Saturday, October 30, 2010

chocolate to die for

Run, don't walk, to the supermarket to get the ingredients for this moelleux au chocolat (I guess we'd call it a moist and gooey chocolate cake, but in this case it's muffins). So easy to make and so decadent! Choco-holics will adore it.

Ingredients for six muffins:
125 g (4.4 oz) dark chocolate (chocolat noir à 70%) plus 6 squares (basically a bar of 200g (7 oz) and keep six squares for later))
125 g butter or margarine (a little more than half a cup)
some butter to grease the muffin tins
2 eggs plus 2 yolks
50 g sugar (1/4 cup)
40 g flour (1/3 cup)
6 aluminum muffin liners (or just butter the tray really well)

1. Preheat oven to thermostat 6/7 or 200°C (little less than 400°F).
2. In a glass bowl, place the 125g of chocolate, broken into pieces and the butter. Place in bain marie (a saucepan with bowling water on the stove top) until chocolate all melted.
3. In a big mixing bowl, mix the eggs and yolks with the sugar, then add the flour and mix. Add the chocolate butter mixture with a spatula.
4. Pour the mixture in the buttered muffin liners in the trays and stick a chocolate square in each one in the middle.
5. Heat about 10 minutes. Take out of their muffin liners and eat while it's still warm and melty.

(I know this picture is fuzzy, but you can still see that warm chocolatey goodness.)


Friday, October 29, 2010


Because you need to see a dancing Euro-baby. Because this definitely is her European side coming out!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Snippets of my life

This post has no real theme. It's just bits and pieces of what's going on. I'm getting a bit more adjusted to fall. I'm trying to see the positive aspects. Like cozying up on the couch under a blanket with Juliette to read some books. Or having a real excuse for this homebody girl to stay inside. Like today. It's gray, rainy, windy, perfect reason to stay in and putter. Which I generally do anyway. I'm getting into making bread. Just need a little time to knead it and let it rise and then you've got nice warm bread.

But I'm still apprehensive about the gloomy months ahead. Dreading the time change next weekend when it will be dark by 5:30 and over the next month, even earlier. That's why I think I'll be spending, oh, the next four months in this little number when I'm at home.

A blanket with sleeves. I might never leave the house.

At least I'm appreciating my dryer even more now that it would take ages to dry stuff outside. What a joy it is for me to clean out the lint filter. Sadly, I'm not kidding at all when I say that. And I honestly don't iron nearly as much as I did!

Meanwhile, Little Miss Juju's been a real rascal. She's taken to pushing the 20-month-old around at the sitter's even if he hasn't provoked her at all. I don't want my daughter to become the neighborhood bully. I've seen it with my own eyes though. One Monday morning she just coldly pushed his shoulder instead of smiling and saying hello. Let's hope it's just a phase. Like her refusing just about everything we put in front of her at mealtimes lately.

She's also proving that kids have more fun with the box than what's inside (Murphy's baby law #7).

And that there's no use buying real toys when she'll just use normal objects, like this thermometer which is being used as a phone. Check out how complex this conversation is! I think she hears the sitter on the phone quite a bit...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reporting from a war zone

I feel like a war-time journalist sending out updates from shell-shocked France. Since I last wrote, the situation's only gotten more intense. Yesterday in my group lesson we talked about the strikes and how the refineries have stopped production. One lady said semi-dramatically that her tank was empty. Thus followed a short silence as if she'd said she only had a week to live. One of my colleague's students cancelled her lesson because she had no gas and couldn't drive the 30 minutes to the center. She had to walk to work and was lucky she was able to. I've seen yet more lines at gas stations and there are moments when there are so many cars that they stick out in the intersection or roundabout and create more traffic problems.

This morning as I tried to drive to work I noticed things were much slower than usual. No wonder! The union members and their truck-driving buddies were blocking entry to my town and seriously choking exit, too. Instead of three lanes to exit the town, they'd bottlenecked it to one. I saw the driver in front of me roll down his window to take the union flyer from the protesters on the side of the road. I felt like shooting them a bird but thought better of it. They might have attacked my car. Instead I just tried to drive forward. But one of the guys walked out in front of my car and said to his buddies, "Hey, she didn't take a flyer." So grudgingly I rolled down my window and took the paper with a hasty "merci" and drove off.

