A really good day

spider donut

My morning started this way a couple of days ago. A spider donut left on my desk by an advisee.  Thank you, Girlie and Dunkin Donuts. One of my French friends commented–“Not Halloween yet.” The whole month of October is Halloween here in the good old U.S. of A, mon amie. C’est normal.

Then The Most Adorable Baby in the World got to make her Durham Academy debut and pay a visit to my classroom. Her mom needed to take a catering order to Duke, just down the road, and I volunteered to watch our little Nugget for an hour.

K and Gramma

She was a huge hit with my students, needless to say. A few colleagues stopped in to say hi as well. She is almost 8 months old. Wow. Le temps passe vite.

In my 6th grade class, one of the boys, M. New York, was caught with bulging pockets. Actually, I caught him after one of the items slipped from his pocket onto the floor. I asked him to empty those pockets and here is his stash.

williams pockets

We had adorable Kindergarteners here during our morning break, selling backed goods and treats to raise money for hurricane relief funds. I don’t know if he bought all this at the sale or if he came to school that way. The staples were a real curiosity. We all had a good laugh and he is a great kid- and he even laughed at himself. That is one of the most important personality traits to have as you navigate the often treacherous waters of middle school.

I supervise our after school study hall and during study hall the 3-D printer was whirring. I am always curious about that machine so I often watch the progress of what it is creating. Lo and behold, this is what I found behind the glass door.

3D ET

Oui, Mme La Tour Eiffel. I actually watched it from the bottom up. I had no idea who was printing it, but I was hoping it was one of my students and that I would be able to add it to my collection. (It was and I have!)

la tour 2

As I was walking to my car, I noticed this beautiful tree and had to stop long enough to take a photo. Fall is my favorite season. How can you not love this view?

fall leaves

Later, as I was finishing up with my date with Tom, the best manicurist in the entire world, at Posh Nails, his new salon, we noticed that the rain had stopped and the sky was an interesting color. It was pink!

sky1sky2

Then the Ex-Ex and I met at The Boot, our favorite watering hole, and shared this.

mozz

Made me think of Son #2. That boy loves mozzarella sticks. These were magnifico. (Grazie, Google) I tried making them a few times when he was growing up, but I never quite mastered it.

So, instead I will leave you with a tried and true recipe for mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches.

Mozzarella Grilled Cheese
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence of The Food Network

Serves: 2 sandwiches
Ingredients:
4 slices thick-cut sourdough bread
1 ball (1 pound) fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 plum tomatoes, cut into thick slices
1 cup fresh basil pesto, recipe follows
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Basil pesto:
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

To make pesto:
Toast pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Combine pesto ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined but still rough-textured.

To make sandwiches:
If you have a panini press, turn it on to warm up; otherwise, set a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Assemble sandwich by smearing insides of bread slices with pesto. Arrange a layer of sliced tomato and season with a few turns of fresh pepper. Layer the mozzarella slices over the top and then place another piece of bread on top to make the sandwich. Drizzle olive oil over skillet’s surface and place sandwiches on the hot skillet or panini press. If using a skillet, place another heavy skillet over the top to form a “press”. Turn after 2 to 3 minutes and replace weight. The sandwich is ready when golden brown and mozzarella has melted around the edges.

Copyright 2009 Television Food Network G.P., All Rights Reserved

Buon appetito!  Have a lovely weekend! Eat something delicious. Hug your loved ones. I sincerely hope you have a good day filled with simple pleasures.

 

 

Fall is calling

leaf2

My favorite season? Fall. No question about it. I look forward to cooler weather (I am a jeans and sweater kind of girl), nights with a nip in the air, college football games, and changing leaves. I have already spotted evidence around school that fall is on the way in. Knocking softly at the door. Not shoving summer out of the way yet, just patiently waiting her turn. (In French, the word season- saison– is feminine, so I am going with her as my pronoun of choice.)

According to my friend Google:

Autumn 2017 in Northern Hemisphere will begin on

Friday, September 22

and ends on Thursday, December 21

(All dates are in Eastern Time)

So, she is just around the corner.  Yippee!

leaf1

We have our fair share of squirrels around campus. They are bold little critters. We do not have a cafeteria. Everyone brings lunch to school. Our squirrels are fat and happy. But I hope they are gathering nuts anyway so they won’t go hungry over the weekends. Here’s a photo for my French friends who are always fascinated by our écureuils. (A very difficult word to pronounce in French, but squirrel isn’t easy for the Frenchies so we are even!) Can you find him?

squirrel

I searched for poems and found two that I really like.

