Paris has to wait (for me)

PCW

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

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

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

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

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

Hazelnut Sablée Crust and Chocolate Ganache Tarts

recipe from Érick Vedel and Madeleine Vedel

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

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

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

For the chocolate ganache:

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

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

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

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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

16105572_10154915648979469_2266792279274712328_n

Maggie Mae

16114441_10212035240302668_6380037633807498556_n

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?

14900429_1232648636757207_3399352865477207562_n

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.  

97 and 41

A post from the past entitled 94 and 47 popped up on my Facebook page yesterday.  It was from 2013.  At first, I couldn’t figure out what the title meant.

blonde et brune.jpg

Then, looking at the smiling faces of La Blonde et La Brune, it dawned on me.  The countdown until my 2014 trips to France!  I posted the countdown until my 2017 trips on my classroom whiteboard at about 10:00 yesterday morning.  Coincidence?  Non!  I don’t believe in them.  It’s just where my mind goes at this time of year.

In French 8, we are studying food vocabulary.  A couple of days ago, I posted the following activity for the kiddos in the class Evernote notebook:

C’est jeudi 1er décembre. Tu es maintenant à Paris. Tu as vraiment faim et il est midi et demi.  Regarde ce plan de Paris et dis-moi où tu es.  Tu es tout(e) seul(e) ou tu es avec un(e) ami(e)?
paris-map-monuments1
Qu’est-ce que tu viens de faire?  Visiter le Louvre?  Faire du shopping?  Visiter le Panthéon?  La Tour Eiffel?  Trouve un café ou un restaurant près de cet endroit sur le site TripAdvisor. (Refine your search by scrolling down and choosing a neighborhood near where you are.)
 
Tu veux dépenser 35 euros ou moins pour un repas français traditionnel. 
Réponds aux questions suivantes. 
  • Comment s’appelle le restaurant?
  • Où est-ce? La rive droite ou la rive gauche?  L’arrondissement? L’adresse? 
  • Il y a un site internet?
  • Il y a un menu du jour?
  • Choisis une entrée:
  • Choisis un plat:
  • Choisis un dessert:
  • Et comme boisson?
  • Quand tu as fini, tu as aimé le repas?  Pourquoi ou pourquoi pas?
  • C’est combien l’addition?
  • Le service est compris?
  • Write a short review for TripAdvisor (Look at their form, but do not write it on the site- write it below-  en anglais:

I told them that they are helping me plan my January trip to Paris.  I am always looking for new cafés and restaurants.  It’s a short trip, only 6 days– oui, that’s a short trip in my book.  But, hey, I will go for only a weekend if someone offers me the opportunity. Passport always ready, bags packed. Especially now that Delta has a direct flight from Raleigh-Durham to Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

I have already made plans for one night while I am there.  I have signed up for a food tour of the Marais with La Cuisine Paris.  From their website:

Join us on a Marais Soirée as we immerse ourselves in a typically French experience: l’apéro! Take a sip and a bite of French culture as we enjoy the sociable pre-dinner hours that are such an important part of Paris life. With a glass in your hand and a tempting array of all things delicious, you’ll soon see why the term apéro is a fitting one: derived from the Latin word aperire “to open,” we’ll be doing just that – opening up our appetites and starting an evening in Paris – santé!

Right up my alley, n’est-ce pas?

The January trip is mostly paid for by ACIS, the student travel company I use. They invite teachers who have tours booked with them to spend a long weekend in one of several spots.  I always choose Paris during the MLK, Jr. weekend.  I asked my middle school director for a couple of extra days.  I plan activities for the March student trip.  Really.  I do.  This, mes amis, is professional development for me.  And therapy as well.  I’ve booked a little hotel in the Quartier latin for two nights, near the RER-métro station that will take me directly back to the airport the morning I depart.  The ACIS hotel will be out of my budget range, I fear, so I will move after three nights.  I got the idea for this neighborhood from a friend who is going over for Christmas with her daughters. It will be their first Christmas without dad/husband who passed away this summer.  She found an AirBnB apartment in a great neighborhood and then we discovered it is near an RER B-métro stop so they can easily take the train into the city from the airport.  I sent them my Paris cheat sheet, as I like to call it.  I’ve been compiling a list of my favorites.  If you are planning a trip and are interested, just let me know and I will post it or email it directly to you.

So, for the next 42 days I will daydream and plan a few things that I want to do/see.  ACIS will have activities planned for us.  For the recap last year’s trip, read  ACIS and Paris 2016- Exceptional.  J’ai vraiment de la chance.  