Once at work my student and I talked about the situation. As a higher level manager, he wasn't keen on strikes and his own business meeting had been cancelled since most of the participants couldn't make it due to transport problems. My coworkers and I grunted our complaints about how these folks were sometimes preventing us from working and making money. It's fine if they want to strike and not get paid, but they shouldn't block us from making a living.

On the way back home I chose to go through the small towns. But access back on to the main road was blocked by the police (gendarmes) at one point and at another we were totally stuck on the entrance ramp. I started wishing I could back up and to my delight I saw the motorists behind me were doing just that. So we all started backing up on the ramp, totally illegal, but frankly it felt good to escape the traffic jam and beat the protesters for once. Of course, I did use up more precious gas with all this backtracking but I avoided the parking lot that was the "expressway".

Yesterday the high schoolers kicked it up a notch, too. The high school in front of the babysitter's was turning into a combat zone. As I took Juliette to the door in her pale pink quilted parka, I held her a bit more closely than usual, eyeing the students across the road who were throwing down a few firecrackers. They started knocking over garbage cans and walking on the road to block drivers. After dropping baby off I drove the other way to avoid their shenanigans. I passed a garbage can that had obviously been burned and that the city workers were cleaning up.

I know this is the country that stormed the Bastille and had a revolution. But I think they had better reason way back then (uh, poverty, famine, yeah, I get that). Now they seem to strike like it's their birthright. I wouldn't grudge them their right to protest but only if I can still live my life! Their freedom should end where ours begins. But they don't see it that way. They're just angry at this retirement plan and in general wanting to show their disapproval of the current government. Can't they find a way to do that which doesn't bring the country to a standstill?!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wallowing vs. action

Wallowing usually wins that fight. At least for a while. Instead of complaining about my situation I know I should try and change it. Should do, but...
It takes me a few months or years or decades to get off my duff and do something but I get there eventually.

So thanks to the readers who tried to comfort me after my pity-party-post. I know I shouldn't reach out for sympathy like that but let's face it, there are times I'm just not so sunny. I suppose my blog often represents who I want to be. The sunnier moments where I'm enjoying life and reflecting and pausing. But there are a lot of gray days, too, which aren't always easy to get through. It helps to know I'm not the only one though. Thank you, blog community!

Perhaps I should take my cue from the French, who when they've had enough, just get out in the street and protest! That's what I call action, though I don't always approve of their methods or even the reasons they strike. This time it seems to be a doozy though. Case in point: I just went by the gas station only to find that there was no unleaded in the pump I was at. There was a fairly hefty line of cars for a Friday afternoon at 3. At the second station they had unleaded but again there was a longer wait than usual. I did have half a tank myself but I figure better be safe than sorry.

Why? Because some of the French refineries have been disrupted or stopped production.

Why? Because the French are mad as hell and aren't gonna take it anymore.

Ok, why are they mad again? Because the government had the gall to suggest increasing the retirement age. To age 62 according to this CNN report, but I've heard it could be higher. I like to tease my students and tell that in the US it's already much higher! And so this is the fourth time since school started that there has been a national strike day: trains, schools, etc. And now the refinery workers are participating. And the high schoolers are protesting, too, even though they're far from retirement age.

If I can't drive to work because of this thing (and therefore lose money), I think I'll go on strike myself! Wait, that doesn't make sense. Who cares, it's the French attitude.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Momma said there'd be days like these

Do you ever feel like you're stuck in the spin cycle of the wash? Being beaten up by that pair of sneakers in there, too? Sometimes you just can't win. Feeling like every little administrative gaffe at work is your fault, that your students aren't responding to you or aren't progressing quickly enough. And at home it seems like you and your husband aren't even speaking the same language. And I'm not talking about the language barrier. Yeah, I guess I've been having one of those days or weeks or two weeks. Now the baby is screaming in her crib 'cause her precious "Dou-dou" stuffed animal was left at the sitter's. Not to mention that she didn't get her normal nap as they had to go to the daycare for the monthly doctor's visit and she just couldn't make herself nap earlier than usual.

And to top it all off, most days lately (strangely not today), I start feeling bodily tired around 3:30 or 4 pm. Must be the change in seasons catching up with me.

