Saturday, May 30, 2009

Photos of my Flat

I love the window - so nice to have a view of something other than the back of another apartment building.  Some of you should check out the sofa - it will be your bed.  The bedroom is through the double doors - I will upload a photo in about two weeks.  I hear that flight costs are coming down, try this link to do a month-long search for good prices. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cooking with Tom and Jack

I started nannying my nephews two days a week after school, and tonight we cooked dinner together.  We made spicy cucumbers using my sister Jeannie's recipe - so easy and really good.  Tom peeled the cucumbers, although he thinks it is called zesting.  For the dressing, Tom poured in the rice vinegar, about 1/4 cup, a Tablespoon of Sugar and Jack added the chili-garlic sauce and tossed the cucumbers in the dressing.  Don't worry, I did all the cutting.  It is a great addition to an Asian meal.  

While we were cooking, Jack asked, "Are we on TV, you know, on that weta show?" (WETA is our public television station).  "Because if we are, I should put a shirt on!"   Jack wants to have a show called "Cooking with Kids."  Then he started singing, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down . . . "

We also made chicken lettuce wraps and a yummy Asian-influenced slaw from epicurious, that the boys loved - grocery store grated carrots and broccoli slaw mix with some green onions.  I julienned a Granny Smith apple that was looking sad in Jeannie's fruit bowl, the recipe called for daicon, but I didn't have time to go to a special store.  The boys made the dressing for this too:
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 T minced ginger
1 T sesame oil
2 T chili-garlic sauce

I made a Mai-Tai-ish drink for us to have too, and the boys had fresh lime-ade, all in sugared-rimmed glasses.  The more time I spend in the kitchen, the happier it makes me!  The reviews were good, and the neighbors requested an invitation to my next dinner.

Now I need to figure out what to do for two dinners next week - I would love to try the pork tenderloin recipe the caterer served at my graduation party.  And plan ahead to get some easier desserts ready before dinner, most of my recipes from my pastry class are time-consuming.  We are going to make fruit gelatin next week - layered by color in clear glasses.  

One of Life's Little Pleasures

Yes, I am writing about toilet paper. I ran out today, and will have to buy one last pack before I go and it makes me nostalgic for American toilet paper already.  I don't like European toilet paper, I like French chocolate, Swiss watches, Belgian beer,  Swedish reindeer, Danish design, Spanish pizza, Irish bars, Portuguese potatoes, Italian handbags and haircuts, English men (well, at least one, David Beckham), and Dutch pot, but the toilet paper, in each of those otherwise wonderful countries, sucks.

Two other unrelated toilet paper issues:

1. I didn't realize how much I used until I started working from home, then stopped working, and didn't pee on other people's time or in office bathrooms.  I think I use more toilet paper than my sister's entire family - we can split a huge Costco 128 roll pack, and run out at the same time.  Maybe I use the bathroom more now that it is just ten steps away from my office, my bedroom and kitchen?  I miss going to the bathroom while at work, getting paid for it, it was a small guilty pleasure that has been taken away from me.  

2.  I have never understood homeowners in million dollar houses, who spend $50 on a bottle of balsamic vinegar, and have the one-ply Scott tissue in their guest bathroom.  Seriously, it is the small pleasures that make life worth living - get the two ply Cottonelle with the aloe - it will change your life!

Sorry if I ruined your breakfast.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Amy will be my FIRST visitor!

Amy will be my first visitor, she is coming June 17th!  The timing is perfect - maybe she can even bring an extra suitcase for me - I have been stocking up on CVS stuff.  I am really happy that she is coming, we always have a great time when we travel together.  We have both been to Paris before - with our mothers - so we will be ready to explore out of the first trip tourist must-sees. 

This photo is of Amy cutting the holes in the surprise cupcakes for my graduation party.  Can't wait to share some new photos of us in Paris! 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Only 98 Cents

To mail a letter to France!  $12.95 to send a small care package.  What a bargain.  So that would be two 44 cent stamps and a ten cent stamp.  If they even make those?

I have been researching info about sending some stuff to France - my landlord emailed that although there is a pharmacy on every corner (instead of a Starbucks), toiletries, etc are more expensive.  I also seem to remember that the selection is not as expansive as I am used to.

Another great excuse to head to CVS - I need to use those $2 bonus bucks somewhere.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuition Paid Today!

Just when I thought I was done with paying tuition, I start again.  It is public info, so I will save you the effort of looking it up - the three sessions cost 16,000 euros total which converts to about $22,000.  For comparison purposes, L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda has a 50-week Pastry Arts program for $23,400.  Nothing against Bethesda, MD, but Paris beats it hands down!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Inappropriate Clothing

I need a chef's coat obviously.  This is the shirt I wore while baking the cupcakes and the lemon cake - I wasn't surprised that it was ruined, but now I know why chef's wear coats and not just aprons.

Suzanne gave me the cutest apron for graduation, brown with pink polka dots, at least that will help the worst of my messes.

I also need to work on shoes.  I usually wear flip flops or bare feet when cooking at my mom's, so in a professional kitchen at school, I will have to wear clogs or something like them.

I tried to rotate the picture, but no luck this morning.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lemon Cake

Lemon desserts don't always excite me, but after I made a lemon meringue tart in my pastry class and loved it, I have been trying to think of a way to use lemon curd.  I would like to rename lemon curd, because it sounds like lemons spoiled in milk, but it tastes delicious.  It isn't difficult to make, and keeps very well.

