones at the Hôtel du Musée that Claude and Laurence serve up every morning… (I won’t even talk about their fancy any-kind-of-coffee-hot-chocolate-grind-the-beans-steam-the-milk machine that I covet)

breakfast at HduM

Lunch.  Picnics whenever possible.  Outdoor cafés.

Our first meal in Paris, however, was falafel in the Marais.  My choice.  I dream about this and have lunch whenever I am there. The kids deal with it.  No, it’s not really French. My vegetarians love it.  I love it.

falafel

Lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens. A simple sandwich of cantal cheese, jambon sec, tomato jam, and lettuce from a little place right outside the back entrance of the park. Of course, it comes as a package deal.  A drink. A sandwich. A dessert. Enough to share. My favorite meal this time.  Not necessarily due to the food.  Factor in the weather, the ambience, the people I ate with.  I said out loud to anyone who was listening that there was no where on earth I would rather have been at that particular perfect moment in time.

4 musketeers

Lunch in the Tuileries Gardens after a long walk down the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful Sunday morning.  Bertrand giving KR a lesson about the walls that surrounded Paris at one time.  Should you find yourself in Paris and in need of a first-class guide to show you the city (and other places around France), call on My Private Paris, Bertrand’s venture.  He is the best.

tuileries lunch

Another Paris lunch- at the sumptuous food section of Galeries Lafayette.  We let Bertrand, the expert choose, this time.  Cinco Jotas.  Bertrand is a Basque so this place takes him back to his roots.

lunch at galeries lafayette

We visited my dear friend GM and my students met their “pen friends” at the Collège Anne Marie Javouhey in Senlis.  They treated us to lunch in the school cantine.  At our school, we do not have a cafeteria.  We eat lunch in our classrooms with our advisees every day.  3-course meal for lunch in France instead of whatever I throw together at the last minute at home. (The sign said I could take 4 pieces of bread… so I did.)

lunch at AMJ

Lunch at an outdoor café in Avignon at Place de l’Horloge.  Goat cheese salad.  Another of my favorites. Mon dieu.

goat cheese salad

My après-marché picnic with La Brune in Arles.  Anything eaten with her is special.  We ate in the Jardins d’Été, a place that holds a place in my heart.  In 2005, before my cooking stage with Chef Érick, I took a book and un sandwich there almost every day. My favorite concrete bench was even open and waiting for us… next to the ruins of the Le Théâtre antique.

Lunch near Omaha Beach.  We went back to La Crémaillière, a local restaurant we discovered last year in Saint Laurent sur Mer.  We were pressed for time, Bertrand called the owner, and she had poulet-frites ready and waiting for my crew.  The frites were pronounced the best of the trip.  And I have never seen a chocolat crème consumed as quickly as KR polished off hers!

Dinner.  I had foie gras once. Sprinkled liberally with sel gros.  We went to a salt marsh in the Camargue later in the trip to learn more about harvesting salt.

The starter at a restaurant in Arles.  Terrine du taureau (they are proud of those black bulls), eggplant and tomato confit.

arles starter

A really good beef stew in Paris. Flourless chocolate cake for dessert.  I know it is hard to believe that I normally do not eat dessert.  But when in France…

stew

Crêpes near La Tour Eiffel.  Ham and cheese with salad and caramel for dessert.

We tried something new.  We ate dinner in French homes.  Divided into 4 groups, with metro tickets and directions in hand, we made our way to our hosts’ appartements. I was with the vegetarian group.  It is arranged by VizEat.  My crew was in heaven.  A tiny apartment, hosted by a delightful woman with two children and two cats who works in a Montessori school and who is a vegetarian herself.  The appetizer, baked camembert cheese, was a real hit.  I think that we consumed every single one. She told me how she made them, but I am going to have to email her for the recipe.  I have forgotten what she said. A great adventure.

camembert bites

This is really what I prefer for dessert.

cheese plate

Snacks. Extras. Indulgences. Call them what you want.  Éclairs from Christophe Adam, an award-winning pâtissier.  Bertrand knows all the best places. Tiny little shop.  I guarded the door (from the inside, of course) to allow 4 kiddos in at a time to drool and make their selections.

And, as Laura Florand knows, it sure doesn’t hurt when the pâtissier is handsome.

adam photo

Fougasse in Aigues Mortes.  Flavored with fleur d’oranger. Really generous portions. The sugar crunch on the top is divine.

fougasse

Ice cream.  Café et chocolat.  Bought some for all of the kiddos who were hanging around with me.  A reward, of sorts, on a sunny afternoon.

icr cream

Alain Ducasse, rock star chef, has started a chocolate-making business in Paris.  A taste of his version of Nutella at Galeries Lafayette.  Divine.

