Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hearts, Flowers, and Hallmark

First the hearts...




Then the flowers...





I have a thing for hearts and flowers.  Especially pink and red ones.  I can't help it.  Am I a hopeless romantic?  I guess so.  But I really do not like to admit that.  I am not exactly sure why.  It exposes me and makes me vulnerable maybe?  I sure loved Valentine's Day when I was in elementary school, though. I still remember spending hours looking at the valentine cards that were put in my little white paper bag by my schoolmates.

Do hopeless romantics end up with broken hearts?


Should the fear of a broken heart keep a heart from loving?


Can we even keep our hearts safe?  Lock them up and throw away the key?


And last but not least, there's Hallmark...

Is Valentine's Day just a marketing ploy to get us to buy pretty chocolates and cards?



The Ex-Ex used to tell me that.  And now?  How do we spend many a Saturday night?  Watching the Hallmark Channel.  I know, I know, I am exposing him.  Son #1 and Son #2 know this about their dad.  They've caught him in the act of switching back and forth between basketball games and Recipe for Love, All of My Heart or A Country Wedding.  His comment?  I'm either rare or weird.  Not sure which.  But I'm too old to care. Or to worry about being judged.

The movies are easy to figure out.  The characters and plot develop sweetly.  With about 25 minutes to go, there is a crisis, tears are shed, and tough decisions are made.  But it all works out in the end and love wins.  There is always a happy ending.  I am pretty sure that is what we are all looking for. Right?


I had planned to write up some facts that I learned about Saint Valentine(s- there were multiple ones), but a new movie is about to start.  It looks as if we will actually catch this one, Appetite for Love, from the beginning. The movie is set in Tennessee and has a handsome cowboy.  Not a bad combination.  UNC is playing Notre Dame and Golden State is up against Oklahoma City on other channels, though, so I might miss a few details if the games get too close.

Hallmark Channel Recipes can be googled.  Who knew?
In honor of not only Valentine's Day but also Super Bowl Sunday, here's one that's sure to please.

Dipped Football Strawberries
from  Hallmark Channel Home and Family

Ingredients
  • 1 basket large strawberries with stems, cleaned and dried
  • 12 oz Ghirardelli Dark Melting Wafers
  • 4 oz Ghirardelli White Melting Wafers
Directions
Place Ghirardelli Dark Melting Wafers in a microwave-safe container and microwave at half power or defrost setting for 30 seconds. Stir thoroughly (product keeps its original shape until stirred). If not completely melted, continue to microwave in 15 second intervals and stir until smooth. Overheating can cause wafers to burn.
Hold each strawberry by stem and dip into melted wafers. Place coated strawberries on waxed paper. Cool in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes, or until firm.
Melt White Wafers (using the same method outlined above) and pour into a piping bag or plastic zip bag with the tip cut off. Make one vertical line down the middle of the long side of the strawberry, and four short horizontal lines across the vertical line to create the football laces.
Cool in refrigerator for 10-15 more minutes before serving.
Note: You can substitute Ghirardelli Dark Melting Wafers with Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips and Ghirardelli White Melting Wafers with Ghirardelli Classic White Chips by adding 1.5 tbsp. vegetable shortening per 12 oz Chips and following the melting directions above.
Bon appétit and Happy (Early) Valentine's Day to all hearts, young and old, cynical as well as hopelessly in love.  Merci, Hallmark, for providing happy endings and keeping love alive.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Older and (sometimes) Wiser


I confess. I have moments of wishing that I were younger.  There are times when I look in the mirror and think "Is that REALLY me? Where did those wrinkles come from?"  I've stopped coloring my hair and, considering I started finding gray hairs mixed in with my very dark brown hair in my late 20's, I have more than a few of them now.  But with age comes a certain amount of wisdom. I make feeble attempts to pass that wisdom on to my students and my two boys.  However, most of the wisdom isn't my own.  I find it in examples set by others- Mama Mildred, for sure- and in the incredible wise words of others.  I have recently discovered someone who is wise and funny all at the same time.  I attempt to write.  He really does it.  I found him by way of a Facebook friend named Virginia Jones. I found Virginia through her beautiful photos of Paris.  I feel as if she and I have been friends for many, many years, yet we have never met face-to-face.  Go figure.  She shared an essay by Sean Dietrich and it was love at first read.  So, I found him on Facebook, started following him (or stalking as some of my 8th graders would say...) and now I read his daily story while I wait for the coffee to brew.  I am a terrible creature of habit at 5:30 am.  While most people I know are still sound asleep. Well, except for my small band of Frenchies, but that's only because they are six hours ahead of me.

