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.  

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.

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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–

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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!!

Heroes

doug-marlette-cartoon

Ask Americans of a certain age where they were on 9/11 and they can tell you.  I was in a 7th grade team meeting.  Before internet and televisions in all classrooms.  Most of us didn’t even have radios.  Sounds like the Dark Ages to the young’uns.  The kids I teach this year, in 6th, 7th and 8th grades, weren’t born yet.  They’ve only known long security lines to get through gates at concerts, football games, and museums.  Taking off your shoes at the airport.  Three 3-ounce bottles of liquids.

Many will say that we have no modern day heroes.  Gloom and doom.  The world is ending soon.  Going to hell in a handbasket.  (Not sure what that is, but I’ve heard that saying all my life.)  I don’t believe it.  Americans are “accused” of being eternal optimists.  Not enough history under our belts to be jaded.  Only 240 years of it as a country as opposed to 2,000.  I am not buying it.  I am a card-carrying, well-documented optimist.  Everyone who knows me knows that.  And I believe that we have heroes in our midst.  We don’t even know them when we pass them on the street because they do not make the news.  Until a disaster strikes.  They go about their daily lives and business, doing the best they can to make a living for themselves and their families.  They step up when needed.  A little girl taking a plate of lunch to a homeless man  outside the restaurant where she is eating with her dad.  The folks who fill backpacks to the brim with brand new school supplies for kids who wouldn’t have them otherwise.  Mama Mildred, who herself doesn’t have a whole lot, volunteering for Meals on Wheels once a week.  One of my students giving his Nutella crêpe to a homeless woman sitting on the steps of a church.

Each year, I go to Washington, DC in February with 7th graders.  It is our annual class trip and a much anticipated one.  How lucky am I?  What a city.  It is filled with reminders of what our country has been through and the heroes who have helped shape it.  In no particular order, I will take you through some of my favorites.

Abraham Lincoln- 16th President of the United States; abolished slavery

abe-with-words

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.- Civil rights activist; Nobel Peace Prize recipient

mlk-face

i-have-a-dream

mlk-speech

George Washington- 1st President of the United States, the Father of our Country

washington-mem

The Greensboro Four-Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson

greensboro-sit-in

greensboro-counter

A few years ago, I had the great honor of shaking Dr. McCain’s hand and thanking him.

Congressman John Lewis- One of Dr. King’s helpers on the road to Civil Rights; he is still fighting the fight; we bumped into him in DC and I dashed across the street with my kids to talk to him.  He took the time to talk to us.

john-lewis

All those who fought in WWII; there aren’t many left of those who came home

hero-quote-normandy

french-and-american-flags

Koreakorean-memorial

Vietnam.  My uncle Charles at age 18.

vietnam

at-the-vietnam-wall

Franklin Delano Roosevelt- our 32nd President and a wise man

fdr

We are still fighting the fight.

The political cartoon at the beginning of the blog was drawn by Doug Marlette.

doug-m

Heroes are men and women who are brave enough to draw and write what they feel.  Doug received death threats for some of his drawings after 9/11.

mohammed

I knew Doug.  A quiet unassuming man.  What a talent.  There is a permanent exhibit devoted to him at the Newseum in Washington, DC.  This museum is not to be missed if your travels take you to our Nation’s capital.  It is our first stop every year.

There was an exhibit after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

the-power-of-the-pen

power-of-pen

There is an exhibit dedicated to 9/11.  Many photos and videos.  Newspapers from around the country and world.

newseum-911

I live in an amazing country, filled with heroes, past and present.  We must keep believing in good, even in times of darkness.

marlette-eagle

In the spirit of our wild west, I decided to make Cowboy Skillet Cake for the Ex-Ex’s breakfast this bright Sunday morning.  I had some peaches and had planned to use my mother-in-law’s recipe for peach pie with homemade crust, but… I got lazy and I thought of the tea towel I bought on our trip to Fort Robinson, Nebraska a couple of summers ago.  img_5260

 

Cowboy Skillet Cake

I used peaches.  I’ve used cherries, apples, and pineapple in the past.  Or you can just follow the recipe, without fruit.  I put the peeled sliced peaches on top of the batter. Instead of lemon extract, I used almond flavoring.  And I sprinkled turbinado sugar on top of the cake before baking, without the lemon zest.

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Combine in a bowl and stir a little to mix:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a separate bowl, whisk and set aside:

2 large eggs

1-1/4 cups milk

Melt 8 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch iron skillet .  When butter has cooled, add to egg mixture and stir.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.

Stir into the cake batter:

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour into the cast iron skillet.

Finishing touch:

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

1/4 cup of sugar

the zest of one small lemon

a dash of cinnamon

Bake 25-30 minutes. (With the added fruit, mine needed to bake about 40 minutes.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean!)

Bon appétit and thank you to all the everyday heroes out there who do what they can to make life better for others.  May we all be so brave, today as we remember 9/11, and every day we are lucky enough to be alive.