Mon amie Mme M sent me a link to this video yesterday.  She knows that I am on a Spread the Kindness kick.  I showed it to my classes.  It is from francetvzoom.  I can only get it to play in U.S. on Facebook…

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ffrancetvzoom%2Fvideos%2F698407930317996%2F&show_text=0&width=560

As we prepare for the March trip, I always read David Sedaris’ story about the métro to my 8th graders in an attempt to make them realize that we need to learn to be less loud while roaming around France.  And to make them laugh, of course. It’s from his book Me Talk Pretty One Day.  I love that man.  Listen to David tell it–

From my classroom, thanks to the grand-mère of one of last year’s students–

paris-painting

Bon appétit!  Here’s to Paris daydreaming and planning trips!  That’s what keeps me going some days!  Happy Friday and Bonjour, Décembre!

Let them eat brioche?

**Update October 25, 2016

Sometimes the most wonderful things happens when you write a blog. You make new friends.  And you realize that people really do read what you write.  I write this blog this for me, but if I can reach just a few others who have the same interests I do, then I feel so grateful and just plain old happy.  After I posted this one, I got the following unexpected email:

Looking for a yummy breakfast recipe for this weekend, I came across your blog about adventures in life, food, and travel and your brioche recipe, I enjoy your post and most of all thank you for the recipe, I will definitely try it!
I also read an interesting subject on your blog about Marie-Antoinette. (From Tuesday, October 16, 2012, you pasted back on Let them eat brioche? October 16, 2016).
This reminds me of my work, I work as an e-translator in the e-tourism sector at Seine Saint Denis Tourism Board Paris Ile de France. I translate and updated every week on a regular basis plenty of tourist information for international visitors! I love to socialize, and tackle ideas, talk to visitors from wherever they are in the world ….making my contribution to the fabric of e-community
As I translated some pages which included M.A (…..The statue shows some anachronistic details about the Empire-inspired dress worn by Marie-Antoinette. The former Abbey of Saint Denis is witness to centuries of the spiritual, political and artistic history of France, a masterpiece of gothic art and final resting place of the kings and Queens of France….).
So referring to your post, I would be very grateful if you can paste some links,
as I think it would be helpful to future visitors of the Gothic Basilica of Saint Denis http://uk.tourisme93.com/basilica/louis-xvi-and-marie-antoinette.html or to locate Marie-Antoinette tombstone on this map http://uk.tourisme93.com/basilica/map-of-the-tombs-saint-denis-basilica.html; and also know more and get practical information to plan their visit.
Thank you for your time and consideration, do contact me if you have any questions or for any information on Paris for your blogs.

How cool is that?  I am very happy to post the links and maybe I have made a new friend!  It makes me realize that I need to go back to the Basilica of Saint Denis and spend more time looking around.  I never miss the opportunity to photograph a statue of St. Denis carrying his head on his way to Christian land to breathe his last breath.

In Senlis-

senlis

In Montmartre–

st-denis-mont

montmartre

At Notre Dame de Paris–

nd

Merci, Camille!

I looked at today’s paper and saw that it was on this day in 1793 that Marie Antoinette lost her head.  Literally.  In front of a crowd of bloodthirsty Parisians who had gathered for the day’s festivities.  223 years ago.  My first thought was… I should blog about M.A.  Even go back to my orange brioche recipe that I worked on over and over when I first moved to Arles.  Well, fans, seems I have already done that.  Oui.  A few years ago.  So… I will just copy and paste it from the old blog.  But I might dust off that orange brioche recipe and give it another try.  It really is good.  Oh- and I still haven’t come up with the headless Halloween costume yet.  This year’s costume is already in the works and that’s not it. Maybe next year?  L’année prochaine peut-être?  On verra.

Bon appétit!  

From Tuesday, October 16, 2012

 