I honestly believe I was born to be a middle school teacher.  Some people's idea of one of the seven circles of hell from comments I hear from time to time made by "normal" people.  But it's not.  For instance, I have an advisee this year, an unnamed 7th grade boy who is at times the most aggravating 12 year old on the face of this earth.  Or at least on the face of my earth.  I resorted to yelling at him not once but twice last week during the after school study hall I supervise.  I normally do not yell except at basketball games where it is socially acceptable.  But he kept doing idiotic 7th grade boy stuff.  You know, asking to go to the bathroom and staying gone for 20 minutes but trading iPads with the boy sitting next to him before he left so that that boy couldn't do his homework because he couldn't log on to the other boy's iPad.  There was a dad in the hallway, waiting to pick up his son, and it just so happens that I taught that dad when he was in 6th or 7th grade.  I pray that I did not cause him to have flashbacks to middle school.  He survived middle school and seems so well-adjusted now and he has a nice kid. And this same above-mentioned 7th grade boy will leave me absolutely speechless with the words of wisdom I overhear coming out of his mouth once in a while. Advice to another boy overheard on an advisee outing to the State Fair-- Put away your phone and talk face-to-face with people. They like that better.

Go figure.

So, back to my overwhelming need to impart words of wisdom to these kids.  I have a few students (and parents) who read this blog.  This is for you, kiddos.  My little angels, as I call you. And, well, your parents are all younger than me, so they can read on, too.  Just a couple (okay, three) of Sean's latest essays.  You can find him on Amazon and on Facebook.  He is even giving away some of his books for free on Amazon Kindle until midnight tonight.  I downloaded them and have started reading, but I feel guilty.  I will buy one, too, and that will help with the guilt.  And I will continue to stalk  follow him on Facebook and share his stuff and make comments.  Thank you, Sean. Write on. Please.  Bless your wife's heart.

The first one I read... (You will see why I fell in love.)






MODERN WOMENBY SEAN DIETRICH


I‘m going to level with you, I’m glad I’m not a woman. Because I couldn’t survive today’s society. I don’t know how modern girls do it.
There was a time when the only things required of women were knowing how to fry bacon and popping a sass-mouthed toddlers.
Not today.
Nowadays, to be a card-carrying female, you’d better be able to do more than Granny. To start with, you must have washboard abs, a blossoming career, a husband from the pages of Men’s Fitness Magazine, children dressed in seersucker, and at least one expensive handbag.
And if that doesn’t give you a nervous breakdown, the modern woman’s household must be breathtaking. Her wardrobe: cute, but sassy. Her daughter must play piano. Her boy must compete in baseball, football, basketball, soccer, track, lacrosse, polo, skeet shooting, and speak fluent Spanish.
Had enough? I’m only getting started. Society also requires women to be gourmet cooks, preparing everything from Sloppy Joes, to blanquette de veau. And let’s talk size. Today’s woman is instructed to maintain the lithe weight of a malnourished North Korean underwear model — with washboard abs.
Are your palms are getting sweaty? Mine are.
You know what I wish? I wish we allowed women to be themselves, for Christ’s sake, Grecian curves and all. I wish ladies swimwear wasn’t made of dental floss, that nineteen-year-olds weren’t dictating fashion. I wish women of all shapes loved their bodies.
I wish we taught confidence to young girls, and taught young boys to help them find it.
I wish women took more spa vacations, and less sick days. I wish ladies considered gray hair and wrinkles as trophies, not things to cover up. I wish waist sizes weren’t measured in numbers, that thick was the new thin. I wish women were proud to be round, firm, meat-eating knockouts, with real smiles, instead of whatever society says they should be.
And one last thing.
To hell with washboard abs.
Number 2 Life isn't fair.  Fact of life.
You would've liked her — everyone did. She had soot-black hair that hung down to her lower back. If I close my eyes, I can still see that hair. Because boys, you see, love long hair.
Don't believe any who say otherwise.
I was miles beneath her — along with four million other freckle-faced toads. We all vied for her attention and never got more than a smile. Though a smile was good enough. Those were simpler times.
She was going to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a teacher. There aren't exactly many choices in a small town. She was smart as the guts of a calculator, and pure hell on the volleyball court. Basketball too. 
I only heard her sing once, at a wedding. “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Thee." She had the ability to make men weep like willows, and young boys sob like men. 
And then she fell apart.
Folks used the C-word, said it was a mass on her brain. But most said things like, "It's a damn shame about that girl." And it was, too.
Her friends packed her room so full of flowers the greenery threatened to burst her windows. And she had more Hallmark stationary than a drugstore aisle of greeting cards. 
On the day she died, her mother was beside her. She swears a cold wind blew through the room.
"It was like someone left a window open," her mother said. "And then her eyes went out like lightbulbs. At the funeral, the preacher told everyone she had 'gone with the wind.' I liked that.”
I'll bet.
"But," her mother went on. "She didn't die that day, it happened long earlier. She died the morning the nurses shaved head. Oh, it killed us all. Her hair was her favorite thing about herself. And this world took it from her.”
Well, I don't know a thing about life, and I don't know where her soul went off to. The same place we all go I guess. 
But wherever she is, I know she's got her hair.
Number 3 For my boys and all the boys out there.

