Sunday, July 20, 2014

Last huzzah to France!

Had to put one last entry in.

I think you all might enjoy it too. It's featuring the best thing in France.

Yup, you guessed it. We're going to talk pastries today.

(Hope you're not hungry...)

First up, a Demoiselle d'ananas.

This gem is divine and from what I could glean from the info, it can mean anything from a young woman, a damsel fly, a crane or a pastry at our local bakery. What I do know is that inside this pastry dome is a lightly sweetened pineapple cream which goes deliciously with the passion fruit macaron on top. A must if you can get it!

Alright, next up, a Paris-Brest.

This is a rare form because it's in the eclair shape. Usually it's a round, circular looking type. It was created in 1910 to honor the Paris to Brest bike race which was founded in 1891. Hence the circular, wheel-like shape. This was Mr. K's fave of the day. He really liked the praline cream inside the eclair. Also a good one to try if you can get one.

Thirdly, we have a St. Honoré.

This pastry is one of my faves. It's made in honor of the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, St Honoré. He was a bishop in Amiens in 600AD. It has the best of all worlds in it: cream puffs, whipped cream, puff pastry, and pastry cream. The puff pastries are dipped in caramelized sugar, or in this case, caramel. It's actually very light and not very sweet. Just perfect to share à deux.

Next in the line up is a Rosée du Matin.

It's name means Morning Dew and it is just as fresh as that. Basically it's a raspberry mousse around a raspberry coulis, over a shortbread cookie called a sablé. Here our bakery even put a chocolate macaron on it. Chocolate and raspberries go very well together, don't you think?

Following that, we have a Tarte Aux Citrons Revistée.

This is fantastic! I highly recommend this to anyone who loves lemon meringue pie. So tasty and just the perfect treat to try on a summer night. It's a slightly Breton thing to eat, because of the cookie bottom. But yes. Try this one if you see it.

And lastly, what France trip is complete without trying...

Yes. Macarons. Macarons by the millons!

Mr K and I have found that it is always best to separate the strong scented ones (Bergamot and Citron, we're looking at you) from the rest of the others. They tend to give their flavors to their neighbors.

My personal favorite is the Rose flavored one. Mr. K prefers the Raspberry one or the Salted Caramel. There are so many to choose from and every place makes their own flavors.

Our suggestion: Get an assortment from your favorite place, like, say, from Georges Larnicol in St. Germain Des Près, and then go wander to your favorite garden, like the Jardin du Luxembourg, and enjoy them with friends, or just by yourself. It's lovely and delicious.

Just don't try to take them home on the train/metro or save them for the next day. Macarons are best enjoyed in the spur of the moment and all at once. (My favorite type of treat) Kinda like, well, actually, there is nothing quite like them in the United States and that, my friends, is very sad.

I will miss these delectable morsels from France. Immensely.

Maybe I can figure out how to make them in New Mexico...which is where we are headed next! But then again, I have a feeling that I will be making some new dessert discoveries in the Southwest region.

So, until next time, get out there and enjoy those French pastries if you can!

Au revoir ma chère France! Je t'embrasse bien forte!
(Au revoir et merci pour tout le poisson!)


Monday, July 14, 2014

Joyeux 14 Juillet! Happy Bastille Day!

Happy Bastille Day to all!
(Yes, we get excited here. Fireworks, people! Fireworks!)

What did we do to celebrate?
Well, not much as we were very busy. But we did get a great chance to see fireworks from our balcony.

Just off our balcony to the left and slightly through the trees!

So awesome

Again, really I can't help it. I love these kinds of fireworks.

And then the classic shimmering shower type ended the show

Pretty nifty in my book. Other than that, we woke up, I made pancakes, we watched the Bastille Day parade on French TV (it's a military parade, no floats like the Thanksgiving Day parade in the US) and then we both got to work.

Wait, what? Work? I must be meaning something else.

Nope. I meant work.

We spent all day organizing, moving things around, and going through EVERYTHING we own about five times. We had about three bags of things to give away (most of that was pillows I'm not sure if that counts) and a bag of shoes, and then a few bags of trash that just seemed to appear out of nowhere.

You see, we have a mover coming tomorrow afternoon to survey what we're shipping to our next place. Still waiting on the job for Mr. K but our first stop will be Los Angeles, CA.

Apparently, there's going to be some big party going on over there to celebrate some guy and this totally awesome gal tying the knot. The dude may also happen to be Mr. K's brother and Mr. K may just happen to be the best man...