Autumn Leaves

© Edel T. Copeland

Published: November 1, 2016

Golden, crisp leaves falling softly from almost bare trees,
Lifting and falling in a hushed gentle breeze,
Slowly dropping to the soft cushioned ground,
Whispering and rustling a soothing sound.

Coppers, golds, and rusted tones,
Mother Nature’s way of letting go.
They fall and gather one by one,
Autumn is here, summer has gone.

Crunching as I walk through their warm fiery glow,
Nature’s carpet rich and pure that again shall grow,
To protect and shield its majestic tree,
Standing tall and strong for the world to see.

They rise and fall in the cool, crisp air.
It’s a time of change in this world we share,
Nature’s importance reflecting our own lives,
Letting go of our fears and again, too, we shall thrive.

Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/autumn-leaves-5

Sing To Me, Autumn

© Patricia L. Cisco

Published: September 27, 2016

Sing to me, Autumn, with the rustle of your leaves.
Breathe on me your spicy scents that flow within your breeze.

Dance with me, Autumn, your waltz that bends the boughs of trees.
Now tell me all the secrets you’ve whispered to the seas.

Sleep with me, Autumn, beneath your starlit skies.
Let your yellow harvest moon shimmer in our eyes.

Kiss me, Autumn, with your enchanting spellbound ways
That changes all you touch into crimson golden days.

Love me, Autumn, and behold this love so true
That I’ll be waiting faithfully each year to be with you.

Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/sing-to-me-autumn

Last year, I drove up the mountains in October and around Linville, in Avery County, found some leaves left on the trees.

red trees

red tree

one red leaf

Magnifique, n’est-ce pas?

Today’s recipe comes from Jamie Dietrich, wife of Sean of the South Dietrich, and chef extraordinaire. A reader asked me to ask Jamie for this recipe and she kindly sent it to me. My original email caught her away from her cookbooks, caring for her mom. She has now taken on the role of manager and chauffeur to her red-haired guitar-picking story-writing husband. Bon courage, Jamie. Keep that man safe so he can continue to make me laugh and cry first thing every morning. Thank you for sharing your recipes with me. I look forward to meeting you someday. Point that truck towards North Carolina. Please?

Thank you, Dear Reader, for requesting this recipe. I made it last night. The Ex-Ex had two servings (as did I) and we will warm it up again tonight. In Jamie’s words:

This is not “gourmet” but is delicious and great to make ahead and serve for Sunday lunch or a special occasion… it’s from The Best Little Cookbook in Alabama with a couple of modifications from me.

I couldn’t wait to try it out. For Monday dinner. No special occasion. I made a few modifications of my own but nothing significant. The Ex-Ex just texted that he is hungry. He is on the athletic fields watching his teams play games and should be home in an hour or so. I texted back that there are some really good leftovers waiting for him here…

chick cass

Lemon Chicken Casserole
4 c. chopped chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken- removed meat and shredded/chopped it)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 c. celery chopped
1 c.  chopped fresh mushrooms (you could use canned sliced ones)
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. flour
1 can cream of mushroom (with garlic) soup
1.5 c. chicken broth
1–6 oz. package Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, cooked (I will add more tonight when we have it as leftovers- we love rice)
8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts
1 pint sour cream
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
Topping:
1 stick butter
Zest of 3 medium-sized lemons
Panko bread crumbs (probably about 1-1/2 cups but you could add more or less) or regular bread crumbs, if you prefer
Saute onion, celery and mushrooms in butter until soft and translucent (If you are using canned ones, add when you add the soup).  Stir in flour. Cook for one minute to remove the flour-y taste. Add mushroom soup and broth; cook until thickened.  Add rice, sour cream, water chestnuts, parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.  Place in buttered 9″x13″ (3 quart) casserole dish.
To make the topping, melt butter and add lemon zest.  Top casserole with bread crumbs and then drizzle melted butter-lemon mixture on top.   Bake in 350˚ oven for one hour. (Since I was using the already cooked chicken, I baked mine for about 40 minutes.)
Bon appétit to all. Take a moment, at least one, to enjoy the beauty around you. Read a beautiful poem. Listen to a song that makes you cry. Take a long walk with a friend. Follow the advice of the late Jim Valvano–
“If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Going back in time: A life resumed

I wrote the following post in February 2009, two months after returning from my six month sabbatical in Arles, France. I was feeling a bit nostalgic this morning and started looking back through old posts. I didn’t have many readers then and the blog (and my writing) was just a baby. At that point, I wasn’t even sure that I would keep it going. New readers, I hope you enjoy this little step back in time.