Boys. Help the girls. It's in the rule book.

Even though you'll find many females are strong enough to take care of themselves, help them. Every one. Old and young. Even the girl who's unusually tall for her age, who sits behind you in class, who pins you down on the playground and assaults you with a library book.

She does it because she likes you.

Carry heavy things for her, open doors, walk with her, make conversation.

My uncle once explained, “Being a gentleman is just a fancy way of admitting you idolize women and worship their mothers.”

And fellas, there's nothing wrong with that.

Get messy. You don't need me to tell you that. But even so, there are smartphones and video games out there that beg for your attention. I hope you don't forget log forts in the woods, or red capes, or leaping off doghouses like Superman — thereby fracturing your ulnar in three places. Because when you're older, you'll wish you'd done those things.

Do yourself a favor and ignore peer pressure. If you don't know what that is, don't worry. Remember: whenever some unfortunate clown says something like, “Aw, you big wimp,” just roll your eyes. Then respond with, “I zigs and zags, I to's and fro's. That's what you ask me, that's what you knows. Don't worry 'bout me, I can take care of myself.”

Your friend will say, “Huh?”

Then you'll say, “The Br'er Rabbit said that.”

If your friend doesn't know who you're speaking of, find a new friend.

Listen to people. Especially to those less fortunate than you. Don't give advice, dammit. People don't need it, and you don't have any. And neither do I. Just listen. Listen to a girl when she tells you what's bothering her. Act as though she's quoting scripture.

And if you should ever find you're having a hard time listening, then offer to help her do something.

Because boys help girls.

It's in the rule book.


J.P.'s Big Daddy Biscuits
recommended by Sean, made by me this morning
I have to admit that I didn't exactly follow the recipe... I used butter instead of shortening, I didn't have any milk except for almond milk so I substituted 3/4 cup half and half mixed with 1/4 cup water.  I kneaded the dough maybe 10 times and then patted it out by hand and just cut (sort of) squares.  I didn't want to waste any of the dough and I didn't want to rework it.  The biscuits get tougher the more you work the dough.  Sorry, J.P.  But they were good!


Makes 6 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/3 cup shortening (or butter)
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425˚F/220˚C.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Cut in shortening/butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Gradually stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
Turn on floured surface and knead dough 15-20 times (I stopped at 10).  Pat or roll out to 1-inch thickness.  Cut with a large cutter or a juice glass dipped in flour.  Repeat until all the dough is used. (I just cut mine with a knife dipped in flour.  I didn't want to work the dough too much.)
Brush off excess flour.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet or line the baking sheet with parchment paper.  Bake in preheated oven for 13-15 minutes or just until the edges start to brown.

