Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In the kitchen at last

How was the first real class - demonstration and practical?
  • Exciting
  • Boiling Hot
  • Exhausting
  • Amazing
  • All of the Above
We made diamonts (diamonds) of shortbread, one of my favorites, so simple, but ridiculously delicious. They are round, but the edges are rolled in sugar, making them sparkly like jewels. Using your hands to mix the dough instead of a mixer is easy, and makes a huge difference in texture. Mine turned out really good, now I have a serious problem -- what am I going to do with the results of my class everyday? I cannot eat this much pastry, but hate to leave it. I think I will freeze these cookies, so when I have visitors, I can break them out. Maybe I can try to send some home with the stuff Amy left in my apartment?

We also practiced our piping skills with a pastry bag - I am pretty good, but there are some serious artists in the class, luckily, I have some time to improve. It was so hot in the kitchen that the buttercream was melting as we practiced on the bottom of loaf pans.

After class, on the way to the locker room (the inner circle of hell, heatwise), I just couldn't stop smiling about how today went.

Six hours in the kitchen is tiring, Friday will be nine hours of class, but I know I will love every minute of it!

Monday, June 29, 2009

First Day of School

Was it everything I expected?


I could barely sleep last night, it was like Christmas Eve but much hotter. I woke up early and took a great shower in my newly hung curtain - visitors, you will not be disappointed. I had my tea, and Special K milk chocolate, packed my new shoes and headed off to school at 8:15, the commute took less than half an hour, so I was almost an hour early. I walked around the neighborhood and headed into the building a little before 9 am. Greeted in French, I stumbled through Good morning, and je m'appelle Sarah, followed directions to the Winter Garden to fill out more papers. I wasn't the first person there, a very nice Canadian woman was even earlier than me. We chatted - she has her two daughters here for the month and the room filled up with the rest of the new students. I have butterflies going crazy, but the good kind.

The head of academics welcomed us to the school, one sentence in French, then translating into English. Our translators then took over, sharing the duty. Our schedule looks pretty heavy - classes five days a week, at least two 3-hour sessions per day, sometime three -- but no Saturday classes! Overview of the rules, tour of the demonstration rooms, practice kitchens, and basement. Off to get our uniforms and kit (tools, the translator was Australian). The uniform is a jacket with the Cordon Bleu crest, checkered pants, white neckerchief, apron, hat, tea towel and of course 'safety shoes.' The kit is amazing, scarily sharp Wusthof knives, including a light cleaver that could give the guillotine a run for its money, and of course, a corkscrew!

A light buffet lunch is set out for us, 15 cheeses, a crazy delicious pate, fruits, and a lovely sponge cake and to drink, water -- no wine :-(

After lunch, we receive our notebooks, hoping to see recipes, it is only ingredient lists, the instructions are to be taken as our notes, and used to replicate the recipes in the practice kitchen. I have to memorize 6 of these lists for my final exam. The first demonstration is more of an introduction, the chef multi-tasks making fondant, apricot glaze and praline all at the same time, moving from one to the next seamlessly. As each on hits a point where he has to wait, he starts another one, working in marzipan and then coffee extract. After two hours, I am saturated, and happy to know that I won't have to make any of them, because each one is bought in huge quantity for the school. Although, the praline recipe is worth trying at home -- I am not allowed to share it though (copyrights, bother).

Tomorrow is the first time in the practice kitchen, so I will have photos of my first dish.

PS I do have the cutest shoes in the class, phew!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

School Starts Tomorrow

I practiced my commute to school today. About 45 minutes, pretty easy. Tomorrow's orientation starts at 9:30, so I will be out the door by 8:15. Can't be late on my first day of school.
Here is the exterior of Le Cordon Bleu. Wish me luck tomorrow! Looking forward to sharing this experience.


List of things to do yesterday:

1. Buy water filter.
DONE - at a bargain of 9.90 Eurosfor TWO! (savings of 10 Euros off last week)

2. Find shower curtain for myself and visitors.
DONE - 32 Euros for rod and 9 Euros for curtain. Technically it is called a foldable shower box!