Marie Antoinette at age 13 by Martin van Meytens, 1767.
Well, boys and girls, tonight I was looking forward to a nice quiet evening of gubernatorial and presidential debates.  But what should I see when I get to the “Today in History” section of the local newspaper?  Today is the 219th anniversary of the death of Marie Antoinette.  She lost her head on October 16, 1793 in what is now the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Marie was just short of her 38th birthday.  Her body was tossed into an unmarked grave but exhumed in 1815 and taken to the Basilica of Saint Denis for a proper Christian burial.
I visited her gravesite last March.
She is also immortalized in stone in Saint Denis, alongside her husband, Louis XVI.
Funerary monument to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette,
sculptures by Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot in the Basilica of St Denis
(I have developed quite a thing for statues lately.)
Some Marie Antoinette facts…
— She was the 15th child of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.
— At her home court, she was encouraged to play with the “commoners” and was allowed to wander the gardens and have pets.  The atmosphere was much more relaxed than it was in France.  She tried to recreate this later at the Petit Trianon and her little farm, le petit Hameau, but she was not very successful.  It is a cool place to visit, though, and where I saw my first “wild” boar.  (If you find yourself at Versailles in nice weather, rent a bike and ride around the grounds– a great way to see everything without wearing yourself out and spending all of your time walking.)
— She didn’t take her education very seriously and had lousy handwriting.
Her signature:
However, she was a good singer and dancer, could speak Italian and French in addition to her native German, was fairly proficient in English, was a decent artist, and had great poise– a queen in training, wouldn’t you say?
— Maria Antonia, as she was called, had crooked teeth and the French didn’t care for that so before her marriage, she had to have very painful oral surgery to correct her smile and bring her up to queenly snuff.  No braces back in the day.
— After all the marriage negotiations, she was finally wed by proxy in Vienna.  Her brother stood in for the bridegroom who couldn’t make the trip, I guess.  She was handed over to the French at the age of 15 and headed for the palace of Versailles where another wedding ceremony took place.  The mystery surrounding the consummation of the marriage plagued the newlyweds for years.  A marriage of convenience?  Perhaps the future king of France had problems?
— Her mom was hyper-critical and her husband was not very affectionate.  She turned to shopping and gambling.  However, she did seem to get tired of fancy petticoats and lots of make-up and helped change fashion.
From this
To this
— She birthed four children, two sons and two daughters, but one daughter lived less than a year.
–“Let them eat cake.”  Did she really say this?  Supposedly, upon being told that the peasants had no bread to eat, she quipped that they could eat brioche, a sweeter bread than the usual baguette.
— There is a fascinating story about The Diamond Necklace Affair at this website.  I can’t possibly retell it and do it justice.  Just click and read on.  It was the undoing of Marie Antoinette.
As I attempted to write this post about Queen Marie Antoinette, I quickly realized that I had barely scratched the surface and that I am very ignorant about her.  I’ve seen the 2006 movie, Marie Antoinette, starring Kristin Dunst and didn’t care for it.  I just read a story about the attempted escape from Paris by the royal family in the book Parisians:  An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb.
I have this book in my bookcase but have not read it.
It has now been placed just under the Graham Robb book and is next on my list.
For the past four years (since spending Halloween in France and not dressing up), I have considered dressing up as her for Halloween.  I think that this is a sign that the time has come.  I have two weeks to get that costume pulled together.  Got any good suggestions?
Also while living in France, I decided to try to learn to make a decent brioche à l’orange.  The B&B guests were served quite a bit of it.  I discovered that it makes great French toast, too. I tried several different recipes and blogged about it here and here.
Brioche #1
broiche1
1 tsp sugar (or honey)
2 packages yeast (or 5 tsp)
4 eggs
1/2 c. warm milk (110 F)
4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c + 2 Tbsp butter
1 egg yolk, beaten (for glaze)
orange flavoring (optional)
1 c. dried apricots (optional)- snip and add to dough during the second risingStir sugar into warm milk and sprinkle in yeast. Wait 5 minutes. Sift flour and salt together. Melt butter and cool slightly. Lightly beat butter and eggs into yeast mixture. Add orange flavoring. Add 2 cups flour and then slowly add more until a dough forms and you can knead in enough to make a smooth dough. Cover and let rise 60 minutes in a warm place. Grease small or large brioche pans. Take 3/4 of the dough and shape into balls. Use the remaining 1/4 to make small ones to place on top of the larger ones. Place in baking pans. Brush brioche with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar. Let rise another 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown.

brioche-2
Brioche #2
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!

Back to the present… Sunday, October 16, 2016
I have now looked through my Arles photos from 2007 and 2008 on my trusty MacBook and am feeling rather nostalgic.  Did I really do that?  Was that really me living another life en français in the south of France?  Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it.  It was a rocky road that got me there.  Separation.  Divorce.  Leaving my friends and children behind.  But I have to believe that things happen for a reason.  I needed that time in France to find myself.  I was lost.  I didn’t feel needed here.  Just reliving those feelings brings tears to my eyes.  The guilt still builds up from time to time, but I find it easier to let it wash over me for a few seconds or minutes (instead of hours as it used to) and then let it go.  I have had some professional help with that, mes amis.  And I surrounded by people who support me and love me just the way I am.  That’s the crucial piece.  As my children have gotten older, I think they are better able to understand.  I hope so.  I still, and will always, consider myself a lucky woman.
How about a few happy photos?
The kitchen in Arles
arles-kitchen
The Sabbatical Chef 2007 (I kept the apron and still wear it every time I cook)- making crêpes for breakfast
the-sabbatical-chef

Breakfast table at the B&B- home made jams, bread and granola, Cavaillon melon, Sophie’s honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, plates and cups from a local potter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Deboning a duck- the beginning of my love affair with duck and foie gras
duck
At the Pont du Gard on a windy fall day
pont-du-gard
The Sabbatical Chef 2016
The hair color may have changed, but I am still the same green-eyed lover of France and everything French…
school-photo-16-17
Bon appétit, Marie Antoinette!
Many, many thanks to everyone who loved and supported me then and who loves and supports me now.  I couldn’t do it without you. Life is an adventure, n’est-ce pas?.
 
My source:

Searching for Aimée Leduc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)

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

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

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

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

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

Financiers
recipe from Dorie Greenspan

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