So besides just hopping on a plane for home for an extended vacation in mid-October, I'm not sure what to do to get out of this funk. Suggestions welcome.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

When life gives you pumpkins...

...make pumpkin pie. Four of them. And two pumpkin cakes. And there was still enough to fill three tupperware containers. It was a very big pumpkin. Check it out for yourself in these photos. Who doesn't love a good pumpkin photo? We think it was about 40 pounds. Remi kindly peeled, cut and supervised the cooking process and even helped me out a bit with the pie preparation.

For those wanting to make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, it's pretty easy. The prep is the longest part. Cut the pumpkin into slices and peel. Scoop out the seeds. We cook it in a pressure cooker in the steam basket. About 15 to 20 minutes when it's fully steaming or so that you can stick a knife through the pumpkin flesh easily. I mash the pumpkin a bit and drain off some of the excess water. Then you can use the traditional pumpkin pie recipes like this one. Instead of evaporated milk, I use crème liquide (20 cl). However you can get evaporated milk here (lait concentré). If your mom doesn't send you pumpkin pie spice from the US like mine, then just cinammon will do, or splurge and by all the individual spices.

I guess autumn brings out the baker in me. Gray days need a little sugary pick-me up. Juliette's getting into helping me stir the batter, a dangerous operation sometimes but I'm pleased to have my little baker girl beside me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

To read when you are 25

Dear Juliette,

By now you've heard the story about the time I accidentally locked you in the car about a million times. You probably used it as ammunition during those rebellious adolescent years (please tell me they weren't so bad!), as in, yeah, mom, remember when you locked me in the car, so please let me go out with my friends this Saturday?

But please know that I really am sorry it happened and of course I was worried about my little angel. To be fair, though, you did have your fair share of blame in the incident. If you hadn't pushed the lock button on the keys I'd let you hold (mistake!) as I strapped you in your car seat, then it wouldn't have happened. Then again, if I'd unlocked the car right away instead of throwing my keys on the seat before I closed the passgener door, it wouldn't have happened either. But that's why it's called an accident. And luckily for us it ended happily. But not without a little anxiety.

Of course, I called your dad right away who hopped in his car to drive 30 minutes to the babysitter's house, where we were parked right in front. But as I wasn't 100% sure where the spare key was in the apartment, I couldn't tell him to look for it himself. I then called the insurance company, but of course my insurance papers were in the locked car. They were able to look up my policy but in fact we weren't covered for locksmith services. I guess my mind was sort of on slow-motion. I really didn't know what to do and in what order. I even tried to get you to stretch your little hand and open the passenger door lock, but it was too far. Then to do it with your foot. You'd already taken those little white shoes off, as you were so fond of doing, and you did put your foot where I asked you, smiling all the time. But pushing it up with your stockinged foot proved difficult. And you didn't seem to understand my interest in this new game. I even took my shoe off and tried to demonstrate what I wanted you to do on the other side of the car window, but to no avail. You did your best honey.

At least you weren't panicking in there, but this would have to happen on one of those rare Indian summer days where we'd gotten to the mid-70s and it was sunny. I started worrying about you getting warm in there as I had on my car ride home. But there were no windows open for you, of course. So let's say 30 minutes into this thing I decided to call a locksmith anyway. By the time papa would get there and I went back to the apartment it could be getting really too warm in there. Oh no, were you looking a bit listless, or just bored? Your cheeks were rather pink and your blond hair started sticking to your forehead because of the sweating. Yes, the locksmith was the right thing to do.

Of course, he got there two minutes after Remi arrived and I had already set off to the apartment for the spare keys, just in case. It would have to be rush hour and I was stuck in accordeon traffic getting back to our place. I ran up and found the keys in a flash, ran back down and drove back in more traffic. I didn't put the air on even though it was stuffy because I was thinking of you in that closed car. And praying that everything worked out ok.

When I got back to the sitter's all was well. I paid the locksmith thirty euros for his fine work and went into check on you inside the sitter's. You were bouncing around happily in the playpen with the younger baby. Cheeks still red but not in the least disturbed by your recent misadventure. Tata'd given you orange Fanta to cool you down, so maybe that's why you were hyper.

So once again, know how much you mean to me and that I really did (and do) try to do my best for you. And if you have a little one day and do something silly like me, I won't laugh at all.

Love, Mom