I love yellow with white trim, it just looks so clean and fresh to me, so I knew what I wanted the outside of the cake to look like, and I knew I wanted lemon curd for the filling.  I made a round sponge cake, cut the two layers in half, so there would be 4 total layers.  I used a simple syrup with lemon flavoring to keep the cake moist, filled the first and third layer with lemon curd, the middle layer with lemon buttercream.  Then, iced the cake with 4 rounds of the yellow lemon buttercream, and used some white buttercream for decoration.

I think it turned out great, and since there was very little left after the party, I can say that my guests loved it too.  I had such a great time making it, and trying to figure out how it would all go together. I don't have a cake plate, so I flipped an aluminum pie plate upside down - kinda trashy, but it worked!  When I have a pastry shop - this might be my signature non-chocolate dessert. 

Note:  There were no croissants at the brunch - I made the dough, and after I refrigerated it, it doubled in size, blowing up the plastic wrap, I think I should have frozen the dough instead.  I didn't eat this mistake, as raw croissant dough isn't tasty, but I will try again and see what I did wrong.

P.S. Goose - those are your feet in the photo!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


It's finally here and I can barely believe it.  It took so long to finish my degree, but today will make it all worthwhile!
I can't wait to see everyone at the party tonight!  I will be the one in the cap and gown - unless it rains, the instructions on the gown include a warning: "DO NOT WEAR IN THE RAIN"

Friday, May 15, 2009

Baking Update

I have been baking for the past few days, and I don't want to tell all my secrets for my graduation party attendees, but things are going very well.

I am making the surprise cupcakes again - the buttercream icing and the ganache for the filling is made, and, if I can say so, they are even better than last time!  There is big difference making a recipe for the third and fourth time, it gets so much easier to know when things are ready - when the egg whites have formed soft peaks, when the boiling sugar water has reached the "soft-ball" stage without burning my fingers multiple times (note: use a candy thermometer), when the milk is scalded, when the lemon curd is cooked enough to set up.  These are all fun experiments, and I haven't had to eat any mistakes yet.

We are having a family brunch on Sunday, so I am making some croissants to add to the mix.  I made the dough today (pictured), and will form them Friday morning while the cupcakes are baking.  I hope they turn out as well as the ones I made in class.  It is hard to get the dough and the butter layers to come together, so that when they bake, it makes the correct flakiness.  I will know more on Sunday, when they come out of the oven.  

The time flies when I am baking, which I think is a good sign that I have made the right choice. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bye Old Sofa

Bye Old Apartment in the Riviera!   It has been almost 10 good years, but it is time to say good-bye.  It has been my tiny home, and crash pad for my guests crazy enough (Karen, Leslie, Kim, Jessica, only naming the girls, as my mom reads this blog too) to stay with me.   The eleven inches of counter space aren't conducive to baking, and the lack of outdoor space is just growing old.  I will be putting most of my stuff in storage in my mom's and John's attic.  They are pretty excited to be the caretakers of every birthday card I have ever received.   I think I have the car storage figured out too, thanks to my friend Hanja, who might have an extra parking space in her office garage.

If anyone needs a queen sized mattress and box-spring (it won't fit up the attic stairs), please let me know. 

This means that I will be temporarily homeless from November to January. The third session of the pastry program will be from January to March, and if I pass the first two sessions, and continue my French (the last class is not simultaneously translated into English), I will go back to Paris to complete the diploma.  Then, in March, I will be looking for a job, AND a place to live.  Maybe I should have kept the couch, just in case.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Graduation Excitement

I am picking up my cap and gown today!  Finally having my degree (delivered in 6-8 weeks), is such a great feeling.  But then I read about a woman paralyzed by polio and in an iron lung, who graduated on time and first in her class.   Oh well.

I am excited to make my cupcakes for my graduation party.  And this time, I will document the process in Regina's test kitchen, starting tonight while watching Game 7 of the Caps-Penguins.  Go Caps!  

Oh! And I added Google Adsense to my blog - just a test to see how it works.  I also moved the Amazon link to the top of the page, as some of you couldn't find it all the way at the bottom!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

When good Americans die they go to Paris. -- Oscar Wilde

I am glad I don't have to die to go to Paris - especially because I am not sure I would make the "good" part of that quote!  My friend Paul sent me this one that reminds me to practice my French a little more:

"In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language."

I got a really nice early bon voyage gift from Liz Hackett (known to most of us as Amy's mom). Paris to the Moon  is a story of one of my favorite New Yorker writers, who moves to Paris with his wife and small son.

I love the etching (Chemin de Fer de Paris a La Lune) from which the title is derived.  Sometimes I do feel like I am moving to the moon, so it is perfect!  Thanks, Liz.

PS -- 27 people checked out my blog yesterday - I feel kinda popular, and my Amazon earnings are up to $10.11! 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Thanks Nancy!

I bought these shoes once already, returned them because it seemed ridiculous to spend the money, when I will be needing every Euro when I get to Paris.  THEN, I realized that Nancy gave me a too generous gift certificate to Zappos, and ordered them this morning, to wear to my graduation party next Saturday! 

I can't wait to put them on with my new brown dress.  I will, of course, be making chocolate cupcakes with pink icing, to match my outfit.  I can't wait to celebrate with everyone... It has been a long time coming, baby!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Silly Thing #1 That I Will Miss in Paris

Diet Coke with Lime. Such an addiction.  Maybe in Paris, I will become one of those people who drink cucumber water?

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