The Sabbatical Chef has returned to “real life.” As of today, February 15, I have been home for two months. I have resumed teaching at Durham Academy and have finally learned the names of my students. I have worked with Dorette at C’est si bon! (I continue to stress the fact that I am an assistant, not a chef!) I have taken over as president of the North Carolina Association of Teachers of French and survived my first board meeting. I moved in with my sixteen year old son and my ex-husband. (Steve got his passport, came to Paris, finally, and proposed at the top of the Eiffel Tower. What can I say? That story deserves its own entry and I will try to get it all in words soon. The headmaster at DA is taking full credit for our reconciliation since he gave Steve the time off to come visit me.) I have unpacked almost all the boxes and found most of my belongings, thank goodness. Grant’s two cats seem to like me and Rusty has stopped hiding from me. I went to Spruce Pine to visit my family in the mountains. They are very happy to have me home safe and sound but still do not understand what I was doing over there in the first place. I have a meeting tomorrow with the features editor at the Durham Herald-Sun newspaper to talk about the possibility of a new column. Life goes on, almost as if it was never interrupted. Life has a way of doing that, I have discovered. My six months in France seem dream-like now. I bring up iPhoto on my MacBook daily to look at a few photos, however, to remind myself that it really happened.
Life in Arles goes on without me, too, of course. Wally has returned to Lisbon. Didier and Monique have closed their brocanterie on Rue de 4 Septembre. Business had not been good, unfortunately, for a while. They hope to open a tea room, if they can find a suitable space. Or Didier said he can always go back to work as a stock trader in Paris. (I was shocked to find out he had done this at one time- I told him he seemed much too nice for that line of work!) Business at Gilles’ bookshop has been slow, too. Although Christian Lacroix told the newspapers and magazines that he thought his exhibit at the Musée Réattu would be good for the local businesses, it didn’t really help much. The exhibit was a grand success, however, and was extended until December. The B&B is up for sale. No offers have been made, though, so Chef Érick continues to rent out rooms. He plans to continue offering his cooking classes and visits around Provence but is looking for someone who is computer savvy to help him set up a website and blog, as well as an English-speaking assistant for the spring and summer. Provence experienced its largest snowstorm in 21 years. I begged Érick to go out in it with his camera so that he could send me some photos of Arles covered in snow. The posted photo is of the front door to the B&B.
At one point in the summer, probably mid-July or early August, I thought seriously about making Arles my home. I wasn’t sure how to do that and didn’t even have a long-stay visa for the six months I was there (another story involving red-tape and passports). A guest joked that I could find a French man to marry. The pace of life suited me perfectly. I loved the guests and meeting new people every day. I could walk wherever I needed to go. I could feel my French improving daily. I ate like a queen- all the shrimp and mussels I wanted. Nice chilled rosé and Picpoul de Pinet. Lovely reds from Pic St. Loup. Moussu T e lei Jovents music. Drinks at dusk in the Place du Forum, gazing at the Van Gogh café (now painted to match his famous painting of Le Café la Nuit- but do not eat there. Lousy food and questionable owners.) But waves of homesickness would hit me like a ton of bricks every time I thought about my two sons. And I finally realized that I missed my life, my real life. When I put Martha and Monette on the plane in Marseille in mid-September and drove myself back to Arles on that early Sunday morning, I knew that I would be ready to fly home myself in three months. At that point in time, I still had no idea that I would come back to Durham and resume, in many ways, my life of four years earlier, before Arles ever happened to me in 2005. Only the new and improved version. Older and wiser but still young enough to appreciate and enjoy the changes that can happen if you are open and can let go of the past.
I am asked repeatedly if I miss France. The answer is a most definite oui. How could I not miss speaking the beautiful language, enjoying long lunches and amazing conversation in that language, staring history in the face every time I walked down a street past a monument built over 2,000 years ago, walking through the market and smelling roasting chickens, herbs and spices sitting in open baskets, fragrant goat cheese, freshly cut lavender and lavender scented soaps. The scenery is a work of art and most of it has indeed been painted and photographed many times over the years, from the abbeys and churches to the fields of sunflowers and lavender to the Roman arenas and aqueducts. Provence is a feast for the senses.
I have indeed brought some of it home with me. I have made lamb and tarte Tatin for friends (I couldn’t have made the tarte without Martha’s help and pan!). I have turned Grant on to the joy of freshly grated parmesan cheese on his pasta instead of the stuff in the green can. I have made French toast for him from my orange brioche. I sprinkle my chicken recipes liberally with herbes de provence as they cook in olive oil. I have shown a video clip of Moussu T et lei Jovents to my students and taught them the song “Forever Polida,” as well as “Le Tube de Toilette” by Boby Lapointe, a song that goes along with the vocabulary we are learning. I made a presentation to our middle school students on truffle hunting and showed a short video that I took with my camera. Martha and I are going to cook with the boys from the Durham Nativity School in March and teach them to make tarte Tatin. I am reading Death in the Truffle Wood by Pierre Magnan, a murder mystery that takes place in Provence. I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do) by Mark Greenside, The Widow Clicquot by Tilar J. Mazzeo, A Pig in Provence by Georgeanne Brennan and Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow are on the nightstand waiting for me. I consult Bistro Chicken by Mary Ellen Evans and French Woman Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano for new recipes once in a while. I check out Kristin Espinasse’s French Word-A-Day website two or three times a week for photos of Provence. In less than three weeks I head to Paris, Normandy and Senlis with 21 8th graders for our spring break trip. I continue to be a very lucky woman.

