Friday, November 27, 2015

In the pink

Pink is my favorite color.  I wear it as an accessory to my standard black dress.  The bracelet above is an example.  It is a Bravelet, supporting breast cancer research.  According to their website, the sales of their bracelets have raised $1,787,780 to date for various causes.  I have the pink one, an orange one (National Kidney Foundation in memory of my brother), a purple one (Alzheimer's Research Foundation in memory of the BFF's daddy), and a dark blue one (Arthritis National Research foundation in honor of Sister Moo).  One of my 7th grade girlies drew this picture for me last year as part of a thank you note.

I always look for pink.

Pink flowers

Pink food and drinks are good.

And a pink place to eat and drink.

Pink critters, real or not.

How about pink in the ceiling of the Paris Opéra Garnier painted by Marc Chagall?

Pink clothing and accessories, please.

A pink Eiffel Tower, of course.

Guess which one was mine?

Pink for your sweetheart?

In June, a friend gave me this book-

And the pink photos are my favorites.

Ms. Arizona sent me this timer so I won't burn my macarons-

And how about a pink Paris sunset?

My favorite breakfast-on-the-go lately has been a pink protein shake.

1 cup of almond milk
1 scoop of Quest protein powder (22g protein, 1g sugar)
A handful of frozen strawberries
All thrown together in the blender et voilà.  Breakfast is served.

Now, I think I will go listen to Louis Armstrong's rendition of La Vie en Rose.

Bon appétit et bonne journée, mes amis!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

365 Thank You Notes

It started with this.  Last week, a colleague passed through my room and handed me this post-it note folded up.  He didn't say a word, just gave it to me, and kept going.  I now have it stuck to my laptop, just below the keyboard where I look at it every time I sit down to use the computer (which is ridiculously often).  This little piece of paper makes me smile each and every time I look at it.

I am a huge believer in gratitude.  Deep breaths and reminding myself how much I have to be thankful for gets me through a stressful day.  In a text message sent recently to the BFF, I wrote "Life is too short to feel sorry for ourselves."  I am not even sure what or who we were messaging about, but that thought popped into my head.  I have a bulletin board in my classroom this year (I only have one, thank goodness, because putting together a bulletin board is not one of my teacher super powers) just for my Gratitude Project, shall we call it.

Last week, I handed my 10 advisees a blank notecard and an envelope and asked them to write a thank you note to someone in their lives.  I then mailed the notes.  Call me old-fashioned, but there is just something about getting a note in the mail with a stamp and your own personal name on the envelope.  I have loved getting letters my whole life, or at least for as long as I can remember.  I even recycled stamps so that I could write to friends until I found out that was illegal.  The local postmaster didn't catch me and I didn't get a jail term or anything.  Mama Mildred discovered what I was doing and let me know that a stamp can only be used once.  Seriously?

If the kiddos were writing notes, then I decided I should as well so I wrote one to Sister Moo.  She is my baby sister and an amazing person.  I don't tell her that often enough.  We call, we text, we email, and I know she knows that I love her, but I do not express my gratitude to her often enough.  She was 1/365.  I am writing down the recipients in my nifty Passion Planner so I can keep myself on track.  Mama Mildred (for being my  amazing mama), Leonard Pitts (for his amazing column on the November 13 attacks on Paris), and an 8th grade girlie (who amazes me everyday with her smile and the fun attitude she brings to my class) have been among my "victims" so far.

Today's recipient will be the giver of the post-it note.  A big teddy bear of a 6th-grade-math-teaching man whose room is across from mine.  I am grateful he decided to move to the Triangle and take a job at my school.  His smile lights up the room and he listens to me when I need to vent.

I've shared the recipe for Chocolate Stuff before on this blog, but it is so good that it bears repeating.  I am up way too early this morning, the last day of school before Thanksgiving Break, and I am getting ready to pop some in the oven.  I think that 5/365 will appreciate it...

Recipe note:
I did not use Hershey's cocoa... sorry, HRH Sweet Potato Queen Jill.  Mme M gave me a box of Van Houten 100% Pur Cacao last March when I visited with her in France.  Use the best ingredients you have or can get your grubby little paws on is always my motto for baking.  I also baked the Chocolate Stuff in 4 individual ramekins instead of a loaf pan this time.  Better for gift-giving.  And believe me, should you find yourself in need of a chocolate fix, this is it.  Always have the ingredients on hand.