Cooking classes with the kiddos.  Éclairs and gougères at La Cuisine Paris.  Macarons at L’Atelier des Gâteaux.  I was with the éclair crew.  The macarons group gave me samples. Being the good teacher that I am, it was my duty to sample all of the flavors.  I did this while on the TGV from Paris to Avignon.  Bertrand supplied the coffee.

A few other random food photos–

A quick pit-stop on the way to Normandy and the display of Haribo candy.

haribo

Cheese- on Rue Daguerre and at the market in Arles

A sign above a shop in Paris

paris map steak

Feeling a little crabby?  So is this guy spotted at a poissonnerie

crab

Oreos have hit France with a boom!  One of my kiddos has quite a few allergies, but Oreos are on his approved list.  So, when we were in Monoprix in Arles and I saw the Strawberry Cheesecake Oreos, I called him over to take a look.  Thank goodness he bought some so that I could sample one.

oreo

Sacks of pommes de terre outside a café in the Marais waiting to be made into frites

sacks of pommes de terre

A sign in the window of the Monoprix on the Champs-Élysées (I was sorely disappointed to find out that the main store is closed for renovations)-

monoprix cheese

Enough is enough for one day.  My tummy is growling and grumbling.  But let me finish by saying that I do not think that I have to chose one or the other.  Baguettes or biscuits? France or the United States?  I can love both equally.  Just because I miss France and want to go whenever I have the chance, it doesn’t mean I do not love my home.  Voilà.  I needed to get that off my chest.  I have the best of both worlds.

Throw together some gougères to impress your eaters.  And eat them warm, right from the oven.  I am going to do that right this minute.  Then I will come back and post the recipe.  Be patient!  I just happen to have some gruyère cheese in my cheese drawer…

gougeres pastry

Gougères

recipe gleaned from several sources, including La Cuisine Paris and David Lebovitz

This is the same pastry dough used to make cream puffs or éclairs minus the cheese and herbs.

1/2 c. (125ml) water

1/2 c. (125ml) milk

7 Tbsp. (100g) butter

3/4 c. (150g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp. (6g) salt

4-5 eggs

Grated gruyère cheese (1/2 – 3/4 cup) or other “dry” cheese

Freshly grated pepper

Finely chopped herbs

Heat together water, milk, and butter on low heat.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat. Add flour and salt and stir.  Bring back to very low heat and mix quickly until it forms a dry ball that pulls away from the pan.  Remove and add eggs one at a time until mixture is smooth and when you hold up the wooden spoon it falls into a sort of V.  It should be smooth and glossy.  Add cheese, pepper and herbs, if using.

Fill pastry bag and pipe small rounds (about the size of a cherry tomato, although I made mine larger this time- you really want them bite-sized) onto parchment paper.  Brush with beaten egg, if desired.  Sprinkle a bit more cheese on top, if desired. Bake at 375˚F for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and on the sides.  Do not underbake. The puffs will deflate.  They will still taste good, though, they just won’t be as pretty.  I took mine out of the oven and then decided they weren’t quite done enough and put them back in for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and eat warm.  You could slice them open and fill with ham and a little Dijon mustard.

gougeres

Bon appétit!  Bon Poisson d’Avril!  Pack your suitcase every chance you get and see the world around you.  Be happy, mes amis et mes amies.

So many books…

books

You guessed it.  So many books, so little time.  I love to read.  An article that I read over the weekend says “Book ownership ranks as the number one predictor of academic success for children; yet 61 percent of children living in poverty are growing up in homes with no books at all.” (Danielle Berman, Book Harvest, writing for the Durham Herald, October 23, 2016) The article was about Jumpstart’s annual Read for the Record Day.   This year’s book for the 11th annual Read for the Record event to be held on October 27 is The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach.

the-bear-ate-your-sandwich

My copy is on its way from Amazon (please note that I do not receive any compensation whatsoever from Amazon) and I will read it to my classes on Thursday (and to anyone else who will listen to me read). According to Berman, this 24 hour read-a-thon has involved over 17 million people since 2006 and holds the world record for the most people reading the same book on the same day.  I am excited about being a part of this in 2016! And then the book will become part of the library I am building for Kennedy, my granddaughter-to-be.

Reading was a huge part of my childhood.  My family had very little money for anything extra, but somehow Mama Mildred made sure to read to us and when we were older, she took us to the public library.  One of my cousins gave me a book in the Bobbsey Twins series for either my birthday or Christmas when I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I loved that book.  It was all mine.  I wish I still had it.  One of my greatest pleasures now is giving Mama Mildred a book I know that she will like.  And if I haven’t read it, she saves it for me.

I haven’t written about what I’ve read or what’s on my to-read list in a while.  So here goes.