My (Nearly) Perfect Orange Brioche Recipe
(found on the back of a package of yeast in France and slightly modified…)

1/4 lb (one stick) of softened butter
1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs (at room temperature)
1/4 c. warm water
one package active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm milk
orange flavoring
2-3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
apricot or strawberry preserves
sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
Mix the butter, eggs, sugar, warm milk and orange flavoring. I have sweet orange essential oil that I bought at Florame (www.florame.com) and I use 4-5 drops of it. I know that you can find orange flavoring at the supermarket.
Add the yeast mixture and mix.
Add the combined flour and salt. Add enough flour to have a dough that you can knead (not too sticky).
Turn onto a flour covered surface and knead for about 5 minutes or so.
Place in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm place to rise. My microwave is above the stove and is a great place. Allow to rise for 2 hours.
Turn onto a flour covered surface again and knead for another 5 minutes. Shape however you wish– into rolls, two small loaves or one large one. Place in pans.
Cover again and allow to rise for 2 more hours.
After the second rising, you can bake or you can put it in the refrigerator overnight and bake the next morning (allow the dough to come to room temperature before baking).
Brush with the egg yolk and bake at 400F for about 20-30 minutes. Baking time will depend upon the shape of your brioche. Rolls take a shorter time. Adjust the oven, if necessary, lowering the temperature a bit if it seems to be baking too fast or if your oven tends to be on the hot side.
After baking, while still warm, brush with preserves (you can warm them in the microwave so that they brush easily- I have also used orange juice at this point, when I didn’t have any preserves) and then sprinkle lightly with sugar. I have mixed orange essence in with the sugar before sprinkling to give it more orange flavor. As you can see, I have played around with this recipe. It is wonderful hot from the oven. It makes really good French toast when it is a couple of days old and a bit stale. It is also good sliced and toasted. It is not very sweet. French pastries and desserts are not as sweet as American ones.
Enjoy! And please let me know if you make it and something just doesn’t work or you make a modification that helps! It isn’t perfect yet! A work in progress!

Érick’s Rice and Tuna Salad
(with my modifications!)

2 cups rice, cooked and drained (I use whole grain)
2 cans of tuna (I use tuna packed in olive oil- big difference in taste!)
1 can chick peas
1 jar (about a cup) of artichoke hearts, if desired
1 Tbsp capers (or more to taste)
Chopped green or red bell pepper, if desired
Juice of 1/2-1 lemon
Olive oil- enough to moisten the salad or to taste
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp tarragon

Mix everything together. If desired, however, you can mix the “dressing” ingredients separately- lemon juice, olive oil and mustard- and pour over the salad. This is good warm or cold. I like it at room temperature so that the olive oil warms up. I sprinkle on the sea salt just before eating.

Sometimes I use leftover pasta instead of the rice. I leave out the chick peas when I use pasta.

**Here’s the link to the original blog- I still maintain it, but for some reason, I am running it on two platforms.  Je ne sais pas pourquoi.  

http://thesabbaticalchef.blogspot.com/

Bon appétit, mes amis! 

Les photos de Fanny

fanny shoes

I would like for you to meet my French sister, Fanny.  We have been friends since we were introduced by Olivier in… let’s see, March 2010 (thank you, Google photos!). Fanny was Olivier’s son’s English teacher at the collège (middle school in France) in Villeneueve-lez-Avignon. Olivier and I became friends through a website called French in New York. Fanny came to stay with me here in Durham when we began our student exchange in 2011. Back then, I wrote about having Frenchies in my kitchen.  Olivier came along to help with the trip as well.