Ready to go in the oven--

Chocolate Stuff
(I will now quote The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love pp. 170-171 since I have it open to the chocolate-stained pages that contain the recipe...)

Here's the deal: Beat two eggs with a cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of flour. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. In the microwave melt together one stick of real butter (I never use unsalted; I think it tastes flat) and two fairly heaping tablespoons of Hershey's cocoa. Get regular Hershey's in the dark brown box- anything else is different and will screw it up. Dump the butter-cocoa mixture into the other things, and stir it up good. Then add a running-over teaspoon of vanilla. I use real vanilla, but the grocery store kind won't ruin it. Stir that up, too. If you decide to go for nuts, use a whole bunch of pecans, chopped up fine.
Pour the Stuff into a greased loaf pan, set the loaf pan in a pan of water, and stick the whole business in the oven at about 300 degrees. Depending on how your oven cooks, it needs to stay in there for 40 to 50 minutes. You can reach in there and tap on the top of it at 40 minutes. If it seems crunchy, I'd take it out. You can't really undercook it, since it's good raw, but you don't want to overcook it and lose the gooey bottom so crucial to the whole texture experience.

Bon appétit, everyone!  Do not let a day go by without expressing your gratitude to at least one significant person in your life.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What I've been reading

Isn't this a beautiful book?  My friend Virginia Jones took the cover photo.  Virginia and I are internet/Facebook friends.  But I honestly feel as if I know her and that we have sipped wine in a Parisian café together.  Maybe someday...

I loved this book.  I bought it because of Virginia's photo, but a book about Paris?  How could I go wrong?  It is a wonderful story of families, secrets, and starting over.  In Paris.

A couple of nights ago, I finished The Memory Thief  by Emily Colin.  Another great read.  It is on my Kindle.  I get daily book deals from BookBub.  That's where I discovered this one.  Another story that is hard to put down.  Set in Colorado and North Carolina, it is about death, dealing with loss, and picking up the pieces.  With an eerie twist to it.  The title says it all.

I zipped through two of Laura Florand's novels-- All For You first.  Chocolate, hunky Frenchmen, allowing love to happen through past hurt.  A Wish Upon Jasmine second.  Perfume, the south of France, and more handsome Frenchmen.  Cousins.  Lots of romance, of course.

Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland about love and art in Paris and the south of France.  Set back in the day with Marc Chagall and his wife as minor characters.  I am a huge Chagall fan.  A print of this painting, The Betrothed and the Eiffel Towel, hangs behind my desk at school (Merci, Mme Verte)--

And there is lots of talk of food in it, too.  Provençal specialities.

I read, Murder in Nice, the sixth novel in the series by Susan Kiernan-Lewis, starring Maggie Newberry.  In this one, Maggie sets out to help solve the murder of a high school friend as she struggles with motherhood and leaving her husband and baby for sleuthing.

Paris, He Said by Christine Sneed is another good, quick read.  Young twenty-something falls for older handsome wealthy Frenchman and moves to Paris to be with him.  She has to figure out who she is along the way and if she can be truly happy with him and his lifestyle.

I hadn't read a John Grisham novel in ages and a friend recently lent me Gray Mountain.  I couldn't put it down.  My grandfather worked at one time as a coal miner and I can identify with people in small towns in the Appalachian Mountains.  This one features a hotshot NYC lawyer who loses her job in the 2008 recession and takes a job in a clinic in a small town in Virginia doing pro bono work.  Murder, nasty coal companies, and small town people dying from black lung make for an interesting story.

Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl is a book I will never forget.  This is the second installment of her memoir.  She definitely is up there in the food world, but this book makes her so human.  Tender At The Bone is her first memoir.  Ruth was editor of Gourmet magazine.  She is going to be at Fearrington Village, not far from chez moi, with McIntyre Books on October 15.  A lunch time appearance, though, on a school day.  I suppose I will be lunching with 7th graders instead.  Big sigh.

