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)

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

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  • 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

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  • 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)

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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.

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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-

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Le 14 juillet 2017

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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.

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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:

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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.

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

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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.

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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’.

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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!

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

#frenchproblems

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Image: Lina Nordin

Social media could take over a person’s life.  Am I right?  Tweets, Instagram, Facebook posts and private messages just to name the ones I actually have on my phone.  Lord only knows how many more there are and how many more are either in the works or in someone’s head about to pop out. I tweet once in a blue moon, I post photos on Instagram just about as often. Facebook and I are buddies. I mean, how amazing that I can “talk” to my French friends in real time. Back in the olden days, way before the internet and cell phones, when regular phone calls to and from France cost a small fortune (not to mention that in 1978 I had to give Mama Mildred’s phone number to a woman at la poste, who would pretend not to understand my French thus reducing me to tears, and ask her to dial it for me, I would go to a bank of phones, talk to Mama for 30 seconds or so, then give the woman however many French francs she demanded, hoping that I understood her number and didn’t give her 10 times more than she asked for). Ah, the good old days.  Damn traumatic is more like it.  At least that first time in Paris. And letters? They took (and still take, by the way) 7-10 days to arrive, if they arrived at all. I’ve watched postal workers take my postcards, stick them up on a shelf, then assure me that they will get to my friends, Mama, husband and/or children in the U.S. But for all of that, I do not allow my students to randomly use their cell phones except to take photos and check the time.  No text messaging, snapchatting, instragramming, or whatever kids do these days. They may most certainly check in with their parents and pals once we are back at the hotel and checked in for the night. I am careful to follow my own rules as well.  It’s called living in the moment.  And having something to show and tell everyone when you get home.

I digress un peu. I came across a very funny article in The Local this morning.  Tell me that this would not pique your interest if you are at all interested in France.

Twitter reveals 25 everyday ‘problems’ about life in France

I could not not read that, could I?  And then try to locate my Twitter password (I couldn’t so I had to change it), log on, and follow this group (or whatever a group is called on Twitter). #franceproblems

Here’s the run-down on the list with my experiences noted.