This morning, I started thinking about Fanny and missing her. So, I decided to ask her if I could use some of her photos in a post today. And if she would give me a new recipe. I love technology because I can instantly be in touch with her across the 4,268 miles between us.

durham-pujaut

(merci, Google)

Fanny is a very talented Française.  She is an amazing cook- we have this dream of writing a cookbook together as La Brune et la Blonde. It would require me living there through the different seasons so that we could visit the local marchés, cook, photograph and write down her recipes. Not what I would consider a problem.

Fanny is also an excellent photographer. She has an “eye” for beauty, as we say en anglais.  C’est la même expression en français, madame? She gave me permission to post photos. So, let’s go to the south of France, shall we?

First, chez Fanny. Pull up a chair and sit on the patio with Cookie.

Cookie

Sunset? Le couché du soleil?

More photos du chat? Pourquoi pas?
Lavender from her garden just for moi.
lavender
Cicada anyone?  These critters are not easy to find. They make quite a racket in Provence, but it’s hard to actually spot one. (And as I write this in my living room, I can hear the cicadas singing in the trees behind my house. It must be our “year” for them.)
cicada
Un beau papillon
butterfly
Now, let’s follow those shoes to Roussillon, the land of red dirt.
rousillon sign
This summer, she also went to Sète, a beach town I actually visited my first time in France, in 1978. Wow. Le temps passe vite… I remember eating eel in a spicy sauce the color of that dirt- la rouille à la sétoise it was called.  Rust from Sète. I didn’t photograph my food back in those days, the days of cameras, film and developing the pictures at the drugstore or mailing them off.
Fanny sent a photo of one of my favorite dishes, moules-frites. Merci, mon amie.  J’ai tellement faim.
moules
canal de sete sign
boats
Now, how about a little trip to the Camargue, a place that Fanny and I love. Oh! But first let’s stop by the Pont Van Gogh, as it in known around Arles. Vincent painted it in 1888.
pont van gogh
Then on to the white horses and pink flamingoes.
horses camargue
flamingoes
bird tracks in sand
camargue
Before we return to Chez Fanny, here are a few more of her photos.
And now, back to her lovely jardin at night. She recently hosted her daughter’s wedding here.  I so wish I could have been there. Félicitations, A et B! Happy New Year! (I haven’t forgotten.)
jardin la nuit
What a lovely day spent traipsing around with those red Converse shoes.
quelle belle journée
Now, for my new recipe à la Fanny.
 In her words–
Cet été j’ai créé un gratin de pommes de terre, légumes et poisson, ma foi délicieux.
This summer I created a baked dish of potatoes, vegetables and fish, my goodness delicious.
vegs
I am about to find out because it is baking in my oven this very minute.
Baked fish with potatoes and summer vegetables
serves 3
4 pommes de terre, épluchées et coupées en rondelles 
4 potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 oignon
1 onion, minced
1 courgette
1 zucchini, sliced
1 fenouil
1 fennel, cut in 4 pieces (I couldn’t find this so I substituted dried fennel)
1 citron jaune
1 lemon, sliced
1 tomate
1 tomato, sliced
3 morceaux de poisson blanc type cabillaud
3 pieces of white fish, such as cod (had to google it… have forgotten my fish words)
Huile d’olive
Olive oil
Sel et poivre
Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Dans un plat à gratin profond tu mets une couche de patates, sel, poivre, l’oignon émincé et le fenouil coupé en 4, au four jusqu’à 3/4 cuisson à 200 degrés celcius (fais le calcul en Fahrenheit 😂) en couvrant de papier alu
In a deep baking dish, layer potatoes, salt, pepper, the minced onion and the fennel. Place in oven, preheated to 400˚F (calculate that – laughing face), covering with aluminum foil. Bake until about 3/4 done (I figured about 15 minutes).
Puis rondelles tomate, courgette, citron, sel poivre et huile d’olives et poisson on top. Re four avec toujours papier.
Then add slices of tomato, zucchini, lemon, salt, pepper, olive oil and fish on top. Cover with the aluminum and put back in the oven.  (About 10 minutes this time)
fish
Quand c’est presque cuit tu enlèves papier pour faire un peu dorer
Tu peux rajouter un filet d’huile si trop sec.
When it is almost done, remove the aluminum foil so that it will brown a bit. Add a few drops of olive oil if it is too dry. (I left it in for about 15 more minutes.)
Et tu sers avec un blanc bien frais! (Il y en a un nouveau à la Cave de Pujaut just fine!)
Serve with a nice chilled white wine! (There is a new one at the wine shop in Pujaut that is… just fine!)  She is teasing me again. Shame on you, Fanny. (Only kidding- I wouldn’t have it any other way!)
ferme
La Vieille Ferme is from the Southern Rhône Valley.  That works.
fini
Et voilà. À table!
Bon appétit!  Merci, Fanny.  Je t’embrasse très fort et je te dis à bientôt (j’espère). Keep up with your friends. It is so easy these days.