In J.P.'s words:
"This recipe will produce the biggest biscuits in the history of the world! Serve these gems with butter, preserves, honey, gravy or they can also be used as dinner rolls...you get the picture. The dough can also be prepared several hours, and up to a day ahead of time. If so, turn dough out onto aluminum foil that has been either floured, lightly buttered or lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Roll up foil until it is sealed, and refrigerate. Don't be surprised if your biscuits rise even higher because the baking powder has had more time to act in the dough. You may have to make a few batches before you get desired results: desired results equals huge mongo biscuits."

Bon appétit et merci, Sean and J.P..  Now, the time has come to make up the week's lesson plans and devise cruel and unusual ways to torture middle school French students.  C'est la vie, y'all.

Cookers, Lookers, and Eaters



My eaters (and their cooker) at Son #2's high school graduation, 2011

The Ex-Ex says there are two kinds of people:  cookers and eaters.  I wrote about this once upon a time.   Actually, when I went to the blog and searched, several blog posts popped up.  A recurring theme, I guess.  However, I am now officially adding one more category-- lookers.  I fit into all three categories.  I love to cook, I love to look, and I love to eat.

Cooking...This past week I cooked up a couple of good things.  One was chicken legs.  I found some really nice fat ones at the store and then found a great recipe for cooking them in the oven. Unfortunately, no photos.  I also made a new variation on chili.  The Ex-Ex said it was my best.  Go me!  He used the very last of it to make nachos one night and was quite proud of himself.  Yep, that's the extent of his cooking.  I did send the chicken legs recipe to Son #2 who is starting to do some cooking.  (I even gave him my Crock Pot at Christmas, along with some recipes.)


Looking.... in shop windows and wandering around through the open air markets in France is probably my favorite past time.  Even if I don't or can't buy anything, I love to look, smell, and take photos of all the deliciousness that is offered up.

Want to go along with me?

Paul at Charles de Gaulle airport


I have never seen pain aux raisins called an Escargot aux raisins.  It does kind of look like a snail, now that you mention it.

Colorful meringues in a Paris shop window


Now, why didn't I come up with this idea?  Mini-cupcakes sold in a mini-shop (really nothing more than a doorway).




Oops.  This one belongs in eating, too.  Stay tuned.  Back to looking.

Another cupcake shop



A MOF shop (Meilleur Ouvrier de France-- the Olympics of baking-- see Kings of Pastry)



Last January, I found myself wandering around at a market near the Bastille.



Lots of goodness to look at.  If I had been staying in an apartment with a kitchen...








I wasn't the only one looking and smelling!



And last but not least, eating...
The best things I ate during the month of January in no particular order-

The charcuterie plate at The Boot here in Durham


A gougère filled with confit de canard at Rue Cler also here in Durham


Pavé de boeuf, assez saignant, s'il vous plaît, monsieur (I like my steak rare) at Le Select in Paris


The croque-madame at Le Bonaparte in Saint Germain des Prés, Paris


Corsican charcuterie and fromage in a little café near Notre Dame


Foie gras at the hotel restaurant where I stayed courtesy of ACIS, Marriott Paris Rive Gauche


A mini-cupcake from the mini-shop pictured above


And an afternoon break for a café crème and macarons at Un dimanche à Paris


January was a good month for cooking, looking, and eating, mes amis.

Maybe these two recipes will be used again next Sunday for Super Bowl L...

Steve's Favorite Chili

(you can double or triple this recipe to feed your crowd of eaters)

1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 15-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes, do not drain
3 15-ounce cans of Bush Chili Beans (black, white or kidney), do not drain
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Brown the ground beef and drain.  Add the tomatoes, their liquid, and one empty can of water and spices.  Bring to a boil.  Taste and adjust spices, if necessary.  Lower the heat to simmer.  Add the beans and their liquid.  Add more water using the empty bean cans, if necessary.  Simmer for 45 minutes or an hour.  Stir occasionally and check to make sure there is enough liquid.  Add more water, if needed.
You could also sauté onions with the ground beef and/or add minced garlic instead of garlic salt.  The Ex-Ex is not a big fan of "hot tomatoes" as he calls them, so that's why I only use one can of petite diced tomatoes.  Add more, if you wish.