It'll be grand. And I can't wait to have another sister!

Anyway, I have the sneaking suspicion everything we moved today will stay exactly where it is until the movers pack it up to go into the container. We might have to put up a beacon for the middle of the night bathroom walk.

Fruit of our labor, minus three bags of unnecessary things given to the French Good Will,
 and a few bags of trash or recyclables.

We sold our wardrobe, so we've taken to living out of suitcases until we move.

It'll get better. Wrinkles are in these days, right?

Getting that beast out of the apartment was something else. Thank goodness the girl who bought it brought a helper.
There may have also been a cunning use of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables Tome 1 (hey, when in France...) to take apart one side of it when we found out it wouldn't fit in the stairwell.

Okay, it was more like stuck between the wall, ceiling, and perched precariously on one stair for a good five minutes before we were able to lift, shove, press, and carry that thing back into our apartment. It's amazing how low ceilings are here!

We took off one side and part of the bottom and had about 1 cm clearance. Thank goodness. And, the kids had the most ingenious idea ever: they brought a small horse trailer for it, complete with a bed of hay. Awesome job, guys! Totally impressed. May that wardrobe serve them well in Limours.

Little things. Odds and ends.

My only concern now is getting the porcelain pieces I worked on this year and last over to the States. I would hate for any one of them to break. But if one does, oh well. I know the techniques now. (I just hope it doesn't.)

You probably didn't know this about me, but I hate moving. 

Don't get me wrong. I love travelling and seeing many different places. I just wish I could have a home base to go out of. That would be perfect! But then again, moving a lot means that you don't acquire tons of stuff. (Or if you do, you end up giving it away or selling it before you move again)

We still have no idea who will want our landphone or shoe rack by the way...they may just end up down by the rubbish bins in the cave, er, cellar. 
Oh dear. I'm now saying 'rubbish bin'. 
(Telltale sign of being in an expat community for a while...)

Anyway, we're excited to return to the States. In 10 days we move out of our apartment. In 13 days we fly to California. And if all goes well on the job front for Mr. K, 7 to 14 days after that, we might be moving to New Mexico. Big changes for all, but exciting too.

I may not be very faithful on the blogging for a while, what with the international move and the family wedding, but I promise I will try to at least get a photo up or a blip to say we're safe.

Here's to new adventures and new sights!

Until next time,

Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy Fourth!

Happy 4th of July!

Mr K and I are celebrating the Fourth of July by visiting some friends in the village, cooking some sausages on our grill pan to go with our veggie salad and then watching the World Cup with the company of an English immersion thirteen year old staying in our home. Love being American abroad!

The Lady Liberty model in the Luxembour Gardens
Have a safe and happy one!

Until next time,

Monday, June 30, 2014

One of my favorite things...

Hello all,
This year has opened my eyes to a bunch of new things, most notably, other types of cuisine.  You see, I was a private English tutor to some great kids this school year. It was at one of their homes that I fell in love with this exotic beverage.

Yup, you guessed it. TEA.

And not just any tea, mind you. Mint tea, served the Algerian way.
Sweet and delicious. The kind of tea that would make diabetics scream and run for the hills.

Normally I take my teas without sugar and with a little milk, in the British way, or so I was told by a Frenchman. (Any English out there who can tell me if this is true?)

But, after a year of teaching the children and being offered this decadent treat on Thursday and Wednesday afternoons, I found myself craving this at home today. It's been three weeks now since the last class.

Could I be going through mint tea withdrawal?

The search was on.

And, oh my! Look what I found on my balcony!

Do I detect a hint of minty freshness?

Yes indeed. I have mint.
I thought he died this winter, but he has come back in full force and I am pleased.
(In the photo above, he had a little trimming before I thought to take a photo. Oops. Please excuse.)

Side note for those not familiar with mint (or herbs in general), I found that the leaves taste better when collected in the morning, before the sun has a chance to shine on them. You get the most essential oils from them that way.

For us, and where Minty is located on my balcony, that is anywhere between dawn and 9am.

In other words, if I want mint tea, I gotta be quick!

And, because I know you are all dying to try this too, here's my recipe.
Oh, and if any of you are watching your caffeine intake, it's caffeine free! (just not sugar free)

The round up.
Again, this photo was taken after I had made my tea, so please excuse the wet leaves.

Easy Mint Tea 
(Makes about one medium pot of tea, or serves 3-4 large tea cups)

1. Gather sixteen to twenty leaves of fresh mint. (You can use store bought mint too, just make sure it's fresh)

2. Chop these babies up fine and place in a mesh tea ball/ tea strainer. (I find this much easier to clean up afterwards than putting them directly into the pot.)