  1. Waiters giving women their phone numbers.  Even as a femme d’un certain âge, I have to admit this is rather flattering.  Harmless really. It happened to me about three years ago during a solo January trip, but it wasn’t a waiter,  but a museum guard at Le Grand Palais.  I had just seen an exhibit about Gertrude Stein and her art collection and was exiting the exhibit when a guard stopped me. Of course, the first thing that popped into my head is that I swear I did not touch a painting. Did I take photos? No flash? Was it even allowed? No, he just wanted to tell me how beautiful I am, ask me my name (that day I became Isabella) and give me his phone number on a slip of paper.
  2. Kiss vs handshake.  Okay, this can be a bit worrisome.  Kiss your friends.  How many times?  Twice? Three times? Depends on where you are in France. In Paris and northern France I’ve found that two times suffices.  With my friends in the south of France, it’s usually three.  Total strangers? A very quick handshake will do. Not the pumping thing that Americans tend to do sometimes.  I practice with my students. Not les bises, just the handshake. I call in a nearby teacher to help me with the kissing thing. But no hugs. At least not unless they are very good friends and grab you first.
  3. Somewhere to eat in the late afternoon. The French eat at meal times, my American friends. They are not a nation of snackers and eat anytime you please people.  Look around you next time you are there. They are not obese. Plan your meals a little more carefully when you are there.  Or find a café that is open all day. No, it won’t be a Michelin star restaurant, but it will tide you over. And dinner before 6:00 pm? Never. Apéritifs, the after work drinks with a friend, but even dinner at 6:00 is a ridiculous idea.  Usually around 8:00-8:30 pm for families.  Later in Paris on a night out perhaps or the weekend.
  4. Resisting the temptations of French cuisine. Ha! I do not do that. Why? Moderation and the knowledge that you are walking many kilometers a day help. Resist a chocolate dessert?  A pretty pink macaron from Pierre Hermé?  An éclair at Christophe Adam’s shop? Jamais. Now, granted when living there, you really have to practice that moderation thing. But I found that the food at meals was so incredibly satisfying that I didn’t really need to overindulge. Sweets aren’t as sugary there either. (Dare I say sugar is the downfall of the American diet?)
  5. Baguettes.  No preservatives are used so you must consume the whole thing within a few hours and buy a new one tonight or tomorrow. Otherwise you are looking at a baseball bat not fit to consume unless you are going to toast it a bit, throw on some gruyère cheese and add it to the top of your soupe à l’oignon. The government controls the price of basic baguettes so that everyone can afford them.  There is also a yearly baguette competition in Paris with the winner supplying baguettes to M. Le Président for a year.  How cool is that? I try to remember to check the list, write down the address of the top finishers and try one.  Well worth it.
  6. Planning Sunday meal in advance. Or buying anything much on Sunday. If grocery stores are open on Sunday, it is for a short period of time in the early morning.  Day of rest. Time with families. Think and plan ahead. Period. I learned that when I thought I would run over to Monoprix in Arles one Sunday afternoon to pick up a few things I needed.  Guess again. I sat down at a café for a glass of rosé instead, wrote some postcards and people-watched instead.  Much more fun.
  7. French hobbies- striking and smoking. It does seem that a lot of French people smoke.  The crowd I hang with at home does not. When I go home to my little mountain town in NC, there is still plenty of evidence of smokers. French cigarette packages are not pretty– they carry the words Fumer Tuer or something to that effect in big black letters.  Smoking kills. Strikes?  Yes, they can be very inconvenient for visitors.  No trash pick up.  No train. No public transportation. No museum guards. No postal service. No air traffic controllers. It seems to be a part of the way they get things done… better pay, better benefits.  Maybe it all dates back to the Revolution, what do I know of such things.  There are unions for teachers in the US, but not in my state.  It’s illegal.
  8. Filling out forms- French bureaucracy.  I have heard horror stories, but I have no firsthand knowledge of this one.  You are on your own if you decide to move over, buy a house or even apply for a visa. Talk to someone who has lived through it and get some sound advice (from an American, not a Frenchman- you will probably just get a Gallic shoulder shrug and a C’est comme ça or C’est normal.)
  9. Red wine, smelly cheese and kissing your boyfriend afterwards.  Seriously? This is a problem? Not in my book. I have nothing to add. Except maybe eat some of the cheese yourself and slurp some Côtes du Rhône with him and then you won’t notice.
  10. Face cream that smells like Camembert and has to be kept in the fridge.  Never heard of it.  Désolée.  I just use a basic American brand, nothing fancy or smelly. In Arles, we did have a small refrigerator just for the cheese, though.  Smelly?  Oh yeah.  Délicieux aussi.
  11. Watch where you walk- dog poop.  Very real danger. And smelly to boot. Yes, everyone is supposed to carry plastic baggies and clean up after Fifi when she does her business, but does it always happen in any city?  Non. And one day in Paris, I did overhear an older monsieur berating a jeune homme for not cleaning up after his chien. A real tongue-lashing.  The French love their dogs and there are many mostly well-behaved ones.  They take them almost everywhere they go- with the exception of museums and supermarkets.