3. Hang shower curtain rod and curtain.
DONE - one hour of precarious work balancing on the edge of the tub

4. Find metro monthly pass (Navigo) in mail.
DONE - next step, load 55 Euros for July

List of things I didn't need to do yesterday:
1. Buy beach towel - perfect for picnics - off limits to Karen, though
2. Stop at the wine store and pick up two bottles of the white crack they call Cepage Sauvignon.
3. Get sucked in by the Roti Chicken and eat half of one for dinner with the omnipresent baguette.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The irony of my neighborhood

The stores, other than the usual bakery, grocery, etc, are ALL wedding stores. It is as if David's Bridal threw up on my neighborhood. Mostly wedding dresses, but some sell groom-wear, some sell just wedding shoes, and directly across the street: a wedding favor store. When my french gets better, I want to ask the owners how they all located here in a three block radius. I have attached only a few of the local stores photos, they have all changed the dresses in the front windows, so I will try to post the most interesting one on a semi-regular basis. I bought my phone at a store that had wedding dresses upstairs, just in case I was buying a phone, and decided I also needed a wedding dress. Tati, the store of cheap goods (two of the things I bought don't work), also has a 'robes de mariees' section. The store next to my courtyard door, had a spectacular silver wedding dress, but I didn't get a photo fast enough, and the mannequin was naked except her crinoline yesterday!


Thanks to my Amazon buyers, especially Leslie - hope you love your new Kindle! I will have made almost $100 - which will just pay for my shower curtain and rod. So please, keep using my links - and try the google search at the top too.

Every little bit helps, try to send my blog to two people after you read it today.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Tom!

Face-recognition software found this cherub (R) on Pont Alexandre III and suggested it was Tom, of course I agree. Have a happy happy day!

A Little More About Barbes

My neighborhood, Barbes, is what my friend Jennifer would call 'colorful,' some may call 'lively' and Fodor's calls 'not for the feint-hearted.' I am usually the only blonde, the only American getting off at my metro stop -- which could happen at many DC metro stops as well. The exit area of this metro uses a torturous-looking device of interlocking bars shaped like a two revolving doors. I cringe as I pass through, thinking I might be shredded into pieces, but luckily, I make it through alive. As I exit the metro, it is a crush of men selling stuff and pushing fliers in my hands.

Most of the men are selling black market cigarettes, fake Marlboro Reds - they are just 3 Euros, but as my name and info is already on the terrorist watch list for buying a cell phone, I will resist. At each corner of the street, usually an older man sells grilled corn on the cob, and bags of popcorn. Germaphobes - there is no hand-washing between his moving the corn across the grill and ashes and his placing popcorn into a seemingly pristine plastic bag. And, you can see from the photo, this whole enterprise is conducted in a grocery cart. I think this photo might be Fidel Castro, taking a little vacation from governing Cuba.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

US-based number

I bought a US number for people without Skype to call me.

301-825-8050 will ring to Skype first, then if I am not online to my new cell phone. It is a free call for you, free for me if I am Skype at home, and fairly cheap rates for me to pay Skype to forward the call to my cell.

PLEASE REMEMBER - I am 6 hours ahead of the East Coast, so please don't call too late. Amy just tried it and it worked just fine. I was home, so I called her back on my home phone - outgoing calls are free for me.

If you haven't downloaded Skype yet, you should! It is the coolest thing, I 'had breakfast' with my nieces a few days ago, and felt like I was in Wynnewood. Getting smooches from the kids is pretty funny on video -- the screen goes completely red, then black. I have to remember that I am on camera - no nose picking! Of course, I have a zit on my chin, and it was the first thing both my sister and brother commented on when they saw me.


Yesterday marks the starts of the big summer sale in Paris, EVERY store is involved, pulling out extra stock, piling stuff to the ceiling, plastering their windows with SOLDES (SALE) signs, hiring people to hand out fliers in the street, etc.

I stuck to my neighborhood, and went to Tati - Le Plus Bas Prix - the lowest price (pictured). I am not sure what it equates to in the US. There are bins of stuff outside, towels, tee-shirts, bras, espadrilles, pot holders that people pick through and try on in the street even. The store must have started small, and now it is a rabbit's den of cheap merchandise stretching two and a half blocks! Usually at my metro stop - Barbes-Rouchouchart -- there are a few people with the unmissable pink plaid Tati bags, and as of yesterday, I was one of them. I bought a converter for my electronics, and a little stick-up light for my closet. The light doesn't work, so I am sure it will be an adventure to return it.