Once a mom…

sleeping in chair

…always a mom. These two little critters are now 29 and 24. When I look at photos like this one I want to turn the clock back. Please? Just for a little while? What would I do differently? Nag more? Worry less? Check homework more often? Read more stories at bedtime? Feed them more vegetables? Make more of their favorite cookies?

I try not to second guess myself too much.  They have turned into amazing young men and I am very proud of them. They both graduated from Durham Academy, where I teach, an academically demanding school.  Each had to be in my French classes in the middle school, one for three years, the other for two. They were lifers, attending DA for 14 years each. They were very good athletes, balancing homework, practices and games. Both won awards and were team captains in their respective sports. One had to play basketball for his dad. Both graduated from college, one from Guilford College, the other from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Go Quakers. Go Vols. Son #1 played college basketball, the equivalent of working a demanding part-time job. He is now a dad (hence my previous posts about the joys of grandmotherhood). And a very good one. He is moving into a new job in his chosen field of school administration and teaching. He has brought EB into our life, my chance to finally have a daughter. Buddha dog is pretty cool, too. Son #2 is in law school and has successfully interned with a real estate law firm for the past year. He has moved twice since his Knoxville days, now settling into Charleston, SC, a city I plan to visit soon. He has a girlfriend and we are already quite fond of her and her sweet pup. They recently adopted a kitten they named Charlotte after the city where they met (Charlie for short).

These darlings aren’t perfect. Neither am I. Not by a long shot. We’ve laughed, cried, yelled, played hours of UNO, SkipBo, and now Cards Against Humanity games, eaten many, many breakfast-for-dinner meals, hugged, covered thousands of miles on family road trips to Nebraska, Québec, DC and to the NC mountains and beach, watched countless sporting events together whether on TV or in person, laughed at silly sitcoms and game shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway, learned to count in español with the Sesame Street gang, sung along with Barney while wearing Barney bedroom slippers, tried to figure out the ending to several seasons of CSI, watched Disney movies from the late ’80’s to the mid-2000’s, including The Little Mermaid about a million times, eaten more than our fair share of popsicles and bags of microwave popcorn, read every single Berenstain Bears book multiple times, built lego spaceships and castles… I could go on and on, but I risk making myself cry if I keep this up. Right now, the eyes are just a bit misty. I just hope that they know that I have done my best.  (Now, I am crying.)

Some favorite photos–

 

2009beach

Jakes grad 11

beach14

I love you, Son #1 and Son #2.  You are all I could ever have hoped for in the mom department.

Son #1’s Sausage and Brie Bites

Son #1 loves to make these at the beach and on our back deck. Buy whatever kind of sausage you like- we usually buy andouille. Cut it into bite-sized pieces (but not too small). Choose a good creamy French Brie cheese and leave it out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. We usually use Triscuit crackers for our feast. Fire up the grill. Cook the sausages, being careful not to lose any to the coals! Sprinkle with red pepper flakes or any other seasonings or sauces you like.  Voilà.  Let the party begin.

Son’s #2’s Shrimp and Grits with Sausage

peeling shrimp

Grits
1 c. grits
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 c. cheese (extra sharp white cheddar or Gouda)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Cayenne pepper, paprika, Tabasco, salt and pepper, to taste (usually better to start with small amounts, taste and adjust)

Cook grits according to instructions on package.  As grits are finishing, whisk in butter, cheeses and seasonings.  Cover and keep warm.