  12. Looking chic- no sweatpants in public.  It’s a thing. I did not wear mine outside of the house. I don’t take any with me when I go. You do not have to look like you stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine, Elle, for instance, but watch the jogging and yoga clothes in public unless you really are going running.  Yoga clothes would probably be changed into in the studio. If you want to wear sneakers, Converse and Vans are popular. When my feet are killing me and I must wear mine, I have black ones that don’t scream tourist. I already wear a lot of black.  And scarves. Casual is fine- meaning jeans. Put together, I guess you’d say.
  13. Fiscal stamps needed for visas.  Once again, no experience here.  Take a good book to read and just don’t be in a rush.  Won’t help.  Will only make you très mad and trop frustrated. Have a nice drink  and people watch at a café afterwards to calm down.
  14. Good meat pie. Seriously? You miss that? Try Québec and their lovely tourtière next vacation.  If you are living there, make one yourself. Feed it to a Frenchie to gauge their interest. That’s always fun. You will know if they don’t like it. And you will know if they do. And then maybe you will start the next food fad.
  15. Frenchmen find their next love on the street.  Well… one lovely January Sunday afternoon I was strolling (flâner– I love this word) along the Seine making my way towards Notre Dame. I felt as if someone was following me, well, not really following, just walking along parallel to me.  Sure enough. A nicely dressed Frenchman struck up a conversation. He even asked if he could buy me a souvenir at one of the bouquinistes stands.  Mais oui, merci, monsieur. When he asked if I’d like to stop somewhere for a coffee or a drink, I declined and told him that I was meeting friends at Notre Dame.  Was I? Non. But he didn’t press the issue and got lost, perhaps looking for another single woman to buy a salt and pepper shaker for. I didn’t feel threatened or harassed. It was broad daylight, there were a million other people strolling the same as we were, I speak French well.
  16. Breakfast- no eggs and bacon.  The French do not eat eggs before lunch and then they will be in an omelette, quiche or hard-boiled with a lovely house made mayonnaise spread on top.  Bread, butter, jam, yogurt, fruit, coffee, tea or hot chocolate for le petit déj.  Voilà. Who am I to argue with a baguette or croissant or pain aux raisins.
  17. Train strikes.  A pain in the neck. They are usually announced beforehand so that you are warned. See #7. I’ve missed a side trip or two due to this. C’est la vie.
  18. Finding an open food store after work or a late class. Check times for the corner grocery store.  Plan ahead.  What else can I say? The French like to go home to dinner, too. Easier to find an open one in Paris than in smaller towns.
  19. Banks and businesses that close for lunch.  Mealtimes are sacred, in case you haven’t caught on, even for bank employees and shop clerks. Sacred. An hour and a half usually.  No running errands during lunch.  Barbarians do that. Eat. Have a nice lunch break. Don’t eat in the car or at your desk. A picnic outside if the weather is nice.
  20. Becoming addicted to French cheese.  This is a problem?? Only if you have to go home and you can’t find your favorite kind(s) or you have to pay a small fortune for it. I don’t think you will find a recovery group for this. I dream about fresh chèvre and Camembert or Brie served at just the right temperature. But remember, it is NOT eaten as an hors-d’oeuvre in France. Cheese has it’s own course, after the main course and green leaf salad dressed with house made vinaigrette. Three choices usually suffice. A cow’s milk, sheep perhaps, and a goat. Mon dieu, I miss the cheese.  Or as the French say– Le fromage me manque.  The cheese is lacking to me.
  21. Obtaining a French visa for non-EU citizens.  I am a non-EU citizen, but I have never tried to apply for a visa.  When my dream school or company hires me, I am sure they will take of that for me. Right?
  22. Drinking coffee. Well, I drink it with lots of hot milk for breakfast, but I never adapted to the custom of little cups of espresso after lunch and dinner and at a coffee break in between.  I do get disbelieving stares sometimes in restaurants, but I imagine they are thinking — Eh, l’Américaine. With the Gallic shrug. That explains it.
  23. Listening to neighbors have sex.  No comment. Not touching that one.
  24. Having your French corrected. It happens. Take it for what it’s worth. A quick smile and apology for butchering their lovely language will usually get the corrector off your back.  Once again, you may get the Eh, l’Américaine look. After all, the corrector probably does not speak English and is not aware that we do not have that guttural R thing in our language nor do we care about all words flowing together nicely. Most Frenchies are very nice to me and think that I have un accent charmant. I have learned to take that as a compliment. I try. It took me a while to accept the fact that I will never sound like a Française.  Pas possible. I started learning French at the age of 14 or 15.  Too late. But I will keep trying until I draw my last breath.
  25. Shower curtains and hand-held shower heads.  The shower curtain thing puzzles me, too. Some hotels have half glass doors. That, mes amis, does not protect against water all over the floor.  And I am very careful. Imagine the angst I suffer when taking 14 year-olds to stay in French hotels.  I am lucky we have never had to pay for a flooded room below. I pray to the shower gods about this every March. The hand-held things sometimes attach to the wall, sometimes not. I just sit and take a shower-bath, if necessary.  After all, I AM IN FRANCE.  What is there really to complain about?