At the moment, I am reading David Lebovitz' The Sweet Life in Paris.  I admit to being a fan and to being perhaps a touch envious that he lives and bakes in Paris.  He is a rock star.  IMHO.  He tells stories of his move to Paris after working for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in California.  I recently was given a copy of his latest book, My Paris Kitchen, and I drool over it, too.

On my to-read list:  
  • Coco Chanel by Justine Picardie
  • Married Sex: A Love Story by Jesse Kornbluth (HeadButler-- I follow him faithfully)
  • Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir by Frances Mayes (she now lives in nearby Hillsborough, not Tuscany!)
  • The Queen's Lover by Vanora Bennett about Catherine de Valois and French royal intrigue
  • Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann by David P. Jordan given to me by the mom of a former student
  • And I really need to get back to and finish Metronome by Lorànt Deutsch-- I actually have two copies of it, one of which is illustrated, given to me by two of my favorite Frenchies.  It is the story of Paris told by métro stops.  The pictures are amazing.  This fellow is a genius.
My favorite saint/martyr, Saint Denis, and his namesake basilica, are featured.  My Favorite Parisien took me there, along with my group of students, a few years ago.  It was my first visit.  I still get chills thinking of seeing Louis XVII's heart in a glass jar.  So cool.

I read a lot.  It has always been my (guilty) pleasure and escape.  If you have any recommendations, send them on!

Merci to M. Lebovitz and Mme Thérèse Pellas for today's recipe.  Can you stand another recipe for chocolate cake?  My Paris, Je t'aime Club meets tomorrow.  Eight 8th graders planning an imaginary trip to Paris (not imaginary for 22 of them come March!), watching videos of La Ville Lumière, etc. The cake will be their treat.

Gâteau Thérèse
Chocolate Cake
 makes 8-10 servings

9 ounces (250 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons (120 g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (65 g) sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C).  Butter a 9-inch (23-cm) loaf pan and line the bottom with a strip of parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water, heat the chocolate and butter together just until melted and smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in half the sugar, then the egg yolks, and the flour. (You don't need to measure the half-quantity of sugar exactly.  Just pretend you're a Frenchwoman cooking in her home kitchen and don't worry about it.)
  4. Using an electric mixer or a whisk, begin whipping the egg whites with the salt.  Keep whipping until they start to form soft, droopy peaks.  Gradually whip in the remaining sugar until the whites are smooth and hold their shape when the whisk is lifted.
  5. Use a rubber spatula to fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until the mixture is smooth and no visible white streaks remain.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smooth the tip, and bake for 35 minutes, just until the cake feels slightly firm in the center.  Do not overbake.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan before serving.
Storage:  The cake can be stored for up to three days.  Madame Pellas keeps it in her cabinet, but you may wish to put it under a cake dome.  It can be frozen, well wrapped in plastic, for up to one month.

Bon appétit to all readers out there!  Read on!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Migraines (and chocolate cake)

What do migraines and chocolate cake have in common?  Absolutely nothing, rien du tout.  But this week, I have suffered through a migraine.  I do not have them often, but as anyone who does have migraine headaches knows, you will do anything, anything at all, to get rid of one as quickly as possible.  Exedrin Migraine is my first go-to.  Sometimes that cuts it off before it gets too bad.  It's a mixture of caffeine, aspirin, and acetaminophen.  If the headache comes on full-blown, a dark room and sleep are in order.  This week, those two remedies didn't do the job.  What do I do when I don't know what else to do?  Google.  One of my advisees last year found a remedy for his mom involving limes so I decided to try to find that.  Instead, I came up with lemon juice, hot water and Himalayan salt.  Oui, I do actually have pink Himalayan salt in my cupboard.  Remember, I worked with a French chef in Provence for eight months.  Salt is his idea of a gift.  I can still see the absoute delight on his face when my Arles 6 group came down to cook our last night before heading on to Aix-en-Provence.  Chef Érick had placed a bag of Camargue salt at everyone's place at the work space along with the evening's recipes.  I have about six different types of salt in my house.  (I replenish my supplies when I go back to France. This makes for heavy suitcases, but it is well worth it.)  