3. Place strainer in favorite teapot and pour freshly boiled water over leaves to fill pot.

4. Cover and let steep for ten to fifteen minutes.

5. Remove strainer and add honey to taste. (The tea is supposed to be served VERY sweet. I put about three tablespoons of Lavender honey into my pot and it would be considered a light version. You can also leave the strainer in; it'll just get stronger the longer it steeps and might get a little bitter.)

6. Pour into your favorite cup and drink hot.

Suggestion: Serve with a side of writing.

There's an Algerian proverb that I found on Wikipedia that is dedicated to this tea. It goes like this:

Le premier verre est aussi doux que la vie, 
le deuxième est aussi fort que l'amour, 
le troisième est aussi amer que la mort.           


The first glass is as gentle as life,
the second glass is as strong as love,
the third glass is as bitter as death.

(Personally, I think it sounds better in French, but that may just be me)

Anyway, enjoy this yummy treat! I know I will.

Until next time,

Saturday, June 21, 2014

5 Years and Counting ...

Hello all,
Thought it be fun to share with you what we did for our 5th year anniversary. 

Five years of marriage already! My, how the time goes.

As a great comedian once said, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." 
Oh Groucho, how I love thee...

Anyway, we thought it'd be fun to spend the night in Paris and be romantic and all that jazz. 
Like cutesy couples do when they come to Paris. 
Like we haven't done at all in the two years we've lived abroad because...well...we live here and go home to our place outside of Paris and are constantly trying to make sure we catch the infamous RER B.

So we booked a night at the cutest little hotel in Paris, Hotel Le Petit Paris situated very near the Pantheon and Le Jardin du Luxembourg in the heart of the Latin Quarter, our favorite area of Paris. It was modern, neat, and it had great customer service. The receptionist/concierge was wonderful, telling us about their free tea and cake service for their guests in the afternoon and an honesty bar from 6pm to 12am. Because it was our anniversary, they comp-ed us two drinks. Lovely lovely people.

This was part of the decoration in the lobby. I love them!

We took the elevator up to the room and were blown away by a) the size of the room b) the size of the bed and c) the fact that we had air conditioning!

We may or may not have looked at each other and squealed like little kids.
Or then again, that could have been just me...

Isn't this a heavenly looking room?

Still smile when I see the photo...

And the best part? L'Occitane bath products. YES!

Even the sink had a pattern!

Of course, it's not a French room in the student area if you don't have a Liberty, Equality, Fraternity sign above your chairs. But, you know, who doesn't have that, right?

Those chairs were the most comfortable chairs I've ever sat in.
If only I could discover where to pick up a few of them...

While I was checking the room out, Mr K decided he needed to check out <<le grand lit>>. I came back from taking pictures to this:

Nice comfy bed equals a very happy, very much asleep Mr. K

After a bit of a rest, we decided to go see about this tea and cake business. 
And yes, my mind chanted like Eddie Izzard... Tea and cake or death...tea and cake or death...

Cake or death? Cake, please.

Mr. K even had some. It was glorious, heavenly, and the perfect cuppa.

Mr. K is caught in the act of preparing tea (and also for scale next to the HUGE tea cups).

We went for a bit of a walk after that and then took the suggestion of our receptionist to have a reservation made at L'Estrapade, a little restaurant tucked away from the tourists that serves the best French food. The price is about 20 euros for a main, 35 for a prix fix with starter and main and dessert. I highly recommend them. Everything they make uses ingredients sourced from France. One tip though: they only seat you if you have a reservation, so make one and go. You will not be disappointed.

After that we walked by the Seine and then called it a night.

The next morning we had the buffet breakfast (also delish), checked out, put our luggage in the luggage room and headed out to to Canal St. Martin.

Yup, this baby.

This is where the Parisians go to hang out.

This is a pretty area and you all may recognize this shot.

No?  How about now?

Ah, Amélie. We have now seen the cafe from the movie, gone up to Montmartre many times, and have finally seen the Canal Saint-Martin. My Paris dream is complete.

As you can see, full of locks and sunbathing. Very calm and very chill.

Strolling back along the other side, we came across the iconic wrought-iron balconies that makes the city beautiful. They're everywhere and I can't get enough of them.

And thus concluded our perfect getaway for the anniversary.

Je t'aime, mon cheri. Pour toujours.

Until next time,

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