The blue and yellow salt and pepper shakers hugging are my souvenir from the Random French Man day.  On my shelf of do-dads in my classroom!

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Bon appétit!  Hope you learned something! 

Paris has to wait (for me)

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

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

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

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

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

Hazelnut Sablée Crust and Chocolate Ganache Tarts

recipe from Érick Vedel and Madeleine Vedel

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

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

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

For the chocolate ganache:

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

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

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

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my lavendar

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

SV Day 4: Out and about

around the curve

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

house

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

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

car dashboard

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

fork in the road.jpg

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

Signs should be this straightforward–

straight sign

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

t-shirt

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

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

MrPickles

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

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

chip

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

napoleon.jpg

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

Angora goats.  Beautiful and incredibly soft.

goat1

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

These two babies are twins.

baby goats

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

guard llama

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

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

black alpaca

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

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

alpaca leg

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

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

A few other photos-

I enjoyed my time at her farm immensely.

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

old house

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

vines

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

wineglass

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

playing in the creek

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

63d2415f-cdca-4c9c-904d-48a156b1150e

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

rain.jpg

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

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

 

Looking back, moving forward

ET with K&K

This is Waterproof Mascara time.  In my chosen profession, saying good-bye can be overwhelming.  A time of joy and a time of sadness.  All jumbled up.  Moments of unbelievable fun fill up my days and years as a teacher.  As I say jokingly (but not really) at this time of year, I get attached to the little angels (or rats, depending on the day and my/their mood).  It is just plain old hard to say good-bye, even as my heart is filled with love and excitement for them. These two are especially near and dear to my heart.  They graduated on Friday on an incredibly beautiful Carolina blue sky day on the campus of UNC.  Daniel Wallace, an author I admire, gave the commencement speech.  It wasn’t too long or filled with lofty wisdom- wisdom, yes, but delivered in his own way.  The entire graduating class sang.  I cheered as many of them crossed the stage to get the coveted diploma.

These two girls are examples of our best.  Tall Blond has accomplished more already than I ever will.  She went to France twice with me.  I was afraid that she would be snatched up by an agent or designer during Paris Fashion Week when she was in 8th grade. Seriously.  Long legs and an amazing sense of style.  Check out these boots that she told me she saved her babysitting money for and then wore them on the trip. I wish I could pull that off. In my next life.

katie's boots

In the middle of the top photo is my “Macaron” as she dubbed herself one day. Do I love that brave young woman?  With all of my heart.  She came to DA as a sixth grader. Sixth graders with no language experience get stuck in beginning French with moi. (Thank you, Ed the Head.  This class is often the highlight of my day.) It is my job to brainwash them and convince them to stick with me for three years. My Macaron did just that, even when the going was tough. She wasn’t able to travel to France with me with she was in 8th grade, but in 10th grade she asked if I would take her.  Tall Blond asked to go along again as well. I did not have to think twice about that.

katie kyla back

Those two had some fun.  They discovered a thrift shop in the Marais and had a grand time.  (My personal favorite way to shop.) I later discovered that Macaron had a suitcase just for her shoes!  Lord have mercy.

I often look back at photos of past trips.  Each trip with students over the past 30 years holds special moments.  The year it snowed and we detoured to Rouen instead of the D-Day beaches.  My first time there.  It was very moving to see the spot where Jeanne d’Arc was burned at the stake.

joan of arc site

Paris covered in snow is quite special as well.

The years of exchanges with schools in Senlis and Villeneuve-lez-Avignon.  Trying to fill them up with do’s and don’ts before being whisked away by their French families.

family pickup

Going horseback riding in the Camargue. I was the only injured one, thank goodness, and not one student witnessed me being thrown from the huge white beast.  No photos exist.