Oven-baked Chicken Legs
from 101 Cooking for Two

These chicken legs are really, really good.  On a few of them I decided to add barbecue sauce, but I didn't like them nearly as much as just the seasoned ones.  I mixed up his suggested blend in Step 3 and sprinkled it on both sides quite generously.  I did put them on a rack on top of a baking sheet lined with foil.  (Easy clean up!!)  I put the thicker part of the drumstick to the outside of the pan, as he suggested on his website.  I baked them exactly 35 minutes.

OVEN BAKED CHICKEN LEGS – THE ART OF DRUMMIES
PREP TIME
COOK TIME
TOTAL TIME
This is about as easy as a recipe can get. Just pat dry the drumsticks, spice and cook in a high oven. Then you will have crispy goodness for the family.
Author: 
Recipe type: Grill, chicken
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6 drumsticks
INGREDIENTS
  • 5-6 Chicken drumsticks (about 1½ lbs)
  • 7:2:1 or 7:2:2 seasoning (or kosher salt and pepper)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 425 convection. Pat dry the drumsticks with paper towels. (See http://www.101cookingfortwo.com/chicken-rinse-not-rinse/ about rinsing chicken)
  2. Trim of any extra skin and any loose joint pieces.
  3. Spice to taste. A light sprinkling of my 7:2:1 seasoning is great. If you don’t have that, mix 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and optionally ½ teaspoon garlic powder (granulated preferred) and ¼ teaspoon Cayenne (skip for little ones). This makes more than you need. Keep for next time.
  4. Placed on a prepared cooking pan with the thicker part of the drumstick to the outside. I usually line with aluminum foil to help cleanup. A rack elevates the chicken to help all sides cook evenly. You can do it without the rack but better with. Of course, a heavy spray of PAM on the rack or foil.
  5. Cook to 185 plus internal temp. DO NOT STOP SHORT of 185. About 35 minutes in my oven. Let set for 10 minutes before serving. They are way too hot to eat right away and will be better after a rest.

Bon appétit to all-- cookers, lookers, and eaters!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Google Photo Collection: Paris January 2016




I've stored all of my thousands and thousands and thousands (get the picture?) of photos in Google Photos.  I spent part of a recent snow day off from school (merci, Jonas, for the 4 inches of snow and ice) playing around and creating what is called a Collection.  So, I will now share it with you!  I hope it works and I hope you enjoy following along with me.

https://goo.gl/photos/swhruStfq9Mkdgnn7


Bon appétit!  The next one will be just of food  Non, it is not all pictured here... believe it or not.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Anonymity in Paris


I found this photo on Shakespeare and Company's website.  What's remarkable about it to me is not that I was there last Monday night.  I already knew that.  I had planned to go before I left for Paris. What's remarkable about it is that I am in the picture and other people can look at it.  Now, I am still anonymous because my name is no where on that website.  I have added the red arrow for you so that you can find me in my cozy little corner of the bookshop.  I staked out that spot a good 30 minutes before Luc Sante started reading from his book, The Other Paris.  I admit that I do idolize Paris and France, but I also know that Paris is a big city and with the big city-ness comes the good, the bad and the ugly.  And Paris is no longer affordable for most Parisians.  I slipped euros into the bag one man was carrying on the métro one night simply because he looked as if he needed some extra money and he wasn't begging.  As the Amazon reviewer says about the book:

A lively survey of labor conditions, prostitution, drinking, crime, and popular entertainment, and of the reporters, réaliste singers, pamphleteers, and poets who chronicled their evolution, The Other Paris is a book meant to upend the story of the French capital, to reclaim the city from the bons vivants and the speculators, and to hold a light to the works and lives of those expunged from its center by the forces of profit.

I confess to being a people watcher. If people-watching were an Olympic sport, I could win a medal. My students have accused me of being a stalker, but that only proves that they do not know what a stalker really is.  It's a word that is thrown around a lot these days.  Stalking would involve only one person that I am following around everywhere and all that.  However, I cannot lie.  I would stalk this guy if given the chance...