A few of the recently read:

  • Commonwealth by Ann Patchett; her latest novel about four parents and six children who become the subject of a best-selling novel.  Truth & Beauty is the first Patchett book I ever read and I instantly fell in love with her style.
  • Murder on the Quai by  Cara Black; this is the 15th (or 16th?) novel is a series starring Aimée Leduc, a detective who lives on Ile Saint Louis in Paris- need I say more? Except that Best Friend in Paris is offering A Week in Paris with Cara Black in November.  I wish.  Actually, I would settle for just a cup of coffee in a Parisian café with Mme Black.  C’est vrai.
  • City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg; an almost 1000 page story about NYC in the 1970’s- a disturbing story about a murder, a dysfunctional family, lost kids involved with drugs and a plot to blow up part of the city. I read it for my school summer reading and am glad that I did.  Hallberg will be here in Durham tomorrow night at The Regulator Bookshop.  (something is up with The Regulator’s website at the moment- sorry)
  • The Third Girl by Nell Goddin; Molly Sutton, a recently divorced American buys a house in southwest France and finds herself involved in the murder of an art student; #1 in a series of 4 (I love series!)
  • One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank; a young adult novel about Sophie, an American teen who is shipped off to France, along with her brother, to visit their dad who deserted them a year earlier;  who wouldn’t love a Parisian romance and a young woman trying to find her way?  I ordered a couple of extra copies for two special girlies I know.  I will offer up my copy for 8th graders who would like to borrow it.  One girlie already asked for the title again so that she can download it onto her tablet!
  • Life After Life by Jill McCorkle; one of my favorite writers- a Southern girl; fans have waited 17 years for this; a story set in an assisted living facility and the cast of characters connected to it and to each other.  Thank you, Jill.  I am happy to have you back.  Mama Mildred will love this one.

Currently reading:

  • The Luckiest Woman Ever by Nell Goddin;  Molly’s next murderous adventure
  • The Underground Railroad by Coalson Whitehead; somedays the only time I have to read is right before I go to sleep- I started this book and promptly started having nightmares about it;  I handed it off to the Ex-Ex who has finished it; I will pick it up again during Thanksgiving break when I have time to read during daylight hours.

On the to-read list:

  • Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult; another of my favorite authors since I found a copy of The Pact at the beach house we rented one summer; I have read almost all of Jodi’s 26 novels.  A truly gifted storyteller.
  • The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely;  last week, I went to a screening of (Dis)Honesty– The Truth about Lies, Dan’s film about the research he has done about why people lie; he was there for a Q&A session afterwards.  Dan is a fascinating man and now I want to read his books, beginning with this one. He was also quoted recently in an article I read about how to raise kinder kids.
  • Dimestore: A Writer’s Life by Lee Smith; Lee has been writing stories set in the south, specifically the mountains, for over 45 years and this is her memoir.  I’ve met Lee and she is such an interesting woman and gifted writer.  Mama Mildred and I love her.  Oral History and Fair and Tender Ladies are two of our favorites.
  • All of the books in the series featuring Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker; okay, so I admit to being a bit in love with Bruno- on his website you will find his playlist, recipes, links, etc. and he is also working on a cookbook– swoon.  I plan to binge on Bruno soon. I started with the first book, Bruno, Chief of Police: A Novel of the French Countryside. (Thanks, Jean!)
  • The next four books in the Hugo Marston series by Mark Pryor;  I started with The Bookseller; crime stories set in Paris– what’s not to love?
  • Killing Hemingway (A coming-of-age novel about life, decisions, love, and genius) by Arthur Byrne;  young adult novel?  “a bedtime story for adults” according to Byrne’s assistant

Well, that’s it for tonight, readers.

It’s the last week of the grading period and my chefs-in-training are supplying my classes with goodies… macarons, vanilla and pumpkin spice; mousse au chocolat; three types of meringues!  Yum!  A pretty sweet day, n’est-ce pas?

 

(Plus a slice of chocolate Guglhupf from Guglhupf–  merci, Señor!)

MacKenna’s Meringues

Prep: 25 min Bake: 40 min + cooling

Yield: 32 cookies

2 egg whites

⅛ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar

⅛ teaspoon peppermint extract

½ cup of sugar

⅓ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

In a small mixing bowl beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and extract on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved (about 6 min). Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 250 for 40-45 min or until firm to the touch. Turn oven off and leave meringues in oven for 1 ½ hours. Remove iron racks. Store in an airtight container.

Bon appétit!  Keep reading.  Share the love and books!

Searching for Aimée Leduc

I blogged about Cara Black and her heroine, Aimée Leduc three years ago.  I was just reminded of Aimée by Arles Lucy because she shared Bonjour Paris‘s interview with Cara. I am ready for the next novel!!  2017, set in Saint Germain.