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1987.  My first student trip.  Arles.  Foreshadowing, for sure.

1987

Making crêpes with Chef Érick in Arles. A very happy girl, n’est-ce pas?

megan h making crepes

The trip with Son #2 (Son #1’s class didn’t get a trip… 9/11 happened.)

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A couple of the annual countdowns…

I will continue to put on the waterproof mascara (Lancôme’s Hypnôse Drama is my current favorite) each morning for the next couple of weeks as I bid this year’s 8th grade class farewell.  Most of them will make the journey to our upper school, just a couple of miles down the road.  A few will transfer to public school or to boarding school.  One will move to Florida.  I will miss seeing their smiling (or grumpy) faces every day.

Just a week or so ago, I made biscuits for my advisees.  Several of them had never had a homemade biscuit.  Lord have mercy.  Bless their hearts.  They scarfed them down and one girlie asked for the recipe.  Here you go, honey.  Make them your-own-self this summer!  I have used many recipes over the years.  I do not use shortening, opting for butter instead.

biscuit

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

recipe from Food.com

makes about 10 biscuits

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Cut the butter into chunks and cut into the flour until it resembles course meal
  4. Add the buttermilk and mix JUST until combined.
  5. If it appears on the dry side, add a bit more buttermilk. It should be very wet.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured board.
  7. Gently, gently PAT (do NOT roll with a rolling pin) the dough out until it’s about 1/2″ thick. Fold the dough about 5 times, gently press the dough down to a 1 inch thick.
  8. Use a round cutter dipped in flour to cut into rounds. (or cut into squares using a sharp knife dipped in flour- you won’t have to knead the dough again and you won’t waste any)
  9. You can gently knead the scraps together and make a few more, but they will not be anywhere near as good as the first ones.
  10. Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper- if you like soft sides, put them touching each other.
  11. If you like”crusty” sides, put them about 1 inch apart- these will not rise as high as the biscuits put close together.
  12. Bake for about 10-12 minutes- the biscuits will be a beautiful light golden brown on top and bottom. Do not over bake.

Bon appétit to the Class of 2017!  Bonnes vacances!  Have fun.  Be safe.  

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.

This & That: March 2017 Edition

dirty-dishes

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

banana-bread

Voilà.

So, random stuff this morning.

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

kennedywaving

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

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

swann

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

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

Quick coffee and banana bread break…

bread-and-coffee

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

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

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

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

#1

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

#2

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

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

beret-on-mannequin-head-620

(photo: CBS News)

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

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

granddad

As I wrote yesterday on my Facebook page:

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

New life.  New beginnings.  New love.

Easy Sunday Morning Banana Bread

adapted from Simply Recipes

makes 1 loaf, 4 x 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Puppies, kittens, and Paris

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I am tired of news.  I refuse to watch it or read it.  It only makes me grumpy and grouchy. And anyone who knows me knows that I am neither very often.  Life is too short.  And in the words of Jacques Prévert, my favorite French poet, “Later will be too late.  Our life is now.”  That’s my translation, not an “official” one.  It works for me.  I haven’t felt like blogging or being creative and I need to shake that.  So, I am back in the saddle.  A great way to start feeling happy is to look at puppies.

Let’s start with Buddha.  He is Son #1 and Daughter-in-Law’s pup.  The only dog I’ve ever met who pouts.  I admit that I am not really a dog person (much to the chagrin of every single relative of mine), but Buddha is a love.  He doesn’t smell stinky.  He loves my boy.  He doesn’t aggravate my cat.  He rarely barks.

buddha

And how about Max?  He belongs to my Cuz and I bet he is just a little bit spoiled! Adorable.

max

Finally, siblings recently adopted by friends…

Molly

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Maggie Mae

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Now, it’s time for kittens.  Callie is ours.  She is sleeping next to me right now.  Studiously ignoring me, of course.  We’ve had her for about 9 years.  Her brother passed away last spring.  She is good company, doesn’t make messes, sleeps on my feet, hides in the bathroom when we have company, especially those with dogs, and is generally pretty darned content.  This is her “I am bored with you” look.

callie

My French girlfriends love cats, too.  Madame M has Tao.  A very Zen cat.  Looks pretty comfy, n’est-ce pas?