But I digress.  I walked into the men's department of BHV for some unknown reason on a Saturday during the January sales, saw this Dior ad for Sauvage, snapped a photo and walked right back out.  I hate shopping and I hate crowds.

Want to digress again with me for a couple of minutes?  If you aren't a Depp fan, feel free not to click on the link.  However, this ad was playing while I was waiting in line at security at Charles de Gaulle airport and it made the whole experience one heck of a lot more enjoyable.  I started to compliment the woman working security who frisked me so thoroughly and then tell her that I wished she were Johnny Depp, but I didn't think she would find me very funny.  Go figure.




Okay, back to my original reason for writing this post.

I started to feel a bit lonely during the last two days of my trip to Paris and then I realized that it is okay to be alone and even lonely sometimes, not part of a group, and anonymous.  If I have counted correctly, I only know 5 actual Parisians who would see me roaming around and recognize me (My Favorite Parisien, Yohann, Lou, Claire, and Isabelle).  Anonymity affords me a luxury that I don't usually have after living and working in the same city for 36 years and teaching thousands of kids.  It also allows me to snap random photos of people I do not know.  And I can make up stories in my head about them, if I want to.  I am really good at talking to myself and holding complete conversations either out loud or totally in my head.  Is that weird?  I really don't care.  Unless I get caught talking to myself out loud outside of my own home. Then I am kind of embarrassed.  At least I try to do it in French when I am France.  So here we go. Follow along.

On my last night in Paris, I took myself to dinner at Le Select.  I decided to do this based on the kir apéritif that I had there earlier in the trip.  I was given a great table, great service, and then left alone to observe (as opposed to the service I had across the street at La Coupole, not to mention the snooty ambiance). Le Select was also mentioned in Hemingway In Love, a book I bought at Shakespeare and Company and practically devoured in just a few hours.  Hemingway hung out in this café back in the day.  I have a new favorite café.


At dinner, I heard no English at all.  The handsome man who seated me and the handsome waiter who took my order did not automatically speak English to me. (I will never pass for French-- I've come to terms with that, I think.)  I was given a great little table to watch the comings and goings of the staff and clientele.  I am glad that I showed up around 8:15 pm because it didn't take long for the place to completely fill up.  Instead of writing from memory, I will share what I wrote on my iPhone Notes.  With a few photos sprinkled in, of course.

I wish it weren't weird to take photos of random people in public places. I would have a field day tonight at dinner. Le Select. One couple with their critter in a carrier under the table. 
Some must be regulars- they don't wait to be seated- they just walk in and seat themselves. 
One older long haired guy just came in in a fringed jacket, the likes of which I have not seen since the 70's, with a velvet jacket underneath and cowboy boots. An aging rock star, perhaps?




An older guy across from me was reading the news on an iPad, then he worked crossword puzzles and now he's reading a book. He's had an espresso and a glass of water. (He looks kind of like Don Rickles--wearing white tennis shoes- American dead give-away usually).  



I might sneak some photos when my cheese course arrives...  Last night in Paris. This time tomorrow EST Paris will already be over 3000 miles away and a memory. 

The wait staff (there is actually a woman) is busting their derrières. Busy night and it's a Tuesday. Glad I got here about 8:15. It's now 9:30 and the place is packed. Haven't heard a single word of English. 



Pavé de boeuf with frites. Laguiole cheese. Have wanted to try this since watching Entre les Bras movie. Beef from Aubrac, too. Merde-- just caught myself eating my French fries with my fingers.  So not cool.  Another man writing or editing away.  I will think of him as an editor, editing the next great novel.




Where I am sitting is on the way to the toilettes so I have seen some interesting people pass by. 

Some excitement at La Coupole across the street. An ambulance SAMU. Fire truck - those gorgeous first responding pompiers and a policeman just ran across the street. 

For the most part an older crowd so I don't feel out of place. ��

I asked for the check, l'addition, s'il vous plaît, some time around 10:00 pm, I think, and the handsome waiter brought it, along with a refill of Côtes du Rhône and a saucer of chocolate.  Merci, monsieur!  No idea why, but who am I to question la politesse and a little cadeau?