Shrimp
3 Tbsp. each butter and olive oil
2 c. sliced leeks
1/2 c. chopped shallots
3 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 lbs. 20-30 count shrimp
4-5 grilled andouille sausages, cut into bite-sized slices
1/2 dry white wine or vegetable stock
Chopped roma tomatoes, if desired
4-5 strips of bacon fried crisp
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish, if desired

This cooks very quickly.  Be sure to have everything ready and easy to reach before beginning.
Heat large skillet until hot.  Add olive oil and butter.  As oil begins to smoke, add leeks and shallots.  Sauté until translucent.  Toss in shrimp to cover bottom of pan.  Before stirring, add salt and pepper.  Stir until shrimp just begin to turn pink all over.  Let pan return to original hot temperature.  Stir in garlic and be careful not to burn it.  Add sausages.  Deglaze pan by adding wine or vegetable stock.  Stir for about 30 seconds or until everything is well-coated.  Add tomatoes, if using, and toss for about 20 seconds.  Serve immediately.

To serve:
Spoon grits on to plate.  Spoon shrimp/sausage mixture on top of grits.  Crumble bacon on top.   Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Bon appétit to all moms and sons. To all families in all shapes and sizes. Hug each other as often as possible.

 

The end is in sight

macaron and tex

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

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

char_tex

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

char_joe-bob

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

char_paw-paw

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

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

13394185_10208697261963203_6023966738898579714_n

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

beach

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

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

18739757_10211973752233412_2998096486326180624_n

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

18921807_10212039069786310_6304379461593097636_n

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

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

kennedyJune

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

chicken salad

Chicken Salad

adapted from Inside Brucrew Life

Shredded chicken from 1 rotisserie chicken

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

3 stalks celery, chopped

4 c. halved red seedless grapes

Salt and pepper, to taste, if desired

1 c. sour cream

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

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

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

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

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

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

gardenia

 

 

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.

A Paradox

According to Merriam-Webster’s Learners Dictionary:

paradox

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

Simple Definition of paradox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pepe-le-pew

http://thesmartergardener.com/

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

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

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

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

Easy Crockpot Cassoulet

southernfood.about.com

serves 6

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped

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

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1/2 tsp. black pepper

4 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 Tbsp. water

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

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

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

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

can-cassoulet

Bon appétit to those who dare to be different.  

 

 

A Life Well-Lived

dave g

Saying good-bye in any language has always been very difficult for me.  Au revoir, ciao, adieu, arrivederci, salut, see you later, see you soon.  They all mean the same thing.  I hope that I will see you again.  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Yesterday, we said good-bye to Dave Gould in a packed school auditorium.  A room packed with childhood friends, college chums, mates, colleagues, former students, and family members.  I volunteered to organize this celebration of his life because his wife asked me to and because that is my best way of dealing with grief.  Get busy and put off thinking about the hole that will be left behind when I no longer see this person again or get random emails from him.  At least not until I reach the other side.  Dave will be in my heaven.  It wouldn’t be complete without him.  If I didn’t invite him in, he would crash the party anyway!  Using a press pass.  Or sweet-talking his way in.

I put together a slideshow using photos supplied by his wife and daughters, friends, our communications staff at school and various photos I have sitting in the cloud known as Google Photo and Photo Library.  The one above is my favorite, I think.  This is how I will choose to remember my friend of 35 years.  The ultimate prankster, a man who made you think (or THIMK, according to his students), and who loved life and gave it his all.  Perfect? Lord, no.  No more than any of us are.  I heard his wife say more than once “Damn it, David.”  At one point, she was so fed up with him for not eating that I came over to give him cooking lessons.  I think that it was a ruse on his part just to get me over and to be able to tease me, but making macaroni and cheese with him and chasing her out of the kitchen with a book and glass of wine in hand may have saved her sanity just a bit.  I hope so.

I got to say good-bye to him 10 days before he died.  I didn’t know it was our final good-bye.  Rarely do you know it at the time.  But I am so grateful that I had that chance.  I had the chance to hug him, kiss him, and say “Gould, I love you, but you are still full of shit.” That always made him laugh.  It was high praise.  And the truth.

Our final email exchange went like this:

6/24 12:16 pm

ok, ms. e, I’ll treat you to a free lunch if you can tell me who mark sackling was – a hint:  obviously he has to do with DA and you would have known him.

dg
6/24 1:00 pm
Okay, sweetie, that name is ringing not a single bell. But give me a couple of hours(days? Months? Years?) to think! Can we have lunch anyway?? Please?
Teresa
6/25 1:16 pm
oh we can certainly have lunch, but it’s always more fun if you have to work for it!  You probably are a lot closer to this boy/guy/man than you think you are. Keep thinking!  Tweak that memory of yours!
6/25 8:12 am
Mark Sackling?? I will continue to rack my brain…
6/25 8:28 am
ok, ok, first hint.  he was not a student of yours but he was at DA
Break in emailing– I ran into DG and his wife in downtown Durham at an outdoor concert at American Tobacco.  Balsam Range, my favorite bluegrass band, was playing.  This is where the aforementioned hugs and kisses took place.
7/1 1:01 pm

good seeing you last nite at ATP – can see why you love the Balsam group so much .. . great music.