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And Bigoudi.  We’ve spent a few nights together in the south of France Chez Fanny.  A loyal America-loving feline.  I like her choice in college basketball allegiances.  Of course, I may have played a small part in that…  BTW, a bigoudi is a hair curler in French.  In case you were wondering.

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For the Paris part.  This time last week, I had just returned from a six-day trip to La Ville Lumière made possible by ACIS, the company I use for my student trips.  It was cold.  The Siberian wind blew in one day.  It was a bit rainy.  I got lost a couple of times looking for Lafayette.  The heat didn’t work very well in my hotel room. But who cares about any of that?  I WAS IN PARIS.  I met some amazing teachers.  My roommate, from Venezuela by way of Wisconsin, was a bundle of energy.

I found three first-timers who allowed me to show them some of my favorite Parisian spots, including Place du Tertre in Montmartre. Merci, mes nouveaux amis!

montmartre

I ate some of my favorite foods– foie gras, fromage, soupe à l’oignon, croque madame

And some sweets, of course.  Pain perdu, macarons et chocolat.

A glass of wine at a couple of my favorite cafés, as well as champagne at the Eiffel Tower.

Speaking of La Grande Dame, I added a few more photos to the hundreds (thousands?) that I already have.

I climbed the steps of Notre Dame to say hello to the chimera and gargoyles.  I lit a candle for Mme Buchanan, my high school French teacher.

The crèche in Notre Dame was made with santons from Arles.  An unexpected blessing.

I visited with Vincent at the Musée d’Orsay. Sad to say, Starry Night over the Rhône is not there at the moment.  It must be out and about in another exhibit. Well, as a matter of fact, Google just told me that it is in Ontario until January 29 when it will make its way back to Paris.  By mid-March, I hope.

There are so many statues to admire at the Orsay, as well.

Just strolling the streets, I found beauty at every turn.  The Panthéon.  L’Opéra Garnier. Ile Saint Louis. Sacré Coeur. Sainte Chapelle. Trocadéro. A random rose still alive in winter.

A real highlight was to have dinner at Mary Claude’s apartment in the 16e arrondissement. This is a new addition to the ACIS offerings for travelers.  They work with VizEat, a company that pairs eaters with cookers/hosts and hostesses.  Mary Claude (in the white shirt) could not have been more gracious.

mc-claire-and-bouchra

She fed us exceptionally well.  Leek tart, charcuterie, soup for starters–

Risotto and chicken for our main dishes–

truffle-risotto

Du fromage?  But of course!  I took it upon myself to give the others a lesson in cheese cutting (always respect the form!)–

and Galette des Rois for dessert.

marie-claude

When I had a chance to talk to Mary Claude, in between courses, I asked about the soup (I didn’t take a photo…) and the risotto.  The soup was butternut, made with chestnuts.  I peeked in the kitchen to get a look at her food processor.

food-processor

I am very fond of risotto.  This was probably the best I’ve ever eaten.  I wanted to know her secret.  At first, she told me that it was “just” risotto.  But I knew better, so I brought the conversation back to the risotto after learning about the soup.  Look closely–

truffle-risotto

Those brown specks?  Truffles.  And truffle oil in the initial preparation stage.  Aha!  Not “just” risotto.  The earthiness of truffles + the creaminess of the rice = a perfect marriage of flavors.

It was a wonderful trip.  It will keep me going for the next few weeks.  I will return in six weeks with 22 8th graders.

La vie est belle.  

notre-dame

And, by the way, I finally found General Lafayette.  Tucked away in the back corner of the Picpus Cemetery.  Winter hours 2-4 pm.  12e arrondissement.  Did you know his real name was Gilbert de Motier?  I did not.

lafayette

Bon appétit, old and new friends.  May you see beauty wherever you are.