I drank the salty, lemon hot water and it really did seem to take the edge off.  I made it through the school week, along with a school-wide Homecoming pep rally. (Games cancelled due to Hurricane Joaquin)  My middle school director suggested sacrificing chickens, but I drew the line at that.  Too messy.  I didn't make it to the alumni BBQ last night, but am hoping to make it to the party tonight.  I love seeing my former students.  I decided that maybe a massage would help.  Carly at Massage Envy worked me over.  I slept well, but this morning the headache has moved over to the left side of my head.  I am back to the lemon salt water.  I did slice up a lime and rub it on my forehead (thanks, JD!) and I have rubbed Provence lavender oil into my temple.

I am now kind of sticky, but I smell good.

Going back to bed hasn't figured into my Saturday morning plans.  Washing clothes, sweeping up cat food (my cats are really messy eaters-- for some strange reason they take the food out of the bowl sometimes), and putting away dishes needed to be done.  Then I got to thinking about the chocolate cake that Senora made this week.  She makes birthday cakes for members of the middle school foreign language department.  She is the kindest, most thoughtful person I know.  And a fabulous baker.  So, I assembled the necessary ingredients and set about making my Migraine Chocolate Cake.  My head still aches, but my kitchen smells good.

It just came out of the oven.  Senora's cake, pictured at the top, with one bite gone, has a Nutella glaze on it.  She didn't use as much sugar as the recipe calls for, tested it on her husband, and decided it needed a little something-something.  Nutella to the rescue.

Mme M gave me a box of really good cocoa powder during my last visit to her home in Montépilloy, France.  Using the best possible ingredients when baking is important.  Merci, mon amie!

Many thanks to Senora and Yammie's Noshery for the recipe.  Yammie calls it Secretly Healthy Chocolate Cake.

Migraine Chocolate Cake

1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (I put in one full teaspoon- chocolate and cinnamon are a great combo)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup applesauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded zucchini (I used carrots because I didn't have zucchini on hand)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional-- I did not use them)

Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Combine flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and salt.  Stir with a whisk until well mixed.
Add applesauce, egg, vanilla and zucchini/carrots and mix just until combined.  The batter is very thick.
Spoon into well greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Glaze (if desired):
1/4 cup powdered sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon milk, drizzled over warm cake.
A few tablespoons warmed up Nutella drizzled over  warm cake.
Or dust with powdered sugar.
Or serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Or serve plain.  Maybe with a cup of coffee or cold milk?

Bon appétit et bon samedi to all from rainy, soggy, will we ever see the sun again North Carolina...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rice salad and a rerun

I love Érick's Rice Salad and I make it for lunch now and then.  I am making it this afternoon for lunch tomorrow.  I am out of riz du Camargue, but I will make do with Uncle Ben's.  It takes me right back to Arles and the kitchen on Rue Pierre Euzéby...  I usually just jump to the recipe, but today I decided to actually read the post I wrote on August 5, 2008.  It is, after all, Sunday.  And I do love pink flamingoes.  I take my students to Arles during our annual March trip and we usually see the flamingoes when we drive through the Camargue.  They are a glorious sight to behold.

Bon appétit et bon dimanche, mes amis!


Pink Flamingoes and Sunday Picnics

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I am a stalker

Merci, AH!  J'adore cette tasse!

Yes, you read it right.  I am coming out of the shadows.  I am a stalker.  I even admitted it in public on Saturday.  I feel so much better.  And, by the way, when did stalking get such a negative connotation?  That's what I want to know.  My students say the word as if it is un gros mot- a dirty word.  And no wonder.  I looked up stalk and stalker on the Merriam-Webster website.
For word nerds:  The word comes from Middle English and its first use was in the 14th century.
This is the time of year when hunters are stalking the woods for deer. 
Okay.  Not too bad unless you hate hunters and are a vegetarian or you had nightmares after watching Bambi as a kid.
She called the police because her ex-boyfriend was stalking her.
Um.  Not good.
to stalk:  to pursue obsessively and to the point of harassment 
In French, from Webster's New French Dictionary:
stalker:  un admirateur obsessionnel qui harcèle une célébrité
              an obsessed admirer who harasses a celebrity
At least Webster is consistent in the two languages I speak.