I also worked my way into buying a cell phone, trying in French, but of course, Joel (pronounced Joe-elle) speaks better English than I speak French, and he wanted to practice his English. This happens everytime I open my mouth. He showed me which phone to buy, only 25 Euros! Another salesman wrote up a ticket -- and a took that to the counter to pay. Because I was buying a SIM card with a phone number as well, the third salesman asked for my passport. As soon as I pulled out my American passport, I think about 5 people came over to look at it. "New York?" is everyone's first question about America. "No, I am from Washington DC, but I have been there." "Oh, my cousin/uncle/niece's best friend lives in New York," is always the response. I didn't realize people would be so disappointed that I don't live in New York. I might start adding that Obama lives in DC, and see if I get a better response.

So now that I have paid for my phone, and my passport number added to the anti-terrorist database, I go back to Joel, for him to program my phone. Now comes the hard sell, "You want to go out for ice cream with me? I practice my English on you?"

What can I say to the guy who already has my number? I try my best to be nice and noncommittal, but he ups the ante, "How about drink instead? When I call you?" meaning when should he call me. Now, Joel is very nice, and works for the nicest cell phone store in my area - King of Barbes Mobile, I just don't want to go out with him. Then he tells me that he used to work at Haagen-Dazs on Les Champs-Elysees, which is a little more tempting, as I cannot find coffee flavored Haagen-Dazs in my local stores. I wriggle out of the date, and say I will come by again later.

So for all of you who think I might meet a French guy and stay here for love, let's just say, so far, there is a much better chance that I will end up in North Africa.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On My Own

I took Amy to the train station (Gare du Nord) to catch her plane and went downtown to see a big department store. I don't have a shower curtain, so I was hoping to find some contraption to hang one with - my bathroom is very oddly shaped. BHV was recommended in my guide book, and it is on the Rue di Rivioli - a very good shopping street, and I had a great time looking at the ridiculously expensive home goods - There was a towel bar for 189 Euros! I wanted to take a picture but didn't know the protocol and would prefer not to get banned from Parisian stores.

I found a shower curtain holder that is round, and it might work -- but the huge SUMMER SALE has started all over Paris. Like Nordstrom's annual sale, but for the entire city. So I will wait until this afternoon to get my shower curtain holder - it will be a whole new experience to install it! It does have English instructions - phew.

I had dinner with Hakan, a Swedish friend who is finishing up an around-the-world business trip, near St. Michel fountain - my favorite meeting place because there is a street show always going on - dancers, musicians hang out there to make some extra cash from the tourists. The people watching is spectacular, it is like all ends of the world converge on that square. After dinner (quiche with red peppers, salad and red wine for me), Hakan ordered a triple dip sundae. I had to take a photo to share.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Le Weekend

It's been a great weekend with Amy in Paris. Bus tours, L'Orangerie, lots of Nutella and baguettes, more white wine than I can remember, Musee d'Orsay, Les Halles, an amazing dinner near Notre Dame. Amy is a great guest, but she craves the Nutella like a crack whore jones for stuff. She also brings me bits of bread covered in Boursin and fills my glass with wine, so it is worth every ounce of chocolate-hazelnut goodness.

This is a photo of me in my apartment - where I email, blog and skype. I am so happy to have skype - I have video conferenced with my mom, my sister and my brother so far. It is going to be a great tool to combat homesickness. It is crazy to see everyone real-time, but weird because being on video makes everyone want to make funny faces - especially my nieces! Rose gave me a hug via Skype, it was so cute. Grace showed me her feet, and Lucy asked if I liked her hair - totally true to form, those girls.

I wish Nick and Tom "Happy Father's Day" today. It makes me sad just to think that I can't tell my dad how happy Paris makes me, and how excited he would be to share this experience with me. Note to self: don't wait almost 40 years to do what makes you happy. Sorry, that might be the 4.95 Euro wine talking.

I have been reading cook books like crazy - and can't get enough of them. My kindle is amazing, I can read anything in my window overlooking Paris. I don't know if I will ever get tired of that view.

Out for the rest of the day - Music Festival in Paris - Amy can't wait to get going.

Please send me some comments - ask questions - I can't wait to tell more about my neighborhood - which a guidebook described as " not for the feint-hearted." (sic) Thanks Fodors.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Grocery Shopping

The little grocery store across the street has almost everything a Parisian could need - 37 kinds of cheese, wine, beer - Hoegaarden in a can, Nutella, and very happily for me - Coca Cola Light With Lime! The gods are smiling upon me. And yes, I bought some Special K, for those mornings when I don't want to trek out for a chocolate croissant.