If you have read any of Cara Black’s Aimée Leduc novels, you know the significance of this pink Vespa that I photographed during my recent trip to Paris.  AND I even spotted it on Ile St. Louis.  Pink Vespa + Ile St. Louis = Aimée.  It must be hers.
I accidentally stumbled upon Cara’s books while roaming the aisles of Barnes and Noble a few years ago.  Each murder mystery is set in a different neighborhood of Paris.  I’ve read them all.  I am reading the most recent one right now.  It came in the mail while I was in Paris.

Aimée has a private detective/computer security business passed down to her by her grandfather.  Her father was a police officer who was blown up by bad guys.  Her godfather is one of the top dogs of the Paris police force.  Her mom abandoned her when she was eight years old.  Aimée dresses in vintage designer clothes she finds at the flea market.  In the latest book, she wraps a Hermès scarf around her neck before going out.  I have one, too, Aimée!!  I found it for $5 at one of the local consignment shops.

As far as dressing goes, that’s about all I have in common with Aimée.  But wouldn’t I love to shop at the Paris flea market?  Oui, oui et oui.   Aimée has a bichon frise named Miles Davis.  I searched for Miles while on Ile St. Louis, but I didn’t see him so I lifted a photo off the internet.  If I lived in Paris and wanted a dog to keep me company, I think he would make a great companion.  (If this is your pup or your photo, I am sorry, but I didn’t give you credit and I cannot find the photo now, three years later.)

Aimée has had her heart broken several times.  She is attracted to “bad boys.” I would match her up with a younger Bruce…

He was in concert in Paris last summer while I was there.  Maybe Aimée went to hear him?  Her latest love interest is a flic, a cop, but it isn’t going well at the moment.
Her best friend and business partner, René, has been lured to Silicon Valley, but he is in over his head, too, although Aimée doesn’t know it yet.
I really shouldn’t give away any more of the plot.  I want to race through the book, but I am trying to slow myself down and savor it.  I could stay up all night and gobble it up, but I would have a sleep deprivation hangover worse than I already do and it will be a while before Cara comes out with the next book.
At the very great risk of messing with my odds for winning, Cara has a contest associated with this book.

I plan to win.  A week in Paris with Cara tracing the footsteps of Aimée.  Details are inside special editions of the book and on Cara’s website.  I promise to blog all about it while I am there.
Aimée often forgets to eat while she is out looking for clues to the latest mystery.  In Murder Below Montparnasse, she is on the trail of a stolen Modigliani painting.  I have seen his work in museums but needed to google him.

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)

He was an Italian painter and sculptor, but he lived mainly in France.  He painted a lot of portraits.  His style is very distinct.

Anyway, while on the trail of a stolen portrait of Lenin, Aimée talks to a woman who has just taken a batch of financiers out of the oven.  Aimée eats half of the still warm cakes.  This is  my first time making them.  They are a Parisian concoction, created by a baker in the 19th century.

Enjoy the book and make some financiers of your own.  Aimée would approve, I think.

I do not have financier molds.  I used a cupcake tin, buttering and flouring each cup.  And do be careful about browning the butter.  It cooks pretty quickly-  I boiled mine for about 3 minutes.  I was so excited to finally find ground almonds at Harris Teeter.  I found them in a special section of kosher foods since it is almost Passover.

Tea time on this rainy chilly Sunday in North Carolina… I don’t think my little cake will make it long enough to be room temperature.  Désolée, Dorie!  Aimée didn’t wait either.

Financiers
recipe from Dorie Greenspan

Makes 12 cookies
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces; 180 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 cup (100 grams) ground almonds
6 large egg whites
2/3 cup (90 grams) all-purpose flour
Put the butter in a small saucepan and bring it to the boil over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally.  Allow the butter to bubble away until it turns a deep brown, but don’t turn your back on the pan – the difference between brown and black is measured in seconds.  Pull the pan from the heat and keep it in a warm place.
Mix the sugar and almonds together in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the egg whites, place the pan over low heat, and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, heat the mixture until it is runny, slightly white and hot to the touch, about 2 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour, then gradually mix in the melted butter. Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the batter to create an airtight seal, and chill for at least 1 hour.  (The batter can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter 12 rectangular financier molds (these were tested in 3-3/4 x 2 x 5/8-inch [10 x 5 x 1-1/2-cm] rectangular molds that each hold 3 tablespoons), dust the interiors with flour and tap out the excess.  Place the molds on a baking sheet for easy transport.
Fill each mold almost to the top with batter.  Slide the molds into the oven and bake for about 13 minutes, or until the financiers are golden, crowned and springy to the touch.  If necessary, run a blunt knife between the cookies and the sides of the pans, then turn the cookies out of their molds and allow them to cool to room temperature right side up on cooling racks.
Bon appétit and happy reading!!