The lovely photo mug of Johnny and me in Paris is a gift from an 8th grade girlie.  She worked some Photoshop magic and made this for me.  The pen in the mug has the same photo on it.  My students know about my love for Johnny.  I have to have someone to use in my class examples, n'est-ce pas?
No, I have not stalked him.  But I make no promises should I ever encounter him strolling the streets of Paris, mes amis.  (Hmmm... should I post this blog on his Facebook page?  Is that stalking?  Oh, who cares?)

This past Saturday, I attended a workshop for aspiring writers.  I met with a publisher who listened to my book pitch and gave me some great advice.  She publishes romance novels, mine is a memoir. But I am considering becoming a romance novelist now.   47-49% of books purchased are romance novels. There were a couple of publishers there, along with a couple of agents, some bloggers, reviewers, authors, and fans of the novelists.  Let's just say that there was an "Amen corner" for the Stallion brothers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, created by Deborah Fletcher Mello.   I made my public confession at this workshop.

A few years back, I read a novel called Blame it on Paris.  I stumbled upon it at Barnes and Noble.  It was signed by the author and about Paris.  A no-brainer for moi.

Romance, memoir, Paris, handsome Frenchie.  After reading it, I googled Laura and sent an email.  I discovered that she lives right here in Durham, too.  Even better.  We exchanged a few emails and then I went to one of her book signings at The Regulator.  I was thrilled to meet her in person.  Her signing involved chocolate, too, really good handmade chocolates because her subsequent books are all about handsome chocolatiers and falling in love and Paris, with an occasional foray into Provence. And some steamy scenes.  Oh là là.  In one of them, there is a scene set in the snow in Paris.  When Arles Lucy and I were there three years ago in March, it started snowing and that novel is all we could think about.  Well, that and keeping warm.  And wishing we had a handsome chocolatier to keep us warm on the Ile Saint Louis and make chocolat chaud for us.  Gros sigh...

Anyway, Laura was on the panel at this workshop that was held at the Durham Public Library's Southwest branch.

(I took Laura and her book photos from the internet.  I took some photos on Saturday, but they didn't turn out very well.)

She, Katharine Ashe, and Jennifer Lohmann were part of a panel discussion about balancing a "real" job and writing novels.  Laura and Katharine are professors at Duke and Jennifer is a librarian.  (I discovered I need to plan time to write and set myself a schedule. Oui.)  

During a discussion about authors' relationships with their readers, I confessed to more or less stalking Laura.  I thought that she had left the room but, to my embarrassment, she was in the back listening in.  She graciously accepted my hero worship and gave me a gift!  Another awesome mug!

I am sleep deprived today because I stayed up too late last night (and the night before) reading All For You.  Perfectly normal behavior for me when I cannot put a novel down.  Merci, Laura, Joss et Célie.

One of the 7th grade girlies made very appropriately timed chocolate treats for her class.  

She wrapped them beautifully.  Très français!  Her classmates were very happy, needless to say.

Elizabeth's Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe


1/2 c. water
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. white sugar
18- 1 ounce squares bittersweet chocolate
1 c. unsalted butter
6 eggs

  1. Preheat oven to 300˚F (150˚C).  Grease one 10-inch round cake pan with butter and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, salt, and sugar.  Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.
  3. Either in the top half of a double boiler or in a microwave oven, melt the bittersweet chocolate.  Pour the chocolate into the bowl of an electric mixer.
  4. Cut the butter into pieces and beat the butter into the chocolate, 1 piece at a time.  Beat in the hot sugar-water.  Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Have a pan larger than the cake pan ready, put the cake pan in the larger pan and fill the bottom pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
  6. Bake cake in the water bath for 45 minutes.  The center will still look wet.  Chill cake overnight in the pan.  To unmold, dip the bottom of the cake pan in hot water for 10 seconds and invert onto a serving plate.
All the talk about novels, reminded me of The Beatles and their song Paperback Writer.  I hope the link works.  Paul was probably my first crush...  Well, other than the cute boy in my first grade reading circle.

Bon appétit, to all writers and their loyal readers!  And to those of us who stalk ever so innocently.