The milk here? I don't think I have ever tasted milk before, because this stuff is like a cream-flavored smoothie. I can't stop drinking it - with my Ecolier cookies (they have them at Trader's Joes in the US too).

Funny story from last night: Amy and I walked through the sex shop/prostitution/strip club area known as Le Moulin Rouge, and I pointed out a pair of black patent leather thigh high boots for Amy, and a very nice Frenchman seemed to think that was his chance for an opening. What does he come up with? "Hey, do you like sex?" I wasn't sure how to answer, because yes makes me seem interested, and no makes me seem like a prude, I just laughed instead.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lunch in Paris

I am here! Apartment is in a really nice courtyard. Went to lunch with my landlord after he showed me around the neighborhood. We had lunch at a little local place - L'ecrin. The house red was very good, we both had a sausage stuffed chicken and for my first dessert in Paris - Tarte Tatin. It was delicious.

Amy is here, we trekked around Montmartre yesterday, it is just a 10 minute walk from my place. Off to Versailles today, I have to get as much done with Amy as I can, but I am writing lots of stuff down to share later.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My new bag for paris.

just checked in. extra bag cost $100 but worth it for shoes alone. i feel like i am leaving for college -- which my mom and sister echoed. today came really fast!! i fly through philly so i will have some time between 3 and 5 to chat. after that I will be reachable via email , skype and my apartment phone - that number to follow. please stay in touch.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I missed it

Just a little dinner party for 5000 white-clad guests at Place de la Concorde.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I have near constant butterflies in my stomach!  I can't wait to get there and share my experiences.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


This time next week I will be in Paris, and will be using Skype to chat.  Download it here - free calls and video chat!  My contact name is sbear1972.

Monday, June 8, 2009

First Job

I have a job for December!  A resident in my building wants me to cater a dessert party for her when I get back from my first two courses in Paris.  It is so exciting to already have something in the works.

I think I need to have business cards made?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thanks for Using My Amazon Links

I appreciate the newest orders from Amazon - Leslie, Jen, Nancy and Amy!  And one other person ordered, but the information is anonymous - so thank you, whoever you are.

If you are thinking of buying a Kindle, I highly recommend it for readers, I use it constantly - books, magazines, blogs and newspapers.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.  It could be a great father's day present.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Not that I was looking for a date, but I happened upon the Men Seeking Women section of Craig's List Paris and thought this was funny enough to embarrass myself and share:

Note to my family:  You definitely don't want to open this link.

I wish I could add the photo online, but I am trying to keep this mostly PG-13.  I love the multiple views available by mirror - it reminds me of the closet in "What Not to Wear."  I admire a guy who is bold enough to share his back/ass hair in a public forum.

PS I blame this whole thing on Nancy - it was her idea to look on Craig's List, she was thinking I might be able to entice a nice medical student over for a massage.

Italian Night

Tuesday was Italian Night at Jeannie's.  She invited her friend Adrian and her kids over for dinner and a play date.  I made shrimp roasted in salt, with a scampi dip, which were good, but I bought peeled shrimp by accident, and too much salt stuck to them.  Next time they will be delicious! I marinated mushrooms from a Real Simple recipe that was bland.  The kids made their own pizzas on Trader Joe's dough, I just didn't have time to make my own.  

We also had two 'adult' pizzas:
--ricotta/spinach/tomato - my favorite from Mama Celeste's in Dewey
--gorgonzola/granny smith apple topped with a balsamic reduction 

We started with a mango champagne cocktail and finished with a strawberry Italian ice for dessert. Making an ice is an easy thing to do with kids and it only takes 45 minutes to freeze.  I used this recipe from epicurious.  I am a huge fan of epicurious because I can read the reviews of how other cooks fared with the recipe before I try it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

People are Crazy about French Bread!

My mom sent this to me - a great story about a French couple who opened a bakery in a small town in New Hampshire.  After a year, the wife's visa was not renewed, and the town rallied to keep their baguettes!  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Flights are Getting Cheaper!

I just found a WAS-CDG fare for $496 for August 19th departure on US Air -- this is about $300 cheaper than it was last month.   There are some non-stops for $620 or so on United.   This is website I use to find the fares, then I book online with the airlines.  

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