A very nice last evening in Paris, n'est-ce pas?

I observed something I have never seen before at CDG while waiting to go to my gate.  Actually, the trip to the airport deserves a story.  I usually take the métro-RER B to Charles de Gaulle when I am by myself or with friends.  But I just happened to be reading a sign in the RER and saw that line B would be shut down between Aulnay sur Bois and CDG.  So, I needed another plan for 5:30 am on a Wednesday morning.  I talked to My Favorite Parisien over a charcuterie and cheese board from Corsica


and he suggested going to Gare Montparnasse train station and taking the Air France shuttle to the airport.  That seemed to make sense.  I went to Montparnasse the day before I left and found the place to get the shuttle.  I decided to take a taxi to Montparnasse (not far, but didn't want to schlep heavy suitcase filled with new books) and be dropped off where I was to meet the shuttle.  The taxi driver helped me put the suitcase in the back and drove me to the train station.  When we got there, there was no bus waiting yet, it was still pitch dark and no one was around.  It was about 5:45 am (the sun doesn't rise in Paris until around 8:30 am in January).  The driver asked me why I didn't arrange for a taxi to the airport.  He said that the clients at that hotel always take a taxi.  I assured him (in my best French, of course) that I am not their typical client- I am a French teacher and the weekend was paid for by someone else.  Merci, ACIS.) He asked if I am Canadian (standard question) and said that he would not leave me in the dark at a train station by myself at 5:45 am.  He is too professional for that and he wanted me to have a high opinion of Parisian taxi drivers.  He told me that he would take me to the airport and named a price.  I negotiated a bit, got him down 10 euros, and the price was not much more than the taxi + shuttle was going to cost me, so off we went to the airport.  He promised to get me there in plenty of time and we had a very nice conversation on the way there.  About Uber, Paris, the traffic cameras that are installed along the interstate and how much the fines cost, the weather, etc. He delivered me and the 20 kg suitcase right in front of the door I needed for my check in.  I tipped him and thanked him.  I have a very high opinion of Parisian taxi drivers now.  Merci, monsieur, for thinking of me and my safety.  Train stations in the dark aren't my idea of fun either. Neither is dragging a suitcase up and down steps.

So, I checked that bag and decided to get a last croissant and cup of coffee at Paul, the café in the departure area.  I was sitting at my little table, minding my own business, when a French trio sat down next to me.  Older than me, two women and a man.  I glanced over and one woman was pulling the cork out of a bottle and taking a long swig of something.  I have never seen a French woman (or rarely a man, for that matter) do this.  I tried not to stare.  They chatted away, ate their croissants, she finished the bottle, and they were on their way.  Here is what I wrote on my iPhone--



Once again, I am sneaking photos, this time at CDG. A trio of 3e âges, a man and two women, are next to me at Paul. Me- café au lait and a croissant. One of the women has a pain au chocolat and a bottle of Pineau des Charentes. She is slugging it down. Straight from the bottle, thank you very much. It is good stuff-- for an apéro. But at 7:15 am? All gone. Maybe she hates flying? I've moved on to Badoit myself. 



Madame Pineau is wearing the light colored coat.  And she didn't stagger a single time.

Those are my best stories.  I have a few other random photos.

A man smoking and observing the group of tourists at Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre on Sunday morning--



A fellow delivering milk to homes (I didn't know anyone still did this!  We had a milkman back in the day in my little hometown.  Mr. Polecchio and Biltmore Dairy Farms milk and ice cream)



A little girl running home after getting the family's bread for the day--



A couple strolling along--


Musicians in the Quartier latin on Sunday afternoon--


What a wonderful trip.  Enough for now.  More to follow.  I still have more food photos to share and carry on about!

One more?  My hands snapping a photo of the display featuring my favorite perfume, La Vie est Belle de Lancôme.  I rarely take selfies.  Feels really silly and I always look horrible.



Bon appétit and thanks for following along with me.  And thanks to Jonas, the storm that dumped 4 inches of snow and ice on Durham and gave me two snow days to recover from jet lag.