But back to your search for Mark Sackling:
next clue:  Mark was a colleague of yours for a while tho you saw him more on the Upper School Campus than the Middle School campus.  I know you know him b/c there were several occasions in front of the Fine Arts bldg when  I happened to bump into you guys having a conversation there.  Seemed like a quite likable man; reminded me of a chip off the old block of guys like Timmy and Dick F.
Still having fun??!
7/2 7:28 pm
Ok, M. Gould, I am assuming that you played the part of Mark Sackling. I do not even remember the name of my character. Sing played Quartermaine. That’s the best I can come up with.   Did I earn my lunch??
A confession (to you, I did not get a chance to confess to DG)–  Since I figured I had no chance in hell of figuring out his riddle, I cheated and consulted the all-knowing Google. All I had to do was look at the first hit and it came to me.
7/2 8:18 pm

Not bad, not bad, and in fact pretty impressive, but not quite there yet.  Shouldn’t have given you all those clues in last email – age has made you wiser and savvier!  You are right – I was Mark Sackling, Sing was Quartermaine, and you were _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _

And you don’t need any more clues about your character’s name b/c they, too, were in the last email . . .
(and damn, I should’ve made the last clue I sent a bit more obtuse so you’d really have to search a bit harder.)
(and if I can remember all this in my march towards forgetfulness, with all the years I’m giving you, you should have no problems . . .)
That is when I should have confessed.  Wiser and savvier!  Ha!  Not a chance.  That was our last email exchange.  I didn’t respond.  I left for Sunset Beach for a week and never answered.  We returned from the beach July 9 and on July 10 I got a call from Dave’s wife that he had passed away in his sleep that morning.
And just to prove that he could get the last word in, a couple of days later, I was looking for something in my nightstand and what should I find underneath a book, but very near the top–
quatermaine
I hadn’t thought about the play in years until Mark Sackling popped up.  We put this on at school in the 80’s.  And I didn’t think that I still had the playbook.  Coincidence?  Hmmm… not so sure.
the crew
france12 best
We had some fun over the past 35 years.  Dinners, parties, hiding beer cans, playing games, sand tennis, Sunset Beach, The Fruit Olympics, France, listening to your awful French.
You had a crush on Princess Diana?  How could I not have known that Gould fact??  I really would have teased you about that.  Or maybe not.  Somehow that just makes you more adorable in my eyes.
princessdi
Thank you for being my friend, Dave Gould.  I love you!
One more thing before you go back to whatever mischief you are up to in your heaven.
Anita Manchip.  I played Anita.  I look forward to collecting on that free lunch one of these days!
Dave’s favorite movie was Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  His daughters chose to show a clip of it at the celebration.
His favorite poem was The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service.  I found this version, read by Johnny Cash.
obit
Dave’s Mac and Cheese

I am renaming my favorite recipe in honor of my friend.  If you are looking for low-calorie, forget it.  But if you are looking for comfort, get out the pot and pan.

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
3 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or a mixture of cheddar and Monterey Jack)
16-oz. macaroni
Salt, pepper (black or white), ground mustard or Texas Pete sauce can be added.  Or a combination of all.  Today, I decided to add bacon that had been cooked to crispy and then drained on paper towels.

Cook macaroni in salted, boiling water until it is al dente (for small elbows, about 9 minutes).
Drain, rinse, and set aside.
Melt butter in large pan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and combine well.  Cook for about a minute to remove the flour taste.  Gradually add milk and continue to whisk.  Cook until the mixture thickens into a creamy roux.  Add seasonings and whisk well.  Remove from heat.
Add 2-1/2 cups of the cheese and stir until melted and combined.
Put macaroni into a buttered baking pan.  (I cooked the bacon in the cast iron pan and left some of the drippings in for flavor, so I didn’t need to butter the pan.)  Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir well.  (I added the crumbled bacon at this point, reserving some for the top.)
Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. (My grandmother always topped hers with bread crumbs or crushed crackers.)
Bake in pre-heated 350˚F oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is bubbling.

Bon appétit to all my friends.  I love each and every one of you.  At the end, may we all be able to say that we led a life well-lived.  You may be gone from us physically, Dave Gould, but you will never be forgotten.
DG beach